Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Daily Mail on the side of Goliath (Unsurprisingly)

The Daily Mail is in a stew (1) because a worker in Tesco complained about being forced to do something he considered unconscionable, did not back down when he was bullied and threatened. He lodged a grievance with the company over his treatment which lead to an intensification of the campaign agaisnt him, which fianlly led to him quitting. He then sued Tesco for "racial discrimination, victimisation and harassment" (2).

This is a classic David and Goliath story, but because David in this case is really Mohammed Ahmed, an Muslim and - even worse - an immigrant from Saudi Arabia, the Daily Mail chooses to present the story rather differently:
A Muslim who claims he did not know Tesco sold alcohol is suing the store for religious discrimination after having to carry crates of drink as part of his job.

Forklift truck driver Mohammed Ahmed, 32, worked in a distribution depot for eight months before quitting 'in protest', an employment tribunal heard.

He claims he was forced to leave because handling beer, spirits and wine is against his strict Islamic beliefs and that he was victimised when he asked the company to give him another role.

Mr Ahmed, who was raised in Saudi Arabia, told the tribunal he had no idea his job entailed handling alcohol when he started work last September at the depot in Lichfield, Staffordshire. (3)
There is an awful lot of spin on this article. For a start, the case is described as centring on Ahmed's scruples over handling alcohol, and whether or not it was reasonable for him to know that Tesoc's sold it. That is a red herring, and the story seems to have been deliberately presented in this way to make Mr Ahmed look like that modern bogeyman of the Daily Mailite masses, the whining Muslim troublemaker who demands special consideration.

In actuality, this is a fairly typical case of a worker's rights being ignored and violated by the employer. That the employee was a Muslim is not relevant except to those of a certain prejudiced cast on mind. He is not asking for special consideration, but the same consideration that Tesco's claims it gives all its employees.

The actual case being tried is one of "Racial discrimination, victimisation and harassment" (4) which suggests there was probably some other issues at play. Perhaps these focused on his worries about alcohol, but that scruple is a secondary issue. The complaint is about the treatment he received when he reported he was not comfortable carrying out some of the duties assigned to him.

Certainly, Mr Ahmed seems to have tried his best to make the best of a situation he found difficult, carrying on for eight months and and only cracking "when extra alcohol arrived at the warehouse in readiness for Christmas" (5). His attempts to raise the issue were allegedly met with rude rejoinders ("Do not take the piss") and veiled threats to "Do the job or go home" (6).

After lodging his greivance officially, he was was the subject of further harrassment and bullying, eventually leading to him quitting.

He even seems to have tried to accomodate the demands of the job with his religion, resorting to the 'beer's okay' loophole that some Muslims exploit. This attmept to be reasonable seems to have been seized on by Tescos and is presented as a "Mixed message" (7) which rather makes a joke of their claim to be "Culturally sensitive and have an open-door policy to staff for issues like this" (8).

So, a worker is threatened and his requests that the company abide by its avowed policies of toleration and consideration is bullied and harrassed and eventually given no recourse but to quit his job due to a campaign of bullying and harrassment. This is all okay in the eyes of the Daily Mail because the victim in all this was a Muslim, and worse, a Muslim who had dared to say, "I'd rather not have to do this" - which was entirely his right, and then not accepted the curt dismissal of his concerns but taken his greivance further - again, in accordance with his his rights as an employee in Britain.


If he enjoyed being told what to do and not having any recourse or rights, he would, presumably, have remained in Saudi Arabia. As it is, he has the right to be treated fairly and have his greivance heard. Those who suggest otherwise should perhaps depart for Saudi, as their authoritarian instincts will be at home there.
1 - "Devout Muslim sues Tesco for making him carry alcohol," by David Wilkes, publised in the Daily Mail, 29th of September, 2008. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1063590/Devout-Muslim-sues-Tesco-making-carry-alcohol.html)
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.
4 - ibid.
5 - ibid.
6 - ibid.
7 - ibid.
8 - ibid.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Ain't that the truth?

Obligatory, low level, kneejerk dig at John Key. Finally, Key comes clean:
"I'm not going to waste this campaign and the next six weeks talking about what we might do," he said. (1)
We know that, John. We've known that for quite some time. National puts out policies in a manner similar to Labour standing by its principles - only rarely and with embarrassment, as if the whole sorry business was something to be ashamed of, and best forgotten as soon as possible.

Of course, the brief stab of visceral satisfaction of Key making a comment that can be misconstrued to suggest he's a policy shy, power seeking wench was soon forgotten, as the surreal quality of Winston Peters lecturing anyone on trust was appreciated. Good old Winston, he might have lost his seat, his baubles and his credibility, but he's still got his sense of humour.

Next act on the 08 Campaign Comedy Stage - Helen Clark! She'll have you laughing till you cry as she tells us the election is all about trust, honesty and principles and these are the reasons you should vote for her. Oh, she's already used that joke ... ?
1 - "Key would be difficult to trust - Peters," unattributed NZPA article, 28th of September, 2008. Reproduced on stuff.co.nz. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4708787a6160.html)

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Tory thinks the unthinkable - an amnesty for illegal immigrants

Anthony Browne, a director of the pro-Tory think-tank, Policy Exchange (1) has potentially doomed the Conservatives to another electoral defeat by suggesting (2) Britain needs to confront the issue of illegal immigration and the only realistic option is to offer an ongoing amnesty programme to long term illegal immigrants who haven't committed any crime other than being in the country. Basically, an illegal immigrant who has lived in the country for seven years, without being imprisoned for criminal activity, will be able to regularise their immigration status.

As Browne points out, there current situation is an exercise in denial:
At present, we have the worst of all worlds, turning a blind eye to illegal immigration, but making it impossible for illegal immigrants to regularise their status. Doing more to enforce immigration law, while accepting the reality that there are long term illegal immigrants who have settled well, would be far fairer, better for society and more economically efficient. All we need is for policy makers to accept reality. (3)
This is, of course, the sane, rational and decent response to a problem. It is also the one that neither Labour nor the Tories will support, as to do so would be electoral suicide.

The British public could be persuaded of the merits of the scheme - they are smart enough to see the difference between an illegal immigrant who works hard and lives meekly, and an Albanian gangster. That debate would never be allowed to happen, however. The Murdochite sewer press (having sunk below the level of the gutter) would run screaming, hysterical and inaccurate stories every day between now and the election in 2010.

Neither Labour or the Conservatives is likely to embrace this, any more than they did when the idea was last floated (see here and here). Last time, I argued that "this is all far to sensible to happen. Instead, it will be buried under the usual howls of "PC gone mad", wailing about "Uncontrollable immigration" and general drivel."

Sadly, I haven't seen anything to make me change that opinion. Neither party has the spine to actually stand up to the media, which is cynical and shameless enough to encourage cheap racism and xenophobic paranoia to make money.

Since Labour and the Tories are pretty much miserably similar on most issues - neither offering to do anything radically different, just promising to try to do it better than the other lot - I'd vote for whichever party had the courage to endorse this policy - even the Tories. But I expect Conservative response to be a rapid distancing from the unwisely honest Mr Browne, and perhaps some comments along the lines of "interesting idea ... seeking to start an debate ... offerring his own opinion, not party policy." If he is actually so uncouth as to make an issue out of it, it could damage the Tories, significantly.

Meanwhile, Labour will watch the discomfort of Cameron, smirking a little bit, and trying to ignore their own hypocritical failure to address the issue.

1 - Website of Policy Exchange: http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/
2 - "Why we should grant illegal immigrants an amnesty" by Anthony Browne, published in THe Independent, 26th of September, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/anthony-browne-why-we-should-grant-illegal-immigrants-an-amnesty-942761.html)
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/05/britain-rally-on-behalf-of-illegal.html and http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/06/campaign-against-amnesty-for-illegal.html
4 - ibid.

Bastards of Beijing seek to add insult to injury

The Chinese government is trying to influence the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, demanding that the prize does not go to Hu Jia (1), under house arrest for daring to discuss things like AIDS, gay rights, the plight of the Tibetan Antelope, and for talking to foreign journalists (2). This falls under the rubric of "incitement to subvert state power," a crime which carries a sentence of up to five years imprisonment (3), though Hu Jia was ultimately sentenced to three and a half years under house arrest. Let no-one ever doubt the benevolence of the Maoists.

It is outrageous that the Bastards of Beijing are trying to bully the Nobel Committee in this way. Do they really not understand how this works?

The Nobel Peace Prize has always been a token, given to some put upon victim of tyranny, in lieu of any meaningful action on our part. The Chinese government might slaughter Ughirs, suppress Tibetan monks and their antelopes, exterminate the Ygantze Dolphin and lock up people who have the gall to say "That's not good," all without out the West taking any meaningful action. Indeed, we will sign trade deals and let them host the Olympics, so that we can enjoy cheap consumer goods which we couldn't really afford if they weren't manufactured by ten year old slaves in city-sized industrial zones, working sixteen hour days and denied the rights and privileges that we pretend to value.

In return for this licence to be completely evil, all we ask is that some well meaning Scandinavians get to make a futile gesture in the name of human rights and dignity. This allows the rest of us to pretend to condemn what is being done, while we all (with the exceptions of Hu Jia, the Tibetan Antelope and the luckless people of the P.R.C.) continue to profit from the arrangement.
1 - "Beijing issues warning over peace prize choice," by Clifford Coonan in The Independent, 26th of September, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/beijing-issues-warning-over-peace-prize-choice-942826.html)
2 - As per his Wikipedia entry, viewed 27th of September, 2008:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hu_Jia_(activist)#Activism
3 - "Trial of Chinese activist begins " unattributed BBC article, 18th of March,2008. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7302057.stm)

Friday, 26 September 2008

Bastards

From Robert Fisk's interview with Sami al-Haj, an Al Jazeera cameraman brutalised for six years in the name of the 'War on Terror,' inspite of no-one ever thinking he was a terrorist:

[al-Haj] was never charged with any crime, nor was he put on trial; his testimony makes it clear that he was held in three prisons for six-and-a-half years – repeatedly beaten and force-fed – not because he was a suspected "terrorist" but because he refused to become an American spy. From the moment Sami al-Haj arrived at Guantanamo, flown there from the brutal US prison camp at Kandahar, his captors demanded that he work for them. The cruelty visited upon him – constantly interrupted by American admissions of his innocence – seemed designed to turnal-Haj into a US intelligence "asset".

....

He still cannot believe that he is free, able to attend a conference in Norway, to return to his new job as news producer at Al Jazeera, to live once more with his Azeri wife Asma and their eight-year old son Mohamed; when Sami al-Haj disappeared down the black hole of America's secret prisons the boy was only 14 months' old. (1)
Six years in captivity, beatings, interrogations, renditions, a 480 hunger strike in protest at the denial of his human rights, interrupted by monthly force-feeding sessions, which have left a 38 year old man limping and walking with a stick.

His current age, incidentally, indicates he would have been thirty-two when he was abducted. When I was that agemy first son would have been slightly younger than Mohamed - I can't imagine the anguish being seperated from him would have caused.

British Intelligence are implicated in this (not for the first time (2)), which once again shows how the sick violations of hman dignty aren't limited to the USA. Britain - and by extension all the USA's allies - are implicated in this behaviour. Which is why we are hated, and why the terrorist scum masterminds that want to attack us are always going to find more recruits for their evil.

On the 12th of September, 2001, American commentator Ward Churchill earned himself hatred and abuse by suggesting that the victims of September 11th weren't 'innocent' as they had tacitly colluded in the crimes of their governments. They had been in a position to act against it, but had abnegated that responsibility in favour of quiescence. We tried to ignore his message then, understandably perhaps in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity of the day before. But we are still ignoring it, still claiming we are somehow morally not imbrued by the acts which our - ours, because we have voted for them and supported them - governments carry out.

1 - "Six years in Guantanamo" by Robert Fisk, published in The Independent, 25th of September, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-six-years-in-guantanamo-941479.html)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/08/this-is-why-we-are-hated-and-this-is.html
3 - "Some People Push Back," by Ward Churchill, published on the 12th of September, 2001. Reproduced on politicalgateway.com, with further commentary by Churchill and others. (http://www.politicalgateway.com/news/read.html?id=2739)

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Idiots

Up until now, I'd thought that Labour had done the best they could with regards the whole Winston-Corruption mess, by refusing to act against him impetuously. Even Peters deserves to be treated fairly. By playing it that way, thoey couldn't be accused of acting in haste or unfairly, nor would they be seen to be supporting a corrupt, venal, lying scumbag (1).

It now appears, however, that it wasn't Labour applying the principles of natural justice and fair play, but a genuine - if lunatic - strategy to retain New Zealand First's support (2).

By waiting for the Privilege's Committee report, Labour made themselves look like the party that wasn't angaging in cheap politics (inspite of the frothing of the rightwing of the blogosphere) and actually had some principles. Now they've thrown all that away by continuing to support Peters after the report damned him for providing "false or misleading information" (3).

It is an obvious, cynical manouver. With Key ruling New Zealand First out, Labour look like they are cementing their support for a coalition. But it's exposed them as power-hungry, unprincipled friends of corruption. Which means, horribly, that the rightwing dribblers may have been right on this one, all along.

It probably won't even be effective as the support gained from New Zealand First will be balanced by the support lost as voters reject Peters and Labour in revulsion. So even viewed as a piece of political manouvering, it is clumsy and - in its blundering attempt at cynicism - naive.

Another reason to withhold support for Labour, until they actually become a proper leftwing party, not a bunch of nasty right-lite grafters.
1 - This description would apply only if Peters were judged to have been guilty by the privileges committee. Otherwise, hw would, of course, be an honest, upright, heroic fighter against corruption, venality, lies and scummishness, perhaps second only to Brian Tamaki.
2 - "No grounds to censure Peters - Cullen," unattributed NZPA article, 23rd of September, 2008. Reproduced on stuff.co.nz (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4702920a6160.html)
3 - ibid.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Afghan history: first as tragedy, then as tragedy

Robert Fisk's latest column (1) describes how, in defiance of Marx's claim that "Hegel remarks ... all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce" (2), Afghanistan continues to be unspeakably tragic.

Perhaps if you look at it in geo-political terms, it is most amusing to watch the USA make the same mistake that the USSR - and Britain in the 19th century - made. But the reality is always that it comes back to dead people who don't deserve to suffer for the mistakes of their idiot leaders:
... Two of the American soldiers seized when the Taliban stormed into their mountain base on 13 July this year were executed by their captors.

And now it turns out that four of the 10 French troops killed in Afghanistan on 18 August surrendered to the Taliban, and were almost immediately executed.
...

... the Americans probably killed 90 people in Azizabad, most of them women and children. We – let us be frank and own up to our role in the hapless Nato alliance in Afghanistan – have now slaughtered more than 500 Afghan civilians this year alone. These include a Nato missile attack on a wedding party in July when we splattered 47 of the guests all over the village of Deh Bala. (3)
As Fisk pointed out in the column (4) he wrote about the assault he sufferred in Killa Abdullah, in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, it isn't at all surprising that the Afghans lashed out at him, after sufferring the 'shock and awe' of the invasion.

Nor is it suprising that the Afghans are tolerating the return of the Taliban. It is an ancient, atavistic response, but homegrown oppressors will always be preferred to foreign oppressors. Since we've failed to make ourselves liked, we've defaulted to the latter role.

1 - "Why does the US think it can win in Afghanistan?" by Robert Fisk in the Independent, 20th of September, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisks-world-why-does-the-us-think-it-can-win-in-afghanistan-936185.html)
2 - "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, " by Karl Marx, 1852. (
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/18th-brumaire/ch01.htm)
3 - Fisk, op. cit.
4 - "My beating by refugees is a symbol of the hatred and fury of this Filthy War," by Robert Fisk in the Independent, 10th of December, 2001. Reproduced on findarticles. com. (
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20011210/ai_n14426800)

That didn't take long, did it?

Business as usual has been resumed in Zimbabwe:
Reports in state media claim some Zanu-PF supporters have been arrested and charged with political violence, and party officials in some areas are said to have told followers and the local police to maintain calm. But thousands of Zanu-PF youth militia members and "war veterans" remain in the torture camps set up during the election campaign, and can only support themselves with what they can extort from the local population. Intimidation is still widespread, and there are occasional eruptions of violence.

In Mbare, a "high-density suburb" of Harare, Zanu-PF youth members attacked suspected MDC supporters on Friday, and the homes of two MDC councillors were reported to have been destroyed. Youths were said to have disrupted the distribution of food at schools, telling aid workers to stop until Mr Mugabe gave permission for them to continue. In the past, Zanu-PF has controlled aid handouts to ensure they went only to party followers, and foreign NGOs were barred from operating during the election period. (1)
The deal signed between Tsvangirai and Mugabe effectively gives him control - he has half the seats in parliament and the remainder as divided between two factions of the MDC:
The peace deal gives Zanu-PF 15 cabinet seats, to 13 for Mr Tsvangirai and three for a breakaway faction of the MDC headed by Arthur Mutambara, who will become one of two deputy prime ministers. Unless the two men work together, Mr Mugabe will have the upper hand. This, and the unwieldy structure of the peace deal, could give Zanu-PF the opportunity to create a parallel government, said the rights monitor, "and implement a Plan B to regain control of the rural areas through intimidation". (2)
Unless they can co-operate, Mugabe can basically do what he wants.

The MDC have been out-manouvered. They are now tied up with Zanu-PF, but will struggle to influence or restrain Mugabe's party. In exchange for this ineffectuality, they've given up their credibility as a focus of opposition. Joining Mugabe was either utterly naive, or completely cynical. But either way it means the end of the MDC in Zimbabwe.

When Mugabe dies the MDC will be associated with the crimes of the Zanu-PF regime. It has no future. If Zanu-PF maintain their grip on power, the MDC will propably be purged b the new incumbent. If the country collapses into civil war, the MDC will be seen as either on the government side, or completely irrelevent.
1 - "Intimidation and fear as Mugabe says he is in the 'driving seat'," by Raymond Whitaker in the Independent, 21st of September, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/intimidation-and-fear-as-mugabe-says-he-is-in-the-driving-seat-937012.html)
2 - ibid.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Ain't counting my chickens yet, but they sooore look like being tasty

I didn't realize Roy Morgan were gong to sock us with another poll (1) quite so soon. Don't these guys have anything better to do with their time?

In light of this, I'm not heating up any humble pie just yet, though my earlier prediction hasn't been realized (2). My forecast of National 47%, Labour's 35%, Greens 8% or above and (implicitly) NZ First <5% style="font-size:78%;">
1 - "New Zealand National Party (47.5%) consolidates lead over Labour (36.5%)," poll results published by Roy Morgan Research, 17th of September, 2008. (http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2008/4316/)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/09/i-was-of-course-right-roy-morgan-poll.html

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Electoral blergh

I didn't mention the election yesterday because I can not be bothered with it, at this time.

I'm glad to see that other bloggers are getting excited about it (here and here (1)) but I'm finding it hard to muster up enthusiasm for this latest round. Perhaps this is because - though I'm a committed leftie - as an immigrant I'm not fanatically partisan for one party or another. Lacking this tribal loyalty, I can't get fired up about a choice between a party that will do anything in power, no matter how contrary to its supposed ethos (2), and a party that will say anything to get into power, no matter how contrary to its ethos (3). A plague et cetera, et cetera.

Also, the fight this time is a lot less amiguous. Barring some massive revelation or cock-up, National will finish the campaign as the largest party. The minor parties are roughly divided along partisan lines, so there isn't much amusement to be had there. The only real question is whether their lead is enough to beat off the challenge of a likely Labour-Progressive-Green alliance.

With the spectacular demise of New Zealand First taking place over the campaign, another point of interest is gone. There is no tension as to which way Winston will jump as Winston is unlikely in parliament in a few weeks time. This is, of course, a Good Thing, but the collapse of his party robs the election of another crucial possibility - would John Key, inspite of his recent declaration (4), be willing to swallow a final rat by cuddling up to Winston, if he needed the numbers?

I know it is arguable that it is a choice between slightly crap and potentially demonic (you are entitled to apply the labels to which ever parties they think best) but that has never been a choice likely to inspire enthusiasm. For me, the FTA with China is a massive rat to swallow. I don't know if I can vote for a party that would make support such a deal, (which means Labour, the Progressives, United Future and New Zealand First are out - admittedly the last two were never viable options for me) and I'm even less inclined to vote for one that would brag about it as if a complete lack of moral judgment was something to be proud of. Nor am I sure I can vote for a party that will go into coalition with a governemnt that makes deals like that. Which rule sout the Greens. And I'm not Maori.

WHich then pushes me toweards the fundamental choice - do I swallow the rat? National, obvuiously, won't cancel the FTA with China. Even if they were ideologically inclined to, Key's so used to ideologiacal somersaults that he'd probably announce himself in favour of it out of habit. So it will stand, no matter who wins - unless Winston somehow becomes Prime Minister. Does that make things easier?

In theory, pragmatism should compel me to vote for the lesser of two evils, which is obviously Labour. In the end, it may come down to blunt socio-economics - the difference between the number of babies that would die under (hypocritical, soft) left- and right- wing governments and and the for example (here and here (5)). Some principles have to be forgotten so others can be kept. The view from the moral high ground looks remarkably similar to the view from the opposition benches, and while little ill can be accomplished in opposition, neither can any good.

There are plenty of persuasive arguments in favour of this super-pragmatism. The problem is, the person I imagine making them has the face of Tony Blair. And that doesn't inspire anything other than revulsion.
1 - "Possible election date announcement," posted by David Farrar on Kiwiblog, 12th of September, 2008,(http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2008/09/possible_election_date_announcement.html), and "Game On!" posted on 08 Wire, 12th of September, 2008 (http://08wire.org/2008/09/12/game-on/).
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/new-zealand-secures-infamous-first-fta.html.
3 - "Key in family scheme U-turn," by Tracey Watkins in the Dominion Post, 28th of July, 2008. Reproduced on
stuff.co.nz (
http://www.stuff.co.nz/4633151a11.html).
4 - "Nats won't shift position on Peters - Key," unattributed NZPA article, 31st of August, 2008. Reproduced on the National Business Review website (http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/nats-wont-shift-position-peters-key-34647).
5 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/07/21000-dead-babies.html and http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/08/sdsds.html.

Sensing Murder - "Tips pour in" - Oh, f#%& off!

I can't believe Sensing Murder is still getting written about seriously. Even by the standards of psychicky TV shows, it is tacky and obvious - the rapid-fire editing and the tastless reconstructions serving to disguise the massive manipulation of footage of actual 'readings.' But still, somehow, it pulls in viewers and - more worryingly - gets uncritical write ups by journalists.

Bottom line - if Poneke, Kiwiblog and lefthandpalm think you are full of shit, you probably are (1).

What is the cause of this latest outburst of spleen?

A story in the Dominion Post (whose front page promotion of the show inspired Ponkeke's wrath) about "Lower Hutt police being flooded with possible new leads" following the season finale of the series (2). Read on, however, and it turns out "flooded" means "dozens of calls" (3). Sorry, but a few dozen (and I bet it is a very few dozen) phone calls resulting from a show with an estimated audience of half a million doesn't count as a flood. Substitute "trickling," or perhaps "dribbling."

This is important because the last line of defence for the show - after "We're trying to solve a murder, here!" and "At least we are bringing solace to grieving relatives" have been overwhelmed - is that it rekindles public interest in cold cases and generates new leads for the police.

Only, in this case, it hasn't. The vast majority of the calls will be worthless, I'll bet - cranks and attention seekers who have convinced themselves they have some importnat information, and self-described psychics with 'additional' revelations that will divert even more police resources into fruitless rabbit chasing.

I don't expect Sensing Murder to engage in self-criticism. The program's function is to make Ninox and the associated psychics money - particularly given Ninox's revenue woes (4). Sensing Murder is ratings gold for Ninox and I don't expect them to do anything to jeopordise that. It has also helped the alleged psychics who star in the show (only the naive would think that it is about the dead people whose spirits are supposedly contacted) (5).

Nor do I expect the viewers to engage in sceptical examination - though I'd hope that Sensing Murder is so extreme in its manipulation that some at least will be compelled to question its value.

I would expect journalists and commentators to raise questions about the show and the claims made about it. The Dom Post, however, fails to do that. I don't know why The Dom Post opts to give Sensing Murder such an eaasy ride - though there have been other occasions when it has attracted my attention for Shoddy Journalism and Obvious Bias (6).

All in all, the Dom seems to be following a business model that emphasises superficial entertainment and dramatic - though inaccurate - headlines over journalism and investigation. It is rather disgusting to see a newspaper try to imitate Britain's tabloids - or the journalistic standards of Sensing Murder itself.

1 - "Surprise. DomPost puts sad free ad for Sensing Murder’s ghoulish charlatans on page one, while the Skeptics’ response gets page 12," posted by Poneke on Poneke's Weblog, 7th of September, 2007 (http://poneke.wordpress.com/2008/09/07/sense-2/), "Sensing Murder," posted by David Farrar on Kiwiblog, 7th of September, 2008 (http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2008/09/sensing_murder.html) and as described previously on lefhandpalm (http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/search/label/Sensing%20Murder)
2 - "Tips pour in after psychic show," by Greer MacDOnald in The Dominion Post, 11th of September, 2008. Reproduced on stuff.co.nz (
http://www.stuff.co.nz/4688332a11.html)
3 - ibid.
4 - "N.Z. Producers Sound Bankruptcy Warning, Wellington," by Phillip Wakefield in The Hollywood Reporter, 27th of June, 2000. Reproduced on allbusiness.com (http://www.allbusiness.com/services/motion-pictures/4863067-1.html)

5 - "City case one of psychic's favourites," by Kelly Makiha, published in the Rotorua Daily Post, 30th of September, 2006. (http://www.dailypost.co.nz/localnews/storydisplay.cfm?storyid=3703446&thesection=localnews&thesubsection=&thesecondsubsection)
6 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/08/what-is-wrong-with-journalists-in-this.html. Astute readers will note that I stated to 'occasions' when the Dom Post had attracted my ire, but there is infact only one. There is a lesson for the Dom here - learn how to write accurate headlines. Once they stop claiming a few dozen phone calls is a 'flood' and a fall in Nationals poll represents them 'romping ahead,' I'll use singulars and plurals correctly.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Why New Labour sucked

British Labour MP Jon Cruddas sums it up nicely:

The New Labour project is exhausted. Its promise of change in 1997 was greeted with optimism – "things can only get better". A decade on, that change has become associated with the turbulence of global capitalism – fear of immigration and economic insecurity. New Labour has created a more individualised and wealthier society but not a freer or more equal one. In its neglect of its core working-class support it has lost its roots and ideological purpose. Despite its extraordinary electoral successes it has failed to build a lasting coalition for transformational change. (1)
Blairism foundered because it didn't do any of the things it promised to do, which prompted people to vote for it in 1997. It didn't Not Be The Tories - except in name, Labour in power turned out to be as Tory as the Tories could have wished to be. They were every bit as corrupt, dishonest, pro-business and churlish towards the working class as the Tories could have wished to be.

The fact that referring to the 'working class' seems slightly odd shows how ideologicially timid New Labour has been. The fact that 'underclass' seems a perfectly naturally formulation shows how viciously right-wing their policies have been.

They failed hopelessly to drive through the electoral reforms they promised - Britain is still struggling under the miserably undemocratic First Past the Post system, and still has hereditary peers. A bit of tinkering around the edges, and then a mammoth case of cold feet. Blair decided it was easier to overthrow governments abroad and enforce democracy there than to try it at home.

Labour's failure to live up to its promises has left it in a weird position of being

a) the 'nasty party,
b) the dishonest, shifty bunch and
c) the ones opposed to the interests of working Britons.
Which is all very strange as these are the terms usually applied to the Tories. Leopards don't change their spots, but the unsghtly spots besmirching the party of Keir Hardie, Nye Bevan and Clem Attlee are currently much more noticeable than the blemishes on the party which gave us the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Edgar Griffin (2) and Michael Howard.

Of course,t he Tory rhetoric about social inclusion is tissue thin and phoney, but Labour have been so inept - or disloyal - that the Tories don't need anything stronger. A few mealy mouthed words are enough to convince the electorate to vote for the Tories, for exactly the same reasons as they voted for Labour in 1997 - the incumbents have absolutely nothing to offer, not even the mealy mouthed promises.

(n.b. The use of the past tense in the title of this post should not be construed as suggesting that the current Labour government in Britain has ceased to suck. They still do, because they are still too like the Tories to do anything other than suck. Because the Tories suck. By definition.)
1 - "How did we become the party of the establishment?" by Jon Cruddas, in The Independent, 12th of September, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/jon-cruddas-how-did-we-become-the-party-of-the-establishment-927032.html)
2 - "'I'm a normal Conservative with perfectly normal views'" by Angelique Chrisafis in The Guardian, 25th of August, 2001. (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2001/aug/25/uk.conservatives)

Bullshit

Thabo Mbeki, describing the deal between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai:

The South African president, Thabo Mbeki, who has mediated during months of on-again off-again fraught negotiations, made the official announcement last night after four days of talks in Harare. "It's made in Zimbabwe, it's made by Zimbabweans, the rest of the world needs to respect that the people of Zimbabwe have taken a decision about their own country," he said. (1)
Which is bullshit. The people of Zimbabwe, harried by thugs, mislead and starved, have had nothing to say about this. It doesn't reflect their will, but the desire for power on the part of Mugabe and Tsangirai - an urge strong enough to induce them to split the baubles of office between them. After all, there is still plenty to go around, as long as none of it is shared with the long sufferring people of Zimbabwe.

A power sharing deal that leaves Mugabe in place has nothing to do with democracy, and probably marks the end of Tsvangirai as a force for reform in Zimbabwe. To borrow the title of John Pilger's book on the disappointments of post Apartheifd SOuth Africa, maybe it will be freedom next time.
1 - "Zimbabwe rivals agree power-sharing deal," by Basildon Peta in The Independent, 12th of September, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/zimbabwe-rivals-agree-powersharing-deal-927087.html)

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Palin - more wicked than Bush?

Let the character assasination begin.

According to the Indie, Ms Palin has "has an environmental policy so toxic it would make the incumbent, George Bush, blush" (1).

Worse, however, she's going against the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt and encouraging the killing of cute furry things:
She wants to block US moves to list the polar bear as an endangered species. And she has allowed big game hunters to shoot Alaska's bears and wolves from low-flying planes.

The 44-year-old governor says a federal government decision to protect the polar bear will cripple energy development offshore. As a result, she is suing the Bush administration, which ruled the polar bear is endangered and needs protection. (2)

Be warned! You can't mess with the charismatic mega-fauna and expect no blowback.
1 - "Palin: the real scandal," by Leonard Doyle in The
Independent, 6th of September, 2008. (
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/palin-the-real-scandal-920803.html)
2 - ibid.

Friday, 5 September 2008

I was, of course, right - Roy Morgan Poll

Shameless self promotion here, but last month I predicted:

realistically, [National] can expect some fallout from the secret taping and the 'Hidden agenda' campaign. That won't show up in this poll, but will probably knock them below 50% next month in most polls - assuming Labour keeps up some sort of pressure and doesn't cock up spectacularly - and under 45% in the Morgan polls which seem to predict a lower - probably more accurate - level of support). (1)
And so it came to pass - National creeping in at 44.5% in the latest Morgan poll (2), while Labour look boisterous on 38%.

I can't help but feel smug about my God like genius.

Labour should resist the urge to share in my glory, however. My prediction for the next Morgan poll is a rally in National - lets say 47%, and a diminuation in Labour's - to 35%, as the effect of the Winston Peters fiasco starts to turn people off Labour. The Greens will stay strong at 8% or above, as Labour voters switch to them until the Peters thing dies down.

(Of course, predicting this fairly obvious movement in the polls isn't really an indication of my genius - but as the 'proper' commentators were squealing about National "romping ahead," I can afford to feel a bit superior) (3).

The real meat in the poll is not the minor shuffling of the headline numbers - unless a trend is sustained over several polls, that's pretty insignificant - but in the significant and sustained rises in good vibrations among the people:
The Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating has risen strongly for the third New Zealand Morgan Poll in a row, rising 11.5pts to 115. It is now at its highest level since being at 118.5 in late February. For the first time since February, a majority of New Zealanders 50.5% (up 6%) say the country is “heading in the right direction” compared to 35.5% (down 5.5%) that say the country is “heading in the wrong direction.”

There has been a similar strong rise in the Roy Morgan New Zealand Consumer Confidence Rating which has leapt 12.4 points to 107.3 and is up 25.3 points since early July. (4)
The right might want us to think that we live in a totalitarian Hellhole that would make Kim Jong-il blanche, and they are fleeing the country, but it just isn't so. There was a world wide recession, people felt miserable for a while. Now they are starting to feel better as the economic cycle bottoms out and things start to get a bit better.

National should be very worried about this - if people are starting to not hate the government, and starting to feel that things are going to be okay, then the main reason for voting for National evaporates. That is what will lead to a real, long term and perhaps fatal decline in their lead, not talk of secret agendas, vague comments on tape and name-calling.

1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/08/new-poll.html
2 - "New Zealand Labour (38%) closes the gap on National Party (44.5%) as election looms," poll results published by Roy Morgan Research, 4th of September, 2008. (http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2008/4316/)
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/08/what-is-wrong-with-journalists-in-this.html
4 - As per #2, above.

National Recycles the Exodus Myth

It might seem I am a bit late in posting on this but I was actually early. I declared the great Kiwi Migration Myth to be ... well ... a myth back in February (1).

I should have made further demonstration of my powers of prescientce (sounding a bit like Pompous Chris here, be careful) and proclaimed it was inevitable that National would adopt this as part of their election strategy (2).

It is undeniably true that New Zealanders are departing in greater numbers than ever before. It is also undeniably true they are returning in greater numbers than at any other time. In fact, historical investigation reveals that the ration between the numbers departing and returning has remained constant - for every two that leave, one returns.

The increase in numbers is nothing to do with the fiendish strnagehold of Clark's Stalinist stooges on freedom and the economy. We're just more mobile than we have ever been before - both in the numbers leaving, and the numbers returning. It is a consequence of greater affordability and easer of travel, and the Western tendency not to prioritise other things over children.

In all probability, the high numbers will be a short lived phenomenum, once the reality of peak oil starts to bite. Then the numbers of departures will fall. So will the numbers returning. I'll bet the ratio will still be about 2:1.
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/exodus-ii.html
2 - "National launches first billboard," unattributed story in the New Zealand Herald, 2nd of September, 2008. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10530118)

Hopey-changey stuff

First of all, people are talking about a 'vote for change' based on the combination of Labour, Greens and New Zealand First. ‘Chan...