Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spankwatch: Opinion Edition

The 'fair and balanced' ™ treatment of the smacking issue spills over onto the opinion pages today. On the... wait, which is it?... 'Yes' side, is one Russell Wills:
Dr Russell Wills is a paediatrician in Hawkes Bay with a large child protection practice and is the clinical director of Maternal, Child and Youth Services at Hawkes Bay District Health Board. He is also spokesman for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand on the referendum issue.
Goodness. And who have the 'No' crowd drummed up to oppose him? One Phil Jackson (no relation... I assume). His credentials, you ask?:
Phil Jackson lives in Auckland.
Finding myself a match for Phil in this department, I thought I would comment on his opinion piece, "Parents, not governments, are responsible for children". I've written enough about the smacking thing of late to bore everyone to tears, so you can go and read it yourselves. I'll just make fun of a few highlights instead.
Members of Parliament know that they can get away with many things because they have denied the public the means to direct them on issues important to them. The Privy Council as the last means of appeal was abolished by a government that wanted its legislation to be interpreted in a particular way and despite the overwhelming number of submissions against this, decided that is what it wanted anyway.
The sooner we get some direct democracy with binding referendums, the better. Then we can be more like beautiful Switzerland, where women managed to get the vote in federal elections in 1971. But even there the systems aren't perfect; in 1990, nanny state judges forced the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden to give women the vote in canton elections despite public opposition.
The law now states that parents cannot use physical discipline for correction. If this is a good principle, then it should also apply to adults and that time out should also not be used for correction for children.
What? Firstly, I don't believe you can use physical discipline for the purposes of correction against adults. Secondly, that's not a sentence.
Those that argue that smacking is violence show a simplistic grasp of the subject. Society has rules that apply to different contexts that permit "violence". For example martial arts, contact sports and self-defence.
I don't believe one can legally use martial arts for the purposes of correction either - even good parental correction.
When John Key says the legislation is working - I worry. If I were to say my car is working when someone expresses an interest in buying it, no one would for a second think that I meant "working well".
What? What would it mean? 'Working like a dog'? 'Working the streets'? 'Workin' it'?

A woman I know spent nine months carrying her baby, with morning sickness in the first trimester, and toxaemia in the final few weeks. The baby's head was too big for her birth canal and a caesarean with epidural was needed.

That baby woke three or four times nightly for over six months causing countless lost hours of sleep. When that baby grew into a 10-year-old and one day went too far, with the woman already stressed out, she slapped her child on the face. Under this legislation, she could have become a criminal.

"When that baby grew into a 10-year-old"? That was quick. So what really happened in this little anecdote was a mother slapped her 10-year-old and didn't become a criminal. Good story.

Seriously, I read the Herald every day - so you don't have to - and I think this is the worst-written, worst-edited and worst-argued published piece of writing I have ever read. Anything that makes me want to go and give John Key and Phil Goff a big hug has to be doing something wrong.


  1. Thanks James…I saw the paediatrician column but missed Mr Jackson’s contribution. Just read it now…threw up into my mouth a little bit. Even putting aside the actual points he makes (the usual stuff, albeit expressed in such a facile and trite way that it reaches a new low even for the “no” brigade)…it’s just so badly written…really really bad. In addition to the non-sentence you quoted, how about:
    “Sentences of prison do not stop murders nor will they, nor have they stopped the young and helpless dying from the acts of others”.
    “My two boys can be quite hard to manage sometimes and the rare times I've had to administer some physical correction, I have seen them want to become closer to me after their boundaries had become re-established”
    Sigh. I have a nose bleed. I need to lie down.

  2. The whole piece is so badly argued and incoherent that it makes you wonder whether it's actually stealth marketing for the opposition viewpoint.

  3. As I understand it, the charming anecdote about morning sickness, toxaemia, birth canals, and caesarean sections is intended to make the point that only adoptive parents shouldn't be allowed to slap their child in the face.

  4. I thought the point was that the kid had it coming from way back.

  5. Yep thats what I think he is getting at. I must say its a new one on me. Some provocation huh? Take that you little fucker......thats for making me puke for 12 weeks 10 years ago. You see thats what we "yes" voters dont understand, if good kiwi parents are legally forbidden to admisister the occasional slap how are we supposed to correct this nationwide epidemic of fetal heads not engaging in the birth canal adequately?

  6. Maybe a more appropriate referendum question would be "Should a slap in the face of an unusually large-headed child by his/her mother who suffered from complications during childbirth, as revenge for said complications, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

    I'd vote 'NO' - that large-headed fucker has to pay for what they've done.

  7. I think you're forgetting that said large-headed baby also kept her awake. Babies don't usually keep their parents awake at night so there was clearly something wrong with this kid.

  8. I agree, albeit with the proviso that "ten years shall have passed since the event."

  9. That is one inconsiderate child. Having to carry it for four or five months, sure, reasonable. Nine months is outrageous overstaying.

  10. "Now listen you huge craniumed freak, You're lucky it was just a slap! I brought you into this world, I can damn sure take you out again!"

  11. James, do you do retrospective slap-downs? I'd like to nominate "Cancer fear spurs kindy to fight 'killer rays'" (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10540051) as the worst ever Herald piece published with a straight face. The vacuity and shear sloppiness of this non-article is hard to believe.

    On the side of hysterical parents who believe that electricty causes cancer in their little ones they have, well, hysterical parents. On the other side representing those who are familiar with the epidemiological evidence, biological mechanisms of electromagnetic absorption and double blind randomised trials, refuting a credible link between electromagnetic fields and cancer they have, um, nobody.

    But that doesn't matter because the hysterical parents went straight to the source: linesmen. And what did they say? "Linesmen have installed powerlines and said to me, 'Yep, they definitely throw out EMFs.' Killer rays, that's what they call them."

  12. Ha, that's a good one Mark:


    Waitakere ward councillor Paul Mitchell acknowledged that the site was designated for Vector in the early 1980s. The kindergarten was established in 1973.

    "I'm no expert on rays and magnetic forces and things - I don't think anyone knew about that back then - but it's certainly a concern."


    'Rays' were not discovered until the mid-90s, I believe.

  13. I bet that large headed child has ginger hair.

  14. I am so glad you spotted this. I was well nigh apoplectic and was going around muttering things about the legality of flogging, and how prison actually IS time-out for adults.

  15. Reads like a transcript of a talkback radio call with the "ums" and "ahs" edited out.

  16. Large baby heads was Eve's punishment for eating the fruit-of-the-tree-of-which-thou-hast-said-thou-shalt-not-eat. In Genesis. So this goes waaaay back.

  17. Ugh, my voting paper arrived yesterday in London. Took me sometime and much shrugging of the shoulders to explain the background/purpose of the whole exercise. I think perhaps they may well be thinking slightly less of us now, for what it is worth.