Sunday, November 09, 2008

The mutant descendant of the 1980s and the 1990s - fun

I'm not relishing the new government, but I don't relish the old government, or any government. I'll write about how I voted and why, and also a bit about why National got so many votes later. But now I am focusing on the horse-racing parts of it:

  • Ikaroa-Rawhiti was the competition of scumbag* Clint Rickards apologists. The advantage of an election when you hate both candidates this much is that one of them has to lose. So ya boo sucks to Derek Fox.
  • I think the union movement is well rid of any union leaders who are aiming for parliament. So I'm glad to see that Carol Beaumont is in, even though she didn't win Maungakiekie, but I do wish they'd take Helen Kelly as a job-share type thingy.
  • I have now been arrested with a member of parliament. Chris Hipkins the new MP for Rimutaka was arrested with me (and 74 other people) on the steps of parliament over ten years ago. Although it was ridiculously close. If Labour can't get decent margins in Rimutaka then no wonder they're completely fucked (more on this in response to Deborah
  • I find it useful in elections to focus on the people you hate who are losing their jobs. This is very cheering, as Winston Peters, Ron Mark, Harry Dynhoven, Gordon Copeland, Philip Field, and a whole bunch more Labour and NZ First MPs are now unemployed.
  • The best moment of the night was when it looked like Dunne might not win Ohariu and take his hair off into the sunset.
  • None of this takes away from the fact that someone whose name rhymes with Doger Rouglas exists, and will be having a say over other people's lives.
Those of us who believe another world is possible have work to do, but we've always had work to do, and it's the same work tomorrow as it was yesterday. We can take some time to point, laugh and worry about what comes next. I'm a child of the 1980s I'd be lying if I didn't pretended that I'm not scared of Roger Douglas. But none of this changes what matters.

* Of course scumbag isn't a particularly useful way to distinguish politicians. But both Derek Fox and Parekura Horomia are individual scumbags even without whatever they do in parliment; I don't like abusive men and I don't like slumlords.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Not many thoughts on the US election

Paul Henry (more than once) during today's TVNZ US election results:

96% of black voters voting for Barack Obama, that's huge who could have predicted that
Well everyone, ever. Gore got 90% of African American votes, Clinton and Kerry 80 something percent. I'd never seen Paul Henry in action before; the way he manages to combine racism and ignorance is painful to watch.

I was grateful whenever TVNZ cut to anyone but Paul Henry. Even though CNN's election wonks asked weird ass questions: "What are white women doing?" I was watching the election coverage at the time while eating Whittaker's dark almond chocolate, but that may not be a universal experience of white women.

And in other news I had $50 on this election and won. Which has put me in a good frame of mind about the American election. Not that I hate democratic presidents any less. But I have decided to have some hope for the crowds who have been waiting in line to vote, and turning up at rallies in massive numbers. That when the world that they're dreaming of is not delivered from the white house, at least some of them will educate, agitate or organise.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 14

October the 14th was a beautiful day last year as well. I remember sitting in the sun with my writing group, my hair still wet from swimming. There's a photo of me from that weekend, I look very young, very happy and very relaxed.

I am a historian and a storyteller, and an introvert - of course I look backwards. I have always marked anniversaries of joy, heartbreak or change. I find it hard not to as the seasons change; the length and direction of the shadows are so evocative.

This time round, in this lot of sunshine, I have been remembering not just what I was doing a year ago, but what Aaron Pascoe was doing a year ago. I imagine him making sure there were enough guns for each officer, and making sure all the door breaking down routinues were properly established. The sunshine becomes creepy.

It makes me want to write poetry (and I can't write poetry). As if by putting space around my words I'll be able to make them express more. I expect I will write more over the next four weeks. As each day passes I will think about what was happening a year ago. Remember my stressed, manic, passionate, worried, loving, confused, fighting self. I will remember the people around me, and that together we did extraordinary things.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What do we want?

It's hard not to feel a sense of achievement. I've marched demanding universal student allowances; I've got up at 6.30am to put leaflets in lectures to get other students to march for universal student allowances, I've sat in long meetings talking about protests we were going to organise demanding universal student allowance, I've occupied buildings demanding a universal student allowance.

Although I left university a long time ago, I haven't forgotten the issue. I organised in workplaces where there were heaps of student workers. I've seen the the power that the employers had, because students needed to work outside lecture times.

I know that a universal student allowance won't just make a difference to the children of the middle and upper classes. The current threshold is $46,000 - so no student who has two parents in full-time work (even if it only pays at the minimum wage) is eligible for the full allowance.* Tertiary education is a requirement not just for middle class jobs. There is a full-time year long course for machine sewing - a job that only just pays more than minimum wage at unionised workplaces.

I think this shows the value of being organised, even in the minimal way that students are organised.

But it continues a theme of the labour government, which is ignoring the beneficiaries and targeting those with work. This comes with explicit, and implicit, ideology that those who are in work are more worthy than those who are not. This is a dangerous ideology at any time, at a time of rising unemployment it's purpose is to continue to draw attention away from the structural reasons for unemployment.

Unlike Julie I don't see Labour as a force for good.** This doesn't change my vote, or my view of labour. But it makes me think about everyone who was part of the chain that struggled against privatisation of education, against fees, and for allowances, for almost 20 years. A chain that must be continued, no matter what happens after this election.

* one of my pet issues as a union organiser was that entitlements to means tested programmes were generally indexed to inflation, if they were indexed at all, not to the minimum wage. This has meant that the entitlement of workers to things such as the community service card has declined dramatically, till anyone on full time work is no longer eligible. This is true of other programmes such as income related rents, the disability allowance, and so on. The government was giving with one hand and taking with the other.

** Although I do think that universal student allowances is a feminist policy, as is any policy that attacks student debt. Because of the wage gap women tend to take much longer to pay off student loans than men, and the amount of money they end up having to pay back is a much higher proportion of their lifetime income. Eliminating the need to borrow to live reduces, but does not eliminate this inequality.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I'm not big on writing about the elections. But sometimes the jokes just write themselves. Those times usually involve New Zealand First in this Peter Brown:

New Zealand First says it will not welcome immigrants if they come from societies with a "class system" or where women are treated as subservient to men.
The obvious joke is then how did Peter Brown, who like me is an immigrant from England, get it?

But the more important question is that if you lived somewhere without a class system where women have free and equal lives, then why would you move to new Zealand?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bus Drivers

Last Wednesday morning, the Wellington bus drivers went on strike for an hour. GoWellington (which is owned by infratil) responded by locking the bus drivers out indefinitely and cancelling all services.

Obviously, none of this qualifies as news. As most people probably know the bus-drivers were completely solid in their resistance. As Graeme Clark said ‘People ask us how long we can go without pay; we say one day longer than they can go without buses.’ The bus drivers also had heaps of solidarity. Even though Morning report gave most time to the bosses, every single commuter they talked to supported the drivers. Unions swung into action straight away, organising solidarity meetings and collecting on the first day of the lock-out. Even in Auckland collectors raised $130 in less than an hour.

In the face of this, the bosses crumbled .

I didn’t write about it at the time, because I was too busy texting Wellington friends trying to find out what was going on – grumpy at being stuck in Auckland. I wanted to be down at the bus station; I would have even joined the picket line at ungodly hour of 5.30am (for an awesome first hand account check out Nick Kelly's on indymedia).

But I wanted to pay tribute to the strength and unity of the bus drivers, and the solidarity they received.

I also wanted to remind everyone that the struggle is not over. The lock-out has been lifted but there has been no settlement and the starting rate for Wellington bus drivers is still $12.76 an hour.

Dispatches from Week 3 - Operation 8 Depositions Hearing

Another week of the depositions hearing has passed. The last five days of the depositions hearing, endless, mysterious, boring, interspersed with nano-seconds of excitement. Unfortunately the suppression orders still stand so I can’t tell you about the nano-statements of excitement. Possibly they only seem exciting in comparison with read-back guy, who continues to mangle Te Reo in a way I didn’t was know possible. When a friend said his favourite readback-guy mispronunciation was: why-care-moan-a, I couldn’t figure out what the original word was supposed to be (waikaremoana).

The big question people keep asking me is whether or not the crown will meet the prima facie case on all the charges, or whether some will be dropped. A couple of the lawyers are optimistic that a prima facie case won’t be met against their clients.

But if someone is facing 30 charges and the judge believes that a prima facie case is made on just one of them, then the crown can just relay the other 29 at the next stage of the process (I think - this is something I have been asking lawyers about for a month, and don’t always get the same answer. But it appears to be the lawyers consensus of the moment that the crown can relay individual charges). So the lawyers aren’t necessarily concentrating on the prima-facie case, but on finding out information that will help them in pre-trial hearings down the track.

The big question is when it will finish. I even made up a song: “It’s the depositions hearing that never ends/it just goes on and on my friend/some people started investigating not knowing what it was/ and we’ll continue listening forever just because.”

But it looks possible that the hearing will end sometime this week. However, the judge has invited written submissions from the crown. After these are put in the defence will be given 14 days (or some set period) to respond, and only then will the judge make his decision. So while we may all be going home at the end of this week, we won’t know what’s happening for some time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dispatches for day 7 and 8 - once more into the breach of Operation 8 Depositions hearing

After a week in Wellington and a whole different court case, I'm back in Auckland for the second stretch of the depositions hearing. Tomorrow morning the bus will come to take us to court, and we'll be back into the three ring circus which is the depositions hearing.

On the last day of the last session the judge said that he would continue sitting until it was over. I'm not sure if that was a promise or a threat

I know I skipped dispatches of the last few days of court. The suppression orders made it very hard to give an accurate impression of what's going on. I could tell quirky anecdotes, and keep pepole updated of various signs that have been put up around the place. But there comes a stage when telling those stories gives people the wrong impression of what's going on in court. While I suspect I will be telling some of the stories from court for the rest of my life, it's more than funny anecdotes. The challenge for me is to give an accurate impression of court, without saying anything that happened in the court room.

So it'll just be one story, to cover those last few days, even though there are some funny anecdotes.

As I've said before, the registrar in court room eight has atrocious Maori pronunciation. Even above and beyond your standard Maori mispronunciation - I don't think he's pronounced a single Maori word right over the entire period (and he does the read-backs so it's a lot of words). On the last day, someone suggested to him that he could learn Maori pronunciation. It would only take him a few hours with a speaker to learn some of the words and basic principles. He replied "Yes, I know I get things wrong. I don't come from New Zealand. I think the good thing is that it makes me neutral."

Neutral is mis-pronouncing Rawiri Iti's name, but not Aaron Pascoe's.

I don't know how many dispatches there will be in the next few weeks of court, but I'll do my best to give people an impression of what's going on.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dispatches from Wellington 1a - Faifax contempt trial


"The Terror Files" - ten months ago the Dominion Post, Stuff and other Fairfax papers published several articles that were based on the affadavit that was used to get the search warrant for the raids on October 15th. In these articles they also published intercepted communications, in a random, cherry picked sort of a way (cherry-picking the cherry-picking - since search warrants dont' generally include the perspective people raided, or even counter-interpretations). Now, ten months later, they were being taken to court by solicitor general for contempt.

By now I'm used to the rhthym of court, so I knew that the first issue that was going to be addressed was media coverage and suppression orders (the reading of the charges didn't take three days this time). The judges order stated that the media were not able to report, directly or indirectly, intercepted communications or Aaron Pascoe's affadavit, and that either party could apply for more suppression orders in the hearing (and one other question and answer was suppressed, although not a very important or interesting one).

This was followed by the Crown opening. David Collins, the solicitor-general was acting for the defence. His main points were the prejudicial effect of the Fairfax articles, and the effect they would have on the jury pool. He went into much detail in the various ways this article created fear towards the defendants.

He also pointed out that this limited . He said that there are realistically only two defences under arms act charges - one is an identity defence and the other that you were using the firearms for lawful, proper and sufficient purpose (which I don't think is true, because surely as well as arguing it wasn't you, you can also argue that its not a gun, although that's a little beside the point). The solicitor general's point (and it's a good one) is that if the jury has half remembered intercepted communications that might mean that it'll be very hard for the defence to argue that there were lawful proper and sufficient purpose.

The argument of the solicitor general, that the communications were suppressed, they were illegally published (there's a law against publishing intecepted communications) and that they prejudiced a fair trial. With a little bit of bombasity about how judges, not newspaper editors should make decisions about fair trials.

The judges suggested that he didn't need so many steps. The combination of the bar on publishing any intercepted communications, and the suppression orders on those The fact that the communications were suppressed, coupled with the illegaility of publishing intercepted communications would be enough in itself to demonstrate contempt. There wasn't necessarily the need to prove that the right to a fair trial was put at risk.

I found it quite hard listening to some of this, because it's frustrating to hear people talk about things when you know more than they do. When asked when the bail hearings had happened the solicitor general didn't know if they'd all been completed by the day the article was published. Because I was in court I had to listen to people burbling about what might have happened, rather than list off the various days that people got bail which I know, because I've been paying attention (also the day they got bail? I'm not going to forget that day).

The first crown witness was a woman, who I think worked in the crown law office, but I didn't catch her name. She played some role in putting together the Crown's evidence, but we didn't hear what, or see the Crown's evidence. It was a disjointed court hearing, as the witnesses briefs were taken as read. This meant we only heard cross-examination, and we never heard the substance of what the witnesses were saying. The cross examination focused on nit-picking the level of circulation of Fairfax (the figures that had been given included the Sunday Star Times and Auckland community newspapers), as well as discussing other coverage of these events.

Then Mr Burns, the Crown Prosecutor in the Arms Act charges, took the stand. After his non-brief the solicitor general asked him some supplementary questions. These were mostly on clarifying some of the issues of fact, such as when the bail hearings were (of course asking me would have worked just as well). One of the judges had asked when it was decided that hte proceedings would be moved to Auckland. Mr Burns pointed out that it is only the preliminary hearings that have been moved to Auckland. There was some discussion about when the trial would happen, and he seemed to think that it could be before 2010 (which seems unlikely to me).

But the big news was that Mr Burns said that the Crown was considering laying additional charges of participating in an organised criminal group against some of those currently facing Arms Act charges. A quick perusal of Section 98a of the Crimes Act makes it clear that it'll be an uphill battle. An organised criminal group is defined as a group which has as one of its objectives either "obtaining material benefits from the commission of offences that are punishable by imprisonment for a term of 4 years or more" or "the commission of serious violent offences that are punishable by imprisonment for a term of 10 years or more." (Of course me first reaction was "I'll go on the stand to testify that you're not organised" - turns out that's not a legal requirement - legislators ruin all the best jokes).

It's such a bogus charge. If they had any reason to believe that anyone had committed serious violent offences (or minor violent offences, or property offences or anything which requires a concrete action), then they would have charged them ten months ago. But beyond the dubious Arms Act charges, they don't have anything, which doesn't stop them trying to punish the defendants any way we can.

Anyway back to court today; Hugh Rennie's cross-examination of Mr Burns mostly focused on issues that he explained in more detail in his opening remarks, so I won't go into any detail. In response to comments about confusing suppression orders, the judges asked Mr Burns if anyone from the media contacted the Crown prosecutors to clarify the situation with the various suppression orders, and Mr Burns replied that they hadn't.

Aaron Pascoe, the lead detective for Operation Eight was the last prosecution witness. The questions for him were mostly about the nature of the affidavit. He gave evidence that the version of the affidavit leaked was the version that was the version that was provided to defence lawyers on the 18th of October. There was also some discussion about the leaked version of the affidavit on the internet. Hugh Rennie implied that the affidavit was leaked on the internet before they got bail. I don't know whether he was being tricky, or if he was fact-free, but the affidavit wasn't leaked on the internet until after the Dom Post article came out. One of the reason I was reading the leaked affadavit was to evaluate the Dominion Post article, and see if any of the quotes came from anyone I knew.

That was all there was from the prosecution, although we didn't hear most of their case because it was in the briefs and bundles of documents that had already been produced.

Hugh Rennie's first argument was that the information published by Fairfax wasn't substantially different from publications that were already in the public domain. That Howard Broad, Helen Clark and Annette King (among others) had all made equally prejudical comments, which had to some degree relied on the intercepted communications. He's not wrong. I think my favourite bit was when he quoted the solicitor general's decision not to proceed with the terorrism charges which included a statement that solicitor general agreed with the police decision to investigate under terrorism legislation and that the raids had put an end to very disturbing activities. The judges didn't have much time for 'they did it first arguments', but Hugh Rennie succeeded in pointing out that Fairfax was somewhat of a scapegoat for the extraordinary media coverage and public statements from many people (which was in turn covering up how much of a mess operation 8 was).

He then made a rather spurious argument that the comments quoted didn't have anything to do with the Arms Act charges people now face. Which ignores the argument about a legal, sufficient and proper purpose defence that the crown had already made. But things got really complicated when he started discussing existing suppression orders that arose from bail hearings.

Those who were around at the time will remember that there were a series of bail hearings (I could probably give you the dates of most of them if I thought about it). At most of these bail hearings some intercepted communications were introduced, and then suppressed. Hugh Rennie was trying to argue that the suppression orders about the intercepted communications only arise if people learn about them from teh bail hearing. In this case they came from the affadavit rather than the bail hearing, and under those circumstances they weren't suppressed. This didn't sit very well with the judges - who pointed out that names are often suppressed at bail hearings, and it wouldn't be OK for journalists to find out the name from a different source and then go and publish anyway. At least part of the case will hang on this issue of whether or not there were suppression orders that covered the intercepted communications (Hugh Rennie is also arguing that Tim Pankhurst didn't know about the suppression orders - I odn't know if that's a defence).

Although that's not the only issue because possession and distribution of intercepted communications is also illegal under the Crimes Act. Therefore the Solicitor General doesn't necessarily need to rely on the suppression orders (and wasn't in his opening address).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Dispatches from Day 7 - Operation 8 depositions hearing

The police have been harassing defendants since the beginning of the depositiosn hearing. In the previous week the police have followed defendants into the toilets and making comments, and kicking the backs of defendants’ seats. But today the harassment was taken up another notch.

I was sitting in court, trying to keep awake when a supporter came up and whispered something I didn’t catch. But it was clear something had happened.

Before I got outside I heard one of the women who had come to support the defendants on the megaphone, talking about how a pakeha man had twice punched one of the wahine there, but she had been arrested.

I saw Bonnie, the partner of Watene one of the defendants, with her hands cuffed behind her back. I told the police she was breastfeeding a four month old baby, and they didn’t care. The police barely let her thirteen year old daughter talk to her mother.

It was up to the Auckland Central Police Station to wait for them to be released. The Wellington district police station only has one entrance, and criminals and citizens (as the police categorise them) come to the same front counter. But the Auckland Central Police Station makes the police’s views of the world more clear: there is the main entrance, but anyone who knows someone who has been arrested goes down to the basement to wait on stainless steel benches.

Watene had been arrested by a plain clothes police officer for supposedly scratching Aaron Pascoe’s car. The car had definitely been scratched, but there were several witnesses who saw the car scratched before Watene even got out of court. On top of that the only thing the Watene had in his hand was a sausage roll, which has limited potential as a way to wilfully damage a car (fear of food appears to be a recurring theme in this case – first avacadoes, and now sausage rolls).

Bonnie was twice elbowed in the head by police before being arrested for obstruction. It took almost two hours for her to be bailed. The police wouldn’t let a lawyer take her four month old baby into Auckland Central police station to be breast fed during this time.

Watene was not bailed from the police station, but taken back to court, where the crown opposed bail, on truly spurious grounds. After a tense afternoon, with hearings in both court rooms the judge granted bail at ten to five.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Dispatches from Day 6 - Operation 8 Depositions Hearing

As I mentioned in my last dispatch lots of children have been affected by the raids, and some of them are at court. One of those is a thirteen year old girl who was taken into a room away from her mother and strip searched during the raids. She has been doing fantastic drawings of Pascoe and liberation signs. Today, she challenged Pascoe as he went into court “He’s a terrorist, and a bad man.”

The depositions hearing has brought together some of the people who have been affected by the raids. To spend more time with people who went through the same things, last October and November, has made us stronger.

Otherwise the Crown’s case just drags on, and obviously I still can’t report on it. One of the reasons the depositions hearing is taking so long is that the judge has very little patience, and calls an adjournment for the slightest delay. Today the lunch break started half an hour early, rather than take the time to sort out the papers and get something done.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dispatches from Day 5 - Operation 8 depositions hearing

Outside of court the week ended with a bang. One of the kids turned six and so over lunch there was a birtday party outside courtroom 8. We had a cake, candles and party hats. The registrar (he who pronounces Tame to rhyme with 'same') muttered that there was no dignity in this court room. I'd say there was a lot of dignity in that court room - but not the sort the registrar would recognise.

As Friday was the last day of the week, and all the evidence is still suppressed, I thought I'd take some time to point out how much work goes into making it possible for all 18 defendants their whanau and supporters to come to court.

Te Tira Hou Marae has been an amazing base for the defendants. 13 of the defendants live outside of Auckland, and having accomodation, and a place to have hui has been vital. Defendants from outside Auckand have been able to come for a meal, and catch up on all the associating they've been forbidden from doing over the last ten months.

Feeding all the people who come to the marae has been done by an amazing team of cooks (and the curry for tomorrow night is already looking fantastic). Food is plentiful, thanks to all sorts of donations and fundraising efforts.

Roger the fabulous bus driver, has made getting to an from court incredibly easy for everyone. Not having to worry about trains, traffic or parking, makes everthing much easier. Thanks to Roger and to Civil Rights Defence for providing the bus.

The lawyers have been doing a fantastic job. I know I wasn't the only person who was worried about how well they'd work together, but they've been really strong in court. They understand that this case is about more than just the law. One lawyer has a poster for the international day of action on his desk. Another brought a present to the birthday party.

Finally, one of the most important jobs has been looking after the children. There have been up to a dozen children at court and the marae. Looking after them at court is stressful. Volunteers have taken the older kids on expeditions around Auckland, making it that much easier on their parents. At the time of the raids the partner's of two of the defendants were prgenant. These women have now given birth to baby freedom fighters in the months since. The work of those women, and their whanau looking after babies in such a stressful time, needs special recognition.

A special thanks to everyone who has donated money or attended (and particularly organised) a fundraising event. The koha from all over the world has made this difficult time much less stressful. The court case isn't just about convictions, but about punishing the defendants, with endless appearances and oppressive bail conditions. By taking some collective responsibility for the costs of this, we are fighting back against the police (and if all of this has persuaded you to contribute you can here).

Liberated box report: The kids had been putting in some good work on Friday; the sign that was left said "Tuhoe Liberators not Torrists".

Finally just thank you for everyone who has left comments on these reports this week.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dispatches from Court Day 4 - Operation 8 Depositions Hearing

The Crown Prosecutor is called Mr Burns. I think I would take more pleasure in this, if he was balder and had a long thin nose. He’s more smarmy, for some reason he reminds me of Grant Robertson (the labour candidate for Wellington central), even though there’s no much of a physical resemblance, and I’ve never met grant Robertson.

Anyway, today Mr Burns gave his opening address. I can’t report on most of what he said, because it related to suppressed evidence. But he did explain the crown argument on the nature of group possession. When they charge a group of a dozen people with possession of a firearm (or Molotov cocktails), they’re not necessary going to try and prove that each individual held it, or even saw it. But they’re relying on meeting one of three different thresholds. One is a common law provision that if a group has possession and control of an item, every member is legally in possession of that item (so every member of Peace Action Wellington has group possession of the Peace Action Wellington megaphone). The second is a Crimes Act provision which is that if a group has a common purpose and one person uses a weapon as part of that purpose then everyone is in possession of that weapon (I think the purpose of the group may need to be an illegal purpose, but I'm not a lawyer and don't know fo sure). The third is an Arms Act provision, which states if you are on any land and there is a weapon on that land you are assumed to be possession of that weapon unless you can prove otherwise (lawyers will have to explain how large the land can be - I don't think they can argue that the defendants were in te Urewera, and there were guns in te Urewera therefore the defendants were in possession of the guns. But sometimes it seems like they're trying to). The Crown just has to meet one of these provisions to prove that the defendants were jointly in possession of Firearms. If the Crown succeeds in doing this the defendants will have to prove that they had lawful, proper and sufficient purpose in that posessesion.

I’d never attended a depositions hearing before, so had no idea what a pain in the ass it was. The witnesses give their evidence, and every so often it gets read back to them to confirm the evidence is correct. So you hear everything twice, and it’s not exactly up to the entertainment value of paint drying the first time round.

There had been discussion yesterday about Aaron Pacoe’s fluency in Maori. If he can’t pronounce Ruatoki, he’s not fluent in Maori (even a little bit). The court registrar has similar problems (which is painful, as he reads back each page of the depositions). As a unionist I hold his employer responsible, they should pay for him to be trained in Maori pronunciation, so he doesn’t have a roomful of people mocking his every word. But Aaron Pascoe has no excuse, in fact he appears to believe that correct pronunciation of Maori words is evidence of Terrorist activity.

Court box watch – as has been mentioned before the box outside court has become a bit of a liberated zone. The Tino Rangatiratanga sticker, which had stayed up over Tuesday night, was gone by the time we came into court on Thursday. But by the end of the day there was a leaflet and hand drawn Tino Rangatiratanga flag in its place. There was some fine art work all over court on Thursday– artistic renditions of Aaron Pascoe and a pushchair with a beautiful sign saying “Baby Liberator”

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dispatches from Court Day 2 - Operation 8 deposition hearing

One of the things I didn’t explain properly yesterday was why the charges take so long to read. The charges are almost all jointly possessing firearms, between certain dates. On some dates each defendant who is charged on that date is charged with possessing the same half dozen firearms. Each time a charge is read the names of all the people who are being co-charged are listed. So the same list of names is repeated over and over again, in some cases over 100 times (and then again in Te Reo).

The only court business that happened on Tuesday was the reading of 7 more people’s charges. Four of those charges were also read in Te Reo Maori. By the end of the day the names, dates, and legalese had all slipped together into a strange drone, both in English and in Maori. There was some suggestion that the 24 year old Swiss Musician might want his charges read in his language, and people suggested his language was Swedish, Spanish and German (If they were going to be read in his language, it would be Swiss German, but they were just read in English).

At a time this boring, anything that happens seems fascinating. One defendent made a huge performance of his charges being read. He moved forward and looked over the shoulder of one of the media and noticed that she was playing solitaire. Not that I blame her.

The judge doesn’t notice much, but is very intolerant of what he does notice. Yesterday, when people finished having their charges read the audience applauded. The first two times the judge didn’t notice, but the third time he said that he wouldn’t tolerate the barracking and threatened to clear the court.

One defendant had not appeared yesterday, and when he was finally called the judge talked as if not putting the defendant back in jail was the most generous act he had taken all year, and then made insulting comments.

The police continue to sit in the back of court and harass the defendants who sit in front of them. The cops kick the back of the seats of the defendants, as if they were school kids.

Yesterday a 'drop the charges' leaflet somehow found its way inside the locked box by the court room which lists what's being heard that day. The security guards must have removed it, but today a tino rangtiratanga sticker had been stuck on the same box (and has yet to be removed)

On Wednesday the last lot of charges will be read, then the lawyers will argue about media and bail, then finally Aaron Pascoe will take the stand.

Dispatches from Court Day 3 - Operation 8 Depositions Hearing

The charges against the last four defendants were read on Wednesday morning, and only took a few hours.

The first good news of a day was that the crown agreed to a variation of bail that the crown agreed to. For the duration of the hearing, the defendants don’t need to report to the police station and they will be able to associate during the trial.

All of which is just common sense, as defedents are seeing each other every day in court, but it is a victory nonetheless. The non-association orders are causing real pain and hardship for the defendants some of whom are friends, whanau and comrades. Even for those that didn’t know each other the order is making it very difficult to organise their defence. That the crown is willing to drop the non-association orders for a month demonstrates that the orders are in fact there to punish the defendants. Under the Bail Act the only justifications for bail conditions are to ensure that defendants attend court, to prevent them tampering with evidence or witnesses and to prevent offending while on bail. If the defendents associate in September without it resulting in an 18 person crime spree, then it seems ridiculous for the crown to argue that the non-association orders must continue to prevent offending while on bail.

One major issue for the defence has been around translation. The judge has congratulated himself several times for allowing the charges to be read in te reo (or as he said in a slightly grumpy voice “in Maori, which is how it is referred to in the Maori language Act”). This is going to be an on-going issue as many police witnesses are going to attempt introduce Maori translations of terms that are under dispute. When discussing this Annette Sykes “Aaron Pascoe is going to introduce evidence of translations and I don’t know whether he is fluent in Te Reo.” Those of us in the peanut gallery giggled as we suspected he wasn't.

This was followed by lengthy arguments about whether the media will be able to publish the evidence in the depositions hearing. All the arguments about this were suppressed, and the arguments took up most of the morning, and the early afternoon. The judge then ruled that all evidence in the depositions hearing will be suppressed.

Unlike the arguments, his decision was not suppressed. The defence are going to argue that some of the evidence the crown has is inadmissable. If the media reported on the evidence and it was later ruled inadmissable then it would prejudice a potential jury. There was some discussion of only suppressing certain evidence, but this would have been very difficult for the defence logistically. This was a big win for the defence (and a loss by Aaron Pascoe, head of operation 8, because he was hanging out for the trial by soundbyte).

I will uphold this suppression order in these dispatches. So they will probably get shorter and more about the random anecdotes.

Then, just the crown were about to call Aaron Pascoe, and the depositions hearing was going to finally begin, the defence lawyers pointed out that they hadn’t had time to read his brief, and at 3pm the court was adjourned for another day.

It was a good day for the defence. With the bail conditions and suppression of evidence making things much easier for the defendants. But the depositions hearing hasn’t even begun yet – the struggle continues.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Dispatches from Court Day 1

I'm attending the Depositions Hearing for Operation 8. I'll be writing up a report most days and posting it here.

The court room we were assigned to had four rows of seats with six seats on each side. Theoretically forty eight people could fit in the court. But the third row of seats had restricted tape across them, as if it had been the scene of the crime, and signs say ‘No Seating’. We gradually sat down, leaving the mysterious third row behind. But then the moustached security guard, who is clearly a regular for Operation 8, came over. He explained that the judge had said that the first two rows were reserved for defendents, and the judge had ordered one row be kept clear. So the public were limited to the last row, and the police were already taking up half of that row, which left six seats for everyone who had come up

The first stage of the court hearing was supposed to be the reading of the charges. But the defence still hadn’t had the informations, so they didn't know which of the many different charges the crown were talking about they were actually going to pursue. Also the crown hadn’t provided the charges against in Maori, despite the lawyer’s requests. So, less than half an hour after court started a recess was taken to sort all this out.

Annette Sykes raised the fact that there were only 6 seats for whanau. The judge replied that the row of empty seats was for ‘security reasons’ and it had been decided and wasn’t going to change.

Another lawyer then mentioned that her client had trouble hearing what was happening, and asked whether it would be possible for the defendants to sit in the jury box and the media to sit somewhere else. The judge said that it had already been decided and it wouldn’t be possible to change it. Clearly it’s more important that the media can hear than defendants.

During the break they decided that there was a solution to the lack of space for whanau. Rather than have the defendants take up two rows, and then have one row blank, the defendants would sit on one side with the police behind them. The judge didn’t think the security row was necessary if the police were (where the public – who were entirely whanau and supporters of the defendants – had needed that protection from the scary defendants).

When things finally got started, a great performance was made of dropping a small number of charges. There was an attempt to drop an April 2007 charge against one of the defendants. This was quite difficult to do because he had never been charged with anything in April 2007 and was out of the country in April 2007.

The judge wanted to skip reading out the charges, but the defence lawyers insisted on it. The registrar began reading the charges against Emily Bailey. All the charges are joint charges, and the name of each of the co-accused is read out with each charge. This gave the registrar an opportunity to show off that he really can’t pronounce Maori names (which is understandable, because Maori people rarely come before the Auckland district court).

I was trying to listen past the mangling to figure out what the charges were, and they seemed to be the original charges people were arrested with almost a year ago (the charges change regularly). It took the lawyers and judge a while to notice. The judge sighed and told the lawyers to go off and sort out what the charges are. So after fifteen minutes we took the lunchtime adjournment (long hours they work in court).

During the break they’d found a Maori woman registrar to take over from the white man, so there was no amusement to be found from the mangling of the names. In fact there was no amusement at all. Just endless exhausting reading of charges, in two hours the court got through seven people’s charges. The endless drone would be a good cure for insomnia, and several people fell asleep, but wasn’t particularly enlightening.

The highlight of this was Annette insisting that Tame’s charges be read in Maori. Itwas no more interesting than them being read in English, but clearly pissed off the judge and police. We must take our pleasure where we find it in the process of being bored to death.

Tuesday will be more reading of charges, followed by the media demanding their right to sensationalise everything. Then, as a reward for sitting through this all, sometime this week we get to listen to Aaron Pascoe (head of operation 8) give his perspective on exactly how dangerous everyone is.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Trade Me

I have found the recent reports on my friend's disclosure amusing and distressing. Amusing, because the fears trotted out in the media are so far from reality. I've met most of the defendants; I know some of them well. I can guarantee that none of them are racing through the 25,000 pages of disclosure hoping to find trade me details. Even if they had that much spare time, I don't think any of them urgently need My Little Pony books.

Distressing, because the media have such a distorted image of the investigation. The Trade Me search was clearly a fishing expedition, given the number of accounts they got. The breach of privacy was the police's fishing expedition, rather than the release of this information to defendants.

The trade me accounts are the least of it. Even the leaked affadavit has names, phone numbers, addresses and text messages of dozens of people. The investigation went much further than the affadavit. The police invaded hundreds of people's privacy as they read their text messages and listened to their conversations. The warrants for all this were obtained under the Terrorism Suppression Act, to support charges that were thrown out as soon as they were tested. But the media don't worry about those people's privacy. Most of the people investigated as part of Operation 8 (the police's name for their giant fishing expedition) were Maori; all the trade me users on TV3 last night were white. Notions of who is an innocent victim, and who deserves to have their personal life dredged up by the police are pretty revealing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Te Wiki O Te Reo Maori

Maori language week was a while back now. While it was on I wanted to write a post about it. But I struggled with writing anything, since I don't speak Maori and I was worried about tokenism. But I really liked hearing more Te Reo, and had learned stuff through other people's tokenism. I even thought about giving my blog a Maori name, but didn't.*

But I've just realised what I was wanting to say. There was an air of self-congratulation. TV3 had a piece in Maori about Air NZ using more Maori words in their flights, and they might as well had a sign flashing "aren't we awesome" down the bottom, instead of the subtitles.

If you imagine back forty years ago, what happened last Maori language week, would have seemed incredible. But it's not the companies, and media outlets who deserve the back slapping that they're giving themselves. They didn't do this randomly, out of the goodness of their heart, but because of the unbelievably hard work that activists had put into fighting for Te Reo.

It is the work of those activists that should be remembered and celebrated, not just one week a year, but all the time. And the way you remember and celebrate the work of activists, is to carry it on.**

*I couldn't find a word for 'capitalism' in any of the on-line Maori dictionaries. I considered substituting Raupatu, as the necessary precursor for capitalism. But my blog is named after a random Joss Whedon quote, it doesn't make any sense in English (except for the extremely geeky), translating it would be useless. Plus there was the tokenism thing.

** On a complete tangent, which isn't big enough to get a blog post of it's own, but was annoying enough to write about. I went to see the documentary about Tigi Ness in the film festival. It was interesting, and included the famous footage from Dominion Road at the third test in 1981 where everyone stands up and starts throwing stuff at the police. Anyway this younger guy who was talking "they stood up, they fought back so we didn't have to." Which I found immensely frustrating, and completely the wrong way of looking at the history of activism. They stood up, they fought back, and so we have to honour them by continuing the fight.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Victim Blaming

It appears New Zealand is having a victim blaming weekend. I was hoping to write something a little more complex as I got back into the swing of blogging - the limits of an analysis of prejudice maybe, or just more about Joss Whedon. But no

Stuff headlines the article about a double murder in Auckland with Crime of passion at Auckland apartment leaves two dead. The article includes the following quote:

Sources said a 30-year-old Iraqi man walked in on "something he shouldn't" yesterday morning which led to a 2½ hour standoff with police.
I'm not even linking to the article on the inside page, which is describing how Kristin Dunne-Powell behaved before and after having her back broken by Tony Veitch. Guess what? It's not relevant.

Then Ethical Martini (whose ethics appears not to be above a little victim blaming) asks the vital questions, such as was Tony Veitch being blackmailed (nope not linking to that either). Got to love the passive voice, it's easier to hide the fact that you're victim blaming when you don't mention the name.

All this is, of course, sending a message. The same message that the woman who was raped by the English rugby players received. If you are abused by a famous man, do everything you can to keep it quiet, otherwise your every move will be evaluated and dissected, and you will be blamed for the abuse.

Can I make this absolutely clear:

It is never women's fault or responsibility when men abuse them.



Not even if she's drunk.


Not even then.


Dr Horrible's Singalong blog - Act 3 SPOILERS

When I say there are spoilers, I mean it. Go and watch Dr Horrible before you read this post.

I'm still very unsure how to read Dr Horrible's Singalong blog, and the thread at Feministe reveals that there are many ways understanding Dr Horrible's story.

As an origin story I appreciate it; I'd even say it was well done. Not just that there was a lot of the funny clever stuff that I'd expect (the appearance of Bad Horse was pure genius), but showing villains as having origin stories as well as heroes is a cool way of undercutting many of the tropes of an origin story.

I can also appreciate a straight political reading of the story (which is encouraged within the storyas both Penny and Dr Horrible directly discuss how to create change). I don't really mind that the wet liberal who gets sucked in by those in power dies (although not necessarily realistic, as a metaphor it shows the likelihood of that strategy working). I also don't disagree that nihilist, individualists often put their ego before the change they are trying to create and do harm without doing any good. But I don't think any of that says anything particularly substantial, without an alternative (The Chain, Chosen, Graduation, Anne, Prophecy Girl, Jaynestown - Joss does know the alternative).

One of the big questions for me is the depiction of Penny, as the only substantial female character (and it didn't pass the Bechedel test). I actually dislike the 'Joss writes strong female characters' idea, because it is so often referring solely to the female characters who are capable of beating someone up. As someone who was always more interested in Willow than Buffy and Kaylee than River, I appreciate his ability to write interesting female characters, more than his tendency to write so-called 'strong' ones. The idea that the most important female characters to depict are those that can beat up the men who are trying to abuse them, comes perilously close to victim blaming. It's very satisfying to watch Buffy killing Angel at the end of Becoming II, but the death of the robot at the end of I Was Made to Love You, is just as true statement about relationships.

So I have no problem with Penny dying, because women do die when men fight over them (this is from the New Zealand news media today, it's being called a 'crime of passion'). I don't even really have a problem that she is so one dimensional, as we see her through Dr Horrible's eyes, and it is clear that she is just an object to him.

The one thing I did object to was the shot of her in the laundromat with frozen yoghurt, presumably waiting for Billy. The idea is that Billy could have got what he wanted if only he was prepared to treat Penny like a person. If he'd talked with her, rather than built a freeze ray, she would have returned his affections. I really dislike that aspect of these sorts of geek stories, because sometimes people don't love you back. As written it plays into Billy's entitlement over Penny.

I do think that Penny's death and Dr Horrible becoming actually evil was the only way the story could end, and I can see the importance of it as a story. To take us in through the eyes of a low-rent villain, and have us believe him that he's actually the hero, until he's not.

But ultimately, it's not a story that interests me that much. A death ray may be a substitute for a rocket-launcher, but this story didn't have any emotional resonance. The only person whose path was real enough to resonate was Dr Horrible. His loneliness in the last shot, and even the hollowness of getting have truth in them, but for me that is undercut because Dr Horrible's feelings for Penny didn't resonate, and must be, on some level, creepy.

Even more fundamentally, I come back to Grace Paley - because this story was lacking both blood and money. Now Joss has always been kind of shaky on the material reality of his stories (which was what made Firefly so strong), but he's always written about family - actual and created. Without blood there is not heart to his story.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My last post on Tony Veitch

I think I'm almost done on Tony Veitch, and the media response. Well I could probably write many more thousands of words about everything that has made me angry, but it's time to start writing about other things (I have a really good post in my head about the truckies, but I'll probably never write it).

But one aspect of this that I don't want to leave uncommented on, is the faux surprise (or maybe it's real surprise, that's even scarier) of the media that TV presenters are abusive in their relationship. The implicit racism, and pig-ignorance about abuse in these statements was made clear by the Sunday Star Times with its description: "the kind of violence you'd associate with Once Were Warriors."

To recap: Intimate abuse happens everywhere, in Porirua and Khadallah, in council flats, mansions and your local activist house; by all ethnicities: Pakeha, Maori, Samoan, Indian, Tongan, Chinese, American, Vietnamese, Somali; by the richest, and the poorest and everyone in between.

Which isn't to say that these other factors don't change the dynamics of intimate abuse - they do. Kristin Dunne-Powell's (who has my full solidarity and support) financial position made it much easier for her to leave and survive. Those looking at stopping intimate abuse need to look at all sorts of factors

But first those who don't think about intimate abuse from one TV commerical to the next, need to acknowledge that it's not limited to the scary other.


And my very last comment (I hope) will be to quote something Tony Veitch said. Demonstrating that he can see the silver lining in breaking his girlfriend's back:

The one bright spot for me out of this, but the only thing that's kept me sane this week is that if everything hadn't happened I would not have learned lessons, I would not have gone to counselling. I would not have sat in front of a counsellor who was explaining ... it's almost like ... I remember coming home some days with revelations and I would learn stuff, and I would not have learned how to have a relationship and I would not have fallen in love and I wouldn't be married now. I would be alone.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog

I'm sure there are people out there who aren't aware that Joss Whedon has written an internet musical alled Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog. I guess it'd be inappropriate to describe these people as living under a rock, since they probably have very fulfilling lives. But I've been very excited about Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog since Joss first started talking about it during the writers strike.*

It was released at on Tuesday, the second part came out today, and the denouement will be available on Saturday.

I'm enjoying it so far. The acting is superb - Nathan Fillion is particularly funny as Captain Hammer the cheesy uphimself hero nemesis of Dr Evil. The dialogue is very clever, and the songs are fun. The superhero as villain and villain as character we empathise with isn't particularly original, but it's well done. I particularly like that Captain Hammer is a corporate whore who is in with the mayor.

But Joss can do better. Penny, Felicia Day's character, is shown entirely through Dr Horrible's eyes. While we're supposed to sympathise him, he is pretty much a textbook nice guy. And it has yet to pass the Bechdel test (in fact there has only been one woman on screen so far). So far the characters don't resonate in any but the most superficial way, because they have no depth. And we all know that the importance of resonance, and rocket launchers.** I'm hoping that the lack of both of these will be compensated for by the last part.

In the meantime watch Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog, but also read Sugarshock, which is stronger short-silly-Joss.

* It was so dreamy when Joss Whedon my favourite writer who I've loved for a decade, became Joss Whedon a militant union activist.

** That's from Joss Whedon's audio commentary on innocence (since I'm not sure that this post can get any geekier I won't worry about revealing that I have an audio commentary pretty much memorised)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


As a feminist either you can believe that there is the possibility that violent men can change, or you move to lesbian-feminist commune. I am sometimes uncertain about which option is more unlikely to work. But I've never liked communes so I remain an optimist.

I was going to write a long post on redemption, how it was possible, and why it didn't look like Tony Veitch. But Vic Tamati was on nine-to-noon this morning and demonstrated that in a way I never could.

I disagree very strongly with stargazer - who talks about accountability in terms of a conviction. There are many men convicted of assaulting their partner, or children, who just keep doing it. In this case a conviction would almost certainly lead to a jail term. I may have only seen the corridors and visiting rooms, but jail won't make anyone less abusive. By rendering abusive men powerless it perpetuates the ideas of power and control that feed abuse. External forces, like the court system, are not what's going to create change(although they do at times at as catalysts). What Vic Tamati did, and Tony Veitch didn't do, was talk about what he did without excuses, learn about abusive relationships, and work to help other men who are being abusive.

update I've edited the post because I misrepresented Stargazer's views.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dear 'The Standard'

You do not write about women very often. You have hardly a post about equal pay, reproduction or violence against women. When it was revealed that Tony Veitch, the only thing you had to say was "John Key sucks". However limited your analysis, you must acknowledge that Labour is not the cure to violence against women, and National is not the cause.

If don't have anything to say about violence against women, then that's ok. We each have a different focus, and no-one can write about everything. But if you have nothing to say, then stay silent. Please stop using women's actual lives and pain to score obscure points.

Tony Veitch

"I will talk to an employment expert about Tony Veitch's employment situation"
"So media expert, what implications does this have for TVNZ?"

Tony Veitch broke his ex-partner's back. The most important issues here aren't about employment or media, but abuse. Kristin Dunne-Powell, was always treated as tangential to the story, but quickly Tony Veitch's abuse also became invisible. The process stories analysing who would do what soon overtook anything substantive.

So I feel the need to talk about some basic facts about abusive relationships:

  1. Abuse and violence within relationships tends to escalate.
  2. Abuse isn't about losing control of yourself, but about gaining power and control over your partner.
  3. After a relationship has broken up is the most dangerous time for women in abusive relationship.

The English Rugby Football Union

I've been sick, and there's been so much horrific stuff happening, that every time I've wanted to write I've felt outrage paralysis. So I'm going to go a couple of quick updates on the worst aspects (then I hope to get to a long post of outrage at the Maori party, and less outraged post about the possibilities of redemption, and how it doesn't look like Tony Veitch or Derek Fox).

My first object of outrage is the English Rugby Football Union:

It is up to women who have been raped to use the coping strategies that are best for them at the time. The decision to make a statement, or not make a statement, needs to be based on what she needs. To force women into a particular path is to revictimise her, by giving her no control over her reaction to being raped.

That an official representative of the English rugby team would see fit to comment on how a rape survivor deals with her assault shows that it's not just a team with four players that are rapists, but an institution that upholds rape culture.

No-one is saying this. Even the women's refuge spokesperson on Checkpoint, just talked about the fact that the English rugby players hadn't co-operated with the police when they were in the country, which equates the rapists and the women they raped.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Women? Not the winner on the day

I'm don't follow rugby; I'm not an All Black supporter. I understand that there are pressing issues facing those who are, such as the rotation policy (hell I'm impressed that I know what that means). But, right now, there is a more pressing issue. This is the statement that Graham Henry gave about the English Rugby team:*

I don't know what the details are, but I know there's a bit going on. You don't want any sporting team to be going through those situations. You live in that sort of life yourselves – in the international sporting environment. I think you've got a lot of sympathy for people who go through that situation. Certainly you just like to be supportive.
Who is he supporting? What is the situation?

There are two ways to parse his statement. Either he's saying that there's not possibility that the woman was raped, and being accused of rape is part of the international sporting environment. Or he's allowing for the possibility of rape, but he's supporting them anyway.

Neither of those options should be acceptable. That the coach of the All Blacks can say this, and no-one mentions anything except about the match tomorrow night, shows just how far we haven't come. As Anna McM says, rugby culture in our society has a large role in upholding rape culture. The question I have, particularly for those who play or watch rugby, is how do we change that?

Note for the comments: I will be moderating this thread hard. No rape myths, no misogyny, nothing about the woman involved.

*For those who don't know the police adult sexual assault team want to question four England players.

Irony much?

From Winston Peters:

"If you want commitment and drive and ambition to work in a greater collegial or community sense, then you must place your faith in the women of this part of the world, rather than the men who ... spend most of their time parading around like peacocks and do no work when it matters."

Mr Peters said it was not his intention to lecture Pacific Island countries, but New Zealand was entitled to ask "some pretty simple questions like how come all these useless males are running the show".

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Electoral Politics Friday: Why Chris Trotter and the Standard are full of shit

I do have a lot to say about the recent High Court decision on abortion. But I lost my voice (not metaphorically I've had a cold), and I'm trying to recover. So you'll have to wait for my own thoughts. What I have to respond to straight away is the attempt, by smug labour-party men to use this as political point scoring.

Chris Trotter wrote:

So, all of you young, confident women of the 21st century urgently need to pause and reflect upon what is happening – especially all you young, confident women thinking of voting for the National Party.

The Standard quoted this approvingly and added:
A National government would change the direction of this country, away from social reforms to greater conservatism and even regression on social issues. National opposed civil unions, prostitution reform, paid paternal leave, s59, and every other social reform.
Notice the sleight of hand, the ease at which they move away from talking about a women's right to decide whether to go through pregnancy. In order to pretend that the labour government has supported women's right to an abortion, they have to avoid talking about abortion. Because the last substantial changes to our abortion law were passed in 1978, under Muldoon. The reason that Justice Miller can say that there is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions, is that our abortion law was designed to make most abortions illegal. The people who wrote our abortion law, were the sort of people who argue that rape shouldn't be a criteria for abortion, because then women will claim to have been raped in order to get an abortion.

Helen Clark and Phil Goff spoke out about how bad the law we have now is back when it passed, but they haven't done anything about it, since they had the power to.* Sue Bradford, Sue Kedgley, Keith Locke, Ruth Dyson, Margaret Wilson, Marianne Hobbes, Maryann Street - they were prepared to fight this battle in the 1970s, before they got into parliament, they were feminists (or feminist supporters) then. And it's not just those who are in parliament now the numbers have been there for at least the last nine years, others had their chance: Jonathan Hunt, Matt Robeson, Laila Harre, and especially Phillida Bunkle.

Any one of those MPs could have written a private members bill that ended this. 18,000 women every year have the stress of jumping through certifying consultant hoops to get an abortion. First trimester abortions become second trimester abortions, because no-one gives a damn about those women. And now things may get worse, the Abortion Supervisory Committee may tighten the screws on certifying consultants, the hoops may get higher and the. None of this would have happened if any of the MPs who believe that women have a right to choose whether or not to end their pregnancy had acted on their beliefs.

Despite this Chris Trotter and The Standard are still trying to use abortion law as a reason to vote Labour. If we're not good, if we don't do what they want, things will get worse. But if Chris Trotter or The Standard really cared about women's control of their bodies, they would have said something before now. They would have spoken up for the hundreds of women each week who go through the certifying consultant process. They weren't prepared to fight for something better than the bad system that we've got now. Chris Trotter doesn't even care about abortion enough to get his fact rights, arguing that 1978 was the year women won the right to safe legal abortion in New Zealand - in 1978 there were 100 women a week who had to fly to Australia to get safe legal abortions.

* Twenty years ago, when she was Minsiter of Health, Helen Clark proposed a bill that would allow all doctors to be certifying consultants. She gave up pretty quickly and hasn't tried anything since.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Her words...

One of the women that Brad Shipton raped was interviewed on Nine to Noon yesterday about the parole board report.

It's an incredible interview, well worth listening to. She reminded me of the worst sentence of the parole board report, which I didn't write about yesterday:

He is said to be low risk of sexual offending and if he were to sexually reoffend, it is likely that this would involve a sexual assault on an adult woman in the context of a brief sexual liaison.
I can't make that statement make any sense, and yet it's still unbelievably offensive and ignorant.

The legal process has taken a huge toll on this woman, but what is most clear from the interview is the wisdom that she has from experience, and the strength of her analysis of rape.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Brad Shipton is a rapist

I find it hard to write about the parole report on Brad Shipton, or the media's coverage over the last few days.

"Should Brad Shipton be in jail?" "Do I want Brad Shipton to be in jail?" "Am I glad that he's going to remain in jail?" I can't answer those questions, haven't been able to months now. I keep on meaning to explore my ambivalance here, but I don't.

On top of that, I'm deeply suspicious of Brad Shipton's attitude towards the parole board. The way he treated women shows him to be a deeply manipulative person, who cares nothing about anyone else's feelings and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Bob Schollum was denied bail, at least in part, because the parole board decided that a rapist who claimed that rape was consensual, was a danger to rape again. To see Brad Shipton's contrition in front of the parole board as anything other than a cynical ploy to try and get released, requires far more faith in Brad Shipton's integrity than is warranted on the evidence.

But I still want to talk about the parole board decision (which is available in full here and worth reading, because the Sunday Star Times article on it bore almost no relationship to the report), because it reveals quite a bit about judicial thinking about rape.

Some of it is really good. The most quoted part of the report says:

He said he was sorry for what the victim went through and later went further and said that he had ruined her life. He acknowledged he should not have put her in that position and he should not have taken his colleague Mr Schollum along with him. He acknowledged that she was possibly intimidated by them. He confirmed that he did not ask the complainant if it was okay to have sex with her or for more than one person to have sex with her, and that wearing the police uniform was despicable. He said looking back on his whole life, which he has reflected on since being in prison, has been full of disgraceful, disgusting behaviour.

In the Board’s unanimous opinion, what he described of the event was, in our view, one of rape.
I think they have laid this out very clearly; that even in his own version of events, it is clear that not only did she not consent, but that there were so many factors that made it impossible for her to give meaningful consent anyway.

While I was impressed with the parole board's analysis, I think the analysis of the psychologist was deeply problematic:
Suffice to say that that report outlines the details of the offence and Mr Shipton’s infidelities and involvement in group sex. At the time of writing the report, the psychologist was told by Mr Shipton that he denied the offence and that he had not accepted the jury decision. He thought his behaviour was immoral and unacceptable but not illegal. He told the psychologist that he had a bad jury and biased Judge and that he was very bitter and angry following the Court decision. He was able to identify risks in the future such as a situation of indulging in promiscuous behaviour and not being faithful to his partner would be risky for him.
To me, what is so worrying about this, is that the psychologist appears to have accepted Brad Shipton's rationalisation that the problem was infidelity and group sex, and not lack of consent. But Brad Shipton clearly can't identify consent, so he's as much risk to a partner, as he is if he's having sex with other people. In fact, when asked in the dock, how he knew that the woman he raped consented he replied "the same way you know with your wife." That a psychologist report doesn't just not challenge, but goes along with, a moral view that condemns group sex and unfaithfulness, rather than centreing on consent, shows the very limited understanding our justice system has about rape.*

The report also indicates that Brad Shipton wasn't eligible for intervention programmes. I don't see prison as a way of eliminating rape, but it is clear that they're not even trying.

*Lets all curl up and die of not surprisedness

Monday, May 26, 2008

Abolishing prisons would also solve the problem of drugs in prison

From NZ Herald

Corrections Association president Mr Hanlon said the `P' could have been thrown over the prison wall, though it was more likely to have been smuggled in by a person.

"One way to help prevent it being smuggled in is to stop contact visits," he told The Sunday News.

"It sounds extreme but no contact, no pass-on contraband."
When I read this, I am back in the visiting rooms of Rimutaka, Arohata, A-CRAP and Auckland Region Women's Corrections facility. I could describe each of them to you now, and the pluses and minuses of the different visiting systems.* But most vividly I remember the contact. The joy in that first hug, and how much I tried to load into the last, the need to touch frequently in between to prove that we both existed.

I can't even begin to imagine what non-contact visits take away from prisoners. I don't think I can imagine what it would have taken from me.

This is not unionism. It's not any union's business to tell the boss how to do their job better - particularly this job. I'll support CANZ's claims for more pay and better staffing ratios. But the more they make the job of their union to make life worse for prisoners, the further they get from unionism that I can recognise, and the closer they get to the police association.

* Taking the best from each of them would be Rimutaka's processing of visitor approvals forms, the Wellington region's booking system, Auckland Women Region Corrections Facility's visiting hours, A-CRAP's visiting area (it had tables, and the guards didn't come around and give you stupid petty orders all the time), and Rimutaka's visiting room location (you could see Pukeko out the window sometimes). It's hard to figure out which guards were least likely to steal into visiting time with their own lateness and disorganisation (twice a visit started twenty minutes late, and you can be damned sure it still ended on time). I think it might have been Arohata. But it'd be by a slim margin.

I hate prisons so much.

Talking of people killed by capitalism...

Folole Muliaga's daughter gave evidence at the inquest of her mother last week (see here although the link will break soon). The daughter talked of the way she was treated by hospital staff, who discharged Folole Muliaga because her bed was needed, and didn't tell the family how to care for her.

We were told that we should eat lots of vegetables. I found this lecture difficult to take because we were made to feel like failures and to blame. While I found these lectures very upsetting I was very polite and nodded my head.
The nurse who gave these lectures didn't ask what the Muliaga family ate, before telling them what was wrong with their diet.

The idea that we can all control our own health, if we have the right 'lifestyle' runs strong in our society. The underpinnings of this idea can be challenged in so many ways. But I think we need to reject the underlying ideology and see that the blame that Folole Muliaga's daughter felt isn't incidental to this idea, but it's raison d'etre. We're supposed to be distracted from all the other reasons why poor pacific island immigrants die in South Auckland, and blame the woman herself.

Foloe Muliaga's death is a tragedy for so many reasons, but the hospital system's culpability shouldn't be ignored, just because of the horrific role played by the power company.

Note about comments Comments are also closed on this thread, until the right wing idiots go back to where they came from.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tiny, tiny babies

I want to be really clear that I was relieved when I heard that Chris Kahui was found not guilty.* I've no idea who killed the Kahui twins,** it may have been Chris. But iff someone had gone to jail for their murder that wouldn't have made that person any less likely to be violent towards children in the future, and it won't stop another caregiver of a small child doing violence under stress. It might have served as punishment, but whoever killed two babies of their own family is punishing themselves already. All that's left is vengeance, and no-one has a right to claim vengeance in those babies names.

I do have a point I want to make, now that I've made it clear that I am not calling for a different verdict. From the very beginning, the defence painted Macsyna King as guilty, and they emphasised again and again what a bad mother she was. They talked of her going out with her sister, leaving Chris Kahui alone with the twins. This is from the summing up:

The twins were not victims of a one-off assault but had historic injuries, and it was "suspicious" their mother was not aware of these.

The Crown had accused Kahui's defence of blackening Ms King's reputation, but Mrs Smith said Ms King, through abandoning her other children and her drug use, had done that all by herself.
I don't think this defence would have been used or useful if the genders had been reversed. If hypothetical-Macsyna had been standing trial for their murder, then she would have not been able to use the fact that hypothetical-Chris had gone out partying all night, abandoned previous chidren and not noticed previous injuries to portray him as guilty. What is almost unforgivable in a mother, is almost acceptable in a father.

Note on Comments: I got linked to by a couple of obnoxious right-wing blogs so I've turned off the comments on this post.

* I want to remind people that Chris Kahui spent several months in jail, while he was unable to get bail. During this time he was in physical danger, and so was kept in segregation, which would have meant 23 hour lock-down. The prominence, and swiftness, of the 'not guilty' verdict, doesn't seem to have led to a discussion about how he has already been punished.

** That is, which person inflicted the injuries. Because capitalism and colonialism played a large part in those babies deaths.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Police conduct

As everyone knows, at this stage, the news police code of conduct doesn't mention abusing your power to rape women. Despite the direct line of causation between police officers using their power to rape women and their being a police code of conduct in the first place.

They didn't have to stop police officers raping women; they didn't even have to care that police officers were raping women; they just had to look like they cared about police officers raping women. And they failed.

But wait, they have an explanation:

A spokesman for police headquarters said: "Although the code does not specifically refer to inappropriate sexual behaviour, the code does cover such activity."

It contained a clear reference to "respect for people and property".
People AND Property, I'm guessing they included both, because there are a fair number of police officers who aren't sure whether young women are property or people.

Monday, May 12, 2008

To become skinny find a woman to cook for you

This is an image from the Icarus Project, a radical mental health support network. I saw it when it was reprinted in a local zine (more on that later): You can find a larger version here. [Image description: It's a poster headed taking care of the basics. It is divided into 5 parts: eating, sleep and rest, exercise, schedule and herbs, meds etc. Each has a cartoon drawing, half with people who are doing things in a way that is portrayed as unhelpful, the other half with people who are doing things in a way that is portrayed as helpful.]

I wish I was disappointed; I wish I expected more of so-called radical organisations. But no, when trying to illustrate unhelpful eating patterns for depression they show a fat person eating a burger and fries, and they contrast this with a thin people eating a home cooked meal served by a woman (the headline is my alternative title for the Eating Well illustration).

The illustration is not radical. Fat-hatred is not radical. Food-hatred is not radical. People can pretend that their disgust at a burger and fries* comes from their dislike of multi-national corporations. But their disgust at a fat body is in plain view.

* Which as far as meals when you're depressed go seems pretty good to me. It has protein, carbohydrates and fat. It will fuel your body.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Tribute08 is 'A Vietnam Commemoration honouring veterans' and their families' contribution to New Zealand'. It is being held over Labour weekend in Welling and it's symbol looks like that:A poppy and a Pohutakawa - two flowers that are not native to Vietnam.* But then neither were the New Zealand troops that went over and killed Vietnamese people.

I don't understand why I even have to write that.

Vietnam Veterans are in a shitty position. They were sent to kill and to be killed in a war the government couldn't sell. They come home, and their health has been damaged by Agent Orange (and the general war-like tendancies of war). I completely support the work of Vietnam veterans to hold the government to account for the health effects of Agent Orange. But that doesn't make what happened to them a 'contribution' that needs to be 'honoured'.

These sorts of weasel words cover up the horrific reality of war, that's what they're designed to do. Vague patriotism covers the important questions ("what the hell were we doing there?"). If those questions aren't asked then it's all the easier for the government to do it again and tis government sent troops to Afganistan and Iraq.

*I'm not a poppy expert. Maybe some poppies are native to Vietnam. If so I really don't think the RSA red paper poppy grows there naturally.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Electoral Politics Friday: The Greens encourage the comodification of water

It's election year so of course the greens are amping up the Moral Panic about food.* This time they've surveyed food to see what they have for sale. The list is full of the usual breathless, random, dividing of food into good and bad (Muesli bar good, chips bad). The discussion on what's available in food canteens has always seemed ridiculous to me, and completely ignores some basic facts about school lunches, and seems to want people to buy things from school that they can make at home (like sandwiches) rather than selling things at school which it's harder to bring from home (like pies). I'm all for getting profit making businesses out of providing food in schools. I'd support the provision of free lunch (and breakfast) in schools. But since this is about moral panic rather than food supply, that won't even get mentioned.

The extent this is about moral panic was made clear in the discussion on drinks. They tell us that 44% of schools sell water and 44% of schools don't sell water, but the 'good' news is the number of schools selling water has gone up. Every single school should (and I'm sure does) have all the water kids can drink for free. It's obscene that schools selling water to kids, and that anyone would laud them for doing so. Even if the greens don't care about commodification, they should care about all those plastic bottles.

* Frogblog couldn't discuss GST on Food without listing food sins:

It’s hard to develop a graded GST system without grey areas. E.g. Should the following foods be in or out; fast food, imported luxury items, stuff nutritionalists say we already eat too much off such as dairy and fats?
Although they were hardly alone in this. It's really depressing that a response to food going up is greeted by an extended discussion which makes it clear how much society doesn't like food, or the poor people who eat it (if I had a piece of KFC, for everytime that KFC had been used as an example, then I'd have enough KFC for a KFC party. And at that party I'd rant about how unsubtle a way it is to hate and blame poor brown people.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Their stories

Brad Shipton's parole hearing is happening at the moment. Louise Nicholas, Donna Johnson and another woman that had been raped by Brad Shipton asked to be heard by the parole board. The parole board refused to let them speak.

These women weren't allowed to tell their stories. They weren't allowed to stand up and say "Brad Shipton raped me. Not a day goes by where I don't think about it. He could leave what he did behind, until I was just a number in his notebook, but it will never leave me." Maybe they would have said something very different, but they didn't get a chance. Their experiences weren't considered relevant by the parole board.

The woman Brad Shipton was convicted of raping was able to give evidence at the parole board, but she hasn't been given copies of what the court said about her experience.

I may be deeply confused about whether or not Brad Shipton should get parole. But the casual way women's lives are being thrown about by the system, demonstrates that there is no fundamental conflict between feminism which honours the experience of women who have been abused, and feminism which wants to tear the prison down. Our justice system treats women who have been abused, and their stories, as peripheral to the actions that are taken about that abuse.

For writing about what a response that centred on those who had been hurt, rather than on the Brad Shipton's of this world, I recommend this article.

Monday, April 28, 2008

This is not what solidarity looks like

I was disgusted by this article in the Sunday Star Times:

OPPOSITION IS mounting against junior doctors, with some top officials saying they are too eager to strike and their union's figurehead, Deborah Powell, wields unreasonable power over health services.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly has questioned the Resident Doctors' Association, saying it has a narrow power base under Powell, who focused on industrial negotiations and failed to work with the rest of the health sector, which could avert strike action.
The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists has made similar comments:
Senior doctors are also angry, saying the RDA's strike action "is doing little to defend the important principle of the right to strike"
The right to strike isn't a principle that you defend by voluntarily limiting the way you strike. The only way to defend the right to strike is to go on strike.

Helen Kelly, and the senior doctors, are weakening the union movement's ability to strike, because they're implying the strike shouldn't be supported because of the how the leadership operates, the bargaining tactics, or that the union isn't doing enough to work with employers to improve productivity. These are all arguments that employers, the government and media have, and will, use against striking workers, even those who belong to the CTU. It's not that long ago that the Slum Post implied that the Progressive Lockout was part of Laila's grand plan to run for CTU President.*

When it comes down to it you're either the sort of person who would wear a NUM sticker and secondary picket, or the sort of person who would argue about the ballot procedures use (That's a reference to the British Miners strike of 1984/5 for more information see here for a start). The new president of the CTU is clearly the latter. Unfortunately, I'm not surprised.

* It really wasn't, for so many reasons.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Possibly they mean 'Lest we Remember'

I don't understand ANZAC Day. Or rather, I don't understand how the media and government get away with doing what they're doing to the events at Galipolli.* Every year there's endless talk of 'heroes', 'sacrifices', and 'our freedoms' and it's complete nonsense (If Chris Trotter sees through your rhetoric, it must be pretty thin). There's no way what happened on April 25th 1915 can sustain any of the meaning that they repeatedly try and give it.

There have been some voices challenging these ideas. Lest We Forget is a new website that has profiles of peacemakers, put up specifically for ANZAC day.

From Alastair Reith in the The Spark

Corporal Jack Cottam was 29 years old when the bullet hit him. He was one of the first to die at Gallipoli, killed on the first day of action. The day he died is now celebrated in Australia and New Zealand as Anzac Day, and perhaps no other day on our calendar is surrounded by as much emotion… or as much bullshit.

Every year we are told that the young men whose lives were snuffed out at Gallipoli died gloriously for our freedom. We are told that the “liberties” we supposedly enjoy in New Zealand today exist only because of the sacrifice of these soldiers. The message is that the soldiers’ deaths were worth it, and that the cause they died for was just.

There is no nice way to say this: it’s all lies.

War about territory, not freedom
From indymedia:
With the continuing support of the New Zealand Defence Force for the neo-colonial occupations in Afghanistan, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste and the corporate media’s continuing regurgitation and uncritical acceptance that New Zealand is playing a progressive role, the role of alternative media remains to keep people informed of the hidden realities of the “war on terror”. As ANZAC Day 2008 approaches and the media echoes the insidious calls by the New Zealand Defence Force for, “New Zealanders to show their support for our current troops” it’s worth remembering that the corporate media is a critical tool in ensuring that the US-led and New Zealand supported global system of colonialism and imperialism encounters no criticism or dissent at home.
Deborah is an atheist on ANZAC day:
And what’s all this ceremonial about? Commemorating in particular the members of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps who died at Gallipoli, and in general, all the New Zealand and Australian soldiers who have ever died in service. Gallipoli was the most wretched affair, young men sent to assault a beach defended by steep hills, and tens of thousands of young men dying, Turkish, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, British, in both defence and assault, all to no good purpose at all, in that most futile of wars, the misnamed Great War.
As is Idiot/Savant
Oh, we should remember the dead, and the maimed, and the broken and brutalised, the victims of stupid aristocrats and venal politicians - but as a warning of what happens when we surrender to militarism, jingoism, nationalism and greed. And the message we should be taking from the events at Gallipoli 93 years ago is not how noble and glorious their "sacrifice" was - there's nothing "noble" about dying to extend someone else's empire, nothing "glorious" about killing people, and nothing great about being offered up as a calculated sacrifice for butter exports. Instead, we should be remembering that it was bloody and stupid and pointless. But above all, we should be vowing "never again": never again will we fight other people's wars, and never again will we let our politicians lead us into them. Otherwise, we might be seeing a lot more names on those monuments
I was talking about ANZAC day with two young boys. They'd spent the day playing war. The older, who is eight asked me if I knew about the Christmas truce. I said that I did. He said "At Christmas, the soldiers sang Christmas carols and stopped fighting and gave each other presents and played soccer with each other."

* The Green party appears to have joined in. This is what they have to say:
Anzac Day is the one day of the year set aside to remember those who have served in the armed forces around the world. I’d like to add kudos for those in the emergency services, the VSA and those who volunteer at home in places like the City Missions, feeding hungry kiwis. However, today is the day for our men and women in uniform, their friends and family.
With an oh so touching photo of Russel Norman laying a wreath at some service. I don't know which is worse, that people who used to know better have come to believe that stuff. Or that they know how fucked up ANZAC day commemorations are and go along with it for some vote pandering.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Belated report on the Labourt party conference

At the protest outside the Labour party conference, there were banners, placards, noise makers, protesters, leaflets and buckets labeled 'Koha for those affected by the Oct 15 police raids'.

Mike Williams put a $1 in the bucket as he went past.

Labour party conference demos are always weird. I know a lot of unionists and student politicians, and there were quite a few of both groups going in. There were people I'd been on picket lines with, one person I'd been arrested with, people I'd had some fun with, people I actually quite like, and one person who had been so amazingly generous and kind to me, during the raids themselves, that I disappeared when he was going in and out. Obviously there were also a fair number of people for whom 'capitalism's lackeys with blood on their hands' is a good a description as any (and some of the people listed in the last sentence also belong in this sentence).

There's been a surprisingly coherent debate on indymedia* about the protest, and particularly how to relate to labour party delegates. Annette King, Minister of Police, is clearly the enemy and should be treated as such. As are Labour Party MPs, and the Labour party bureaucrats. But with the delegates themselves, things do get a bit more complicated.

Simple Man has described the congress attendees. Although I think I'd be more generous than he is of the political potential of the delegates.** The only response I got from any of the delegates was 'But John Key will be worse'. I'll write more about this tommorrow, electoral politics Friday. But if that's the best that labour party delegates can do, they've conceded all our arguments, and made it clear that they want a better world than this one.

The debate on indymedia focuses on the political implications of calling labour party delegates 'scabs' and 'scum'. I think the word 'scab' has a very specific meaning, and it should keep that meaning. None of the delegates were strike breaking, and so scabs is innaccurate. The problem with 'scum' is that it's really inane and I think the focus should have been, and generally was, on the actions of the government, not the ordinary delegates.

Of course we wouldn't have changed a single delegates minds with the protest (except to make people more hostile). I don't have a problem with that; I think it's impossible to treat the government as the government, and also politically engage the delegates. The last place I would expect to be able to convince a labour party delegate that the labour party is fucked is a labour party congress.

* Something has gone seriously weird at indymedia, because there are at least two other threads where something resembling a discussion is taking place, which is just about

** For instance he argues:

Take the Terrorism Suppression Act, legislation several people in Labour claim that many party members disagree with (a claim I don’t believe).
I'd be fairly sure that at least a sizeable minority would disagree with the TSA. After all opposing the TSA is CTU policy, and I think most party members do see themselves as to the left of the party on issues like this. Whether they'd do anything about it is another matter.