Wednesday, 19 October 2011


No doubt my site is going to have a few issues over the next couple of days - I started out intending to upload some photos of the camp from today and yesterday, and ended up... er, switching hosting companies entirely and planning to switch blog platforms too. In the meantime I'll stick these photos up on photobucket or something because today's ones especially are kinda impressive solely because of the ten people still actually in camp when the main living area has two inches of water on the floor! Thank god it's stopped raining now, and hopefully it won't start again overnight.

ETA: Here's the album with photos from the last two days. The first six are yesterday, the wet ones are today.

Day Four

Christchurch locals will know that the weather was miserable today. I had flax weaving during the day but afterwards made my way to Hagley Park with some paint and tea and a ginger loaf, where people were sitting and moving around wrapped in blankets and warm clothing. A few people were fixing a tent which had collapsed in the wind, which was having a bit of a go at some of the others too, but once I settled down under the gazebo and got my sewing out I got into some conversations and everyone was still cheerful, if cold. The general consensus was that at least people seeing that we were still out there meant they might realise we were serious and not just out for a lark.

We had a couple of people drop things by too, which was awesome - someone brought muffins, and a lady came by to donate a blanket and a couple of big bottles of drinking water. Later on we had a workshop on dealing with the police in a worst case scenario, especially as there's a somewhat disturbing story going around at the moment, but as things stand we are getting on quite fine with the police and I hope that continues obviously.

At eight is the evening general meeting which I got to stay for and quite a few people turned up for that since the meetings are pretty much the most important part of the day. Someone volunteers to facilitate to make sure anyone who wants to speak gets heard and move through the agenda - there were twelve items on it tonight that had been added through the day and at the end people can raise any other points. It's open to everyone so any locals who are interested, they're at 10am and 8pm every day and go for up to two hours, maybe a bit more. They're basically for covering the pragmatic details, and the meeting minutes are posted online on the website.

I did goof and not double check when buses finish now so when we finished I ended up walking home. It was a bit surprising - the city goes dead at night. I saw maybe three other pedestrians the whole way home, and not that many cars either. I probably should have expected that, but it was still a little eerie.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Countdown Begins

I just want to make a couple of things clear here, coming up to the election. The purpose of this blog is not to influence anyone's political opinions, nor to endorse any candidate or party. I particularly have not, do not, and will not accept any kind of financial or physical recompense for advertising or endorsing any candidate, party or political position.

My tangential involvement with the Occupy movement is not political. To me, this is a social issue first and foremost - I think that, as a culture, our priorities are messed up. As far as I'm aware the movement itself doesn't have any particular political position anyway, but really my involvement is simply an extension of my day job in trying to do my best for the society that I really do love, particularly here in Ōtautahi who have been struggling over the last year.

So, yeah, given we're a month out from the election now, I will be largely posting only news especially relating to Occupy, not political commentary. Likely I won't have a huge amount of time at the computer either.

If anyone local wants to get in touch with me for any reason, I of course am on Twitter so you can send me a message there (either through @replies or direct message if you're on my follow list), or you can ask me for my mobile number. Otherwise you can email me, I have gmail under thelittlepakeha, or of course leave a comment on any post here.

Occupy Everything

It all started innocuously enough with a July 13 blog post urging people to #OccupyWallStreet, as though such a thing (Twitter hashtag and all) were possible.

It turns out, with enough momentum and a keen sense of how to use social media, it actually is.

The Occupy movement, decentralized and leaderless, has mobilized thousands of people around the world almost exclusively via the Internet. To a large degree through Twitter, and also with platforms like Facebook and Meetup, crowds have connected and gathered.

As with any movement, a spark is needed to start word spreading. SocialFlow, a social media marketing company, did an analysis for Reuters of the history of the Occupy hashtag on Twitter and the ways it spread and took root.

(more at the link - comments enabled) (video)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Protesters demand to know fate of homes (comments enabled)

More than 100 protesters have vented their anger at the Government for the lack of information on the fate of their earthquake-damaged land.

Yesterday, protesters from around the city attended a rally at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens aimed at lobbying the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority for more information on the fate of homes in the orange and white zones.

Owners of about 9000 homes in the orange zone and thousands more in the white zone have been waiting for months to learn whether their damaged land will be repaired or abandoned.

Supporters carried placards calling for clarity and transparency from the Government and Cera.

Rally organiser Darla Hutt, of Spencerville, said the protesters wanted their voices to be heard. "They haven't been heard, pretty much, since day one," she said.

"Out here in Spencerville and Brooklands, we've been waiting for 13 months now. If they can't tell us what's going on, we want to know why."

Labour's earthquake recovery spokesman, Clayton Cosgrove, and Christchurch East MP Lianne Dalziel spoke at the rally. Cosgrove said orange and white-zone residents were sick of having a "moving line", and called on Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee to be "honest".

"Don't set timelines, and don't say things that are going to cause stress, ratchet up expectation and make promises that you have no intention of keeping," he said.

"The clear message we've got from communities is, `Give it to us, warts and all'."

Hutt said Brownlee, Cera chief executive Roger Sutton and the city's National MPs declined to attend the rally.

The group had planned to march to the Arts Centre after being told it did not have Christchurch City Council approval to hold the event, but, despite a police presence, the protest continued at the gardens without incident.

A spokesman for Brownlee said the Government's view was that orange zones were the top priority.

"We said [last week] Cera would give everyone in the orange zone an update within two weeks, so that means that there will be some form of an update by the end of this week."

Occupy Worldwide (video)

Protests catch on

A month ago the Occupy Wall Street movement had barely registered in the public consciousness.

A formless, seemingly spontaneous crowd of young people had gathered in the Wall Street area of lower Manhattan, the heart of American and global capitalism, to shout anti-capitalist slogans at the pampered, overpaid fat-cat bankers and financiers whom they saw as the authors of the economic woes the world seems unable to shake off. But apart from upsetting a few Wall Streeters who were impeded from getting their lattes at lunchtime, no-one took much notice.

Now, through the magic of Facebook, Twitter and the like the movement appears to be everywhere. In the United States, it has spread from New York to a dozen other cities around the country. In Europe, which was already restive after riots in Greece and Britain, demonstrations inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement occurred in Rome and Berlin, where the protesters clashed violently with the police, and thousands marched in London. According to some accounts, demonstrations at the weekend were held in 951 cities across 82 countries, including New Zealand, where unlike the rest of the world where the gatherings were largely leaderless, some unions got on the bandwagon to organise protests.

Some enthusiastic participants are proclaiming the beginning of a mass movement, but apart from a generalised disgust with the performance of the financial world and politicians – sentiments by no means confined to street-marching protesters – it is difficult to discern a common theme to the protests, still less any kind of common answer to the economic problems of the world. In the United States, the movement has focused on the bailout of banks, the huge bonuses bankers have managed to continue raking in despite the havoc they have wreaked, the inequities of the tax system and inequalities of wealth. One segment of the movement claims that they represent 99 per cent of the nation against the 1 per cent of the reigning business and political class. So far as what they dislike is concerned that could very well be true, but when it comes to the remedies to these ills there is no consensus.

In Europe, the protests are even less coherent. In southern European countries such as Italy and Spain, they are focused on the very real unemployment and financial pain being inflicted, particularly on the young, by the adjustments the countries need to make after years of living beyond their means. In Germany, the loudest shouts of the protesters are against the schemes for saving the profligate countries, for which German taxpayers will have to pay.

Unformed as they may be, the protesters are undoubtedly expressing widely felt discontent but converting that discontent into a politically effective message will take more than a few blocked streets in busy business districts. In this respect the Occupy Wall Street movement is a Left-wing counterpart to the Right-wing Tea Party movement in the US. While Tea Partiers have managed to articulate middle-class fears and worries with considerable skill, their influence so far, despite heavyweight financial backing, has been almost entirely negative. Neither movement can be written off at this point, but neither stands much chance of making further headway unless it finds something more positive to offer.

Occupy Day Three

Disclaimer: This is purely my opinion and isn't vetted by the Occupy Christchurch group as a whole.

As I said before I had work this morning, but once I was done it was back to Hagley Park to see how the occupation was going. I caught the end of the morning General Assembly and then we moved the tents around - something they do every day to protect the grass. There was a table set out with food that people could grab and I added my spare bananas to it, as fruit is in high demand, most people eating pretty healthily. For a while I sat with a group just chattin and cross-stitching, answering questions for anyone who came past. We're lucky to ahve a great spot for foot traffic, right by the Parkside bus exchange, so a lot of people stopped over to see what was going on. Only one group was vaguely negative, some teenagers who turned up with a megaphone to troll us, but then even they came over to talk amiably.

Around 2:30 we started up the media and communications meeting, which was relevant to my interests so I joined in with that, which filled up the next couple of hours discussing topics like signage, social media usage, a final edit of our public statement, and what the mainstream media's saying - which isn't much! One of the guys from Unite expressed a bit of concern that we hadn't gotten anything out earlier because Unite had made a statement supporting the occupation and a couple of places took that and started labeling him the organiser which he thought might lead to attacks claiming the whole thing was a union ploy when it's so much bigger than that. I volunteered to look around and collect anything I see, so if you spot anything, dash off an email. You can just put the link in and send it to so don't worry if you don't know what to say.

People are pretty much settling in for the long haul, so any time you're around town feel free to stop by and see what's going on.

Auckland University students protest over fee hikes (video)

About 50 students are currently occupying a clock tower at Auckland University in protest of a proposed fee hike.

Sarah Thompson, speaking from the tower, said the students had broken into the Princes St building and had taken over an office.

The sociology student said the protest was against a proposed four per cent increase in uni fees and the university's refusal to meet with students about it.

She said police were present.

The University of Auckland Council is this afternoon meeting to consider domestic fees for 2012 and international fees for 2013.

Auckland University Students' Association (AUSA) believes the council will agree to increase fees by four per cent, the same as they've done for the previous three years.

AUSA president Joe McCrory is calling for the council to reject the proposal.

"For years councillors have accepted successive governments shortchanging the future of their students when they approve massive hikes to student fees," he said.

Thompson, 30, said the students would stay in the tower until they found out where the meeting would take place.

The protest follows a rally at the student quad that began at 2pm.

Parliament under Lock(wood) and Key

I don't have the time to get too involved in this post as I'm taking advantage of some break time at work, but didn't want to wait until I get home tonight to post it.

The rules on what footage can be shown on Parliament tv (among other things) have been tightened. The article states that they've been changed "by MPs" but it seems to have come largely from Lockwood Smith, the Speaker and National party member, as an obvious response to what happened in the House a couple of weeks ago when a man attempted to jump off the balcony.

Under the new rules "ambient sound" and shots of what politicians are doing would be regulated - meaning that John Key's apparent throat-slitting gesture and the shocked reaction from Labour would not have been allowed into the media if the new guidelines had been in place at the time.

This is not an irrelevant detail. This is important. These are our representatives - we need to be able to know how they act when they're not performing for the cameras. Transparency is a vital part of democracy or there can be no informed consent, and this clearly undermines that.

Parliament is our house. We need to be able to see what goes on there - all of it.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


Today, Occupy protests around the world are being held. In New Zealand they've been organised for six cities, including Christchurch, so when the weather turned too dodgy to harvest flax I decided to head down to Hagley Park instead. I turned up shortly after twelve to see a few dozen people there already. We weren't due to march until later, so the first hour or so I was there was basically just drifting around, talking to a few people, looking at the signs people were making, etc. I painted up one of my own to hold during the march - "Dear John..."

After a little while we ended up gathered around as the organisers said a few words and declared open mic, which opened with some words about the dawn raids back in 2007 - coincidentally, on October 15, so it's been four years today. There was a steady stream of people with something to say and I went up to say something that I'm assuming was coherent because I was complimented on it later. It was about herd immunity and how we don't have to rely on a "love your neighbour" justification for equality, because all of society is stronger when everyone has basic healthcare and enough money to live on and education. About halfway through a motion was passed to remember that we all had different political views (and some don't take part in the political system at all) and to officially declare the occupation apolitical. It passed not quite unanimously, but well over 90%.

The next person to take the mic was a guy from ACT.

Honestly I'm not quite sure what his over-riding point was supposed to be, because he kept veering into really political territory, at which point everyone would start heckling him. Eventually he just gave up and some more people spoke, until maybe five minutes later, another guy from ACT on Campus tried to remind us that capitalism is awesome because otherwise we wouldn't have any scientists. He, also, was heckled until he gave up, and shortly afterwards a science student came up to say that very few of his course-mates were in it for money and that if you wanted to make money you probably shouldn't be in science anyway. Shockingly, sometimes people go into a career because they like it, not because they want to be millionaires. I know, weird, right? There was also a little bit of poetry and a few of us sung Nga Iwi E (though I was sitting down and couldn't be bothered hobbling up to the mic for it with the others who knew the words).

Shortly past two we split up into smaller groups. I drifted into the part where people were talking national issues - we covered a few things like affirmative action, inequality, the price of dairy, leading into dairy farming and the ETS, the state of the education system and how it could be improved, staff cuts at Canterbury University, so on and so on. A bit to eat, and then it was time to head down to Riccarton Road, with me clomping along with my cane at a steady clip.

It was hard to see but a few people moving up and down the line reported that it was very long. Obviously we had far fewer people than, say, Auckland, but it was a good turnout so walking down footpaths we looked pretty impressive. We'd been briefed beforehand on how to keep everything legal so we did, in fact, stay on the footpath and off private property. Not only that, we stopped at cross-lights, and when there weren't any we crossed roads in groups. When I was at the front we also were apologising to people walking the other way and trying to make room for them, though I'm not sure what it was like further back. At any rate, it was an incredibly fucking polite protest march. We got quite a lot of response from passing cars, too, which was neat. We ended up heading right down past the mall to a little park that's sort of halfway between Westfields and Church Corner, where we rested for a bit and then started heading back.

When we made it back to Hagley Park it was just past five, and at that point I was exhausted and thirsty (having drunk all my water while walking down the road) and decided to head home. When I left there were still quite a lot of people there settling down to listen to music and chat more.

So, yes, all in all it was a super day. It looked briefly like it was going to be rainy but luckily it cleared up quite quickly and the sun came out for us. I had some great conversations with some very smart, well-educated people, and the number that turned up was really encouraging. There were quite a few kids and dogs, too, and the alcohol and drug free rule was barely an issue because everyone was just really chill. I'm not sure if anyone's planning on staying the night - there's a bylaw about camping in public places - but there were a couple of gazebos and three or so tents set up, and there was discussion of sitting up into the night wrapped in blankets at the very least.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Racism vs Reason

There is a growing sense of anti-Filipino sentiment in the Bay of Plenty after the Rena crashed, sparking our worst maritime environmental disaster.

This is stupid on a number of levels. Most obviously, the idea that the crew are representative of their entire people is utterly ridiculous. If they'd been white, we would not be stewing in anger at all white people, because white people are seen as the default. Further, Filipinos who are already living in the Bay of Plenty have proven themselves as part of the community. They're just as angry about the oil spill as anyone. Why turn on each other? How is that going to help? They didn't come here as the advance guard for some kind of conspiracy that planned for this to happen - especially not those that were born here.

But even beyond these considerations is the awareness that many foreign shipping companies try to cut their costs as much as possible to maximise profit, something that our government tacitly encourages with our incredibly lax regulations. One of those cost-cutting measures involves the crew. Even in the last few months there have been accusations of outright slavery on ships in New Zealand waters. Now clearly none of us know the exact conditions that the Rena's crew were under, but we do know that the disaster was partly caused by adherence to cost-cutting measures. The captain is almost certainly liable, as are a few others. But we have no idea about the rest of the crew. They may have been victims in this themselves.

All of which means, not only are people completely illogically spreading the blame from individuals to a whole nationality, the individuals may not even deserve that blame in the first place.

All this shows, of course, that the culprits here are simply taking advantage of the situation to express latent racism that they already held, whether consciously or not. Likely it wasn't even directed specifically at Filipinos before, just this murky idea of Others, and the Rena incident has lit a spark to that Othering. But it's no more acceptable than it was two weeks ago. These people should be ashamed to call themselves New Zealanders.

Stop it

It's safe to say that Facebook has critical mass. The number of businesses that have Facebook pages is massive, Safari's spellchecker thinks it's a word, and it's incredibly common to see advertisements for competitions where "all you have to do is 'Like' us on Facebook!" This would be annoying for those without Facebooks in any circumstance, but the fact that a lot of people don't have Facebooks specifically because of the repeated blatant privacy concerns, the willingness of the company to pander to advertisers over users, the lack of moderation of hate pages even when they're reported, makes it even worse.

But when you really get bitter irony is when social protest movements operate off Facebook. You're complaining about corporations running our lives while excluding people who have issues with a pretty dodgy corporation. Seriously?

It might be convenient, but it also serves to really irritate some of the people on your side. Just saying.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

I wasn't even going to bother

So, there's this footage of Trevor Mallard calling another MP "Tinkerbell" during a Q&A session in Parliament. Obviously this is pretty shitty, but I wasn't going to comment on it for a couple of reasons - one, No Right Turn already did, and two, the footage was dated 2009 and he hasn't shown a consistent history of equal shittiness.

Then Labour MPs started getting dismissive and defensive on Twitter.

I mean, I understand the reaction. Homophobia's bad, you don't want to be painted with that brush, especially for something that someone else did two years ago. But the way they're downplaying what Trevor said is actually pissing me off more than the fact that he said it in the first place. There's a very easy way to do it:

"Look, internet, we know what Trevor said sucked. We don't condone that. That's why that footage is two years old - it's not something we would allow one of our MPs to do consistently."

Then Trevor Mallard could say something himself about how he regrets it and he was wrong.

Very simple. Instead we have Clare Cullan calling criticism "ridiculous" and Jordan Carter announcing, "News alert! Homophobia and saying stupid things arent the same thing."

Actually, they are the same thing. And dismissing criticism about it instead of apologising and pointing out the age of the footage looks kind of dickish to the LGBT people who are pointing out that even super awesome people who are strong proponents of homosexual law reform can say homophobic things.

Increasing the cost of education and the unnoticed implications

A few days ago I was part of a conversation on Twitter that I've just been reminded of in which, basically, another user and I went off on a rant about tertiary education with poor Gareth Hughes (of the Greens party) on the receiving end. (Sorry about that Gareth!)

Something that came up that he hadn't been aware of was that in the last Budget (timing reference from @caffeine_addict since I wasn't sure myself when this had happened) a change was made to Studylink entitlements, namely that course-related costs can now only be borrowed by full-time students. For the few who may not be aware, there are three components of a student loan - course fees (paid directly to the university/etc), course-related costs (for buying textbooks and other such things - in my case this will include airfares to get to contact courses) and living costs (up to, unless it's changed recently, $150/week to survive on). The latter two are only for full-time students, and of course those who qualify for the student allowance don't usually bother with the living costs because borrowing money to live on is bad finances.

The problem is, as education gets more expensive and the cost of living increases, the number of people who can afford to be full-time students goes down. While it's possible to both work and study full-time, it requires a job with flexible hours and good time management skills, and in an economy where hundreds of people apply for minimum wage supermarket jobs, the chances of getting such a job aren't great. So basically we have a situation where more and more students are being classified as part-time, and at the same time the financial assistance offered to part-time students is getting more and more limited, which is why situations like mine are so common where without limited full-time classifications it would be impossible for me to go back to university - and if I was under 25 I'd only be able to do it by borrowing money to live on, thanks to the student allowance criteria that means-test a student's parents.

And, of course, these changes are going under the radar. Gareth didn't even know about the course-related costs change and he's an MP - albeit not one in the education field, so I don't blame him, there's a hell of a lot to keep track of - so people who went to university a decade or two ago most likely assume that funding is just as easy, or even moreso, now than it was back then.

(The discussion also touched on the preponderance of scholarships and aid for trades students while other sectors have absolutely nothing at all, but by god I have complained about that more than enough and besides which it's a failing of the very nature of private scholarships [which for the most part I support] rather than government policy.)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Breaking Silence

There's a post doing the rounds in the feminist blogosphere that I think is universally important. It's by Sady Doyle on Tiger Beatdown: On Blogging, Threats, and Silence. I grew up on the internet - not my baby baby years of course, but from intermediate school onwards, ten or eleven. We were one of the few families that had the internet at home because my dad works in the tech industry (software more than hardware). I have never used my real name online. Now that I've gotten it legally changed is the first time - I generally receive letters and packages addressed to a pseudonym, and I only give my address out to people I trust, people I've known for a decent length of time. If something's addressed to my birth name, it's probably something official.

Of course, in the wake of the earthquakes, a sufficiently dedicated stalker could potentially figure out my neighbourhood by tracking what I tweet while talking to other locals, though the fact that I live in what's barely considered a large town overseas in a country way down the bottom of the ocean does shield me quite well also. The ones I have to worry about are locals - like the time, several years ago (I may even have still been in high school!), that I wrote a letter to the paper, something I did fairly regularly, and received a phone call at home from some guy who'd felt entitled to ring me up and tell me how wrong I was.

The funny thing, to me, is that growing up there was this emphasis on teaching kids not to give out their personal details online. But now we're in the age of Facebook. There are raging debates about pseudonyms on platforms like Google+ and the World of Warcraft forums, with a lot of clueless people slinging around aphorisms like "if you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide" and refusing to understand even when explained that some of us do have something to hide because there is, has been, and will continue to be a subset of the population that thinks simply speaking out is doing something wrong. And the punishment is severe. Of course pseudonyms aren't just an issue of safety, and safety isn't just an issue for women (vis: me), but it is something that's particularly prevalent in feminist and womanist communities... and the fact that I'm not a woman wouldn't particularly help me at any rate, because to the people like this my gender is wrong and my biology defines me.

My biology does not define me. And it certainly doesn't dictate what I can say online.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Today is not a good day to be a New Zealander.

The situation with the MV Rena worsened overnight, drastically. There is now anywhere up to 350 tonnes of oil in the water. There is still little official response to the oil washing up on beaches, with local volunteers spearheading the effort to clean it up despite the risk to themselves in doing so without proper safety gear, which any prepared country should have available. Meanwhile, National's plan is... to wait until it gets worse. @BreakingNews on Twitter, an international newsfeed, has already tweeted that this is our worst maritime environmental disaster ever - how long until they drop the word 'maritime'?

Meanwhile, leaked documents have revealed the government's stance on establishing a marine reserve in the Ross Sea. That is, we can't do it, because it would damage our ability to fish toothfish. Toothfish are longlived and slow-maturing, and as soon as I learned that it told me everything I needed to know. They're fucked. It's been a consistent story through history - species that are longlived and slow-maturing have a tendency to die shortly after encountering humanity. (Not all of them, to be clear - the fact that there are still longlived and slow-maturing species alive does not negate this point. The fact that many of them are critically endangered especially doesn't.)

Today, I am honestly ashamed of this country. I fully believe that the current government will destroy anything that stands in its way if its allowed to continue down this path, and while that would be terrible anywhere, the fact that New Zealand has so much biodiversity that simply can't be found anywhere else makes it even more tragic. The only glimmer of hope lately has been the truly impressive response by the Greens to the Rena disaster - they have been incredibly active in talking to the public, investigating what's going on and keeping people informed - check out this post by Gareth Hughes regarding the helpfulness of chemical dispersants. No one else in the public view is asking these questions. Their web presence is especially vital these days in reaching those who otherwise would have to rely on mainstream media for news, when the media both locally and worldwide has repeatedly failed over the last several months and years to represent situations accurately and without bias.

The fact that anyone could genuinely believe that humanity does not have an important impact on the planet is utterly depressing. The fact our government itself seems to think that "opinion" is more important than science is even moreso.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Money, sex, death

Things are carrying on here, with another 5.5 quake last night and a new water conservation method in my household - making sure to run the shower into a bucket while it's warming. Heading into the summer with restrictions in place, after the rocky months we've had, is a little worrying for so many people who've taken the quality of our water for granted.

Ben Kepes has posted a piece following on from an earlier one about major questions regarding the honesty of demolition companies working in the commercial red zone. Because of a lucky coincidence in the timelines he's able to show evidence of what seems to be a pretty bold rort on demolition costs - namely, a 400% increase from pre-February quotes. There's a couple of comments about one particular point of the breakdown, namely the waste removal charge, that may shape up to be illuminating depending how they go.

I hesitate to use the word sex despite it fitting thematically because this isn't about sex, it's about rape. Every so often I head to and skim through the posts. Some of them are pretty dodgy, but nothing compared to what I found when I clicked on the option to vote on submissions. From the outright statements to statutory rape (FML? FHL.) to, oh, more statutory rape, it was a rather disturbing ten minutes. Note that there were a few more that I clicked past before realising I should have capped those as well! The fact that I turned up so many of these in such a short time really suggests something about how huge a problem this is, especially when you consider that most people wouldn't post something like this on FML. (And yes, I'm aware that one or any of them could be made up, but I think that also ties in to how prominent and insidious rape culture is.)

Though for something slightly lighter, I also caught a birth control stupid.

As alerted by No Right Turn, today is World Day Against the Death Penalty. This post has a couple of suggestions for things you can do regarding the four countries in the South Pacific where the death penalty is still legal, though three of those four aren't actively using the legislation and the fourth isn't enacting it - at the moment.

Though, I do note with interest that the poster used to advertise the day seems to feature a white man, though it's admittedly hard to say for sure due to the colour palette as he could be some variety of light-skinned Middle Eastern.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Tax is good

I'm sure I'm not the only one who played SimCity as a kid(/teen/adult). My usual version was 2000 and the bane of my existence was tax. You usually had it set around 7-8%, because when you put it up people booed and left town, and if you put it lower you couldn't pay for anything. I loved all the little social good programs you could institute, so paying for things was an ongoing problem. Like all good politicians, I solved this by putting it higher than I intended, then lowering it again to trick my people into thinking I'd caved.

In the real world, people have other solutions. In Kansas, the Topeka City Council is struggling with having to pay to prosecute crimes that last month Shawnee County decided were too expensive to deal with and shunted onto local councils. The cases involved are misdemeanours, including domestic battery.

Faced with the reality that you have to spend money to punish criminals, Topeka has come up with the obvious answer: stop punishing them. It will be voting next week on whether to repeal the ban on domestic battery, rendering it not technically legal, but not something that will be actively prosecuted either.

This is pretty solid evidence that austerity is a bad plan, especially considering that most of those who espouse it also try to be seen as tough on crime. In New Zealand the government is essentially paying companies to pollute; in America, tax deferments mean that corporations are operating under a tax rate of 0%, or less. The richest are avoiding paying their share, and everyone else is paying it for them.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

On oddities

This is the letter I just wrote to Mark Stevens:

Good evening,

As you are listed as the Stuff editor I thought you may be the best person to ask: how exactly does Stuff define "odd"? I'm unclear on exactly what is odd about this article:

Is it the neglect? The poverty that caused a family to not be able to afford healthcare? The possible mental illness hinted at by the reference to a psychological assessment?

I had always thought that "odd" had a connotation of something quirky, unusual and potentially entertaining, but nothing about this story seems to fit those criteria, nor any other that I can think of. This situation is, in fact, distressingly common, and there is nothing entertaining about it.

I would be grateful for some insight on this matter.

Thank you,

Pointed question time

Yesterday we got a flier in the mail advertising David Carter (the National MP for my electorate) holding a meet and greet this weekend. And I'm extremely tempted to go.

I mean, really, what better opportunity to ask a REAL LIVE MP about government policy? Like, what he thinks should be done about the rising levels of social inequality, and is he going to accept the payrise that compensates for the loss of the international travel allowance at a rate of 300%, and does he think National subsidising polluters is inconsistent with their pledge to reduce emissions by 50% of the 1990 total by 2050, and is the government planning to install commissioners in Christchurch to replace the city council.

These are questions that niggle, dammit.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

An exciting new project

There's been talk at my weaving group of getting a stall at a market sometime to sell our work.

Today we made it pretty much official. We'll be weaving under the name of [Te Whare] Whiri Pūkenga and selling at markets etc. I believe the first one we'll be at is on October 22nd on the site of the Holy Trinity Church (now demolished) at 168 Stanmore Road. We do a lot of putiputi (flowers) but the group has skills in quite a few areas. I'm hoping, personally, to have some ribbon work done by then.

As for what I've been doing yesterday and today - I was too tired and headachy yesterday to start anything big - here's a picture:

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Enrollment is open!

Before the weekend I sent Massey an email explaining my situation and asking whether my goals would be feasible. Today I got a response.

Hello Chris

Thank you for your query.

Firstly, it would certainly be possible to transfer your credits from Canterbury University, whether these are given as specific papers or general credit will depend on your Canterbury transcript.

Student returning from exclusion are usually only permitted to take 30 credits per semester, and only permitted to continue if they pass a minimum of half their papers in the year. Therefore, I consider your plan to be a realistic one.

I have an additional recommendation that your enrol first with us under a Diploma in Arts (120 credits) which is an eight paper qualification that can be upgraded to a BA at a later date. This will allow you to have a more tangible completion date based on the rate you are completing papers.

Please contact me if you have any further queries.

Having looked at what you have to do to transfer credits (including a fee of $85), I'm not sure whether or not I will, especially since I only have space for, at most, one of the courses I've already done if I do a diploma first. (I'd be doing five Maori Studies courses, one in academic writing, and two elective, which I probably want to do as Social Policy.)

When I was checking the right email address to use to contact them, I noticed that enrollment was due to open in "early October" so I looked back today. Sure enough, it's open. So after I eat dinner I'll be working with the StudyLink and Massey websites to see how much I can get done towards applying for limited full-time status, looking at a student loan, and enrolling. The enrollment deadline is in December, so I have plenty of time, but hell. I'm excited. \o/


Congress has blocked US$192 million in aid to Palestine after their bid to the UN for statehood. The money was to be used for health, food and humanitarian efforts.

Apparently, the move to ask to be recognised as a country is "very dangerous and ill-advised", though I haven't been able to find anything specifying why. So far the only danger I've seen in it is that it's resulting in the US throwing a hissy fit. But that's probably just me being uncharitable - after all, the US cares deeply about the people of Palestine and only wants what's best for them, as evidenced by--

Oh. Wait.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Sex in America

Salon has posted a sex-ed test for adults. Curious, I decided to take it. My total score was 16/27, which, in their summary at the end, means I'm probably Canadian.

I'm used enough to this sort of thing that it just amuses me now - ironically, I would have had a higher score if some of the questions weren't so US-statistic-centric. Among my incorrect answers were the number of US states that allow same sex marriage (I picked four), how many married people are happy with their current partner (I said 64%), the most visited porn site on the web (I picked youporn because it was the only one I'd ever heard of, thank you fanfic) and the percentage of heterosexual men and women in the US who've had anal sex. I picked 25%, because many a year ago I read something saying that about 25% of straight people and 25% of gay people had had anal sex. None of my wrong answers are actually to do with the having of sexual acts, which is funny, because I have very little interest whatsoever in having sexual acts.