Saturday, August 26, 2006

Letter Campaign


It appears that parliament will soon attempt to pass retrospective legislation to validate the use of state funds to produce the election pledge card in order to clear Labour in particular of its current liabilities. If this legislation is passed and previously illegal electoral behaviour becomes retrospectively legal then it will bring our parliament into disrepute.

New Zealanders have a cynical view of their politicians but even we are astounded by the governments apparent ability to break the very laws that govern elections and then declare their behaviours to be legal after the fact. This is the sort of behaviour we would expect from a country like Zimbabwae, and it concerns us greatly to see any step in that direction.
It is surely beyond dispute that the pledge cards (as well as other expenses of which the pledge card stands out as far and away the most significant) "encourages or persuades or appears to encourage or persuade voters to vote for the party" as stated in the rules on electoral spending. It requires an outstanding gall, and insult to the public’s intelligence, to stand in front of the public and say that $445,000 was spent on the basis that one believed the pledge card DIDN’T encourage people to vote for Labour. Obviously, “Labour's pledge card was an integrated part of the party's election campaign”* and that is how the public perceived it.
The Auditor-General, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Electoral Commission the Solicitor-General all believe the spending on the card not only breached Parliament's rules but was unlawful as does most of New Zealand that does not have a vested interest. And the Labour party itself cannot use the defence of ignorance because it was informed by the Chief Electoral Officer that it was considered election advertising and the Auditor-General that they should not use parliamentary funds for electoral advertising before the pledge cards.
The public already perceive politicians' to have a blatant disregard for their own rules but, even then, this marks a new low point due to the blatant vested interest involved.
In the interest of maintaining the publics respect for the rule of law in this country we request that you take a principled stand and refuse to allow this law to pass.


*mike Williams Labour party president

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Rates on TV 1

The value of your house DOES relate to your ability to pay - INFACT it may relate more closely than your income. If your rates increase because your house price went up then you by definition have more money to pay those rates probably several times more money. In a sense these peopel seem to be crying "poor me" over net making a considerable amount of money for doing nothing.

the alternative is for other people to pay for example paying out of their income. Ie the people who have NOT just had tens of thousands of dollars handed to them in terms of house price rises would then have to pay for the services for those who had. talk about having your cake and eating it too!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Labour's controversial $446,000 "pledge card" and brochure spend

"Political parties could be forced to pay back thousands of taxpayer dollars after a confidential legal report found the money was illegally spent on advertising during the election campaign.

The finding seems highly likely to have repercussions for Labour's controversial $446,000 "pledge card" and brochure spend, which triggered a complaint to police.

Prime Minister Helen Clark's adviser Heather Simpson narrowly escaped prosecution over the pledge cards when police found prima facie evidence that a case could be made against her. However, they decided it would be unfair to single her out because other parties also used parliamentary funds for advertising. "

I suggest an example should have been made of the worst offender and the party that would have had the net positive effect (clearly labour).

It is a pity how corruption seems to have set in in NZ politics

Common middle east quotes again

I read this quote

"Two-thirds of the 621 children ... killed [by the Israelis] at checkpoints ... on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half the cases to the head, neck and chest, the sniper's wound. A quarter of Palestinian infants under the age of five are acutely or chronically malnourished. The Israeli wall will isolate 97 primary health clinics and 11 hospitals from the populations they serve."

So I thought I would check it out..
a litle reserch gave me the original source

Derek Summerfield seems to have made an error right at the beginning of his article - he says "Two thirds of the 621 children (two thirds under 15 years) killed at checkpoints"

But the 621 seems to be the total number for all children under 18 (as per other sources abut the same time)
(By these numbers it didn’t reach that level until Dec 2004 - but that is probably made up by including deaths not in WB or Gaza as per the next reference).

Derek doesn't give a reference which thwarts others

But they really need to get better researchers - this is the site he clearly used

Which is reliable enough (on a factual basis I mean although it is of course a biased source) - of course he doesn’t mention that considerably more than half the fatal injuries would be of the "sniper" classification in a car or motorcycle accident - largely because these are the fatal injury parts of the body.

AND Interestingly it says that about 1/3 of them were targets.
Presumably this is generally agreed so it would mean 1/3 were considered by the Israelis to be combatants (throwing rocks or whatever). Actually Beth Goodtre (our representiotive of the israeli position) seems to think 2/3, so I doubt she would disute the first 1/3! However she is pretty rough and ready with her extrapolations also - she extrapolates just from the Jenin operation!). Regardless - that makes the “killed… on the way to school, in their homes” a bit misleading.

The article appears to be a bit of an opinion piece and he doesn’t back up the key quote (or anything at all) with any statistics or evidence (I would have thought odd for a journal then again he is just an "honorary" senior lecturer...). Really if I was the BMJ editor I'd never allow it into my journal.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Fact checking on Israel

Fair enough if you think Israel is over reacting or if you want to argue it has lost it's mind - but at least check your facts guys!

Having seen a comment on Just Left I thought I'd fact check a couple of things from a commenter.

"Here are a few statistics on the Middle East conflict that may raise a few eyebrows. All are verifiable."

OK Let’s get to it then...

>> 121 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians and 763 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000

Yes no problem there except what is a "child"?

One of the interesting things in this statistic is that (when I last saw the statistics) a bit over half of these seem to be in the 15-18 yr old age range - interesting that as you come closer to being an adult you come into more danger. And that apparently among babies and pre-schoolers almost equal numbers of Palestinian and Israeli children have been killed.

This probably has implications for how one interprets the data. Or to stop being subtle - 18 year old "kids" are going out with guns and stones and firing / throwing them at soldiers. Now it may still not be ok for the soldiers to shoot these boys (I agree that the Israelis are using excessive force) but the above statistic appears to be trying to give a false impression.

>> The U.S. gives $15,139,178 per day to the Israeli government and military and $232,290 per day to Palestinian NGO’s.

1) I could nit pick and say they don’t just "give" that money. They guarantee loans and have all sorts of other strings attached so it’s a false impression but possibly not a material one.
2) This probably has something to do with that little "hamas being a terrorist organization" thing. But another thing to remember is that the US isn't the only one donating here. One could ask "how much does Saudi Arabia give to Israeli charities?”
Again obviously that number will be tiny next to the US number but it does create a misleading picture. E.g. from 10days ago SA seems to have donated

"US $ 250 million for the Palestine people as an initiative for an Arab Fund for the reconstruction of Palestine."

>> 0 Israeli homes have been demolished by Palestinians and 4,170 Palestinian homes have been demolished by Israel since September 29, 2000.

Hmm how about this

Jul 07, 2003 - Mazal Afari, 65, was killed in her home and three of her grandchildren lightly wounded in a suicide bombing (remains were also found in the wreckage of the house). The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

That’s 1.

Sep 24, 2004 - Tiferet Tratner, 24, was killed in her home in Neve Dekalim in a mortar strike on the Gush Katif settlement bloc (Gaza Strip).

hmm 2...

>> "You can call me anything you like. Call me a monster or a murderer. .
Better a live Judeo-Nazi than a dead saint.
Even if you prove to me that the present war in Lebanon is a dirty immoral
War, I don't care. Even if Galilee is shelled again by Katyushas in a year's time, I don't really care. We shall start another war, kill and destroy more and more, until they will have had enough.
Let them tremble; let them call us a mad state. Let them understand that we are a wild country, dangerous to our surroundings, not normal, that we might go crazy if one of our children is murdered, just one! If anyone even raises his hand against us we'll take away half his land and burn the other half, including the oil. We might use nuclear arms.
Even today I am willing to volunteer to do the dirty work for Israel, to
Kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to expel and burn them, to have everyone hate us. . And I don't mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremberg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me if you want, as a war criminal.
What you don't understand is that the dirty work of Zionism is not finished yet, far from it." - Ariel Sharon, interview with Amos Oz, Davar 17 December 1982.

That doesn’t sound much like Sharon would say it does it?

And that intuition is born out by the facts. In fact Amos Oz has confirmed that he never met nor interviewed Sharon. The so-called “interview” was a literary device taken from Oz's book “In the Land of Israel”.


I'll crunch some numbers...

the 52% was comparing a 11% chance of return with chemo (89% removal) and Herceptin with a 22% for chemo alone (78%).

Apparently there is a 11% increase in this "non reoccurrence of breast cancer" over 3 years attributable to the drug (i.e. 70,000 x 3 / 11% = about 1.9 million dollars per person as long as it is applied to early-stage, invasive, HER-2-positive breast cancer patients.

In addition the downside is heart failure in 1-4% of patients and heart problems in 10% (and potential additional problems with other drug combinations). So maybe 2.5% of those people are "unsaved"...

So the revised number would be 2.47 million per person who (hypothetically) exchanges breast cancer for presumably not too serious heart problems. This isn’t in itself a life saved because (A) the woman may have to keep taking the drug, and i presume they are still high risk (adding to the cost) and (b) having breast cancer wouldn’t be 1:1 with death.

I believe the government is willing to spend about 1 million or maybe a little more to prevent one road fatality. As such this drug probably fails to meet the cut off.
Drug company needs to sharpen their pencil and come back with a more reasonable price.

Anyway - from 400 women we would have 3.4 women prevented from having a reoccurrence of breast cancer by the drug at a cost of 8.4 million over 3 years. About 1 person per year (cumulative of course)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


the greens are trying to help labour to shut down the Field corruption issue.

Apparently understanding orders if he gives an apology then that is the end of the matter. So the greens called for leave and someone like Michael Cullen wrote him up a Clayton's apology wherein he apologizes for anything we might have thought bad things about him on our behalf. (Since he did nothing wrong).

It is a very blatant attempt to make fools of the media and the public which is really quite disgusting from the greens who although a bit wacky are supposed to be honest.

"Unless formal questions are asked, and answered, the stain that hangs over Parliament will remain. For the Greens and Labour to have conspired to try to put a lid on the fallout from this affair is nothing short of a disgrace.

New Zealand politics has long been free of corruption and we must act to protect that reputation," says Mr Brownlee."