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

Thursday, March 31, 2005


Stuart McCutcheon’s odd behaviour of late has got me thinking.

Several of his public statements in regard to the industrial situation that is escalating at the University of Auckland seem to be against current employment legislation, in particular his opposition to even discuss a MECA (although this is as yet untested, the recent amendments suggest that employers must take part in discussions around setting up collective agreements, including MECAs, to be within the new good faith provisions). He has also been making collective offers to non-union staff, when the new legislation could be taken to mean that the University has to negotiate with each employee on an individual employment agreement.

McCutcheon’s actions could well open the University of Auckland to legal liability, and this is certainly a path that the union, AUS, is now pursuing.

So why would Stuey make these pronouncements? He is not inexperienced in employment matters, having been VC at Victoria for some years prior to his appointment in Auckland, and I’m certain that he is advised ad nauseum by both the HR and legal departments of the University.

To take such a risk, especially when you are quite new to your current position, seems odd behaviour and has led me to speculate wildly about his motivations. One theory (and it’s just a theory, I have no inside information) is that he could be serving “higher” masters – I wonder if there are some who want the Government’s new laws around employment relations exposed and tested prior to the General Election to swing voters away from seeing these changes as good for workers and NZ as a whole. Part of that whole “the-unions-are-growing/the-sky-is-falling” palaver that I find so irritating. I think that an institution that is part of the state, albeit at arms length, would be an excellent place to pursue this agenda – the general public are less likely to have sympathy for a corporate. And of course there are few private sector industries with enough union members to contemplate a MECA.

Anyone know if McCutcheon has any political affiliations?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

yet another stupid internet quiz

but not quite too stupid to post the results of:

You Belong in 1968

If you scored...
1950 - 1959: You're fun loving, romantic, and more than a little innocent. See you at the drive in!
1960 - 1969: You are a free spirit with a huge heart. Love, peace, and happiness rule - oh, and drugs too.
1970 - 1979: Bold and brash, you take life by the horns. Whether you're partying or protesting, you give it your all!
1980 - 1989: Wild, over the top, and just a little bit cheesy. You're colorful at night - and successful during the day.
1990 - 1999: With you anything goes! You're grunge one day, ghetto fabulous the next. It's all good!

And while you're at it - this one is actually quite funny (I got klan white the first time I tried it):

What Rejected Crayon Are You?

could do better

Idiot/Savant has posted at No Right Turn about the leftness (or otherwise) of Labour, following on from the discussion that has exploded in response to the post detailing my bitterness at Labour being seen as "left."

IS identifies a number of areas where Labour could do better and I wanted to just touch on one of them (although I do agree with the others he raises too).

Universal student allowances - simple idea, simple execution, big surplus, lots of public support (2002 NZUSA research shows 80% of New Zealanders support a universal student allowance and that support for it had increased from 2000 results), and a good progressive policy. So what's the problem?

Yes, I realise that Labour has made allowances available to more students by raising the parental income threshold. However that is really just tinkering. What I'm looking for is a plan, even one that involves phasing in. For example, Labour could roll up its sleeves and say they'll lower the age for parental means-testing to 22 in 2006, 20 in 2007, 28 in 2008 and get rid of it altogether in 2009.

Labour Party members would certainly support such a plan, and, as has been pointed out over in IS's threads, so would many middle class voters in the centre. So the stumbling block must be Caucus (and I note the comments about Phil Goff's continued presence at No Right Turn - very good point indeed).

Realistically the ever increasing problem of student debt cannot be addressed until students no longer have to borrow to eat. Until a universal allowance is available, and tertiary fees are reduced to an amount that could be saved over summer or abolished altogether (my preference), the Student Loan Scheme will remain a necessary evil.

when is a job not a "real" job

Via Bhatnagar I stumbled across Kerry O'Connor's blog Doing It Right.

Of course it is rightwing and of course I don't agree with most of her posts (if any). I'm sure she won't find much that ticks her boxes here either.

But one thing did jump out at me which got my goat a bit. In her post about how socialists raise her blood pressure she says the following:

"...blood pressure is high because these people are morons who have never has a REAL job (a job in a union is not a job - it is biding time). Therefore, they have no perspective in life apart from the narrow manhole that they look out from."
Now I have a union job, my third union job in fact. As you might expect, I know rather a lot of unionists (even some I disagree with strongly in the arena of politics). And there are very very very few who I consider are "biding time".

I'm not quite sure what Kerry means by this - I would dearly like to know. What are we waiting for? My guess is that Kerry thinks we are all hanging on to become Labour MPs. It's worth noting that there are 100s of unionists around (and that's just the paid ones, there are many many more unpaid union activists who are members). They have divergent political views, from each other, from their unions, and definitely from the Labour Party.

Unionists are like any other workers - some embrace their job and work hard at it. A few coast.

Of all the groups of political types I have met in my short years of activism the ones who are most deserving of the label "biding time" are in fact student politicians. In fact the very nature of being a student involves a large amount of time spent biding, waiting to become what you are learning about. Nothing shameful in that, but I really do think perhaps Kerry should be careful where she throws her "not a real job" stones...

spam for Africa

Most of the voluminous spam I get just gets deleted without much attention. I'm really looking forward to getting a "proper" email address sometime later this year, with a provider who has anti-spam filters in place before it gets to me. My hotmail address gets far less spam than my freenet address, even though it is the hotmail one I use for internet stuff most of the time. Go figure.

But once in a while something jumps out at me that is a little bizarre. Earlier this year I posted what I consider the Perfect Spam. And now I have an email from none other than the Future King of England (see below).

Think I might just follow this one up (in the manner of Mr Bhatnagar)...

Dear Friend,

My name is CHARLES WINDSOR, I am the credit Control manager in a bank here in United Kingdom. I am contacting you of a business transfer, of a huge sum of money from a deceased account. Though I know that a transaction of this magnitude will make any one apprehensive and worried, but I am assuring you that everything has been taken care off, and all will be well at the end of the day. I decided to contact you due to the urgency of this transaction.

I am the account officer of Mrs. Beverly Grant who died along with her husband and other passengers on board with egyptian airline 990 in 31st of oct, 1999. Since her death, none of her next-of-kin have come for claim for this Money, because none of the relations knows that she has an account in our Bank. (May her soul rest in peace). We cannot release ! the fund from her account unless someone applies for claim as the next-of-kin to the deceased as indicated in our banking guidelines. Upon this discovery, I now seek your permission to have you stand as a next of kin to the deceased, as all documentations will be carefully worked out by me for the funds (US$15,000,000.00) to be released in your favor as the beneficiary's next of kin.

Because after four years the money will be called back to the bank treasury as unclaimed bills and the money will be shared among the directors of the bank, so it is on this note I decided to seek for whom his/her name shall be used as the next of kin/beneficiary to this funds rather than allow the bank directors to share this money among themselves at the end of the year.
It may interest you to know that we have secured from the probate an order of Mandamus t! o locate any of the deceased beneficiaries. Please acknowledge the Rec eipt of this message in acceptance of our mutual business, endeavorto furnish me with this following information if you are interested.

1. Direct Telephone and fax numbers. For our personal contact and mutual trust in each other. Upon your acceptance I shall send you a copy of my International passport or driver's license for more confidentiality and trust. I shall be compensating you with 35% of the total money on
Final conclusion of this project for your assistance, while the balance 60% Shall be for me for investment purposes and the remaining 5% shall be for expenditure that mightbe incured during the transaction.

Because I intend to retire after the conclusion of this transaction. If this proposal is acceptable by you, please endeavor to contact me immediately.

Do not take undue advantage of the trust I have bestowed in you, I await for your urgent mail to my personal email address:


Thursday, March 24, 2005

what other theories?

Interesting debate on Nat Rad today between a full-on Creationist from Answers In Genesis and a researcher who is studying the links between human and chimp DNA.

I was thinking about this whole approach that the Bible is a scientific document. This was the claim of the Answers In Genesis guy, although he didn't use those exact words. He argued that the idea of God creating everything in six days was a scientific theory (well he said it was scientific fact actually) and that the Great Flood could explain all the fossils (rather than a God who is trying to deceive us by planting the fossils).

So science in every other area has advanced hugely in the last 2000 years (and there are many discoveries still to come), but regarding this one small part of our knowledge, where we come from, it was worked out correctly all those years ago?

But what really got me was the way that the Creationist talked about merely wanting "alternative theories" about our origins to be taught in schools. In his view evolution is one theory and his is another. Intelligent design, it was agreed by both the Answers in Genesis man and the pro-evolution guy, could be seen as a halfway house (although I'm not sure about that, but that's another post, about dialectics).

So what are the other alternative theories? Basically there is only creationism. Many see the intelligent design theory as creationism in drag (Xavier has posted some great stuff on this over at About Town). What the creationists are talking about is teaching one alternative theory only, their one. They aren't lobbying to include the creation myths of any other cultures as if they were science. In fact no one's even talking about any other theories.

Really what this is about is getting more religion into schools. Next we'll be taking dietary advice from the Bible too.

Monday, March 21, 2005

a surfeit of bitterness

Ordinarily I keep my bitter feelings towards Labour under my hat. But tonight for some reason they are all welling up and overcoming me a little bit. Everything I read or write is tinged with an underlying anger at Labour and the distance between what it is and what it ought to be.

It's nothing personal that has happened, or anything to do with the Labour list particularly, perhaps it's just the realisation that Labour is probably going to get back in and the Greens are probably not going to be big enough to have a strong influence. I don't want National but I don't really want Labour either.

Few Labour members even seem aware of their roots - many of those who are see those socialist tendencies as radical madness that could never be implemented in the modern world.

I just find the whole concept that the Labour Party is somehow the Left so depressing. Sure there are (IMHO misguided but well-meaning) individuals in Labour who are genuinely left of centre. But the Party itself? Even those who argue their policy is leftish must be feeling secretly uncomfortable about the massive gap between party policy and what the caucus implement.

It's that old slogan all over again - I'd rather have a revolution than a Labour Government.


polly poll - bites

Labour's lead looks quite solid - if National are still this far behind in a couple of months supporters are going to be looking to UF and NZF instead to try to moderate Labour (hah hah, like they need much moderation, but anyway).

Interesting to see Act blip up a little - is this just due to the relatively huge amount of coverage lately? Are people feeling sorry for them? Now that the Banksmoon is over what will they do next?

Good to see the Greens on 5% - hopefully the only way is up for them (although I don't think they're going to get near 10% unless something externally fortuitous for them happens).

who pays the carers in a free market world?

I've been thinking about this a fair bit lately - the caring professions seem to often be underpaid, unrecognised; work that is invisible.

Take an elderly man who has recently lost his wife and broken his arm, all in the space of a few days, and is totally lost in the world of cooking, cleaning and the like. Even if he was capable he lacks the use of his right arm, making driving an impossibility at least until he heals (and old bones take so long to knit). Currently ACC will provide him with Meals on Wheels and also help out by paying for some Home Help to be employed. Much more could be done, but at least this is a start.

But under a (more) right wing Government this kind of aid would be gone (I'm sure there are those in Labour who would like to get rid of it too). Who would do the caring? How would they survive in a world where two incomes (plus) are needed for a family to get by?

In NZ's recent past, when we have shifted towards a free market, caregivers' wages have fallen, in real terms, and there has certainly been a continuation of the hidden nature of caring work, ie done by family members (often women) in their "spare" time or in lieu of paid employment.

I am genuinely interested to know how right wingers see caring happening in a truly free market. Comments please folks.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

she devil II

well here's an example from Kiwi Pundit...

Totalitarian witch

(following up from this post I made a while back)

naming daddy II

Further to my earlier post about the difficulty of meeting the IRD's strictures about naming the father when applying for the DPB, I have heard through the grapevine that the case I talked about is by no means a one-off and that community lawyers are often facing this situation.

Apparently the only course of action left to women with this problem is to seek a Paternity Order against the father and force a DNA test (which of course would be nigh impossible to enforce if the father is now overseas). And even then it is highly unlikely the $22 (soon to be $28) cut would be backdated.

I'm sure this will sooth Muriel Newman's discomfit slightly but frankly it disgusts me.

Monday, March 14, 2005

a public service announcement

It’s become clear to me in recent times that there is a lot of assumed wedding knowledge that just isn’t being passed on to members of my generation, in particular the young men. To redress this I have penned the below for your edification, with help from a number of newly married or about to be married persons.

1. RSVPs
a - RSVP as soon as you know whether you can come or not.
This means before the RSVP date – it is a “deadline not a guideline.” Yes they want you to come, but if you can't they would probably like to invite someone in your place (and no you don’t get to pick who your replacement is).

b - Kindly respond with the required information and to the person nominated on the invite or accompanying information. Telling a mutual friend/family member that you are coming is not an RSVP it is a PITA (pain in the arse).

c - Only those named on the invite are invited. If they wanted your child/partner to come then they would say so. When it comes to guest lists they will generally have a good (ie financial or venue size) reason for leaving people off so please give them the benefit of the doubt. Many couples exclude children from their weddings these days, or restrict them to the ceremony only.

d – Stick to what you RSVPed. If you said you couldn’t come don’t turn up on the day and if you said you would come then please do. Not turning up is almost the most rude thing you can do, let alone the waste of money (sometimes as much as $100 a head) for the couple or their family. Reasons to not turn up when you said you would are basically limited to the sudden illness (or death) of yourself or a close loved one. If you can’t turn up at the last minute do let the relevant person know – they may have someone else they would like to include as it will almost certainly be too late for them to tell the caterers and thus save the dosh.

e – If you can’t come a small explanation is nice rather than a bald “no”.

2. Queries
a - Read any information you have been sent about the wedding before bugging the bride or groom with questions. Trust me they are pretty busy and they have probably put a lot of effort into the information accompanying the invite, eg where to stay, what to wear, gift registries etc.

b - Don't moan to the couple about things - that's what your friends are for. The bride especially will be hassled by their family extensively without you sticking your oar in.

3. Gifts
a – It is generally considered rude to attend a wedding “empty handed”
unless the couple have indicated that is ok. Even a thoughtful card can go a long way to showing that you appreciated the invite, if a present is not achievable. Small presents are fine too – gift registers usually have a wide price range to recognise this.

b – Gift registers are there for your convenience – they help you to pick something and everything on the list is something the couple want and like. Don’t think that gifts from the register will not be cherished or considered special, as they are often strongly coveted by the couple no matter how dull you think the item in question is.

4. On the day
a - Respect the dress code.
A few rules that people ought to know but tend not to:
- If you aren't sure if jeans and/or jandals are acceptable they aren't.
- Don't wear white - for women this means no white dresses (unless you want people to assume that you are the bride or a mean cow trying to detract from the bride) for men no white suits. Obviously a white skirt and coloured top (women) or a white shirt (men) is fine.
- If you know the bride (or groom) are wearing a different colour from the norm try not to wear that either (and still don't wear white).

b – Turn up on time or early. Ever tried sneaking into a wedding ceremony once it’s already started? Not a good look.

c – Don’t try to upstage the couple – it’s their day really. Things like grabbing the mike during the speeches to announce your own engagement are not really on, save it til the brunch the next day.

d – Please don’t rearrange the seating cards. Seating plans are a work of art that take hours. There will be a good reason why you are seated where you are and you can mingle and shift around to your heart’s content after the main meal.

e – Do congratulate the couple at some point after the conclusion of the ceremony, especially if you intend to leave the reception early. Ignoring them entirely is not only anti-social it’s also quite bizarre.

How does all this apply to civil unions? Well we won’t really know yet but I suspect some civil unions will be run along similar lines to weddings whilst others will be very casual. Best to err on the side of caution imho.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

naming daddy - not as easy as Muriel makes it sound?

I've recently heard about a case where a young woman ended up pregnant due to a contraceptive failure and the father has returned to his home country.

She applied for the DPB after the birth and was told she would be docked $22 a week unless she named the father.

She named the father and supplied his overseas contact details.

She was told that this isn't enough as the father is not on the birth certificate and he has to sign a form agreeing that he is in fact the father. Of course he refuses to sign.

As far as IRD are concerned this is the end of the story; by their rules she has not in fact named the father and thus does not get the $22 (which will soon to increase to $28). She and her family are challenging this ruling, so watch this space.

Now I have no idea if this is a one off case caused by a miserly official or general policy, but it certainly does provide a possible explanation for why some women aren't naming the father - they actually are but the fathers are not consenting to the process.

Food for thought.

Banks, Act, Tamaki, National, etc

Lots of speculation about Banks running for Act in Tamaki. Rumours about Pakuranga are drying up. Interesting though that people seem to think Banks could win Tamaki easily, even without National help. I'm having flashbacks to Waitakere 2002 myself.

Sagey reckons that Tamaki voters will leap at the chance to BOGOF. My experience in Waitakere was that this argument didn't actually hold much sway with the locals. They didn't seem to understand that if they elected Laila Harre they would also get Lynne Pillay, no matter how much we beat them over the head with it. We had (reliable) polls that showed Laila could win the seat too, but when Labour got their (union) muscle out in the last two weeks, to keep the seat and punish the Alliance, it was all over red rover.

But there are some differences between 2005 Tamaki and 2002 Waitakere. Much of the conflict between Auckland activists in Labour and the Alliance dates back to the NLP split - that feeling of betrayal that pervades the lefties who stayed with Labour has created problems even for me, despite the fact I wasn't around at the time. There were definitely leading activists (and MPs) who were keen to crush the Alliance in 2002, even though Anderton was gone by then.

Act and National don't have this history. However there is considerable conflict between party members at all levels. The current public bickering isn't helping. They still look like rivals, not complementary partners, and they are running out of time to change their approach...

Friday, March 11, 2005

i love the smell of asphalt in the morning - Vietnam III

The new entrance to the ruins currently under construction and smelling like the inside of a concrete mixer, My Son, Central Vietnam

After HCMC it was a short flight to Hue, a night there, a morning on the back of a motorbike doing a mad tour around the surrounding countryside, (rice paddies, small villages, Ho's house, temples, you get the idea). I had never been on a motorbike that was moving before so it was quite a new experience. Not the totally terrifying trip I had expected after the traffic chaos I observed in HCMC - but then Hue is much smaller and there was lots to distract me from the road.

The countryside is quite beautiful - surprisingly similar to driving through the Waikato but with rice paddies instead of cows grazing and of course villages in sync with the developing world rather than the developed. It's a strange juxtaposition - dirt roads, houses largely on one or two levels, markets in the middle of the streets, animal carcasses being cut up in front of you, then these fantastic multi-levelled temples and pagodas that were built at a time well before NZ even had concrete or many stone buildings.

Our last stop on the motorbike tour was the serenest spot - a Buddhist temple that is still in use. A monk, wearing a robe over his Western clothes and exhibiting either an Irish or American accent (The Man In The Comfy Chair and I were at odds over its exact origin), asked us if we would like to stay for lunch. By this stage I was in overload from all the sights and smells of the day - for some reason I was about to faint and couldn't actually take in anything new verbally. So TMITCC and the guide kept walking around and I had a little sit down to get my equilibrium back. The feeling of peace was pervasive and just what was needed.

We couldn't stay for lunch though as we had to hop on a bus and drive for three hours to a town near the coast called Hoi An, our base for the next few days. We slept for much of the ride, but stopped briefly at the top of a mountain to allow people to force postcards upon us (ostensibly a toilet stop). It was quite odd to see several generations of bunkers which had protected the pass - French and American - plus a big monument to the Socialist Republic.

Hoi An was probably the highlight of the whole trip for me - it was cooler than HCMC, so not absurdly sweaty but still very hot. It was small and delightful to walk around, and you didn't really run the risk of being killed by an insane motorcyclist or car driver.

Much of the city has been "preserved" i.e. left in the state that it was in when they decided to preserve it. Don't ask me when but it seems it was a while ago. This means a lovely quaint CBD, all single level, and the buildings are lit up quite magically at night. At times motorized transport is also banned from the centre of town, which is nice. Lots of Westerners too, as it is something of a tourist mecca, but everywhere we went in Vietnam, possibly with the exception of a few restaurants and the Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi, non-Vietnamese were definitely in the minority. Even at places like My Son (the picture is of the new asphalt being laid in front of the entrance to this World Heritage Area) there were a large number of Vietnamese visitors, (re)discovering their own history.

We went out to My Son for a tour of the Cham ruins and again I was struck by the technological advances made so early on, in particular the absolutely immense number of uniform bricks. I don't have the first idea what it takes to create a brick, but to make them in this quantity, and of a quality that has lasted centuries not only intact but also in place (largely without mortar) is astounding. Wonder if they had Leaky Building Syndrome?

A 5km bicycle ride from Hoi An is a nice beach called Cua Dai - we went there twice and the locals obviously thought we were mad for actually swimming. Apparently they just don't really do swimming in the sea, it's not a fear thing, just not part of their culture - they go in up to their knees and paddle for a few minutes, although we did see a few men go in properly and sort of wash themselves quickly before getting out.

We ate pineapple on the beach after an interesting conversation with a woman who I tried to tell about the hole in the ozone layer over NZ but I don't think I was really making a connection. Especially as I later worked out that rather than asking me about my "top" (I was wearing a bikini and was white as) she had asked me about my job. Oops. Attempts to explain "trade unionist" had proved futile in discussions with other locals though, so it was probably best to ignore the question and talk about something else anyway.

The food was one of the best things about Hoi An - my favourite meal was local speciality cao lau and a lassi to drink from Cafe Bobo on the main drag. I am going to search out a recipe for this stuff, it was just divine! We also had breakfast at a French style cafe with croissants and real hot chocolate (and many kids trying to sell us postcards and bracelets) and excellent Indian for dinner one night (seemed reasonably authentic, or at least as authentic as Kiwi Indian restaurants are).

We hired a car with driver to get us to the airport at Danang, an hour away, and I was quite sad to leave Hoi An. Quite apprehensive that the rest of the trip wouldn't be as good.


Tremain sums up the Peters-Peron case nicely

Not usually a big fan of Tremain, but this a good 'un.

Stuff cartoon: Solving the case

Thursday, March 10, 2005

he's a party person

Well I was away, from NZ and from the internet, when the news about the schism between Matt McCarten and the Maori Party broke. It's taken me a while to get up to speed with the goss on it - I've been back since Sunday arvo and it still isn't making much sense despite my numerous sources (none of whom are McCarten himself).

What I do understand:
1. McCarten was working on a second party whilst being Campaign Manager for the Maori Party. The Maori Party wouldn't put up with that. (Interesting that they were fine with him working on their party whilst still being Leader of the Alliance though, isn't it?).

2. Also there were allegations reported in the Herald about one of the nominees to stand as Maori Party candidate against Parekura Horomia having access to a party membership list when none of the other nominees did. This bit is quite confused as the nominee who seemed to have complained to McCarten later forced the Herald to retract most of their story. McCarten left his position with the Maori Party during a conference call the day after the original of the Herald story (prior to retractions) was published. (Of course the article and retraction aren't in the online Herald and as I was out of the country at the time I have only heard about them second hand).

So we have two possible reasons why McCarten left the Maori Party:
A. He preferred to work on the New Party
B. He was caught doing something dodgy in regard to internal party stuff

What I don't understand is what the New Party is. McCarten has a lot of friendly media contacts, and mentions of him in MSM are usually quite positive, and yet his absence has been conspicuous on both the issue of his leaving the Maori Party and the new party. My experience of McCarten was that he loved being a rent-a-quote guy, so the lack of talk is fascinating.

What we know about the New Party:
1. The Herald refers to it as "a new blue-collar political movement likely to contest this year's election" and "the yet-to-be-launched political party Aotearoa New Zealand" and also said that McCarten "said discussions were still being held about the formation of the party but there was a groundswell of support for a party that represented the country's 'growing poor.' " (Note that only the words "growing poor" were in quotation marks in the Herald article - McCarten didn't give any other quotes except those two words.)
2. However Stuff says "the party would represent blue collar workers but supporters had not yet decided if candidates would stand for this year's election." It seems to have had quite a lot of contact with McCarten, including quotes in response to negative comments from Tamihere and Rod Donald, although McCarten has a column with the Herald on Sunday (not the Sunday Star Times competitor that is from the same publishers as Stuff).
3. McCarten has had close links with Socialist Worker (previously known as SWO, they have recently dropped the O) through Unite Auckland City and RAM. Socialist Worker are currently revamping their organisation around their paper which they have renamed Unity (oh the irony) and are intending to turn into a nationwide weekly.
4. As the party hasn't been registered yet it is now ineligible for broadcasting funding as you had to be registered by mid February to qualify - bit of a handicap and one that McCarten will be very aware of.
5. There was an "Aotearoa New Zealand Party" registered in the mid 90s but it has since been crossed off the Electoral Commission register.

Other relevant gossip:
- I have heard that Unite Auckland City had to move offices recently due to low finances, suggesting McCarten doesn't have a steady flow of financial support for his union activities. Seems unlikely in that situation that he could get the readies from his usual backers for a new political party, especially when there are rather a large number of other electoral options for those people. (I also heard that Unite is sharing their new office with the Maori Party!?! The office is in the same building as ASTE and the PPTA)
- McCarten was observed asking old comrades in the Alliance (some current members, some ex-members, not me) about joining an unnamed new party at Bill Anderson's funeral.
- I have also heard the name the Red Party being bandied about in relation to McCarten, some months ago.
- One of my sources asked McCarten's partner Cathy Casey if he was starting a new party and her reply was allegedly "pass".
- Oh and by the way McCarten is in fact still a member of the Alliance, although membership renewals are currently happening so he may not renew. He certainly hasn't resigned to date. His comments in the Stuff article suggest he never actually joined the Maori Party.

So some questions:
Is the new party to be totally McCarten centred, as Bhatnagar suggests?

Will the Maori Party miss his skills, as DPF claims, or be relieved to not have to worry about his internal hustling and expensive tastes?

Why was he unhappy with the Maori Party as an electoral vehicle? It would have been a good chance for him to get back into the big parliamentary expense accounts I would have thought. (oh I know, I'm such a bitch) (and as an aside, why is their policy taking so long to come out? wasn't it supposed to come out in February?)

Does the New Party have anything to do with the late Bill Anderson's party SPA (Socialist Party of Aotearoa)? Allegedly they have some dosh. But they are not registered with the Electoral Commission.

Is there in fact a New Party at all? Perhaps he was pushed from the Maori Party before he was quite ready to jump? Is McCarten simply a serial party hopper, as Sagey proclaims? Except this time he missed the waka...

The Green Party is looking for an Auckland Campaign Manager - is this where McCarten will pop up next? (My sources say definitely not) Especially as Rod Donald said on Stuff:
"Having been one of the main protagonists in the Alliance split with Jim
Anderton, and then going off and helping establish the Maori Party at a time
he was leader of the remnants of the Alliance Party, and now deserting the
Maori Party to form this party he's not going to engender a lot of
confidence on the part of voters that he's got stickability."

All very interesting. Comments or fresh goss much appreciated.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

the city which never stops honking - Vietnam II

Yep it's the most beautiful building in town and no you can't go inside, The People's Committee Building, Ho Chi Minh City

We spent two night in HCMC in the end - we only meant to stay for one but there was a bit of a stuff up by the hotel with an earlier flight booked so we couldn't go to the beach at Mui Ne in the end. The first night we stayed in a mini-hotel in the Dong Khai area then the second night in the heart of backpacker country on the other side of the CBD. We wandered around during the day, and didn't get pickpocketed the entire time, even in the notorious market which appeared to sell pretty much anything you would ever want to buy that was under the size of a puter monitor. The Man In The Comfy Chair was particularly taken with the little Vietnamese drip coffee thingbos - sort of like a one cup filter coffee, made from steel or aluminium they sit on top of your cup (or frequently glass) and the coffee that results is apparently strong and excellent. Just don't ask for a white coffee - you'll get condensed milk already in the cup, urgh.

I kept getting the impression that the Vietnamese are a people living amongst their own ruins. Not in the sense that their current civilisation is crumbling, but the fact that you turn a corner and there's a temple and it might have only been there five years (I was surprised by very aged buildings which were built in the late 90s or even more recently) or it might pre-date Uncle Ho or even the French. And then there's the constant building going on - often it was hard to tell if they were putting something up or tearing it down. After a while I gave up trying to guess. It reminded me of what someone told me was the "purpose" of men (as distinct from women) in my early years at varsity - Build and Destroy.

It was strange being around so much history. There were public advertisements on billboards all over the place with obviously handpainted pictures featuring happy workers, soldiers, mothers, all doing something to further the republic no doubt. The wording was always in Vietnamese, so I have no idea what they were actually talking about. We had arrived not long after the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Socialist Party so there were tons of red flags with yellow stars and banners proclaiming this (or at least I think they were - anything that refered to 3.2 I assumed related). Being a country in which so much has happened there seemed to be anniversaries to commemorate something every few days - quite a change from little ol' new New Zealand.

Almost as ubiquitous as the communist style painted billboards were the public service announcements regarding AIDS. Reasonably graphic pictures, handpainted again, showed skulls and needles to get the message across. They didn't seem to refer to any safe sex message, but again I couldn't read the words so don't know. Certainly didn't see any pictures of condoms though.

I'm not sure how much of a threat AIDS is to the Vietnamese but expiring from traffic fume overload has got to be a major source of health problems - many people riding about town on their motorcycles or bicycles wore little masks hooked over their ears to cover their mouths and I was very tempted to get one. At first we thought it might be the Bird Flu thing, but once we'd been on the streets for five minutes we understood - petrol is of variable octane and clearly mufflers were not of the highest quality - all those people, all those motorbikes, create a hell of a lot of bad smelly air. Pity 0800 SMOKEY isn't a free call from Vietnam.


she devil

I've been really struck, since joining the blogoverse, with the venom right wing bloggers reserve for the new Speaker, Margaret Wilson. I've been musing on it a bit and chatting to a few people about it and the level of hatred for her really does seem to be higher than for any other Labour MP, even Clark, and I haven't observed a similar universal vehemence towards a right wing MP from the lefties (nominations for this dubious honour in the comments please).

So the following reasons why the right hate Margaret so much, in combination in my humble opinion:

- she's not "clubbable" - meaning, like many women, she can't get into the Boys' Club, and she doesn't seem to want to either. not being interested in being "friends after 6pm" does seem to really piss some men off.

- she's, for want of a better word, flawless - unlike many other Labour Ministers she hasn't had a major culpable stuffup - no Paintergate, no drink driving, etc. I think many people need to see a bit of imperfection, a touch of corruption, to identify with many politicians - those with untarnished integrity tend to inspire dislike as they seem to uphold a standard others don't think they can meet. I think being Speaker will give people more exposure to Wilson as a human being which may dent some of the venom.

- she was behind one of the big leftwing changes (if i was in a grumpy mood i would write one of the only leftwing changes) this Government has made, the repeal of the ECA and passing of the ERA.

i don't think any of the reasons does it on their own. For the record I have never met Wilson but from what i hear of her i have quite a bit of time for her.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

the right hand side of the road stupid - Vietnam I

Those motorcycles will kill you dead sunshine, Ho Chi Minh City.

i didn't know i was going to Vietnam until the night before. Surprises are always nice. I was in Singapore in a comfy hotel when I found out and I must say I was quite thrilled at the prospect.

But i wasn't prepared for the huge cultural shock that is Ho Chi Minh City. We flew in, got picked off by a dodgy taxi driver who insisted on taking us to several other hotels ("very good, very nice, you stay here") before charging us what we later found out was a ridiculous amount (although v cheap by Auckland standards) for the privilege of the tiki tour.

Because I didn't know we were going to Vietnam my lack of understanding was mammoth. No language, no cultural concepts, no history beyond that there was a war at some point, no grasp of the currency or how it compared to NZ dollars, no idea what to expect. The first day and night were a blur of heat, sweat, incomprehensible chattering, motorbikes and bicycles and honking horns, and a near inescapable press of humanity.

And then I suddenly got it - this was a foreign country, miles outside any of my previous travelling experiences (limited to Westernised destinations visited with one or both parents many years ago). I treated the Lonely Planet as mybible for a little while, until I could get my head around the fact that of course everyone treated me like a foreigner - I was bloody obvious and I might as well stop trying to pretend.

We visited lots of tourist traps but also spent a lot of time just walking around, adjusting. At the War Remnants Museum I was struck by the similarities with the current war in Iraq - many of the images were just too harrowing to examine in detail, soft leftie that I am, and I wondered if the retreat from endorsement will be similar a few decades after Iraq and even Afghanistan. We had to leave the museum early as every major institution closes for at least an hour over lunch.

Lunch is a big deal. We had local food for lunch pretty much everyday - it was yummy and it was cheap and if I had to pick my favourite thing about Vietnam it would be the food, hands down. The Vietnamese food itself is great, and then there's the strong French influence especially in the North and the ice cream, oh the ice cream! The Americans introduced it during the American War (as they call it over there) and the Vietnamese went mad for it - a cafe chain unfortunately named Fanny produces the most delicious ice cream concoctions I have ever had. And I'm no slouch in the ice cream tasting department, let me tell you.

We took virtually every form of transport in Vietnam except helicopter and I felt least safest in a car. In fact I stopped looking at the traffic when in taxis and just stared at the houses beyond it all, it was far too worrying. Apparently Vietnam has one of the highest road tolls in the world, someone said something like 40,000 people a year. Bit of a far cry from the orderly driving in Singapore (where they also drive on the right, by which I mean the left, side of the road).

I can see now why Asian motorists have so many problems when they first start driving in NZ, wildly extrapolating from my experience in only one Asian country. Beeping means something completely different - it was like there was a language of honking, one way would mean, "I am behind you and want to pass, get out of the damn way". Another beep would mean "what are you doing you crazy arse, i know i'm on the wrong side of the road but you really ought to move immediately." Overtaking involved driving constantly in the lane closest to the centre-line and beeping at the person in front to move right (away from the centre) until they did, or just casually crossing the centre-line whenever the traffic on the other side seemed weak willed enough to bully aside.

Needless to say we didn't drive ourselves at any point of the journey. Cyclos were great, everyone should have one, but I tell you the strength required to push one along must be phenomenal. Didn't see any fat cyclo drivers. In fact I don't think I saw any fat Vietnamese at all. Lots of dead animals though - birds (not so much in the South - we didn't eat any the whole time and there was heat scanning at one airport to pick out people who might have Bird Flu) and pigs mostly - I don't think I'd ever seen a whole dead pig before but now it just seems so blase. Not sure I still want to eat them though.


Monday, March 07, 2005

that time of year part IV - Feb progress report

Further accountability, carrying on from my Jan Progress Report on my New Year's Resolutions. Better late than never, etc.

1. Get a new job in the area I want to work in - as reported at the end of Jan, this is completed. I start next Monday - quite excited and a bit daunted. Haven't found any roller skates yet, but have been a bit too busy to look. Any leads much appreciated.

2. Exercise more - certainly did a lot of exercise over the last two weeks - walking lots and lots and lots, also some cycling and swimming. Looking forward to starting tennis back up again on Wednesday night and also starting swimming at the local pool once my sunburn has gone down enough. Definitely feeling fit and certainly my arms look toned, not sure about the rest of me.

3. Think positive - first measure about to be reactivated due to being back in the country. Second measure underway and is working when i remember. Overall attempts to think positive have been much more successful since i knocked the bugger off in February.

4. Resist over-committing - working well so far, but has been easy to say I couldn't do anything until i was back from overseas. Now i'm back the challenge is to come up with another excuse ;-)

5. Get at least one stamp in my shiny unused passport - Wohoooo! Can tick this one off too - managed to go to three countries in the last two weeks - Singapore (not sure if that counts), Vietnam and Indonesia. Having a mini-break in June, so will investigate cheap overseas options (read: Australia) for that but will probably stay in NZ. Travelling was great and am really hanging out for a mini OE through Europe next year. My sister and her family gave us a Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring guide and I started thumbing through it basically as soon as we got back yesterday.

6. Finish the kitchen - have still done absolutely nothing. But feeling much more motivated after coming home to a house that seems much shabbier than I remembered.

7. Get up to date with my Alliance projects - hoping to knock another big bastard off this week, as I'm not working. Plus I need to draw up a plan for the other big job I want to get done. There is just so much to catch up on after a month of not being able to do anything substantial. Urgh.

So all in all not bad - two resolutions completely done and have managed to continue with the harder ones since the start of the year (2, 3 and 4).