Word of the day

February 2, 2014

Widdendream – a  state of mental disturbance or confusion; a mad fit.


Mr Fines

February 2, 2014

Consequences for people who ignore reparation payments or fines for traffic offences are going to be tougher from next month:

People with unpaid fines or reparation for traffic-related offences could find themselves barred from driving under powerful new sanctions which come into effect this month, Courts Minister Chester Borrows says.

From Monday 17 February ‘Driver Licence Stop Orders’ (DLSOs) can be imposed on anyone who fails to pay traffic-related fines imposed on them by a Court, Police or a local government authority – or a reparation order imposed on them by a Court – for a traffic-related offence.

Mr Borrows says DLSOs are a powerful new sanction, which will initially be targeted at repeat offenders who’ve racked up big overdue debts.

“There are around 136,000 people who between them owe $48 million in traffic related fines and are making no attempt to pay,” Mr Borrows says.

“A lot of them have chosen to ignore repeated reminders and if they remain uncooperative they’ll pay for it with their driver licence.

“We will focus initially on the worst offenders, but anyone with an overdue fine should seize this opportunity to contact the Ministry of Justice and make a payment arrangement if they wish to hold on to their licence.”

The Ministry of Justice, which will hand out the new sanction, will start by giving people with large amounts owing 14 days’ notice to either pay up or set up a payment plan.  They’ll get one more reminder, and if they’re not compliant a bailiff will be sent to seize their driver licence.

Their licences will remain suspended until the fine is paid in full, or payment arrangements are in place.  And if they’re caught driving while their licence is suspended they could be prosecuted, and have the vehicle they were driving seized for 28 days.

“Of course the aim here isn’t to suspend lots of driver licences,” Mr Borrows says.

“The aim is to get people who’ve been ignoring the authority of law to take things seriously, and to pay their traffic-related fines.

“We’ve made big inroads in recent years in getting people to pay fines – thanks to sanctions such as the powers to seize property, stop people from travelling overseas, stop people making purchases on credit, and directly deducting money from wages. 

“Those measures have seen the total level of unpaid fines and reparation fall by nearly a quarter of a billion dollars since 2009.  But that still leaves $554.4 million in unpaid fines – the vast majority of offenders (96%) owing money for vehicle-related offences.  In that context, the ability to bar people from driving is a powerful new tool to enforce penalties, because driving matters to most people with fines.”

A new television, radio and online advertising campaign will launch on Sunday 2 February, letting people know about DLSOs and other enforcement powers, and encouraging those with unpaid traffic fines or reparation to arrange payment.


Rural round-up

February 2, 2014

Farmers fear restraints despite cleaner lakes – Richard Rennie:

With testing revealing Lake Rotoiti’s water quality is the best in decades, farmers in the Rotorua region are questioning further tightening of nutrient rules on farms in the catchment.

Recent water quality surveys by Bay of Plenty Regional Council indicates the Ohau diversion wall and upgraded sewerage systems have delivered improved fish-spawning conditions and improved water clarity in the lake.

The Ohau diversion wall, completed in 2008, has been successful in diverting the nutrient-rich water of Lake Rotorua from Lake Rotoiti, to be flushed down Kaituna River. . .

Save the working dog – Jillaroo Jess:

I just read the most distressing news. Once again, a bureaucrat in an office somewhere has decided to make like even more difficult for farmers than it already is. It is concerning the keeping of working dogs in Victoria, Australia. I am not from Victoria, but all Australians deserve a fair go, and often other states follow suit with these sorts of things.

Basically, if you have 3 intact females on your property you are now a breeder and will have to follow strict regulations on the keeping of your dogs. Farmers generally do not neuter their animals as it can affect their working ability, and really, if you have a good dog – you’ll want another one day! . . .

Reworking our dairy systems – Keith Woodford:

Many farmers will resist it fiercely, housing our dairy herd in sheds is almost inevitable.

The New Zealand dairy industry has always prided itself as being different. Whereas most other countries developed their dairy industries based on the housing of cows for much or all of the year, the New Zealand industry has always been pasture-based. The cows harvest the grass themselves, the cost of production has been low, and the image was of “clean and green”.

Alas, we now know the image of “clean and green” was never quite true. Although a huge amount has been done to clean up the industry, with fencing of waterways, nutrient budgets and meticulous management of effluent from the milking shed, there is a fundamental problem still to be tackled. This fundamental problem is the concentration of nitrogen in the urine patches which grazing cows leave behind. . .

Debate on increased indoor dairy farming in NZ heats up:

Some farmers worry what increased indoor dairy farming in New Zealand would do to the country’s clean green image.

Tom Phillips (@OneFarmNZ) was worried that indoor farming would remove the country’s point of difference of being clean and green.

“NZ has comparative advantage with pasture based dairy not purchased feed or housing,” he tweeted.

Anne Galloway (@annegalloway) was also worried that it would create animal welfare issues.

She did not think the review of the dairy cattle welfare bill, to ensure indoor cows in NZ have regulations in place, would be enough.

She tweeted that indoor farming would create a new issue that doesn’t exist now and that the public will weigh in on – positively and negatively. . .

Recognising research excellence:

The Lincoln University Research Committee has announced the recipients of the 2013 Excellence in Early Career Research Awards.  Three academic staff members have been named: Dr William Godsoe, Dr Sharon Forbes and Dr Majeed Safa .

The awards recognise research excellence among academic staff who have less than five years of research experience since completing their PhD, with winners being selected on criteria such as the quality and originality of their research; peer recognition via publications and speaking invitations; success with external funding; and awards from other learned bodies.

As well as the formal recognition of their achievements, all recipients receive $5,000 to be applied to a project of their choosing. . .

‘Uncertainty’ over wheat use by UK ethanol plants – Agrimoney:

The UK’s stop-start bioethanol industry was rated as a “large uncertainty” for wheat demand, after officials cut their forecast for consumption of the grain by biofuel plants, amid complaints of unfair imports of US supplies. 

The UK farm ministry, Defra, cut by 307,000 tonnes to 7.50m tonnes its forecast for industrial and food use of wheat in 2013-14, despite higher ideas of the use of the grain by the important distilling industry.  The downgrade reflected in part lower use in flour production, thanks to a better quality UK harvest this year, but also to a drop in use for bioethanol production, which “continues to be a large uncertainty for demand”, the HGCA crop bureau said. . .


2 new faces for Act

February 2, 2014

The Act party has a new leader and a new candidate for Epsom:

Writer and philosopher Jamie Whyte is Act’s new leader and David Seymour will be the party’s candidate in Epsom at the election later this year.

The decision was made by the Act board today and is due to be officially announced at 3 pm.

Dr Whyte is expected to take over in about a month at the party’s AGM.

Dr Whyte, aged 48, has recently returned to live in New Zealand from abroad and has only recently become active in the party.

Mr Seymour, aged 30, first stood for Act in 2005 in Mt Albert against former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Last election he stood in Auckland Central.

He has been working for a think-tank in Canada and may well have returned permanently had he not been made candidate for Epsom. . .

This gives the party two new and younger faces.

It also provides an opportunity to re-brand itself.

If the party can win Epsom it would help National but if it manages to look more credible than it has it could also take party votes from National’s right flank.

However, this is not a good start:

As Labour has shown only too well for the last few years, a party needs discipline, unity and good management.

Leaking an announcement like this displays none of that.


Real gender wage gap about 5c

February 2, 2014

Women earn less than men, right?

Well yes, but if this is right, it’s only 5c?

. . . President Obama repeated the spurious gender wage gap statistic in his State of the Union address. “Today,” he said, “women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”

What is wrong and embarrassing is the President of the United States reciting a massively discredited factoid. The 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week. When all these relevant factors are taken into consideration, the wage gap narrows to about five cents. And no one knows if the five cents is a result of discrimination or some other subtle, hard-to-measure difference between male and female workers. In its fact-checking column on the State of the Union, the Washington Post included the president’s mention of the wage gap in its list of dubious claims. “There is clearly a wage gap, but differences in the life choices of men and women… make it difficult to make simple comparisons.” . . .

The real gap is only about 5 cents and no one knows if the five cents is a result of discrimination or some other subtle, hard-to-measure difference between male and female workers.

Much of the wage gap can be explained away by simply taking account of college majors. Early childhood educators and social workers can expect to earn around $36,000 and $39,000, respectively. By contrast, petroleum engineering and metallurgy degrees promise median earnings of $120,000 and $80,000. Not many aspiring early childhood educators would change course once they learn they can earn more in metallurgy or mining. The sexes, taken as a group, are somewhat different. Women, far more than men, appear to be drawn to jobs in the caring professions; and men are more likely to turn up in people-free zones. In the pursuit of happiness, men and women appear to take different paths.

But here is the mystery. These and other differences in employment preferences and work-family choices have been widely studied in recent years and are now documented in a mountain of solid empirical research. By now the President and his staff must be aware that the wage gap statistic has been demolished. This is not the first time the Washington Post has alerted the White House to the error. Why continue to use it? One possibility is that they have been taken in by the apologetics of groups like the National Organization for Women and the American Association of University Women. In its 2007 Behind the Pay Gap report, the AAUW admits that most of the gap in earnings is explained by choices. But this admission is qualified: “Women’s personal choices are similarly fraught with inequities,” says the AAUW. It speaks of women being “pigeonholed” into “pink-collar” jobs in health and education. According to NOW, powerful sexist stereotypes “steer” women and men “toward different education, training, and career paths.”

Have these groups noticed that American women are now among the most educated, autonomous, opportunity-rich women in history? Why not respect their choices? For the past few decades, untold millions of state and federal dollars have been devoted to recruiting young women into engineering and computer technology. It hasn’t worked. The percent of degrees awarded to women in fields like computer science and engineering has either stagnated or significantly decreased since 2000. . .

All evidence suggests that though young women have the talent for engineering and computer science, their interest tends to lie elsewhere. To say that these women remain helplessly in thrall to sexist stereotypes, and manipulated into life choices by forces beyond their control, is divorced from reality—and demeaning to boot.  If a woman wants to be a teacher rather than a miner, or a veterinarian rather than a petroleum engineer, more power to her.

The White House should stop using women’s choices to construct a false claim about social inequality that is poisoning our gender debates. And if the President is truly persuaded that statistical pay disparities indicate invidious discrimination, then he should address the wage gap in his own backyard. Female staff at the White House earn 88 cents on the dollar compared to men. Is there a White House war on women?

Commenting on this Dr Mark J Perry asks two questions:

Some questions: Who has the most control over setting salaries in the workplace? For most organizations it would be the Human Resource (HR) Department. And what are the demographics of Human Resource professionals within that profession? Several recent studies reveal that women hold 71% of HR positions nationally. So if women now dominate the HR profession and hold almost three of every four positions, are they not directly responsible for the supposed 23% wage differential between men and women that Obama and women’s group keep talking about? If it seems illogical and impossible that female HR professionals would systematically discriminate against female employees, doesn’t that expose the 77-cents-per-dollar gender wage gap as a myth?

Related question: Why is the HR profession, whose supposed platform is a commitment to diversity in organizations throughout the country, itself not a very gender-diverse profession? Is is possible that women naturally gravitate to the HR profession and far outnumber men in that career choice in the same way that men naturally gravitate to engineering and far outnumber women in that career choice? The concern about gender imbalances always seems so selective and uni-directional.

The figures used are for the USA, but the situation is likely to be similar here.

I am one of those who bring the numbers down for women, having had only temporary or part-time work since I was in my mid-20s.

That’s been my choice.

Where I live would make full time, permanent work more difficult, but if I really wanted to do it I could.

For a multitude of reasons I haven’t chosen to.

Feminism aims to let women do anything.

I’ve chosen part time and temporary work, combined with raising a family, a supporting role in the family business and a variety of volunteer roles.

Those of us who choose to do this add to the statistics which give the impression there’s a gender gap.

Those figures from the USA show that if the multitude of factors which influence pay is taken into account it it is insignificant.


Ordinary Things

February 2, 2014

OrdinaryThingsSM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hardest to love the ordinary things, she said, but you get lots of opportunities to practise.

Copyright 2012. Brian Andreas at Story People.

You can sign up for a daily dose of email whimsy like this by clicking on the link.


Greens should make taxpayer funding of political parties election issue

February 2, 2014

The Green Party has raised the issue of taxpayer funding of political parties again:

. . . The Green Party believes the rules could be amended further. It wants an inquiry to investigate state funding for election campaigns.

A spokeswoman said: “We see partial public funding of parties as a further step to help level the playing field between parties and to help combat parties being captured by wealthy interests.”

The party said it was important that the level of public funding was not set so high that the parties did not need to go to the community for more money. . .

If this is what they want they should make it an election issue, campaign on it and see what the voters think.

If they don’t want to do that, they could always try another politicians’ initiated referendum.

I doubt either would get most support.

I’m confident most people think that political parties, like other voluntary organisations, should fund their own activities and have no right to taxpayers’ money.


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