Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

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Oh My Lorde! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

Ella Yelich-O’Connor has decided to cancel her June concert in Tel Aviv as she feels it’s inappropriate to perform there at this time. As a result, she has been described as a bigot.

People who know me are aware of my caution with dictionary definitions as they sometimes fail to adequately describe subtle nuances or meaning within sections of society. So it is with some trepidation that I resort to a dictionary for a definition of bigot.

Cambridge English Dictionary: a person who has strong, unreasonable beliefs and who does not like other people who have different beliefs or a different way of life.

Colins English Dictionary: a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, esp on religion, politics, or race

Webster’s New World College Dictionary: 1. a person who holds blindly and intolerantly to a particular creed, opinion, etc. 2. a narrow-minded, prejudiced person

Merriam-Webster Kids’ Dictionary: a person who won’t listen to anyone whose ideas or beliefs are different from his or her own; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial group) with hatred and intolerance

Synonyms for bigot would suggest that they are “unpleasant people in general”.

From those definitions, I believe it is unfounded to call someone a bigot where they are open to information from multiple sources, and make a decision based on the information available, even when the decision made is different to your own.

I am not privy to what information Ella had access to, but I am confident that the decision to cancel the Tel Aviv concert was not taken lightly especially considering a significant part of her world tour is through the USA where support for Israel is high.

If you don’t know who Ella Yelich-O’Connor is, you may be more familiar with her stage name of Lorde.

In the week between the announcement of the Tel Aviv event and its cancellation, there were many calls both for and against the concert going ahead. Speaking on the cancellation, Lorde said “I’ve received an overwhelming number of messages and letters and have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show. I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one. I’m truly sorry to reverse my commitment to come play for you. I hope one day we can all dance.”

Among the many articles for and against the Tel Aviv concert in the NZ media were these open letters: Dear Lorde, here’s why we’re urging you not to play Israel and Dear Lorde, here’s why an Israel boycott is the wrong answer. No matter what decision she came to there was going to be people who would disagree with her. I have no issue with that. My issue is with that decision being a case of bigotry.

In response to Lorde’s decision, Roseanne Barr wrote on Twitter :”Boycott this bigot. Lorde caves to BDS pressure, cancels Israel concert. She’s so privileged that she’s SCARED that she might have to live one second in the face of fascist anti-Semitism (that she approves of) like the Israelis/Jews do.”

With a tweet like that, one has to ask who is the bigot here? Lorde has decided that doing a concert in Israel at this time will be seen as giving tacit support to the policies of the Israeli government. How is choosing not to give that support anti-Semitic? Unless of course you believe the Israeli Government and the Jews are innocent victims while every Palestinian, man, woman, and child is out to wipe Israel and its Jewish citizens from the face of the earth.

Similarly, a full page ad in the Washington Post on New Year’s Eve accused Lorde of being a bigot and her home country of being anti-Jewish because it voted in favour of a UN resolution calling for the US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The ad included comments such as “Let’s boycott the boycotters and tell Lorde and her fellow bigots that Jew-hatred has no place in the twenty-first century”. Regardless of where one stands on the Israel/Palestine conflict, it is extremely difficult to ignore the plight of the Palestinians in all this. To say that a concern for their plight is “Jew-Hatred” is a nonsense in my view. Whether Lorde chose the right course of action is open to dispute, but to claim that the action is an act of bigotry is an entirely different matter. In fact such claims are likely to close dialogue rather than open it and to harden attitudes.

My personal stance is that I lean towards supporting Lorde’s decision. I am mostly in agreement with the open letter linked to above urging Lorde not to perform in Israel. However, The writers’ claim that the the 1981 anti-tour protests are proudly remembered today is not entirely accurate – at least not for those who witnessed it first hand. It is perhaps one of the darkest periods in our history, the wounds from which we have not yet fully recovered. It pitted brother against brother and father against son – often violently so. It brought about a change in trust of the police in a large segment of the population that has not been restored, and it taught us that the veneer of a civil society is dangerously thin. It’s a topic I will cover in the not too distant future.



Being transgender is a mental disorder!

In most liberal democracies being transgender is not considered a mental disorder. For example, in Aotearoa New Zealand we are able to self identify as M, F, or X (Male, Female, or indeterminate/unspecified) and have driver’s licence, passport etc issued accordingly, and our anti-discrimination law provides the full protection regardless of how we self identify.

So I was somewhat surprised today to discover that a country that I’ve always considered to be liberal and tolerant still officially classifies being transgender as a mental disorder. That country is Finland

An email came across my desk from Amnesty International NZ which included the following:

He was just a child when he was first told he had to be sterilised.
Sakris Kupila has never identified as a woman, the gender marker assigned to him at birth. Yet the 21-year-old medical student must endure daily embarrassment because his identity documents say he is female. In Finland, the law requires that he be diagnosed with a “mental disorder” and sterilised before he can legally change his gender identity, a violation of his human rights.

For Sakris, the choice is clear. He opposes this cruel and humiliating treatment and is bravely defending the rights of transgender people by fighting to end the law. Despite the threats and hostility, Sakris won’t stop until the fight is over.

A quick search of the Internet seems to support that email. There even appears to be restrictions on “gender appropriate” names. However many of the same Web sites, also state that reconstructive surgery is also required in NZ. This is not accurate: medical treatment, (no mention of surgery) is required only if you wish to apply to the Family Court to have your gender changed on your birth certificate. And the Family Court seems to be taking an incrementally liberal view of what medical treatment actually entails. Accepting what one finds on the internet is fraught with dangers

Birth certificates are a public record in the same way as marriage certificates, death certificates and name change records. Personally I don’t see a need to change the gender recorded on a birth certificate if one chooses to identify differently, as that was what one’s gender was perceived to be at the time of birth, but I appreciate others will hold opposing views. Perhaps when gender is no longer considered binary, and one is free to move along a spectrum without judgement then legal requirement to place everyone into often poorly fitting boxes will disappear.

One immediate solution to the issue of gender identity would be to not record a gender on birth certificates. Personally, I’d be in favour of that. In this day and age why is it needed? What purpose does it serve? Perhaps someone can enlighten me on why gender needs to be recorded but not eye colour or a finger print or a dna print for example.

As an aside, I’m curious about what ‘gender appropriate’ names are. Is there some official list of male  and female names? What happens when someone wants to invent a new name or wants to use a foreign name? What’s wrong with being able to choose any name one wants? Admittedly, in Aotearoa New Zealand there are restrictions: names must consist of the letters A through Z and must not contain numerals or punctuation (with the exception of the hyphen). So while I can’t register V8 I could register V-eight. I can’t register 愛莉, but I could register Airi. If I felt so inclined, I could register late for breakfast, or Judy Is Beautiful, or even I am an arse-hole.





Three days lost

There are two conditions that conspire to make my life difficult at times. One is considered a mental disorder by the medical profession although I hope that in time this attitude will change. Once homosexuality was considered a disorder by the medical profession, and when I was a child, left handedness was certainly treated as punishable condition.

How times have changed. Today we understand that what is considered “normal” is in many cases, just the bulge in a bell curve of human variability, and one doesn’t need to be “cured” if one tends to be at either end of the curve.

Of course I’m referring to autism. While autism has its challenges, most of those challenges are because of the way other people, in other words “society”, respond to how I exhibit aspects of autism. While I think autism awareness is ideal in theory, I’m afraid that awareness isn’t accompanied by understanding. In Western culture, it seems that it’s being demonised as an epidemic; something that needs to eradicated, even to the point where the desire to  eradicate the person with autism is seen as understandable, although thankfully not condoned. This must change.

The other condition, and the one that has had the most effect on me over the last few days, is considered a disorder, by the medical profession, and with which I heartily concur, is migraine. Having been laid low by a particularly painful attack that has kept me in a darkened room for three days, unable to eat, think rationally or coherent thoughts, I would like nothing better than for science to find a cure, or even to reduce the severity, frequency and duration of attacks. Looking at the Migraine Buddy app on my phone, I see the following statistics for the last 31 days:

No. of attacks: 14
Average attack duration: 32 hrs 25 mins
Attack days: 27
Attack-free days: 4
Pain Intensity
(1 – 10 scale)
Minimum: 3
Average: 6.3
Maximum: 9

The three most common symptoms (apart from pain) are sensitivity to light and noise, and Tinnitus. These occurred in every attack. However following symptoms occurred in at least half of attacks: Aphasia, giddiness, sensitivity to smells, fatigue, blurred vision, blind spots, ataxia, and confusion, with nausea occurring in only six of the attacks. Distorted spatial awareness, hemiparesis, tremors, dysarthria, and facial numbness occurred in five attacks. There are a few other less common symptoms, but I think the list is long enough as it is.

While the frequency and duration of attacks are a little up on a normal month, it’s not by much. Migraines do limit what I can do and it means that I’m not able to make definite plans. Everything depends on my condition at the time. It means that I’m often seen as “unreliable” because I can’t commit to being at a particular place at a particular time.

Even blogging has to go by the wayside during a migraine, as I’m unable to string a coherent paragraph together, and I’m unable to perform even the basics of proof reading during many attacks.

Currently I’m in the postdrome phase of the last migraine. This means that although the throbbing head pain is gone, it still feels like I’ve been hit by a bus, and I’m not sure how coherent my writing is. The postdrome phase can take as long as a day, sometimes longer,  to finally fade away, but at least, that little guy with the sledgehammer who has been so busy inside my skull for the last 3 days has gone for now. For that I’m extremely grateful.


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Aspie Challenge #8

“You don’t act like you’re autistic”

Of course I don’t act like I’m autistic – that comes naturally to me. I work very hard to act like I’m not autistic. That can be very exhausting.

I would prefer to simply “act naturally”, but too many people vigorously object.



Aspie Challenge #7


Contrary to popular myth, I do not lack empathy. It’s you who fails to recognise my way of experiencing and expressing it.




While I’ve never been a big fan of the TPP, mainly because of the secretive nature of the negotiations and the apparent loss of sovereignty imposed on smaller nations, I do think in the long term, America’s withdrawal from the pact will see the rise and rise of China and the increasing isolation of the US. Bill Peddie makes some interesting observations:

Bill Peddie's website


While I am sure President Donald Trump knows how to add using his fingers, I wish he had used bigger fingers before maligning the junior trading nations with the US like New Zealand.

According to our New Zealand Statistics figures for 2016 we sent NZ $5.6 billion worth of exports to the US and in return received NZ $5.7 billion worth of Goods and Services from the US.   In the Brave New World according to Donald Trump he claims this means that New Zealand gained far more from this trading relationship than did the US! ?  In response, small minded journalists might suspect that (using Trump’s own invented language) he might have “misspoke bigly”.  At the very least, his assertion that smaller partners have been gaining more from trade with the US than does the US doesn’t match…

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Super Tuesday crashes Canadian Immigration Website



Thank goodness not all Americans think Trump is the next Messiah. Apparently, after the news that Trump had secured big wins from the Super Tuesday rounds, enquiries overwhelmed a Canadian Government immigration Website causing it to crash. If Trump does win the presidential race, will Canada be far enough away? Come to think of it, will Aotearoa New Zealand be far enough away? Antarctica, may find itself with its first permanent immigrants.

And Google reported a large spike in “move to Canada” searches. Of course his supporters are likely to blame both events of the success of Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primaries, but that’s the kind of nonsense they will fool themselves into believing.

Meanwhile the rest of the world wonders how so many Americans have fallen for Trump, hook, line and sinker. To gather in the conservative, and Christian fundamentalists, he now claims he’s a Christian – just like them. But is he? I guess it depends on what qualities one considers are necessary to justify the claim.

From my perspective, he lacks even the barest minimum qualities. Fellow Kiwi Bill Peddie is asking this question in his post Is Donald Trump a Christian? It’s worth a read irrespective of whether your are a believer or a non-believer.

Clare Flourish, in her post Drumpf raises many concerns about Trump and his rise and rise. Her last paragraph in that post says it all:

How authoritarian is the US? How despairing are its voters, to be shilled by this man?


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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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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.



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.