The news this week was dominated with the US presidential election. Barack Obama won a second term and the Republicans didn’t know what to do. What will this mean for public education in the United States? Joy Resmovits at the Huffington Post suggests any plans aren’t clear yet. She does mention the creation of the “Race to the Top” programme where teachers are evaluated based on the test scores achieved by their students. She also mentions Obama spending billions on hiring teachers as part of his stimulus package. Some will read this article and see positives and negatives.
Back in New Zealand the Novopay problems continued. Principals have now begun billing the ministry for time spent trying to sort out ongoing payroll problems. The Herald also report that the system is preventing principals from submitting next year’s staffing budget. This has been topped off over the weekend with a story from Kelsey Fletcher of Fairfax highlighting the privacy concerns with the new system. The administration officer at Marshall Laing School at one point she could not only access banking and personal information of teachers from other schools, but she could have changed it as well. Hekia Parata has passed the Novopay issue on to Associate Education Minister Craig Foss who is presumably now Minister for Novopay. Expect more news on this with another pay cycle due on Wednesday.
Also this week there was some “good” news for Christchurch with Hekia Parata, Education Minister, announcing plans to merge 2 girls’ and 2 boys’ schools were off the table. The media reported this to be a u-turn but Parata has sold it differently. She says she has never received proposal for the mergers of Christchurch Boys and Shirley Boys and Avonside Girls and Christchurch Girls so she can’t back-down from something that wasn’t actually proposed in the first place. As expected, teachers from schools who are still facing closure or merger are suggesting that this is the minister showing she is listening to the community. It seems there could be some hope for Christchurch schools.
It would be remiss of me not to do what everyone else in the world is doing over the course of this week so here goes…
A lot of people must be looking back at 2009 and thinking, like I am, where the hell did that go. This year seems to have flown by much quicker than usual. Or is it the fact that I’m getting old? Does time pass quicker the older you get? If I think back to my childhood the years seemed to go on forever, weeks and months melding into each other like one long hot summer. Anyway, that’s enough of the Stand by Me crap. On with what I was going to say.
It’s good to see that the capitalists of this world still think the sun shines out of their arses despite the complete and abject failure of their way of doing things.
Oooo, ooo, Mr. Obama… Mr. Obama… I’ve got a good idea!! Me, me! Look I know that in the last couple of years that things haven’t been going quite right. In fact, technically speaking, when you crunch the numbers, they’ve been going quite wrong by quite a lot – mainly because I’ve been trying to make ridiculous amounts of money by effectively gambling on things I didn’t really understand but pretended I did.. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that if you give me MORE money, and when I say give I mean lend, if you lend me more money I can do some more guessing and gambling and I can make it all better. And once it’s all better, then I can pay you back. Good ay?
6 months later….
Oh, yeah, hi Mr. Obama… look I know that we made some number of billions profit this year despite having to ask you for some readies to tide us over but we really can’t afford to pay you back just yet. But I am good for it, I really am. It’s just that we need that money to do a bit more guessing and gambling. See, we’ve made $60 billion in the last six months, but if you let us keep going with the loan, if we can keep doing what we are doing – and remember we are the experts in the field, we know what we are doing – if we can keep going then that $60 billion could turn into $63 billion or maybe even $65 billion. That would be like an extra $5 billion that you didn’t have before man. Where did it come from? Well… um… I don’t really know. I just checked the balance at the end of the day and it had gone up a bit. No, it’s not like actual money you can hold in your hand, like a $2 note or anything. No no, this is an on-line bank balance. Well, yes, I suppose it could go back down just like it’s been going up, but I doubt that very much. After all, we play the markets like this all the time so we have experience and know how that allow us to be extremely confident in ourselves and what we are doing. No, I don’t have any qualifications other than a diploma I got from a technical college in Halifax. No, that diploma isn’t in finance – it’s in something called book labelling… it’s like book-keeping but instead of accounting for the ebb and flow of cash through the books, I’m am qualified for making sure all the books are correctly named. How did I get into the finance industry? I knew a guy in college who told me I was quite good on computers and adding up and he suggested I become a day trader. The rest is history.
Of course, that’s not to say that ALL of those people still involved in the financial institution that nearly bought the world to its knees (but thanks to some quick cash from those people who actually pay taxes, they can continue on their merry way) have no idea what they are doing. Indeed, I’m sure that most people who take huge daily risks with money that doesn’t belong to them in situations they can barely understand, know completely what they are doing.
I am being incredibly sarcastic here. I doubt whether anyone on Wall Street really fully understands anything about the institution they’ve created. All they really care about is making money – and lots of it. And before you go all funny and start suggesting I’m a communist, or, God forbid, ‘against us’, think of it this way… where does the money come from? If I’ve clicked my mouse to complete a trade, then later that day I sell making money, the only thing changing is a number on a computer screen. Where is the cold, hard cash – the tangible thing that I can hold in my hand that shows I’ve actually done something useful.
If I go out to a market and buy a carrot for 9 cents and later that day sell it for 10 cents, I’ve made a penny. I also have a 10 cent piece in my hand that I can show people and say – look at me, I’m worth 10 cents. Yesterday I was worth only 9.
The thing that really sticks in my mind from this year is the amount of profit these US companies made in the months following their bailout by Obama. For example, AIG made $1.82 billion in the second quarter of 09. This after getting nearly $200 billion in loans. I suppose, technically speaking, these loans have to be paid back by AIG, but all they’re doing is shuffling things around and selling them off to do this. They’re not really changing the root cause of all the financial market malarkey that has occurred in the last couple of years (oh, and in the late 90s, and in the late 80s, and in the 1970s, and so on and so on and so on).
People are driven by wanting to make as much money as they possibly can with little regard to whose money it is that’s actually helping them do this. When human nature is involved, you can’t have a totally unregulated situation in the marketplace, no matter how many times they tell you to let the market provide. Look what it provided last year (oh, and in the late 90s, and in the late 80s, and in the 1970s, and so on and so on and so on) – complete meltdown because those in charge of the money-go-round all got off at the same time. Dicks.
Oh well… I’m sure they’ll do better next time (I’m picking it to be around 2018).
It always concerns me when people use the word democracy. These days it tends to be bandied about a little bit, often under the guise of democracy. Let me explain…
The Democratic Republic of Congo.
Need I say more?
OK… the United States of America.
Before I get the usual Bush-lovers bleating on about how good it was before Obama, I wish to explain further.
Let’s start at the most obvious place: the Democratic Republic of Congo. Situated in between Angola, Sudan and the actual republic of Congo, this country dubbed itself the Democratic Republic of Congo after, would you believe, a kind of coup/rebel takeover of the capital Kinshasa in 1997. In fact, since independence in 1960 there haven’t been too many elections there. You might remember President Mobutu from the film When We Were Kings (he starred alongside Muhammad Ali, George Forman and the USA’s own Mobutu – Don King). He was used to be an army dude, but got into power in 1965 by your standard ‘overthrow’ tactic, then he went on to invade and fight with neighbouring Angola. Since they were backed by the Soviets, Mobutu raked in the ideological cash from the US who thought that funding the likes of him and Saddam Hussein would somehow bring down the USSR (???). As we all know, that job went to David Hasselhoff. (As a PS to this paragraph, I like how the country has now dubbed itself on various world maps as Dr. Congo – sounds like a fix-it-up consultant that flies in to restore credibility to Dancing with the Hasbeens).
The second most obvious place is, arguably, the United States of America. I say arguably because I’m arguing my point of view. You may not agree with it, but the rest of the world does. Anyway… the US has spent the best part of the last 50 years telling the rest of the world democracy is the answer. Funnily enough, the rest of the world didn’t really ask a question. The US like to place sanctions against the might of communist Cuba, or invading world terrorising countries such as Afghanistan – Operation Enduring Freedom (just cut out the word freedom and that’ll sum it up), Iraq – Operation Iraqi Liberation, and Panama – Operation Just Cause.
They, and when I say ‘they’, I mean the US government / State Department, not the many wonderful people who make up the rich tapestry of the country, tell us they’re invading/liberating to bring ‘democracy’ to the affected area. I can tell you now that countries or regions of the world aren’t sores that can have the elixir of free and fair elections applied to them and be cured. People in those countries have to want to change and I suspect many inhabitants of the aforementioned countries were none to happy with the US-led forces trotting over their borders waving the flag of extreme shock and death awe freedom.
Democracy is something that can’t be imposed – it has to come from a groundswell of the people. Hang on… isn’t that how the United States was formed in the first place…
So we know that the US aren’t really leading these charges against undemocratic nations in an altruistic way. Nope. It’s got more to do with what type of petroleum-based goo lies under these, or nearby nations, or, in the case of Panama, how they can secure a shortcut for the ships taking that goo to the Californian refineries.
While I’m spouting on and on, as is my want from time to time, why don’t we briefly talk about the example of democracy that the US is setting for the rest of the world. The choice between two parties, one who thinks they’re Jesus and the other who tries not to be but if someone says what they’re doing is wrong then… Democrats too scared to be leaders, Republicans too scary to be leaders.
And so we move on to my actual point of this session – the March for Democracy held in Auckland, New Zealand yesterday. If you want to find out more click here. In short, 4000 people marched up the main street of the biggest city in New Zealand calling on the government to make referenda binding.
Failing to see the point yet? Well, as an aside, earlier on this year the government held a referendum that asked people to vote on the question, “should a smack, as part of good parental correction, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Overwhelmingly, and much to my disgust, New Zealanders voted 89% in favour of being allowed to use the defence of reasonable force if they were ever brought up in court on charges of assaulting their children. The new National government had promised the referendum before winning the election last year, and to their credit, delivered on the promise. Of course, New Zealand has this wonderful system of citizen initiated referenda whereby anybody with enough signatures can force (yes, that’s right, force) the government to hold a referendum on their issue of choice. This time, it was the right to hit children with impunity.
As a further aside, the legislation dubbed the ‘anti-smacking law’ does not ban smacking, instead, as mentioned above, it removes the defence of reasonable force from the statutes. Anybody who is in favour of this remaining as a defence for disciplining children needs to think… isn’t reasonable force is something the police think about when apprehending criminals.
And, finally, to my point. Yet again the word DEMOCRACY has been hijacked. 4000 people is by no means a majority. It is, in fact, just 0.0001% of the population. admittedly they looked pretty good having been at the cardboard with black paint, tomato stakes and glue, but it was only 4000 at this “family(!!!)” event.
Now I might disagree with the 89% of New Zealanders who want to use reasonable force on their children, but I don’t care. If you want to use the word democracy, be very, very careful. It is, after all, a government of the people. If you invade, does that mean democracy? If I disagree with your march, does that mean democracy? If you coup me out of office, does that create a democratic republic?
You might just say this argument is all just semantics. I say your anti-semantic.
I was thinking about a few subjects to meander through this time…
Should I talk about the New Zealand Geographic Board recommending the city of Wanganui be spelt the same way as the river running through it: with a small ‘h’ following the capital W. That is, the area called Whanganui by the people who’ve lived there for the last few centuries could be spelt as such in the future. An important side note to this is that the city’s residents have voted against that move in a referendum AND that all (not just some, but all) of the people I’ve seen on the news objecting to this, including the his esteemed worshit the mayor Michael Laws, have been white. The objectioning has been so ardent also. Why object to spelling something in the traditional way? Unless of course you need an excuse to be racist…
That dabbling of the toe of opinion into the icy lagoon of racism brings me to the current “campaign” against Obama’s health plan. A lot of the placards seem to be saying President Obama’s plans to let every US citizen (except the illegals – anywhere up to 20 million inhabitants) have access to some kind of healthcare is communist or fascist. Communism is where the state controls everything on behalf of the people. Sounds like a good idea but generally it gets hijacked by the likes of Stalin or Mao who end up killing loads of people who disagree with their version of it. Of course, this is completely different to a capitalist democracy seen in the US where people are elected to the Senate or the House of Representatives so that they can make change completely independently of any company willing to “donate” thousands of dollars to trusts run by their families.
This is, as usual, a generalisation. I’m sure there are loads of capitalists in Washington D.C. who don’t take any money from people working on behalf of companies. Also, since when was capitalism a better model than socialism, communism or fascism? At least with socialism the government is trying to look after the people rather than letting the markets decide (remember when Lehmann Bros “decided” to pay Richard Fuld $300 million in the years leading up to the collapse for his strong leadership and excellent decision making). Comparing Obama to Hitler is not going to make your point very well. It’s like trying to get Christians to convert to Islam by telling them Jesus was a lesbian. Pretending to believe in the 2nd amendment by walking around these protests with an Ak-47 strapped to your dick isn’t going to win you any friends either you idiot.
Anyway, those two small issues aside…
This week the process has begun. We are now officially going through IVF. When I say ‘officially’ I mean the procedures have started and when I say ‘we’ I mean Mrs. Boon. As I’ve said previously during my other two blogs on the subject, my part in this process is important but is about as invasive as scratching the tip of your nose gently when it’s slightly itchy. I’ve also talked about the guilt factor that can develop from this and the fact I wish I could be doing more – and by doing more I mean having things done to me. But in IVF it seems not to be the way for the man to endure these moments associated with artificial insemination. Helping and supporting is our job.
The very first procedure Mrs. Boon went through in our – hopefully not too long – IVF journey involved her joining a research project looking into the effects of a uterus wash of lipiodol on increasing the chances of pregnancy. For those unversed… Lipiodol is a poppyseed oil that is used as a contrast medium. A contrast medium is one that, when pumped into veins or tubes shows up on x-rays allowing physicians to see blockages and the like. In women it is used to see if there is anything holding things up in the fallopian tubes. As with previous accidental breakthroughs like penicillin or coca-cola, it’s been discovered this flushing may actually enhance the prospectss of a successful pregnancy. So Mrs. Boon offered to go into a New Zealand study investigating this phenomenon.
When she said yes to taking part she had a 50/50 chance of either being in the control group, who would not have had the flushing, or being in the group who did. When the researcher opened the envelope last week she was pleased (although this may be a bit of an understatement) to hear she was not in the control group and was going to receive the lipiodol. Once again, as if I needed any more proof of how amazing my wife is, she selflessly puts her body forward so researchers can develop better and more successful methods of IVF for other couples.
I must also mention at this point that yesterday, the day of the lipiodol wash, was our 5th wedding anniversary.
So next week we head into the hospital to learn how to inject her with hormones that bring on a menopausal state. I am fast running out of superlatives to describe the overwhelming sense of awe I have for my wife and her willingness to undertake such a vast range of actions to bring our baby into the world. I only hope that one day I can return the love.
All race issues are no longer thanks to a couple of handfuls of peanuts and 4 pints of watery American beer on the White House lawn.
What did Obama think it would achieve – apart from the obvious photo op after saying the police were stupid. As soon as he said that you could hear all law enforcement characters across the US throw down their donuts in disgust and say, ‘no – you’re stupid’.
Fox News, whose reality sits somewhere between Hitler and Ghengis Khan, say Obama is a racist. He’s not. He’s just a brother with a big mouth who always goes for the gag. Sometimes they don’t pay off.
Och well… now the USA is a rainbow nation where everyone lives in harmony. We are already at tomorrow.