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

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Prepare to repent, the end of the month is nigh!

Well it's nearly that time of the month again - when nz pol bloggers count up their posts and comments, choose their best post of the month, and email them to me so that I can tally them up in the May Bloggage post.

To ensure publication in the first attempt at the May Bloggage post please be sure to email in your stats (to spanblather at gmail dot com) as follows:
  • Subject: May Bloggage

  • Blog Name

  • Blog URL

  • x posts (required), y comments (desired)

  • URL of your best post for May if you are so inclined

by 6pm June 1st (that would be Friday then).

Ta muchly,

PS You can check out last month's bloggage here.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Topsy Turvy

Things are a little off kilter at the moment, as evidenced by the lack of posting. Hopefully I'll be back regular like in a couple of weeks, or maybe even sooner. In the meantime Linky Love will probably be on hiatus, but I will do the monthly bloggage for the end of the month (post up on that soonish).

Ka kite ano, and thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Banding together for blogger freedom in Fiji

You may have seen the following release around a few blogs yesterday:*

New Zealand Bloggers Offer Support For Freedom Of Speech In Fiji

New Zealand bloggers from across the political spectrum are offering material support for Fijian blogs in the face of violence and censorship by the country's military regime. They are also calling on the New Zealand government to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the regime's acts of violence and censorship against this nonviolent, grassroots blogging movement.

The Fijian military regime has declared anonymous pro-democracy bloggers to be a "threat to national security", and have attempted to block Fijian access to common hosting sites such as Suspected blogger, Ulaiasi Taoi, was recently subjected to beatings, verbal abuse, and humiliation during a 24-hour questioning, according to The Fiji Times and Fijian news sites. The military regime now claims to have identified 20 more people responsible for pro-democracy blogs who will also be threatened with "questioning".

In support of the right to freedom of expression, a group of New Zealand bloggers are now offering access to their own websites for Fijian residents. The group is composed of prominent New Zealand bloggers from across the political spectrum, including writers of Just Left, Kiwiblog, No Right Turn, NZBC, Public Address, and Spanblather. They have agreed to publish guest articles by Fijian bloggers, and where possible will provide hosting on their servers for Fijian blogs.

The group are also calling upon other members of the New Zealand online
community with an interest of freedom of speech (such as Scoop,,
and Stuff) to make a similar offer of material support for Fijian bloggers.

Blogs are one of the few news sources outside of the control of the military regime in Fiji, representing a vital channel of uncensored information for both Fijians and the international community.

Any Fijian bloggers wishing to make use of this offer should make contact through one of the above-listed websites.

I've put Spanblather up to help, although due to my technical handicaps all I can really do is host guest posts. I expect that most Fijian bloggers looking for somewhere to put up their writings will go to one of the bigger blogs (pretty much all of the others on the list!) and that's ok. Scoop has also stepped up to the plate to publish their writings, so that's another great outlet and hopefully another way around the attempts to shut down dissent within our Pacific neighbour.

I'm hoping to write more on this in the future, but for NZ coverage you really can't go past Idiot/Savant. He has been doing some great work in this area and I take my hat off to him (yet again).

* You can call me many things but you can rarely call me punctual.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Well I was a little shocked to end up 8th (417 points) in the Bloggers Challenge for the Virtual Super 14.

I did very badly indeed at the start of the season, but I think two factors helped me gain form at the right end of play:
  • Strictly following my strategy of picking whatever the TAB gave the best odds (except the first week, which was before I thought of this)

  • Remembering to make picks every week
Big ups to dj_krysus who finished top with 444 points, despite getting no points in the final round.

I still know next to nothing about Super 14 - the teams, the players, the coaches. I don't have a team to support (Harbour being in an unholy alliance with Auckland for the Blues franchise, shudder) although I kind of cheer for the Highlanders because I like their spirit.

I used to follow rugby religiously from when I was old enough to focus on the telly screen until about the mid 1990s, when my obsession with politics came to the fore around the same time as local legends like Bunce and Little retired. I understand the game, but I get too uptight watching the All Blacks and I admit I find it hard to watch Harbour get punished season after season. Especially when I live with an Auckland supporter.*

Anyway, thanks to DPF for setting the challenge up; t'was fun.

* Mara is a Manawatu follower like her grandfather. As a result she has even less drive to watch footy than I.

(Pic Via)

Blah Blah Budget

Well I didn't really write anything about the Budget. To be honest I found it all a bit blah.

Again with the not doing anything to reverse the 1991 benefit cuts, again with the not really doing anything except tinkering with funding in education and health. Four percent for school operation grants was a slap in the face, although it's been trumpeted by some as one of the significant parts of Michael Cullen's presentation - they seem ignorant of the fact that costs are running at higher than 4%, and support staff wages are so pitiful that even adding the full 4% on to their existing pay rates isn't going to give them the increases they deserve. I know I know, it's Better Than National, but it's not exactly vision stuff.

Maybe Kiwisaver is a bit of a Grand Scheme, but I have a sneaking suspicion it's just going to get wound up or fully privatised by a future National Government - particularly if they come in next year when it hasn't been aroundlong enough for people to feel attached to it. We do need to do something about our savings culture, but I'm not sure that a scheme that can be so easily converted to privatising superannuation is such a smart idea.

I heard John Tamihere talking on the radio the other day about the similar Super scheme that the 1972-1975 Labour Govt brought in - it was only in a short time before Muldoon was elected and scrapped it, giving people a one-off refund of their balance in the next tax year or something. I have no idea if that's true, and I'm too lazy to do any research (isn't that what readers are for? ;-) ) but given the way the polls are trending and the rhetoric from the Right about Kiwisaver, it seems like history may repeat itself.

I'm quite gloomy about the polls. I know it's not too late, and part of me would like to see Labour get a good kicking. But given that the boot would be on the end of John Key's leg, well that makes me not so keen.


(Pic Via)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sometimes the tide is just out

Karaka Bay, May 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007


I wanted to write something about Gordon Copeland going all Splitsville, but it seems I'm a bit slow off the mark. Joe Hendren has written about possible caucus friction that may have been a motivation for Copeland, while Bryce Edwards has an interesting post on the history of Christian parties in NZ (and how many Christian MPs have been splitters). Maramatanga also looks at the possibilities for Copeland's possible new vehicle Future New Zealand*.

I always find it a bit amusing when List MPs with meagre profiles split from their party in high dudgeon and stomp off to play somewhere else. They don't seem to understand that not only are they leaving without bat and ball, they are also going to struggle to find anyone else who will actually share their game, or even watch it. It's a high level manifestation of an illness I've seen happen a lot in politics now - that strange political affliction known as Candidate-itis.

What seems to happen is that the person with the title (be it Student Exec Member, Councillor, Member of Parliament, whatever) thinks that they have somehow cultivated this massive personal following, often in a very short space of time and despite all evidence to the contrary. For some strange reason they have this delusion that there are a mass of students/ratepayers/voters/members prepared to die in a ditch for them. They think they can triumph righteously in an electoral contest which they have absolutely no chance of winning and they throw their perceived (and quite imaginary) power around no end, until it usually bounces back and hits them in the face right smartly.

Copeland strikes me as a man fervently in the grip of Candidate-itis. He and erstwhile United MP Larry Baldock seem to think that their devotees will rise up and smite their foes mightily at the ballot box. I see nothing to back up this crazy belief.

* Has anyone else noticed this is an existing party - it has been in some kind of political alliance with United for some years, creating United Future. Assumedly this means they have to disentangle themselves in terms of their party structures? Does anyone know if the Future NZ people are actually on board with the split?

(Pic Via)

Linky Love - Volume 17

Sorry this is so late - I've hardly been at a computer all week.

Standard intro - Linky Love is basically a cobbling together of posts I've noticed around the traps that have set off little tiny sparkles inside my head, and which I would possibly write about or comment on if I didn't need to sleep, eat, work, that kind of stuff. I usually put Linky Love volumes up weekly, on Friday mornings, although sometimes I sneak them in on Thursday for various reasons. I hope you like it.

As always if you have a post of your own, or some else's, that you'd like to highlight please feel free to add it in comments, or to discuss the above posts, or indeed most anything else.

Capitalism Bad - Eating disorders are about more than hating your appearance - Maia responds to a post by Hugo Schwyzer comparing eating disorders and veganism, and looks at the role that control and self-denial plays.

Feministe - Teen Girl Sex Scandal!! OhmiGod!! - Flea examines the annoying moral panics that frequently seem to spring up around the possibility of young women having sex.

Feministing - Hero of the Day: Erin Davies and her "fag bug" - Jessica reports on a homophobic vandalism that has had rather the opposite effect from what the tagger would have intended.

Ghetsuhm - Moooooo - Ghet posts about the cow-chicken-grass test, which I didn't just like cos I studied anthro.

LeftAlign - Terrorists I am scared of - LA writes about some scary scary people and the regular folks who support their views.

The Legal Soapbox - All's fair in love and law - Legal Eagle shares why she loves being a lawyer, and why the structure of legal work makes it hard for her to maintain that affection.

The Legal Soapbox - Managing up and down - LE gets a second nod for an insightful piece on managing that she wrote ages ago (before she shifted to wordpress) but I only just got around to finishing it.

Pandagon - Quality of whose life, again? - Chris Clarke has a fantastic post on the "patriarchal blindspot" some seem to have when advocating for change such as the Slow Movement. zuzu, also of Feministe, has written about her family's experiences in response.

Red in Roskill - Lessons for Labour - Michael Wood extrapolates a few things for Helen Clark and friends to take heed of, from the recent UK elections.

Salon - Tinky Winky says bye-bye to Jerry Falwell - The former teletubby breaks his silence on the death of the tele-evangelist who outted him.

WebWeaver's World - Smack no more! - ww shares her thoughts on the successful final vote on s59's repeal, and also has Sue Bradford's full Third Reading speech.

Previous volumes of Linky Love (1 - 16) can be found over here.

And finally, this week's Heart Pic is provided by Tze Ming Mok, of Yellow Peril fame, and was snapped at an art gallery in Shanghai recently. Thanks tm :-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Busy busy busy

Sorry I haven't been able to post since Monday and realistically I'm not going to get a proper chance until tomorrow at the earliest. Here are some recently commented on posts, several with arguments still going on in the threads:

  • Invisible Mothers - on the parents we don't see but can hurt

  • Stop. Go. Stop - on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - you might want to have a read to laugh at a certain commenter's absurdity.

  • That taxing pay gap - looking at the reasons for the income gap between men and women and why gender-based tax cuts won't do the business. The comment thread has become an interesting discussion about why some men think women are paid less, and why some women think they are wrong.

  • Politics and progeny and general irrelevance - venting my continual frustration at the double standards of judgement attached to women in politics vs men in politics.

So at the moment it seems to be all about Teh Feminism. I'm hoping to write some stuff about national politics soon, and I have a few other things in draft form, in particular a new union myths post on what union staff do all day. Let me know if there's anything else you'd like me to write about, but keep in mind this is not my paid job!

Thanks for reading

(Pic Via)

Monday, May 14, 2007

And to be flippant for a moment...

Here's an invisible mother of my own daily acquaintance. I'm sure Mara won't mind me telling you, 'cos she's a cat and she can't read. The SPCA estimated she had at least two litters before we adopted her started living with her, but of course we've never seen them and from her kittenish nature many assume she's never bred.

She looks a bit grumpy in this shot. Two options; 1. I'm projecting; or 2. She gets fed-up with having a camera lens stuck in her face whenever she's just sitting around. Really, who can tell?

Invisible Mothers

Yesterday was Mothers' Day here in Aotearoa New Zealand*, and you could hardly have missed the commercial onslaught of the last month even if you lacked any sense but smell.

I've been thinking recently about many of the assumptions that we make about who is, and who isn't, a mother. In the last two years I've had several friends lose pregnancies, and I've become aware of other miscarriages and still births that happened in times past, which I never knew about until recently.

Each one breaks my heart, especially because often they have been a physical trauma and an emotional grief that has been experienced in secret, hidden away and invisible. Those women, and no doubt many of the partners too, may feel as if they did have a child but then suddenly they didn't, and no one knows that for a little while there they were thinking of themselves as a Mum or a Dad.

When thinking about two of my friends in particular, I've become quite hyper-sensitive to how hard occasions like Mothers' Day must be for them - for those who have lost children, yet are publicly seen as "Not Mums" because there's no Exhibit A in the form of a baby, toddler, teen or adult child. Similar emotional turmoil must ensue for those who couldn't conceive, but wanted to, or are currently secretly trying.

That hurt must surely be exacerbated when people assume that you never wanted to be a mother or a father - that you didn't want to have a child; you put your career first; you were too selfish to consider bringing a dear ickle baby into the world in case it stained your white carpets, etc etc. Many seem to see an absence of offspring in another's life and make the astounding mental leap that that person is somehow deeply emotionally flawed because obviously only someone without a heart would not have kids. Quite apart from the fact that choosing not to have children is a perfectly sane and rational decision to make, some people will no doubt be making a virtue out of a necessity.

I've written about this before - about the inappropriateness of pressuring others to
, or not to, and about the senseless harm in judging others for their infertility. It's all a world of needless pain that we inflict on others - often on people we love dearly, but we blunder in none the less, and we hurt them even more because of the level of intimacy we have shared in the past. Once you've read a friend's harrowing recount of their miscarriage, posted on an internet bulletin board because their partner was away and no one else knew about the pregnancy, it's a mistake you won't make again.

I imagine for many women yesterday was pretty hard when they said "Happy Mothers' Day" to someone else but no one said it back to them. Please keep that in mind next time you encounter someone without children** and find yourself tending towards judgement. You can't tell who the invisible parents are just by looking, so let's just assume everyone is one and then no one gets hurt.

* And I think also in the USA, judging by some of the posts on the American feminist blogs I follow.
** Or indeed someone with one child. It never ceases to amaze me how some folks think other people's fertility decisions and outcomes are their business.

(Pic Via)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy families

Bitch PhD has posted about an intriguing American quiz on contemporary families. It reminded me of David Slack's quiz on Treaty issues, as it's all about debunking common conservative myths.

Although it's obviously American I suspect there's a certain amount of safe extrapolation for our culture too. Have a go and decide for yourself!

(Pic Via)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Stop. Go. Stop.

I did not know, until just this minute, that today is International CFS Awareness Day. Thanks to tigtog at Larvatus Prodeo for blogging about it, otherwise no doubt I'd still be none the wiser.

CFS, aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, aka Myalgic Encephlaitis (sp?), aka "yuppie flue" or "tapanui flu," basically ruled my life for over three years and still plays a bit part in proceedings. I had it relatively mildly but the combination of the symptoms of the illness and the depression which resulted meant I couldn't work, often couldn't drive or socialise, and generally had to live like a particularly lazy cat (except for the washing in your own spit bit). At times I couldn't read, watch tv, talk on the telephone, or even clear the mail. Once when my car was towed from a clearway outside my house I couldn't pick it up from the tow yard for three days - I hadn't got out of bed, except for the essentials, since the previous week.

There are many theories about what causes CFS and I've been very interested in one which has recently come to light in Australia. The idea is that some sufferers may have had Glandular Fever before developing CFS (tick), and if they did not take sufficient time off to fully recover from the mononucleosis (tick) then they may end up with a particular brain injury. This damage has the effect of telling your immune system that you are sick when you are not, meaning that it often feels like your body is fighting something off even when you are perfectly well.

This fits not only my experience when I was really ill, but also some of the odd things that have happened to my health since, for example when the Greeks thought I had bird flu last year. My body tends to fever at the drop of a hat, and from my biological anthro papers I know that this is because it has detected infection and is raising the body temperature to kill it off. What the Greeks didn't know (and I didn't suspect at the time) was that because of my CFS history my body will give me a really high temperature just to kill a sinus infection that is already on its last legs anyway. I'm not about to die of something really nasty, my body is just being incredibly over efficient at cleaning house. These reactions are getting more mild as time goes by and maybe one day I'll get sick like a normal person does.

When I was first diagnosed there was a sense of relief at knowing what was wrong, but then horror when I realised that there is no pill you can take, no treatment you can undergo. It's a matter of trial and error, and above all waiting. I had a lot of advantages in my recovery which I credit with both the mildness and the relative shortness of my really bad patch. But it still hangs there in the background - if I overdo it again, as I did in my student days, then my body might force me to hibernate for a year or two.

There aren't a lot of NZ resources out there on CFS, but one excellent book is Understanding Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by Dr Alastair Jackson. I quickly discovered that a lot of the internet resources out there weren't necessarily accurate and some of the books were downright scary. One American tome told me I would start to lose my fingerprints - it's an incredibly creepy thought to imagine your fingertips slowly smoothing, your identity disappearing. It wasn't true, but it took me quite a while to find that out.

Now that I'm well again I can do most things other people can do. I'm never going to be able to get by on five hours sleep and little food, do no exercise and tax my mental and emotional state beyond belief, and fill every hour with work, study and politics, as I did before I got sick. That's not really a bad thing, but it's hard sometimes to slow down when you have so much you want to get done and feel like time is slipping away from you - especially after wasting three years doing Not Much, there is a drive to catch up that is hard to resist at times.

Today is a timely reminder to me that I'll get nothing done at all if I get sick again.

(Pic Via)

Waiting for time

Musee d'Orsay, Paris, May 2006

I kind of feel a bit like I'm in stasis at the moment - life keeps going but I feel as if I'm waiting, waiting, waiting.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Linky Love - Volume 16

Standard intro - Linky Love is basically a cobbling together of posts I've noticed around the traps that have set off little tiny sparkles inside my head, and which I would possibly write about or comment on if I didn't need to sleep, eat, work, that kind of stuff. I usually put Linky Love volumes up weekly, on Friday mornings, although sometimes I sneak them in on Thursday for various reasons. I hope you like it.

As always if you have a post of your own, or some else's, that you'd like to highlight please feel free to add it in comments, or to discuss the above posts, or indeed most anything else.

Alas, a blog - Things You Learn About Race From a 7 Year Old - Rachel S on some revealing conversations with her partner's 7 year old son.

Brainstab - "Mortgage" means "death pledge" - Josh shares his thoughts on the endless treadmill of debt repayment he's now stuck on for all eternity.

Brainstab - STEP AWAY FROM DA LIGHT... - Apathy Jack reflects on Hoodrat High as his time working there comes to an end.

Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty - What I actually think about voting - After ending up in an odd debate about the Democrats with a bunch of American feminist bloggers, Maia explains her views on elections.

DagCentral - The word is "Mexican" - In which the author talks about Mexicans as actual human beings, not the sub-humans the LAPD seemed to decide they were on May Day.

The Ex-Expat - The dark side of Asia - Musings from a Kiwi recently returned from living in Asia, and pointing out a few key points to consider when considering the fate of Cho Seung-Hui, formerly of Virginia Tech.

Feministe - AutoAdmit's Anthony Ciolli Loses Job Offer - Jill reports on what seems to be the final play in the nasty online harassment she faced on a law student bulletin board in the USA.

The Gossip - Measuring sustainability and happiness, not just growth - A guest post from CTU Economist Peter Conway about other ways to measure our success besides the purely economic.

Maramatanga - Draft electorate boundaries - Maramatanga has the best damn run-down of the draft changes that I've seen yet, handily broken down into parts of the country so you can find the area you care most about with ease.

No Right Turn - A victory for freedom to protest - Idiot/Savant reports on the Brooker decision and what it means for activists.

Pandagon - Systematic racism is over - Someone should tell the system - Auguste has a great post, beginning with a great cartoon, that points out the absurdity of the concept that traditional racist power structures have already been turned on their head.

Red Diaper Dharma - My Good Abortion - Parenting writer Ericka Lutz shares her story.

Sir Humphrey's - Das Alles Verdanken Wir Dem Fuehrer - Psycho Milt has a powerful post about the victims of war who aren't shot or injured on the frontlines, but raped in their own homes.

Stanselen - Answering to yourself - jo has a great post about being a woman and being a mother and staunchly not feeling she has to justify either.

Previous volumes of Linky Love (1 - 15) can be found over here.
(Pic Via) (And this is my favourite Linky Love pic to date!)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Fair Go for Fair Trade

This Saturday, May 12th, is World Fair Trade Day, and this year the theme is Kids Need Fair Trade. Joanna has already blogged, at the start of Fair Trade Fortnight on April 28th, about how to find local fair trade coffee in Wellington.

Fair trade kind of sounds like one of those really earnest causes lefties harp on about, but one of the things that has struck me about these campaigns is the slow but steady success. We now have fair trade goods in places other than Trade Aid - some supermarkets, upmarket retailers, and many cafes. Yes, it's still small, but I believe the fact that's this change is growing is significant.

When I was in the UK briefly last year there was a small town* which had started to build a fair trade community, emanating from the local Anglican church. Nickname Pending was quite inspired by this and he's slowly slowly building up a similar concept in his parish. It takes a long time to succeed, but they are already selling a lot of fair trade products within their congregation (including to my pantry) and now they are starting to promote it in the broader community at a low level. This church is quite literally loving their neighbours, even if they aren't quite next door.

Many of us work in offices or similar environments where we could probably push for fair trade coffee** to replace whatever management is currently supplying. It's a small, but real, difference we could make.

Fair trade products might cost us a little more but potentially the benefits to those producing the goods, and their families, is significant. We pride ourselves on being a country that's all about giving people a "fair go," and many New Zealanders say they sincerely believe in treating others as they would wish to be treated ourselves. Buying fair trade goods when possible is an opportunity to walk that talk.

* Unfortunately I forget where but I'll see if I can find it in my journal.
** And tea and hot chocolate. I can personally vouch for the extreme yumminess of the Trade Aid Dark Hot Chocolate.

(Pic Via)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

She glows

Three guesses who this is.

That taxing pay gap

I've had a couple of commenters (or maybe the same one twice) draw my attention to a Sydney Morning Herald article proposing that the pay gap between men and women could be bridged by cutting taxes to XXers. Here's the article's explanation:

Basically, their argument boils down to this: the supply of labour of women is more responsive to their wage post-tax, so a reduction in taxes would increase the labour participation of women substantially.
While it's an inventive solution, I don't really think it would address the causes of the pay gap and there would be many practical problems in such a scheme.

From my point of view there are a number of factors that have created and maintained a considerable gap between women and men in the money earning department, including:

1. Longstanding societal pressure on women to not see work as something they do for reasons other than necessity. While this has changed dramatically since the 1950s, there are still many women who grew up when working after marriage, and particularly after having children, was highly stigmatised. Some of these women see their work now as "pin money" and their husbands and children de-value it too. I often work with union members in this position and it's depressing to see the results - poor pay, patronising management, and a lack of support from their family and others when they want to stand up for their rights.

2. Similarly, it is only relatively recently that women have been encouraged to complete high school, let alone seek further training or tertiary education. Many jobs nowadays have set qualifications as a prerequisite, and, as with my previous point, there are many women still in the workforce who never saw university or 'tech as an option. My mother is one - a very smart and capable woman who was convinced from a young age that she was stupid and would probably be only marginally competent at most things she did. It was far more about her gender than her actual intelligence or ability. And while we'd all like to think that young women now are immune to the pernicious influences of such sexism, sadly I think it'll be a while before we have it licked.

3. Due to a paucity of workplaces with flexible working hours or supportive attitudes to workers with caring responsiblities outside work, many women work part time or in jobs with lower levels of responsibility (and pay) because they need the ability to work around their family responsibilities*. They are also less likely to rock the boat if they aren't getting their dues - they don't want to lose the position which has grudgingly allowed them to take the odd long weekend to look after an ailing parent in another town.

4. While there has been significant challenge to the idea that women workers should be corralled into certain jobs, many women still work in "traditional" areas. Which also means they work in jobs which are under-valued, under-paid and often highly casualised. Many of these industries had their unionisation rates decimated in the 1990s, and/or these sectors grew considerably during the time of the Employment Contracts Act when unions weren't able to focus on much more than staying afloat. I believe it is no coincidence that many of those areas with the lowest pay and worst conditions also have low levels of union membership, and often a high percentage of women workers.

5. I also suspect that women are less likely to get promoted into higher paid jobs, because they are women and because of some of the factors already mentioned above. On the one hand, women can be passed over because it is feared they will want to sprog at some point** or because it's assumed they can't handle Teh Pressure, or some silly rubbish justification for sexism. On the other, women sometimes don't put themselves forward, because of a lack of confidence and a concern that they will be seen to rate themselves. I read somewhere once that while around 75% of primary teachers are female only about a quarter of principals are. Not sure if that's true, but we can see the clear gender lines in the CEOs of major companies - yes there are some high profile women, but they are definitely in the minority.

6. And then there's the persistent undervaluing of the work women do - paid and unpaid. It's a theme underlying many of the points I've already made but it bears making explicit. Think of the poorly paid jobs and many of them were done by women without pay in the past, and on low pay now. Cleaning, caregiving, educating and caring for small children, cooking, serving people in various settings; all of this mahi used to be done by wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers and other women for free. And now that it is (sometimes) paid work it's often at minimum wage rates, despite the level of skill required.

In my (not-so-humble) opinion, none of these factors would be addressed by giving women a tax cut and raising taxes slightly for men. It certainly wouldn't help those men on low incomes, or encourge them into the lower paid areas where more women are working.
If anything such a tactic could exacerbate resentment of women in the workforce, which would be rather counter-productive.

* And not just caring for their own children either. They could be looking after their mokopuna, their parents, siblings, friends, or their own partners. Or they may have to carry an unfair burden of the household tasks, resulting in less time and energy for any paid job.
** Why is this never a concern about hiring male employess??

(Pic Via)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Subway subtract worker's rights

Subway bloggers banner

When a Dunedin Subway manager fired Jackie Lang for sharing a staff drink with a friend and then laid charges with the police for theft I'm not sure he quite realised what a dick he would look. I hope the Subway chain realises how silly it's making them look, and thinking about how they might make it all go away in a manner that leaves Lang feeling happy...

One of the key principles of natural justice is that the punishment fit the crime. This applies in employment law, as it does in any other legal arena. It seems that in this case not only were there major issues around the disciplinary procedure for this Subway worker, there was also a massive over-reaction from the manager concerned.

What worries me is that a manager who would do this may also be acting unreasonably towards other employees at that Subway. If the culture in this workplace is to unfairly dismiss someone for something so minor, and lay charges with the police when they try to enforce their legal rights, then there should be a big red light flashing in people's minds: Workplace Bully Alert.

Big ups to Jeremy for firing Young Labour and nz pol bloggers into action! Perhaps John Key, Helen Clark, Sue Bradford and Peter Dunne have set us all a good example ;-) In the 'sphere, Maia also has a good post looking at the willingness of the police to prosecute this over other situations that are far far worse.

And good on the Autonomous Workers' Union for getting stuck in - they've also launched a "Paper Cup" fundraising effort to help cover the legal costs for their member and you can pick up the bank account number from this EPMU article on the case. There will be a picket in Christchurch on Saturday 12th May outside the High St Subway from 1pm - 2pm too.

Finally, all power to Jackie Lang, for standing up for her rights. It's not always easy, even when you know you have a strong case and you have the support of a union.

At the end of the day

While I can't compete with satsumasalad on the beautiful sunset pics, here's the view from my place earlier this evening.

Hopefully as long as this good weather keeps going so will the fab sunsets.

Is it just me or is it a lot warmer (and drier) this autumn and winter?

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Ultimate in Pointless Internet Memes

Thanks to Blogthings I now know what kind of pie I am.

I cannot believe I have gone all these years without knowing this!

And no it is not Mud.

You Are Lemon Meringue Pie
You're the perfect combo of sassy and sweet Those who like you have well refined tastes

Updated 8th May 8.52am: Fixed link on quiz so you can do it too.

Politics and progeny and general irrelevance

So it seems that the judgement heaped on political women on this side of the Tasman over their parental status is being paralleled in Oz. When I heard that there was the possiblity of a female Deputy PM after the next Australian elections I did wonder what kind of extra crapola she'd have to put up with on the way there (and beyond). Julia Gillard is now getting what Helen Clark has had to put up with for years, and our PM sadly still has to ignore it on a depressingly regular basis.

I've written before about what a barren argument I think this is, and have ended up referring to the shallowness of this concept frequently during the s59 debate posts here and elsewhere. I also firmly reject the idea that women exist only to bear babies, and that not doing so somehow makes a woman worth less.

One of the reasons it makes me so mad is the gender bias. Fatherhood is hardly ever considered relevant for male politicians; it simply isn't often commented on.* Children usually only enter the picture when required for photo-opportunities or to highlight the male MP's superiority over someone on the other side who is sans kiddies.**

It seems to me that parenthood is only used in a negative sense in politics, and usually only attached to women. Women in general are viewed by some as selfish if they don't have kids, and still selfish if they do procreate but then want to have a life outside the home.*** Those who go into politics and don't have children are "unnatural" or incapable of governing a nation which includes parents and kids. And you can't win, because those women with offspring are then criticised for neglecting them, and allegedly putting their political careers before their families.

Yet for their male counterparts parental concerns are usually far from the media focus, or the public's minds. And that's how it should be for all MPs, imho. There are many reasons a person, or a couple, may be without children. And if someone is childless by choice, what is actually wrong with that?

*And while they might get congratulated on looking particularly sharp, they're unlikely to get utterly savaged if their shirt and tie don't match, or their suit is a cut straight out of the pre-War era, or their hair is starting to grey.
** Which is not to say they don't care about their children and love them, and do everything they can for them.

*** Not just paid work either. There are some who consider a woman selfish if she is not working yet puts her children into an ECE centre a day or more a week. Personally I don't see what the problem is - both parent and child could probably benefit from some time interacting with others.

(Pic Via)

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Sometime commenter on a few left blogs around the traps, zANavAShi has set up a great site called The Watermelon and is blogging there herself. It's designed to be a welcoming home for those who identify as green and left liberal.

Zana and another commenter are also in conversation about how to host a safe space for a s59 survivors forum there, so those interested may want to check out the site and contact her too.

Meanwhile Legal Eagle has shifted from Blogger to Wordpress, you can now catch her eloquent writings here. The View from my Window has shifted from LJ, also to Wordpress, and has a really stunning header pic!

Plus here's a few Kiwi blogs that are new to me: off-black, eggs benedict and two flat whites, Blair's Brain, and The Ex-Expat.

As usual, feel free to share any relevant blog news in comments, thanks!

Update, 7th May 8.45am: Plus I forgot to share that Frank Stupid is back blogging at Stupid Internet Name, which was most remiss of me. He has some astounding linkies in his most recent post.

Update, 7th May 7.56pm: Ok I did some really weird things to the links in this post, plus I forgot to add in one of the newish blogs, although I did manage to link to them from another blogname. Weird. And more importantly, all fixed now!


After writing up my thoughts for Take Back the Blog Day, I've been thinking about how much worse it seems to be online for those who were XY and are now XX. Specifically I've been astounded with the abuse and bile spewed whenever Georgina Beyer is mentioned on some blogs.

Beyond her contribution to the Civil Union debate, which I think was at times courageous and also of strategic importance to the Forces for Good, I don't know that Beyer has achieved much in the way of legislation passed, statutory change made. But what she has done by having the guts to run, first for the mayoralty chains and later for the House, has been of wider social importance. She has stood up and shown that transsexuals are people too, in one of the hardest and most publicly scrutinised working environments around.

But some people just don't seem to be able to deal with it. They make really Not Funny jibes about her gender, and quickly descend into a sewer lined with dick jokes. A few even harp on and on claiming she is a he and refuse to accept Beyer's own decision about her gender.

What's so threatening about a woman who used to be a man? Sure, argue her competence as a politician (a job she's no longer doing), or criticise the policies she has espoused, but let's keep it all above the belt shall we?

(Pic Via)


Taken at Panmure Lagoon, May 2007

Friday, May 04, 2007

Asking for it

In yesterday's Central Leader, Pat Booth had his usual column and this time I actually agreed with something in it.

Booth gives a very clear example of exactly how rape survivors are treated differently from other victims of crime. Here are his words:

The scene is a robbery trial with the victim, a man, being cross-examined by the defence:
Counsel: So you have told the court that you were held up at gunpoint. Is that correct?
Witness: Yes.
Did you struggle with the robber?
- No.
Why not?
- He had a gun.
Then you made a conscious decision to comply with his demands rather than resist?
- Yes.
I see. Have you ever been held up before?
- No.
Have you ever given money away?
- Yes, of course.
And you did so willingly?
- What are you getting at?
Well, let's put it this way. You've given money away in the past. In fact, you've got a reputation for philanthropy. How can we be sure you weren't for some reason contribing to have your money taken by force?
- Listen, if I wanted...
Nevermind. What time did this 'holdup' you talk about take place?
- About 11pm.
So, you were out on the street at 11pm. Doing what?
- Just walking.
Just walking. You must know it's dangerous being out on the street late at night. Weren't you aware that you could have been held up?
- I haven't thought about it.
Hadn't thought about it. What were you wearing?
- Let's see, a suit. Yes, as suit.
An expensive suit?
- Well, I'm a successful doctor you know.
In other words, you were walking around the streets late at night for no obvious reason, in an expensive suit that practically advertised that you might be a good target for some easy money. Isn't that so? I mean if we didn't know better we might even think you were asking for this to happen, mightn't we.

I'd add to Booth's argument that sometimes these questions, this attitude, confront rape survivors long before they are on the witness stand. They are the questions the police might ask, although I understand that this is less common now and that most police now act more appropriately than in the past in these matters.

But they are also the questions we see on telly when a fictional rape survivor approaches a friend for support, tells their story to a family member, or seeks justice from the legal system. On our screens rape survivors often face a trial themselves, as as can see from the recent police rape cases against Clint Rickards, Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum, in this television is not so far away from real life.

As a result of these constructions of rape, fed to us by our media sometimes with good intentions, I believe that many of these questions are the ones rape survivors ask themselves. It's natural to seek explanation and to want to apportion blame. Particularly when the rapist is someone you know, which is usually the case, I think many rape survivors would naturally turn to their own actions and reactions to explain what happened - who wants to believe the man they love, or one of their friends, could do such a heinous thing?

When the media reinforces this internal conversation time after time, it would be no surprise if many rape survivors blame themselves, and thus never come forward. Imho, this is a major barrier to ending rape - we will struggle to overcome it as long as the judgemental gaze is turned upon the one raped and away from the rapist.

(Pic Via)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Linky Love - Volume 15

This is early 'cos I'm not sure I'll get a chance to put it up at all tomorrow.

Standard intro - if you have a post of your own, or some else's, that you'd like to highlight please feel free to add it in comments, or to discuss the above posts, or indeed most anything else.

Alas (a blog) - Sexism Against (and For) Men on TV Sitcoms - Ampersand on why even when men's telly roles seem to put them down, they are still the leading person in the show.

Anonymous Lefty - Excuse me while I twirl my moustache - Jeremy contends leftie peaceniks aren't actually gleeful when bad news comes in from Iraq.

Aucklander at Large - Doomed to Fail - Jeremy G-H shares his predictions for the possible political alliance between Phillip Field and Destiny Church.

Disturbed Beyond Belief - My views on abortion - If you only read one post in this Linky Love, this is the one to click through. It's by a man, if the idea of another woman ranting about abortion puts you off.

Feministe - The terrorism that dare not speak its name - zuzu riffs on the theme of abortion clinic bombings not counting as terrorism these days (if ever).

Jesus' General - My Saviour is a Very Butch Saviour - This one is special delivery for Paul and Apathy Jack, and as Pam from Pandagon warns, be careful not to be sipping coffee whilst reading this one, because spitting it all over the screen may make it hard to read the rest.

Larvatus Prodeo - What's it like to have one leg? - Kim explains beautifully.

LeftAlign - American left-wing blogs are myopic - In which the eponymous author searches for left blogs that aren't all Democrats-this and Republicans-that.

The Legal Soapbox - Conservation = Conservatism? - Legal Eagle ponders the "scientific illiteracy" of some in the Green movement, in a lengthy post well worth a good perusal.

Long Ago And Not True Anyway - ANZAC Day - Terence shares his thoughts and emotions about one of Aotearoa's most meaningful public holidays.

No Right Turn - Ancient History: the Coalition for Open Government - Idiot/Savant enlightens us all about the background of this renewed lobby group.

Pandagon - Your White Guy Passport to Expertland - ilyka writes passionately about the expert stance many seem to take, even when faced with experiences they haven't had, and can never have.

Red in Roskill - Kill the Bills - Michael Wood looks at the two members' bills about lifting trading restrictions at Easter, which are likely to see some voting action in the next week.

(Pic Via)

Clean dirtiness

As our world warms up, and the debate about how to address it gets even hotter, our power companies have come up with diverting strategies to exploit the impression of a clean, green New Zealand to benefit their own public images. Pukeko and pohutukawa are recruited in 30 second sells which shy away from showing us smoking stacks or coal mines.

Greenpeace have come up with a humdinger of a spoof of Genesis' most recent advert, pointing out the hypocrisy of these commercials. Many of these companies use methods that are unsustainable - the way they generate power is a threat to the very clean streams, unscarred countryside and luscious native bush they film to sell their electrons to us. The Clean Energy Guide lays bare the true dirty nature of much of our electricity generation, and points out the simple changes we can make to start the clean up while still putting juice in our laptops and lightbulbs when we need it.

A while back Make Tea Not War decided to make the switch to Meridian, which is NZ's only carbon neutral power supplier. I was a bit reticient about hopping companies myself, as I've had a few nightmares with utilities in the past. Right at the moment I (pathetically) need to know that there will definitely be a hot water bottle to hug at the end of the day. But Tea reports good things from her change, so I'm going to take the plunge this month too.

Yep, I'll only be making a small difference, but it will be an improvement nonetheless.

The Trouble with Lichen

Well there's no trouble really, I just like both the book and the flora.

Taken on the Mangere Bridge waterfront, March 2007

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

All thrashed out - an end to debating s59?

Well, what an interesting day in NZ politics! Idiot/Savant has great coverage of the Parliamentary debate on the committee stage of the Bill repealing s59 of the Crimes Act and thus removing from our statue books an archaic defence for assaulting children.

Cross-party consensus on a highly controversial issue that had mobilised a large amount of public support and opposition. That's a sentence I never thought I would type. NZ First is still to make up their mind*, and Act are still vehemently opposed, but both major parties are on the one side, along with the Greens, Maori Party and United Future.

Of course as a supporter of repeal, I'm pretty stoked right now. I see no problem with the new amendment, I'm happy that a political consensus has been forged that takes the heat out of the issue, and the core of the legal change remains as I had hoped; a clear message has been sent that hitting children is not ok and there will no longer be a defence in law that allows people to get away with beating their kids. Let the social change start now!

The coverage that child abuse has received throughout this process, in particular the slippery slope of physical discipline, has been a Good Thing. Hopefully we've all learnt a lot about other forms of correction, about the rights of children, and about questioning practices that seem to have continued for years for arcane reasons that no longer apply**. I know I've certainly learnt a great deal about the impact physical discipline can have on people, and I know for sure now that it's a path I don't want to go down with my own kids.

So this seems to be an end to the public debate and all that's left is the inevitable scrap over who actually won.

I'll readily admit I was surprised John Key agreed to the new amendment. TV3 News said tonight that Helen Clark initiated the discussions by passing a note to Key in the chamber yesterday afternoon, suggesting talks.*** Clark, Key and Bill English**** then met last night and thrashed the deal out. Today Labour and National came out with an amendment Key said publicly his 48 votes could back. Original sponsor of the bill Sue Bradford is happy - like me, she feels it doesn't really change the legislation. Peter Dunne gets to put the amendment and re-establish his claim to the Mr Commonsense crown. Fun for (almost) all the family!

But why did Key agree? He must have known that this was an issue that could run and run - this s59 kerfuffle looked like it had the legs to create all sorts of havoc in marginal seats and the party vote to the next election and even beyond. Labour recently neutralised the over-spending issue by paying back the money they owed Parliamentary Services, and the cheque was presented two months before the deadline they had set themselves (if still nine months later than National managed to pay their more meagre bill of $10,000). Key must have a lot of confidence that there will be other issues on which National can embarass Labour in the near future, because he's just traded a major one away for a joint media conference with the Prime Minister and some sound-bites.

Or maybe Clark snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on this? Maybe she told Key (and English) last night that Labour would put up this amendment, which is so close to the compromise Key (falsely, imho) said he wanted last week, regardless of whether National came in on it or not. Clark may have sold it to Key by saying that National would look like fools if they persisted in voting against, given that this amendment was what they claimed to desire only a few days ago. And Key bought it.

On the other hand, this could be part of a broader plan by the new-ish National leadership to show that their party can engage in MMP-style politics, in coalition-building. Notably their main coalition possibility, Act, have been left well and truly outside the tent on this one, but perhaps Key will point back to today, on the hustings next year, and say "See, I know how to work together, I can do this whole multi-party jizzle."

Of course he'll need more than one example to have any cred in his claim - I look forward to National agreeing to engage in pragmatic discussions around monetary policy and election funding proposals in the near future. After a few more fancy steps with multiple dance partners Key might be able to put himself up as a credible alternate Prime Minister - a doer of deeds and a maker of deals.

But the flaw in that plan is the stark fact that it was Clark who actually pulled this deal together. Clearly there is political life, and political management, in our Prime Minister yet. After all, you don't stay Labour leader for 14 years without knowing how to neutralise your enemies, and understanding how to win a vote.

It's been a funny strange day, and here's a little funny hah hah to end it.

Previous posts about s59's repeal and the accompanying debate:
- The Appeal of Repeal - 18th March
- A little more on s59's repeal - 19th March
- Supporting repeal - 27th March
- So explain to me again - why is hitting a child ok again? - 29th March
- Debating s59 - striking a blow for positive social change - 2nd April
- Another question on s59 - what is smacking? - 5th April
- Compromised - 29th April

(Pic Via)

* I took the "s" off that word. We all know there is only one mind to be decided in NZ First most of the time.
** If they ever did.
*** I think we can presume the note didn't say "trev sez gerry tol him yous r ok 2 talk l8r wanna get 2gethr?"
**** Telling that English and Key went to that meeting together imho. Is Key not confident enough with the Prime Minister, or with his own caucus, to do this kind of stuff without someone holding his hand?

Last minute "compromise" on s59?

Just picked up this Newstalk ZB story via Scoopit:

...Prime Minister Helen Clark and National leader John Key are about to
make an announcement over an amendment that their parties have agreed to.

It is understood the amendment will prevent police from prosecuting
parents for a smack to a child which is deemed trivial or trifling...
I have a bad feeling about this. I'd feel less foreboding if the article mentioned the involvement of Sue Bradford, the actual author of the original Bill.


Like Maia I was a bad leftie yesterday and didn't do a May Day post (the April Bloggage doesn't count by any stretch of the imagination). Here's a poster I rather like in lieu.

Luckily brownfemipower has up an amazing array of protest posts, Our History of Protest. Also the gossip blogged about the difference between May Day in Europe and the way that New Zealanders celebrate workers' day - it's as if we were on opposite sides of the planet! Oh, wait.

Anyhoo, I missed the Auckland May Day march, managing to get there just in time for it to be all over. I did go to the CTU Hollow Men forum though, with Nicky Hager, Raymond Miller and Laila Harre, and hope to blog on that some time in the next week or so. Some very stimulating speeches and discussion, although I just shut up and took notes. Nice to also to put some faces to names and catch up with some old friends.

(Pic Via)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bloggage April 2007

The observant may note I've put these up 15 minutes before the deadline for submission - sorry, I had forgotten an appointment and so I can post it either now or tomorrow - I figured now would have to do. Instructions for inclusion are towards the end of the post.

Once again, here are the NZ Pol Blog stats for the last month.

This month I've also asked people to choose their top post for contribution, which you'll get if you click on their listing. I've indicated the blogs that have done this by afixing an asterisk at the end of the blogname. If they haven't nominated one then it will just go to their front page.


APRIL 2007

Fly (1 post)
Red in Roskill - 1 post, no comments

Bantam(2 - 9 posts)
Single Malt Social Democrat - 2 posts, 2 comments
Anarchia* - 5 posts, 56 comments
Joe Hendren* - 6 posts, 2 comments

Feather (10 - 19 posts)
Born on State Highway One* - 12 posts, 10 comments
Mutopia* - 12 posts, 10 comments
sportreviewnz* - 13 posts, 15 comments
Aucklander at Large* - 13 posts, 35 comments
The Strategist* - 14 posts, 73 comments
From the Morgue - 16 posts, 118 comments

Light (20 - 29 posts)
Object Dart - 22 posts, 47 comments
The Gossip* - 23 posts, no comments
I See Red* - 24 posts, 367 comments
The Fundy Post* - 26 posts, 117 comments
The Legal Soapbox* - 28 posts, 136 comments
Stanselen* - 29 posts, 81 comments

Welter (30 - 49 posts)
Paul Gardner info* - 30 posts, 13 comments
SAJ News and Stuff* - 32 posts (comments not allowed)
Just Left - 35 posts, 472 comments
Hitchens Watch - 35 posts, 905 comments
Mainly Politics* - 40 posts, 99 comments
Spanblather* - 49 posts, 294 comments

Middle (50 - 74 posts)
The Briefing Room* - 65 posts, 785 comments

Cruiser (75 - 99 posts)
(no one yet...)

Heavy (100 - 199 posts)
No Right Turn* - 102 posts, 635 comments, 1 completed pledge
Not PC* - 121 posts, 695 comments, 1 pledge still to be completed
Whaleoil* - 161 posts, 255 comments

Super Heavy (200+) - 216 posts, 2 comments
David Farrar* - 280 posts, 8240 comments

If you're not listed above and you're reduced to a little puddle of gloom on your puter chair, then you can do one of two things to lift the fugue:

  1. Email me your blog stats for March - spanblatherATgmaildotcom. I'll then add you in when I get a chance.
  2. Add them in comments below - again I will add you to the main post as opportunity allows.
As in the past, emailed stats will take priority and as I'm not always at my puter sometimes addition may take a few hours at least, especially this week. Please have patience with your humble blog slave.


Updated, 8.50am 2nd May: Added Whaleoil.
Updated, 2.09pm 2nd May: Added morgue, Not PC, Asher
Updated, 6.30pm 3rd May: Added Jordan.

Past Bloggage:
- February 2007
- March 2007

(Pic Via)