The Dim-Post

February 29, 2012

It’s the labour market, stupid

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:20 am

If I was an opposition party I’d be working to join the dots between (a) our low wage economy, (b) National’s welfare policy, and (c) recent industrial disputes. Moving the country further towards a casualised, low skilled, temporary work-force isn’t likely to work out well for those of us who have jobs, even if we aren’t unionised.

February 28, 2012

You actin’ like we got an inelastic product when we don’t

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 10:31 am

John Armstrong has been briefed by the Labour leader’s office:

David Shearer is right to hold his nerve. No doubt he is feeling the pressure, but he is wisely ignoring the mounting criticism that he is failing to take the fight to National, that he is missing in action, that he is too laid back and that he is wasting his honeymoon as Labour’s new leader.

There is a danger that perception becomes reality and those labels stick.

But there are good reasons why Shearer should take little heed of this passing chorus of complaint.

The main one is that the moaning will soon be forgotten. In little over two weeks, Shearer will deliver a major positioning speech which will give a much clearer picture of the direction in which he intends taking Labour.

That speech is likely to be bold.

It may yet flag the most significant reorientation of Labour thinking since the party kissed goodbye to Sir Roger Douglas.

So far, Shearer has given little away. But there was a hint yesterday in his remarks about welfare reform that he is planning to shift Labour’s stance quite radically in a number of policy areas.

Russel Norman and Metiria Turei must be grinning like jackals.

February 27, 2012

Chemistry paper of the day

Filed under: drugs — danylmc @ 9:34 am

Via Eric Crampton: A Simple and Convenient Synthesis of Pseudoephedrine From N-Methylamphetamine.

The introduction:

Pseudoephedrine, active ingredient of Sudafed®, has long been the most popular nasal decongestant in the United States due to its effectiveness and relatively mild side effects [1]. In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to obtain psuedoephedine in many states because of its use as a precursor for the illegal drug N-methylamphetamine (also known under various names including crystal meth, meth, ice, etc.)[1,2]. While in the past many stores were able to sell pseudoephedrine, new laws in the United States have restricted sales to pharmacies, with the medicine kept behind the counter. The pharmacies require signatures and examination of government issued ID in order to purchase pseudoephedrine. Because the hours of availability of such pharmacies are often limited, it would be of great interest to have a simple synthesis of pseudoephedrine from reagents which can be more readily procured. A quick search of several neighborhoods of the United States revealed that while pseudoephedrine is difficult to obtain,  N-methylamphetamine can be procured at almost any time on short notice and in quantities sufficient for synthesis of useful amounts of the desired material. Moreover, according to government maintained statistics, Nmethylmphetamine is becoming an increasingly attractive starting material for  pseudoephedrine, as the availability of Nmethylmphetamine has remained high while prices have
dropped and purity has increased [2]. We present here a convenient series of transformations using reagents which can be found in most well stocked organic chemistry laboratories to produce psuedoephedrine from N-methylamphetamine. While N-methylamphetamine itself is a powerful
decongestant, it is less desirable in a medical setting because of its severe side effects and addictive properties [3]. Such side effects may include insomnia, agitation, irritability, dry mouth, sweating, and heart palpitations. Other side effects may include violent urges or, similarly, the urge to be successful in business or finance.

My organic chemistry isn’t robust enough to say whether the synthesis is valid.

February 26, 2012

Not too bright

Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 6:58 am

Some half-wit Herald columnist called Damien Grant opines on the madness of spending money on the social welfare system – in a very well thought out argument he’s particularly exercised by the idea of training beneficiaries for gainful employment:

Why? Why is it that despite hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on beneficiaries, free education, free health care and subsidised housing, we are going backwards?

The answer was provided in stark relief in recent weeks in the sudden appearance of Tania Wysocki, not very reluctantly, on the national stage.

Despite receiving the equivalent of a $43,000 salary to sit at home with her two children, she wants the state to give her even more money so she can learn how to be a vet nurse.

Wysocki is threatening to get her kit off in protest at not being given access to enough free child care.

The idea of working for a living seems not to exist for her as a possibility.

I don’t know what Damien Grant thinks a vet nurse does, but the one we go to has to stick a thermometer up my cat’s ass and check the reading without getting the flesh stripped from her arms. That seems like working.

But why ARE we going backwards? Let’s have a look at the MED 2011 Economic Development Indicators, which compares us with other OECD countries. Let’s see . . . New Zealand managements skills: Low. Formal innovation: Low. Equity Market Developments: Low and deteriorating. (Our business leaders aren’t developing companies for each other to invest in). International Trade: Low and deteriorating. Net Foreign Asset Position: Low and deteriorating.

Our labour utilisation is really really high. New Zealanders work really hard! But the companies they work for are very badly run and heavily indebted, with minimal investment in growing productivity and unable to compete in international markets. That’s the real problem, not some solo mum who wants to train herself up to be a more productive worker but can’t because of MSD’s pointless, byzantine restrictions on childcare eligibility.

February 24, 2012

Dry powder

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:45 pm

Via Stuff:

Labour leader David Shearer has attempted to counter criticism his leadership style has been too laid back, saying he doesn’t believe in bickering and partisanship.

In a speech to Grey Power in Auckland this afternoon, Shearer said he was not the kind of leader who believed in ”rival tribes playing gotcha”.

”Of course that’s what a lot of people look for. They want to score the game, give points for the best smart remark in Parliament. But that’s not what most New Zealanders want.”

There was no excuse for not being constructive.

”I want a new kind of politics, pragmatic and attentive to what works, not tied up in the squabbles of the past.”

Shearer was at 10% in the preferred PM rating in TV3′s recent poll, which is higher than Goff ever got – but after three months as National leader John Key was at 27% (Clark was 32% at that point. Key is currently at 46%).

So Shearer doesn’t have to ‘play gotcha’, but he does have to do something, because while he’s doing well compared to Goff, he’s in a really terrible position historically.

I watched the news last night, and the Labour MP fronting on the two main political stories of the day was Phil Goff. That’s because they were both foreign affairs based stories and he’s their spokesman on that issue  – but Shearer isn’t chopped liver when it comes to foreign affairs, and he did make a big deal about how he was going to change the Labour Party. He could start by getting Goff – who just led them to an historic defeat – off the damn TV and getting himself on it. And, like I always said during Goff’s tenure, he should carry on by firing all his staffers who didn’t point this out to him.

What then?

Filed under: crime,health — danylmc @ 10:57 am

Jacinda Ardern has a column in the Herald about child abuse (she is opposed to it) and it asserts:

There will be those parents who have already proven time and again that they should not have the privilege and responsibility of raising another child. They are not the norm, but for them our response should be swift and simple – they don’t get to gamble with another child’s life.

I don’t care if this is seen as too interventionist. I’d rather that than more of the “waiting and seeing”.

I’m all for interventionism, but I do wonder how this would work. How do you stop abusive parents from having more children?

The first stage seems pretty simple. You introduce a mechanism in which CYFS or other authorities can red-flag individuals who abuse their children, presumably through some sort of judicial process. But how do you monitor men who have been red-flagged to see if they’re living in a house with children, or expecting another child with a new partner? Pregnant women will get picked up when they enter the health system, but red-flagged males will be harder. Do you need something similar to the sex-offender registry? (It might be a good idea to combine the two, sending the message that child abuse carries the same level of stigma.)

Say you do – what happens once you’ve flagged someone? You can offer them medical sterilisation, but you can’t compel them to accept it – even offering financial incentives takes you into very tricky ethical territory, especially since a huge proportion of those sterilised would be Maori. You run into the same problems with abortion, only more-so.

So do you remove children from the parents’ care at birth? That is, in itself, a form of child abuse, so the threshold for such an act would have to be very high. And where do they go? One of the main reasons we have the Domestic Purposes Benefit is that state agencies and religious organisations proved themselves dangerously inept at caring for and raising children. Are they adopted? Adopted children also face a horribly high rate of child abuse.

It’s very easy to say ‘some parents shouldn’t be allowed to have children’, but very hard to implement that sentiment as policy.

February 23, 2012

Joy

Filed under: media — danylmc @ 5:57 pm

At the end of a long day and I went to the Herald site to see if anything could lift me up. And there she was:

February 22, 2012

The tell

Filed under: blogging — danylmc @ 7:15 pm

DPF’s been on an anti-environmentalist binge recently, with a series of posts about Patrick Moore, a (1) former environmental activist at Greenpeace in the 1970s and (2) lobbyist for the logging and nuclear power industries (DPF omitted one of those two facts, see if you can guess which); a post about ‘global warming dirty tricks’, a post entitled ‘more anti-science from the Greens’. I teased him about this on twitter, writing:

I’m guessing your polls now have soft-National voters leaning towards the Greens?

And he responds here.

This is a half-serious theory I developed during the election campaign. During the final weeks Kiwiblog got pretty weird, with an increasingly hysterical run of posts attacking Winston Peters, culminating in the (inaccurate) announcement that Winston Peters was an ‘illegal candidate’.

Why was DPF so exercised about Peters? All the polls had him well under 5%. My theory was that the public polls were historical, but because DPF is the National pollster he had access to the overnight quantitative polls his company conducts for them, and that showed Winston surging. So based on nothing more than DPF’s posts attacking him, I predicted that Winston was on over 5%, which turned out to be true.

Now, I don’t know what National’s polls actually showed regarding Peters. Or if they show that soft National voters are trending Green. And I believe DPF when he says:

Now the reality is I decide what to blog basically when I read a news item, or if someone brings something to my attention by way of blog comment, twitter or e-mail. I don’t have a library or inventory of stories held in reserve, which I release based on what the polls are indicating.

Because I work exactly the same way. I blog about what I’m interested in, and it’s generally reactive. But you blog about what you read and hear in conversation, either intentionally or unintentionally, and DPF gets to read the internal polls and market research carried out by his company for the National Party and discuss them with the Prime Minister and his staff, and it would be pretty weird if none of that informed his choice of subjects. And the supposition seems reasonable enough: the PM’s popularity is trending down, while the Greens have come out swinging this year on issues that have broad public support.

Opposition to Crafer sale: alternative theory

Filed under: economics,Politics — danylmc @ 2:04 pm

Brian Rudman writes about the TV3 poll showing that 76% of the country is opposed to the sale of the Crafer farms to Shanghai Pengxin :

In reaction to the poll showing overwhelming demand for tougher laws against sales of land to foreigners, Mr Key said in the last 18 months there had been 72 sales of farms to foreign buyers out of a total pool of 10,000 dairy farms and 35,000 sheep and beef farms. He also argued that New Zealand was actually “quite a difficult place to buy land if you’re a foreigner”.

What he hasn’t confronted is why the protest has been concentrated on the 16 Crafar farms and not the 72 farms that were sold. It’s hard not to see this targeted opposition as anything other than a visceral reaction to the idea of Chinese ownership.

I’m sure that some of the reaction is, basically, anti-Chinese sentiment. But 76% of the entire country?

I suspect that if you polled people on whether they were opposed to a Chinese company building a factory in New Zealand, or a Chinese multi-millionaire buying up a large farm and moving here with his family (viz James Cameron), you’d get a much smaller number of people opposing, and that would mostly be people hostile to China and Chinese investment for racial or xenophobic reasons. But when you have 76% of the country opposed, something else is happening.

And what that is is pretty simple. It makes sense to let people build a factory here and create jobs. And it makes sense to let people buy property here if they want to live here. But it just doesn’t make a lot of sense for a country to sell off its primary export earner to overseas interests, have the government run the farms on their behalf and then expatriate the profits. The counter-argument runs something along the lines of: ‘it’s advantageous for farmers to incur huge debts so they can eventually sell their farms for tax-free capital gains, and restricting overseas buyers reduces their eventual return.’ Which is compelling if you’re a farmer, or worship the free market the way superstitious peasants worship volcanoes and thunderstorms (Hello Maurice Williamson) but not for the rest of us.

So why are people up in arms about this now, and not during the Labour government when they authorised the international sale of farmland the size of the Crafer holdings every month? I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but I didn’t actually know that was happening. It was never a major political issue. Nobody told me. Now it is an issue, and it seems like a good time to stop and ask what the hell we’re doing.

 

Karla!

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:06 am

I tend to agree with Keith – the ‘Russian Group’ leaking Murray McCully’s emails have no reason whatsoever to redact the email address of the person who sent the least discreet email, and leave all the other addresses and phone numbers intact. So that suggests a domestic source and domestic agenda. The header for the leak reads:

  1. Privet.
  2. Товарищи hacked into Foreign Affairs Ministers email account. This is year ago.
  3. We see reports from New Zealand tv. It show some emails. We will leak the emails he talk about.
  4. This is not important to us. This is skid stuff. We move onto more things now.
  5. (Sorry for bad english).
  6. - Long Live RBN
  7. - @TheComradez
  8. до свидания

RBN is the Russian Business Network, a Russian based cyber-crime organisation. But the cyrillic text in the emails are the Russian words for ‘comrade’ and ‘goodbye’, and you can just cut and paste it from the wiktionary pages for the term.

But why would anyone leak these emails? The obvious conspiracy theory is that the main email concerns waste at MFAT, and its been leaked a day before the government cuts hundreds of jobs from that organisation. But that would be a weird, pointlessly elaborate way to get that information out there, when McCully’s press sec can just take an email like that to any media organisation and ask them to put it on their front page as an ‘exclusive leak’, ‘our investigations have revealed . . .’ ect.

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