More on the Dutch euthanasia case

May 19th, 2016 at 1:58 pm by David Farrar

I blogged on a troubling case in the Netherlands involving a woman in her 20s who was allowed to have an assisted suicide/death due to PTSD.

I’ve been e-mailed by an MP a translation of her case notes, which indicate she had ailments beyond PTSD. The translation is:

Character suffering, information and alternatives By patient, a woman of 20-30 years, had serious mental suffering, including a refractory posttraumatic stress disorder and severe refractory anorexia nervosa. there Also, there was a chronic depression, chronic suicidality, self-mutilation, dissociation / pseudo-hallucinations and obsessions and compulsions. Were her complaints Fifteen years ago started after sexual abuse.

The patient has had various therapies, both ambulatory and in various clinical centers. Also is They treated very intensively with medication. Her suffering was increasing and more and more came somatic problems. She was tube feeding through a PEG tube, suffered from urinary retention, which a suprapubic catheter was placed, and was suffering from constipation, which they got colonics. She also had chronic anemia, electrolyte disturbances and renal impairment.

About two years before the death has taken place for multidisciplinary consultation Following the euthanasia of the patient. There is then a second opinion from an expert asked trauma treatments. On the advice of these expert then has an intense occurred trauma treatment. This treatment was temporarily partially successful.

According to her treating psychiatrist no other treatment options were more present and there was no sight more to improve her quality of life. His vision was confirmed by a another psychiatrist and the medical superintendent of the mental health institution to which he was attached. Healing was no longer possible. The treatment was still only palliative in nature.

The suffering of the patient consisted of continuous mental suffering by continuing mood swings and flashbacks, ongoing abdominal discomfort and the very poor physical condition and deplorable condition in which it had found itself. Despite years of fighting and contributing to the intensive treatments were her mental and physical condition as bad backward that they experienced no quality of life anymore. Patient was cachectic severely weakened and almost completely become bedridden and dependent on the care of others; there was no perspective or hope for her. She had constantly felt that she was dying, but did not die.

They suffered from the hopelessness of her situation.

The patient experienced her suffering as unbearable. The doctor was convinced that suffering for the patient was unbearable and hopeless prevailing medical opinion.

There were no acceptable options for the patient more to relieve the suffering.

So seems it was a more complex case than the media reported.

Socialism vs capitalism

May 19th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Glenn Reynolds writes:

It is a common misconception that socialism is about helping poor people. Actually, what socialism does is create poor people, and keep them poor. And that’s not by accident.

So true.

Under capitalism, rich people become powerful. But under socialism, powerful people become rich.

Also very true.

The daughter of Venezuela’s socialist ruler, Hugo Chavez, is the richest individual in Venezuela, worth billions and billions of dollars. In Cuba, Fidel Castro reportedly has lived — pretty much literally — like a king, even as his subjects dwelt in poverty. In the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, as Hedrick Smith reported in his The Russians, the Communist Party bigshots had lavish country houses and apartments in town stocked with hand-polished fresh fruit, even as the common people stood in line for hours at state-run stores in the hopes of getting staples.

Socialism means everyone but the socialist rulers are poor!

George Orwell explained the phenomenon in his Animal Farm, many decades ago. But people keep falling for it: Like Ponzi schemes, socialism is an evergreen form of fraud, egged on by suckers eager to believe the lies hucksters tell them.

Which brings me to Bernie Sanders. The Washington Post recently ran a pieceoriginally entitled “Bernie Sanders’s plans have surprisingly small benefits for America’s poorest people.” Among other things it noted that “In general, though, Sanders’s health-care plan would benefit affluent households more than it would poorer ones.”

Likewise, a paper from the left-leaning Brookings Institution notes that the biggest beneficiaries of Bernie’s free-college proposal would be rich kids:  “Under the Sanders free college proposal, families from the top half of the income distribution would receive 24% more in dollar value from eliminating tuition than students from the lower half of the income distribution.”

Labour in NZ is pushing for the same – a massive wealth transfer from taxpayers to the wealthiest people in NZ – college graduates.

We should sell poor investments

May 19th, 2016 at 12:01 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government has no plans to sell Landcorp despite it being labelled by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English as a “poor investment”.

The government-owned farming company was grappling with a significant drop in its revenue against increasing debt levels caused by the fall in milk price, English told farmers at the DairyNZ Farmers’ Forum at Mystery Creek.

“It’s a very low returning asset, so you have $1 billion tied up in that organisation and it pays taxpayers very little, in some years nothing so it’s a poor investment. However, we’re committed to keeping it.

Why? NZ has thousands of dairy farms owned by farmers. Why does the taxpayer need to own scores also?

Landcorp made a net operating loss of $8.9 million for the half year ending December and its half year revenues were $108.8m, down from $115.1m. The state owned enterprise blamed the fall in revenue on 22 per cent contraction in milk revenue.

Landcorp expected to report a net operating loss of between $8m and $12m for the 2015-16 year, below that of the previous year where a net operating profit of $4.9m was achieved. The report blamed the fall in milk prices as the reason for the loss.

There is a huge opportunity cost having $1 billion tied up in Land Corp. If that was released one could use it to pay for say $1 billion of new schools or hospitals. Alternatively reduce interest payments by $60 million a year or so freeing up that money for health or education spending.

More support for Port move

May 19th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Ports of Auckland must be moved for the growth and prosperity of the city, say three mayoral candidates.

Their comments came after a survey of 328 small business representatives by MYOB revealed 39 per cent would vote for a mayoral candidate who proposed to move the port.

The survey also found 31 per cent opposed a move while 32 per cent said it would not affect their vote.

During a mayoral debate yesterday on Newstalk ZB, Phil Goff, John Palino and Victoria Crone said moving the port was important.

Good to have three candidates in favour. What matters though is how explicit they’ll be in taking steps to make it happen. Platitudes are easy, policy is harder.

Speaking to Leighton Smith, Mr Goff said the port would reach capacity for bulk cargo probably within the next three to 10 years and for container traffic within the next 24 to 40.

“At a certain point Auckland port will not be able to take any further traffic and I am not in favour of the port expanding into the harbour.

“The second reason is that there is 75ha of prime central business district land there that I think would produce a better return than a port.”

He said moving the port would also reduce congestion on Auckland’s motorways.

Great, so what is your plan? Where would the money come from to pay for a move?

Victoria Crone said the port couldn’t grow with the city and was therefore obsolete.

“We have moved on and our economy is no longer driven by [the port]. It is an important part of it but it is not the main driver.”

She said it was important to take a 50 to 100-year view of the port, which would enable people to see the port would not have the capacity to serve the city.

“Our focus has to be on how do we move it, how do we move it cost-effectively, how do we keep the business communities in Auckland as little affected as possible when we go through the move and then we have an incredible piece of land with significant infrastructure opportunity that we can then open up to all of Auckland.”

Ms Crone suggested the land could then be used for “a combination of economic and social living, vibrant night life, we need a ferry terminal, people have said we need a stadium, we could look at a Sydney opera house”.

Would be amazing to have that land available for other use.

John Palino argued the business part of the port should be sold.

“If we sell the business part of the port, the value in the port is really the real estate … so we could look at Tauranga and Whangarei and possibly create a deal with them where we sell them the port or we sell someone else the port.

“We [then] give them the ability to run that port for up to 10 years but the deal would be that in 10 years the port has to be removed.”

A specific idea as to how it could be done.

Few beneficiaries failing drug tests

May 19th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Few beneficiaries had benefits cut for taking drugs last year.

Beneficiaries with work obligations are now required to take and pass a drug test when asked to as part of a job application, with sanctions applied to their benefits for failing the tests.

Last year, there were 31,791 referrals for drug testable positions nationwide and just 55 sanctions for failing a drug test, according to Ministry of Social Development (MSD) figures.

Whangarei Citizens Advice Bureau co-ordinator Moea Armstrong said the low number of beneficiaries failing drug tests proved most people were “really desperately keen” for a job and not doing drugs.

That’s good.

He said workplace drug tests should be up to employers and he didn’t see why the Government needed to be involved in the process. Mr Reid said beneficiaries were under enough pressure without the threat of having their benefits cuts for failing drug tests.

It is up to employers. They decide if they ask a job seeker for one. What the Government has said though is if you are on a benefit and turn jobs down because you won’t take a drug test – well the taxpayer won’t keep funding you.

Bay of Plenty-based Te Tuinga Whanau support service executive director Tommy Wilson said he believed the drug testing policy was working.

“I know first hand that it’s working because we have a lot of people within our organisation that come from past drug use and are doing better because they have that put on them,” he said. “I am encouraged that people are being more responsible, realising how important work is and what it can do for the mana of a family to have a parent working.”

It would be good to have some before and after data – ie how many job seekers on a benefit refused drug tests before there were sanctions for doing so, compared to the failure rate now?

Widespread support for Twyford’s policy

May 19th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey reports:

Economist and former Reserve Bank Chairman Arthur Grimes, who has researched the effects of the Metropolitan Urban Limit on land prices, said he also supported its removal and a change to infrastructure financing, as well as the relaxation of density limits. Along with other researchers from Motu, Grimes found in 2008 that land prices inside the Auckland boundary were 10 times higher than outside the boundary. See my 2009 article on that here  and subsequent Productivity Commission research showing similar results here.

“I’m partial to removing whatever they want to call it this week — the Metropolitan Urban Limit or the Rural Urban Boundary,” Grimes told Interest.

“There are two urban growth boundaries in Auckland. One is a horizontal one and one is a vertical one, and it’s important to get rid of both of them,” he said.

Grimes said he opposed the recent practice of progressive extensions of the RUB, which simply gave land owners serial monopolies on land that pushed up land values.

“The way it’s been discussed in the draft Unitary Plan really shows a misunderstanding of basic economic principles and is almost designed to give people their own specialised monopoly for a while that forces up the price of land.”

Grimes points out very well the problem of just moving the boundary.

Grimes also supported moves to finance the infrastructure needed for development with targeted rates, pointing to other similar tools used overseas such as as (Tax Increment Finance) TIFs.

“These sorts of things are quite mainstream internationally and would seem to me to make a lot of sense to investigate. I can’t see major fishhooks in them and they’re definitely worth looking at,” he said.

Grimes also said Councils also had low debt ratios in New Zealand and linking rates payments to infrastructure bonds was an accepted and sensible practice.

I’ve previously blogged in support of Twyford’s infrastructure bonds proposal, so that the costs of infrastructure to new properties is funded through targeted rates over time, rather than up front.

Property Council CEO Connal Townsend said he agreed with Labour’s call to abolish the Rural Urban Boundary.

“The Rural Urban Boundary is a barrier to entry into Auckland’s land market which will continue to distort market behaviour. An artificial boundary that chokes land supply is counter intuitive,” Townsend said.

He said he also agreed a rethink of infrastructure financing was needed.

“We know that paying development contributions through targeted rates over a number of years is workable. And, we already have the Local Government Funding Agency which more and more councils are starting to make use of,” Townsend said.

The property people support it.

Business NZ also welcomed Labour’s proposal.

CEO Kirk Hope said providing more land for building was needed.

“With agreement on this issue between both main political parties, it is to be hoped that local government planning decisions will take heed of the need to focus on land and housing supply,” he said.

As does business.

General Debate 19 May 2016

May 19th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

ISIL has lost 45% of Iraq territory

May 19th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

USA Today reports:

The Islamic State has lost 45% of the territory it once held in Iraq and 20% of areas it controlled in Syria, according to new estimates by a U.S.-led coalition combating the extremist group.

That’s good news. A long way to go, but losing territory is important. ISIL is not Al Qaeda. Their appeal and legitimacy comes from holding territory.  There will always be Islamic terrorism (sadly) but ISIL as an entity can be defeated by loss of territory.

New Zealand has played a role in this, with our training of Iraqi troops. The opposition would have had us do nothing but take in more refugees. By supporting and training the Iraqi troops, we are helping with ending the suffering of those who were living in territory controlled by ISIL.

Far better to help stop creating refugees, and making their homes safe again, than doing nothing to stop ISIL.

Not free speech on private billboards

May 18th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A spat has broken out between two political rivals over the use of a prominent Hamilton billboard in the lead-up to October’s council elections.

City Councillor and mayoral hopeful Rob Pascoe has accused fellow Councillor Andrew King of stymieing free speech after he rejected a request by Pascoe to hire a billboard above King’s Frankton business.

King owns several billboards on the corner of Greenwood Street and Killarney Road, as well as at other sites in the city.

Pascoe made inquiries to hire a billboard above King’s business during the month of September as part of Pascoe’s mayoral campaign.

However, his bid was rejected on the grounds the billboard was “politically incompatible” with King’s own views.

Pascoe was told King’s other billboards were also off-limits.

He has since booked billboard space in Whitiora and along Anzac Parade in Hamilton East.

“I guess it’s disappointing as I have a limited budget and booking billboards at three different sites would have given me coverage over the city,” Pascoe said.

“I feel Andrew is negating free speech by not allowing me to use his billboards.

No he isn’t. That’s ridiculous. King owns those billboards. They are his personal property. You have no more right to put your own skins on them than you do to stick up a hoarding in his backyard or on his car.

A great policy from Labour

May 18th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour wants the Government to abolish Auckland’s city limits to get people out of cars, caravans, garages and tents.

Labour housing spokesman Phil Twyford said the urban growth boundary had to go because it has fuelled the housing crisis and people would not be forced into bad circumstances if the Government acted.

“The Government should rule out any possibility of an urban growth boundary in Auckland Council’s Unitary Plan if it is serious about fixing the housing crisis,” Twyford said.

“Over 25 years the urban growth boundary hasn’t prevented sprawl, but it has helped drive land and housing costs through the roof. It has contributed to a housing crisis that has allowed speculators to feast off the misery of Generation Rent, and forced thousands of families to live in garages and campgrounds,” Twyford said.

I’m stunned, but in a good way.

Twyford had been showing signs of getting it for a few months now, acknowledging that land supply restrictions were a huge issue. Every expert report into housing says the artificial restriction of land for housing is the biggest factor, and other measures will be ineffective if you don’t fix this.

I thought that Labour would have some imprecise policy such as supporting some movement in the boundary. I never thought they would come out and say abolish it.

This is excellent they have. Huge kudos to Phil Twyford for getting Labour to agree to this. They’ve done a lot of things wrong in recent times, but this is a sign they are doing some things right.

But Twyford said the urban growth boundary created an artificial scarcity of land, driving up section costs. Land inside the boundary is up to ten times more valuable than rural land.

“It is not enough for the council to progressively add more land zoned for development here and there. That just feeds the speculation that is an inevitable result of having the boundary.

Twyford is dead right – moving it is not enough.

National needs to get some balls, and come out with the same policy. Auckland Council should be left under no mistake – abolish the boundary, or Parliament will step in and do it.

There is a less dramatic way to abolish it. Labour’s candidate for Mayor Phil Goff could adopt this as policy. Also will Twyford get the Labour-aligned City Vision candidates to support abolishing the boundary?

This announcement by Twyford makes him my MP of the Week, MP of the Month and maybe even better than that. It is a seriously good policy that will make a huge difference to Aucklanders if implemented.

UPDATE: You can sign a petition here (from the Taxpayers Union) calling on the Government to adopt Labour’s policy on abolishing the Auckland Metropolitan Urban Limit. The more people who sign the petition, the more pressure on National to do the right thing and sign up to Labour’s policy.

More Doctors and Nurses

May 18th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar


Jonathan Coleman announced:

As of 31 March 2016, there were over 7,880 doctor full-time-equivalents and 22,500 nurse full-time equivalents employed by DHBs – that’s almost 2,000 more doctors and nearly 4,200 more nurses compared to 2008.

In total the number of doctors and nurses working in DHBs across the country has increased by over 6,100 since 2008 – an increase of 25 per cent.

This includes around 1,100 more senior doctors, an increase of 36 per cent, and almost 1,100 more senior nurses, an increase of 40 per cent.

That’s a 23% increase in the number of FTE nurses and a massive 34% increase in the numbers of doctors. Not by coincidence there are now fewer managers and administrators.

If the 2016 presidential candidates were ‘Game of Thrones’ characters

May 18th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post assigns characters:

  • Donald Trump: Robert Baratheon
  • Hillary Clinton: Cersei Lannister
  • Bernie Sanders: Ellaria Sand
  • Ted Cruz: Tyrion Lannister
  • Jeb Bush: Stannis Baratheon
  • Marco Rubio: Renly Baratheon
  • John Kasich: Rickon Stark
  • Martin O’Malley: Ned Stark
  • Carly Fiorina: Margaery Tyrell
  • Ben Carson: Gregor Clegane
  • Mike Huckabee: The High Sparrow
  • Chris Christie: Jorah Mormont
  • Rand Paul: Khal Drogo
  • Rick Perry: Robb Stark
  • Lindsey Graham: Davos Seaworth
  • Scott Walker: Jon Arryn

Some of them surprise but their reasoning is pretty sound.

Trotter on Labour and the Panama Papers

May 18th, 2016 at 12:05 pm by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

Labour’s response to the “Panama Papers” has left me cold.

The Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Little, lacking hard evidence of criminal behaviour – of any kind – has opted to unfurl his party’s banner on the moral high ground.

He has accused the law firms involved in servicing foreign trusts of participating in a “grubby little industry”.

He’s probably right about that. Shielding rich people from their tax obligations hardly constitutes a noble calling.

My problem with this approach is that it all sounds a bit like a student union SGM, where the deployment of high-flown rhetoric is inversely proportional to the debaters’ command of useful facts.

And of course the leader and half the front bench are former student politicians!

The facts arising out of the Panama Papers are reasonably simple to summarise:

  • New Zealand is not a tax haven in the generally accepted definition of that term.
  • Changes to New Zealand legislation have put this country at risk of being perceived as a tax haven.
  • The Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, took advantage of our legislative laxity to promote New Zealand as a politically stable and corruption-free hiding place for their clients’ assets.
  • The National-led Government’s responses to IRD warnings that New Zealand was at risk of losing its corruption-free reputation were wholly inadequate.
  • The entire problem can be solved easily: simply by toughening-up the disclosure provisions of the relevant legislation.

If Labour had been willing to assess these facts dispassionately, and with an eye to presenting itself as a credible alternative government, its handling of the Panama Papers would have been very different.

From the outset, it would have made it very clear that its number one priority was to protect New Zealand’s international reputation. That being the case, it would have been very careful to avoid calling their country a tax haven.

Their treatment of the Prime Minister would also have been different. Rather than attempting to associate him with the dubious behaviour of Mossack Fonseca, they would have acknowledged that the offending legislation had evolved gradually, under both Labour and National, and offered to make its remediation a bi-partisan effort.

Having sought out and obtained the best advice available from tax lawyers and accountants about how the legislation might best be rewritten to eliminate its usefulness to entities like Mossack Fonseca, Labour would then have approached the Government with an offer to rush through the necessary changes under urgency.

A much more intelligent approach than what they did. Their obsession with Key blinds them. Hopefully they will ignore Chris’ advice.

If all of the above has a faint ring of familiarity to it, that’s because my suggested responses are modelled on the way John Key handled the so-called “Anti-Smacking Bill” back in 2007. Rather than exploiting the mounting toll of damage the issue was inflicting on Helen Clark’s Labour Government, Key arranged for the bill to be passed overwhelmingly with National Party support.

The electorate was startled – but impressed – by Key’s magnanimous gesture towards his political opponent. Here was a man who was prepared to forgo petty partisan advantage for the wider public good. As he strode into the media conference alongside Helen Clark, the television audience saw not a political opportunist, but a future prime minister.

Clark’s right-wing opponents were furious with Key for rescuing her from the anti, anti-smacking backlash. Key just shrugged. He knew that at the perceptual level that truly mattered, he had just made huge gains. In his own, and his party’s, audition for the role of wielder of state power, National was now in front.

Andrew Little preaches a mean sermon, and his finger-wagging is second-to-none. But in that all-important audition for political power, his handling of the Panama Papers has done Labour no favours.

Another own goal.

Sexual Harassment in the French Parliament

May 18th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Isabelle Attard, a French MP from Normandy, stood outside the French parliament flanked by dozens of protesting female politicians and feminist campaigners. Armed with placards and loudspeakers, they demanded an end to a dangerous French taboo: the everyday groping, harassment, sexist comments and sexual assault that women are still subjected to in parliament by male politicians.

“We can no longer stay silent,” Attard said. “Women must feel able to speak out.” Riot police stood by on the sidelines. …

Attard, 46, an independent MP in Calvados, is one of eight women who came forward this week with allegations against the Green MP and deputy speaker of parliament, Denis Baupin, ranging from harassment to sexual assault.

Between 2012 and 2013, Baupin allegedly sent Attard and other MPs barrages of lewd daily text messages in parliament, ranging from “I like it when you cross your legs like that” to proposing during meetings that she become his lover or texting her that he liked it when she resisted.

Sandrine Rousseau, 44, an economist and spokesperson for the Green party, Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV), told an investigation by Mediapart and France Inter radio that during a party meeting, Baupin had cornered her in a corridor, pinned her against the wall, held her breasts and tried to kiss her by force.

Elen Debost, another politician in the party, allegedly received about 100 messages of serious sexual harassment from Baupin such as: “I am on the train and I’d like to sodomise you wearing thigh-high boots.” Baupin resigned this week as deputy speaker of parliament and a judicial preliminary inquiry was opened. His lawyer vehemently denied what he called “mendacious, defamatory and baseless” charges.

Doesn’t sound too baseless when they have the text messages. Amazing that this level of harassment happens at all in their Parliament, let alone by a Deputy Speaker.

Fisher on Robertson

May 18th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

David Fisher writes:

Tony Robertson is a stone-cold killer and rapist who has never taken responsibility.

After he murdered Blessie Gotingco, he worked hard to avoid responsibility for doing so but the evidence was such that it must have been easy to banish “any reasonable doubt”.

When the calls for the inquiry came, the question turned. It effectively asked: “Did somebody else enable Robertson to murder and rape through inaction or incompetence?”

A Government-ordered inquiry by long-time public servant Mel Smith found “Robertson, and only Robertson, can be held responsible for what happened to Mrs Gotingco”.

Robertson did what he did and no one else need shoulder the blame. Corrections and police staff did their jobs when it came to Robertson.

In this awful case, it all comes down to a young man whose character is fundamentally deficient due to a deviant and murderous streak which sets him apart from almost everyone else.

The sad reality is that once someone has served their full sentence, you can’t stop them committing further crimes once released if they are determined.

This is one of the reasons I support three strikes – so the worst of the worst are not released once it is clear they will continue offending.

Robertson was considered for parole on four occasions. The board was confronted with an angry and violent young sex offender who refused to admit guilt in the face of overwhelming evidence. It kept him inside as long as it could. Robertson knew when he was getting out, and it wasn’t early. He told the board: “I will do my time and go out on my statutory release date in December 2013.”

And that was the target date — the point at which there was no legal way to keep Robertson in jail and away from the rest of us.

And he came out and killed almost straight away. So very very sad for the family and friends of the victim. Hopefully this time he will never be released.






A big Little fail

May 18th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Labour Party diverted a press conference that was to be held outside a supposedly overcrowded South Auckland house after its occupants denied they had housing problems.

Oh dear. They can’t even organise a photo op competently, so how on earth could they run a country?

Other media had reported there were 17 people living in the Bairds Road, Otara home including in a tent on the front lawn.

But as media waited on the street for Labour leader Andrew Little on Tuesday a man came out to say he was the owner of the house and the claims had been greatly exaggerated.

The tent had been erected because the family were renovating, said the man, who declined to give his name.

“They say there’s 17 people living here, it’s not true,” he said.

So the media all reported this claim uncritically, and you wonder why trust in media is falling. We only find out the truth because Labour was moronic enough to arrange a press conference outside the house, without anyone actually talking to those who lived there in advance.

General Debate 18 May 2016

May 18th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Venezuela Is Falling Apart

May 18th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Atlantic reports:

In the last two years Venezuela has experienced the kind of implosion that hardly ever occurs in a middle-income country like it outside of war. Mortality rates are skyrocketing; one public service after another is collapsing; triple-digit inflation has left more than 70 percent of the population in poverty; an unmanageable crime wave keeps people locked indoors at night; shoppers have to stand in linefor hours to buy food; babies die in large numbers for lack of simple, inexpensive medicines and equipment in hospitals, as do the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

That socialist revolution is working well then.

You wonder how many people have to die before people get it.

A case in point is the price controls, which have expanded to apply to more and more goods: food and vital medicines, yes, but also car batteries, essential medical services, deodorant, diapers, and, of course, toilet paper. The ostensible goal was to check inflation and keep goods affordable for the poor, but anyone with a basic grasp of economics could have foreseen the consequences: When prices are set below production costs, sellers can’t afford to keep the shelves stocked. Official prices are low, but it’s a mirage: The products have disappeared.

Yet in NZ some politicians push for rent controls, not realising that it would inevitably lead to an even greater shortage of places to live.

When a state is in the process of collapse, dimensions of decay feed back on each other in an intractable cycle. Populist giveaways, for example, have fed the country’s ruinous flirtation with hyperinflation; the International Monetary Fund now projects that prices will rise by 720 percent this year and 2,200 percent in 2017. The government virtually gives away gasoline for free, even after having raised the price earlier this year. As a result of this and similar policies, the state is chronically short of funds, forced to print ever more money to finance its spending.

Quantitative Easing on steroids!

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government can no longer afford to provide even rudimentary law and order, making Caracas, the capital, by some calculationsone of the most murderous cities in the world. Drug traffickers run large sections of the countryside. Prison gang leaders keep military-style weapons on hand, and while grenade attacks still make the news, they are nothing new. Recently, the police captured an AT4 antitank rocket launcher—basically, a bazooka—from a suspect.

The breakdown of law and order is so severe that even children are being robbed. At Nuestra Señora del Carmen school in El Cortijo, a struggling neighborhood of Caracas, supplies for the school-lunch program have been stolen twice this year already: Thugs have broken into the school’s pantry late at night after fresh food is delivered. The second burglary meant the school couldn’t feed the kids for at least a week.

So sad for those living there.

And it is about to get worse as the Herald reports:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday extended the economic state of emergency in the South American country by 60 days. Yesterday he warned that authorities will seize any factories which stop production, and throw their owners in jail.

Oh yeah that will help.

Maduro said a complaint by factory managers that they were lacking the hard currency for raw materials was “whingeing” and their threat to close was a declaration of “economic war”. Any factories which stopped working would be “occupied by the people”, Maduro said in a televised speech. “We will do it. We will take over all the plants paralysed by the bourgeoisie,” he said. “Any who does not wish to work, let him leave.”

So he wants mobs to invade the factories. I think Mugabe has tried that approach!

Who wants to be either VP?

May 17th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Politico reports:

Why would anybody want that job under Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? If either of them becomes president, we will probably see the most marginalized vice president in a generation.

VPs used to have almost no power. But Gore, Cheney and Biden have all been very influential in their respective administrations.

Trump’s contempt for rivals, critics and even allies makes LBJ’s bullying look like something out of Mr. Rogers. The video of him curtly ordering endorser Chris Christie to “get on the plane and go home” ought to be fair warning that a vice president under Trump should not expect anything better. Moreover, the idea of loyally supporting a Trump agenda poses a special challenge: That agenda is likely to be amended or abandoned on a moment’s notice. A prospective running mate, asked to declare himself or herself on Trump’s abortion, tax, health care or foreign policy positions, might be tempted to answer: “Which ones?” As for as being “the last voice” offering guidance, Trump has already told us what voice that will be.

“I’m speaking to myself,” he told Mika Brzezinski of “Morning Joe” in March, “because I have a very good brain.” His vice president, Trump suggested last week, would be a messenger boy, serving as his “legislative liaison.”

Messenger boy is about right!

The challenge is different for a prospective Clinton running mate—and one that no past veep has ever faced. Yes, past vice presidents have found themselves in a battle for the ear of POTUS with key White House aides and Cabinet members. But they’ve never had the challenge of competing with a presidential spouse who also happens to be a former two-term president. Indeed, in many ways, Bill Clinton would be a near-perfect choice to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate. His political skills are unmatched; he knows the dangers that confront any White House as no one else possibly can; he’s even got a track record of working with an opposition Congress—something that neither of his successors can match.

Yeah being VP to Hillary would not be fun either – Bill will be her principal advisor and you’d be third tier at best.

Not a statistical tie

May 17th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Politico reports:

A new poll of Georgia voters finds Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton nearly tied in a general election matchup.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows Trump with a 4-point lead over Clinton, 45 percent to 41 percent, which is within the poll’s 4.26 percentage point margin of error.

The sentiments expressed by independents further contribute to the statistical tie between the two presumptive nominees.

It isn’t a statistical tie. I do wish media wouldn’t use that term. It is good media point out a lead may be within a margin of error, but not good when they suggest that it is effectively a tie.

For a poll of 822 voters, the chance that Trump is actually leading is 89.2% and the chance Clinton is leading is 10.8%. This is less than the normal 95% confidence interval so Trump is not necessarily leading – but 89% probability is not a tie.

50% is a tie and 95% is statistically significant. I’m not sure what the term is for probabilities between 50% and 95% but it is not a tie – ie a 50.1% chance you are leading is not the same as a 94.95 chance you are leading.

A troubling case

May 17th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

WHEN we think about euthanasia, many of us picture an elderly person.

They’ve had many good years, but an illness has ruined their quality of life. They’re in pain, and they want to end things on their own terms. For many people, this is an easy concept to accept.

But a recent case in the Netherlands is getting a lot of media attention, and it’s troubling ethicists.

A sexual abuse victim in her 20s was allowed to go ahead with assisted suicide as she was suffering from “incurable” post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD), according to the Dutch Euthanasia Commission.

The law in the Netherlands states that doctors may perform euthanasia on anyone with “unbearable suffering”.

The girl had been abused between the age of five and 15. As a result of her abuse, she suffered severe anorexia, chronic depression, and hallucinations.

Doctors said her conditions were “incurable” despite some small improvements in her mental state after intensive therapy. Two years ago, they agreed to her wish to end her life.

The doctors judged her to be “totally competent” and that there was “no major depression or other mood disorder which affected her thinking”.

News of her death has triggered debate around the world about the ethics of assisted dying.

I’m in favour of assisted suicide/euthanasia in cases where people are dying, or have a condition (Huntington’s that will make their life intolerable). But declaring PTSD to be incurable seems a step too far to me.

Wellington Council partially retreats on living wage

May 17th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A living wage stoush between Wellington City Council and Chamber of Commerce has concluded, with both sides claiming victory.

The chamber was trumpeting success on its part after announcing future external contractors for the council would not have to be paid a living wage. 

The council had agreed to consult with the chamber on any extensions and, if necessary, it would seek legal judgment to clarify any disagreements.

However, the council says it has not backed down, and its original decision still stands, with a living wage to be paid to the council’s core cleaning staff from July 1, along with security staff.

Basically the two contracts done to date stand, but any future contracts may not include the provision.

As I have said before, it is madness to base your wages policy on whatever calculation is done by an Anglican priest living in Lower Hutt. That is not good governance. And forcing your contractors to do the same is even worse.

And the hypocrisy remains high as at least two Councillors who voted to force ratepayers to fund a living wage for Council staff and contractors, do not themselves pay a living wage to all staff working for them.

Councils will have to unlock more land for housing

May 17th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government is set to confirm plans next month to force councils to unlock more land for housing.

Housing Minister Nick Smith told TVNZ’s Q+A this morning that he would be “upping the ante” on increasing housing supply, in particular in Auckland.

“Next month I will be producing a national policy directive under the [Resource Management Act] that will put far tougher requirements on growing councils to ensure they are freeing up long-term the land that is required so that we don’t get into the sort of juggernaut that has been at the core of the unaffordable housing problems in Auckland.”

The Government was “pulling every lever it had” to increase supply, he said, and progress had been made on plans to build houses on surplus Crown land in Auckland.

Several contracts with developers would be announced in the next few weeks, and he expected the first house to be built on this land before the end of the year.

Around $52 million in funding for the scheme had been exhausted, and further funding was expected to be confirmed in this month’s Budget.

Dr Smith also told Q+A that Auckland’s Unitary Plan was “hugely important” for ramping up housing supply in the city.

“If we’re going to solve the problem in Auckland, it can’t be the sort of binary choice – is it up or is it out? It’s actually both.”

Good to hear Nick say this. Just doing one of them won’t work.

Self-defence for family violence victims who kill

May 17th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Victims of family violence who kill their abusers should be able to claim self-defence more easily, the Law Commission says.

The commission’s report on family violence laws, requested by the Government, has recommended lowering the threshold for self-defence to help women who “have endured years of trauma and abuse”.

In its report, the Law Commission said New Zealand had the highest reported rate of family violence in the developed world.

The commission has recommended changing the law to state that self-defence can apply when a person is responding to family violence – even when the threat is not “imminent”, as currently must be the case.

Lead commissioner Dr Wayne Mapp said there were some “deeply-held myths” about family violence, such as that those being abused could simply walk away.

“The reality is family violence in many cases is part of an ongoing, sustained, vicious pattern of violence that traps the person.

“That entrapment means she cannot leave, and that then means she ultimately, for fear of her life, or that of her children, sees no other way out but to defend herself with lethal force.”

Mapp said New Zealand’s self-defence laws were “out of step” with countries like the UK and Australia, and there was “ample evidence” that women convicted here of manslaughter or murder should have been acquitted for acting in self defence due to family violence.

He did not believe changing the law would lead to people using family violence as an excuse for premeditated murder, saying it would be up to juries to decide whether a self-defence claim was believable.

The law change could allow a woman to kill her sleeping partner and claim self-defence, if she made a “believable” case of family violence.

“Such a claim would only be successful if it existed in the context of a sustained long period of family violence, and if you didn’t do that then, the next thing going to happen to you is that you were going to be killed instead.”

I think the Government has to be very careful here.

First of all I agree that it is not as simple as saying that women should simply leave men who abuse them. That is absolutely the right thing to do, but doing so can be incredibly difficult, and in fact dangerous.

However we need to be careful that we do not create an incentive that it is an easier choice to kill your partner rather than leave them.

I’d be more comfortable with someone being able to get a reduced sentence or lesser conviction, rather than a total exoneration.

The other aspect that concerns me is that while there are sadly many many people who do get abused by their partners, you may create an incentive for someone who kills their partner, to falsely claim they were abusing them, and hence it was self defence. And as the partner is dead, you don’t get their side of the story.

So while I can agree the status quo is not great, I think significant caution is needed before extending the definition of self defence beyond imminent danger.

Review: Season 6:3 Game of Thrones (Jandals in May)

May 17th, 2016 at 9:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer

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