Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Profiteers and wages the leeches of the ages

I must confess I kinda stole the title from Marc Bolan for this blog. I hasten to add, there are no royalties due as my title is really quite different to the Tyrannosaurus Rex album, in content and it is only the rhythm of the title that is similar.

This week I am getting stuck into those greedy bastards who prosper from the shredded remains of the rest of us.

The thing about profiteers is they aren’t really all that smart. They think they are because they make a quick buck, but in most cases they could make a lot more of their precious bucks by taking a longer term view.

A glorious example is that Vile little man who claims to be the Minister of Health. Minister is a noun and a pronoun derived from a verb which means to wait on, care for, look after, see to, accommodate, serve, supply, aid, help, assist or support – whew!

I see very little evidence that Toenail is caring for our health, or looking after our health system. Nor is he accommodating it, serving it, supplying it, aiding it, helping it, assisting it or supporting it. A cynical person (do we know any of those) might say he is certainly seeing to it..... Seeing to it that most of us never get any timely health treatment. And as for waiting on it; it is the sick that are waiting on it and for it.

The Vile one tells us his measures are to save us money and gleefully fronts up before compliant press (usually to be found in his own general geographical area) to tell us how well his waiting lists are working. Of course he deftly avoids mentioning all those who have been refused a place on the waiting list because the under-resourced system can’t handle them, and he also fails to appreciate that saving money on a $2000 operation now is only a saving if you don’t later have to perform a $10,000 one because the patient has deteriorated while awaiting surgery.

Another of the genius strokes this Minister (most) Vile has pulled is to stop the DHBs from wasting money treating foreigners who have no entitlement to our public health services. Great idea, you might say, until you realise that he has hired people in every DHB to check on this. Given there are 20 DHBs in New Zealand that would mean there are 20 ‘Eligibility Review Officers’ or possibly ‘Eligibility Co-Coordinators’ and possibly more bum-stiffs and hangers-on associated with them. I don’t know how much was being spent on ineligible people but it would seem over $100,000 p.a. is being wasted on these people.

That might sound harsh, but when you consider that to prove our eligibility, all we have to do is submit evidence of NZ citizenship or possession of the appropriate category of visa, you might wonder why it can’t simply be handled by whoever sends out the letters already.

However the Vile one is not the only poodle in the kennel shitting all over us. Muzza McGillicuddy, the Minister of FAT is doing an amazing ‘do as I say, not as I do’ turn. Mighty Muzza, the man who dropped so many passes over the World Cup that he should have made the Black Caps (cruel), is cutting the fat at MFAT. But is he? He says he is, and he is a Minister so we should believe him, right? Wrong. I don’t know where Muzza learned his maths, but it would seem to me that chucking out 300 MFAT staff (despite the fact many are probably a waste of space) is a weird immediate move when you are set to spend $900,000 on upgrading an Olympic sized swimming pool for the consular staff in Japan. Furthermore we now learn these guys already have a considerable ‘complex’ in which their pool is housed and another $93,000 was to be spent on a badminton court, a gymnasium, and hot and cold running geisha girls. (Okay I made that last one up). Muzza has since decided the expenditure is unwarranted, but only after he had been sprung and publicly shamed over it.

It seems to me that flying a bunch of MFATs back to enjoy some RWC 2011 games wasn’t the best way to save money either. Nor was taking an expensive Air Force charter plane for a one-day meeting in Vanuatu, if Philgoshisthatthetime has his facts right.

Other supersavers in this government include Paula Bumfat who has figured out that beneficiary bashing and trying to force people into non-existent jobs is a thrifty habit and Heck Yeah Pariah who is saving us money on character and reference checks for teaching staff.    

Meanwhile while all of this saving is going on it would seem the only ones not trying to save a dollar are our councils who think nothing of splashing out on quarter and half million dollar salaries for their CEOs (read Cash Eating Oafs).

Of course, I nearly forgot. Things aren’t actually all that bad. Bill (Nospeakada) English approved a whole $0.50 per hour increase for the lowest wage earners. Wow, a whole $20 per week before tax. Let me see now what can they do with all this money? That’s $20 less roughly 20 percent for PAYE which brings it down to $16. Those who don’t know about these things would say that means low wage earners could save $832 per year – and they’d be right – if you are not a person on the minimum wage. Because if you are a person on the minimum wage it is almost certain you have been running a deficit in your budget and this will probably only reduce that slightly. By the way, before anyone passes judgement on those running such a deficit, just remember they are only doing what governments all over the world have done for decades. The only difference is that if they start printing their own money or issuing notes of credit they can’t back up, they go to jail.  

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Knock-ons & hospital passes

Many people say rugby union is a violent game with the chance of serious injuries. But as a former player (about 100 years ago) and an obsessed fan of the game, I say you have to get things into perspective. (irony)

While it is certainly true the game is an aggressive sport, I doubt it is any more violent than our daily lives, today. In fact I would say it is less so because there are some pretty strict rules around the conduct of players during a game and pretty strict penalties are handed out for infractions.  Furthermore the game doesn’t involve anyone who doesn’t want to play.

I think it is also important to acknowledge that violence need not be of a physical nature to still be violence and frequently the non physical violence causes the most hurt. Quite apart from the obvious examples of child abuse, partner abuse and elder abuse that our society seems to be plagued with, there are plenty of examples of corporate abuse of staff, customers and investors.

Take our spectacularly failed finance companies as an example. Aorangi Securities, Belgrave Finance, B’On Financial Services, Bridgecorp, Capital & Merchant Investments, Dominion Finance Group, Five Star Consumer Finance, Hanover Finance, Kiwi Finance, Nathan’s Finance NZ, National Finance 2000, and South Canterbury Finance are just the ones who have been investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. There have been 38 others and they have all violently upturned the lives of many thousands of people who were naive/trusting enough to entrust them with their savings and investments. In many of these cases, if not all, investors’ money was treated like a piggy-bank for the directors. It is quite noticeable that few of those appearing before the SRO are destitute. For many of their investors, however it is a much different story.

Some might say investments by their nature are risky and those people were among the lucky ones who had some money to invest unlike many others who are just scraping by on a day by day basis. But a lot of these people were those ‘Mum & Pop’ investors Jianqi and his motley mob have been telling us will snap up our state assets when they go under the hammer. Many were just trying to ensure they wouldn’t need to rely on the state to make ends meet when they retired. What has happened to these people is far worse than a smack in the nose when the scrum goes down.

But the corporates and the scumbags living in (insert your favourite notorious suburb here) are just the beginning. Even more random violence and injury is caused by those in the public sector and those who pull their strings.

Our so-called social welfare services seem more geared towards warfare than welfare. ACC wriggles every which way it can to avoid paying for the treatment of people who through no fault of their own are injured. We all know of people who have fought long and hard to get assistance for rehabilitation and medical care (and I use that last term advisedly).

Our main social support organisation Working Hindrance to Innocent New Zealanders goes out of its way with various doorkeeping measures to ensure none but the totally useless get any meaningful assistance whatsoever ........unless of course you are the type of person who specialises in (metaphorically) kicking down doors and kicking arses, and can understand their regulations better than them. Which doesn’t take a lot of doing most of the time.

But ACC and WINZ are just babies at this game, really. The real masters of the cruel and unusual treatment doctrine are the masters of our glorious third world health system. This is a system so cumbersome that it can often barely manage to get out of its own way.   

Now while I am bagging the health system, I should qualify that by saying that for the most part I am not including the real health professionals. Most of them are very good, although there are some useless clock-punchers among them as well. But primarily it is the dweebs in offices on more money that most of us who dream up strategies to ensure they are able to sing from the same round sheet as the Minister.

Under the stewardship of the current incumbent (I’m sure there’s a good anagram possible there); we are told of great improvements every other week. Toenail’s grinning mug is plastered all over compliant rags trumpeting such things as how the DHB is getting more elective surgery done than ever and how nobody has to be on the waiting list longer than six months. This all sounds very encouraging. At least it would if it was even slightly true.

The reality is that people all over New Zealand are being denied timely medical interventions so Toenail and his mates can boast about how efficient they are. How does that work? It’s quite simple really. First of all they set the bar for a specialist referral high enough to exclude anyone who is not extremely ill. So rather than deal with an emerging problem, they choose instead to wait until it has not only emerged, but also gone to the second or third stage of its development. Hence a man with varicose veins that cause regular attacks of acute pain, cramps at night and eczema is told he will have to wait until he develops ulcers before he qualifies for so much as an examination by a vascular specialist. This keeps the patient off the waiting list and enables the DHB to report back to the Vile one that they are up to date with all their elective surgery. It might seem like a small point here, but I can’t help feeling varicose vein operations to relive pain and prevent thromboses don’t really sound like elective surgery to me. I would have though elective surgery would be just that. Something you want to do, but don’t need to.

The other waiting list trick the DHBs are fond of is the one where older people are kept waiting interminably, unless they can find themselves someone to advocate forcefully for them. This tactic appears to be a cynical ploy to keep them out of the system in the hopes they will fall off the perch before the need arises to do something about them.

However for those who manage to navigate their way through all the chicanes and blind alleys and scoop up all the golden apples along the way face another danger; admin mayhem. It would seem the hospitals are so busy trying to keep within the confines of what the DHBs want to report back to their shiny suited Minister that they are dropping the ball sometimes in a most alarming way.

According to the report released this week by the Health Quality and Safety Commission, there were 377 ‘serious and sentinel events in NZ hospitals last year. While that is not a huge number as a percentage of patients seen (2.7 million), it still works out to an average of more than one every day and I’ve no doubt every one of them was serious to the patients involved. The most common events that fell into this category were falls which probably suggest a lack of proper health and safety and/or supervision of vulnerable patients – the very sort of thing one would expect when work levels are high and manpower numbers are not.

The report says 86 of these people died though not necessarily as a result of the ‘events’, which seems a rather pointless statistic to publish. I would have thought it would be more worthwhile to find out how many did die as a result and print that. But we can’t upset the Minister’s plans, can we?

But there were also 25 medication errors which I find completely unforgivable and 11 cases of wrong patient, site or procedure which is really scary. But worst of all there were the 108 clinical management events which is DHBSpeak for wrong diagnoses or treatment.

If you think these figures aren’t too bad, consider this: a sentinel event is only one that results in death, serious injury or disability for the patient. A disclaimer also advises the figures are not necessarily all of the events and are only those the DHBs chose to voluntarily report.

I don’t know about you, but I think I might have to dig out my old rugby boots again. God knows it can’t be any less safe on the field.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Crystal balls and other delicate bits

I had a comment recently that I ought to try writing a blog about something positive. It’s a tempting thought and God knows I’ve scanned the news sites looking for some really good local positivity. The fact is; although there are some good things going on they don’t offer the same amount of scope for being lampooned  (unless I pick on our local media) or making a valid ethical or political point.

So I decided instead this week to make a positive prediction.

I predict that 2012 will be a very good year for lawyers in New Zealand. Now you might think that a pretty lame prediction considering that by income standards at least, most years are good for lawyers in NZ. But I mean it will be a good year for them because of the number of interesting legal conundrums that will arise, for the most part from the actions of our Government.

It has already opened in fine style with the Electoral Commission finding that the ‘Boogie down with Jianqi’ radio show was in fact an election programme. It would seem the EC possess the ‘nads to stand up to the Government, unlike the BSA, or Justice Winkelmann, or the Ombudsman. Now let’s see if our Police Commissioner is a real man or too scared about his promotion prospects to prosecute.

What makes this one even more interesting is the fact that at present it is Mediaworks that is in the gun and not Jianqi. Surely by taking part he would be responsible as well – in fact the main culprit. Mediaworks (who by some strange coincidence had a Government guarantee of around $45M given to them last year) were simply accessories before during and after the offence. The Prime Muncher was responsible for putting himself on there.

Consider this; If Joe Bloggs asked his neighbour to borrow his truck so he could go and do a ram raid on his local liquor store, then it would be Joe who would have the book thrown at him while his neighbour would be prosecuted for the lesser crime of knowingly providing him with the means to commit the raid. I can’t see why the Radio Jianqi affair should be any different. However I’ve no doubt a bunch of very highly paid counsel will be arguing that out soon.

Speaker and general oddball Backward Smith has bumbled out early with a politically motivated ruling that could also lead to legal action, although I sense there could be a reprieve for him if the PSC disagree with his ruling.

I am reminded of a similarly stupid lapse of judgement by the same Gaylen look-alike a few years ago when he explained that Asians were ideally suited for fruit picking because of their tiny wee hands. It’s a miracle he didn’t wind up with a large Chinese basketballer’s mitt around his scrawny little throat to remind him that people of all races come in all shapes and sizes.

Of course the PSC might agree with Lockwood that it is fine to discriminate against deaf people but not those in wheelchairs or those who want Maori translation. Hopefully they will write that down as I just did to see how ridiculous it is and allow the Greens to get their Mojo working. If not I see tears before bedtime for ol’ Backwards and shouts of glee from some highly paid lawyers.

The legal profession has already done very well out of the Tuhoe raids case and will no doubt continue to do so for some time yet. I really don’t know what was going on in Tuhoe country at the time, but clearly something was. Whether it was illegal or not might be another matter. Unfortunately when somebody as high profile as Tame Iti is involved the issues often become clouded as other agenda from him and his opponents come into play.

It is clear, however that the Police exceeded their powers, which is, let’s face it, not that unusual for them. What makes this a bit different though is their insistence that the ends justified the means. This is what the US Government calls accepting a bit of collateral damage and what Adolph Hitler called the path to the final solution (or something similar). If Government and Police want the law to be respected they need to apply it in an ethical and fair manner. The minute you start cutting corners and skipping over people’s rights you are on a slippery slope. It’s a bit like opening that box of chocolates you know you shouldn’t eat, just to have one, or maybe two, or three won’t really hurt, will they......?

There is one more case that will keep a lot of lawyers very busy and very well rewarded, and that is the Megaupload (of bollox). This is another case that has a very dodgy feel to it.

I don’t know a great deal about Kim DotCom (such a silly name), but from what I can see, his case is going to open quite a few cans of worms and I doubt they’ll all be able to put back into the cans afterwards. The FBI seems to think he’s a cross between Al Capone, Timothy McVeagh and Charlie Manson. Charges include money-laundering (what do you use; I use Earthwise ultra concentrate); racketeering (so he’s a bit noisy) and copyright fraud – but here is where the lawyers will really get busy.

Owners of copyright are entitled to full protection against theft of their works, but the Feds are trying to make him and his company liable for the actions of third parties over which they will have limited control. It is a bit like trying to make a record store owner liable for the actions of somebody who buys a CD from their store and takes it home and makes a load of copies which he then sells to others. The store owner can’t possibly know the guy is going to do this and is engaged in a perfectly legitimate and honourable trade selling CDs in the first place. I can’t see how the Megaupload thing differs in that respect. However I’ve no doubt a coach load of lawyers will make enough money out of arguing it to put a deposit down on a small Greek island. I hear they might be going for quite reasonable prices soon along with quite a lot of other European real estate. But the lawyers will need to act fast to beat the bankers to it.     

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Who’s afraid of the big bad truth?

I sometimes wonder who that stranger is in front of me at the checkout counter. Is he/she a child abuser? A rapist? A thief? A drunk driver? A conman, a vicious thug or a bungling idiot?

The trouble is that we don’t know and the authorities, in an effort to allegedly ‘protect the innocent’ are hanging out the rest of us like fresh meat in the jungle.

The judges who think they know what is best for us and the politicians who ‘know’ they know best are determined that we should not know who to be wary of or who to run a mile from. Never mind that many more of us will fall prey to the criminal tendencies and the reckless actions of people who are being protected by what is essentially a crock of shit.

We can’t know the names of the two pieces of flotsam that locked their 9 year old daughter in a cupboard, and tortured her and beat her in what amounts to one of the most heinous and sickly perverted examples of child abuse you could think of. The excuse we are given by the judge is that if we were to know it would then lead us to identification of the victims.

There are several things wrong with this approach. While it is true the naming of the parents would ipso facto lead to the identification of the kids, it is first important to remember these kids will already be known to close relatives and anyone else who rocked up to the court. So in a way the cat is already out of the bag, but what worries me more is how these orders bind everyone concerned. In real terms one presumes the victims are also bound by such an order. If they weren’t there wouldn’t be much point in granting it would there? Because this effectively means these kids have to walk around with this terrible secret locked inside them and are only ever able to discuss it with counsellors. I can’t help but feel having to keep shtumm about such things is probably far more harmful in the long run. Covering the thing up sends a message to the kid that this is somehow shameful (for them) when in reality they have nothing to be ashamed of. They need to know that victims should never take on the shame that belongs fairly and squarely upon the shoulders of the offenders.

It is also unfair that the community is not going to know when these people are released back into their midst. This is possibly not so important in this case but it certainly is important in cases involving paedophiles, thugs, or others who perpetrate crimes upon the general population.

And regarding the bungling idiots I referred to at the beginning of this blog, there are few more adept at this type of behaviour than our District and High Court judges. I think they should be made to wear some kind of identification when out in public (do they ever go out in public?). Something understated like a dunce’s hat would suffice.

You might think that a tad harsh, but it is an almost daily event to be gobsmacked by the latest judicial fuck-up hitting the headlines. I’m not just talking about minor errors either. One that has recently slipped by with hardly a murmur from anyone is the case of Olinale Ah You who was convicted of killing 80-year-old Manurewa woman Yan Ping Yang who he beat to a bloody pulp in her own home. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 18 years. But this guy is really nasty; two weeks after attacking Mrs Yang he, went out and attacked another woman. This scumbag has convictions for violent behaviour going back to 1998 and was jailed for 12 years with a minimum parole period of eight in May 2009 on another matter. As the Yang killing took place in 2008, I can only conclude the 2009 sentence was for the later offence. However I was more alarmed to read why Ay You is only just getting sentenced for the killing.

It would seem that when he was first convicted he was given life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 20 years, but the jury was told of his previous convictions before finding him guilty. Who told them is unknown but the judge in the case was Edwin Wylie and as this is basically judicial systems 101 you would have to wonder why he was not sacked on the spot. If someone let that particular cat out of the bag in court his duty was to dismiss the jury and order a retrial BEFORE sentencing. Instead of which this clown went ahead and sentenced Ah You whereupon his lawyer (quite naturally) went to the Court of Appeal to have the conviction quashed which they did.

No doubt all of this cost a great deal of money and no doubt we the taxpayer paid for both sides of the fight and now Ah You’s sentence has been cut by two years into the bargain.

I have since learned the reasons for the retrial were suppressed. I honestly don’t know if they still are, but since the information was still available in one report on the NZ Herald site recently I am assuming the suppression has lapsed. In any event it is not the sort of thing we should be prevented from knowing. This bloody judge is getting paid by us and he ought to be accountable for his performance and we have a right to know when he costs us tens of thousands of dollars through his poor case management.