Posts Tagged ‘politics’

There’s a lot of suspicious stuff going on around the John Banks guilty verdict that doesn’t seem to be being questioned inside newspapers. (in fact there seems to be an effort to shield him to some degree, which is hilarious, because it’s just feeding the outrage)

Firstly, there was the fact that this case had to initially be brought by private prosecution. There is a culture of not convicting politicians for electoral fraud because it’s seen as part of “business as usual”, especially if you’re a right-wing politician. (If you’re a left-wing politician, as always you’re held to a higher standard, even if it’s not perfectly executed) This should never have had to happen- this case should have been brought by the Crown to begin with.

Secondly, there’s the odd wait between the verdict and sentencing in this case, that possibly smacks of political favouritism to the government. I’m sure that waits before sentencing are a thing that happens, but a two-month wait in a high profile case where there are political ramifications as soon as sentencing occurs, and the timing puts sentencing after parliament goes into recess? That’s ridiculously contrived. Banks should have been sentenced shortly after the verdict, which will give him his chance at not being convicted in the sentencing despite being found guilty. (Which will be a problem of its own if it happens)

But in the meantime we’re left with a parliament in limbo, where Banks may technically remain an MP under the law, even though he has been found guilty of a crime that is the modern equivalent of treason against the state. (that is, undermining our democratic system) Banks should do the least dishonourable thing (because by delaying this long, let’s face it, there’s no honour left to be claimed) and resign. If his sentencing is quashed and therefore he isn’t convicted, then he can live to run again. (good luck though, if you’re an ex-bigot and guilty of electoral fraud, you’re about as electable as Roger Douglass)

The really shady thing here though is that the government didn’t immediately call on Banks to resign, or rule out working with him. They’re still considering working with Banks even as his party leader is pressuring him to resign.

First there was the obvious corruption that has stymied Judith Collins’ run for leader, (thanks to successful shielding from the National Party and the media, she’s somehow still a minister) then Maurice Williamson serially attempting to influence police investigations, and now we have Banks guilty of electoral fraud. This is record-setting levels of corruption in New Zealand, and it continues to put to lie our perception of being the least corrupt country in the world.

 

update: Of course, he announced his pending resignation the same day. For some odd reason he’s waiting until Friday, but at least he eventually did the right thing.

In running tradition, I would like to call out another press gallery reactionary for not understanding politics.

While I have no intention of voting for this merged Mana-Internet Party, it’s not an affront to democracy that it exists and that it wants to rely on electorate politics to succeed.
(And before we get really into things, I’d like to mention that in the past I’ve said similar things about parties I vehemently dislike and consider a cancer upon our parliament. Also, to be on the record, I think the name “internana” is about the most hilarious thing I’ve heard all day, and I believe the name “Winston Peters” came up in conversation, so that’s pretty impressive)

National have happily abused “Act” and “United Future” as one-man micro-parties with no real agenda and little public support to prop up their government for another term without having to make compromises with the Mäori Party. They and their fans can just quiet down for a while now Hone wants to give them a taste of their own medicine. Labour and the Greens both offered support to end coat-tailing, but National wouldn’t have it, (correctly realising it would hurt their electoral chances in the short-term) and refused to implement the independent recommendations they themselves arranged for, presumably on the deluded hope that the public would vote for watering down MMP with a system that removed its close-enough-to-proportional approach and replacing it with a system half-full with a bunch of safe-seat-warming buffoons.

No, what’s an affront to democracy is our ludicrously high party threshold. If Kim Dotcom wants to buy his way into parliament, let him win enough of the party vote to win a single seat outright. From there, with the ability of any New Zealander to vote for him, stop voting, or vote for someone else instead, the worth of his ideas can be judged by the public, and all it costs is the time for a quick trip to whatever local facility they use to host votes in in your electorate. One of the incredible upsides of MMP has been that it has let the public see how ridiculous some of the marginalised political voices on the Right are, and that it has been kind to the public’s desire for a sensible left-wing party. (If we have to put up with New Zealand First over our current threshold for that, I suppose I will merely resort to mockery in my suffering, as usual)

And Hone Harawira, who like Rodney Hide and Peter Dunne, doesn’t have that great of a claim to have earned his way into Parliament with rip-roaring public support, (although he at least has the legitimate claim to representing a community that deserves its voice being magnified) should not be the gatekeeper for a new political party. While I maintain that Mäori are the proper judges of how to protect their own political rights, and that the Mäori roll is an appropriate judge of whether they support their own electorate seats, I’d just as soon see all electorates gone, when another better way to support the voices of our indigenous people is chosen by our indigenous people. Electorates lock in bad candidates based on uncompetitive backroom selections, and they turn small parties into personality contests, where they continue to isolate voters into groups that feel empowered by electing two-faced wonders who will kiss a sufficient amount of babies and promise you things they don’t even understand. (Like common sense, or patriotism)

No, what’s an affront to democracy is that people have been sold this dumb idea of electorate seats, so that ordinary people can apparently lobby a local boy (or girl, if you’ve transitioned to the 21st century) about their problems. This is a ridiculous notion of politics. You are better off writing a letter to someone who understands your issue from a party (or preferebly, many parties) that may be sympathetic. Most likely that someone will be an aide of course, but aides are there for a reason.

We have a diverse enough parliament that farmers, conservationists, business, social reformers, and even to some degree IT enthusiasts are all represented by people who can understand them to some degree. Voting for whatever idiot decides to run in Ohariu or Epsom isn’t going to give us anything extra, and in fact the idea that that is the only legitimate way to do politics takes away from just how much the party vote has improved our democracy. National actually values capable women now, Labour is only a bit less diverse than the country, we have a disabled MP in parliament, and New Zealanders actually support at least the generalities of how our voting system works. So let’s not get mad at coat-tailing. Let’s get mad at electorates.

It appears Shane Jones is stepping down. Good riddance, he is a relic that was holding the Labour Party back. I’m all for a big tent, but his regressive views were taking things a bit far, and in a healthier political landscape, he’d have been sitting firmly on the Right wing of parliament.

For years, Treasury has been telling governments that the preponderance of research suggests that class sizes aren’t directly related to the quality of education, and for the first time, they’ve found a government willing to listen.

In some respects, Treasury may not be entirely wrong. When you get motivated students in a large class with a good teacher that relies mostly on theory, there may be little or no need for individual-level tutoring. This is the system that most university papers rely on, because on the most part people who actually show up to their classes are likely to learn well so long as their lecturer is audible, reasonably informed on the subject, and not terrible at teaching. In that kind of environment a 100-level spanish paper with hundreds of students is likely little different to a 200-level or 300-level German paper with just a few students, assuming the same teacher.

There are a few things being overlooked by extending that analysis to secondary, intermediate, and even primary schools, though:

  • Very little of the academic analysis on class size is backed up by evidence. The only large-scale study that randomly assigned students to classes found that younger students benefit more from smaller classes than older students- exactly how you’d expect given the different paradigms in primary, secondary, and tertiary education. In particular, years one and two get the largest benefit from reduced class size. Other studies have only approximated rigorous experimental conditions and I would say it’s unwise to give them too much weight.
  • Queries and the need for direct supervision are much higher in primary and secondary education, which makes class size a quality of work issue. The best, most in-demand teachers will be drawn to opportunities for smaller class sizes where they do not feel harried by students, and can run a more relaxed classroom where little of their energy is needed to direct their students to the topic at hand.
  • Any detrimental effect to adding an additional student to a class probably shrinks relative to the existing class size. The leap from a teacher that manages forty students to one that manages fifty might be similar to the leap between a teacher that manages 50 and one that manages a hundred.
  • Class size is an exacerbating factor to other difficulties in our education system. Kids with learning difficulties, kids who go to low-decile schools where poverty is common, and kids from homes that don’t value learning or provide additional resources for learning will likely all notice a much larger difference in outcomes from reduced class size than those that don’t. Cutting funding for teachers for private or very high standard public schools might make little difference, but extending that policy below the highest decile schools is likely to have a large effect both on education outcomes and generational poverty.
  • As many people are pointing out, class size is an infrastructure issue. Many rooms are designed around a set number of students, especially technology education, and can’t easily be modified to take additional students. There are additional hidden costs waiting to happen.

Increasing class sizes could be a good cost-saving measure, that allows our best teachers to educate more students- if it’s done at high levels of education for only the best or most advantaged students. Ideally, we should operate some sort of scaling class size system, where classes shrink as other challenges increase. Unfortunately, as with all education funding, this is a matter of inter-generational theft, and people into their working age don’t want to fund the possible success of the next generation- or rather, some don’t, some do, and some don’t care because they’re going to make sure their family’s kids go to private school.