Monday, 21 May 2012

20/5 Exam time for NZ Government?

Let's take a moment to look at at nationals ten goals how they are being meet, and how they are serving the community of New Zealand.
  1. A reduction in long-term welfare dependency, in particular a significant drop in the number of people who have been on a benefit for more than 12 months
While the government has been hailing its success with this strategy, but in 2004 New Zealand had an unemployment rate of 3.9% which compared well with other OECD countries where the range was 3.7% for Korea to 18.8% for Poland. At that time Long term unemployment for those out of work for longer than 12 months was 11.7%, with OECD average at 47.1%. Accord to the OECD fact book 12 month long term unemployment had fallen to 9% of all unemployment which in March 2012 had risen 160,000. The current seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6.7% suggests that the percentage of long term unemployment has fallen because of all the new unemployment created by an under-stimulated economy in a global market in which demand has dried up.
Demand has dried up because people are out of work or worried that they will be soon, especially if their governments have been belt tightening. OECD nations that have borrow and implemented stimulus packages are faring much better that those that are pushing austerity. Even USA with a combination of austerity and stimulus, is doing better New Zealand by about half. Even at state level the contrast is stark on job grow where states that chose austerity are struggling and those that chose stimulus have job growth.
A back of envelope calculation, suggest 12 month long-term unemployment has fallen from about 22,000 to about 14,000. which means 8000 people have had some work. Much of which will part time, short term, and minimum wage. Unlikely to mean that these people are better off in real terms. Unemployment is supposed to be the bottom be we are always find people who were better-off on a benefit.
  According to Statistics New Zealand and the Department of Labour, the Labour Force Participation has since 2009 increased by 1% to 69% while the unemployment rate remains relatively static. So it appears while more people are working the government has failed to have any significant impact on unemployment over all.
Sources: Pundit
  1. More young children, and particularly Maori and Pacific children, in early childhood education
According the government figures. Key result for 2010 we see the the following results to 2010
  • there were 5,152 early childhood education services in July 2010, an increase of 14.6% (656) since 2006
  • there were 211,426 enrolments in both license and license-exempt early childhood education services in July 2010. Enrolments in licensed early childhood education services numbered 188,924 in July 2010, an increase of 14.3% (23,670) since 2006
  • of the total number of enrolments in licensed early childhood education services, 17.7% were age one and below, 19.5% were age two, and 62.8% were three years old and above
  • on average, children enrolled in licensed early childhood education services attended for 20.1 hours per week, up from 16.9 hours in 2006
  • ECE participation rates remain noticeably lower for Māori and Pasifika children.
  • for licensed services, excluding kōhanga reo, The Correspondence School and casual education and care3, the overall average number of hours per enrolment per week was 20.1 hours, an 18.9% (3.2 hours) increase from July 2006.
  • as at 1 July 2010, 67.4% of usual teaching staff at teacher-led services were registered. This is an increase of 13.9% in the number of registered teachers from July 2009.
This year an additional 455 places, this the above was released.
I'm concerned that this move is creating a social environment that people can't thrive in. The kind environment where family perhaps means one parent drops the kids at ECE each day, goes to work each, and picked up to be dropped of at the baby sitters or after school programme, while parents got to late shift or second job, pickup again to go home ready for bed, and set to repeat this everyday. through all of this these kids would barely know there parents as anything other than chauffeurs and chaperones. and in fact would have stronger relationships with teachers, than family, We see this happen to some kids already, they have trouble forming strong relationships. This is referred to in the business as Attachment Disorder.
The aside, these places are not free, as fees have been push up at a time when families can ill afford the money.
Ministry Of Education
    1. Immunization rates for infants to increase, and a substantial reduction in rheumatic fever cases among children
    This is a laudable goal in itself, the case for immunization is clear, despite the unscientific and anti scientific rubbish spewed out by anti verifications. Lets be clear here, as Bill Gates form Microsoft CEO noted, the anti-vaccers are killing children. We are seeing the return of Poliomyelitis, Rheumatic Fever and other childhood diseases. A push back against anti vaccination misinformation is clearly needed, as it appears to the leading cause of declining vaccination rates in New Zealand and around the world.
    According the National Immunisation Register the rates for the 6 month milestone is 70%, well short of the level needed for herd-immunity and we should expect to see new data next month.
    12 month reporting for period to June 2011
    Milestone (months)
    Fully Immunized
    Rate %

    This can be compared to the previous year. Notice how the biggest increase is a 5% shift in the 24 Month milestone, it not a blow the doors off success, and only 12 and 24 month milestones reach minimum requirements for some vaccinations.
    12 month reporting for period to July 2010
    Milestone (months)
    Fully Immunized
    Rate %
    * 5 year milestone data is not available for all DHBs and 97% of eligible children in 2011 data became eligible by policy changes meaning the 5 year milestone data cannot be compared sensibly.

    While the anti-vaccers argue that vaccines cause more suffering than they are likely to encounter without being immunized. This argument has two problems, first the suffering they cite is mainly that of autism which has been debunked in many studies since and the original conclusion of the study of twelve children with developmental problems has been recanted by it author. The study itself suffered from small sample and selection bias. The second problem with this argument relates to the “rarity” of contracting a disease that is vaccinated for. High level of vaccination create what is know as herd immunity where a disease pathogen struggle to survive simply because it rarely encounters a suitable host. Without vaccination people remain suitable hosts and the bacteria or viruses can easily encounter suitable hosts and transmission is only subject to natural constraints.
    However, it is only a small step toward improving the nation's child health which has slipped behind other countries in the the last four decades. Sweden offers a clue into how to improve child health. Each School which centralises primary through secondary education has a doctor and a nurse and doctor visits are free to all children with regular check-ups included. At this point I hear howls of we could not afford that it is to expensive. Money perhaps is the primary reason why should use model. For every $1 spent in prevention we would save $4 in doctor visits and hospital stays.
    Among these ten no mention is made of public housing. National is philosophically opposed to public housing and each time it is in power Housing New Zealand gets busy selling housing stock.
    1. A reduction in the number of assaults on children
    This is a good idea that has flat out failed. With families under stress from tight finances and new difficulties in receiving government assistance. Assaults on children have increased in recent years.
    And while the government has talked about toughening up laws on child abuse, this cannot address the causes. Families are in distress more than has been since the great depression, and figures for child abuse, plus new reporting is giving us clear picture that the government failed to meet it moral responsibility to New Zealand children. But they are not alone, previous governments, including Ruth Richardson's Mother of Budgets have been destroying support for children over the last 20 years. We now have over 200,000 kids living in poverty with parents who feel frustrated and guilty that they can't do better for their kids. Losing a job can illicit feeling guilt and emotion distress ensues when they enter the job market and there is 150 to 2000 people ahead of them.
    CYF Notified Child Abuse cases (Year to July)
    Number of reported cases
    Yet To be released

    One News

    1. A more skilled workforce, with an increase in the number of people coming through with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees
    Campbell live had an interesting piece that relates this goal, New Zealand has a surplus of skilled workers in some industries, with up to 150 people applying for one job. Some industries suffer from a skills shortage, but not for the lack of graduates. The Information Technology Industry is a case in point.
    This strategy comes at a cost, the creative industries are concerned, talent that may study and work overseas.
    We already have a problems of more Kiwis leaving New Zealand than are returning. Sure we can train more for technical roles, but we have to find a away for graduates to get hired or we will continue to lose them to overseas opportunities..

    1. An increase in the proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA level 2 or an equivalent qualification
    As of April 2011, so far so good, except the low decile schools are showing little sign of improvement.
    1. A reduction in the crime rate, not just total crime, but also violent crime and youth crime
    Some success here in some areas, with prevention, education and new policing strategies. But there is something missing, stop the causes of crime. Have 160,000 people unemployed puts some of them at risk of doing something desperate and stupid. Those who deny it have little understanding of human psychology. 
    1. A reduction in the rate of re-offending
    Early intervention, for at risk youth is perhaps more important. If you can exposing people to corrupting influences, such as prison life you can avoid future. The American experience is that employers are willing to hire youth who have been in trouble and need work, but many of these employers will not hire those who have been through the corrections system because they know that those who have been in prison come out damaged. This acts as a positive feed back that increases the likelihood of re-offending. If we looking around for working models, Norway has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world, they focus on rehabilitation.
    At the same time New Zealand politicians offer saccharine solutions for corrections, pandering to a public naturally concerned that crime might affect them. While the public don't make the effort understand the nature of the causes of crime, they react instinctively. Often our instincts are wrong.
    1. A one-stop online shop for all government advice and support that businesses need
    Which is all very well but, many have privacy concerns around the digital identity, many New Zealanders cannot afford school lunches, let alone an ISP or a computer.
    1. See transactions with government completed easily in a digital environment
    I'm pretty competent with online technology, but it took me three hours to fill in a form on the MSD online portal, on a broadband connection. The paper version, 20mins. There are to problems here most people who need to make this submission, don't have broadband internet. This form would take much longer with dial up, and many families don't have access to that either.

    Ultimately, Nationals goals are well intentioned, but focused on the wrong things or inappropriate strategies to deal with the rights. I can't help thinking of the Goober Brother's "it might work" Guarantee.
    Perhaps the biggest problem in New Zealand is income inequality, and national has done nothing to address. A raising the minimum wage to a living wage.

    We were a much more cohesive society and the best place in the world to bring up children, and now according to the OECD we are now one of the worst.
    This problem is not unique to New Zealand, take a look at the trend in executive compensation in the US.

    CEO-to-worker compensation ratio, with options granted and options realized,1965–2011
    What do you think?

    See also: Richard Wilkinson's TED talk

    Thursday, 17 May 2012

    16/5 National's Plan for Education: Destruction

    Meanwhile in New Zealand, National has announced its plan for education as it attempts to balance the budget.  While they claim to be focusing on quality, and introducing performance pay. Are we really looking at policies that have wrecked education systems everywhere they have been tried.
    The most staggering example is USA, where  teachers teaching students to do well in standardised testing creates students incapable of graduating from high-school or are ill prepared for university or college education. Science Graduates from American Colleges are twice as likely to be overseas students than American citizens. It is not just poor primary and secondary education at play here of course, the influence of religion is important too, it eschews science or at least science that contradicts Christian myth.  Liberty University, founded by renowned bigot Rev Jerry Falwell is an embarrassment to American education as it teaches creationism even in it biology courses and noone can get even a janitorial job there unless they sign a document claiming that they believe creationism to be true.
    If you want to create a population too stupid to challenge political spin, this is how to do it. After John Key took time to complain that the media were more critical since the election gave his team a second term. We could imagine today's announcement is his devious plan to ensure an end to real political criticism.
    Let us take a look at where this is leading. This week a US State legislature heard public submissions on same sex marriage, When a women who experiences schizophrenia to the extent that she has been declare mentally incompetent offered her delusions as fact, only one man in the gallery is seen reacting to her ludicrous comments . There is some wrong when people can literally offer crazy talk and hardly anyone notices or at least bats an eye.

    Tuesday, 15 May 2012

    15/5 Who is Colin Craig?

    Founding Leader of the Conservative Party of New Zealand, Colin Craig, is a bit of a new comer to New Zealand politics, though he has been a quick study, essentially buying his way into the New Zealand Political scene.
    In 2009 he spent $450,000 organising the "march for Democracy" demanding the government act on the referendum in relation to the anti smacking bill. In short advocating the beating of children. Just like the Arab goat herding culture decided was good enough to commit to writing down. The "March for democracy" did get 5000 participants, but the Aotearoa is not for Sale Hikoi to parliament had 2000, and that was organised on a shoe string.
    Being a fundamentalist He believes the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, this is a non-trivial error, it akin to believing the distance from North Cape to Invercargill is about 30cm. With math like that, this is one guy we don't want any where near economic policy.

    He does not support same-sex, common law or de facto  marriages. Why what arrangements consenting adults make in their own homes has anything to do with him is beyond reason. It is even beyond Christian tradition, as same sex marriage has in the past been a Christian rite from the 9th to 13th century as noted by anthropologists.

    His preference to deny access to abortions to adolescent mothers, puts them at risk of bringing high risk pregnancy to term or seeking unsafe abortion methods.

    His opposition to gay couples adopting, puts better than average parents out of the running for providing loving homes to kids would in all likelihood grow up to more well balanced than kids raised by heterosexual parents. At least this is what scientific enquiry has demonstrated.

    While many may think his track record in business may qualify him to operate in the political sphere, quite the opposite appears to be true, America has experience of this, as observed in this article from addictinginfo. Certainly the track record of injecting religion into politics has been suboptimal. The religious right has so successfully, promoted abstinence only education, and restricted contraception, and abortions that USA now boasts a per capita rate of child abuse that is 5 times than that of the UK. Because young women and couples are having children that they are ill prepared and under resourced to raise.

    Even the things he has said in recent weeks, have been so outrageously offensive, that even though he is on the far side of the political black stump the media have still picked up and covered his nonsense.
    Having described New Zealand women as "the most promiscuous in the world" he has offended women's groups up and down the nation. Perhaps because New Zealand women are happy having healthy relationships and seeing to their needs and those of their partners.
    He also did his best to pour cold water on Same-sex marriage. Colin is on the wrong side of history here. Increasingly people are realising that what the neighbours do, or what legal rights the neighbours possess have effect no on their own marriage. Just as legalising inter-racial marriage had no effect on existing marriages.
    What is Colin Craig's real policy platform? Fear. The fear the if his invisible friend can't rule the world by commanding men to command women, choas, anarchy and a mass psychopathic rampage would ensue. At least this is a common belief among fundamentalist evangelicals. He and other like him haven't yet discovered the countries with higher levels of religiosity have higher levels of murder, abortions, and unwanted pregnancies.

    Some evangelical Christians overseas are still practising witch denunciation. Their victims in many cases are children. Cases have been reported in USA, UK, and Nigeria. The Nigerian case is remarkable because of the sheer scale of  offending. The Liberty Gospel Church headed by Helen Ukpabio was so prolific, and cause such obscene suffering among Nigeria's children, that the Nigerian government move to make witch denunciation a crime punishable by ten years in prison. Unfortunately this has not extinguished the practise. Liberty Gospel Church practices Pentecostal Christianity.

    Friday, 11 May 2012

    11/5 What N. Carolina needs to know

    This week North Carolina voted to add a ban on Gay/Lesbian Marriage and Civil Unions to it constitution.

    Here is a documentary, showing what too many of these voters failed to appreciate in considering their vote.

    This vote is an abuse of the political machinery exercise religious ferver against the LGBT community.

    Thursday, 10 May 2012

    10/5 HIV+ 4yo banned from Kindy

    Whangarei, New Zealand, A  kindergarten (preschool) has banned a 4 year old boy from attending because he is HIV positive even though there is next to no risk of transmission, because  medication has reduced hi viral load to below detectable levels.

    Many are incredulous that the kindy has taken this action, after New Zealand welcomed Eve van Grafhorst, after she was kicked out of her Australian school because she was HIV positive. Eve is remembered for being plucky and joyful despite succumbing to HIV/AIDS at age 11. David Simpson, who worked at the Hastings school that accepted Eve says they made the effort to understand facts of HIV/AIDS.
    Staff of the Whangarei kindy appear to be "wilfully ignorant" according to the AIDS Foundation.

    The Whangarei kindy may be in breach of New Zealand's Human Rights Act. According to AIDs Foundation spokesperson Dawn O'Connor:
    "There are… privacy issues with the distribution of this letter to all of the parents of the kindergarten, telling them about somebody else's very personal business – their medical details and in this case, their HIV status."
    What do you think?


    This story is meet with dismay, as well it should. We know enough about the HIV virus not to panic.   I have to ask, is the wilful ignorance born of religious belief?