Saturday, December 29, 2007

Holding Up Half the Sky

A few weeks ago, Jacob Zuma was named the new head of the African National Congress. This is part of a larger struggle in South Africa against the policies of the ANC, which has been carrying out a neo-liberal agenda ever since it gained power. Zuma is the left-wing candidate; Zuma's supporters sang Lethu Mshini Wami (bring me my machine gun). I haven't read much discussion of this on the blogs I read, which surprised me. I don't know enough about South African politics to offer any analysis of the ANC. But I wanted to comment on the discussion of Zuma's election, or the lack of it. There's definitely been more attention among the socialist blogs I read than the feminist blogs, and the analysis is a little bit like the paragraph above. From Lenin's Tomb:

Zuma is far from the ideal man to lead such a fight, burdened as he is with corruption charges over bribes from a French arms company, and he is actually doing his best to present his policies as pro-business. He is in all probability an opportunist who has harnessed a unique chance based on the unrest. However, the fact that he has successfully channelled the energy of this revolt into a leadership bid which may lead to him taking power in the ANC (but not the country) is itself significant. And however disappointing Zuma is likely to be (Chavez, he ain't - even Chavez isn't always Chavez), the very fact of ousting the wretched Mbeki may give further confidence to the already insurgent working class.
There's something missing from these stories. Zuma is a rapist. He was acquitted - they always are. But in 2005 he raped 31 year old woman who was a friend of the family. I wrote about the trial last year:
The trial sounds hideous, and familiar. She was put on trial and her sexual history, including other times she had been raped, was put into evidence. When Zuma took the stand he argued that she consented by wearing a knee-length skirt and complaining that she didn't have a boyfriend: "She had never in the past come to my house dressed in a skirt. Including times when I was living in Pretoria. When she came to me in a skirt after those talks I referred to earlier on, well, it told me something."
This has been treated as a side-note by many different people. From AP Zuma was acquitted of rape last year, but could still face bribery charges in a multimillion-dollar arms deal. From WSWS "Zuma was sacked from office as deputy president by Mbeki and then faced a further trial on rape charges last year, in which he was acquitted."

Maybe it's just that the New Zealand left has developed some clarity on these issues, but if a powerful man is accused of rape and is acquitted that doesn't mean he's not a rapist. It means he is a rapist.

The inability to call a rapist a rapist displays an indifference to rape as a political issue. When asked in 1999, 1 in 3 Johannesburg women said they had been raped in the last year - they deserve more than one line in an analysis of the political meaning of Zuma's victory.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Xmas, prison is over

I didn't watch Outrageous Fortune when it was first on. I've been catching up on DVD ever since watching the second episode. Last night I watched the Christmas special, and so I've watched everything out on DVD.

But I almost couldn't watch it - because the first ten minutes are about Cheryl's boyfriend Wayne trying to get out on bail. Partly because it was wrong. They showed Wayne using a cellphone in front of a guard at court - it doesn't work like that. Plus, Wayne would be in Auckland Central Remand Prison and I know what visiting at A-CRAP is like(I even know the prison nickname) and it's not like that.

But actually I was just upset. One day I may be able to hear stories about bail and let them be stories, but at the moment they resonate like an electric shock and take me straight back there.

Now it doesn't take much. The media reports they have every year about how they spend $4 a day feeding prisoners, and that on Christmas Day prisoners will get a mince pie dusted with icing sugar. They don't tell you that there'll be no visits on Christmas Day, because it's a public holiday. Tuesday was a visiting day for my friends every prison they were in.

Or this post, that I got from debitage:

I sat outside that cheerily bedecked detention center on a bird shit stained bench while I told a five year old that neither Santa nor God nor any of the other deities in a child's pantheon could bring his daddy home from Christmas. Daddy will be spending his fourth Christmas in immigration detention, a sentence 400% percent longer than any he served for a criminal conviction.

The child bawled. His mom hugged him and whispered endearments to him in her native language, although the son is a bilingual U.S. citizen. But then she had to send the son away to play under an ailing tree, because I needed to interrogate her about horrors she and her husband had faced in their native country. Part of the joy of litigating an asylum claim is that you have to grill everyone involved until they have PTSD from reliving their experiences. But if I'm not ruthless, the judges and government attorneys will confuse and humiliate them. Even if I do prepare them, a little of that happens anyway.
I'm not sure that I want the day to come when I can read that without physical pain. I want to hold on to the vivid reality of the prison system, because it's going to keep on being real whether or not I ignore it.

Napier & Newtown

I've done quite a bit of picketing this last week.

The first picket I went on was at Bunnings. Bunnings is a hardware chain, which has recently given their CEO a 61% pay increase to six million dollars. Many of the workers at Bunnings are on the minimum wage of $11.25 an hour. After months of negotiations the company offered a 0% wage increase for a six month term (their starting offer was 0% over a three year term). As if they were asking to be made fun of the company offered a monopoly set to each worker, to go along with the 0% pay increase.

The Newtown Bunnings picket was a short picket - just an hour. There are dozens of Bunnings stores across the country, and organising in retail is hard. These short pickets are just the beginning of the fight that'll be needed to get the company off zero.

But it was a great picket to be on - for most of the workers it was the first industrial action the power they had when they worked collectively was clear. You can see the backed up trucks when the workers stopped unloading them.

The other picket line I joined this week was at the Port of Napier. In terms of union history you couldn't get two more different workplaces than retail and the waterfront. On the waterfront they have a long, proud, history of union militancy, and everyone joins the union.*

The companies don't like this strength or this militancy, so they do try and break the unions. The latest attempt at the Port of Napier came when the Stevedoring (unloading containers) contract was given to a new company called ISO. I've written about contracting out earlier this year, during the Hospital lockout

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

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

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

Contracting out is so effective, because everyone can claim that they're not responsible. The cleaning companies aren't responsible, because they can't afford to pay any more than they're given. The hospital that contracts out its cleaning isn't responsible because it's up to the sub-contractor how much money to pay.
It doesn't matter where you are, contracting out works in the same way. In this case ISO were planning to use non-union, non trained workers - so all the existing workers would lose their jobs.

So the union went on strike and called a picket and shut down the port. The picket started 6am Saturday and went 24 hours a day. Four of us drove from Wellington to Napier in my little car, and we were excited about it. By the time we got to Napier we were tooting at every sign that 'Port', and when we got to the picket we tooted got mad.

The picket was well set up, with tents, a generator, a tv, lights, a barbecue, a portaloo, signs and chairs. The workers had been picketing a long time - some were exhausted. Those on the picket line, the men and women who work on the port, women whose husbands worked the port, and kids whose parents worked the port, were going strong. It was an honour to get to hang out with them and be part of their picket.

When we left on Friday morning it was looking good. The union had gone directly to the shipowners, and most of them agreed to use union labour. By the time we got back to Wellington they'd won. All the shipowners had agreed not to use the scabs, and the port was going to abide by that.

The shipowners didn't agree to this out of the goodness of their hearts - they're bosses themselves. They agreed because of international solidarity. During the dispute ships bypassed Napier port, even when the company had managed to bring in scab labour. If the ships had been loaded with scab labour there isn't a port in the world that would unload them. The International Transport Federation - the global union

The last few days have made me think about a story from the lockout last year:
The 7 year old daughter of a locked-out worker went to visit her grandmother (who worked in a nearby factory) during the grandmother's afternoon smoko. The little girl was standing on the pavement asking, and her grandmother asked what she was doing. She replied "I'm on strike, I'll wave at them and they'll toot at me, because they agree."
One thing these picket lines had in common was tooting. At Napier almost every car that drove past tooted - often not just once or twice, but continually as they drove past the picket line. The picket had been going for almost a week by the time we got there; the people of Napier had chosen a side.

Newtown Bunnings is on a busy intersection and there was constant tooting. There are lots of unionised work places in Newtown; the buses and delivery vans all tooted as they went past and so did heaps of cars. It was raining really hard so the placards wouldn't have been that visible and the negotiations at Bunnings aen't exactly common knowledge. But it didn't matter, the people who tooted supported the picket line because they support unions.

The belief that unions don't have that much support is reasonably common. When the AA technicians were on strike even the delegate agreed with Mary Wilson that drivers would be pissed off. But when workers do go on strike, or are locked-out, then the toots and donations tell a completely different story.

In terms of union power there's not a huge amount of difference between an hour picket that delays some trucks being unloaded and day six of a picket that shuts down a port. But it's possible - making the union at Bunnings strong so the workers don't just get pay rises, but protect their jobs and change the working conditions. No workplaces, not even the waterfront start strongly union. It's hard, but it's possible.

* That long proud history involves a lot of losing - but at least they fought.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Just the year? How about the decade?

Louise Nicholas was named New Zealander of the year by the New Zealand Herald. It's a great article, and it shows how far the media has moved on this.

Media outlets were always willing to have a buck each way on this story. The coverage during the trial last year was sensationalist and more sympathetic towards the rapists than critical of them. The media were perfectly willing to give Brad Shipton's brother, and airtime to trash Louise Nicholas. Even now Clint Rickards gets huge coverage for his interview with Willie Jackson.

The media has also given space to Louise Nicholas's supporters, particularly after the suppression orders were broken (which was ridiculous - because the media sure knew all the suppressed information).

As time has gone on Louise Nicholas and her supporters have got more airtime, and the rapists' supporters have got less. Partly that's because as the trials have ended Louise Nicholas has been able to speak for herself. But I think it's mostly because Louise Nicholas's story resonates.

Many people, far too many people, believe Louise Nicholas story, because of personal experience. But the resonance in Louise Nicholas's story goes further. I've heard radio hosts, on shows like Nine to Noon, expressing surprise at the unanimous support for Louise Nicholas. The media sympathy for Louise Nicholas is a result of the huge support she had, not the other way round.

So I congratulate the New Zealand Herald for getting at least one thing right this year. But it's not the New Zealand Herald that gives me hope, but the people who read the Herald. There's a lot of work to do, to create a world where Louise Nicholas's . But the response to Louise Nicholas suggests that there are people who want that work done, which is start.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

It is not known if any of the defendents were from Jupiter

I've decided to publish some of the drafts, even though I didn't have the energy to finish them at the time. I'll be catching up for a while I think

One of the things that astonished me about the media coverage was the utter banality of it, and the inability for the media to have any information not handed to them in a press release. One of the government's lines was that most of those arrested on October 15 weren't even Maori. The minister of Maori affairs claimed that just four were Maori, and two were Ngai Tūhoe.

This is ridiculous nonsense. There were 17 people arrested on 15 October; 12 of them are Maori.

At the end of the first week, newspaper articles on the government's claims would still say, 'the ethnicity of those arrested is not known'. By that stage everyone had appeared in court. While that might not have informed journalists of the whakapapa of each of the defendants, it'd give them a fair idea of the possibility that more than four of the defendants were Maori.

This was supposed to be the biggest story of the year, and they couldn't even be bothered doing the most basic research.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A question...

One of the things I haven't worked out about my politics is what I think about prison guards. At Arohata the guards were mostly older Maori and Pacific Island women. When I visited the guards told us that we weren't allowed to be hug our friends too much, because the guards had been told off by their bosses for being too lenient the day before.

Don't get my wrong guards, and the absolute power they have over prisoners, have driven me to exhaustion, and they can do far worse to those inside. But they are workers, and reasonably well unionised ones. So driving out to prison one day, the question became, would I support a corrections strike?

On one level the answer is of course, I support any strike, and I would. But after the last few weeks I immediately started thinking about the effects of a strike in the prisons. When they're short staffed in prison they respond by locking prisoners down for longer and cutting back on activities which increase the need for guards, like visits.

I know I absolutely would not support a strike which restricted visiting and increased lock-down, if my friends were in prison. Hell, I hated Labour Day while they were in jail, because we couldn't visit. Knowing that can I say that I'd support those tactics when it's not my friends being effected?

Ultimately it's not my call, I'm not a Corrections worker (and will never be a Corrections worker) - and I do believe workers have a right to choose their own tactics. But I think I could only get on the picket line if Corrections were disrupting the prison intake in some way, if the number of prisoners were reduced. If the only effect of a theoretical strike were to further reduce prisoners freedoms then I don't think I could support it, and I didn't think I'd ever say that about any industry.

This is a question that only really troubles those who automatically support workers struggles and also believe in prison abolition (Asher? Byron?). But I know there are at least a few readers of those blog who share these positions. What do you think?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The next visit...

The week after I first visited Rimutaka, I visited Arohata - the women's prison. I'd gone to the prison half a dozen times already, to drop off books, letters, newspapers and visitors forms; I knew the prisons were different. At Arohata they weren't set up for supporters. At Rimutaka there were signs, forms and boxes for anything we might want to do. At Arohata they weren't as rigid, but after a week they wouldn't let us drop any more newspapers off, because they'd never seen this number of newspapers.

I got to Arohata half an hour early - just like I did at Rimutaka. When I rang the bell they told me that visiting didn't begin for half an hour and I'd have to wait outside. About ten minutes later another woman came, she was Maori and there to visit her mother. She'd come down from Palmerston North and we talked a little bit as we waited. I leaned against the fence, and she sat on the grass. She was pregnant, and needed to pee. I wanted to fight for her to get in and get a proper seat, but I'd already spent long enough in the prison system to know that it would just make me tired and get us nowhere.

Theoretically women prisoners on remand have much more visiting time than male prisoners on remand. Visiting time was in two hour blocks, rather than one hour blocks. All visiting time is cut into by the slowness of the prison system, but at the men's prisons they at least seemed to be expecting visitors. At the women's prisons they didn't even realise we were coming, until visiting time began.

As I said, from 12pm Monday 15 October to 4.01pm Thursday 8 November my happiest hours were spent prison visiting. While I was visiting I knew that they were really there, and that they were still them and fears that I couldn't even acknowledge dissipated.

But visiting at Arohata made me so sad, sad and angry, because the other female prisoners didn't seem to get visitors. The woman I'd waited on the grass with was the only other visitor the day I was there, and when other friends had visited the day before, none of the other remand prisoners at Arohata had got visits.

There are fewer remand prisoners at Arohata than there are at Rimutaka (18 vs 81 in the 2003 prison census). There are only three women's prisons in the country, so women as far away as Gisborne would be held in Wellington. But even taking the numbers into account there were five times as many visitors over two days at Rimutaka, than two days at Arohata.

I don't think that I can extrapolate out total support from two days of visiting, but there's other evidence that implies this is a pattern. Three times as many women as men had custody of children immediately before they were locked up (35.5% vs. 12.1%). For men, almost 80% of the children were looked after by their partner or ex-partner. Whereas for women less than 25% of children were looked after by their partner or ex-partner (full figures here. Instead it's immediately family, larger whanau or CYFS.

Women do the work when men go to prison, and when women go to prison there isn't necessarily anyone to fill the gap.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A feminist issue...

When I knocked on the door at 7.15 that morning Anura was still asleep. Anura, aka the frog, is two, and his godless father was in prison. It was the first day any of us could visit Thomas,* and I wanted him to be able to see his godless son.

The visit didn't start until 8.30, but Rimutaka prison is half an hour's drive from Wellington and I was told to get there half an hour early. So Anura's mother woke him up, and I strapped a grumpy, sleepy baby into his carseat. We talked about the visit on our way up, me and Anura. "We're going to visit Thomas" I said; "Yeah" he said". "He's in prison" I said; "Yeah" he said. But mostly I just drove.

I'd heard that you could take property (which is corrections lingo for stuff) into the prison while you were visiting. I had my bag of baby stuff in one arm and my bag of prisoner stuff in the other as we went from the visitor's carpark to the gatehouse. We were a little late, and he was walking really slowly so I slung him on my hip, with my two bags. "Takahe" said Anura - although actually it was a Pukeko.

When we got to the gatehouse it was clear that I wouldn't be able to take anything in - everyone was putting everything they had into lockers. So I did too and we were the last to go through the metal detector. "One at a time" the guard said - so I sent the baby through first. Neither of us set off the metal detector - I'd worn my black pants rather than my jeans to make things easy. After searching my bag he let me take my nappies and a museli bar down to visiting. I wouldn't let Anura walk to visiting, but carried him instead - I wasn't going to cut into our hour.**

When we got there the guard made me go back and leave my bag in the entranceway. I could see everyone else hugging their prisoner, but I couldn't see Thomas. The guard told me that they would get him and I should sit down.

Visits at Rimutaka were in a prefab - bigger than the ones at school - but the same basic shape. In one corner was a small fenced in area - like it should have been for children to play in, but there were no toys.

Then Thomas was there in a bright orange Guantanamo bay jumpsuit and I was hugging him and he was OK. The next fifty minutes weren't how we'd normally talk, and not just because the guards would come over and tell him to put his feet on the floor. Although when Anura got bored (even a prison visit hour is a long time for a two year old) he came over and grabbed my face - just like he would have in any other conversation (although he's a better talker now so when I wasn't paying attention to him yesterday he just said "Stop Talking").

Prison visits are too short - they tell you it's over and you try and get one last hug, and say one last thing, and then another last hug, and then it really is over.

The prisoners were taken away and we were sent to the entrance way. They don't let you out of the visitors centre right away. While waiting in the I got a nappy from the bag they hadn't let me take in. Anura had needed changing for a while. I put my hand under his head as he lay down and changed his nappy just outside the door to the visitors centre - there was nowhere else.

Once they let us out we walked back to the gatehouse at two year old pace - he wouldn't be carried.

But in the end, my experience was as borrowed as the baby. When I was waiting to visit the following week,*** I noticed a woman who visited every day. Later she pointed me out to a friend - "She's with the terrorist" and glared at me. I don't know what her problem with me was, but I would think part of it is that I was so obviously there temporarily.

I saw people I knew when visiting, and I wasn't surprised to see them, although they were very surprised to see me. I don't belong to any of the groups whose existence is criminalised or for whom jail is a life hazard. I visited five times in four different prisons before I saw other pakeha visiting pakeha.

So I don't want to talk as if I know anything about having people you love in prison - because twenty-five days is nothing - people are on bail for months and are sentenced to years in prison. There are families and communities, poor and non-white families and communities, where people in prison isn't a horror or an aberration, but a fact of life.

I kept coming back to how much I had, when working to support people in prison. Most important was that there were heaps of us doing this together. I was in a good position for other reasons I had a car, I didn't have a job, I didn't have a child, English is my first language. While I love my friends who were arrested, their disappearance did not change the fabric of my life. I wasn't trying to live without their income, or what they did around the house.

Despite all this trying to support people in prison took everything I was able to give. Even prison visiting - which was the high point of my weeks - is work, doubly so if done with a two year old. The work of having people in prisons, and keeping families and communities functioning while they're away, is done by women. Female visitors outnumbered male visitors three or four to one. It was mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends and friends who were there, with or without kids, to do what needed to be done.

I'm not pointing out anything new when I say this makes prisons a feminist issue. The invisible work women do is even further from the public eye when it is to serve an institution designed to hide and conceal.

There are different ways of knowing. I've believed in prison abolition for years, but I believed it different on Tuesday 16 October when I stood outside barbed wire fences and thought about people on the other side. And I knew that prisons were a feminist issue when I changed a nappy at the entranceway to a prison visitors centre.

* I have a car, and in a crisis situation I like nothing better than I really long to-do list, so I'd gotten myself approved first.

** That's the guard's job

*** A visit that never happened - but the way the corrections department at times seems deliberately set up to make your life worse is a topic for another post.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ha Ha

I've always said the best bit of any election is the assholes losing their jobs. I can't imagine any victory as sweet as John Howard losing his seat. It isn't confirmed, but his opponent has been ahead all night.

When the sun rises in Australia tomorrow, or a year from now,* It will be the same racist, capialist, misogynist country - run for many and not the few.

But can Winston losing his seat be our election present?

* I shouldn't rule out the possibility of radical social and political change in Australia in the next 12 months - but it seems unlikely enough

Friday, November 23, 2007

One down 10,499 to go...

At least according to Wikipedia.

Clint Rickards is a despicable man, but he is not the problem with the New Zealand police force. When you give people the power he had, some do abuse it, and the consequences of that abuse are devastating.

But what the police do in the course of their duties is almost as bad. It's not just the abusing of police power that we have to be afraid of, but the using of it. Last month's raids are a vivid example of the way police treat those they define as criminals, particularly poor and Maori or Pacific Island, but just a vivid example.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

An introduction

I'm cross posting an update I wrote for Alas, a blog I write for with a largely American audience. I thought I'd post it here for people who read this blog from elsewhere

On October 15 the police raided over 60 houses throughout New Zealand. They arrested 16 people on jointly possessing a number of firearms, and one person on drugs charges. From the very first day the police were talking about charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

The raids were brutal, a 12 year old girl had a gun pointed at her head, and when her grandmother tried to comfort her (you can view the 12 year old's comments here. In Ruatoki, a they put a roadblock on the line where the land had been confiscated so many years ago, and anyone who went in and out had to have their photo taken by their car. When one house was raided, the children were locked in a shed for hours by the police while the search was being carried.

Four people were arrested in Wellington; three of those were friends of mine - people I loved. They didn't get bail; they went into the prison industrial complex. Suddenly prisons stopped being an abstract concept to me, and became a reality that I attempted to navigate while trying to visit the prisoners and get them books and money.

But we didn't, couldn't, just do prisoner support, we also needed to stand in solidarity of people who had been attacked, particularly Tūhoe, the iwi that had been targeted in these raids. The four weeks that followed was prisons and driving and meetings and court and protests and meetings and supporting each other and meetings and prisons and court and driving and hugs and tears and and anger and love.

At 4pm, Thursday 8 November almost four weeks after people had been arrested, the Solicitor General announced that no-one would be charged under the terrorism suppression act (these were the first charges ever attempted by the police under the Terrorism Suppression Act). The following day all my friends got bail, and all 16 defendents are now free

I don't think I could describe the sustained joy that started at 4.01 and continued for a week. They were released eleven days ago and I'm smiling right now, because they're out and I can see them whenever I want.

It's joy and a respite, but we've got so much work to do. All 16 are still facing charges under the Arms Act. The Terrorism Suppression Act - which allowed extensive bugging, has just been strengthened. While our friends are out of prisons, those vile instituations still stand, with far too many trapped inside. I still live in a colonised country, where demands for Tino Rangatiratanga and Mana Motuhake are ignored.

I couldn't write much. I was in too much of a whirlwind to know what to say. I'm looking forward to writing more regularly, but what's happened over the last 6 weeks has affected me, and will affect what I write.

I've been promising to write more about feminism in prisons for a while now. While my analysis hasn't changed much, your understanding changes as issues stop being abstract and distanced and become part of your reality, and the reality of those you love. So I imagine those posts will take a slightly different form than they might have two months ago, but will probably be stronger because of it. Most importantly, in the next few days (or weeks) I hope to write an introductory post that'll cover some of the very basic history of colonialism in NZ, and Maori resistance, that I can use a reference point if I want to write more on Alas. I've generally avoided cross-posting what little I do write on Alas, but I think writing about colonialism where I live has resonances beyond, so that I should do the background work to make what I write intelligible.

I can answer questions if people have any, it can be hard to write about what's going on here for another audience, but I think it's worth doing.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Media that don't suck (or suck less than normal)

There was a very good interview with Tuhoe Lambert on 60 Minutes tonight. You can see at least part of that interview here. He was incredibly staunch - particularly when talking about Te Mana Motuhake ō Tūhoe.

The other poweful part of the segment is that detailed the reality of the way people were treated during the raids. What happened to Tuhoe Lambert's whanua is not the worst story I have heard, but it disgusts me and fills me with rage. In a time of small mercies, one of the things that I am incredibly greatful for is that none of the people who were arrested by the armed offenders squad in Wellington were living with children. But in Maori dominated communites the police spread the net much further, so many many children were caught and had guns placed at their heads.

I also can't recommend Radio New Zealand's Te Ahi Kaa enough - although I've only just started to listen to them. There are so many Pakeha voices out there about this, and what Pakeha (including, or especially, me) need to is listen. Te Ahi Kaa is a great place to start

Monday, November 12, 2007


The Dominion Post published articles based on the affadavit the police used to get the search warrant for the October 15 raids.

If the Dominion Post was actually interested in a debate over whether or not the raids were justified on the basis of the evidence they could have published the entire affadavit on Stuff. The fact that they did not do this, instead found some cherry-picked pull quotes, demonstrates that they're not actually interested in informed debate, but selling newspapers.

I'm well aware that I don't have any right to object to others publishing information that may prejudice a defendents right to a fair trial.

But what I do object to is that the information presented to gain a search warrants is referred to as 'the evidence' - and there's an argument that there's some overwhelming right to know it. The police have stolen bits of my friends, and many others, for over a year.* They arranged what they'd taken and gave it to the Manakau District Court. The Dominion Post then took what they'd arranged and rearranged it and put it on the front page of the paper.

The entire debate over these documents, is based on the idea that they are 'the evidence' about what happened in the Urewera. I reject that idea, and not just because I know the people. I think there are far more important, accurate and revealing sources about the defendents and their actions (even Jamie Lockett) than what the police have stolen from them. The powerful tell stories about the powerless all the time - a basic part of trying to create a better world is ignoring those stories in favour of the stories the powerless tell about themselves.

* Just for the record I have no idea if any of the quotes the Dominion Post highlighted came from anyone I know.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Another day supporting terorrists

On Monday 15 October I sat in court and heard that my friends were being remanded with consent for days. I was appalled and distraught that they were going to be in jail for that long.

Today has been one of the best days I've had since that Monday, simply because I got to see Val, Em & a 23 year old musician.* In court today we got to show them we love them, we got to be solid with them. Now when someone asks you how you are it isn't to be compared with what life had been, but with our reality now. Seeing them is an automatic ten on my new scale.

PS In other news, I thought the only things that could make me happy involved the words 'bail'. But Joss Whedon having a new TV show comes pretty damn close.

* I sound just like the media, although hopefully not for long. One journalist said "he doesn't look like a terrorist" when my name-suppressed friend entered the dock. She wasn't the first person to say that. Maybe he'll run that as his defence 'I'm white, everyone knows I can't be a terrorist.'

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Standing with terrorists

The police have asked the attorney general for permission to charge 3 of my friends, 4 acquaintances and 10 (or 9, or 11) others with terrorism.

I haven't really known how to write about these events. Partly this is because I haven't had time. But also because I can't seem to stick to the political point when thinking about these charges - I keep coming back to who the arrested people are. Most of the reasons I think the police charges are ridiculous isn't relevant to wider political debate about the issues. But I can't get my head away from the fact that some of those arrested wouldn't work together to design a poster.

I have a similar reaction to the Scoop profiles of the arrestees (see Omar Hamed and Rongomai Bailey). These profiles do a very good job of portraying the hard work that those accused of terrorism do, but they set my teeth on edge with their worthiness.

My friends who were arrested can be irritable, self-righteous, impulsive, pig-headed, judgemental, and throw about completely unfounded accusations of Stalinism. Yes, they've all done some really awesome political work, but I've been part of demos with all of them which were complete disasters. Once, one of them was on the megaphone at an anti-bypass demo and said "We're here today in solidarity with the people of Iraq. Oh Shit... Oh Well it's all connected."

There is a point in here, I think. I hated in the Ahmed Zaoui campaign that his worthiness was always a matter of debate. That he needed to be portrayed as a deeply spirtual man who wrote poetry in order to earn his freedom. We lose if we debate on those terms, because we make rights things we have to earn with perfection. Even though I know that some of those arrested are pretty fucking awesome, I don't think it's their awesomeness which means that they should be free, it's their humanity.

You'd think being a blogger who knows and loves 3/17ths of the story of the year would give you an inside running, but instead it makes it impossible to see them as the story of the year.

So instead, all I can say is that my solidarity for those arrested is not conditional. I stand with my friends, because I know they're human, not in spite of that. I stand with those I don't know, because I know they will have strengths and weaknesses just like those I love. Those arrested I don't like? I'll demand their release, and continue to dislike them just as before.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Postal addresses

I've been dealing with the prison system for two weeks now. I was saying that trying to support prisoners is like throwing myself against a brick wall, but I've decided that it is throwing myself against a brick wall.

I don't seem to have any surprise or anger left in me. Each difficulty, each frustration, each blockade in getting the prisoners their most basic entitlements. Incompetence or malice, it doesn't even matter any more (although mostly I don't think it's either, it's a systematic lack of concern for either prisoners and those on the outside who love them). The latest, which wouldn't be the top five most frustrating that I've come against today is about trying to write letters.

I want to write letters to my arrested friends so they know that people love them and they are not alone. I want them to know about the solidarity they have received from around the world. I also need to let them know about practical things; in order to visit a prisoner in Auckland you have to write to them so they can book a visit. I've sent three letters to Auckland Central Remand Prison, all to the wrong addresses.

The address for Auckland Central Remand Prison in the Auckland phone book is 1 Lauder Rd, Mt Eden. The address for Auckland Central Remand Prison on the Corrections Website is PO Box 92625, Symonds Street, Auckland.

The actual postal address for Auckland Central Remand Prison is Private Bag 96925, Symonds Street, Auckland.

It should not be a challenge to write to friends and loved ones in prison. It should not require a toll call; postal address are not a state secret. But I'm beyond being angry or shocked - I'm just printing out extra copies of their letters, so I can send them again.

I'm beginning to wonder if there are agent provocoteurs in the police

Last week the police raided a Maori Women's refuge in Taupo looking for pot. They didn't find any but acted after a 'credible tip off'

Clint Rickards is still on the pay-roll and it's less than two weeks since they invaded Ruatoki.

You'd think that at least one police officer in Taupo would have considered the possibility that this wasn't going to help any.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Quasi Review: Against Freedom: The war on terrorism in everyday NZ life, by Valerie Morse

I wanted to review Valerie Morse's book Against Freedom: The war on terrorism in everyday NZ life. I'd been meaning to for a while, and the events of the last two weeks made it a pressing need. But I can't quite, everything that's happened is too close and too raw to write about the book in full. I have known Valerie Morse since shortly after the war and Afganistan. We disagree on many things politically, but she is my friend, and I care about her a lot. Instead of a review, here are some notes.

This book is a book that I should have read before now, and a book which predicts what happened. When talking about the terror raids she says:

Of course, the GCSB and the NZSIS are not pursuing every email that mentions the near universal desire to kill George W Bush. Rather, the agencies focus on identifiable and often vulnerable targets such as political dissidents and activists, minorities and migrant communities.
The book reads like, it is a polemic. But it's an important polemic about the costs of being part of 'the war on terror'.

I think my main criticism of the book is that it is a little opportunist. For example, she describes Ahmed Zaoui’s detention and the states that he was treated as a ‘common criminal’. ‘Common criminal’ is often synonymous with ‘poor person’. We should not be arguing that Ahmed Zaoui (or those arrested on October 15) should have special treated because they’re not really ‘criminals’ – we should be challenging what actions are designated as ‘criminal’. I’ll tell Val this herself, next time I see her; I’m fairly sure she’d agree with me.

Note for Comments: Comment moderation is still turned on, and I will block any comment that I know breaks suppression orders.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Saturay 27 October - take a stand

Saturday 27 October is a global day of action against the 'anti-terror' raids, and all that has followed. Please publicise these demonstrations.

Auckland: Demonstration Saturday Oct 27th at 12 noon meeting in Aotea Square.

Hamilton: Protest Sat 27th, meet 12 noon @ Garden Place.

Whanganui: Rally and march Saturday October 27th at 12 noon. Meet at the River Traders Market on Moutoa Quay (behind Taupo Quay).

Wellington: Protest Sat 27th, meet 12 noon @ Midland Park. Bring noisemakers and rage.

Christchurch: A solidarity rally and march will be held in Cathedral Square at 12noon on Saturday Oct 27th.

Melbourne, Australia: A solidarity demonstration will be held Saturday 27th in Federation Square, 12noon

Saturday, October 20, 2007

No Bail

I sent the two words in the title in so many different text messages.

I really want to write about what's happened this week. But right now my friends are locked up and I miss and love them so much.

We sang Nga Iwi E as we waited for the prisoners to be taken out of court. Until I find my own words, this song is more than strong enough to stand in their place:

Nga iwi e, Nga iwi e
Kia Kotahi ra, Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa

E Tama Ma, E Tama Ma
Tama Tu, Tama Toa, Tama Ora

Wahine Ma, Wahine Ma
Maranga Mai, Maranga Mai, Kia Kaha

Kia mau ra, kia mau ra
Ki te mana motuhake me te aroha

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Comments have gone on moderation until further notice

I don't have the time or energy to write anything substantive, and I'm not going to let people slag off my friends, and the other prisoners, in the comment section of my blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A long day

I don't think I've had a meal since I heard the news. I've definitely eaten, but I don't have the organisational skills to buy takeaways right now, let alone cook.

I've spent far too much of my life at the house you've seen being broken into time after time. I know some of those arrested. I love and care for some, and actively dislike others.

There's so much I want to write about. I am so angry at the police right now. They set up their check point across the confiscation line and then searched a school bus.

I'm prevented from writing by exhaustion and suppression orders. It has upset me how quick to judge some are, repeating the outright lies of the media (the Slum Post* headline).

So just snippets of what I remember:

We appeared, after seeing it in the media, or getting a text message. By 2pm there were dozens of us waiting at the district court. We listened as names were read out over the indistinct loud-speaker, traded rumours and tried to avoid the media.

When we finally heard the names we were waiting for everyone rushed to get into court. I'd left my bag (with my precious knitting) so was at the end and helped bring the Frog (a baby I know and love) into the court. To encourage him to come I told him we could go see Thomas (a pseudonym for one of the defendants).

It was such a relief to see them all. I listened to hard while I was trying to figure out what was going on.

"Hi, Thomas" - the Frog had chosen a very quiet moment to make himself heard. The judge looked over his glasses, scanning the courtroom, as if it was a very long time since he'd heard a child.

"Remove that child."

Later when we all waved simultaneously as the defendants left, he called what we did an unseemly display and threatened to clear the court.


Someone was reading from Stuff: "Activists from all around the country represented a diverse group of causes, but they were going to co-ordinate one day where they all took action."

"They don't know us very well do they?"


I listened to Checkpoint while driving:

In other news a man has been granted bail after being charged of serially raping prostitutes**********

I sort through a pile of books to take to jail, trying to figure out what to give to who. "Do you think sending a copy of Making Peoples will amuse anyone but me?"


I've just learned that the person in Auckland who had been granted bail had had it revoked. I want them to let my friends go.

* Just writing that makes me sad. The person I know who uses the phrase "slum post" most regularly is in Arohata right now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Kia Kaha

It's been a long day.

I have every reason to believe that the police have mis-represented the people arrested and their actions.

But my support of their resistance is not conditional on dividing good activists and bad activists, legitimate and illigetimate protest.

I'm very limited by what I can say, by suppression orders and exhaustions. All I wanted to say was in the title anyway.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Redesign - Help!

When blogger gave me some new knobs to twiddle I had great fun experimenting with you this blog looks. But I've come to the conclusion that it my attempt to design a blog was ugly (this was helped by everyone I knew telling me it was ugly). I decided I wanted my blog just to be black text on a white background with a really simple banner. I made myself the banner (in paint - that was fun). I've put it up the top, but it just kind of sits there, it won't resize itself, I can't seem to centre it in the page - so it's just kind of funny looking. Help advice, or even just telling me to go back to the Minima template (which has always been my favourite but it misformats in a way that really irritates me), would be welcome.

Alec Shaw lost his job! Alec Shaw lost his job!

There's a dance which goes along with the 'Alec Shaw lost his job' song, but you can't see it because blogging is a text medium. You have to trust that I'm doing it.

If you hadn't noticed this was my local body election results. I don't expect it to be particularly in depth, because I've already stated the best news of the election (in case anyone was wondering I did end up voting for Iona Pannett specifically so I could do the Alec Shaw lost his job song).

The Wellington City Council results were predictable, with all existing councillors except Alec Shaw and Jack Ruben keeping their seats. The Wellington Regional Council results were pretty dire, but I'll congratulate Paul Bruce, because I don't think he'd really support water metering (and if he does I'll flag him down and argue with him).

I'd like to congratulate Byron for beating Kyle Chapman - the Nazi candidate.

Looking at the candidate profiles for the Christchurch candidates - I have to say that's an odd group of people there. They seem to have even less grasp on using language to communicate than your average group of mayoral candidates (which is not setting a high standard).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Review: Louise Nicholas My Story

Louise Nicholas: My Story is a very good book. I feel I should start by making that clear, because I would have read it - I would have recommended it - even if it hadn't been very good. The book's strength comes because Louise Nicholas has something to say, and her voice, her experiences, her reality, comes through in every paragraph.

The book is written in alternating sections Louise Nicholas's and Phil Kitchin. Louise Nicholas tells her story, from going up in Murapara to hearing John Dewar's guilty verdict. Phil Kitchin provides all sorts of information about the trials and investigations, but he also tells us how his story intersected with Louise Nicholas's from an anonymous tip-off in the 1990s.

I'm going to concentrate on Louise Nicholas's chapters in this review, but Phil Kitchin's material adds hugely to the book. The two voices only work together because Phil Kitichin doesn't just stick to the facts, but allows himself to come through as a person. We learn about his reactions, we get snippets of his life, and are right there when he gets fired. Because both stories are personal they mesh well together.

Both voices contain a lot of information, that you didn't already know. I learnt a lot about what had happened, and I'd followed the cases obsessively. The book really demonstrates how poor the reporting on the police trials was. Some of those flaws have been apparent for a while - there are people out there who believe Louise Nicholas's flatmate gave evidence. But some flaws I hadn't realised. For the first time I was angry at the jury - the book lays out the crown's case in a way the media of the time didn't* - and the jury had more than enough evidence to convict, on some of the charges.

But the strongest part of the book isn't the information, for all everyone should know it - it's Louise Nicholas's voice which comes through powerfully and beautifully. More than that, her voice comes through because she knows what's important. It is so easy for non-fiction narratives to be lost in a sea of irrelevant statements. Louise Nicholas, and possibly her editors, have done a very good job of selecting the telling details, and leaving out the rest.

I'll give just one example of this sort of selection. I've had a lot of respect for Ross Nicholas for a long time, although I don't think it was based on anything, but a vague optimism. In this book he comes through as a person, and rather an awesome one. When she told him about Phil Kitchin's evidence about John Dewar she writes of him responding:

'I told you, didn't I?' he crowed. 'I said to you lots of times I didn't trust him that bastard! That there was something screwy about him. But would you believe me? Nooooo! Eh missus? So there you go! Once again, I'm right and you were wrong, eh missus?'
That one exchange not just convinced me that I wasn't wrong about Ross Nicholas, but also conveyed so much about his character and their relationship.

The book works best when it's focused on the main narrative, but because we don't live our lives in compartments this story tells us about much more than sexual violence.

The realities of reproduction: pregnancy, breast-feeding and caring for small children, are a constant thread. For those who don't know, or don't think, about the work involved in raising kids, this book is very telling.

We learn, as Grace Paley would say, not just about her blood, but about her money - what provincial working class people need to do to continue existing on this world. People get laid off, they get fired. The dangers of working life in her story outraged, but did not surprise, me.

Her story has depth, because she includes the things that matter and talks about them in her own voice.

I do have two criticisms of the book, one is that I think the design does the book a disservice. While I think Random House did a fantastic job of the editing (according to Louise Nicholas it was Random House that choose how the two parts of the story would intersect), the design crew were not so skilled. Phil's and Louise's sections are in different fonts, which is understandable, but both fonts are hard to read (and I'm not normally someone who notices that sort of thing). More importantly the cover makes it look like a standard biography of a celebrity, rather than a well-written book with something to say.

The other is some of Phil Kitichin's sections. Evelyn Waugh criticised Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death by saying that she lacked a clearly stated attitude towards death (to which she replied "Do tell him I'm against it"). I feel that Phil Kitichin lacks a clearly stated attitude towards consent. Particularly when talking about raping with a police baton, he falls back on the idea that the act itself is depraved, and therefore no-one would consent to it. I think that is a very weak position to be arguing from. Indeed it enables people like Kathryn Ryan to ask Louise Nicholas, 'other women consented to these acts, can you see why that makes people doubt your story?'. Phil Kitchin also discusses Louise Nicholas's sexual history completely unnecessarily.

I as able to over-look Phil Kitchin's statements, because the book is so good. But it is not an easy book to read.

The hardest section to read is her description of what happened at Corbett St. For four vivid pages she takes us inside her head while those men raped her. It's the worst, but it's certainly not the only; I decided I needed to steel myself for the worst parts so I read forward from the trial, before I read the earlier chapters. But the book is full of horrific details, as other women tell their stories. Rape is horrific and they don't step back from that.

Not everyone will be able to read this book. Although I think it should be compulsory for anyone who doesn't believe her, and any man who doesn't know that all the sex he's had is consensual. But I think if you can you should try and read it. Because for all it's sad and horrifying its not a book about despair, it's a book about hope.

There's hope in her survival.

There's the very personal hope of a family that believed her and stood by her. Her eldest daughter was 13 when Phil Kitichin's story came out, the same age Louise Nicholas had been when she was raped by police in Murapara. And her reaction is particularly powerful

There's hope because she was believed by so many people.

There's hope because by standing up she has given strength to other women. An 86 year old woman told Louise Nicholas that she had been raped when she was 16, and never told anyone, but after she heard Louise Nicholas's story she told her family for the first time.

There's hope because she has already made a difference, and if we stand together we can do so much more.

Please read this book. Please take it as a call to arms.

* There were suppression orders in place which stopped the media reporting a lot of the most important evidence for the crown. But what is so frustrating is that they didn't let people know that the holes existed. They could have made it clear that they were painting a fragmented picture and they didn't.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Which of these is more important?

Because the media and the NZRFU appear to have made their decision.

Start them young, confuse them muchly

Thomas, a 7 year old child I look after, is holding my inflatable globe. "I'm going to find England, where J K Rowling lives."

A few minutes later he's back, he can't find England. "There it is," I point to the pink splodge and get back to getting afternoon tea together.

"But it doesn't say England." The inflatable globe isn't proving as distracting as I'd like.

"They've called it the UK, rather than England."


"The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales"


"Well - " I put afternoon tea on the table. "A long time ago England and Wales had a war and England beat Wales. Then England and Scotland had a war and England beat Scotland. Then England and Ireland had a war and England beat Ireland. Ireland fought back, so part of Ireland got to be free from England, but not all of it." I have relatives who would not appreciate the implication that Wales didn't fight back - but I don't want to complicate things.

"England also beat Samoa" Where did he learn that from?

"Yes England beat Samoa, but that wasn't till much later. Before England could go around beating countries on the other side of the world, it had to take over the countries closer to home." It's never to young to start on some basic education about colonialism. "England beat lots of places and took their land, like New Zealand, Australia and Zimbabwe."

"South Africa beat England." Oh.

"Yes, South Africa did beat England in the Rugby World Cup. We use lots of the same words to describe war as we do to describe sport." Not quite where I expected to end up, but I guess it's a start.

Definately half empty

From stuff:

A Wellington District Court jury today found a taxi driver guilty of raping a young woman after picking her up in his cab early one morning in September last year.

Abdirazak Yussuf Mussa, 55, from Miramar, pleaded not guilty before Judge Susan Thomas to two counts of rape and one of abduction with intent to sexually violate.

The jury took three hours to deliberate before returning with the three guilty verdicts.
I think I'd feel happier that this woman was believed, if I thought the verdict would have been returned so quickly had the rapist been white.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Louise Nicholas is My Hero

For more than eighteen months I've had a patch that says "Louise Nicholas is My Hero" on my bag. 'I believe Louise Nicholas', or 'We believe Louise Nicholas', or 'Louise Nicholas We Believe You' have been on badges, leaflets, stickers, and banners carried by me, and the people I know.

I was worried that with our statement of belief in her we were turning her into a NZ feminist version of that photo of Che Guevara, while she was still alive. Or more, what if by doing this we were taking something away from her? That there was going to be less of her left afterwards. Or that we'd invented a version of her from the photos, interviews and newspaper articles - turned her into a cardboard cut-out version.

I saw Louise Nicholas speak tonight, and I don't think we're taking anything from her.

It was a strange evening - I wish I could have gone to the Auckland event, which was less glitzy and had people from rape crisis. The Wellington event was held at the Intercontinental - the most upmarket hotel in Wellington and cost $20. We sat in a wood-paneled conference room, more usually used for discussions on sales targets and surpluses.

Louise Nicholas was introduced by Tim Pankhurst who edits the Dominion Post, the whole event was a bit of a self-congratulation to the Dominion Post. Phil Kitchin broke the story in the Dominion Post and on TV1, and has returned to work at the Dominion Post (after he was made redundant from TV1, because apparently a news show has no need for investigative journalists). I think I'd normally have a problem with the self-congratulation - not being a huge fan of the Dominion Post. But when he was introducing Louise Nicholas, Tim Pankhurst appeared to be defaming Clint Rickards, and I'll like almost anyone for an hour or so if they do that.

Louise Nicholas was so staunch. I've thought of many different ways to describe her, but that's the one I keep coming back to. She was really powerful when she spoke, giving each word its due. She talked about her experiences, about being raped, but mostly about fighting back. When she was talking I thought she seemed so natural and strong. But just after she finished (the audience gave her a standing ovation) there was this look of relief on her face, which showed that however uncomfortable I was in this atmosphere, she was far more uncomfortable.

The crowd was mostly women, which didn't surprise me. I think there were about 15 men in a crowd of 100. I should be too old to be surprised about this, but I was increasingly astonished when the first four people to ask questions were all men. In total 11 people asked questions and six of them were men. They weren't even good questions. Most of them were completely obvious to anyone who had followed the case - and certainly to anyone who read the book.

I was really nervous about going up to get my book signed. On my way down I'd unpicked my "Louise Nicholas is My Hero" patch, and I wanted to give it to her. Only I was shy, and didn't want to impose. I was a little bit relieved when I saw that everyone was talking to her and saying thank you.

When I talked to her, I knew I hadn't turned her into a symbol, that we hadn't needed to people are more powerful and symbols. This is true of anyone that our contradictions and complications make us more real and relevant to this messy world than anything as simple as a symbol. But it's particularly true of Louise Nicholas. I do believe her, she is my hero, but because she's a person, not in spite of it.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Who I'm voting for: Health Board

When voting for the health board I'm faced with a very different set of problems than when choosing between the rotary club candidates of regional health board. The health board candidates all seem like such nice people - more than half support collective action in the health sector.

I'm aware that the power of the health board is extremely limited. They are constrained by government policy and funding on one side and the governance/management split on the other. I've sat in on enough university council meetings to see how easily people are fobbed, or bought, off, whether or not they're well meaning. I don't think that makes people any less responsible for their actions,* I'm just entering into voting with few illusions. But, sometimes, the board won't just be under pressure from the government policy and funding they'll be under pressure from the workers. I don't vote for the, very nice seeming, health board candidates in the belief that they can bring about the health system I want, but that they're less likely to actively stand in the way of people who might try and bring about the health system I want.

One of my main tools when deciding who to vote for was the NZNO survey (thanks I/S)

Who I'm ranking

1 Jim Delahunty: I'm going to vote for the old leftie above everyone else, even though he won't get on, I'm sentimental like that.

2 Adrian Webster: I wasn't sure about him - the union background is a good thing, but the PSA is less so. But the PSA wasn't always up the bosses ass the way it was now, so I'll assume that Adrian Webster represents the more militant, better PSA of the past.

3. Petra Van Der Munckhoff: I'll tick her even though she is on the labour party ticket. She's worked for Evolve and Newtown Union Health and seems to know her stuff.

4. Peter Roberts: He's been the president of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, and the coalition for public health. See what I mean about all the candidates meaning well and having good credentials?

5. Coltyn Shaw: Another unionist, and the only Maori candidate. Possibly a little odd, but that is almost a requirement for local government.

6. Felicity McLennan: She worked for family planning. My fear is that I'm going to accidentally vote for someone who hates women and doesn't want us to receive health care. I almost went to a meeting of health board candidates just so I'd know where they stood on abortion, but working for family planning is a pretty good indicator.

7. Margaret Faulkner: Here I go again voting for a Labour party candidates, it's like a kind of disease. If only they'd stop saying and doing the right things.

8. Judith Aitken: As I said for regional council - I like everything I know about Judith Aitken, but suspect the stuff I don't know is less to my taste.

9. Helene Ritchie: I've heard she doesn't play well with others, but I'd still have her than some of the business lackies on the list.

10. Karen Coutts: Now I'm ranking Labour party candidates who didn't even bother filling in the NZNO survey - STV is obviously a gateway drug.

Who I'm Not Ranking

Michael Appleby - as I said I wouldn't vote for him for a primary school gala committee.

Clark Kent - That's how his name appears on the ballot paper (but it is actually Kent Clark). I would vote for him because he says all the right things. But he stood for a United Future of Future NZ, or one of the incarnations where a Christian party tried to sound less terrifying. I wouldn't vote for him unless I knew he supported Level J (the abortion clinic).

Donald Urquhart-Hay - I don't think I could ever vote for someone called Urquhart; I watched House of Cards at a far too impressionable age. Luckily in this case my prejudice is well-founded as he supports contracting out and is a doctor for ACC and WINZ - so he probably hates health care workers and sick people.

Hayley Wain - Even if she filled in the nurses survey I wouldn't have voted for her.

Trisha Inglis - I was very glad when she didn't respond to the NZNO survey, because I already hate her. From her blurb:

Statistics which say, “low income equals bad health” can be changed by education. As people learn to understand their bodies needs for nutrition and how environmental factors destroy their health, there will be less demand for hospital treatment.
See the reason that poor people live less long is because they're not educated enough to make smart decisions like rich people do. Like the decision to have the money to go to the doctor.

Virginia Hope - It's particularly bad that a doctor didn't fill in the NZNO survey - doctors who don't appreciate nurses are bad people.

Ruth Gotleib - Apparently she has a principle not to fill in surveys. What kind of a principle is it to ask people to vote for you and not say what you stand for?

John Cook - Not only am I unimpressed with his history as a capitalist - he didn't fill in the Nurses survey.

Gordon Strachan - Gets points for filling in the survey, but loses it with his worry that collective bargaining might lead to disrupted services. It's employers' shitty offers that leads to a disruption of services.

David Chamberlain - Should have run for Regional council - he'd fit in there. Snubs the nurses and is oh so proud of his business computer.

Sandra Patton - She doesn't support collective action which disrupts patients, which ignores the fact that it's not up to her to decide what collective actions unions will take.

* I'm looking at you staff-reps on the university council, who consistently vote for fee increases with the hope that some of the money might go to staff pay rises rather than try and build staff student solidarity.

Review: Sugarshock

Sugarshock is Joss Whedon's free on-line comic. If you haven't read it yet you should: part 1, part 2, and part 3.

It's an, extremely silly, story about a band called Sugarshock. Made up of Dandelion who hates vikings and is authorised to use deadly force by the secret government agency that she works for, Wade, who likes groupies,Robot Phil, who is a robot and L'Lihdra, who seems rather robotic until her absolute awesomeness is made clearr. Their music is fantastic (well we only get the lyrics to one song, but they're hilarious - and I really want to hear 'God bites Man' even if Dandelion is off key). After an emissary from another planet falls on their car they enter the international battle of the bands it just gets stranger and there are stoves, squirrels, and lathes in places you'd least expect them.

I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon; I can (and sometimes do) go on at great length about the metaphors, characters, and meaning of his work. Sugarshock isn't one of those moments, this is more like Doppelgangland - he's having heaps of fun, throwing in more and more silliness, and it's joyful.

If that wasn't enough the art doesn't suck. There's a woman in it whose body looks like it might actually move if you touched her. I didn't even know that was possible in comic book form.

So go read it - it's free and it'll make your day better.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Take it like a man

John Dewar was sentenced to four and a half years in jail, which means he won't be eligible for home detention. I invite all readers, particularly those who don't believe in jail, to take a moment to celebrate.

But the real reason I'm posting is because Paul Mabey told the court that John Dewar maintained his innocence - but would take his sentence like a man.

I think that's been the problem.

John Dewar protected his mates like a man.

John Dewar treated women as objects like a man.

It's not the penises that's the problem, it's the power.

Louise Nicholas wrote a victim impact statement, but was not allowed to read it out because the judge decided it went beyond the bounds of what was permissible. I think beyond the bounds of what is permissible is exactly where we need to be.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Clint Rickards law

I have been developing a new law of New Zealand politics it goes something like this:

Any statement of principle can be read as if it explicitly states an exception for Clint Rickards (and his associates, and his associates' associates)
This enables me to say such things as:

"Peter McNamara got denied bail - Awesome!"

"Why haven't they fired him yet?"*

"Stupid prison guards stopping people from beating up Brad Shipton."

"You're from Pahiatua he's from Pahiatua, can't you do something about Paul Mabey?"

This new law is slightly more than a joke. I think it's really easy to talk about the (in)justice system as a set of abstract principle. But these abstract principles interact with our unjust world in very specific, and not complicated ways. It'll always be the rich and powerful who get the reasonable doubt, and the poor and powerless who won't.

I thought I'd post this today because John Dewar is up for sentencing tomorrow and if he gets over two years he's not eligible for home detention.

I don't believe in jail.

* This doesn't really count because he's management and I have no problem firing management

Indymedia: for heterosexual men's gratification

I've never believed the hype about indymedia (for good reason). I think that if you take a space and make it equally open to all then you don't get utopia; you get a replication of all the existing power imbalances in society (although in this particular case there are more chickens).

But even with this analysis I was shocked to see this article on the newswire. Well not the article itself - that's a standard rant about how drug prohibition is bad, but the image that accompanied it was astonishingly awful. It was a stereotypically sexy white woman, wearing a bikini and the tagline was "Marijuana: No Hangover, No Violence, No Carbs" I'm not even going to comment on the image itself - I'm sure anyone who reads this blog can guess my reaction, what I want to talk about in this post is what happened next.

So this sexist, objectifying image is posted to the indymedia news wire, and a whole lot of women (and a man) speak up and say "please take this down it's sexist and objectifying". The indymedia collective responds:

the ed collective is discussing this. if you want to email the editorial collective: imc-aotearoa-ed(at)

Call me easily pissed off, but how can the editorial collective sign off 'solidarity' when they won't show any solidarity? Solidarity would mean taking that picture down, or taking it off the news-wire, or giving a fuck about the way women are treated as objects.

What is indymedia about, what is it trying to build, if an image whose only meaning is to make women feel shitty about themselves is acceptable? You can't change society for the better without women, but apparently Aotearoa indymedia has other priorities.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Believing Louise Nicholas

I've decided I'm going to write a review of Louise Nicholas's book, and then. But before I do that I want to comment on Louise Nicholas's interview on Nine to Noon on Monday (available by download here)
I usually like Kathryn Ryan, but I thought she did a really awful, and somewhat inexplicable, job.

The fundamental problem was the position Kathryn Ryan took, which was that she was giving Louise Nicholas the opportunity to explain herself to this huge mass of public who didn't understand, or believe her.

Do those people exist? I'm not talking about raging misogynists, or members of the rapists' immediate family. I mean otherwise decent people who say things like "I don't understand how that could happen." Kathryn Ryan was talking as if there were vast numbers of people who thought like that out there.

I don't think that's true. I think most people believe Louise Nicholas and know exactly how it happened. I've been paying attention, in all sorts of ways to the discussion around this issue. People know that I care, so they tell me what their parents say, how it gets discussed at work, or what they overhear at the pub. I know that support for Louise Nicholas extends well outside my own social circle. In my experience anyone who has a smidgeon feminist analysis, or any experience of being powerless knows exactly what happened.

But worse than that was Kathryn Ryan's tone near the end of the interview - where she implied that Louise Nicholas should at some stage put this behind her. That what she was doing at the moment wasn't putting it behind her, and therefore a problem.

The strongest, most generous, thing any of us an do with our pain, oppression, and trauma, is what Louise Nicholas has done. She has fought so hard for the women coming next. She can't change what happened to her, but she can fight to make today's thirteen year old girls safer than she was. To look away, to try and avoid, is understandable, but it's also leaving generations of girls on their own.

If Louise Nicholas had 'put it behind her', Clint Rickards would still be Assistant Commissioner of police, Brad Shipton would still be a Tauranga city councillor, Brad Shipton would be free and raping still more women, there would have been no commission of inquiry and there would have been much less discussion about the meaning of consent around the country these last few years. Every woman, every person, in this country has reason to be grateful that she didn't run from what had happened to her, but fought for us instead.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Something to go to almost everywhere

Louise Nicholas: My Story, by Louise Nicholas and Phil Kitchen, was released yesterday. I'll try and write a review later in the week, and there's certainly some parts of the book that I want to write about. But in the meantime I thought I'd let people know that she's doing a book tour. I think everyone should read her book, and hear what she has to say.

So you should go along:

Date: Saturday 6 October, 11am-1pm
Venue: McLeod’s Booksellers, 1269 Tutanekai St, Rotorua
Format: talk and signing
Contact: McLeod’s Booksellers; t: 07 348 5388
Free event, no ticket required

Date: Tuesday 9 October, 5.30-7.00pm
Venue: Hedleys, 150 Queen Street, Masterton
Format: talk and signing
Contact: David Hedley; t: 06 378 2875
Free event, no ticket required

Date: Wednesday 10 October, 6-7.30pm
Venue: The Intercontinental, Wellington
Format: talk and signing
Ticket details tbc

Date: Thursday 11 October, 7.30-9.00pm
Venue: Hutt City Library, Wobourn Rd & Queens Dr, Wellington
Format: talk and signing
Contact: Paper Plus Lower Hutt
Free event, no ticket required

Date: Tuesday 16 October,6.30-8.00pm
Venue: Napier Boys High School, Chambers Street, Napier
Format: talk and signing
Contact: Jeff; t: 06 834 4020
Free event, no ticket required

Date: Wednesday 17 October, 7-8.30pm
Venue: Muirs Bookshop, 62 Gladstone Road, Gisborne
Format: talk and signing
Contact: Anne Muir; t: 06 869 0651
Free event, no ticket required

Date: Thursday 18 October, 6-7.30pm
Venue: Books A Plenty, 28 Grey Street, Tauranga
Format: talk and signing
Contact: Warren; t: 07 578 6607
Free event, no ticket required

Date: Tuesday 23 October, 6-7.30pm
Venue: Alma Turner Library, Nelson
Format: talk and signing
Contact: Susie; t: 03 548 9992
Free event, no ticket required

Date: Wednesday 24 October, 7-8.30pm
Venue: tbc, Christchurch
Format: talk and signing
Ticket details tbc

Date: Tuesday 30 October, PM
Venue: Carsons, 600 Pollen Street, Thames
Format: talk and signing
Contact: Pat; t: 07 868 6301
Free event, no ticket required

Date: Tuesday 13 November
Venue: Heritage Room, Wanganui Library, Wanganui
Format: talk and signing
Contact: April (Wanganui Library) - 06 349 1015
Free event, no ticket required

There are also book signings in several towns, so if you live somewhere there's going to be a talk, there might be a signing. For more information check here.

Down to the picket line

I'd like to encourage all Auckland readers to head down to the port sometime in the next day or two, to support the striking port workers.

Check out the MUNZ website for more info.

Jesus Fucking Christ

I have many things I want to write about. I haven't talked about who I'm voting for DHB, or why Tasers are not the answer.* Plus I read Louise Nicholas's book last night - and I have a few things to say.

But since I also post on Alas an American blog, I had to take a moment to write about this:

School security guards in Palmdale, CA have been caught on camera assaulting a 16-year-old girl and breaking her arm after she spilled some cake during lunch and left some crumbs on the floor after cleaning it up.

The incident occurred last week at Knight High School in Palmdale and was caught on a cell phone camera by another pupil who was then also assaulted by the security guards.

The girl was black (in case anyone didn't know that already).

The students are organising (possibly have organised, I'm a little confused about dates and times) a walk-out. Check out Oh No a WoC PhD for more information about what you can do.

I think what's really important about this incident, is that while it is a horrific example it is also the inevitable result of a culture of security in schools . Yes be outraged that a girl's wrist was broken for not being able to clean up the cake she dropped, but it would have been just as outrageous if she'd responded to the request to clean up the cake by saying 'fuck you' and walking off and the same thing had happened. It's not enough just to object to the extremes of a system that attempts to controls students for every minute they're at school, we have to object to the whole system. As brownfemipower said:
Grace Lee Boggs argues that youths of color are “opting out” rather than “dropping out” of school–that is, rather than mindlessly dropping out of school to engage in a life of debauchery and sin–they are making a conscious choice to leave a violent and prison like atmosphere that labels them as “problems” from the moment they enter into the system.

Why would anybody want to go to school in a place like this? And who the hell are *we* to honestly believe that the “war” taking place in our schools today (schools are war zones, after all), is not a war between administration/security gaurds and the students?

I read about this at brownfemipower, feministing and Lenin's Tomb (and my reaction was very similar to Lenin's).

* Unless the question is "what do we not want the police to carry?"

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Once they even believed in the redistribution of wealth...

It's a truth universally acknowledged that George Bush can't open his mouth without saying something stupid: This has received attention from "Bush is stupid" commenters around the world. But in commenting on George Bush's inability to communicate even the most basic of concepts - they missed the fallacy in what Bush was trying to say.

Whatever Nelson Mandela has become, the ANC, and larger black resistance against apartheid, was not the movement that Bush wants to persuade us it was. Mandela was arrested as a terrorist. The ANC was not non-violent; they blew stuff up and killed people.

You can say the ANC should have stuck to non-violent resistance (although I think to do so from the comfort of your own home would make you look like a right dick), but to imply that the ANC was non-violent (even if no-one understands what you're trying to do) is just lying.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Who I'm Voting For: Wellington Regional Council

I have found a new way of judging local body candidates; I don't just have to rely on the inane 100 word blurbs they write about themselves. The Wellington Chamber of Commerce has come through with a questionnaire where it asks all sorts of questions about where candidates stand. Never let it be said that the Wellington Chamber of Commerce never did anything useful. I could have voted for people who support water metering if it hadn't been for their timely intervention.

Before I get onto the candidates for the Wellington Regional Council I should say that Iona Pannet and her supporters, and Nick Kelly's supporters have been arguing their cases on my previous post. So you don't just need to listen to my snap judgements based on 100 word blurbs(and do check out the Wellington Chamber of Commerce - "what will you do to make Wellington more friendly for business?" is a particularly revealing question).

I am now considering ranking Iona Pannet number three in Lambton Ward (or possibly two, because despite the photo taken by a friend of mine Callum Strong appeared to support water metering) because it occurred to me that if Iona got on the council then Alec Shaw might lose his job. People I hate losing their jobs is one of my favourite things about elections (last general election was awesome in that regard with John Tamihere and most of the ACT and United Future caucus).

Wellington Regional Council

The candidates for Wellington Regional Council look very much like a Rotary club meeting, which makes thinking of voting for any of them pretty depressing. I think it's got harder as environmental issues have got more mainstream. Even the most reactionary pillocks are talking about sustainability. These were the candidates I could bring myself to rank:

1. Yvonne Legarth - she gets bonus points for leaving the section about what to do to help business blank and for out and out rejecting user pays for water.

2. Paul Bruce - While his party hates poor people, I'm fairly certain Paul doesn't. He would be #1, but he appears to support some sort of water charges.

3. Judith Aitken - She has a radical past and she certainly says the right things, although I suspect she's come very managerial.

4. Daran Ponter - What I find so depressing about local body elections is how comparatively good the Labour party candidates look. That doesn't mean that I'll actually rank Daran, but the fact that I'm even considering it shows what a bunch of inane business suck ups the rest of the candidates are.

Who I'm not ranking and why:

Michael Appleby: Michael Appleby running is an important tradition in any Wellington election. I don't think that legalising Cannabis will solve society's problems so I'll maintain my half of the tradition and not vote for him.

Fran Wilde: Even if there weren't other reasons not to vote for her - she was part of the fourth Labour government and I'm holding a grudge.

Bernard Darnton: He's a libertarian. I know it's not actually possible to lose respect for libertarians. But when they marched with the fundies in the pro-smacking march I came pretty close. If you believed what either group said fundies and libertarians wouldn't have room for alliances.

Michael Gibson: He's endorsed by Michael Fowler - I probably wouldn't vote for a member of my immediate family if they were endorsed by Michael Fowler.

Michael Fleming: He thinks that telling me he's a company director will get me to vote for him. He's wrong.

Hugh Barr: I have to thank the Wellington Chamber of Commerce. On the hundred words of waffle the council give us I was thinking of voting for him. But he's for privatisation and user pays, so I won't.

Thomas Morgan: In the fine tradition of local body politics he appears to be a particularly focused individual and is running on a platform of eliminating rates (and the bypass - glad to see that the proud tradition of useless attempts at stopping the bypass through voting is not stopping just because the thing is built). I'm not particularly pro-rates myself, but he wants to replace rates with a use pays system.

Ian Hamlin - His reply to the Wellington Chamber of Comerce is full of extremely vague words (partnerships, communication, innovation) all in bold.

Chris Laidlaw: If I'm not voting for Fran Wilde, then I'm not voting for him. By getting through Homosexual Law Reform Fran Wilde did one not-evil thing while in parliament, which is more than we can say for Chris Laidlaw.

Sally Barber: Is rabidly in favour of water metering. A very bad sign.

Tony Coard: Apparently his most important qualification for being a Regional councillor is that he's fit and active. He also asks lots of questions without telling us what his position is. Is it too much to ask that candidates actually have a position on the issues before we vote for them?

John Gilberthorpe: Is it any surprise that the councillors who looked like they were the committee of the local rotary all end up supporting user-pays for water? No it is not.

Matt Barclay: He says absolutely nothing in his blurb, except that he's a geography teacher. I wasn't averse to voting for him, but my old stand by the water metre test ruled him out.

A post on Rugby!

Apparently one of the in flight entertainment options for AirNZ is replays of famous rugby matches gone by. Sky has an entire channel dedicated to Rugby matches.

I usually respond to these pieces of information by stating the only match I'm interested in watching is Springboks vs Waikato 1981. Although now I think about it I'd also be quite keen to watch the third test between the Springboks and All Blacks that year (bombs away).

So I haven't really been following the rugby world cup. But Tonga are going to play England tonight. I believe that whoever wins gets through to the quarter finals. England have been playing shit, and Tonga have been playing well. I followed the last soccer world cup but one, because one night I turned on the television and Senegal was beating France. Colonised beating colonisers on the sporting field may not mean much, but it's bloody fun to watch.

So I thought I'd declare that if Tonga beat England then I will follow the rugby world cup.*

As long as I don't have to watch any games.

* Although Tonga was never actually colonised by England - I feel the general principle still applies.


If you're in Auckland there's a rally tomorrow at 2pm in Aotea Square. Go along even though David Farrer has supported it.

Here's a nifty stencil. While I might take issue with the limited image it paints of the resistance - but I understand the advantages of a simple image.

The condemnation of SLORC is coming from all sides, including Bush and New Labour in the UK (with Helen Clark bleating on behind). These are government's that don't exactly have a history of supporting democracy and democratic movements, unless there's a buck or two to be made. Australia and NZ eventually supported East Timorese independence from Indonesia, but only because they got some natural resources out of it. We cannot see Western governments as the great white horses that will protect people who are being oppressed by their own government.

I recommend Lenin's Tomb:

There has been a popular movement against the ruling State Law and Order Council for years, obviously, and this is part of a real revolt. The monks are an important and esteemed segment of society because they provide education and social services, whereas the dictatorship simply exploits people. So why should it be that the United States government has, for the last few years, been applying sanctions to Burma along with its allies? Why is it championing the main democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi? Only an ostrich would imagine it has anything to do with democracy. Well, it's the same as East Timor in many ways. The West, after having backed a genocidal regime for years, has terrorised the opposition into accepting a neoliberal programme. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has promised that, upon taking power, it will implement structural adjustments opening up huge parts of the economy to international investors. There is more than a parallel there: Suharto was one of the Burmese junta's closest allies before an uprising threw him off, and a polyarchical neoliberal regime in both states will restore the symmetry to some extent. So, it's another phase in the transition from anti-socialist dictatorships used by Washington to slightly less coercive regimes in which the opposition has basically been neutered. The experiment launched in Chile in 1973 was really that successful. Britain, which has been doing fine out of the old regime, now hopes to do even better out of the new one. And at the same time, it has a chance of re-moralizing its disgraced foreign policy. New opportunities for intensified capital accumulation will open up, and in all probability the health and nutrition indices - already so miserably poor that they contribute to genocidal levels of death in some segments of the population - will get worse. Of course, while the NLD are the natural beneficiaries of any successful rebellion, there is no guarantee that people will simply accept the neoliberal programme. It depends how much the overthrow of the SLORC is a result of mass mobilisation, and how much of it comes about as a result of the elite compromise and handovers that were prevalent in Eastern Europe after 1989, and in recent colour-coded revolutions. A recently victorious rebellious mass can be surprisingly disobedient.
I don't think this analysis should change our support for resistance in Myanmar. But I do think it's important that we challenge the idea that Western government's could plan a benign, or even a positive role in Myanmar. It's up to the people of Myanmar to decide how to fight against their government; it's up to the rest of us to fight our governments to keep their greedy hands off Myanmar.