Saturday, June 26, 2010

What are your kids listening to?

Both of my children are musical. Robert is playing piano at grade 8 level and Sam is a singer (pictured here at the local pub) due to sit level 4 in September. Not that the academic framework means much but that is where their interest lies to the degree that they will practice and perform. And their school preference largely rests on the fantastic music tutelage and talent at Wellington High.

As I write we have Clapton's Layla coming out of the mini speakers attached to Robert's ipod. He listens to almost exclusively 70s and 80s music. So if the same could have been said about me at his age I would have been listening to music from the 30s and 40s. Which certainly wasn't the case. Most of the music my mum and dad played was musicals, classical, crooners - Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, anyone singing Burt Bacharach. Dad would sometimes buy a Bob Dylan or Byrds 45 and he shared my love of James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Carly Simon, Carole king, the country rock of the 70s. But there was no way he was into Motown, british classic rock, or US hard rock.

So my point is that what was new and original when I was a teenager is still largely my kid's choice of music. In fact I never hear anything that is currently in the charts and have just had Robert confirm he doesn't know what's current.

Yet when I was a teenager the top twenty was everything. I kept the weekly record of it, planned which album or 45 I was going to buy next and then drove my parents mad playing discs repeatedly, pushing the volume envelope as hard as I could get away with. That's another thing. The only time I ever ask for volume to be lowered its either the TV or a game - never music.

(We are now onto The Watchtower which sounds better now than it did when I first heard it, but my generation was absolutely totally utterly spoilt for choice and I am more appreciative in retrospect.)

So there is this difference-in-generation thing going on in my family and I wonder if the same is going on elsewhere. And even more intriguing and puzzling to me is, who is listening to today's contemporary music? And will the 'quality' of the 1960s,70s and even 80s ever happen again? At the time, we thought 'pop' music was about 'here today and gone tomorrow' - unlike the classical music from earlier centuries.

But the artists of those times (many still producing now) were making history and their music has endured. What will endure from the 90s and 2000s? Far, far less I suspect.

So what are your kids listening to?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Plenty to celebrate

I didn't expect to be posting about the soccer but Cactus has written a coolly analytical piece that prodded me into expressing my own reaction.

It would have been a travesty for Paraguay if they had lost. A country that actually does stand still when their team is competing, they deserved to go through on that performance against NZ. The commentator told me they had 14 tries on goal. I wasn't counting. NZ has a brilliant goalie who will soon be batting off lucrative job offers instead of quality strikes.

The All Whites did bloody well to come away unbeaten and they will arrive home heroes. Unlike Italy. And you can sympathise with the Italian public. They had a real chance of going all the way. We didn't.

But NZ soccer is on the ups. And that is the central point to celebrate.

(And I look forward to the inevitable political row as the girls demand to play at the top level. Some of these fast and feisty, female youngsters are already playing in mixed rep teams. It's only a matter of time....)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

State shoe-shops?

Sometimes Libertarians use the example of supermarket shopping and the inherent freedom of choice when the government isn't involved, to ask why we put up with the state dictating (largely) the education and health markets. Food is after all as essential as health and education. I liked the following excerpt which similarly lays out how purchasing a pair of shoes would look if the state was in charge of fitting out our feet;

"Imagine, if you will, that you have acquired, honestly and voluntarily, the means to purchase a new pair of shoes (either by rendering a useful service to another or by selling to him a property to which you have previously earned the entitlement and which he is now more eager than you to possess).

Now picture yourself in a world where you yourself cannot go directly to the retailer, but where you are obliged instead to give your money to a government-appointed commissary who will enter you in a queue for a standardized piece of footwear, with little or no say over the style or quality — and possibly not even any over the size — being accorded you personally.

Worse still, this bureaucrat may decide that someone else “deserves” the shoes more than you do, at present, That “someone else” may be a person whose vote it is, for the moment, expedient to cultivate, or someone whose fallen circumstances or designated “victimhood” currently complies with our masters' personal, pseudo-compassionate prejudices. It will certainly not be someone tainted, like you, with the suspicion that, by dint of your own self-reliance, you might be altogether oblivious to the social usefulness of the functionary himself and even more dangerously indifferent to the whims of his power-hungry political bosses."


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sue Bradford blogs

Sue Bradford blogs about the Reviewing Welfare & Social Sector Policy & Reform conference of Monday and Tuesday complaining that it was a "privatisation" of the very debate because it wasn't free.

It's just a pity that whatever insights on Government intentions Paula Bennett has to share today will be heard only by those wealthy or well funded enough to be in the room.

Even the "wealthy and well-funded" missed out because the Minister of Social Development didn't attend.

One of the key groups of people who should be involved in the current discussions around welfare are those who work every day with beneficiaries and their families.

Yet most of the organisations for whom they work are chronically underfunded, and the chances they'll be able to cough up even half the entrance fee for this week's bun-fight are marginal.

I spoke with people who work directly with beneficiaries. Also in attendance were public policy academics, analysts from government departments like the Ministry of Women's Affairs, disability advocates, community trusts, etc.

It is ironic that the second, expensive conference offers a far more balanced lineup of speakers from different parts of the welfare debate, while denying many who care passionately about the subject the chance to attend.

Bottom line is the organiser has to make a profit from the service they provide or there will be no service. Based on numbers, this particular conference didn't look like one of their better earners. It may even have made a loss having been somewhat gazumped by the Welfare Working Group conference which was hastily planned after this conference was conceived.

Sue needn't have worried. The audience remains dominated by people who rely on and believe in government. The welfare "industry" is well and truly captured by a cabal of tax-funded, left-wing, collectivists. At best, some may be unwilling adherents but they know which side their bread is buttered on.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ministry says strange stuff about stats

I asked the questions,

1/ At December 31, 2009, how many DPB recipients had a dependent child born in 2009?

2/ At December 31, 2009, how many DPB recipients had a dependent child born in 2008?

3/ What was the age, gender and ethnicity of the DPB recipients in each of the above groups?

The answer was prefaced as follows;

"Dropped"? That implies a change between two points in time. Furthermore, a positive change.

Think about it for a minute.

These figures are at the same point in time. It is to be expected that the 2008 figure would be higher than the 2009 figure because those babies have had an extra year to appear on welfare.

All I can conclude from this table is that at least 13,530 babies born in 2008 (21 percent of all babies born that year) were reliant on the DPB at December 31st 2010. There will be more that have been on welfare and left during the two years.

14,839 women who identified as Maori gave birth in 2008. 6,544 DPB caregivers of children born in 2008 identified as Maori. Most will be their mothers, but not all. So a ballpark figure for how many Maori babies born in 2008 were on welfare at December 31st 2009 is 44 percent.

This information pertains only to the DPB and 18-64 year-olds. So the percentages will rise if other benefits and ages were included.

Don't like the evidence? Ignore it

I am currently attending and speaking at another two day conference. This one is a privately organised affair reviewing welfare and social policy. My subject was the US welfare reforms and what can NZ learn from them. I will put up a link to it when available.

You may have noticed that three of the most popular buzz words in the public sector today are "evidence-based policy". That seems well and good. Except when people don't like the evidence, they ignore it anyway. They get stuck on the exceptions, or as Roger Kerr would put it, the "outliers" instead of considering the broad results.

This piece from today's Melbourne Age while not a stunning example, highlights this tendency.

THE biggest welfare reform in decades will become law as soon as today, expanding income management to disadvantaged groups across the country.

The federal government released a survey of its own workers yesterday, supporting the controversial measure about to be widened. Welfare quarantining was introduced as a part of the Northern Territory intervention into remote indigenous communities three years ago.

''Nearly 60 per cent of government business managers working in Northern Territory indigenous communities report that views towards income management have shifted favourably since June 2008,'' Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said of the survey. ''The majority of people believe that the [intervention] has had a positive impact on community awareness of nutrition, health, child abuse, education and drug and alcohol-related violence...

...Income quarantining restricts a portion of welfare to spending on essentials such as food and clothing, and bans items such as alcohol and pornography.

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) chief executive Clare Martin is yet to be convinced that the intervention is working.

''We've got no evidence,'' Ms Martin said. ''The Prime Minister says he is one for evidence-based policies and this is not. I'd call it anecdotal.''