Sunday, 30 August 2009

Blogging like a beast

I've just noticed that the last post was the 195th that I have posted in 2009.

That makes this the busiest year on lefthandpalm since it was launched, as the total for 2008 was 194. and for 2007 a meagre 139.

And the year ain't over yet. Not nearly. I expect to reach 200 by Christmas!

Yeah, I know, some of you gits make 195 posts a day. But I have a life ... just not as much of one as I did in 2007 and 2008, it would seem.

Just sick and evil

Sue Bradford is once again being targetted with threats, specifically threatening her life:

Anti-smacking campaigner Sue Bradford has received chilling death threats and been warned she could be New Zealand's "first political assassination".

Police are looking at stepping up her personal security after the vile warnings on Twitter. The Green MP said: "There has been a whole lot of stuff. Some of it is pretty nasty."

She told Sunday News: "I was on Twitter and someone sent a tweet saying, 'Sue Bradford should be the first candidate for a political assassination’.

"There is another email that was really ugly a few weeks ago that we referred to police." (1)

Note how the sick little bastard focuses on the woman. John Key is the one calling the shots now - unfortunate choice of metaphor - you pillock.

It is interesting that the wording is almost identical to the threats made in 2007 (2). Does this mean it is the same person, or that all misogynistic rightwing knuckledragging hatefilled child beating bigots are the same?

I assume the 'big' rightwing bloggers would not endorse this sick sentiment, but I wonder if the hatred and hysteria they allow and sometime encourage contributes to this low? Some jumped up little arse decides he (or, in a slightly more unlikely scenario, she) wants to 'do a whaleoil' and comes up with this repulsive little outburst of venom.

Farrar and Whale et al might deplore and excoriate this viciousness, but at the end of the day, there blogs have provided a platform for people to shrill their hatred and grandstand. They've been happy enough to let it go on, enjoying the noteriety and the boost it gives to their profile. They built the sewer and even fed the rats now scurrying about. They have to take some responsibility for the coarsening and unpleasantness of what passes for political discourse on the right.
1 - "Death threats to Sue Bradford," by Neil Reid, 30th of August, 2009. (
2 - "Google shuts down controversial blog," unattributed AAP article. Published in The Age, 22nd of February, 2009. (

And the prize for stating the bleedin' obvious goes to ...

Rod Oram, for this piece in the Sunday Star Times. In it, Oram reveals:
Nick Smith, New Zealand's climate change and environment minister, offered a much more limited economic and political ambition.

His comments, such as the need to recalibrate the ETS in light of the recession and the unrealistic timetables for bringing sectors into the ETS, left the strong impression that the New Zealand government was planning to water down an already weak ETS once the select committee reports. (1)

The article this comes from is quite good, highlighting how Australia is facing up to reality, and also seeing the new opportunities that emissions trading will bring, at least in part because the Aussie government isn't still trying to convince itself that the whole thing might just go away if they prevaricate long enough.

Where Oram fails is by identifying why Smith and National are doing so little, so late and why they are trying to weaken the ETS that Labour bequeathed them. Connecting National's dilatory efforts to come to grips with climate change with the political reality with the desires of its core constituencies - business and farming- would probably be rude. To rude for Rod.

But only a couple of weeks ago, Don Nicholson was fulminating about the evils of an Emissions Trading Scheme (2). He might have been talking to the New Zealand Plant Protection Society, but it was pretty obviously a warning to National not to even think of doing anything contrary to the interests - the very short term interests - of the agricultural sector. It was an unintentional warning to us as well, of course, revealing the special interests driving National's climate change policies, which the mainstream media don't seem to have picked up on.

Why would that be? Could the same interests that dictate how National deals with ignores climate change also influence how the media reports on the government's efforts to deal with ignore climate change? Are there other connections to be made, between the might of the agricultural sector and the mainstream media's dismal failure to take the government to task over its backpeddling on climate change?
1 - "NZ too slow on ETS uptake," by Rod Oram, published in the Sunday Star Times. Reproduced on stuff, 30th of August, 2009. (
2 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:

Friday, 28 August 2009

I'm sure that will do the trick ...

The USA has asked the Chinese government - nicely - not to collectively punish the extended family of Reeiya Kadeer:

"As a general matter, we hope that the Chinese would not undertake coercive measures against her family, and we continue to look at this very closely," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.


The authorities have given eviction orders to more than 30 of her family members including children, grandchildren and siblings living there, according to her supporters. (1)

I'm sure that will do the trick. The Bastards of Beijing have always shown themselves very responsive to the concerns of other nations, humanitarian organisations and the like.

One can't help wondering, however, why we're friends with people who need to be asked not to behave like that. Then I stopped being silly and naive, and came up with a SOLUTION.

If, by some mischance, these kind words fail to have the necessary effect, perhaps Mr Jon Bon Jovi (2) could be persuaded to do a cover of Imagine, or some similarly vapid ditty, to resolve the issue?

Certainly, it wouldn't be any less effective than asking the Bastards of Beijing not to engage in bastardry.
1 - "US asks China not to harm family of Uighur leader," unattributed AFP article. Published by google, 27th of August, 2009. (
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Nick Smith's gross emissions

As noted before (here and here (1)), it's a commonplace piece of misdirection to talk about New Zealand's emissions in gross terms. Nick Smith does it again, in a speech at the Australia-New Zealand Climate Change and Business Conference:
For those concerned it is not sufficiently ambitious, I would note that with our gross emissions up 24% on 1990 levels, and the age of our forests in 2020 not providing any net benefit by 2020, this target equates to a reduction from current emissions of between 34% to 44%. Be in no doubt that this is going to be a very big ask for New Zealand over the next decade. (1)
The bit Nick fails to mention is that the net emissions - once mitigation (that's trees and stuff) is taken into account - is that net emissions are up by less than 5% on 1990 levels. Which mean's Nick's target of a 34% to 44% reduction is really only 15% to 25%.

Obviously, I wouldn't complain if National were planning to cut CO2 emissions by 34% to 44% CO2, relative to the current net figure. That would make for a credible reduction, relative to 1990. But somehow, I don't think that is how it will work out.

Why are the right some people persistently using the gross figure and forgetting to mention that, hey, things aren't really that bad? They might be really stupid, and just not understand how numbers work, but I think that's unlikely. More probably they're just trying to encourage inertia by making the problem seem intractable - we can't do that, really, can we, so why bother trying - and avoid having to make the unpleasnat decisions until it becomes someone else's problem. That this strategy also makes the green and the green tinged left seem like raving fruitloops for suggesting (supposedly) massive cuts is abn added bonus.

The downside, of course, is that it will mean we're contributing to a massive problem that will unfold over decades - the social consequences (meaning mass migrations and wars) resulting from climate change - but, hey, that's going to be on someone else's watch and won't affect people likely to vote National at the next election cycle, whereas taking some proper action will.

That's probably the bottom line. No massivbe Exxon funded conspiracy, just a bunch of politicians trying to cling on to power, even if it means doing nothing and hoping everything comes out okay somehow, in the end.

And they write off the greenie-left as naive dreamers.
1 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm: and
2 - From a speech by Nick Smith to the Climate Change and Business Conference, Tuesday, 25 August 2009. (

200 Uighurs tortured and killed

It's been alleged that the Chinese police tortured and killed 200 Uighurs arrested after the July riots:

Kadeer, who lives in the Washington area, said Monday she received a fax from a Uighur policeman who fled to nearby Kyrgyzstan and gave a grim account of Urumbay prison south of the city of Urumqi.

The policeman said that 196 Uighurs detained in a clampdown in the region "were tortured and killed" at the detention center, according to Kadeer.

"One of the Uighurs, named Erkin, couldn't stand the torture and killed himself," she said during a recording of a segment on the current affairs cable network C-Span about her memoir, "Dragon Fighter," which was published in May.

The World Uighur Congress leader said it was impossible to verify the account as phone lines had been cut.

"I'm sure that as soon as this is made public, China will say that it's not true," she said. "We cannot prove it because everything is down." (1)

Interestingly, there is some confusion about the number of detainees awaiting trial after the riots. Officially the total is 83, but earlier reports suggested a figure of 200:

On Monday, the state-run China Daily reported on its front page that prosecutions would begin later this week against at least 200 people involved in the violence.

But on Tuesday Li Hua, an official at the Xinjiang government media office, questioned the accuracy of the report.

"At present, there is no scheduled date for the trial," he told reporters. "I don't know how China Daily got that information, but it's not true. We will announce it to the media when there is a trial."

He also denied that the number of people facing trial was as many as 200, citing an earlier report which put the figure at 83. (2)

Perhaps somone accidentally released the figure of those who are being tried and 'dealt with' in camera, rather than the show trials?
1 - "Uighur exile airs prison killing allegation," unattributed AFP article. Hosted by google, 25th of August, 2009. (
2 - "Confusion over Xinjiang trials," unattributed BBC article, published 25th of August, 2009. (

Friday, 21 August 2009

Is my homeland now part of the Axis of Evil?

As always, peerless Will has the best words:
... Alas, poor country!
Almost afraid to know itself.
Following the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi (2), internet campaigns has been launched to boycott Scotland, because of its craven appeasement of terrorists. This is raises some important issues.
  • First, will Scotland be given official recognition as part of the 'Axis of Evil'? Surely, we have earned that distinction.
  • Second, will I be able to claim refugee status in New Zealand, because of the nature of the regime that reigns in my homeland?
More seriously, I've never been convinced of al-Megrahi's guilt. On the one hand, the case against him was dubious. On the other, for reasons of parochial pride, I like to think Scottish justice would have found out the truth. Probably, it was at best a case where 'Not Proven' would have been an appropriate verdict. But I suspect that was never, ever going to be possible, given the circumstances of his trial.

I suspect the real reason he has been allowed to go home to die was to stop his appeal and to negate the embarrassment of him dying in Scotland, with big question marks remaining over his guilt.
1 - Macbeth, by William Shaespeare, Act iV, Scene iii, 188-9. (
2 - "Anger at Lockerbie bomber welcome," unattributed BBC article, published 21st of August, 2009. (

Nothing personal ...

According to the American Uighur Association, relatives of Rebiya Kadeer have been ordered to leave the properties they live in and rely upon for their income, so the buildings can be demolished (1).

Obviously, we should be impressed by the communit's benevolence. After all, if they were evil, they'd just have knocked the buildings down with people inside.
1 - "Demolish Kadeer kin's homes," unattributed AFP story. Published in the Straits Times, 20th of August, 2009. (

Thursday, 20 August 2009

False fears and invented demons

A new column from Johann Hari, considering the insanity of the American right, from the Birthers to Sarah Palin's lies about Obama's 'Death panels.' As he points out, it isn't limited to America in the 21st century:

This tendency to simply deny inconvenient facts and invent a fantasy world isn't new; it's only becoming more heightened. It ran through the Bush years like a dash of bourbon in water. When it became clear that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, the US right simply claimed they had been shipped to Syria. When the scientific evidence for man-made global warming became unanswerable, they claimed – as one Republican congressman put it – that it was "the greatest hoax in human history", and that all the world's climatologists were "liars". The American media then presents itself as an umpire between "the rival sides", as if they both had evidence behind them.

It's a shame, because there are some areas in which a conservative philosophy – reminding us of the limits of grand human schemes, and advising caution – could be a useful corrective. But that's not what these so-called "conservatives" are providing: instead, they are pumping up a hysterical fantasy that serves as a thin skin covering some raw economic interests and base prejudices. (1)

In New Zealand, of course, we have our own equivalents, as shown by Don Brash in his recent speech, where he felt it necessary to mention the "the political correctness – around race or gender – in New Zealand" (2).

When he said it, of course, Brash would have been entirely convinced that he was saying nothing but the truth, and his audience would have nodded and agreed that, yes, that damn pesjky political correctnerss was what was driving white, male, decent, hardworking New Zealanders to Australia, where a man could be a man wthout having to worry about any woman or darkie telling him what to do.

That, remember, is from Don Brash, the man who would have been king, but for the most slender of electoral margins - and he so nearly won using the same rhetoric, so it meant something to a lot of people. That the idea that Maori are enjoying some sort of special treatment is fantasy isn't important to the people who responded to Brash's message in 2005, unless you start counting the money spent on jailing a disproportionate number of Maori as some sort of racially based perk. The truth is that Maori are poorer, worse educated, live shorter lives and are more likely to die violently, either at their own hand, through misadventure or as the victims of violence.

That doesn't matter, becauswe the Brashite message tapped into some of the most visceral, atavistic emotions - racist fear of the Other, jealous protection of self interest and envy of the fantastic notions applied to Maori.

As Hari said, it is fantasy justifying "raw economic interests and base prejudices"

1 - "Republicans, religion and the triumph of unreason," by Johann Hari, published in The Independent, 19th of July, 2009. (
2 - "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. (

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The horror! The horror!

Two things the world does not need more of: covers of Stand by Me, and songs by Jon Bon Jovi. Now we have both at the same time, in a combination of ultimate hideousness (1).

Not content with defacing a classic, St Jon delivers a message through the song, which is that, you know, all this hatred, war, terrorism stuff, it isn't good, you know. We should all, you know, stand. Together, okay.

It is sung in Farsi as "a musical message of worldwide solidarity with the people of Iran," Bon Jovi sharing vocal duties with Andy Madadian. Because, as history has shown, songs change the world. 'Give Peace A Chance' has stopped war forever.

Jon Bon Jovi, the David Hasselhoff of Tehran.
1 'Stand by Me," performed by Jon Bon Jovi and Andy Madadian, with others. Available through You Tube. (

Monday, 17 August 2009

Let them eat dog

Does anyone really care that man's best friend became man's main course?

The SPCA wants to educate certain communities that eating cats and dogs is unacceptable in New Zealand.

It follows a Tongan family cooking up their pet dog to eat, because they wanted to get rid of it.

SPCA chief executive Robyn Kippenberger says the eating of cats and dogs is also known to happen in Vietnamese and Chinese cultures.

"We want to talk to the Tongans, but also we need to be aware that there are other communities where that's culturally acceptable. So we need to actually educate them as well, that this is not our culture." (1)

Of course it isn't "our culture." Our culture is hunting pigs, terrorising them with dogs, and slaughtering them with knives, blasting ducks out of the air, dragging fish out of water on the end of a hook, bobby calves, sow crates and farrowing stalls, battery hens and 'free range' barns where the hens are crushed so close they are driven insane.

And that's before we start on how we treat each other ...

So let him eat his fucking dog, unless we're going to address our own rank hypocrisy. Perhaps that's what the SPCA should be educating people about, because the cruelty of what might be called "New Zealand culture" far surpasses one idosyncratic chap whacking his mutt on the head and sticking it on the barbeque.
1 - "Eating cats and dogs "not NZ culture"," unattributed news report by NewstalkZB, 17th of August, 2009. (

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Just plain depressing

Perhaps the world ends, not with a bang but with a shuffling of paper and some bureaucratic bickering:
This week delegates from 180 countries have skirmished over a draft agreement with some 2,500 paragraphs, sentences, phrases and words in dispute. They struggled to whittle down 200 pages of incomprehensible text into a workable document — but left Bonn after five days' diplomacy with much work still to do. (1)
The move by the USA, to legislate for trade sanctions against nations that don't accept limits, seems sensible - though it is bizarre that we can happily do business with a regime like the communists in Beijing inspite of their human rights record, but then restrict trade because of carbon emissions.

India and China's position, that they should still be allowed to develop, is hypocritical, because they have both already profited massively from western investment - they have have enjoyed the fruits of our carbon driven growth. New growth will have to be achieved in line with emissions limits in place. It's the only way.
1- "Time running short for new climate-change deal," by Arethur Max, published by the Associated Press. Hosted by gogole, 15th of August, 2009. (

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Trotter struts, frets, once again

Chris Trotter continues his quest to establish himself as the dominant blogger of the left. Unfortunately, tactic is not to taking the fight to the right with unparalleled ferocity but to lash out at those around him. The traditional leftwing approach, in other words. Solidarity? Combination? Good words, nothing more.

Trotter has decided that Idiot/Savant needs to be taken down a peg or two - and, presumably, Chris Trotter elevated - following a post on No Right Turn (1) about remarks made by Toke Talagi (2), the premier of Niue, suggesting it was time for Fijians to use civil disobedience against the junta.

Idiot/Savant thought this a good idea. Trotter demurred. Forgetting his own Bowalley Road rules (3) about personal attacks (again (4)) he posted a sneering diatribe (5) claiming that I/S was naive in thinking that civil disobedience could accomplish anything.

Idiot/Savant has not, as yet, replied. Perhaps he/she doesn't wish to dignify Trotter's childish squib throwing with a response, or perhaps like myself, only rarely bothers to look in on Bowalley Road these days. Sophomoric attacks on leftwing bloggers, clumsy biblical parallels, recycled columns from ten years ago and really bad poetry, all presented in Trotter's signature over-wrought style, don't make for very interesting reading.

I'm not as dignified as the worthy Idiot/Savant, however. Not only is Trotter wasting his time and obscuring his message - I would have been blogging about the substance, if the vituperation hadn't annoyed me so much - but he's also being ... well .. childish. Chris, if Bowalley Road is intended to be a "Portfolio" (6), do you really want it to be one that makes you look like a petulant brat, engaged in eternal "People's Front of Judea" type factional squabbling, trying to demonstrate your cojones are larger and hairier than another anonymous blogger's?

I hope not. If you do, pack up shop and go away. It's an unedifying spectacle.

As for substance, I note Trotter's claim that
In the case of the "colour revolutions" (so called because the demonstrators took to wearing a single, identifying colour: "Rose" in Georgia, "Orange" in the Ukraine) what appeared to be spontaneous popular uprisings were in fact carefully planned and flawlessly executed political mobilisations engineered by individuals and groups expertly trained and lavishly funded by the United States. (7)
He offers no evidence in support of this contention. Sorry Chris, but if you can' cite some evidence of this malign interference, then you're no closer to reality than you claim Idiot/Savant is. Given the total inability of the USA to effect swift, bloodless and discrete regime change in so many other places, the onus is on you to prove your claim. I might believe that the Rose Revolution was instigated by David Icke's intergalactic blood drinking lizards, but without evidence, it remains fantasy.

Why does this matter? Well, because I used to think that Chris Trotter was important. I used to be a fan. And, of course, Hell hath no fury like a semi-acolyte disillusioned. But Trotter's importance is inversely proportional to his presence. Like a semi-attractive woman in a boob-tube and overly-tight jeans, the more of Chris Trotter on display, the less you want to see. In his newspaper columns, his blogging and his appearnaces on the radio, he reveals his limitations. A handful of quotations, some pretentious brouhaha and a smearing of avuncular charm is the essential character of the Trotter mode. Re-reading No Left Turn, I'm reminded of how indigestible his style is - it is bearable in a column or a post, but when faced with a chapter of it - and how reliant he is on the work of others. So much of the book is a cobbling together of other people's research and works, with brief interludes of Trotteresque prose. There is no new insight or information, just repeating what others have said, in a painfully elaborate manner.

Does he have anything to contribute? Probably. But I'm less sure than I used to be.

1 - "Fiji: time to rise up?," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn, 6th of August, 2009. (
2 - "Niue head urges Fijians to 'rise up'," by Claire Trevett, published in the New Zealand Herald, 6th of August, 2009. (
3 - The rules for Bowalley Road state "I intend Bowalley Road to be a much quieter, and certainly a more respectful, place. So, if you wish your comments to survive the moderation process, you will have to follow the Bowalley Road Rules. These are based on two very simple principles: Courtesy and Respect. Comments which are defammatory, vituperative, snide or hurtful will be removed". Clearly, Chris feels no need to set an example, indulging in little spurts of spleen and trivial, pointless insults.
4 - "More on the Bain Case," posted by Chris Trotter on Bowalley Road, 15th of July, 2009. ( In the comments section Trotter refers to Don Franks as "ever the Stalinsit" and that he would ""
5 - ""Idiot/Savant? Well, he's half right," posted by Chris Trotter on Bowalley Road, 7th of August, 2009. (
6 - "Reader advisory," posted by Chris Trotter on Bowalley Road, 15th of April, 2009. (
7 - ""Idiot/Savant? Well, he's half right," posted by Chris Trotter on Bowalley Road, 7th of August, 2009. (

Talk about a conflict of interest ...

Peter Gluckman, the government's chief science adviser, has prepared a paper on climate change (1).

It is in tune with proper scientific thought, which puts it wildly at odds with the government's current position. Gluckman provides an excellent summary of the issue, and surely not even Don Nicholson of Federated Farmers will dispute his scientific credentials (2).

This part, in particular, should be read out aloud by anyone offerring an opinion on climate change, as a preface to the usual railing, gimmickery and tilting at strawmen that passes for debate on the denierist finge:
... the collective wisdom of the scientific community is that action is needed now. It is inherent in the time scale by which emission targeting can affect temperatures that action sooner will have a greater ameliorating effect. This means making decisions in the absence of absolute certainty. Certainty can never exist regarding the precise magnitudes of temperature, rainfall and sea-level changes in advance of the periods you actually make the measurements. We are dealing here with probabilities, and indeed dealing with probabilities is the normal business of science. Science has done its best to reduce the uncertainty and now has a high level of confidence that something must be done now, and that if nothing is done we will all suffer as global temperatures rise.

There is a remote possibility that if we did little or nothing then the temperature would not rise to unacceptable levels. But we cannot gamble the future of the whole planet on the low probability of that occurring. We do many things in life that are based on the balance of probabilities, for example we think it prudent to insure our houses and wear seat belts in our cars not because we plan to have a fire or a crash, but rather because we are weighing the cost of the insurance premium or the minor inconvenience of putting on the seat belt against the significant risk of damage to our finances or ourselves if those events were to happen. It is the same with climate change – the collective wisdom of the scientific community is that action is needed to address global warming because without action the potential risk to the planet and ourselves is too high. (1)

I imagine that "remote possibility that if we did little or nothing then the temperature would not rise to unacceptable levels" will be seized on and regurgitated by deniers at every opportunity, rather in the form of "The governemnt's chief scientific advisor said we could do nothing without catastrophic consquences," which is, unfortunately, what happens when fundamentally honest and reasonable people debate fundamentally unscrupulous, dishonest people with vested interests to protect.

Gluckman, rather rudely, identifies the economic problem New Zealand has to face up to - either fewer cows, which isn't acceptable to the 'protein industry,' or a lot less of everything else, which probably insn't going to be acceptable to the rest of us:

The problem that overlays all of this is one of economics. To reduce emissions and to protect forests, which absorb carbon dioxide, has costs. The greater the degree of emission reduction required, the greater the cost. There are no easy and economical ‘silver bullet’ solutions to prevent the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by human activity from ending up in the atmosphere, so substantial reductions in emissions are required.


New Zealand has a particularly unusual situation because about half of our emissions are derived from our farming industry ... We are a long way from being able to reduce emissions from sheep and cattle unless we reduce herd size, which would affect the heart of our economy. Active research is starting to look at ways to change ruminant biology so they expel less methane; however while the research is promising, it is still some way from application. So if we commit to reducing emissions by a certain percentage, say 20%, and we cannot change livestock emissions much we would have to have a 40% reduction in other emissions to meet that target. (2)
Which is the debate we need to be having. But without proper leadership from the government, and the like sof Don Nicholson trying to smother any debate, it isn't going to happen.
1 - "Climate change," by Professor Peter Gluckman, published on the website of the Government's Scientific Advisory Committee, 14th of August, 2009. (
2 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:
3 - Gluckamn, op. cit.

Marital rape legalised in Afghanistan

Thank goodness we drove out the brutal, misogynist Taliban, and replaced them with a regime that shows far more concern for the rights of women:
An amended version of the Shi'ite Personal Status Law was submitted last month and published in the official gazette on July 27, bringing it into effect weeks ahead of the Aug. 20 presidential poll, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

"Karzai has made an unthinkable deal to sell Afghan women out in return for the support of fundamentalists in the August 20 election," said Brad Adams, Asia director for HRW.

"So much for any credentials he claimed as a moderate on women's issues," he said in a statement.

The legislation is meant to govern family law for minority Muslim Shi'ites, who make up about 15 percent of Afghanistan's roughly 30 million people, and is different to that for the majority Sunni population.

It requires women to satisfy their husband's sexual appetites, an article which critics have said could be used to justify marital rape and which provoked an outcry from Afghanistan's Western allies and rights groups around the world.


The amended law gives a husband the right to withdraw basic maintenance from his wife, including food, if she refuses to obey his sexual demands and requires women to get permission from their husbands to work, according to HRW.

The law also grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers and effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying "blood money" to a girl who was injured when he raped her, HRW said. (1)
Coincidentally, I'm re-reading Baghdad Burning in book form, and just reached the point where Riverbend rails against similar moves in post-Invasion Iraq:
On Wednesday our darling Iraqi Puppet Council decided that secular Iraqi family law would no longer be secular- it is now going to be according to Islamic Shari'a. Shari'a is Islamic law, whether from the Quran or quotes of the Prophet or interpretations of modern Islamic law by clerics and people who have dedicated their lives to studying Islam.

The news has barely been covered by Western or even Arab media and Iraqi media certainly aren't covering it. It is too much to ask of Al-Iraqiya to debate or cover a topic like this one- it would obviously conflict with the Egyptian soap operas and songs. This latest decision is going to be catastrophic for females- we're going backwards.

Don't get me wrong- pure Islamic law according to the Quran and the Prophet gives women certain unalterable, nonnegotiable rights. The problem arises when certain clerics decide to do their own interpretations of these laws (and just about *anyone* can make themselves a cleric these days). The bigger problem is that Shari'a may be drastically different from one cleric to another. There are actually fundamental differences in Shari'a between the different Islamic factions or 'methahib'. Even in the same methahib, there are dozens of different clerics who may have opposing opinions. This is going to mean more chaos than we already have to deal with. We've come to expect chaos in the streets… but chaos in the courts and judicial system too?!

This is completely unfair to women specifically. Under the Iraqi constitution, men and women are equal. Under our past secular family law (which has been in practice since the '50s) women had unalterable divorce, marriage, inheritance, custody, and alimony rights. All of this is going to change. (2)
Reports like these leave me wondering why we bothered.

Then I remember, neither Iraq or Afghanistan was ever about improving the plight of its long sufferring population, was it? Afghanistan was attacked to divert attention from the monumental failure of the USA's intelligence services and government to protect its citizens and infrastructure from terrorist attack. Iraq was a final round in the Bush-Hussein family vendetta, and a bonus economic opportunity to secure massive contracts for American companies.

Improving human rights was a bottom-of-the-barrel issue dragged out after everything else had been used - and failed. Osama Bin Laden remains uncaught, so it can't have been about bringing him to justice. Terrorist attacks are still being planned and sometimes executed - so forget the making the world safe from terror justification. Weapons of mass destruction and Iraq links to Al Quaeda remain undiscovered. So that can be used. Now its about building democracy and improving human rights - only, as the reports abocve show, that isn't going to wash, either.

What's the next excuse goingt to be? Ending the recession by stimulating the arms trade?
1 - "Karzai sells out Afghan women over law-rights group," by Jonathon Burch, published by Reuters, 14th of August, 2009. (
2 - See the posts "Shari'a and Family Law..." and "Still Brooding ...," Posted by Riverbend on Baghdad Burning, 15th and 20th of January, 2004.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Superstious stupidity is a viable defence in law?

While it's been recently established it's not okay to kill women because you find them annoying, and probably not okay to kill homosexuals because you're a hate filled bigot (1), it seems it is pretty much okay to kill someone if you think they're possessed by the devil (2).

Perhaps Clayton Weatherstone and Ferdinand Ambach should have tried that tactic in court.

"Your honour, I stabbed her repeatedly to let the wickedness out!" or "I beat him to death with a banjo in order to exorcise his perverted demonic homosexuality! I was only trying to help ..."

If that seems wantonly nasty-minded on my part, you haven't absorbed the facts fully. A woman was killed through the inept stupid brutality of a bunch of morons in thrall to some particularly idiotic ideas about evil spirits. A woman died because of unacceptable ignorance and stupidity and superstition. The people who killed her get community service - what community wants imbeciles who think people are possessed by the devil in it? - and she gets to be dead. Forever. That's the truly offensive thing here.

Utterly, utterly disgusting.
1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
2 - "Bungled exorcism was a 'crime of love'," unattributed NZPA article. Published in the New Zealand Herald, 14th of August, 2009. (

Thursday, 13 August 2009

PRC helpfully offers Maori TV programming advice

The PRC has asked Maori Television not to screen a documentary about Rebiya Kadeer, and to replace it with a documentary about the Urumqi riots produced by the Chinese state broadcaster (1).

Even the mild mannered Lincoln Tan seems to think this is going a bit far. You can detect a raised eyebrow in the opening paragraph:

China is to pressure Maori Television to screen its own, government-produced film on riots in a Muslim-majority province instead of an independent documentary on an exiled leader.

Maori TV is to screen 10 Conditions of Love, an Australian film about the struggle of Muslim Uighur people in Xinjiang, the scene of recent ethnic riots, and their figurehead, Rebiya Kadeer.

Beijing, however, has produced its own documentary, Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth and has asked Maori TV to screen it instead. (1)

I'm quite sure the snappily titled Xinjiang Urumqi July 5 Riot: Truth is entirely factual, balanced and considered. I wouldn't dream of suggesting otherwise. Lefthandpalm would probably get hacked to pieces if I was to do so.

It's a shame that Tan resorts to the slef serving Jimmy He for a quote, though at least now He's status as an interested party is made clear (2).

Again, a big "Well done" to Maori TV for getting hold of 10 Conditions of Love. Stick to your guns, and tell the totalitarians where to go.
1 - "China wants Maori TV to show riot film," by Lincoln Tan, published n the New Zealand Herald, 11th of August, 2009. (
2 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

What a surprise II

Don Nicholson, head of Federated Farmers, doesn't like emmissions targets (1). Such is Don's ire, he gets almost Trotteresque in his rhetoric.

The speech is largely predictable old nonsense and strawmen. Addressing the idea of an Emissions Trading Schemem, Don tells us:

If saving the planet is the prime motivation, then when in history was civilization saved by the implementation of a tax?

A tax being what the Emissions Trading Scheme, or ETS, is.

Could you have imagined the last of the Roman Emperors, Romulus Augustus, with the German hordes banging on the gates of his palace, turning to his advisors to recommend they tax the barbarians out of existence?

Quite, Don. Taxation might not stop barbarians, but it might help change behaviour in the 21st century. W're not quite at the stage where the babrbarians are banging on the gates. We can - probably - deal with climate change through less extremem measures than Romulus Augustus would have needed. Silly arguments like that might appeal to the audience, but they don't really advance the debate.

Which is sad, because that sort of stuff tends to obscure Don's occasional good points. He points out, "what New Zealand is committed to is not solutions but appearance." After making that point, it is a shame that it is lost in rhetorical feinting about barbarians and Ancient Rome.

Having finished with his historical re-enactment, Don immediately sets up another strawman:
Farmers are dumbfounded that the world's best brains believe ETS-like policies will suddenly turn climate variations around

Get the ETS today and suddenly tomorrow glaciers will cease retreating and the polar ice caps will stop melting.
Ignoring the hyperbole about glaciers and ice caps, who has said that emissions trading scheme will "suddenly turn climate change around"? No-one I'm aware of, and certainly not "the world's best brains." An emmissions trading scheme might contribute to slowing climate change, and mitigate the global temprature increase. Nothing more. So another clumsy rhetorical florish.

Then, alas, Don resorts to statistical smoke and mirrors, imitating Nick Smith's conjuring trick (2), where gross and net emissions are confused:
... the 40 percent target, which is actually 62 percent given 1990 is the datum.
That figure appears to be derived from the gross figure for current emissions - the increased amount of CO2 we're pumping out, compared to 1990 - without taking any mitigating factors into account. When those mitigating factors are included, net emissions are currently 5% above 1990. The Green's target is actually a 45% decrease on current net emmissions. Ambitious, possibly insane, but nowhere near as bad as Don's froth flecked denunciation would suggest.

Not finished with the Greens, Don then invokes the oft misunderstood shade of Thomas Malthus:

Neo-Malthusians can be seen in the anti-globalisation and green movements. Peak oil, peak food, peak carbon.

They're the ones who hold the word ‘peak' to their chests. The notion is that this is all beyond the planet's capacity to meet human needs, so we need to throttle back under threat of disaster.

There might be some truth in this - millenialist loons attach themselves to every movement, claiming to see the imminent apocalypse everywhere - but Don neglects to mention that it isn't just tree hugging fools made of tofu warning about climate change and calling for reductions of 30-40%. It is perfectly credible scientists. The Greens are just the people listening to them.

Then he resorts to another tired trick, the 'poor little Kiwis' line:

Between 1990 and 2007, global emissions grew by 34 percent. In the same period, the global population increased by 1.4 billion mouths or around 27 percent.

Do you see the correlation? The increasing size of humanity is in line with increasing emissions.

How on earth will a tax and a target solve that, when New Zealand does not produce 99.8 percent of global emissions?
Um ... Don, it isn't like we're trying to do this all on our own. There's a big meeting planned. In Copenhagen. Where people are going to agree to stuff we're all going to do.

(And as for your other,more intelligent point, yes, the population will increase. Yes, that may mean more emissions. Which is why we need to start doing something now. Because if things are reasonably bad just now, they're going to be Hellishly bad once the population hits 10 billion. We have to find ways to balance popualtion and emissions. Targets are one way of helping to do that, by encouraging countries to find ways to reduce CO2.)

All this from someone who denigrates the Greens and their like for "moral brainwashing without facts or context."

Finally, Don hits his stride:

The fact that low lying Pacific Islands may be subject to rising sea levels is truly sad. It is catastrophic for them and will lead to social upheaval.

Yet it isn't new.

About 6,000 years ago the Sahara Desert wasn't a desert. It was a savannah, with lakes, rivers and fish. Over the following 2,000 years the Sahara underwent its metamorphosis into the world's largest tropical desert.

I wonder what Dr Russel Norman, Charles Chauvel or Keisha Castle-Hughes would have made of this change if they lived back then?

Would they have railed among the 14 million human beings on Earth at the time to halt global warming?

The real fact is, of course, that the current threats to the Pacific islands are the result of anthropogenically caused global warming - we are forcing the temprature up. Russel Norman, Charles Chuvel and Keisha Castle-Hughes (Are you letting your political stripes show here, Don? What about Nick Smith?) couldn't have done anything about historical examples of global warming, as they weren't caused by human activity. Our actions didn't cause the lush Sahara plains to turn into a desert, or make Orkney uninhabitable or drive the Saxons to look for a new home. Those all happened as a result of natural climate fluctuations, through understood mechanisms that are not - repeat not - in play now in the 21st century.

Don misses the underlying importance of his own point, however, which is that climate change - whatever the cause - has caused often massive social upheaval. As he says:

The Saxons became a nomadic tribe due to climate variation when their coastal settlements were inundated by rising seas. The Saxons became nomadic barbarians for hire ... Roman Britain became Saxon Britain.

In other words, the Britain that emerged and the history we have today was created by climate variation. World history would have taken a completely different turn if those Saxon villages were not wiped out by rising seas.

In fact, I wonder what Dr Russel Norman, Charles Chauvel or Keisha Castle-Hughes would have made of this fifth century dislocation?

Which is the nub of the problem. Global warming - non-anthropogenic - has historically caused huge problems. Populations have previosuly been driven to seek new homes as old one's became uninhabitable. In the 21st century, we'll see the same thing happen as climate change - this time anthropogenically driven - drives similar population movements.

Don might repsond that his point is essentially about adaptation - previous climate crises have ben faced, and we have survived. Well, Don might be blaise about it, but - to borrow a rhetorical trick he's fond of - I wonder if he'd be quite so glib if he was a hapless Briton being slaughtered by maurading Saxons in 5th century Britain? The changes our activity is causing will have massive social impacts. That means ethnic tension, riots, wars. New Zealand will escape the worst of it, but we'll feel the consequences. Early in his speech, Don scoffed at the "Maginot mentality" he discerned in New Zealanders, huddled safely behind their " vast sea moat." One can't help but think he might be partial to a bit of that mindset himself.

The two advantage we have over the peoples in the historical examples he cites are, first, we have a better perspective of what is happening. We know what is happening and we know what is causing it. Second, we can do something about it. The ancient Saxons could not do anything about the flooding of their homelands, other than go somewhere else. We can limit the changes in the global climate, and hence the effects of these changes. So comparing our situation to historical changes is disingenuous. We can choose a different route, if we have the will to do so.

Finally, Don dons his Wise Old Man hat and treats us to some patronising comments about how we don't really Get It, whereas he - by some mysterious insight - does:

Humans have been around for 10,000 of the 4.6 billion years our planet has existed. This means our species has been only around for 0.0000021 percent of Earth's existence.

It's a blink of an eye when compared to the long history of our planet. That means the last 20 years, where climate change has become central to policy, is an incredibly miniscule amount of time geologically.

This is not to say that the activities of the Earth's population have not affected the climate.

It's just to illustrate that climate variation is nothing new. Yet it's being interpreted by those who do think it's new.

To be honest, Don, I think if you are capable of grasping that, most of the rest of us are as well. Certianly, I'll warrant the scientists who make up the IPCC - many of them geologists - might have a rudimentary understanding of the Earth's age.

Then he pulls off his most remarkable trick of all. In the same breath, he calls for money - he suggests 0.05% of GDP - should be put into research. At the same time, he says, there shouldn't be taxes. Are you for real, Don? Where is that 0.05% of GDP going to come from? Was this what Telethon was for?

For a man who used his speech to heap scorn on people for failing to face up to reality, you seem keen to shy away from it yourself. Of course taxes will not address climate change. But it will give us the money to fund the research that will.

The annoying thing is that Nicholson is almost talking sense, if you take out the voodoo economics. He - rightly - lambasts the government for slashing Research and Development investment, which was a stupid thing to do, for both economic and environmental reasons. But the kernal of good sense is almost lost in the bombast.

The story is already being reported as another bash on Keisha Castle-Hughes (3), which is only a small and very silly part of the speech, but the part that the media will focus on and the only part that a lot of people will remember.

That, and that Keisha was wearing a swimsuit and shorts and in the accompanying photo. It seems, as far as the Dom Post is concerned, that's what matters.
1 - "Misguided policies, priorities and people," speech by Don Nicholson, delivered to the 62nd Anual Conference of the New Zealand Plant Protection Society, 11th of August, 2009. ( Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations in this post are drawn fromt his speech.
2 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:
3 - "Farmers' leader queries star's green credentials," by Jon Morgan, published in The Dominion Post. Reproduced by, 12th of AUgust, 2009. (

What a surprise ...

In a move that no-one could possibly have predicted, the PRC has decided condemning Burma for sentencing Aung San Suu Kyi to a further 18 months detention, is not justified:
The world should respect Myanmar's judicial sovereignty following the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi to 18 months in detention, China said on Wednesday, suggesting Beijing would not back U.N. action against the country.


Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu repeated a call for all sides in Myanmar to talk to each other, but requested non-interference from the outside world.

"As a neighbor of Myanmar's, China hopes all sides in Myanmar can push ethnic reconciliation through talks, and gradually realize stability, democracy and development," Jiang said in a brief statement faxed to Reuters.

"This not only accords with Myanmar's interests, it is also beneficial to regional stability," she added, in China's first official comment following the sentencing.

"As for the related domestic case, international society should fully respect Myanmar's judicial sovereignty," Jiang said, referring to the Suu Kyi case. (1)

Given the PRC's recent crackdowns on the Uighurs (2), and its long history of crushing opposition and jailing activists, the PRC is understandably keen to make sure that a norm is established, where a nations right to deal with its internal affairs as it sees fit is repected - especially when those internal affairs relate to the pesky issues of internal dissent, ethnic tension, human rights and protest.

(Though not the right of Australia to screen films (3). Apparently, that sovereign right is not one worthy of respect. Though perhaps the PRC is just following Australia's own lead here, as that country showed little heed to Iraq's sovereign right not to be invaded by a massive international army in 2003.)

The regimes in the PRC and in Burma are similar in many regards.

Both have apalling records on democracy.

Both use brutal tactics to crush dissent.

Both use detention to silence opposition.

And both, of course, are New Zealand's valued trading partners (4).
1 - "Respect Myanmar sovereignty, China says after trial," unattributed Reuters article, published 12th of August, 2009. (
2 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:
3 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:
4 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:

Aung San Suu Kyi guilty

Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to a further 18 months home detention (1).

Expect crocodile tears and lip service about human rights. But at the end of the day, Burma is part of ASEAN and hence a Valued Trading Partner. So any suggestion that New Zealand might actually do something is preposterous and naive.

Good to see Free Trade Phil's strategy of is working and the regime in Burma is softening its hard line stance (2). The original sentence handed down to Suu Kyi was three years ahrd labour. In their benevolence, the junta decided that was too harsh. Next time, they might only detain her for another twelve months.

What humanitarians!
1 - "'There were gasps in court, but all she did was smile'," by Pheobe Kennedy, published in The Independent, 12th of August, 2009. (
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:

National's gross emissions

I'm astonished that National - NACTional - have actually managed to blindside me and come up with emissions proposals worse than I'd already written off as unacceptably low (1).

I'm tempted to create a new example of Lurgee's Paradigm (2), because anyone who claims a 10% cut in co2 emissions is credible is either a fool or someone who - fundamentally- isn't facing up to reality.

The government's attitude is typified by Nick Smith's attempt to spin this. Defnding the this crappy non-proposal, and effectively giving a huge two fingers to pacific nations struggling with climate change, Smith tried to pretend that the cuts faced are going to be huge, citing the increase in gross emissions as 24.6% above 1990 levels. But that's scaremongering, because net emmssions are less than 5% above 1990 levels (3).

Anyone who bandies the gross figure about, with out qualification, is a liar or a fool.

It shows where the government thinks its interest lie. While the EU is offering a unilateral 20% cut (4), and the possibility of a 30% cut if there is agreement, New Zealand is aligning itself with the USA, with its insistence that - as the world's largest per capita emiter - it needs special consideration.

If National were serious about addressing this issue, they would be aligning themsleves with the EU, so as to strengthen their position and force the USA to go that little biit further. Instead, National has gone the other way, and our voice at Copenhagen will be one calling for less and less, not more an more. Is it too cynical to wonder why Key is so eager to align New Zealand with the USA on this issue? The other day, Key announced the SAS would return to Afghanistan, a blood for butter deal with the USA (5). Now it seems we're offerring flood for butter as well.

The usual excuse is that New Zealand is a tiny contributor to the problem. THat is true, but that is looking at it with one eye covered. New Zealand also stands to suffer, disproportionately, the consequences of climate change.

Pacific Islanders aren't going to decamp to Europe, but to Austalasia. Our economy is based on importing and exporting and tourism. We don't have land borders. We're totally dependedt on sea and air transport. If the world economy changes drastically, which will happen if climate change isn't limited, the effects will be greatest here.
1 - "Ifs and buts in NZ emissions targets," by Brian Fallow, published in the New Zealand Herald, 11th of August, 2009. (
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
3 - "New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and its
obligations under the Kyoto Protocol (2008-2012) and
possible future agreements," fact sheet published by the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute. No date of publication given. (
4 - "Offers of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions," unattributed Reuters article, published 10th of August, 2009. (
5 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Speculating with New Zealander's lives

John Key is lying through his teeth when he claims it was "a difficult decision" to send the SAS back to Afghanistan (1). The truth is the decision took Key - who said New Zealand should have taken part in the Iraq invasion in 2003 - no trouble at all (2).

His motives for returning the SAS to the disaster of Afghanistan - while winding up the rather successful peace keeping mission - is obvious, as obvious as it was when Clark sent them in. They want the USA to back up its nice words about New Zealand being "a very, very, very close friend" with some actions you'd expect of very, very, very close friends - like a free trade deal (3).

It is blood for butter all over again.

Which doesn't make Phil Goff's condemnation of the redeployment any less opportunistic, pusillanimous and hypocritical. But what do you expect from Free Trade Phil (4)?
1 - "Five more years in Afghanistan," by Colin Espiner in The Press. Reproduced on, 11th of August, 2009. (
2 - "Labour in all-out assault on Key," unattributed artilce in The Press, publsihed 7th of August, 2007. (
3 - "NZ a 'very very very close friend,'" unattributed ONE News story, 27th of March, 2002. (
4 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:

Monday, 10 August 2009


Below is a summary of an article (1), written by Britain's Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and my attempt to translate it from New Labour Speak into proper English:
The genius of modern societies is the way they release individual creativity; the danger is growing shared risks.

What is great about Britain is it has made me important; the bad thing is I might stop being important when my party gets voted out.

Gordon Brown has rightly said that the next general election will be the first of the global age.

I'm such a dick I don't realise that other countries have had elections in what might be the 'global age' whatever that is. I've never heard of Barack Obama. I'm an arse. I exist to make my brother look competent. Shoot me.

To win again, we need, as he has emphasised, to address both sides of the coin.

We should talk to money. Due to all the quantitive easing going on, there is a lot of it. And we've got to talk to both sides of it. So that's even more. In fact, I don't know a thing about metaphors and I'm an arse. Shoot me now.

As we look forward to the manifesto, we know the scale of our electoral challenge means we need to be more creative, innovative and forward-looking than ever before

We're fucked and if I'm going to keep my job we need to think of some good lies to address both sides of the coin with.


I read this word in a self help book and it made me feel warm inside.

and protecting people by using the government leadership, market dynamism and civic mobilisation that is necessary to solve any big problem.

I have a thesaurus. But I don't want to show off, so I used "big problem" instead of clever words like "gargantuan obstacle."

New Labour has been strongest when it has combined Labour's social-democratic and radical liberal traditions.

If I can say this with a straight face I'm going to win the world poker championship and them I won't need you plebs to vote me back into my job. Either that, or I'm totally deluded and actually believe this. Shoot me, just in case.

But we also need to learn the right organisational lessons of the past decade.

Everything will be okay if we organise it better.

To Hell with the "individual creativity" I mentioned earlier. That was bullshit, just like it was bullshit whan I said British intelligence didn't cover up allegations of torture.

Fuck your "individual creativity," I'm organising you.

If Labour is to lead this change, it needs to be a different kind of party. Not different in its passion and purpose, but different in its structures and role.

Okay, you've got me here.

It isn't possible for Labour to be different in its "purpose and passion" because it's only purpose and passion is retaining power so I can continue my self aggrandizing, simpering posturing. And if we change that purpose, obviously we have to surrender power.

So let's think about other stuff. Like "structures" and "roles." Because f**k me it wouldn't do to admit that we're a pointless bunch of tossers without the balls to admit we're incapable.

The traditional political structures of mainstream political parties are dying

No-one likes us any more but we can't admit this is our fault for being venal, useless and corrupt. So it is because all mainstream parties are experiencing the same thing. Just don't ask me to explain why the Tories aren't so affected by this malaise.

and our biggest concern is the gap between our membership and our potential voter base.

(Is he really saying he wants to put his member into his voter's base?)

We need to expand our reach by building social alliances and increasing opportunity for engagement and interaction with our party.

Ah, thank goodness for that self help book. Lots of warm, comforting words. Don't vote me out, I'll build alliances. Social ones. ANd give you opportunities to interact with my member.

You might say, I'm imitating Bill Clinton's modus operandi. He liked forming alliances and having interactions with his member.

There are important lessons from abroad. Rightly, people look to Barack Obama's election campaign.

But his election wasn't the first of the 'Golbal age.' He's just some tin pot little president of a banana republic. Christ, why did they make me Foreign Secretary when I'm so clearly clueless?

But the presidential system in the United States is not ours

Not much gets past me, eh?

and there is an example closer to home. Pasok, the Greek socialist party, was the only European socialist party to fare well in this year's European elections.

Oh, wait, there's a problem. T hey're socialists. New Labour aren't. THat might be why they are populatr and we're not. Rather put my foot in it there, didn't I? I said I was clueless.

Pasok has also gone furthest in party reform, opening up the party so that more than 900,000 Greeks, out of a population of 11 million, have equal rights as members or "friends". The party has quotas for male and female representation and open primaries to select party candidates for local elections. Such engaging and deliberative party structures enable Pasok to tap into the energy in communities, with resultant electoral success.

I read this on their website and I'm regugitating it. Don't ask me what it means.

Though I think there's a fundamental problem. Obviously, they are a popular leftwing party, not a bunch of corrupt, clueless, incompetent, hated, useless timewasting rightwing jobsworths who have been in power for over a decade and only managed to fuck things up.

In Britain, Labour's first port of call for expanding our reach should be a new relationship with three million-plus affiliated trade unionists. We can forge a new relationship with them by virtue of their signing up to the political fund of their union, making them a much closer part of a genuine Labour movement.

Give us some money, and then we'll shit on you again.

And we can go further in other areas, too. We say we want to listen to our voters; why not adopt a system of registered voters, as in the US, to create the basis for primaries?

Let's be useless and further annoy people by making a big fuss about how they get to select their own corrupt, clueless, incompetent, hated, useless timewasting jobsworth, even though they already do? Shoot me.

The renewal and modernisation of our party will be a key element of our fight for a fourth term. I hope that together we can respond – ideologically and organisationally – to the challenges of the next decade and ensure it belongs to Labour.

A few paragraphs ago I was saying we had to hold true to our roots, and we weren't to change our "pupose and our passion," but don't mind that, I'm pretty much making this up as I go along.

In fact this whole thing has been a test and if you're dumb enough to have read this far, you might just about be dumb enough to vote for New Labour again.
This is a condensed version of a longer article. Those who haven't had enough can read the full version, published in the respected leftwing journal, Tribune (2).

Years ago, Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell, used to write for Tribune. How utterly disgusted he would be to see how Miliband has debased the magazine, the Labour Party and the English language.
1 - "Labour's primary concern," by David Miliband, published in The Guardian, 7th of Agust, 2009. (
2 - "How the next decade can belong to Labour," by David Miliband, published in Tribune, 7th of August, 2009. (

Shaker Aamer

Another victim of torture by the US, apparently with the knowledge of - even in the presence of - British intelligence agents:

Ministers have admitted the Government sent secret agents to interview a British detainee in Afghanistan, supporting allegations MI5 and MI6 officers were present while he was tortured by his American captors.

The admission is made in documents addressed to lawyers representing Shaker Aamer, 42, who has spent seven years in Guantanamo Bay. His claims are part of a growing body of evidence highlighting Britain's alleged complicity in the rendition and torture of at least 15 other UK citizens and residents.


Mr Aamer says an MI5 or MI6 officer was present while he was being tortured by US agents at Bagram air base in Afghanistan in January 2002.

He said a man called "John", who said he was from British intelligence, was in the room when Mr Aamer's head was repeatedly "bounced" against a wall.

"John" was the same name given by Witness B, the MI5 agent who interrogated Binyam Mohamed.

In a statement to his lawyers Mr Aamer said: "After a few days of sleep deprivation, they took me to the interrogation room and the team started coming one after another, up to ten or more. One of them, a British agent, was standing, and they started talking to me in different languages –English, French, Arabic – and shouting.

"I started shouting with them, and after that I do not know what happened. All I know is I felt someone grab my head and start beating it into the back wall – so hard that my head was bouncing. And they were shouting that they would kill me or I would die. After this, they left the room and told me to think and tell them the truth or I would die."(1)

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Home Secretary Alan Johnstone have co-authored a snivelling attempt at exculpation, deliberately employing the sort of weaseling behaviour typical of these contemptable little New Labour appartachiks trying to save their worthless careers. Only,this time they haven't been caught making egregious expense claims, but fucking about with people's lives and condoning and assisting torture. They say that they "oppose torture" but that it is "impossible to eradicate all risk," and that when working with foreign agencies that might not share out "values" (a word that makes me gag when I hear it uttered by a New Labour jobsworth like Miliband), "we have to work hard to ensure that we do not collude in torture or mistreatment" (2).

Fine. Glorious. Wonderful. Mother Theresa is shaking her head in amazement and thinking how much more saintly and prisine you two are than her. But all your lip flapping about "values" is empty, like everything else about the cankerous New Labour disaster.

You - all of you, and your predecessors in your oft-sullied departments - have done nothing to make these words real. No-one expects that "all risk" can be eradicated." But you made nothing more than token efforts, did you? That's the unforgiveable gulf between what you say and what you did. You were, at best, passive in your support - it is absurd to claim that British intelligence agents are so incompetent that they didn't know anything about what was happening to Aamer at Bagram.

More likely, the agents interpreted their instructions to liberally - this is the New Labour weasleing, because we're assured that there is "no truth in suggestions that the security and intelligence services operate without control or oversight" (3). At the extreme, it is quite possible all the allegations are true and this was all known and approved at the time. It's a measure of how disgracefully Britain has entangled itself in the USA's toxic program of rendition, detention and torture that this last option can't be dismissed out of hand.

Miliband and Johnstone claim that no "alleged wrongdoing is covered up". Yet they are doing just that, proclaiming earlier that in order to effectively defend Britain, "operational work needs to remain secret" - in other words, alleged wrong doing is indeed covered up (4). They can't even keep their justifications straight for the length of one short, mealy mouthed exercise in bureaucratic self-justification.

Idiots. Useless, incompetent, evil idiots.

1 - " Ministers' admission links MI5 and MI6 to 'torture victim'," by Robert Verkaik, published in The Independent, 10th of August, 2009. (
2 - "David Miliband and Alan Johnson: We firmly oppose torture – but it is impossible to eradicate all risk," by David Miliband and Alan Johnson, published in The Daily Telegraph, 8th of August, 2009. (
3 - ibid.
4 - ibid.

Friday, 7 August 2009

What 'cuts' really means

A typically angry piece in The Independent by Johann Hari, detailing what cutting public spending in a recession actually entails for Britain:
Help for elderly people to stay in their own homes is being sawed off. Imagine you are assessed as having "basic" or "intermediate" needs: it means you are "unable to carry out several personal care or domestic routines", such as washing yourself throughly, or cooking an egg. Now, in more than 75 per cent of the country, you get no paid visitors or supervision any more. You have to wait until you hurt yourself.

Even then, you will now find only overstretched services with little to offer. Prices for meals on wheels have soared under the recession, so the number of elderly people who can afford this one hot meal a day has haemorrhaged away. Three councils – Northumberland, West Berkshire and Wokingham – have cancelled them altogether, except for those elderly people assessed as having their "life in danger". It means a lot of frightened old people who can barely leave their homes – the generation who saved us all from Nazism – are being left a little more lonely and a little more hungry and a little more abandoned.

Another unnoticed target of cuts is Britain's rape victims. This country has one of the lowest rates of rape conviction in the democratic world: barely 5 per cent of rapists end up behind bars. One of the reasons why we manage to convict even that puny dribble is that we have an excellent network of rape crisis centres, where victims can find a safe place to describe what has happened to them, receive counselling and treatment and gather the courage to approach the police. A friend of mine only managed to take her rapist to court after their careful, caring support. But more than 100 local authority services don't have a rape treatment centre at all, and more than half of the existing centres face the prospect of closure owing to funding shortfalls.

The guillotine also fallen on the programmes to help recent immigrants who desperately want to learn English and integrate into British life. In 1998, the Government introduced free English language classes for refugees and poor immigrants.


At Tower Hamlets College, courses have been slashed by half, a pattern repeated across the country. Many of the people who used to come, from Somalian cleaners to Chinese migrant workers, can't any more because fees have been imposed. As a result, they are more likely to be ripped off for less than the minimum wage, less able to report crime and less able to enrich our society with their thoughts and dreams and labour. (1)

Remember, this is in Britain, a country that has actually taken some steps to stimulate its economy and avoid it collapsing. In New Zealand, our Pollanna PM has done nothing but invoke rugby metaphors - no-one seems to have told him that for a rolling maul, you actually need to have players on the field, and he has none - and slash away at public spending.

So programmes and services for vulnerable people are being cut - like those detailed above. Like training and education for beneficiaries (2). And health services (3). Policing (4).

And that's just the repugnant side of it, the part that gets measured strictly in terms of increased hardship and diminished opportunity. There might be a -shitty - justification for it f the policy was likely to bring about some collective good by kickstarting the economy. But they won't because whatever trivial saving Bill English is making by intensifying the misery of vulnerable New Zealanders isn't being directed into stimulating the economy, sufficiently. We have a vague, laughable idea of a cycle way, to be constructed for virtually nothing in a typical piece of Keyist positive thinking, and a short term program to subsidise youth employment (5) - which isn't the same as creating jobs or opportunity for them. Its a break for the employer, another example of the private sector being funded from the public purse. Some rolling maul.

So what National's cuts and 'do nothing' policies will mean is that New Zealand will be stuck in recession for longer - until we're dragged out of it by overseas economies recovering. but we'll have been in it longer, and deeper. ANd behind all the talk of cuts and capping, the reality of people having their lot made a littl ebit more onerous by their ideologically blinkered government.
1 - "So we can't afford not to cut. But can we afford deprivation?," by Johann Hari, published in The Independent, 7th of August, 2009. (
2 - "Axing of Training Incentive Allowance unfair move," press release by the Alliance Party, 22nd of June, 2009. (
3 - "National cuts health services for thousands of patients," press release by the Labour Party, 5th of August, 2009. (
4 - "Police vehicle fleet to be reduced in size," unattributed NZPA atricle. Reproduced on, 16th of June, 2009. (
5 - "Govt to spend $152m on youth employment," unattributed NZPA article. Reproduced on, 2nd of AUgust, 2009. (

MORE rightwing bullying ...

I don't know if David Garret thinks threatening MPs is okay in a Tonga law firm (1), the same way that he thinks sexual harrasment is (2), but it isn't done in New Zealand:
David Garrett is in hot water again after claims that he challenged a Labour MP to "take this outside" during heated exchanges in a select committee.

The exchange is understood to have taken place in a closed session of the law and order committee on Wednesday, and has prompted a privileges complaint from Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni.

It is understood her complaint relates to an exchange between Mr Garrett and another Labour MP, believed to be law and order spokesman Clayton Cosgrove. (3)

The fact that the MP Garrett is alleged to have threatened appears to be the MP who complained about Garrett's bullying of New Zealand citizens testifying to the committee he sat on (4) is, I'm sure, just just a coincidence and not at all a case of a loudmouth bully losing it and resorting to threats against someone who's already pissed him off.

Maybe Garrett should go back to Tonga, if that's how they do things there, or perhaps Fiji, where he'd find the government more in line with his thuggish attitude.

How many more strikes are you going to give yourself, David?

[Hat tip - No Right Turn (5)]
1 - "MP David Garrett accused of threat," by Martin Kay, published in the Dominion post. Reproduced on, 7th of August, 2009. (
2 - "ACT managing MP's sex comment well - Key," unattributed NZPA article. Published in the New Zealand Herald, 22nd of June, 2009. (
3 - Kay, op. cit.
4 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
5 - "Garret the thug," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn, 7th of August, 2009. (

Mutterings about Musk

Going to try to get into the blogging thing again (ha!) what with anew PM, an election coming up and all that. So today I thought I'd st...