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

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?

Friday, November 05, 2004

rumours of our demise III

It's in the news now - Matt McCarten, Laila Harre and some other officers from the Alliance are not seeking re-election at our National Conference at the end of the month, and some are actively leaving the Party.

Matt and Laila have indicated to the members that they will be going to the Maori Party - personally I believe that both of them find it hard to operate without the profile and money that Parliament provides, and the task of rebuilding the party has been too hard for them. Both have been busy with their union work - Matt with Unite, Laila with NZNO - but in reality this has been an excuse, as I have seen neither of them show much commitment to actively rebuilding the Alliance after 2002. I am glad that they are now moving on - it happens to all of us from time to time, and I appreciate that they are being honest and not pulling the Alliance down behind them.

Some of the other officers have said they will maintain their Alliance membership and support for the party, but that they are not prepared to be active anymore. But there is a solid core of the activist leadership, those who hold office and those who do not, who are staying and already actively taking tasks over. The National Conference will go ahead, organised by those who remain, including many who have been very disillusioned by the actions of the current leadership but now have a sense of hope again.

I don't have any illusions that the Alliance is going to get back into the House in 2005, and I don't think any others in the activist leadership do either. But we have a responsibility to rebuild this party of the Left - whether it be for the Alliance to have some success in 2008, or for the party to be the core of a future Left party that may develop. I for one am excited about the opportunities ahead of us now - we have actual contests for many of our leadership positions (something never before seen in the Alliance) from members who want to work and campaign.

It will be hard, but now that we no longer have a leadership who were always on the lookout for easier options the task is more achievable.

More comment from me on this later (when I'm not at work).

Thursday, November 04, 2004

this street sign really means it

spotted yesterday in Grey Lynn

what procrastination drives you to

The Man in the Comfy Chair has an exam tomorrow afternoon and what is he doing?

He is, and this is true, hoovering his car. That's right, he took the vac, which is a bit broken, outside, got the extension cord out, hooked it all up and ran it all the way to the car, and is hoovering around inside it, sucking up all the dross.

I just hope he does mine next.

the next co-kermits

I've been thinking in the last few days about who the Greens are going to put up for their leadership in the medium term.

It seems to me that there is a division in the party within those who are Green rather than Left and those who would identify as the reverse; the Green-Reds versus the Red-Greens if you will. Sooner or later this will out, probably around a leadership fight.

As it stands I would personally categorise both Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimmons as Green-Reds, (in fact I'd take the Red out for Donald), but Jeanette has so much mana that it hardly matters. But when she goes (and she had an agreement with her partner to lead the party until 2005, which I believe she has renegotiated for one more term, so she would almost definitely go in 2008) Rod will need a new co-leader. I can't see the Greens moving away from the co-leadership model, especially not for Rod, given the Green-Red, Red-Green make-up of the party.

So who have we got?

Locke, Bradford, Tanczos and Turei are all too scary to the electorate (although I would probably like all of them except Nandor, but then I'm not in the Greens, so who cares who I want).

Kedgeley is not going to wash with the Red-Greens, especially not when coupled with Donald.

Ian Ewen-Street is retiring in 2005, besides which I don't think two white men is a very Green look (which I suspect rules out Mike Ward too, who has had no profile so seems unlikely).

So this means the Greens need to bring in at least one new MP, possibly a Red-Green as opposed to a Green-Red, who is a real possibility for leadership. With only Ewen-Street standing down this is going to require a much better polling return than they are on now.

Of course this all assumes that Donald is still acceptable to the Green membership in the future (and that he wants to continue - I think this is a pretty safe bet given the man is very keen to be a Minister one day). If the party becomes more Red-Green than Green-Red his leadership would be less secure, and I am very curious about the nature of new recruits to the Greens since the Alliance was wiped out of Parliament in 2002 (especially after Matt McCarten pissed off a lot of Alliance unionists in the last two years).

Whoever the new Green MPs are in 2005 (if they get any) look out for a spunky not-mad woman who may be the new Jeanette...

all over bar the lawyers

Kerry has conceded, so that's that for another four years.

I'd been talking myself out of the hope that he would win, so I'm not devastated, it all seems so inevitable - would Kerry really have been that much better than Bush anyway?

Time to stop pretending I know anything about US politics and focus back on the meat here at home.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

it must be summertime

because i just heard a Mr Whippy van driving past - wohooooo!

wishful voting

Many bloggers have linked to - where non-US citizens can have a vote for US President (seeing as how we all feel so frustrated at our disenfranchisement at the election of a leader of another democracy).

But I noticed that Betavote doesn't include any candidates other than Bush or Kerry, in particular Nader. Not that I'm saying I would vote for Nader (although I suspect I would find it hard to vote for Kerry I still would in the current situation) but it might make things (even) more interesting if it were a three horse race - would Kerry lose votes overseas or would Nader garner votes from those who would otherwise click on to the next website in disgust rather than vote for the lesser of two evils?

Anyway there is a poll on the Alliance website which does include Nader so those who want to exercise their totally futile and unconstitutional right to vote for someone else's president could always try that too - last I checked Nader was ahead 75% to Kerry's 25% (and no votes for Bush).

Monday, November 01, 2004

treaty myth #1 - maori seats set up to ensure maori got representation

When the NZ Govt was set up with seats and so on the basis for eligibility for voting was based on the situation back in the Mother Country, ie men with property. Maori owned property communally so didn't qualify, until they started turning communal property into individual property (a topic for another post).

At that time eligible Maori voters (considerably less than the number of adult Maori) were at least a quarter of the voting population. But non-Maori were given 60 seats to represent them, while Maori were given four. Yes, four. You read that right - four (4). Quite ignoring the voter eligibility dodginess, they should still have got 20, to be proportionate. But no, four was deemed sufficient to represent Maori in Parliament.

Maori were not allowed to stand in any General Electorates until the 1970s. I think that Winston must have been the first Maori elected in a general seat in 1975 (Hunua) although I'm aware there was some election funding scandal there (anyone know?).

Until the arrival of MMP in 1996 there remained just the 4 Maori seats. That's through the whole of NZ's parliamentary history, since the 1850s, only the four seats, regardless of changes in the population and so on.

Clearly all of this was not about giving Maori representation when they otherwise would have had none or very little - in fact it was about restricting their voice. Many Maori migrated to the General Roll prior to 1996, to try to get a say in how the vast bulk of the MPs were elected. Now that the numbers on the Maori Roll actually determine the number of seats there has been a surge back again - interesting that even today, at about 14 - 16% of the population, Maori get more seats (7) than they had for over 140 years.