Saturday, April 29, 2006

quantum universe

Scientific American had an interesting article about the way the universe works.
The suggestion is that the universe works like one huge quantum particle - the present is defined by the sum of all of the possible histories. So when we have scientists debating over which theory is correct in a sense they both are - it is just a matter of which theory is the stronger wave length.
What is also interesting is than various ways of observing the universe may have an effect on how the history resolves itself. Strange eh?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Parker exonerated

Good on David parker, he stepped down when things looked bad and now he has been found not guilty in essence. The "angry right" should cut him a break and find someone else on the left who is more deserving of being made sport of.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Rik applies Pascal's wager to whether we should eat animals

(1) If we continue to eat meat when it’s a live option that this might be immoral and it turns out, in fact, to be the case, then we have committed a serious moral wrong.

(2) If, on the other hand, we decide to stop eating meat and it turns out to be morally permissible then the worst harm we have committed is to deprive ourselves of a particular gustatory pleasure.

(3) If we continue to eat meat and it is morally permissible then nothing of ethical significance rests on this result, and likewise,

(4) If we refrain from eating meat when continuing would be unethical, then we have simply acted as we ought to.

So should we all become vegetarians?
In the comments questions areise like
A) Is it appropriate to consider the question to be "eating animals" vs "not eating animals" and not any other combination (e.g. "eating blades of grass" and not eating them
B) Is the question one where we should suspend judgment?
C) Will we ever know if something is immoral or not, and if we wont then was it truly immoral for us to do it?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Tories to win next election

Apparently the Tories are going to win the next British election (by this I mean more % than UK labour). How do I get to this?
the labor supporters seem to be breaking with the formulae that has won them the last few elections - the best strategy in politics
I term it the "who's that guy leading the other party?" strategy.

Fundamentally, if you are on top and the incumbent, you don't want people to associate vivid imagery with the opposition leader - you want them to forget his name.
If the labor party is preparing to "play the man and not the ball" they are scoring an own goal. Worse yet – maybe they know that already – so it is also a bad sign that they think that they have to.

I know it is a long way out - but I do believe I have been right in every major election since I started blogging..... I even remember picking a labour proped up by "NZfirst and co" sitaution.

bullying "the defence"

russel brown argues that we should see the other side of the story as we should.

I guess this is the problem about getting all excited over a particular case – there is always the possibility that the stories are all wrong however I don’t find their defense all that convincing

1) "If he was constantly bullying other children, we would have been told about it."

- This is the issue WHY wasn't he told about it? We aren’t disputing that the school didn't do enough.

Besides this is flawed logic - most bullying goes unreported, and often parents are considered unlikely to be helpful - so it is very possible that he could be "the school bully" and the parent not know.

2) "Teague said his son and Falcon's daughter sat side by side in class and had been sniping at each other for some time."

I expect you would "snipe" with a bully. I hate to be stereotypical but I am finding it a little hard to believe the girl has been bullying the boy. 69 kg is frankly huge for an 11 yr old.

3) And what is with the
“His son became annoyed and pushed a book at the girl's arm.”
That doesn’t make any sense unless it is a euphemism.
Taking the charitable assumption regarding both accounts - if you’re an 11 yr old girl and a 69 kg guy shoves a book in your face you’ll know all about it.

4) > The school's principal, deputy principal and chairman of the board of trustees had met him and said there was nothing to the incident in the classroom.

The school should have to prove it did the work and give al the appropriate reassurances to the parents just like any sort of "justice system" has to do.
Bullying is rampant in our schools - how many students has this school expelled or had family conferences with?

Are we condoning violence on children?

Weizguy on Alisha's web board brings up the issue

Seems to me that Daryl has done to a child exactly what he complains was done to his daughter. He's a huge man, and he roughed up a child. Personally, I think he should have been discharged without conviction, but with a serious reprimand from the judge.

Someone bullying your daughter doesn't make it alright to bully someone else.

I'm concerned that you are condoning violence towards children.

I understand the point about parents being role models but at the same time I object to the suggestion that what Daryl did was the same as what the kid had done.

I guess I was not there and Daryl’s actions might have been more serious and the bully might have only hit her very lightly but it is enough to make me think of a typical scenario of serious bullying.

Taking the facts at face value, I expect you as with most adults have from time to time been in a confrontation where you held another person's shirt or poked a finger at them - but I doubt you have ever hit a woman in the face with a book or assaulted a person on a daily basis. There is a line somewhere in there. There seems to be some hypocrisy in us taking the lesser crime seriously and all but ignoring the greater crime.

Also the point relies on the social contract, that is, the social contract that we have with society wherein we accept that we should not attempt to defend our family or our own interests with physical strength, but in exchange for that we expect protection against others doing the same to us and those we love.

The school and society in general it would seem broke that contract, because little was done about the bullying - of course action by an appropriate authority is where the real solution lies.

I have seen many bullies in my time and have found the school system to be gutless in dealing with them. In the workplace we now have protection but we leave our most defenseless citizens without a defense. I am concerned in general that if we get distracted by the details we will never prevent the root causes. Time and time again we will get angry but we will not create the changes we need to not only protect children from being driven to the edge of suicide but also to produce good adults by protecting good children and discouraging bad ones.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

NZ Principals' Federation opposes bullying - sometimes

Pat Newman, of the NZ Principals' Federation, was appalled at the support shown for Falcon after he stood up for his daughter.

"I wonder how many of those parents that are involved in this fund ... would accept a stranger coming up and attacking their child?"

now anyone who made a donation can consider the irony here.
Note that in the hypothetical a stranger has just attacked your daughter by hitting her in the head with an object (amongst many other things). Would you accept that?

Apparently the principals don't they have a zero tolerance policy...

Oh wait they don't - they do basically nothing.
Unless its is protecting a bully from being told off - THEN they leap into action.

Taking serious action

I applaude the efforts to support Falcon but I think the bigger thing here is how to change the law and school policy. Not so much in regard to making what he did legal (although I don’t see much illegal about it) but more to make it so that fathers DON'T HAVE TO break the law to protect their daughters (or sons).

The father grabbing the boy is not the best solution, the best solution is that the father can have confidence that the school or the police will take it seriously EVERY TIME and the parents and the child find that there are consequences to bullying (assault etc).

I suggest we target the minister of education for starters Steve Maharey Minister of Education

Freepost Parliament
PO Box 18 888, Wellington Phone: (04) 470 6552 Fax: (04) 495 8443
299 Ferguson St, Palmerston North Phone: (06) 356 5956 Fax: (06) 356 5959
PO Box 1430, Palmerston North Phone: (06) 356 5958 Fax: n/a
Bill English (education spokes person)
Phone: (04)4719057 (Wellington)
Phone: (03)2033000 (Electorate)
Associate Education - Pansy Wong
Associate Education - Hon Tau Henare
Associate Education - Colin King
Associate Education - Allan Peachey
Or a local MP

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Waiting lists

Why do we have waiting lists where we have to cut 8000 people in order to keep them looking nice?
Usually there is just unfocused rage when we hear these statistics - somthing about mismanagement comes to mind or possibly underfunding. But I’m not sure either can really explain the issue.
The key factor seems to be
1) a shortage of nurses
2) a shortage of specialists
Now there are four ways that can become a problem
1) you aren’t training/retaining enough
3) your system keeps demanding more of them
3) your system wastes resources

In my experience 2 is one of the most ignored and significant of these. For example if you say (for health reasons) that you must have two nurses to help a patient out of bed then you halve the amount of patients you can help. If you give nurses or doctors a lot of paperwork you reduce the amount of work they can do.
One key aspect is the removal of the 18 month nursing courses so nurses without the inclination to tackle a full nursing course (which is getting much hardy by the way) don’t have an easy entry into the work force, and more well trained nurses are likely to be doing work that underuses their skills. take practice nurses who are only hired as glorified receptionists for GP's because of legislative advantages.
Yes each of these policies have health benefits but they also have costs, costs that are generally hidden and often considerable.

This is rather like pharmac choosing to fund an expensive cancer drug. it is god in theory but the money has to come from somewhere. you see the happy cancer sufferers whose chances are now slightly higher but you don’t see other people dying of other diseases who are paying the price.

Bullying II

'Gentle giant' given conviction for getting tough with school bully

Apparently if someone assaults your child you have no recourse except to flee.

the judge noted

"You set an incredibly bad example to that bully,"

Wow! the bully might actually start poking people as opposed to hitting them in the face with a book. Maybe he will start using veiled threats as opposed to direct ones.

He had been remanded to yesterday so that the diversion scheme for first offenders could be considered, but the parents of the boy who was assaulted objected to the scheme being used.

Falcon, a loader with no previous convictions, acted under stress and when nothing seemed to be happening about his bullying complaint at Mairehau Primary School, the court heard.

Falcon, 34, had just dropped his daughter off when she told him about a further incident of bullying - she had been slapped in the face with a book - and pointed out the boy.

Falcon approached the boy, yelled at him, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and poked him with a finger, but caused no injury. He told him: "Stop bullying my daughter."

Judge McMeeken told Falcon there was never any justification to grab someone else's child and poke them.

and finally the specious comment

"On the other hand, it doesn't solve the problem of bullying."

why specious? well it isn’t as if she is proposing a solution (unlike the school it would seem). He may have been a bit hot headed - and at least he TRIED.
How many bullies has Judge McKeeken stopped?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


There have been recent cases of Bullying
and a father has been charged with assult in relation to the bully.
this goes to show how much of a joke our system is.
Bullying is a VERY serious issue. It is quite common for it to involve death threats frequent physical assults and theft and so forth. Many bullies at school if they were adults would get many years in jail. Potentially the rest of their lives if it was cumulative. But if a parent was to confront such a bully and
walk up to the boy, grabbed him by the neck, poked him on the nose and say, "Keep your hands off my child".
he would find himself in court.
Remember this is absolutly nothing compared to what the boy has done to his daughter.

It is these sorts of situations where a child at school (or the parents) rationally have to give up on the law and take it into their own hands regardless of the punishment.

meanwhile our schools have zero tolerance for text bullying
The girl was physically assaulted by fellow pupils, sent intimidating text messages and emails and other girls, who befriended her, were told by the bullies to ignore her.

St Margaret's College executive principal Claudia Wysocki said the school operated a British model designed to stamp out bullying called the "No Blame Procedure" in which instigators, bystanders and the victim are encouraged to "acknowledge, take ownership of and change" behaviour.

The man said the school principal's signature on his daughter's final report had left him completely bewildered.

The comments read, "I am at a loss to understand why (girl's name) believes she is not happy at St Margaret's".

Friday, April 14, 2006

Monarchy isn't so bad

In Thailand .the primeminister has resigned after "a word in his ear" from the King as the king once again found a acceptable path to resolution between two fighting groups.
The king in thailand has very little power except that he is respected to the point at which primeministers will resign when he asks them to.Time and time again this has avoided bloodshed.
But I do suggest that the king must not "hand pick" a sucessor as many want him to. It is his ability to be ablove politics that makes him so effective.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Current conflicts

Since poeple are constantly aluding to the top twenty current conflicts and what their causes are (for example suggesting they are largely the result of Islam) I thought I would do a little analysis.

Out of the 20 (I note there is a little bit of "matter of opinion" defining the top 20) 15 involve Islamic countries (and almost always Islam is a key factor in the motivation of one side at least) about 5 don't.

About 9 involve Christianity but this includes the drug based conflict in Columbia and the Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq (which will still exist even when the Americans are gone) so maybe that should be 6.

3 or 4 involve animists.

Of those that involve Islam about half are on the boarder of the Islamic world with budhist, catholic, anamists etc.

I note in addition to this there are other similarities - the list is dominated by southern Asia and West and central (on a north south basis) Africa (hot places??) and costal countries.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Selling sickness

On the radio today they were discussing the selling of sickness
Now I am far from an "anticapitalist" but we have to realize this is what the current economic system naturally and legally creates. that makes the problem much more dificult to deal with than just corruption or some rogue companies.

Basicaly in any market a business will have a certain supply and there will be a corresponding demand. the business will probably want to increase it's profit by supplyin more product for lower cost or more product or higher price by providing higher quality, but in addition to this the company can use the strategy of creating demand. A classic example is coke - you advertise your brand and associate it with "fun times" or a fear lets say. Suddenly it is not your production that is the important variable but instead it is what people want. This could easily lead down a track where you create desires you only partially meet (for example raising the fear of an illness and providing a drug that only partly treats it with side effects).

It is not really a quirk of the pharmaceutical industry or a result of corruption - it is part of the very nature of the system. the challenge for policy makers however is that as bad as this may sound it is nothing like the damage that is caused by just throwing out the system altogether. It is not enough to just point out something bad about capitalism - if one wants change one must point out a superior system. I haven’t seen anyone do that yet.

The best strategy is therefore to just tinker with the edges... Solutions might centre around things like
does advertising in general need to have some regulatory standards?
Should we be stricter about ads strictly telling the truth?
do we need stronger consumer organizations?
or do we need companies to be liabile for over use etc? things where they are not directly responsible but possibly still indirectly responsible as a result of advertising.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Richard creates a list of 10 things he things people should know about philosophy
so I created a slightly less biased list in response

1) Philosophy isn't just a matter of opinion. Some opinions are better justified, or more reasonable, than others. We should aim to hold those judgments that are best supported by reasons.

2) Therefore, one should change one's mind if the evidence is against you. (But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t argue your point until it is refuted).

3) The idea of objective truth is nothing to be scared of.
Rationally applied objective truth doesn’t result in the arbitrary rules that people usually fear. In most cases arbitrary rules reflect a lack of understanding of all the side effects.

E.g. utilitarianism properly applied includes allowances for long term effects and psychological effects so you would not run around killing people for some obscure gain.

4) Moral facts are a matter of opinion (but not JUST a matter of opinion).
a) When someone like Richard talks about morals he may well mean a different thing to you
b) They will probably try to push his view on you by the very nature of the meme.
c) However, it is not hopless, in any community you can get a general consensus on what they are, or what definitions will optimize the system. At very least we can eliminate some ideas.

5) We CAN provide non-spooky natural foundations for morality.

6) Most God Hypothesis doesn’t fit well with observed reality (rather like most non-god hypothesis).

6a) To a concequentialist - following someone or worshiping them doesn’t mean you share their moral position unless you provide concequential assistance towards their aims - in which case you share their moral position to the extent to which you achieve them. Or where in their plan has a moral value relitive to an alternative plan.

7) Time doesn't move.

8) Either this sentence is false or self-referential paradoxes are great fun.

9) Taxation is not (necessarily) theft - or theft becomes a fairly meaningless term.

10) Optimal freedom requires more than mere non-interference.

Breaching supression orders

Has the suppression order been breached so badly now that it is useless to enforce it?

I think not. This relies of a false view of how the justice system should work. When someone murders a person that is a WORSE crime than just attempting to murder that person. Sure the damage is done and you can’t bring back the dead man/woman but what you can do is deter others from thinking that murder is something you can get away with.

Similarly the amount of people involved and the difficulty in catching them all just underlines the extra force that you need to use in dealing with the few that you can catch.

This is similar to the big commerce commission case where the company was forced to pay 3.9 million and two people from the business were prosecuted for obstructing the commission. The point the commission made was that it is very hard to catch people for collusion (the crime that the commerce commission prosecutes) and the punishment must deter others from thinking it is OK.

that being said I do suport a review of the law, what I dont support is people reviewing their respect for the law.

supression orders

I note TV3 has taken up my challenge to review the need for these sorts of supression orders. and the expert asserted that the USA does not have supression orders like we have in NZ.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Further supressed information is "out"

Hmm you know I am getting suspicious that someone is using these feminists as "patsies" for the release of information to harm their cause.

Maybe it will just make them/us look even more closely at what the public has a "right to know" at an individual level - i.e is the release of information to the public good regardless of the concequences? If not then how serious must those concequences be to outweigh that good?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Housing market

The government is suggesting some policies to take the heat out of the housing market the three main issues seem to be.

1) Enforcing the law regarding tax on investment houses (presumably they will have a look into some trusts and people dodging the law)

Surely enforcing the law is a no brainier

2) Preventing people from offsetting losses on housing against other income

Why did we ever allow this? It is a bit like letting me offset losses on the purchase of a car or TV against my income. That would effectively result in no one ever paying tax.

3) Reducing the amount people can borrow against a house

I don't think I support this. Banks are taking a risk, but that is what they are paid to do. And borrowers might be using that money for all sorts of purposes restricting them to an arbitrary amount is likely to be inefficient.


The government is looking at immigration changes these sound like good ideas - most importnatly simplifying hte process by combining the appeals authorities.But as national implies why do we need consultation at all? it has the general support of everyone I know and probably 85% of parliment.