Friday, October 31, 2003

New Fisk

"This is a Resistance Movement, Whether We Like It or Not" - Democracy Now interviews Robert Fisk.

Is he "paranoid" too?

Even NZPundit is concerned about the police investigation of Bruce Hubbard for sending an email to the US embassy objecting to the war on Iraq.

As he says, it depends on the content of the email. Unless an actual threat of violence was made, it's difficult to see how the police have any justification for their actions.

Confirming what we already knew, part II

More confirmation of what we already knew: an independent study of companies awarded US government contracts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan has linked Iraq deals to Bush donations. The comapnies involved collectively gave Bush over US$500,000 - "more than they gave collectively to any other politician over the past dozen years." There were also strong family and business linkages with members of the Bush administration.

Corruption and cronyism. Who'd have thunk it?

And people wonder why the left are suspicious of the police...

An Auckland peace activist who sent an email to the United States embassy objecting to the war on Iraq has been charged with the misuse of a telephone. [...]

Mr Hubbard last night said he had been charged under the Telecommunications Act and had been told by police they would seize information from his computer under the Counter-Terrorism Act.

Full story here.

I think this is a perfect example of why we should be extremely cautious of granting the police wider powers for anything. They've proven here that they cannot be trusted, and that (despite the government's assurances to the contrary) they regard political protests as terrorism.

Meanwhile, the Sock Thief's reaction to this? He's amused at watching the "paranoid Left waste time and energy on conspiracy theories". The "intelligent left", it seems, are not concerned with such petty things as civil liberties...

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Brash and taxes

NZPols quotes Don Brash as saying:

I myself do not know ... whether there is any causal relationship between low tax levels and high growth

She also has an excellent response to KiwiPundit's claim that the wealthy would be paying more if taxes were cut (a Tui-able statement if ever there was one).

Confirming what we already knew

Experiments have shown that there's very little difference between tap water and the stuff you buy in a bottle. In other words, the people who buy bottled water are fools. But didn't we already know that?

For those interested in the differences: tap water contains more flouride (fairly standard in NZ domestic water supplies), while some bottled waters contain levels of boron or bromate (a carcinogen) in excess of NZ drinking water standards.

(Oh, and that's Auckland tap-water at that. People drinking bottled water in Christchurch are even bigger fools...)

No surprises

Don Brash's first policy prescriptions since becoming leader of the opposition? Tax cuts for the rich, and a massive selloff of state assetts...

Meanwhile, KiwPundit has the gall to claim that "this change will actually see the wealthy paying more tax than they currently do". Of course, he relies on the discredited monetarist dogma that cutting taxes increases government income - and we have only to look at the effects of Bush's tax cuts in the US to see what a steaming pile of shit that idea is.

Will linking to this get me into trouble?

Salon has a review of the play I'm Going To Kill the President. It sounds amusing, has a good gimmick, and pokes a sharp pointy stick at the current state of affairs in America. Like the reviewer says, "The sign of the times isn't the play itself, uproarious as it is. It's the fact that one might have to worry about having seen it."

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoset

US Senator Trent Lott's "solution" to Iraq? Kill them all:

"If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You’re dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out."

"Mow the whole place down". And they wonder why people hate them...

Means corrupting the ends

The Sock Thief's reaction to that Monbiot article is that it "epitomises the moral bankruptcy of the Left":

What they are saying is that if the US gets heavy with dictatorial regimes, eg North Korea, Syria, Iran and the ex-Hussein then that is wrong. And then if the US in any way is seen to be going soft on dictatorial regimes then that is wrong too.

No. What we are saying is that fighting one monster by supporting another is not the right way to do things. It's not only a pragmatic mistake (the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" logic which led the West to support Saddam against Iran and Islamic fundamentalists against Communism is what got us into this mess in the first place), it's also a moral one. It's a perfect example of the means corrupting and destroying the ends which we wish to achieve, an international version of destroying the village in order to save it. Ending the Taliaban regime in Afghanistan is a good thing, but at the cost of perpetuating and actively supporting torture in Uzbekistan? Come off it!

There's a secondary argument as well: Bush and Blair's support for Uzbekistan clearly shows they don't take their high-sounding human rights rhetoric seriously, and are simply using it as a cynical tool to sway public opinion. Under these circumstances I think it's fair enough to call them on it, point out that they're arguing in bad faith, and throw them to the electorate.

Appropriate force?

So, why did the government feel it was necessry to use armed police to evict those anti-GE protestors from Parliament? (Scroll down to the second picture from the bottom; the guns are also visible in a picture above that).

I don't like this at all. It's bad enough that our police are carrying guns, let alone bringing them to a political demonstration.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

George Monbiot exposes the hypocrisy behind the argument that the invasion of Iraq was justified because Saddam was a dictator who murdered, tortured and brutalised his own people.

New Fisk

Iraq's guerrillas adopt new strategy: copy the Americans.

That about sums it up

From Alan in the discussion about Brash on Kiwiblog: "Brash has all the charm and appeal of a Dalek".

Thanks for another term, Don

Don Brash has won the National party leadership, and in the process has handed Labour another term in government. Thanks, Don!

Seriously, the guy espouses policies that the electorate has strongly rejected in the last three elections. While the Auckland Business Wankers and ACT will love this, it will only further alienate National's already-alienated centrists, and it certainly won't win over centrist Labour voters (which is what they really need to do in order to gain power). The down side is that the votes are likely to go to NZFirst and United. Maybe Peter Dunne will get to be PM after all?

Despite this, I would have preferred an English win. I would rather have the chief opposition party be right-leaning centrists who are vaguely in touch with the political mainstream, than a bunch of ideological wingnuts anyday.

Still, Labour is now that much more likely to get a third term. now, if only we could convince them to actually do something with it...

Holy Fuck, part II

Yesterday the Al Rashid hotel, today a wave of suicide bombers, targetting four Iraqi police stations and the local headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Thirty-plus dead, hundreds wounded, and the sanctity of the world's best known humanitarian agency violated.

It looks like America's new Vietnam just got its own Tet Offensive...

Monday, October 27, 2003

It looks like the Chinese aren't happy with our refusal to prevent protesters...

New Fisk

'They're getting better,' Chuck said approvingly. 'That one hit the runway'


Pentagon wants 'mini-nukes' to fight terrorists.

What possible use is a nuke against terrorists? They've have already shown that they're willing to die, and that they don't give a shit about other people's lives. They will not be deterred, no matter how big a bomb or how disproportionate a response they are threatened with - in fact, the point of terrorism is often to invite a disproportionate response.

But reading down, it's clear that the War on Terror is once again being used as a cloak to mask the NeoCon agenda - this time it's making nuclear weapons easier to use, bringing them out of the Taboo category and onto the battlefield, so that the US can use them to prop up its military supremacy. Unfortunately, as the IAEA notes, this is likely to speed proliferation rather than reduce it.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Holy Fuck!

The Iraqi resistance took a go at Wolfowitz!

Paul Wolfowitz - Rumsfeld's deputy in the Pentagon - is in Iraq ATM. A bunch of rockets were launched at the hotel he was in (the Al Rashid, also used by the US Army, and supposedly the "most heavily protected in Baghdad"). They missed Wolfowitz, but killed a few other people.

I wonder how many more US cabinet officials will be visiting Iraq...?

The price of unilateralism

The Madrid donor's conferance for Iraq has come up short, with most of the money being in the form of loans rather than grants. This is hardly surprising - after all, the US has decided to loan money rather than grant it, so they can hardly expect anyone else to freely hand over money when they're unwilling to do so.

Also unsurprising is the overall lack of international support for reconstruction. $5 billion of the total came from Japan, and another $5 billion from the IMF and World Bank. Britain, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have made sizable contributions, but other wealthy nations (such as France, Germany and Canada) are reluctant to fund the reconstruction effort while the US is still in charge. And of course, nobody is contributing any troops.

This is the price of unilateralism. Having gone to war against the will of the international community, Bush is now finding that he is going to have to clean up his own mess. Unfortunately, it seems likely that it will be US soldiers and taxpayers, rather than Bush and his cronies, who will be paying the true price.

New Fisk

One, two, three, what are they fighting for?

Saturday, October 25, 2003

We win either way

A number of commentators on National's leadership struggle are pointing out that there's no way Brash can stay on as finance spokesman if he loses. They're also pointing out that Brash is not exactly popular with the public. This gives the left a win-win situation: If English retains power, Brash gets dumped, and the likelihood that National will return us to the dark days of Rogernomics takes a dive. And if Brash wins, National's support takes a dive, decreasing the chances that they'll ever hold power. Either way this is good for us, bad for National, and worse for the Auckland Business Wankers behind it all...

Friday, October 24, 2003

Homeland Security in action

A 12-year old kid used the net to research a school paper on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and the FBI showed up to question his headmaster.

Really, this is like something out of a bad dystopian novel - one of ones written by an American in the 80's to show how bad Communism was or something.

Via Scoop: the Sydney Morning Herald on Bush's visit and Howard's attempts to control media coverage.

Another coup attempt in National?

The Auckland Business Wanker faction seems to have convinced Don Brash to have another go.

What the wanker-set doesn't seem to understand is that Brash is about as popular as leprosy (or Ruth Richardson) among the electorate. Taking National further to the right may score points on ideological purity, but isn't going to gain it any votes - it will just end up fighting with ACT over the 5% who like total free market policies, while the rest of its support base goes elsewhere.

More support for Zaoui

The United Nations Association of New Zealand has marked World UN Day by calling on the government to either give Ahmed Zaoui a fair trial or release him.

This whole affair is an embarassment for the government, and an embarassment for all New Zealanders. How can we hold our head high and claim to uphold human rights when we practice arbitrary imprisonment without trial?

And on a related note, a group of prisoners at Paremoremo are challenging the prison's "behaviour management regime", on the basis that it equates to psychological torture. The regime involves prolonged periods of solitary confinement, little exercise, 24-hour lighting, denial of watches and calenders - in short, the same sort of techniques used in an American "supermax" prison. The prisoners laying the complaint may be bad people (they include some of the country's worst murderers and rapists), but even they deserve to be treated both humanely and lawfully. The deliberate attempt to deprive them of any sense of time is inhumane (in fact, it's a standard torture technique), and the fact that prisoners are kept in solitary for longer than 15 days is both inhumane and unlawful. The Corrections department deserves a serious squicking for this...

Good riddance

So much for the Qantas - Air New Zealand alliance. It's good to see that the Commerce Commission has rejected this grossly anticompetitive deal, and it's good to see that the government is going to let the decision stand. And now maybe Air New Zealand's board can get back to actually running an airline, rather than putting everything on hold while they try and scam themselves a monopoly...

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Craven Toadies, part II

It looks like Australian politicians aren't the only people being craven about Bush's visit. Bush has refused to speak to the Australian press, because they might ask annoying questions. Instead, he is to be quizzed only by compliant members of the White House press corps, who know the rules and won't risk their access by challenging the President.

His visit to Britain looks like it will be a much more interesting affair. They've already cancelled his parade down the mall and address to Parliament over fears of anti-war protests, and he will now be travelling everywhere by helicopter to avoid them. You'd think that the most powerful man in the world would be secure enough in his convictions not to fear dissenting opinion, but I guess the risk of protestors showing up on American TV and breaching Karl Rove's carefully built memetic bubble ("The rest of the world loves the US and supported its invasion of Iraq. People love Bush. Anyone who doesn't is a commie or islamofascist") is just too great...


Poor Bill English - no matter what he says, he appears to stick his foot in his mouth. Yesterday it was preempting his party's review of the anti-nuclear policy by inviting US ships to visit, today it's (according to the Dominion-Post) accusing the US of ingratitude:

"When you look at all the things the Government has done on our behalf in recent years there's not much to show for it," Mr English said yesterday. "We've made no progress on a free trade agreement, the prime minister might get a headline and a photo out of it but there's been nothing for New Zealand's national interest that's been achieved."

Some people think the "ingratitude" headline is being a bit hard on English, but what else do you call it when you do stuff for people and get squat in return?

Meanwhile, Richard Prebble is outraged that English would expect anything from the US:

[English] is also wrong in suggesting that the United States should be grateful for New Zealand's participation in campaigns like Afghanistan and Iraq... It is New Zealand that should be grateful the US is the world's only super power and that it has been prepared to take on the disproportionate burden of keeping the world safe.

Yes, we shouldn't expect any gratitude or quid pro quo for cooperating with the hegemon. In fact, we should be grateful for the opportunity to serve them!

It looks like we have some craven toadies of our own...

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Speaking of creeps...

NZPundit is approvingly quoting people who claim that the invasion of Iraq was justified because "[America] needed to kick someone's butt (other than Afghanistan) and Iraq was by far the best candidate".

This is the "justification" of a thug and a bully, and I'm surprised even NZPundit would think it was credible.

Winston at it again

Colin James put his finger on the Winston Peters phenomena in his Herald column yesterday:

He skilfully conflates three factors: high overall numbers; temporary migrants (such as foreign students, notably Chinese, who mostly return home after study); and refugees and asylum-seekers, some from dangerous places such as Afghanistan.


And so he contrives, without being explicit, to generate in the minds of the culturally insecure minority a sense that the country is being flooded with no-good ghetto-formers with anti-Western values that fragment this placid society.

We see this in action, with Winston's response to the possibility of a bilateral free trade agreement with Thailand:

Its recent liberalisation of prostitution laws has undoubtedly increased demand for this service, and now Ms Clark has announced a trade agreement with Thailand which is aimed to increase trade and Thai wages. All this will do is increase the supply of low paid sex workers entering New Zealand

Now, trade in goods does not mean trade in people. An FTA with Thailand will not suddently allow hordes of Thais to work in New Zealand in any profession; they'd still have to go through the usual process of getting residency and a work permit. But those facts aren't important to Winston. Instead it's "free trade with Thailand equals Thais flodding New Zealand and selling their bodies for a pittance outside your local school".

Really, this man is a creep.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Majority rules - except when it suits a politician

ACT is attacking the government for selectively appealing to the will of the majority:

Why is the public too dumb to understand the Privy Council, too unscientific to understand genetic engineering, but is now an expert on nuclear fission?

And to turn this around, why is the public too dumb to understand nuclear fission (or rather, whether they want it in their back yard), but qualified to judge the other two issues?

ACT is as hypocritical as Labour on this one - like all politicians they're only interested in the will of the majority when it suits them. Though I have to add that at least Labour doesn't sneer at the whole concept of the will of the majority by calling it "popularism".

And on the third hand, we live in a representative democracy, not a direct one. Labour has clearly signaled its policies on all three issues, and been voted into office as a result. Can ACT claim a similar mandate for any of its policy alternatives? Can they even meet the threshhold required to force a referendum on any of them? The answer to both questions is a resounding "no".

Quote of the day

It is ridiculous to say that nuclear-powered ships are contrary to New Zealand's nuclear-free status. -- Richard Prebble

Well, perhaps in some universe where "nuclear free" does not in fact mean "nuclear free".

Visits by nuclear-powered ships are explicitly prohibited by section 11 of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act (1987) (look for it on Permitting one would require that that the law be amended or repealed.

The US doesn't care about war crimes, part II

Why am I so pissed off about this? Well, look at it this way: If the US government discovered that 35 years ago a band of psychopaths had gone on a road trip across America, killing hundreds of people, they would spare no effort in investigating the crimes. And if they knew who was responsible, they would arrest them in an instant.

That's the situation we have here, yet the US is sitting on its hands and doing nothing. Their blatant inaction condones the atrocities, and sends the message that the deaths of non-Americans are simply not worthy of consideration unless it is politically useful (as in Kosovo or Iraq). The double-standard undermines the prohibition on war-crimes worldwide by making it easier to argue that prosecutions for atrocities are simply "victor's justice", rather than the enforcement of universal human rights. It is in a sense a betrayl of every victim of military atrocities and a diminishment of their oppressor's crimes.

Justice is indivisible. In order to be justice, it must be enforced consistently and impartially, regardless of race, class, or nationality. If the US actually gave a shit about justice or human rights, it would punish its own as vigorously as it punishes its enemies. The fact that it doesn't speaks volumes about its real values.


NZPundit, with no sense of irony, says:

[Canada] has been run by leftists for years and consequently has the economy, health services and education system you'd expect.

What, one where sick people get to go to hospital, pensioners can fill their prescriptions without having to cross an international border, and schools aren't having to sell their textbooks to meet operating costs?

English wants a US ship to visit

Sure, if it's conventionally powered and armed. But if the US wants to play silly "refuse to confirm or deny" games, then they can just fuck off.

Reading down, it seems that we have a standing invitation for such ships to visit, but the US hasn't accepted, because they are still refusing to confirm or deny. What a pack of silly wankers.

(Oh, and we'd need to have some weapons inspectors. The US has shown that it doesn't believe people who deny having nukes, and we should treat them as they treat others...)

Monday, October 20, 2003

The US doesn't care about war crimes

Despite evidence that a US unit murdered hundreds of unarmed civilians in Vietnam, the US Army is refusing to reopen the investigation or prosecute those involved. It's all too long ago, and besides, they were only gooks and commies. Who cares if someone kills them and makes necklaces from their ears?

But then, given their attitude towards My Lai, this is hardly surprising. The US has shown repeatedly that the only war crimes it is concerned with are those committed by its enemies. Those committed by its friends - or its own forces - are simply ignored.

NZFirst: homophobic as well as racist

Thanks to DPF for reminding me of this. I read the story in the Dominion-Post last week, and was absolutely flabbergasted. NZFirst deputy Peter ("Enoch") Brown asked in Parliament "is it acceptable to have two homosexuals in charge of censorship in this country?, then claimed that the censors were letting "smut" through because they were gay.

I'm just stunned that anyone could think that a person's ability to do their job depended on their sexuality. NZFirst ought to be ashamed to harbour such a neanderthal. Unfortunately, I haven't seen any apology from Brown, or from Winston - they seem more than happy to paint themselves as a party of hateful homophobic racists.

Searching children at gunpoint

The US Army is winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan - by searching four-year olds at gunpoint. Story here.

Best bit: the excuse that "those children could have been carrying explosives". Yeah, and how many children do you know who keep plastique in their pockets?

Sunday, October 19, 2003

The US is finally accepting its Geneva Convention obligations

They've filed charges against eight marine reservists in connection with the mistreatment of Iraqi POWs. It's alleged that several prisoners were beaten, with one later dying of his injuries. The charges include assault, maltreatment, and negligent homicide.

It's good to see the US taking its obligations under the Geneva Convention seriously. Now if only they'd apply them to those held in Guantanamo as well...

US Soldiers may face murder charges - in Spain

The family of a spanish reporter killed by US tank fire at a hotel in Baghdad several months ago have convinced a spanish judge to begin an investigation. This may lead to a formal charge of murder and a request for extradition.

For those wondering how a US soldier can face charges in Spain for actions in Iraq, it's because Spain claims jurisdiction over any crime against its citizens, regardless of where it is committed. The United States also claims such jurisdiction, so they'll have a hard time arguing that Spain is not entitled to do so (not that this will stop them, mind you...)

Oh, how I love to see the powerful squicked by their own logic...

Craven Toadies

Bush is visiting Australia next week, and both PM John Howard and leader of the opposition Simon Crean are demanding that he be given a standing ovation when he addresses the Australian Parliament. Crean is desperately trying to strongarm his antiwar MPs into line, lest they cause a scene and give offence to the planetarch by failing to praise him loudly enough.

What a bunch of craven toadies. If they're so desperate to show their subjugation, why don't they just prostrate themselves and be done with it?

Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass etc) talks about Art Spiegelman's The Complete Maus.

(I really need to read the second part of this, BTW. One day I'll get round to it, I guess... and while I'm at it, I can knock off Sandman too).

Saturday, October 18, 2003

"For the good of the species"

The Sock Thief has some interesting thoughts on information processing and species selection. I guess Kim Hill's "for the good of the species" comments got him riled up...

(As a fan of replicator selection, I was more interested in Sykes' comments about a war between the Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA. It's easy to see that the two coalitions are locked in a zero-sum game, and that they could pursue gender-biasing strategies to promote their own replication, but I'm unaware of any evidence that they are yet).

How free is "free" secondary education?

There's some signs on the Hutt Motorway asking this question. My quick answer would be "not free enough".

According to an article in the Herald last month, parents are now paying schools $400 on average per child. That's $400 too much.

The reason for the growth of subject and activity fees and "voluntary" donations in recent years is government underfunding, pure and simple. They've heaped costs onto schools - in particular in the Information Technology area - but failed to increase budgets to pay for it. Schools are thus forced to turn to parents to make ends meet.

This simply isn't good enough. As a country we're commited to providing people with free education, and the government should live up to that commitment. Rather than running an enormous surplus, the government should be investing in its people - in us - and making our "free" education system truely, properly free.

Ahmed Zaoui: Blaming the victim

Liane Dalziel's latest excuse for Ahmed Zaoui's eleven-month imprisonment? It's all his lawyer's fault, for making so many court challanges.

This really is disgusting. A vigorous defence is not a crime - in fact, it's one of the foundations of our adversial justice system. It should be expected, and promoted, not condemened.

It speaks volumes about the government's case that they're reduced to blaming the victim. If they have evidence against Zaoui, then they should front up with it. Otherwise, they should release him, and let the RSAA decision stand.

The Iraqis will love this

The US Senate has voted to convert half of a $20bn aid package to rebuild Iraq into a loan.

You can imagine how this will go down with the Iraqis. The US invades their country, smashes the place up, then sends them the (inflated) bill for fixing it. I wouldn't pay such a "debt" if someone did that to my house, so why should Iraq pay it when someone does it to their country?

Friday, October 17, 2003

Locke on Zaoui

Keith Locke has more to say about Ahmed Zaoui:

"The hearings being conducted by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Laurie Grieg, are a travesty of justice," said Mr Locke, the Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

"It is completely unacceptable for Mr Grieg to refuse to tell Mr Zaoui what the charges are against him, and to say that human rights considerations don't apply to his hearing.

"Secret hearings in which the accused has no chance to defend himself are the norm in China, Burma and Mugabe's Zimbabwe. They cannot be tolerated in a democratic society.

"Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel must call a halt to these proceedings by withdrawing the Security Risk Certificate from Mr Zaoui. Under law she can do this at any time."

Hear, hear.


The LibertariaNZ have also come out for scrapping Parliament's "opening prayer", but propose replacing it with one to Ayn Rand...


Why do I pursue consistency arguments so much? Partly it's because I think consistency is a virtue, but mostly, it's because I'm lazy - they're just so much easier to make. If you start a normal argument, chances are that it will end in axiom lock; it's far easier to just accept your opponent's axioms for the sake of argument, show how they are acting inconsistently with them, and let them worry about the resulting mess.

Resolutions, part III

So, the US gave up enough so that the Europeans would vote for the resolution, and it passed last night. But while France, Germany and Russia were willing to vote for it, they're not willing to provide troops or money to the Americans.

I think this will be a common sentiment.

The Y2Short problem

I saw Bryan Sykes on Face To Face tonight, talking about his book Adam's Curse and the long-term demise of the Y-chromosome, and I can't really understand what all the fuss is about.

I mean, it's not going to happen for 125,000 years. That's twelve and a half times the length of our entire recorded history. Our species has barely existed for that long. It's a little beyond our planning horizon, don't you think?

Thursday, October 16, 2003


National is upset by the latest poll:

The Herald poll hit National MPs like a bombshell, especially as a number of them had believed they had put in several months of solid slog to drag the party's ratings up.

One colleague described Mr English yesterday as shattered.

The thing that National can't get into its head is that people don't have to vote for it anymore. Under MMP, people have other choices, and so National can no longer just rely on people voting for it by default. It is no longer the "natural party of government", or even of opposition. You actually have to convince people to vote for you now!

The other problem is that National doesn't have a clear political niche beyond "we're not Labour". They refuse to say what they stand for. Their competition OTOH are quite clear about what they stand for. ACT stands for crushing the poor and making rich wankers richer. NZ First stands for Winston Peters, with a side dish of xenophobia. United Future stands for common-sense, motherhood and apple pie. What does National stand for?

Most of the individual MPs (and the finance spokesman in particular) seem to stand for the same things as ACT. But those policies are popular with about 5% of the population on a good day, and have been resoundingly rejected in the last three elections. Which leaves National in a pretty pickle - if they tell people what they stand for, they get screwed; if they try and lie, people will point at Don Brash and they'll get screwed; and if they continue to try to hide it, they'll suffer a long, slow and drawn-out death.

Either way, I'm enjoying their suffering.

Ahmed Zaoui Update

Ahmed Zaoui has finally been released from solitary confinement and moved to a remand facility. This is an improvement (and where he should have been all along), but he is still being held without charge, and the government seems to be in no hurry to reach a decision.

The bad news is that the Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence will not be releasing any evidence to Zaoui's lawyers, and will not be considering human rights (such as the right to a fair trial, or the right to face your accusers, or to properly defend yourself in a court?) in making his decision. This is yet another outrage - secret courts where defendents cannot view the evidence against them are a hallmark of shitty despotisms - but fairly typical of the SIS's behaviour in this matter. If their previous "evidence" is anything to go by, secrecy is probably the only way they can prevent the case collpasing into farce.

NZpundit thinks that the Inspector-General should brief parliamentary leaders, so they can reassure the public that everything is above board. Fuck that - it's not the role of politicians to make those kinds of decisions. The proper place for reviewing evidence is in a court, before a judge. Anything else is a betrayl of the principles this country is supposed to stand for.

In anticipation

I find it vastly amusing that the right's favourite reaction to any demand for consistency on their part (or indeed any ethical criticism at all) is to accuse people of moral relativism. For those not familiar with basic ethical terminology, moral relativism is "the viewpoint that moral standards are not absolute, but instead emerge from social customs and other sources". It denies the existence of any privileged standpoint to compare different moral schemes, which in practice means that moral relativists cannot (consistently) criticise those in other moral paradigms for behaviour they consider immoral. Depending on what level you take it at, this may mean not criticising other cultures ("it's fine for China to kill dissidents; that's just the way they do things there"), or even other people (the oft-repeated call by stupid Americans - "Don't judge me! You don't know me!" - is a demand to be treated in this way).

Generally speaking, if someone engages in ethical criticism, then they are probably not a moral relativist. To be charged with it says more about the accuser's ignorance of the meaning of the term than the accused's moral beliefs.

Geese and ganders

NZPundit is screaming about a thread on the Guardian's forums where someone is calling for the assassination of George W. Bush. He's demanding that it be removed from the Guardian's boards. Interestingly, this demand is coming from a person who has himself repeatedly called for the assassination of Yasser Arafat.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. If people shouldn't be allowed to advocate assassination, then NZPundit should stop it already. If OTOH he thinks it's acceptable to call for killing people he doesn't like, then he has to extend the same right to others. But I expect he'd rather squeal, say that there is "no comparison", and accuse me of "moral relativity" [sic] again...

(Oh, and as for my view, I treat such nutters with the same level of seriousness as I treat those who think that Bill Clinton belongs in the deepest circle of hell - i.e. none at all.)

A secular country, not a christian one

Matt Robson wants to replace Parliament's opening prayer with a secular "opening statement".

Predictably it's generated some outrage from conservative MPs, with Peter Dunne calling it "horribly politically correct", and Bruiser Brownlee repeating the old saw that "we are fundamentally a Christian country".

Sorry Bruiser, but we're not. We are a secular country. This doesn't mean that we're all atheists or agnostics, but it does mean that the State must be religiously neutral and not endorse any particular religion (or indeed, religiosity in general). The opening prayer violates this principle, and should therefore be canned.

(I am BTW interested in seeing what Judith Collins thinks of this...)

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Cover ups

Does anyone else think that something is going seriously wrong at the Immigration Service?

First we have the "lie in unison" memo, and indeed their whole treatment of Ahmed Zaoui. And now we discover that they covered up a case where an employee demanded sex in exchange for residency, treating it as "an employment matter" rather than referring it to police.

Any corruption in the public service is unacceptable, but this is a particularly noxious form. The man responsible should have been facing criminal charges as well as dismissal.

Go Taikonauts!

Shenzhou 5 has been launched, and Yang Liwei has become the first Chinese Taikonaut to go into orbit.

Iraqis are obviously happy to see the Turks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


Tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that, China will become the third country to put a man in space. Go Taikonauts!

I used to have a .gif of the calligraphy for "ShenZhou", but unfortunately I seem to have lost it. Bugger; I guess I won't be going into business selling T-shirts to celebrate the event.

I'm also looking forward to how this will be greeted in the United States. Will they ignore it, "been there, done that", or will they regard it as a challenge? And will the wingnuts be frothing about "reds in space" again? It will be interesting to see...

Twisted priorities

George Monbiot in the Guardian has this interesting fact:

when you add together the $368bn for routine spending, the $19bn assigned to the department of energy for new nuclear weapons, the $79bn already passed by Congress to fund the war in Iraq and the $87bn that Bush has just requested to sustain it, you find that the US federal government is now spending as much on war as it is on education, public health, housing, employment, pensions, food aid and welfare put together.

(My emphesis)

You'd expect these sorts of spending priorities from a third-world dictatorship, not a first-world democracy.

So, where is the Libertarian screaming about this? Oh, that's right, I forgot: guns are good, but ensuring that people are fed, clothed, housed, and aren't dropping like flies in messy epidemics is "not a proper function of government".

Resolutions, part III

The Americans are finally giving ground on Iraq. Their new draft resolution goes so far as to set a deadline for the IGC to draw up a timetable for a constitution and elections. But they don't seem to be in any rush, and are still unwilling to release their stranglehold on power. Their message to the UN seems to be "from my cold dead hands..."

Meanwhile, the Guardian has an article about American progress in getting other people to pay for their mess. And they've put the finger on it with this line:

every dollar donated towards Iraq's reconstruction is also a contribution to the rehabilitation of [Bush and Blair's] deeply divisive, deeply flawed Iraq policy.

Strangely, the rest of the world seems reluctant to shell out...


The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to expand peacekeeping operations beyond Kabul. One of the biggest problems for Afghanistan is that the provisional government has no authority beyond Kabul, and is unable to provide basic services outside the capital, leaving the bulk of the population dependent on warlords. This is a small step towards changing all that.

It's also interesting to note the difference international legitimacy makes. The UN is producing unanimous votes on Afghanistan because the invasion was seen as legitimate; but on Iraq the Americans are still struggling...

Interesting quotes

The rulers of the world should be regarded and resisted as if they were giant lizards from another star, which as far as humanity is concerned they might as well be.

That's from Ken MacLeod, who obviously watched "V" when he was younger.

Alternatives, part II

The Israeli Right are feeling threatened by the alternative peace plan. They've lambasted it as "[giving] peace a bad name by relenting to all Palestinian demands and not taking into account basic Israeli demands", making too many concessions (including it seems the obvious one of abandoning the settlements and withdrawing behind the Green Line), and as "Palestinian propaganda". But the best bit is this:

The former Israeli Labour Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, said the proposals enabled the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to argue that the impasse in peace negotiations "stems not from terrorism but from Ariel Sharon's uncompromising policies".

And we wouldn't want anyone to think that, would we?

Sharon stays in power because of the intifada. He can pursue his violent policies because he has spread the myth that there is no-one on the Palestinian side to negotiate with. Those behind the Geneva Accord have shown the lie behind that. Whether their deal is workable remains to be seen, but they have at least put the possibility of peace back in the public consciousness.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Baghdad Burning says a few things about dates, palms, and the new American policy of destroying orchards as punishment.


A group of left-wing Israelis and Palestinians has been working together on an alternative peace plan - and they finally seem to be getting somewhere. The key trade off involves the Palestinians renouncing the "right of return" in exchange for sovereignty over (I assume the top of) Temple Mount.

Sharon doesn't like it (in fact, he regards it as an attempt to "bring down the government"), but it's not aimed at him. Instead, they're trying to build peace from the ground up, by building a consensus on both sides on a fair deal, which the politicians will hopefully follow.

It's not much, but at least they're trying.

A surge of good bookkeeping

National is claiming that there has been a "surge" in Maori women on the DPB, giving them the wonderful opportunity to bash both Maori and solo mothers at the same time. Unfortunately, it seems that the "increase" is entirely due to the Ministry for Social Development tidying up its books and updating ethnicity data for about 12000 beneficiaries who had no ethnicity recorded.

I really like the way Maharey points out the emptiness of National's beneficiary-bashing, though:

Katherine Rich may talk glibly about "encouraging bigger dreams" but New Zealanders deserve to be told what that actually means. Does it mean cancelling the DPB for mothers thought less deserving? Does it mean forcing them out to work while their children grow up without parental supervision and support? Does it mean making mothers adopt their children out at birth?

National doesn't want to say so, because it knows that none of those policies will fly with the electorate. They may be popular with Auckland Business Wankers who don't believe in the social contract, but ordinary New Zealanders don't see any value in further fucking over people who already have it hard enough.

More dirty tricks from ACT

Now they're spying on other parties' conferences.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Enemies of the State

While we're on the subject of people denied due process by the Bush Administration, let's not forget Jose Padilla, currently languishing in a military brig. Unlike the prisoners at Guantanamo, Padilla is an American citizen, and he is held on American soil. The government's position in his case is that the President can arbitrarily strip anyone of their constitutional rights simply by designating them an "enemy combatant".

Maybe they should just be honest and call him an "enemy of the State". Then we'd all be clear about what we're dealing with here.

"These individuals are terrorists"

The above claim is a central plank of the White House's defence of Guantanamo. The implication behind it is that terrorists are not deserving of human rights, and that whatever we do to them is acceptable. I utterly reject that position, but even if we were to grant it, the American Gulag would still not be acceptable, because not everyone detained is a terrorist. So far, those released from Guantanamo have included taxi drivers, old men, and ordinary, random people. These people - innocent people, not terrorists - were detained for up to nine months before the American authorities decided that they really were harmless and let them go.

In other words, Guantanamo's arbitrary detention punishes the innocent and guilty alike. It punishes non-terrorists as well as terrorists, without trial, without any defence, and without even an apology if they get it wrong. Even those who think that terrorists have no rights ought to be ashamed of that.

The US is using Israel's tactics in Iraq

Now they're bulldozing the crops of villages that refuse to tell them what they want to hear.

This is collective punishment, and explicitly outlawed by the Fourth Geneva Convention. It's a deliberate, premeditated war crime, with the sole aim of terrorising the civillian population into submission. As a signatory of the Convention, the United States has an obligation to find and punish those responsible. But I'm not holding my breath...

People power

9000 protesters marched against GE in Auckland yesterday. That's fairly impressive for a protest in New Zealand. Pictures here and here.

This should worry the government. By some estimates this is bigger than the massive antiwar protests of earlier this year (Scoop's figures: 35000 against GE; 10000 against the war).

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Defending the indefensible

The White House is trying to defend its Caribbean gulag at Guantanamo:

These individuals are terrorists or supporters of terrorism and we are at war on terrorism and the reasons for detaining enemy combatants in the first place is to gather intelligence and make sure that these enemy combatants don't return to help our enemies plot attacks or carry out attacks on the United States.

Substituting "criminals" for "terrorists" in the above will show you how murky that thinking is. What the White House is advocating is locking people up in preventative detention, without trial or any form of oversight, until America feels safe enough to let them go. This contravenes the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair, speedy and open trial, and the requirement that the government actually prove its case before inflicting punishment.

We would not tolerate this for criminal suspects, and we should not tolerate it for those suspected of terrorism. If the United States has a case against these people, then it should charge them in court. If it doesn't, it should release them.

Trojan Horses

People are trying to convince John Banks to return to Parliament and topple Bill English before the next election.

What's interesting is that the approach is coming from Auckland business wankers and ACT rather than National party members - in other words, it's a trojan horse strategy. If your own party is perpetually unpopular, then sneak someone into a bigger party and subvert it from within. Don't you just love these guys?

Resolutions, part II

Last week, I was predicting that Bush would get his resolution, but that there would be a lot of abstentions, and that no-one would bother to act on it unless he bought out the thumbscrews. Now, it's looking like America may withdraw its resolution because "abstentions will deprive the resolution of sufficient legitimacy as a mandate".

In other words, they can't muster the nine positive votes they need for a resolution to pass. Ouch.

The problem is that the Americans are unwilling to concede anything. They want the world to pay in money and blood to clean up their mess, while retaining total control of how that money is spent and where those cannon-fodder soldiers are deployed (hint: they want the Turks to go to Falluja). The rest of the world is unsurprisingly unwilling to contribute on those terms. As a result, Iraq will continue to go to hell in a handbasket, and Americans will continue to come home in bodybags.

(Related: Clare Short is in Washington at the moment, trying to convince the US government to give "whatever it takes" to get the rest of the world onside. Salon has an interesting interview with her here. Unfortunately, I think she's kicking dead whales down a beach there.)

And the Nobel Peace Prize goes to...

Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human rights campaigner.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Another NZ Blog

The Sock Thief: "trying to talk sense into the Left".

New Fisk

News, but not as we know it

Legality of Camp X-Ray Questioned

The American military is holding about 660 terrorism suspects (including a number of children)from 42 countries at the US base in Cuba. They have been detained without trial. Some have been detained since January 2002. A small number will have the opportunity to be tried before a military tribunal (which is newspeak for "kangaroo court") but for most it wil be years before they actually stand trial. Quite how a country that claims to be decent, democratic and free can do this I really don't know (well actualy on US soil they can't do it which is why they have to do it in Cuba).

Fortunately there are Americans who find this as repugnant as I do and are trying to challenge the military's actions in the supreme court. I have my doubts that this will succeed and I doubt that anyone in the American media will give this issue the coverage it deserves but good on them for trying.

Dunne as PM?

There's been a lot of sniggering at Peter Dunne's line about seeing himself as PM one day... but not much addressing of the actual substance behind the comments. Dunne raises an interesting question: what happens if National goes under? Where do its supporters go? To ACT? To NZ First? Or to United Future?

Dunne naturally thinks that his party would be the main beneficiary of a National party implosion, and I have to say that I agree with him. Despite the dreams of people like NZPundit, ACT is a fringe group that is never going to achieve broad-based support. As for New Zealand First, their demographic is mostly the grumpy vote, or those who long for Muldoon to rise from the dead and return us to the Good Old Days... I'm not sure that there's a hell of a lot of those left in National's support-base. Absent the rise of another party, I think that the majority of current National voters would indeed go to United Future, and that they would become the defacto party of the center-right.

Of course, this is no more than an interesting intellectual exercise. While National is doing terribly in the polls and its leader is about as popular as the American Ambassador, that doesn't mean they're doomed. As people have pointed out, Helen Clark was this low in the popularity stakes in the early 90's (though her party wasn't, and the move to MMP means that the traditional tactic of waiting for your turn at government may no longer work). I think it's far more likely that National will simply hang in there, but as a shadow of its former (FPP) self. Besides, arrogantly assuming that the electorate will get it one day is perfectly in keeping with their born-to-rule ethos.

As for Dunne, as long as national survives, he's left out in the cold. He can pick up votes in the center if National moves right (as it seems to be doing), or he can try and claim centrist votes from Labour (since they seem to be moving right as well), but he'll probably be squeezed unless a miracle happens and National folds. And without that miracle, he has about as much hope of being PM as Richard Prebble.

Why I hate HR proles, part II

yet another thing that gets my goat about HR agencies: ads that ask for

A tertiary qualification in operations research, economics, engineering or similar numerical discipline.

If I wanted somebody who was "highly numerate", I'd look for someone who had studied actual maths, or stats, or physics or engineering (one out of three ain't bad). But operations research and economics? These people don't learn real maths; they learn baby maths. Hell, economists haven't even discovered calculus yet (well, they have, but they do it by brute force and ignorance, and try to hide the fact that it's calculus. A d/dx or integral sign scares the poor wee dears...) But I guess if you're the sort of second-rate business major that goes on to do HR, economics or operations research is the scariest, most mathematical stuff you've encountered.

B-Ark, every single one of them...

Saint Augustine has a lot to answer for

The Catholic Church is telling people in AIDS-stricken countries not to use condoms, and lying about their efficacy in preventing STDs. Some priests are even saying that condoms are laced with HIV, and cause infection. They'd rather people risked contracting HIV than use effective preventative measures which also prevent conception.

Words (almost) fail me. This is so twisted, so far beyond any conception of moral value, of what is important and what is not, that I am flabbergastered that anyone could do such a thing. The Vatican's lies will promote the spread of an epidemic and lead to countless deaths. But hey, I guess their souls will be saved, right?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Salon has a who's who of who's got their snouts in Iraq's trough. The interesting tidbit at the end: pressure is growing in the US to make Iraq repay any money given for reconstruction. Yeah, so the US bombs your country, then bills you for the privelege. I bet that'll go down like a lead balloon in Baghdad.

These people do not want to be occupied

The Iraqi resistance have blown up a police station in Sadr City and assassinated a Spanish diplomat.

An interesting speech from Peter Dunne. Speculations on the demise of National, slagging off the Greens, calling for a closer defence relationship with Australia and a principled foreign policy.

Screw the US, part II

It should be obvious from last night's outburst that I'm solidly against being a subservient little client of the US. But what am I for? Well, for a start, I think that we should pursue an independent foreign policy. This means making our own minds up, rather than blindly following some larger power. Yes, we should support our traditional friends and allies, but only when their cause is just. When their cause is not just, we should stand on our principles and tell them where to go (as we did over the invasion of Iraq, and as we've done for a long time over our nuclear free policy).

The principles we should be standing on are things like justice, democracy, human rights, and self-determination. We have a long history of promoting these ideals in the international arena, and we should continue doing so. Even when it involves telling our friends that they are wrong.

Whereever possible, we should take a multilateral approach. Yes, existing international institutions are flawed (the UN because five powers have a veto, and the WTO because it is insufficiently democratic and stacked in favour of the wealthy), but they're what we've got. Where necessary we should work to reform them, or if necessary to create alternatives. A Hobbesian world where powers act unilaterally according to the law of the jungle is both incompatible with our principles and not in our interests. Only a strong international system which upholds justice and human rights for all will protect both.


A lovely example of the twisted reality of right-wing anti-tax wingnuts in this interview with Grover Norquist:

Grover Norquist: I think it speaks very much to the health of the nation that 70-plus percent of Americans want to abolish the death tax, because they see it as fundamentally unjust. The argument that some who played at the politics of hate and envy and class division will say, 'Yes, well, that's only 2 percent,' or as people get richer 5 percent in the near future of Americans likely to have to pay that tax.

I mean, that's the morality of the Holocaust. 'Well, it's only a small percentage,' you know. 'I mean, it's not you, it's somebody else.' [...]

Terry Gross: Excuse me. Excuse me one second. Did you just ...

Grover Norquist: Yeah?

Terry Gross: the estate tax with the Holocaust?

Grover Norquist: No, the morality that says it's OK to do something to do a group because they're a small percentage of the population is the morality that says that the Holocaust is OK because they didn't target everybody, just a small percentage. What are you worried about? It's not you. It's not you. It's them. And arguing that it's OK to loot some group because it's them, or kill some group because it's them and because it's a small number, that has no place in a democratic society that treats people equally. The government's going to do something to or for us, it should treat us all equally..."

Terry Gross: So you see taxes as being the way they are now terrible discrimination against the wealthy comparable to the kind of discrimination of, say, the Holocaust?

Grover Norquist: Well, what you pick -- you can use different rhetoric or different points for different purposes, and I would argue that those who say, 'Don't let this bother you; I'm only doing it' -- I, the government. The government is only doing it to a small percentage of the population. That is very wrong. And it's immoral."

That's right - any progressive taxation is like the holocaust. Really, this guy needs a sense of perspective.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Screw the US

I'm glad to see the US ambassador receive a damn good bollocking for criticising us for not being subserviant little clients and sucking American cock like we're told to. Still, it would have been good if he'd actually got to give his speech...

Thanks, but no thanks

The Turkish parliament has voted to authorise sending troops to Iraq. Unfortunately, the Iraqi Governing Council doesn't want them.

A Kurdish member of the Council, Mahmoud Othman, described the deployment as "the wrong thing to do", saying "it does not add to security, it is not useful".

The reason he's saying this is because the Turks have repeatedly engaged in ethnic clensing against the Kurds. Sending them to occupy Iraq is like sending the SS as peacekeepers to Israel. Still, I'm sure the Americans will find them useful - given the hatred the Kurds have for them, the Turks will be a fantastic bullet magnet...

Taking the piss

Air New Zealand's bid to alcohol and drug test all 10,000 of its employees is up before the employment court at the moment and is quite rightly being contested by the unions (story here).

Now lets be quite clear on this, I think employers have a right to be protected from employees who abuse drugs and alcohol and who are unable to carry out their job properly. As it stands most employment contracts I have seen prevent employees from turning up under the influence of these stubstances and, as is right and proper, promise an absolute bollocking for any employee who does.

Air New Zealand, however wants to go much further. It is worried about employee's cognitive abilities being impaired by the long term effects of drugs and alcohol and the effects this could have on public safety. Its a prefectly valid concern, you don't want pilots having the attention span of a goldfish or maintenance people failing to put parts of the wing on properly and having it fall off over Mangere (bit late for that I guess)...but Air New Zealand's Approach is flawed.

The most obvious flaw is the fact that alcohol and drug testing will not necessarily measure cognitive impairment nor will it pick up employees who are failing to perform due to things like stress, illness, not having enough sleep, not having enough coffee or whatever else. If they actually measured cognitive ability directly or had regular performance appraisals to make sure that their employees can still do their job this would be a hell of a lot better.

Being forced to pee in a cup by your employer is pretty humiliating and I'm of the opinion that you should only be forced to do this if it is absolutely necessary. Pilots and maintenance crews have the public's lives in their hands so drug testing them is fine...but all 10,000 employees? I'm sorry but piss testing the accounts clerk, telephonist and tea lady is quite frankly unneccesary.

I'm also very uneasy about employers being able to dictate what people do outside work time to that extent...if an employee takes alcohol or drugs...doesn't turn up to work intoxicated and doesn't allow it to affect his or her work then its really no one else's business (except possibly the police's).

I think there is plenty of scope here for the courts to protect the rights of both employers and employees, lets hope they do.

It is the State's business

Circling Apollo is pretty pissed off about my pointing out the company he's keeping with his "none of the State's business" line. Wife-beaters hid behind that defence for years, and it's not surprising that those who view violence against children as acceptable are hiding behind it too.

Let's be clear: it is the State's business. Children are people, and the State has as compelling an interest in protecting them from violence as it does adults. Even if the violence is coming from their parents. Parenthood is no more of an excuse for child-beating as marriage is for spousal abuse. It's as simple as that.

Dredging the bottom of the barrel

It's always interesting to see how people get to me via Google. Normally it's things like "Paul Holmes Cheeky Darkie", "Joel Hayward", "Idiot Savant" or "No Right Turn". But sometimes I get unusual ones. Today's haul:

I suspect all of these people went away disappointed - except for the one looking for pictures of a younger Patrick Stewart.

Now there's a surprise

ACT opposes MP's having to declare their financial interests.

I am surprised though that there are no penalties for noncompliance - which suggests that Labour isn't really that interested in it either. I'd rather that the bill allowed a substantial fine, or sanctions by the Speaker.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Look How Much Difference a Change of Government Makes

Remember what happened last time the Chinese President came to visit? Remember how the police jackbooted all over people's rights to protest about China's annexation of Tibet? Not this time...The police and the pollies appear to have learned their lesson...and the Chinese President will be allowed to see, hear (smell) and be offended by protesters. Which is good really as the right to peaceful protest is one of the fundamental elements of a free society. Story here.

Supporting violence against children

Circling Apollo gives the predicted response to the news that the UN wants us to ban smacking:

Whether or not corporal punishment is used in the home is absolutely nothing to do with the state or the wannabe-world state

No doubt he'd say the same thing about wife-beating too.

New Fisk

Israel's attack is a lethal step towards war in Middle East

The government's response on Zaoui

"We don't care, he'll be imprisoned for at least another two months while we dither about, and we're not going to provide him with any of the 'evidence' against him".

And the Prime Minister has the gall to say that "New Zealand treats refugees and asylum-seekers very well". I think Zaoui's case gives the lie to that statement.

Geeking out

Info on New Zealand confluence points.

A crime against humanity

A few months ago, Chris Trotter described the imprisonment of Ahmed Zaoui as "a crime against humanity" because of the extreme cruelty of keeping someone in solitary confinement for prolonged periods. And now we're seeing the results:

Trauma consultant and professor of psychology, Tony Taylor has conducted a three-day examination of Mr Zaoui and concludes that he has been "mentally damaged" as a result of his solitary confinement.

Keith Locke calls this "mental torture", and I'd have to agree. And it's made all the worse because it is being done on the basis of "evidence" that is simply bullshit.

What the fuck are we doing? We've kept a man in solitary confinement for ten months, driven him insane, because our police and security services are paranoid loons who can't distinguish a conspiracy theorist's fantasies from reality, and because our Minister of Immigration cannot admit that she was wrong.

This has to stop. Now. What we have done to this man is unconscionable. We have violated some of the core principles of this country - the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, the right to due process - and all because the government wants its own side-act in the war on terror. Fuck that. Zaoui should be released, and he should not just receive a grovelling apology, but Lianne Dalziel's head on a platter.

The Medieval Presidency

Seen on Daily Kos: A column in the LA Times describes Bush's presidency as "medieval". Not because of its lust for war and conquest, but because it rejects empiricism and rationality in favour of a world-view based entirely on faith:

Incuriosity seems characteristic of the entire Bush administration. More, it seems central to its very operation. The administration seems indifferent to data, impervious to competing viewpoints and ideas. Policy is not adjusted to facts; facts are adjusted to policy. The result is what may be the nation's first medieval presidency - one in which reality is ignored for the administration's own prevailing vision. [...]

[T]he White House medievalists aren't just shading the facts. In actively denying or changing them, they are changing the basis on which government has traditionally been conducted: rationality. There is no respect for facts because there is no respect for empiricism. Instead, the Bush ideologues came to power smug in the security of their own worldview, part of which, frankly, seems to be the belief that it would be soft and unmanly to let facts alter their preconceptions. Like the church confronting Galileo, they aren't about to let reality destroy their cosmology, whether it is a bankrupt plan for pacifying an Iraq that was supposed to welcome us as liberators or a bankrupt fiscal plan that was supposed to jolt the economy to health. [...]

Bush has a religious epistemology. Having devalued the idea of an observable, verifiable reality and having eschewed rational empiricism, he relies on his unalterable faith in himself not just to inform his policies, as all presidents have, but to dictate them.

There's been a lot of jokes about "Faith-based economics" (over tax cuts for the rich), and "Faith-based foreign policy" (over Iraq), but this really puts the finger on it. The central worldview of Bush and his cronies is entirely faith-based; they're hostile or indifferent to facts because they have Revealed Truth. America - the greatest project of the Enlightenment - is being led by people with a pre-Enlightenment mindset. Is this scary or what?

(Oh; the story requires free registration; try "mediajunkie / medijunkie").

Monday, October 06, 2003

The Iraqis are revolting

A spontaneous uprising has seized control of the town of Baiji, driving out the US army and their police, and burning the mayor's office.

Unfortunately, they seem to be pro-Saddam.

Good plumbing is the foundation of civilization

A lack of proper sewage systems in the Far North is leading to disease, pollution and contaminated shellfish.

This needs government attention now. We should not be tolerating third-world sewage systems in New Zealand. If the local district council can't carry the cost, then it's time for the government to step in and help them out. The $70 million required is chump change compared to the size of the surplus.

Perfidious French?

People who saw NZPundit's report that newly manufactured French SAMs were found in Iraq may want to read this.

Now what was that he was saying about "shouting the lie, whispering the clarification"?

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Also good

The families of the Tampa refugees are being resettled in New Zealand. We did a Good Thing by taking them in, and we're doing a Good Thing here by reuniting them with their families.

The UN plays hardball

UN officials won't work in Iraq unless the US revises its resolution and grants more power to Iraqis. I guess they're not keen on dying for Haliburton either...


Israel is charging one of its army officers for killing Palestinian civilians. Normally, they just look the other way and whistle tunelessly.


France, Germany and Russia aren't happy with the latest US draft resolution on Iraq. It doesn't grant enough of a role to the UN, and sets out no timetable for a handover of power to an Iraqi government. At the same time, it calls on member states to contribute troops and money to the occupation government, where it will no doubt be spent enriching Bush cronies.

Now, noone is going to dig their heels in and veto this. We are not going to see the sort of mess in the security council we saw before the war. But there's also an increasing recognition that there is no quid pro quo with the Bush administration, either, so there's no incentive to vote for a disagreeable resolution. What's likely to happen is that the resolution will pass, but unless the US gives ground, there'll be more than a few abstentions... which is probably more of a slap in the face than outright opposition.

More importantly, UN resolution or not, I very much doubt anyone is going to seriously contribute to the occupation. Noone wants to send their troops to Iraq to die for Haliburton; noone wants to be cannon-fodder so the the US can bring its boys home. And noone wants to fund a giant corporate welfare scheme for US corporations.

So, Bush will get his resolution (albiet grudgingly), but I don't think he'll get the troops and money he wants. Having made this mess, he'll just have to clean it up himself.

Like a broken record

The government is running a larger than expected surplus, so National is demanding tax cuts. How surprising. But there are better things we can do with the money than that.

The two previous governments have gutted public services. Defence, the police, health, welfare, education - all had their budgets lowered and were expected to do more with less. After ten years of starvation, the ribs are beginning to show.

The present government has stalled the decline, but done precious little to repair the damage. It's time to change that. Rather than giving the surplus away to the wealthy as tax cuts, they should take the opportunity to reinvest in New Zealand's public services. Cullen has already suggested putting a substantial amount towards housing, but there's a lot more to be done.

New Zealanders will happily pay taxes in exchange for decent public services. It's time for the governemnt to renew its part of the arrangement.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Moussaoui smackdown

The judge in the Moussaoui case has ruled on sanctions against the US government - and rather than dismissing the charges (which is what the government wanted), she has barred them from pursuing the death penalty, and prohibited any use of evidence linking him to the September 11th attack.

"The United States may not maintain this capital prosecution while simultaneously refusing to produce witnesses who could, at a minimum, help the defendant avoid a sentence of death," she wrote.

"It would simply be unfair to require Moussaoui to defend himself against such prejudicial accusations while being denied the ability to present testimony from witnesses who could assist him in contradicting those accusations."

Never fuck with a judge. Though I'm a little disappointed that she didn't start chucking people in jail for contempt.

Needless to say, the prosecution is appealing. Let's just hope that the 4th Circuit has a similar regard for the rights of the accused.

WMD report - zip, nothing, nada

The Iraq Survey Group has not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They've turned up some evidence of ongoing research - plans for longer range missiles etc - that could have been put into production if sanctions were eased, but no actual WMDs, or any evidence that they existed.

In other words, the war was a crock. But we knew that already, didn't we?

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I'm sickened

Israeli soldiers are shooting live ammunition at Palestinians because they don't have enough rubber bullets or tear gas. People die as a result. But hey, they're only Palestinians, right?

I just like the title

Karl Rove: Boy Genius or Turd Blossom?

Bill English is calling for a law-change to require parental consent for abortions performed on under 16-year-olds. Of course, he's doing this to "promote the role of parents" rather then out of opposition to abortion.

Yeah, right.

Parental consent laws mean parents forcing their children to have children. They treat young girls in bad circumstances like brood mares. Bill English may be fine with that, but I regard it as a fundamental insult to human dignity.

Teaching values in schools

Peter Dunne thinks that our schools should be teaching "character" and values. My first thought on this was "whose values"? United Future's? Fuck that!

Most of the proposal focuses on teaching values to encourage good citizenship, but unsurprisingly for a Christian party there's also a strand in the speech about it reducing crime as well (yet another example of the Socratic fallacy that vice is born of ignorance). Unfortunately, the whole thing is based on a fundamental misconception about the role of the State in a pluralistic society.

A pluralistic society is one in which people are free to pursue multiple goods, and multiple visions of the Good Life. Another way of looking at it is a society where there is moral disagreement, and people follow different moral codes. What these goods or moral codes are is up to the citizens; the State will reflect them, but has no role in choosing them. It is not the role of the State to say "these are the goods we are pursuing, and we will indoctrinate people to pursue them".

In other words, the values should flow from the bottom up, not be imposed from the top down.

There are things a pluralistic society can do to encourage good citizenship, but they lie in providing the tools, not the values. Teaching people to think, to be reflective, and to decide for themselves what they want and how they want to live. Unfortunately, I think Peter Dunne's friends in United Future wouldn't be so keen on that...

Gordon Campbell - Worlds Apart

A Good article from The Listener that really spells out the issues around free trade and (depending on your point of view) the failure of the recent talks in Cancun.

New Fisk

Oil, War And A Growing Sense Of Panic In The US

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Soros calls for 'regime change' in US

Via the ballot box, of course. He's hoping that the American people will wake up and realise what a bunch of nutbars Bush and the PNAC cabal are, and de-elect them. But the most interesting bit is this:

"There is a group of - I would call them extremists - who have the following belief: that international relations are relations of power, not of law, that international law will always follow what power has achieved," he said.

"And therefore [they believe] the United States being the most powerful nation on earth should impose its power, impose its will and its interests on the world and it should do it looking after itself.

"I think this is a very dangerous ideology. It is very dangerous because America is in fact very powerful."


"Probably President Chirac would not disagree with this philosophy but he is not so powerful - so I am not so worried about what France is doing"

Now, I think that international relations are relations of power, but I'd like them to be something else. Because as Hobbes pointed out, a world where the only relations are those of power is pretty shitty. The powerless spend all their time being screwed over, and the powerful spend all their time being paranoid that someone is going to fly planes into their skyscrapers in retaliation. This isn't good for anyone.

Absent a stronger international system or a counterbalancing power, the best we can hope for is that the United States stops using the power it has. And the best way I can see of that happening is for Bush to be kicked out of the Whitehouse in 2004, and replaced with someone (anyone!) else.

New kiwi blog

Well actually not that new, but it's the first time I've stumbled across it:

David Zanetti

What's scary is that I think I remember him from FidoNet (now that's showing my age...)

The "private good" of tertiary education

Seen on Jobstuff:

Graduate Opportunities

We currently have a number of roles suitable for graduates who are looking for work in the customer service/contact centre arena. Our client, a leading public sector organisation, is looking to recruit additional Customer Service Representatives for their fun and supportive Wellington City Call Centre.

These roles could offer successful candidates the opportunity to grow their careers and experience all the things about working life that University does not teach you.

If you have recently completed, or are about to complete, a degree or diploma we would like to hear from you. [...]

Get a degree, work in a call-centre. And people are supposed to indebt themselves for this?

Al-Qaeda plotters sentenced

Belgium has convicted 18 of 23 suspected Al-Qaeda members accused of planning an attack on a US military base. And they did it in public courts, under their normal standards of evidence - in other words, without stacking the deck.

Makes you wonder why the US can't do the same, doesn't it?

Prayers for Parliamentary workers

The National Party thinks that allowing Parliamentary Services workers to attend morning Maori prayer sessions is "PC gone mad". I'm not so sure. There's a significant question that noone seems to be asking, namely does Parliament provide equivalent chaplincy services for any other religion?

If the answer is "yes", then there's nothing mad about it; they're simply extending the same courtesy to those with Maori spiritual beliefs as (presumably) Christians. Calling this "PC" is more an inditement of the caller's illiberal attitude towards those holding spiritual beliefs different from their own than a real criticism (but then, isn't it always?)

If on the other hand the answer is "no" - that this is the only religious service established for staff members - then we would indeed have a case of religious discrimination, and the prayer sessions should stop (or equivalent services be offered to others).

I'm a militant secularist, but I understand that other people have spiritual needs - and I have no problem with employers accomodating them, provided it is done in an equal and non-discriminatory way. Which means that if some Parliamentary employees are paid to pray, or study Maori spiritual beliefs, or whatever, then DPF should be paid to drink beer - or at least paid for the time regardless of what he does with it.