Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Poll position

The weekend polling (1) was dismal for Labour, but I don't feel too worried, surprisingly.

ONe main reason why is my conviction that this is as bad as it can get. The last couple of months have been apalling for Labour. They've endured more horror and woe - much of it self-manufactured - than most political parties would endure in a term. A cabinet minister has apparently gone mad, and appeared in the court on criminal charges. The forces of conservatism and business conspired to incite people against the Electoral Finance Bill, designed to protect voters from the conspiracy and lies of precisely these sort of people.

The result? National 's support around the same level that they polled between May and August (2). They aren't breaking new ground, and this suggests that circa 55% is the absolute limit they can reach, with Labour at it's most unlikeable and quiescent, and with no National support dribbling away to other parties.

Yes, overall it is a very grim picture for Labour - they are 19 points behind in the latest Colmar Bunton poll. But - and this is the second reason I'm feeling phlegmatic - there is still about a year to go, and Labour seem to have been rope-a-doping, like Mohammed Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle, letting John 'George Foreman' Key waste his strength.

There are four reasons why I think Labour can turn it around before the election. I might, of course, be wrong, in which case Labour are probably doomed.

First, I suspect Labour are soaking it up, Ali style, and nursing their own strength for when it is needed. I would expect to see a big fight back starting in the New Year. Labour know it doesn't matter how good or bad you look a year out from polling day. I imagine national are expecting this, and will be preparing their own counter-punches. The question is who has the best shots left, and how well they use them.

Second, the New Zealand public will grow tired of the constant denigration of Labour by Key and his rightwing allies. The pictures of Helen Clarke with the Hitlerian moustace, and the current, fiasco about billboards (3) may well backfire. The rightwing can bleat about living in an authoritarian dictatorship, but the public will get tired of it very quickly, and realise people with the money to conduct personal vendettas aren't representative of them or their interests.

Third reason - Michael Cullen. I'm increasingly in awe of Cullen. Labour have fared apallingly, with more botches and blunders than any government should be allowed to make. But Cullen doesn't seem to stumble. He simply carries on, unflappable, delivering endlessly good economic news. Forget the tax cut that he'll inevitably deliver in 2008 (maybe even a whole packet of chewing gum this time) - think about the minimum wage, Working for Families, Kiwisaver ... all Good Things, and all associated with Cullen's adroit operation. And he's already talking about bolstering Working for Families. We need more of this sort of talk, because it will enthuse people.

My fourth reason for not being wracked by despair is that the National Party will cock up somewhere along the line. There have been ominous wobbles already - Bill English musing about selling atate owned enterprises (4), or Key's hints about making visits to the doctor the a privilege of the rich (5).

Should be an interesting year. Labour will have to fight hard to get into the crucial ten point territory, where they can lose the election and still form a workable coalition. I think they can do it, but whether or not they actually do it is another matter.

1 - "Polls deliver good results for National," by Martin Kay in the Dominion Post, 17th of December, 2007. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4326321a10.html)
2 - In May 2007, Colmar Brunton polled National at 56% and Labour on 31%. In July, National were on 52% to Labour's 36%. In August, the figures were 53% to 36%. (http://www.colmarbrunton.co.nz/index.php?pageLoad=18)
3 - "Democracy Attacks Back," unattributed press release by the Free Speech Coalition (sic), 19th of December, 2007.
(
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0712/S00254.htm)
3 - 'Nats want to sell assets to finance tax cuts - PM,' by Paula Oliver in the New Zealand Herald, 24th of September, 2007. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10465539&ref=rss)
4 - 'National to scrap cap on GPs' fees,' by Sue Eden in the New Zealand Herald, 26th of September,2007. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10466057)

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Monbiot

"Ladies and gentlemen, I have the answer! Incredible as it might seem, I have stumbled across the single technology which will save us from runaway climate change! From the goodness of my heart I offer it to you for free. No patents, no small print, no hidden clauses. Already this technology, a radical new kind of carbon capture and storage, is causing a stir among scientists. It is cheap, it is efficient and it can be deployed straight away. It is called … leaving fossil fuels in the ground." (1)

(Read more ...)

1 - 'Rigged,' by George Monbiot, published in The Guardian, 11th of December, 2007. (http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/12/11/rigged/)


Interesting ...

Reading The Roaring Nineties by Joseph Stiglitz, I was struck by the following comment, about executive pay in different cultures:

In Japan ... executive pay is typically 10 times that of the average worker; in Great Britain, executive pay is typically 25 times that of the average worker; by 2000 in America, CEOs were getting paid more than 500 times the wages of the average employee ... (1)
This is interesting for two reasons. First of all, the obscenity of the amounts involved in the American figures - though Stiglitz may be guilty of manipulating statistics (appropriately, as the chapter the quote occurs in is titled 'Creative Accounting') as he doesn't specify if the American figure is typical or extreme. In the Japanese and British figures, it is specified that they are typical (whatever that may mean) but it isn't clear that the same applies to the American figures.

More interesting was the memory this jolted. It reminded me of something I'd read in, of all places, an essay by Orwell. I grabbed my well thumbed copy of his collected essay's and leafed through it, eventually locating the half remembered comment. It occurred in The Lion and the Unicorn (2), a long essay Orwell wrote during the war. At one point he laid out a program for converting Britain's capitalist economy into a socialist one, as he saw little point in resisting Hitler just for things to carry on as before (3). One of his suggestions was

limitation of incomes, on such a scale that the highest tax-free income in Britain does not exceed the lowest by more than ten to one. (4)
So there we have it. The society that most closely matches Orwell's vision of socialist future is ... Japan.

1 - The Roaring Nineties: Seeds of Destruction, by Joseph Stiglitz. Can't provide an internet source, but the quoatation comes from chapter 5, page 124 of my copy.
2 - The whole can be read here:
http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/lion/english/. The quotation comes from the third chapter of the essay, 'The English Revolution,' (http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/lion/english/e_ter) section two. I find it very od that the top site on google for this essay is Russian.
3 - Orwell had no time for silly statements about one set of masters being as bad as another. He recognised that Hitler was genuinely evil, where as British capitalists were just fusty, stupid or cruel.
4 - Orwell, op. cit.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Ike Turner, 1931-2007.

Ponder this ...

Black Ike Turner, credited with writing the first rock'n'roll song, Rocket 88, made some great music, took too many drugs, treated his wife badly, and is demonised for it.

White John Lennon made some great music (and 'Imagine,' but lets just imagine that never happened ...), took too many drugs, treated his wife (the one before Yoko) badly, and was made into a saint.

Go figure.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Monbiot on Bali

"When you warn people about the dangers of climate change, they call you a saint. When you explain what needs to be done to stop it, they call you a communist. Let me show you why." (1)
Gorgeous George does some number crunching to explore what 'meaningful action about climate change' might actually meaningfully mean, particularly to pampered Westerners like yours truly.
"I looked up the global figures for carbon dioxide production in 2000 and divided it by the current population. This gives a baseline figure of 3.58 tonnes of CO2 per person. An 85% cut means that (if the population remains constant) the global output per head should be reduced to 0.537t by 2050. The UK currently produces 9.6 tonnes per head and the US 23.6t. Reducing these figures to 0.537t means a 94.4% cut in the UK and a 97.7% cut in the US. But the world population will rise in the same period. If we assume a population of 9bn in 2050, the cuts rise to 95.9% in the UK and 98.3% in the US." (2)
He makes good on his promise to explain why people who woant action on climate change mget labelled communisits - because they are challenging the fantastic super-consumption required to grow the economy at the rate needed to keep the very rich feeling very rich:
"Underlying the immediate problem is a much greater one. In a lecture to the Royal Academy of Engineering in May, Professor Rod Smith of Imperial College explained that a growth rate of 3% means economic activity doubles in 23 years. At 10% it takes just 7 years. This we knew. But Smith takes it further. With a series of equations he shows that “each successive doubling period consumes as much resource as all the previous doubling periods combined.” In other words, if our economy grows at 3% between now and 2030, we will consume in that period economic resources equivalent to all those we have consumed since humans first stood on two legs. Then, between 2030 and 2053, we must double our total consumption again. Reading that paper I realised for the first time what we are up against." (3)
Stuff like this scares me shitless because it gives me those horrible moments of clarity when I realise that what Monbiot, climatologists and most sane people are calling for is at such total odds with the desires of the people who have most of the wealth and power that I don't know if they'll go along with it. In which case, what?
1 - "What is progress?," by George Monbiot, posted on monbiot.co, 4th of December, 2007.(http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/12/04/what-is-progress/)
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Olive Walker II

Some random googling produced something interesting, a newspaper story from 2005 (1), about a cop who was involved in the investigation into the Olive Walker killing, featured in the first season of Sensing Murder (2).

Why is this interesting?

Because I recall a claim, made in that episode, that the Olive Walker case was very obscure, and only one reference to it could be found, in a book dedicated to New Zealand killings.

But this newspaper article gives the lie to that statement. Walker was killed in 1970, but the killing was still significant enough to warrant mention in 2005. The newspaper article states that "The brutal killing was front page news for weeks" (3). So someone researching unsolved deaths would most likely have come across reference to it, in spite of Sensing Murder's claims to the contrary.

Even more interesting is the timing of this newpaper article. It is dated 24th of July, 2005. The Episode of Sensing Murder that examined the Olive Walker case was broadcast in January 2006 (4). This begs the question, when was it actually filmed? Obviously, there would be a gap between the filming and the broadcast, but would that mean the filiming was prior to July 2005? .... Or (suspicious mind working overtime) just immediately after?

I susppose it is conceivable that the story was planted as subliminal publicity for the upcoming show. New Zealand's media establishment is small and cliquey, and it isn't impossible that someone at Ninox knew someone at the Daily Post. But the onus is on Ninox to demonstrate that they filmed before the article was printed.

Even if the episode was filmed prior to the newspaper story, and no-one passed the 'psychics' a complimentary newspaper to read on the plane, the claim that the murder was obscure is shot to pieces. But Sensing Murder making dubious claims is nothing new.

Incidentally, a few months after the broadcast of the Olive Walker episode, Deb Weber returned to Rotorua for a live show in May 2006 (5).Deb Weber wouln't have gone to Rotorua if she hadn't been on Sensing Murder. Her appearance, so soon after the broadcast of the Sensing Murder episode featuring Rotorua, is shameless milking of the publicity that she gained from her appearance on the show. It is exploiting the brutal murder of a teenaged girl.

Olive Walker's killer remains unknown, inspite of Deb's supposed contact with her spirit.

1 - "It's hard to leave behind an unsolved murder - retired cop," by Kelly Blanchard, in the Daily Post, 24th of July, 2005. (http://dailypost.co.nz/localnews/storydisplay.cfm?thesection=localnews&storyid=3645180)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/02/sensing-murder.html
3 - Blanchard, op. cit.
4 - The 24th of January, 2006, to be precise. According to TV.com, anyway. (
http://www.tv.com/sensing-murder/show/33563/episode.html)
5 - "Popular television psychic heads to Rotorua," unattributed article on the Rotorua District Council website, dated the 13th ofApril, 2006. Yes, I know. Always first with the news, me.(http://www.rdc.govt.nz/News+and+Events/Latest+News/Popular+television+psychic+heads+to+Rotorua.htm)

UPDATE: The administrator of the official Sensing Murder website (6) has advised that the Olive Walker episode was filmed in April 2005 (7). Thus, it pre-dates the Daily Post article. The question still remains about how genuinely obscure the case was, however.

6 - http://www.sensingmurder.co.nz/
7 - The administrator's response can be read on the Sensing Murder website, in the sub-forum dedicated tot he Olive Walker case. (http://www.sensingmurder.co.nz/regfrm/viewtopic.php?t=403)

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Sensing Murder: Psychics Revealed

I didn't watch it. I tried to, but there were two issues. Three issues.

First, I was tired. The night before, Lurgee jnr decided to have a BAD NIGHT and by the time he finally decided sleeping was okay (cica 3am), I was too wide awake to sleep. So come yesterday evening, when the Sensing Murder: Psychics Revealed (1) was broadcast, I had been awake for A VERY LONG TIME.

Second, the part that I saw was just an extended promotion for the 'psychics.' I expected numbers for ticket booking lines to appear at the bottom of the screens. Given that I had been awake for A VERY LONG TIME, my willingness to stay up to watch that sort of thing was limited. A detailed profile of the 'psychics,' even one that assumed they were genuine, would have been interesting. But as usual, the Sensing Murder team provided a slick, nasty product with the gravitas of a souffle.

Third, and this by way of bearing out my criticism of the producers, even the short portion I did watch contained two outright untruths. First, they claimed, as they did in the Insight episode, that Nigel Latta was a sceptic. He is or was nothing of the kind. He made clear in the revised edition of his book, Into The Darklands And Beyond (2), that he was ambivalent about the existance of psychic powers. So not a sceptic at all. The other instance also involved Latta. The narrator declared "Nigel Latta is interested in a link between childhood trauma and the development of psychic powers." Cut to Latta, talking about how childhood trauma may make the victim percceive the world as a darker place, and make them more likely to feel negative (3). Nothing about psychic powers at all, or anything to indicate he was saying anything even close to what the narrator suggested he was.

In his book, Latta declared that he had "ideas about playing on a bigger stage" than as a clinical psychologist (4). I didn't realise this meant appearing on Sensing Murder and breakfast TV as a talking head. When he appeared on the Insight episode of Sensing Murder, I thought he had been taken advantage of by the show's producers, to give their shoddy product a veneer of respectability. Into The Darklands And Beyond revealed that he had some sort of long standing commitment to the show - the contacted him to do work for them on the first season, and he was pally enough to call producer Cinna Smith to ask about the show's authenticity (5). And last night he willingly appeared again. So he's witting party to the show, in all its nastiness and dissembling.

I admired Latta for his work with sex offenders and troubled children. But working on breakfast TV and Sensing Murder puts him into the sub-Oprah freakshow category. If he's trying to establish a platform from which to get a message across, he's a fool because he's lost his credibility. If he's doing it simply to promote himself, he should be ashamed (6). On the credit side, he's revised his comments on Sensing Murder to make it clear that he is not endorsing Webber's psychic powers. He complains about the amount of attention paid to his appearance on Sensing Murder, compared to that given to his other work. But that only begs the question, why did he agree to make a second appearance on the show? (7)

1 - 'Sensing Murder: Psychic Revealed,' broadcast by TV2 on Tuesday, 13th of November.
2 - 'Into the Darklands and Beyond,' by Nigel Latta, published by Harper Collins, 2007. Latta described his ambiguous position in the chapter describing his experiences on Sensing Murder.
3 - This is from memory, and not word-for-word, but I am positive that I have represented it fairly. If the producers would care to provide me with an accurate version, I'll be happy to ammend.
4 -'Into the Darklands: Updated Edition' by Nigel Latta, published by Harper Collins, 2005. The quotation is from from the final chapter, "Simple Things," page 301.
5 - As per #2, above.
6 - I'm sure he's quivering at the chastisement I'm handing out here. Interestingly, Latta has a show of his own coming out on TVNZ this year, according to his website (
http://www.goldfishwisdom.co.nz/?t=15 - as at 14th November 2007.) A year ago I'd have watched it. Now I probably won't bother.
7 - From Latta's website, Goldfish Wisdom, as of 14th November, 2007: http://www.goldfishwisdom.co.nz/?t=46

Trotter vs. Minto

Pompous Chris has replied to Righteous John's original open letter.

Trotter makes some good points (as did Minto) but the whole thing is collapsing into silliness. Perhaps both should resolve to Shut Up for a while, and let the blood cool. As it is, the whole thing just sounds like two vain, middle-aged men defending their pride rather than any sort of meaningful debate.

Trevor Mallard slugs Tau Henare; Len Richards swipes a protestor who tried to grab his megaphone; now Trotter and Minto butt heads. Ah! 'Tis spring and the sap is rising!

I almost wish I was a rightwinger, because watching the collective madness that seems to have seized the left, and particularly these two hand-bagging each other and squealing is funny enough from here; from a rightie's point-of-view, it must side-splitting. But if I was a rightwinger, I'd have to have a crush on Ayn Rand or Margaret Thatcher, and that's just depressing.
1 - 'An open letter to John Minto,' by Chris Trotter, in the Sunday Star Times, 11th of November, 2007. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/4269648a1861.html)
2 - 'Letter from John Minto to Chris Trotter,' press release from John Minto, 30th of October, 2007. (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0710/S00415.htm)

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Monbiot vs Bio fuels

Monbiot - echoing Fidel Castro (1)- tells harsh truth about the panacea of bio fuels:

The cost of rice has risen by 20% over the past year, maize by 50%, wheat by 100%. Biofuels aren’t entirely to blame - by taking land out of food production they exacerbate the effects of bad harvests and rising demand - but almost all the major agencies are now warning against expansion. And almost all the major governments are ignoring them.

They turn away because biofuels offer a means of avoiding hard political choices. They create the impression that governments can cut carbon emissions and - as Ruth Kelly, the British transport secretary, announced last week - keep expanding the transport networks. New figures show that British drivers puttered past the 500 billion kilometre mark for the first time last year. But it doesn’t matter: we just have to change the fuel we use. No one has to be confronted. The demands of the motoring lobby and the business groups clamouring for new infrastructure can be met. The people being pushed off their land remain unheard. (2)

Climate change is not something that will be met by changing the sort of fuel we use. It will require huge compromises from both sides. People wil have to accet changes to the way we live - though they'll adapt, quickly, because people always do. Greens and environmentalists will probably have to accept a role for nuclear power, because China and India must find a way to reach a western level of development, without western levels of emmissions.

1 - Castro was the first voice I heard suggesting bio fuels were not a good thing, and burning poor peaoples food so rich people could carry on using cars was evil and wrong. See 'Castro hits out at US biofuel use ,' unattributed BBC atricle, 29th of March, 2007. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6505881.stm)
2 - 'An agricultural crime against humanity,' by George Monbiot, published in The Guardian, 6th of November, 2007. (
http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/11/06/an-agricultural-crime-against-humanity/)

I was, of course, right ...

On the 27th of October, on an IMC Aotearoa forum, I predicted:
It isn't certain that they'll [the Urewera 17/16/12] be charged under the terrorism act, though, and they won't be spending a year in jail, I'll bet. Most of them'll be out in early November, facing firearm charges. (1)

While not 100% accurate (they were all released), it was a damn sight better than some of the guff being spouted by others.

More later.
1 - Posted on IMC Aotearoa, 27th of October, 2007: http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/display/82844/index.php

Monday, 12 November 2007

Morons

I enjoy listening to the panel on National Radio, even though Jim Mora hasn't read out any of my emails yet. It serves the useful purpose of demonstrating that lefties can generally be erudite and funny about stuff, and take the piss - even Pompous Chris (1) - whereas righties are generally annoying, dull, montonous ideologues who can only bleat on about Labour and how scurrilous Labour / Greens / anyone who doesn't have extensive passages of Atlas Shrugged tattoooed across their buttocks, is.

Today (2), it was one of the latter variety, with two rightie panellists, Mike Ponder and Richard Griffin. Griffin is a frequent paneleer and generally Not An Idiot. Ponder I have no knowledge of, perhaps because he spends his time flitting betxit New Zealand and Aussie, which puts me in mind of something Muldoon once said.

Anyway, during the panels deliberations, the topic of How Much More Splendid Australia Is cropped up, as it does every other week or so. This time, it was in the context of Michael 'Ebenezeer' Cullen's comments (3) about tax cuts not briding the income gulf between New Zealand and Australia. Ponder agreed with Cullen in general, explaining that Austalia was so much more fabulous than New Zealand that a few dollars couldn't compensate for the horror of being trapped in a country that (from his tacit description) gave North Korea a run for its money.

All very well. People can like Australia more than New Zealand, no matter how odd their reasons. His reasons for valourising Australia were: that Australia had a better climate, which is nonsense - ask any Aussie farmer; Australians enjoyed better opportunites, which is a wonderfully vague term, especially with no example given; the general way of life was more purposeful. Also, Aussies cherished their heritage and history more. While I'll concede that are many Australian cultural colossi, like Patrick White, Ivan Southall, Peter Weir, John Pilger, Clive James and Nick Cave, Aussie's, as a rule, aren't an international by-word for cultural savvy.

All debateable points, but not scurrilous or absurd. But there was more, oh yes.

Crucially, New Zealanders hated the New Zealand government (elected , last time I checked, by New Zealanders) and were sick of "the Maori issues. People just get sick of the Maori issue in their face all the time." Then Griffin - usually Not An Idiot, remember - chipped in, pointing out "in terms of the aboriginals, the the Australian's ... white Australian policy was disgraceful, but it's now an issue that's history."

Whoa, Nelly, what?

New Zealanders are leaving New Zealand because of "Maori issues"? What about the ... um ... New Zealanders who happen to be Maori, and who are leaving? Are they leaving because they are sick of "Maori issues"? Or is there tacit implication that New Zealander means white, and Maori must be something else?

And then Richard 'Not An Idiot' Griffin announces that the vast over-representation of Aboriginal Australians (note his slip - at first it is just 'the Australian's' who have an atrocious historical record, quickly ammended to ''White Australians') in all the bad statistics - crime, povert, child abuse, alcoholism, low life expectancy and all that - is "an issue that is history." Yeah, right. Sorry, but bollocks.

You can't just draw a line under mammoth injustices like thos inflicted on the Aboriginals. Even to do attempt to do that and say, "That's all finished with, we'll treat you nice from now on" is de facto racism, because the Aboriginals so over represented at the bad of the social statistics. You have to make redress, balance it out, take affirmative action, whtever you want to call it. New Zealand - slowly and painfully and reluctantly - is doing that. Maori tribes acan seek redress through the courts for past injustices (4), and Labour is improving the lot of Maori through - bluntly - race specific policies coupled with socially progressive measures. It is working, at a pace that New Zealanders - of all colours and backgrounds - seem to be accepting.

So, if there are New Zealanders - and by that I mean craven Pakeha scum who are in denial of historical injustice and the need to sort it out - are really moving to Australia becasue they're sick of the "Maori issues," then they can piss off. The country is better off without tacitly racist morons like that.
1 - Pompous Chris will be my new name for Chris Trotter, as The Moustachioed One seems too adulatory. This label, and Halt All Racist Tours, will be John Minto's lasting contributions to New Zealand society.
2 - Monday, 12th of November, 2007. Unfortunately, the audio is only available online for a week, that I'm aware of, so I won't bother linking. If this is not the case, please advise me.
3 - 'Labour's tax cut commitment doubted,' unattributed TVNZ article, 11th of November, 2007. (
http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/1320238/1441580)
4 - Yes, I know. Foreshore and Seabed. Nothing is perfect. But this is not perfect and much worse.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Idiot/Savant vs. Trotter

Do I need a tag just for Trotter bashing? Idiot Savant has posted a commentary (1) on Trotter's recent column (2).

As I've said before, I think there is less distance between my position (cautiously support for police action, with reservations) and I/S's (scolding the police for an over-reaction, use of the terror legislation et cetera) than there is between I/S and the loonies on IMC Aotearoa.

The latter decided immediately that all of the Urewera 17 are innocent because "hey, we know them, and their like, really nice guys." I'm sure many - most? - of them are, and have done nothing more sinister than assoicate with people who are somewhat more mercurial. But if the activist community is going to welcome human detritus like Jamie Lockett - an ex-debt collector (3) - and self promoting, junta endorsing (4) fools like Tame Iti, then it it has to expect some fallout from such reckless association. Association doesn't mean guilt. But it does invite investigation, if those you associate with are suspicious. Whimpering about police states or the like doesn't help. Look at Fiji, or Pakistan. That is what real political terror looks like.

Anyway, I was intending to talk about what Idiot/Savant said. I'm not disputing his anger at the use of the terrorism legislation - that's a valid position that's been reached through reason, not automatic anti-police / pro-activist prejudice (5). And I/S is more than welcome to have a go at Chris Trotter. The Moustachiod One needs to be taken down a peg, regularly. He gets too easy a ride as it is, appearing everywhere and being, oh, so eloquent and witty and filling the role of popular leftwing intellectual. Without regular down-pegging, he becomes lazy and (Minto (6) was right about this, at least) pompous. Mike Moore should be employed to shadow him 24 hours a day, to keep him on his toes.

Where I think I/S is wrong is his take on Trotter's comment about the relationsahip between Maori and Labour. Trotter wrote:
How tragic it would be if, at the very point when Maori seemed poised to take their rightful place at the heart of the New Zealand State, a handful of radical relics from the 1970s and 80s and a pack of play-acting paramilitaries ended up supplying the Right with precisely the terrifying "revolutionary" iconography it requires to roll back eight years of advance. (7)
Idiot/Savant counters, arguing:
You get that? It's not the thirty years of advance which have occurred since the Treaty was recognised in New Zealand law, that Trotter wants us to silence our
consciences to protect, but the "eight years of advance" under Labour - eight years of "advance" which have seen Maori stripped of their right to test the ownership of the foreshore and seabed in the courts, and an arbitrary and unjust deadline on the filing of Treaty claims imposed, all in the name of pandering to the same authoritarian rednecks Trotter wants us to pander to again. (8)
Here I think Idiot/Savant is taking too narrow a view of things. I think the problem is perspectives. I/S is thinking about the issue in racial terms, regarding the recognition of the legal authority of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1975 as the point where Maori's historical rights and grievances were acknowledged. Trotter is thinking about it primarily in economic terms, where the key dates are 1984 and 1990. So both are right, in different ways. Maori, in some respects, and generally on a superstructural level, have enjoyed considerable benefits since the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975. On the other hand, the 80s and 90s saw Maori individuals and communities suffer the worst of the carpet-bagging reforms. It is only since Labour were elected that some progress has been made.

National will undoubtedly look to roll back the progress that has been made by those at the bottom of the social pyramid - which is broad and disproprtionately brown. They might not try to do it straight away, Ruth Richardson style. But they'll do what they can, using the leeway they've left them selves in their mealy-mouthed non-policy statements, and they certainly be looking to set about another garage sale of New Zealand assets in their second term. And the hardest hit, once again, will be Maori. So I think the claim that Trotter's prime concern is Labour's election chances is unfair (9).

Nor do I hold with I/S's contention that Trotter is telling the left to shut up and keep their heads down. Perhaps he's rolling his eyes in despair at the sight of Che Guevara and the calls for armed insurrection in New Zealand. But his criticism, to my mind at any rate, has been aimed initially at the Urewera 17, who he lambasts as idiots - deliberate, calculating idiots with wicked intent, or naive, hapless idiots hanging around with the former. He's also scathing of the way the activist community has closed ranks and assumed that there is no case to answer what-so-ever, which just isn't a tenable position. The next step should be to ask why the left has embraced causes like the Maori sovereignty movement, when the goals of the seperatists are at odds with thos of a democratic socialist movement, and tolerates the calls for racial violence being voiced by some.
1 - 'Labour's Trotter,' posted on No Right Turn, by Idiot/Savant on the 2nd of Novmeber, 2007. (http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2007/11/labours-trotter.html)
2 - 'No salvation in Ureweras,' by Chris Torrotter in The Dominion Post, 2nd of November, 2007. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4259132a1861.html)
3 - 'Lockett anti-establishment and proud of it,' by Patrick Gower in the NZ Herald, 27th of October, 2007. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10472412)
4 - 'Maori Activist Planning to go to Leader's Forum to Help Fiji,' unattributed item on NiuFM, 2nd of October, 2007. (
http://www.niufm.com/?t=202&View=FullStory&newsID=2450)
5 - If my memory serves me, Idiot/Savant's initial post on the raids contained a comment along the lines of "If there has been criminal activity then this is serious and warrants investigation" - not exact words. Interestingly, he/she seems to have edited the post (
http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2007/10/raids.html), or else my memory is blotchy.
6 - 'Open Letter from John Minto to Chris Trotter,' press release from John Minto, 30th of October, 2007. (
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0710/S00415.htm)
7 - '' by Chris Tortter, in the Dominion Post, 2nd ov Novmber, 2007, (
http://www.stuff.co.nz/4259132a1861.html).
Quoted on No Right Turn, 2nd of November, 2007 (#1, above).

8 - As per #1, above.
9 - This is not the first time I/S has indulged in a bit of Trotter bashing (Trotting?). Witness this comment on No Right Turn, from 12th of July:
http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2007/07/pointing-finger.html. Notice the similarities?

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Minto vs Trotter

As I was saying, the collective noun for leftists is 'a split.'

John Minto has written an open letter (1) to Chris Trotter, scolding him for subscribing to the 'police thesis' over the raids and the detention of the 'Urewera 17':
Your immediate instinct was to duck for cover and cut adrift a group of activists you can only surmise about. You preferred the long shadow cast by the state's forces than, for example, engaging in battle to prevent the anti-terror laws being used for the first time ... You then went further and gave active support to what you describe as the police thesis of an alliance between "Maori separatists and eco-anarchists". Unlike other commentators you weren't prepared to wait and see what evidence the police produce. Instead you've been busy doing your best to bolster the state's case in the public mind ... you have aligned yourself with our state forces against good New Zealanders. (2)
This doesn't fit with my reading of Trotter's position. Trotter has been arguing that the police may have been responding to their perception of a real threat from radicals intent on pursuing violent means (note use of 'their perception') rather than being part of "the next wave of masonic/illuminati suppression of the native populations of the world" (3).

Rather than accepting the 'police thesis,' Trotter said we should wait and see what that thesis actually is before concluding that the 'Urewera 17' are innocent. It is Minto's friends and allies in the activist community who are prejudging the situation. In the bleary minds of the far left, the police are always liars and agents of fascist oppression. They are the ones who 'weren't prepared to wait and see what evidence the police produce.'
1 - 'Letter from John Minto to Chris Trotter,' press release from John Minto, 30th of October, 2007. (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0710/S00415.htm)
2 - ibid.
3 - Yes, I will keep quoting this one over and over, because it is fantastic in its derranged lunacy. It is an anonymous comment on an IMC Aotearoa forum:
http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/display/82026/index.php

Misapprehension of the presumption of innocence

Time and again, on IMC Aotearoa, people are bewailing the 'fact' that Urewera 17 are being treated as if they are guilty, and not enjoying the presumption of innocence (1) that everyone is entitled to.

This is simply wrong headed. The presumption of innocence only comes into play at trial, when it is assumed that the accused is innocent and the prosecution must prove otherwise, beyond reasonable doubt. It doesn't apply anywhere else down the line, at the investigation, apprehension or pre-trial stages.

If it did, it would be impossible for the police to arrest anyone for anything, no matter how glaringly obviously culpable they were: "Hmmm, so you're standing over your wife's dead body, covered in her blood and clutching a knife that matches the 23 stab wounds in her torso. But I have to presume you're innocent, so I'll let you go."

The police don't presume that people are innocent when they investigate them, or arrest them. They aren't presumed innocent when bail applications are made.

There is a parallel for this. During the debate over the repeal of Section 59, people were believed (because they were told this) that what was happening would affect their lives immensely. The truth was far simpler, of course. A defense that only applied in a court of law - like the presumption of innocence - was being removed.

The change placed no further requirement on police to investigate complaints or allegations - they had to do that already. Allegations were not more likely to result in prosecution, in fact, because of the 'public interest' provision now written into law, parents enjoy more protection than previously. ALl that changed was that if a person abused their child so severely that they were prosecuted and put to trial, they could no longer defend themselves by claiming they had been using reasonable force.

All of which goes to show that idiocy is not the sole preserve of the left or the right.
1 - A not untypical comment: "A man is presumed innocent until proven guilty." (http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/display/82767/index.php)

Monbiot: Libertarians are the True Social Parasites

George Monbiot turns his ire on libertarians (1). castigating them for cleaving to a system that as "destroys people’s savings, wrecks their lives and trashes their environment ... the belief system of the free-rider, who is perpetually subsidised by responsible citizens" (2).

If anything, I think he's too easy on the libertarians, as he stops short of actually desribing them as what they are - a bunch of carpet bagging scumballs, rip off merchants, theives and snakeoil salesmen, peddlars phoney economic wisdom which they use to give legitimacy to their looting, and to persuade gullible politicians to allow them to help themselves to even more.
1 - 'Libertarians are the true social parasites,' by George Monbiot, 23rd of October, 2007. (http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/10/23/libertarians-are-the-true-social-parasites/)
2 - ibid.

Monday, 29 October 2007

"Ruatoki will not invade Auckland" - a bit of balance

I thought this rant (1) by Rawiri Taonui should be preserved for future generations. Written in the immediate aftermath of the raid, it summarises the holes in the police case, though not enough to still the worried voice in my head:

Today's evidence is equally unconvincing. Police may have legitimate prosecutions over unlicensed guns under the Firearms Act, but terrorist accusations are simple scaremongering.

Osama bin Laden does not live in the Ureweras, turbans and tataramoa (bush lawyer) simply don't mix. Ruatoki will not invade Auckland.

Who would pay for the gas? Iti's "army" appears to comprise a 53-year-old from Palmerston North, a teenage girl from Otara and a likeable but obviously nutty Pakeha anti-Pakeha from Takanini.

One warrant itemised balaclavas and camo T-shirts. There are thousands of camo thingys on TradeMe and in The Warehouse, including cool pyjamas and funky undies.

And, what do they mean by napalm? Supermarket fire-starting cubes, dirt and petrol, and glycerol mixes are standard outdoor survival fire-starting tricks.

The odd idiot makes a big one, but that's a far cry from weapons-grade bomb making.

Critics warned that police and the Crown would use the Terrorism Suppression Act to target Maori and other progressive groups when it was introduced in 2002.

Those fears were realised last week. The charges are trumped up because a new anti-terrorism bill is before parliament. (2)

The biggest head shake accompanied the last line - the Mintoist contention (3) that the raids were a sham to help the government pass revisions to the anti-terror legistlation. It is an obvious link to make, but is naive in its paranoia. With Labour and National united, the government would alsway have the numbers to pass the legislation. Suggesting that Helen Clarke would get the police to stage a series of raids to convince MPs to support the ammendments was always a laughable proposition.

If anything, the reverse would be true - the government, if it was half as devious as it is made out to be, would be doing everything possible to avoid attracting government attention to the new legislation. Any tactical shenanigans would be to distract attention from the terrorism bill, not focus MPs and the media on it. Getting Trevor Mallard to clobber Tau Henare would have done the trick: "Trev did what? Nawh! What bill are we voting for again? Who cares. Aye!"

Only, they fluffed the timing.
1 - 'Guerrillas in our midst? No!,' by Rawiri Taonui in the Sunday Star Times, 21st of October, 2007. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/4245703a1861.html)
2 - ibid.
3 - 'John Minto: Terrorism charges 'trumped up' for political impact,' unattributed summary of TV3 news report, 16th of October, 2007. (
http://www.tv3.co.nz/News/NationalNews/Story/tabid/423/articleID/37030/Default.aspx)

Richard Long: "Bell tolls for loopy eccentrics"

I found the The Long View on recent events (1) whilst looking for something else.

Long captures the slightly surreal quality of proceedings quite well - the idea that the rather laughable (sans shotgun) Tame Iti might be a dangerous guerilla with pretentions to being Che Guevara simply seems odd.

The final paragraphs provide food for thought for the more hysterical voices on the left, if they can stop fulminating about race war long enough to read them:

The raids followed a two-year investigation by the police Special Investigations Group. Police HQ would have been aware of the sensitivities and historical grievances of the Tuhoe and of the likely reaction by civil libertarians to any action taken under the counter terrorism legislation.

Even so, the vehement outburst by Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples caused
surprise when he condemned the raids as storm-trooper tactics that had set
Maori-Pakeha relations back 100 years.

These raids were not an assault on Maoridom in general or the Tuhoe in particular. A number of those arrested were Pakeha. The police must not feel compelled by some form of political correctness to pussyfoot around when faced with evidence of clandestine paramilitary training and an expressed intention to kill.

When the dust has settled around these raids and the consequent court action, we also need a thorough review of the taxpayer-funded Urewera camps for disaffected youth that Iti has been running.

Iti's supporters are full of praise for his achievements, but at least one of the graduates of these camps has gone on to kill. (2)

1 - 'Bell tolls for loopy eccentrics,' by Richard Long, in the Dominion Post, 23rd of October, 2007. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4247677a1861.html)
2 - ibid.

IMC Aotearoa vanishes

The voice of freedom in Aotearoa - New Zealand has been silenced by an alleged "data-base error."

Perhaps this is part of the sinister Illuminati - capitalist conspiracy to smite indigenous people's around the globe, or perhaps not. Anyway, it isn't there at the moment. Or perhaps some numpty posted something that lead to it being closed down to protect the identity of people with name surpression. Whatever happened, the absence of IMC Aotearoa - hopefully temporary -hasn't reduced the collective IQ of the internet very much, on recent form. Which tells you all you need to know about both parties.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Towards a tipping point

The reactions of various factions of the left to the Urewera raids (1) has been interested and varied. Some of it has been entirely predictable - cries for revolution and racial violence (2)from subversion addicts who don't seem to realise this sort of thoughtless extremism is what prompted the police to act in the first place, through more thoughtful condemation (3) of police use of terror legislation, to wary support (4) of the police action as a response - perhaps in appropriate and over the top - to a genuine perception of real risk.

The latter have been given a pretty thorough going over. Chris Trotter has been branded a coward, Bomber Bradbury a scab (5). McCarthyite calls to bar Trotter from meetings of the Auckland Defense Committee, and veilled threats against him, have been bandied about (6). It is a glum truth that the left doesn't need a rightwing opposition. Internal, factionalised squabbling will can render the left ineffective far more quickly than the right could hope to.

I've stated my support for the actions of the police, but it is qualified and limited. I do not believe that New Zealand police are arrant fools, nor that they would spend eighteen months and eight million dollars (7) on an operation if they did not have credible evidence of a threat, nor would they arrest 17 people across the country, and subject many more to stress and disruption, in some sort of show of force for the Hell of it.

Idiot/Savant takes a different approach, but he/she is busy re-fighting the Ahmed Zaoui battle with the SIS. Because the security services were in the wrong then, and behaved like incompetent fools, it does not mean they must be doing so again. The fallout of the Zaoui affair, and the Haneef affair in Australia, will have been in the minds of the police before they launched the raids.

As will the risks, beyond the damage to the police's credibility if the raids were a half-cock beat up. The reverberations will be felt for years to come. It isn't something that the police would have undertaken lightly. Contrary to what some of the more paranoid voices on IMC believe, the police are not simply the fascistic arm of a state intent on smashing all opposition. Things would be a lot more simple if that were the case.

So, qualified and support to the police. I'm not comfortable with the use of the misbiggotten terror legislation. Not because I believe those arrested are all blameless and innocent of any wicked intent, but because it is bad law and should be scrapped. So I hope that the terror charges are dropped in favour of more sensible charges.

Also limited support. I believe that there is a period of grace where a reaction - not matter that it be wrong headed and over-the-top - can be supported. When Ahmed Zaoui arrived in New Zealand, detaining him was justified, so that the security serivces could assess whether or not he posed a risk to the people of this country. Everything that followed was wrong, bordering on wicked, but initial detention and investigation was merited. I've ranted and raved extensively about the treatment of Mohammed Haneef (23 posts, to be precise, all of them condemning the cowardly, venal behaviour of the howard government (8)) but my first post on the matter was not until 13th of July, where as he was initially detained on the 2nd of July. Arresting the cousin of a terrorist as he tries to leave the country is a valid response. Detaining him for weeks, on trumped up charges, some of that time in solitary confinement, while leaking lies, misrepresentations and spin about him is not. So my support for the actions of the police in the current raids won't spring eternal.

1 - Termed such for simplicity.
2 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/10/best-of-times-worst-of-times.html
3 - Idiot / Savant has argued that the terrorism charges are bunk on No Right Turn. An example:
http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2007/10/middle-nz-will-recoil-in-horror.html
4 - Messrs Bradbury, Trotter and myself. See
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/10/best-of-times-worst-of-times.html for further consideration.
5 - A comment made on Aotearoa AMC:
http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/display/82393/index.php
6 - Both on IMC Aotearoa. The implication that Trotter should be
barred from Defense Committee meetings is here:
http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/display/82351/index.php ("I didn't think he was involved in teh actual committe - just that he gets let through the door too much. How disgusting though! He should be ashamed.") and the implied threat of violence here: http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/display/82683/index.php ("It's good to have the coward Trotter there so he can see an activist community united against the likes of him. The last meeting he didn't dare open his mouth, and if he had said anything stupid with the actual family members of his imaginary terrorists present, there were "bouncers" present to deal with him.")
7 - 'Top Maori were terror targets,' by Joseph Lose in the Sunday Star Times, 21 October 2007. (
http://www.stuff.co.nz/sundaynews/4245183a15596.html)
8 - Not a good word for poor old John Howard, Mick Keelty or Kevin Andrews anywhere:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/search/label/Mohammed%20Haneef

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Chris Trotter "Exploring the case for armed struggle"

I wonder what Chris Trotter was thinking as he scanned the pages of IMC Aotearoa, prior to writing his latest column (1), exploring the left's response to the raids. He'd caertainly been browsing, as he quotes from one of the more excessive examples of lunacy posted post-Urewera.

While it is largely a re-working and expansion of his earlier column (2), he also considers the possible consequences for the left next year - when the those arrested may be coming to trial and there is the small matter of a general election. He homes in on the point that this may fatally split the left, and hand National the next election - almost certainly if cool heads don't prevail in the Greens and Maori party.
1 - "Exploring the case for armed struggle," by Chris Trotter, in the Independent Financial Review, 24th of October, 2007. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4248869a1861.html)
2 - "Actions of arrogant idiots," by Chris Trotter in the Dominion Post, 19th of October, 2007. (
http://www.stuff.co.nz/4243561a1861.html)

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Dick Scott and Karl Marx on Urewera

Trying to put the police raids in the Urewera's into a radical context, people have been referenceing the 1951 dock workers' strike, and the invasion of Parihaka in 1881. Dick Scott, who quite literally wrote the book on both these events, is probably the main reason that people are drawing parallels.

Scott contemplated a book on Rua Kenana, the Tuhoe chief arrested at Maungapohatu in the Ureweras in 1916 for sedition. Afte some research, however, he abandoned the project, as he found Rua a less attractive character than Te Whiti and Tohu:


Worthwhile information had been collected .... but with enough detail to know I could not face the man after engaging with Te Whiti and Tohu. Rua readily sold Tuhoe land, not least the land dowry his many wives brought him and, decked in fine clothes, bejewelled, servants on call - there were cooks to prepare their food - the ten chosen ones could pander to a near replica of any Pakeha evangelist on a downward path, this one ahead of the pack with the most rakish of expensive motorcars. No surprise to learn he had made a plea for mercy at his 1916 trial for liquor-selling offenses - a legal travesty aimed at punishing him for opposing wartime recruitment - and had been granted six months remission from a two and a half year sentence for agreeing to join in the recruiting. (1)
The tendency to romantacise resistance leaders is one of the traditional weaknesses of the left. Kenena shouldn't be presented as an anti-colonial hero. An objective view of history - no matter how many comforting myths and stories have to be torn down - is essential.

I'd go as far as to say Maori tribalism and the fetishisation of the Treaty of Waitangi belong in this category. Tribalism is a dead end, a divisive idea that the left should be rejecting, not supporting. Tribalism has nothing to do with social democracy or socialism. This makes the Treaty an irrelevance. Perhaps it has some use as a tool for addressing historical wrongs, but it is only useful if it improves the lot of individual Maori. If it strengthens anachronistic tribal structures, concentrating wealth and power in the hands of an elite, then it isn't serving any useful purpose. But dim-witted political correctness about indigenous struggles and rights leads well meaning activists to champion a reactionary cause. No-one should forget their past - see the next paragraph - but that doesn't mean anyone has to live in it.

The police raids brought to mind a favourite comment by Marx:
Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personage sappear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. (2)
Marx is being intentionally vague when he says that Hegel's comment about historical re-occurance is 'somewhere' - he would undoubtedly have been able to pinpoint precisely where, had he wanted to. Coyness and modesty are an endearing feature in a character usually associated with revolutionary terror.

A quick comparison of historical and recent events show the truth in what the old man said - Parihaka in 1881 was a tragedy. The raid on Rua Kenana in 1916 was also a tragedy and a despicable abuse of state power. But the current events are farce. A few middle-aged radicals and their teenaged acolytes playing che Guevara in the backwoods is not noble resistance movement, nor is it a terrorist movement. Tame Iti is not a figure like Te Whiti, Tohu or even Rua, but a clown, a "notorious self promoter .. .given to displaying his bare bum," (3) in the words of Dick Scott, a writer who has made a more significant contribution to Maori history and to progressive politics.

1 - From A Radical Writer's Life, by Dick Scott, published in 2004 by Reed Books, Auckland, page 296. Reading the book, one can't help but note that Scott has adopted a few Rua-esque qualities, having amassed a collection of ex-wives and former lovers. Also I raised an eyebrow on learning the great class warrior's book was printed in China.
2 - 1 - "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, " by Karl Marx, 1852. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm)
3 - Scott, op. cit., page 297.

Monday, 22 October 2007

The best of times, the worst of times

After the events of the last few days, I'm gritting my teeth and hoping that misfortunes come in threes. The left has had more than its fair share over the past fortnight, and in the spirit of egalitarianism I demand the right gets an equal helping.

First up, the local body elections (1) lead to the return of John Banks in Auckland; Michael Laws in Whanganui; and Palmy, never one to miss out on an opportunity to make itself less likeable, elected Jonno Naylor. The only positives to be gained from this is that the electorate might recoil from the se rightwing gorgons, and, come the general election next year, vote for sensible, decent leftwing candidates. Banks's outburst over the Eden Park redevelopment, basically announcing he wants his ctiy to enjoy all the benefits without shouldering the cost, suggests this may not be a folorn hope.

Second, Steve Maharey announced he'd had enough (2) and that he was quitting politics. This handed the rightwingers a gift, allowing them to insinuate that Maharey thinks Labour is going to be defeated, and Maharey knows this. This suggestion doesn't stand up - Maharey had ambitions to lead the party, and a rout next year would have lead to a vacancy at the top. With Cullen too old and Shane Jones too young, the obvious choices would have been Trevor Mallard, Phil Goff and Maharey. Though I'd love to see Trevor Mallard lead the Labour Party - for entertainment, if nothing else - he's accumulated too many scars and bruises in parliamentary dog fights and from implementing unpopular polices. So it would be Maharey from the left and Goff from the right, and I'd have backed Maharey over Goff. Goff's a nice bloke, but has a quality of lightness about him. So Maharey would have had reason to look forward to a defeat. Probably, he decided to give up because he felt he'd done his stint. Providing about 30% of the total intelligence and work-rate of the Labourparty for seentten odd years probably is a bit exhausting (Trevor Mallard contributes about 40% of the total party work-rate, though less to the intelligence).

Finally, we had the raids on the alleged terrorist plotters and the arrest of the so-called "Urewera 17" (3). What was going on in the Urewera's is perhaps not important. As Chris Trotter pointed out, whether or not the 'activists' were doing anything more sinister than playing Che Guevara and shooting thier mouths off, they've made things much more difficult for the left. Protests and protestors will have a thinner time of it than previously; generally, self-righteous lefties advocating good causes have enjoyed general support, tacit or active, in New Zealand. Perhaps it is residual goodwill from the Rainbow Warrior bombing - if the French saw fit to commit a terrorist murder, then their targets can't be all bad. Against that, however, we now have the 'Urewera 17' - most of whom are probably innocent of anything other than naive association - and the lingering suspicion that, whatever emerges about the raids, there must have been something to prompt them.

On top of the raids themselves has been the venal and ridiculous reaction by the far left / activist network. Scanning the comments made on IndyMediaAotearoa, I was sickened at the venom being unleashed, against the police, Chris Tortter and Martyn 'Bomber' Bradbury- the latter two branded "the coward Trotter and the Scab Bradbury" (5) by the new McCartyites. The immediate, unquestioning acceptance of that the 'Urewera 17' were all totally innocent and should all be released immediately left me shaking my head in amzaement. Hell, I'd always assumed that those on the left were a) smarter, and b) more sexually active than those on the right. I can only hope the denizens of IndyMedia are mating like bunnies, because they don't come across as the most thoughtful people.

No questioning of the what might have been going on in the Ureweras, just an immediate assumption that the raids were a set up, part of an Illuminati backed race war (6), for Heaven's sake. Frothing, hysterical calls for violence against the police, the "white men ruing (sic) Aotearoa" (7) and the "some Kupapa who will be taken care of as well" (8). Reading this bilge, I was reminded of two places where you'll find a similar level of vituperation, and a similar lack of reason or principles - the tirades of the anti-abortionists, and the venom being directed at Kate and Gerry McCann.

Perhaps a wafer thin silver lining can be discerned. Once the hurricane eases a little, perhaps some on the left will have the memory and the courage to question their supposed fellow activists about what they are saying now. Though almost all of the posters on Indymedia lurk behind anonymity - even more so than blogging under a nickname like lurgee, I mean - I can't imagine they are limiting their berserk comments to the internet. People in the activist community will know who is saying things like this:
FREEDOM comes out of the end of a gun (9)
and this:
One day we the true owners of this land will claim it back as is rightfully ours
and your blood will flow in the streets (10)
People who truly believe in progressive politics need to make sure that the people spewing poison like that are rousted out whatever organisations they've infiltrated. The left has no need of people attracted only by the whiff of danger, subversion and extremism. They can convert, Saul of Tarsus style, and be re-born as far right nationalists, where their howling racialism, propensity to violence and unthinking acceptance of authority will fit in far more comfortably.

1 - "Local election results summary," unattributed summary of results from Fairfax Media, 13th of October, 2007. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4236524a25305.html)
2 - "Maharey quitting Cabinet to join University," by Claire Trevett in the New Zealand Herald, 19th of October,
2007. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10470879)
3 - The fact that not all of the arrests were made at Urewera doesn't seem to bother the protesters. The 'Urewera 17' label is courtesy of Aotearoa IMC. (http://indymedia.org.nz/feature/display/71723/index.php)
4 - "Actions of arrogant idiots," by Chris Trotter in the Dominion Post, 19th of October, 2007. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4243561a1861.html)
5 - A comment made on Aotearoa AMC: http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/display/82393/index.php
6 - I am not making this up. Here is it, in all it's insane glory: http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/display/82026/index.php
7 - Again, a coment from the Aotearoa IMC discussion forum: http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/display/82302/index.php.
8 - ibid.
9 - ibid.
10 - A comment made on Tumeke: http://tumeke.blogspot.com/2007/10/ira-styled-war-planned-target-was-nz.html

Sunday, 21 October 2007

The Alliance response to terrorism raids

... is very measured and sensible (1). The left hasn't won itself any credit this week - honourable exceptions to Messrs Trotter (2) and Bradbury (3) - so it is good to have more sensible comment from progressive sources. No hysteria about fascism, or international Illuminati conspiracies.
1 - "Confusion and secrecy surrounding alleged "terrorism" activities needs to be cleared up," Alliance party press release, 17th of October, 2007. (http://alliance.org.nz/blog/?p=113#more-113)
2 - "Actions of arrogant idiots," by Chris Trotter in the Dominion Post, 19th of October, 2007. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4243561a1861.html)
3 - "Protesters threaten demo over terrorism arrests," posted by Bomber Bradbury on Tumeke!, 19th of October, 2007. (http://tumeke.blogspot.com/2007/10/protesters-threaten-demo-over-terrorism.html)

Friday, 19 October 2007

Trotter on our (alleged) terrorists

Unsurprisingly, this piece (1) hasn't endeared Trotter to some at the furthest extremes of leftist lunacy.

In fact, it's provoked paraxoysms of McCarthyite hysteria from some posters on IMC, who have demmanded Trotter be excluded from meetings of the Auckland Defence Committee. Nice to see freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and the virtue of dissent are held in such high regard by the denizens of the far left. Repeat after me ... "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

If they had read Trotter's piece carefully, instead of immediately castigating him like a bunch of Stalinist epigones on P, they would have appreciated the point he was making, which is simple enough, and clear.
1 - "Actions of arrogant idiots," by Chris Trotter in the Dominion Post, 19th of October, 2007. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4243561a1861.html)
2 - Again, I mean IMC: http://indymedia.org.nz/feature/display/71725/index.php.

This is what terrorism is

I'd like people, especially the mad people at IMC (1), to think about what happened in Pakistan today (2), when people who might call themselves freedom fighters or insurgents or whatever murdered at least 130 people in a failed attempt to assassinate Benazir Bhutto.

There is a lot of talk about police oppression, even - heaven help us all - a wave of "Masonic/Illuminati suppression of the native populations of the world" (3). But though paranoia is almost papable, it is only directed outwards, away from the network of activists and radicals.

But if the police and the government are agents of an secret international capitalist conspiracy, is it so far fetched to suggest a few Seperatist radicals might have secrets of their own? How can the naive but genuine people currently calling for the release of the arrestedf radicals be so certain that maybe the so-called activists were not entirely honest about their goals and plans? People who Mohammed Sidque Khan didn't think he was a radical, until he blew himself up on the London Underground. How many suicide bombers in Palestine didn't appear anything out of the ordinary, until too late? On a more mundane level, how many people are betrayed romantically, financially or in other ways, by people they trust unthinkingly?

If (and it is a big if, I admit) the claims made about Tame Iti and his band of seperatist dead-enders are true, at least as much as they were preparing to use violence against the people of New Zealand, then the difference between them and the people behind the mass murder in Pakistan, or whoever dropped Pam AM Flight 103 on Lockerbie in 1988, diminishes to the width of a cigarette paper. There is nothing brave or noble about planting bombs or shooting people, and it is especially contemptible if it is in the name of racial seperatism.

1 - And they really are mad: http://indymedia.org.nz/feature/display/71721/index.php
2 - "Attack on Bhutto convoy kills 130 ," unattributed BBC story, 19th of October, 2007. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7051804.stm)
3 - I swear I am not making it up. It is one of the comments on IMC. Follow the link above.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Anti-terror raids - New Zealand's Haneefgate

The police using new anti-terror legislation, the bungled raids, the defiant statements from on high, the bail granted to one of those charged being cancelled, the guilt by 'association,' and the suspicion that all this amounts to less than it should. All we need now are the drip-drip-drip leaks of false information and the final dismissal of the crown case in court, and the parallels between the Mohammed Haneef case and the current 'anti-terror' raids here will be complete.

Those who have broken the law should be punished. If some of those arrested are in possession of illegal arms or are plotting some IRA style campaign (1), then they should be dealt with according to the law. Though I'd urge the would-be seperatists to consider a different model - the IRA failled in their objectives and gave up. The Palestinians haven't managed to achieve anything by blowing themselves and Israelis up - except for strengthening the far-right in Israeli politics. ETA haven't done anything to advance Basque independence.

Some of the evidence that has emerged thus far is less than compelling. It is claimed that the supposed terrorists possessed Molotov cocktails and and napalm. I'll be interested to see how this story develops, recalling that initial reports placed Haneef's SIM card at the scene of the Glasgow bombings, when it was actually with his cousin (2) Sabeel Ahmed in Liverpool and how it was claimed he tried to leave the country with out notifying his employer, when he had done so (3). A few bottles of petrol stored in a shed might look like Molotov cocktails in the heat of a raid, but if that isn't what they are intended to be, then they aren't. As for the napalm, how was this identified? Was it stored in a contained labelled "NAPALM"? It seems unlikely. Whatever the truth, it will emerge over time, hopefully in a more open and less disingenuous manner than it did in the Haneef case.

The more worrying aspect of this is the arrest, and the (attempted) raids on people who's linkage with any para-military Maori seperatists must be weak at best. Here the parallels with Haneef are again compelling. Haneef was arrested and charged essentially because his cousin had committed a terrorist act. Now people who are campaigning for causes such as a Palestinian homeland are being arrested because they might have some vague connection with people who - it is alleged - are willing to fight for a seperate Maori state. It isn't at all surprising that the former might have attended the same meetings, rallies, and have connections with the latter. The have a common interest, but that doesn't mean a common goal.

The main difference between the current 'terror raids' and the Haneef case is that some of those detained are probably guilty of something, or the police have at least got good grounds for some of their actions. Equally, there are probably some who aren't guilty of anything, and have been detained because of a Kevin Andrews style interpretation of the term 'association.'
1 - "IRA-style war plan revealed," unattributed story on stuff.co.nz, 17th of October, 2007.(http://www.stuff.co.nz/4240093a25364.html)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/07/big-holes-appearing-in-case-against.html
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/07/haneef-did-have-leave-from-hospital.html

Monday, 15 October 2007

Lawyers want a probe into Haneefgate

With brilliant timing, just as John Howard had called an election, Mohammed Haneef's lawyers want an investigation (1) into how so much inaccurate information came to be levelled against Dr Haneef:

Peter Russo, Dr Haneef's lawyer, has welcomed the finding and is of the opinion that it was a flawed case from the very beginning.

''The difficulty with what's happened really now is it has left it open. It's really created more questions than it has actually answered,'' he has been quoted as saying by the Australian media.

''Perhaps it's something that needs to have an inquiry because the biggest difficulty we've got is that we don't know where the misinformation came from,'' Russo added. (2)

This follows an independent review which found that the case against Haneef contained "errors of fact" (3). It is not unresonable to wnat to know how so many errrors, of such magnitude, happened. The investigation should also cover why the police and ministers were so willing to leak material on Haneef, of course.

Howard's decision to call an election for the 24th of Novemeber, in the immediate aftermath of the Haneef appeal, scheduled for November 15th (4), looks even stranger and even more suicidal. Perhaps he's hoping is party will get such a trouncing that Costello won't be around to depose him.

And Kevin Andrews continues to behave in an apalling manner:

Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, a Federal Court judge has criticised the Australian Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews over the 'involuntary removal' of a man to New Zealand. In what is being considered as an ‘unprecedented’ attack, the judge has gone to the extent of calling the Immigration Minister's action as "truly disgraceful." (5)
Business as usual. But hopefully, not for much longer.

1 - "Haneef’s lawyers seek probe into charges," unattributed article on sify.news, 13th of October, 2007.(http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14542740)
2 - ibid.
3 - "Australia 'terror doctor' case flawed: review," unattributed AFP article, 12th of October, 2007.
4 - sify.news article, op. cit.
5 - ibid.

New poll leaves National just short.

The TVNZ / Colmar Brunton poll released yesterday gives National a healthy lead, 49% to Labour's 37%, but suggests the parties they are most likely to form a coalition with will struggle to make it back into parliament.

The Greens look comfortable on 6%, but the Progressives, ACT, New Zealand First, United Future and everyone else needing a constiuency seat to survive. Anderton and Dunne are safe, they'll be returned by electorates for as long as they draw breath, and perhaps even after that. But Winston will have to reclaim Tauranga, and Rodney Hide hold onto Epsom to keep their parties going. Both possible, but not certain.

Of course, the polls next year will be very different. National will come down, the minor parties will go up. But if the minor parties, other than the Greens, stay weak (below 5%), National could have some problems cobbling together a coalition - the Greens won't have anything to do with them (EXCLUSIVE BRETHERN!), the Maori Party might not want much to do with a party still intending to abolish the Maori seats, just not right now, and any coalition relying on Rodney Hide and Winston Peters will be a very strange, slightly demented beast indeed. You have to wonder if the New Zealnd electorate, MMP-savvy, will want a government - already making it's rightwing intentions clear - that is beholden to even more extreme libertarian chauvanistic parties.

1 - One News / Colmar Brunton Poll, dated 14th of October, 2007. (http://images.tvnz.co.nz/tvnz_images/news2007/colmar_brunton/october07/oct_partyvote.pdf)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/10/national-freak-out-with-lonney-tunes.html

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Fiske calls for Lockerbie whistleblowers

Robert Fiske has asked (1) people with secret information about the events surrounding the bombing of Pam AM Flight 103 - which was destroyed over the Scottish town of Lockerbie with a loss of 270 lives - to contact him:
If official untruths were told about Lockerbie – if skulduggery was covered up by the British and US governments and lies were told by those responsible for our security – then many in authority know about this.

I urge all those who may know of any such lies to write to me (snail mail or hand-delivered) at The Independent. They can address their letters to Mrs Irvine in an envelope with my name on it. In other words, this is an appeal for honest whistle-blowers to tell the truth. (2)
I'm Scottish, and I can remember Lockerbie (I was 14 in 1988), and the suggestion that there might have been anything like a cover-up, scapegoating or a misacarriage of justice is sickening. An appeal (3) is to be heard in 2008 against the conviction of Al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence officer found guilty of the bombing. I don't know if Al-Megrahi did it, or the Iranians, the PLO, Mossad, the CIA, the SNP or the KGB. But two principles override any other considerations - whoever is responsible for the atrocity must be punished, and the innocent must not be.

If there are people who have information that would bring out the truth, then they must reveal it. 270 people died, and bringing their killer or killers to justice would be a real victory in the war against terrorism.
1 - "Do you know the truth about Lockerbie?," by Robert Fiske in The Independent, 13th of October, 2007. (http://news.independent.co.uk/fisk/article3055834.ece)
2 - ibid.
3 - "Jailed Libyan wins right to new Lockerbie appeal," unattributed Reuters article, June 28th, 2007. (http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSL2860018220070628?pageNumber=1)

Friday, 12 October 2007

Ah, to be in Dunedin ...

The Alliance Party is holding its 2007 national conference in Dunedin on Labour
Weekend, Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 October. (1)

Speakers are Chris Trotter and Jack Yan, who will be speaking in the afternoons, (Trotter on Saturday and Yan on Sunday), free entry to the public. The conference will be opened by man of the moment Phil Adams, of the National President of the Maritime Union. It will be held in the Alexander MacMillan Room, Community House, 283 Moray Place.

Though closer to the Alliance than the Greens, I've never voted for them. In 2002, I wasn't eligible to vote in New Zealand, though I did persuade my wife to vote for the Alliance. In 2005, the election was too close to risk an altruistic vote. 2008 will probably be the same, but it is good to see they are still out there, and bounding up the polls, from 0.1% in May, to 0.4% in July. What other party can brag about quadrupling its support?

1 - "Alliance To hold 07 national conference in Dunedin,"Press release by the New Zealand Alliance Party 3rd of October, 2007. (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0710/S00043.htm)
2 - 3 TNS Opinion Poll. (http://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/0707/3News_TNSpoll_150707.pdf)

So what is genocide?

The US congress has defied the Bush administration and condemned the 1915 genocide of Armenians as ... genocide.

This hasn't been popular with the Bush and his acolytes. Prior to the vote, the President warned that condeming genocide was "not the right response" and described the genocide as "historic mass killings" (1).

I don't see a problem with describing genocide as genocide, but I can appreciate that Republican presidents have struggled with the concept. In 1988, the Prevention of Genocide Act 1988 (2) was passed by the senate, condemning the genocide of the Kurds in Iraq. It would have prevented trade and aid to Saddam Hussein's regime, but it never made it onto the statute book. Instead, facing a presidential veto, it died (3). Saddam, at that time, was our friend, you'll recall, and the receipient of a lot of military and economic aid from the west.

Bush's failure to support this criticism of the Armenian genocide is entirely predictable. The Turks, after all, are our ally in the war against Islamic Terror, just as General Mussharaf in Pakistan is an ally, never mind that he overthrew a democratic government on the road to become such. Just like Saddam Hussien was our ally when he attacked Islamic Iran. In 1987, criticism of Iraq was judged unhelpful. Now, the same sort of language is being used to describe criticism of Turkey.
1 - "House panel OKs Armenian genocide resolution," unattributed Reuters article, with (oddly) attributed additional reporting by Caren Bohan, Matt Spetalnick, 10th of October, 2007.(http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSWAT00825320071010)
2 - Text available here:
http://members.aol.com/apollo711/war/genocide-act.html
3 - "One Man's Battle to Stop Iraq," unattributed CBC transcript, 26th March, 2003.(http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/kurds/battle.html)

Hang out the stars in Alabama!

Well done, Albanians, or whatever you are. Who ever thought The Great Fightback would start in Alabama? Seriously, well done. Nothi...