Friday, June 29, 2007

Sometimes they just write themselves...

From The Guardian

Tony Blair on Tuesday appeared to have landed a major diplomatic job as the international Middle East peace envoy.
I've been trying for a good ten minutes to decide on a response to that piece of information, and I just can't do it. Nothing I could say would add to that sentence, which is complete in all it's ridiculous.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A thought

I have a theory, maybe it's more of a belief, that any woman's life can be told as a feminist story. That all of our lives are profoundly shaped by growing up in a society that hates us. More than that - I believe there's a real power in the stories of how individual women's lives have been bent and broken by this world, and the different ways of responding to that. I think the specifics of one woman's life can resonate as deeply, or deeper, than generalisations.

PS Will return to scheduled Angela Davis report tomorrow

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Come to New Zealand - we'll treat you like a rock-star

If you're organising an anti-war demonstration in Wellington, at some point you're going to have to talk about speakers. Generally someone will talk about how we want to have really good speakers this time. Then everyone will nod, there'll be a long pause, and then someone will say 'well how about Keith Locke?'*

When I was in London in 2004 I attended an anti-war meeting, and they had a comedian who was really funny and someone who had been to Iraq recently and had specific information and two other really good speakers - just for a meeting.

Sometimes I think about the people who organise the anti-war marches in Boston, who can have conversations about whether to have Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn this time.

The left in New Zealand is generally very short of people who have knowledge, confidence, and authority which is what you need to be a good speaker. Partly that's our own fault, I think. I think we could do a better job of building contacts with good speakers, and building up each other's confidence and support people in gaining knowledge.

But it's not common, and so when someone comes from overseas who doesn't just have knowledge, confidence and authority, but also a place in history, it's the event of the year.

When Noam Chomsky came to Wellington they had to move the event from St Andrews on the Terrace to the Town Hall. Tonight, when Angela Davis was speaking in Wellington they filled a lecture theatre that seated 300, had an overflow room that seated half as many people again, and still they turned 200 people away. That was with minimal publicity.

I plan to write two posts on Angela Davis's talk, first I want to write about my reaction to the talk itself (and the audience), and then I thought it was about time I posted the argument for the abolishment of prisons, and why I agree with it.

But before I did any of that, I wanted to suggest that more prominent left-wing activists should come to New Zealand. We can't offer you much, but we can promise to treat you like you're the most exciting person to come to town since Angela Davis...

* I have some affection for Keith Locke, despite the fact that I hate his party more every time I think about them (although he supported something really dodgy recently - can't remember what). But he's not going to inspire anyone to the barricades.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Did the government try and nationalise the foreshore and seabed while I wasn't looking?

Bryce from Liberation* has written an article on Maori Nationalism and Maori liberation. I disagree with most of it (which is hardly surprising), but he does have some good points. In particular, I agree that it's important to look at the historical context of Treaty of Waitangi, and remember that it was a document of colonisation. But this statement just confused me:

. Peace groups, far-left organisations, and parties like the Greens have come out against government moves to bring about public ownership of the foreshore and seabed and thus guarantee public access.
Huh? I guess that statement is technically true. But only in the sense that the Australian government is current taking steps to nationialise Australia and ensure access for everyone.

Although I think it would be hard to sustain an argument that he government was trying to bring about public ownership to the foreshore and seabed to guarantee public access (particularly not as he's got a good analysis of the Labour government. The government has done nothing to ensure public access to the areas of the foreshore and seabed that is currently used by ports, or aquaculture.

Quite a lot of colonial land confiscation is also nationalisation. But selective confiscation isn't necessarily a step on the way to nationalisation. Racist selective confiscation certainly isn't. The Foreshore and Seabed legislation only targeted Maori ownership. That's the fundamental fact Bryce didn't mention.

* Definitely the best blog name ever - I wish I'd thought of it. I was too focused on having a blog name high up the alphabet and getting a Buffy quote in there. So I missed the bleeding obvious.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Justice for Mulrunji Doomadgee

Three years ago Chris Hurley killed Mulrunji Doomadgee.

Chris Hurley is a police officer, who arrested Mulrunji Doomadgee for 'Drunk and Disorderly Behaviour' - the criminality of being drunk often depends on the colour of your skin. How you get treated when you get arrested also depends on the colour of your skin. There was Royal Commission on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, but 13 years later the recommendations had been ignored and Mulrunji Doomadgee died.

In police custody, he suffered four broken ribs, a ruptured spleen and a his liver was almost split in half.

Since his death, Mulrunji Doomadgee's family has fought for justice. The first police investigation was done by police officers who had dinner with Chris Hurley while they were 'investigating' the case. Last year the coroner decided that the police were responsible for Mulrunji Doomadgee's death.

On Wednesday the jury found Chris Hurley not guilty.

Mulrunji's death is a horrific, but it's just one of daily crimes against indigenous Australians. His arrest, his beating - they happen every day. The theft of land is what Australia is based on.

Then, yesterday, supposedly to protect children for sexual abuse the government announced a package of direct attacks on indigenous people. Most of which, like market rents, benefits, and land thefts - are simply neo-liberal attacks on people's basic subsistence.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I'm with Span

From Spanblather:

I'm still not really back to blog, but I'm perplexed by the Dalai Lama Fever that seems to be gripping our politicians - to meet, not to meet, to meet with this hat on or that one.

Maybe I've been watching too much Penn & Teller*, but what's so fabbo about shaking the hand of a man who wants to return Tibet to a repressive theocratic state? I mean sure, some self-determination would be ace, and I'd like to see an end to the Chinese occupation, but I'm not convinced that having the country run by misogynistic priests is really the best alternative.
I am so sick of the sort of hippie liberal who says stuff like "The Dalai Lama is so wise and spirtual, and so we must support Tibet's independence from China.

1. I don't like or trust great spiritual leaders. People who are called 'great spiritual leaders' do not usually have much interest in promoting freedom, liberation and equality for the oppressed and exploited.

2. If you believe in self-determination, and I do, it doesn't really matter whether the figure head of that struggle is a 'great spirtual man', like the Dalai Lama, or half a dozen chickens.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Review: Red Diapers, Growing Up in the Communist Left

Josh's older sister's farvourite game was 'Party Meeting' she played it with her friend Simone. Vera and Simone were the party leaders, teddy bears and younger brothers were the rank and file:

"Tonight," said Simone, "we will hear a report on the Negro Question from our junior member, who" - she scowled at me - "needs considerable education on the subject." She tapped her slide rule of Vera's desk and nodded at me to begin.

"The Negro Question's getting a lot better,' I said. "Because before they wouldn't even let Jackie Robinson play in the majors. But now we've got five Negroes just in the Dodgers alone." I counted them off on my fingers.

"There's Jackie, and Campanella behind the plate, and Newcombe and Black on the mound, and this season Junior Guilliam at second base. And he might even win Rook of the Year."

Vera and Simone looked at each other, shaking their heads and making tsk tsk sounds through their closed lips.

"I think we have to bring him up on charges," Vera said.

"White Chauvinism if I ever heard it," nodded Simone.

"Don't you know that even if they let Negores play a stupid game and get traded for money like slaves, they're still lynching them in the south?" Vera asked me. "Haven't you read your own father's articles on the Emmett Till case?"

"And what about Male Chauvanism?" said Simone, waving her ruler at me. "Did you ever stop to think that all your previous ballplayers are men? What about the plight of the colored woman?"

"He's left deviationist and right opportunist both at the same time," said Vera.

"Clear cause for explusion." said Simone"
That is from one of the almost 50 accounts from the children of communistsin Red Diapers. Having so many short accounts, gives a real depth to the book. There's a tapestry of experiences, with common threads, but also real differences.

I'm fascinated by the history of the Communist party of America, particularly in the 1950s, when the organisation was so persecuted. Partly because it is so foreign to the way I do politics, their way of organising wasn't just not my cup of tea, it was clearly counter productive to growing. The party line was often ridiculous (particularly during the war, my grandfather left the British Communist Party over the Nazi-Soviet pact, and the pro-war line that followed wasn't any better). Despite all these reservations, the Americans of the 1940s and 1950s I most admire were all in the Communist part. It was the only game in town - no one else was prepared to fight.

I loved these child eyes view of the fight. Both for the politics - in some tenements in New York everyone was either linke (Left) and Communist or rechte (right) Socialist - and for the common threads of childhood. Many of the children write about how terrified they were once Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed, they knew their parents were communists, would they be put to death too? Communist children didn't just have common fears they developed their own sub-culture. rather than 'pinky swears' they'd say "By my Pioneer Honour, Touch Red" - and each child would touch something red.

There are some terrible parents, of course, and some awful hypocrisy. One girl's father spent his time doing party work, and when his wife (who earnt all the money) was back late he asks his 11 year old daughter where the food is kept, and demands she makes his coffee. Mostly I think the communism and the parenting skills weren't particularly related, the good parents would have always been good parents, the bad parents would always have been parents. Although I suspect for some children, the more their fathers (the most controlling, abusive behaviour in these accounts were always from the fathers) portrayed themselves as righteous, the harder it would have been for the child to understand their behaviour within the family.

There were some really sweet family moments as well. One of the writers came from a Finnish-American community, where the Party had run the annual Christmas Eve event. One year, the party leaders decided that the consumerism and Christianity of the ceremony was a problem, so instead there was a winter celebration without presents. When they got home their parents gave them presents, and told them not to tell anyone. Years later they learned that every single one of their friends' parents had done the same thing.

The most heart-breaking memoir was from Bettina Aptheker. I'd heard of her, she was involved in the Berkley Free Speech Movement. When the right accused her of being a communist, she wrote a letter back saying "Yes, I am a communist, and I'm proud to be a communist." She's one of the many figures of the 1960s that I admired, without knowing too much about.
When I am in my late twenties an older comrade whom I dearly love confides in me. She tells me that in the early 1950s she had been instructed by the party leadership to question women in the Party about their sexuality. In particular she was to ask them if they'd ever had a homosexual liaison. If the answer was yes she was instructed to ask them to voluntarily resign from the Party of face expulsion. "Even if it was only once," the comrade says to me. "Even if they had since married." She goes on, explaining "It was to protect the Party from potential informers. If they were desperate enough to hide their sexual encounters, the FBI could force them into becoming informers." There is a silence into which I say nothing. "I'm so ashamed of myself," She tells me. "It was wrong." Now as I remember this comrade's confession I think that I must have known of this as a child. I must have heard these discussion around me known the consequences of my feelings for women as I reached adolescence: to be made an FBI informer or be expelled from the party/my family, to be cast out.
I am going to read her memoir, I want to know more about her story.

Bettina Aptheker, is not the exception, most of the contributors are still fighting for a better world, in their different ways. Communists have largely been written out of American history, and their legacy ignored. Few people mention that the almost all the young northern white people involved in the Civil Rights Movements were red diaper babies. Carl Bernstein, who contributed to the book, is rarely placed within his radical, fighting legacy. Many of the writers gain real strength from their heritage. The sense that we are all part of a long chain of resistance has particular meaning when the link is so intimate. It gives them direct access to the strength and hope we can all draw from the history of those who fought back.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Review: The Long Way Home, Part IV

I don't expect from Joss's openings, they're not as strong as his endings. Every Season (except possibly Season 6 where Joss wrote neither the first episode or the last) the first episode has been much weaker than the last, and less satisfying than many of the episodes in between.

Now I've read all of it, I'm not that impressed with The Long Way Home. I'd say it was about on par with Lessons, possibly slightly better than the season openers not j. But much worse than Anne, When She Was Bad or Sunday, which were more concerned with letting us see where the characters were, than setting up a whole bunch of new plot. Because setting up plot is often boring, and should be done really slowly.

A lot of the on-going ideas I really like I'm really looking forward to more Giant Dawn, and the army hating them. But there's too much that is just a little bit off. Amy and Warren bear only the most superficial resemblence to the people they were on the show. Dawn's 'she's like a Mom to me' about Willow doesn't reflect the relationship we saw, and certainly not the events of Season 6.

I'm really unsatisfied with what had happened between Willow, Xander & Buffy. Even if we don't know now what happened to Willow (and there's no reason we shouldn't, except contrivance, because surely Willow would tell Buffy & Xander as soon as battling stopped), we should at least know what happened from Buffy's point of view (remember number one rule, we should go through what the characters go through).

I hope that the writers who wrote on the show soon get tired of the thrill of an unlimited budget. Just because you can now have battles of hundreds doesn't mean that two battles (and a practice fight of dozens) are that interesting. Likewise the five spirits added less than nothing to the comic as a whole.

I'll buy the next one, and I'll probably buy the Faith arc. But so far the story has been more about the cool things they can do than people, and that's not Joss at his best.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bring Back Joss

My grandmother died on the weekend. I'm going to try and write something about her life at some point.

In the meantime all I've got energy to write about is TV. They aired the season finale of Heroes* in NZ yesterday. My main reaction was to miss Joss Whedon. I know that he could never have kept as many threads going as the creators of Heroes did, but the season finale would have been much better if he'd written it:

1. The ending of Hiro's story for this season wouldn't have been him leaving Ando to go kill Sylar alone. I have no time for individualistic superhero crap.

2. The female characters would have occasionally talked to each other, this may even have lead to them developing relationships with each other.

3. The two characters with the most central arcs in the season wouldn't be the rich, powerful, white guys.

Although we are spared yet another crazy, very skinny female character.

* A show I've only just started watching. It's enjoyable to watch, and has its moments - but the virgin/whore complex is a problem and I'm not loving the existance of a mystical black man without a name.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Aren't they generous?

From Scoop

Top established Wellington fashion designers Robyn Mathieson, Ashley Fogel, and Voon will join some of the city’s most promising up-and-coming new design talent to raise money for Wellington Women’s Refuge, on Thursday June 7.

Fashion HQ will showcase Wellington fashion talent at an All-Star fashion auction on June 7. Organised by a team of Massey University public relations students, the auction will feature garments donated by deNada, Paris House and Haley Smith NZ, as well as renowned Wellington designers Fin, Robyn Mathieson, Ashley Fogel and Voon. All proceeds will be donated to Wellington Women’s Refuge.
IThe designers who are so generously donating their garments to a good cause, live off the labour of garment workers. In New Zealand those women would be paid near the minimum wage of $11.25, and when the garments are made off-shore, the women workers are paid much less than that. The people who made the clothes that were donated to Refuge, wouldn't be able to afford to leave an abusive relationship.

I don't want to simplify the dynamics of violent relationships; I don't think pay equity alone would end abuse, but it would make it easier for women to leave. So until they pay the women who make their clothes enough money so that the women would have no financial problems if they needed to leave a violent relationship, those designers are full of shit.

PS - I have lots more I want to write about, but am quite distracted, so I may not be posting much till the end of the week.

Friday, June 08, 2007



Supported by Amokura, Nga Pae O Te Maramatanga, Va'aomanū Pasifika: Samoan Studies and Pacific Studies, Te Kawa a Maui: Maori Studies, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Victoria University.

Professor Angela Davis will present at TWO PUBLIC SPEAKING EVENTS.

25 JUNE 2007
(8 Alfred St, Auckland University Campus)
7pm - 8:30pm

26 JUNE 2007
(23 Lambton Quay - Nth end)
7pm - 8:30pm


Born in Alabama in 1944, Angela Davis is an African- American philosopher who was associated with the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 1970's, as well as the Communist Party of the United States of America. She first achieved nationwide notoriety when she was linked to the murder of the judge Harold Haley during an attempted Black Panther prison break; she fled underground, and was subject to
an intense manhunt. After 18 months as a fugitive, she was captured arrested, tried, and eventually acquitted in one of the most famous trials of recent U.S. history.

Angela Davis is currently Professor of History of Consciousness at the University of California and Presidential Chair at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Professor Davis' research interests include: feminism, African American studies, critical theory, popular music culture and social consciousness and the philosophy of punishment (women's prisons).


Monday, June 04, 2007

Support hospital workers

As I mentioned a few days ago DHBs and contractors are in negotiations with the Service and Food Workers Union for a Multi-Employer Collective Agreement for service work within hospitals. The parties were on talks on Thursday and Friday and the union was prepared to continued negotiations over the long-weekend, but the employers refused. Now the employers are threatening to lock-out four thousand workers from midnight Monday night (ie Tuesday morning). From the union:

Four contracting companies, Spotless, OCS, ISS and Compass dominate the provision of key services in our public hospitals. They have launched a vicious and abusive attack on some of the lowest paid workers in the public health system.
If the companies go ahead with their threats to lock workers out I will post hte ways you can support locked-out workers. But the first, and most important, step will be to make your way down to a picket line. Sub-contracting by the hospitals has driven down the pay of cleaners, orderlies and hospital workers, support them in fighting back.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Shut up you self-involved twit

I've been meaning to write about the utter stupidity of the 'natural' medicine people for a while, and haven't got round to it. There is still a longer post about that coming up, but in the meantime take a minute to comprehend the self-involved stupidity of the group health freedom:

I cannot believe that Helen Clark fails to see the connection between a corporation cutting off power to an oxygen machine with an Australian corporation cutting off supply of safe essential nutrients that many New Zealanders, including myself, depend on.
It is very rarely that I speak for Helen Clark, but I'm fairly sure she can't see the connection, neither can I or anyone else, because there is no connection.

To try and draw a comparison between a woman's power actually being cut off, and her dying a few hours later, and the unproven fears that some people may not have access to their preferred brand of snake oil is insulting and disrespectful.