Friday, May 19, 2006

Case in point - Compulsory dog chipping

Hattip: NZ Herald : Dog mauls cat to death then savages neighbour
The most important paragraph in this story is:
"An Auckland City spokeswoman said the unregistered dog was from Otara and was being looked after by the owner's family in Pt England."
Now - can anyone tell me any way in which this would have unfolded differently - before or after the incident - if compulsory electronic tagging was already in place?  Most importantly would someone from United Future explain?
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The real reason for NZ's obesity problem...

There now - did that really take $72 million?
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Pick pocketed

Last year while in Madrid I had my pocket picked while on the Metro back towards our stop.  It is one of those surreal experiences in which you don't really know it's happening at the time, but in hindsight you know exactly when and where it was done; and in my case by whom.  Afterwards (when you actually realise that yes your wallet is gone) you feel an incredible sense of betrayal, and also stupidity: why didn't you actually realise at the time, how did you let it happen, and why did you have 250 Euros in cash in there...

The budget delivered by Labour yesterday (in New Zealand) pretty much brought back exactly the same feelings of betrayal and stupidity; how could they be spending our money on such pointless drivel, why did you still have money invested here, how did you let it happen (was there more people you could have convinced to vote otherwise), and most of all why didn't everybody actually realise at election time that this was the meandering future to which they were delivering us?

"Twelve percent of New Zealanders – 362,000 people – now pay the top tax rate that Labour promised would only affect 5% of Kiwis. They pay 51% of New Zealand's income tax"
And that is why.
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Legal system abdicates responsibility again

Hattip: NZ Herald
I am greatly disappointed by the decision of the High Court to throw out the case brought Susan Couch and Tai Hobson against the parole board.  Something that this country desperately needs is greater accountability in the parole process - which I believe would instantly bring us better justice and less crime.

Please note that I am an
Ignorantselfishertarian when it comes to the facts of the actual case - and I am not saying that I am disappointed that the case failed, I am disappointed that it was thrown out; that the case never had its chance to be heard on its merits and challenge the fact that parole boards currently have no consequences against them for the decisions that they make.  If a parole board took joint responsibility (share any subsequent convictions?) for the actions of a criminal returned to society (for the duration of their parole period - it would be unfair for them to assume responsibility for the period after which they would have been returned anyway) you can be very sure that they would:
Take more care in their assessments of who could be returned to society
Dedicate more resources and care to the rehabilitation of criminals while in custody
Dedicate far more resources and care to the rehabilitation of criminals while on parole
Release less criminals early, and less early in their sentences.

I see all of the above consequences as being greatly beneficial to society - and surprisingly all it takes is a little personal responsibility...
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Advice shouldn't be limited to African-Americans

Hattip: CrissCross
"Comedian Bill Cosby told a forum on family and education Tuesday night that African Americans should be proactive and fix their own communities. I have a problem with people sitting there and saying God and Jesus will find a way," Cosby said." 
I have a problem with people sitting there and saying that the Government will find a way - even more I have a problem with people saying the Government should find the way.

"Cosby wasn't as biting as he was in Washington in May 2004, when he made headlines telling the NAACP Legal Defense Fund that blacks spoke poor English and spent money frivolously. But he touched on similar themes during Tuesday's panel and maintained that African Americans shouldn't blame their problems on others."
All of this is very true - and unfortauntly extends beyond the African American community.  It seems to be the universal issue with virtually every "underprivileged" group in the community.  Locally Maori would do well to listen to Cosby's advice - and apply it to their own situation.  Beyond the racial divide, this is good advice to beneficiaries, alcoholics, criminals, etc - in this matter Cosby's comments aren't particularly insightful as to things that are particular to the African American community - but they are as to the methods by which poverty becomes a vicious cycle to those that do not take responsibility for their own situations.
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Regulation begets regulation

Hattip: TaxBlog
The big problem with introducing legislation - especially that which is attempted to be targeted - is that invariably the loopholes and unintended consequences rely on further legislation to back it up.  And so we get caught in the spiraling increase of ever increasingly complex laws and regulations.  The only people who really win in this are lawyers and the IRD (due to the penalties they impose on those who inadvertently break one line of these tomes of rules).
Note that this is one of the key reasons that I support the principles of Libertarianism - because oddly enough the typical answer to the inequities created through deregulation is that further deregulation is required.  Normally the problem is that another law or rule has been left in place that is creating an inequitable situation and so the answer is to remove that as well.  And so we are caught in what I would see as a virtuous cycle - rather than the cycle of inertia promised by the alternative.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sorry - use which law?

In another fantastic piece of reporting the NZ Herald tells us employers should be using the Holidays Act to crack down on fake sickies.
This is as Ruth Dyson tries to defuse the outrage from employers over their skyrocketing wage bills over public holidays due to Labour's changes to the Act.  Labour managed to be its typical self when it introduced provisions in the Holidays Act that allow employees to take sick leave, but still qualify for the same rate they would have received had they gone to work; relying on the fact that employees would be good people and not screw over their employers.  Which of course will never happen.

However what they manage to quote as being in the Act to help combat this is:
"An employer may require an employee to produce proof of sickness or injury for sick leave taken ... if the sickness or injury that gave rise to the leave is for a period of 3 or more consecutive calendar days, whether or not the days would otherwise be working days for the employee."
Which given that we do not have any public holidays that span 3 consecutive calendar days means that this advice is completely useless.  They then state "Employers can also seek proof of illness within the three-day period if they believe the illness is being faked" - but without any backup from the Act itself.

Why do I get the impression they were trying to prove an un-proveable assertion from the Minister of Labour?  It was certainly always my impression that the latter was only true where it was in the employees contract, so again sorry employers?
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Pies not the problem - parental responsibility is

The New Zealand Herald today complains about the "Fat still flowing over tuckshop counters" but basically misses the point that a healthy diet is not one that eschews pies / hot dogs / sausage rolls etc - but one that identifies these things as a "treat" that should be eaten on occasion and not as the staple lunch of a child.  And this is where the real battle lies and so called child advocates continue to provide IMHO completely flawed advice.

The parent that gives their child money every day to buy their own lunch is instantly giving the power of choice to that child and abdicating their responsibility of ensuring that they get a healthy meal.  If the school tuckshop stops selling pies and / or other foods that children do not naturally want to eat then they will just tend to hoard their money and spend it on pies after school or sweets etc.  It is unlikely that a child that is given money every day has the necessary teaching and self-discipline to do otherwise.

What should also be added to this debate is the correlation between child obesity by ethnicity by parental employment status.  In my school days it was certainly the case that the children who could be guaranteed to be buying tuckshop lunches each day were those with parents on the benefit.  The next most likely were the "middle class kids".  The rich kids were those most likely to have packed lunches of fruit / sandwiches / etc - while the "poor kids" were most likely to have fruit pottles / yoghurt / etc.  I wonder how much that has changed.

The blame should not be on the schools for not providing healthy food choices - it should be on the parents.  And because the food provided by tuck shops is invariably more expensive than healthy options provided from a supermarket, any arguments about them being necessary for lower income children is false.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Chickens beaks and happiness worth $2 a week

OK - so I just killed 2 Ethopian children by making this judgment call, but I finally came to the conclusion that happier chickens with beaks and feathers was worth the extra $2 a week.  Note this means I have made the switch to barn laid eggs - but not yet free range.  The further $2/3 a week to give each chicken sunlight and pasture by killing another 2/3 ECU's wasn't a reprioritization that I was ready for yet.
I'm hoping that more people will slowly make this judgment move and put at least a bit of animal cruelty prevention above their need for cable / satellite tv for a couple of months (if you're like us and manage to eat a dozen eggs a week...), and slowly allow the costs of the production methods to close.
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[Update] When I wrote this post this morning I had not read the NZ herald and so had not yet hit the editorial about outlawing battery cage hens.  In that opinion article by Catriona MacLennan she quotes two high profile polls that "overwhelmingly support" the banning of battery cages for hens.  This is the core of her argument in that the battery farming of hens should be outlawed.  I disagree entirely.  There is a far better poll that shows (unfortunately) that the majority of New Zealanders DO still support battery farming of eggs - and that is quote simply the number of eggs sold by farming method each week.  If we did not support the practice, we would not buy those eggs and the cages would fade from existence.  You see it is far easier to SAY that we are against battery farmed eggs, than to actually BE against the practice - and the consequences of its removal.  I support the removal of the practice - but it should be done as I indicate in my original post - through the removal of the economics that support it, not through the unilateral legislation against something that is obviously still supported by the majority of people.If free range and barn laid eggs were not easily accessible via the supermarkets etc (like say 10 years ago) the argument might be different.  But the choice is there and, sadly, most of us still say cage those hens.

An achievement of inspiration

Hattip: Stuff
Mark Inglis is one of those Kiwi's that continues to inspire and astound with his achievements.
However I hate the fact that so frequently people refer to the things he has done as being "great for an amputee" - most of his achievements are greater than what anyone else even aspire to; and to call it great for an amputee attempts to lesson the magnitude of what he has done.  Sure acknowledge the fact - as this does make what he has done more impressive - but don't belittle it by suggesting that it is only great because of the amputation in 1982.

Something else that must be highlighted is how Mark shines a light on the powers of determination and attitude. Too many people blame fate or circumstance for what they do or do not achieve - while Mark belies that regardless of what life and chance throws in your way, it is your own responsibility to bring focus and achievement into your own life.
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How about blaming yourself?

There still seems to be a vocal backlash against the petrol outlets for the current (relatively) high cost of petrol.  However people still need to look at their own consumption patterns before they can justifiably start complaining. 
Last time I saw the statistics compiled for car trips in New Zealand; 1/3 of trips were under 1km, 1/3 under 5km, with the remainder over 5km duration.  When you consider that the most inefficient period of fuel use for a car is the first 3 kilometers these statistics become even more damning. 

While I appreciate that the car trips under 1 km are never going to be completely eliminated (we have to take disabled people and things like moving a fridge into account) - it is inexcusable to use a car to get a loaf of bread from the dairy, and then complain about the cost of fuel.  The single largest driver of fuel costs is the demand - not price gouging or anything else - demand.  If the demand is not there then prices will fall.
And the best way to decrease demand is to walk those small trips, and use a bike for the slightly longer ones.  Oddly enough another way is to do as the (misguided) Greens are spending our money telling us to do - buy NZ made.  Or at least Australian ;-)
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