Political Hangover

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve officially got the post-election blues.

ACTA, TPPA, Skynet, Video Surveillance Bill, Denniston, Durban and the demise of the Kyoto Protocol, the Ross Sea, same sex marriage, beneficiary cuts, education, deep sea oil drilling, fracking, corporatisation. There’s a long list of things that have already been pushed through or that are looming, and I just can’t make myself find the energy to fight. I’d honestly want to just go and live on an island somewhere, but aside from the prohibitive cost, the fact that we’ve already irreversibly fucked the climate makes that a really shitty idea – just look at Tuvalu and the Christmas Islands and similar countries.

I know, intellectually, that there are still ways to fight. But they seem to be a combination of utterly pointless and ridiculously difficult. Submit on bills? That went well for Video Surveillance, only 1% of submissions supported it. Vote? Well, we got a higher Greens result, but there’s nothing more to be done on the matter until 2014 and right now nothing could convince me that by then many of these fights will have been lost – particularly those regarding saving species from extinction that are not only an important part of the ecosystem but biologically distinct on a massive scale, like our frogs that are the closest thing left to species that lived over two hundred million years ago. My hopes aren’t high for the toothfish, either, which is the reason the government vetoed the conversion of the Ross Sea into a marine reserve – they’re a long lived, slow maturing species, and people like to fish them.

Some people suggest that if anyone is unhappy they should join a political party and get active, but this costs money and presumes that people who are unhappy should want to join a political party, have the time to be active in a political party, have the skill set appropriate to working in a political party, and have the means to support themselves while being active in a political party. I don’t have any money spare to join and sorry, but someone with social phobia is not a good fit for active involvement in politics, even backstage. There’s a reason I blog.

And yeah, there’s that. Even that’s something of a time sink though – to write you need something to write about, which means you need to be keeping on top of current events, either through the utterly mediocre mainstream news or, if you want to really hit what’s going on, through other methods. Often those other methods involve seeing what other people are blogging about, and then you’re getting into territory which is being needlessly repeated, unless you happen to have some kind of unique, fresh perspective, which is unlikely – and even if you do, you need to have that unique perspective often enough and loudly enough to build up a steady readership, otherwise you’re just talking into a huge, crowded room full of other people talking, only those other people are already well-known and have people paying attention to them. It requires relentless dedication and, again, time, and most of the people you do reach are going to be of a similar frame of mind anyway.

All this of course is one reason why Occupy is important. Unfortunately I really haven’t been present there much – I think I’ve stopped by once or twice since Holly got sick and then had to be put to sleep, because right now it’s just too emotionally draining to deal with. The honeymoon period is over there, too, and I have my own shit to sort through before I can be of any use to them.

Correspondence with Stuff and the Times

I returned home today to two relevant emails. One was from the Stuff editor:

“Hi Chris and thank you for your feedback.

This column was picked up at the weekend through our relationship with the Sunday Star-Times.

Iā€™m inclined to agree with you that it is not an appropriate story for Stuff. Thank you for drawing it to my attention.

The story is no longer being promoted from the front of the site and the particular paragraph that you pointed out has been removed.

Thank you again for your feedback and please feel free to contact me directly should you have any further concerns.

Kindest regards,

Mark Stevens
Editor, Stuff.co.nz.”

Wonderful response. Completely professional, quick action, and an explicit agreement that it wasn’t appropriate (often a company will simply acknowledge that people were upset without actually admitting that the piece/product/advertisement/etc itself was upsetting).

Next I had one from the deputy editor of the Sunday Star Times, Michael Donaldson:


The piece as it appeared in the Sunday Star-Times was clearly marked as opinion and asked for reader feedback. Would you like your email to be used as a letter to the editor?


Oh, so it’s only opinion that women could prevent being assaulted and/or murdered by their partners by being more sensitive! That’s okay then! Except, not. I decided to accept his invitation, but decided that I should write something different to reflect the time that’s passed and my response from Mark:


While I will accept your invitation to write a letter to the editor, I would like to use an updated version. That text is:

It is, I think, generally accepted that Opinion pieces are subject to laxer standards than are news articles. However this can only go so far. When a newspaper pays a freelance writer to tell its readership that domestic violence could be solved if women were only more compassionate, tolerant and sensitive, it has ceased being acceptable expression of opinion and becomes dangerous, offensive rhetoric that props up a system in which violence towards women is normal behaviour and rarely punished.

I was glad to receive a prompt reply from Stuff regarding my concerns about Naomi Madelin’s piece, “Are Kiwi women slobs?” They quickly removed the link to the article from the main page and deleted the most offensive paragraph from the article, while not only acknowledging that people were upset but explicitly agreeing that it was not an appropriate thing to print. The Sunday Star Times did not do this, only invited me to write a letter to the editor.

I again demand an apology from Madelin and the Times for this disgusting claim, as well as put forward my suggestion that whatever she was paid should be donated to the Women’s Refuge. Everyone involved in the publishing of this piece has completely lost any sense of journalistic integrity or responsibility.

Thank you,
Chris Miller”

We’ll see what happens next. I don’t hold much hope for either an apology or my suggestion of reparation, but at least I’m getting this on record.

Complaint to Stuff & Sunday Star Times

I’ve just written an email to the editor of Stuff, Mark Stevens, and the Sunday Star Times for the article I referred to in my last post. Here’s the text of it:

I am writing this email two days late because I wanted to make sure that my state of mind was calm to fully convey my disgust with a piece that appeared in the Life & Style Beauty section on Sunday (http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/beauty/6041397/Kiwi-women-are-slobs-Wikipedia for the Stuff version) – Naomi Madelin’s freelance piece, “Are Kiwi women slobs?” The article does not appear to be labeled as an Opinion piece which might have made some of the statements slightly more forgivable, despite the fact that it is completely riddled with unfalsifiable opinions and flimsy claims based on a survey that seems to be rather less than rigorous.

However the main reason I am writing is the following paragraph:

“Eighty-four per cent of people arrested for family violence are men. Half of all violent crime in New Zealand is family violence. The statistics go on. Perhaps the way to give men a chance is for women to appreciate their own femininity more.”

This seems to imply, and has widely been read as saying, that if women were simply more feminine it would reduce and/or prevent domestic violence. She earlier defines femininity as including compassion, tolerance and sensitivity, so the full meaning seems to be that victims of domestic violence ought to be more understanding of their abusers.
Even two days after first reading this, I honestly do not have the words to express how utterly disgusting and horrifying this sentiment is. I literally feel ill when I read it. Domestic violence is the leading cause of murder of women and at a time when organisations such as Women’s Refuge are desperately strained attempting to handle the increased need for their services, combined with a recent loss of funding, publishing such statements is downright irresponsible as well as reprehensible.

I would like to see both the Sunday Star Times and Naomi Madelin apologise for publishing this “article”. I would also suggest that a donation to the Women’s Refuge from either the Times or Madelin might be an appropriate way of demonstrating remorse for spreading such dangerous, damaging messages – perhaps whatever Madelin was paid for the piece. As many people use the internet to get their news, the apology should also be released on Stuff, which is where I myself saw it.

I sincerely hope that standards are reviewed so that this sort of situation is not repeated in the future.

Thank you,
Chris Miller

Naomi Madelin solves domestic violence, sexism

There are already a couple of posts about this, but such huge news deserves a wider audience. Ladies, Naomi Madelin has the answer, and it turns out it’s pretty damn simple:

Eighty-four per cent of people arrested for family violence are men. Half of all violent crime in New Zealand is family violence. The statistics go on. Perhaps the way to give men a chance is for women to appreciate their own femininity more.

That’s right! If you need further specifics, earlier on Naomi quotes a make-up artist in saying that,Ā “there’s a whole range of attributes associated with femininity ā€“ compassion, tolerance and sensitivity”. Apparently these things give women strength. So, if you want a bloke to stop beating you up, just think – don’t blame him. Tolerate his flaws. You probably just weren’t sensitive enough to his mood. If you make sure to just understand his feelings a bit more, maybe he won’t have to get so damn mad.

You see, there’s really nothing wrong with being feminine, despite what women think. In a survey, women rated femininity at 5.1 on a “strength” scale of one to ten, while men rated it at 6.5. As we all know, 65% is enough to pass an exam, possibly even with a B-, so don’t be scared to be feminine! I mean, you want to be attractive to men, right? Right.

(Some of you may be wondering, if femininity rated 6.5, what did other things score? Is there a set of numbers for “hysterical feminist”, “butchy dyke”, “blokey”, “one of the guys”, etc? Was 6.5 the highest score here, or is there another trait that men might think is somehow stronger? Can men even be trusted to objectively rate strength in women? Well, the answer is, stop thinking. You’ll get wrinkles.)

So the next time someone at work refuses to take you seriously yet inexplicably accepts the same answer as soon as a guy says it even if you have twice the experience as him, don’t let it get to you. At least you can always be feminine, and really, that’s what’s important in life.

(I hate that I might actually have to say this, but the above is complete sarcasm. Contrary to what shit the patriarchy peddles, the only way to solve domestic violence and sexism is to stop being domestically violent and sexist. Men, that means you. Yes, you will have to actually make a smidgeon of an effort to be a decent person – I know, it’s hard, no one prepared you for this, but it’s true. You’re just going to have to deal with it. And don’t whine that it’s okay because a woman said it this time. I think you’ll find that when you stop making society hostile ground for any other point of view, a lot of women will start sharing other points of view.)

Who to blame

It seems the “word on the street” is that the solution to what happened last night is for more people to participate in democracy. It’s hard to argue with – low voter turnout tends to favour the right, and if you look at the numbers it was actually pretty damn close. Yes, National got an unprecedented percentage of the votes, but the further right wing parties were utterly gutted, while the left-of-Labour parties saw their numbers soar. On a purely right-vs-left level, the right scraped through.

A few short months ago, something called the “Video Surveillance Bill” was being debated. It was opened for submission, as is standard. What was not standard was the short window – a mere 18 hours. Despite this, a huge number of submissions were made, many of them by people who’d never made a submission before in their lives. Most of them had probably never even thought about it. It was a pretty huge event for the more in-depth expanses of democracy in New Zealand – the first steps beyond simply voting.

However, while 99% of the submissions were seriously opposed to the bill, for reasons that were nuanced and varied, it passed after National managed to get the numbers at the last minute – from Labour. Nor was this the first time. Prior to that, the notorious Skynet bill achieved the same feat. Labour claims it would have passed anyway and they got the permanent disconnection removed from the table. The truth is that the permanent disconnection was only removed for two years – after that, it will be able to be added back in under review if the bill doesn’t manage to decrease piracy. (Which it won’t. It’s a ludicrously feeble attempt that doesn’t address any of the reasons people in New Zealand actually pirate to begin with.)

So at least twice in very recent political history (possibly three if you count the voluntary student union membership bill, which I know less about), highly unpopular bills passed because a major party ignored what its constituents wanted, even when those constituents used the tools put into place for them to have their views specifically made known.

Why, then, is anyone surprised that they didn’t come back for more?

Why are we blaming people for not participating, instead of blaming those who showed them it would have no purpose? Why are we tutting at “apathy” and not arrogance? Why are we lecturing the disenfranchised instead of the ones who made them that way?

This election was not lost by non-voters. It was lost by politicians. And if 2014 is going to be different, they need to admit that.

Twitter denied!

Twitter clearly doesn’t know or care that it’s a huge night in New Zealand – it’s just blocked me off from tweeting! I’ve hit my limit and need to wait a few hours.

Come on, Twitter. What fail. I guess since it did that at the same time as John Key came on to give his speech it must be bedtime.

Though I have to say, if Brendan Burns gets enough votes in specials to win Christchurch Central and break this epic tie, and Greens get Mojo in from specials, and Maori went left, there would be all of one seat in it, and it would be pretty hilarious if specials changed another electorate to the left and Labour actually squeaked in after all. Seriously, that would seriously make this about the most epic election in (New Zealand, at least) history.

(For the record, the only three electorates that could even conceivably happen in are: Waitakere – Paula Bennett ahead by 349; Waimakariri – Kate Wilkinson ahead by 395; Auckland Central – Nikki Kaye ahead by 535.)

On turnout

We’ve now heard that voter turnout was only 65% – the lowest since, apparently, the 1880s or 1980s (they said it once and people aren’t sure exactly what they heard, I think. a long time anyway!). EDIT: Someone’s just said that including specials it’s actually back up to 73%. So of course, there’s a lot of “shame on you” sentiment being thrown around.

Personally, I am sad about it. But at the same time, I can’t really blame people. People, especially young people, do not have confidence in the system. Labour’s been polling badly and have done bad on several highly public votes recently – video surveillance, Skynet, etc, where they were expected to vote against and then made dubious concessions and supported at the last minute. Though we’re not a two party system, they’re still the two major parties, and there’s been a lot of talk around me from people who don’t see any viable choices. If it’s a choice between the people you know hate you and the people who pretend they don’t but hurt you anyway, a lot of people will just say “well, fuck you both then.”

I’ve done democracy!

I got to the Heathcote polling station at about quarter to eight this morning and left about quarter past nine – thirteen and a half hour day. IT WAS AWESOME. Fairly early in the day the woman who was issuing Maori votes was feeling ill enough to be sent home and I was asked to take over, so I was sitting right by the door doing ordinaries for Port Hills and Te Tai Tonga. It was fairly busy – a steady stream of people all through the day, I issued 208 votes I think, most of the others did around the same or a bit less – in total, we had 1015 ordinary votes for Port Hills and about 9 for Te Tai Tonga, plus of course some specials, 69 from memory. On one of my breaks one of the enquiry officers came out too and was very complimentary.

From the votes, Ruth Dyson won the electorate – the advance and specials could potentially change that if they’re all for Carter, but she was ten or fifteen points ahead of him, so it’s really unlikely. It seems to be a fairly liberal electorate though – Greens had higher than the national average and Nats were lower.

Now it’s just a matter of whether Nats can govern alone – so far no, but we’ll see. Winston threw a wrench in the works of course, but sadly the lack of tactical voting in some electorates gave Nats some extra wins that could have been prevented. And we’ll see how Labour reacts to this loss. Hopefully they don’t blame the policies, because honestly most of their policies were pretty damn good. (A lot of them were taken from the Greens, of course.)

In conclusion.


My rabbit

(For interest’s sake, copied from a post I made to my social rabbit owner’s mailing list, a bit of a look at the general personality of my doe. She is slowly becoming more responsive to me, but she’s very independent and stubborn.)

Yesterday I went outside in the morning and Nellie came running over. It was so exciting, until she gave me this look like “Hey dickweed, feed me” and shoved her head out to eat grass when I opened the gate. šŸ˜›

Anyway today I decided I needed to clip her nails, especially on her back feet. After sitting in the yard with her for a while I went closer and caught her, wrapped her up and tried to hold her on each side so I could get at her feet. It took a few tries for each foot but I succeeded, talking to her and stroking her while I did it. I didn’t get to do her front feet before she wriggled out though. I always make sure I don’t leave straight after something bunny hates so I sat down for a little bit while she washed herself and then offered her a dandelion leaf which she did her level best to ignore. Then I put the towel and clippers well outside the yard so she would have less reason to think I would pick her up again, and got some more dandelion leaves and offered them to her closer to her head.
She tried to shove them away to the side a couple of times which didn’t work so she grabbed one with her teeth to move it and instead ate it. Then she just sat and glared at me for, I don’t know, making her eat it, and instead of trying to shove the others just jerked her head away and refused to look. Eventually I put them down and stroked her head until she prodded my hand with her nose, then I just sat for a while. After a bit I went to go inside again and she came out of the hutch to sniff around the lawn, so I picked her a big pile of grass. Later on I’ll go see if she ate any of it when I wasn’t looking or if it’s irreparably tainted by my traitorousness.
Sadly for her even though she’s quite angry it’s just so INCREDIBLY CUTE. I think she will calm down, though not as fast as Holly always did, and I’ll be able to stroke her etc again.

Practical Conundrum

1. Nellie is not really a rabbit that was meant to be solitary. She adored Holly the first time she even saw him. She sort of tolerates me, and has taken to me a bit more now because I bring her copious greens and am the only option.

2. I’m not really wanting another outside rabbit right now.

3. The only space I have control over is my bedroom. As well as being full of harakeke, which is toxic, all four walls have either drawers or shelves that are inward facing and thus need clearance. That means I would need to keep rabbits penned for safety (also Nellie is both a chewer and an escape artist), but I have only one or two square metres where I could put a pen. This is not adequate space for one rabbit, let alone two.

4. …?

It’s not even just a matter of taking shit out of my room, because where would I put it? I need a desk. I could probably get rid of one unit of shelving which is basically just shelves mounted to the wall and use Trademe+garbage to reduce my things enough to store them elsewhere, but that still leaves three walls full of things I need access to, one of which is my bed. If I could trust Nellie and a random unknown rabbit to run around in my room it would be one thing but then I’d still need somewhere else to store harakeke, not raw leaves (those tend to live on the patio in a tarp) but prepped/dyed stuff, half-done things, completed projects I’m planning to take in to class to show off, things I’ve finished but aren’t that great, about a million flowers…

And considering today I watched Nellie dispose of a particularly thick piece of hay by simply snipping it shorter with her teeth and letting the neatly-sliced end drop to the ground, repeat process, I can imagine what she could do to some of my stuff. The girl eats wood, people.