Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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The “extreme male brain”

I have been mulling over writing a post on flaws I see with the theory that people on the autism spectrum have Extreme Male Brains (EMB), and particularly how many on the spectrum fail to fit comfortably into gender specific roles as expected by society. I pointed Clare to the EMB article on DSQ a few days ago and she has produced the post I would have wanted to write if my head wasn’t clouded with a migraine “brain fog”.

Thank you Clare.

Clare Flourish

Is there such a thing? Do trans women have a “female brain”, or people with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism a “male brain”?

Here’s the Disability Studies Quarterly, giving a good kicking to self-proclaimed experts on Asperger’s, which may also apply to such as Blanchard. Asperger’s is rhetorical, says Jordyn Jack: discourse fills the space that certainty in medicine leaves unoccupied. It’s not making stuff up, exactly; it’s creating a theory from little evidence because you can’t create a better one. Like GID, Asperger’s was messed about by the DSM revision: now it is lumped in with Autism, before, it was separate. The fault comes when Blanchard or Baron-Cohen cling to their theories in the face of contradiction, using them as a framework for their understanding, and excluding other possible understandings.

Another thing we might find useful in this Disability Studies article is the will to find something valuable…

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Local fund raising event hits world headlines

During my rounds of various blog sites this evening I stumbled across a site in the UK that had an article about a small business in a small NZ township that was opening its doors to the public for one day in order to raise funds for a local charity. This has raised the ire of a conservative Christian group. Unfortunately they are angry for the wrong reason, and I’ll come to that shortly.

Until the late 1970s New Zealand was probably the most egalitarian society on earth. With a comprehensive social welfare system and full employment poverty was almost unknown. Now we are in the unenviable position of having that fastest growing divide between rich and poor in the OECD.

The fund raising event is for a charity that provides meals to school children whose families are unable to provide the necessary nourishment. That is what the Christian group Family First should be angry about. A society that denies disadvantaged families through no fault of their own the dignity of adequate meals for their children is something that should not be seen as acceptable in a modern liberal society.

But is Family First concerned about the rise in the number of families living below the poverty line in the face of increasing national wealth? Apparently not.

So what has upset Family First?  It appears that they don’t like the nature of the business that is opening its doors for the day. It seems they would prefer children go hungry rather than allowing the public to learn how a seldom discussed business is run.

Admittedly, the type of business involved can be exploitative and is illegal in most parts of the world. Neither are are true here. It’s a legitimate business and can be found in almost every suburb in the country.

The business is a brothel and this is why Family First are so upset. But as they are firmly convinced that what goes on in private between consenting adults should be regulated and mostly banned, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by their reaction. No doubt they are firmly convinced that the plight of the disadvantaged is justly deserved punishment from God for undisclosed sins.

What I find fascinating is the number of articles this whole affair has raised in overseas publications, yet has received very little here. An extensive search of Google failed to find any NZ sources but dozens in overseas media including The Guardian and the Daily Mail. The only NZ publication I can find is the original article in the Taranaki Daily News.

While I’m no supporter of prostitution, it’s probably the oldest profession next to midwifery and unlikely to disappear any time soon. For that  reason it’s better that it’s out in the open where employment laws can make it safe for all concerned. The alternatives leaves all those involved in the industry open to exploitation and control by the criminal world.

As far as I am concerned, the greater of the two “evils” is poverty, not prostitution.


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Migraines suck

Tonight the wife and I are supposed to be enjoying the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Wellington. We bought tickets for the event many months ago and paid an arm and a leg for the perfect seats. We were both keenly looking forward to seeing the spectacle tonight.

Instead I am lying in a darkened room in somewhat of a fogged frame of mind. The mental fog is a direct result of the migraine, and while it dulls my cognitive skills, it also dulls my perception of pain. Something I am grateful for.

We drove from Feilding to Waikanae yesterday to stay with our daughter and family. Waikanae is only an hour from Wellington on the suburban train system and as the stadium where the tattoo is being held is only a few minutes walk from the Wellington railway station, it made more sense to take the train instead of trying to find parking space within walking distance.

Shortly after midday I felt that out of body sensation that often precedes a migraine and by mid afternoon I realised that a migraine was on its way as my vision began to loose its precision.

I took some pain killers and with a sinking feeling retreated to a darkened and quiet spot in the hope that it would all blow over before it was time to leave.

Unfortunately by early evening I could no longer walk without staggering and my ability to comprehend language was on the way out and I realised that I’d  be courting disaster by going out.

So our daughter is accompanying my wife to a fantastic night’s entertainment while I struggle to keep from drifting into unreality.

I recently discovered that at times like this, conversing at the slow pace required by typing with one finger (all I can manage at the moment) I can remain somewhat in the real world one letter at a time. Even though the light from the phone screen is very unpleasant, even at its minimum setting, and I hit the wrong letters more often than the correct ones  (thank goodness for predictive typing), by communicating at a pace I can manage, I am finding that I cease to be enveloped in that fog of nothingness that has so often accompanied the migraines.

Of course there’s the possibility that I’ll ramble somewhat incoherently, but if as I am beginning to suspect, it shortens the duration of the migraine, and/or reduces its severity, then that’s something readers will have to put up with.


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The Mad World of Donald Trump

Last night while my wife was flicking through the schedules for the evening’s TV viewing, the title of a late night documentary caught my eye: The mad world of Donald Trump. My interest piqued, I decided to watch it instead of my usual habit of sitting in front of the computer.

It’s a British Documentary, and while I take all all “factual” programs with a grain of salt, the program does accurately portray how most of the western world outside the US perceives both Trump and the American political system.

One thing that has struck me over the years is how many Americans seem to be looking for some sort of “messiah” in their presidential candidates, only to turn against them when they are unable to perform the miracles that had been promised. From this distance it often seems cult-like.

The documentary is currently on Youtube, but if it disappears, a search using the string “The Mad World of Donald Trump” should provide a link that you can view. For those who find the Trump phenomenon incomprehensible, or simply wish to see how much of the world sees American Politics, I recommend watching.


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Balance of power in the US Supreme Court

Over on Amusing Nonsense, Sirius Bizinus has written what I feel is a balanced and reasoned article regarding the appointment of a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court. His is one of the few that has neither expressed vindictive pleasure at the passing of Scalia, nor expressed outrage that Obama might have the opportunity to appoint a “liberal” to the position.

I find it fascinating that appointments to what should be non-political positions turn into party political circuses. Mind you, it does bring an element of entertainment from a distance that I find lacking in our own system here in NZ.

I don’t recall any judicial appointments here causing controversy, and I believe there are two reasons for this. The first is that by convention, judicial appointments are isolated from politics, and second, unlike in the US, the courts do not have the final say on matters constitutional.

Constitutionally, judicial appointments are made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Attorney-General. For those not familiar with the constitution of the Realm of New Zealand, think of the Governor-General as the de facto head of state. The Attorney-General is a member of the Cabinet and as such must be an elected member of Parliament. By convention, the roles of Prime Minister and Attorney-General are not held by the same person, although the constitution does not prohibit it.

By convention, the Attorney-General accepts advice from the Chief Justice and the Solicitor-General for appointments to the higher courts and from the Chief District Court Judge and the Secretary for Justice with regards to District Courts.

They in turn accept advice from the Judicial Appointments Liaison Office (JALO), which is required to consult widely. JALO has no legal or constitutional standing, and like so much of our system is based on continuously evolving conventions.

To avoid possible political influence, the convention is for the Attorney-General to mention judicial appointments to Cabinet, but for the appointment not to be discussed.

One difference between NZ and the US is that here there is a mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges.

Unlike the US, we don’t have a binding constitution. In fact our constitution is made up of multiple acts of Parliament, and ultimately parliament has supreme sovereignty. Therefore any bill passed into law cannot be unconstitutional.

It may seem strange to Americans that the majority of Kiwis prefer our existing constitutional arrangements and don’t want a binding constitution interpreted by the courts. While we perhaps don’t have the guarantees of freedom enshrined in the US constitution, in practice we have always had, and continue to enjoy greater levels of freedom than the good citizens of the USA do.