Friday, 31 July 2009

What are they waiting for?

The foregone conclusion that Aung San Suu Kyi will be found guilty of something or other by a kangaroo court in Burma has bee delayed, mysteriously:

A court in Myanmar has delayed its verdict in the trial of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's until August 11.

Chad Jacinto, the charge d'affaires in the Philippine embassy in Yangon who was present in the court on Friday, told Al Jazeera that the judge postponed the verdict saying the court needed more time to review the case. (1)

I fail to under stand the need for any delay. In a sane part of the world, Aung San Suu Kyi would never have been on trial. In Burma, which does not qualify as a sane part of the world, the verdict was determined before the trial ever started.

So why delay the verdict in a trial that was a trial in name only? Do they actually think a couple of weeks more will cause us to forget? Those that care, won't forget. The others, if they ever did care, stopped worrying about petty concerns like human rights a long time ago. There's money to be made, after all (2).
1 - "Myanmar delays Suu Kyi verdict," unattributed article published by Al Jazeera News, 31st of July, 2009. (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia-pacific/2009/07/20097314511747725.html)
2 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/08/is-is-most-unfair.html

Hari versus Roberts - the role of historians

Johan Hari investigates the fascist, racist and imperialist delusions of historian Andrew Roberts (1).

I find decadent historians quite fascinating. By decadent, I mean the sort of people who write glibly (and I'm holding up my own hand wright now) about stuff that they have little or no experience or direct knowledge of, and deliberately take outrageous positions to make themselves a name.

Roberts, according to Hari, is an obnoxious little cock, much given to being seen at fashionable events and generally living it up, on the back of his reputation as a iconoclastic historian.

Nothing, of course, could be less iconoclastic than a British historian taking a pro-Empire stance. They've been doing it for centuries and it's only recently that a few of them have had the courage to admit, that, golly, it really was a rather nasty thing, and more about money and power than taking up the white man's burden, and didn't we make a nasty bloody mess of it all?

A true iconoclast would be pushing the wet liberal consensus further back, and actually putting those unpleasant truths firmly where they belong - in the mainstream, confronting the public with not only the racism and bigotry of their forebears, but the ugly truth about how that bigotry has run, in an unbroken thread, through the centuries to the present day. How the feudal system has been extended to the point that we can all imagine ourselfs petty Earls, living a fine life on the sweat of our yellow skinned serfs, and a generous helping of credit.

A historian who doesn't voice a challenge to orthodoxy is basically a cheerleader. Less subtle oligarchs such as Stalin and Mao had plenty of these. But someone like Roberts is little different from one of Stalin's stodges, re-writing history on command to reflect the changes in the leader's mood. His history is the narrative desired by the stong and powerful.

So Roberts is really a reactionary. He provides a reassuring voice to the small minded chauvanists of the British establishment that they're the heirs of a great nation. Because unless you can say that your past is a glorious thing to be respected, you can't really live in a present buit on that past, without being a hypocrite on a monstrous scale. And the great and good of the British establishment abhor hypocrisy, or at least the public or privately acknowledged manifestation of it.

It's revolting to read about the blithe manner in which he writes off atrocities such as the Amritsar massacre as having been justified, in the long run by terrifying the population into submission.

But there's the heart of the problem - Roberts doesn't have the foggiest idea about what he's writing about. You can talk glibly about how it was a good thing, overall, that a mentally incompetent Blimp slaughter 379 peaceful demonstrators, as long as you say it quickly enough and don't stop for a moment to think about the true import of your words, or the reality of the events they describe.

Roberts's function isn't to provide new insight or knowledge, but an intellectual framework, through which both the past and the future can be understood in terms acceptable to the oligarchy of reactionaries and capitalists who think the Empire was a pretty fine thing, as it put them where they are today, and would like to mantain their privileged position.

Jackson's smug effrontry provides an intellectual - though not moral - justification for new imperialist atrocites. Every murder, rape or simple blunder in Iraq or Afghanistan can be justified - "well, if we didn't rape that girl, we'd have had to kill more further down the line." Essentially, Roberts is playing the role of a medieval priest, selling intellectual indulgences for the crimes of the past and the present, and the crimes to be committed in the future. Yes, we might be doing horrible things, but it is all for the best in the long run, ignore the screaming and the blood.

It's a sick mentality esposued by a vacuous self-promoter, blessed with a bit of flair, but who is only distingushed from David Irving by the fact that he actually carries a professional qualification as a historian (2).
1 - "The dark side of Andrew Roberts," by Johan Hari, published in The Independent, 31st of July, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-the-dark-side-of-andrew-roberts-1765229.html)
2 - This post was originally put up under a different title, rather insulting to Mr Roberts. I changed it because its vituperative nature would have distracted from what developed - unintentiaonally - into a rather lengthy musing on the role of historians. So it gets a nice, bland title.

Is this why Mohammed Haneef was treated so badly?

I've just had a light bulb moment, reading an AP report about the trial of the 2003 Mumbai bombers, who killed 52 people:
An Indian court on Monday found two Muslim men and a woman guilty in twin bombings that killed 52 people and wounded 100 in the country's financial capital, Mumbai, six years ago.

Two taxis carrying explosives blew up within minutes of each other Aug. 25, 2003, at the Gateway of India, a popular tourist attraction on the waterfront, and at a busy shopping complex.

The bombings were one of the worst attacks in Mumbai's history. No one else has been charged.

Ashrat Shafiq Mohammed Ansari, Syed Mohammed Haneef Abdul Rahim and his wife Fahmeeda Syed Mohammed Haneef were arrested under India's tough anti-terrorism law shortly after the attacks. (1)

I noted the name 'Mohammed Haneef' with passing interest. As regular readers (Hah!) of lefthandpalm will know, I had a sizeable swarm of bees in my bonnet about the arrest and detention of Mohammed Haneef in Australia, in 2007 (2).

Then, the aforementioned moment of illumination:
Judge M.R. Puranic said all three were members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned, Pakistan-based militant group formed in the 1980s — with the alleged blessing of Pakistani intelligence — to sow trouble in the disputed Kashmir region. The three denied involvement with the group. (3)
A vague memory was stirred. Wasn't Mohammed Haneef linked to an India terrorist organisation? I checked (4). He was. He was alleged to have been a member of SIMI, the Students' Islamic Movement of India, "a clandestine organisation that has frequently been held responsible for bomb attacks in India in the name of Islamic extremism" (5).

Dots started to get joined up in my head. Was there a link between SIMI and Lashkar-e-Taiba? I did what every two-bit internet detective would do, and zapped the names through google. According to Indian police, there are:
The terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has been providing the necessary training and support to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Indian Mujahideen, which have been behind the recent series of terrorist attacks in India, Delhi Police said on Saturday.

-snip-

"When LeT's terrorists were arrested (Pakistan's intelligence agency) ISI had a problem internationally. So their strategy was to train more and more people of Indian origin. So they approached SIMI and Indian Mujahideen and coordinated with them," Singh said.

"SIMI provided the money and execution support to the Indian Mujahideen,” he added. (6)

That's from 2008, whereas the luckless Mohammed Haneef was detained in 2007, so there isn't quite an overlap - but it is an interesting pointer, and it raises some questions.

When Mohammed Haneef's name was run past the anonymous Bangalore police source (7), did it sound familiar enough to set alarm bells ringing and prompt the source to identify him as a possible terrorist? Was Haneef, essentially, detained, humilated and smeared because he had the dual misfortune of having a terrorist as a distant relative, and a "John Smith" sort of name?

Was Mohammed Haneef detained, even though Syed Mohammed Haneef Abdul Rahim had ALREADY been in custody in India, for YEARS?

This might seem a bit tenuous, but compared to the case the Australian government made against Haneef, it is cast iron and impregnable.
1 - "Indian court finds 3 guilty in 2003 Mumbai bombing," by Rajesh Shah for the Associated Press, published 27th of July, 2009. Hosted by Google. (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iNjVY5coVaWXDeh2BqKTonWF7vIQD99MOC4G0)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/search/label/Mohammed%20Haneef
3 - Associated Press article,
op. cit.
4 - "Suspect linked to Indian radicals," by Dennis Shanahan, published in The Australian, 18th of July, 2007. (http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22092906-5006786,00.html)
5 -
ibid.
6 - "SIMI, Indian Mujahideen new faces of Lashkar-e-Taiba: police," unattributed article published by the Indo-Asian News Service, reproduced by the hindustan Times, 20th of September, 2008. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/FullcoverageStoryPage.aspx?sectionName=NLetter&id=bb63827d-fad8-4eb8-a44a-c7e917e581daTerrorStrikesDelhi_Special&Headline=SIMI+IM+new+faces+of+Lashkar-e-Taiba)
7 - Shanahan,
op. cit.

WTF are you on, Don?

From a speech delivered by Don Brash, the newly dubbed 'productivity tsar':
Of course, there are lots of reasons why New Zealanders head overseas to live. .... Some go because they’re sick and tired of the political correctness – around race or gender – in New Zealand. (1)
In the broader context of the speech, he's talking specifically about Australia - the speech is subtitled, "Can we ever catch Australia?"

His - pretty obvious - intention is to brand New Zealand, particularly New Zealand under Labour, as strangled by political correctness. Especially, he points out, "around race or gender." But, unintentionally he reveals how he sees New Zelanders - and, by extension, how the people he represents see New Zealanders.

By Don's lights, New Zealanders are fundamentaly racist and sexist. Disgusted by the tardy and tokenistic efforts made by New Zealand to address the massive historical injustices done during colonisation, New Zealanders up sticks to the other side of the Tasman, to a place that knows how to keep the darkies in their place. Because we have to assume that he's talking about white - maybe, a t a pinch, yellow - New Zealanders here, not the other sort. I can't think that there are too many Maori stropping off to Australia because they've had a gutsful of racial political correctness.

Then there's the issue of political correctness surrounding gender. Seriously, Don, WTF? What are you talking about here? What shocking examples of reverse sexual discrimination blight New Zealand? The fact they voted for a woman over a man - particularly you - in 2002 and 2005? What are we to make of the girl-on-girl electoral action of 1999? Political correctness gone mad? Or is it the Electoral Bill of 1883, granting women the vote, that still rankles?

Finally, let's not mince words here. Let's be clear that if people are leaving the country because of political correctness about race and gender, we're losing a substantial chunk of the racist, sexist section of our population. Which is no great loss to anyone, other than talkback radio show hosts.

[Hat tip: The Standard (2)]
1 - "New Zealand's economic outlook: can we ever catch Australia?," seech delivered by Don Brash to AUT University, 30th of July, 2009. Text available online courtesy of The New Zealand Herald. (http://media.nzherald.co.nz/webcontent/document/pdf/brashspeech.pdf)
2 - "'Brash speech confirms National's secret agenda," posted by Eddie on The Standard, 30th of July, 2009. (http://www.thestandard.org.nz/brash-speech-confirms-nationals-secret-agenda/)

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Manfred Nowak Discusses Two of China's Heroes

An interesting article about two dissidents in the PRC, who have been subjected to vile treatment by the Beijing regime.

The gentlemen in question are human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who protested the persecution of the Falun Gong cult, and Hu Ji, campaigned on behalf of raising AIDS and environmental awareness and human rights.

A timely reminder of the sort of people Obama regards as his new Best Friends Forever, and with whom Phil Goff concluded his infamous free trade deal.
1 - "Manfred Nowak Discusses Two of China's Heroes," by Florian Godovits, published in The Epoch Times, 28th of July, 2009. (http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/20247/)
2 - "Obama declares new era of co-operation with China," by Martin Crutsinger, published by Associated Press, reproduced in The Independent, 28th of July, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/obama-declares-new-era-of-cooperation-with-china-1763489.html
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/new-zealand-secures-infamous-first-fta.html

More rightwing bullying

Only a few days after misleading the nation about changes in the US prison population on National Radio (1), David Garrett has abused his position on a parliamentary committee by threatening those making submissions to that committee:

A group representing 30 officers who have worked for a privately run prison made a submission this week to Parliament's law and order select committee, which is considering legislation to enable private operators to run jails.

After Bart Birch, Uaea Leavasa and Satish Prasad criticised how Auckland Central Remand Prison was run under private contractor GEO between 2000 and 2005, Mr Garrett weighed in.

"You say that you don't want to go back to working in this environment - to the private [sector]. You'd be aware that given your submission here, you wouldn't get offered a job anyway, would you?"

Other MPs were visibly disturbed by the remark and National's Shane Ardern was quick to reassure the men that they should feel free to speak their minds. "Can I say, from my own party, you can sit here without fear or favour," he said. (2)

This is apalling, effectively telling these men that they will be blacklisted. It amply demonstrates the quality of the far right mindset. They can never, ever, stop being ideological. They can never, ever stop wearing their anti-state, anti-union, anti-labour hats.

That Garrett was sitting on a committee trying to work out the best course of action for the New Zealand Prison service, and that these men represented a segement of that service and had a right to voice their opinion, does not seem to have occurred to him. The possibility that these men might have something useful to say, some input from their experiences, couldn't persuade Garrett to bite his tongue. Even the possibility that their experience and opinion - even if it is negative - might be useful in helping make privately run prisons be more effective, was too much of a philisophical quandry for him, so he resorted to threats.

A few days ago, Paula Bennett sought to bully people who criticised benefit reforms (3), by releasing details of the benefits they received, without their consent, envcouraging others to throw rightwing vitriol in their faces to frighten them into backing down. Now David Garrett is trying the same thing, crushing opposition or even contrary opinion, through threats and intimidation.

John Key's supposedly nice new National lead government is starting to look very ugly. Still, good to see the 'Garettology' tag wasn't entirely wasted.
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/07/david-garrett-liar-or-fool.html
2 - "MP accused of bullying jail officers," unattributed NZPA article, reproduced by The New Zealand Herald, 30th of July, 2009. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10587503)
3 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/07/bennettgate.html

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Bennettgate III

You have to admire the gall of Paula Bennett, having whipped up the shit storm of personal attacks and vilification aimed at Johnston and Fuller. Now she's playing innocent and trying too ooze insouciant charm in the style of her leader:

"The only regret that I have is that in some quarters I think it has been an absolute horrific debate that's been very personalised and ugly, and I certainly don't support that." (1)

Of course you didn't support it, Paula. Support is something you do after someone else has taken the lead. In this case, that person was you. You caused it, knowingly.
1 - "One mother apologises to Paula Bennett, the other remains defiant," by Scott Campbell, published by 3News, 29th of July, 2009. (http://www.3news.co.nz/One-mother-apologises-to-Paula-Bennett-the-other-remains-defiant/tabid/419/articleID/114429/cat/525/Default.aspx)

10,000 disappeared?

Rebiya Kadeer claims that the Chinese government has made mass arrests since the Urumqi riots earlier in the month and almost 10,000 people are unaccounted for:
Exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer charged on Wednesday that nearly 10,000 people "disappeared" in ethnic unrest in China's northwest this month and expressed disappointment at the US response to the violence.

Kadeer, the US-based head of the World Uighur Congress, said that "the Chinese government is trying to destroy the Uighur people," speaking during a Japan visit that angered the communist government in Beijing.

Speaking through an interpreter and citing local sources, she said "close to 10,000 people in Urumqi disappeared in one night" when authorities cracked down from July 5 on the unrest in the mainly Muslim region of Xinjiang.

"Where did those people go?" she said. "If they died, where did they go?"

On the one hand, it seems impossible that so many people could be disappeared, literally overnight. On the other hand, we are talking about the most brutally totalitarian regime on the planet. If anyone could accomplish this, they could.

Put it like this: I would not be surprised if the number of those arrested runs into the low thousands. I think it unlikely that it could be as many as ten thousand. Does it have to be? Would that be enough to wring some condemnation from Barak Obama and other western leaders. If not, how many?

I also think that many of those arrested will already have been released. But there will probably be a large number whose fate will not be known, or who will be given a quick show trial and then sentenced to life in some reducation labour camp, where they can manufacture consumer baubles for the west. Which is why our leaders are so strikingly mute.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are hinting to Washington that they should take steps to silence Kadeer :
In Washington, China's vice foreign minister Wang Guangya on Tuesday said his side had asked the United States to "restrain and prevent" anyone from using its soil to conduct "separatist activities against China." (2)
Kadeer is beinng represented as someone a bit like Osama bin Laden, and the Uighurs as the equivalent of Al Queada. I suspect they will have failed to furnish any evidence to back up their claim that Kadeer is behind the rioting. On the other side, speaking out in support of Kadeer, we have the Dalai Lama (3).

Normally I'd expect a western nation to tell the Chinese to go to Hell, but given the USA's cavalier attitude towards evidence in its attempts to extradite Gary MacKinnon, I'm not sure that's anything more than wistful thinking (4).
1 - "Uighur leader says nearly 10,000 'disappeared'," by Hiroshi Hiyama, published by AFP, 29th of July, 2009. Hosted by Google. (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i4Hm6p5Pgi_B-hJKOLrpio0KbDsQ)
2 - ibid.
3 - "Uighur head against violence: Dalai Lama,
" unattributed AFP article. Reproduced in The Sydney Morning Herlad, 29th of July, 2009. (http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/uighur-head-against-violence-dalai-lama-20090729-e0ed.html)
4 - "Extradition to the United States
," a general description of the impact of the 2003 Extradition Bill, as part of the Freedom Bill campaign run by the Liberal Democratic Party. (http://freedom.libdems.org.uk/the-freedom-bill/3-extradition-to-the-united-states/)

Praise for Obama

Perhaps Barak Obama had an eye on history, particularly the dispossession and marginalisation of America's original indigenous population, or the longstanding and ongoing injustices heaped on black Americans, when he bit his tongue over Beijing's policy towards the Uighurs. Perhaps he thought, "Well, we did that. So I guess it's okay for them to do the same."

Probably, he was more concerned with America's cheque book (1). It's a bargain that would have made Faustus sicken.

As far as the Communists in the PRC are concerned, he has done precisely the right thing, that is, what they wanted him to do - nothing. They have commended him for doing nothing and saying nothing:
A Chinese diplomat says China appreciates what he calls the "moderate attitude" of the U.S. response to ethnic riots in China's oil-rich Xinjiang region.

Speaking in Washington, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Guangya said Tuesday that U.S. officials also indicated that the U.S. position on violence involving Muslim minority Uighur residents was that it constituted a domestic affair of China. (2)

One can't help but wonder what the response would be if the Communists decided to roll tanks over a crowd of students in 2009. Presumably, that would also count as a 'domestic affair of China.'

If you are being praised by the heirs of Chairman Mao, surely it is obvious that you're doing something wrong.
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/07/this-is-why-rebiya-kadeer-will-be.html
2 - "China welcomes 'moderate' US response to riots," unattributed AP article, 29th of July, 2009. (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hqLramON8toBQBppkuM6zEzExUZgD99NO9B82)

Bennettgate II

Paula Bennett was thrown a life line today, by Anette King. With Bennett struggling to survive and National taking a severe hit in the likeability stakes, all Labour needed to do was keep their heads down.

Instead, they've decided to weigh in to the debate, and in the most cack-handed manner possible:
Welfare spokeswoman Annette King said Bennett had created a new standard and should abide by it.

"She was on the DBP on and off for five years. She took the training incentive allowance. Perhaps she would like to release those details publicly, if that is the new standard," King said. (1)

There are two problems here.

First of all, it immediately wins a degree of sympathy for Paula Bennett. Before, she was the nasty one, picking on Jennifer Johnston and Natasha Fuller for complaining about cuts. Now, Labour are picking on Paula Bennett, and people will see her as a game girl trying to do a tough job in the face of relentless attacks from the dishonest, bitter losers. Nor is reminding people how Bennett managed to transform herself from a beneficiary into a cabinet minister a good tactic.

Second, everytime someone like King, or Goff, or Mallard opens his or her mouth, people immediately remember why they voted for National, and their wavering faith in Key is restored. The Labour old guard don't understand how disliked they are. They need to shut up and keep a low profile while this works itself out.

This doesn't mean doing nothing, but keeping it as impersonal as possible. Because as soon as personalities like Annette King and Phil Goff get involved, Labour lose.
1 - "Reveal income, Bennett told," by Colin Espiner, published in The Press, reproduced on Stuff.co.nz, 29th of July, 2009. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/2683905/Reveal-income-Bennett-told)

Bennettgate

I'm still in awe of this Paula Bennett thing (1).

It's a spectacular piece of mismanagement. In one deft move, Paula Bennett has undone the carefully crafted image of John Key's National Party and shown its true nature - nasty, ammoral and self-interested. It's appropriate that it should be Bennett, who supposedly personified the human side of the Nats, who did it.

I don't think Key and National's leadership have realised how bad this could be. Most people can put themselves in the position of Jennifer Johnston and Natasha Fuller. The government hold information on all of us. Can anyone who voices criticism expect to have personal details released, in the interests of 'balance'?

For the time, people will be lining themselves up against National, not alongside it. Having made a good effort at pretending to have been rebuilt as a nice bunch of everyday guys, lead by everyday guy turned millionaire Shoeless John Key, The Nats are the 'Nasty Party' again.

It is interesting to note the tactics they are using. This is the third time they've shifted attention from the message to the messenger, trying to make the issue about the integrty of their critics, not about what is actualy being sad. The other two times, the Richard Worth-Neelam Choudary fiasco (2) and the Bruce Burgess mess (3), it worked, probably down to the fact both these incidents were pretty obvious political beat ups by Labour. People saw through that, didn't like it, and ignored the substance.

This time, however, Natinoal seem to have shot themselves in the foot entirely on their own, without any help from Labour, and will struggle to divert attention and opprobrium. Trying to attack the integrity of Johnston and Fuller will only make the Nats look more and more like bullies, and increase the public's sympathy for the victims.

The Whaleoil right might be trying to find ways to turn this back on Johnston and Fuller (4), but National will be hoping it goes away, quickly. Possibly taking Paula Bennett with it.
1 - "Privacy issues stir Bennett welfare debate," unnattributed ONE News/NZPA article, published by ONE News, 29th of July, 2009. (http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/privacy-issues-stir-bennett-welfare-debate-2878506)
2 - "Worth's accuser hoped to retain anonymity," unattributed NZPA article, published in the New Zealand Herald, 10th of July, 2009. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10577700)
3 - "Labour runs for the hills over Burgess," by Claire Trevett, published in the New Zealand Herald, 23rd of July, 2009. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10586311)
4 - "Labour's Benny Sting explodes in their face," posted on Whale Oil Beef Hooked by WhaleOil, 29th of July, 2009. (http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/content/labours-benny-sting-explodes-their-face)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

What Obama's new best friends are up to

While Barak Obama was pledging "co-operation, not confrontation" with the PRC (1), Alimujiang Yimiti is due to go on trial for allegedly "instigating separatism and stealing, penetrating, purchasing and illegally providing state secrets or intelligence to overseas organisations and individuals" (2).

He has been held in captivity for over a year and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has declared his detention to be arbitrary.

Astronishingly, the decision of the court has already been decided. His wife and mother - who is forbidden to attend the trial - has been informed "he will not be released without charges" (3).

I do not share Alimujiang Yimiti's beliefs but - unlike the Bastards of Beijing and, it seems, Barak Obama - I cherish his right to hold them.
1 - "Obama declares new era of co-operation with China," by Martin Crutsinger, published by Associated Press, reproduced in The Independent, 28th of July, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/obama-declares-new-era-of-cooperation-with-china-1763489.html)
2 - "China: Uighur Christian faces trial for 'revealing state secrets'," unattributed article, posted on www.christian today.com, published 27th of July, 2009. (http://www.christiantoday.com/article/china.uighur.christian.faces.trial.for.revealing.state.secrets/23883.htm)
3 - ibid.

This is why Rebiya Kadeer will be waiting a long time

Recently, Uighur spokeswoman Rebiya Kadeer asked the Obama administration (1) to condemn the violence, killings and arrests in Xin Jiang/East Turkestan, and the broader campaign to reduce the Uighurs to a minority in their own homeland, while keeping them economically and politically powerless. That is, without the numbers, the money or the political means to assert themselves, or even prevent their culture and history being eroded as part of a systematic campaign by the Beijing government to crush the Uighur national liberation movement.

But she'll have to wait a long time for Obama, or any American government, to mouth any concern over the plight of her people, or any of the human rights abuses of the Communists.

Here's why:
The Chinese, who have the largest foreign holdings of US Treasury debt at $801.5 billion, have expressed worries that soaring deficits could spark inflation or a sudden drop in the value of the dollar, thus jeopardizing their investments. (2)
It's the economy, stupid. Who cares about a bunch of peasants and camel herders in a desert somewhere beyond Outer Mongolia, when the people who hold the largest slice of US foreign debt need to be appeased?

Never mind that torture, the imprisonment, the lack of free press, the show trials, the executions, the corruption, the anti-union brutality, the crushing of the indigenous populations (hey, what country are we talking about here? This all sounds very familiar ...) - the Uighurs are very far away from the White House, don't make cheap DVD players for US consumers and don't own very much ot the US economy.

So screw 'em, eh, Barak?
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/07/i-wouldnt-hold-my-breath.html
2 - "Obama declares new era of co-operation with China," by Martin Crutsinger, published by Associated Press, reproduced in The Independent, 28th of July, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/obama-declares-new-era-of-cooperation-with-china-1763489.html)

Monday, 27 July 2009

A partial defence of provocation

A lot of the recent railing against the use of provocation as a defence for murder has, missed the point, I think. People have focused on the use of the defence itself, rather on the contrary verdicts it returns.

There might be a legitimate place for a defence of provocation. Or there might not be. I haven't made up my mind in that one. This is, you might say, a partial defense of provocation.

But what has disgusted me about about recent court cases where the defence has been used is not the defence itself (1). What is apalling is that it was accepted by the juries in the case where the victim happened to be a homosexual - Ronald Brown, an elderly, physically unimposing homosexual, savagely killed by Ferdinand Ambach, a far younger, stronger man, who went on to claim that he was so frenzied by the alleged unwelcome advances of his victim, that he was driven into a berserk frenzy. And that this was okay, and understandable. And the jury agreed with him.

What is disgusting is not that Clayton Weatherston tried to use the defence of provokation, or even that Ferdinand Ambach tried it. What is disgusting is the bigotted, gay hating nature of New Zealand that the Ambach verdict exposed.

The repugnance at Weatherstone's attempt to use the defense is a red herring - a bit of self deluding smoke and mirrors. What was really apalling was that Ambach suceeded - for, as far as I can tell, no other reason than his victim was homosexual. And, it would seem, that's wrong in the eyes of a large portion of the New Zealand public - a big enough portion to return that abhorrent verdict.

It is worth noting that the degree of repugnance was much higher when Weatherston used it, compared to Ambach's attempt. Obviously, violently slaying an attractive young woman is deemed much worse, much more horrible, than savagely slaughtering an old man. Though, again, I suspect if his sexuality hadn't been at the centre of the case, the outrage would have been much greater. Another indictment of New Zealand's passive disgust at homosexuality.

Our disgust should be directed inwards, not towards some flimsy legal finangling, but into the hearts and minds of the people who make up the jury. The people who thought that it was somehow understandable and acceptable to bludgeon a man to death simply because he made unwanted sexual advances. But, because self-analysis - like tolerating homosexuality - isn't something that New Zealanders are very well known for, we prefer to make a fuss about the defence used.

It was the wrong verdict, not because of the defence, but because of the underlying bigotry of the jurors.
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/07/breaking-news-women-less-deserving-of.html.

Delusions of grandeur

This morning I couldn't log in and I thought the Bastards of Beijing had unleased their hacker hordes against lefthandpalm. If so, like everyone else, they lost interest in the site PDQ, as normal service has been restored ...

I'm back! Hello! Everyone?

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Chinese hack Aussie Film Festival website

After failing to bully the Melbourne International Film Festival into withdrawing a documentary about Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, Chinese hackers have now defaced the festival's website:

Hackers attacked the Melbourne International Film Festival website on Saturday, replacing information with the Chinese flag and leaving slogans criticising exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, The Age newspaper reported.

Chinese directors have already withdrawn their films over the August 8 screening of the Kadeer documentary and festival director Richard Moore has accused Chinese officials of trying to bully him into pulling the documentary.

The Age reported that festival staff had been inundated with abusive emails over Moore's refusal to withdraw the film and cancel Kadeer's invitation to attend the screening.

"The language has been vile," Moore told the newspaper. "It is obviously a concerted campaign to get us because we've refused to comply with the Chinese government's demands." (1)

Not content with conquering the independent (or at least, soviet dependent) Second East Turkestan Republic, systematically supressing the culture of the minority population, flooding the region with Han settlers who are given the best jobs and all the real power and impoverishing the Uighir majority (2), they now try to stop anyone even talking about the Uighurs.

What a bunch of despicable crap heads these totalitarian bastards our esteemed trading partners are.
1 - "China hackers hit Uighur film at festival: report," unattributed articl, published by AFP, 26th of July, 2009. (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jH9tCBKbxNMuTbGPO5Od8kvYtvlg)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2009/07/chinese-minorities-worse-off-than-30.html

Respect is due: Harry Patch, 1898-2009

How many people live in three centuries?

Harry Patch, aged 111, and Britain's oldest World War One soldier, died today (1).

Unlike a lot of people, Patch didn't want to fight. He didn't enlist, but was conscripted, in 1917:

Harry didn't want to join up and waited until military conscription was enforced before enrolling.

"I didn't want to go and fight anyone, but it was a case of having to.

"When it came, army life didn't appeal to me at all and when I found out how rough and tumble it could be, I liked it even less.

"I mean, why should I go out and kill somebody I never knew and for what reason? I wasn't at all patriotic. I went and did what was asked of me and no more." (2)

An old man has died. Let's not get dewy-eyed about the fact he was a war veteran. He didn't want to be. He fought - reluctantantly - in a war that was, even by the standards of war, particularly stupid, unnecessary and bloody. I do not think we should dishonour the dead with faux sentimentality over their 'sacrifice' as they didn't sacrifice themselves for anything worthwhile - two german monarchs squaring off against each other, two semi-democratic empires trying to decide - in the bloodiest way possible - which got to be the biggest and most powerful of all. And both lost.

I'd say Patch's achievement was putting the horrible things he saw behind him. So respect to him for living a humble but worthwhile life, after damn well near having it torn away from him by the psychopathic imbeciles who drove their countries into World War One.
1 - "Harry Patch, Britain's last surviving soldier of the Great War, dies at 111," by Tracey McVeigh and Mark Townsend, published in The Guardian, 26th of July, 2009. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/26/world-war-one-veteran-harry-patch-dies-aged-111)
2 - "In Profile: Harry Patch," unattributed BBC article, published 25th of July, 2009. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/somerset/hi/people_and_places/newsid_8168000/8168179.stm)

Thursday, 23 July 2009

I wouldn't hold my breath

Rebiya Kadeer wants the USA to condemn the PRC for its decades long campaign against the Uighurs:
Kadeer, speaking through an interpreter, said she hopes the United States will not remain "silent and indifferent" to the Uighurs' plight and warned of the executions of those detained following the riots. (1)

Condemnation strikes me as unlikely. Unlike Iran, the PRC is a major economic and strategic partner of the USA. So - like Israel in the Occupied Territories and Russia in Chechnya - it gets to do pretty much as it pleases.

Also, the Bastards of Beijing are our staunch allies in the War on Terror. Given that agents of the PRC were brought in to interrogate Uighurs imprisoned at Guantanamo - all of whom were later cleared and released - I don't think the fate of the Uighurs in general, or those arrested after the riots, will be of much concern to the USA.
1 - "Uighur activist urges US to condemn China," by Foster Klug for the Associated Press, published by the Taiwan News, 21st of July, 2009. (http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=1008905&lang=eng_news)
2 - "US Lawmakers Demand Answers on Uighur Detainees," by Michael Bowman, published by VOA News, 16th of July, 2009. (http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-07-16-voa59.cfm)

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Chinese minorities worse off than 30 years ago

Falling standards of living are being touted as a possible contributing factor to the recent violence in the PRC. While the Bastards of Beijing are quick to claim they recognise diversity and extend privileges to minorities that are denied to the Han majority, economic data from State Ethnic Affairs Commission tells a different story:

The commission's figures showed that annual per capita disposable income for city dwellers in minority regions rose to 13,170 yuan, or about $1,930, last year from 414 yuan in 1980. For rural and pastoral regions, it increased to 3,389 yuan from 168 yuan.

National statistics show that overall income grew faster. Nationally, urban disposable income grew to 15,781 in 2008 from 478 yuan in 1980. In the countryside, per capita income rose to 4,761 yuan from 191 yuan.

That means minority farmers and herders now earn only 72% of the national average, versus 88% in 1980. Minority city dwellers earn about 84% of the national average, versus 87% in 1980. (1)

Add to that, the restrictions on relgioous freedom that affect Uighirs, who are predominantly Muslims. The repeated message that seperatism, or even meaningful autonomy, is an impossibility. The massive influx of Han into the region, enjoying the best jobs and and the benefits of the progress there has been in extracting oil and gas reserves. You can understand why they would be angry and tensions could release, explosively.

1 - "Beijing's Ethnic Policy Faces Data Challeng," bu Ian Johnson in The Wall Street Journal, 22nd of July, 2009. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124816735513967749.html)

21st century history - what's wrong with your memory, Chris?

If a week is a long time in politics, it isn't long enough for Chris Torotter to change his mind.

Fully thirteen days elapsed between Chris Trotter's enthusiastic proclaimation that Phil Goff could (and by implication should) be prime minister, if only he has the courage to behave in a thoroughly unprincipled manner (1), and his denunciation of Goff for behaving in a thoroughly unprincipled manner (2).

Earlier in the month, it seemed, Goff was being given a "a heaven-sent opportunity to re-connect with the constituency Labour turned its back on between 2005 and 2008." But then, last week, when the he suggested his party's efforts to advance democratic socialism were "nineteenth century history," Goff was repudiated.

The opportunity, perhaps inevitably, was the recrudescence of Winston Peters. Perhaps Trotter is confusing opportunist with opportunity? He exhorted Goff to "ve got the balls to do what all leaders must do, one way or the other." Expediency, it seems was to take the place of principle, and even experience. No matter how distateful, Goff should see "power lying in the gutter – and pick it up."

Chris should remember that one rarely sees much of worth in the gutter. Dog turds, litter, occasional drunken vagabonds and used prophalactics - all of which might be with Peters in a game of word association - but not power.

Then came the remarkable moment.

Not the admission of disillusion itself. No. What was truly remarkable about Chris's about-face was that he missed a fine opportunity to indulge his taste for biblical parallels.

Admitting to the world he had lost faith in Goff, couldn't he have characterised the hapless Phil as Judas, selling out his party and the proletariat for filthy lucre? Or cast himself as Saul of Tarsus, simultaneously blinded and enlightened on the Damascus Road?

At least in the latter case, I can understand why he refrained. Winston might have - almost - said 'sorry' for destroying his party through his arrogance and ego, but Chris struggles to admit he was wrong about Goff. Back in March last year, Chris was busy warning people that Labour were going to lose the election if they didn't ditch Helen Clark in favour of ... Phil Goff (3).

Yet not once in his denunciation does he admit that, well, he once thought that having Goff as leader was a rather good idea. Dismayed by Goff's disinterest in the history of the Labour movement' Chris struggles to recall what happened in the 21st century.

Still, we can not accept perfection. We're glad you've finally caught up with us, Chris. We've a few rounds ahead of you, but come on in, anyway. I know it looks crowded, but there's still space at the bar for you. That's what's great about this place - it's always full, but there's always room for a few more. Who needs the Labour Party? We're the best party in town - the disillusioned, scorned left. We might be marginal, disinherited and riven with factional squabbling, but we do like to drown our sorrows. It takes a long time, there always seem to be plenty of things to be sorrowful about.

You're a little late, but don't worry, the bar is well stocked with Tears and Gall. Or try some Wormwood. Yes, I know it tastes bitter. Its meant to. That's the point. You'll get used to it.

If you're hungry, you can eat some of your words, or swallow a piece of humble pie. Oh, you're not hungry? What about something thin and insubstantial - they do a good John Key Burger here. I find them a bit cheesy, but a lot of people seem to like them. Not that, even? Oh, you swallowed your pride on the way in ... don't worry, no-one here has much of an appetite, really, we've all had a gutsful of Labour mendacity already (4).
1 - "Slouching towards Wellington," Chris Trotter, posed on Bowalley Road, 6th of July, 2009. (http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2009/07/slouching-towards-wellington-to-be.html). Further quotations from this essay are used throughout.
2 - "Nineteenth century history - The hell with you, Phil!," by Chris Trotter, posted on Bowalley Road, 19th of July, 2009. (http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2009/07/nineteenth-century-history-hell-with.html). Further quotations from this essay are used throughout.
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/pompous-chris-seeking-sucessional.html. He didn't just do it once, either: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/03/trotter-struts-frets.html.
4 - Adapted from comments posted by lurgee on Bowalley Road, 19th of July, 2009.

Breaking news: women less deserving of slaughter than homosexuals

Clayton Weatherston has been found guilty of murder (1).

Contrast this verdict with the manslaughter verdict in the killing of Ronald Brown, by Ferdinand Ambach (2).

In both cases, the victim was killed in a frenzied, sustained attack, with a degree of savagery that is hard to comprehend. In both cases, the defendant used the defence of manslaughter, arguing that there was provokation resulting a a loss of control. In neither case is there any evidence of his, other than the word of the defendant.

I can't see any significant reason why Ambach was less culpable than Weatherston, except that in one case, the victim was a homosexual man, and in the other case it was a heterosexual woman. And that there is a lurking conviction in the minds of a lot of people that - somehow - it is acceptable to slaughter a human being for being homosexual.

I am VERY angry at this stinking hypocrisy. Both verdicts should have been the same, and should have been murder.
1 - "Clayton Weatherston guilty of Sophie Elliott's murder," by John Harteveldt, in The Press, 22nd of July, 2009, reproduced on stuff. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/2662904/Clayton-Weatherston-guilty-of-Sophie-Elliotts-murder)
2 - "Manslaughter verdict in banjo death case," unattributed NZPA story, 9th of July, 2009. Rerpoduced onby TV3 News. (http://www.3news.co.nz/News/Manslaughter-verdict-in-banjo-death-case/tabid/209/articleID/111922/cat/41/Default.aspx)

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Swiftian Medical Care

A rightwing British think tank has proposed a £20 fee for patients to see their doctor:
Patients should be charged £20 to see a GP in a bid to limit demands placed on the health service, a centre-right think-tank says.

The Social Market Foundation said forcing people to pay a fee for an appointment could help the NHS cope in the tight financial times ahead. (1)

I think it is a fantastic idea.

If you are such a vile pauper you can't afford twenty quid to see the doctor, then it is good that you sicken and die sooner rather than later, so as to avoid the cost of maintaining such an unproductive member of society into dotage.

Thankfully, I no longer dwell in sentimental Britain with its parasite class of blood sucking scroungers voting themselves more freebies at every election, but in forward looking, lean and mean New Zealand, where visionary polices, such as making health care beyond the reach of paupers, are already in place.

And why stop there? Obviously, the only way to stop the parasitical scum voting down such sensible ideas is to make voting a paid for privilege, not a right as those sappy liberals insist it should be. And probably, some form of licensing on reproduction, in case the Morlocks try to build up the numbers to stage a revolt.

I am, of course, taking the piss. In case anyone thought I was being serious, even for a nano-second.

One lesson I have learned - albeit bery slowly - is that some people take everything VERY SERIOUSLY.

1 - "Call for £20 charge to see doctor," unattributed BBC article, published 18th of July, 2009. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8156279.stm)

Saturday, 18 July 2009

David Garrett - liar or fool?

Below is a transcript of the comments made by ACT MP David Garrett, speaking on Morning Report, Friday 17th of July, 2009 (1). He was in debate with Jim Boyack, discussing the comments by Dame Sain Elias, around penal reform, particularly an anmesty for some prisoners.

I've preserved it as it is interesting as a summary of the Garrett/ACT/rightwing view on the purpose of prisons, and their preferred tactics. It has been lightly edited for interruptions, questions, hesitations and the like. After each paragraph, I ahve included my own comments in square brackets.
I don't think it's a sensible idea at all. We've already got a bizarre, Orwellian sentencing act which converts every sentence handed down by a judge in New Zealand into something less. What this is suggesting is that there will be a further cut, so the ten year sentence that's already three and a half under the sentencing act, now becomes, on a whim, get out of jail tommorrow. That's an outrageous precedent. Now, can I just come back a second. Mr Boyack used the word 'observed,' twice in those answers. Dame Sain has done way more than observe. She has suggested - one could even say directed - the executive that this would be a good idea to give half the jail population a Get Out of Jail card. That's far more than simply observing something.

[I think you meant 'Orwellian ACT,' Dave. Orwell describedaa world where meanings were reversed, lies became truth, war became peace. You're the one altering meanings here. Elias did not suggest, direct or observe that it would be "a good idea to give half the jail population a Get Out of Jail card". She made no suggestions about how such a scheme could be implemented. She said she wasn't in a position to do so (2), but that the disadvantages of confining prisoners in overcrowded, degrading, unsafe jails had to be considered. Your cheap rhetorical flourishes do you no credit, though I suppose you're not really aiming them at me. Still, talkback radio is the correct home for this sort of nonsense.]

My view is that we actually need more imprisonment, not less. The experience in the United States has been that when they abandoned the"Criminal as a sick person who needed therapy" model in the late seventies and went to the "If you do this you get locked up" model, sure, the prison population grew there, but crime, and violent crime in particular, plummetted. Now I think the "Head in the sand" thing or "The elephant in the room" is perhaps that we need to consider the unpleasant reality that violent crime is at a level we have never seen before and we need more jails.

[Actually, Dave, the according to the FBI, the crime rate soared between the end of the seventies and the millenium. In 1970, the incidence of general crime was 3984.5 per 100,000 population. Every year after that, except for 1972, it was higher, until 2004 when it finally fell below the 1970 level. 1970, incidentally, had a higher rate than any year recorded in the preceeding decade. So, the Golden Age you claim did not exist. In fact, it was the longest period of sustained high crime in the USA on record.

Violent crime, which you claimed "plummetted," did nothing of the kind. It also soared, from 461.1 incidents per 100,000 population in 1974, climbing steadily through the late seventies, exceeding 500 incidents per 100,000, through the 80s, where it passed the 600 incidents per 100,00, and breaking 700 incidents per 100,000 population in the 90s. By the mid 1990s, it began to tail off, but it is still far higher than it was in the early seventies, or at any time before.

So - unless you just invented that bit about the USA abandoning rehabilitative programs in the late 70s (and I think you probably did), the data confounds you. Things got worse, not better.]

Only a fool would say that we shouldn't try to rehabilitate prisoners to prevent reoffending. We've got a five year recidivist rates of, I think, seventy per cent plus, so absolutely we need to do more in that regard, but we also need to accept that there are some people who are habitual criminals who will keep on reoffending, whatever you do, and they need to be banged up and left banged up.

[Actually, the 60 month recidivism rate is a sniffle over 50%, as of 2002/3which is still far too high, but far less alarmist than your off-the-cuff claim (4). Elias mentioned this in her speech. You did read the speech, didn't you, Dave?

And by admitting that you agree more needs to be done to reduce the recidivism rate, you legitimize Elias's comments. She is pointing out that when prisoners are imprisoned in over crowded, degrading prisons, where little is done to help prisoners - many of whom have identified mental illnesses and personality disorders (5) - they are more likely to reoffend. So a spectacular own goal, Dave. ]

We need to face up to the fact that our experiment with treating criminals as people who need therapy has failed, it's failed abysmally. We've got a revolving door prison system wherehabitual offenders rack up ten, twenty, a hundred convictions in the case of some of our worst killers or people who've become killers, like Mr William Bell. I think it takes some bravery to simply say, well, look, this experiment has failed. The Americans did it twenty five years ago. We are where the Americans were in the late seventies when they abandoned that model and said, "No, you'll get a chance, sure, in fact you'll get two, but you won't get a hundred and two, and once you've demonstrated that you're intent on a life of crime, you can stay in jail. Now that's what they did from the late seventies on, with "Three strikes" and with "Zero Tolerance," right across the states, in fact, and right across the states what we've seen is a plummetting in crime rates. Now, okay, they've paid a price. They've paid a price in greater levels of imprisonment, but far less than was predicted. The same alarmist predictions about the 'Three strikes' law that are made here were made in California and other states and they didn't happen.

[If I were you, I wouldn't keep going on about the alleged change of emphasis in the USA in the 1970s, Dave. It really doesn't do your cause any good.]
Garrett provides a super-simplified model of crime, where criminals are criminals because of the perceived laxity of the justice system. Increase the consequences, he claims, lock up offenders, and the crime rate will fall. This is, of course, grotesquely reductive. Crime is a social phenomenum, and the crime rate rises and falls in relation to social factors beyond the penal code - otherwise, the USA would have the lowest crime rate in the developed world, as it includes some of the most savage sentencing and most brutal jails. But the experience has been quite different - Crime has increased, from rates already higher than most other decveloped countries would tolerate, to figures in the 80s and early 90s, that were absolutely beyond belief.

Now, were I as reductively minded as David Garrett, I'd posit that the (alleged) change in policy caused the surge in crime from the mid seventies to the early years of this Millenium. But it isn't as simple as that. If it comes down to anything, it comes down to the economy, stupid. The USA is a country that has grown more unequal of the last fifty years. The crime rate has risen - roughly - in relation to the Gini coefficient. Though that in itself is too simplistic. On top of that, there have been booms and busts, times of increasing unemployment and times when it has fallen. And there are plenty of other factors, beyond the economic, all of which combine to create a very complicated situation.

But Garrett - and, by extension, ACT and the right - prefer to reduce, simplify and misrepresent. They will also try to present every problem as being the result of liberalism, political correctness, human rights, government, and so on. They don't miss an opportunity to start spitting out the tired lines and lies, regardless of how little resembleance they have to the truth. This is entirely predictable - as soon as they have to admit things are complicated, they lose their kneejerk appeal factor. People debating with them need to have the information to hand, and pull them up on their inconsistencies and outright untruths.

Which begs the question - when Daid Garrett went on Morning report, he either didn't know that he was talking nonsense, or he knew it, and he said it anyways. So is he a cynical liar or a blethering fool?
1 - The audio is available at http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/20090717 a the time of blogging. It is the segement broadcast at 7.25, titled, "Chief Justice criticised for commenting on prison numbers."
2 - "Blameless Babes," a speech delivered by Sian Elias, the Chief Justice, to the Wellington Branch of the New Zealand Law Society, Women in Law Committee, 9th of July, 2009. Reproduced in full by TVNZ. The comments on amnesty are in paragraph 42. (http://images.tvnz.co.nz/tvnz_images/news2009/justice-nz/chief_justice_jails_speech.pdf)
3 - Courtesy of www.disastercentre.com, viewed 17th of July, 2009. (http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm) The statistics here are based on the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. Try as I might, I can't find a more helpful compilation of the data, on a mor ereputable site. I carried out spot checks against the Bureau of Justice records (http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline/Search/Crime/State/RunCrimeStatebyState.cfm), and Disaster Centre appear to be accurate.
4 - Elias,
op. cit., paragraph 14.
5 - Elias,
op. cit., paragraphs 39-41.
6 - 'Gini coefficient - US income Gini indices over time,' wikipedia article, viewed 17th of July, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient#US_income_Gini_indices_over_time)

Uncharacteristic

Usually, the Independent is can be relied on to be accurate in its reporting, and resist hyperbole, but Kim Sengupta and Nigel Morris succumbed to a fit of the Daily Mails reporting on the current difficulties experience by the British army in Afghanistan:
Plans to reinforce the beleaguered British force have been drawn up after Downing Street consulted senior military commanders. (1)
Beleaguered? Really? I thought we were taking part in a massive assault on a Taliban stronghold, not beseiged.

Even more depressingly, it appears that accuracy is abandoned altogether later on, when they claim:
... Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, also delivered a rebuke to the Prime Minister by contradicting his insistence that no British soldier had died because of the helicopter shortage. (2)
Note the use of indirect quoatation. For something as significant as the Air Chief Marshall calling the Prime Minister a liar, you would expect a direct quotation to be used to verify the claim. This does not happen. Later on in the article, Stirrup is quoted, but his words do not say what Sengupta and Morris have claimed he said, though the interpretation they placed on them might mislead the reader into thinking otherwise:
Sir Jock said ... "In this situation where you have lots of improvised explosive devices, the more you can increase your tactical flexibility by moving people by helicopters then the more unpredictable your movements become to the enemy. Therefore it is quite patently the case that you could save casualties by doing that." (3)
Which is very different from what Sengupta and Morris represent him as saying. Without reference to a specific incident, the claim that he is refuting Gordon Brown's claim that "no British soldier had died because of the helicopter shortage" is at best an error, at worst a deliberate misrepresentation.

Given the degree of difference between what was actually said, and what was reported to have been said, I am inclined to think the latter is most likely. The Independent doesn't often make silly mistakes like that. The newspaper has had a long-standing - and honourable - editorial policy of opposing the hare-brained adventurism of the Afghan and Iraq incursions. Perhaps maintaining that line has lead to battle fatigue setting in, and the principles of accuracy and honesty being ... neglected.
1 - "Brown snubs Dannatt in talks on reinforcements for Afghanistan," by Kim Sengupta and Nigel Morris, published in The Independent, 18th of July, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brown-snubs-dannatt-in-talks-on-reinforcements-for-afghanistan-1751556.html)
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.

When the going gets tough, the Tony starts running

.... away from their responsibilities, into the safe, snuggly security of Euro-office. For it seems that Tony Blair is to be Britain's official candidate for the EU presidency (1).

After shouting, "Dear God! No!" and thanking my lucky stars I'm no longer in Europe, I couldn't help wonder why the erstwhile envoy for the UN, EU, USA and Russia to the Middle East is looking for a new job.

The Middle East, after all, seems no more sorted out than it was when Blair took up the position in 2007. Could it be that Blair has realised that the region's problems are too much, even for his spectacular ego, and that generations of hatred, racism , bigotry, violence and injustice can't be resolved with some blinking, an insincere smile and a bit of spin?

Silvio Berlusconi is quoted as saying Blair had the "ideal personality" for the job (2). Apart from the (presumably) unintended comedy of Berlusconi vouching for anyone's character, this tells us everything we need to know about Blair's putative candidacy. Berlusoni likes him, so he must be unfit for office.
1 - "UK 'backs Blair for EU president'," unattributed BBC artilce. published 15th of July, 2009. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8152099.stm)
2 - ibid.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Another stray thought

Why is it that the term 'social experiment' is only applied to leftwing initiatives?

Any attempts at intervention, redistribution, is dennounced as 'social experiment,' possibly including the words 'politcally correct,' 'metropolitan,' 'liberal elite,' 'Wellington,' if the dennouncer wants to convey extra disapproval.

But it is a meaningless term, because any policy foisted on us, whether by the PC or unPC elite in Wlellington, is a social experiment. What was the neo-liberal reforms of the 80s and 90s other than a massive - and disasterous - social experiment? Those decades left us with unemployment, soaring drug use, alcoholism a social underclass and a prison population that would have been unthinkable before Roger Douglas got his bloody hands on the levers of power.

We're seeing it again, in the laissez-faire approach to recession management. Faced with a massive social problem in the making, the government has done nothing, in the hope that everything will somehow sort itself out. It is a foolish, ideological, stubborn refusal response. So lets call it what it is - a social experiment.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Prison numbers set to reach new high

According to Judith Collins:
The number of prisoners behind bars in New Zealand is expected to be the highest ever within weeks, Corrections Minister Judith Collins says.

At Monday unlock this week, there were 8434 people in prisons or police stations - just 23 below the previous peak of 8457 prisoners on 17 September 2007.

[snip]

The strong growth in the prison population began in 2003 when the prison population stood at less than 6000. It is forecast to rise to around 10,700 by 2016. (1)
This will, of course, get an awful lot higher, especially with the number of unemployed sky rocketing. The recession - and, more importantly, the government's refusal to actually do anything constructive about it - will mean all the bad numbers go up. Prison population, drug use, domestic violence, dead children ... Worse, not only will the numbers get high but they will stay high, as the social wreckage continues to ruin lives for years or even decades afterwards.

The reason that numbers have been increasing steadily is the consequence of the 'reforms' of the 80s and 90s, and the failure of the last government to effectively counter the social ruin left by those two decades social experimentation. The consequences aren't apparent immediately, but become clear over the coursr of a generation. The children of parents who have succumbed to alcohol, drugs, ennui and desapir don't show up in the prison system immediately, but they are now. The children who grew up in the shattered families and dying towns, without hope, are now old enough to be locked up.

And now we're repeating the mistakes. Long after John Key has become just a political byword for inaction and ineffectiveness, people will still be living with the consequences of his government's ideological and pig-headed refusal to take action to mitigate the effects of the recession.

The fact that the prison population has been trending upwards since 2003 raises a less important, but still interesting issue - how on Earth did Labour manage to let itself be so outflanked on law and order? I despise simplistic rhetoric on crime, and the obsession with bums in cells of the rightwing punitarian demagogues, but the empirical data was there, to show that Labour was actualy quite psychotically, probably stupidly, tough on crime. Yet they allowed themselves to be painted as limp wristed, PC idiots intent on reforming P addled triple killers with crochet classes.

Of course, Labour couldn't really dust off the old Bristish Labour party slogan about being "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.' Because they weren't very effective - that they left the prison population higher than it was when they came into government, after almost a decade in power, is evidence of that damning failure.

"Tough on crime, pretty ineffective on the causes of crime because we're too scared of being portrayed as limp wristed wets on this issue, and too gormless to get our message across effectively, and too generally known to be dishonest to be believed when we do make the effort," might be about right.
1 - "Prisoner numbers set to be highest ever," press release by Corrections Minister Judith Collins, 14th of July, 2009. (http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/prisoner+numbers+set+be+highest+ever)

Film Commssion stuffed with business apparatchiks

The terms of service of five members of the New Zealand Film Commission's board will end in June this year.

The members giving up their positions are the Chair, David Cullwick, Vanessa Alexander, Andrew Cornwell, Wendy Palmer and Shane Simpson. Three of the out going members of the board have film industry experience that I'm aware of: Vanessa Alexander (1), Andrew Cornwell and Wendy Palmer (both 2).

This means the board will shrink from its current eight members to six. The three new members do not appear to have any industry background. They are identified Patsy Reddy, Rhiannon Evans and Charles Finny. Their credentials are described thus:
Patsy Reddy will be the new Chair. She has held a number of corporate directorships including Telecom, New Zealand Post, Air New Zealand, and Sky City Entertainment, along with a broad range of creative and community sector governance roles.

[snip]

Charles Finny has a held a range of positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is a regular commentator one economic, environmental, and trade policy. He is the CEO of the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

[snip]

Rhiannon Evans, from Christchurch, has relationship, analytical, and commercial experience with investment banking in New Zealand and London. (3)

These people may have temendous skills and enthusiasm for the role, and may be very successful. But it makes me very uncomfortable to see the balance of the board being shifted so markedly, and industry experience and connections being treated so casually.

I don't want to sound reuctive, and I'm resisting the temptation (thought 'tis hard) to suggest this is some rightwing conspiracy with the goal of running the New Zealnd film industry on a strictly commercial basis and the limp wristed artists can go hang, along with the 'vision.' But investment banking and telecommunications is not like film-making, and vice versa. I would be concerned if the board of Telecom was made up of bearded artistes and down-at-heel writers. Likewise, I'm concerned that half the board of the film commission is now made up of non-industry business men and women.

There may be further appointments as the board can have between six and nine members. Another member, director and producer Tainui Stephens will give up his position before the end of the year. It is essential that he is replaced with someone with similar industry expereince, and any further appointments have industry experience.
1 - Biographical sumamry of Vanessa Alexander, published by NZonscreen.com, viewed 13th of July, 2009. (http://www.nzonscreen.com/person/vanessa-alexander/biography)
2 - Biographical summaries of the members of the NZ Film Sales Advisory Committee, including Andrew Cornwell and Wendy Palmer. Viewed on the 13th of July, 2009.
3 - "New appointments to Film Commission," press release by Christopher Finlayson, publihsed by beehive.gov.nz, 13th of July, 2009. (http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/new+appointments+film+commission)

'Rolling Maul' going well

.... as the number of people claiming unemployment benefit soars to 50,000 (1). That's the one's claiming, mind. The actual number of jobless workers out ther is estimated to be 114,000 at the end of March.

Nice.

Look, John, we appreciate it is the middle of a recession and that makes things tricky. But you set yourself up for this. Instead of following the lead of the rest of the developed world, you made a big fuss about fiscal responsibility, refused to provide sufficient fiscal stimulus, instead promising a "rolling maul of Jobs and Growth initiatives" (2). It never rolled.

Instead, your right hand man hit us with a budget based on presenting the worst case scenario as if it was the most likely, so you could slash back public spending pare back on public service positions. Everything your government has done since taking office has made things worse. True, maybe people are paying a bit less tax. But a lot more of them don't have any wages to tax.
1 - "Dole numbers worse than expected," by Claire Trevett, published in the New Zealand Herald, 13th of July, 2009. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10584065)
2 - "Jobs and Growth: Speech to the Waitakere Enterprise Business Club,
" speech by John Key, delivered on the 4th of February, 2009. Reproduced on beehive.gov.nz. (http://www.beehive.govt.nz/speech/jobs+and+growth+speech+waitakere+enterprise+business+club)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Stray thought

Marx remarks that, "Religion is the opium of the people." Everyone knows that bit, but the comment is often misunderstood.

It comes from A Contribution of Hegel's Philospohy of Right:
This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo. (1)

So it is not quite as simple as saying that religion is the wool that is pulled over our eyes to keep us stupefied and placid. It occurs as a response to a need with a far more funamental purpose than coercing obedience through threat of Hellfire. In Marx's view, the religious impulse is an attempt to explain the conflicts created by the fundamental injustices of the world - a doomed attempt, based on false premises, but a valid, genuine effort, none the less.

Which is all well and good and clear enough. But it lead me to a new thought today, or at least the concise formulation of an old one which had been rattling around in the back of my head.

Morality is the wallpaper applied to cover the cracks in the socio-eonomic sturcture of society. In the good old days, it took the form of religion, and people were told they'd go to Hell if they didn't obey the next up on the feudal heirarchy.

Social taboos and morals were established for fundamentally good economic reasons - the Ten Commandments that aren't about the correct form of Sky God worship are essentially about property. Adultery was deemed immoral because it compelled a man to waste his time and effort raising another man's child, theft because it meant the appropriation of the fruits of anothers labour, coveting asses and wives and oxen because it might lead to conflit over the envied property.

In the Victorian era, it was still religion, and this time in was used to justify colonialism and slavery, as being the natural order of things decreed by God. The British/German/French empire was seen to be doing God's work on Earth and thus what strengthened the empire was given divine sanction, no matter how bestial and cruel.

The Sky God smiled on enterprise and industry, nodded his approval over slums and Hellish factories and slavery, because it was all for the greater good, in some ineffable way that no-one could quite explain. Jesus had said something about Money being Not Good, but because money wasn't the ultimate aim, that was okay. But achieving that ultimate aim, conveniently, required that certain people have a lot of money and use it to make more. For the greater good, of course.

In the twentieth century, in the west, religion fell out of favour, as the Sky God was no longer a suitable explanation, post-Darwin. Most of the old morality was junked along with the Sky God, and in its place we have the cult of individualistic hedonism, which says that whatever makes us feel good - especially consumption - is good, and the poor deserve to be poor because they aren't as clever/strong/resourceful/ruthless as their betters.

Immorality is defined as restiction on individual liberty. Think about how the governments are compared to a Peeping Toms when they introdce new legislation giving themselves more investigative powers. Remember the language used to describe Sue Bradford, the Greens and the government during the Section 59 repeal.

It is interesting to note that the liberties enshrined are still the bourgeois ones of privacy and private property - the individual's liberty to help him or herself to the physical property of another is as frowned on as it was in the time of Moses. Failure and need are also now immoral - how often are negative moral labels applied to the the poorest, especially accusations of 'laziness,' 'dishonesty' and 'irresponsibility'?

So the basic repulsiveness of the whole set up is maintained through another polite fiction.
1 - From the introduction to "A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right," by Karl Marx, published in 1844. Reproduced courtesy of Marxists.org. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm)

Thug beats daughter with concrete block

I'm sure he thought he was applying reasonable force as he tried to split her skull with it:
Judge Geoff Rea said on February 22 this year Muliipu had become involved in an argument with his daughter who refused to attend church. He chased her down the street and back into the house picking up a lump of concrete along the way. He then whacked her over the head in a bedroom with the concrete causing skin on her head to split and start bleeding. They were both "covered in blood" and he kicked her in the face causing bruising. (1)
What an evil, savage, thick piece of human detritus. Hopefully, his reign of terror will be cut short before he turns his children into savage clones of himself, and condems his daughter to a lifetime of abusive relationships due to her shattered self esteem and acceptance of violence.

[Hat tip: Tumeke! (2)]
1 - "Man beat daughter over church refusal, court told," unattributed article from the Hawkes Bay Today, reproduced by the New Zealand Herald, 9th of July, 2009. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10583411)
2 - "Pro-smacking lobby gets a new poster boy," posted on Tumeke! by Bomber, 10th of July, 2009. (http://tumeke.blogspot.com/2009/07/pro-smacking-lobby-gets-new-poster-boy.html)

NI scum show their true colours

I'm repelled - though not surprised - to see that the violent thugs of Northern Ireland have decided to turn their hatred towards immigrants (1).

The good news is that the letter issued bore not just the 'insignia' of the Ulster Defence Association, but also of Combat 18, which should put what ever limited credibility they had through the shredder. Just another bunch of knuckle-dragging, Hitler-licking neanderthal scum.
1 - "NI Racists' Bomb Threat To Immigrants," unattributed article, published by Sky News, 10th of July, 2009. (http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/UK-News/Northern-Ireland-Young-Racists-Bomb-Threat-To-Immigrants-In-Belfast/Article/200907215333965?f=rss)

David Cameron, "Friend of the Jewish people"

I was disappointed-yet-not-at-all-surprised when David Cameron, leader of the British Conservative party, declared he was an "enthusiastic friend of the Jewish people" (1).

Translated, this means, "I am a rabid supporter of the Israei government and will signally fail to condemn, or attempt to restrain, their psychotic actions in the region, no matter how detrimental to the long term survival of the state of Israel, or the reputation and safety of the Jewish people who are not citizens of that berserk state."

Which is actually the opposite of being a friend of the Jewish people.
1 - "David Cameron ‘could be a direct descendant of Moses’," by Russell Jenkns, published in the Times, 10th of July, 2009. (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6677414.ece)

Cadbury's can go fuck itself

I'm revolted by Cadbury's decision to add palm oil to its products (1).

This means all ready threatened eco-systems in third world countries, home to myriad endangered species, will be destroyed, so that pampered western consumers can continue to pamper themselves at a lower cost.

It is this simple - when I want eat chocolate, I want to eat chocolate. I don't want to kill orangutans. When I want to kill orangutans, I want to kill orangutans. I don't want to eat chocolate.

I don't want to mix these pleasures.
1 - "Zoo bars Cadbury products," by Catherine Woulfe and Kerrie Waterworth in the Sunday Star Times, 12th of July, 2009. (http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/stories/2009/07/07/1245bb75e887)

Prediction

There's nothing stupider on the internet than putting down your thoughts in an indisputable form.  So that, of course is what I am going...