Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Paula Bennett - Playing the Man not the Ball...

I had such hopes for Paula Bennett.
I thought she’d bring a bit of left-wing balance to the National Government – but she’s displaying every sign of having used her solo Mum status to gain votes - “I understand you! I too was on the DPB! I owe my current circumstances to the benefit and the social policies of this country!” – only to stamp on the very people she wooed a few short months ago.

The basic story is that two women complained how hard it was to obtain training so that they were employable and no longer needed the benefit, now that the Training Incentive Allowance has been cut. Ms Bennett decided to show the world that life was actually not so tough for these women by publicising the amount they receive as their legal entitlement to State support. The points concerning the Privacy Act are very well made by Strong Light here.

My concern is that Ms Bennett didn’t seem to realise that in her position, she can’t whack someone with personal details of their own life just because they criticised a decision that she is responsible for. Or that it’s not a nice thing for anyone to do in any circumstances. It’s not how you make friends, it’s not how you get yourself up the ladder. Hasn’t she heard of subtlety?!

I would imagine she’ll be facing a complaint and investigation by the Privacy Commissioner. (Maybe when she finds herself once more out of a job she might consider taking some training in the art of debate.)
Based on her responses so far, her defence is likely to be that it was the fault of the women she has attacked, that they started it, they swung the handbag first.
Yep, she may well plead provocation.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Folic Acid - more questions than answers

Faster! Cheaper! Greater profits!
Mass production and the industrialisation of our food industry have meant that during processing, certain vitamins, minerals and other elements that occur naturally, are removed, damaged or diminished. Folate is such a one, in the production of flour. We all - not just women of child-bearing age - need more folate than most of us are currently getting.
So here we are at the point at which the question being asked is, do we fortify our bread with synthetic folate - (folic acid)?

I have a deep-seated distrust of synthetic additives, and similarly of the use of antibiotics in the food industry. Antibiotics have been used in meat, milk and egg production in New Zealand since government approval in the 1960s.

Coincidentally or not, the beginning of the explosion in our rates of cancer and hyperactivity bears an uncanny relationship to the decades in which synthetic colourings, flavourings, antibiotics and other additives started being widely used in our food.
For instance, the coal-tar derived dye tartrazine (E102) was diverted from the textile industry to the food industry (ever wondered why orange fizzy stains your carpet?) and almost immediately was indicated in a previously unrecognised condition, hyperactivity, along with increased urticarea and a raft of other health issues. (Oh while we’re at it, let’s add E102 to antibiotics! What about giving amoxicillin a banana flavour and colour!) This was in the late 1950s, but it's still being used in food!

We can't all grow our own food. We rely on the producers, processors and supervisory agencies to provide us with a healthy product. But we would be naive to think that all of them have only our best interests at heart.

So my as yet unanswered questions are:
  1. Is folic acid, in the doses in which it will be used in bread, guaranteed safe long term? The studies that showed there was some increase in the rates of colon and prostate cancer seem to be overshadowed by new studies showing there is no risk. Pardon my scepticism but for the manufacturers of the folic acid additive, that must have been such an economically well-timed announcement.
  2. Is there no way in which processing could be done to protect the naturally occurring folate in wheat and other staples?
  3. There is no mention of any benefits being derived to pregnant women who eat fewer than 11 slices a day. Are there any? Does eating three slices, for instance, confer some - though milder - protection against neural tube defects?
In the absence of answers, I'd prefer not to have the synthetic folic acid added to all bread.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Smacking Referendum

I smacked my children. When they were disobedient or naughty, as one of a raft of disciplinary techniques, they sometimes got a smack. Twenty, thirty years ago, when I was bringing up children, this was the acceptable way of training a child. It was more acceptable to have a child screaming in the supermarket because their tantrum had been dealt with by a smack, than it was to have the mother ignoring the tantrum and walking away, refusing to give the child the attention they demanded. I know this, because I walked away from any of my children who threw tantrums, public places or not. And my reaction to my child's tantrum drew me the opprobrious looks of others.

In 2007 the Crimes Act was amended so that "parental discipline" couldn't be used as a defence against assault. And now it's 2009 and we're asked again whether a smack should be a crime.

It seems that to those trying to reduce the amount of violence in this country, it has appeared an obvious place to start.
To one of my age and experience, it's confusing. And the confusion requires either a repudiation of the "anti-smacking brigade", an admission that what was normal 20 years ago was wrong, or it requires reflection to discover a new truth.

There are many facets to physical punishment of a child.
In the time and culture in which smacking was the main accepted means of showing who was the one in control, it was for the most part not about abuse. (Here I mean the abuse which has more in common with torture than with loving correction.) It was about discipline, about training, about control. And I make no apology for suggesting that a parent should actually act like the adult in the relationship, and be in control.

But what if that smack because a child constantly disobeyed, pocketed sweets in the supermarket and didn't show any form of understanding that this was wrong - what if that smack - despite taking the child back to apologise and give the sweets back - what if that smack was administered again and again out of desperation and a sense of failure to have taught this child the evils of stealing, and with a sense of a criminal future looming? What if that smack on a Tuesday made it easier to smack again on a Wednesday, and in a moment of anger or resentment or stress - maybe having nothing to do with this particular child at this particular moment - what if that smack turns into something more?

Maybe if the parent has never smacked the child, the possibility of the "something more" just doesn't happen?

But I don't think that outlawing smacking will do a huge amount to stem the real abuse of children in this country.

However I do think there are better ways to discipline a child.

For children who grew up in a culture in which discipline = smacking and who are now the parents of children themselves, a new way of helping a child become the person he or she was born to be, may not be obvious.

The discipline void left by outlawing smacking must be filled with education and showing a new way forward.
I haven't seen this. I haven't seen the info-mercials in our lounge every night showing a better way. Where are they?

I think the handling of the whole "let's not smack children any more" movement has been sadly lacking in common sense. This was a matter that should have started off, not in the halls of power and law, but in our homes. The country is polarised by the repeal of the old Section 59 of the Crimes Act and its replacement with a new Section 59 not because of the effect of it, but because of the way it was handled. In effect, the changing of the law, without the education of the people, is as heavy handed as the behaviour it was designed to stop.

And where has the education been since the amended law was passed?
I don't believe all the dissension over the "anti-smacking law" is because parents want to smack their children, but because they have been dumped on from a great height (Parliament) with a law that tells them they have been wrong - criminally wrong - all these years, and yet they have not been given a plan for how to safely and correctly discipline their children now.
If the people had been trusted with the information about the negative aspects of smacking, shown alternative ways, been part of a campaign to change behaviour which was THEN enshrined in law, this referendum wouldn't be happening.

There are indeed better ways of training a child than using force.
But I don't think a well timed and placed smack as part of parental correction should be a criminal offence.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


This entry is part of an on-line exquisite corpse – a short story told in 10 instalments by 10 different authors. My 250 word instalment is below; if you’re interested in writing the next part, scroll down to the bottom of this post for details on how this all works…


...her tingling hand, and resisting the urge to slap him again, Dianne forged ahead through the undergrowth. Peter watched her go, watched her put distance between them.

It wasn't over yet, as she would soon realise.
He didn't give up that easily.

The quad bikes were where they'd left them. Dianne jumped on one, gunning it into action, and took off.

Somewhere up ahead in the cabin were Bruce and his antiques. Doctoring his drink had been such a good idea. He didn't know what day it was most of the time, didn't notice things around him disappearing. But now she was ready for the big payoff. No more small stuff, she wanted the lot. And she was going to get it.

And Peter wasn't part of the equation.

Panting and tripping, he stumbled over the uneven ground, the handprint on his face livid and stinging. Thank God the bikes weren't far away.

Bloody Bruce, the drink made him so reliably unreliable. Anything could have gone wrong - heaven knows what they'd find when they got there. All he could think of was Bruce, reclusive old guy up there all by himself all these years ...

Suddenly he was deafened by an explosion as Dianne and the quad erupted into a fireball of burning metal.

He nodded, satisfied, as again he fingered the remote controls on his belt.

Another touch, and ahead in the cabin, the cold metallic finger of steel slowly retracted from Bruce's stomach as the . . .


This is part 9 of 10. You can find the other instalments here (but DON’T DO THIS YET if you want to join in):

1. (26 June 2009)
2. (27 June 2009)
3. (29 June 2009)
4. (1 July 2009)
5. (1 July 2009)
6. (2 July 2009)
7. (2 July 2009)
8. (7th July 2009)
9. (9 July 2009)

WANT TO READ IT? Jump back to the previous entries using the links above.

WANT TO JOIN IN? This exquisite corpse operates on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to write the next installment, FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS:

1.IMPORTANT – Don’t read any of the previous entries! Read only the one you see here.

2.ALSO IMPORTANT – Post a comment here, saying “I claim the next entry”, followed by the URL/web address of your blog. If you don’t do this, we’ll never know where to find you.

3.Copy the text of this blog entry into a new post on your blog, but DELETE THE CHAPTER and write your own as the next installment. Start with the chapter number as I’ve done here, and start exactly where the last chapter left off (in mid-sentence if necessary).

4.Your entry should be EXACTLY 250 words long, unless you are writing chapter 10, in which case you must bring the story to a conclusion in 250 words or less.

5.At the end of the chapter, where the text reads: “This is part X of 10″, change this to the number of your chapter.

6.Add the URL/web address of your blog and today’s date onto the list below that, so people reading later entries can jump back to your chapter.

7.Finish your chapter and post it within 24 hours of claiming your place. There – it’s freaking easy! You can go back and read the rest of the story now.

8.IF YOU’VE JUST FINISHED ENTRY #10 and finished the story, DELETE THESE INSTRUCTIONS from the bottom of your post – they’ll just confuse people. ALSO, let CG know by posting a comment on the first entry (on, or sending him an email on CG will assemble a full version and send it round to all of the contributors.