Pike River unsealed for now

The Herald reports:

Pike River victims’ families say the Government’s commitment to leave the coal mine unsealed and inspect it with drone technology falls short of their requests, but is still “very positive”.

Prime Minister Bill English agreed today to put a halt to permanent sealing of the mine on the South Island’s West Coast following talks with the families at Parliament.

English refused to grant their request to re-enter the mine’s drift but agreed to look into sending a drone or other unmanned technology into the mine to investigate further.

The families’ spokesman Bernie Monk said the meeting at the Beehive was “very positive” and that they had made more progress with English than they had under previous Prime Minister John Key. …

Following the meeting, English said the Government was bound by health and safety laws.

“This decision is not about politics, it is about safety. We lost 29 lives in that mine and I will not risk losing any more.”

English said the families’ proposal for re-entering the mine – which was written by two international mining experts and published in December – was not a detailed plan “and therefore does not make the case for a safe re-entry”.

“Any decision to re-enter would also have to be made in accordance with our current workplace safety law, so the new directors would still have to take responsibility without indemnity for all aspects of safely entering the mine,” he said.

“It’s highly unlikely a new set of directors would decide it could be done safely.”

The current board chair was explicit:

The chairman of Pike River Mine owner Solid Energy, Andy Coupe, has told MPs he would resign if a re-entry of the defunct mine proceeds.

“I would resign as a director [if a re-entry went ahead]. I would resign if that happened on my watch,” he told a select committee on Thursday.

He says even if a re-entry was ordered by the Government, he would still “seriously consider” resigning.

He’d face five years in jail if he didn’t resign,so of course he’d resign.

He also revealed that cost is a factor in the decision to avoid re-entering the mine.

“Reducing safety to a significant degree does come down to cost. You need to build another egress, which you’re looking at $100 million.”

So $100 million for another egress which might possibly make it safe to enter!

Robots had been tried at the mine in the past but had failed, he said. But the Government had recently been approached by experts with proposals for unmanned access.

No harm in trying robots again.

Mike Hosking points out:

Labour are experts … they want to circumvent the law, the very law we have in place as a result of the tragedy in the first place … they want to hand out exceptions to laws to solve the grief of the families.

A more irresponsible argument is hard to dream up.

You can dismiss Winston’s showboating because it’s Winston, but Labour, the party of the workers and the unions, the party of the miners and the mining industry, the party who would scream to the roof tops and back about workers’ safety … decide in election year, that all of that can be placed to one side.

Their view appears to be that the royal commission and its resulting recommendations are worth less than being straight, honest and upfront with families, who for all the right reasons, are failing to see common sense.

Indeed shameful from Labour, and especially Little.

And also in related news, the Court of Appeal rejects the appeal against the decision not to prosecute Peter Whittall. They find:

The Prosecution Decision and District Court Decision were lawfully made. There was no unlawful agreement to stifle the prosecution by payment of money.

Rather Worksafe properly and independently considered Mr Whittall’s conditional reparation undertaking, amongst other factors, in concluding it was no longer in the public interest to continue prosecution.

The other factors being they thought it was extremely unlikely they would win a trial due to both the burden of proof and the unavailability of many witnesses.

Calorie counts on alcohol

Lee Suckling writes:

Ever wondered why you can’t find ingredients lists or nutritional information on alcohol labelling?

So have we.

When a delicious “adults only” bottle of Lewis Road Creamery’s new Chocolate Cream Liqueur arrived on our desks, we looked at the label, noticed the absence of information about sugar and general calorie content, and began to wonder. Why do alcohol products not list what’s in them? …

Labelling fits within Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)’s jurisdiction. “Because the ingredients used in the manufacture of alcoholic beverages are ‘substantially transformed’ during fermentation, providing a list of ingredients is unlikely to provide useful information for consumers,” says Lorraine Haase, communication and stakeholder engagement manager at FSANZ.

“As most alcoholic beverages are of minor nutritional significance, except for their energy and alcohol content, they are not required to provide a nutrition information panel.”

It remains unclear why FSANZ decrees “energy and alcohol content” as insufficient in order to enforce mandatory nutrition labelling.

I think alcohol should include the energy or calorie count on its bottles. A full nutritional panel isn’t needed, but just the level of calories or kilojoules would be very useful information for consumers.

Willie Jackson on why he joined Labour

Willie Jackson writes:

There’s no getting away from the fact that a lot of our work ironically has occurred under the National and Maori Party government. I make no apology for this because as the CEO I must advance the interests of my community with whomever is in government. The fact is however my organisation is underfunded in every area of Maori development. Whanau Ora is a classic example. This is a programme where we are making real change in peoples lives empowering whanau to take control of their families and we are getting outstanding results yet the funding is minimal and pales in comparison to what mainstream agencies receive. This is a message that Labour party leader Andrew Little gets and one of the primary reasons why now I am committed to working with Labour.

It is good to hear Willie Jackson so enthusiastic about Whanau Ora and saying it is making real change in people’s lives.

However he has been misled into thinking Labour supports Whanau Ora, let alone will increase funding for it. Labour have constantly said it isn’t working and last election said they would review it, which is code for scrap it.

Why else have I joined Labour?

Because Andrew Little promised you a high list ranking?

David Barber on Alzheimer’s and euthanasia

The Herald reports a submission from Wellington journalist David Barber whose wife suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s:

I thank the committee for the opportunity to make a personal submission on voluntary euthanasia which I believe to be one of the most critical issues facing society today.

I wish to speak on only one aspect – the need for provision of an end-of-life directive to be included in legislation allowing physician-assisted dying.

Why do I feel so strongly on this issue? My wife was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease at the age of 48.

Two years later, I had to make arrangements for her to attend a day care centre so that I could continue working.

As her condition deteriorated I could no longer care for her and at the age of 52 she was admitted to a secure unit at Porirua Hospital. …

She was a strong, capable, independent and proud woman and her rapid decline with its consequent loss of dignity distressed her, me and our children enormously.

Her advanced Alzheimer’s meant she was incontinent, unable to feed and dress herself, or recognise friends and family.

A pioneering female journalist and a feminist before the word became fashionable, she could no longer write, read, or take part in the social intercourse that made her a popular friend to hundreds of people we met around the world.

She spent her days in Porirua endlessly walking the confined corridors of the secure unit – it was a prison of necessity because while Alzheimer’s patients pose no threat to society, they wander and have to be locked up for their own safety.

That was her “unbearable suffering” – a phrase you are hearing much about.

One can only imagine how terrible that must be.

I knew Frances well and I know that she did not want to live in that condition and would have welcomed the ability to choose an end to her suffering had she retained her mental faculties.

She could have lived in misery for another 30 years or so – an unbearable prospect for anyone – and her early demise was a blessing for her and us all.

I submit that an End-of-Life Directive requesting a physician’s help to end suffering if a person developed severe dementia should be included in far-sighted legislation.

It will, of course, have to be signed and witnessed before the onset of dementia with all the safeguards one expects to be included in the new law permitting physician-assisted dying.

This will be one of the most challenging aspects of any law change – do you allow advance directives.

Spending years with dementia is the biggest fear of many people – it is feared more than cancer, for example – and I suggest that anyone who has experienced the horror of watching a loved one suffer the ravages of that most terrible of diseases would prefer a merciful release.

I believe a law change is inevitable because the majority of people want it – 66 per cent are in favour, according to a survey published in the New Zealand Medical Journal last month.

I want to stress that people like me are talking only of “voluntary” euthanasia for those who want the choice to end unbearable suffering.

I hope that stories like mine will help convince the committee to recommend a compassionate new law that upholds the human right to die, as well as to live, as we wish.

I would like to finish with an anecdote about a young American soldier caught in a hail of machine gun fire as his unit landed on a Normandy beach on D-Day in 1944.

The bullets tore through his chest, shot off an arm and blew away most of his face. His pain was unimaginable; his fate obvious. He begged his mates to end his suffering with a bullet.

… Is there anyone in this room who would have denied him ?

A truly moving submission.

Little’s u-turn

Jenna Lynch reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has pulled a u-turn on dirty electorate deals, accepting a Valentine’s Day gift from the Greens, The Dunne Deal.

The Greens will step aside and not run a candidate in Ohariu, giving Labour’s candidate Greg O’Connor a free run to take out Peter Dunne.

Just don’t call it a deal to Andrew Little.

“It’s not a deal,” he says. His more palatable term is “electoral accommodation”.

It’s a sensitive topic because the Labour leader himself criticised these deals during his first election back in 2011 when ACT stood aside for National in the seat he was vying for – New Plymouth.

“If you’re a party and you’re fighting in a general election you put your candidates up and you put your people up and we’ll be the judge. People don’t like being deprived of that choice,” he said at the time.

They may indeed find people don’t like being deprived of a choice in a general election seat.

The Port Hills fires

Stuff reports:

The fire now covers more than 1800 hectares, or 18 square kilometres.

Seven houses are believed to have been damaged by the fire since yesterday, on Early Valley Rd and Worsley Rd, the city council says.

A total fire ban is now in place from South Canterbury through to the north end of the Hurunui District, including Christchurch and Banks Peninsula.

I’ve heard four homes may have been destroyed to date, and another 400 have been evacuated and are at risk. There must be few things worse than losing your home to a fire.

1800 hectares of area is pretty damn large. Hopefully it can be contained now it is daytime again and the air support is available, but not going to be easy.

The free speech threat in the US

Glenn Reynolds writes:

They told me if Donald Trump were elected, voices of dissent would be shut down by fascist mobs. And they were right!

At the University of California, Berkeley campus, for example, gay conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos had to be evacuated, and his speech cancelled, because masked rioters beat people, smashed windows, and started fires. Protesters threw commercial fireworks at police.

According to CNN: “The violent protesters tore down metal barriers, set fires near the campus bookstore and damaged the construction site of a new dorm. One woman wearing a red Trump hat was pepper sprayed in the face while being interviewed by CNN affiliate KGO.  . . .  As police dispersed the crowd from campus, a remaining group of protesters moved into downtown Berkeley and smashed windows at several local banks. No arrests were made throughout the night.”

According to CNN, the protests caused over $100,000 in damage.

Yiannopoulous wasn’t the only victim of silencing efforts. At Marquette University, conservative speaker Ben Shapiro faced efforts by Marquette university employees to silence him.

The Young Americas Foundation obtained Facebook comments by Chrissy Nelson, a program assistant for Marquette’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies, encouraging people — at the behest of “one of the directors of diversity” — to reserve all the seats for the hall and then not show up. The purpose of this was “to take a seat away from someone who actually would go.”

So students who wanted to hear a speaker with alternative views would find themselves unable to get a seat, because a university employee had made fake reservations. All, apparently, in the name of “diversity.”

Likewise, when conservative Gavin MacInnes (a founder of Vice.com) appeared to speak at New York University, he was met by an angry mob that forced him to cut his talk short, while a woman who identified herself as an NYU professor urged police, whom she said were “protecting the Nazis” by keeping the crowd away from MacInnes and his entourage, to “kick their ass” instead of protecting them.

The totalitarian left get stronger on campus after campus.

Roche beats Swarbrick

Isaac Davidson writes:

The Green Party is having a particularly strong year for attracting promising candidates, in particular young women.

Among the new recruits are Auckland mayoral candidate Chloe Swarbrick, broadcaster and sportswoman Hayley Holt, and high-flying lawyer Golriz Ghahraman. …

But there is a risk that none of the Greens’ new candidates will get winnable list places if the party follows a similar pattern to the 2014 rankings.

On occasion, the Greens have successfully refreshed their list. In 2008 and 2011, the party’s top 15 places featured six new faces. In 2014, however, the list’s top 15 featured only one new face – Marama Davidson.

To decide the party list, delegates draw up draft rankings and make a recommendation to the members. The members then determine the final list rankings. In the past, they have tended towards conservatism, placing sitting MPs highly even if they have not shone in Parliament.

This risk-averse approach was evident in the party’s decision last night to pick sitting MP Denise Roche over Swarbrick to run in the Auckland Central seat. It is a crucial seat for the Greens because it is a rich source of party votes – they received more votes than Labour there in 2014.

I’m of the view that if Swarbrick had stood, she would have got more electorate votes than the Labour candidate on the basis of her profile from the mayoral election. Arguably she also could have increased the party vote for the Greens.

There is now simmering discontent among some parts of the party about its members’ preference for experienced but unremarkable candidates.Swarbrick openly challenging a sitting MP for the Auckland Central nomination hints at this discontent.

Her challenge created the possibility of a rare, embarrassing deselection, and suggests an orchestrated move by some members to unseat Roche or at least rattle the established MPs.

Two of the party’s senior MPs, Catherine Delahunty and Steffan Browning, are leaving at the general election, but several others are staying on and on past form will get high list placings.

With six or more bright, young candidates on the list in 2017, the party could be more ruthless about giving them a shot at Parliament.

Will Swarbrick, Holt or Ghahramam be ranked above any current MPs or will they be ranked below fairly low profile MPs such as David Clendon, Kennedy Graham and Barry Coates?

Police are there to enforce the laws not create them

The Herald reports:

New Zealanders who attack others based on racial, sexual, or other prejudice could soon be charged with committing a hate crime, the Police Commissioner has revealed.

Commissioner Mike Bush said this morning that police were investigating whether a specific category of hate crime should be created in New Zealand. …

Police were discussing with the Human Rights Commission whether a specific hate crime offence should be written into the law.

I wish the Police would stick to enforcing the law rather than lobbying for new laws.\

We do not need any specific hate crime offences. The current law is more than adequate. And countries that do adopt such laws almost invariably have the Police go over board such as in the UK where they arrest school kids for saying the wrong thing.

Brockie on the Doomsday Clock

Bob Brockie writes:

The Doomsday Clock is not what it used to be. In its early days, the clock simply measured the threat of nuclear war but this year is quite different. The atomic scientists have widened the range of world threats to include climate change, genetically engineered alien flu strains, transgenic plants that could be malignly used to produce toxic proteins, potential paramilitary robots with a license to kill, hackers crashing the grid, giant asteroids, fake news but, above all, that horseman of the apocalypse, Donald Trump, whose strident nationalism, inflammatory rhetoric and his dismissal of scientific expertise threatens us all.

Scary stuff. No wonder that they’ve moved the clock 2.5 minutes closer to midnight.

But critics claim the clock has lost touch with reality as its contributors grossly simplify, misread and exaggerate bad news. One contributor to the Bulletin predicted that the Fukushima disaster would cause 1.4 million deaths within 10 years. In fact it has killed in the almost six years since the accident. Another one of the Bulletin’s academic contributors labelled ebola as a slow motion atomic bomb. In fact the infection has been virtually wiped out.

These atomic scientists misconstrue the nature of technology. They could argue that metallurgy, cars and planes should never have been invented as traffic accidents and wars have inflicted devastating and irrecoverable harm on humanity. But the wider effect of these inventions has been to make life vastly safer and healthier. The same could be said of today’s technological discoveries.

The Doomsday Clock metaphor may have fitted the prospects of a sudden nuclear war but does not fit slow motion problems of climate change, sustainability, or the prospects of long-term technological developments.

Skeptics say today’s clock adjusters take the “precautionary principle” to ridiculous limits, spotlighting remote, distant menaces and unlikely worst-case scenarios. Its new purpose is to promote a sense of urgency and panic us into facing every risk at any price.

Skeptics also say the Bulletin’s exaggerated claims can be perverse and counterproductive. The atomic scientists’ vague, muddled, broad apocalyptic scare-mongering makes it difficult for us to prioritise our problems or shape any coherent response to them.

Cynics claim the Doomsday Clock’s hair-raising message is little more than a Greenie angst meter.

Spot on. It has been captured and is now basically meaningless.

The double dirty deal in Ohariu

Patrick Gower writes:

Labour and the Greens have just done the dirtiest electorate deal in New Zealand political history – and it is all about destroying Peter Dunne.

The tree-hugging Greens will not stand in Ōhāriu to help the gun-toting former cop Greg O’Connor win the seat for Labour.

This is dirtier than most electorate deals because for the first time in recent history a party is totally giving up on a seat and not running rather than standing but giving a ‘cup of tea’ signal for its voters to go for a minor party candidate.

Yep. Labour and Greens have spent years condemning deals where National stands but tells supporters they only want the party vote, and now they’ve done a deal where they don’t even stand. I don’t have a huge issue with them doing that – the issue is their blatant hypocrisy.

It goes without saying that the Greens don’t like O’Connor and his pro-Police ways one little bit – he wants the community cops in Johnsonville to have guns on their hips and reckons police were hard done by in the likes of Roast Busters and the Tuhoe raids.

They’re so desperate to be in Government they’ll put up with that, but the irony is that if Winston does hold the balance of power and pick Labour, he’ll insist the Greens are shut out of Government.

A good water solution

Stuff reports:

Fluoride free water is pumping out of one of the city’s taps at a rate of hundreds of litres a day. 

Since its installation outside Claudelands Events Centre last September, an estimated 40,000 litres of unfluoridated water has poured from the pipes of the special tap.

The outlet, installed by Hamilton City Council, is one of two set up in Hamilton to provide residents with an alternative to the city’s fluoridated water supply. 

The Claudelands tap cost the majority of the $70,000 that was spent on the outlet and installing a tap at a bore-fed unflouridated water source at the Taitua Arboretum. 

It seems to be proving its worth, council city waters manager Maire Porter said. 

“As far as we can tell it is being well utilised by the community and we think it is meeting the demand. Anything that is meeting the needs of the community is beneficial.”

This seems to be a solution working well. The majority of residents wanted the community supply fluoridated, but this allows those who don’t to easily access unfluoridated water.

It is worth remembering that adding fluoride to the community supply is not making it compulsory. It is different to say the proposal to make the addition of folic acid to bread compulsory. That proposal removes choice.

A better way to inflation adjust benefits

Graeme Edgeler writes:

A little while back on Twitter, I got sucked into a thread on inflation. Someone argued that the general consumer price index was a poor estimate of the effect of inflation on lower income households. Several of us argued back and forth, until someone new chimed in and pointed out that Statistics New Zealand now publishes a range of measures of increase in the cost of living, for different households.

And at least in recent years, the effects of inflation are greater on those who are in the lowest-spending households and households with beneficiaries (their annual inflation was 1.4%, while the annual inflation of the highest-spending households was 0.6%).

The recent numbers, pointed out to me by Keith Ng last week got me thinking about benefit levels. Every year, benefit levels are automatically increased by inflation, but the inflation measure used is overall inflation, not the inflation actually experienced by households with beneficiaries.

We inflation-index benefits because they’re supposed to be set at a minimum level to ensure people can continue living, and if we didn’t increase benefit levels with inflation, they would fall below the level where people could survive.

Whether they are set at the right level is debateable, but thanks to Statistics New Zealand’s new range of inflation indexes, we know that we haven’t quite got the details right. The inflation experiences by households with beneficiaries is slowly undermining the buying power of benefits.

Indexing benefits to overall inflation made sense when we didn’t have research showing the actual inflation rate for beneficiary households. Now that we know what this is, we should clearly update our laws in light of this new information.

I agree with Graeme. He has even helpfully drafted a bill to change the law to allow this. The Government should adopt the bill.

It’s neutral, so that, if in future, beneficiary households experience lower than average inflation, benefits will increase by less than overall inflation, but it provides for benefit rates (and certain asset thresholds) to be adjusted according to the Household Living-costs Price index – beneficiaries, instead of the overall consumer price index.

It will probably cost a bit more on average over time but if the policy intent is that beneficiaries maintain their purchasing power, then we should have a law that best reflects that policy.

Quin on Jackson and Labour

Phil Quin writes:

I didn’t realise, for example, that regarding the Roastbusters interview as a disqualifying blight on Jackson’s record is “politically correct”, and not simply correct politics.  Until this came up, I limp-wristedly thought you can mock teenage rape victims on radio or you can run for parliament, but you couldn’t conceivably do both.

Man, that is a powerful line.

I’ve also learned, much to my shock and amazement, that Andrew Little and Matt McCarten want Labour to be a “broad church”.

Silly me for thinking only reforms to party rules and a repudiation of the heretic hunting culture could make the party appealing enough to a wide enough cross section of New Zealand to become relevant, not to mention electable, again.

Nothing so onerous was required. All it takes is a Willie Jackson revival with a warm-up act courtesy of Laila Harre. If only I had known that broadening a church required merely climbing up the steeple to set the clock back 20 years, I could have saved a lot of ink and cognitive energy.  Apparently, all New Zealand voters have been waiting for is for Labour to finally reinvent itself as The Alliance Historical Re-enactment Society.  Is there anything Labour’s deviously brilliant internal polling can’t teach us?

There’s many more former Alliance MPs Labour can bring back. New Zealand needs the return of John Wright, Frank Grover, Pam Corkery and Alamein Kopu.

What is deemed political correctness is often just dumb politics: David Cunliffe’s infamous apology for the contents of his trousers, for instance; or Labour’s dogged insistence on taxing sugary drinks while leaving capital gains untouched.  The ‘man ban’ is perhaps the best case. It is perfectly possible to engineer an appropriate gender balance in Parliament without banning men from nominating in local democratic contests. Labor in Australia have a non-controversial gender quota that slips entirely unnoticed under the media radar.  Again, the problem with the man-ban isn’t political correctness, but political incompetence; the implementation, not the idea.

In any event, this Chai Latte-swilling nancy-boy draws the line at the Willie Jackson Roastbusters episode. Subsequent, self-serving apologies notwithstanding, it reveals a mindset towards sexual assault that has no place in Parliament, let alone on the Labour Party’s benches. 

Having Jackson stand for Labour wasn’t in itself a fatally bad move, if they had handled it well. But the incompetence in not getting caucus onside, not having Jackson do a public mea culpa in advance on his comments, not having discipline, having the leader announce he will have a high list ranking etc is what damages them more.

Flynn resigns

The Washington Post reports:

Michael Flynn, Trump’s embattled national security adviser, is resigning amid controversy over communication with Russian ambassador. The resignation, which was confirmed by a White House official, comes after reports that Flynn had misled the vice president by saying he did not discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador.

Has any President ever had a cabinet level official resign in disgrace within just one month of taking office before? I suspect a new record.

Is the blokefest in the Labour Leader’s Office the problem?

A Labour Party activist commented to me the other day that they thought the Willie Jackson fiasco would have never happened if Andrew Little had any women in senior roles in his office.  She said that a woman would have known instinctively that promising a high list place to a candidate who rape shamed a teenage victim on air would go down like cold sick with many women, especially Labour women.

I was surprised to hear the assertion that a party that prides itself on equality has no women in senior roles in the leader’s office. Surely this is not the case. So I checked, and she was right.

The senior staff for Little are:

  • Chief of Staff – bloke
  • Deputy Chief of Staff – bloke
  • Chief Press Secretary – bloke
  • Director of Research and Policy – bloke
  • Director of Engagement – bloke

It seems there are no women good enough to hold a senior role in Little’s office. Or maybe no women applied?

By contrast the National Leader’s Office has always had a number of women in senior roles (and all absolutely on merit).

Left activists are mainly living with Mummy and Daddy

Tim Blair blogs:

92 percent of left-wing activists in Berlin, Germany, live with their parents, while one in three are unemployed, according to a report by Bild.

The data was based off of 873 political activists, who had been investigated by authorities between 2003 and 2013. 84% of those investigated were men, while 73% were between the ages of 18 and 29.

“A third of them were unemployed, and 92 per cent still live with their parents,” reported the Daily Mail on Tuesday.

We need to find out what the data is in New Zealand! I suggest it be added to the census.

Ignoring WFF

Stuff reports:

A young Hamilton family with a newborn are struggling to make ends meet. 

High rent and low wages are being blamed. 

The pair did not want their names used out of fear that it could put their jobs at risk – he’s a diesel mechanic apprentice and she’s on maternity leave from a day-care centre job. Their take-home pay, after tax and KiwiSaver deductions, is just over $1000 a week. …

After tax, student loan and KiwiSaver:
She earns a week: $493
He earns a week: $550

Weekly payments:
Childcare: $240
Rent: $380  
Power each week: $40
Food: $120
Phone and internet: $50
Medical insurance: $26
Car insurance X2: $27
House and contents insurance: $10
Car payments $25
Personal loan (for rental bond): $100

Good to see this level of detail but they have ignored a number of revenue streams.

Based on their estimated gross income of $63,000 they would also get $47 a week in-work tax credit. And they may be eligible for up to $139.50 a week in childcare subsidies.

Labour’s Hamilton-based list MP Sue Moroney said two parents working full time should be able to raise a child, but low wages and high rent are making it increasingly difficult. 

Moroney is working with the family to see what financial assistance for childcare is available through Work and Income. 

She said they should be able to secure some financial support.

So this story was probably planted by Sue Moroney. Now it is good Sue is helping them investigate childcare assistance but if they are eligible for $140 a week, then it undermines the whole narrative of not enough to live on. Instead it is a story about check you are getting what you are eligible.

Note that even with the extra $186 a week, I am sure it is still tough to raise a kid on their combined income.

MFAT needs a 24/7 taskforce to keep up with Trump

The Herald reports:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has set up a 24-hour task force to oversee the transition of US President Donald Trump and feed back information in real time on policies that could affect New Zealanders.

It comes after ministry boss Brook Barrington was hauled into a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully to answer questions on why it took days to confirm New Zealand dual citizens would not be barred from entering the US as part of Trump’s immigration policy changes.

Barrington says he was unhappy he hadn’t provided enough resources.

“I made it clear to the minister that I think we fell behind the curve on that,” he said after facing the ministry’s annual review by the Foreign Affairs and Trade select committee.

“I didn’t set up the structures early enough to ensure that we were able to provide the government with exactly that 24/7 real time advice.”

Half a dozen staff from MFAT’s America’s division in Wellington will work with staff in Washington on the task force, which will likely be in operation for several months.

“This is not (business as usual) at the moment and I think we need to be running this as a 24/7 operation which means being able to give the government advice in real time,” Barrington said.

Basically you have a President that makes up policy on the hoof and announces it on Twitter so yes you do need 24/7 monitoring. In the past a government would carefully communicate in advance likely policy changes, but no longer!

MacLennan a denier

Catriona MacLennan writes:

There is no such thing as identity politics.

This has as much credibility as someone saying there is no such thing as political correctness.

The term is used by white men seeking to hold on to their power and deny the human rights of Maori, Pasifika, women and LGBTQ people.

Sadly for MacLennan many opponents of identity politics are women, Maori and gay. So her argument fails at the first hurdle.

Hehir on fascism

Liam Hehir writes:

There are all sorts of reasons why it is a bad idea to justify or encourage violence against those who hold repugnant views. Here are a few of them.

The first problem is one of definition. The word “fascism” has been robbed of all meaning through years of overuse. In fact, as long ago as 1946, no less than George Orwell wrote that, “the word fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable'”.

To listen to the activists of the Left and Right, both John Key and Barack Obama were fascists. No doubt Bill English will get the same treatment. When the man who attacked John Banks with animal excrement was convicted for assault, he responded by throwing more excrement at the judge, saying she was a “fascist judge”.

When everybody calls everybody else a fascist at the drop of a hat and violence against fascists is justified, how are you not inviting violence by all against all?

I’ve been called a fascist. Almost everyone on the right of politics has been. And I’ve had many threats of violence over the years, including death threats,

Secondly, the history of actual fascism shows that it thrives when fists start flying. The Nazis rose to power in an environment where physical brawling was part of the culture. When it comes to fighting in the street, ideologies committed to thuggery and passionate intolerance tend to have the advantage over the gentler forces of moderation and liberalism.

So if you are really concerned that fascism may rise again, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to applaud behaviour that recreates the conditions that enabled it to grab power in the first place. Don’t throw Brer Rabbit into the briar patch.

Yep.

Then there’s the simple fact that it’s immoral to physically assault people on the basis of their political views – however gross they happen to be.

In the aftermath of the Spencer attack, it was truly weird to see outlets like The New York Times, Washington Post and Vox Media wrestle with this notion like it was a serious ethical question. Even popular comedy site Cracked weighed in, asking, “So are we allowed to just punch Nazis now?” Their answer? “It’s complicated.”

It really isn’t. 

The whole point of liberal democracy is that political questions are resolved through votes and laws and not mobs and violence. People have the right to be grievously wrong and, as long as they do not call for the illegal overthrow of the state, to voice their wayward views. We really have no choice but to trust the public and our governing institutions.

Because if you think it’s OK to punch someone in the head  because you think they’re a fascist, then you might be one yourself.

Well they’re not fascists but they’re certainly not liberals.