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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Looking back in langour

It's the time of year for navel-gazing and introspection. And using redundant words to pad out posts in the hope of looking like there's something new to read.

I quite like the meme Maia has picked up, of posting the first sentence of the first post you wrote each month, to give a summary of your year's blogging. Here's her 2006 effort, and here's mine, all run together to see if they make some kind of decent paragraphs:

I never used to make New Year's Resolutions, but in the last few years I've found them a useful way to give myself a bit of a kick in the arse. For work, for a few days. There's a song by this woman called Jill Sobule, titled "Bitter."

Yes this blog is still in hibernation. I've recently had the good fortune
to be in Europe, specifically Spain, for two major events on the European
competitive calendar - the European Cup* and the Eurovision Song Contest. Yes
I'm still on my travels, currently in Salisbury wrestling with a foreign
computer and blogger doing strange things.

Over at Alas, Rachel S has posted eloquently about how young feminist bloggers need to be more aware of issues for older women. This post has been about eighteen months in the making.

As no doubt every person who has ever read this blog (except ferringers of
course) already knows, the MP for Mangere has been stood down on full pay* while the police investigate various allegations and complaints. Any spare online time I have at the moment is dedicated to a) clearing the spam backlog on my Xtra account(gee I love their spam filter - after only 4 days away for work I had 12MB of spam waiting for me); and, b) afixing labels to the over 600 posts on this blog.

Well the problem is that I'm not really. I've been thinking a great deal of
late about the culture of martyrdom in political movements and organisations,
particularly on the Left.

Well that didn't make much sense. Still, serves its purpose as padding quite admirably methinks.

If Spanblather had a theme this year it seemed to be rape. Bit heavy, I know. But that's where my thinking was at and there were quite a few additional posts about rape that I started but never published. It was all a weird bit of synchronicity that now makes sense to me, although of course it won't to you (nor should it).

However the post I consider my best of 2006 was in fact about pregnancy (despite it's Queen/Bowie-esque title), Under Pressure. It also received the most comments from readers (53), with second place in the comment-stakes going to Is the Young Nats a sexist 0rganisation? (38), just nudging out No vision (Happy 90th to Labour Part II) by 2.

2006 was also the year I discovered (somewhat belatedly) the wonder that is Firefly, and also blogged rather indulgently on the matter of the new Doctor Who. Posts about both of these subjects, and others, can be found in the Sci-fi category. Gosh I love those new labels.

There have been a few periods of breaks, hiatuses, and general states of feeling totally over blogging. More recently though, I decided to make this blog a bit more positive, for myself as the writer, by peppering it with snaps that I rather like. Hopefully this new approach will help me to make it through to the third anniversary of Spanblather in June 2007.

Elsewhere various political bloggers have made their political reviews of 2006 (if I've missed yours feel free to add it in comments), as have many many newspaper columnists and editors. The general consensus seems to be that young English has done better than many expected. Me, I'm still gleefully singing the Toast song. I know I should move on, and really I have, but it's just so damn catchy! Who would have thought, at the beginning of 2006, that Brash* would have been through so much, and ended up with so little. Certainly not me.

I've been frustrated with Labour this year.** They haven't front-footed enough, they've let National make too much of the running. It occurred to me recently that although Hager acted independently of Labour, some people on the red team must have known what was coming, in general if not in specific. So why the big strategic mistake over the election spending issue? If I could make a New Year's resolution for Clark and Cullen it would be "more humility please."

The Greens have been holding up well, poll-wise, despite a lower profile since the loss of Rod Donald. While part of this will be down to climate change becoming the issue of the moment, I think it also highlights two trends a) Labour not doing the left-thing enough, and b) the Greens are seen as a legitimate part of our political establishment now and no longer an unsafe vote. Winston has been away so much it seems unlikely NZ First can re-establish itself in Tauranga (and indeed they haven't been showing any intention to). Act has had a weird year - while Rodney has a high profile the party itself doesn't - and both United Future and the Progressives have continued to appear to be defined wholly and solely (or should that be soully?) by Dunne and Anderton. The Maori Party continues to be politically odd, but Pita Sharples has definitely been awarded his media wrangling badge (although I'm in two minds about the merit of that). And the Alliance got a new President, lost an old one, and seems to have something of a new lease of life if the spandangly website is anything to go by.

One of the coming tests in 2007 will surely be the Maori Party's Foreshore and Seabed Bill, if drawn. While we all know what Labour will do, the intentions of other parties, in particular National, are somewhat opaque at this time. Will Key et al decide to back repeal, although it could mean many legitimate iwi court cases, with outcomes National's heartland supporters are bound to dislike? If I were Key I'd be flooding that Private Members' Ballot with National MP bills to lower the chances I have to make that call any time soon.

Overall I hope that 2007 does not continue the negative politics that came to dominate this year. Quite simply I don't think it's good for democracy, and it certainly isn't good for the Left, because it switches people off - from voting, from participating in democracy, from using and protecting the power they have in our society. At the end of every year I hope the next 52.14 weeks will see more people realise how important our democracy is, and how crucial their personal involvement is for this system to succeed. 2006 has definitely been a step backwards on that long journey.

*Does anyone else remember when Simon Power was the new-MP-most-likely-to-be-National-Leader, before John Key was the new-MP-most-likely-to-be-National-Leader? Or was that all a figment of my imagination? ** Okay, I'm frustrated with Labour every year.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Reach for the sky

Like a good cosmonaut would.

Going blind

Saddam Hussein's death penalty was carried out earlier today, as Idiot/Savant has already reported.

In Ancient History one of my lecturers used to repeatedly say to us, encouraging our healthy academic scepticism about ancient sources, "remember, winners write history."

It worries me that not only do the winners write the authorised version of the past, they also use those edited truths to justify their own barbaric actions.

And then at some later point a new set of victors will do the exact same thing, to make acceptable further injustices.

Where do we stop? When does it end? Why can't we find solutions that don't involve killing?

And how many more will die because of the death of a former dictator today?

Back - but...

Just had a lovely break in Rotorua for about a week, now back in town (and back at keys).


Puter is playing up big time. Frustrating me no end and meaning blogging likely to be even lighter, as my profile won't work at all and internet is generally spotty on Nickname Pending's too.

Once I'm back at work (and have another puter to play with) I hope to put this one in to be seen to, but that's not until the 8th.

Actually I'd quite like to be back at work now, unlike Stef's lazy kiwi stereotype, as this is the time of year when the phones don't ring and you can get something done without interruption. But we have a compulsory two week shutdown, so at least it's at a time of the year when you only have to use 6 days of leave.

And, except for this morning, the weather has been sufficiently warm and sporadically sunny so far.

Lake Rotomahana and Mt Tarawera, from Mt Hasard, Waimangu.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Goose steps

Western Springs

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Rollin' rollin' rollin'

After only two years of looking I have finally secured my own pair of proper boot roller skates, complete with red sparkly wheels. I spotted them on the weekend on Trade Me and put a bid in but I didn't want to get too excited in case they turned out to be the wrong size, or I missed out.

Today though, instead of supping from the bitter chalice of disappointment, I fulfilled a rather humble dream - to own some proper adult roller skates, with red wheels festooned sparkle-wise.

What a lovely way to end the working year - last day at work tomorrow, and not a moment too soon. Phones have kept ringing and ringing today, it'll be nice to have a fortnight off, despite that background niggle that January is going to be just as hectic as November and December have been.
Part of me can't believe how busy this year has been - I feel like I've worked a whole 12 months despite skiving off to the northern hemisphere for a quarter of it. Every week I seem to have been able to see a clear patch about a fortnight ahead, but by Friday it will be closed in, full to the brims with running and attending meetings, letter-writing, participating in teleconferences, sitting on my butt for some brain-melting wage analysis, making and returning the endless phone calls, reading, visiting, and all the other regular tasks that are necessary in my job.
In November my grey matter really started to dribble out of my ears when we sat down and looked at the calendar for 2007. Only 6 weeks are at the usual level of expectation - all others require extra. I'm trying not to let it get me down.

Still, positive thinking. Work pays well, is often enjoyable, and does have the necessary quota of universe-saving to keep me sane and happy, and it'll be much the better for a bit of a break. Now if we could just level the carpark, to make it suitable for roller derby...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Not sure I spelt that right...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Paid minimum wage does not mean worth minimum wage

While it's good news that the Government has announced it will lift the adult minimum wage next April, I'm a bit disturbed by some of the commentary around the blogs that this is for "unskilled" workers. (Between starting and finishing this post ...the gossip beat me to it though, by pointing out that many of those on minimum wage are doing the skilled work of caregiving, and no doubt other jobs that require not only skill but also experience).

It is clear to me that there are many people paid less than they ought to get - when it comes to pay people don't get what they deserve, they get what they can negotiate.

The current adult minimum wage is $10.25. On April 1st (boom boom) it goes up to $11.25. Since 1999 governments have increased the minimum four times, by 46%. Maia indicates that around 120,000 workers are currently on either the adult or youth minimum wage. That's a pretty significant chunk of the workforce, and obviously the increase will have a positive impact on their lives.

I'm worried though that there really is no commitment to abolish the age discrimination of a seperate youth minimum (and in fact no minimum at all for those under 16). The obvious steps that Government ought to be taking is increasing the youth minimum by more and more to close the gap with the adult minimum, but the increase next year will be less for 16 & 17 year olds than it will be for those over the arbitrary age of 18. Seems pretty silly to me.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Little bit of a tidy up

I've thrown around the new template button and whizz-bang here we go. It looked funny with colour bands at the top and the snaps, so I wanted something a bit more neutral.

I like this template except for two things:
1. Blog name has to be in caps. I get all self-conscious when shouting in a non-protesting context.
2. Blog tagline floats in the middle, but blog name hangs to the left. Would prefer both to be firmly on the red side of the left/right equation.

Also I've cleaned out the blog roll. Basically I've taken out the blogs who haven't published for a while, plus those who haven't returned the linky love and are also people I'm not absurdly patient with. (If that makes sense).

This is a chance though to promote your blog for linking - if I took you off and you don't like it please comment. If you're not on there and never were, but would like to be, please similarly comment and I'll see what I can do. Quick responses from Span are not the name of the game 'round here at the moment though, patience please dear readers.

Ok, enough self-indulgence. I might even manage to write something political this week, if I can manage to think of something that won't just encourage the trolls and/or be a wallow-fest of negativity.

A nice day to be in Auckland

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


We won't get fooled again?

A funny thing happened on the way to being in Government (or not). It seems that National have forgotten that their party has internal policy processes.

Since John Key's elevation to the leadership he's made a number of announcements and references indicating a significant policy shift. This creates some confusion for back-room boffins like myself, when Key makes speeches indicating a move away from Don Brash-era policies like a timeframe for abolishing the Maori seats, focusing on the issue of climate change (which Key and other leading figures considered questionable not that long ago), not to mention endorsing a nuclear-free New Zealand. Did National squeeze in some remit voting between Brash stepping down and Key opening his mouth?

Now please don't think I don't want National to talk policy. I definitely do - not only so that voters can see what National would do in power, but also because I think it's an important part of democracy that the Opposition not only criticise but also put forward alternatives.

But in the wake of The Hollow Men and the insight that gave into National's policy processes prior to the 2005 election, you'd think Key would be trying to distance himself from the perception that National are more Decepticonz than neocons. By changing policy himself, by media statement and speech-making, he is signalling that National is still a party which will change policy not via it's own, long-standing democratic processes, but to suit political whims.

I'm also a little perturbed by National's approach to industrial relations, which Jordan has already blogged about, as has the gossip. Key has said that they wouldn't shift away from the ERA as the key piece of legislation, however continuing to endorse Wayne Mapp's 90 day probation legislation suggests that National would still want to make some radical changes to employment law. Simply saying that they'd keep the ERA isn't honest enough if they intend to gut it or pass other legislation that nullifies much of it.

So is it a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Monday, December 11, 2006

A small transformation

Well, as you may have noticed, I'm not all that motivated about writing at the moment. I find the unrelenting negativity of blogging from a left wing and feminist perspective in an environment dominated by those of, ahem, radically different persuasions, frustrating.

So I've decided that I'm going to indulge one of my interests, in the hope of changing the tone of the blog a bit. I'll be posting photos, and still posting political stuff from time to time, to keep the blog alive in a way that doesn't also gouge holes in my soul.

Let me know what you think.

And here's one of my favourite places from my now not-so-recent sojourn in the Northern Hemisphere.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday, December 03, 2006

We don't need another hero

I've been thinking a great deal of late about the culture of martyrdom in political movements and organisations, particularly on the Left.

It seems to me that we are too hard on ourselves, and each other.

I remember realising I was a workaholic and control freak at university, and consciously deciding to thus pursue options that I could work incredibly long hours at, like politics (which I was already involved in), law, and the like. But I'm not one of those people who can get by on 4 hours sleep a night, so my endeavours were doomed.

Why do we do this to ourselves and other people, in particular those who are on the same side as us, and frequently our friends? Why do we snap at others when they leave at 5pm, or take decent lunch breaks, or commit that heinous of all crimes, actually go away for a break at Easter?
It seems to me that many of the left groups I have been involved in which have had unhealthy cultures have shared this feature - the flagellation of others, and ourselves, when we turn out to be less than super-human.

I look forward to the day when we can all just work out paid hours and no more, and go home without guilt. I've learnt the hard way that there is no point trying to kill yourself for the job - the kind of work I do (paid and unpaid) will never be finished. But I could be.

I wonder too if this is more prevalent on the left, and/or more common amongst women?

Thoughts, dear readers? (I'm more interested in comments from those of a leftward persuasion.)