Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Minto vs Trotter

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

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

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

Misapprehension of the presumption of innocence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monbiot: Libertarians are the True Social Parasites

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

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

Monday, 29 October 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Long: "Bell tolls for loopy eccentrics"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMC Aotearoa vanishes

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

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

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Towards a tipping point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Chris Trotter "Exploring the case for armed struggle"

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

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

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Dick Scott and Karl Marx on Urewera

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 22 October 2007

The best of times, the worst of times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 21 October 2007

The Alliance response to terrorism raids

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

Friday, 19 October 2007

Trotter on our (alleged) terrorists

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

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

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

This is what terrorism is

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Anti-terror raids - New Zealand's Haneefgate

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 15 October 2007

Lawyers want a probe into Haneefgate

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Kevin Andrews continues to behave in an apalling manner:

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

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

New poll leaves National just short.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Fiske calls for Lockerbie whistleblowers

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

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

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

Friday, 12 October 2007

Ah, to be in Dunedin ...

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

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

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

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

So what is genocide?

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

"National's 'happy face' mask slips" - Chris Trotter

The moustachioed one on National's recent slips, sorry, policy announcements:
The mask drops back again. But, now we've seen these masters of deception vexed
to nightmare by a colleague's indiscretion, we know, for certain, that it's the same National beast that slouches towards Wellington to be reborn. (1)

Trotter still demonstrates some affection for Bill English, waxing almost homo-erotic:

His rugged Southland features were never very well suited to wearing Mr Happy
Face in the first place. Besides, there's something ineluctably honest about
Tories from the countryside. They like a good political scrap, and have never
been very keen on tricking folk into believing they're something that they're
not. (2)

Mmm. Bruiser Bill, the thinking man's bit of political rough trade. I wouldn't give English that much credit, myself.

1 - "National's 'happy face' mask slips," by Chris Trotter, in the
Sunday Star Times, 30th of September, 2007. (
http://www.stuff.co.nz/4220541a1861.html)
2- ibid.

Wharfies on strike

By curious coincidence, as the workers at the Port of Auckland go on strike for fairer wages, I'm reading Dick Scott's account of the 1951 strike, 151 Days. Though, on second thoughts, maybe it isn't that curious, just further evidence that things ddon't really change as much as you'd think.

According to a press release from the Maritime Union of New Zealand, the amount of freight going through the port is up by 12.6% (1). Even taking into account that increased volume might not indicate a similar increase in profit, it shows the 3.25% being offered (2) by management of the port is pathetic. Even the 4.5-4.9% (3) that the union is seeking seems restrained.

It would be interesting to know what pay increases management have enjoyed over the last few years.

1 - "Ports of Auckland workers want their share," unattributed press release from Maritime Union of New Zealand, 7th of October , 2007. (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0710/S00083.htm)
2- "Workers At Ports Of Auckland Dig In Heels In Dispute," unattributed press release from Maritime Union of New Zealand, 8th of October, 2007. (
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0710/S00094.htm)
3 - ibid.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

National's policy on Doctor's fees

Sitting in the waiting room of a medical centre, today, I gained a further insight into the reality of National's declared intention (1) of introducing competition to the medical sector by lifting the cap on doctor's fees.

Well over half an hour after my appointment, I got to see the doctor. This was no big deal, I was in no pain and I had nothing especially important to do with my time, such as work so I could pay the rent, so I could afford to wait. When we came out, people who had been waiting longer than us were still waiting. I'm sure some of them weren't as fortunate as I was.

If national win the election, they want to lift the cap on doctor's fees. John Key suggested the market would ensure that fees would not become excessive. If they did, the market would punish the doctors as their potential patients would "go down the road" (2).

Imagine what that would be like. Most people will try to see a doctor who pays less - those that can afford to go to see the doctor at all, that is. At that surgery, queues will be longer, waiting times will stretch out into hours. People taking time off work to attend the surgery will end up paying more because of hours lost waiting to be seen - but since you can't predict how long you'll have to wait, you'll have no way of knowing.

Those that can afford higher fees, meanwhile, be able to waltz into a waiting room that is sparsely populated and will receive prompt attention. Introducing competition will create what is, in effect, a two-tier health system. good quick service for some, a dismal standard for everyone else.

John Key is smart enough to know this. His claim that people will be able to "go down the road" is only part of the National vision. More fully, he is saying that people will be able to go down the road, and wait for tedious - perhaps painful - hours in an uncomfortable waiting room, long after those who can afford to pay higher fees have seen their doctor and gone home.

He will also know that for those at the bottom end of the experience, going "up the road" (3) isn't an option. They can't afford it. They are stuck with what they can pay for. Nor can they decide to do without.

It is a dismal idea.
1 - 'National to scrap cap on GPs' fees,' by Sue Eden in the New Zealand
Herald, 26th of September,2007. (
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10466057)
2 - ibid.
3 - See what I did there? Clever, wasn't it?

"In this age of diamond saucepans, only a recession makes sense" - George Monbiot

Monbiot points out (1) pointing out the uncomfortable but unavoidable truth that growth can't continue indefinately, because growth - which basically means the ever increasing proliferation of consumer commodities - is screwing up us up, and trashing the planet.

In the very first line of Capital, Marx (cheekily quoting himself) stated 'The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as “an immense accumulation of commodities”' (2). Almost a hundred and fifty years later, we still see wealth in the same terms and we're still trying to add ever more to the pile. Now we know that we're not only wasting our own time in so doing - because we'll never get enough - but the ceaseless consumption is also endangering our way of life and the lives of millions. Yet we carry on.
1 - "In this age of diamond saucepans, only a recession makes sense," by George Monbiot, in the Guardian Unlimited, 9th of October, 2007. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2186693,00.html)
2 - Capital, by Karl Marx. (
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S1)

Monday, 1 October 2007

National freak out with looney-tunes policy jamboree

Hurrah, hurrah, National have at last started indicating what they'll do if they get to form a government after the next election. And, like the misfortunes of MacBeth, the polices come not as single spies but in battalions. Unfortunately for John key and National, the similarities between Labour and the beleagured Scottish tyrant don't hold. The policies that National are tossing out with such thoughtless abandon are all bad, and transparently so.

First, 'Bruiser' Bill English, a man whose prowess in the boxing ring ranks alongside my own, announced that National were going to flog off state own enterprises. English suggested that the sales would be used to fund infrastructure spending (1), but the real reason would be to pay for tax cuts. Were the tax cuts were as affordable as National keep suggesting, then the sale of the SOEs wouldn't be needed. English is suggesting National will slash tax, and make up the short fall by selling off profitable and efficient state owned enterprises that bring in a steady stream of revenue to the country, not to foreign shareholders. While Bill isn't sure (2) if National would retain a majority stake in the SOEs, or squeeze out a few extra cents of tax cuts by giving up control, that isn't very important.

Selling a minority stake now opens the way to selling off the rest of it next time around: "We sold part last time, the world didn't end, so we can sell of the rest. You'll have a nice tax cut, never mind that it will be more than used up paying for the newly privatised services, and by the loss of the revenue stream the country will experience."

Realising that Bill had pretty much knocked himself out, National spin-meisters launched a diversionary assault, announcing another stupid idea. The hope was it would distract us from the last one. Announcing that the the cap on G.P's fees would be lifted (3), Key and Ryall proclaimed their vision of New Zealand health in the future - a country where injured and sick people trail about from one doctor to another, trying to find the one they can afford. Key thinks that market forces will keep prices down. Wrong. When you are sick, you are sick, and you need treatment. A market relies on people being able to bargain effectively. Sick people aren't in a position to bargain. "Nah, I don't like the price, mate. I might have Bubonic plague, but I'll hold off a few days, see if it the price comes down." Silly argument? No, silly idea. Another step in entirely the wrong direction.

Then National, crazed by the gibby rush of policy announcements after what seemed like an endless drought, indicated the way they are moving on education (4). More money for private schools, which will promote an elitist, two tier system of eduction. New schools to be built and operated through the private sector, so we'll have to pay someone to do the job and them pay other people to check they are doing it properly, which will probably end up costing more than the current system. Key also indicated that National might be reconsidering its suicidal advocacy of bulk funding of teachers salaries, but the words of Bill English from 2005 are still unequivcal - "No ifs, no buts, and no fighting in school communities over whether to have it. Everyone is going bulk funding" (5). Key backed away from this sort of rhetoric, saying the party were considering "other options to give schools more flexibility in their management locally" (6), an ominous ofrmualtion which may mean nothing at all or which may indicate National has decided to introduce bulk-funding slowly, rather than tackling the teachers head on.

And all this when Labour enjoy their best polling (7) in eons - cutting National's lead to a scrape over 5%. Most of this is the result of Natiobal support dropping. It will be interesting to see how the slew of policy misfires will affect National and Key in the next round of polls, but I suspect the public won't care particularly for re-heated ideas from the bad old days.

1 - 'Nats want to sell assets to finance tax cuts - PM,' by Paula Oliver in the New Zealand Herald, 24th of September, 2007. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10465539&ref=rss)
2 - ibid.
3 - 'National to scrap cap on GPs' fees,' by Sue Eden in the New Zealand Herald, 26th of September,
2007. (
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10466057)
4 - "Key plans to boost private school funding," by Colin Espiner, in the Press, 29th of September, 2007. Reproduced on
Stuff.co.nz. (
http://www.stuff.co.nz/4218778a6160.html)
5 - ibid.
6 - ibid.
7 - 'Labour gets boost in latest poll,' unattributed NZPA article, 29th of September, 2007. (http://nz.news.yahoo.com/070928/3/1uwc.html)

Shakespearean nonsense

Some people who should know better are claiming (1) Shakespeare didn't write the plays attributed to him. Shakespeare authorship controversies are old hat - the involvement of Derek Jacobi gives this one a frission of respectability, but there isn't any weight behind their claims. Methinks that this may be more about Messrs Jacobi and Rylance engaging in a bit of self-promotion.

Jacobi's suggestion - that the plays were a group effort - is particularly odd. If this had happened, why would all the credit be given to one person, and a middling actor at that? Why is there no reference anywhere to this literary conspiracy? Why did they operate in secrey so dark that it completely fooled everyone of their contemporaries, who all thought that William Shakespeare wrote them? Wouldn't just one of them have wanted the acknowledgement and fame that the co-author of Hamlet, Lear and MacBeth would be entitled to?

There is no evidence that Shakespeare didn't write the plays, but there is evidence that he did, from Greene's reference to 'Shakes-scene' in A Groats Worth of Wit (2) onwards, but the most compelling reason for thinking that Shakespear wrote the plays is far more simple. It is easier, to my mind, to imagine the existance of on freakshly brilliant mind, than to imagine several such minds existing at the same time.

Also, who would be his collaborators? Shakespeare was far ahead of his rivals - there was no-one else writing for the stage who wrote like Shakespeare, apart from Shakespeare. Marlowe, even, was not writing like Shakespeare. Faustus was closer in spirit and theme to the Morality Plays than to MacBeth. Ben Johnson was caught up in fashionable ideas about the influence of elemental 'Humours' on the psyche - an silly, simplistic idea that can't describe Shakespeare's main characters. Shakespeare pre-empted Freud, for goodness sake. Do you think he was balancing Ichor and Phlegm when he created Hamlet? No-one but Shakespeare could have written the plays, because Shakespeare was too good to be more than one person at work. There isn't enough of that sort of genius to go round.

We wait, with interest, to see if Derek Jacobi will follow through on his convictions, and refuse to appear in any play attributed to hakespeare, unless his doubts abou tits authorship are made clear - "Derek Jacobi, starring in Someone-or-other's Julius Ceasar."
1 "Actors question bard's authorship," unattributed BBC article, 9th of September, 2007. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/6985917.stm)
2- "A groats worth of wit"by Robert Greene, (http://www.uoregon.edu/~rbear/greene1.html)

Hang out the stars in Alabama!

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