August 20 in history

August 20, 2019

636  Battle of Yarmouk: Arab forces led by Khalid ibn al-Walid took control of Syria and Palestine , marking the first great wave of Muslim conquests and the rapid advance of Islam outside Arabia.

917  Battle of Acheloos: Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria decisively defeated a Byzantine army.

1000  The foundation of the Hungarian state by Saint Stephen.

1083  Canonization of the first King of Hungary, Saint Stephen and his son Saint Emeric.

1391 Konrad von Wallenrode became the 24th Hochmeister of the Teutonic Order.

1672  Former Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis were murdered by an angry mob in The Hague.

1778 Bernardo O’Higgins, South American revolutionary, was born  (d. 1842).

1794  Battle of Fallen Timbers – American troops forced a confederacy of Shawnee, Mingo, Delaware, Wyandot, Miami, Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi warriors into a disorganised retreat.

1804  Lewis and Clark Expedition: the “Corps of Discovery”, exploring the Louisiana Purchase, suffered its only death when sergeant Charles Floyd died, apparently from acute appendicitis.

1858 Charles Darwin first published his theory of evolution in The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, alongside Alfred Russel Wallace’s same theory.

1866 President Andrew Johnson formally declared the American Civil War over.

1882 Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture debuted in Moscow.

1888  – Tôn Đức Thắng, Vietnamese politician, 2nd President of Vietnam, was born (d. 1980).

1888  Mutineers imprisoned Emin Pasha at Dufile.

1901 – Salvatore Quasimodo, Italian novelist and poet, Nobel Prize laureate, was born (d. 1968).

1904 – The New Zealand Free Lance printed a J.C. Blomfield cartoon in which a plucky kiwi morphed into a moa as the All Blacks defeated Great Britain 9–3 in the first rugby test between Motherland and colony. This may have been the first use of a kiwi to symbolise the nation in a cartoon.

First use of kiwi as unofficial national symbol?

1909 – Alby Roberts, New Zealand cricketer and rugby player, was born (d. 1978).

1919 – Adamantios Androutsopoulos, Greek lawyer, educator and politician, Prime Minister of Greece, was born (d. 2000).

1923  Jim Reeves, US country music singer, was born  (d.1964).

1926 Japan’s public broadcasting company, Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK) was established.

1927 Yootha Joyce, English actress, was born  (d. 1980).

1927 – Fred Kavli, Norwegian-American businessman and philanthropist, founded The Kavli Foundation (d. 2013).

1927  – Peter Oakley, English soldier and blogger was born (d. 2014).

1940 The New Zealand Shipping Company freighter Turakina was sunk by the Orion 260 nautical miles west of Taranaki, following a brief gun battle – the first ever fought in the Tasman Sea. Thirty-six members (some sources say 35) of its largely British crew were killed. Twenty survivors, many of them wounded, were rescued from the sea and taken prisoner.

Turakina sunk by German raider in Tasman

1940 In Mexico City exiled Leon Trotsky was fatally wounded with an ice axe by Ramon Mercader.

1941 Dave Brock, British musician and founder of Hawkwind, was born.

1941 – Robin Oakley, English journalist and author, was born.

1941 Slobodan Milošević, President of Serbia and of Yugoslavia (d. 2006).

1944 Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, was born (d. 1991).

1944  – 168 captured allied airmen, accused of being “terror fliers”, arrive at Buchenwald concentration camp. The senior officer was Phil Lamason of the RNZAF.

1944 The Battle of Romania began with a major Soviet offensive.

1948 Robert Plant, British Musician (Led Zeppelin), was born.

1955 – Agnes Chan, Hong Kong singer and author, was born.

1955 In Morocco, a force of Berbers  raided two rural settlements and killed 77 French nationals.

1960 Senegal broke from the Mali federation, declaring its independence.

1961  – Amanda Sonia Berry, English businesswoman, was born.

1974 Amy Adams, American actress, was born.

1975  NASA launched the Viking 1 planetary probe toward Mars.

1977 NASA launched Voyager 2.

1979  The East Coast Main Line rail route between England and Scotland was restored when the Penmanshiel Diversion opens.

1982 Lebanese Civil War: a multinational force landed in Beirut to oversee the PLO’s withdrawal from Lebanon.

1988  ”Black Saturday” of the Yellowstone fire in Yellowstone National Park.

1988 – Iran–Iraq War: a cease-fire was agreed after almost eight years of war.

1989 The pleasure boat Marchioness sank on the River Thames following a collision, 51 people were killed.

1989 The O-Bahn in Adelaide, the world’s longest guided busway, opened.

1991  August Coup: more than 100,000 people rallied outside the Soviet Union’s parliament building protesting the coup aiming to depose President Mikhail Gorbachev.

1991 Estonia seceded from the Soviet Union.

1993 The Oslo Peace Accords were signed.

1997  Souhane massacre in Algeria; more than 60 people were killed and 15 kidnapped.

1998 The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Quebec couldn’t legally secede from Canada without the federal government’s approval.

1998 The United States military launched cruise missile attacks  against alleged al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical plant in Sudan in retaliation for the August 7 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

2008 – Spanair Flight 5022, from Madrid to Gran Canaria, skids off the runway and crashes at Barajas Airport. 146 people are killed in the crash, 8 more died afterwards. Only 18 people survived.

2012 – A prison riot in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas killed at least 20 people.

2014  – Seventy-two people were killed in Japan’s Hiroshima prefecture by a series of landslides caused by a month’s worth of rain that fell in one day.

2016 – 54 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated himself at a Kurdish wedding party in Gaziantep, Turkey.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


Alastair Scott standing down

June 25, 2019

National’s Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott will stand down at the next election.

MP for Wairarapa Alastair Scott has today announced that he won’t contest the 2020 election.

“It has been a privilege to serve the electorate of Wairarapa for two terms. I have decided that I will not nominate as a National Candidate in the forthcoming selection for Wairarapa.

“I’m confident that I leave my seat in good shape for the 2020 election. I am announcing today because it is very important to me that we have sufficient time to find and support our new National Wairarapa candidate for the 2020 election.

“I am grateful to the National Party for the opportunities and support it has shown me over the past six years. The party is full of dedicated individuals who are committed to working hard for New Zealand. I will extend my full support to the newly selected candidate.

“It will be business as usual in my office until the election. As always, people should not hesitate to get in touch with myself or my staff.

“I have every confidence that National will claim victory at the next election.”

If MPs aren’t planning to contest next year’s election it is better as Alastair, and Amy Adams  did earlier, to give the party and would-be candidates for selection plenty of notice.

National leader Simon Bridges will announce a minor reshuffle of portfolios this afternoon.


Amy Adams retiring

June 25, 2019

Selwyn MP and former Minister Amy Adams will retire from politics next year:

Amy Adams has announced she will retire from politics at the 2020 election and as a consequence of that decision she has chosen to stand down from the spokesperson roles she holds in the Party.

Ms Adams has been the MP for Selwyn since 2008 and is currently both the Finance spokesperson and the Shadow Attorney General.

“I have been incredibly privileged to serve as the MP for Selwyn and a member of the National Party Caucus for almost 12 years,” Ms Adams says.

“Making the decision to step away from politics has not been an easy one but it is the right time for me and my family and I’m looking forward to whatever the future holds.

“I have every confidence in the National Party under Simon Bridges leadership and their prospects for the 2020 election.  My decision is purely about what is right for me and the life I want to lead going forward. 

“I’ve chosen to make this announcement now as given the seniority of the positions I hold in the Caucus I felt that it was important new people have time to establish themselves in those roles as we head towards 2020.

“From now until the election I will continue to work hard as the advocate for the people of Selwyn.” 

Amy’s popularity hasn’t been confined to National supporters. She came into parliament with a good majority, increased that and has always gained one of the highest electorate votes.

I am sorry that she is going and appreciative of her service as an MP.

Announcing her retirement now shows Amy understands the importance of allowing time for whoever takes over her portfolios to get to grips with them well before the election.

It also shows she appreciates the importance of giving plenty of time for the selection process in her electorate and for whoever succeeds her to do the work necessary to win the seat.


Priorities

June 20, 2019

Last month’s Budget was supposed to be focussed on wellbeing, but some of its priorities suggest otherwise:

Hon Amy Adams: Why, when Budget 2019 allocated $15.2 billion of new operating spending over four years, couldn’t he find enough funding in the Budget to ensure that Pharmac’s funding at least kept pace with inflation?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As has been traversed in the House last week, Pharmac did receive an increase in funding. In this Budget, in the health area, based on the evidence, mental health received a massive injection of funding after being neglected for many, many years. The overall health budget has received a significant increase. On this side of the House—as I said in answer to the last question—we can’t make up for nine years of neglect in one year or even two years, but we’re making a good start.

Hon Amy Adams: How can he say that he’s used “evidence and expert advice to tell us where we could make the greatest difference to the well-being of New Zealanders”, when the Government has chosen to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into fees-free tertiary at the expense of giving Pharmac enough money to keep pace with inflation?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The premise of that member’s question is incorrect. Money that supports education, money that supports health, and money that supports housing are all part of the Budget; one is not at the expense of the other. What we’re doing is actually making up for the enormous under-investment of the previous Government.

Money spent in one area is not at the expense of money that can’t be spent in another?

It can only be spent once.

Even if you look at different categories, you can question priorities.

Extra resources for children who get to school without the necessary pre-learning skills and for those at school and failing are only two areas of much greater need, and that would make a far greater contribution to wellbeing, than fee-free tertiary education for all students, whether or not they need that assistance.

Hon Amy Adams: How does he think the refusal to even keep Pharmac funding in line with population growth has affected the well-being of New Zealanders like 14-year-old Stella Beswick, two-year-old Otis Porter, or Bella Guybay’s four-year-old daughter, who are all waiting desperately for the funding of lifesaving medicines that are funded in almost every other OECD country?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As the member well knows, and as with the time she was in Government, Pharmac make those decisions. We now spend nearly a billion dollars on the Pharmac budget, and we will continue to invest in that. But we will also continue to invest in the areas which the last Government completely ignored—such as mental health—because that is what New Zealanders asked us to do.

Hon Amy Adams: How does he respond, then, to Troy Elliott, whose wife is suffering from serious breast cancer, and has said that New Zealand’s medicines funding is starting to make us look like a Third World country and that “this Government has to wake up; we’re going backwards.”?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I understand that for any family that is going through a situation where they have a family member with cancer, that is traumatic. What we know in this country is that Pharmac makes the decisions about what drugs it invests in. . . 

Pharmac makes the decisions but the government allocates the funds which determine how much, or little, it can do.

Health inflation is many times greater than general inflation and this year’s Budget funding for Pharmac isn’t even keeping up with general inflation.

 

 

 


There are three kinds of people in the world . . .

May 24, 2019

There are three kinds of people in the world, those who can count and those who can’t . . .

It’s more than a little concerning that this exchange in parliament on Wednesday shows the Minister of Finance appears to be in the second group.

. . .Hon Paul Goldsmith: To the nearest billion dollars, what is an additional 1 percent GDP growth worth to New Zealand?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I believe it’s about $800 million.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: $800 million?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: About that.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think that the people of New Zealand would expect their Minister of Finance to know that 1 percent of GDP is about $3 billion and that’s the amount of money that we’ve missed out on given the sharp decline in growth in the past year? . . .

Even those who struggle with numbers would recognise that there is a significant difference between $800 million and $3 billion.

We should also be concerned that the Minister has conceded defeat on Budget responsibility rules:

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has today thrown in the towel by scrapping his self-imposed debt target, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“Grant Robertson has been backed into a corner by allowing the economy to slow, over promising and making poor spending choices. Now, instead of a fixed target Grant Robertson has lifted the debt limit by 5 per cent. That loosens the purse strings by tens of billions of dollars.

“This is a blunt admission the Government can’t manage the books properly, it is not wriggle-room. This makes the fiscal hole look like a puddle.

“You can almost guarantee that means debt at the upper end of the range of 25 per cent. This is an admission of defeat from a Finance Minister who has repeatedly used these rules to give himself the appearance of being fiscally responsible.

“This decision will mean billions of dollars more debt because the Government can’t manage the books properly and wants to spend up on big wasteful promises in election year.

“This will pay for things like Shane Jones’ slush fund, fees-free tertiary and KiwiBuild – in other words, it’s wasteful spending.

“Debt isn’t free. It will have to be paid for by higher taxes in the future. . . 

The economy is slowing and its poor policies are, at least in part, responsible for that.

Reducing wasteful spending should come before more borrowing.

If the government had concentrated on value for money, measured success by the quality of its spending rather than the quantity and enacted policies which promoted growth it wouldn’t have to even contemplate more debt.


Economic growth foundation for wellbeing

February 26, 2019

The government is trying to persuade us that it’s doing something special in prioritising wellbeing.

That’s a message that will only be bought by people who haven’t worked out that successive governments have cared about and aimed for improved health, education, welfare, security and infrastructure which all contribute to wellbeing and that all these require a foundation of strong economic growth.

Money doesn’t buy happiness but it does buy better education, health services, welfare, security and infrastructure.

Treasury is attempting to put a value on things that contribute to wellbeing, and not doing it very well:

When gaining a friend is deemed more important than avoiding the Emergency Room in Treasury’s model it puts in doubt the analysis that should have underpinned its well-being Budget, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“Serious questions need to be answered on how the Treasury is being asked to evaluate spending in Budget 2019. The Treasury’s cost benefit analysis (CBAx) model has new well-being values that that look out of step with the values of New Zealanders.

“Gaining a friend is valued at $592 in the revised CBAx – more than the $387 to avoid a trip to A&E. Having contact with a neighbour is valued at $8,572, or more than twice the value of avoiding diabetes.

“Changes to the analysis behind this Government’s policies are another example of its weakness of approach and its repeated failure to deliver.

“We’re a sports-loving nation but not many people would put a higher value on their membership of the local rugby club than access to emergency health services or serious illness.

“Governments always have Budget priorities and the risk with the ‘well-being’ framework is that it ends up being little more than a rebranding exercise.

“National understands that improving the lives of New Zealanders is ultimately about letting Kiwis keep more of what they earn and keeping the cost of living low. Kiwis are better off when they have more in their back-pockets and have access to world-class infrastructure and public services.”

You can’t put a monetary value on gaining a friend or having contact with a neighbour and even if you could that’s not the government’s business.

The government can, and should, however, manage its own spending to allow us all to keep more of what we earn and still provide first class public services.

 


Socialism kills more than war

December 24, 2018

Bad economic policies kill more children than war:

Recent reports that infants now die at a higher rate in Venezuela than in war-torn Syria were, sadly, unsurprising—the results of socialist economics are predictable. Venezuela’s infant mortality rate has actually been above Syria’s since 2008.

But it’s not all bad news.

The big picture, fortunately, is happier. The global infant mortality rate has plummeted. Even Syria and Venezuela, despite the impact of war and failed policies, saw improvements up to as recently as last year. From 1960 to 2015, Syria’s infant mortality rate fell by 91% and Venezuela’s by 78%. This year (not reflected in the graph above or below), Syria’s rate rose from 11.1 per 1,000 live births to 15.4, while Venezuela’s shot up from 12.9 to 18.6. Meanwhile, infant mortality rates have continued to fall practically everywhere else, and have declined even faster in countries that enjoy more freedom and stability. Consider Chile.

Chile’s infant mortality rate in 1960 was actually above that of both Venezuela and Syria. It managed to outperform Syria by the mid-1960s, but was still woefully behind its richer northern cousin, Venezuela.  In the early 1970s, Chile’s progress slowed to a crawl as its elite flirted with socialist policies. Once its government abandoned socialism and began economic reforms in the mid-1970s, the pace of progress sped up again, and soon Chile’s infants were safer than Venezuela’s. Today, Chile’s infant mortality rate is similar to that of the United States.

There is a lesson to be learned from these data points: economic policy matters. While Venezuela’s socialism has managed to kill more infants than a full-blown war in Syria, Chile’s incredible success story shows us that by implementing the right policies, humanity can make rapid progress and better protect the youngest, most vulnerable members of society. Today it is hard to believe that infants in Chile were once more likely to die within a year than their contemporaries in Venezuela and Syria. . . 

New Zealand is in no danger of following Venezuela’s downwards trajectory to complete disaster, but it is concerning that economic growth has slowed:

The economy appears to be slowing with today’s GDP figures showing economic growth in the past three months is the lowest in five years, National’s Finance spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“Economic growth in the past three months of 0.3 per cent doesn’t even compensate for population growth. Economic growth per person, which reflects population growth, actually declined in dollar terms over the past three months.

“Despite all the Government’s talk of wellbeing, that means New Zealanders are becoming worse off.

“While quarterly numbers can be volatile and need to be read with caution, these latest figures do suggest a general slowdown from the economy the Government inherited from National.

“These results will cause embarrassment to the Minister of Finance after he was too quick to boast about the previous quarter’s result, which now appears to be an outlier.

“Despite the economy slowing, the Labour-led Government is projected to take an extra $17.7 billion in tax from New Zealand families over the next four years than was projected under National. That amounts to $10,000 less in the back pockets of the average household.

The announcement of another increase to the minimum wage without a change to tax thresholds will mean even more tax taken.

Any families on low wages will be little if any better off because any gain in their pay will be offset by abatements to Working for Families top-ups. It is better to earn more and be less dependent on government support but that will be cold comfort to people who are struggling.

“National believes New Zealanders deserve to keep more of what they earn. Unlike the Labour-led Government, we know that as a country we can’t tax our way to prosperity.

“New Zealand needs sensible and consistent economic policies that promote growth and reward hard work, as well as wise spending of taxpayer money.” 

Venezuela is an extreme case but the lesson is clear – tax and spend economic policies are no substitute for ones which promote economic growth and lessen the burden of the state.

Good economic policy is the necessary foundation for sustainable social progress.


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