Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mute! Mute!

I don't watch much TV usually. When Joss Whedon returns, then I'll have shows . What this means is that I've forgotten how awful TV advertising is. I am often genuinely shocked and appalled by the shit they put on TV adverts.

There was an ad which told us that it was our patriotic duty to lose weight. "What happened NZ?" the viewer is asked - while we are shown pictures of fat people "How did we go from a nation of sports lovers to a nation of couch potatoes. Then there's some flag waving (real flag-waving, not metaphorical flag-waving, and an order to go on Weight Watchers. Although it didn't seem to be Weight Watchers usual style - their focus is usually more targeted to people who might join Weight Watchers (middle-class women).

Until the 'weight watchers' part came up I thought it was government funded. It appears that the government is going in that direction, which I find immensely frustration, because I actually like the "Push Play" campaign. It helps that there is some scientific evidence showing that regular exercise has some health benefits (unlike weight loss, only eating a chocolate bar once a term, and whatever else they've made up recently).

But the non-awfulness of the Push Play campaign is more fundamental than that it's not at all moralistic. It's focused on making exercise doable and fun. I have a very long blog post up my sleeves about the extreme fucked-upedness of linking morality, health and 'lifestyle'.* But for now I'll just point out that telling people they suck isn't a particularly good motivating factor

The Push Play Campaign isn't how I'd go about changing people's exercise levels (if I thought they needed to be changed and I don't have any data on that). Unlike Sue Kedgeley** I don't think people do the things they do because they're stupid or lack information, but because of lack of options. I'd be about lessening people's work hours, making public transport free, providing free recreational facilities, and making sure that everyone feels safe, and is safe, outside day or night. But I'm fairly certain the Push Play campaign isn't doing any damage, and may even help exercise seem more doable.

Unfortunately we seem to be pointed more and more towards state sanctioned damage doing.

* Although now I've mentioned it, you know I'm never going to actually write it.

** There's no way I could get through a post without a dig at her.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Who do you want to win?

My favourite blog at the moment is Lenin's Tomb. Lenin has a great breadth of coverage - I'm always marking his posts saying to myself "I should write about strikes in South Africa" and then I never do.

So I was delighted to see that Lenin's Tomb had responded to Katha Pollitt who was in turn responding to Alexander Cockburn.*

Alexander Cockburn started by quoting Lawrence McGuire:

"I was reading a recent piece by Phyllis Bennis recently. She talked about the 'US military casualties' and the 'Iraqi civilian victims' and it struck me that the grand taboo of the antiwar movement is to show the slightest empathy for the resistance fighters in Iraq. They are never mentioned as people for whom we should show concern, much less admiration.

"But of course, if you are going to sympathize with the US soldiers, who are fighting a war of aggression, than surely you should also sympathize with the soldiers who are fighting for their homeland. Perhaps not until the antiwar movement starts to some degree recognizing that they should include 'the Iraqi resistance fighters' in their pantheon of victims (in addition to US soldiers and Iraqi civilians) will there be the necessary critical mass to have a real movement."
I probably disagree with this argument - but mostly because I think the American anti-war movement has far bigger problems (they rhyme with Pemocratic Darty). But Katha Pollitt almost made me change my mind:
So, okay, call me ignorant: The Iraqi resistance isn't dominated by theocrats, ethnic nationalists, die-hard Baathists, jihadis, kidnappers, beheaders and thugs?
What made me so angry was the way Katha Pollitt dismissed the Iraqi armed resistance out of hand, as if the idea of supporting people fighting in self-defence was too ridiculous to take seriously.**

I wanted to respond, but got distracted in the face of research that would prove that Iraqis who want self-determination aren't just: "theocrats, ethnic nationalists, die-hard Baathists, jihadis, kidnappers, beheaders and thugs?" Luckily Lenin has done it all for me. He's responded to Katha Pollitt, and then put together information about what the armed resistance is actually like.

My position is a little different from Lenin's.*** In order to actively support any sort of resistance group I want to know how they treat their own people, and what sort of world they want to build. But it's an academic question, because I have nothing the Iraqi resistance needs. As Lenin (the blogger) said:
A little humility would compel her to recognise that the Iraqi resistance is doing far more to frustrate American imperialism than then American left is. The resistance is supporting us. It is their courageous insistence on combatting an enemy with immense death-dealing power, confronting them in the streets despite years of savage murder, despite the prospect of incineration and shredding, that is causing Bush's unpopularity.
The fact that I'm not prepared to support any particular Iraqi resistance group shouldn't obscure the most basic point - I want the Iraqi resistance to win. I want the US to get the hell out of Iraq, and not to be capable of leaving a puppet government behind us. Any other outcome will give the people who rule America more power and the people who are fighting them less.

* I'll be the first to acknowledge that not all Alexander Cockburn's arguments are worth thinking about seriously - particularly not his climate change arguments, which I haven't paid enough attention to accurately summarise, but have paid enough attention to to know they're stupid.

** I take these discussions so seriously I once started a pool at what the ratio of male/female speakers would be at a meeting on our attitudes towards the Iraqi armed resistance.

*** That's Lenin the blogger, although I'm guessing my position is also different from Lenin the Revolutionary leader.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Stand Down Margaret

I sleep walk.

I don't actually sleep walk - I sleep run. I have these dreams where a bomb is about to go off in my flat and I have to get out now. So I get out of bed and run out of the house. These dreams come in different intensities, but at their worst I know I'm about to die, and I'm terrified of that death.*

When I was small I lived in Thatcher's Britain, the Britain of Protect & Survive. I was terrified of bombs. When we moved to New Zealand I was five, and I listed one of my favourite things about this country that their were no bombs.

I don't think my terror dreams come from those years in Britain. I think they're a stress or anxiety response. But I think it's because of Margaret Thatcher and her pals that I dream of bombs. If I lived in different times I might be running from Wolves, or communists. I'd probably be just as scared, but that's small consolation when I can still taste the adrenalin from believing that I was about to burn to death.

As far as Thatcher's casualties go - my experience is nothing. The miners lives weren't ruined in their dreams, they were ruined in reality. While she never dropped a nuclear bomb, she did drop other bombs. Her economic policies led to redundancies and unemployment - those aren't just abstract ideas - they kill people. Poverty kills, hoplessness kills - the year after the miner's strike saw many more than the usual number of suicides. It's not just economic policies either Section 28, passed by the Tories, made it illegal to promote the teaching in state schools "the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship."

So when someone responds to me posting the lyrics to Merry Christmas Margaret Thatcher with: "Nothing Margaret Thatcher did is worth hoping for her death" - that really depends on what, and who, you value. People have died because of Margaret Thatcher.

I don't think individuals are the driving force for politics, if Thatcher hadn't been there, it would have been someone else. I don't particularly hope for her death any more, she's old and out of power, and probably a little bit out of it anyway. But when she does die you better believe that I'm going to celebrate. I'm going to dig out my parents old anti-Margaret Thatcher t-shirt and put it on, I will play anti-Margaret Thatcher songs all day, and I will write a post on this blog, maybe about Women Against Pit Closures.

My favourite phrase in Solidarity Forever is 'we will break their haughty power'. The power to ruin people's lives by remote control and sit back with a cup of tea is a haughty power indeed. To suggest that people shouldn't be angry about what is done to them, and other people, shouldn't be angry at that haughty power, is telling them their lives don't matter.

I think this is when my friends start shunning me...

I have now discovered if you search for: harry potter deathly hallows review buffy then this blog comes up first. I think that's the geekiest search to find my blog, but I could be blocking some out.

We will have pride in how we live

I have a new favourite Christmas song. I'm not sure what my old favourite Christmas song was, but there's no way it can be as awesome as Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher from Billy Elliot: The Musical. This is the chorus:

So merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher
May God's love be with you
We all sing together in one breath
Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher
We all celebrate today
'Cause it's one day closer to your death
I wasn't particularly fond of the movie Billy Elliot. I felt it wasn't particularly well written, and the mining strike was too far in the background. I wouldn't have expressed any interest in the musical, but my sister has just come back from the UK, and she brought the Cast Recording with her.

I'd consider a song about celebrating Maggie Thatcher's death enough to make a musical anyway, but there's more. There are songs of solidarity and struggle, which give workers' struggle weight and importance.

I'll probably never see the musical, for all I'm loving soundtrack and I'm still a little unsure about the idea. I believe passionately that we need to tell the stories of our struggles. Knowing about fighting and winning, even fighting and losing, is the hope in our history. I don't know much about the miner's strike, and I'm a trade unionist and historian, who was born in Britain. Billy Elliot: The Musical will keep the history of the miners strike alive.

But this a West End musical, with seat prices to match. At what point do people telling their own stories become the commodification of resistance? Does it matter that the creators don't see themselves writing about someone else's life, but feel resonances in their own life for the story that they tell?

Do ex-miners and their families get in free?

* . I think the miners, the union movement, and the working class, would have been far stronger if their vision of the future hadn't been so very limited.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


"Louise - Nicholas - is - My - Hero. Who is Louise Nicholas?" The kid who had been reading my patch was seven, and I didn't know how to answer him. I didn't know how many of the concepts I'd have to explain. So I just said that some police officers had hurt her, and she'd fought against them.

I have so much to say in response to today's evidence in the John Dewar trial:

Mrs Nicholas told Dewar [Clint Rickards, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton] had "treated me like an animal".

"You're not the only one," Dewar replied.
But first I need to say how awed I am by Louise Nicholas's strength.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

John Dewar's Trial

Tomorrow John Dewar will stand trial for four charges of attempting to
obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice between. These all occurred between 1993 and 1994 and were related to his response to Louise Nicholas. He was supposed to investigate her complaint against Clint Rickards, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton, and he didn't.

I'm sure I will write more about this trial in the days to come. Tonight I'm just going to encourage you to come along to protests that have been organised around the country and take against police protecting their own:

Wellington Protest at 12pm on Tuesday 24th July outside the High
Court, Molesworth St.

Auckland Protest at 5pm on Tuesday 24th July outside Britomart

Christchurch Information and street theatre at 12.30pm on Tuesday 24th
July in Cathedral Square outside the police centre.

Monday, July 23, 2007

They have taken untold millions...

It was already a good day. I'd gone to a support picket outside Spotless in Wellington, banged my bucket and made a racket. I'd gone on to collect for the lockout. The Brass Razoo Solidarity band were playing while we collected. There's nothing quite like collecting and leafletting while the sun shines and the Brass Razoo play solidarity forever. So I was already happy when I got a text message: "Great news about the lockout." I might have cursed this singularly uninformative text message, but luckily the radio immediately told me the details.

The court ruled that the lock-out was illegal, because the demand the company was making of the workers was illegal and interfered with the workers right to strike. The company said that it would lock-out all union workers in 13 DHBs, unless a certain number of workers in 10 of those DHBs agreed to work during the rolling strikes the company had planned. This was an extraordinary demand - in essence locking people out for not breaking their own strike. The company claimed people needed to stay for health safety reasons (but there were, apparently, no health & safety risks for operating on scabs during the lock-out). The union had met with the DHBs four months ago, and agreed that there was no need for members to stay back, as they were not performing life preserving functions (I would hope not on eleven dollars something an hour).

The Employment Court made the right decision, but there is much that needs to do. Spotless is still the only company that won't pay the national pay-scale. Spotless could lock workers out in two weeks, as long as they put a different reason on the lock-out notices.*

Please continued to donate money, and ring 0900 LOCKOUT. Tomorrow is payday for a lot of Spotless workers, and anyone who was locked-out won't receive anything and will have to go another week without pay.

* As hospitals are an essential industry two weeks notice are required of a strike or a lock-out.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (SPOILERS)

I wasn't going to buy Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows. I could have scraped together the money, but at the moment if I have a spare $35 sitting around it should go to the lock-out fund. But I remembered that I had a $20 Whitcoulls voucher, and wanted nothing more than to read the book in one sitting, and it was an enjoyable and engrossing five hours or so.

A lot of what bothered me in the last few books really worked in this one. There's much better pacing and much less artificial tension, and plots that only exist because the characters aren't talking to each other. From the seven Harrys on I was totally there for the ride. When I ended the book, I felt satisfied (the epilogue was another matter), and I was certainly cheering at times.

As I've said before, I love serial story-telling. The only thing I like better than enjoying serial story-telling is picking apart serial story-telling. I like the sense of collective ownership that fans feel over these stories.

So I'm going to spend rather a lot of words analysing the meaningover the meaning of these stories, what I liked about them, and what didn't work for me. If you don't enjoy this then go somewhere else. I'm using headings because I'm too tired for transitions.

Fight back
My favourite line was when Harry Potter can't find a good memory for a Patronus and Neville (or Luna or someone) says "We're still fighting, what's a happier memory than that?" I'm a sucker for messages about the joy and strength that comes from fighting together.

There's been a real tension in between the single hero who must go it alone, and the idea that people are stronger together than they are alone. I've not time for individualistic super-hero crap, so I've been glad that the tension has generally been resolved on the side of fighting together.

But I felt this book took the idea a little bit further than any of the previous books had, as Dumbledore's secrecy and authority were undermined. I think she could have gone further than this, and with Dumbledore's ambiguity (although I liked what we got).

We also got people challenging Harry for acting alone, not just Ron and Hermione, but most of Hogwarts by the end, and Harry agreed they were right, and couldn't have won without them.

Of course that doesn't make Harry Potter an ode to collective action, Harry does act alone, and wouldn't have succeeded out there. But I don't think it buys into the individualistic super-hero crap which drives me nuts in many fantasy books.

J K Rowling is a genre children's writer - most of what she's writing makes more sense when you know the genres she's writing in (I don't love the fact that she chooses the genre over sense, politics and at times characters). In the later books she's been pulling in world war two genres, and I think it works really well. I thought the creeping fascism of the ministry was very well done, and creepy. The scene's in the ministry of magic were particularly powerful.

I've preferred the books where our heroes were the resistance (5 and 7) than the others where they were more clearly part of the establishment. In this context the basic obstacles of the beginning, staying hidden, finding food and fighting boredom, worked really well. I also loved Lee's radio show (and could have used more of it actually, it'd be nice if it had been the consistent way our members had found out about the outside world - although would it have killed her to have a single female character on the show?). While the dangers of fascism isn't the most challenging message (although she has deliberately drawn parallels with post-September 11 Britain and US policy), I much prefer Harry, Ron and Hermione fighting the government, than being part of it.

The only way the occupation parallel didn't work for me, was the amount of collaboration at Hogwarts, which creeped me right out. Hogwarts was incredibly violent and abusive, bad enough that it would have done real damage to the students. Teachers like McGonagall just tried to mitigate that damage rather than fighting back. I think that decision was a serious one and should have been given more weight.

I think she should have killed off more people, Fred, Tonks, Lupin, Colin Creevy Crabbe (or was it Goyle) and Snape (although that was clearly inevitable)? And fifty people we've no idea who they are? The ratio of named deaths to unnamed deaths seemed far too high to me, particularly since the people we knew were shown as being in the centre of the battle. If she wasn't prepared to even kill off Hagrid, Luna or Neville, she should have killed some more Weasleys, teachers, or other characters who we'd known for seven books.

I also felt she fumbled a bit with Fred's death - the tragedy of Fred's death is George continuing on without them, much more than Molly Weasley's rage (although I'm not complaining about Molly Weasley taking action). I found Dobby's death easily the most moving and important in the book.

I said that the relationships would annoy me, and the idea of them certainly did. Why is it in fantasy everyone has to have met and got together with their soul-mate and life-partner by the age of 17? They're cookie dough; they're not done baking.

Having said that, I actually quite enjoyed Ron and Hermione. Their difficulties and uncertainties about each other, their unwillingness to declared. The way they treated each other didn't set off any dysfunction alarm bells for me (this is quite a major achievement really) Even Ron's attempt at suave moves in the beginning didn't annoy me; they were about him being nice, rather than about him being a dick. Which meant that I could appreciate that the reason he was turning to books for his moves was because he was really insecure about his position (I thought his fears that came out when he were trying to destroy the Horcrux were quite well done). When they finally get together, it's because Ron was listening to Hermione. She finally snogs him when he thinks about the house elves in the final battles. This seemed as good a basis for a relationship as any to me.**

But Harry & Ginny - 'I'm going to leave you because I'm putting you in danger' is my least favourite relationship device ever.**** Mostly because it usually just rings so false, it's a false attempt to create tension, where there's no real reason for it. If Harry and Ginny had just kept their relationship secret and made out at every opportunity the book would have been just the same. He wouldn't actually have put her in danger by kissing her (and she was doing a pretty good job of putting herself in danger).

What I find so frustrating about this, is that limiting women's choices for them is portrayed as a romantic act. Ginny's a smart girl, she can understand danger, he could have told her what his worries were and they could have made decisions together. Loving someone shouldn't mean limiting their agency.

But what's really odd is that the 'I'm a danger to you, I cannot be with you' plot was also part of Lupin and Tonks story. I guess I just don't understand where this plot comes from. Do people in times of danger break up supposedly to protect their partner? It seems completely unlikely to me. There aren't many circumstances where the enemy can use a relationship against you in real life. When authors use this device is there a real emotion that they're trying to map onto? Or are they just using it for cheap tension?

What I did like that the book ultimately valued friendship. Luna Lovegood's picture of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville and Ginny was awesome (if we had to have an epilogue couldn't we have found what she was doing).* The entire book is structured around Ron, Hermione and Harry, and the fact that Ron and Hermione start making out doesn't change the dynamic of that friendship. In the end it's Ron and Hermione that Harry turns to, even though he's decided that he's not a danger to Ginny anymore (I'm still rolling my eyes).

Ultimately the Harry Potter stories were about the power of love. But not the abstract hippy sort of 'all you need is love', but the very real love we have for people we care about. That loving one person can be transformative and the love of one person can be translated outwards to help you fight for everyone.

This idea was shown in all the characters on our side, over and over again, in the friendships they made and kept and the way they fought together. It was shown with Snape and Lily, even though that was infinitely predictable. But I thought it was the Malfoys that showed this idea most powerfully, when their love for each other, eventually led them to take a stand against Voldemort.

I'm not entirely convinced by this idea. I think in the real world our enemies are as capable as loving as we are. But I do think there is hope in love. I think most of us who fight for a better world get our strength to fight not from the abstract idea of people, but the concrete reality of the people we love.

There are worse messages for a generation of children to grow up with.

The epilogue was the most disappointing part of the book, partly because it was so trite and predictable. But also because it showed that they had just saved the world, not changed it.* While I was reading it I hoped that the book would go further than it did. During the book the wizards attitudes towards Muggles, Goblins and House-elfs were all shown to be limited. The Ministry of Magic consistently acted in their own interests, not in the interests of the people. Defeating Voldemort was not enough. I didn't need them to succeed in this, or even necessarily to try, but I'd liked it if she'd left open up the possibility of trying to create a bigger change than beating one evil guy. The epilogue shut that down.

*I think left-wing activist women would probably appreciate the fact that he was the one to change his views. I've seen many relationships with sexually transmitted politics over the years, and usually they go the other way.

** Well technically non-consensual sexual contact, which is somehow welcomed by the woman is my least favourite relationship plot device, but I'm almost always successful in trying to avoid stories which use that plot device (yes that was a pointed remark about Buffy, yes this review contains too many Buffy references)

*** I strongly identified with both Luna and Hermione. I was nerdy and completely out of it as a teenager. Obviously these characters are created for women to over-identify with, so that's not a surprise.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Collecting for Women's Refuge

This week is the annual women's refuge appeal week. Women's refuges are desperately under-funded, the Wellington refuge gets less than half its money from government (and the amount they get is less than what Clint Rickards got paid for doing nothing last year). So I spent a few hours on the streets of Wellington trying to get money out of people. I quite like collecting, but not as much as I like collecting money

Starbucks was offering free drinks to collectors - I feel the same way about this as I do about the clothing industry raising money for refuge:

But I still took my free tea.

I expected more women than men to give money, but I would have expected two-thirds, or three-quarters. I'm obviously a ridiculous optimist, because one in ten of the donors was a man, maybe even one in fifteen.

I started to wonder about the women giving money. Was it solidarity that made them give? Or someone they knew? An insurance policy? A down-payment? Or just imagination?

Why did so many men not have this imagination? Why weren't they putting money in the buckets for the women they knew? Their mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends who could need refuge?

I started muttering this at men who walked by without giving money - "You're the problem, not me, not her, you, and you won't even give me a dollar."

There were some good experiences. I noticed a young guy hanging out in a T-shirt that said "I'll show you mine, if you show me yours" and rolled my eyes. But twenty minutes later him and his friend came and both gave some money.

My friend told me a story from collecting last year. A man gave twenty dollars, he looked like he wanted to say something, but he didn't. Later he came back and asked her if she wanted a drink, because it was cold, and gave another ten dollars. Then he said "I just want you to know that not all sons turn out to be like their fathers."

That's where the hope is, I guess. The possibility of change.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New blogs

Binary Heart is by a friend of mine. He's got some really good stuff about the Hospital workers. Plus he used a Buffy quote as a headline for the post he wrote about Clint Heine, which makes him super-cool.

Take Back The News is a feminist response to the way the mainstream media reports violence against women. I will be writing for it as soon as wordpress stops sulking (hopefully tomorrow). Anna, who has been writing so far, has got some amazing stuff, particularly on the word 'allegedly'. Far more useless analysis than yelling at the radio, which is what I've been doing up till now.

PS You know when I said I'd post some actual content, instead of just ordering my readers around? I lied; go to a picket line, or donate money to the locked-out workers.

Monday, July 16, 2007

They have to listen when the union talks

The Lockout and strike among Spotless Hospital workers is going to continue. The company hasn't agreed to the same pay-scale as the DHBs and other contractors.

This is from a picket outside the Spotless Headquarters in Wellington on Friday. There's going to be another picket on tomorrow (Tuesday 17 July) at 3.15. The more people the better. If you life outside Wellington there may be a picket line at your local hospital, if so go join it.

I've added a banner supporting the Hospital workers. You should get one too at binary_heart.

I promise to write some proper content tomorrow, and stop just ordering my readers around. But you should support the hospital workers

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Movie

When I was walking to the movie theatre we were talking about what they would include and one of my friend's said 'don't spoil me' (and then claimed he was too busy to read the books, but apparently has plenty of time for the movies). Just to be clear that this post has spoilers for the movie, and every book that has been published.

The movie theatre had big stickers on the back of every fourth seat saying "1 in 4 women and children are the victims of domestic violence." Apart from my dislike of running together 'women and children' I thought that was an awesome way of representing the effect of violence within families. This week is refuge appeal week so give money if you can (last year the government gave more money to Clint Rickards than Wellington Women's Refuge, so it'd be good if other people could pitch in).

That wasn't the only good thing to happen before Harry Potter started, because they showed a Northern Lights preview (well they're calling it a Golden Compass preview, but whatever). I'm terribly excited.

I think the Harry Potter books are getting worse, and the movies are getting better, as the series progresses. I think this might be related. In the later books J K Rowling has no page limit, and doesn't have to listen to an editor so they just sprawl. She's particularly prone too over-foreshadowing, and overlengthy explanations by Dumbledore at the end of each book. I think all the unnecessary bits in the books make it easier to make a movie (even as the books are getting longer), as the movie can tailor itself to the essential story (which I think J K Rowling has been two drafts away from in every book after the third).

I'm not suggesting that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the greatest movie playing, but it is very engaging. David Yates was previously a TV director, and I think in some ways this services . In TV you are servicing characters and a story first and foremost. Previously directors (particularly Chris Columbus who directed the first two) were far too interested in set pieces to do either of those. Alfonso Curon, is a brilliant director, but in Prisoner of Azkaban he was more interested in creating mood and atmosphere than characters and story.

The casting directors did very good jobs and were very lucky, because the actors' physicality continues to work for the parts. Ginny was a walk-on part in the first movie, and would have been 9 when she was cast and that the actress has grown up in roughly the way the character in the book did.

Imelda Staunton was brilliant as Dolores Umbridge, and everything about her costumes, and design of her room emphasised her character, and made the movie. To underscore the banality of evil isn't a particularly new point, but it was incredibly well done. The movie is worth seeing just for Dolores Umbridge's room alone (you'll know what I mean when you see it).

While I have an affection for J K Rowling, it's next too impossible to put a radical reading on the Harry Potter books.* But I feel this book, in particular, has a good heart. The students getting together to fight authority is a theme that works for me, and the movie really emphasised this angle. The simple scene of Fred and George sympathising with the first year who had had the (creepy and totally sadistic) crazy cutting lines thing underscored that nicely (and their departure was spectacular. And the ending is a reiteration of 'we're stronger together than we are alone', which always makes me happy.

And just to go on the record with my (rather boring) predictions for the final book: Snape isn't evil, Dumbledore was telling him to kill him, Snape was in love with Lily and the reason Dumbledore trusts him will be something to do with that love. More than one Weasley will die in the final book. The love stories will annoy me.

Feel free to add your own thoughts about Harry Potter in general and predictions (but no spoilers, although I don't suppose there are any).

*And don't even get me started on the gender politics - which are made worse in the movies by upping the ways Mrs Weasley conforms to a stereotype (which is quite an accomplisment in itself).

Oh No, Not Again

I wasn't going to comment any more on Clint Heine, but his comment threads get worse. SimonD said:

I want to offer a job for Maia in K'Rd. My massage parlor needs 2 women to dance nude on stage.

Does anyone know Maia's full name? I want to forward the job offer to WINZ, so they can get registered unemployed people like Maia to apply. I know WINZ doesn't like unemployed people who are registered with them to decline a job offer (any jobs really). So, there is a chance that Maia will take my offer.
For those who don't know the NZ benefit system, if you turn down a job you can go on a benefit stand-down for up to 13 weeks. So people on benefits can't turn down work.

SimonD wants to coerce me into sex-work by cutting off my other forms of income.*

Clint Heine's objection to this isn't based on my right to my own body:
If her blog is accurate I do believe she is already well known to the WINZ staff in her area. I somewhat doubt you'd want somebody like her in with your lovely girls. :)
I'm proud to say that he's right. If I was to work on K'Rd I'd educate, agitate and organise, and SimonD wouldn't know what hit him.

But the point here is that coercing a woman to work in the sex industry by cutting off her other forms of income is rape. These clearly men view women as objects to be used by them, and my desire is irrelevant. This is the second time a man on Clint Heine's blog has expressed a desire to punish me with sex, and Clint Heine has no problem with that at all.

* In reality WINZ do not require women to accept jobs in the sex industry.


This is from the Wellington demo today, remember to go to a demo tomorrow (details here)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Why The Hospital Lockout Matters

Any time 1,000 workers get locked out it's important that we win. The fight for a single pay scale for service workers in the hospitals is an important one. Raising the starting rate of these low-paid workers to $14.25 an hour would be a great victory. But this is also a fight against contracting-out, and it's a fight we have to win.

Theoretically businesses, and government organisations, contract out services. They contract a company to clean, or to perform a certain task. But in reality they're contracting out employment.

Cleaning is a really good example of this. It's a low capital industry, and large cleaning companies don't get huge economies of scale. Companies get their printing done by a contract because they don't print enough to justify having the equipment sitting around all day. It takes about the same amount of equipment to clean a hospital whether the equipment is owned by Spotless or the Hospital, and neither of them can use the equipment elsewhere. In fact, by contracting out companies, and government organisations have to pay extra, to cover the profit that any cleaning company is going to make.

So why do hospitals (or businesses or anyone else) contract out their cleaning? Because they can use the tendering process to drive down the cost. To win tenders, and bid lower than other cleaning companies, the winning company has to either pay their workers less, or get their workers to do more cleaning in less time.

Contracting out is so effective, because everyone can claim that they're not responsible. The cleaning companies aren't responsible, because they can't afford to pay any more than they're given. The hospital that contracts out its cleaning isn't responsible because it's up to the sub-contractor how much money to pay.

It's a vicious way of keeping wages and conditions down, and the only way workers can fight it is by organising. Hospital workers in the SFWU have fought really hard to get this far. An agreement with the DHBs, and all but one of the contractors is a huge step forward. But it will be meaningless unless they can get Spotless to agree to the same terms and conditions, otherwise Spotless will be able to undercut other companies up and down the country, and wages will go on a downwards spiral again.

(Go here for more photos.)

Contacting out can affect all workers. Although low-paid workers like cleaners are the most vulnerable, all sorts of jobs can be done on a contracting out basis. So it's really important that all workers support the hospital workers in this battle against contracting out, and for one wage scale for all workers.

Or, what she said:

Go to your local picket line tomorrow; I'll post details of any other demonstrations. Keep ring 0900 LOCKOUT (0900 56256), and join Idiot/Savant's Pledgebank.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Things To Do

Support Locked-Out Workers

There's a rally tomorrow in Auckland at Spotless Headquarters, 600 Great South Road, Penrose, at 10.30am. If you live in Invercargill, Wanganui, Hastings,
Palmerston North, Gisborne, Tauranga, Waitemata, Counties Manukau or Northland rock up to your local hospital to support the picket line. Call 0900 LOCKOUT (0900 56256) to give $10 to the locked-out workers.

International Day of Action: Stop Aboriginal Genocide on Stolen Aboriginal Land
Indymedia has the full run down. Here are the details for NZ cities:

Te Upoko o te Ika/Wellington
12:30-1:30pm Friday July 13th, Demo at Australian Embassy (Hobson St, Thorndon). Meet at the park over the road from 12:15pm.

12-2pm Saturday July 14th, Rally and march from Midland Park to Te Aro park, Central Wellington.

Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland
11am-12pm Saturday July 14th, Rally and march from Britomart Transport Centre to Australian Consulate

12pm- Saturday July 14th, The crew in Dunedin will be Setting up a Tent Embassy in the Octagon

12pm- Saturday July 14th, Come along and join in the solidarity action at Cathedral Square

Support locked out workers

Hospital Workers have now been locked out by Spotless up and down the country. Spotless operates in Invercargill, Timaru, Palmerston, Hawkes Bay, Wanganui, Rotorua, Gisborne, Tauranga, Waitemata, Counties Manukau and Northland. If you're in any of those cities go to the picketlines and support the locked out workers.

The SFWU have some things you can do to support Healthy Hospitals. You might also want to contact Peter Jennings, the operations manager of Spotless; his cellphone number is 027 571 5723.

All things considered I think I'd rather be expelled from the Labour Party

I'd like to thank everyone who has posted and commented about James and Clint Heine's comments.

Clint Heine appears to be claiming that he thought James was talking about masturbation (he also claims to know that James was only talking about masturbation too, although I've no idea how Clint could know that).

He seems to think that this would mean that there was no implications of non-consensual sexual activity in what James wrote.

He's wrong.

James does not care about me as a person, he has no knowledge of, or interest in, my desires. His prescription of a dildo - whatever he imagined was done with it, was based on him, and what he wanted, not on me. To talk about sexual acts in a way that renders women's desire invisible and irrelevant is to promote rape culture. To talk of 'fixing' a woman with a sexual act and ignore her desires is to threaten rape.

I'm aware that James, and Clint had no intention of taking any action, that discussion of sexual violence is just words to them. But the effect, and the intention, is to police women's behaviour, with threats about what will happen if we don't conform.

I promise to get back to things that aren't about me tomorrow. I've still got a report on Angela Davis's talk to write (although I'm afflicted by a kind of curse, whereby if I ever mention that I'm planning on writing a post on this blog then it's guaranteed that I never actually get around to writing it).

The Dangers of Blogging While Female

Clint Heine linked to my post about The Australian Labor Party. The post and comments are almost entirely made up of personal insults, which is unsurprising. But one commenter, James, said (about me):

Nothing a big black dildo won't fix......
Clint replied:
James.....!!! Nice suggestion, go over there and tell her that :)
Insults go with the territory, I have no problem with people calling me a thieving, parasite dog. But James wants to hold me down and stick an object in my vagina (or mouth, or anus), and Clint thinks this is a good idea.

Clint Heine is blogging under his real name. He is affiliated with the ACT party, and was formerly President of Prebble's Rebels. Yet he is comfortable not just hosting, but encouraging a threat of rape against me. Are rape threats really that acceptable?

To anyone reading this, no matter whether or not you agree with what I say, do you believe rape threats are an acceptable response to a woman speaking her mind? I know the New Zealand blogsphere isn't known for being a place of high intellectual debate, but I'm asking for there to be a line. I am asking people to take a stand against what James, and Clint Heine wrote, however much you disagree with me.

Comments on this blog are on moderation until further notice.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Thousand Pickets and They All Agree...

I've written about hosptial workers before. Some of the lowest paid workers in hospitals, cleaners, orderlies, kitchen hands, have come together to fight for better wages across the system. At the moment much of the work is contracted out, which has lead to a rush to the bottom for wages. Spotless has withdrawn from national bargaining, and a pay-scale the other employers have agreed to.

Spotless workers are currently voting on strike action starting Thursday morning at 7am. Spotless operates in: Invercargill, Timaru, Palmerston, Hawkes Bay, Wanganui, Rotorua, Gisborne, Tauranga, Waitemata, Counties Manukau and Northland. If you live there, make sure you make it to a picket line. If you don't live in any of those towns, consider a day trip.

For more information check the union website. I'll also post updates.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

We're here today in solidarity...*

The Maori party has taken a stand for accurate analysis:

"All Howard has done is generate more anger and bitterness in the Aboriginal community, a lot of which is going to be internalised," Mr Harawira said.

"I said John Howard is ... trying to impose racist policies on a people who can't fight back,"
The Stuff article on this has the word racist in scare quotes: "Aussie PM 'racist' Maori Party MP claims." A policy that reduces benefit entitlements only to indigenous Australians, steals land, and invades communities is racist, we don't need MPs to point that out.

But naming racism is not enough, in days like these. If you live in Australia you must go to your local solidarity demonstration on July 14 (Melbourne details here and other cities here.

In Wellington there are going to be two demostrations one on Friday 13th from 12.30pm to 1.30pm outside the Australian embassy. The second will be a march meeting at Midland park at 12pm, and ending at Te Aro park.

*A friend of mine, I'll call him Manuel, was once on the megaphone at an anti-roading demo and started "We're here today in solidarity with the people of Iraq.." he realised what he said and said "Oh shit, oh well it's all connected anyway." Which is true enough, but I've never let him forget it.

Edited: Apparently Truthiness doesn't mean what I think it means - I had a vague feeling I was quoting Buffy, apparently not.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Australian Labor Party: Taking a stand against accurate analysis

I was in Australia last week, and heard quite a lot about Joe McDonald. A union leader in the construction industry who had been suspended from the Australian Labor party, because of something he'd said on a workplace visit:

I'm not going because Jello here said so but I really have got some important union business to do. I'm quite happy to go under the walkway down there and have the meeting if you are, or we'll have it here. I'm easy. This fucking thieving, parasite dog's days is numbered. He'll be working at Hungry Jack's when I'm still a union official.
You can find a fuller transcript at Serve the people

Bosses are theiving parasite dogs, thieving and parasiting is how capitalism works.

There is a more serious point here. The workers wanted to meet with the union official - the boss didn't want them to. The bully here, the person who was abusing power, was the construction boss, not the union leader.

New Zealand's construction industry isn't as unionised as Australia's. Workers die because they can't fight collectively for a safe workplace.

Update Comments disabled on this post.

Also I've edited the title - apparently truthiness doesn't mean what I think it means.

Life Support

Bedridden with a chronic lung disease, Patricia Alsteen depends on machines to help her breathe.

But the mother of four said she's worried that her electricity will be shut off because she can't pay a sizable power bill that accrued, in part, because of her life-support equipment.
For more see The Flint Journal

I imagine most New Zealand readers had the same thoughts I did when reading that article. But I didn't link to it to show another shocking case. I linked to it because right now, near me, there are people living in uninsulated, damp, drafty houses, who aren't turning the heaters on because they can't afford to. Some of those people are already sick, others will get sick.

It's no good, this profit based system, where you only get the necessities of life if you can pay. We have to stop it. For Patricia Alsteen and Folole Muliaga, and all the people who die and we don't even know their names.

Link via the Gimp Parade

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Since when was eugenics breaking news?

The New Zealand left is very small, so I've known of Jim Flynn for ages. He always seemed like an old-fashioned, decent, social-democrat. I guess I didn't realise how old-fashioned.

Apparently university educated women have 1.85 babies by their early 40s, while women with no tertiary education 2.57 babies. Jim Flynn commented on this (the article I'm quoting from isn't on-line, but you can get the jist here):

Everyone knows if we only allowed short people to reproduce there would be a tendency in terms of genes for height to diminish. Intelligence is no different from other human traits. It's a function of the brain and brain physiology. A persistent genetic trend which lowered the genetic quality for brain philiology would have some effect eventually
Is a basic knowledge of history too much to ask? People have been worrying about declines in intelligence, and that educated (or in times when they said what they meant white middle class) women are not having enough babies, ever since they started believing Darwin. Those fears have always proved to be unfounded.

Of course they're unfounded. The class system gives some people privilege and others poverty. Those differences of resources cause any differences between classes, whether it's number of babies women have, or the way you perform on standardised tests. To suggest otherwise, to say poor people are poor because they are stupid, should be deeply offensive to anyone to the left of John Kerry.

Jim Flynn's cure is as horrific as his diagnosis:
"I do have faith in science, and science may give us something that renders conception impossible unless you take an antidote," he said.

"You could of course have a chemical in the water supply and have to take an antidote. If you had contraception made easier by progress, then every child is a wanted child."
I think I'd be more offended at this idea, if it wasn't so totally preposterous. It obviously comes from someone who has never had to worry about contraception, knows nothing about what is available, and thinks hormonal contraceptives are side-effect free (and that there's an anti-dote available).

It's sad that an old man, who has done good things, is spouting this rubbish, and apparently every news outlet in New Zealand is passing it on.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Would Switzerland take the 2011 Rugby World Cup as well?

I'm out of town at the moment, so I don't have many opportunities to write here. But I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate the fact that Team NZ lost the America's cup. The government won't have an excuse to throw money at businesses to make Auckland even more of a rich people's play ground.