Thursday, May 31, 2007

It Happens Every Day

The post I wrote yesterday about Folole Muliaga was completely inadequate.

My words are inadequate to express how angry, how upset I am for Folole Muliaga and her family. Even if there is no connection between Mercury's disconnection of their electricity and her death, cutting off the electricity of someone on oxygen fills me with rage.

But partly I am finding it so hard to express myself because her death is not that unusual, in fact it is just a demonstrates a common tragedy. Last year Idiot/Savant wrote about the cost of cold weather: in NZ 1,600 more people die in winter than summer. In winter every time a house's electricity gets disconnected is risking their health, and maybe their life Not just the disconnections, the cost of electricity (and ridiculously badly built houses) damage people's health, and risk people's life.

It's not just electricity, we're a rich country and there are people who aren't allowed food and blankets.

All I can say is that poor people being denied electricity to run oxygen is not OK. It's not an acceptable systems failure. It's not an acceptable side-effect of an otherwise fine economic system.

Pick a side. If you're OK with the wages of poverty being death then continue as you were, but if you're not, then don't just look on and let it happen.

I will be going to the Wellington protest tomorrow:

Friday 1 June 12:30pm
Electricity Commission
Corner of Hunter and Victoria Sts

Note: I've put comment moderation on over night, because I cannot handle another person who says 'but if they didn't want to die they should have paid their electricity bill'

On a more cheerful note

The NDU workers at the progressive distribution centre walked out of work in solidarity with Dennis Maga, a visiting Filipino trade unionist, whose life may be in danger when he returns.

The workers at Favona Rd are already my heroes, it's so awesome that they keep getting stronger and fighting harder.


The Service and Food Workers Union have been trying to get a Multi-Employer Collective Agreement in the public hospitals, which would cover cleaners, orderlies, and other service workers, whether they're employed by the DHBs or employed by subcontractors. Currently people doing exactly the same job are paid differently depending on where they live or who they work for. The DHB can use competitive tendering to try and drive down wages for service work. The SFWU put out strike notices, and the employers responded by locking the workers out. The industrial action was to begin today, but they've gone into mediation for two days. If the strike does begin on Saturday I'd urge people to go down to the picket lines, and give any money you can afford to the locked-out workers.

If you can't pay your electricity bill you haven't earnt that oxygen

There's a protest tomorrow against Mercury Energy and I'd urge anyone in Auckland who can to go along:

Mercury Energy, 602 Great South Road in Green Lane,
Thurs 31 May (today) at 4pm

Mercury Energy* killed Folole Muliaga when they cut off her electricity, she was on oxygen at the time.

* Or one of their subcontractors, who they keep on hand specifically to cut wages and avoid responsibility.

Monday, May 28, 2007

All Our Rights

I attended the launch of All Our Rights - a campaign to repeal the "Homosexual Panic" defence. This defence is used by straight men who murder gay men. The argument is basically that for some straight men, the mere existence of a gay man causes the straight man to panic and beat the gay man to death. Therefore there was no intent to kill, therefore the killer deserves a lesser sentence (No Right Turn has a good post on the campaign).

It is less than a week since Judge Michael Lance imposed no penalty on Craig Busch for assaulting his partner. The judge said that Craig Busch's violence was the 'human and inevitable' response to seeing his partner in bed with another couple.

I don't believe jail does anyone any good. I don't support the judicial system. I'm not even really arguing for tougher sentences. If Craig Busch's sentence was the standard sentence for assault, I wouldn't complain.

What I am arguing against is a judicial system that openly states that some of us are not fully human and deserve violence.


My friend Pip has a blog called Great Expectation. She's only got a couple of posts up but she's asking some really interesting questions:

Are there white middle-class butches? If so, where are they? I found Judith/Jack Halberstam’s book, Female Masculinities, particularly disappointing in this regard. It seems that J/J identifies as butch (??). But although she shows how butch history has been ignored by middle-class feminism, she doesn’t admit that being an academic means that working-class butch history doesn’t simply belong to her. She doesn’t use this opportunity to share her own experience of butchness, and instead uses the (often extremely personal) stories of others to illustrate this story. It’s this kind of behaviour that allows white middle class men/women/butches to claim a rich history and identity, while hiding our privilege over others of the same gender (just like white women using pictures of black mothers to symbolise the fertility or spirituality of all women).
You should go and check out her blog, leave some comments and encourage her to write more.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


I barely knew Somali. I know a lot of my friends are expressing shock and a personal sense of betrayal and violation from the news that someone paid by corporates was spying on Peace Action Wellington and WARN. I'm shocked (mostly that anyone is that interested in us), but I don't have a personal reaction. I'm more worried about the damage that this will do.

I'm worried because often paranoia about spies can do far more damage than the actual spies (certainly far more damage than either Somali or Ryan did). If activists distrust new people, particularly new people who don't fit the steotype of the activist, then that wi Already people are talking about the need to be more careful. For example a comment on indymedia*:

Groups such as these may have to restructure them selves to allow new recruits to be screened before being able to be come fully involved.

A time period of say 6 months before some before they can be involved in planning type meetings or having to provide proof of previous activist experience are a couple of ideas.
In a way this'd be quite a good way of picking the spies. Only spies would be prepared to be part of a group for six months, without having any say (or knowledge) about what's going on. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be particularly helpful for any group.

Creating change requires numbers, it can't be done by the tens (and rarely by the hundreds), we need to grow much bigger and stronger. Shutting out new people is the most counter-productive move we could make. It's more important that we bring in ten new people, than we keep out one spy.

* I'm disappointed, but not surprised, that Somali is getting abused in a way that Ryan is not, and that that abuse is gendered.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Maori stories

I've been following the TVNZ story with a building sense of 'Rick Ellis said what?' astonishment.

But the debate that followed has frustrated me, because it is so superficial. I agree that showing Maori stories on television is really important (and Norm Hewitt on Dancing with the Stars isn't going to cut it, haka or no). But the executive producer on Shortland St argued that Shortland St was telling Maori stories because two of the CEOs have been Maori.

I'm sure there are many Maori on police 10-7 and Locked Down (a series about Rimutka prison). That's because our racist police and justice system disproportionately beat-up and lock-up Maori much more frequently than Pakeha. There's an important Maori story to tell in there, but it's not going to be told in those shows, because they're told from the perspective of the police and the prison guards.

As long as we live in a racist society Maori stories will include being beaten up by police far more than being CEOs. Television is unlikely to tell the story of police racism, from the victims perspective, but it'd be nice if someone could point out the gap.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Must Read

I didn't link to brownfemipower's amazing post about la familia and immigration, because I wanted to say something. I wanted to argue for open borders. Then I thought that when I get round to writing about open borders then those comments should stand alone.

brownfemipower covers so much in her post including transience:

In Michigan, it’s different. Detroit, Flint or Saginaw may have established Mexican communities–but in the community I grew up in, there wasn’t one single family that had grandparents or even parents who had been born there. All of us whose families had settled in the neighborhood had multiple friends that disappeared after a year–their families moved back to Mexico or Texas or over to other farming states for work. Two of my best friends as a child left Michigan in the second grade. Only one wound up coming back to Michigan–when we were both in high school.

And as somebody who worked in the fields–I can remember falling in love with a dark-skinned, lightly muscled boy who smiled at me every time I walked past. He was there for one season and I never saw him again. A common happening in migrant work.

These disappearances were very upsetting to me, but I lived–just like I know the people who disappeared lived as well. We’re all used to it, and we’ve learned to accommodate shadow figures, shadow relationships into our lives.
Go read brownfemipower now.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule

I try to think how we got here. The theory I developed in college (shared by many I’m sure) is one I have yet to beat: Womb Envy. Biology: women are generally smaller and weaker than men. But they’re also much tougher. Put simply, men are strong enough to overpower a woman and propagate. Women are tough enough to have and nurture children, with or without the aid of a man. Oh, and they’ve also got the equipment to do that, to be part of the life cycle, to create and bond in a way no man ever really will. Somewhere a long time ago a bunch of men got together and said, “If all we do is hunt and gather, let’s make hunting and gathering the awesomest achievement, and let’s make childbirth kinda weak and shameful.” It’s a rather silly simplification, but I believe on a mass, unconscious level, it’s entirely true. How else to explain the fact that cultures who would die to eradicate each other have always agreed on one issue? That every popular religion puts restrictions on women’s behavior that are practically untenable? That the act of being a free, attractive, self-assertive woman is punishable by torture and death? In the case of this upcoming torture-porn, fictional. In the case of Dua Khalil, mundanely, unthinkably real. And both available for your viewing pleasure.

It’s safe to say that I’ve snapped. That something broke, like one of those robots you can conquer with a logical conundrum. All my life I’ve looked at this faulty equation, trying to understand, and I’ve shorted out. I don’t pretend to be a great guy; I know really really well about objectification, trust me. And I’m not for a second going down the “women are saints” route – that just leads to more stone-throwing (and occasional Joan-burning). I just think there is the staggering imbalance in the world that we all just take for granted. If we were all told the sky was evil, or at best a little embarrassing, and we ought not look at it, wouldn’t that tradition eventually fall apart? (I was going to use ‘trees’ as my example, but at the rate we’re getting rid of them I’m pretty sure we really do think they’re evil. See how all rants become one?)
That was written by Joss Whedon, you can find the rest here. I'm not even going to make a snarky comment about how well he knows objectification. I'm just going to say I'm feeling pretty good about naming my blog after him.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

We should all lose 30kg

This is what happens when 'your employer owns your body and soul' cross-breeds with 'nothing is more dangerous than fat.' A treadmill desk designed by the Mayo clinic. Don't mock because they were seriously scientific about their research:

"If obese individuals were to replace time spent sitting at the computer with walking computer time by 2 to 3 hours a day, and if other components of energy balance were constant, a weight loss of 20 to 30kg a year could occur,"
It's none of our employer's business whether or not we lose 20 to 30 kg, or gain 20 or 30 kg. Our bodies and our lives should belong to us, that's the basic meaning of freedom.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

16 years and no-one gives a shit

I haven't been paying that much attention to the budget. I'm sure I have an opinion of KiwiSaver (and I suspect it's fears of creeping privatisation), but I don't care enough to figure out what it is.

But I can't help but notice what's not here: we have another budget, another surplus, business tax-cuts, and the benefit cuts of 1991, the ones that were intended to make benefits impossible to live off, haven't been reversed.

This is the best the Greens, the most left-wing party in parliament, an do:

However, the big ticket item of business tax cuts rewards sustainable and unsustainable business equally. The big business tax cut is not linked to sustainability measures at all. And a great deal of it will simply flow overseas in increased dividends for foreign companies. How that helps the economy or sustainability is a mystery.
Even Susan St John's alternative budget doesn't mention them.

It's always the woman's fault...

A reader sent me a link from The Slum Post the heading said: Don't want to be harassed? Stop acting like a man

The blurb said

Behaving like "one of the boys" to get ahead at work may not be the best strategy for women. A study had found that alpha-females are more likely to suffer sexual harassment.
The actual research said:
"The more women deviated from traditional gender roles - by occupying a 'man's' job or having a 'masculine' personality - the more they were targeted," Dr Berdahl said. "Although having a masculine personality would seem to help employees fit into male-dominated work environments, having such a personality appears to have hurt the women in this study."

She said the study supported the theory that sexual harassment was motivated by a desire to punish "gender-role deviants" rather than by sexual desire.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Review: Rosita

I went to see Rosita in theHuman Rights Film Festival this weekend.

Rosita's parents were from Nicaragua, but they moved to Costa Rica to find work. Her father worked as a itinerant coffee picker, her mother sometimes joined him in the fields. Rosita didn't start school until she was seven, because the school was a long way away. When she was 8 a man, who lived on her way to school, occasionally offered her and her cousins fruit while they were walking past. One day, when she was walking home alone, he raped her.

Rosita's mother realised something was wrong and took her to the doctor's several times. Eventually the doctors told Rosita's mother that Rosita was pregnant.

The documentary Rosita is her story.

Rosita is a very well-made documentary. Despite the fact that Rosita is not shown on film (her parents' decisions - their reasons are obvious) the film-makers work hard to let her voice come through. The story is told from an oral history Rosita did with her mother, and illustrated with Rosita's drawings, which are sometimes beautifully animated.

The story would have been worthless if they hadn't worked to give Rosita a voice, because her story is one of people trying to take away her voice, her choices, and her right to self-determination.

By setting her story in its full context, by showing us the cotton plantations that her parents worked in and the effect this had on her, the film-makers show how connected our struggles for self-determination are. That freedom from sexual violence, and control of reproduction alone would not be enough for girls like Rosita.

The centre of the story is her family's struggle to get an abortion in either Nicaragua or Costa Rica, even though she was just nine years old. The rapist fades out of the film when he is sentenced to 3 months jail - demonstrating the effect of the rape on her life is so much greater than the effect on his.

There were doctors, Bishops, even government departments, who were trying to stop Rosita from having an abortion. The family had to leave Costa Rica in the middle of the night, because they were worried they would be stopped from leaving. Then they had to run out of the hospital to avoid government officials who were trying to remove her from her parents custody. Usually a Nicaraguan abortion requires authorisation from 3 doctors, in this case the Health department wanted it signed off by a committee of 16.

The attitudes of these various men (and a couple of women) were summed up by one man who said: "I said all along that it would have been better if she had died that day."

That's what we're fighting - so many of our struggles are against people, and power structures, that would rather see us dead than living our lives the way we want to.

The film had a happy ending, as much as it could have. Rosita got an abortion; her parents got some land and moved to the country. But as well as this happy ending it also offered some more hope. It ended with a conversation between the film-makers and a taxi-driver who was saying "I don't believe they should have had the abortion, abortion was wrong." The film-makers asked: "What if it was your daughter?" And the taxi-driver couldn't answer - because the right of someone you love to decide their life (and live their life - pregnancy at 9 carries huge risks) is much harder to deny. I think that compassion and that love is where we can build and organise.

Eating disorders are about more than hating your appearance

Hugo Schwyzer wrote a post about veganism and feminism that I found really frustrating. The point he is exploring is an interesting one - as a vegan who once had an eating disorder he is noting the similarities between the two:

The funny thing is that being strictly vegan (off honey entirely) means that I am more attentive to what I eat than at any time in my life since I was crash dieting fifteen years ago.
But, his perspective is extremely limited as he seems to see eating disorders primarily in terms of body image:
Back then, I counted calories and fat grams obsessively. Today, I largely ignore fat and calorie information and read to make sure that what I’m eating is entirely plant-based and devoid of hidden dairy or egg traces. (Damn that sneaky caseinate!) I’m once again radically concerned with everything that goes into my mouth — but for a radically different reason.
Eating disorders are not just about reasons, they're not just about appearances, they're often also about morality and control. Hugo doesn't acknowledge that veganism can feed the food/control/morality connection, which is central to an eating disordered mindset. For someone with a tendency to trying to exert control through self-denial of food (which is rarely a small percentage of a female population), any language around veganism which emphasises self-control and morality is going to make things worse. I guess I've more experience of this than most; I've spent a lot of time in a scene where there are quite a few vegans and lots of young women. I've despaired every which way at the policing and limiting which young women do to each other can happen take on a radical hue, and still be just as damaging.

I don't know if Hugo has tried to think about veganism in a different way (Stetnor suggests one). But I know that a restricted diet doesn't mean that you have to control what you eat. I realised a couple of years ago that I was severely allergic to dairy products. I have to read the label. There are dairy products in most brands of some really basic products (bread and margarine, for example). If someone offers me food, then I don't eat it unless I know it's dairy free.

I don't talk about, think about, or experience this as controlling what I eat. I didn't know that I'd be able to avoid this dangerous thought pattern; I wasn't even sure I could cut dairy out entirely. I was surprised at how easy as it was. Dairy products are not an option, in the same way foods I don't like are not an option. Sure I miss them - other people's cheesy food smells divine, but it's not self-control that stops me from eating them. Avoiding dairy products is a choice I've made.

I've had to be incredibly protective of myself in all this: I've corrected people who say I'm not 'allowed' something, when people describe dairy products as if they were disgusting I'm likely to sing their praises. In order to maintain this as a choice, I have to avoid anything that sounds like moralism.

I'm sure it's much easier for me than people with other food restrictions. My symptoms mean that I have every reason to avoid dairy products. But I don't actually need the threat. Most of the time I don't think "Wow that cheese looks yummy, but if I eat it I'll feel ill and end the night crying on Betsy's couch about much I hate my life."* I think "What shall I eat?"

Even if I experienced every piece of cheese I didn't eat as a massive battle for control, I'd be very careful never to talk about food and control. As a feminist, in the society I live in, my first goal when talking about food with people I know has to be to avoid reinforcing or triggering eating disordered thought patterns. I can have all sorts of conversations about food, but I need to have them in ways that won't make other women's eating disorders worse.

I think the way Hugo talks about veganism fails that basic test.

* Then after about half an hour of my whining at her she'd say "Could this be because you ate dairy products?"

Sunday, May 13, 2007

There's a reason this keeps happening

It should come as no surprise to regular readers that there are a few political differences between me and Ian Wishart. I don't trust his judgement, or his motives. I don't think we can necessarily rely on his journalism.

His latest allegations are outlined in this (rather badly formatted) post.

Some of those allegations shouldn't surprise anyone - police officers were able to rape prostitutes with impunity when prostitution was illegal. It wouldn't surprise me if the larger allegations are true (and they're consistent with comments left at the end of this thread).

The pornographic video shown in Howard Broad's house seems minor if you compare it to the other allegations. But, to me, it shows a pattern of contempt for women, willingness to ignore laws around non-consensual sex when fellow officers broke them, and putting male bonding above all else (don't forget this was all to raise money for the police rugby team).

This raises the problem of what could possibly be done about a police force where police officers have regularly abused and exploited women.* If some police officers in the area regularly demanded sex from the local brothels, then it's likely that other police officers in the area knew about it. No-one who stood by while that was going on should be in the police force any longer. Likewise, anyone who promoted Clint Rickards, knowing that a police report had found that he had abused his power, should not be in the police force. Who is left? Anyone who had stood up against violence and abuse wouldn't have survived; anyone who didn't should not have the power they do.

For me this shows one of the fundamental problem with the police. Abuse, including rape, appears to be an inevitable result of the sort of power we give police. I know people have different analyses about how much good the police do (I come down on the side of 'none'). But even if you believe that the police do improve society, do you really believe that what happened to Louise Nicholas, Judith Garrett and countless other women is an acceptable side effect of that good?

* The police also have a history of racism, homophobia, and abusing their power left, right and centre.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

But he has some misogynist defences he hasn't used yet...

Paul Mabey (who you may remember from such defences as Bob Schollum's first, second and third trial) is defending a man who killed his ex-partner and her new sexual partner. His defence is the sexist standby 'provocation' - known in non-legal terms as 'the bitch asked for it'. Apparently the man in question only wanted to kill himself, but then he found his ex-partner in bed with another man and it's understandable that he killed him and then chased her to a neighbouring property and killed her too.

If you want more details of the case you can find them here, although for me that's not the point. What the courts consider an acceptable excuse for killing someone says a lot about our society's idea of acceptable behaviour. Whatever the jury decides, the fact that "she was sleeping with another man" is an allowable defence to murder devalues the woman who was murdered.

Friday, May 11, 2007

For any London Readers

There's a protest in Downing St 3.30pm-5.30pm today - 10th May. Tell Blair (and his successor) what you think of him. (from Lenin's Tomb which has a good post).

For everyone else: No, Blair's resignation won't make any difference. You kill the Tzar and a new one follows.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Review: The Long Way Home III SPOILERS

The pace has certainly picked up in this third issue of the Buffy Season 8 Comic book. We have plot, relationships, and many unanswered questions. This of course gives me even more to pick at. Since I'm about to rip it to shreds, I should make it clear that I enjoy the Buffy comic and would recommend it.

I've already written about the awfulness of Part III's cover.

Even worse than the cover was the Andrew sequence. There are non-drawing problems with that sequences. I am not OK that in a world where there are heaps of women coming together to fight, men are acting as the leaders. I can't stand the 'heh Andrew's gay' jokes, which are lacking in the funny and try to compensate with the offensiveness. It's even worse when the 'joke' is basically a set-up to have pictures of women in their underwear (because Andrew doesn't find naked women interesting, isn't that just the funniest thing you ever heard). The artist 'just happened' to have the woman with the most exaggerated hourglass figure front and centre in that panel (although my friend Rowan thought one of the slayers had a strap-on - which would have made for a much more interesting reading of the comic - unfortunately it is probably just underpants with a teddy bear on them).

The art is getting worse - women's bodies are objectified more each week. There is no reason at all why Rowena is recovering in a sports bra and skin tight pants, except that in a comic her body isn't created for her, but as a signal to readers of the position of women.

I guess I should be grateful that inside the book they've gone for the hideous witch look of OMWF for Willow.

Because I suspect someone will ask, there is an important difference between the way women's bodies are portrayed throughout this issue, and how Angel and Spike were portrayed in the (hilarious) dream panel. In the three issues so far women's bodies have been casually objectified and posed for the male gaze no matter what they're doing. Fighting, healing, sleeping, standing, whatever - it's been for men. If, in that context, there'd been a similar dream from Xander's perspective, it wouldn't have meant anything - just a continuation of the rest of the art. The only reason that panel stands out from the rest of the comic is because the artist isn't randomly objectifying men.

There's obviously a lot more to a comic than the art (particularly to someone as non-visual as me). For me, the most satisfying part of the comic were the dream sequences, which were pretty much perfect. I've always liked Joss's dream sequences and this worked particularly well. I liked the idea of dreamspace - and like every other geek who owns this comic I've spent considerable time identifying who's in the cubes (definitely Joss by the way).

I thought the battle between Willow and Amy was pretty fantastic as well. I still think that Amy's reappearance had more to do with a whole in the plot, than the character she had been, which sucks. But the fight was well done, I loved both the Zombie ball, and Giant Dawn.

I thought not telling us who kissed her was a bit of cheap tension. I hope they resolve the kiss soon, and not in a Chosen - whatever you want to happen that was what happened - kind of a way.*

I'm worried that Warren, like Amy, has been chosen for convenience rather than character (I don't even care that there's no way he could have survived). Unless the rest of Warren's plotline involves intense Misogyny, then he was the wrong person to bring back.

But the big hole in the issue for me is Willow. Call me over-invested in these characters, but Willow, Xander and Buffy are friends. Now we're landed in a situation where Willow hasn't contacted Xander and Buffy for a long time. This is in a world with cell phones, and psychic communication. I'm not saying that it can't work, but I think this is the wrong place in the story to bring us in.

I'm not saying that it can't work, but I'm not sure this dynamic will hold my interest long enough for Joss to explain what's going on. A month is a long time between issues, and the comics cost $8 each here.

Although while I'm being over-invested, enough with the retconning Willow's sexuality. Willow was straight in high school, she totally ran with the stubbly crowd, from that badly dressed vampire in the first episode, to the stupid robot episode, to sex at graduation. Am I the only person who remember Oz?**

* I want Spike not to have been in Chosen at all and since I have a fan's selective memory (Magic!Crack? I don't know what you're talking about) that's relatively easy to achieve.

** Hey, maybe they'll bring Oz back, that would be extremely awesome.

MPs shocked about the predictable effects of their policies

Some of the companies contracted to do disability support are doing a terrible job:

For instance, one client was entitled to 20 hours but only saw a care worker for 15 hours which had left the person wondering what happened to the funding for the other five hours.

The society also revealed a single parent had been left for five days without a carer. She had required a hoist to get out of bed and needed someone to help with personal care which had been left to a 14-year-old daughter.

In another case a couple which needed help getting three meals a day had been left for four days without food.
They have an excuse:
Agencies were complaining they could not find enough staff, and had reported difficulty finding workers who could work late afternoons, evenings and weekends to provide meals.
There are a few words missing there: "when they pay near minimum wage." The problem isn't an absence of people who can do the work and the hours. It's that the wages are terrible.

The MPs who were shocked, shocked I tell you, are either fools or liars (usually both). When you subcontract services out to companies with the lowest tender you drive down wags. In fact that's usually one of the main points of this subcontracting.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Feeling safe?

The police continue to tolerate male police officers abusing their power:

An internal police investigation found Peter Govers, former head of Horowhenua CIB, was guilty of disgraceful conduct for forming an inappropriate relationship with the woman, One News reported.

The single mother of two, identified only as Tania, said she had received a formal apology from police, but was angry that Mr Govers remained in the force.

He has been demoted to senior constable, transferred to a desk job in Palmerston North and is not allowed to seek promotion for a year or work as a detective for at least two years.
Haven't we come a long way. This police officer who is abusing his power will have to wait two years before he becomes a detective. That'll slow down his path to assistant commissioner.

Joining the Hordes

Subway bloggers

It's great to see so many people supporting workers' rights. I have some ambivalent feelings about the boycott.* But I won't be buying anything from Subway until this is resolved, so I might as well add my name.

*I believe that boycotts should be lead by the people directly affected by them to be meaningful collective action.

Who has been responsible for more rapes: Women who walk alone at night or Rotorua Police Officers?

Given the events of the last few months, you'd think the police would try, at least a little bit, to avoid looking like they're blaming women who have been raped for their rape. You'd be wrong:

Police are warning young women against walking alone at night, after a Wanganui teenager was abducted and sexually violated on the weekend.

"It's a timely reminder to young girls that they shouldn't be walking on their own," Ms Mansell said.

"These types of attacks are rare but they do happen and girls who are walking the streets on their own at night-time are making themselves targets."
I wanted to write less about rape, not because I don't care, but because I feel like I was writing paint by numbers posts, where I assembled basic feminist ideas one after another.

1. The people who are responsible for rape are the rapists.
2. Blaming women for being raped is not acceptable.
3. If you tell women to modify their behaviour to avoid rape then you are placing the responsibility for rape in the wrong place.
4. Avoiding being out alone out night is a serious restriction on a woman's freedom.
5. Anti-rape advice isn't just victim-blaming, it's also wildly inaccurate.
6. Most rapists know the women that they are rape.
7. Rape is most likely to happen in someone's home.
8. A woman who walks home with a man she knows is at more danger from rape than a woman who walks home by herself.
9. Clint Rickards is a rapist.*

I guess I'll keep writing it till there are no longer people who need to hear it.

*Not strictly speaking relevant for this particular paint by numbers post, but I wanted a number for it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

I can't quite find the Pygmalion reference

There was another letter in the paper today about Section 59 and education. I've noticed a few letters that argue what is needed along side the repeal of Section 59 is more parenting classes.

In objecting to these letters I'm want to make it clear that I do think learning how to be a parent is important. Learning how to parent is work, it's devalued work, and it's work women do. Either learning how to parent is completely ignored (there's a lot of skill-sharing, and support within women's networks, particularly mother's networks) or there's an idea that it unnecessary - neurotic.

But there's a tone to these letters, a tone that says 'the reason other people hit their kids is because they're not educated enough.' Leaving aside the patronising, offensive implications of that, I just don't think it's true.

I'm the oldest of four children and my parents were better at parenting by the time my little sisters came along. Partly that was about learning and experience, my parents had a much better idea of what they were doing third and forth time.* When my littlest sister hit adolescence and started slamming doors, my Mum would say "I don't know what's wrong with her" and whichever older sibling was at hand would say "Well she's thirteen." There was no-one to do that when I was thirteen; my Mum felt it was about her.

But there's only half the reason. Just as important was that my parents were much more stressed when I was in adolescence. There were reasons for that stress that were specific to our family. But the stress could have been eased in so many ways if parenting was supported and if non-parenting work didn't have to always be organised on what the employer wanted, rather than what you could give.

I said last year:

So while I do support the repeal of section 59, it's ridiculous to look at that in isolation. Parenting will continue to be a job that is much more stressful than it needs to be when it is done in isolation, without adequate support or resources, and children will always be the ones that suffer when their parents are under stress. The law can't change that.
I'm glad the bill is going to go through. Section 59 said kids didn't matter when their parents hit them, and if all this law does is reassure one kid that they do matter, then that's enough for me. But there was a missed opportunity here to talk about parents and what they need. If that had happened then at the very least people wouldn't be writing to the paper suggesting that all we need is a few parenting classes and maybe we would be demanding a whole lot more.

* According to my sister our family is Experiment (me), Boy (my brother), Perfection (her), and Overindulgence (our little sister), she calls me 'speri for short.


The Subway handbook says that workers can have free soft-drinks while working. Jackie Lang shared a drink that she'd poured while on shift with a friend. Not only has she been fired, but Subway called the police. The police arrested her and charged her with theft, and she was in the cells for two hours.

That story was in the same paper as a story on mobile trucks in South Auckland, that sell goods on credit at extortionate prices. This is perfectly legal, if being a parasite off the poor was illegal our entire economic system would collapse. But I would hope that taking money from people's bank accounts wouldn't be:

Customers were sometimes being asked to sign multiple, undated direct debit forms allowing the company open access to their accounts.

Many companies continued to take money after the debt was repaid and failed to advise customers when they have gone into credit.
I know there are people, who consider themselves progressive, and believe that the police are neutral, that their primary role isn't to uphold the power system we have in place. I would ask those people why police care about a 19 year old who shares a soft-drink, but not companies who steal through direct debit.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

What I actually think about voting

I've written two posts recently about the persistent awfulness of the Democrats, neither of which mentioned voting. Despite that the discussion on both of them has turned to voting.

I would say voting is completely irrelevant in a discussion on the extent to which the Democrats suck. First you discuss how much the Democrats suck, then once you've reached consensus (or not) on that you discuss what impact that would have on your voting habits.

On the thread about Freedom Movement Amanda's first question was:

What’s “support”, then? Are we permitted to steal into the election booth and shamefacedly vote for Democrats while publically condemning them and helping them lose elections by increasing the number of people who don’t vote on the theory that they’re all the same?

My answer is it doesn't matter.

Well it matters if people don't publicly critique the Democrats because they're afraid of the consequences. It's unprincipled and bad politics. One of the first jobs of the left (wherever you are on the left) has to be to raise people's expectations. Part of raising people's expectations means saying that left-wing governments are not good enough.

But it doesn't matter whether or not people steal into the election booth and vote. Sometimes it really doesn't matter - since she's from Texas Amanda's vote in the Presidential election will be as important as mine.* At other times voting may have an effect, but if it's the most important, or anywhere near the most important, political act you take, then you're unlikely to achieve what you're going for.

A lot of my friends don't vote ever; I think even that is giving voting too much weight. Voting doesn't do any harm (and America is proof that not voting doesn't give the government any less legitimacy). I've no problem with people voting, or not voting, on the flimsiest of reasons. I've voted for the most left-wing party in parliament up until now, but at the next election I won't do so, because of the co-leader of that party.**

But, and this really shouldn't come as a surprise based on what I write, I don't think real positive change comes from voting, which is why I see political energy focused on changing voting patterns, as wasted energy. I'm hardly the first person to observe that progressive change is driven from below, not given from above. That means that we should focus our energy below, not above.

* I'm from NZ; I don't get a vote

**I should point out that New Zealand has a welfare system, and a national health system. Our Prime Minister even acted like a feminist for a few days this year (it's not going to last). The parties I've voted for have been to the left of the Labour party, which is turn to the left of the government

Friday, May 04, 2007

Cymru am Byth

I'm not into memes, so I've never done any where where I tell readers things they don't know about me.

But high on the list would certainly be my support for Welsh independence.

This support doesn't amount to much. My Welsh pronunciation is probably better than yours, but it's not good. I would know less than fifty welsh words, and could probably only produce one sentence: Nos da, cariad bach.* Now I live on the other side of the world. While I could probably get together a Welsh solidarity group in Wellington, I don't think it's on anyone's priority list.

I care because of my family. Mum's cousins fought for Welsh hard. Back when Welsh street signs were only in English one of Mum's cousins was part of a group that spray-painted Welsh language everywhere. My grandmother compared me to her; Welsh language and Welsh independence are part of a much wider set of values within my family. It's the Welsh side of my family who have resisted every war since World War 1.

So I checked the UK elections today, I wanted to know how the Plaid had done. The Plaid is the party of Wales - whose basic principles include Welsh independence, support for the Welsh language and socialism. The elections that were held yesterday in the UK included voting on a new Welsh Assembly, and the Plaid gained seats. While I'm not particularly into elections I was glad, and I'd have probably voted for them.

What I thought was particularly awesome was that Mohammad Ashgar, the first Assembly Member from an ethnic minority (obviously that's a whole 'nother problem) was from the Plaid.

It's really awful that the fascist BNP gained so many votes in North Wales. So awful that I have to take a moment to make fun of the whole thing. Nationalism makes limited sense at the best of times, but even less sense when you're not sure what language to be nationalist in. I'm fairly sure no-one has ever translated 'Rule Britannia' into Welsh

The support for the BNP is what makes it so important that the Plaid is not just a party for white people. Combining anti-racism, welsh independence and socialism** seems the best way of offering a real alternative to the BNP.

I don't know enough about Welsh politics to know what relationship there is between the Plaid and out of parliament activism. If winning those seats was the focus of Welsh progressive activism then it probably won't achieve anything, but if it's a demonstration of the level of support and activism for those goals then the land of my mothers might be in pretty good stead.

* Night night love

** a basic plank of the Plaid, although they're not necessarily very good at it, since they wanted to cut business rates by 50%. Which is why you should never trust electoral parties

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Which Side is the Federal Government On?

I love writing about the Freedom Movement, as I've learned to call the Civil Rights Movement. I can't ever do justice to those in the movement, but I write about them anyway, because they give me so much hope.

So when Amanda made some off-hand comments about the Freedom Movement, in her response to my last post I saw a great opportunity to tangent. Not because I necessarily disagree with the points she was making, but because I like talking about the Freedom Movement. My point, in as much as I have one, is that the Freedom Movement was amazing, and its radicalism is too often ignored. It is easy for the institutions of power, like political parties, to try and recast this story as one which upholds those power structures, I believe this is wrong.

Anyway, Amanda said:

It echoes pretty neatly the way that LBJ lost the Dixiecrats by supporting civil rights, only to have Nixon come and swoop them up with his coded speeches about “law and order”.

While it's true that the Dixiecrats left the Democratic party because of LBJ's position on civil rights, calling that position 'support' is overstating it a little. There a Freedom Movement poster that said:

There's a street in Itta Bena called Freedom.

There's a town in Mississippi called Liberty.

There's a department in Washington called Justice."

Throughout the early 1960s federal justice officials stood by and watched while local law enforcement broke federal law and beat up people trying to enrol to vote. What Johnson and the federal government offered to the freedom movement was certainly not support.

At the 1964 Democratic Convention, Johnson was given a clear choice between Dixiecrats and the freedom movement and he chose the Dixiecrats. Over the summer of 1964, 90,000 people across Mississippi voted in a the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party primary, which was non-segregated. Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were murdered that summer. When the representatives of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party got to Atlantic City, Johnson wouldn't let their case to be seated as the Mississippi delegation go to a floor vote (and tried to pre-empt any coverage they might get in front of the credentials committee by having a speech of his own). He put the MFDP delegation under surveillance. Finally offered a 'compromise' where he picked two of the delegation to get general seats (64 people had come). The MFDP rejected this proposal; as Fannie Lou Hamer said "We didn't come all this way for no two seats, 'cause all of us is tired."

I think it's easy to forget that each town in the south needed to be desegregated, and the federal government wasn't the people doing it, even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The people who were actually doing that work were in great personal danger and were not supported by the federal government.

Amanda again:

When you find yourself confused on how the principle of the public leading the politicians works, remember this: Martin Luther King didn’t think that withholding his vote from Kennedy would get the CRA passed. They had to take to the streets while voting for politicians that were mildly more amendable to their views than the alternatives.

I am a little bit confused here, because Kennedy didn't stand for election while a Civil Rights Act was under discussion. The 1960 Civil Rights Act was while Eisenhower was still president, and Kennedy was dead by the time the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed. Also southern blacks couldn't really vote for politicians who were mildly more amendable to their views, because most southern blacks couldn't vote.

But leaving that aside, one of the things that I find so frustrating is the popular view of the Freedom movement lead by Martin Luther King, which pretty much ignores everyone else. I'm going to use this as an excuse to quote from the speech John Lewis, Chairman of SNCC,never gave. It was written for the March on Washington, but toned down due to pressure from the White House and more conservative organisations:
We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of, for hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here. They have no money for their transportation, for they are receiving starvation wages, or no wages at all.

In good conscience, we cannot support wholeheartedly the administration's civil rights bill, for it is too little and too late. There's not one thing in the bill that will protect our people from police brutality.

This bill will not protect young children and old women from police dogs and fire hoses, for engaging in peaceful demonstrations: This bill will not protect the citizens in Danville, Virginia, who must live in constant fear in a police state. This bill will not protect the hundreds of people who have been arrested on trumpedup charges. What about the three young men in Americus, Georgia, who face the death penalty for engaging in peaceful protest?

The voting section of this bill will not help thousands of black citizens who want to vote. It will not help the citizens of Mississippi, of Alabama and Georgia, who are qualified to vote but lack a sixth-grade education. "ONE MAN, ONE VOTE" is the African cry. It is ours, too. It must be ours.

People have been forced to leave their homes because they dared to exercise their right to register to vote. What is there in this bill to ensure the equality of a maid who earns $5 a week in the home of a family whose income is $100,000 a year?

For the first time in one hundred years this nation is being awakened to the fact that segregation is evil and that it must be destroyed in all forms. Your presence today proves that you have been aroused to the point of action.

We are now involved in a serious revolution. This nation is still a place of cheap political leaders who build their careers on immoral compromises and ally themselves with open forms of political, economic and social exploitation. What political leader here can stand up and say, "My party is the party of principles?" The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party?

In some parts of the South we work in the fields from sunup to sundown for $12 a week. In Albany, Georgia, nine of our leaders have been indicted not by Dixiecrats but by the federal government for peaceful protest. But what did the federal government do when Albany's deputy sheriff beat attorney C. B. King and left him half dead? What did the federal government do when local police officials kicked and assaulted the pregnant wife of Slater King, and she lost her baby?

It seems to me that the Albany indictment is part of a conspiracy on the part of the federal government and local politicians in the interest of expediency.

I want to know, which side is the federal government on?

It's a great speech, but it also makes me appreciate Mary King and Casey Hayden and the women who came after them.


I have completely failed to write a post on May Day. I got distracted by the American Freedom Movement and bashing Democrats. Which makes me a pretty awful kind of left-wing blogger.

But May Day is actually quite a simple concept, that can be summed up five words: 'There's Power in a Union':

PS: While I'm posting Billy Bragg videos, my all time favourite is him singing Between the Wars on Top of the Pops: