Word of the day


Paleomnesia – having a good memory for events of the distant past.

Critical Mass – grammar, scribe’s manifesto and autism


Jim Mora and I began our discussion on critical mass where we finished last week, discussing the elements of clunk.

We moved on to a manifesto for  the simple scribe.  Tim Radford’s 25 commandments for journalists are a good guide for anyone else who is writing or speaking. (Thanks to Quote Unquote who led me there).

We finished with a quick look at Autism and Oughtisms, a blog written by the mother of a five year-old who has autism. The writer also deals with other autism issues and admits to having a special passion for revealing bad arguments.

A blog like this could be therapeutic for the writer but it is much more than a journal. 

It would be a very valuable resource for anyone who has a child with autism in their family or circle of friends or who works with children with autism. It is so well written I think it would be of interest to people who have little or no experience of autism too.

Has anyone noticed . . .


 . . .  that everyone now has at least four weeks holiday?

In the lamenting over Waitangi Day falling on Sunday and Anzac Day on Easter Monday which means no day off for a public holiday until Queen’s Birthday in June,*  no-one seems to remember there’s now an extra week’s annual leave.

Providing employers agree that could be taken as a whole or in part which could include as  a Monday tacked on to any weekend to make it a long one.

* Unless as Credo Quia Absurdum notes you live in Southland. There, and here in Otago, Anniversary Day is officially the Monday nearest March 23rd but is often taken on the Tuesday after Easter or at any other date convenient to employer and employee.

Sunset, sunrise


David Lange wasn’t popular with farmers struggling with the ag-sag and did nothing to improve their opinion when he described farming as a sunset industry.

Fortunately he was wrong, the sun is rising again:

Despite one of the toughest seasons in memory, the agricultural sector’s contribution to the export economy has maintained its high, according to the latest Statistics New Zealand Overseas Merchandise Trade statistics.

“Every New Zealander can be happy with this result, which follows December’s positive figures,” says Philip York, Federated Farmers economics and commerce spokesperson.

“Merchandise exports for the year to December 2010 were up 9.6 percent to $43.5 billion overall. This boost was led by dairy and forestry which were up 29 percent and 27 percent respectively, great numbers in these tough economic times. . .

In spite of drought, floods and snow in 2010:

“More than half of the total exports for the year came from agricultural exports. Out of the top ten exports, agriculture accounts for an astonishing 74 percent, or $20.9 billion out of $28.1 billion, underlining the sectors importance to the national economy. . .

However, higher prices for exports follow through to the domestic market and the NZIER says higher food prices will harm the economy.

There are winners and losers on the back of high food prices. One view is that high food prices are great news for New Zealand, as it is primarily a food exporter. Higher prices increase the revenue generated from our agricultural products, which flows through the rest of the economy. The flip-side of high prices is that we, as consumers, must also pay them. High prices mean households can buy less with their income, which is bad news for New Zealand.

The NZIER says there are solutions:

    • productive agricultural investment – especially in developing countries
    • trade policy – concluding the Doha round of the World Trade Organisation trade talks will remove trade distorting subsidies and generally lower barriers to food trade
    • reform of grain-based biofuel policies – a number of biofuels are created from food products, such as corn. Policies that subsidise these bio-fuels encourage farmers to switch from supplying food markets to bio-fuel markets. These support policies should be reviewed to consider their impact on food security.

It is also opposed to domestic band-aid solutions:

New Zealand policies should, where practicable, work to support the agenda of the international organisations that specialise in this area.

Trade policy is where this makes the most sense. Actively working to conclude the WTO’s Doha round will, amongst other things, remove the ability of the US and the EU to implement export subsidies. The conclusion of the round will also reduce trade barriers in the world’s protected markets. These reductions will provide opportunities for New Zealand, but they will also benefit producers in developing countries through both increased trade, and increased access to productive investment.

The report also highlights the problems with removing GST from food and says knee jerk reactions should be avoided.

High food prices should be seen as more than just a bonanza for New Zealand exporters. The effect on all New Zealanders needs to be considered. Our modelling shows that the negative impact on households outweighs the benefits to exporters causing a net welfare loss for New Zealand.

Our modelling also shows that no one in the world wins from higher food prices. While the prices may induce more investment in food production, a number of international organisations will also focus on the need to increase productive agricultural investment and remove barriers to food trade.

The experience of other countries during the 2008 food crisis suggests that short-term fixes can be self-defeating. This implies that New Zealand may have to ride out these higher prices, which places further pressure on our shallow and jagged economic recovery.

I might be missing something here, but  isn’t the solution for our, and global wellbeing, not lower prices for food but growing economies that lift incomes?

Hat Tip: rivettingKate Taylor.

Past is a fool’s paradise


The ODT has the headline of the week: Past is a fool’s paradise, Mr Goff.

The editorial which follows starts:

Consider the problems facing Phil Goff: he leads a party trying to find its way after nine successful years in government; in opposition he is without effective political power and faces a National Party with a leader whose present popularity seems unbreakable.

He is rating dangerously low in the more reputable opinion polls, yet in 10 months or so he must contest a general election which, if he loses, will write finis under his career.

But what if he wins? What characteristic would stamp a Phil Goff Labour government? He gave more than a hint on economic policy in his first significant speech for some time a day or two ago, and it creaked with age.

For one thing, he talked of bringing back the New Zealand he grew up in. . .

He’s not talking of taking us back to the noughties, or the eighties when he was a Minister and could have done some of the things he’s promising to do if given the chance after the election. He’s going way, way back to the 1950s and 60s.

That was another time when New Zealand and the world were very different places.

It is a comfort, living in the past and thinking of it as being the better days.

But the past was, in truth, a fool’s paradise, a comfortable charade shattered to pieces the moment the post-war West woke up to harsh reality.

We can even put a date on it in this country: 1973, the last year New Zealand lived within its income.

That’s when the slide started and we kept heading down from there.

Nearly 4 decades of spending more than we earn won’t be turned round in a few months or even years. It certainly won’t be turned round by continuing the borrow and tax to spend on wants rather than needs sort of policies that got us into debt and kept us there.

What we need, as the editorial concudes, is a bold future not a discredited past.

February 1 in history


On February 1:

1327 Teenaged Edward III was crowned King of England, but the country was ruled by his mother Queen Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer.

1662 Chinese general Koxinga seized the island of Taiwan after a nine-month siege.

1663 Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo, Filipino foundress of the Religious of the Virgin Mary, was born  (d. 1748).

1790 The Supreme Court of the United States attempted to convene for the first time.

1793 French Revolutionary Wars: France declared war on the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.


1814 Mayon Volcano, in the Philippines, erupted, killing around 1,200 people.

1842 The Fifeshire arrived in Nelson with the first immigrants for the New Zealand Company’s latest venture, which followed the settlement of Wellington, New Plymouth and Wanganui.

First NZ Company settlers arrive in Nelson

1861 Texas seceded from the United States.

1862 Julia Ward Howe‘s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was published for the first time in the Atlantic Monthly.


1865 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

1873 John Barry, Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, was born (d. 1901).


1884 Edition one of the Oxford English Dictionary was published.

1893 Thomas A. Edison finishes construction of the first motion picture studio, the Black Maria in West Orange, New Jersey.

1896 The opera La bohème premieresd in Turin.

 Mimì’s costume for act 1 of La bohème designed by Adolf Hohenstein for the world premiere

1897 Shinhan Bank, the oldest bank in South Korea, opened in Seoul.

Logo of Shinhan Bank

1901 Clark Gable, American actor, was born  (d. 1960).

1908 King Carlos I of Portugal and his son, Prince Luis Filipe were killed in Terreiro do Paco, Lisbon.


1918 Muriel Spark, Scottish author, was born  (d. 2006).


1920 The Royal Canadian Mounted Police began operations.

1931 Boris Yeltsin, 1st President of the Russian Federation, was born.

1934 Bob Shane, American folk singer (The Kingston Trio), was born.

1937 Don Everly, American musician (Everly Brothers), was born.

1937 Ray Sawyer, American singer (Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show), was born.

1942 Vidkun Quisling was appointed Premier of Norway by the Nazi occupiers.

1943 The German 6th Army surrendered at Stalingrad.

1946 Trygve Lie of Norway was picked to be the first United Nations Secretary General.

1957 Felix Wankel‘s first working prototype DKM 54 of the Wankel engine was running at the NSU research and development department Versuchsabteilung TX in Germany.


1958 Egypt and Syria merged to form the United Arab Republic, which lasted until 1961.

1958 The United States Army launched Explorer 1.

1960 Four black students staged the first of the Greensboro sit-ins.

1965 The Hamilton River in Labrador, Canada was renamed the Churchill River in honour of Winston Churchill.


1968 – Canada’s three military services, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force, were unified into the Canadian Forces.

Canadian Forces emblem.png

1972  Kuala Lumpur became a city by a royal charter granted by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia.

1974 A fire in the 25-story Joelma Building in Sao Paulo killed 189 and injures 293.

1979 – The Ayatollah Khomeini was welcomed back into Tehran after nearly 15 years of exile.


1981 Trans-Tasman sporting relations reached breaking point at the Melbourne Cricket Ground when Australian captain Greg Chappell ordered his brother Trevor to bowl underarm (along the ground) for the final delivery of a limited-overs cricket international against New Zealand.

Trevor Chappell bowls underarm

1989 The Western Australian towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder amalgamate to form the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

Kal Post mod.jpg

1992 The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal court declares Warren Anderson, ex-CEO of Union Carbide, a fugitive under Indian law for failing to appear in the Bhopal Disaster case.

1996 The Communications Decency Act was passed by the U.S. Congress.

1998 Rear Admiral Lillian E. Fishburne became the first female African American to be promoted to rear admiral.


2003 – Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

2004 251 people were trampled to death and 244 injured in a stampede at the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

2005 King Gyanendra exercised a coup d’état to capture Neapl, becoming Chairman of the Councils of ministers.

2005 – Canada introduced the Civil Marriage Act, making Canada the fourth country to sanction same-sex marriage.

2009 Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Iceland, becoming the first openly gay head of state in the modern world.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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