Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Marriage Equality

John Key has confirmed that he will support Louisa Wall's marriage equality bill through all its readings. This all but guarantees the passage of the bill as any unsure National MP's are likely to fall into line behind JK.

I have found the number of different reasons opponents of marriage equality come up with quite interesting and thought I would look at a few of them:
The definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.
The definition of marriage used to include a ban on inter-racial and inter-faith marriages, as well as a ban on divorce. Marriage also used to involve the transfer of a woman from her father's possession to her husband's. The definition of marriage has been evolving for years, in fifty years time the idea that gay people weren't allowed to marry will seem ludicrous.
Marriage is about procreation.
There are many reasons people decided to get married, procreation being one of them. It has been known for quite a while now that to have children you don't need to be married and that being married doesn't force you to have children. Every time somebody repeats this statement it is a kick in the guts to married couples who are unable to have children, as if their marriage is somehow worth less.
Children need both a mother and a father.
Children need parents who love them. Anyone who can explain to me how the Kahui twins were better off with their mother and father than they would have been with a loving same-sex couple wins fifty dollars.
The children of same-sex parents will be bullied at school.
There are thousands of children of same-sex parents already at New Zealand schools and some of them are bullied. I don't understand how society recognising their parent's relationship as equal to others will make this worse.
Same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy
This misses the point on a number of levels. I'm not aware of any movement within New Zealand to legalise polygamy, most New Zealanders are and I imagine will remain committed to monogamous relationships. Marriage equality is about an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation, not about the number of wives one may have, which I think we can all agree is a lifestyle or religious choice. I may not personally agree with one man having multiple wives, but if three people, regardless of gender, are in a loving relationship, why shouldn't they have legal recognition of that?
Mr Craig told 3 News that people choose to be gay rather than being born that way, many as a result of being abused as children.
Colin Craig is quite the piece of work. But at least he brings a bit of colour to the debate with his insane views. I imagine that before he made this statement he spoke to not a single gay person about the "choice" they made or the sexual abuse that precipitated it.
Civil unions already provide marriage equality.
This just isn't true. Legally civil union couples, whether homosexual or heterosexual, are denied the right to adopt children. Civil unions also create a second tier of relationship, based upon a person's sexual orientation, which is discrimination and Government's should not discriminate based upon sexual orientation.

The DomPost has a verus opinion piece today between a Catholic priest and a Presbyterian minister. Margaret Mayman's (the minister)piece is fantastic. Merv Duffy's (the priest)piece is all over the show. But does include this gem:
The Civil Union Act generated a huge bill for government departments as innumerable forms required adaptation to allow for the public recognition of those unions. The same departments will incur another significant expense as every marriage document and database has the words "bride" and "bridegroom" removed and replaced by some bland gender-neutral term.
When you are arguing against marriage equality because of the cost to Government departments I think you are losing the battle.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Olympic Spirit

The 2012 London Olympic Games kicked off over the weekend (I know that technically the first events started last week, but it doesn't truly start until the opening ceremony).

I can't remember back to the Beijing opening ceremony but I thought Danny Boyle's was pretty darn good. And despite my aversion to her constitutional role in NZ, I had to admit it was great of Liz Windsor to appear with James Bond.

Even Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean (A character I have never liked) was incredibly well done and Becks driving the flame along the Thames was great. I imagine most people assumed that the E3 on Dizzee Rascal's jacket was a brand name, so I felt it was quite the privilege to know that it is actually the postcode of the borough where he grew up and these Olympics are being hosted. I suppose the only major criticism is how long you have to wait to see the NZ team come out.

But the events are what people really want to see and monopolistic evil bastards they might be but Sky have really delivered on this stage. We have six entire channels devoted to the games, all showing different sports and it is fantastic. I have never watched Archery before but found myself absorbed by it yesterday. And when I tired of that I switched over to judo and peppered my flatmate with questions about it, he took a year of ju-jitsu so is the flat expert in my eyes.

And it just goes on and on for the next couple of weeks. Bring on the Kiwi medals!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tragedy and Oversensitivity

Over the weekend a tragedy occurred in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were killed and fight-eight were injured in a senseless act of violence.

Much of the reaction will focus on gun control in the States. But what I have noticed in the last few days is, to my mind at least, an overreaction and oversensitivity towards certain things following the shooting.

The Herald has reported in the last few days:
DC Comics is asking retailers to postpone sales of a Batman comic book out of respect for victims of the shooting at a theatre showing The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado.
A scene in which bullets are fired into a crowded theatre is being removed from upcoming film Gangster Squad following the Colorado cinema tragedy.
I always wonder about these sort of reactions to tragedies. I understand they are trying to be sensitive, but I feel like they are being oversensitive and treating people like idiots. I don't think people reading the comic or seeing the film would see it as a joke at the expense of the people in Aurora. Most people would understand that they were produced before the shooting and understand.

And when they censor art/pop culture like this following a tragedy. Are they not letting the "bad" guy win?

Madonna has also been criticised for her use of fake guns in a concert in Edinburgh, days after the shootings. The fake guns have been used as part of the show throughout the tour. They have nothing to do with what occurred in Colorado and the concert was in a city thousands of miles away. And yet she has been called "crass and insensitive."

Maybe I'm the one being insensitive, but it just doesn't make sense to me.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Puff of Smoke

Everybody knows that multi-national corporations can be vile, disgusting creatures. Arms manufacturers, pharmaceuticals and finance companies toe a very fine line between right and wrong. But surely the worst are tobacco companies: they sell a deadly product which is extremely addictive and yet completely legal.

Across the western world they are facing increasing restrictions on their products and in turn their profits.

In New Zealand the major issues facing tobacco companies are increased tax, outdoor smoking bans, retail display bans and plain packaging.

And here in New Zealand Philip Morris Tobacco is fighting back. They have launched a website
to gather opinions from smokers on these key issues and use them to lobby the government to stop and roll back regulation.

The great thing is that anybody can register. So why not share with them your views on the disgusting products they manufacture and the harm they do to our society!

Note: I am often loathe to see governments restrict the personal freedoms of their citizens. I mean why shouldn't a grown adult, responsible for their own choices and actions be allowed to smoke tobacco. But in this case I feel the negative effects of smoking outweighs this, particularly the effect on children.

I don't know if I support an outright ban as the best solution. I would probably prefer to see a ban on nicotine first and see how many people kept smoking. We probably wouldn't even need a ban after that.

Chill Out

Yesterday Jacinda Ardern made a joke about Hamilton:
Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson says having identical homes could bring down the costs of building new houses but he told the social services select committee that New Zealanders might not be ready for such a culture change.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern said the concept already existed in New Zealand. “It’s called Hamilton.
It's a great gag. But the Waikato Times reports, some Hamiltonians are upset:
Her remarks have drawn return fire from several local politicians, including city councillor Dave Macpherson who said that the ''foolish swipe at Hamilton by a little-known Labour party hack would have been more hurtful to the city, had it been made by a representative of a more relevant party, such as the Greens.'' Councillor Angela O'Leary jeered at the comment online as tacky and unfounded.
Obviously they can't take a joke. Incidentally Ardern is from the Waikato so this isn't some big city elite picking on the little people. And speaking of little known who the hell is Dave Macpherson?

Then there is this gem from Mayor Julie Hardaker:
Hamilton is often the butt of jokes but anyone that has been to Hamilton knows it's a great place.

Always Moaning

The Herald reports:
More than 100,000 New Zealanders have overpaid a total of $6.4 million on their student loans.
And fresh from looking like wallys over the ProLife Auckland pamphlet, AUSA are at it again.
The system has been criticised by a students association, which says graduates are overpaying their loans because the system is too hard to understand.
These people are university graduates. If they are finding the system too hard, it is too easy to graduate in this country.
The president of the Auckland University Students' Association, Arena Williams, said Inland Revenue's system needed to be changed. "Everyone with a student loan has been through hours of fighting with Studylink while they were at university. There's definitely a perception that Studylink deliberately makes it difficult to manage your student loan," Ms Williams said.
They are lending student's thousands of dollars of others hard earned money, a few hours on the phone over a three year degree doesn't seem like that big a deal. All this fuss from AUSA over a median overpayment of $2.57 and 76% of overpayers having overpaid less than $20.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Herald Gets Tough On Prostitutes

The Herald Editorial today takes a tough line on street prostitution.
Soliciting in all such places should be a criminal offence. If councils have to specify prohibited areas there is going to be uncertainty, boundary disputes and needless difficulties for those charged with enforcing the law. If localised bans in South Auckland send the trade to other parts of the city there will be an outcry. Parliament must fix this problem once and for all.
I'm no expert on street prostitution but I imagine the percentage of transvestite prostitutes is higher in street walking and that many of them will struggle to find work in brothels.

Rather than attacking vulnerable woman maybe Parliament needs to look at criminalising the 'Johns'.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What does the leaflet actually say?

David Farrar posted the following today: Is there freedom of speech at Auckland University?

Basically what happened is that ProLife Auckland distributed a leaflet on the Auckland University campus. Someone complained anonymously to the Auckland University Students Association that the leaflet was misleading. So AUSA have called a meeting to disaffiliate ProLife Auckland from AUSA.

Now clearly this is an outrageous breach of the right to free speech and fingers crossed the AUSA members will see sense. But everyone has been blogging about that, so I figured I would look at what the leaflet actually said!

First up the leaflet is mainly text, there are no pictures of aborted foetuses so it's intention is not to shock but to inform. However to my eye there are a number of things that may have annoyed people.
Imagine if your sister or a close female friend was about to have an operation. This operation isn't necessary to save her ife, and its effects can never be undone once it is carried out. She goes to a clinic where she is told that this operation will be a quick fix and that it will provide a good outcome to the problem she is facing. But she isn't told the full facts about her condition, or about the risks associated with this operation.
Nothing in this first paragraph is factual, it is all emotive. It carries on in this tone for three paragraphs. Then you have the facts.
Terminating pregnancies can lead to reproductive problems, which can include subsequent premature births, miscarriages or even infertality.
I'm not a medical professional but it is entirely possible these claims are true and I see a family planning doctor has confirmed the increased risk of subsequent premature births to the Herald. However I also wouldn't be surprised if these risks were associated with any operations on a women's reproductive organs.
In the worst case scenario abortion can even cause death to the woman....Although this tragic scenario is something we have not yet seen in New Zealand, recent figures, obtained from the Ministry of Health under the Official Information Act, show that almost 900 New Zealand women were admitted to hospital between 2009 and 2011 for the treatment of complications following their abortions.
It is the worst case scenario in almost every operation that someone may die. However as they say this has never occurred in New Zealand. On the other hand the maternal mortality rate in New Zealand in 2009 was 22 per 100,000 maternities. Which suggests to me that pregnancy is in fact more dangerous than abortion. Between 2009 and 2011 there were 50,000 abortions in New Zealand, with 900 complications that is a rate of 1.8%. I couldn't find any stats on surgery overall, but my doctor flatmate reckons the rate is probably between 1-3%.
Women who obtain abortions are at increased risk of subsequent mental health issues, including major depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and drug and alcohol related problems. Studies also indicate that post-abortive women are three times more likely to commit suicide. This indicates that, for some women, an abortion causes severe and long-lasting psychological suffering.
There are a lot of things that can increase the risk of mental health problems, war for example. ProLife Auckland clearly thinks this means we need to criminalise abortion. I however think it indicates the need to ensure that services are in place to support women following an abortion.
Women also have the right to know about all the different options, not just that of abortion, that are available to them, options which on discussion, may be more beneficial to their personal situation. This shouldn't be about the politicisation of information.
To my mind there are three options available, giving birth and raising the child, giving birth and putting the child up for adoption and having an abortion. I find it hard to believe a woman seeking an abortion is unaware of the other options. And if a woman decides abortion is the right choice for her personal situation to ProLife Auckland support her in that decision?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sports Broadcasting Revolution

TVNZ reports:
Sports broadcasting is on the brink of revolution in New Zealand, as the Oceania Football Confederation considers the launch of a new free-to-air TV channel.
This could be absolutely massive for the coverage of football in New Zealand. But it isn't just about football:
It is understood the Oceania plan is for 24-hour broadcasting, including live events, built around football but also encompassing other sports - many of which struggle to meet the financial demands of subscription satellite provider Sky TV.
The financial demands of Sky have been a major problem for many NZ Sporting Organisations. Hockey NZ was reported to have been charged upwards of $100,000 by Sky to broadcast the Champions Trophy earlier this year and anything that opens up the field to more competition is great news.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell's latest blog post is on "the lack of context (and love of tears) in our news bulletins".

It includes this fantastic summary of the average news bulletin:
The average news bulletin consists of a series of talking heads standing in front of the latest footage of weeping crime victims/storms/plane crashes/war carnage punctuated by the day’s flying cat light relief, some exhaustive coverage of the weather …and a few clips of the latest sporting highlights, the latter presented with a lover’s confidence.
I particularly like the mention of the exhaustive weather coverage. If you are relying on the news for your weather report you are truly living in the 20th century.

He could have also mentioned the ridiculous advert for ASB Bank in the middle of the news which masquerades as financial news.

Additionally I love the fact that the screenshot I found of the news includes the caption "Cat-astrophe"!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Voices of Wisdom

Two weeks ago 17-year-old Wellington native Brittany Trilford gave a fantastic speech to the Rio+20 Earth Summit.

And today the Dominion Post has a fantastic opinion piece from 16-year-old Jess Palairet on the Alcohol Reform Bill.

Some highlights:
The Alcohol Reform Bill is not achieving what it should. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to objectively evaluate the drinking culture. It is a chance to make the tough calls now, for the benefit of New Zealand in the long run.
The Alcohol Reform Bill is doing little to tackle New Zealand's binge drinking culture, rather it is punishing Adults for the behaviour of 13-year-olds.
The debate around the reform has so far focused on lifting the age – seeming to place the blame for our bad drinking culture on the shoulders of young people.
I'm not sure if I agree with that.
In a recent survey of under-18s conducted by the Children's Commissoner's Young People's Reference Group, one young person said, "What's never focused on is the fact that young people are the victims".
When it iss put like that it seems so obvious, but I have to admit in all my thinking on New Zealand's binge drinking culture I have never really thought about young people as the victims. But its true.
They are the victims of the media, which has generated this image that young people have to drink to be normal, de-stress and have a good time.

Advertising for alcohol is plastered everywhere young people go; at sports games through sponsorship, on floats at Christmas parades, on television, billboards and on the internet; all of which are near-impossible to get away from.

Children and young people are also the victims of alcohol-related abuse, violence and broken families because of alcohol.
The Alcohol Reform Bill will do little about any of these and Jess finishes with a real flourish.
For these reasons the Government's action needs to be stronger and not tokenistic. There needs to be action that prioritises young people over the alcohol industry. The proposed age change is avoiding the problem and consequently putting the blame on young people.

It should be targeting alcohol advertising and banning alcohol sponsorship for events, such as rugby games; making sure alcohol is not cheaper than milk, simply by raising the price of alcohol; stopping the production of ready-to-drink alcoholic, but seemingly non-alcoholic, drinks.
I know as a teen and even now the best ads on TV are often the alcohol ads and have a big effect on impressionable young people. Similarly what impression does it give when Zac Guildford can go on a drunken rampage in Rarotonga, come back and play in Rugby gear covered in Beer logos in Stadiums covered in alcohol advertising and make the All Black squad?

Raising the drinking age is a smokescreen from a Government and politicians without the guts to take on the Alcohol industry. Thankfully our young people don't seem so afraid.