The Dim-Post

January 30, 2013

Doesn’t it seem amazing that it took National this long to play the ‘prison labour’ card?

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 10:08 am

If anything will resolve the high exchange rate, urban housing crisis, low wages and exodus to Australia, surely it’s convict labour.

I don’t have any moral/philosophical objection to making prisoners work to offset the cost of their imprisonment, or help skill them up to re-integrate them ‘back into society’, but if you combine it with National’s policy of private prison management, it’s not hard to see how the goals of rehabilitating and releasing prisoners could clash with the prospect of having a subsidised compulsory zero-cost workforce.

Quote of the day, start as you mean to go on edition

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 8:35 am

 If you are in a car and there is a rush of blood to the head and Labour and the Greens do get there, you had better like your radio station because you will spend a long time in a traffic jam, because the first thing that will be gone with those people are the roads.

Prime Minister John Key in his Opening Statement to Parliament yesterday, in which the PM traditionally lays out his policy agenda for the year, our current Prime Minister . . . not so much.

January 28, 2013

My slightly belated political predictions for 2013

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:41 pm

Phil Heatley will be sacked from Cabinet.

David Carter will be nominated Speaker of the House.

In mid May, construction crews operating in Christchurch’s red zone will excavate the basement of a demolished butcher to find a human skeleton buried in a shallow grave beneath the concrete floor. Forensic analysis will determine that the skeleton is that of a male in his late teens or early twenties, that this person died approximately thirty years ago, and that they were buried alive. The skeleton’s teeth will be compared to the dental records kept by Christchurch schools prior to the period and perfectly match those of ex-Burnside student John Key.

Winston Peters and the new Speaker will clash.

January 27, 2013

Slow hands

Filed under: economics,Politics — danylmc @ 8:45 pm

David Shearer’s SOTU speech is here. There’s nothing new in terms of policy, but in value terms it promotes contemporary center-left values, a huge contrast from Shearer’s repeated bizarre attempts in 2012 to win over disaffected ACT voters.

His main critique of the National government is that it’s ‘hands off’. DPF rebutted this argument last week, pointing out the many ways in which National is a ‘hands-on’ government, and in an enormous coincidence the Prime Minister made exactly the same points a few hours later.

I agree with whoever wrote DPF’s post and John Key’s speech – it’s not credible to attack the government’s lack of involvement in the economy when they’re spending $400 million dollars on irrigation in Canterbury, $1.5 billion on broadband, how ever many dozens of billions the Roads of National Significance is costing, and so-on, and so-on. This is not a neo-liberal government.

And looking at ACT’s polling, it seems obvious that the political will for a neo-liberal economic model is dead; the debate is now about what kind of welfare state we want to move towards: a traditional model in the democratic socialist tradition, or a corporate welfare model in which benefits and services are directed away from individuals and into the business sector. I guess you could look at contemporary China or 1960s South Korea as exemplars.

I’m not opposed to this second approach – wouldn’t it be great if we were a country with loads of great, high-paying export focused jobs! But most of National’s corporate welfare measures look like white elephants: roads to nowhere that won’t return the cost of the investment, stadium and convention center boondoggles, etc. It seems to be driven by which sectors of the economy are more effective lobbyists rather than any coherent vision.

January 25, 2013

All part of the service

Filed under: media — danylmc @ 1:45 pm

John Key’s State of the Nation speech is here. I await John Armstrong’s coverage of the speech with interest. He’s welcome to use this opening paragraph if he’s on a tight deadline.

Bulls bellowed; sticks transformed into snakes; stars flared and died; dry rivers flooded and fallow fields bloomed into life after Prime Minister John Key addressed the North Harbour Club today.

January 23, 2013

On cats

Filed under: science — danylmc @ 2:09 pm

Towards the end of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, the main character establishes a bird sanctuary on the edge of the suburbs. Cats from the local houses come and kill the birds, so the hero takes photographs of the mutilated bird bodies and distributes them to the cat’s owners, and then goes a step further and kidnaps a cat (Bobby), which he drives to an animal shelter in another city. I love this interview with Franzen – a bird watcher – in which a reporter asks him if he has anything to confess about his own behavior towards cats:

“Let’s say that I was peripherally involved with some conspirators,” he said. “Never mind where. There was a problematic neighbor with a problematic cat. I like cats – indoors. Some, like this particular cat, are killing machines.

“Over time, I was gradually becoming less than peripherally involved. It occurred to me that maybe we should stop, because if we got caught, it would be pretty bad press. Also, my partner, Kathy – the Californian—feels strongly about people’s connection to their pets. So I thought, ‘Why don’t I write about this instead?”

Let’s just agree that Gareth Morgan – like Franzen and his co-conspirators – is  crazy (And if you haven’t already, check out Morgan’s AMAZING anti-cat infographic.) If you want to stop having fun with the issue and read something informative, I’ve found this article by David Winter and this interview with Mark Farnworth useful.

Respect!

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:35 am

John Armstrong on the Cabinet reshuffle:

John Key’s dramatic Cabinet reshuffle displays a streak of ruthlessness hitherto rarely seen in a New Zealand prime minister.

Key has displayed all the sentiment of a corporate restructurer. So ministers are given the chance to perform.

If they do not they are out. Simple as that.

Above all, what the reshuffle does is put the entire Cabinet on notice. National largely got away with last year’s catalogue of blunders and unwanted distractions without too much damage to its support in opinion polls.

Tracy Watkins at Fairfax:

No-one saw the brutal dumping of long-time Cabinet ministers Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley coming – least of all them.

The usual route out of Cabinet for underperforming ministers is a slow slide down the rankings and reassignment to lesser portfolios.

But Prime Minister John Key, a man once known as banking’s smiling assassin, refused to offer them even that fig leaf, giving them just a few hours’ notice of their fate.

Mr Key made no bones yesterday about the reason for his sense of urgency to bring fresh blood into Cabinet – he did not want to repeat the mistakes of his cautious predecessor Helen Clark, who failed to rejuvenate her lineup

People sometimes badmouth the PM’s comms team, but anyone who can sell a minor mid-term Cabinet reshuffle – in which an MP stood down less than a year ago for unethical behavior is reinstated, and an incompetent failure remains in charge of the education system – as an act of corporate-style ruthlessness that puts the Cabinet ‘on notice’, is a stone-cold genius.

Presumably National’s market research has found that people see Key as ‘too relaxed’, ‘not tough enough’, etc, and one of the government’s goals for 2013 is to address that perception. If I’m right then we won’t see the PM declaring he’s ‘comfortable’ or ‘relaxed’ about anything for the next few months.

January 22, 2013

Screen cap of the day, ironic region setting edition

Filed under: technology — danylmc @ 9:30 pm

Sent in by a reader; and sure, there are plenty of plausible reasons why the job search site for the NZ government is set to Australian Eastern Standard Time, but my favorite (not-that-unlikely) theory is that it’s been outsourced to an Aussie provider but staffed by ex-pat Kiwis.

Jobs crossing the ditch

Update: jobs.govt.nz HAS been outsourced to Australia! From the comments:

Extract of whois of jobs.govt.nz:
jobs.govt.nz IN A 210.193.133.120
120.133.193.210.in-addr.arpa IN PTR eyintra.recruitasp.com.au

Traceroute looks like Sydney. Therefore, outsourced.

Lucky outsourcer is RecruitASP, Privately held, 51-200 employees. No idea how many are kiwi expats.

Why Novopay is still broken and hard to fix

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:24 am

TVNZ reports:

Schools are bracing themselves for more problems with Novopay just days out from another education pay round.

With many new school staff joining the pay roll and some big issues showing up on pay reports, worries about Novopay’s competence are second only to schools’ concerns about their budgets.

At Mount Eden Normal School in Auckland, the balance available for spending on staff has swung from $10,000 in credit, to tens of thousands in debt.

When things go wrong with big software engineering projects, it’s often hard to explain to non-technical people why the damn thing is so hard to resolve. Why not just throw people and money at it? Hire more staff? Sack the managers and bring in someone competent, etc. The answer to those questions is Brooks’ Law.

Imagine that the Novopay system is a gigantic factory filled with tens of thousands of complex machines, all interlinked and interdependent on each other. Because that’s basically what it is, it’s just built in computer code instead of bricks and steel. If you make a small change to, say, the machine that calculates holiday pay, that change can have a massive impact on the entire factory. It could short out all the power. It could also have a very subtle impact that causes problems over the long term – like an error in calculating long service leave.

So if you have ten software engineers all fixing problems at once, they’re going to spend a lot of time talking to each other, and testing their changes to make sure they don’t cause problems in other parts of the system. And if you hire another ten engineers, all you’ve done is increase the amount of communication and testing that needs to be performed.

Software development companies know all of this stuff. It’s why they conduct extensive testing and often ship products months, or sometimes even years late. Because they’re aware that if they ship a faulty product something like the Novopay fiasco will happen. But Talent2 isn’t a software development company – they’re a recruitment company that decided to branch out into software development.

I guess the lesson here is that they call it software engineering for a reason. If you were building a real bricks n’ mortar factory you wouldn’t hire an HR company who’d never built anything before, and if half of the test subjects told you that a real factory wasn’t ready you wouldn’t ignore them and switch it on anyway. (I acknowledge that it’s possible Craig Foss and Hekia Parata would actually do both of those things.)

January 21, 2013

What (I think) Garth McVicar is trying to say

Filed under: crime,general idiocy — danylmc @ 11:25 am

As we all know:

Crime will rise if gay couples are allowed to marry, says the head of the country’s victim lobby group.

Sensible Sentencing Trust leader Garth McVicar has submitted to Parliament that changing the law to allow same-sex marriage will be yet another erosion of basic morals and values in society which have led to an escalation of child abuse, domestic violence, and an ever-increasing prison population.

“The marriage amendment bill will not benefit society at all and will ultimately have detremetal (sic) effect on crime at all levels,” the submission read.

This is part of a broader argument popular amongst US conservatives. It goes like this: take a look at a chart showing violent crime in the US since 1960.

vcrime500

So something happened in the 1960s to cause a staggering increase in violent crime, which then dropped sharply in the 1990s. The conservative argument is that the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s happened. People abandoned traditional values of family, religion, hard work, ect, and that caused society to crumble. It uncrumbled a bit in the 1990s, because of Reagan. Moreover, they’d argue that groups which have held onto these values are less prone to divorce, crime, and groups like minorities and poor whites who don’t uphold traditional values are poorer and cause many more social problems than people who are married, hard-working, religious etc. Gay marriage is not a traditional family value, hence legalising gay-marriage will lead to a crime wave.

There are plenty of alternative theories. The Superfreakonomics guys who think legalised abortion led to lower crime. The newest theory is that lead exposure is a causative factor in violent crime:

There may also be a medical reason for the decline in crime. For decades, doctors have known that children with lots of lead in their blood are much more likely to be aggressive, violent and delinquent. In 1974, the Environmental Protection Agency required oil companies to stop putting lead in gasoline. At the same time, lead in paint was banned for any new home (though old buildings still have lead paint, which children can absorb).

Tests have shown that the amount of lead in Americans’ blood fell by four-fifths between 1975 and 1991. A 2007 study by the economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes contended that the reduction in gasoline lead produced more than half of the decline in violent crime during the 1990s in the U.S. and might bring about greater declines in the future. Another economist, Rick Nevin, has made the same argument for other nations.

I’d genuinely like to know what McVicar thinks of this theory, and if he’d be in favor of more stringent government regulation on the use of heavy metals in industry.

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