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Archive for ‘January, 2009’

Friends don’t let friends rape

datePosted on 06:00, January 31st, 2009 by Anita

Over the last week or so there’s been a lot of talk about the “It’s not ok” campaign (I recommend Luddite Journo and Russell Brown, I do not recommend Bill Ralston), at the same time I’ve been commuting past huge signs saying “Safe in the City – Stick with your mates” with a picture of young women out on the town.

With drink driving we have, over the last few years, learnt that the person drink driving is 100% to blame and that we can and should step up and help our friends and families not drink drive.

More recently we have at least started to learn that the person who is violent towards their partner, children, elderly parent or other family member is 100% to blame and that we can and should step up and help our friends and families not hurt the ones they love.

Yet when it comes to rape we hold the victim, at least partly, responsible and believe that women have a responsibility to stop their friends and family being raped.

The reality is that we all know people who rape, just as we all know people who have been raped. I’m talking about the fact some of the people we know have raped people they know, and they way they’ve talked about sex and dates and partners so we’ve had every opportunity to hear that true consent isn’t an issue for them.

This isn’t a women vs men issue – both men and women are raped, both women and men rape, and every single one of us is able to stop our friends and family raping.

Why don’t the ads say that?

[Hat tip to Queen of Thorns and her magical sexual assault pixies]

Whispering campaigns

datePosted on 06:00, January 30th, 2009 by Anita

For the last six years the National and their allies honed their skills at whispering campaigns; the question now is whether Labour will stoop to their level.

We all heard the whispers; the stories of sex, money and corruption. Largely personal they also targeted the partners and children of politicians. 

Of all the things National and its allies have done it the last few years the whispering campaigns sickened me most.

  1. The dishonesty. John Key never actually called Helen Clark a “heartless childless lesbian bitch”, instead he arranged for enough other people to say it so that he only needed to nod slightly and the attack was made but his hands remained clean.
  2. Personal attacks are just plain wrong. We saw them during the Muldoon administration, and we condemn him for them, so why was it ok for the Brash and Key National parties?
  3. Even if politicians could be argued to open themselves up to this, what about their partners, children and extended families? Many of the people smeared were not political actors and were hurt solely to damage others.
  4. The orchestrated whispering campaigns exposed and reinforced an undercurrent on bigotry. If being called a lesbian is a political attack what does that mean for women who actually are lesbians?

I am hoping desperately that Labour will step away from this tactic. They’ve had a few shameful moments of going there, but not to the extent of National. The question for them now is whether they will follow National’s lead and go for opposition gutter politics, or whether they will step back and fight a clean fight over policy.

Bullying Fiji, Part 2: The Inside Game

datePosted on 14:13, January 29th, 2009 by Pablo

Pursuant to the post of a few days ago, I thought it best to follow up with some facts in order to illuminate some of the complexity of the Fijian situation. In doing so I hope to clarify why NZ’s approach may be counter-productive.

The Fijian armed forces total 3,500 troops. Of those, 3,200 are in the Army and 300 in the Navy (there is no air force). Upwards of 97 percent of these troops are indigenous Fijians, with less than 50 military personnel (mostly Indo-Fijians) coming from other ethnic groups. Most of the non-ethnic Fijians are officers, and most are in the Navy (which nominally has nine patrol boats, only of which 2-3 are operational at any given moment). Twenty percent of the Fijian Army are continually deployed on UN  or other international missions (such as Iraq), with the superior UN pay levels being a prize for both officers and enlisted personnel that is transferred in the form of remittance payments to their families back home. If military veterans and private security contractors are included in the total of men under arms, the numbers of ethnic Fijians well versed in combat swells to over 10,000 (Fiji has a thriving market for private security contractors due to its operational experience in foreign conflict zones). The Fijian Navy has limited combat experience, whereas its Army has seen action in a variety of theaters as well as at home.

What this means is that Commodore Bainimarama, as a member of the smaller service (one that has little ground security responsibilities and no ground warfare experience), serves at the behest of the Army commanders. This is important because, as mentioned in the last post, the Fijian armed forces are a classic praetorian military: they internally reflect the political conflicts surrounding them. Since the Army leadership are ethnic Fijians, the Commodore’s proposals to dismantle the disproportionate representation system that favours ethnic Fijians will have a direct impact on the political fortunes of their indigenous kin. Thus Bainimarama must first negotiate the terms of any such constitutional revision with his own High Command, which in turn will have to accept it before popular resistance within the ethnic Fijian community can be lowered. Moreover, the real power to fight in any Army comes from its Non-Comissioned Officers (NCOs, most often of the sergeant rank), which means that there is at least two tiers of command that have to be convinced that such a move is worth backing in the face of family and tribal opposition. Just having the High Command leadership agree will not necessarily be enough to satisfy the NCOs, and recent Fijian history has shown that it is the lower command ranks that ultimately call the shots (literally) when political factors do not swing their way. Perhaps that is why the process of constitutional reform is so slow.

The South Pacific Forum decision to issue an ultimatum calling on Fiji to announce a date for elections is thus problematic. Perhaps NZ and the other sponsors of the resolution believe that in doing so they are giving the Commodore some leverage with which to push his proposals past the Army High Command while at the same time allowing him the cover of publicly voicing nationalist resentment against the intrusion on Fijian sovereignty. But equally plausible is that the ultimatum serves to undermine Bainimarama’s efforts to convince his flag-ranked colleagues and NCOs of the need to accept the “one-person, one vote” system. Should he be seen as weak in the face of this foreign pressure, it is quite possible that a counter-coup will be staged by the Army that will restore disproportionate ethnic Fijian voting privileges in a future constitutional reform. Having a reserve pool of armed veterans amongst the male ethnic Fijian population makes the prospects  for success of such a counter-coup more likely.

Bainimarama’s regime has relatively few uniforms in civilian ministerial positions and in fact has a  majority of civilian administrators and bureaucrats undertaking the daily operations of the Fijian state. Although the Commodore has a petulant streak and his police are selectively heavy handed with regards to dissidents and foreign diplomats who support them, the regime is not universally repressive of the population (perhaps with good reason given the balance of power within the armed forces). But that could change as pressure mounts from both sides–internally as well as externally. Thus increasing foreign pressure on Bainimarama is slowly backing him into a corner–but perhaps not the one that NZ and its allies want him to be in.

This is just one aspect of the equation. One assumes that MFAT has specialists who are aware of this internal game and are advising the government accordingly. It would be advantageous if there were military to military contacts between the NZDF and Fijian military commanders that might serve as a quiet parallel track to the public diplomacy now ongoing. But as things stand the NZ posture seems to be all rhetoric and little if any influence on this (or any other) internal game. If the Commodore does not meet the SPF deadline and economic and diplomatic sanctions are imposed, what is to say that the situation will not get worse rather than better, at least in terms of a peaceful resolution that leads to the restoration of democracy in Fiji?  At that point it will be the Fijian Army that will decide the outcome, and it may not be the outcome NZ favours.

I would like to thank Winston Peters

datePosted on 06:00, January 29th, 2009 by Anita

Winston Peters’ political career is over, and I am glad.

But even with that final storm of dishonesty and showmanship, and the memories of bigotry and anger, I have tried to hold on to the great things he did.

  • He campaigned long and hard for national ownership and against privatisation. He, almost single handedly, stopped the privatisation agenda of the Bolger-Shipley National government.
  • He proved this generation of Māori electors is a force to be reckoned with and can’t be taken for granted.
  • Under both National and Labour governments he achieved increases to the minimum wage.
  • His ceaseless campaigning for older people prevented or undid some of the worst of the damage done by the ideological zeal of Labour and National governments intent on dismantling the welfare state.
  • He fought to keep the big corporates honest and treating New Zealanders fairly.

Winston Peters was from a time when we looked after each other, when we were proud of our country, and when we stood firm in our independence. His concept of “we” and how we should live are not mine, but they are good things to believe. I would like to thank him for his time and his energy, he has made New Zealand a better place.

Why public transport?

datePosted on 06:00, January 28th, 2009 by Anita

In the last few weeks I’ve been seeing many signs of improvements of public transport infrastructure: in Wellington the new trolley wires on my way into town, on the train to Palmerston North all the maintenance work being done along the track, apparently the Auckland train infrastructure has been having a spruce up, and of course the Johnsonville Tunnels. Even some of the most backward regions of no public transport and thinking about it. I reckon it’s wonderful to see, and (for a change :) it makes me miss that last government, and particularly the Greens influence.

Late last year the Greater Wellington Regional Council kicked off a consultation exercise about the basis on which fares are set. On bus trips while looking at the posters advertising the consultation meetings I wondered about why we actually have public transport, and why it’s so important. For me the point has always been twofold; firstly it gets me places, secondly it is so much more environmentally friendly than private cars. For others it’s keeping congestion down, or being able to go out for a drink after work.

Winston Peters, however, has reminded me of the most important role of public transport. Since the arrival of the Super Gold card off peak buses are full of the over 65s; visiting friends, going to the Bot Gardens, picking up a grand daughter from school, going shopping, visiting a neighbour currently in hospital, chatting to strangers on buses. A couple have said they’re getting out more, seeing their friends and family more. One told me she’s eating much better now that she goes to the greengrocer at the Mall a couple of times a week rather than buying frozen veg from the dairy.

The point of public transport is inclusion – anyone can catch a bus, anyone can visit the doctor, anyone can see their friends and family.

The Police brought this on themselves

datePosted on 16:05, January 27th, 2009 by Anita

Why are so many of us making so much noise about the investigations into Halatau Naitoko’s death?

There are three things that are influencing me:

  1. The Police have a history of failing to properly investigate their own, and even of covering up for colleagues. 
  2. There is a recent history of the Police undertaking disproportionate investigation and action on firearms charges against activists, and I’m still pretty riled by it.
  3. Their employees have behaved dishonourably in so many ways in recent memory and the Police have not apologised or truly addressed the actions.

Does this mean there was necessarily anything wrong with the Police’s action on Auckland’s Northwestern motorway? No

Does this mean there was necessarily anything wrong with actions of the individual AOS members? No.

Does it mean I am even remotely comfortable with the Police determining what investigation will be undertaken, how it will be undertaken and who will do it? Hell no!

The reality is that the Police brought this storm on themselves, by having behaved so badly in the past they have damaged our trust in them and they have made little attempt to rebuild it.

Several years ago I knew a man who had worked in the AOS for many years; a good and honourable man. When I heard what had happened on Friday I had two first instincts, the first was to imagine the officer who had pulled the trigger and think of the man I knew and feel for the officer’s pain and guilt. The second was to think “Oh here we go, let’s see how fast the spin kicks in and how fast and deep they bury the investigation”.

The individual officers who were there on Friday deserve and have my thoughts and sympathy. I can’t imagine the pain and guilt they are feeling right now, and I am so very grateful to them for everything they do to keep us safe.

The Police organisation, however, deserves every piece of cynicism and distrust I direct its way.

One of the right’s many complaints about Owen Glenn’s contribution to Peters’ legal fees was that Glenn’s not resident in New Zealand; he’s not even eligible to vote here. Like Glenn’s donations to Peters fees and the Labour party, the controversial Vela donations were from a source unable to vote: the donations were from companies not people.

Donations from not-voters are common in New Zealand; a quick read of the 2005 donation return shows that far more money was donated by things than by people. That doesn’t include the corporate donations carefully crafted to avoid disclosure (e.g. British American Tobacco’s donation to the Nats).

It begs the question – why, if we let anyone and anything buy influence, don’t we let them vote as well? If Sky City can fund political parties, shouldn’t they get to vote too? And the pharmaceutical companies? And the banks? And the tobacco lobby? While we’re at it, they’re bigger than the average person, shouldn’t they get more votes?

It’s obviously ridiculous, as is allowing anyone or anything which cannot vote in our elections to buy political influence.

Principle II: Democracy is for voters – if you can’t vote, or won’t be able to when you turn 18, you shouldn’t get to buy political influence, end of story.

[edited to clarify the first para – Anita]

A while ago I saw somewhere on the sustainability/edible gardening part of the net I hang out in something that said:

  • If you can, grow it yourself
  • If you can’t grow it yourself, buy local
  • If you can’t buy local, buy organic

I can’t find it to point to, so instead I’ll link out to the 100 mile diet, and this on Relocalise.net  :)

There are many good reasons to eat homegrown, local or organic (including taste – homegrown sweetcorn beats the sweetcorn from the market, and the market sweetcorn beats the supermarket corn hands down), but my reasons are sustainability and peak oil.

The Police Officer or the Police?

datePosted on 06:00, January 26th, 2009 by Anita

Idiot/Savant puts forward the case that the Police Officer who shot and killed Halatau Naitoko should be charged:

Look at the precedents: hunters kill their mates in tragic accidents fairly frequently. They are usually made to stand trial for careless use of a firearm, or in cases where there is clear negligence, manslaughter. Some are discharged, some are convicted, some end up on home detention, some (in very serious cases) end up in jail. We do this, despite the tragic circumstances, because we as a society have decided that people who play with guns need to exercise the utmost care and responsibility when doing so.

To take a different set of analogies, however, sometimes when someone kills with a vehicle they are charged, sometimes it is the employer that is charged when it is clear that it was the practices of the employer that was at fault. Perhaps this is a case where the Police should be charged with having work practices that led to a death.

When there is a bad outcome of a Police action it is sometimes the fault of the Police, sometimes of the individual officer, sometimes both, but by focussing on the individual Officer we allow the Police off the hook. It seems to me that there are times when the Police plays on that focus on the individual to move the spotlight away from their poor culture or organisational practices.

Having just skimmed the Health and Safety and Employment Act and the Crown Organisations (Criminal Liability) Act it appears that the Police could be prosecuted (although I may have become very confused by the nature of “person”s). If so, then if the death was caused by a Police practice there is an opportunity to hold the Police to account without needing to prosecute the individual Officer for their employer’s mistake.

Bullying Fiji

datePosted on 18:02, January 25th, 2009 by Pablo

The ongoing diplomatic fracas between New Zealand and Fiji stemming from the peaceful coup staged by Vice Commodore Frank Bainimarama and his military allies two years ago has taken on the aspect of farce. Although the Commodore is the personification of a petty despot, in equal measure vainglorious and arrogant, in this stoush he may actually be right. The reason is that New Zealand’s approach to his rule is hypocritical, neo-imperialist , short-sighted and and heavy handed in application.

The 2006 coup was precipitated by the multiple failures of Fijian “democracy,” specifically pervasive corruption rooted in a system of ethnic preferences and disproportionate representation. The Fijian military is a classic example of an “arbitrator” or “mediator” military in a mass praetorian society, so it is always the default option when political conflicts come to a head and threaten social stability. Such was the case in 2006, and the justification for the coup was to eliminate corruption and revamp the political system in order to eliminate the sources of patronage and preference that are the root causes of its endemic malaise. As it turns out, although the military intervention has been condemned by New Zealand and Australia, many Fijians and other island states see it in  a more favourable light. Even those who view the military intervention as a political setback recognize that it is not just a military matter but in fact an internal political conundrum that is for Fijians to resolve.

Condemnation from Anglophone outsiders is seen as a colonial vestige that is counter-productive and a violation of Fijian sovereignty. It is seen as hypocritical because New Zealand enjoys trade and diplomatic relations with countries such as The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Iran, countries with less than stellar human rights records (and in the case of the two Arab states, oligarchical rule), and yet says nothing negative about them. Since the Fijian human rights record is demonstrably better than that of New Zealand’s Middle Eastern partners, it appears that New Zealand is being both precious and selective when it accuses the Commodore of  trampling on Fijian civil  liberties, or when it refuses visas to relatives of the military leadership while at the same time welcoming with open arms and blind eyes diplomatic representatives of authoritarian regimes far more repressive than Bainimarama and company (remember, for example, the warm receptions given to Pakistani president General Musharraf  and various Chinese delegations in the past few years).

From a practical standpoint, the public posturing between Fiji and New Zealand amounts to a diplomatic failure for the latter. For whatever reasons, quiet diplomacy has been abandoned in favour of pubic sniping between the two governments. Being the larger opponent, New Zealand comes across as a bully, one that kowtows to larger authoritarians but then vents its spleen on a smaller state just because it can do so without adverse economic consequences. Hints at Australian-New Zealand military contingency planning should things in Fiji take a turn for the worse only serve to fuel Fijian military paranoia and local resentment at what is seen as post-colonial neo-imperialism on the part of the Antipodean Anglophones.

As things stand, the diplomatic row amounts to an impasse. Given the stalemate, perhaps it is time for New Zealand diplomats to look more closely at the reasons for the coup, the nature of Fijian political debate in its aftermath, the utility of other interlocutors in the region and at opportunities for dialogue in pursuit of common ground rather than engaging in a negative-sum bilateral tit for tat that ultimately proves fruitless in terms of  facilitating the restoration of Fijian democracy . It may be unpleasant to have to deal with the Commodore on his terms, but then again, that does seem to have impeded New Zealand’s relationship with other authoritarians on a host of issues far less important than democracy promotion.

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