Saturday, August 18, 2007

Teenage birth rate rises again

The teenage birth rate (15-19) for the year ending June 2007 is up to 29.9 from 27.6 the previous year. The highest rate in ten years. There was an established downward trend but that has firmly reversed now.

As you would expect the number of 18-19 year-olds on the DPB is also up from 2.9 percent in June 2006 to 3.2 percent in June 2007. That also represents an absolute rise in numbers. Then there are 16-17 year-olds on the Emergency Maintenance Allowance but the MSD does not routinely publish that figure. I wonder why.

What does this mean? More work for the teenage parent counsellors and service coordinators, more dedicated educational facilities, more work for CYF, more carers needed for those babies who will be removed from their mother not long after their birth, more housing needed, more long-term careers on welfare launched, more taxpayer funding needed, all in all, more social problems down the line.

Friday, August 17, 2007

When statements of fact become "racist"

Is this statement racist? According to Hone Harawira it is.

"Maori and Pacific people have a greater propensity to commit violent crimes."

That's what Superintendent John Rivers told the Maori Party.

Of the 10,345 convictions for violent offences in 2004 47% were to Maori, 13% Pacific people and 38% NZ European.

One might argue (and no doubt Hone Harawira would) that these statistics merely show that Maori and Pacific people are more likely to be convicted.

In 1998 the apprehension rate for violent crime by Maori 27.5 (per 1,000) and 7.4 for non-Maori.

Hone might argue that Maori are merely more likely to be caught.

The 2001 Crime Victimisation Survey asked has any partner ever actually used force or violence on you, such as deliberately hit, kicked, pushed, grabbed or shoved you, or deliberately hit you with something, in a way that could have hurt you?

41.9 percent of Maori females said yes and 19.6 percent of Maori males said yes. The respective figures for Pacific people were 17.2 and 6.7 and NZ European, 19.5 and 14.8.

Hone could argue that the partners ethnicity might not match the respondents.

Hone can argue till the cows come home. The fact remains. Maori have a greater propensity to violence. That is not to say all Maori are violent or they should be treated as if they will be. Perhaps the statement should have been prefixed with "some" to ensure cultural and political safety.

Annette King's response is a cop-out (excuse the pun); Ms King said she believed that Mr Rivers' bosses would probably be very disappointed if anyone believed that was the view of the police.

The problem for police is steering clear of assumption-based behaviour. Treating people differently because of their skin colour is racist.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Moral hazard

This is very well written and easy to grasp (not that I think readers need simplicity but I do and there isn't enough of it).

The Nanny State’s Road to Serfdom
by Jeffrey A. Singer, Posted August 15, 2007

A reader wrote me about my article “The Slippery Slope of Nanny-State Politics,” which appeared in the last issue of Freedom Daily. The article derided the rise of the “nanny state” and its threat to our way of life as a free people. I had written that New York City’s new ban on transfatty foods amounts to yet another usurpation of the right of adults to make their own choices regarding the risks they are willing to take when engaging in any particular behavior.

He wrote, “One thing I always struggle with when reading opinions like yours are the choices that have a societal cost. For example, there are those who say that motorcycle riders have the right to choose not to wear a helmet. Yet ... brain injuries have a significant cost to everyone in society ... at least, to every taxpayer. I’m curious; how is your philosophy of living with risks affected by this factor?”

His inquiry raised a very important public-policy issue: the issue of social cost.

Nothing is without cost. “Price” refers to what one pays for something. “Cost” is what is given up in order to have something. For example, my decision to go to the movies may mean I can’t afford to eat at a restaurant. However, I decide that seeing the film is worth that cost.

In a free society, the cost of other people’s making bad decisions falls mostly on themselves. The cost to us is minimal. The reverse is the case in a welfare state, where the costs of such decisions fall on the taxpayers.

The cost of bad choices

In a market, goods and services are exchanged through a myriad complex of voluntary transactions, each made to the mutual benefit of those engaging in the transaction. The costs of bad choices are borne by those who make them.

Government, on the other hand, does not create wealth. Any expense that it incurs is financed by wealth extracted from taxpayers. Alas, once you start a welfare state — once the government gets into areas that would otherwise be dealt with in the private sector — then politics and special-interest pressures replace voluntary, dispassionate markets. The costs of bad choices are borne by the taxpayers. Thus develops a situation where, in effect, everyone in society becomes taxpayer property. It is what Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek called “the road to serfdom.”

One way people try to reduce risk is by pooling risk in the form of insurance. In a free market, risky behavior increases the cost to the people in the pool. People who engage in unsafe behavior pay a penalty for their choices — in the form of higher prices for their insurance coverage. That’s why, for instance, life insurance is less expensive for nonsmokers than for smokers.

Unfortunately, when we live in a welfare state, as we do today, many of the decisions that would arise from voluntary transactions between consenting adults (such as insurance premiums) become relegated to the political sphere.

Thus, the taxpayer picks up the tab for many people who make bad choices, by paying for their insurance through Medicaid, Medicare, flood insurance, et cetera. This creates what economists call “moral hazard” — there is no disincentive for risky behavior; in fact, the one certain consequence of taxpayer-funded “safety nets” is an increase in bad decision-making, which becomes, in effect, subsidized.

But if we are to proscribe risky behavior in the name of saving taxpayer dollars, then we descend a slippery slope. Where do we stop? Virtually every activity can be regulated on the basis of the argument that it is a potential cost to the taxpayer. Today the state is banning transfatty foods. Tomorrow it may dictate the size and content of meal portions. Next it may ban certain risky sports, such as scuba diving, skiing, or even dodgeball. China’s welfare state dictates how many children a family may have.

Taking other people’s stuff

If any behavior needs to be reined in, it should be the propensity of people to use the political system to take other people’s money. In other words, we need to end the welfare state. Unfortunately, however, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

As Tocqueville warned us, the problem with democracy is that eventually the majority learns that it can use the vote to get other people’s stuff. And, as Jefferson said, “The natural tendency of things is for liberty to yield and for government to gain ground.”

So, to answer my reader’s question, in a welfare state, freedom costs taxpayers money. If taxpayers can’t muster the will to dismantle the welfare state, they will continue traveling the road to serfdom.

Dr. Jeffrey Singer is a Phoenix-area surgeon who writes and lectures on regional and national public policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Goldwater Institute and is a contributor to Arizona Medicine, the journal of the Arizona Medical Association.

What should be done with false rape complainants?

Read this story first. Actually I'll cut and paste it before it disappears. I considered blogging it at the time because the alleged rapists had a somewhat unusual profile.

Police investigate pack-rape of girl, 16
11:37AM Monday August 06, 2007

Morrinsville police are investigating the pack rape of a 16-year-old local girl. The girl has told police she was walking home at around 5am on Saturday, in the Page St area of Morrinsville, after parting company with two people she had been drinking with. She says she was approached by three men in a dark coloured station wagon.

She was then forced into the vehicle and raped by all three men. The men are all described as being in their mid-20s, Caucasian and fat. One man had a beard and moustache.

Police say the girl is deeply traumatised.

Today the Waikato Times reports;

Teen rape claim a lie

A Morrinsville teenager who claimed she was raped by three fat men has admitted the complaint was false.

The 16-year-old girl had told police she was pulled into a vehicle in the early hours of August 4 and raped by the men. Police spent 60 hours investigating the complaint, spokesman Andrew McAlley said. "Such false complaints and the resulting drawing away of resources from genuine inquiries are considered an unfortunate waste of police time."

The girl, who was described at the time of the alleged rape as deeply traumatised, will be dealt with by Police Youth Aid. Her complaint came just days after Hamilton police revealed a serial rapist was on the loose in the city. They are also looking into unsolved historic sex attacks to see if there are links to the serial rapist.

I wonder how these sorts of crimes are recorded. Under "Dishonesty/ Miscellaneous"? That category appears to have been introduced by police in 2003 when there were 133 crimes. Last year there were 579.

Of course I am only speculating but from media reports the incidence of false rape allegations does seem to be on an upward trend.

I am always surprised at the level of sympathy there is for the liars. Did anyone give a thought to all the bearded fat men driving dark coloured station wagons living in Morrinsville who were suddenly the recipients of sideways looks from people?

The worst thing that can happen to a 16 year-old is a Family Group Conference possibly followed by an appearance in the youth court. The whole point of the FGC is to allow the offender, their family/whanau and the victim and their family/whanau to decide together what the outcome for the offender should be. Of course it would be rather hard to find a room big enough to house all the fat 'Caucasian' men in Morrinsville and their families. But it is interesting to speculate what they might want to see happen to the 16 year-old.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Marriage is no guarantee of protection

This is a blog post from NZ Conservative;

If you subscribe to the idea that women should be sexually available outside of a married relationship and act in such a way to take advantage of such women, then child abuse is your problem and your fault. Because you help perpetuate the type of society in which it becomes common for children to be in situations where they are around men (who are not their fathers) living with their mothers.

Until society looks squarely in the eye at the problem of men and women shacking up temporarily and oops, there's a baby, child abuse will remain everyone's problem.

More often than not child abuse happens in homes where partner abuse is also occurring. Below shows the relationship between people perpetrating violence in the presence of children. It is from research undertaken in Hamilton and each of these cases involved the police attending.

Spot the difference

From the Manawatu Evening Standard

Child abuse and intervention figures supplied by Child Youth and Family put Manawatu at the top of an unenviable heap for the North Island central region.

Assessment findings in the 2006/07 financial year show 710 cases of abuse and neglect found in the Manawatu, compared to 630 cases in the 2005/06 year.

The Hutt was the next closest in the region on 486.


I am really beginning to wonder about the accuracy of information coming out of the Ministry.


If I was a satirist/cartoonist I would link these two stories.

In one field we have a band of Maori prisoners industriously planting kumara, kamokamo and Maori corn and in the next field there is a farmer scratching his head while his ready-to-pick asparagus begins to rot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jail mums

Yesterday I was reading a paper in the newly released NZ Social Policy Journal called Jail Mums: The Status of Adult Female Prisoners Among Young Female Prisoners in Christchurch Women's Prison. With a self-admitted "feminist and anti-colonial" agenda ('walk a mile in their shoes' is a dead give away) the researcher talked to a handful of young female prisoners about their experience of older female prisoners. Unlike young males, young females are not separated from the older prisoners because there is anecdotal evidence that mothering relationships are good for the younger females. Of course there are also 'contaminatory' role models but that seems an accepted risk. But I have to wonder why nobody ever suggests that jail dads might be a good thing.

I believe it is important to be aware of the environment from which these women have come to prison while interpreting their talk – to try to imagine walking a mile in their shoes. Participants discussed the lack of support they received from the non-criminal community when they were not in prison:

"And like you know a lot of people ask other people who keep coming to jail all the time ‘why do you keep coming to jail, you know, why can't you stay out of jail?' … You know, a lot of women come to jail because they feel nice … jail, I know that's upsetting to say but – [Interviewer: Why would it be upsetting?] – Because they should have that thing … that family on the outside as well as the inside … they should have that support, regardless of what they've done, where they've been … I mean we all make mistakes aye … but we can only learn from our mistakes."


Further, a number of young women discussed the lack of support they received from their family of origin, which they believed had contributed to their offending:

"Only 'cause of the crimes that I've committed and the people I harmed out there, like I put that back on my family really, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in if they'd just give me a little bit of support … Oh well, I'm here now, I'll just have to make do with what I've got."

One could analyse this extract as an attempt to shift responsibility for criminal behaviour. Another interpretation, however, is that it is a cry for help: a young person expressing a need for effective parenting – guidance, protection, and financial and emotional support.

I'll go with the first interpretation thanks. And expecting 'jail mums' to fill the space of nurturer and teacher is a bit desperate in my book. Still, it's convenient for the state to buy it.

If the success of these relationships was measured by the number of young females not coming back then the following isn't looking good.

One gets the impression from the interviews the relationships are more likely to make prison a more attractive place to be.

Getting what she asked for

This could literally happen to anyone who has kids. A Herald Business reporter had three police "banging" on her door after a report from a neighbour there was a child screaming in the house and it wasn't the first time.

Children and screaming are synonymous. I have one who screams when frustrated. Hasn't happened recently so she is hopefully growing out of it. I don't know if I take the right approach by choosing to ignore it. I've tried sympathising or offering help but it's like saying "Where did you last have it?" to someone who has lost something they desperately need. It inflames the situation.

Fortunately I know all my neighbours well and I doubt, if they hear her, they would feel concerned. I can't imagine how angry I would be if three cops turned up, especially if they were as rude as the writer describes. I couldn't have written about the incident as calmly as she has.

This sort of thing is a result of the climate of hysteria that has developed and is getting out of control. I am not of the "if I have done nothing wrong I have nothing to fear" persuasion - the type to roll over and pant at the first hint of ID cards.

I suspect neither is this mother but having championed the anti-smacking bill, a welcome mat to the expansion of the surveillance society, she can hardly make a fuss now. I also suspect the complaining neighbour may well have known about the journalist's advocacy of the bill and is obligingly giving her a dose of what she wanted.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Stop the seesaw - I wanna get off

National get another good poll result.

Because I don't really care whether National or Labour win the next election - they are both as bad as each other - I think I can be reasonably dispassionate about who I think will win.

National. But not because of any policy or vision they are promoting. Typically they will win because people are sick of Labour. Then we will go through the whole drawn out charade again - two or three terms of National, failed policies, scandals, growing disenchantment and dissension, etc and we'll go back to an appealingly fresh-looking Labour.

This is as predictable as the next case of child abuse. And almost as depressing. Why would anything change when the vast majority of people still believe governments are the answer to most perceived problems?

If you don't believe me put aside a morning to read newspapers from 20, 30, 40 years ago. In those areas that most affect most people - health, welfare, education - the same problems recur ad nauseam. Waiting lists and doctor shortages, illiteracy, truancy and teacher dissatisfaction, wrangling over super - how to fund it, who should get it and how much? - working-age welfare - why are there so many beneficiaries in a developed country replete with opportunity? - relative poverty, race issues, drug crime, gangs, obesity - yes, obesity was a public health fixation even in the sixties and seventies (Headlines from 1973).

Still, I suppose it is healthy to keep on imagining that a new government will deliver a shiny new world. Otherwise everyone would be gloomy as Eyeore. Or me :-))

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hysteria and hype just got worse

At least psychologist Nigel Latta has his head on the right way around.

Another inane idea about protesting child abuse. This time from the TEAR Fund.

Wearing the Pledge Peg ( we don’t sell them, just get one from your laundry ) provokes people to ask why are you wearing a clothes peg. That’s your opportunity to talk openly about our crisis of child abuse in New Zealand and explain that we are all advocates and need to accept responsibility for protecting our nation’s children.

Almost every conversation with the Pledge Peg will end with the other person asking for a peg and joining the movement. The Pledge Peg can be a chain reaction. Carry some spares in your pocket.


Clinical psychologist Nigel Latta says the concept is crass and he does not know whether to laugh or be offended. He says awareness will not solve the problems as those responsible for the attacks just do not care. He says campaigning about child abuse is a waste of time. Nigel Latta suggests it is the equivalent of everyone walking around with tomato sauce on their clothes every time there is a murder.