marsden_online: (write)
There's a bit of a zeitgeist going around at least in my echo chamber about 2016 and the deaths of a number of celebrities who were of great influence on my cohort in their formative years. I have been mostly an observer in all this as I have never really attached to a real-world role model in this way. Partly because growing up I never had exposure to the same mass-media which made them household names elsewhere, but as I read more about what each of these people meant and represented to people only a click away through social media it becomes clear that it is also greatly because as a cishet white male on an easy course through life I never needed that role-model to aspire to. (Which isn't to say that I wouldn't have been the better for some more varied role models in my life.)

This was particularly well summed up in what I think was a retweet I saw a couple of days ago but have been unable to find to quote exactly, thanking "Prince, David Bowie, George Michael for showing me there was more than one way to express masculinity". Searching has however shown that this is a very common sentiment.

Today it is Carrie Fisher (among others, to be sure) we are mourning; and I do mean we because although I do not have the same strong personal connection I am not so emotionally stunted that I can not respect and and share in the grief for a woman who stood for - and spoke out for - so much to so many.

But to quote one angry man we "lost" in 2015
“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away...”

These people and many others both past and still with us are the butterflies which create storms on the other side of the world with a flap of their wings. But they did (and do) it not by flexing their own but by inspiring others to do the same, until the beat of a million wings upon wings creates a force which can not be ignored.

With their passing the storms which are their legacy still rage and they will not be forgotten as long as those they inspired, and those whom are in turn inspired, over and over ... as long as we continue to beat our wings, sing their/our songs, carry their light*.

* I don't believe Princess Leia ever used a light sabre. But I believe wasn't entirely unrelated that that she was dressed in light/white, and Carrie stepped up to be a beacon in the real world.

~~~
It's particularly poignant for me that I write this today as I remember a friend of my own.
marsden_online: (write)
I communicate with the pollsters by e-survey, especially since auto-dialers put me offering my phone completely. One particular company often starts with the question "What do you see as the biggest issue facing NZ today.", or something similar. This week it was beefed up a bit and led to an extended series of thoughts which I posted on FB (as being the most convenient format at the time) but am repeating here as a less ephemeral record.

The question:
What are the main social problems in New Zealand that the Government and community as a whole need to address?
My initial answer:
Inequity and poverty:
With our GDP per capita there should be no excuse for not being able to provide everyone with the basics of a warm, dry, private space to call their own and sufficient to eat; as a matter of right with no need to jump through any hoops to prove they are entitled to it.
Address this issue and a great number of other issues which stem from or are exacerbated by it will also recede.

Half an hour or so later I also wrote the following (edited a bit for clarity):
---
Ongoing thought about why our current social welfare system doesn't work very well wrt eg housing and food.

It consists of (reluctantly) giving people money and then leaving them to be able to procure the required services from "the market". But they're not dealing with /one/ market they are dealing with /many/ markets - accommodation, food, electricity ... - /each of which/
- has the goal of acquiring as much of that money as possible /without concern/ for the balance of the customers' needs
- and prices accordingly.

The result of course is that there is not and probably will never be "enough" money - see also for example how private rent increases have tracked the accommodation supplement.

The supply industries also benefit in their pricing strategy from individuals being given the money to spend rather than the services being purchased in bulk by a central authority with the clout to negotiate and keep the prices down.

For this reason I'm not opposed to government purchasing services from private providers; I /am/ opposed to the private providers being selected on the basis of lowest cost or metrics such as how fast they can get people off their books (churn). The correct metric has to be based on standard of care.

That would unfortunately require the government to care about the well-being of it's /entire/ constituency, not just those who voted for the "ruling" party or contributed to its coffers. :/
---

Back to now and a couple of other thoughts

Dealing with poverty is not a problem which can be solved by a single approach.
- Giving people money (or some form of equivalent discretionary resource) directly so they can target their own needs in their own situation is one part of the solution and has been shown to work well for getting people back on their feet. But as a sole or primary approach it risks capture as described above; where funds meant to help people into a position to better their lives end up straight in the (mostly metaphorical these days) pockets of "service" providers.
- /But/ poverty is relative and targeting the affordability of common - even "basic" goods and services is another piece of the puzzle. Not in an ad-hoc manner (eg taxes on/off fresh/processed foods - this has been a regulatory nightmare wherever it has been tried, save it for genuine luxury goods) but in a whole-of-market approach like Pharmac.
Bulk demand can shift the costs down but this is not something those already struggling with their living situation are in a position to organise. In a democratic/capitalist welfare society this should be a function of government.

One government department I think could make more of an impact here (if they were permitted) is Housing New Zealand; right now they are limited by having to use their own housing stock (which they have been forced to run down and sell down over the past decade); but if they were also able to function as a not-for-profit property management company effectively handling maintenance and property standards for those who for example
- have an investment property "retirement plan" but find the details of renting it out more effort than it is worth
- have a social conscience
- will accept a low-end-of-the-market-rent-range return

they might well be able to
- apply downward pressure on rental prices
- fill up some of those homes we hear about sitting empty
- reduce their waiting lists
- provide security for a lot of people who currently have found they can't ever trust they will still have a place to live after the next review
- upgrade some of NZ's abysmal housing stock
- and potentially be in a position to acquire some of those properties to replenish their own stocks when the bubble bursts

Yes the deal would have to be structured so as to appeal to the property owners opening it up to the criticism of being a government handout to that class; but I am reasonably certain it could be made to work for no more than is currently being handed to them indirectly via the accommodation supplement and putting beneficiaries up in motels for a week while simultaneously lumbering them with a paper debt which will, realistically, never be recovered.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Giving is a major part of my life. Probably the greater part of it is invisible; charities I regularly support, flybys on givealittle and so forth but to be honest I find these less satisfying than what I can do directly for those around me. Making someone's life immediately better even if only for a short time kicks off one of the few emotional highs remaining to me. You can argue about whether than makes it altruistic giving or not elsewhere, I don't care. What is important to me is that there is less stress in a persons' life at frankly, little substantial cost to me.
- pad your groceries? People who have full stomachs are happier, healthier and think better.
- top up your bus card? Represents pocket change to me, to you might represent the freedom to leave the house and get to where you want/need to be when you want/need to be.
- covered an unexpected shortfall? Luck comes in good and bad, I have plenty of the former so please let me share it with you.

Life does not treat everyone equally, but it is within our power as people to redress the balance. Especially those of us to whom it has been more than fair; and I think compassion demands that we do so. Some people prefer to argue from a position of self interest - make sure other have (just) enough and they won't be motivated to try and take what you have to redress the balance. That's better than building fortresses ("gated communities") and hiring guards to keep the mob from the door I suppose.

I can understand how a person who has had to struggle, work and fight their whole life to get above the line and stay there might not be able to let go of that mindset, no matter how much success they achieve it may be that in their own mind they will always be poor and one unexpected bill away from disaster. But I also know that there are many who do not fall into that trap and having made their way to a comfortable position do a great deal to try and help others do the same. That makes much more sense to me - having been there how would not want to get other people out of the situation once you have means?

I am not one of of these; the metaphorical spoon in my mouth may not have been silver but it is less through my own efforts that I am where I am today than the gifts afforded from from my parents' hard labours. And so I can understand how, up to a certain age, a person can be raised simply not cognizant of the harsh realities of life for many. In the modern world my sympathy for that mindset runs out a year or two after they have reached university and should have had the opportunity to start taking a critical look at the world around them.

As always grateful that again, life has been more than fair to me and my sympathy for the struggles of others is born of intellect and a sense of fairness than hard personal experience.

So we come back to the position where I have- more than enough and so I endeavour to share my good fortune. I give this less than I would like; for two reasons
- Rationally I do need to keep putting some aside for my own future. How much is arguable, but I am not at the position where I can absolutely soak a large expense (such as the one about to be incurred for drain replacement) just yet, and I have no certainty that NZ's welfare state will be in a condition to look after me in my old age.
- it occupies not just the physical resources but also time and energy.

On this latter we have as a society theoretically harnessed the specialisation of labour to handle this. We pay takes to a central organisation (government) and one of the things they are supposed to do with them is make sure that if life treats us poorly we are looked after to a not-uncomfortable standard. In the meantime our money is (supposed to be) used to look after those who life is currently treating poorly. This should free us from the greater part of a need to worry about the circumstances of our families, friends, acquaintances / strangers.

Our current government is rejecting that part of it's duties (granted it is not the first to do so). Instead of going directly - in cash or in kind - to people who need food and shelter significant amounts of "our" money are shown to be being spent propping up companies that by National's own market ethos should probably be allowed to fail / take their business elsewhere, or paid in bribes to already wealthy individuals in countries where corruption is blatant, or siphoned off as indirect subsidies to private accommodation providers and old-boys-network businesspeople who are already "above the line".

One result of this is that I - multiplied by who-knows-how-many-others - have to spend more of my time and energy personally directing resource to the people I can see in need, and relying on the voids which are charities to be doing the right thing just to help regular people when they should be able to focus on those who positions are truly dire. And in some ways that /waste/ pisses me off just as much as seeing people around me living in poverty and the mis-appropriation of public money.

I am one person of good but still moderate means. I cannot do enough to even scrape the surface. I can feed a few people but I cannot house them. Organisations which have been set up explicitly to address the issues and channel the contributions of people like myself are barely scraping the surface. Central government is actively and deliberately following policies guaranteed to make the situation worse while benefiting those who already have more than enough.

My local council is one of the largest providers of social housing in the country (an operation which is currently being strong-armed to privatisation by central government). I occasionally encounter people who state vehemently how they are against their rates being used for such a purpose. I have no time for this attitude. Homelessness and poverty have both local and regional aspects and I absolutely expect our elected representatives at all levels to work together at the task of redirecting a sufficient portion of our taxes to those in need (rates being pretty much the closest we have in NZ to a formal tax on land even if they are not particularly responsive to capital gains).

Taking care of those who do not have the means to take care of themselves I consider the first duty of a supposedly democratic government. All else follows from or supports that. In doing so, for those of a more right-wing bent, people are freed to be more productive and contribute their best to society and the future rather than burning our all - and in the case of those who turn to crime, others all as well - just to survive.

[deep calming breaths]

The point I was getting around to is actually about the visibility of giving. This morning I posted quickly in my FB and Tumblr

When we talk about “give and take” why is the implication always that the giving and the taking are between the same two entities?

If I am in a position to give freely what someone needs why is it expected that I am expecting something in return? If you are in want of something why should it have to come from someone that already owes you or that you are then expected to owe?

Much better that we all give what we can when we see a need, and try to make out own desires visible without guilt or suspicion for others seeking to fulfil them - or be it necessarily with the the acceptance that there may not be anyone who feels they are in a position to do so.

I know a lot of people above and below the line, and plenty of those have moved from one side to the other and sometimes multiple times over the years. I am fairly public about much of the personal giving I do, not because I desire the plaudits (although they are nice) but in an endeavour to set an example to others above the line who may meander across my trail. To make giving freely visible and accepted, because I alone cannot make a lasting difference.

~~~
Related reading: that came through my Facebook feed while I was typing this up: How we got Here
marsden_online: (BlueDragon)
"Earthquake brain" is a term coined to describe certain mental symptoms of stress which rear their ugly heads in many people as and after the earth moves. They can range from irritability and trouble focussing to emotional breakdowns. Here in Canterbury the earth has been very active for the past month or so; compounded by this period coinciding with the 5th anniversary of the February 2011 quake and a deliberate neglect of the regions' post-disaster mental-health needs by central government.

I don't suffer directly from earthquake brain (fortunate) but have nevertheless noticed my mental health take a sharp downtick as I worry for the state of my (less-fortunate) friends; which is always top-of-mind after I feel a jolt or a wobble come through.

There are other factors to my mood drop - there always are certain circumstances in Feb/Mar and this year there is a new one.

So I've been feeling run-down, worn out, unenthusiastic about and not focused on work, procrastinating way too much and overwhelmed by my to-do list outside work, and helpless in the face of it all. To get some stuff done and close some loops I took (tried to take) a mental health day last week in conjunction with my monthly psych appointment but that didn't go well overall.
marsden_online: (write)
Submissions to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) close tomorrow (March 11) barely two months after the treaty was signed and text made available. About 3am on Monday morning my brain decided it was time to write something, but Ithen got distracted by actually reading MFATs National Interest Analysis (NIA) (the better to make an informed submission. It of course paints a far rosier picture of the expected outcomes.

This post has three parts:
1. Useful links
2. The text of my submission (done through the online form)
3. Other rant triggered by reading the NIA (this was going to be rants but I have run out of time :( )

~~~
Online submission form (very limited life expectancy) (you will need to complete the verification at the bottom of the page and then click the "Make an online submission" button below to actually get to the form)
The NIA (pdf)
MFAT TPPA subsite

~~~
I felt it best to make a measured submission just highlighting a few points of concern.
As a member of the public who has been following the no TPPA actions but has also found the time to read the NIA (but not the earlier published fact sheets) I would still like to express some some concerns about the process and implementation of this treaty.

1. I understand that there is always an element of confidentiality required in trade negotiations but the secrecy surrounding this one - and indeed continuing for years after ratification seems to have be unprecedented. Combined with the very short amount of time allowed for public, expert, and opposition party representative examination of the text and consultation I find it difficult to have confidence in the benefit to New Zealand of any legislative changes which may be required.

2. Speaking of benefits it is not at all clear from the NIA /how/ the people of NZ generally benefit from the signing of this treaty. "Economic growth" and a forecast boost to GDP are presented as as self-explanatory benefits without justification; but this would only be the case if the wealth generated flows to those who are less-well off.

As it stands this treaty would appear to deliver the most benefit to
- those who are /already/ established enough to partake in international trade and
- a small minority of future SMEs producing exportable goods/services who manage to become established against the now-increased competition from our trading partners.

In short this treaty seems to offer no great benefit for the majority of NZ citizens and business while exposing them to economic attack by better-resourced established competitors from abroad.

3. Following on from that if the NIA is accurate the ISDS clauses have been well ring-fenced to protect "public-good" issues but it still seems to be a risk that if a local company were to come up with a disruptive technology or process which could challenge established players but would require tweaks to our - or our treaty partners - legislation to implement effectively (a recent examples from the news might be the taxi service Uber) the established players would be able to use the ISDS or the threat thereof to hinder implementation in an anti-competitive fashion.

I am hopeful that the government of the day would have the fortitude to support our business and accept the costs required to set an example which would prevent this happening a second time; if nothing else this would quantify "the actual costs of responding are unknown" (NIA p55)

~~~
Nevertheless as it seems that the implementation of the legislative changes required is a foregone conclusion I

- would strongly support a clause which only brings the changes into /effect/ at the point the treaty comes into force in a form substantively like it's current form, rather than incurring the front-loaded costs and "giving away the farm" the having nothing to negotiate with should other parties decide /not/ to pass it through their respective legislatory procedures in it's current form.

- look forward to the strengthening of NZ's environmental protection, labour protection and transparency legislations to bring them in line with the treaty obligations as explained in the NIA.


~~~
Rant time.

The NIA is very bullish about the amount of consultation carried out

9.2 Public consultation process
The consultation process for TPP has been among the most extensive a New Zealand Government has undertaken for any trade negotiation. Throughout the negotiation process the MFAT, together with other government agencies, has been active in engaging with a wide spectrum of stakeholders on TPP.
...
Throughout the negotiation there were two public calls for submissions. MFAT invited initial public
submissions in October 2008 on entering into negotiations with the US to expand the P4 agreement.
A second invitation for public comment was made in 2011 following the expressions of interest from other countries to join the TPP negotiations (Canada, Japan and Mexico) to better understand the views and interests of New Zealanders with regards to these three economies.
MFAT received 65 responses to the initial invitation for submissions, which expressed a diverse
range of views on the TPP
...
Following the second invitation for public comment in 2011, MFAT received fifteen responses. Thirteen were from business (including business councils) and industry organisations. Two were from other governments - Canada and Mexico.
...
Extensive public outreach and consultation took place throughout the negotiation of TPP, using printed, emailed and website information, supported by extensive briefings, discussions and correspondence with key stakeholders on New Zealand’s negotiating objectives and process.

A primary portal of information on the negotiations was the MFAT website, and dedicated internet column, “TPP Talk”. TPP Talk was regularly updated with the status of negotiations. Both the website and column
encouraged feedback on TPP from the public. In seeking views on TPP, the Government sought to encourage debate on the issues, including links to groups holding a range of views on the MFAT website.
...
Hundreds of meetings took place, including with business groups, iwi, local councils, health sector
representatives, unions, NGOs, Members of Parliament and individuals to seek input on the TPP and
to help ensure a high quality outcome that reflects stakeholders’ interests.
...
In a new initiative that reflected the level of public interest in TPP, MFAT also made provision for
stakeholder engagement with regard to the two TPP negotiating rounds held in New Zealand. With
regard to the round of negotiations held in Auckland in December 2012, the Ministry organised a
stakeholder programme attended by 72 New Zealand participants as well as other stakeholders from overseas.

... and so on.

Strangely I do not recall /any/ of the relevant ministers or officials saying in response to the noTPPA movement and media coverage "Hey, here is where you can go to get more information and to have your say." Apparently the broader public of New Zealand (or other parties) are not considered "stakeholders" in our international treaties.

We know who other treaty partners considered stakeholders from the mega-companies and lobbyists who got to peek at the proceedings and drafts. I wonder who in NZ our government actually considered important enough to be a stakeholder?

I'm going to be generous and assume whoever produced this analysis is so blinkered that they actually believe this number of submissions is a reasonable outcome rather than a failure to communicate.

Moreover I believe that an organisation believing in or proactive about public consultation would have opened another round more recently than five years ago, given the increased public profile of opposition to the matter under consideration.
marsden_online: (write)
After all I am one of the lucky ones; not only did I not lose anyone directly in the quakes I even benefited materially from the "repairs" to my home*. My life and work were mostly unaffected and since have continued on a generally upwards trajectory.

*( Like many the assessment was questionable, the workmanship left something to be desired in places and the scope was "tightened" several times between assessment and implementation meaning some things which probably should have been done rather than others were not. But my claim was acted on (un)fairly quickly and my home was still in better condition when they finished than before the quakes.)

If I only paid attention to my own situation or that of people like myself that might leave me content. But my social circles contain many who were not so fortunate. Their homes, lives, families, studies, health ... have been massively disrupted and I do not choose to disregard their experiences and those I read of from further afield. For so many people the past five years have been one battle after another; not all quake related but certainly quake-exacerbated, and so much of it seems to have been unnecessary.

~~~
In some ways the February 14th aftershock this year was beneficial. Some people might have been in danger of believing the platitudes which will have been spouted today about how well we are all doing; how well the rebuild is progressing. Instead as PTSD kicked in and "old" responses rose sharply to the surface there was an up-swell of awareness that no, everything is not all right; yes, we still need help.

In the last five years we have seen proof (if there had been any doubt) that the insurance industry is more interested in holding on to its money than in meeting it's contracted obligations. We've seen the one locally owned insurance company which was by nature overexposed to the risk "bailed out" by the government then promptly chopped up; the "good" bit sold off to one of the same overseas re/insurance companies which fights determinedly to not return the money they have taken from other insurees in premiums over the years (IAG) and the "bad" bit put into limbo (Southern Response, which can only progress so far without the goverment actually stumping up some money to cover the work that needs doing).

We have seen that we have a government who are more interested in bottom lines and doing deals with those same insurance companies than in standing up for the rights of the people they purport to represent. More interested in a magical accounting "surplus" than in the wellbeing not only of Christchurch but of the entire country. Only interested frankly, to all intents and purposes to improve the lot of "people like them" no matter the cost to anyone else. Quick to promise financial relief but very slow to spend any money which would not already have been spent.

We have learnt that our EQC disaster recovery fund had already been plundered by the government (through simply directing it to put the money into government-issued bonds), and there is no indication this government has any plan to rebuild it against future need.

We have seen control of "Christchurch's Recovery" taken away from Christchurch from the word "help". Hijacked by people who are more interested in vanity projects (which they then turn around and demand the people of Christchurch make ourselves responsible for paying for) than in the places people live. More interested in cutting costs and corners than in the human cost or actual repair. More interested in being "in charge" than in delivering what a broken city needs.

Today, the 22nd, is a day for reflecting on what we have lost in and around Christchurch. Not just people and buildings but well-being, dignity and agency. So much of which has not been taken by the quakes themselves but by the deliberate actions and inactions of those who claimed the people of Christchurch would be "looked after".

For those outside Christchurch it might be worth thinking about, "if a major disaster struck where you are, what would you lose?"

Emma summed up neatly why in her earthquake anniversary post so I am going to borrow her words to finish. "Because this isn’t about the past, five years on. Things are still happening."

No Way TPPA

Mar. 9th, 2015 09:19 pm
marsden_online: (write)
This past Saturday I attended the local portion of an ongoing series of protest marches against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). While the current NZ government has done many things I consider #notinmyname this is the one that should it go ahead, as I fear it will for I have no faith the the major Opposition party will not equally roll over for it, is the one I feel that will do the most lasting damage to New Zealand. This is because it impacts not only on our economy and international trade but directly on our sovereignty and right to make our own laws as a country.

Now it is the way of properly negotiated international treaties that one or more signatories generally accepts some limits on what they as a sovereign state may do, by way of passing laws and such, in exchange for some perceived benefit. There are two things about the TPPA which I consider to be particularly dangerous; far outweighing any possible benefits.

The first is the near-total secrecy under which it is no only being negotiated but will apparently be brought before our "house of representatives" - with even those worthies (and I use the term loosely) except for a few privileged members of the ruling party being forbidden knowledge of the terms of the treaty. Let me spell that out a bit more - our representatives, whom we rely on to protect our interests, our democracy, will be being told (if this current government retains a majority) to accept this treaty with no opportunity to actually debate its worth to the country, no idea of what we may be giving away or getting in return, and no opportunity to bring it to us, the people and ask what we would have them do.

This turn of events would make an absolute mockery of what it is supposed to mean to live in a democracy. It is the first and most blatant attack on our sovereignty represented by the TPPA.

The second danger is the proliferation of clauses (leaked) enabling international corporations - not even Governments, corporations with no mandate to represent anything but their profit margin - to challenge laws passed by our government in international courts. Now for countries like Australia and NZ that might simply tie up public money which would be much better spent elsewhere, but smaller nations could be forced into "toeing the line" of their/our new corporate masters by the simple likelihood of bankruptcy if faced by these sort of proceedings*.

I don't personally have a great issue with NZ officially becoming a "client state", be it of America as we are currently or some international conglomerate. But that is a decision that should absolutely be discussed and reached publicly, not reached behind closed doors and presented as a coup accompli.

[tangent]
* For an example of this sort of thing already happening see Philip Morris Vs Uruguay and vs Australia, which reportedly (linked article) already has caused our NZ government to about-face on plain packaging for cigarettes. The closest I can find within NZ is this 2013 release from the Ministry of Health which contains the money quote
“To manage this, Cabinet has decided that the Government will wait and see what happens with Australia’s legal cases, making it a possibility that if necessary, enactment of New Zealand legislation and/or regulations could be delayed pending those outcomes.

“The Ministry of Health will now begin developing the detailed policy which will include the size and content of health warnings. I intend to introduce the legislation to Parliament before the end of this year.

The legislation was in fact introduced and judging from this late 2014 release is due for it's second reading. Promising quote
“A key finding from the committee came from their visit to Australia as part of an exchange programme. The data highlighted that daily smoking rates amongst those aged 14 and older have declined from 15.1% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2013, the lowest rate recorded to date. This is very impressive evidence received since the introduction of plain packaging in Australia.”

I do support this governments passage of this legislation, both the bill itself and the due process it appears to have followed.
[/tangent]

My photos from the march
Attacks basic freedoms

Grief

Sep. 21st, 2014 10:53 pm
marsden_online: (Cat Yarn)
Like most of my friends I went to bed last night in a state of grief. As the number of non-voters has come clearer today and the relatively small % of people who actually produced National's likely dominance of NZ politics and discourse for the next 3 years became apparent that grew into a deeper sadness.

This post is just a stream-of-consciousness, spit-wadding ideas which are floating around in my brain out against the wall.

First to note I'm not against National in general. My politics are well to their "traditional" left but that doesn't mean they don't have good policies. There are multiple ways to get things done and government in NZ is (supposed to be) about influencing which way - or preferably which middle path - is taken to address the challenges we face as a country. Unfortunately NZers in general don't seem to have wrapped their heads around the idea of consensus politics, and I include senior members of our parliament here.

I am against the sort of cult of personality, right to rule politics practiced by the current National leadership. I am strongly opposed to a lot of stuff the current national party is implementing which seems driven largely by ideology rather than with regard to proven (or disproven) outcomes or I fear by ulterior motives by which I mean the true results which is being sought are not the ones which are being promoted. This is unfortunately an inherent problem in politics.

My echo chamber is full of anger at the people who didn't vote/appear to be uninvolved or uninterested in politics. It is possible that this actually reflects positively on the general standard of living in NZ that so many people are able to feel that it won;t negatively impact on them regardless of who of the "right/left" is in power, but the truth of the matter is more likely that many of these people have such busy lives just keeping whatever standard of living they have that they do not have the luxury of taking time to engage with the issues of the day. Which to me is an indicator that society is not overall as well off as people think, because in a well off society this time would not be a luxury.

I've seen a lot of confusion over the way so many people seem to have split their vote Labour/National. In a lot of ways I see this blatant vote splitting as a positive, it means that a) the people who are engages understand the difference between who represents them locally and who has overall control of the country and b) the Labour/National(Greens) tribalism is starting to die off. Under MMP it should be perfectly feasible for a National/Labour coalition to form, given that the two parties aren't that far apart on many things. The only thing preventing closer relations between the two parties is that so many old-guard have so much invested in the brand of *not Being X*.

"The right" certainly did get it's vote out better that "the left", even given that explicit support does appear to have dropped since 2011. I think while everyone was distracted by the Brand Key sideshow behind the scenes they actually did work their networks and the party machine make sure that people were going to go to the polls, where the left relied heavily on people going to vote "for the greater good". "The right" understands at a far more integral level that once you have power/influence you have to work to keep that, constantly, and they have. Sadly they chose do do this through the last term by dirty means rather than on the strength of the outcomes of their policies, which one would be expecting to see by the end of a second term. Unfortunately it can be really hard for Sam Citizen to tell the difference between outcomes from policy and mediocre outcomes from a favourable environment.

The general agreement in the part of my echo chamber which talks about such things seems to be that the majority of non-voters probably fall somewhere between Labour and the Greens in the political spectrum, that there is a large gulf there who probably once would have been Labour but can't bring themselves to move Green. There is a lot of talk of Labour having to re-invent itself. Frankly I think Labour would do better splintering along it's well-recognized internal fractures into multiple smaller parties rather than trying to be "The party of the Left" that they once were - only that way can they actually address the spread of issues rather than failing to be all things to many people. It wouldn't hurt National to split either come to that. In my view that is the political landscape which would best show the power of proportional representation for actually building contextual solutions which address the concerns and interests of a majority of those affected, which grouping is going to be different for every situation, and thus widely accepted.

I do wonder how much of the non-vote was younger Internet party support which didn't actually get around to voting. Good on them for stirring up the youth and at least getting them enrolled (I think they had a positive effect there). Hopefully some of those young people rather than being disillusioned and put off politics for the next decade of their lives will maintain an interest and maybe help fill the desperate need for voices speaking up about issues that matter to that demographic, issues which in a lot of ways do overlap with mine but then I'm not "typical".

~~~
One thing is clear though - even if the bulk of NZ is doing OK this government is unlikely to do very much - or even less - for a lot of the people who are near the bottom of the heap in NZ, which means that the rest of us with the means to do so are going to need to step up even more. I may have to bring forward some plans I was not planning to implement until after putting more retirement savings / personal buffer aside.

Look after each other out there.
marsden_online: (write)
You can read the full outline of the policy on the Labour Party website - I'm just going tto quote the bullet points relevant to my opinion
- $60 per week for a baby’s first year of life, universal for all families earning under $150,000 per year.
- Up to $60 per week between the child’s first and third birthdays, targeted at modest and middle income families.
- The first year payment will go to around 59,000 households, covering almost 95 percent of children under one year of age.
- The one and two year old payment will go to around 63,000 families, covering 56 percent of all one and two year olds.
- The Best Start Payment provides desperately needed support to the estimated 50,000 children under three who are currently living in poverty.
-The Best Start Payment will benefit all New Zealand children born after 1 April 2016.

Unsurprisingly to anyone who knows me I agree with the thrust of this policy. What is getting my dander up is they way it is being touted in the media: the conversation is being cast in terms of "bonus", or even "handout" (bad Radio Network news - I expected better from your editors).

(I'm neither here nor there on calling it an "election bribe" - actually correction here I'd go so far as to say it's a two-election bribe given when it is due to kick in - but that doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad idea.)

This policy is simply to newborns what superannuation is to retirees and the kiwisaver kickstart and "tax credit" are to working adults. Not a handout or a bonus but a (near-)universal entitlement to which no stigma should be attached.

What it is spent on can't be precisely targeted or course, but I am emphatically not in the camp which believes people are going to have a child for a measly $3000 (even $9000 over 3 years) from the government, or that it will just disappear on "beer and smokes". There might be a few who are that bad at maths - but the "Support for expectant parents" part of the policy shows intent to identify, catch and educate people this time around. (Whether the resources will follow to keep on top of this (responsibility is being offloaded onto the DHBs) may be another matter.)

For a high-income family (and I/S helpfully points out that the median is $75,000 this might only mean $3000 in a trust account towards future education fees or their child's inevitable OE. For a family on minimum wage $60 a week will represent the basics in food, nappies, and so forth without having to cut back somewhere else; or the lost wages from having to take a day off work to look after a sick child. For low and middle income families it might mean being able to cope with unexpected expenses like taking an older child or even an adult to the doctor before they infect the entire family/school with something contagious. And -that- is where the force-multiplier of this policy really lies - more than just a benefit to the babe and/or their parents but a benefit to society as a whole.

The benefits of alleviating poverty in terms of reduced health, law enforcement and welfare costs farther down the track are well researched. Unfortunately measured in terms-in-government that future may as well not exist. The value in a policy which will take decades to properly bear fruit unfortunately seems beyond the comprehension of many voters; or if not beyond comprehension then beyond consideration. And the value of working together to build on what previous governments have done right and giving due recognition regardless of where they may have fallen on the political spectrum is alas still foreign to our adversarial political system.

But this is a policy which slim though it is increases the odds of when a child looks around at the poverty trap their parents may be in and say, to quote Dasini, "That’s not gonna be me. Nuh-uh. Nope." circumstances will actually permit. This sort of policy is making luck - increasing the preparation, increasing the opportunity.
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life
via FB: an in depth look at the life of an 11 year old girl and her family in New York - how they got there, what the future might bring. Very long, 5 parts of mostly heartache and the occasional faint glimmer of hope.
Her family lives in the Auburn Family Residence, a decrepit city-run shelter for the homeless. It is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, where feces and vomit plug communal toilets, where sexual predators have roamed and small children stand guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers.

It is no place for children. Yet Dasani is among 280 children at the shelter. Beyond its walls, she belongs to a vast and invisible tribe of more than 22,000 homeless children in New York, the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America.

Nearly a quarter of Dasani’s childhood has unfolded at Auburn, where she shares a 520-square-foot room with her parents and seven siblings. As they begin to stir on this frigid January day, Dasani sets about her chores.

~~~~
One could be grateful that this is on the far side of the world, clearly someone else's problem. Could say that America does not have even the (increasingly holey) social security net that New Zealand boasts. Share it on Facebook as if to say "how bad the world is, how well we have it" and move along.

The NZ media does occasionally deign to pick up on these same issues in New Zealand - it was the topic du jour for a little while in 2010-11 but it seems unlikely little has changed.
- Entire families living in a relative's garage or multiple families crammed together in one home while they wait for state housing to become available. (2010)
- People's needs for accommodation deliberately not even recorded by Housing New Zealand leaving them with no option but to camp in the worst of private accommodation with no tenants rights (Both 2011 - I think WINZ has taking over determining accommodation eligibility but I have little confidence that anything has changed in practice).
- Garage life for two years (2013)

And I don't need a link for anyone reading this to know what the accommodation situation in Christchurch has been like for the past few years. "Temporary" must be starting to look like "childhood" for many.

The numbers may be debatable - perhaps things have improved in NZ since the first of these articles was written. But in the modern, caring, wealthy society which we supposedly aspire to be one person - especially one child - without even the option of a basic, clean, place to live in should be one too many.

And I am certain that the scope of the problem is still actually far wider than I can glimpse from my comfortable middle-class life. I sense a fear in me, that if I actually go looking I will be overwhelmed at the scale and feel unable to make any real difference - thus I "bide my time" and passively watch for opportunities to help within my means and not detrimental to my own (middle class) goals. Would I open my home to strangers? I've seriously considered it post-quake but decided against for mental health's sake (mine and my flatmate's (even if he agreed to the idea)).

Still we are losing bright children (truth be most if not all children are bright); now more than ever we as a society are throwing away their futures through our own inaction when we have the capacity to do better. A week ago I shared on FB an article about Variety looking for sponsors to help families pay back-to-school costs.
A charity is crying out for donors as poverty-stricken parents seek sponsorship for the back-to-school costs of their children.

More than 170 applications have been made for Kiwi Kid sponsorship so far this year, including 21 from Christchurch, and Variety - The Children's Charity needs more sponsors.

There were already 705 children - 116 from Christchurch - receiving financial support nationwide in its first year, much like that offered to children in Third World countries through World Vision.
.
At the time I said
This presses *many* of my buttons - children, local poverty, education...
I'm fighting a 3-way battle between reflexively signing up; knowing that I'm supposed to be keeping a tighter reign on my spending this year (and so far have been failing miserably); and feeling I could probably find someone in need that I could give the full $35+ per month to directly.
and at the time inertia won. Now I'm making a commitment to reassess my budget for the year, do some research and commit something regular on top of the irregular amounts I give the phone collectors and occasional worthy givealittle/pledgeme/etc call that comes across my radar - whether through Variety or some other avenue (I wonder if Adopt a Christchurch Family is still actually going).

~~~
This topic also conveniently leads into my next post - thoughts on the just-announced Labour party policy of an extra $60/week entitlement for families with newborns possibly following up to the age of 3 years.
marsden_online: (write)
Last week Public Address put out an appeal for donations not just towards keeping the server lights on but towards keeping the site owner/manager paid. The latter bit was new, the former happens periodically. Aggregated I probably throw $100-$150 at PA a year (or would like to), that's probably comparable to the cost of a quality dead-tree subscription (I really have no idea.) That is a measure of the value I see PA providing as a current events forum and community.

Comparatively I did not sign up with the NZ Herald when they experimented with a paywall a while back regardless of the amount of personal value I was finding find in their site because they were locking the content away from everyone else. (And signing up for a subscription / having to log in to see stuff / just seemed too complicated. There's a low but non-trivial barrier there.)

I repeatedly refuse to take out a subscription to The Press (local dead-tree paper) when the telemarketers call because I have no interest in the bulk of the content, even though it would leave me better informed on local events and I do eagerly read the interesting parts of the paper whenever I happen across a copy. I would probably subscribe to a pdf version of selected sections delivered to my inbox daily.

Back to PA - some discussion surfaced over there about how to pay for "the good stuff" in general - not just stuff that brings value to the individual but that adds to the entire conversation. Or provides the forum in which to have the conversation, which PA excels at. As Russell sums it up (emphasis mine)
But there is another model. The subscriber radio model. My readers don’t actually need much persuading that the argument for paying so that everyone can have nice things is a strong one. In the past two years, I’ve made more from asking them for a contribution than I have from advertising. Keith Ng has also had some success in asking readers to crowdfund his stories – after he’s published them.

But this needs a permanent structure, and it needs to work for all of us. One solution I see is this: a simple, voluntary subscription system which can be joined by any New Zealand website or blog at one end, and any reader at the other. In concept, it’s simple.

As a means of funding advertising just doesn't cut it, especially for the niche sites and site-specific subscription models / paywalls only seem to work if you have a (large) critical mass of subscribers who find personal value in what you deliver.

But the things I find myself paying for in something like a subscription manner are those that match the bit I emphasised in the quote above - those who can afford contribute so that *everyone* can have nice stuff, and can hopefully be secure in the fact that should they fall on hard times they (which includes quite a bit of "I") will still have access to those services.

This is the model Livejournal used to have before it was sold to someone who wanted to make a profit from it and the model Dreamwidth is emulating since it opened up basic accounts.

Wikipedia is another site that I consider "new-media" which I contribute to periodically. And I have put my bit towards crowd-funding other initiatives like NWZ

Heck even the photo-hosting I pay for is to ensure others continue to get use and enjoyment from my putting them out there, off-site backup is a bonus.

I'd happily pay for the things FaceBook does well - essentially providing hyper-local news about my social circle and event management - as long as it meant that my friends also continued to be able to use the service and were treated a little less like "product". I'm not sure how much I'd be willing to pay; maybe around that $100 a year; maybe up to $300 in small chunks. That might sound a lot in this digitally priced age but remember conceptually I would be paying not just for me, and it would still be less than a dollar a day.

There is certainly a personal use component - Twitter or Tumblr could both operate on the same model and at the present time I wouldn't "subscribe" because I don't use them a great deal although I have accounts and follow some people who surface interesting stuff. But I'm certain there are plenty of people who would.

~~~
Another model I saw some time ago - and I can't remember what it was called now - was a Tip jar model where you paid in some amount each [time period] and sites authors could embed a click widget - at the end of the [time period] however much you had put in was divided among the people whose content you had found valuable enough to 'Tip' on. As I recall the service folded because of not reaching critical mass.

And that is really the rub when it comes to setting up a mass provider/subscriber model. Not only do you need the people willing (and able) to pay for the greater good and the people willing (and able) to help generate content with value (including the work of maintaining the spaces/communities where good conversation happens around the content) you need to strike the balance where they break-even. I say break even because I don't think there is a for-profit model here. Instead you have people being paid for producing content, people being paid for maintaining communities, developers being paid to improve those communities with new features, web-hosts being paid to host them .... quite a lot of people (hopefully) making a living, quite a lot more people getting value from the work they do, and really what more do you need?
marsden_online: (Rage)
Duchess of Cambridge hoax call nurse found dead (BBC)
A London nurse at the centre of a royal phone prank by Australian radio presenters has been found dead (Herald)
Nurse who took Middleton prank call found dead (Stuff)

Something which the BBC article reports which the others do not (at time of typing*) is that this was apparently not the nurse who gave information to the presenters.
BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said he understood Mrs Saldanha - who was staying in hospital accommodation close to King Edward VII hospital - was the person who answered the call from the Australian DJs and was not the nurse who discussed the duchess's medical condition.

Mel Greig and Michael Christian had said they were "very sorry if we've caused any issues"
Mrs Saldanha, a duty nurse who was married with two children, answered the telephone because it was 05:30 GMT and there was no receptionist on duty.

The BBC understands Mrs Saldanha had not been suspended or disciplined by the hospital.


This backs up my personal theory that the nurse who did give out the information was answering a line which she had every reason to expect had already been vetted.

* [edit: The Herald story has been updated with a more comprehensive version]
* [edit: the Stuff article has eventually been updated, although that fairly important information is relegated to a small paragraph well down the page nearly obscured by an ad]

~~~
While I'm very glad that none of my friends on assorted social-media had the poor taste to share the link to the call my workmates did begin playing it and I immediately had to leave the office and go for a walk. My thoughts then were that this was going to cost the nurse who gave out the information at least one of her
- reputation
- job
- career
- self confidence

all because a couple of jerks with a phone number and an audience wanted to score some points.

(Spare a thought for that nurse at this time because what she is going through just got that much worse.)

It seems that was not a long enough view of the consequences :( I am confident the radio presenters and their manager had no thought of the possible consequences for anyone but themselves and this is an extreme but perfect example of why I absolutely loathe prank situations, especially when perpetuated by the media. In part because the perpetrators feel free to do so knowing they will not suffer the consequences. That I think is a societal issue and I'm glad to see (also only reported in the BBC version) that a public backlash does seem to be occurring - but that will only do any long term good if it is directed against the whole culture of radio station shock jocks and prank calls (and further) rather than just this one incident. Sadly I do not think this incident will bring about any change.

~~~
The death is being treated as a suspected suicide. I personally think it could easily have been an accidental overdose of medication prescribed to help her cope or a heart attack brought on by the stress - but these and other possible explanations in no way reduce the tragedy of the situation. Props to the Herald for including this at the end of their article
If it's an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111. Or call Youthline 0800 376 633, Lifeline 0800 543 354, Depression Helpline 0800 111 757, What's Up 0800 942 8787 (noon-midnight).
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Update to my post on Saturday - a story clarifying gross vs net appeared in the Herald today. Win (regardless of whether my email had anything to do with it) :) I have emailed the author with thanks.
Minister spells out $43,000 'salary' claim for solo mum
marsden_online: (Blueknight)
Update 21-02-2102 - story clarifying gross vs net appears in the Herald. Win :)
Minister spells out $43,000 'salary' claim for solo mum
~~~

"Gone all the way to the media" story of the week.
Mum: Prostitution to pay for studies
Mum's $43,000 benefit 'sufficient'
From the second (more recent) story
A domestic purposes beneficiary who is considering prostitution to pay for childcare and transport costs to attend a Unitec study course receives the equivalent of a $43,000 salary a year, Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows told Parliament yesterday.
...
"I think most New Zealanders would find that an equivalent salary of $43,000 is sufficient, or at least reasonable," Mr Borrows said.


The first story includes a breakdown of what I am assuming is Ms Wysoki's personal finances, but could easily be in part publicly available benefit entitlement information. It is given as weekly but simple multiplication gives ~$37,630 a year. Which using the tax calculator at IRD is about right for a -gross- salary of $43,000, but nowhere near as much money -to spend- as the article repeatedly implies.

I felt sufficiently strongly about this misrepresentation that I sent an email to the "author" of the article about it.

And how much money would be sufficient? I can only work from my own very different situation. Looking at my 2011 accounts and stripping out business and house-related related expenses
- but not mortgage payments as I noted they approximate what Ms Wysocki spends on rent
my Christchurch based, single-white-male, frugal but comfortable, healthy, dwelling-in-middle-class-privileged self still goes through $600-700 a week*. I think Ms Wysocki is doing bloody well as a single mother with two small children on a bit over $700 per week in the upper-north-island.

*1 I could halve this for a while if I had to just by stopping voluntary payments on the mortgage. Not a luxury available to Ms Wysocki with her rent. There are other things I could cut back on as well - moving from "frugal but comfortable" to just "frugal".
*2 Ok the utility bills are for two but they only come to about $60 a week - how much of a small child would you like to equate my flatmate to? :p

~~~
"You keep using those numbers. I do not think they are as big as you think they are." (apol. Inigo)
marsden_online: (dragon)
This Press/Stuff article has a Q & A at the bottom. Particular to my point
Q. Will uninsured residents be able to apply for the temporary financial assistance?

A. Only in exceptional circumstances. If you don't have insurance or your insurance policy doesn't cover temporary accommodation and you require assistance, please visit one of the Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation Service offices to discuss your circumstances.

"Uninsured residents" to me includes not only a hypothetical family who might have scraped together a deposit to buy but have found themselves skimping on insurance to make ends meet, but also the very real example in this article on SeaBreeze Close I linked to in an earlier post.
But for a cruel twist of fate, McConchie, 32, wouldn't be here. She and her partner had separated and moved out of the four-bedroom home, putting it on the market and accepting an offer of $400,000, the same amount they paid for it. By September 4 the sale had gone unconditional, but they agreed to let the contract go after the quake hit.

Because she was not living in the house at the time, McConchie was not eligible for emergency rental payments from her insurance company, AMI. She stayed with her parents but in December decided to move back into the badly damaged home, as storage was costing her a fortune and her dog and three cats were overcrowding her parents. She is now paying a mortgage, rates and insurance by herself.

Ms McConchie has been in the media, so I've no doubt she'll be considered in "exceptional circumstances". I've equally little doubt that many other people who most need help won't be.

But I guess to John Key and the rest of National those people are just more who made poor choices.

~~~
On the personal claim front, I was contacted by EQC today to confirm my second claim. However since I haven't been contacted or assessed for the -first- one yet the second had to be put back on the merry-go-round.

Several people I know have seen assessors over the past couple of weeks, so I hold out hope.
marsden_online: (skull)
Will it miss some of the people who need it most?
The Herald (and every other report I've seen) says
To qualify, homeowners must have exhausted any temporary accommodation allowance covered by their insurance.

They must be unable to live in their home while it is being repaired and intend to return once that work is complete.

Does this mean that if you didn't have an accommodation allowance on your insurance, or didn't have insurance (in which case you're not covered by EQC and already screwed once) that you can't get the new supplement either?

Sounds a lot like the same way Working for Families misses the kids at the very bottom of the heap to me.

Other possibilities that come to mind
- What if you can't face going back and are planning to sell once everything is repaired? You don't qualify but you do need somewhere to live until you have that equity back. Do you lie?
- Will the government come after you for their money back if you after you go back you decide you can't face living there any more and sell up within some short period of time, on the grounds that you never planned to go back and fall in the previous category?
marsden_online: (write)
Campbell Live had a half-assed look at the price of milk tonight. They didn't really breakdown the numbers the way they promised, so I'm going to see what I can infer from the numbers they did provide.

- A farmer gets paid about 68c a litre. Of course they don't actually get paid by the litre. Also bear in mind that the milk you buy is homogenised and diluted.
- The 2 L bottle of Anchor milk from the supermarket cost $4.80 of which 0.63c is GST (62.6c)
- so to make things more comparable* $2.40 a litre, 33c GST# takes us to $2.07
- less farmer is $1.39

*1L bottles cost more so it's not exact
# rounding errors creeping in

We know from the accompanying interview that Fonterra and the supermarket mark up the milk by about the same amount each. Actually the Fonterra exec said "make the same amount on each litre", which may not mean the same thing once overheads are taken into account - but we have no information at all on what those costs are.

There was no talk of how much Anchor adds, so I'm going to just split the $1.39 by 3
-> 0.46c each.


Lets take a look at the $2.90 for two litres of "Dairy Dale" (Fonterra's budget brand, no "added value").
- $1.45/L including 19c GST => $1.26,
- less farmer is 58c split between Fonterra and the dairy it was purchased at (although I think it would be fair to say it's probably actually split in Fonterra's favour)
-> 29c each


There is a sizeable difference between 46c and 29c. The Fonterra exec was quite open about wanting people to buy more of the branded milk, because Fonterra does make more off it.

What I'm most impressed about is that the farmer still gets the largest portion, at least until the retail price hits ~$5.22 when the government really starts creaming it (yes Victoria, the government -likes- higher prices).

Is it too much? I'll leave that question open. It could certainly be lower.

There's obviously scope for the middlemen to trim their profits back. Should the farmers be paid less - is there a dairy "bubble"?

What effect would reducing the amount you can earn in dairying have on land use?

~~~
As an aside, the Fonterra exec in trying to explain the price difference between Dairy Dale and Anchor said that with Anchor you are paying for a range of products (eg high-calcium) and the research behind them. You can decide if bog standard blue top from Anchor is more expensive because it's subsidising research on the other products, or because if they charged less for it no-one would buy the other products in the range.

He was also honest about the fact that the high price charged for Anchor et. al. targets the people who are prepared to pay to have "branded" milk in their fridge.
marsden_online: (write)
Last night TVNZ News led with this story about the government's new fleet of limousines
The government has ordered 34 new BMWs to replace its current fleet which is just three years old.

Just a few weeks after Prime Minister John Key said that Kiwis "have to tighten their belts, we have to do the same", the government is to spend taxpayer money on the impressive limos.

The government said it would receive a bulk discount for the fleet of BMWs, which cost around $200,000 on the market but are so exclusive they are yet to arrive in New Zealand.

However, it would will not say how much public money will be used on BMW's flagship 7 Series cars, citing the excuse of commercial sensitivity.
(emphasis mine)

Later in the bulletin they had this story about "excessive" WINZ loans to get beneficiaries cars out of impound.
A crackdown has been ordered on interest-free loans given to beneficiaries to recover impounded cars.

About $220,000 of taxpayer money has been used in the past four years to help people get their cars back, ONE News can reveal.
(emphasis mine)
So
- even allowing for a generous bulk discount,
- all the government would need to do to balance the money
- loaned (so much of it will or will have come back anyway) to beneficiaries to make sure they have essential* transport
- over four years
- would be to purchase two fewer new cars for it's luxury fleet this year.

* despite TVNZ finding a high-profile exception to illustrate the bulletin with, I'm confident that a large proportion of the impounds will be for things like incurring a parking ticket while waiting for a job interview, that you then couldn't afford to pay off because you're struggling to live on a benefit! Or otherwise the difference between keeping and losing a job, which if you're going to WINZ to get your car out of impound probably falls into the category of "better than no job at all".

~~~
Update:
Herald reports that the car deal is a rollover option on a contract the previous Labour government signed, enacted by Internal Affairs apparently without the knowledge of the current government. Which doesn't in any way negate the comparison I'm making above.
marsden_online: (Ghostfighter)
On the one hand, good news in this article currently leading on the Stuff website. On the other hand, no prizes for spotting the two errors copied in this extract (I have a faint hope the original article may be corrected at some point).
Free off-street parking in city
Central city off-street parking will be free for the first two hours to help relieve earthquake affected retailers.

And people parking on-street will get an hour bonus on any amount they put into a meter.

The proposals received approval at today's city council meeting.

The tow hours free off-street parking will remain in place until January 30.

The hour bonus for on-street parking will remain in place even longer - until December 31, 2010.
marsden_online: (Rage)
Lack of help astounds petrol station hold-up hero
A man who thwarted a suspected armed service station hold-up has been offered free coffee and a thank you from management.

And the company is standing by its policy that staff are under no circumstances to get involved with a violent customer, even when another customer is being attacked.
...
The 35-year-old was paying for his petrol when a woman yelling that she had a gun came inside and began threatening staff members.

With one hand in a sweatshirt pocket - where the alleged gun was hidden - she grabbed Mr McCullough.
...
As he stood in a headlock he was shocked that the five staff members, who he said were all large and capable men, backed away and stood behind the counter looking at them.
...
BP general manager retail Frank van Hattum said although the attack was an unfortunate one, the company backed the actions of the staff members, saying they did everything right.

"All our staff are trained to under no circumstances engage with an aggressive customer.

"They have to stand back."

This is a big steaming pile of crap. (And although the company at fault in this instance is BP I'm well aware that every other similar company has the same policy.)

Just think what benefits would arise from training staff in how to engage with an aggressive customer in ways other than standing by and offloading responsibility to the faceless "company policy".

For the business
- more confident staff
- safer customers
- not considered an easy target

For -society-
- more people trained not to accept this sort of violence and equipped to intervene wherever it may occur.

Because at the moment all the 'training' is doing is teaching people that it's all right to stand back and devolve responsibility for their actions or lack thereof to someone or something else.

~~~
And lets not forget the scorn due to the staff themselves who put blind adherence to the company rulebook ahead of being decent human beings, and the reported bystanders who also didn't get involved. -You- enable a society where this sort of shit is acceptable.

~~~
- trying to calm down enough to formulate an email

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