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

Friday, November 25, 2005

lighting up

Depressingly often I encounter people who can't stand it when someone else has something they don't, even if they have more themselves. Upper Tax Bracketers who seem to harbour some bizarre envy of beneficiaries are a good example.

It's like there are two people standing in the dark, and then one of them lights a candle. Rather than being glad for the light, the one without the candle would rather blow the flame out so they were both in darkness.

I'd rather go and get them another candle so they had one each.

This is a rather cryptic introduction to one of the troublesome aspects of unionism. When workers who do Job A are paid more than workers in Job B (both jobs being comparable, eg police and nurses) some people would prefer that everyone come down to Job B's level. They are the ones who would rather stand in the dark.

I'm still working on how to move these people so that they are a bit more candle happy. Thoughts and comments welcome.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

you're a wizard, harry

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire started today. I'm hanging out to see it on Monday, but there's a whole lot of week yet to go. Keeping my eyes on the prize though - this week has been the hardest I've worked since AUSA days.

Mr Stupid could well be in attendance on Monday night, so I recommend that anyone who hasn't checked out his blog (Stupid Internet Name) yet do so, so that I can nag him about his hits. After all it only took me approx a year to strongarm him into getting a blog.

saying yes

Maia has two fantastic posts on rape and consent, which deserve the widest possible audience (especially amongst male readers).

No explores some recent research from the UK which shows some very disturbing views about rape, which basically show that a significant portion of those surveyed agreed that there were situations in which women ask for rape. It brought to mind for me the scrap between Cathy and Ruth over similar issues a while back, and I hope that Cathy will read Maia's post.

This Is Not What Yes Looks Like asks why we put the responsibility on the woman to say no rather than on the man to ask for a yes.

I wanted to draw attention to these posts but also add a few thoughts of my own. Sometimes women are their own worst enemies in these matters because we share some of the views of men - some of us think, deep down, that there are situations in which women as for rape, and that it is the woman's responsibility to make it clear that she doesn't want sex, and in holding these opinions we do ourselves no favours. I too have been guilty of less than sisterly thoughts in the past (probably back when I also thought that politics should stay out of sport and actually National would be the better party to have in power, ie a very long time ago) and it's through involvement with staunch and on to it women like Maia that I have come to realise my past error.

We need to take responsibility, that's true. But what we should take responsibility for is in fact each other. When we see someone else in a situation that we're not sure they want to be in, we need to just check-in with them, give them an out. When we are getting somewhat intimately acquainted with another person and we're not sure they are in to it we should ask - none of this crap about ruining the mood, if you're both into it a little checking isn't going to dampen things down (in fact it could serve as a prod to your partner to show you just how keen they are).

It seems to me that this inability to communicate with others about impending sex is part of a larger problem about sex still being viewed as dirty and taboo. You don't ask because sex is not something to be verbalised, just something to be experienced, preferably furtively, with the lights off, and as many clothes on as possible.

But that's a totally Victorian attitude that doesn't, and shouldn't, reflect reality. If we can change our attitude to sex I fervently hope that we can also change our attitude to rape - and ultimately see sex as something women can positively choose to take part in (or not), rather than passively put up with happening to them (or indeed not willingly consent to at all).

only one logical conclusion

Both Mr Carter and Ms Von Trapp have recently blogged about their tonsilitis.

Maria has also recently posted that she is out of Auckland for some time, in "Palmerston North". Meanwhile, Jordan has been rather light on the posting...

I say no more. Readers can draw their own conclusions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

industrial rash - some pics

The SuperSizeMyPay campaign not only has a gallery of cool snaps from today's strike at Starbucks on K Rd, it also has some excellent ways that you can show your support for Starbucks workers, and indeed other low paid workers. Just have a look at their site, on the right hand side bar.

Ok too tired to post more coherently than that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

industrial rash

Two rather unlikely groups of workers are taking industrial action in the next week or so:

- Starbucks workers - over pay and security of employment (Unite, which covers the workers didn't seem to have anything up yet)

- Kindergarten teachers - over diversification (massive changes to hours of contact time with children both per year and per week) and associated issues (NZEI, their union, has info here)

Just thought you ought to know.

union myths - #3 unions are just like businesses

When the Exclusive Brethren came up in the election campaign, as shadowy distributors of Right-favouring leaflets, there were a lot of accusations that unions were just the same. There seems to be a perception that unions act like businesses, but in actual fact the nature of them is completely different.

Unions are democratic organisations, and union members have ultimate control over their funds, policy and leadership. Quite different from a business where most of the people involved in it (customers, clients and workers) have no say at all.

For a union to commit money to a political campaign the expenditure will need to be endorsed by the elected leadership, be that a National Executive, a National Secretary or President, or a broader group. Each union has their own rules, which are again decided democratically and have evolved over the years. Unions aren't perfect and most could stand to have a bit more grassroots membership control, but there are control mechanisms - leadership face tests of their mandates on a regular basis and if they were to spend members' money on a campaign that was against their interests or inclinations they would pay the price.

In the cases of four unions (and yes, only four, I checked) they have decided that they will be affiliated to the Labour party. The Dairy Workers (DWU), Service and Food Workers (SFWU), Meat Workers (MWU) and Engineers (EPMU) are all affiliates, which gives their members the automatic right to take part in the structures of the Labour party.

But all other unions are not affiliated. They may choose, by whatever is the appropriate process, to endorse particular parties in a specific General Election (for example the AWUNZ Northern endorsed a vote for the Progressives in 2002). This means that they put information out to their members recommending a vote for the party they have endorsed, and may well give a donation to that party or act as a conduit for members who want to to be involved in that party's campaign.

But most push for their particular policies (which are again decided through democratic processes, which are often quite similar to the way political parties determine process) and critique policies they don't like. This is especially important for state sector unions who need to be able to work with The Government of the Day. Earlier this year a group of state sector unions launched the Positively Public campaign to respond to attacks from National on the public service, but they stopped well short of endorsing Labour (or any other party).

Previous Union Myth posts:
#1 - compulsory membership
# 2 - all unionists want to be Rick Barker (ie Labour MPs)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

pics of hanoi for those interested

Houses cheek by jowl - Picture taken by span in Hanoi, late Feb 2005.

The pics on Chantrelle's blog brought memories back from my own trip to Vietnam earlier this year. For anyone looking for a fascinating place to travel in, which is totally different from the West, I highly recommend it.

first case of blog-firing in NZ?

Noticed an article in the Herald on Sunday (not online) about Neil Law, a young Nat employed by National after the election, who was fired within days of his hiring apparently due to a tirade on his blog about his new colleagues.

His blog, which was called A (Sometimes) Considered Rant has disappeared, as has mention of the offending post on Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour (another blog run by a Nat staffer, Anna Nuzum).

The HOS article says that Nuzum's post, titled An Ill-considered Rant, basically told Neil off for slagging his new colleagues within a week of starting his job.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Now that we've established AJ is real, here's a response to part of this debate.

I wrote:

6. How can you ignore all the evidence that women are a) capable of, and b)
quite keen on, a role in public life and still maintain that we would prefer to
return to the agrarian utopia you propose?
AJ replied:

I am yet to see such evidence. I am yet to meet such a woman who seems content and peaceable with themselves and with the world. I know women who do want to have a role in public life, but never at the expense of their family or their femininity. This I encourage.
Here's some evidence:

1. Kate Sheppard and the suffragette movement - clear indication that NZ women wanted to have a democratic say in their society, ie a role in public life.

2. Women politicians, especially party leaders, eg Helen Clark, Jeanette Fitzsimmons, Jill Ovens, Tariana Turia, Margaret Thatcher, Jenny Shipley, Condolezza Rice (although of course I wouldn't call those last three sisters) - not only capable women (even the ones I disagree with), but also all of them have long histories of involvement in political life, at various levels.

3. Women's organisations that are active in public life, eg National Council of Women, Maori Women's Welfare League, women's collectives and feminist groups at universities (eg the Raving Feminist Witches and Feminist Action, both of which I was involved in a little) - all of these women's organisations (and others) have taken an interest in issues beyond the home.

4. Female leadership in all sorts of organisations and movements, eg Carol Beaumont, Laila Harre, Darien Fenton in unions, Sian Elias and Augusta Wallace in the judiciary, Sylvia Cartwright and Cath Tizard as GGs, mutiple female mayors around the country, Susan St John and Janfrie Wakim in Child Poverty Action, women in student politics such as Kate Sutton and Amanda Hill, women journalists like Audrey Young and Jane Clifton (and others), not to mention the many women such as myself who have blogs that at least touch on politics and clearly show that we are interested in the political sphere and as capable as any of the male bloggers at commenting upon it.

I could go on and on with examples of women who have wanted, and achieved, roles in public life (and encourage readers to list such in comments). Women have made positive political change in NZ - they have been pivotal organisers, behind the scenes and out in front, in every social movement this country has seen, eg the peace movement, HART, the campaign for MMP, the Hikoi.

The fact is that women have wanted a role in public life for generations uncountable. Think about women in history - Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, Victoria, Livia, Penthesilia, Dido, Catherine the Great, Boudicea. Many of these women were warriors, either directly or as the head of nations at war, and all of them were political leaders.

You may see the many women I have listed above as aberrations, but the fact is that their number has been increasing with time, not decreasing. This shows that as the barriers fall more women are keen to be involved in public life, not less.

AJ you have claimed that women who show an unfeminine interest in politics are unhappy underneath it all, implying that the discontent is due to going outside of their natural role by pursuing a role in public life. I say, as one of those women, that this is bollocks. I find that when I do not have a political outlet for my concerns about society I become more unhappy, not less. In the past I have made attempts, due to health concerns largely, to cut politics out of my life, or diminish it, and inevitably I have been drawn back - I have things to say, changes to lobby for, and I cannot meekly sit back and merely watch the game.

To be interested and active in politics does not automatically start to turn a woman into a man, either. The many examples I gave above cover a whole gamut of different women who express themselves differently - but all are undeniably women.

And why is it that we rarely say that a man is putting their career, political or otherwise, ahead of their family, yet mothers are constantly criticised for this? It is possible to have balance in your life, although I admit that our society is not currently set-up to make this easy and it is something I struggle towards myself. Out-moded ideas that only women can care for children and do the housework remain significant barriers to allowing women to achieve such a balance.

Perhaps it would be helpful if rather than making (and responding to) bizarre and out-dated statements about women and their role in society, we all turned our debating efforts towards how mothers and other women can overcome the sexist stereotypes that still make life difficult for many of them?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

the people will have their say

Yes that's right, voting is open in the NetGuide Web Awards 2006 (even though it is still 2005, and presumably you will be judged on your past work rather than your yet-to-be-determined, future performance).

So go forth and vote.

note to stef

What's up with your comments, comrade?

suspicious minds

After all that eXistenZ-like pallaver about whether certain old-fashioned agrarians exist or not, AJ has a good summary of it all on his blog.

However, I would like to know which AJ comment(s) Whiggy faked. Perhaps he would care to share or was it all hot air? (I have been having rather a Dr Suess evening.)

Span's brief interlude into detective work has now ended. Expect usual political discourse to appear soon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

not udderly convinced

The About Towners revealed at dinner last night, and again on their blog last night that AJ Chesswass is merely a conceptual art project, and thus not a real person.

I guess I don't want to believe because I was duped and engaged with "him" (them), but at the same time I still have some vague nagging doubts (yes, Thomas indeed Tristan).

I'm at work so I don't have much time to investigate (and I'm also incredibly tired from taking The Man In The Comfy Chair to the A&E late last night - it seems he's going to be fine) but I did just do a quick technorati on one of the other bloggers that the About Towners say they created as part of the AJ Chesswass project, KSMilkmaid. She moved her blog from blogger to it's current location in mid-November (although it goes back to July) which would gel with Kate's claim at dinner that they had laid the ground work for about two weeks, and of course you can date blogger posts at any time in the past. However, you can see from the results for KSMilkmaid's original blogger blog, which run to three pages, that she has been blogging for much longer than a few weeks - there are links to her blogger site going back nearly three months...

So I remain slightly sceptical, at least about some of the details. I await AJ's comment that he does exist with interest.

Monday, November 14, 2005

a niche in the market

Idiot/Savant has pointed out that Winston Peters is the Minister You Have When You're Not Really Having a Minister quite succintly, but I'd just like to make one little point that I deserve believes a bit more attention.

It's quite simple really. Jonathan Hunt has tottled off to his sinecure in London (and long may he stay there, I could need High Commission help someday) leaving a very obvious Ministerial gap.

What gap is that, I hear you ask, knowing, as you undoubtedly do because you, like me, are a total political geek and are thus aware that Hunt was Speaker and therefore not in Cabinet?

Three words folks. Wine. And. Cheese.

See - a vacancy has appeared. And lo that vacancy has been filled. The Market Will Provide.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

questions for the agrarian "feminist"

Dear AJ,

I'm just trying to see if I have your ideas straight, please feel free to correct me or to answer the questions i have posed for my further illumination (which i have in some cases posed to you before in comments on the numerous postings that have been addressing all of this, including on your own blog, Maria Von Trapp, The Radical Tory, Pink Panda, ...oh my starry eyed surprise..., About Town, here, and probably elsewhere too).

1. Is it correct that you believe women (all women?) would find life in the home, preferably on the farm, caring for children, house and husband (and presumably filling those essential unpaid roles that underpin our communities and churches) the most fulfilling way to live?

2. Is it correct that you believe women can receive all of the education they require in the home, in particular from their own mothers (and other female relatives I assume)? Why does this not similarly apply to men?

3. Is it correct that you believe in a rigid division of labour between men and women that mirrors the model of men being active in public life and women in private, and that you also think that women would prefer to return to private life, leaving any public roles to men? What basis do you have for believing that given that throughout human history women have become more and more involved in public life, suggesting that we seek it too?

4. How would you apply your model to same sex relationships - for example in a lesbian relationship who cares for the children? what about in a gay relationship with two fathers (and no mother)?

5. What about couples who are unable to have children? Does a woman's inability to have children (or in fact her conscious choice not to) mean she is by your definition incapable of living a fulfilling life? And what about for men - if they cannot or do not have children are their lives similarly blighted?

6. How can you ignore all the evidence that women are a) capable of, and b) quite keen on, a role in public life and still maintain that we would prefer to return to the agrarian utopia you propose?

7. Have you read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood? If your answer is no I suggest you do so at the first possible opportunity.

8. You have written a lot about the role of women in your farming paradise - what role do you see for men, in particular in terms of their child-raising responsibilities? Who would do the housework on your farm? Who would get up in the night if the baby cries? Who would change the bed linen? Who would do the food shopping? What I am getting at is; would men and women share those unpaid, unrecognised tasks that keep a household and a family going?

Of course I do not speak for all women. I am abundantly aware that there are women who in part prefer the kind of private life that you support - some of my best friends are aching to be stay at home mums, and they'll do a damn fine job. But they won't be the passive partners in the relationship that you seem to envisage - they will take an active role in decision-making, they will continue to vote, some of them might even (shock horror) continue to work side by side with their husband in the business that they run together, or work part time for the financial security it provides their family (not to mention the social interaction and sense of worth it gives them in their own right).

But the key difference between what you espouse and the decisions some women make is who chooses. Do you (or other men, or other people in power) choose this life for them, or do they choose it for themselves? IMHO there are already more than enough factors taking choices away from women (socio-economic in particular).

Answers on the back of a postcard* please AJ.

And please, no carping about being told by others to shut up, or that you have been accused of being a Nazi - I have not done so and will not - I am genuinely puzzled by your views, which seem to be honestly held, and seek clarity and explanation, as well as to challenge you and hold up a flag as a woman who does not conform to your ideas about members of my gender.

*span parlance for in comments.

Friday, November 11, 2005

things about span that you never knew you never knew

Finally got around to following up on MTNW's tag to reveal 20 random facts about myself. But actually I am going to cheat - I am going to do 10 now and 10 later, cos I am pushed for time and finding it hard to dredge up the memory power required.

1. In Standard 4 I was captain of the Irish team in our mock Rugby World Cup and got to play hooker.

2. I prefer masking tape (proper masking tape, not packaging tape which is a different beast entirely but is commonly mistaken for the One True Tape).

3. My first car was a 1984 Fiat Uno that had central locking you could hear across the street, not to mention the world's dodgiest gear box. It finally put itself out of it's misery by rolling down the hill in the middle of the night into a power pole.

4. I used to live on the same street as Richard Prebble's mother.

5. My threat of choice usually involves the shaving off of only one eyebrow. That way the victim has to chose whether to shave off the other one themselves or seek an inevitably unsatisfactory eyebrow pencil solution.

6. I have never seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But I'd like to.

7. When I am very very bored I will read ahead on the ITV Coronation Street site - they're currently running almost a year ahead of us, and it means I can put on my smug, knowing, look whenever someone mentions it in conversation.

8. I received a George W Bush postcard today.

9. I'm currently musing on Roald Dahl's characters, trying to work out which is my favourite for a fancy dress party in a few weeks time.

10. If I had to choose only one book to take to a desert island with me it would be the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the illustrated one with the holographic cover from the mid '90s). Now that's class.

And I tag jarrod at First Against the Wall and Kate at About Town.

The remaining 10 will be poured forth across the page once I have managed to dislodge them and shake them into something approximating a coherent list.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

the other rate that dropped today

No not unemployment (although that's good too).

The abortion rate dropped in 2004 for the first time since 1998.

For my previous rant on abortion, see Aborting Abortion.

nzusa results II

(Thanks to Joey for texting me :-) )

Further to the success of ex-AUSA EVP and all round top guy Joey Randall to the position of NZUSA Co-Pres a while back, Conor Roberts is to join him in the role!

Conor is AVP at AUSA this year, and current Young Labour president - these two will rock the party (which rocks the country, etc) and I wish them all the best. Keith Ng famously outed Conor as the first YL president in some years to be openly straight (which was of course factually incorrect, but amusing none the less).

I wonder though if this is the first time that both positions have been filled by the same students' association?

Update, 4.39pm 10th Nov 2005: Live-blog of Conor's win over at Commander in Chief, thanks to Jeremy and Emily.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

return of the daughter of the aunt of the stupid internet quiz part 63

Hat tip: Andrew Falloon

You Are a Pundit Blogger!

Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read.Truly appreciated by many, surpassed by only a few.

Something tells me most of us political types will get the exact same result...

PS - MTNW - I know I haven't fulfilled your tag yet, but it's half done!

Monday, November 07, 2005

goodbye to the great Green ginga

I was totally shocked, as it seems was everyone else, to hear that Rod Donald died yesterday. When The Man in the Comfy Chair rang me to say he'd just heard a newsflash on Nat Rad I was completely stunned. He seemed so fit and healthy - and I guess he was, but heart attacks seem to often strike those who live stressful lives, regardless of age or fitness.

I never met Rod Donald, as his time with the Alliance was well before mine. I respected what he achieved and that he was true to his kaupapa. His death is a loss for the environmental movement, for the broad Left, for politics, and of course it is a huge blow for the Greens.

My impression was that Rod was gagging to be a Cabinet Minister and was probably very angry about missing out this time, especially given the warrants for Peters and Dunne, and the fact that it is (at this stage) unlikely that Labour will get a fourth term. It always seemed that Jeanette would stand down first, and I suspect she intended to prior to the next election. Now though she will have to stay on to ensure some continuity, at least for the next year. The Greens leadership structure requires them to have one woman and one man, so whoever replaces Rod must be male. Keith Locke is the only other current male MP, and he's publically unpalatable (although not to me) because of the Pol Pot stuff. Nandor may come in now, or Mike Ward, but I don't think either of them would cut it. So the new co-leader may have to be outside Parliament, resulting in all sorts of interesting shenanigans come List Time 2008.

I sincerely hope they can sort this out, as the Greens are too important to NZ politics to be in disarray for long. Someone needs to stick it to National and Act, and remind Labour of what they should be doing - and while the Alliance (and others) try to do this from outside the House, the Greens get more media cut-through due to their Parliamentary presence.

To Rod's family and friends, and the Greens - arohanui. I hope that you are given time and space to remember and respect your partner, father, colleague and friend. Although he had much more to give, he had given so much already - Rod made a difference.

Frogblog has opened a condolence book here, which at the time of posting had 170 comments. Please add yours.

Update, 1.35pm 7th Nov 2005: Here is the Alliance release - MMP is Rod Donald's lasting legacy.