Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009: Views, views and more views.

Letters: It has been a bleak couple of days for the news-rage journalist, what with the Herald being stuffed with news of the essentially satire-proof bushfires in Victoria. So thank goodness for some 'interesting' letters in the Herald today.

Peter Eggleton of Hamilton complains about the price of going to the dentist. I'm not sure what we're supposed to do about that, Peter. But if you do come up with an answer to the problem, be sure to write back in.

Brent Trewheela of Kerikeri claims that "it has been noted [by whom he doesn't say] that New Zealanders do not celebrate our national day with the same enthusiasm as Australians." Presumably by this he means that we lack the Hitler Youth types with Australian flag tattoos beating up immigrants at beaches on Australia Day. Regardless, he lays the blame at the feet of Maori, who are apparently just a little bit smug at having "the chance to rub shoulders with the Prime Minister". For the rest of us "it was just a chance to have a day off at the boss's expense ... lying on the beach, celebrating the day off." Well, doesn't that sound awful. I'm not sure what Mr Trewheela would have us do on "New Zealand Day." Perhaps some kind of rally in Aotea Square, or perhaps a military parade down Courtenay Place? Bizarrely, his answer is to embrace republicanism, presumably on the premise that the Queen is the one pushing the "Treaty grievance process." This will inevitably lead to a "truly equal society where the concept of race and ethnic privilege do not exist." Truly equal society? Concept of race does not exist? Why haven't we thought of changing the name of our national day before??

Marianne Stevens of Takapuna contributes the following "brevity": "After hearing the number of dead in the Victorian bushfires had reached nearly 100, I listened to my local radio station [sic - she lives in Takapuna (a suburb of Auckland)], Coast, and was sickened when it chose to play Ring of Fire. This was totally inappropriate. Are they brain-dead there?" This reminded me of one of the more bizarre things to come out of September 11 2001 - the list of songs that were apparently too related to flying, crashing, dying, burning, etc. to be played on commercial radio. Sure, if Coast Victoria were playing it, that might be strange. But, in general, people like Ms Stevens need to stop pretending that everything that offends them has been specifically designed to do so. I happen to like Johnny Cash, thanks very much.

Ron Scott of Tauranga clearly wants to show he is clever: "Principal Alan McIntyre [who came up in Saturday's column] wants donations from parents to pay his staff. He should note John Hattie's research, which found class sizes have a close to negligible effect on education. We could have the numbers of both teachers and classrooms. The better half of teachers could be kept and paid excellent salaries." But what is Alan going to do with all the old classrooms he is no longer using? Oh wait! He can somehow put them inside the other classrooms, so there is room for twice as many kids as there used to be. Then he can work out how to pay the remaining teachers their "excellent salaries" now that he isn't getting any "donations".

Mark Thomson of Gisborne is - well, I can't really be bothered going into the whole back-and-forth over the past few days between Helen Clark, columnist John Roughan, media old hand Brian Edwards and Mr Thomson. All you need to know is it got me angry.

Minimum wage disaster: Who should one turn to when one wants feedback on the impact of an increase - a very modest one, might I add - in the minimum wage? An academic economist, perhaps? Someone at the Treasury? Not if you are a "social issues reporter" at the Herald. Instead you go to the Business New Zealand chief executive, Phil O'Reilly (possibly related to Bill O'Reilly), someone who is no doubt unbiased in such matters. Even such a small change will have an effect on unemployment, says Phil. '"Having said that, the Government's decision is pragmatic," he said. "I'm a realist, and it's certainly not as bad as it could have been."' Oh, it's certainly bad that the minimum wage won't be going down (relative to prices), but at least the poorest workers aren't getting any more spending power - they would only waste it.

Now, it's an interesting question why the CEO of Business NZ cares about unemployment at any level below CEO. Certainly, unemployed people have less money to spend at shops, which are businesses. But then the minimum wage increase gives those people more money to spend. At businesses. More to the point, however, ever since minimum wage laws were first proposed, and every time a raise is considered, business leaders have foretold doom in the form of mass employment and general anarchy. Oddly enough, it hasn't happened yet. But also odd is the fact that lazy reporters keep running back to business lobby groups for comment every time it comes up. Odd.

Heathrow v coal: Gwynne Dyer is normally an excellent columnist, and of late he has written much about climate change. Today he criticises the movement to block the third runway at Heathrow, which Gordon Brown's government has just approved, subject of course to numerous environmental caveats that will never be upheld by future leaders. His justification is that air travel is not nearly the biggest contributor to climate change - that being coal power. He claims that "going after aviation emissions is only a fashionable distraction", like energy-saving lightbulbs or fuel-efficient cars. It's true that there is a danger that if people win a battle they might stop fighting the war, but surely the best plan is to fight on as many fronts as possible. The stupidest law change of our own relatively mild National government (so far) has surely been ending plans to disincentivise or even ban old-style lightbulbs, as if a) power use weren't a problem and b) the freedom to choose whatever type of lightbulb one wants is an important human right.

But even more oddly, Dyer goes on to say that aviation won't be a problem at all once a new generation of planes with 'circulation control' are phased in. This technology, among other benefits, allows planes to take off and land over much shorter distances, therefore allowing much greater use of runways. So... why would Heathrow need a third runway, which won't be operational for years and has plenty of other negative effects, not least for the people living in and around the proposed construction area? To the extent that Dyer's point is that we ought to concentrate on the biggest issues first, I agree. But infighting within the environmental movement helps no one but reactionaries.

"Your views" on whaling: To finish off today's entry, a star from today's forum - "Do you support the anti-whaling methods of the Sea Shepherd group?":

Ronnie of Matamata: "I am all for Sea Shepard [sic] and their actions, the Japanese are nothing but sea rapists, and whan [sic] they have successfuly eliminated all the whales, what or who is going to be next, us? I have not forgotten world war two." [emphasis mine]


  1. The lack of paragraph spacing on this site is making me angry.

    Also you could make the column a bit wider, some people might be reading this on a Nintendo but most of us have at least 18" screens.

    The black text on grey is ok I guess but could be better. It only makes me slightly angry though.

    Looking forward to you sorting this all out for me, your only commenter.


  2. Yeah, I reckon I can fix those issues. I mostly blame the site. Anything for my fans!