Word of the day

06/12/2011

Paralipsis – drawing attention to something while claiming to be passing over it; the device of giving emphasis by professing to say little or nothing about a subject.


Blame the rules not the players

06/12/2011

When those of us who wanted a change from MMP mentioned the problem of wee parties gaining concessions out of proportion to their support, we were told that the tail didn’t really wag the dog.

Funny how some of those people who were such strong defenders of MMP are now complaining that John Banks has got too much in the deal between Act and National.

Neither he nor the National Party strategists who negotiated the deal made the rules and they can’t be blamed for playing the game.

Blame the system and its rules not the players.

We’ve had a chance to change it but it’s unlikely the final count on the referendum will show a majority in favour of doing so.

If we have to stick with it we’ll get a review – but the negotiating power of coalition partners is very unlikely to be changed by it.

A system which almost always requires coalition governments constrains the bigger parties and gives more power to the wee ones. No matter what the review does, it can’t change that.


Cunliffe’s secret diary

06/12/2011

Steve Braunias channels David Cunliffe:

Monday

Rode into town at first light. The streets were empty. Vultures lined up on telephone lines. Smashed glass littered the length of the pavement. Black smoke from Saturday’s blaze curled in the air from the ashes of the bank, the hardware store, the barbershop, the media training office.

Hitched my wagon in front of the saloon and walked in.

Jacinda Ardern was slumped on the stairs. She didn’t look so good in the morning light. No-one did. A few gamblers were hunched over their cards. There was a priest murmuring into his glass of whiskey. The barman ran a filthy rag over the counter.

I struck a match on his head and lit my cheroot. “Ain’t no smokin’ in here, pardner,” squeaked a high girlish voice in the corner.

“Shut it, Parker,” I said.

He sprang to his little feet just as the saloon doors swung open with a crash. Spurs scraped across the wooden floor. “Shearer,” Parker piped. The room went quiet.

Parker looked at Shearer, and Shearer looked at me, and I looked in the mirror. . .

It continues  here.


Vox pop on Christmas presents

06/12/2011

A reporter for a give away paper stopped me on the street yesterday to get my opinion for a vox pop on Christmas preparations.

He wanted to know: 1. What was I doing about presents?, 2. Would I be making or buying them? 3. Would I be spending more or less than last year?

1. I haven’t even thought about it yet. Successive Christmases have got simpler and simpler for our family and friends which means I don’t have a long list of recipients to worry about and it’s at least a week too soon to start thinking about the few gifts I will give.

3. Probably buying most though I usually give a few gifts from my kitchen.

3.  Simpler also means less expensive.


Not if but how for Maori Party

06/12/2011

The choice for the Maori Party isn’t if they will reach an agreement with National but how.

In or attached to the government the party will be able to get real policy gains.

The alternative of three years in the wilderness of opposition in competition with Labour, the Green part, NZ First and Mana will do nothing for the party or its supporters.

It could also mean the end of the Maori seats.

National campaigned in 2008 on getting rid of the seats but dropped that policy as a concession to the Maori Party during coalition negotiations.

Act still wants the seats dropped. If the Maori Party chooses opposition rather than supporting the government in some fashion, National will be under no obligation to keep them.


One type of school doesn’t fit all

06/12/2011

The usual suspects – the unions and people who think the state has the only answers – are predictably outraged by the proposal for a few charter schools.

National agreed in its coalition deal with act to allow community, religious or ethnic groups or private companies to operate state-funded schools.

I haven’t had any experience of this in education but was deputy chair of a health board which operated in exactly this way. The hospital was owned by the District Council which appointed the board. Operating funding came from the government through the district health board with additional funding from other sources including ACC and the hospital board decided how to spend it.

The model worked, and continues to work, well.

Under the deal with ACT, community, religious or ethnic groups, or private companies, will be allowed to operate state-funded charter schools.

School boards will be able to set class hours and introduce performance-related teacher’s pay.

A trial will be held in South Auckland which, along with Christchurch East, will be the first areas to have the state-funded private schools within the next three years.

This isn’t a wholesale reorganisation of the education system, it’s a trial with a few schools in only a couple of areas.

“I don’t think the New Zealand voters are going to be up and arms because in a couple of communities in New Zealand we give some new model a go.

“If those students don’t want to go there, they’ll be free to go to the existing schools they are at.”

Key said “more often than not” parents had objectives that some in the education sector were opposed to.

“That doesn’t mean just because they are opposed, they are in line with what the New Zealand parents and student want.”

One type of  school doesn’t fit all pupils and charter schools won’t either. No-one will be compelled to go to these schools them, but the policy will offer choice for those who want it.

The schools will have a very real incentive to make the model work. If they succeed their pupils will too and there will be potential for expansion. If the trial fails they will lose their funding.

The prime minister rejected suggestions National had blindsided voters with changes to the education system.

“Are you really telling me that because we might trial in parts of the country, one or two schools, to see whether they can deliver better results, that somehow it’s undermining the education system in New Zealand?

“Sorry but it sounds a bit far-fetched to me.”

It sounds very far-fetched to me too and it shows that opponents don’t understand the concept of trial and choice.

Educational failure has many causes, including poor health and nutrition, and the trial won’t solve all of them.

But when the current system is failing so many, there’s no harm in offering pupils and their parents the choice of an alternative approach to schooling.


Greenpeace back on PKE hobbyhorse

06/12/2011

Greenpeace have resurrected their campaign against Palm Kernel Expeller.

Despite the many real issues facing the planet, Greenpeace New Zealand is back on its supplementary feed hobbyhorse. This time with a report written by a consultant who lives in the south of France.

“It must be summer because here comes Greenpeace again on Palm Kernel Expeller. You can almost set your watch by them,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“Wikipedia defines palm kernel expeller (PKE) as, “the leftovers after kernel oil is pressed out from the nut in the palm fruit. Palm kernel cake is commonly used as animal feed for dairy cattle because of its high protein content. If not, it is usually treated as biomass to fuel up boilers to generate electricity for use at palm oil mills and surrounding villages”.

“From a quick read of Greenpeace’s report I found a huge flaw in its logic. Their report wrongly treats PKE as a‘coproduct’ of palm oil, rather than it being a byproduct. It’s like saying orange peel is a coproduct of orange juice so must carry the same carbon footprint as orange juice. I think accountants call this type of error double counting.

“Greenpeace tries to use tonnage to talk up the issue, but that’s like saying a kilogram of feathers is the same as a kilogram of gold. According to publicly available statistics on the Malaysian industry, Palm Kernel Cake generates less than one percent of that industry’s export earnings. Being a byproduct, PKE is worth well less than one percent of palm oil’s value.

“Consumers deserve to know that 99 percent of the value derived from Palm Oil isn’t in animal feed. You can actually say some farmers are recycling a byproduct that would otherwise go up in smoke or be left to rot generating methane. Where’s the greenhouse gas sense in that?

If palm oil is such a problem, Green peace should be directing its efforts at the 99% of the industry which uses the product, not the 1% which makes good use of the by-product.

“Until we can get water storage infrastructure in place New Zealand’s farming system is subject to the vagaries of rainfall. The most cost effective supplemental feed is what is grown on-farm and thankfully, water storage is coming due to Federated Farmers’ lobbying.

“You are left with the impression Greenpeace’s questioning of our carbon footprint has an anti-trade dimension to it. This report could be seen as economic vandalism.

“The recent Caygill Report on the Emissions Trading Scheme said that since 1990, New Zealand agriculture has been cutting emissions in each unit of production by an average of 1.3 percent a year. That’s an environmental positive I would have thought.

“Individual farmers through their commodity levies are directly investing in greenhouse gas research and New Zealand is now a world leader in agricultural greenhouse gas research.

“If Greenpeace is truly about the environment, why aren’t they protesting against oil based carpets instead?

“Can you honestly say in a world of food scarcity that recycling PKE as animal feed is the number one environmental issue? Especially if the ‘high value’ product it claims it to be, is either left to rot on the ground or burnt as fuel,” Mr Leferink concluded.

A wet start to summer has enabled farms in most areas to make their own supplements.

But the weather can and will change and it’s possible some farmers will have to buy feed later int he season and PKE will be one of the options.

Even if they do, New Zealand dairy farming is among the most efficient in the world and the industry has been doing all it can to make it even better.

If supply drops off here it will be replaced by milk from other countries whose carbon footprints are much greater than ours. That will cost farmers, the wider economy and the environment.


December 6 in history

06/12/2011

1060 – Béla I of Hungary was crowned king of Hungary.

1240 – Mongol invasion of Rus: Kiev under Danylo of Halych and Voivode Dmytro fell to the Mongols under Batu Khan.

1534 The city of Quito in Ecuador was founded by Spanish settlers led by Sebastián de Belalcázar.

1648 Colonel Pride of the New Model Army purged the Long Parliament of MPs sympathetic to King Charles I  in order for the King’s trial to go ahead; –  “Pride’s Purge“.

1704 – Battle of Chamkaur.

1745 – Charles Edward Stewart’s army began retreat during the second Jacobite Rising.

1768 The first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica was published.

1849 American abolitionist Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery.

1865 – The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, banning slavery.

1877  The first edition of the Washington Post was published.

1877 – Thomas Edison created the first recording of a human voice, reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.

1884 The Washington Monument in Washington D.C. was completed.

1897  London became the world’s first city to host licenced taxicabs.

1900  Agnes Moorehead, American actress, was born.

1907 –  A coal mine explosion at Monongah, West Virginia killed 362 workers.

1917 Finland declared independence from Russia.

1917  Halifax Explosion: A munitions explosion killed more than 1900 people and destroyed part of the City of Halifax.

1921 The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in London by British and Irish representatives.

1922 The Irish Free State came into existence

1933 U.S. federal judge John M. Woolsey ruled that the James Joyce‘s novel Ulysses was not obscene.

1935 New Zealand’s first Labour government took office with Michael Josepph Savage as Prime Minister.

First Labour government takes office

1947 The Everglades National Park in Florida was dedicated.

1956 – Aged 14, swimmer Sandra Morgan became the youngest Australian to win an Olympic gold medal.

1957 –  A launchpad explosion of Vanguard TV3 thwarted the first United States’ attempt to launch a satellite into Earth orbit.

1965 – Pakistan’s Islamic Ideology Advisory Committee recommended that Islamic Studies be made a compulsory subject for Muslim students from primary to graduate level.

1967Adrian Kantrowitz performed the first human heart transplant in the United States.

1975 – Balcombe Street Siege: An IRA Active Service Unit took a couple hostage in Balcombe Street, London.

1977 – South Africa granted independence to Bophuthatswana, although it was not recognized by any other country.

1978 – Spain approved its latest constitution in a referendum.

1982 – Droppin Well bombing: The Irish National Liberation Army detonated a bomb in Ballykelly, killing eleven British soldiers and six civilians.

1988 – The Australian Capital Territory was granted self-government.

1989 The École Polytechnique Massacre (or Montreal Massacre): an anti-feminist gunman murdered 14 young women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal.

1992 – Extremist Hindu activists demolished Babri Masjid – a 16th century mosque in Ayodhya, India which had been used as a temple since 1949.

1997 – A Russian Antonov An-124 cargo plane crashed into an apartment complex near Irkutsk, Siberia, killing 67.

1998 – Hugo Chávez Frías, Venezuelan military officer and politician, was elected President of Venezuela.

2005 – Several villagers were shot dead during protests in Dongzhou, China.

2006 – NASA revealed photographs taken by Mars Global Surveyor suggesting the presence of liquid water on Mars.

2008 – The 2008 Greek riots broke out upon the murder of a 15-year-old boy, Alexandros Grigoropoulos.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.


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