International Cat Speculators Since 2006

Archive for the ‘The Real Issues’ Category

Affirmative Action Creates Victims

I’m sure that no regular reader of my blog needs reminded that people should be treated on merit and ability, not race.

But it seems that some have not yet caught onto this idea. The results can be very ugly. The National Review covers a case where a young man was admitted to a university despite being far under the required standard for entry. The result is a young man who is failing at everything around him.

But the Times story conveys a subtler point as well: Racial preferences are not just ill advised, they are positively sadistic. Only the preening self-regard of University of California administrators and faculty is served by such an admissions travesty. Preference practitioners are willing to set their “beneficiaries” up to fail and to subject them to possible emotional distress, simply so that the preference dispensers can look out upon their “diverse” realm and know that they are morally superior to the rest of society.

Simply declaring a policy as “good” isn’t enough. It actually has to result in good, not just the feeling that those who have implemented it have done something morally superiour.

What is interesting however, is that this student was in the top of his High-School class. No doubt those same people who thought it was a good idea to put him in college also opposed setting up a charter school so that the most talented of those attending his school could meet their potential.

US Doctors rejecting Bureaucracy

Back when I started work, I learned a valuable lesson from my boss.

My boss ran his department lean. He focused on the key deliverables, had minimal management, and kept a tight eye on costs.

From that I learned one thing: if you keep your overhead costs low, you’ve already won much of the battle.

That’s a lesson that some are learning in the US health system.

OUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Dr. Michael Ciampi took a step this spring that many of his fellow physicians would describe as radical.

The family physician stopped accepting all forms of health insurance. In early 2013, Ciampi sent a letter to his patients informing them that he would no longer accept any kind of health coverage, both private and government-sponsored. Given that he was now asking patients to pay for his services out of pocket, he posted his prices on the practice’s website.

The change took effect April 1.

“It’s been almost unanimous that patients have expressed understanding at why I’m doing what I’m doing, although I’ve had many people leave the practice because they want to be covered by insurance, which is understandable,” Ciampi said.

Before the switch, Ciampi had about 2,000 patients. He lost several hundred, he said. Some patients with health coverage, faced with having to seek reimbursement themselves rather than through his office, bristled at the paperwork burden.

But the decision to do away with insurance allows Ciampi to practice medicine the way he sees fit, he said. Insurance companies no longer dictate how much he charges. He can offer discounts to patients struggling with their medical bills. He can make house calls.

“I’m freed up to do what I think is right for the patients,” Ciampi said. “If I’m providing them a service that they value, they can pay me, and we cut the insurance out as the middleman and cut out a lot of the expense.”

He has lost a lot of business from people who want their insurance to pay the bill, but those who are prepared to pay for themselves are making significant savings.

Even with the loss of some patients, Ciampi expects his practice to perform just as well financially, if not better, than before he ditched insurance. The new approach will likely attract new patients who are self-employed, lack insurance or have high-deductible plans, he said, because Ciampi has slashed his prices.

“I’ve been able to cut my prices in half because my overhead will be so much less,” he said.

Before, Ciampi charged $160 for an office visit with an existing patient facing one or more complicated health problems. Now, he charges $75.

Patients with an earache or strep throat can spend $300 at their local hospital emergency room, or promptly get an appointment at his office and pay $50, he said.

It seems that the US insurance industry is paperwork heavy, which is leading to considerable paperwork – and processing paperwork cost money. By cutting out those overheads the practice is able to focus on it’s core business, and that means the patients are winning.

Contrast that with the previous government’s actions here – a massive increase in paperwork in order to deliver “cheaper” healthcare, which as we can see, really ends up costing more overall. Most of us would be better off had the government simply gotten rid of the cost overhead, let doctors charge the cost of medicine, and matched that with a tax cut.  And Obamacare is going down the exact same road.

There’s an interesting postscript here from Instapundit, who is married to a psychologist:

Some of Helen’s psychologist friends have gone all-cash. They thought they’d lose business, but wound up with more patients, more money, and (much) less hassle.

I wonder how many patient’s care has been compromised over the years because government (and insurance) paperwork has distracted them from doing their real job?

TED Talks – How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change

I was listening to some podcasts a few weeks back, and I heard this guy speak.

I’ve now watched the video and I have to say, in terms of political issues of the day, this has got to be one of the most important talks ever given.

I say this for 3 reasons.

1) There is currently massive efforts going into stopping climate change. If this guy is right, that effort, even if the science behind it is 100% correct, is a waste of time because desertification is going to wipe out any potential gains from getting rid of carbon emissions.

2) There are efforts going on in the world to stop land degrading. Those efforts are actually making the problem worse.

3) The actual solution is a win-win. But it goes against what the green lobby have been pushing for years.

4) And finally: This is not theory. This is not modeling. This is not dubious science backed up by bluster. This is a  dramatic demonstration of a simple theory that actually works – and goes against accepted thinking.

In short, if you watch no other video on this blog ever, please watch this one. (And the one with Clarkson and the tiny car – that is some funny stuff!)

Getting rid of the public education system should be the goal of every politician

I find this just weird, myself.

The Green Party reshuffled its portfolios today and co-leader Metiria Turei is now in charge of speaking on education for the party.

She came out swinging saying the Government was undermining the public school system through national standards, Novopay, the Christchurch schools announcement and charter schools.

Charter schools were a “deliberate attack on the public education system” …

I consider the public education system to be a necessary evil. We consider that all children should go to school, but not all parents can afford school, or have the time or motivation for home-schooling.

So we have public schools that are paid for by the state. They provide a basic level of education, ensuring that no one misses out on the fundamentals.

It’s like the welfare system – if we can get people off welfare and into work this is a good thing.

So when someone uses words like “a deliberate attack on the public education system” I must confess that I find myself nonplussed.

Then there’s this:

and Turei said the Government should be on notice that she would seek their reintegration.

Turei had not discussed the matter with Labour.

“If a charter school is established, they need to expect that a change in Government is likely to mean a change in their status,” she said.

This is even weirder.

Charter schools are private schools paid for by the state, with certain flexibilities that other schools are not allowed. Some will be started by private companies, others by trusts or societies.

The are not public schools. They are private institutions, private property.

Now, Turei can announce that the Greens would de-fund charter schools. She’s welcome to that policy. The Green party can write whatever policy it wants. If the public approve, they will get votes. Good or bad, that’s democracy.

But the Greens can’t write their own facts. You cannot reintegrate something into something it has never been integrated into in the first place.Stating that the green party will “reintegrate” is not a factual statement.

You can confiscate it however and remove the property from it’s owner. 

This raises the question: are the Greens lying, or are they just incompetent? Actually, there’s a third option: they’re politicians who’re saying what they think will get votes regardless of any other consideration.

Charter schools would make the educational achievement of the most vulnerable children worse, she added.

Proof presented? None. Again, you don’t get your own facts. Logic suggests that with greater teacher ratios and greater flexibility, charter schools will do very well with those students currently being failed by the one-size-fits-all state education system. But Turei doesn’t seem to understand the role of that system any more than she understand’s it’s points of weakness.

The entire point of charter schools is that they have a free hand in their education model. Time will tell if a given school model will work for the students who attend. But a blanket statement that they can only make things worse is ridiculous as it assumes that our current system is near perfect.

The numbers tell us the opposite – it is the state system that is failing the vulnerable, with one in five children failing to complete an adequate education. If you’re following, that means that the state education system is failing in what should be it’s core objective.

“We make to make that really explicit to the Government and to business,” Turei said

In other words, Turei is firing a shot across the bows of “business”. Here by “business” she means any private group that dares to provide education not approved in detail by the officials of the state. (Turei, of course, believes all businesses are evil, so she uses that term because she knows her supporters agree with that self-contradictory and bizarre world-view.) She is demonstrating that she knows full well that her earlier statement was untrue, and that she intends to hurt those who disagree with her on this issue, should she gain the influence in a future government.

How not to help your cause

There are a variety of ways of responding to a massacre of innocent people. This probably ranks up there in the top 10 worst ideas.

The Journal News story includes comments from both sides of the gun-rights debate and presents the data as answering concerns of those who would like to know whether there are guns in their neighborhood. It reports that about 44,000 people in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties are licensed to own a handgun and that rifles and shotguns can be purchased without a permit.

It was accompanied online by maps of the results for Westchester and Rockland counties; similar details had not yet been provided by Putnam County. A reader clicking on the maps can see the name and address of each pistol or revolver permit holder. Accompanying text states that inclusion does not necessarily mean that an individual owns a weapon, just who obtained a license.
Basically, this tells the next gunman where he might obtain his arsenal. Recall that his weapons were in fact stolen…
A gunman killed his mother, drove to an elementary school and massacred 20 first-graders and six adults, then shot himself. All the weapons used were legally owned by his mother.
This being the internet, the response has been overwhelmingly mature. Or not.

Some responded by publicizing the home addresses and phone numbers of the reporter who wrote the piece, along with other journalists at the paper and even senior executives of Gannett. Many echoed the idea that publicizing gun permit holders’ names is tantamount to accusing them of doing something wrong, comparing the move to publishing lists of registered sex offenders.

But never fear, the journalists in question are ever ready to pat themselves on the back for their courageous decision to publish a massive amount of personal data for ends they themselves probably can’t quite articulate.

The Journal News is standing behind the project. It said in the story that it published a similar list in 2006.

“Frequently, the work of journalists is not popular. One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular,” Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group, said in an emailed statement. “We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.”

Irony no. 1: No doubt quite a number of those gun permits are for people who’s job only exists because some people use guns irresponsibly.

Irony no 2: Newspapers can be used irresponsibly too.

Free Speach… well, when it doesn’t matter.

Idiot is all up in arms about free speech in the UK – and rightly so.

As can be expected, this has led to a large number of abusive prosecutions. People have been threatened with prosecution or actually arrested, charged and tried for calling Scientology a cult (an obvious statement of truth), barking back at a dog, standing up for gay rights, opposing gay rights, debating religion, displaying “culled” toy seals with red food colouring on them, and saying that religions are fairy stories for adults. You can think a lot of things about those statements, but one thing is clear: none of them should be a criminal matter. None of them reach the level of threats or incitement which would justify restricting speech in a free and open society.

I guess he’d be really mad at the guy who said his political opponents should have their children taken away from them.

You may have won the vote, but that doesn’t make you right. Anyone who believes that [parents having the right to use force that is reasonable in the circumstances to discipline their children] is either necessary or acceptable is simply a monster. Anyone who thinks its fine because they were beaten as a child “and it didn’t do me any harm” is simply stupid. Any dead people who feel their parenting style is implicitly being criticised are exactly right, and should get the [expletive deleted] over themselves. The old law treated children as property, provided legal cover for extreme violence against children. … But that does not protect the children of the hard-core child beaters who organised this referendum, the people who believe in faeries or devils or other bullshit and think they need to beat their delusions out of their children.Those children need our protection now, and it is absolutely the business of the state to protect them.

(Yes, he framed it as child abuse issue. But the clear lie that his political opponents support beating of children makes it worse – not better.)

And it bears repeating: in Soviet Russia, removing children from the parents was one trick used to shut up dissidents. To the best of my knowledge, Idiot has never apologised for promoting the use of these communist tactics in a democratic society.

It’s all very well talking principles. It seems with some, those principles don’t actually get deployed when the debate is about real issues.

Charter School – results matter, the crown doesn’t

Charter schools seem to be some sort of weird obsession with the left. Witness the latest attempt.

Before the announcement was made, the Education Ministry’s documents warned the overall potential for a negative impact on students’ education from teachers who did not meet the minimum standards for the profession was high.

“Teacher registration is one the most influential levers in raising teacher quality across the profession in both state and private schools. Allowing charter schools to stand outside this work will significantly damage the credibility of the Crown.”

This is the bureaucratic equivalent of saying “this idea is a stinking pile of shit”, and a competent Minister of Education would take it seriously. Hekia Parata didn’t, and instead allowed the ACT vision of unqualified staff – which would somehow assure higher quality teaching – in order to keep her coalition partner happy. [snip]

Let me say this with all sincerity.

I don’t give a flying rats backside about the credibility of the Crown when it come to education. Mainly because they have none to start with.

I don’t care about the quality of a teacher’s paperwork. What I care about is the quality of their teaching.

Besides, what Idiot doesn’t seem to understand (as his ideology doesn’t allow him to consider the possibility) is that allowing unregistered teachers does not mean a school will hire fewer registered teachers.

I know someone who has a school and is planning to turn that school into a charter school. His plan (as I understand it) is to have (at least) the usual ratio of students per registered teachers. But he plans to have in the classroom several additional unregistered teachers, with the intent that each pupil will get significant teacher face time. That means that pupils may be able to have up to a third of the day in one-on-one tutoring with their teacher

The unregistered teachers will not be teaching rocket science. They’ll be teaching the basic reading and writing (skills almost all adults have more than mastered) under the supervision of a registered and experienced teacher.

Quite how such a formula is going to deliver worse results is beyond me. In an area where many kids fall behind in their first year, his kids will instead be delivered the sort of accelerated learning that the private school down the road does – but for those who can’t afford it.

For many of those kids, that teaching will allow them to succeed later on when/if they re-enter the state system. It’ll give them a boost, putting them at an educational advantage for their future years. Instead of languishing confused at the back of a classroom, kids will be one-on-one introduced to the joy of reading, the power of mathematics and the wonders of the world. It is not hard to see that for some, it may be the difference between a successful life and a life completely wasted by drugs, alcohol and jail.

I for one find it very difficult to defend a system that is having the results that are being dealt to kids in that community today. I know many suggest Idiot defends that system because the left want to keep their beneficiary voting base, but I suggest that it’s simply because they are blind to the failings of the current system.

The ministry staff who wrote the above do not have that excuse.

The best teachers are the best teachers

Oh, this is funny.

The government has announced the framework for its new charter – sorry, “partnership” – schools. The core details?

  • No requirement to teach the national curriculum
  • No requirement to hire trained staff
  • No requirement to pay those staff the negotiated collective rate

The upshot: deunionised schools,

Sounds good.

employing poorly-paid,

Or rather, paid what they are worth. Good staff can be paid more, bad staff less. But remember, this is a bad thing in union land.

unregistered “teachers”

People who want to teach, but haven’t had that desire beaten out of them by a mostly irrelevant 3 year degree.

to teach quack like creationism,

Hate to break it to Idiot, but there are schools today that are required to teach creationism or lose government funding. They’re called integrated Christian schools.

Also, there are these things called other countries where they have never taught the national curriculum… ever!!!!! How horrifying!!!!

all funded with taxpayer’s money, of course.

Of course. Otherwise they’d be private schools, Christian versions of which also exist. They teach creationism too.

The students of such schools will get a second-rate eduction of little relevance to the modern world, while their “sponsors” make off with fat, taxpayer-guaranteed profits.

We’ll come back to the quality question shortly.

As for the idea of a fat profit… like any business that would require the usual – keeping customers happy (i.e. actually teaching well), keeping costs down, and keeping staff happy etc etc. Screw up any of these, and your profits are gone – if in fact you were in it for the profits in the first place.

And naturally, these schools are being trialled in poor areas first.

Strangely, rich areas are already pretty well served with alternatives to the public school system, while the poor state schools are the ones who have the most trouble getting kids to read and write.

But in Idiot’s world, why identify something as a good idea when you can label it a conspiracy?

John Key and his fellow Cabinet cronies would never dream of sending their precious kids to such institutions.

Actually, I think they’d quite happily… Oh wait, Idiot has already criticised them for doing doing exactly that*.

But then, this isn’t about giving kids a good education; its about giving public money to National’s cronies, while locking in the advantages of those at the top.

Ironic that the alternative is to lock the poor kids in state schools. One assumes letting only “rich” kids have alternatives to the state education system is some sort of conspiracy to destroy the education of the upper classes.

I don’t see how that would work though.

Oh, and according to Idiot, National’s cronies are only interested in polluting, not running schools. Schools generally don’t pollute much, so I guess it’ll be other cronies, or maybe people who aren’t even cronies at all who take on the task of forcing this horrible choice of poor non-unionsed creationists on the poor but superbly well-educated kids of South Auckland and East Christchurch.

Nanaia Mahuta hits it on the head:

“You wouldn’t let an untrained doctor treat your child, or let anyone design your house. So why do John Banks and Hekia Parata think it is okay to have untrained teachers in front of children in our school’s classrooms?”

Its a fascinating question, and I’d love to see the answer to it.

I almost laughed when I saw that. It’s supposed to be a rhetorical question, one without an answer. But instead, it has a very good answer indeed. So it fails in it’s purpose. I guess it’s safe to say that Mahuta isn’t a qualified rhetorical question writer, or she’d have picked up the issue.

See, were you stuck on an Island with your family, you wouldn’t attempt surgery on your child. Of course not. You would actually design your house yourself **, though you’d be careful to stick to your limits.

But you’d education your children without the slightest hesitation! So why does Nanaia Mahuta and Idiot/Savant think that untrained teachers are somehow going to be a blight on our eduction system?

The fact is, untrained teachers already teach in this country. I know quite a few. As a rule, they do/have done a better job than either a state or even a private school would have done – sometimes vastly better. And when they find themselves doing a worse job, they send their kids back to state or private school.

That’s right, teaching is the only profession where you can get better results after you remove the professionals. Police, doctors, nurses are always better if trained in the profession. Teachers are not.

That’s not to say that teachers are worthless. Not at all. They have their place, as does teacher training. But let’s not get carried away and ignore simple reality – the best teachers are the ones that teach well and enjoy doing it, regardless of whether they have a scrap of paper that says they are qualified.
Bring on charter schools I say. They can only help.
* The only real difference between charter schools and private schools is who pays. We already allow many of the freedoms being complained about – in fact, (sigh) Idiot’s probably complained that there’s no need to introduce charter schools because of that.
** What’s with that? Does Mahuta seriously think no one designs their own house? That’s just sad.

Set nets

I was curious to read this on Idiot’s blog.

Maui’s dolphin is the world’s most endangered dolphin species, with only 55 existing in the world. The biggest threat to their survival is fishermen, who have killed five of them in the past decade. But despite the loss of 10% of this critically endangered population, the government has refused to act, and has refused to ban set netting in the dolphin’s habitat.

When just the other day, I read this:

Mr Chiles is among 21 people who have been made redundant by Port Taranaki-based Ocean Pearl Fisheries, which in the winter catches almost all of its quota of blue warehou and rig within the two-nautical mile limit – and the fish species can only be caught using set nets.

He said he felt really sorry for Ocean Pearl owner Robert Ansley when he had to tell him and his fellow workers they had lost their jobs.

“All he could say was that he was sorry, but he couldn’t do anything about it because the Government’s announcement was ruining his business.

Mr Chiles said that in the more than 20 years he’s been fishing off Taranaki, he has never seen a Maui’s or a Hector’s dolphin, and never seen one caught in a gill net.

“I’ve seen heaps and heaps of common dolphins, but I’ve never seen one of them caught in a net either. That’s because dolphins swim on or near the surface, and set nets are placed along the sea bottom a bit like a fence.

So which is it? Is the government banning set nets (where it doesn’t need to) and costing jobs, or is it refusing to do anything and costing dolphins?

Oh, and least we forget, Idiot also loves telling us that John Key isn’t doing anything for jobs either.

Student Allowances

I was browing around with a vauge feeling that there was something I was going to blog on tonight.

Then I remembered – this.

Student allowances will be limited to four years of study and automatic loan repayments will be bumped up to 12 per cent of income, the Government has announced.

In a pre-Budget announcement, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has revealed major changes to both the student loan and allowance schemes.

Joyce says the changes will slice $250m off the loan book and create $60m to $70m per annum savings for the Government, which would be re-invested in the tertiary sector.

The changes would be:

– Compulsory student loan repayment rate increased from 10 to 12 per cent.

– Likely cancellation from March next year of National’s loan repayment incentive scheme, which offered a 10 per cent discount on voluntary repayments.

– Four year freeze on the parental income threshold for eligibility to student allowances.

– Allowances for any study over four years cancelled.

Joyce said New Zealand was an “outlier” by international standards in the way that it funded tertiary education. The Government wanted to rebalance spending away from student support and more towards “the actual tertiary space”.

“We’re going to encourage those that have completed their tertiary education to pay off their loan faster to assist those that are coming through next,” he said.

The parental income threshold for allowances had been increasing “rapidly” ahead of the rate of inflation. Freezing the threshold would bring it “back in to balance over time”.

This is very, very wrong.

Why? Because for years, the government did not adjust the thresholds. It was only a few short years ago that the student’s associations woke up and realised that for over a decade, their members were being gradually ripped off, and demanded that allowances caught up.

So for Joyce to now claim that the threshold has been “increasing rapidly”, he’s counting on people not realising that it is in fact catching up on where it should be. That’s a nasty bit of political spin.

Then on the flip side

But the real problem is the cut in student allowance entitlements, from five years to four. This means that students will no longer be able to pursue a double degree or a Masters on a student allowance (it may also mean problems for law students). Unless they have rich parents, of course. So, National is chopping rungs out of the ladder of opportunity, making it more difficult for those at the bottom to access the qualifications needed to better themselves. I guess their rich kids just can’t stand the competition.

Again, most people may not realise that student allowances were only for 5 years. Idiot gets credit for noting that this is merely a decrease of 1 year.

But after that his rant gets farcical. As I mentioned above, threasholds for allowances were eroded over the years. When the government finally stopped this, it was beacuse it was only students who had parents on the poverty line who were able to still get allowances. So anyone with a parent on an average or even slightly below average even, were unable to get allowances.

Strangely during that time, the universities were not emptied of all but a few toffs who spent their spare time talking about their Hawaiian vacations.

The reality is that most students would not even use the 4 years. Yes, this is going to affect masters students, and those who redid their first year and want to do honours. But the reality is that at honours level and above, living costs and tuition costs pale in comparison to the cost of forgoing entering the work force.

But all this means is that people will simply have to loan the money off the student loan scheme.

Which is interest free.

So “will no longer be able to pursue ” actually should read “will no longer be able to pursue without taking out an interest free loan”.

Guess that doesn’t sound quite so dramatic, does it?


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