Friday, September 28, 2012

Your Sperm is not Sacred

Since today is the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion I thought I'd flesh out some ideas that were brought up in a workshop I went to today.

One of the other people at the workshop brought up (to argue against it that is) the frequently used "men's rights" argument for father's rights with respect to pregnancy. Since I was the only male in attendance they asked me what my thoughts were on the issue. I basically said that biologically speaking, in terms of reproduction, males are effectively parasites. By this I mean that from a purely 'energy and resources' frame of reference the sperm donor puts nothing into reproduction and the pregnancy-bearer does all the work. Males produce millions of sperm, each costing extremely few resources. On the other hand, females produce relatively few eggs and a considerable amount more resources are invested into this process.

On top of this, it is the female who has to carry the pregnancy, pouring a huge amount of energy and resources into growing that egg. So let's look at that argument again. I think it's an absolutely stupid argument that I would not normally entertain, but I'll poke some holes in it just this once. For simplicity, let's say it took half a day to produce the sperm (it doesn't, it's much less). Compare that to 9 months of pregnancy, and you end up with the man's claim to rights over the pregnancy being 540x weaker than the mother. It's even worse than that when you take into account the total energy expenditure. Once you factor in things that are much harder to quantify and work into a calculation like quality of day-to-day life, hormonal effects of the pregnancy, bodily autonomy and the stress and pain of actually giving birth (among a plethora of other things) I think we'd be in the ballpark of over a trillion-to-one.

What I'm trying to say basically is that people who want to claim paternal rights over a pregnancy can go fuck themselves. Your sperm is not sacred. The existence of a fertilised egg that has half its genetic material coming from your balls doesn't mean shit. Until the day that womb transplants are available to you, when you can get a womb transplanted and carry the pregnancy yourself, please, check your privilege in at the door and shove your paternalistic views up your ass.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

For Marriage Equality


I was recently linked to this blog post titled 'Against Gay Marriage'. The author is a gay man who opposes legalising same-sex marriage. What are his reasons for holding such a position? Because same-sex relationships don’t ‘tend towards’ raising children. He admits in the post that not all heterosexual couples raise children, but he doesn’t flesh out the implications of this for obvious reasons, as it would leave his argument sorely wanting.

What implications can I see that naturally lead from suggesting the function of a marriage is to raise children? Marriages should then not be allowed to people who are past the age of conception, to people with chromosomal abnormalities, to people with reproductive disorders and the list goes on. I recognise that this is somewhat of a slippery slope but I do not see how this can be avoided when such a limited definition of the purpose of marriage is offered.

On top of this, what of same-sex couples who do wish to raise children? Should they be forced to call their partnership by a different name simply because they cannot conceive by ‘natural’ means? If you extend that logic like the prior situation whereby marriage is denied to infertile people, should those who cannot conceive naturally or who adopt children then be forced to annul their marriage and get a civil partnership/union instead?

The author of this post also suggests that research indicates children do better with straight parents. Rubbish, I say. There is plenty of modern research that suggests the opposite (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19014-children-of-lesbian-parents-do-better-than-their-peers.html), that there is either no noticeable difference or in some studies, the children of same-sex parents performed better than their straight-parented counterparts. Even if all the research strongly indicated that children of same-sex parents outperformed those of straight parents solidly on every metric, would I offer an argument to ban straight people from raising children and getting married? Of course not! Rather, I would argue for more integrated and comprehensive parental support systems through local/national governmental programmes, to try to normalise outcomes so that all children regardless of their parentage receive a fair shot. That seems to be the obvious solution to me, but apparently others seem content on relying on flawed or outdated research and holding to a system that is inherently unequal in terms of the distribution of rights.

Obviously the author of the article is not some kind of gay-hating bigot, but he has bought into the bigoted belief that straight people make better parents, which is unfortunate.

More links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_parenting

Saturday, June 2, 2012

In Defense of Blockade The Budget: Protest Like The Greeks

I was among the students who protested on June 1st 2012. We were protesting against the 2012 government budget that puts in place more restrictions in access to support for students while studying and increases the mandatory rate of repayment once we start working. While you may or may not think these issues in and of themselves justify protest, this isn't the end of the war on higher education, and it certainly isn't the beginning. Access to higher education has been under attack for over 20 years in New Zealand now. If we roll over and just accept whatever changes that our dear leaders dish out to us, sometime in the future students will look back and say "Why did they let it get so bad?".

So now that I've hopefully convinced you that something has to be done let me try to at least get you to understand what happened on Friday and help you understand our tactics.

What Went Down
We had initially planned on marching down Alfred street (where we had gathered outside the library) onto Symonds street to make our way to our final destination, the bridge over Wellesley street. The police obviously knew that something was going to be happening today (an article about the action had been published on a news site), because they had a presence on the streets about half an hour before we started gathering (3pm). When we started marching down Alfred street the police formed a line at the bottom, to try and prevent us from getting onto the road. We went around them on the footpath and as people started making their way onto the road the first arrests were made; just minutes into the march.

We continued on up Symonds street only to be met by police about 2/3 of the way to our destination, we couldn't push through them obviously so we sat down. This is when things started getting rough. The next people to get arrested were sitting on the outside of the group and one young woman was grabbed by the scarf around her neck and lifted by her head onto her feet. We were expressing our democratic right to peaceful assembly, but Auckland's finest wouldn't have it. They told us that if we didn't move off the road we would be arrested and prosecuted. The police then continued to periodically dive in to grab random people from the outside of the group. Occasionally when the police's tactics weren't working they would resort to punching students. We tried to hold on to our friends who were being taken away by the police, but often they would have ended up getting hurt even more and the police were not going to back down so the numbers actually on the road whittled down (there were plenty more people on the footpath).

Some of the tactics used by the police in arresting people (mostly students) were very violent, many being grabbed by the head, neck and ears and repeatedly yanked until the police got them out of the crowd. In some grabs where the police were trying to target who they perceived as the leaders of the protest police would jump on top of other students often trampling them underfoot. Even when people had been removed from the crowd and no longer trying to resist arrest, the police continued to twist their arms, or kneel on top of their heads, squashing their faces into the asphalt.

When it got to the point that there were very few people left sitting down on the road the police gathered and made a concerted push to force us onto the footpath. We held there for a short while before marching back down towards the intersection from where we first embarked. The police wouldn't allow us to cross the road again (at the pedestrian crossing) so we carried on down grafton road (on the footpath). The police blocked us off there again, this time blocking the footpath, preventing us from going any further down the road. We headed back up the road towards the intersection again and when we went to cross the road we were met with more police in what could be best described as a 'strike-force'. Around 10 officers came barging through into the crowd to snatch up some more 'leaders'. This is when some of the most brutal police action occurred. Dozens of students were knocked over or hit by police officers including me (a police officer hit me in the face). One other student is seen in this video footage to be bent backward over a manhole cover so his head and shoulders were bent below his back while an officer pinned him down grabbed him around the neck and yelled in his face. This was the climax of the confrontation.

From there we actually managed to get past the police and run through our university campus (where I don't think the cops could go and arrest us), across princes street, into Albert Park and down onto Victoria Street. We gathered on Victoria street while people caught up who were still coming down from Albert Park. Once everyone had arrived we made our way down onto Queen Street. We stayed there for about 10-15 minutes before heading off up Queen Street. We intended to make our way up to Aotea Square and on to the Central Police Station where 43 of our friends were being held prisoner. The police formed a line preventing us from going any further, so we ran through an arcade onto Elliot street, where police had formed another line preventing us from moving onto Wellesley street, so we changed directions and went towards Victoria street.

From there we went towards SkyCity casino and then onto the Auckland Central Police Station, where we stayed until 6:00. Finally, the protest headed on down to Aotea square, where a news camera was filming.

That's about as complete an account as I can give without turning it into a book.

Why Block Streets?

To start with, we were completely within our rights. The Bill of Rights Act gives the freedom to peaceful assembly. We were not being violent at all, the only physical resistance we offered was to try and prevent the police from unjustly arresting our friends. Many people have said that all we're doing is pissing off the public. This was not our intention at all. We realise that blocking a road does inconvenience motorists, so we had actually made a banner to put up across the road that read something like "Sorry for the inconvenience". Since we never made it to our destination we were never able to erect the banner.

Couldn't we just protest without disrupting anyone's day? Well technically we could, but it wouldn't be much of a protest then would it? Does anyone besides those who already strongly support a cause pay any attention to a protest that has no public impact? We have had rallies before with hundreds of people around the quad in support of the workers around campus, rallies against fee hikes that ended in students taking control of a building around campus for hours and hours. Police even showed up to many of these events. Our occupation of the University Clocktower in October 2011 had a very strong police presence, and we ended that with a march down to Aotea Square where at the time Occupy Auckland was residing. Did anyone know about these events besides those that were directly affected or directly involved? Barely. I could count the number of news articles devoted to all of these events combined on a single hand.

On the other hand, our two blockades made headline news on both of the main news Channels. On budget day, the blockade was the first item on the 6:00 news. Our first highly impacting blockade was however rubbished by the Minister of Finance, Bill English. His message to us was that he doesn't care what we think or do, and that our protest wasn't going to change anything. He taunted us, saying we needed to take some protest lessons from the Greeks. Obviously the arrogance of the government to not even contemplate taking into consideration the opinions of many of the constituents that its budget directly affected was something that we were not just going to take in our stride. We needed to plan something else. On top of that, the first semester was coming to a close, and we figured that we needed to end the semester on a really solid note of resistance to these changes to solidify the movement for next semester.

That's why we planned 'Blockade The Budget Part II: Protest Like The Greeks'. Here was the description of the event:
"Finance Minister Bill English has taunted student protesters who protested against the Budget saying "they need some Greeks to show them how to do it."

Let's make him eat his words.

Meet outside the library again, Friday @ 3pm.

...

Join us for a public show of defiance against this injunction to be violent, and an open forum on the Budget, Resistance and Education.

Featuring:
- How the budget will affect you and your family;
- Speakers on Austerity Politics, Resistance and Public Education;
- Exam preparation and study advice from lecturers and tutors;
- A call for the investigation of a minister's incitement to violence."

It was quite clear that our intentions were non violent. The 'Protest Like The Greeks' was taken facetiously, as I assume Bill English meant. However, we wanted to show we were serious, though seriously non-violent. We had explored various other options for protest none of which seemed to have the clout of a blockade though, and really, how would it look if in response to his taunt we just had a non-impacting rally? So we settled on another blockade, though in a different location. Unfortunately our action was stifled by police and instead of having a strong message against the austerity on students it was turned into a spectacle of students facing off against police. While the police may have been excessive in their reaction to our peaceful assembly they are not our enemy (though perhaps certain individual police officers who assaulted my friends are). The real enemy is this budget, which is what the event was intending to protest against.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Under-reported

Yesterday, around 10,000 people marched up the main street of Auckland City to protest against the asset sales the government is planning. The media however have downplayed the scale of the protest, with some saying that there were only 3,000 people there. Numbers aside, my biggest gripe is that it hardly got any media coverage whatsoever. Last night it got a 30 second slot on the news. A 20-person picket against a rural local body governmental issue a few months back got about 3-4 minutes. Further than that, news articles on stuff.co.nz and the NZ herald barely got a whiff on their respective home pages. The second largest protest in a generation and the media looks away and contributes to the widespread political apathy in this country.

"The worse reality becomes, the less a beleaguered population wants to hear about it, and the more it distracts itself with squalid pseudo-events of celebrity breakdowns, gossip, and trivia. These are the debauched revels of a dying civilization. The most ominous cultural divide lies between those who chase after these manufactured illusions, and those who are able to puncture the illusion and confront reality."
—Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion (p. 190)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Open Letter to AUSA Regarding Auckland ProLife

To the Auckland University Student's Association and any concerned parties,

I am writing to express my concern with respect to the re-affiliation of the group 'Auckland ProLife'. I do not think it is appropriate to have groups like this affiliated with AUSA. Firstly, because they are strident opponents of the bodily autonomy and reproductive rights of women. The UN released an official policy document in 2011 relating to the right to physical and mental health. Here is what it said about abortion. "Criminal laws penalizing and restricting induced abortion are the paradigmatic examples of impermissible barriers to the realization of women’s right to health and must be eliminated. These laws infringe women’s dignity and autonomy by severely restricting decision-making by women in respect of their sexual and reproductive health." Women have the right to control their own bodies and they should to be able to exercise their rights without fear, guilt, shame or punishment. ProLife then it seems is a group who seeks to reduce or prevent access to something that is widely considered to be a human right. This alone should be sufficient grounds to sever ties with them, but alas I shall continue.

In the past they have distributed misleading and false information regarding abortion. One almost laughable example I can recall from 2011 was a flier that was distributed in many lecture theatres and on notice-boards around campus that had a picture of a toddler on it and a message along the lines of 'Am I a child or a choice?'. This is an egregious example of emotional baiting trying to mislead people. Any intelligent person knows there is a difference between a foetus and a toddler, so to try to conflate the two, or to imply that people who are pro-choice want to 'abort' toddlers is dishonest and deceitful. They have also previously tried to mislead students by referring to the nonexistent, debunked, so called 'post-abortion syndrome'.

The tactics employed by ProLife around campus are also objectionable. They are known to film the re-affiliation process, meaning that they have a record of those who speak out against them. This is one of many examples of their attempts to intimidate those who oppose them. Their actions have made many students feel unsafe simply being around them, let alone speaking out publically. In addition to actively intimidating people who disagree with them, their presence on campus (especially their posters) creates a hostile atmosphere for all women, including those who don't directly engage with them in any capacity. What they are doing is basically sexual harassment, and is most certainly discrimination on the grounds of sex, which is a violation of the Human Rights Act (which includes discrimination based on pregnancy). The AUSA should prioritise the safety of students (whether it be physical or psychological) over the affiliation of a group like this. The fact that this behaviour carries on unabated is a serious cause for concern.

ProLife do not make any effort to do anything to prevent pregnancy. They do not provide information on contraception and healthy relationships which are the most effective forms of abortion prevention. Instead they exist to harass women for their personal choices.

Finally, the most serious reason I think they should be at the very least de-affiliated from AUSA is because they are a hate group. The imagery and language they use to promote their agenda is violent and obscene. One fine example of this is an article on their website from January 2011 entitled "Is NZ's Down Syndrome Screening Program an act of Genocide?". They also frequently compare abortion to murder, explicitly implying that women who get abortions are murderers. This is no light insult, it is a serious accusation and one that causes untold emotional damage to many women. In fact on several occasions members of the ProLife group have verbally harassed women on campus, calling them names ranging from murderer to evil. Such hate-speech contributed greatly to a student's suicide.

Let it be known, ProLife Auckland is a hate group that spreads misinformation and deceit.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Polls, Can We Trust Them?

Are political polls trustworthy? For the 2011 general election not a single polling company came close. The two big polls TVNZ and Roy Morgan had National well above 50% set to govern alone in their polls just before the election. On the day however, National came up short. The polls also had New Zealand First at 2-3% when on the day they achieved 6%. Then there was the Horizon poll, which had National at below 40%. What do all of these polls have in common? They were all dead wrong.

Polls no longer accurately represent the opinions of the populace, but instead play a role in shaping them. the '08 and '11 elections had some of the lowest voter turnouts in New Zealand electoral history. Polls were everywhere and were often the talk of the town. I believe that such constant polling is detrimental to a democratic system. If people are constantly being told what the rest of the population thinks I can see two effects that are a cause for concern. The first effect of this is that a lot of people tend to align themselves with the status quo. If they see a poll with 60% of the respondents saying they think the economy is headed in the right direction, they will be influenced to believe the same. The second detrimental effect is voter apathy. Having polls predicting the results of the election will make many people think that the outcome is decided already, so may not bother to vote. Think of it from the perspective of a left leaning voter. If the polls tell them that National are going to be able to govern alone, what will their one vote do to stop it?

The sad thing is that if all of the people who didn't vote went to the polling booths on election day, the result would have been completely different.

So what about polls post-election showing National still having over 50% support, despite getting under 48% on election day and with all the bad press exposing their internal civil war and factionalism? I don't believe them for one second. If we truly believe in democracy we would stop these pathetic, inaccurate polls that do more harm than good.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Judge says POAL Might be in Breach of Employment Law

The judge handling the court case between the Maritime Union and the Ports of Auckland has said that the Ports might be in breach of the Employment Relations Act. This is good news for the workers, but I fear the battle is not over yet. Despite lifting the lockout notice and caving in on paying workers who were illegally locked out, the Port is still going to the media saying that MUNZ need to allow them to manage the port in a "modern" way. It's strange what these people see as modern is what others see as archaic. What is so anti-modern about guaranteed work hours and a living wage? I think the Port are trying to present themselves to the public as being open to negotiation by conceding these things, but still won't participate in good faith bargaining when it comes to the terms of employment for the workers. Call me a cynic, but I think it's far from over yet.

Auckland Port Board's Director Quits

The director of the board for the Ports of Auckland, Rob Campbell has just quit citing differences of views among the board members. What could the possible implications of this be? Are we going to see a swing into more hard-line union-busting? Campbell himself was a former unionist, so I'm really not sure what to expect next. I personally think the council should sack the entire board and appoint a new one, filled with people who have the best interests of the city and its people at heart, rather than ideological union-busting at all costs.

Aotearoa Is NOT For Sale Protest March

On Saturday the 28th of April there is going to be a protest march in Auckland against the asset sales the New Zealand government is planning. It is now only 4 weeks away and it needs to be big, so we can send a loud and clear message that we don't want our future being sold out from under our feet. So tell all your friends and family to come along, it will be a family friendly event and there will probably be a concert happening at the end of the march. There is also a Hikoi that is making its way down the North Island all the way to Wellington and it is coming through Auckland for this march. On the 28th there will also be demonstrations in Wellington and in Nelson.Relevant links below.


Facebook event page for the march in Auckland
Facebook event page for the march in Wellington
Facebook event page for the march in Nelson
Facebook page for updates on the march
Facebook event page for the Hikoi

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Volatile Times Ahead

Here in New Zealand we are being faced with an absolute onslaught of a far-right political agenda by a government that has been largely seen by the public as moderate. Just recently we have seen Union-busting efforts by politically appointed Port boards. We are faced with state asset sales, legislation severely eroding privacy and civil rights has been passed. Public sector jobs have been slashed and many government departments are being 'restructured' in moves which put more power in the hands of Stephen Joyce. Welfare is being slashed, and solo parents with children over 1 year old are being pressured to go into work (despite there being no jobs available). Education is also under attack, the government is trying to put in place a schooling system that has failed elsewhere and trying to bring in charter schools. Healthcare is also under attack, the government had originally intended on privatising the accident compensation scheme but have thankfully backed down.

Without sounding all doom and gloom, these are volatile times ahead.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Small Victories For The Wharfies

The Ports of Auckland (POAL) workers have made some headway into their legal battle against their employer today. The Maritime Union (MUNZ) has accepted an offer from the Port's Management to back-pay the workers that they have illegally locked out of work since the 22nd. The offer was made during their hearing at the employment court. I'm a bit hesitant to declare outright victory yet, as MUNZ had won a legal injunction against the POAL last week, and had called off their stike which had lasted 4 weeks, then the next day the POAL management illegally locked them out of work citing bogus health and safety risks. I'm half expecting Gibson and co to pull another dirty tactic, further damaging the port.

Bomber at TUMEKE! thinks that Tony Gibson should be arrested for crimes against the economy and I agree. This man has not only put the POAL in a terrible financial position with his ideologically driven union-busting agenda but has put pressure on thousands of other businesses in Auckland and nation-wide by crippling imports

Monday, March 26, 2012

Straight Up Socialist

I've started this blog as an avenue for my political musings, as I find my current blog 'Undeniably Atheist' is a somewhat inappropriate venue for the inevitable onslaught of my radical left-wing views across the internet. I'll probably post as infrequently as I currently do on my other blog, but the content will be coherent between the two as I'll be dividing my interests allowing URL lines. Expect to see content relating to political activism, environmentalist, socialism, protests, union movements and so forth here, and any content relating to irreligion and religion over there.