Monday, April 30, 2007

After This We Can Talk Welfare Reform

There are lots of things I don't understand about this world, many of which are the number of intelligent, awesome, analytical feminists who support the Democrats. From Katha Pollit:

So now you know. It really does matter who's President and which party controls Congress. A Democratic-controlled Congress would never have passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Act, which banned intact dilation and extraction abortions and, in flagrant violation of Roe v. Wade, lacked an exception to preserve the health of the woman. A Democratic President would never have signed such a bill. Nor would he have nominated the extremely conservative antichoicers John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, which on April 18 upheld, in Gonzales v. Carhart by a 5-to-4 vote (Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas--all GOP nominees), a ban essentially identical to one rejected 5 to 4 in Stenberg v. Carhart seven years ago, when Sandra Day O'Connor was on the bench.
A Democratic president may have never signed this particular bill, but that doesn't make them staunch upholders of abortion rights. Poor women's right to abortion were extinguished with the 1976 Hyde Amendment. The Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate, when the Hyde Amendment was passed. Then Democratic Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter indicated that he would support the amendment, and this support was one of the reasons Ford backed-down on his thread to veto the legislation. In 1980 the supreme court ruled on the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment; at this time there were two justices who had been appointed by Democratic presidents. If both of those justices had supported poor women's rights to abortion then the Hyde Amendment would have been ruled unconstitutional, but they did not.

I am not meaning to downplay the serious of the latest decision when I say that the effect it will have on women's lives is extremely limited, when compared to the effect of the Hyde Amendment. The most serious attack on American women's right to an abortion was a bipartisan effort, and the Democrats more than played their part.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Stealing stuff

I don't expect much of the Dominion Post - it earned its nickname Slum Post. But most of the time they keep their racism thinly veiled, not today. The front page teaser was titled School Reward and the little blurb said:

Maori involved in the illegal occupation of two schools, including alleged vandalism and the apparent theft of thousands of litres of water, look set to be rewarded with free land leases
The article itself is slightly better, but only because it's longer, which makes it hard to maintain that level of racist statements on a per word basis.

Katherine Rich gets her oar in
National's education spokeswoman Katherine Rich said the proposed deal showed Maori could illegally circumvent the Treaty settlement process to their benefit, and set a dangerous example.
How dare Maori circumvent the treaty process? The state stole the land fair and square, and now Maori should follow the process the state sets out in order to get something. Anything else is lawlessness, but bad lawlessnes, not like stealing land in the first place (and as for stealing water, how dare Maori claim a luxury like water from the farmers who bought it from the people who stole it).

(Having re-read the article, I feel the need to clarify that the above paragraph is sarcasm. I'm not convinced it's possible to out reactionary the Dom Post).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Really not going to save the Whales

I've written very briefly about climate change once before. It's not an issue I follow much, because it often invokes an "ARGH we're all doomed lets spend these last few days we have watching Buffy" response in me. But what has really frustrated me is how easily efforts to fight climate change have been co-opted by industry.

On Tuesday Checkpoint had an interview with someone from the trucking industry. Now lets take a moment to point out that if we're going to move cargo in the most efficient way possible, then trucking is pretty much out.* The only things worse than trucking is flying; rail and sea are much more efficient.

So if the trucking industry shrank considerably then that would help lower carbon emissions straight away. What did the trucking industry suggest?

1. The government should change the depreciation rates on trucks so that trucking companies can buy newer, more efficient, truck soon.

2. The government should invest in the road system, because if trucks are in traffic they're wasting carbon.

3. Change the safety rules so that trucks can carry more cargo and be more efficient.

What do we notice about these rules. Well the first thing is that 1 & 2 would only save carbon emission if you were able to make truck and road building carbon neutral. I don't know what sort of carbon emissions road building creates, but I do know that metal production creates a shit-load of carbon emission.

But as well as not being at all useful, all of these changes are things the industry were wanting anyway, and have just dressed up as helping reduce emissions (which they probably wouldn't).

* To what extent can we afford to move cargo at all? Is it another part of our lifestyle which will result in the sea rising and the penguins dying? I'm not even going to begin to answer those questions. But would recommend watching Innocence while you still can.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Already forgotten

I didn't go to a Dawn Service this morning, nor did I protest against one. I'm not very fond of dawn. If I wasn't so morning averse I wouldn't have attended the service, but protested. Although the actions in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch actions weren't exactly what I wanted to do in response to ANZAC day either(which isn't meant to be a slur on those who did them in any way).

I have protested ANZAC day services in the past and one of the problems is how almost any anti-war message can be co-opted into the official service. The Foreign Minister said

"In remembering the suffering and loss on both sides, let us commit ourselves to working for a world where differences between nations can be resolved without resort to war."
Which is a ridiculous statement, when right now we have troops overseas, but he is able to say such a thing without anyone pointing out the contradiction.

I imagine, although I don't know, that many of the people at the dawn service would agree with Span:
When I hear the words "lest we forget" I do think of the violence and destruction that characterises war. I can't help but visualise the young men suffering in the trenches of WWI and the many women who are inevitably victims in times of conflict. Maybe it's just me, but I'd actually formed the impression that one of the reasons turnouts were swelling was a view in Aotearoa, held by many, that the price of war is too high, and it must be avoided. That we gather on Anzac Day to acknowledge past sacrifices made, but also to remind ourselves that we do not want to go there again.
A weird kind of consensus seems to have emerged - war was a pointless waste, that it should never happen again, and that the deaths of those soldiers was a sacrifice that 'we' gained from in some unspecified way.

What I think is really important is to break this consensus. I don't think that can be done at dawn on ANZAC day, and instead we have to challenge the predominate narrative in the run-up to ANZAC day. We need to name the people who benefited from war, and the people who sent young boys to the slaughter. In particular to challenge the idea that the army and the state that sent young men unnecessarily to their deaths, could be a part of saying "Never Again".

A pet peeve

I've been reading a bit of dingbat spiritualism (The Secret - I'm looking at you), and I've been wanting to write about why I think I'm more anti-spiritualist, than an atheist (or maybe agressive materialist would be the best way to describe it). But before I do that I have a rant I have to get out of the way first.

One weird feature of the left, probably going back to the 1960s, is a completely inexplicable view that Eastern religions are in some way better than Abrahamic religions. While this is less strong than it was, you can still see it, particularly in the way the Dalai Lama is treated.

Every major religion, every religion that has ever had any power, served the interests of the ruling class. Religions can and do justify existing power structure sand give people reasons not to fight back. While most religions also have ideas that undermine those power structures, all major religions spend most of their time upholding existing power structures. If you like meditating then go for it, but don't pretend it's that different from saying the rosary.

Having got that out of the way, I should be able to get on to why I really hate religion sometime in the next few days.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I really want to know

Anarchafairy and Span have both written about how left-wing people should respond to ANZAC day. I'm going to write more about that tomorrow. But Span's comment thread puzzled me, and I wanted to respond to the predominant feeling there first.* As Stef said:

I think that ANZAC day is about honouring the soldiers, not the politics of the day.
I don't understand why it is we honour soldiers, when we don't honour so many other groups of people. We don't honour the people who died in the influenza epidemic, that followed the war. We don't honour people who die in their workplace. Those deaths are just as senseless, just as cruel, and just as much a result of our fucked up system, as the ANZACs.

We don't have an annual holiday to honour all the women who have died in childbirth. Who really did die so the next generation could live.

Why are soldiers special?

* I'm not even going to go near the idea that we need to honour the ANZAC soldiers because they died so we could be free. I understand (and don't necessarily agree with) the argument when it comes to World War 2, but World War One? What freedoms is that supposed to have won.

Monday, April 23, 2007

You lost me at Campaign...

My latest rant about 'campaigns' started at Anarchafairy's. My central objection, which I posted as a comment there, is as follows:

Campaigns are military operations, centrally run, with very clear goals. As the military is a hierarchical organisation the leaders can decide on the goal and the tactics and then tell people what to do.
I first started noticing the left using the term campaign within unions, where at least I think the metaphor is accurate. Most unions are structured in such a way that they can be at least mapped on to an army. I didn't use the word much myself, certainly not in my big disputes, but that was mostly because I had problems with the top down ideology the word represents.

But the word has spread to other groups on the New Zealand left, and the term is now near ubiquitous. Every effort to educate, agitate or organise is now called a 'campaign'. I don't know if the people using the term have a specific understanding of what they mean when they say campaign. Sometimes I think it's just shorthand, and people are ignoring the metaphor entirely. But often I think people do mean campaign. They believe that the way to organise is for a small group of people to set a goal and figure out how to get there. That's not really organising - organising is getting people together and letting them make the decisions, which doesn't work if the plan is pre-ordained.

While I'm not anti-reform, and I think trying to change some of the many crappy things we face in this world is well worthwhile, I don't think that can be our only goal. The point of working on individual issues is to make ourselves stronger for next time. Campaigns, which are so focused on the here and now, ignore this entirely.

Picking and Choosing

The Sunday Star Times has an article titled Apology for false rape complaint rejected. The woman who had given an allegedly* false statement about being raped had apologised to police and her neighbours. Except despite what the headline said some neighbours accepted her apology:

One neighbour, who wanted to be known only as Brian, replied to her.

"I just told her to keep her head up and be strong," he said.

He invited her to contact him if she needed support.

"Everybody needs someone to talk to."

Some neighbours were sympathetic to the woman's plight, but others were angry, he said.

Brian urged people not to judge the woman because no one knew the personal struggles she might be dealing with.
I'd just like a moments appreciation for Brian.
Victim Support Counties Manukau manager Michael Donoghue said the false complaint could make rape victims reluctant to complain to police.

"Our fear would be that genuine victims may feel like they won't be taken seriously," he said.
Again the passive tense is used to hire who is doing what. If genuine victims feel like they won't be taken seriously by police it's probably because a lot of police are misogynist assholes who don't believe any woman who has been raped. Police don't disbelieve all accounts of burglary because of one false report. The reason they disbelieve rape survivors, isn't because of false reports, but because of the rape myths they believe.

Now I haven't written about this case before, because I don't feel I know enough of the specifics. But there are two general points I'd like to make. The most basic point is that it's no more likely that people will lay false complaints of rape than false complaints of any other crime (the rate accepted by international researchers is about 2%). The more important points is often false rape complaints are from women who have been raped, and the account is inaccurate, but their experience is real. I hope this woman gets every bit of help she need.

* That's a revenge allegedly, I'm so sick of the 'alleged rape' construction.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The important voice

I haven't had much energy to read about the latest disaster from the US supreme court. Back there I used the word 'disaster' which is about the extent of my analysis (although it does cover lots of issues quite well).*

But I was reading Phantom Scribbler's excellent post What the Mommy Bloggers Know

If you're mainstream media or one of the major political blogs, and you've just put together some sort of roundup of the blogs' discussion of yesterday's Supreme Court decision, we, the legions of irrelevant mommy bloggers, would like to let you know that we have found it lacking. What, you say? Surely everyone knows that mommy bloggers are only good for talking about naps, dirty diapers, and Linda Hirshman. Far be it from me to assert otherwise. But on the other hand, the mommy bloggers all know that the blogger whose voice is really essential to this discussion is Cecily.

Cecily writes at and I wasted all that birth control, and her post on the supreme court decision should be required reading:
Personally, I do not know which procedure I had. At 22.5 weeks gestation (when my pregnancy ended--and that is based on my last menstrual period, remember, not the date of implantation, so the fetuses were really 20.5 week along) I was right on the line between trimesters. Plus the fact that there where two fetus (one barely alive, and one dead) could have impacted which surgery I had.

Other than having a medical termination, the options open to someone in my position are usually either a) emergency c-section, and b) induced delivery.

My doctor believed--given my particular circumstances--that it would be better for both my short term and long term health to not cut open my body if at all possible. My health was in a precarious state, and the option of a medical termination was the fastest, safest, and least complicated procedure to use. It also preserved the health of my uterus for future pregnancies.
I'm not a parent, but I read some 'Mommy blogs' written by feminists, because they have some of the best feminist analysis on the web.

* Also I blame the Democrats who voted for Alito, and all the other conservative senators

A Clarification

In the comments of my post about Sitiveni Sivivatu's discharge without conviction, Jo brought up an important dynamic. Becoming an All Black was probably one of the few ways a poor Pacific Islander will get discharged without conviction, where his rich white counterpart will get one for any number of reasons.

I want to make it clear that I wasn't arguing that he should have been convicted. Just that the reason that he wasn't convicted shouldn't have been that he was an All Black. I'm not a big believer in the 'justice' system. I know that women who have been abused in intimate relationships are often treated really badly by the police and the courts. The system doesn't do people in abusive relationships any good, the majority of the time, quite the opposite. A conviction isn't going to make an abuser any less abusive.

So I have no objection to discharges without conviction if they are available to everyone, but the rhetoric around it whether it's a 'he's a christian, non-drinker, who might play for the All Blacks' or 'he's an upstanding member of the local rotary and won't be able to go on his business trips', makes a really clear statement about who, and what, this society values and thinks important. Statements I really disagree with.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Two days ago I wrote of a fans dismissal of Sitiveni Sivivatu's assault on his partner:

Fan Craig Clapson, at the match with his son, said Sivivatu should be able to play. "I can't condone wife beating, but from what I've read, it was basically a domestic that got a little out of hand and they've reconciled."
Yesterday, the NZ Herald used the following headline: "'We thought first shooting just domestic,' authorities say" (it has now been taken down, but Audra wrote about it).

'Domestic' is such a tidy way of saying 'what men do to women who are in a relationship with them doesn't matter.'


World Socialist Website has an article: The Virginia Tech massacre--social roots of another American tragedy. Lenin's Tomb covers some of the same ground

Do you want to guess what they don't mention? Do you want to guess what they don't think might be relevant?

It’s not actually that hard to include some feminist analysis, even if you’re a Marxist. It’s true that better minds than mine have been defeated in trying to understand reproductive labour within a Marxist economic framework. But looking at the history of school shootings, and some of the details that have come out about this one, you don’t have to rewrite any Capital to understand that maybe a deeply misogynist society might be playing a part.

Monday, April 16, 2007

But we've got a world cup to win!

Sivivatu's lawyer, Philip Morgan, QC, said that a criminal record would make it harder for him to get visas to play overseas. Sivivatu was a church-goer and a non-drinker, who had never been in trouble and simply "lost it" during an argument.
To which I would say, so?

But the judge took a slightly different view. It is a small step forward that, unlike other All Blacks who hit their partners, Sitiveni Sivivatu didn't get permanent name suppression. But I don't see why the legal system should care whether he'll be able to play rugby overseas.

I'm not particularly fond of any part of the legal system, and if everyone got discharged without conviction, not just the rich and famous, then I wouldn't object. But just because you're an All Black is no reason to have a lesser penalty for hitting your partner.

Then, of course, he's off playing rugby the next week (because we've got the Super 14 to win). Stuff interviewed some rugby goers with a range of opinions, including some real staunch women. But the 'keep politics out of sport' crowd is still alive and well:
Fan Craig Clapson, at the match with his son, said Sivivatu should be able to play. "I can't condone wife beating, but from what I've read, it was basically a domestic that got a little out of hand and they've reconciled."
I only wish I could make a snarky comment about rugby fans at this point. Unfortunately, personal experience tells me that 'just a domestic' is not a rare response.

Review: The Long Way Home Part 2 (SPOILERS)

I've decided that the problem is that comics are too short. 24 pages a month is not enough, if you've been used to 42 minutes a week. A month is a long time between mouthfuls.

At the moment all I can say is that I'm enjoying the Buffy comic. It feels foolish to pass judgement on any of the major plot-lines yet (although I'm not OK with any of the potential candidates for Buffy's true love except Willow), since I don't know where they're going. Generally I'm excited by Giant Dawn, and the evil army, and everything else I'm going to wait and see.

It's pretty cool to have the old characters back (and their dream sequences - I love a Joss dream sequence). I'm even beginning to like some of the slayers, which I never did with the potentials.* Although one of them has terrible taste in men.

The art bothers me more this issue. Mostly because Joss randomly set a scene while Dawn is washing in a water hole that won't fit all of her. But apparently if Georges Jeanty 'two women in their pyjamas attacking an intruder' he thinks 'butts, waists and thighs'. What he thinks when he hears 'Buffy chained to a bed' is even more predictable.**

* Except Milly from Freaks and Geeks, because Freaks and Geeks was awesome.

** I didn't understand that at all actually, the bed looked like it had holes for her arms and what was this mystical protection that stopped her being stabbed, but didn't stop her being tied up or enchanted?

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I'm vain enough to check my stats reasonably often. Not as much as when I first started writing, when ever reader was a victory, but a few times a week I check how people got here.

Usually they're searching for Brad Shipton, Clint Rickards or Bob Schollum. That people who want to know about those men find what I've written satisfies me.

There are always some upsetting searches which manage to convey a weight of racism or misogyny in so few words. I think most feminist bloggers have it worse than I do; I don't write much about pornography.

But a few days ago someone found this blog by searching for: "rape a woman" "get away with it".

I'm on the second page. He hadn't found what he was looking for in the previous 18 sites, so he checked me out. This is what he read:

For most rapists, there are no consequences, formal or informal. There are consequences for all too many women out there who try and pursue justice and safety.

So any men out there, know you can rape women with impunity, know that there is no need to treat women as human beings. I don't know if you can imagine what it's like to live as a woman knowing that, maybe you could try.
I'm scared he read my words and ignored what I'm saying. I know that most men who rape face no consequences. I'm terrified that this man is now going to add to that number.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I swear these people are getting stranger

The give me section 59 or give me death letters to the editor are always a bit bemusing to read.* The latest suggested that Sue Bradford should be marooned on an island with some of the children from Lord of the Flies. Some points:

1. Lord of the Flies is a work of fiction
2. That means those children do not actually exist
3. So they don't prove anything about the way children behave.


4. Even if all the above weren't true, the kids in that book were almost certainly hit often enough to satisfy Family First and co. So it's not really an argument for hitting kids.

*Unless my little sister is around, because she's awesome and will rant at great length on the issue. It's so great that being the rantee rather than the ranter with her.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Interested Parties

I have barely begun reading the Report. There is so much other information on the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct website that I've been distracted. I've read the transcripts of hearings, the rulings of the commission, and the appendix on the process of the commission. It started because I wanted to know what those numbers everyone was quoting meant. Then I realised that I couldn't evaluate or analyse the report without understanding its history.

The parties to this Commission of Inquiry were the New Zealand Police, The Police Complaints Authority, the Police Association, and the Police Managers Guild. But Louise Nicholas wasn't even allowed to make a submission.

From the very beginning all the parties were entitled to make argue about every decision, from what the time period of the inquiry meant, to what sort of behaviour falls within the terms of reference. The only organisations whose views were considered relevant for these matters were those listed that had a connection with the police. The tone of this conversations are so civilised, so abstract, they're discussions for lawyers only:

HON JUSTICE ROBERTSON: It is a good starting point. I am not going to be terribly impressed by any semantic argument as to whether it's inside or out but I think 185(A), which ends up saying "any other offence against the person of a sexual nature" will be wide enough, even for my tolerant mind, Ms McDonald.

MS McDONALD: Well, we don't need to debate that further, in that case, Sir.

HON JUSTICE ROBERTSON: What, the tolerance of my mind or the definition?

MS McDONALD: I wouldn't even venture to go there, Sir.
It should come as no surprise that the different police agencies wanted to limit the inquiry every step of the way. To understand just how obstructive the police are you need to read the rulings. For example, the commissioner wanted to ask counsellors and services that work with survivors of sexual abuse some questions (we never get to find out what).* The police challenged her ability to do this, and the legal rules the commission was working on meant that she was not able to ask counsellors or agencies questions. That's how afraid they are of women's stories, they won't even allow the people who hear the stories to talk to the commission.

There may be some valuable information in the report, reading it is on my to-do list, but the process of the commission make it's limitation so clear. The rules for this commission were set by lawyers of all kinds, but not by women, and men, who had been sexually assaulted by police officers. Recently some of the submitters to the commission have talked about how little input they've had into the process, and how little they've heard from the commission. Submitters didn't get an advance copy of the report (which the police saw early last year), and so on. The privileging of the organisations which represent people who have abused their power, over the people who have been abused, is clear in every step that this commission has taken.**

What we need is a forum where survivors of sexual abuse to tell their stories, and have control of that process.

* Nine to Noon interviewed a counsellor in the Rotorua area recently, and called many more, some of whom said that they had had 20 clients who had been raped by police.

** To be clear I am not blaming the individual commissioners for this. They were limited by many legal precedents going back many years. This privileging is part of the nature of commissions of inquiries such as this.

Friday, April 06, 2007

There's a small space for women's voices

I've started on the report. There's actually a lot of other interesting stuff on the website, which I will be writing about as well (the short version is that the process was apalling).

There has been some good media, which allowed women who to have a voice. Close Up had Louise Nicholas and Judith Garrett, who were suitably scoffing of Howard Broad's blitherings.*

Nine to Noon dedicated the first hour to the report, and had Louise Nicholas, and a woman who had given evidence to the inquiry. I'm not going to link to Morning Report's coverage - because one of those misogynist fuckwits suggested to Judith Garrett that since the man who raped her was acquitted then the police did the right thing by covering it up.

Last night Close Up had another woman who had been raped by Rotorua police in the 1980s. She was so incredibly strong and clear in the interview.

* Warning this video may lead feminist viewers to think positive thoughts about Helen Clark. These will probably be unfamiliar, rest assured that they will pass reasonably quickly.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A quick note on those numbers

I guess we've all heard the number 313 complaints of sexual assault about 222 police officers.

It took me a while to figure out where those numbers came from. Operation Loft searched police files to find instances where sexual assault complaints were made against the police.

So (apart from 10 women who gave evidence) the only cases that were being considered was where women had tried to make a complaint to the police, and succeeded in getting something in writing.

It is an act of faith and strength to make a complaint to the police after a police officer had sexually assaulted you. I imagine far more women would stay silent, than go to the police in those circumstances.

There is also evidence that police would refuse to take complaints against other police officers. So the files this report was based on don't even contain all the cases where women made complaints

I've got a lot more to say about this report, obviously, I hope to find time to say it. But I wanted to start by pointing out how limited the report was.

Of those 222 police officers, 32 were charged - those are the damning numbers.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

But if anyone is going to be shot at...

From Stuff

His pending tour of duty in Iraq has split world opinion, now Kiwi monarchists are urging British authorities not to send Prince Harry to war.

The Monarchist League of New Zealand said it was wrong to send the third in line to the throne to an "unpopular and futile" war in Iraq, and has urged the Blair Government to reconsider his deployment.
It will come as no surprise that I believe that every British soldier should be withdrawn from Iraq immediately.

But if there are going to be British soldiers in Iraq, then they don't come more dispensable than Prince Harry. I'm not commenting on his worth as a person to those who love him, which I'm sure is very high.* But I would be hard pressed to think of anyone more useless. Unlike his older brother, he won't even get to wait, to wait, to become a figurehead.

Almost all of the US and British soldiers who have died in Iraq would have had far less choice in their profession than Prince Harry. The Iraqi people who have died during the invasion and occupation, have even less choice still. Every day in Iraq there are tragedies that are far greater than the hypothetical death of Prince Harry.

* Although I have to say wearing a Swastika at a Colonials and Natives Party? Not OK.

$1 and a Week

Today the minimum wage went up $1.00 and the minimum annual leave entitlement increased an extra week.

This means that if you're over 18 your employer must pay at least $11.25 an hour. If you are 16-17 your employer must pay you at least $9.00.* If you were paid less than this an hour before today, you get a pay increase today. If you were paid $11.30 a year you will not get a pay increase, and should work in your union (or organise to get a union) to maintain the parity with minimum wage, and compensate for the skills and experience you have in your job.

Everyone is entitled to four weeks leave a year, even if you're part time, even if you're temporary. If you're at a work-place for less than a year this will be paid out when you leave at the rate of 8% (before today it was paid out at 6%).

If anyone is uncertain about their rights and entitlements feel free to ask questions in the comments. Remember these are just minimum entitlements, and the best way to get more than the minimum entitlement is to organise for a collective agreement.

* If you're under 16 there is no minimum wage - because apparently the most vulnerable members of society deserve the least protection.