Monday, May 26, 2008

Abolishing prisons would also solve the problem of drugs in prison

From NZ Herald

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hate prisons so much.

Talking of people killed by capitalism...

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tiny, tiny babies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Police conduct

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

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

But wait, they have an explanation:

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

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

Monday, May 12, 2008

To become skinny find a woman to cook for you

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 10, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 09, 2008

Electoral Politics Friday: The Greens encourage the comodification of water

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Their stories

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

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

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

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

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