Category Archives: Random Grumps & Raves

Political Correctness in Coroners’ Courts

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Filed under New Zealand, Random Grumps & Raves, Rights and Responsibility, The Demise of Democracy and Freedom
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The NZ Herald reports here that a coroner has recommended that a licence should be needed to hire nail guns – a move labeled an overreaction by DIYers.

William McLay, 56, was found dead in his Kapiti Coast home by police in March 2009.  He had hired a Ramset nail gun from Hire Equip two days before his death.

In July 2012, Coroner Ian Smith concluded that Mr McLay, who was unemployed and had a history of anxiety and depression, committed suicide.  The coroner has recommended to the Government that people who want to a hire nail guns be required to produce a licence to operate such equipment.

He noted that he had dealt with other cases involving the tools.

Now, Coroners inquests in New Zealand are inquisitorial; they are fact-finding exercises.  They establish cause of death, and if the coroner finds that there is something we could change that would significantly reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences without other undesirable consequences, he or she may make a recommendation.  In this case, Mr McLay killed himself with the nail gun.  A gun, eh?!  Guns are deadly, says Ian Smith. All guns should be licensed and heavily restricted.  After all, just look at what happened here.  Nail guns can be hired freely, and William McLay took advantage of that, hired a nail gun and committed suicide with it.  Obviously the only remedy is to introduce yet another restriction, yet another control, yet another compliance cost, to the nanny/school-marm state!  It is the only politically correct thing to do.  Right?

If we followed Ian Smith’s recommendation and  legislated to require licensing of all nail gun users, what consequences would we expect?

  • Well, it would inconvenience DIYers, who would either face the compliance cost of obtaining a licence, or would no longer have the option of hiring a nail gun for their larger projects.
  • For some, lacking the nail gun option might prevent them altogether from doing all but the smallest DIY projects.
  • It would increase the work-load of the licensing examiners and bureaucrats, thus increasing their numbers, inflating the compliance  costs and possibly forcing increases in taxes and rates.

What consequence should we not expect?

Any reduction in our suicide rates.  It might, just might, reduce the likelihood of the  choice  of a  nail gun as  a suicide method, but would  not prevent the seriously depressed from ending it all.  There  were other avenues open to McLay.

In fact, if the coroner  recommended restricting access to ropes, cutlery, power tools of all sorts, streams, rivers, oceans, all bridges more than one metre above the surface, gas heaters, razor  blades, rat poison, motor vehicles,  ladders, petrol, LPG, pool chlorine  and anything remotely capable of causing death, it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to the suicide rate.

It would merely make our lives even more difficult and costly than the nanny and school-marm state zealots  have so far succeeded in achieving.

 

All Black – but What’s in a Name anyway?

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Filed under New Zealand, Random Grumps & Raves
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A NZ Herald editorial on Saturday 6 June discussed a possible deal between the NZ All Blacks and the American company, and opposed the deal.  It had this to say:

To prevent the undermining of the  All Black brand, the New Zealand Rugby Union has jealously guarded its trademarks and copyrights.

It is all the more surprising, therefore, that it could be contemplating an advertising logo across the front of the All Black jersey. The suitor is reported to be insurance company AIG.

The rugby union has not denied the suggestion, and says it is talking to several potential sponsors in the lead-up to the Rugby Championship.

Advertising on the All Black jersey would not be new. There was a discreet Steinlager logo in the mid-1990s. That was not well received by many fans. The name of an American insurer with a problematic profile emblazoned across the front of the playing strip would be many times more intrusive and would, therefore, create a far greater furore.

The level of opposition should lead the rugby union to reconsider. So, too, should the prospect of damage to the All Black brand.

A black jersey adorned only with a silver fern and the manufacturer’s moniker makes a powerful statement. Not for nothing does it have a worldwide status akin to that of Italy’s soccer shirt, a strip also noted for its commercial-free purity.

If the All Blacks went the way of the Wallabies, the Springboks and British rugby sides, it would only devalue that status.

The All Blacks would become just another team, and any immediate financial gain would have to be balanced against the long-term implications of a serious diminishing of the brand.

I agree that we should oppose the deal, but for a fundamentally different reason.   The Herald editorial surrenders before it even begins the fight, because it concedes that “All Black” is merely a brand.

“Coca Cola” is a brand.  “L’Oreal”, “Colgate”, “Ford”, “Apple”, “Microsoft”, “Mobil”, Betty Crocker”, etc are brands.  You get the idea…

“All Black” properly should be grouped with words or phrases like “Anzac”, “New Zealand”, “New Zealander”, or “Maori”.   While they all have powerful brand value (the successes of our tourist, film and dairy industries illustrate that very clearly) none of them are brands, none should ever be brands.  They are much more than that – they are definitive identifiers.  They are who and what we are, and are not for sale, not to be qualified by tags of commercial ownership or patronage.  Can you imagine it – the Mobil Anzacs, the Hyundai New Zealanders?  Changing the iconic TVNZ programme “Country Calendar” to “Hyundai Country Calendar” is bad enough, thanks.  But in TVNZ’s defence, they did create the programme and own it and the name outright.  It is entirely their business if they choose to diminish their own brand for commercial reasons, and all I can do is express sadness that they found it necessary to do so.

The NZRU did not create the All Blacks name.  In this case, “Diminishing the brand” doesn’t even begin to describe the issue.  If we describe the proud name of our national side as a brand, the damage is already done, because we have already diminished it.

It’s OK to allow that the All Blacks are “proudly sponsored by AIG”, and we could acknowledge it with an AIG logo discreetly placed on the Jersey in the same way as the Adidas logo is now. But to emblazon the AIG or any other logo across the front of the jersey is too close to calling our team “The AIG All Blacks”.

No.  The name is not for sale.  Neither is the All Black jersey.  Let’s leave that kind of sell-out to the Wallabies and Springboks.

 

“Proportional Representation” is actually Disproportionate

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Filed under Politics, Random Grumps & Raves, Rights and Responsibility, The Demise of Democracy and Freedom
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In the traditional FPP (First-past-the-Post) system, the candidate receiving the most votes is elected.  And even though most electorate candidates are chosen by the party heirarchy, at least the voters in the electorate can chose between them.  Poorly performing MPs can be voted right out of parliament, and they face the vote every three years.

Unlike NZ, Britain retains the traditional system.  A recent referendum overwhelmingly rejected a form of proportional representation called the Alternative Vote, which is similar to the STV (Single Transferable Vote) system used in Australia.  Both systems require voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and if no candidate scores more than 50% of the vote, a formula is applied counting up all the preferential votes.  The result can be the election of candidate who was the first choice of very few voters, but the most popular second choice.  In other words, nobody gets what they wanted.

NZ’s MMP system at least does not have that drawback.  Each voter votes twice – one vote for the member for his or her electorate, and one party vote.  The elected members representing each constituency are still chosen by FPP according to the electorate votes, so the one with the most votes wins.  “Proportional” representation is supposedly achieved by having list MPs.  A party that wins no electorate seats must achieve at least 5% of the overall party vote before it has any MPs in parliament.  The total number of  MPs for each party in parliament (electoral plus list MPs) is proportional to the party’s share of the overall “party vote”.  So MMP has another advantage – it is not vulnerable to gerrymandering.

But it does have other drawbacks.

Any party with 5% or more of the overall party vote will have 5% or more of the MPs in parliament.  Thus, small parties that may possibly never gain an electoral seat in parliament can be represented there by one or more list MPs.  Gee, that sounds fair.  Bingo – proportional representation!

Except that it is not really proportional.  The result of MMP is a much higher likelihood of coalition government, in which no major party gains a clear majority and so must go into coalition with one or more other parties in order to form a government.  Because they wish to maintain public perception of their points of difference, the major mainstream parties do not form coalitions with each other.  Inevitably, the coalitions are formed with one main party and one or more minor ones.  And that is why the representation of the minor party is in fact disproportionate.  A minor party in coalition with a major one has a proportional share of the total seats, but much more that a proportional voice in parliament – it has real power.  Because the price it demands for of going into coalition is the promise of the major partner to promote and vote for an agreed set of its policies or private member’s bills.  It is, remember, a minor party.  If  only 5% of voters have given it their party vote, there is no assurance that the 95% of those who did not do so actually accept its policies.  Yet with this arrangement, some of them will become law.  The tail ends up wagging the dog – a recipe for bad law and bad government.

It has another major drawback.  List MPs are never directly elected by the voters – the public has no opportunity to chose who is in an who is out.  Each party creates its own list of potential list MPs, in order of party preference.  When all the party votes are counted and the numbers allocated to each successful party, the seats are allocated strictly in party list order.   And naturally the parties tend to stack the top order of the list with MPs they want to retain, even if the public rejects them.  The top of the order is usually occupied by senior electorate MPs, to keep their positions safe regardless of what the voters might prefer.  In effect, MPs at the top of the list can almost never be voted out.  That can hardly be called democracy.  MMP should be scrapped – it is neither truly proportional nor truly democratic.

The NZ Herald thinks otherwise.  After the British result, and in anticipation of the forthcoming NZ referendum on the future of MMP, the Herald has published an editorial (see Appendix) calling for the survival of MMP.  The Herald firmly believes it is a Good Thing, giving the voters of NZ the government they want.  The Herald article even says that “tails have not wagged dogs”.  I disagree, firmly.

Were it not for MMP, NZ First, the Greens, the Maori Party and ACT either would never have been represented in parliament or would have had only a couple of seats.  Under the cosy coalition arrangements with MMP, this is the reality:

  • In coalition with Labour, NZ First’s Winston Peters scored the plum role of Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Hardly the choice of the NZ voter!
  • In coalition with Labour, the Green’s Sue Bradford rammed through the most hated legislation in NZ history, the unnecessary and totally ineffective anti-smacking bill that has had zero effect on child abuse.
  • In coalition with National and against the wishes of almost everybody, the Maori Party has overturned the Foreshore and Seabed act

God knows what will happen if ACT under Brash forms a coalition with National after the forthcoming elections.

Appendix – the Herald Editorial:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10724716