The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Friday, December 31, 2004

how do you find the time?

Just been a good little blogger, counting up my posts and comments for DPF's December stats *pats self on back, avoiding sunburn*

I thought, my I've been good this month, but then I checked the November stats and in fact I've done slightly less posts and had slightly less comments. Not a big surprise, given the season, but it leads me to wonder - how do you super uber mega bloggers find the time?

I can't blog at work (although I do read them and comment occassionally from there) so have to save it up for home time. And I do have another internet addiction that I have to feed as well - I expect that will drop off in favour of blogging by winter. Sure I have real life stuff as well, but I just cannot imagine a time when I could possibly get anywhere near 100 posts in a month.

So come on, spill - how do you guys do it?

Clarion Tour - blog

Further to my post giving a sneak preview of the Young Labour Clarion tour, those crazy kids also have their own blog, with pics and quicktime video.

You can find it at

They are in Welly tonight, and I believe will be giving out condoms to the revellers...

Thursday, December 30, 2004


To be honest I'm a coward. I've been avoiding a lot of this news because it is just too heart breaking and I'm not able to cope with it right now. Probably a highly callous approach, but I'm getting plenty of info - pictures, stories, etc - just through osmosis it seems. To sit down and actively seek it out or watch it would just be too much.

One thing that has had me in tears every time I read it is the Herald's Tsunami Message Board. So far I haven't recognised any names, but it is still very emotional - each name represents someone missing, someone who their family and friends may never see again, someone who might have had another child, or fixed their broken relationship with their dad, or made someone else very happy. People who were on their honeymoons, on their holidays, on business, visiting family, taking that trip of a lifetime. Every name is a story and a life, and all those people connected to them through the most prosaic links and the most bizarre ways imaginably.

Then there are the millions and millions of locals whose lives will never be the same. The effects of this event will go on for years to come and for so many of those people who had so little to start with... well as I already said, it's more than I can really bear to think about.

Meanwhile someone has set up a blog on the tsunami at - I haven't had a good look at it yet, but it seems to be examining what could have been done to prevent the huge devastation being wrecked. I'm not sure that you can do much really, although there are always lessons to be learnt.

And, as so many others have already blogged, please make an automatic $20 donation to the Red Cross by calling 0900 31 100. Every little bit really will count.

Update: You can also donate directly to the Red Cross Asian Tsunami Appeal using their excellent online donation facility. This will avoid Red Cross having to pay Telecom 70c for each 0900 call made. Bad Telecom!!

when you really really don't want to go to sleep...

you find the oddest ways to procrastinate.

My current jag is googling the Names Of People I Used To Know. Kind of the stalker version of an ego-search. I'm not going to do anything with the information except muse over it - I just often get a curious itch about how people turned out and tonight I would much rather scratch that than go to sleep, an activity which invariably seems to finish off with waking up and getting up and going to work. And we all know that the three words at the end of that sentence must be avoided at all costs.

So what have I turned up?

Without naming names (I am the soul of discretion you see) we have, in no particular order:

- a part-owner of a now reasonably large ISP (and to think I remember when he broke his arm after some drunken table top dancing - guess it must have healed ok)
- a fellow blogger who is On A Break (from his blog, dear readers)
- an ice hockey player (who may have also be a top British water skiier, although that seems unlikely)
- a solo guitarist (now recording in Nashville after much travelling)
- a person of undiscoverable employ who appears to do a lot of long distance running (I guess someone must do all that long distance running, damned if I thought I knew any of those types myself though)
- a witness in a coroner's inquest (into the death of a young man in a famous building)
- a recipent of a PM's Scholarship for Architecture (although most of his hits were for sports related things, go figure)
- a top accordionist (pays the bills via her doctor's salary, no less)
- a biochemist (rapidly becoming an expert in atherosclerosis, don't you know)
- some kind of marketing account manager type (not a big surprise)
- a graduate of the DMA with a certificate in eMarketing (note: small e, big M)

The women are much harder to find than the men - I have few clues (i.e. none) about their married names, but some people just don't appear to have any kind of internet life at all - what the hell is wrong with them? One of these absences is highly surprising - a promising young actor when I knew him, he recently showed up in a Tegel ad, but I can't find him anywhere in the interweb thingy. Of course I could be spelling his name wrong.

and to round it off, for those who know him, I am sure this cannot be the only link on google for Paul Schiska. Another spelling mistake on my part, surely?

Alrighty, time for bed - you can only faff around for so long before your body rebels and starts falling asleep without you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

the office as desert

Our normally busy office is like the Sahara, and it's a long journey between drinks as those of us who are in are miles away from each other. There are only two of us in D Block (affectionately referred to as "The People's Republic of D Block" as there are no management in our neck of the woods), the others are spaced out throughout our floor, and the obligatory Person On Reception has been spending a bit of time lying on the couch, and fair enough too, it's not as if the phone is ringing off the hook.

I had visions of getting lots of work done. I had other visions of sliding around on the staff room lino in my socks. So far the reality has been a lot of procrastination all amounting to a whole heap of unfulfilling nothing. Not much work and absolutely no sock skating. It's hard to get motivated when no one around you is either.

I regularly have nightmares when I have work the next day, about my office and the people in it. I thought that the four days off over Xmas might reset my system, but alas the bizarre dreams returned last night. They usually involve some kind of altercation with my boss, something that doesn't happen in real life, but might if I continue to tell her things she doesn't want to hear. Luckily she's not back until February, and then I'll just be tidying up, finishing off and shipping out, as long as the next month goes according to plan.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to enjoy the desert more. I tried to get all my slacking off over and done with today so that I can motor through the work Thursday and Friday. Here's hoping that strategy pays off...

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Over at Fighting Talk, Hamish has an astounding post about a friend caught up in the tsunami - go read it right now if you haven't already.

Monday, December 27, 2004

the first day of summer

Seems it was the first day of summer today.

And I was not a good little slip slop slapper. I got cocky. And now I am paying the price - how typically inept of me to get badly burnt the first time the sun shows its face, especially when it's so late. urgh.

My arms actually feel like they are radiating heat. To make it worse I somehow managed to get burnt in a very odd pattern which means I won't be wearing sleeveless or strapless tops until I can manage to get the white stripey bits nice and crispy as well.

Usually I get to laugh at The Man in the Comfy Chair's sunscreen ineptness, but this year he gets the first laugh. Bah humbug!

Clarion Tour - Sneak Preview

This is the view from my front door right now.

Tomorrow the Young Labour Clarion Tour hits the road. You may wonder why that's on here, and why the bus they are using is in my driveway. All I can say is that this is what happens when love doesn't discriminate ;-)

You can read more about the Clarion Tour in YL's media statement and it may well be coming to a town near you soon. While I won't be on it I've had some high points already, just from being on the margins. My favourite was when the loud speaker suddenly croaked out, in the middle of bible belt Mt Roskill and right next door to a church, "Hello Everybody This is God. Please Give All Your Money to Robert. Transmission Ends."

I hope the neighbours will still be talking to us tomorrow.

Friday, December 24, 2004


We had our last hurrah for work today - went to Canton Cafe in Kingsland for our regular Friday lunch, as we have so often over the last year. But this time was different - instead of all going back to work, or on to appointments, we went out separate ways after paying the bill and loafing around for a few minutes.

For some strange reason it felt like I was never going to see these people again.

About half of those who were at lunch will be back at work, along with me, on Wednesday. The rest will return early in the new year.

But I just had this sudden sense of loss, something about a moment in time that had slipped away and couldn't be regained. I felt bereft.

When I got in the car they had just started playing the Jeff Buckley version of Halleluyah and as I drove off down New North Rd I had the sense I was in one of those telly shows that have used this song so much in 2004. That we were all driving off, to our very different families and our very different Xmases, listening to this song and singing along to the bits we knew, while the camera chopped and changed between shots of us all.

I fulfilled my character's stereotype by shedding a tear.

bit of a downer

What was with JPA's Xmas message on Nat Rad this morning? Full of the spirit of the season, I think not! "Life is short"

Pity it was the last one too - I missed the others.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

phone-in polls - a statistical plague on both our houses

According to Reinventing TVNZ GayNZ and others are incredibly concerned about the use of phone-in polls in news reporting. Fair enough - these have got to be amongst the most dubious news-creating devices out.

I just cannot believe that any journalist would base a news story on the results of a phone-in poll. They are statistically criminal for so many reasons it's hard to know where to start, but I'll try:

1. the sample is completely self-selected, ie there is no randomness that would mean you could meaningfully extrapolate - the poll ONLY represents the views of the exact people who rang in, NO ONE else.

2. multiple call-ins are not taken into account. Those who hit redial effectively get twice the say of those who only call once. What might be useful would be some analysis of how many voters on each side called multiple times - it might reveal that there was a minority who felt strongly enough to call many times, which would be interesting.

3. of course it is exclusive to people who own phones, without a toll bar, and can afford to call. And were watching Holmes, oops Close Up At 7, (or whatever) and thus knew about the poll.

Ok enough of this - check out the excellent cartoon from Ross at Dorking Labs for a good sum-up of it all.

one small question

What's the deal with Waikaraka Park? Can the Springs Speedway move there?

I'm actually of the "you moved there you're going to have to put up with it within reason" school myself, just curious.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

minimum wage to go up again - yay!

From March 21st 2005 adult minimum wage will be $9.50 (50c increase) and the youth minimum will go up to $7.40 (40c increase).

I wish they would bring the youth minimum up more, as a step towards getting rid of it all together, but I know that Labour isn't really interested in abolishing it. But this is good news overall :-)

a very camel christmas

I had an odd moment in a shop while looking listlessly at Xmas decorations tonight. I saw a little purple camel, designed to hang on your tree, and I thought "how bizarre - camels for Xmas!" I was thinking of the fantastic camel window display at Kirks too - how totally and utterly unconnected to the holiday season. Weirdos.

Except of course it's not. Camels are much more connected to the reason for the season than holly and red breasted robins and snow and candy canes, and even Santa Claus really.

But it just goes to show how the current popular norms around Xmas pervade even the mind of a cynic like myself. I can't help trying to treat my family and friends - I just want to see them smile and feel special, because they are. It's silly that I have to show this through gifts, especially as in recent years I've done quite a good deal of heartfelt (and very much meant) mushy cards, but every year I buy them stuff or make them things and hope that they'll all like whatever little thing I have angsted over.

I had a lovely day with my family on Sunday - we had Crimbo early as I will be away. It really is so much more rewarding when their are children involved, and my two little nieces didn't disappoint. We gave one of them a possum puppet, from the Maruia catalogue, and she immediately went around biting everyone with it and wanted to take it into the bath with her. She probably would have been as happy with a sock version, but in these days when we are so time poor, it's hard to find the time to make presents any more. I have struggled to just do my usual baking this year and have no idea when I'm actually going to deliver it to the recipients.

I miss my own family at Xmas when I'm away - The Man In The Comfy Chair makes up for their abscence a lot, but nothing can replace the smile and glee of those little rascals I call my nieces. It's not just the entertainment of watching them knock about the house, it's the open hearted way they approach everything, from wrapped parcel to new foodstuff to surprise guests. I wonder when I lost that sense of hope and optimism about the world, when I became just another consumer.

Why they'd even appreciate a camel for Xmas, whereas I would probably balk at the bad breath and the spitting. And wonder where I was going to put the damn thing. I guess the window display at Kirks might have some room come Boxing Day?

a little less blogging

Surprisingly busy - or at least I'm prioritising real life over cyber life right now. Between buying, making and wrapping Xmas pressies, sitting on the Hospice stall for a few shifts, job hunting, keeping up contact with friends, family and of course The Man In The Comfy Chair, I barely have time for work, let alone blogging.

But I'm not taking any hols beyond the stats, so I expect to be bored and blog more in a week or so. Bring on Chrimbo, so I can relax a little!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Selwyn - an interesting life (so far)

I was sitting at home with The Man in The Comfy Chair, about to watch the late TV3 news, and he comes out with a shocker - the 30 year old Grey Lynn resident who has been arrested for allegedly putting an axe through a window is in fact Tim Selwyn, aka Selwyn Abaford, a man who I have had some acquaintance with over the years.

My original encounters with Selwyn were during my first involvement in student politics - he was running against a friend of mine for the coveted post of Media Officer at AUSA. It was a close run thing, with Selwyn using the catchphrases "If you're a fuckwit I'll call you a fuckwit" and "I like icecream" but missing out in the end by about 60 votes - possibly due to his uncanny resemblance to a young Al Borland (Home Improvement character, for those of you who didn't have parents addicted to the damn show). He didn't help matters by frequently wearing flannel shirts.

Then he ran for the local body elections using the moniker Selwyn Abaford, under the premise that being at the top of the ballot would sweep him into power. Rumour has it he would have used Aardvark but thought that might be too obvious. He ran for several spots around Auckland, and found himself a member of the Glenfield Community Board because there were only enough nominations to fill the number of vacancies so no election was held. There was an issue around the legality of some of his nomination forms which DPF advises me not to discuss further while Selwyn is currently before the court.

Tim spent several months on the aforementioned Glenfield Community Board. Apparently there was a big problem with graffiti on the children's playgrounds and Selwyn suggested, with a straight face, that they electrify the playgrounds at night to eliminate this unsightly behaviour. He put forward a full proposal, including working out how much it would cost, what materials would be necessary, etc. Would have been priceless to see the faces of the other board members as they tried to work out how to rebuff this strangely compelling idea.

Next time I saw Selwyn was during the frenzy of portfolio elections at AUSA, and his mate Martyn Bradbury was running for Craccum editor. Selwyn came and leafleted for him, and tried to get students to take the pamphlets on the basis that they were "get out of jail free" cards. Quite a jolly time was had with the three of us leafleting side by side at the top of the stairs by the old fruit and nut hut (sadly now long gone).

Then there was the Craccum suicide article, a tale that Ben at Dog Biting Men should really tell the tale of as I'm sure he knows more about it than me. However I will just add that I thought the Herald's summation of the article in their recent Selwyn coverage was a bit inaccurate - my recollection was that Selwyn wasn't so much saying that suicide was a valid life choice, but that people who wanted to kill themselves were losers anyway and so no great loss to our society. During this fracas Selwyn was interviewed by Kim Hill on Nine to Noon, and won the distinguished honour of being the only person she has ever hung up on in a live interview.

Last time I saw Selwyn in the flesh was on the second Auckland Hikoi (my photos here - scroll down) which was a surprise. I thought maybe he was being ironic, as I remembered him being very right wing at Uni. Sounds like he's changed and it would be quite fascinating to find out how and why.

For more blogging on all this (largely about the nature of the charges) check out:
- DPF - Seditious Conspiracy (interesting that in Glenn's comment on this he doesn't mention that it was his mother's signature that Selwyn forged, and maybe his own IIRC)
- Neil Falloon and Media Cow - Sedation to Conspiracy
- Idiot/Savant - DPF on "seditious conspiracy"
- Kiwi Pundit - Seditious Conspiracy

Update: DPF has suggested in comments that I edit this post to avoid legal liability - I've made a few minor changes with reluctance. Also Whiggy has posted his thoughts on Mr Selwyn too:
- Whiggy - Sedition!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

what to say

Further to this post about marriage traditions now that we have the CUA...

If you were in a civil union and someone asked you if you were married, how would you reply?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

will the Maori Party be left III

Noticed today - Tariana Turia voting with National and Act against the Aquaculture Bills, which the Greens supported.

A few people I've spoken to who were quite pro-Maori Party are really concerned after Turia's vote against the CUB.

It all seems a bit incoherent, given their stance on tertiary ed. The policy announcements in February can't come a moment too soon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

speaker surprise

Just read on DPF's blog that Margaret Wilson is to be the next speaker. Quite surprised really - I had heard that Burton was the likely successor, although other sources were saying King.

The speculation about who will step up to Attorney General is interesting too - my money is on Dalziel - she is ready for rehabilitation and must be pushing for a return to favour.

I'm wondering if Wilson may be thinking of getting out of politics in 2008 - her health has been poor this year and she seems to achieved a lot of the things on her shopping list. Speaker could be her swan song. Having been a law lecturer I'm sure she will be able to control the House.

Or is Helen thinking of giving the Speakership to a coalition partner after the 2005 election? Anderton as Speaker anyone?

Monday, December 13, 2004


Over at Strikewatch Matt Oliver has blogged on Matt McCarten's column in the Herald on Sunday.

Unfortunately MM's column doesn't give the full story. In fact it doesn't even give half of it.

For most unions much of the '90s was taken up with debating the organising or servicing approaches which MM outlines as having recently occurred to him. Finsec and SFWU have been two unions that have deliberately adopted an organising approach in the last 5 years, although many unions have yet to make the leap. While some of the public sector unions will probably never move away from a servicing approach, many of the private sector ones have seen this as an important development that not only goes some way to addressing the crisis caused by the ECA, but also devolves power to members and gives them a chance to build meaningful strength. The CTU is a strong advocate for the organising model and in fact the CTU Traineeship (like an apprenticeship for union organisers) is focused around organising unionism.

MM seems to have finally caught up with much of the rest of the union movement with his "discovery".

In terms of the part of the article where MM refers to Sky City Auckland workers, that's where his train really starts to go off the truth track entirely. SFWU members have been organising themselves with help from union staff, for at least five years. They in fact have a density of at least 50% in Auckland (the 20% figure could only be true if MM was referring to the entire Sky City group, which includes several sites in Australia which are in fact organised by the SFWU's sister union the LHMU). SFWU members recently concluded bargaining for a CEA that saw a major improvements in the terms and conditions for members, in particular in regard to union rights after a major campaign on the site which included a strike overwhelmingly voted for by the members.

To make it worse MM's "professional association" at Sky has been peddling blatant lies about the SFWU, in particular that the SFWU would start charging non-members a bargaining fee on December 10th if they didn't join MM's union instead. Not only is this completely untrue it is also legally impossible - a ballot of the whole work site (members and non-members) is necessary before a bargaining fee can be charged, the employer must agree and it must be done in a very specific timeframe in relation to bargaining, which isn't going to come around again at Sky for nearly two years.

Unions that have been around a while know that when two (or more) unions fight over the membership at a site it is the workers who end up losing. Let us not forget Heinz Watties, where three unions fought over the membership, resulting in a massive loss in terms and conditions for those workers. Many were turned off unions altogether, whilst those who did join were scattered across EIGHT collectives. Not exactly building the union movement is it?

Mara to FATW "I vant to be alone"

Dear Mr FATW ("jarrod"),

We apologise for the delay in replying to your latest letter.

However this was unavoidable due to the nature of your correspondence and the fact that it has sent out client into hiding. Your actions have directly resulted in Mara fleeing town, in fear for her precious little kitten life.

We have been instructed to withdraw our defamation suit, as it is clear that in fact you are derranged and as such your statements to date may constitute "honest opinion". Mara does not have the deep pockets of a Bhatnagar which would be necessary to sustain such a suit, and, although deeply wounded by your untrue accusations, can no longer face the long and no doubt arduous court proceedings that would indubitably ensue from pursuing this matter further.

Instead Mara has instructed us to pursue a non-molestation order against yourself.

It is clear to us that you have developed an unhealthy fixation in relation to our client, including speculations, obviously designed to scare, of the location of the habitation of our client and her age, not to mention passing frequent comment in regard to her appearance.

Comments of this nature are entirely inappropriate and have had a devastating effect on the emotional wellbeing of our client. Once Mara was a cat in possession of a lustrous coat, soft to the touch but not so gentle as to fall out everywhere in an undignified manner. But today her fur has palled and patches have in fact been quite depilated by her new nervous habit of overgrooming. span(ner in the works) and The Man In The Comfy Chair have both noticed Mara's obvious and extreme discomfit when blogs are mentioned, as they frequently are in such an on-to-it household, and while they have supported her in here temporary annexation both fervently wish that you had never entered her life.

We now call on you to undertake a voluntary non-contact period, in advance of a compulsory one that we will seek through the appropriate channels, and ask that you maintain a 100km distance from our client at all times.

We have taken advice on what constitutes 100kms on the internet, and our experts have informed us that the appropriate measure would be for you to desist mentioning our client on your blog, in any manner, and to decline to comment on posts on other websites which refer to her. Confirmation that you intend to uphold this honourable course of action would clearly be exempted from this rule, as it would serve to soothe Mara, rather than create further distress.

Ms I Robb and Mr A Cheat
Lawyers to the Famous and Innocent

PS In regard to your claim that span(ner in the works) has in some way admitted guilt vis a vis your original spurious accusation, we seriously doubt you can prove in any way shape or form the true author of that posting, and in fact if you could you would never have brought it up at all.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

marriage traditions - where to from here?

Now that civil unions are an option for couples wanting to celebrate and register their commitment, I wonder what will happen with the traditional marriage bits and pieces, such as:

Woman changes last name to man's
I suspect most people who get civil unions, regardless of sexuality, will keep their own names. It has been startling to me though, in talking to women getting married, that very very few are keeping their names. Many proclaim themselves to be in great anticipation of being Mrs X instead of Miss/Ms Y. Personally I find that hard to identify with - my name is my name, I don't see why going through a ceremony of commitment with my partner should change that. I don't lecture them about their choice, I'm just glad we have one these days, but I do find it a bit odd. No doubt they think me odd too.

People say "think of the children" - well heaps of children have different surnames to one or tuther of their parents, to their siblings, to other members of their families. I think there are much bigger things that affect the mental, emotion and physical health of our children than whether everyone in their immediate family has the same last name.

Woman's family pays for wedding
Lots of couples seem to pay for their own celebrations these days, or hit up both families. But even so a lot of women's families seem to feel obliged to pay for the shindig, alone. With this comes a certain amount of control as well - guest list, nature of the event, location, food, you name it, the woman's family often wants either a say or to make the decision entirely. I think we need to shift to a perspective that sees money donated by families to couples as a gift, not a purchase of certain rights. It should be up to the couple what they want to do on their day, not decided by family committee.

The terms husband and wife
Wife certainly has negative connotations (especially when my-least- favourite-derivative-of-any-word-ever, "wifey", is used in its place) to do with staying at home, keeping yourself nice, and ironing, at least to my feminist mind. Personally I prefer partner. Partly because it keeps people guessing about whether my partner will turn out to be a man or a woman, heh heh. But largely because it simply doesn't have the baggage.

Woman being "given away"
Lots of brides these days seem to be "walked" by their fathers, or mothers, or both, or some other person entirely, rather than "given away". So the old way has already started to fall away, but I firmly hope that the advent of civil unions deliver the final kick to topple this patronising tradition. Unless of course the person being walked is too blitzed to walk at all, in which case it is just a practical consideration that someone prop them up (although there would be issues about consent, but as we used to say in Crim 201 - drunken intent is still intent ;-) )

Overall I predict, and fervently hope, that civil unions will start to break down these archaic approaches to cementing your relationship. Those "alternative lifestylers" will infect us all with their carefree attitudes and some day I wish that my children can happily celebrate their commitment (not to each other of course) without the tags and baggage that have dogged marriage for so long. I intend to put dosh aside from the day they are born, and then when they announce their impending commitment ceremony, of whatever brand, will give them the sum to spend on it as they wish. Honest.

Let's look forward to at time when marriage loses the last of its property transaction trimmings!

that blog not abandoned

Reading the Maps is up and going again - in fact it has been for a little while but I'd almost given up hope so only just noticed.

Good to see them blogging again :-)

time to party!

Off to the Auckland Campaign for Civil Unions party tonight - wohoooooooo!

No matter what I wear I can be assured that there will be a man there, in drag, who does it better. Sigh.

what if we really cared II

Further to this post, there is an interesting story on Stuff about a caregiver who is paid less now than she was when she worked in a condom factory 8 years ago.

Talking again yesterday to my friend who is working on the campaign apparently many caregivers are paid less than they were in the 80s. Not just in real terms but in actual dollars and cents. Disgraceful.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

why do people get married?

Fi over at Only My Perspective has posed an interesting question about marriage, civil unions and commitment. I think you should go read it.

"wasn't going to go anyway"

So Brash isn't going to the upper marae unless Pakeha media are allowed to (because we all know that nothing happens if there isn't a television camera to capture it).

As far as I'm aware he hasn't actually been invited to the upper marae (yet) and it is invitation only.

Great strategy though I must say.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

simply more right than left

Sagenz has done an interesting analysis of DPF's monthly blog stats for November, which the originator himself has also blogged on.

It seems to me that there are simply more committed bloggers on the right than the left.

Although there has been a spurt of lefties joining the blogosphere in recent months, the long-termers are almost all rightwingers - us socialists (and social democrats) have been a bit slow off the mark with the blog-phenomenon, with the notable exception of Just Left.

It takes time to build up a blog - time to start posting regularly and get into the habit of it. I posted all of about seven times the first six weeks I had a blog, but now I am well up in the Heavy Bloggers category (doing my diet no good, no doubt).

Maybe blogs are like small businesses - most fail in the first few months. Of the ones that make it a few soar into the stratosphere but the majority just plod along, making small incremental improvements (much like the Labour-led Government).

In terms of the comments issue - I do find blogs without comments irritating. While it does encourage other bloggers to reply through posts on their own blogs, I am too lazy, so you have all missed out on those witty little replies that I would have forgotten by the time my dial-up brings up the new post page (trust me, they were gems, gems I tell you!).

So to those without comments, please consider letting us into your conversations - dialogue is much more surprising when you aren't just talking to yourself.

Update: Joe Hendren has expanded on his comment here.

what will you do if the CUB passes this week?

Poll up on the Alliance website here.

what if we really cared?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the situation our caregivers face.

A friend of mine is doing a lot of work on a campaign around the absolutely shocking pay and conditions caregivers face - many are on minimum wage, or not a lot more, there is virtually no pay scale (meaning within two or three years you are at the top of the scale and can never go any higher), and understaffing is chronic.

These are the workers who look after the most vulnerable in our society - the sick, the old, the mentally and physically disabled. They empty bedpans, give people bed baths (not as nice as you might imagine, especially for the washer), spoon food into mouths and care when families can't (or don't). They work in rest homes, unit houses and private homes. They are mostly women, often Polynesian or new migrants, and some of them work two jobs to make ends meet.

Caregivers are so invisible in our society, yet what they do is so very important. Why don't we care more about the people who do this work?

There is some quote about how you should judge a nation by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. How we treat the few who care for those people must surely be a strong indicator of just how much we care fullstop.

Monday, December 06, 2004

becoming a betrayer

Apparently I am now a betrayer. I managed this transition back in February, but I've only just found out about my change in status. I'm sure that I was probably only a turncoat for the first few months, but recent months have resulted in my label being upgraded to full-on traitor.

It's all a bit emotive and silly really - it reminds me strongly of student politics. I guess I just thought that adults would actually be adult about things!

where is the dosh coming from?

The Progs have a big billboard at the top of Sandringham Rd, advertising their student loans policy. They have also recently had some big ads in newspapers. None of these have had parliamentary crests on them. Where is the moolah coming from??

Sunday, December 05, 2004

when work xmas parties get dull..

...those left start playing silly word games.

Like replacing the words "love" or "heart" with "dick" in song titles. Some examples:

- Dick You Like I Should
- Dick Makes the World Go Round (my nomination for a good song for the hopefully inevitable CUB Victory parties)
- Achey Breaky Dick
- Dick Don't Cost a Thing
- Dick Me Tender (Dick Me True)
- Dick is a Wonderful Thing
- All you need is Dick
- The Greatest Dick of All (Is Happening to Me)
- Silly Dick Songs
- I Would Do Anything For Dick (But I Won't Do That)

When we got bored we moved onto bad wedding aisle songs (something I have a little expertise in). Like:

- Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
- Highway to Hell
- Smack My Bitch Up
- Come On Eileen
- God Only Knows (a beautiful song - only nominated due to the first line which is "I may not always love you...")
- Should I Stay or Should I Go Now
- Who Let The Dogs Out
- Another One Bites the Dust

My favourite is that Bowie song, I can never remember the title, that goes:
It's a god awful sad affair
For the girl with the mousy hair
For her father has told her no
But her mother has told her to go

Thank goodness for the underlying hysteria inherent in work social functions.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

for those who live in the wrong place

(ie not in Auckers)

Here is a link to a really rather good cartoon in the Herald, which quite sums up just how Brash looks now, after his Civil Union flip-flop...


the right is not immune

Interesting post by Whiggy about the tensions within Act.

It's often protrayed that only the left have these kinds of problems, but clearly this is not the case and the conflict is much deeper than the titbits we get in the media.

The talk about expulsions is particularly worrying. We've been through two splits in the Alliance and no one has been actually expelled (although I believe this used to happen in the 1990s, before I was involved). Expulsions tend to indicate actions or activities considered traitorous by the bulk of the membership, but in my memory nothing of that nature has surfaced in the media in regard to Act. I wonder if Whiggy would care to expand?

Friday, December 03, 2004

Mara needs a lie down

drunk again?

if you're in Welly...

get along to the very interesting On The Street exhibition at Te Papa. The conference attached to it is on this weekend, and I have to put in a plug for the wonderful Grace Millar's talk on how and why abortion became such a big issue in the '70s. (Go Grace!)

What was intriguing though was the lack of industrial history in the exhibition. I managed to go through it very quickly on Sunday night, and didn't get right to the end, but others have noticed this too. Wonder why?

it's all relative

There's been some speculation lately, on some nz blogs that I am too lazy to link here (might come back and do it if I get a chance), about the youth wing of United Future. Thanks to Google, I managed to find this link to their site which doesn't give much info about actual people or members. There doesn't appear to be a link to it from the UF homepage at all (the Party site or the Parliamentary site).

But for kooky nz youth wings you really have to check out Y4NZ, the young of the Christian Heritage Party.

I remember having a good look before the last general election, when I had lots of spare time, and recognising a few fundie christian foes from my days as a student politico. Their strong link to Student Choice, a pro-VSM group, is clear, given that Glenn Peoples and the Flanagans are prominently involved, and of course they are pretty into SOUL (the youth wing of SPUC) as well. Their "Debate Us" forum has had some genuinely scary arguments on it in the past, not sure how it is these days, although they do remove "blasphemy and abuse". I wonder if they still post pictures of aborted foetuses?

PS people in glass houses etc, but at least most of the Staunch contacts listed on the Alliance website are actually still around and contactable. I'm hoping to update it v soon as we do have some new people to add.

notice anything interesting about this group of people?

Taito Philip Field, John Tamihere, Clayton Cosgrove, Damien O'Connor, Ross Robertson, Harry Duynhoven

All Labour MPs,

all in safe electorates (maybe not Tamihere),

all voted against the CUB,

all moral conservatives,


all men.

I know there are women who voted against the CUB too, but it is quite telling that in Labour it is only men who have tried to vote it down.

It's a generalisation I know, but in my experience women seem to be more able to empathise with the situation of minorities, whether they are in that minority or not.

another surprise (pleasant)

Clem Simich - who knew there was a man with a strong commitment to social justice behind that fusty exterior?

His comments in the Herald about why he supports the CUB, as a Catholic, reminded me of everything good about Catholicism. After 6 years at a Catholic girls' school I never thought I would feel warmly about Mother Church again, but tonight I do. It probably won't last.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

when MPs surprise you

The CUB vote, due tomorrow, has thrown up some odd results - MPs voting in ways strange and divers. Of particular note:

Don Brash - he said he would vote for it "on principle" but now his principles have either changed or gone on holiday. As Jordan has pointed out, this is the second flip-flop in quick succession, and doesn't bode well for leadership skills and aspirations (unless you are Bill English). No Right Turn is also disappointed, whilst DPF has been silent so far...

Ashraf Choudray - wohooo he's in favour! I'm stoked, and I emailed to tell him so.

Some of the Act MPs (Coddington in particular) - individual freedom anyone? Nigel has an interesting insight into the thinking of Muriel Newman in particular, and confirms that Heather Roy is in fact voting in favour and the Herald was wrong.

Tariana Turia - but then I already blogged about that.

Pansy Wong - wasn't she seen boogeying on down at that (probably vain) attempt to get some pink votes that the Nats held earlier this year in Auckers?

Lockwood Smith - the rumours about Lockwood are as old as the hills. I really thought he might have made the leap, since 1986, but it appears he hasn't. Very sad indeed.

Anyway I'm hoping to be surprised back again by some of them, which may be asking a bit much but I guess I've always been into lost causes ;-)

PS not that I think the CUB is a lost cause, just some (all even?) of the individuals named above

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

will the Maori Party be left II

Back in August I posted about the question of the likely leftwingedness of the Maori Party.

Lately Tariana has been voting in not entirely left ways. There is the obvious example of her announcement that she will vote against the CUB (I just despaired when I read Russell Brown's retelling of her bfm comments over on DPF's blog) and Joe Hendren has told me, off-blog, that she also voted for the big-step-backwards United Future amendment on the Care of Children Amendment Bill (thankfully it didn't pass, but it was even more draconian than the Judith Collins' one).

I know these are social and conscience issues, and not exactly died in the wool working class stuff, but to start out like this is not a good sign. Maybe Tari thinks she is competing with Destiny NZ for the Maori vote, not Labour?

are NZers extremist?

There was an interesting conversation going on on National Radio tonight which I only heard a snippet on. They (Raybon Kan and some other people, Kim Hill, Gaylene Preston, Russell Brown I think) were discussing whether NZers are liberal and Kan raised his theory that in fact we are extremists who lurch from one extreme to the other. Eg the radical change in the mid 80s from a "socialist paradise" (their words not mine) to everything being deregulated in a very short space of time.

I was thinking about this in the context of the Civil Unions Bill debate. I had assumed that there are a relatively small group of people at the extremes on this issue and then everyone else sort of floats around in the middle, tending towards one end (the pro CUB side if the polls are indicative) but maybe that is too simplistic. After all polls don't tend to measure strength of opinion, just measure them in black and whites - "for" or "against", rather than "die in a ditch", "mildly in favour," "slightly against," "I will flee these shores if this passes."

Perhaps there are not in fact this great unwashed mass of undecideds out there, who we valiantly try to convince. Maybe they are in fact decided, but affiliated to different parties on different issues, and they prioritise things differently at different times, resulting in changes over votes.

What if all our rhetoric and lobbying and campaigning really only results in a reshuffle of priorities, rather than changing minds and hearts?

i have been a blog-slacker

Sorry about that

And i'm afraid it's not going to get better quickly either.

But I should be properly back on board by next week. Expect updates on Alliance stuff then, and a return to more normal transmission.

Friday, November 26, 2004

off to the windy city

The National Alliance Conference is on this weekend in Welly and I fly off tonight, back Sunday night. Should be an interesting experience - I didn't go last year, but did got the previous three years, with 2001 being the highlight, due to the passing of a number of remits that Staunch Alliance (the youth wing) lobbied hard for (in particular a remit around decriminalisation of marijuana) and the Afghanistan debate.

This year we face important decisions about the future of the party, and there are a number of practical workshops on the agenda, aimed at actually doing work on rebuilding the Alliance, rather than just talking about it.

I doubt we'll get any media coverage, which doesn't overly bother me. In a lot of ways this is a conference to regroup and as such is of little interest to outsiders.

I hope to return invigorated and not overloaded with too much stuff to do.

domestic violence figures all bad :-(

University of Auckland research shows that a third of women have been assaulted by their partner over the course of their lives. This just makes me so sad.

And it's not just an issue for women - men need to start taking responsibility for their role in domestic violence. Yes sometimes women hit men too, and that needs to be addressed as well, but I am just so sick of issues like this getting swept under the carpet or being considered something that only affects chicks. ARGH!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Mara to FATW "You couldn't be more wrong"

Dear Mr Preston,

Your argument shifts and dodges like Frank Bunce carving through a Welsh backline, back in the day. When we met your demands of explanation, in regard to the relationship of our client Mara and her legal guardian span(ner in the works) and certainty regarding the age of the cat in question, instead of immediately issuing the justifiably called for retraction, you continue your spurious claims.

It seems that you will not be happy until you have seen signed and notarised copies of consent to model forms. I would suggest that you would be better off spending your time pursuing all those parents who put pictures of their young children on the internet, as it is an analagous situation. Mara is, as a cat, unable to read or write, and due to her lack of an opposable thumb (which it is cruel of you to remind her of) would be unable to sign any consent form, even were she able to read it.

We would also remind you of that vital maxim of our legal system, which Mr Goff seems to have forgotten of late, innocent until proven guilty. You have not produced any proof that our client has in any way been coerced into posing. Not one of the pictures published of her on this website show her in any painful or unnatural positions. She is clearly well fed and she has assured me she is well cared for by span(ner in the works). You may cry "Stockholm Syndrome" all you like, but if you accuse my client of suffering from it then you must do so for every child who is happy with their primary caregiver more often than not.

We find it interesting that you have forwarded copies of our correspondence to date to PETA, an organisation which recently announced that fish are as smart as dogs (and they were not refering to dolphins). They have also been unable to control their supermodels, who flocked back to fur as soon as the fashion winds blew in the other direction.

In terms of the other organisations you have attempted to bring into the fray, we should warn you that span(ner in the works) is in fact a current member of Amnesty International, a past member of Greenpeace (until they elected a new board without polling the membership), and has given moolah to both of these causes and the SPCA. In terms of the Human Rights Commission, her tentacles of power are yet to reach quite that far but will in time. Besides we have already established that Mara is a cat, and thus not within the gamut of the HRC or AI, even were she being mistreated, which she is not.

You will no doubt find these avenues fruitless, and in fact we have not had any communique from any of these agencies, including PETA, which certainly suggests that they do not take this issue as seriously as your client, and possibly question his sanity.

We respectfully request that you and your client get back in your time-travelling phone booth and return to a time and place when your ridiculous legal suites are more appreciated. We suggest the near future in the USA or Athens in 600 BC as possible destinations.

We bid you adieu,
Ms I Robb and Mr A Cheat
Where Everyone Gets A Payout

nature vs nuture

All Xavier's interesting posts on evolution over on About Town has got me thinking about a debate we had in the Best Paper I Ever Took back in 1998. It was a bio anthro special topic with Vince Sarich (whose name I have no doubt spelt incorrectly) and really changed the way I think. Although he was as right wing as all get out, he respected a good argument and we had some very interesting discussions about all sorts of things, all stemming from his sometimes controversial views about evolution.

Anyway, the debate I've been thinking about ever since was one about that classic polymorphism, sickle cell anaemia, and Sarich posed the question - could anyone think of a meme equivalent, ie a polymorphic meme? He reckoned he posed this question all the time to classes and no one had ever come up with one.

One of the guys at the back of the class nervously suggested nature and nuture (Sarich was very cutting if he thought you were wrong, but it was nothing personal, just his manner). He explained himself well and I thought, wow, that sounds bang on! Sarich rubbished him, but the student stuck to his guns, and I have always remembered that and I still think the student was right.

For those unfamiliar with polymorphism, here's an explanation from an Australian HSC website:

Polymorphism is the presence of two or more distinct forms of a genetically
determined character. Humans are polymorphic for skin colour, body stature,
sickle-cell anaemia, blood groups and the epicanthic eye-fold. Polymorphic
differences occur as selective adaptations to different environments.

Let's look at sickle cell anaemia - the concept is that rather than the dominant (represented by a C) totally overuling the recessive (c), the two together (Cc) create a third form, distinct from the
CC and cc forms. In the case of sickle cell, the CC form results in normal shaped blood cells, while the cc form leads to sickle celled blood cells which generally mean an early death for those unlucky enough to be dealt those cards in the great genetic shuffle of life. But the Cc form gives a shape different from normal (but not enough to interfere with the function of the cells), and an advantage in regard to malaria.

If you think about this in terms of nature vs nuture, what the student was trying to say is that rather than one of tuther having to be dominant, as a theory to explain the personality of an individual, perhaps it is a mix, i.e. when you bring the nature (N) theory together with the nuture (n) approach, to give you Nn, you are right on the button.

I can't remember what Sarich's arguments against this were, whether he was a Nature or Nuture man. But I wish he had let the discussion develop some more.

how much healthier is Afghanistan II

Further to my post about the current state of the Kabul Chest Hospital, here is a link to the original BBC story back in 2002, when the doctor visited for the first time since she had been in exile.

(Found due to someone using the search term kabul chest hospital to find this blog - the 2002 BBC story was the first hit on google)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

this sounds like a very bad idea

So the Government is considering legislation to grab the assets of people that they can't prove have done wrong. This is the kind of draconian stuff I'd expect from National, not Labour, although Goff is not known for his strong stance on civil liberties.

I was particularly concerned when I heard on a news report that this could net the Government an extra $20M - it reminded me of Caligula's naked money grabs, and while I'm sure this is a side effect rather than the primary intention, it still points to a strong temptation for future governments.

What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Other bloggers on this:
- Kiwi Pundit - "The phrase 'criminals who had been acquitted of criminal charges' is so perfectly Orwellian it really deserves some kind of award." (scroll down to read)
- Rodders accuses Goff of recreating an old form of injustice
- Gaz at IHS is not happy with the Govt or National.

(bit concerning that the posts i've found about this so far seem to be mainly from the right...)

Update: there are now several more posts on this, including one from IS that I missed the first time, see the comments for links

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Bit disturbed to hear Hamid Karzai described as the "US-backed Afghan President" on the radio news earlier today. I know I'm a bit slow on the uptake with international political stories, but is that level of overt interference really a good idea? Surely no foreign power should back any candidate in a domestic election process?

I remember all the bro-haha over Clark's comments about Al Gore, after the 2000 US election was over. Clearly presidents, prime ministers, etc, have preferences, generally along party lines that mirror their own, but to actually back someone like this seems pretty dodge to me.

Monday, November 22, 2004

CUB nearly CUA

TV3 reported tonight that the CUB may face its final vote next week, under urgency, as the Select Committee prepares to release it's report in the next few days.

The For and Against camps are going in to campaign frenzy - the supportive ad, which my partner and I were chuffed to sign, was in the SST on Sunday, and apparently the anti-campaigners are ready to bombard MPs with their messages too.

Word is that the numbers are looking good to pass, but I'm going to keep my fingers, and all my toes, crossed anyway.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

conscience voting in an MMP world

Asher of Left and Lefter has started an interesting discussion about conscience voting, continued by Matt over at Random Contributionz.

I'm leaping in too, as it's an issue close to my heart. At the first Alliance conference I attended - back in 2000 - there was much debate about the role of conscience votes in a socially progressive left wing party. Although I was quite ill at the time and unable to take much in, the righteousness of some of the speechs stayed with me.

Given the list MP/electorate MP split, the role of conscience votes is even more crucial. If having conscience votes allows an MP to respond to their electorate, rather than their party, and vote along representative rather than delegate lines, then what about those MPs without electorates?

In the Alliance the situation that was being advocated back in 2000 was for MPs to be allowed a free vote on issues determined conscience issues by the House when there was no party policy, or party policy was unclear. I wasn't really hooked into the party enough at that time to understand what was going on, or how it all fell out, but I think this is probably the best approach.

This way of dealing with conscience votes was one of the reasons our policy on marijuana was for an inquiry - JPA knew he ran the risk of losing if we had the actual debate about supporting decriminalisation, and be forced to vote for something that would make his socially conservative brain implode. (In fact, largely due to the hard work of the youth wing and the distraction of the Afghanistan problem, we did manage to get a remit supporting decriminalisation passed at the 2001 conference, just).

This could be the answer for list MPs - presumably they sign up to some kind of pledge to uphold the party's policies when they put themselves forward, and that should include being bound to party policy on conscience votes too. Electorate MPs should, as much as it grates me, probably get more lee-way, to provide succor to their electorate voters.

Really though, there should be a process within any party by which an MP, list or electorate, can negotiate with their colleagues to vote differently if they have good reasons, and not just on conscience votes. I pretty sure Labour has one (eg Nanaia Mahuta, and I think Damian O'Connor voted against something to do with his electorate way back in 1999 or 2000). Of course the Alliance has no MPs so it's a moot point for us ;-)

Does anyone know about these processes in other parties?

Maori seat stoush ahead

According to the Herald on Sunday, National is expected to announce a boycott of the Maori seats this week, in line with its policy calling for their abolition. (Sorry the article isn't available on line.) The Herald also reports on a Marae/Digipoll which shows National polling a rather tiny 2.2% in the Maori electorates - pretty easy to decry standing in them with those kinds of figures.

But what was really interesting about the story, despite the focus on National, were the figures showing that 39.6% of those polled said they would vote for a Maori Party local candidate, ahead of the 34.1% for a Labour candidate (National candidates would get 1.4%). This is before the Maori Party candidates have even been picked, with the exception of Pita Sharples for Tamaki Makaurau, and with sitting MPs for Labour in all the seats. There's a lot of time to run on this one (in particular, a lot of water to flow back and forth across the foreshore and seabed) but the Maori Party must be feeling quietly confident of picking up several more seats next year.

As the minors and minnows don't generally contest the Maori seats, this is going to be a case of those on the Maori roll accepting or rejecting Labour's approach to them in recent years. Sadly I don't think there will be much scrutiny of the Maori Party - they will be the alternative to Labour in the way that NZ First was in the past, before they stuffed up.

Mara poses for her adoring fans (again)

At repose in the garden sometime yesterday arvo.

how many bloggers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

last night was a bit weird - went to a party at which there were at least seven fellow bloggers:

- Ben from Dog Biting Men
- Constar (who I castigated for being a bloghog, due to his cross postings on About Town)
- Xavier, Kate, Conor and Tristan (the party host) from the aforementioned About Town
- Oliver of the possibly temporarily named Philosophically Made (who at one point I accidentally confused with Matt Oliver from Random Contributionz)
- Tony from Wilson's World and Wilson's Washington

I wouldn't have been surprised if Isaac of November 9 fame wombled along too, but I had to leave early. I was looking forward to meeting Stephen Cooper, also from Philosophically Made, but he didn't seem to be in evidence.

It was a bit surreal - I was reminded of Kim Hill's interview with Peter Jackson on her last Nine to Noon show. Kim asked Peter what it was like going to those Hollywood awards parties, and he talked about how everyone said "love your work" and you never knew whether they were sincere or not. You would only know if you had fallen from favour when it was too late, when people just ignored your existence.

At this point those of us at the party were all too new to blogging to be able to afford to cut each other (links being blog oxygen after all), but is that the future of blogger get-togethers? In a year's time will those of us still in the blogosphere spurn those who are not?

I doubt it - I think this blogging biz is a fad amongst the young politicos which will fade after the next election, if not before. We will all become far too busy with real life, and only those with a true addiction, and probably a job that allows work-time blogging, will remain. Survival of the fittest? Or survival of the geekiest?

Friday, November 19, 2004

on a razor's edge

Further to this in this morning's Herald

A complaint was made by Dr E. Langton, who said the advert was offensive to all doctors and patients.

The advert shows an attractive female doctor entering a hospital waiting room where two male patients are waiting. The doctor chooses to examine the patient who is cleanly shaved and touches his face in a suggestive manner.

Dr Langton said it was against medical ethical principles for a doctor to make sexual advances towards a patient.

I wonder what might have happened had the "doctor" been a man...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

those yoof and their irresponsible drunking (again)

Yet again the drinking age is in the news. It really must be the most covered "youth" issue in the last five plus years, but that doesn't mean it is the biggest problem.

I'm going to put my cards on the table - I'm a teetotaller. Always have been, possibly always will be, much to the consternation of many friends through out the years. I just choose not to drink, pretty simple. I'm not going to go into my reasons here, but perhaps in a future post, as they are rather numerous and I am already straying too far from the point I wanted to make when I started to type.

My friends at the time started drinking when I was about 13. To start with there were quite a few of us who didn't drink, but over the years this was whittled down, and my group of friends changed. Now only one other person I socialise with doesn't drink, and that's due to a contraindication from medicine. I'm both a freak and a convenient sober driver at the same time.

So I've seen a lot of drunken teens over the years - I've patted a lot of backs while my peers have thrown up over balconies, on drive-ways, and, occassionally, into toilets. I've seen the stupid things they do, without my own beer goggles on, and sometimes I've even tried to stop them.

What have I learnt from these observations?

1. Alcohol is too easy to get
It was when the drinking age was 20 and it still is now that the drinking age is 18

2. Parents don't teach their children how to drink responsibly
There seemed to be two approaches in my neck of the woods:
Parent A "Dooooo notttt toooooch the deeeeemon drrrrink!"
Parent B "Here's some bevvies, off wi' ye now, I'm trying to watch rugger"

Not exactly the cosmopolitan society we aspire to be when it comes to drinking.

3. Alcohol advertising is misleading as all get out
When do you see a blitheringly drunk person throwing up, sleeping with someone they didn't really want to, or ruining their favourite shoes on the telly? Not in the alcohol ads, that's for sure. There you see sexy, attractive people on whom alcohol seems to have remarkably little effect (not very good value for money you might think).

But none of these lead me to conclude that the drinking age needs to be raised again.

If we just enforced the drinking laws we had, particularly around the sale of alcohol, and put some serious money into education, it would have a big impact on the problems created by teenage drinking. I'd like to see the advertising issue addressed too, but that might be asking too much in the current climate.

Ultimately though we need to consider why it is that our teens want to get wasted every weekend - don't even start me on that.

time to Act up again?

Now that Donna is going, and Kenneth Wong is stepping up, it will be interesting to see how things play out inside Act.

Without the common quasi-internal enemy, and with List selection looming, the sudden addition of Wong to the caucus could create some tension, especially as it is not all that long since the leadership change.

With Act currently polling below the threshold, and unlikely to get back its current 9 MPs, the fight for the top few spots will be nasty. I believe Act has a poll of the membership regarding its rankings (anyone know?), but I don't know if this is merely influential or strictly binding. Given the fall of Penny Webster last time, few, if any, Act MPs can consider themselves safe.

Mr Wong of course will have less time to get used to the trappings of office so I guess he has the least to lose.

Whatever happens, I bet the polling in Epsom is a total feeding frenzy.

And of course it's not over for Donna herself yet - she still has the SFO charges to face. Possibly considerably more humiliation to come, and maybe jail, but now it probably won't taint Act (pity really).

of all the search terms in all the world...

After reading on the blog of He I Am Not Mentioning Due To Legal Proceedings about his fun with logs, I decided to install a Sitemeter of my own on the weekend, so I could exult in my own perceived popularity.

I quickly determined that I didn't get any exciting and obscure search terms, in fact any at all, because I wasn't listed in any search engines, so I fixed that (very lazily - only Google and the new msn beta search) and now, finally, after five days of waiting anxiously, I can reveal the first search term used to find my humble little blog...

"anita treefoot"

Yep, that's right, the erstwhile Women's Rights Officer at AUSA in the late '90s, and sometime host of Queer Nation, has inadvertently enticed one person to look at my blog because I mentioned her by name in The Post That Dare Not Speak It's Own Name.

So whoever you were, that person who was looking for Anita, sorry I don't know where she is, but good luck in your hunt.

decision time for Donna and Act...

Supreme Court decision due today! At last!!

I don't overly care whether she goes or stays, but this should be interesting...

Update: Decision due out at 2.15pm. If the Court decides against Donna she would be gone by next week, and Kenneth Wong sworn in Tuesday week.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Mara to FATW "Back off, sonny Jim"

Mr Preston,

You have now publicly repeated the allegations of your client, Mr FATW, and, to add insult to injury, on the blog of her legal guardian, span(ner in the works).

Your claim that our client, Mara, is financially motivated is unfair and quite slanderous - as our client is a cat your money is of little use to her. Her legal guardian will be similarly outraged if you attempt to attach such an accusation to her person as well, and I do not have to warn you that a further suit may be forthcoming on her behalf if you seek to insinuate the same about her.

As to the ability of your client to pay - as it is not money but good reputation that is at issue whatever penalty would result in the bankruptcy and subsequent poverty of your client would be sufficient in reparations. In any matter the quantum of the damages is an issue for the Courts to decide. We are however quite confident of sizeable success in this arena.

In regard to your frankly laughable rebuttals to the points raised in our first missive to Mr FATW:

1.1 Mara is in fact a cat
Mara's catness is not at issue. Her status as a NZ citizen is however questionable. We wish this were not so and in fact have prepared submissions to the current Government around the extention of various rights to the feline population, in particular the franchise, as Mara has political ambitions that she would like to pursue via the Animals First Party.

1.2 Mara is in fact under 18 and thus unable to sign a contract of any sort
You responded: "We do not have access to your client's birth records and are thus unable to verify her exact age. However we suspect based on her appearance that she is substantially past the age of majority in cat years (note that you have already stipulated that your client is, in fact, a cat), and therefore entitled to enter into any contract she might find appropriate."

We are quite stunned by your lack of understanding of simple etiquette. It is quite ungentlemanly to enquire of a lady's age to begin with, but then to question her assertion in regard to it is totally unacceptable and were this still the age of duelling you would find yourself facing a slap in the face with an empty glove and at the next convenient dawn picking your pistol.

1.3 span(ner in the works) is in fact the legal guardian of Mara and thus able to consent on her behalf
The relationship between span(ner in the works) and our client is that of all legal guardians - span(ner in the works) stands in loco parentis. We can assure you that the appropriate papers were lodged with the SPCA at the time that this arrangement was initiated. Once Mara is of adult age the relationship will no doubt become one of close friends and possibly co-habitors (platonic), but that is far far in the future and not a relevant point at this time.

1.4 Would you, sir, deny the world the beauty that is Mara?
You claimed that you were pursuing the best interests of our client, when in fact it is we that are empowered to act on her behalf and are instructed by her, and her legal guardian, span(ner in the works), who is the legal caretaker of her best interests. To second guess us in this manner is inappropriate given that you do not act on behalf of any suitable Government or NGO agency. Some might say that you are nothing but a scurrilous troublemaker, capable of little more than throwing mud to see if some might stick, but of course we could not possibly make such an unprofessional allegation.

You also wrote:
"My client will issue a full and unreserved retraction if and when proof of the above is presented."

We assume that this will be immediately forthcoming, and would like to remind you of the principle of bane and antidote, in relation to defamation and retractions. Any retractions must have comparable coverage to the offending statements; in this case we suggest publication on your blog, in the NZ Herald, the Dominion Post, the Christchurch Press, the Times of London and broadcast during peak viewing hours at least three times on channels 1, 2, 3 and Prime.

Yours etc,
Ms I Robb and Mr A Cheat
Lawyers of Great Repute

more sad news

I seem to be having a bit of a bad-news posting blitz lately. And that's despite trying to avoid coverage of sad things :-(

PhD research completed recently on child sexual abuse shows some disturbing findings:

  1. It takes victims of child sexual abuse on average 16 years to report the abuse. Less than 4% told immediately
  2. Over half of those surveyed were unable to access therapy at some point due to cost.
  3. And yet therapy was "somewhat" or "very" helpful to 68% of respondents. In particular those who attended over 50 sessions were more likely to report a large increase in their emotional well-being then those who had attended under 50 sessions.

It makes me immeasurably sad that so many victims of abuse feel unable to tell anyone immediately. They bottle it up inside them and it manifests in unhealthy ways throughout their lives - mental illness, anger, parenting issues later in life.

But it's one of the hidden issues of our society - something we choose to ignore because it is too hard.

It's particularly galling that organisations who do deal with sexual abuse, whether in children or adults, are so often on a funding knife-edge. For example Auckland Sexual Abuse Help, which has been helping children and adults cope with sexual abuse for 25 years, has been at risk in recent months, largely due to bizarre funding decisions by the Government. Corporate sponsors tend to avoid causes such as this and often these services survive due to the goodwill and commitment of their workers, paid and voluntary.

Big ups to those working for ASAH and similar organisations - kia kaha. The strength that you share with others makes our country a better place.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Mara licks paws at FATW

Mara to FATW: "Speak to my lawyers"

Mara would like to reassure her adoring public that she in fact enjoys having her picture captured for the consumption of the masses.

She does not appreciate Mr FATW's assertions that she is the victim of some kind of bizarre kitty porn. She believes that Mr FATW is spreading malicious and spurious rumours about her and her relationship with span(ner in the works).

1.1 Mara is in fact a cat
1.2 Mara is in fact under 18 and thus unable to sign a contract of any sort
1.3 span(ner in the works) is in fact the legal guardian of Mara and thus able to consent on her behalf
1.4 Would you, sir, deny the world the beauty that is Mara?

Mr FATW we call on you to immediately withdraw your cruel and defamatory statements made against our client, Mara. Failure to do so within 24 hours will result in legal proceedings and we feel secure that any Court which gazes upon the pulchritudinous puss who is our aforementioned client will find in her favour, and award substantial damages against your person.

We look forward to your retraction at the earliest possible opportunity.

Yours, etc
Ms I Robb and Mr A Cheat
Barristers and Solicitors of Considerable Ability and Modesty

free trade = no war - yeah right

Just heard me old mate Lockwood on Nat Rad saying that states who have trading relationships don't attack each other (physically he meant). Interesting given the whole "economic sanctions" situation eg Iraq...

Blumsky two-timing National?

Jordan hinted at this over on DPF's blog and it looks as if it's true, if United Future's media statement is anything to go by:

“Mark formally resigned as President of our party in August because he told us
that he was considering job offers that would conflict with his political

“Presumably either those employment opportunities have
changed, or the job offer in question was from the National Party.

“But one thing that hasn’t changed is Mr Blumsky’s membership of
United Future. Our records show that he hasn’t resigned from the party and
is a paid-up member until 31 December...
Oh dear, oh dear...

(Kudos to UF for a remarkably witty media statement)

wishful voting II

So if the world had, theoretically, got to vote in the US Presidential elections Kerry would have won. Not exactly an earth shattering revelation.

What is interesting about Betavote's results is the voting for the USA - they have Kerry ahead by a massive 51%, which seems quite bizarre given the high level of internet organisation of both campaigns. I would have expected Bush to be ahead on there by a significant margin, or results to be fairly even. Weird.

what's the point again?

Gaz has posted on university advertising and it got me thinking.

The massive amount of money our universities are currently spending on advertising is definitely ill-spent. We know that students largely decide based on other factors such as reputation, expense, proximity to cheap accommodation and friends, having the right courses, etc. Advertising doesn't seem to sway them much at all. Yet the universities are indulging in this marketing company-fuelled advertising arms race, year after year.

It really grates when student fees go up each year, and institutions claim there is no more fat to cut. While I do agree that staff and facilities are funded on a knife-edge (and imho frequently underfunded in fact) this splurge by management on pointless ads doesn't sit well. It's a hideously inefficient use of our money. Yay for NZUSA taking them on over this.

the politics of using the C word

(By special request from Em, and proof that in fact my mother does not read this blog. That i know of. And if she does, she certainly won't anymore)

I'm a bit of a prude when it comes to swearing. I had a horrible formative experience when I was in Standard 2 - Flang (who in fact I am still friends with despite this) dared me to say "fucking bitch" three times at her. I did and she promptly went and told our teacher (the fearsome Mrs Outhwaite I believe), resulting in my experiencing the verbal equivalent of being bent over and caned in front of the whole class. After that I swore (hah hah) off cussing forever.

This lasted until I was in my late teens - student politics really broke the barriers down ("darn" really doesn't cut it at 1am when you are trying to stick posters up and they won't adhere to the concrete) and these days I have quite the potty mouth, even at work (where swearing is largely acceptable). But, unlike some of my workmates (yes you R) I stop short of using the C word. In fact I can still count the number of times I have said it (13 as of writing this). I suspect my practice of keeping count is rather revealing too.

But should I really be that concerned about it? The Man in the Comfy Chair thinks it's hilarious that I'm reticent about this. My mother of course has only heard me use the F word a handful of times and all when I have been very upset, so she forgives me. She has a very firm position on use of the C word, as I discovered when I mentioned it in passing on the weekend. I remember well her concern when I was doing a project on the Commonwealth Games back in Intermediate School - I was going to paint all the O's in to the section titles with gold paint, and of course Medal Count didn't quite read like that as I was leaving the gold until last...

So enough background, time to get down to the guts of the matter.

There is a school of thought that the taboo nature of the C word is in fact patriarchal and denies women the right to talk about their reproductive organs in common parlance. On the other hand the fact that a word that merely describes a female body part is so offensive could be oppressive in and of itself.

In the late '90s the Women's Rights Officer at AUSA at the time Anita Treefoot (who went on to host Queer Nation) organised a women's art exhibition she called "Cuntasia". This was a bid by her to replace the C word in its rightful place; as a word that celebrated the vagina and it's importance to women, rather than as an insult to be hurled at particularly annoying types. At the time I thought this an admirable attempt on her part, and I remember referring to the exhibition by name at every opportunity. But I still didn't really use the actual objectionable word.

Myself I'm a bit torn. At the same time as I really like effective four letter words that you can spit venomously at people (even behind their backs) I am constrained by my up-bringing, and my PC concerns that by using the C word in a negative manner I am in fact contributing to a culture that defines sex and sexuality, in particular that of women, as dirty and bad.


Monday, November 15, 2004

new favourite political cartoon

In today's Herald and can be found here.

Everybody sing:

"We don't need no water,
Let the Mother Hucker burn.
Burn Mother Hucker, burn"

I do support City Vision, and I am glad we've got control of the Council, but some cartoons are just too good to get huffy about ideology.

brash as pm?

Further to this over at Just Left.

I really doubt that the public see Brash as PM material. I realise part of this is time and exposure, but I think he is a truly scary idea for PM, much like Ruth Richardson was (yes, like Jenny Shipley too - but she wasn't elected was she). I'm not a huge Helen Clark fan, but she does have a sense of leadership about her that Brash lacks. Once the election draws closer and those being polled are thinking more of Brash as leading an alternative Government I predict his ratings will fall even more.

I also suspect Brash is minus the common touch. I have never seen him in person, but he would need to be considerably warmer than he is on the telly. Clark is a master of this art - even her honking laugh makes her that bit more human.

Until Brash gets his PM ratings up Bill English will still be dreaming of those free rugby seats. English may well stage a comeback - he's certainly young enough, and his performance in the House is still better than Brash's.

how much healthier is Afghanistan?

Heard a startling report on World Watch (Nat Rad) whilst driving home tonight.

It told the story of an afghani doctor who was in exile, but returned once the Taliban had been toppled. She was the resident at the Kabul Chest Hospital before she left and she returned about 2 and a 1/2 years ago to the same hospital. A reporter went with her when she first visited it again and they were both shocked by the incredibly unhygenic situation. Few details of this first visit were given, but recently the doctor invited the reporter back and the situation is still just as dire, if not actually worse.

The reporter told of a filthy "operating" room, with a plastic sheet covering the operating table which she felt was unsuitable for camping on. There was grime all over the walls, and when she turned on the tap of the small sink in the room nothing came out. The doctor said they have had no water for over six months. (A reminder - this is in Kabul). The scrubbing up facilities consisted of a children's watering can and a sliver of old, very dirty, soap. Needles were 14 years out of date.

Another doctor was visibly agitated and took the reporter to another room nearby. When she opened the door she was hit by a putrid smell, no doubt coming from the raw sewerage lying about the room. There was some kind of burst pipe which was slowly dripping water out in some places and little watering cans beneath the drips to collect the water and use it elsewhere.

At one stage during the visit there was an accident victim brought in to the hospital. He had serious injuries to his chest, but the Kabul Specialist Chest Hospital did not even possess a chest drain to help him with. He died about half an hour later.

The reporter asked one of the senior doctors about the billions of dollars worth of aid being poured into Afghanistan and where they were all going. All the doctor could really say was "not here."

So where is it all going? I would have thought that a hospital in Kabul would have been pretty high up the rebuilding priority list...

Sunday, November 14, 2004

think of the children (not a joke)

Sad things happen in this world every day - civilians (and for that matter soldiers) dying in various hot spots, people dying of terrible diseases, children maimed by land mines, men and women abused physically, emotionally, mentally. It's all too much to bear much thought without reaching for the homeopathic seratonin to get through the night.

Two sad stories have really affected me lately. The first was the very public story of the little girl who was killed by her father shortly before he took his own life by stepping out in front of a truck on the North Western motorway. There has been much media on this and to be honest I've avoided much of it as it just a terrible story, and reading about it won't help anyone. I was disturbed to see the Herald put a large picture of the little girl on their front page, above the fold, earlier this week - how upsetting for those who knew her, and how does it help anyone? I don't have a problem with a photo accompanying the story, but this was emotional overkill and a cold calculated move to sell more papers by pulling on heartstrings.

The second story wasn't really covered in the media, as far as I know. The Man In The Comfy Chair's mother told it to me on Wednesday night. She is a Plunket nurse, working in South Auckland, and what she imparted was the sad tale of one of the newborns she has cared for recently. Ma and Pa Baby were living with an older couple, who were supporting them. Pa constantly abused Ma, physically and otherwise, and in the end he was thrown out of the house. He persisted in harassing Ma, to the point where he broke into the house, attacked her and left her for dead, then took the baby and drove his car, containing his child, into the nearest tree. He was killed, the child, who was unrestrained in the car, was severely brain-damaged, and the mother recovered in time (physically at least).

A sad story so far, but in fact it gets worse.

The mother and the older couple continue living together, with the baby, when she isn't in hospital. They are reliant on Housing NZ for a roof and, understandably, they would like to shift from the scene of such a horrible experience. Especially as they had to wash the blood stains off the walls themselves and have been unable to totally remove the splashes of red, which are still clearly visible. Their chances of a move currently look slim.

All of this makes me wonder about the society we live in. Are we really in a place where parents who are not coping have no other options?

Update: Some good news - the baby has apparently made a near miraculous recovery from the brain damage - only 1% with this level of damage recover, and this child is one of the lucky ones.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

rearranging the furniture

You may or may not have noticed that the layout of this blog has changed a bit (well, quite a lot really). Thanks to James from DBM, who rocks the party, for his help with pesky colour related things. There may be some more minor changes in the next few days as I work out what irritates me.

But the purpose of this post is to reassure those who are on the nz left (imaginary) list that I do not doubt their existence. My left blogs' list was just getting too long so I decided to divide it into those I have actually met IRL and those I haven’t. Pretty simple really.

the tale of JPA and the party for small business

Bit late fronting up with this one, but anyway...

JPA has shocked us all (apparently) by recommending a cut in the corporate tax rate, to make NZ more competitive with Australia.

To those who have been active in the Alliance since before the 2002 split this will come as little surprise. Since the beginning of time it seems JPA has internally advocated for policies that will advantage small businesses, in particular, somewhat regardless of the impact for other groups, eg low paid workers, beneficiaries, etc.

For some odd reason he has this fantasy that small business owners and operators will vote for his Party (whichever he is leading at the time) in droves if he can just make them love him. Sadly the exact people he is appealing to are much more likely to vote for a party that gives them the whole package that they desire, ie National or Act. JPA resisted many of the left-wing policies that the activist base of the Alliance were keen on, in particular in relation to a progressive income tax system, for years and years and years.

Various reactions to JPA's announcement that you may not have already spotted:

- DPF reckons the world is all upside down

- IS claims "Jim Anderton has sold out completely" (you may very well think that but of course I couldn't possibly comment)

-The Alliance states it is still needed and looks forward to the influx of disillusioned Prog members (always nice to get a dig in when you can)

- JH has suspicions about the funding for the tax cut adverts

And for those with a strong opinion on this, there is a poll on the Alliance website asking which change to the tax system you would prefer - corporate tax cut, progressive taxation system, or a cut to the top rate of income tax. Could be interesting to see which right wingers would prefer, of the first and the last.

Friday, November 12, 2004

should minnows contest the list?

In my recent post about the Alliance's current situation, we got into a bit of a discussion about whether or not small parties should contest the list, if they have little chance of making the threshold (5% of the vote).

Parties outside of Parliament find it very hard to reach the threshold, or win an electorate. Without the money and profile that an MP (or more) provide it is difficult to garner list votes, especially as NZ voters seem very canny about "wasting" their vote on a party that won't make it (witness the fate of the Alliance in 2002).

While some minnows are single issue parties, those take a broader approach must inevitably take votes off bigger parties that are almost guaranteed representation. For the Alliance the obvious parties are the Greens and Labour, and possibly the Maori Party. (We have also historically contested the "grumpy" vote with NZF). But the policies and principles, not to mention the personalities, of these parties are in fact quite distinct - so should minnows with little change of representation not run in the interests of securing power for bigger parties that they don't entirely agree with?

Part of my reason for supporting the continuation of the Alliance, and the strategy to contest the list in 2005, is that without the Alliance I will simply have no party to give my list vote to. I will, simply put, be disenfranchised, as I would find it nigh on impossible to vote for Labour or anyone to the right of them, and I would only vote for the Greens if I had absolutely no other options.

I suspect there are others like me - not a vast percentage of the total vote, but people who believe that one of the minnows is the only party that really represents their vision for NZ. Without the minnows many of us would not vote (on the list) or would do so in a very grumpy and unhappy manner. We can in fact think strategically for ourselves, and decide whether we would rather "waste" our vote on a minnow, or vote for the lesser evil to return the kind of Government we prefer. In addition the minnow parties can make a collective decision, given how the polls are shaking out in the lead-up to Election Day, to ask supporters to give their list votes to one of the bigger parties instead.

Without the minnows I believe our political environment would be poorer. Sure sometimes minnows put out bizarre policy, but one person's bizarre is another person's ideal. Diversity of opinions should be encouraged - no one person has all the answers, so best we share the ideas we have. If we were minnow-less the big parties would also be less vigorous - they keep an eye on what the minnows say, and pick up on the ideas that appeal to the public (some might call this stealing!! ;-)

Surely it is better that the minnows run and voters be left to make up their own minds?