Talking about signatures . . .

01/11/2008

Let’s not forget it wasn’t just one painting Helen Clark passed off as her own, she finally admitted to signing “about half a dozen” works of art she hadn’t created.

And it wasn’t just when she was Prime Minister when the demands of office might have explained why she did it, though not excused her for doing it. She admitted she’d done it from the time she was a back bencher.

That’s not a hanging offence, but it’s dishonest and a very bad look, especially for a Minister of Arts, which raises legitimate questions about her character.

Why didn’t she just say she couldn’t paint but offer to help in another way? Why not say she couldn’t paint but would be happy to pay for someone else to do a painting and donate that? Why not just do a painting knowing no one would expect a master piece?

Does it matter?

Yes, because the signature on a work of art deontes its provenance so you need to be able to trust it, and the woman who’s shown we can’t trust her on that reckons the election’s about trust.

Cartoon: Rod Emmerson


But Miss . . .

26/09/2008

The esteemed poet lauretae Jam Hipkins has lost is heart to the teacher who is moonlighting as a prostitute:

I love your lacy algebra

You ease my present tense

I regard your pleasure’s syntax

As a meagre recompense

For the poetry you’ve taught me

Writ on scented, satin sheet

In our one-on-one night classes

Where we shared our rhyming feet.

If my woodwork is improving

If, perchance, I top your class

It is you, sweet Cupid’s tutor

Who has shown me how to pass

Small wonder, then in Flaxmere

With no teacher of the night

That lonely boys’ testosterone

Can fuel a fiercesome fight.

But do not give them homework

Save love’s lessons just for me

You are the moon’s curriculum

You are my chemistry

If I’m A plus in the boudoir

Then I thank your lesson plan

I went in in short trousers

And I staggered out a man!

“Well, what do you think?” the laureate pleaded. “Will it work?”

“Perhaps,” I said sadly.

“But you may have to pay her to listen.”

You can read the rest of Jim Hopkins’ column here.

For other views on the issue:  Read the rest of this entry »


Please Miss

22/09/2008

Should a teacher lose her job for moonlighting as a prostitute?

Teachers and their advocates are constantly complaining about teachers’ workloads. The school board could use this to justify concerns that the teacher’s extra-curricular activities would compromise her ability to do her day job properly. But:

The woman reportedly told the principal that her action in her own time was not his concern, and that it was not affecting her ability as a teacher.

Teachers Council director Peter Lind said the most important factor was whether the teacher’s second job was affecting her teaching duties, “and there would have to be actual evidence”.

That’s not easy because there are a whole lot of things which might impinge on a teachers’ performance in the classroom which would not be sackable offences, the demands of looking after young children or elderly relatives, for example.

But prostitution is a wee bit different from these altruisitc activities and that might create difficulties.

It’s a primary school so the board doesn’t need to concern itself over the possibility of pupils hiring the teacher to help them with their homework. But it might worry about problems which could arise if pupils’ fathers – or mothers – were clients.

It might also have concerns about how the teacher’s side-line activities impact on the school’s reputation and that of the teaching profession:

Employment lawyer John Hannan, who knew of the case, said a school could possibly take action even if it didn’t have a policy either preventing teachers taking secondary jobs or ensuring they first seek approval from their board. “It’s a case of whether the outside employment is regarded as incompatible with the role of a teacher in terms of role-modelling and in terms of any policies that the board of trustees might have in place.”

Another employment lawyer, Patrick Walsh, said the council could intervene if the school deemed the teacher’s second job involved “conduct that brings discredit to the profession”.

There is a glimmer of hope then, that the board might be within its rights to tell her she can’t do both jobs. And if it’s not then what does that say about our society?

I don’t know why she needs the extra money and what happens to her two children while she’s earning it. But if she thinks she’s doing it for them she’s got her priorities wrong.

And whatever employment law states, I wouldn’t want my children taught by a prostitute because making something legal doesn’t make it right.


Charity with principles

13/09/2008

A New York charity turned down a share of a $3m jackpot because it didn’t want to send the wrong message to gambling addicts.

Some New Zealand charities don’t accept the donations from casinos and the proceeds from other gambling for the same reason.

Some New Zealand charities may have accepted money from New Zealand First which ought to have gone to Parliamentary Services, but we have only got Winston Peters’ word for that.


Politics of the absurd

12/09/2008

The Taranaki Daily News notes that in politics an absurdity isn’t a handicap:

Napoleon Bonaparte said that about 200 years ago . . .Given the political drama that has unfolded in the past few weeks, that statement has an uncanny prescience and the timing of its publication is both poignant and troubling.

But in the context of the turmoil surrounding Winston Peters, Helen Clark and the story behind the grease that smooths the wheels of our democracy, Bonaparte’s offering alludes to a wider truth that we must face in the next few weeks.

If, as Bob Jones points out in his column today, Labour is a real chance to win the General Election tipped to be called for November, does that mean that, finally, we have reluctantly conceded that politicians can and do lie, cheat and steal as part of their job and this affliction must be accepted; like an involuntary muscle reflex that must be accommodated and tolerated?

Is this absurdity of avarice and treachery in public service not a handicap, but more of a default position? And therefore, how much weight do we place on honesty and integrity when standing, marker pen poised, before our voting forms?

. . . Have we just become too accustomed to, too beaten down by, too many lies and falsehoods; an innocence that became a scepticism that mutated into a grudging, resigned cynicism.

. . . Maybe Helen Clark is counting on the same moral blindness from her supporters, her nation; that we will forgive her moment of political madness and impropriety because we are sophisticated enough to know that lying and deceit is as much a part of being a politician as kissing babies and shaking hands.

If that’s the case, then shame on her and shame on us. There should be more to surviving in politics than clinging on to a drowning man and hoping everyone else will look the other way.

Not everyone’s looking the other way but the election will be the only way to know if there’s enough of us who still believe that honesty and integrity matter.


Enough’s enough

12/09/2008

The Dominion Post has had enough:

Prime Minister Helen Clark’s course of action is now clear. Mr Henry has been invited to reappear before the privileges committee on Tuesday. When he does, he should bring with him two pieces of evidence. The first is telephone records showing when he first called Mr Glenn to ask him to contribute toward Mr Peters’ legal costs, records which, if they exist, will disprove Mr Glenn’s assertion that he has never spoken to Mr Peters’ lawyer.

The second is the name of the “client” who advised him to approach Mr Glenn on Mr Peters’ behalf.

If Mr Henry is unable, or unwilling, to provide either, the prime minister should sack Mr Peters from her ministry.

For too long, he has trifled with the truth and danced on the heads of legal pins. By doing so, he would like his supporters to believe he has simply been refusing to dance to the tune of petty bureaucrats and the news media.

But what he has, in fact, been doing is showing contempt for Parliament, the law and the public. Remember, it was an audience member who asked Mr Peters at a Grey Power meeting in July to explain why NZ First had not declared money received from the Spencer Trust, a shadowy legal entity administered by his brother Wayne.

Mr Peters replied that: “Everything that [NZ First] was required to do within the law has been done,” has now been shown, by the party’s own admission that it broke electoral law, to be false.

Miss Clark should call the election.

Not only will it give her the political benefit of diverting attention from Mr Peters’ evasions, half-truths and falsehoods, it will give the public the opportunity to pass judgment on his shenanigans.

“Contempt for Parliament, the law, and the public …” not to mention his colleagues, his party, its members and the poor deluded souls who’ve believed the populist message he’s spent his political career spreading.


Thanks Owen

12/09/2008

Some have questioned whether Owen Glenn’s philanthropy was sufficient to earn a New Zealand Honour, but the Herald says  he deserved it before and he’s more than earned it now:

New Zealanders should consider today what a debt we owe Owen Glenn. He cared enough for his good name in this country to come here and clear it. In doing so he will surely rid us of a politician who misused his considerable talent and charm to mislead the public on important policies, sow fear and suspicion of change and survive on a populism that has turned out to be not only destructive but dishonest.

Mr Glenn deserved the high honour bestowed on him at New Year for financial endowments such as that of the Auckland University business school. Scarred by his brush with New Zealand politics, he might not realise that he has earned his honour doubly now.

We would have even more reason to be grateful if, as The Hive requests, he could provide some ammunition to counter the attacks on him from the unholy alliance of Labour and New Zealand First.


Leader demands resignation

11/09/2008

A politician has been forced to resign  because he misled his leader – but it was in Australia not New Zealand

An Australian state premier says his police minister has quit his Cabinet post over revelations that he danced in his underwear at a parliamentary office party.

New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees told Fairfax Radio Network on Thursday that he demanded Matt Brown’s resignation Wednesday night because Brown had misled him about what had happened at the office party three months ago.
     
Rees says Brown initially claimed that nothing inappropriate had happened at the party but later admitted to stripping to his underwear.

It’s good to know there’s somewhere in the world where the truth is still valued, ethical standards are upheld and elected representatives are held to account for lying.


Just sweat glands on cycles – Hopkins

22/08/2008

Jim Hopkins begins in verse:

Pay heed, ye wags and dags and swells
Who wouldst provoke sensation
Your honed bons mots and epigrams
Will not convulse the nation
There is no call for polished jests
No need to hone your wits
For if thou wouldst true stir the mass
You simply flash your t***!!!

And continues:

Equally, if the deliberately provocative Boobs on Bikes had been replaced with something less inflammatory – maybe Mammaries on Machines – it would be much harder to imagine your average callow youth or haemorrhoidal voyeur exposing himself to the risk of moral corruption by trudging down to Queen St for a quick perv.

And concludes:

One final thought before we close the book on this storm in a D cup.

Mr Crow is a fairground barker. Nothing more.

And his event is a sideshow, all sawdust and sleaze.

But it’s not the threat some fear it is.

At worst, it was an offensive inconvenience for one hour on one day of one month in one year.

But none of us were forced to attend this public mockery of the precepts of feminism.

We needn’t fear people like Mr Crow. They merely encourage us to make occasional silly or grubby choices.

The people we should fear are the curriculum crafters, the food police, the tuckshop banners, the secret censors, the untouchable apparatchiks who make the rules and rig our elections.

It’s the bureaucratic worrywarts busily banning this and regulating that at the drop of a self-righteous hat that should frighten us.

The always brilliant H.L. Mencken once defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy”.

It’s a fear that clearly preoccupies our new puritans – the ones in power.

Their enthusiastically exercised ability to supplant choice with rules is the real threat to our mental health and moral conscience.

There is more worth reading in between these extracts, you’ll find the whole column here.


Public porn makes boobs of all

22/08/2008

The  ODT editorial  on Boobs on Bikes was headlined Harmless Fun?

Topless women advertising an age-restricted pornography exposition while riding on motorbikes down Queen St in Auckland does not, according to Judge Nicola Mathers, meet the legal threshold of offensiveness.

The judge seemed to be applying some common sense to the law, for although she noted some people would be deeply offended by the parade, and would consider it tactless and distasteful, she also observed that 80,000 people “voted with their feet” last year by attending the parade.

That suggested to her they approved of it and considered it harmless fun.

She might also have observed that about 1.1 million of Greater Auckland’s population had consistently chosen each year to stay away from the parade.

The judge had to consider a claim by the Auckland District Council for an injunction to stop the parade, on the grounds that it breached a new bylaw enabling the council to ban parades it considered offensive.

The organiser had apparently not troubled himself to apply for a suitable permit, no doubt anticipating it would be refused.

But the case was flimsily based from the start, since, as the police themselves pointed out, the enforcement of council bylaws is not a matter for them these days, nor is it an offence under the Summary Offences Act in 2008 for a woman to go topless in public, and Judge Mathers said herself it was at least arguable that the bylaw breached the Bill of Rights.

Certainly, one would think the police, especially in Auckland, have better things to do on a Wednesday than holding back the slavering multitudes, but the liberal citizenry will most likely appreciate the judge’s precedent which seems to ensure the pornography industry has equal rights with the rest of us to make an exhibition of itself.

Many women, and not a few men, may have been somewhat puzzled by the nation’s contradictory approach to the display of the female breast in public.

After all, while it is lawful, indeed now apparently a constitutional duty, to display such useful appendages in the street, when it comes to breast-feeding babies in public places – despite the best efforts of the La Leche League – there is usually an outcry from the easily offended.

And was what amounted to an advertisement for a commercial exhibition of adult erotica really to be considered in the same breath as the right of all women to celebrate their bodies?

If the parade was, as it seemed to be, advertising human sexuality, then Judge Mather’s benchmark may be considered by a majority to be no less than appropriate for the times.

On the other hand, the question has been asked: what sort of message does such a parade give teenage and younger boys, not to mention grown men?

The word “puerile” springs to mind as suitable to describe the most probable male response to any such display of female body parts, rather than – say – to a parade displaying shared female opinions of women’s creativity, intelligence and beauty.

After all, the tide of misogynist voyeurism seems to rise higher every year in this country, from “harmless fun” parades such as Auckland’s to the fake validity of television “reality” programmes, to computer games, Internet filth and pornographic films.

It cannot only be a coincidence that the (mostly male) tolerance benchmarks for what the community at large considers offensive are rising with this tide.

Thus, All Black Jerry Collins can urinate without sanction in public before millions watching test match preliminaries, where once within living memory an All Black shocked a radio audience to its core with merely an honest and mild oath; language once considered deeply repellent and unlawful is the common currency not just of the masculine world but of the schoolyard; repugnant behaviour which turns the law on its head is a daily occurrence in social settings, and all too often the subject of uncritical display on the nightly television news where all may see it repeated.

A decade ago, one of our finest jurists, Sir Michael Hardie-Boys, delivered another kind of benchmark whose core message remains just as valid today.

He suggested some basic strategies to halt our headlong drift into a state where compassion is absent, virtue non-existent, truth invisible, and the authority of reason forgotten.

We need to teach again the basic rules of life, he warned, “so that the influences of upbringing, or home, school and social environment, are wholesome and positive, directing us from early childhood on, towards, and not away from, those essential attitudes of personal, family and social responsibility.”

The banality of the Auckland street parade and its shabby endorsement represents an aspect of human nature where curiosity is able to be detached from reality, where onlookers can simultaneously be involved and uninvolved, their moral reasoning suspended.

It is true that it is within each individual’s power to avoid such events, ignore “reality” television, not buy obscene computer games or view pornographic films.

That, however, is hardly the core issue, which is nothing to do with how we portray each other, or judge each other, but how we view ourselves.

It wasn’t illegal, the people on parade had the right to bare themselves, the voyeurs had the right to watch them. But by doing so they all made boobs of themselves because they forgot that the right to say yes sometimes comes with the responsibility to say no.


French public back citizenship ban for burqa wearer

23/07/2008

A French court has denied citizenship to a foreign woman because she  wears a burqa and swears total submission to her husband.

The woman, identified only as Fazia M., is a 32-year-old Moroccan who has been living in France since 2000. She speaks French and has had three children, all of whom have acquired French citizenship.

Under the laws prevailing at the time of her citizenship application, a spouse had the right to acquire nationality provided he or she had been married for two years and had a good level of French. However, the authorities could reject the application on the grounds of “lack of integration” into French life.

Fazia M. was rejected on these grounds after she attended several interviews, dressed in the burqa, with the social services and police, which are normal steps in the process.

She and her husband volunteered the information that they were Salafists – members of an ultra-strict Saudi-inspired branch of Islam – and that the husband had asked her to wear the burqa and that she accepted “submission” to him, Le Monde reported.

Fazia M. appealed to the State Council, arguing that she had been denied the right to freedom of religious expression. The court rejected her suit, saying she had “adopted a radical practice of religion that is incompatible with the essential values of the French community, notably on the principle of equality of the sexes”.

“According to her own statements, Faiza M. leads a virtually reclusive life, cut off from French society,” explained Emmanuelle Prada-Bordenave, a government lawyer. “She has no idea about secularism or the right to vote. She lives in total submission to the men of her family.” Read the rest of this entry »


Is life too safe?

28/04/2008

Bill Ralston writes in this week’s Listener about keeping kids safe and says: Kids do face a larger array of hazards than their parents did. But the biggest problem they face is not being armed with the fundamentals of life – a set of core values.

 

His view is reinforced by this true story: A university student told her mother that she had been talking to her friends and they’d all concluded how lucky they were to have been brought up in families where their parents loved each other and their children; set them boundaries and made them face consequences when they breached them; modelled work ethics, taught them the value of money and the importance of  values including honesty, kindness, consideration and respect for themselves and others. The mother was touched but she was also saddened because when she’d been 21 she’d have taken these things for granted because they would have been normal; obviously her daughter and her friends didn’t because they no longer are.

 

There are many reasons for this, one of which is the intrusion of the state into people’s lives. Of course there must be some rules and safeguards, but those who try to make the world really safe, not just for children but for all of us, actually make it more dangerous because we stop taking responsibility for ourselves.

 

Personal responsibility is one of the core values, like the others the students recognised, that used to be common place, but isn’t so common anymore. Bill refers to Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft’s appeal for schools to help those kids whose families don’t teach them personal values. I am wary of putting more on to already over-loaded teachers and I also wonder how much can be taught at school if it’s not being modelled at home and in society at large.

 

The following verse is supposedly written on the tomb of a bishop in the crypts of Westminster Abby:

 

Start with yourself

 

When I was young and free and my imagination

had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As

I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world

would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat

and decided to change only my country.

 

But it too seemed immovable.

 

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate

attempt, I settled for changing only my family,

those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

 

And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realise:

If I had only changed myself first, then by example

I would have changed my family.

 

From their inspiration and encouragement, I would

then have been able to better my country and,

who knows, I may have even changed the world.

 

 


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