Vote Yes

For those truckers who don’t follow me on G.Blog, here’s a cross-post:

Just a reminder to everyone who supported Sue Bradford’s Bill to repeal ยง59 of the crimes act and extend full protection from assault to children- there is a referendum coming up that is designed to undermine that decision, even though it passed overwhelmingly and attitudes (not only to abuse of children, but also to physical discipline of children) have already changed dramatically since the implementation of the new law.

There’s a great non-partisan campaign to support the current law on at The site is very rigorous and straightforward in its facts, doesn’t overreach, and has excellent talking points for the current policy and why it needs extra time to be successful. In short, their main thrust accords with the Party’s reasoning for supporting the bill in the first place: It draws a line in the sand and uses that to motivate slow change towards a society where physical discipline is largely abandoned and unnecessary.

If you can get out and help spread the word that people supporting our current, sensible laws regarding assault against children, please do so. Their recommendations for supporting the “Yes” campaign are here1, and you can find resources for grassroots campaigning here.

1 Basically, they recommend writing your local MP and keeping up with news from the campaign.

Speech is action

I’m torn between being sad1 and angry1 about the news I’ve been catching up on since yesterday.

In case anyone thought we needed reminding, the death of one George Tiller, a doctor who performed late-term abortions in cases of clear need, will serve as a tragic marker for the connection between speech and action.

Scott Roeder, the lead suspect, was a fringe follower with links deep into self-described “pro-life” groups. Roeder was present for the acquittal when Tiller was accused of violating state abortion laws. (Tiller was harassed with lawsuits by pro-life groups) He followed websites that tracked Dr. Tiller, listed his home address, place of work, church address, businesses he frequented, and more. He, like many of his friends at his pro-life website, even compared Dr. Tiller to Mengele.

Combine this stalking behaviour with speech from all sorts of prominent anti-abortion campaigners comparing doctors performing abortions not only to murderers, but also to famous genocides, and the outcry from some groups that they don’t condone violence rings hollow- not necessarily because they do condone violence, but because their “strong peaceful protest” has likely enabled not just this killing, but also previous attempts (both successful and not) on the lives of doctors around the U.S.A., and even previous attempts on the life of Doctor Tiller.

Now we see the sad justification for the U.S. government watching for terror threats from extreme right-wing groups. If pro-choice groups attempted to capture and/or enslave men, or rape women with the aim to forcibly impregnate them, we’d be entering the same realm as we have now for conservative anti-abortion groups in the U.S.A. Here’s what the founder of the site Roeder followed had to say on this incident:

George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more concerned that the Obama administration will use Tiller’s killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions. Abortion is still murder. And we still must call abortion by its proper name: murder.

Those men and women who slaughter the unborn are murderers according to the law of God. We must continue to expose them in our communities and peacefully protest them at their offices and homes, and yes, even their churches.

If yelling “fire” in a crowded room is incitement to disturbing the peace, what is yelling “genocide!” to an inflamed mob? I wish he had more to be worried about than just his crocodile tears over not being able to use “effective2 rhetoric” against abortion.

Comments like this go beyond the point where anyone can be expected to agree to disagree, as much as I am a fan of that policy. This is advocating domestic terrorism and political violence, and is never appropriate. In an ideal world these groups that advocate extreme violence would be treated like the terrorists they are wherever on the political spectrum they fell, but the political double-standard for American conservatives is apparently still in full force.

Still, at least I can credit the social conservatives in our own fair country with not being murdering crazies3.

1 Read: “crying” and “cursing”. ๐Ÿ˜‰
2 I.e.: dangerous and irresponsible.
3Except of course the “Sensible Sentencing Trust”, who think it is appropriate to murder taggers. Damn. Guess that bit of patriotism backfired ๐Ÿ˜›

Fat Satan

Bow down to your deity, puny mortals. It’s nice to know I’m not an irrational freak and that the bad feeling when I gorge myself with chocolate1 is not me worrying about getting fat even though it seems all but impossible for me2, it’s actually Fat Satan trying in vain to steal my soul.

I’ve had trouble with this whole looking after yourself without feeling guilty thing- mainly because feeling guilty is like, a favourite passtime of mine or something- but the idea of dark obesity deities is strangely comforting even beyond the feeling of “yay, parody!”. I’m thinking Fat Satan is going to enter my everyday vocabulary. ๐Ÿ˜‰

1This happens approximately 100% of the time that I buy quantities of chocolate that exceed the size of the average “candy bar”, to wax American.
2I have an astoundingly inefficient metabolism, and the only time I ever noticably gained weight was when I was on a student exchange to Germany. Coming back and not fitting my tight jeans was a surprise. Fat Satan will have to make do with conquering the Americas for now.


Just a note: While I’m getting back into things again now, you’ll be having a scheduled two-week break while I depart to visit my sisters and nephew down in Christchurch. This is so those special truckers among you who are fans or who link over to me now and then can relax their bookmarks for a few days. Cheers. ๐Ÿ™‚

Pay Equity Fired

Just a quick link- those of you who don’t already follow THM should take a look at Anjum’s piece there about the Ministry of Women’s Affairs firing its staff handling pay equity issues. Not a good look, National. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Christine Rankin to the Families Commission

You can see her defending her appointment on TVNZ Ondemand.

While there is considerable reaction to Christine Rankin being appointed to the families commission, a lot of it is misguided. One of the tragedies of accepting any significant part of feminism is that it motivates you to defend women whose values greatly contradict your own, and while I think Ms. Rankin is a disastrous appointment, I don’t think all the criticism of her is fair or robust. In fact, I think there have been bad and good criticisms from both sides of the political divide. Let’s quickly dismiss the things I don’t want to talk about because they are trivial attacks with little substance:

  • Her dress style: Her dress style is in many ways professional, and has become more so. Get over it, if she wants to dress that way I don’t see any problem. If her male colleagues are distracted maybe they need to have a cold shower before coming to work, as she certainly does not dress in a style that I would describe as provocative. I can’t believe anyone complains about her wearing long earrings, for instance.
  • Her divorces: The families commission should represent all types of families, and divorce is a reality in New Zealand. I actually think this gives her a useful perspective, even if the conservative types may not like it.
  • Her aggressiveness: She’s a strong woman. Get over it. ๐Ÿ˜‰ A commissioner should be able to vigorously defend her viewpoint, and I don’t object to that quality in Ms. Rankin.
  • Her association with the National Party: I’m personally of the opinion that public servants should not be forbidden to have a political life of their own so long as they serve the government of the day effectively and impartially. While I have doubts about her ability to be impartial, I don’t think being involved with the National Party should disqualify her.

Here are my own objections, that I feel have some substance.

  1. “Politically Incorrect”: Describing oneself as “not PC” is a way to tripwire one of my litmus tests. While I don’t think it’s possible to never offend everyone or that you should speak in language that you have not made your own, I do believe in making an effort to get along with other people and to call them by their own appropriate names and identifiers, rather than expecting them to conform to my behavioral standards and make do with what I want to label them. People who claim they’re not PC as a badge of pride tend to use this as a way of saying they expect you to hold the same bigoted views as they do, although of course I take the time to listen to them and confirm that they follow this trend before I judge them. Christine Rankin most definitely does conform to it.
  2. Diviseness: Oddly enough, Peter Dunne is right: Christine Rankin is a politically divisive figure and will not be able to work effectively with a potential labour government, and has shown in the past her inability to do so. She defended herself as being strong, not PC, and able to speak out against the left- so she’s effectively admitting she is highly divisive and not looking to provide objective advice. It’s great saying you’re willing to speak out against things that are wrong, but she crossed the line as soon as she said WHO was wrong in the specific (“the left”, although I would still object if a civil servant said “the right” was wrong after being appointed)- that made clear that she divides the world internally into people she agrees with, and people she doesn’t. I have no idea whose fault her issues with the Labour government were, and I make no judgement on that, regardless of my antipathy for her. She says she would be fine working with a Labour government if they want to hear what she has to say, but frankly I think her ideology would get in the way of that, given her disastrous performance at WINZ and her inability to deal with opposing viewpoints. Of course, Christine is also right that Dunne is on a mad quest for power, but that’s a personal attack on him, not a defense of herself. I doubt that was his motivation in objecting to her: He’s far more likely to be worried she’s going to destabilise and sabotage his most effective political achievement.
  3. Policy: Christine Rankin thinks that violence against children is sometimes appropriate and supports the re-implementation of section 59 of the crimes act. As a victim of abuse herself, I accept her right to talk from her experience and she has my deepest sympathy and my support in her advocacy for children in general, however I feel her views on smacking children, and also on the separate issue of the repeal of section 59, are likely founded on her own desensitisation to violence against children. Section 59 was not a smokescreen issue, it has helped effect a 33% increase in the number of people who know it is not okay to commit violence against children. For someone so results-focused, Christine Rankin is quick to ignore some quite positive results, and seems set on undoing an effective policy. I apologise if in saying this I’ve somehow belittled her experiences, but I can’t find a convincing reason to agree with her.
  4. Partisan Appointment: While I don’t claim the government will have viewed this appointment favourably1, I have little doubt that it has been made to further the interests of this government, and not those of New Zealand as a whole. Ms. Rankin has made clear that she does not believe in the idea of public service, and thinks governments departments must be run like a particularly poor business, cutting every cost without exceptionally good short-term justification. Some scared interviewers likely viewed this favourably because it gels with the inept last-ditch strategy of our new government to cut everything they can and hope for the best. This sort of managerial style would be disastrous for long-term social welfare project like the Families Commission, and no doubt a repeat performance of her bellyflop at WINZ, and undo the small successes the commission has had thus far.
  5. Disqualification: Rankin has made it quite clear she cannot manage senior government positions in the past. I don’t see the point of giving her another one without her gaining some very good qualifications in the meantime.
  6. Heterocentrism and normativity: Rankin seems to think a heterosexual marriage with 2.5 kids is something to be ashamed of because we now talk about other types of families. As someone who was a victim of abuse and has been divorced, I would have expected Ms. Rankin to have learned something about how useless normativity is from her experiences. That she has not clearly shows she is ill-suited to the families commission.

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There is no depression in New Zealand

We all know the refrain right? There is no such thing as mental illness. People just need to “harden up” and get through it, right? Pychs are just there to scam the weak-willed for money, like some sort of pokies for the headcases.

Bullshit. As someone who is finally starting to recover from long-term social anxiety, trying to “harden up” and tough your way through a recovery just causes you to panic and think you can’t do it at all, which quickly leads you into making your problem worse by trying to deal with it through avoiding it. Not just that, but there are real physical symptoms1 from mental illness that can be pretty mystifying if you try to treat them without addressing the mental problems behind them. (My sleeping has got much better, for instance, since I started re-learning how to relax my muscles) One way to battle a mental illness is that you challenge its premises by slowly putting yourrself into the situations that challenge you- not going all-out at once, but just building up slowly so you can function.

This opinion often cloaks itself behind other objections: “We try to cure everything with antidepressants” being a notable one. Firstly, I should point out that any half-decent GP will realise that antidepressants are there to help break you out of feedback loops, not to make you feel better about the hole you’re in. ๐Ÿ˜‰ You can’t make yourself feel better by getting a job or doing well at study if you’re too depressed to even show up, for instance. This is what real medical professionals use anti-depressants for, and why a GP will generally try to get someone they prescribe this sort of treatment to into therapy of some sort. The reason that the use of antidepressants for medicating mental disorders is so common is that practically every mental disorder is based upon a feedback loop. Violent people cause others to threaten them by being prepared for that threat in the first place. Shy or nervous people isolate themselves because they’re too afraid to socialise. Depressive people lose engagement and motivation and can’t face the things they need to do to get them back, because those very actions require a degree of motivation and engagement. Starting off on an anti-depressant during some sort of therapy gives people the boost they need to break the cycle- no good doctor just hands someone pills and hopes they go away.

What’s even worse is that this reinforces social problems in our society. Because violent people think they’re naturally violent rather than that they’ve lost control of their own subconscious, a lot of preventable domestic violence happens precisely because of the attitude that mental illness doesn’t exist. Rape victims have what they need for recovery questioned and are treated like attention-seekers because they can’t just “harden up” their way out of post-traumatic stress. All sorts of people from the GLBTQI rainbow can suffer social exclusion syndrome that makes them think they’re a lot more different than they actually are due to the pressure put on them to conform to straight norms. I won’t claim to familiar with the sorts of mental disorders that can arise from racism, but as poverty tends to make it harder to access effective treatment and discourage wanting to further, racial poverty among New Zealand minorities is surely a factor here.

Hopefully recent public education has dented this one a bit, but it still surprises me just how many of these harmful beliefs my subconscious had swallowed despite totally contradicting what I believed. Fortunately, when you live in a world where mental illness is real, you can understand that sometimes the conscious and subconscious work at odds with each other.

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And you’re out.

So, it’s strike eleventy1 for the beleaguered three strikes law. I can’t say I’m surprised or disappointed, as every evaluation of the practicality of such laws (as opposed to the pure feel-good politics it generates of being seen “getting tough”) has concluded that this law is a terrible step backwards that violates the bill of rights. (Because it’s disproportionate punishment, the same clause in the BORA that prevents torture) Not only that, but it’s been pegged as violating one of the pillars of western justice, (proportional and consistent punishment,) blowing out the budget paying for extra prisons, increasing re-offending and generating more victims, and also presenting a risk that third-time offenders will resort to homocide rather than leave a witness around to testify for their life sentence.

Naturally, “Family First” rubbishes this news, contending that California’s crime rate went down after the law was implemented, and that our crime rate is going up.

Let me address the claim that our crime rate is increasing first: Yes, more victims are reporting crimes. No, the rate at which crimes are committed compared to the increase in population has not had a “real” increase – a lot of the new reports can be attributed to increased public awareness around domestic violence due to the perfect storm that was the convergence of the “It’s Not Okay” campaign with the Section 59 repeal law.

Secondly: I’ll concede that California’s crime rate went down. But correlation doesn’t have to imply causation. California is also one of the most liberal states in the USA, even when it’s under Republican governorship, and it may well have taken good preventative measures in concert with enacting a three-strikes law. Also, most of the side effects of such laws are long-term. I certainly share their optimism that nobody be killed should such a law be implemented here, but I don’t doubt that it will make re-offending worse, undermine rehabilitation, (Which FF probably doesn’t mind as some spokespeople have demonstrated they don’t believe it ever works) and create more victims for only a perception of safety.

Here’s hoping that the debate is ended by National finding a viable way to drop support for this Hindenberg of a law.
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Shorter Karl Du Fresne

So, I made the mistake after returning from town today of opening the newspaper, and was within minutes of getting to the B section of the Dominion Post assaulted with the misogyny and rape-apology of a piece from Karl Du Fresne, which fortunately for those of you who haven’t read it, is not online.

Here’s the “Shorter Karl Du Fresne”, or for those unfamiliar with internet memes, a one sentence summary of his article: “ACC is a welfare agency because it offers counselling to rape survivors.”

Firstly, I am going to assume that Karl is neither a rape survivor himself, nor has he consulted any in the construction of his article, given that he shows all the sensitivity of a rampaging rhinoceros. I was going to stay off the ACC “controversy” on G.Blog (and definitely here) because it’s being covered enough by pan-left blogs, but this forces my hand right here, political hot potato or not. (As this blog is intentionally non-partisan I promise not to touch the wider political issues of whether ACC is viable as-is ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Firstly and foremost: Rape victims are victims by accident. Nobody asks to be raped1, nobody entices someone to rape them, and nobody deserves to be raped because their rapist or someone trying to excuse their rape thinks the victim2 is a tease. There is a definite theme in Karl’s piece that people (he specifies women- although we should keep in mind that it’s possible for men, especially very young men, to be raped) who don’t press charges are not really victims or survivors of rape, and that nobody is to blame for what might have happened to them because they aren’t willing to have the matter brought to court. There is a very good reason why most rape cases are never even reported, and those that are rarely result in convictions: People like Karl try to shift the blame from (alleged) rapists to rape victims, and wield the word “alleged” like a proclamation of innocence. I have some news for the Karl and anyone out there who think that rape is not a real workplace injury unless a trial has taken place: Innocent until proven guilty is a system we use to prevent the state holding a kangaroo court, not a denial that victims can ever exist without laying charges.

Furthermore, even if, as Karl implies, there are women out there who are trying to dupe the system… well, firstly, they would need that counselling anyway, and secondly, any decent counsellor is pretty good at identifying attention-seeking behaviour and differentiating it from other psychological problems. If someone really is using rape as an excuse, then they have a personality problem that needs to be dealt with before they can be taken seriously by their employer.

Between this and the issue that rape trauma can be debilitating and seriously turn around lives for the worse, ACC’s no-fault system is actually a great way to fund recovery and return to regular life and work for victims who want to become survivors and learn how to deal with the work environment again, and is well within its mandate of insurance for high-impact incidents, whether in our working lives or private lives. Karl’s note at the end of his tirade against this much-needed help is that:

Interestingly enough, an Auckland survey of women being counselled for sexual abuse found that 30 per cent had undergone 100 or more ACC-funded sessions of therapy. Despite that, many expressed disappointment that they were not getting enough.

Instead of perhaps taking from this that rape can induce real and sometimes debilitating long-term trauma, with many survivors having their memories of the event “triggered” by even tangential reminders let alone direct discussion of rape in general, Karl seems to want to imply that this is a waste of money that the state should not be paying for.

I disagree: when the state is an active participant in combating rape and rape-apology, and men raping women becomes as rare as women raping men, then maybe- maybe we can start labelling the cost of supporting rape survivors as “welfare”, at least in the sense of improving the welfare of our society. But when we as a society stand by and let this sort of thing happen, obstruct bringing the perpetrators to justice, glorify objectification and the suggestion of rape in our culture, and don’t even know that partner rape is a bigger threat than street rape, then we are certainly dealing with the occupational cost for women and other rape victims of working or even just living in our rape-friendly society, where women are still viewed by some as property that should not be taken from its proper place.

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Would the other ex-partners please stand up?

So, I’m going to issue an ultimatum here: I don’t care whether Pauline Hanson really was photographed nude by an ex-boyfriend or not, and it has nothing to do with her being from over the ditch. But what I do care about is this: How is it not trying to dismiss her career because she, at one point, may have dared to have sex while being female?

Politicians, even ones you or I don’t like- are entitled to have sex lives, especially if we want to be able to vote for people who have stable long-term partners or children. Sex lives are almost always a necessary ingredient there. We cannot then turn around and try to make our (or Australia’s) representatives ashamed of one of the parts of their life that makes them so able to understand our lives as citizens and voters. Being a politician certainly exposes you to embarrassment, but if we as a society agree that sexy times need to stay in the bedroom, (or at least, behind closed doors) then we have to afford the same level of consideration to our representatives- at least so far as they’re willing to stay out of our own bedrooms. That’s the case against this sort of tabloid “journalism” in general: that it attacks people who are living ordinary lives to pander to our prejudices.

But what else causes me to be dismissive of this bitter popularity grab to discredit Pauline Hanson is that no ex-partner of any male politician has ever pulled this sort of crap. (Partly, this is because women and gay men don’t tend to think as much that they own anyone they’ve seen in a sexual relationship before, while some straight men definitely do think that way of all their partners) I don’t think it even matters if those photos are of her or not: there’s no reason to pay attention to them in a world where only women can have their careers sabotaged by the papers when they are caught having sex. We can talk more about the general moral consequences of sexy photos if it’s Kevin Rudd or John Key next.

edit: Looking around the interwebs, QoT reminded me of yet another thing that pissed me off about the coverage that led me to write about this, which I had forgotten overnight: TV3 doesn’t get to excuse showing nude pictures of someone who may be Pauline Hanson because she’s willing to wear lycra, unless being caught wearing tight jeans on TV somehow turns me into a male porn star. (In which case, I better start avoiding cameras…)