Tuesday, 30 June 2009

my place on the spectrum

as per julie's suggestion here, i did the political spectrum quiz. this is my result:

My Political Views
I am a left moderate social authoritarian
Left: 6.87, Authoritarian: 1.32

Political Spectrum Quiz

hmmm, i'm only just an "authoritarian" but definitely a lefty. i'm not sure that this really reflects who i am, and i found several of the questions difficult to answer. but there it is.

ETA: didn't have time before this post went up (busy doing the down under feminists carnival!) but wanted to link to this post on tensions between class and democratic reform at kiwipolitico. says what i've been trying to, only better.

Monday, 29 June 2009

exploitation of graduates

i caught up with a friend over the weekend, whom i hadn't seen in a while. the reason being that she's shifted up to auckland & is working in one of the top accounting firms there.

she started telling me about her workplace, and i'm truly appalled. she tells me that she has often been working until 10pm at night, and staying until 9pm is normal. this is the expectation of all employees. i asked her what would happen if she refused, and left work around 5.30pm. she said that the result would be that she would be allocated the most boring jobs that would give no satisfaction, and it would mean that she wouldn't be moving up within that organisation.

there is no doubt that this particular firm is getting at least 1.5 person's work out of 1 person, and that they are doing so deliberately. my friend says that staff turnover is high, but with the current recession, people are not able to leave so easily. and because it is so difficult to get a position in what is seen as a prestigious firm, these young people don't want to let that position go because of the fear of the negative effect on their career.

this pressure appears to be applied to new graduates, and of course the accounting workforce isn't unionised (not that i've seen, anyway). we have the institute of chartered accountants, but i've never ever heard of them fighting for the rights of junior staff to have decent work hours. it's not likely, given that the elected positions in the institute are mostly senior partners in accountancy firms.

at least these graduates are getting paid a better wage than, say, cleaners on contract & unlike cleaners, they know that if they stick it out, they'll be getting promoted. but that doesn't make this kind of exploitation right. these big firms are working in a competitive market, and the way they keep the price to the client down is by saving on labour costs.

i wish i could name the particular firm, but i don't want to get my friend in trouble and don't want to end up with any kind of legal action against myself. but really, the only way to deal with this kind of thing is by naming and shaming. and getting these young people to join a union.


in other news, my friend and hamilton city councillor daphne bell has just joined the blogoshpere. welcome daphne, and looking forward to your contribution.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

an open letter to mr obama

i've been thinking about whether or not to put up an open letter from the christian peacemakers team in palestine, but after hearing this:

Just days after President Obama called for a complete freeze on settlement construction, the Israeli government authorized construction on 300 new homes to be built in an "illegal outpost" in the West Bank. An illegal outpost: that's a settlement that's illegal even according to Israeli law. 60 totally illegal houses, and roads to get to them, have already been built in this outpost. Instead of demolishing it - which is what they should do - the Israeli government is performing a whitewash that will make this whole outpost a "legitimate" settlement.*

i thought it was worth sharing. so here is the open letter in full:

Dear President Obama,

On Tuesday June 15th, you said of the protests in Iran, “When I see peaceful dissent being suppressed, whenever that takes place, it is of concern to me and it is of concern to the American people.” For the last 13 years, Christian Peacemaker Teams have witnessed the brutal suppression of peaceful dissent here in Palestine. In the city of Hebron and the village of At-Tuwani, CPT supports vibrant Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israel’s military occupation. Every day, Palestinians hold non-violent demonstrations and defy curfews and closed military zones. They rebuild demolished homes and work their land despite the threat of arrest and attack. Though their struggle is largely ignored by the media, we find inspiration in the way Palestinians are working for justice and peace.

We are deeply troubled by the way Israeli authorities respond to this non-violent resistance. On April 22, 2006, Israeli police beat and arrested the mayor of At-Tuwani village and his brother for doing no more than holding a peaceful demonstration against the illegal Israeli wall. CPT has documented the Israeli army demolishing the homes of non-violent resistance leaders, harassing them at checkpoints, and targeting them for arrest.

Too often, Israeli forces respond to non-violent resistance with lethal force. In the past nine months, Israeli soldiers have killed four residents of the village of Ni’lin during demonstrations against the Israeli wall. Ahmed Mousa, age 10, was shot in the forehead with live ammunition on July 29, 2008. Yousef Amira, 17, was shot twice with rubber-coated steel bullets in next day. On December 28th 2008,22-year-old Arafat Rateb Khawaje was shot in the back with live ammunition. The same day, Mohammed Khawaje, 20, was shot in the head with live ammunition. On March 22nd 2009, American demonstrator Tristan Anderson was shot in the face with a tear gas canister. He still lies in the hospital in critical condition. Each of these incidents raises a simple question: why do Israeli soldiers respond to unarmed protestors with deadly force?

When Israel arrests, attacks and kills Palestinians who practice non-violent resistance, it is saying to the Palestinian people, “No matter your methods of struggle, no matter the justice of your cause, we will not share power with you.” In this context, it is a grave mistake to call, asyou did in your Cairo speech, for Palestinians to abandon violence without calling on Israel to do the same. To speak as though there is no Palestinian non-violent resistance movement is worse than na├»ve; it gives Israel permission to continue to ignore their cries for justice and freedom.

In his recent speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined his conditions for peace with Palestine. He described a future Palestinian state that would not be a state at all. Its borders and airspace would be controlled by others. It would be demilitarized while Israel remained free to continue building a nuclear arsenal. This is not a plan for peace. It is a demand that Palestine submit to Israeli domination.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu makes these demands, his government continues to suppress Palestinian non-violent resistance. Unarmed demonstrators inN’ilin are still met with tear gas and live bullets. In Hebron andAt-Tuwani, children on their way to school are still attacked by Israeli settlers and settlements continue to grow. We ask you, President Obama, to demand that Israel stop its campaign of violence against the Palestinian people. We echo the Palestinian non-violent resistance movement’s calls for justice and human dignity. Only justice will lead to peace.

In Hope,
Christian Peacemaker Teams-Palestine

*i got this by email from "jewish voices for peace", don't have a link

Thursday, 25 June 2009

stop night class cuts

i've got a short post up at the hand mirror today, regarding activism against cuts to community education. i'll have another short one up tomorrow about the provocation defense being used in the sophie elliot murder case.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

symbol of rebellion

i did a little spot on radio nz's the panel this afternoon (right at the end of the clip). it was regarding a discussion about the killing of neda soltani during the recent protests in iran. her dying moments were caught on camera and put on youtube, and have now been viewed by millions around the world.

i'm not going to link to the clip here, i couldn't bear to watch it myself. i agree with rosemary mcleod's comments that there is something inherently wrong in putting a video of someone's death into the public sphere in this way. there was no question of her consent having been obtained, and there is no doubt that this video is being used as a political tool.

which is not to say that people should remain ignorant of the effects of violence and the suppression of political dissent. and in a way, the current spotlight on the protests has changed the narrative around the iranian people. many in the west are now beginning to identify with them, to see the humanity and the commonalities. they are becoming less and less the evil "other".

in that regard, the reports filed by jason jones on the daily show have been pretty amazing. i've been watching the last two nights as he has gone into an iranian home to do an interview, and he has interviewed iranians who have subesequently been detained by the current regime. while he has generally behaved like an ass, which he usually does, he shows us that these are just people like us but involved in an extremely difficult struggle.

i don't see any great outcome for iran at present. i hope the country doesn't fall into civil war. i have no great faith in mr mousavi, who even mr obama thinks is not too much different from mr ahmedinejad (and the evidence appears to support that view). if he plans to make substantial reforms, he will be behaving quite differently to when he was last in office, and i find it hard to believe that he's offering more than just words.

and when he uses the phrase "an alms-based economy", it reminds of national party rhetoric about working for families turning people into beneficiaries. it's so typical of right-wing arguments against any kind of state support for the less well-off, and is just a sham excuse for for inaction on poverty.

on the other hand, there is no doubt that reform is required in iran in many areas. the response of the current regime to the recent protests is appalling. the fact is that they are floundering and don't know how to deal with the situation, so have fallen back on suppression.

and neda soltani got caught in the crossfire. i admire her courage in standing up for what she believed, in a particularly dangerous situation. if there is any silver lining to be gained from her death, it's that she has managed to narrow the gap between east and west. she has ensured that we no longer remain indifferent to th plight of the iranian people. may she rest in peace. inna lillahe wa inna ilaihi raji'oon.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

disparities in health care

i've had a post up at the hand mirror today, about the furore raised by a aussie green party MP who brought her child into the house for a brief period.

also of interest today was this excellent discussion on radio nz (nine to noon, 9.22am) about disparities in public health care between maori and non-maori. i thought the way the issue was framed was really good, not casting aspersions at health professionals but rather explaining why they might behave in certain ways.

it's so important to have this discussion, because people who do not face this kind of thing so often refuse to believe it exists at all. they seem to believe that everyone has equal access to every service in this country, but can't see how certain behaviours or assumptions might act as a barrier for minority groups.

there are ways to deal with this issue, and the immediate one is to have maori provide services for maori, pasifika people provide services for their own and ethnic communities provide services for their own. that's the reason for the development of the ethnic women's centre in hamilton - the desire to provide an environment where women feel safe and free from discrimination, so that they are able to talk about their issues and get the help that they need.

one of the problems with this approach is that it does lead to a kind of "apartheid", where communities become separated from each other. which means they are even less likely to understand each other, and hence overcome the disparities that exist in service delivery. on the other hand, there is no way that a cultural change with existing institutions will happen overnight, and in the meantime there are people suffering and unable to access the help they need. so in the short term, the separate providers is a good idea.

in the long-term, there needs to be effort put into creating that cultural change, so that all people are able to receive the same level of service and can feel safe and confident in every environment. in order for that to happen, there first needs to be an acknowledgement that there is a problem that needs to be solved. hence the importance of this particular research and the discussion around it.

Monday, 22 June 2009

the global village, it's too big for me...

so, still trying to keep my head above water. i got 3 things done out of the 100 in my (after-paid-employment) in tray. which is better than the zero things i got done in the last week, i suppose. also managed to catch up with an old family friend, who migrated from nz many years ago.

this is one thing i find frustrating about nz. it's a small country, and people move in and out of it so much. i guess it's especially true of hamilton, where there are not so many high-powered jobs to be had. so people who are wanting to move up in the world need to move away.

it's something i find really frustrating. making friends is like making an emotional investment in a person, and to have that person then leave your life is often a very painful loss. i guess that's part of the modern lifestyle, with close family members spread around the world, and your own kids not likely to be living in the same country as yourself.

i can think of so many people that i've been close to, and who i still miss. because i'm totally slack at keeping in touch, the contact remains just a memory in my mind. yes, i know this is what facebook & other social networking sites are for, but i really haven't got into that yet.

i'm really not one who looks back to the "good old days" with any particular fondness. many aspects of modern life seem to be so much better than what we had in the past. progress and technology are generally good things. but this is one area where i prefer the past, when international travel (and even national and local travel) were a difficult thing, and people uprooting and leaving didn't happen so much. there was a time when you'd be born in a village and your children would be born there, and so would your grandchildren. and all the people you cared about would be close to you for most of your life.

of course, there would be too high a price to pay for going back to that time and i know that people then had other things to worry about, like high infant mortality rates, high rates of death during childbirth, plagues and the like. so if you weren't losing your dear ones in one way, then you were losing them in another.

there is the possibility that climate change will force us to travel less, what with peak oil and carbon footprints. but human beings are an inventive species, and i'm sure someone will work out another method for getting from A to B in an environmentally way. then there is the possibility of space travel, which means that distances won't just be inter-continental, but inter-planetary. i hope that doesn't become a reality in my lifetime!

end of ramble, this is obviously a lazy post cos i'm not up to doing much else right now. but to all of my overseas friends and family, i do think of you often and miss you a lot. i wish you'd stayed here.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

world refugee day

i'm still being troubled with my health, meaning i'm not sleeping too well plus can't seem to shake the cough i've had for a couple of weeks. hence i'm falling behind with all my non-paid-employment work. i'm wondering at this stage how i apply for annual leave from all of that, when i know others are depending on me. sigh. i'll think about it tomorrow.

in the meantime, i've put up a short post at the hand mirror to belatedly mark world refugee day.

and i'd like to reproduce a press release which i can't find on the internet from the migrant action trust, who do some wonderful work:

Migrant forum demands immediate action from the government.
More than 160 migrants attended a forum organized by the Migrant Action Trust on Saturday 30 May at the Windy Ridge Primary School on the North Shore. The Trust is a community organization that works on behalf of migrants.

Migrant participants of the forum made it clear that their priority as residents and workers in Aotearoa/ New Zealand was to contribute to New Zealand society and for New Zealand to acknowledge and value the contribution that migrants make to the economic and social fabric of the country. The migrants, representing a variety of countries but predominantly Filipinos and South Africans, were adamant that they did not wish to hold second class status in New Zealand.

The forum participants were in general agreement about the failure of the government to have a comprehensive and clear plan around migrant employment particularly the Work to Resident Proposal says the Trust’s Chairperson, Dr Camille Nakhid.

She further stated that the primary concern to the migrants was that they had been invited by New Zealand to apply for employment and residency in order that their skills and expertise could be used. On arrival here, they have found that employment conditions were less than ideal and New Zealand now had to hold its immigration department and employment institutions accountable for the adverse ways that migrants are treated. The situation is especially disconcerting for those migrants that gave up good employment opportunities and occupations in their home country to migrate here. The migrants want the government to realize that in the current economic climate, finding a job takes longer than expected even for New Zealand citizens. One of the migrants present who moved from a student permit to a work permit must find a job within 12 months, an unrealistic goal in these times. A number of migrants also lamented the fact that they had been invited to apply for permanent residency only to be made redundant and the exorbitant legal fees that they incurred in having to change their visa status.

Participants also told the two Members of Parliament present at the forum that immigration officers often provided incorrect and contradictory information and that there was inconsistency in the way that applications were being processed by immigration officials. The migrants claimed that they found the details in the immigration documents misleading and this was exacerbated by their encounters with unethical immigration consultants.

Pacific migrants were also concerned at their labour segmentation in the market place and the government’s discriminatory immigration policies of employing Pacific nations people to fill low wage and unskilled occupations.

Many migrants had been deeply offended by the Minister of Immigration Jonathan Coleman’s remarks which they said demonized migrants and allowed employers to discriminate against them in the workforce. They are calling on Mr. Coleman to retract his statement and to review his proposal to not renew or issue further work permits.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

protesting technology

i've been only vaguely been keeping up with the news of protests in iran against the outcome of the recent elections. i've seen the protests, felt very sad at the number of deaths and am disappointed that there has been election fraud.

one of the most interesting things about modern protests in any countries is the role of technology. with mobile phones that allow txts, photos, video, and tweets to be sent from right in the middle of the action. then there's the internet with blogs, email etc to provide yet more information. if it's not censored that is.

but one issue that arises from all of this is whose voice we hear are those from the upper class, or middle class, or at least not the really poor - since most people in most countries can afford a mobile phone, though not possibly ones that can be sending video images. but computers are usually not so accessible to the really poor. and in non-english-speaking countries, the poor generally don't speak english.

the result is that the voices we predominantly hear are those of the relatively wealthy. in fact this is common to any country. poor people here have less of a media voice than those with more money. it's the lack of education and writing skills, along with a lack of knowledge of how to use the media, and not being as articulate in terms of putting their points of view forward.

which means that we tend to get a one-sided view. this is more likely to be the case when it comes to another country. and it can become dangerous if those with a greater voice are advocating positions that will adversely effect those who don't have that same access to technology.

i'm not saying that i support mr ahmadinejad, nor do i support rigged elections or political suppression. but i'd like to see more balance in the people we get to hear from. on any issue, in any country.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

how to say sorry, and mean it

no post yesterday, as i took my doctor's advice and had a rest. and here is the post regarding the difficulties in finding a woman doctor.

i also have a post up tonight regarding the stoush between david letterman and sarah palin.

Monday, 15 June 2009

international cleaner's day

i wasn't well enough to put up a link to this post i wrote last night for the hand mirror earlier today regarding international cleaner's day. i spent the day in bed with a cold - lots of coughing and a bad headache. it's my body telling me to slow down i guess, which is a difficult message to listen to when there's so much to be done.

i'll have another post up at the hand mirror about difficulties in seeing a woman doctor tomorrow morning.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

victory!

yay!! we've done it, an emphatic victory in mt albert and pretty well deserved too. i went up and helped with door-knocking. and the campaign organisation was really strong, there were so many people out there to help. it's a campaign i've been proud to be part of, even though it wasn't a big part.

i do feel sorry for melissa lee though. she wasn't the right person for the job, she didn't have the experience, training or support that she needed for this campaign. that was emphasised by the fact that her leader is on holiday. that is incredibly unbelievable, and shows he has absolutely no strength of character. he should have been there standing by his candidate and supporting her, regardless of the result. but when the chips were down, he ran away. he's not a person i have much respect for anyway, but i'm pretty appalled at that.

ms lee is understandably shattered, and it will be interesting to see where she goes from here. after this experience, she must seriously be thinking about whether or not she wants to continue in politics. again, i suspect it will depend on what support she gets from her party.

i had an interesting encounter with an iranian man today. it turns out he's a sunni arab, and it turns out that there are a significant number of arabs in southern iran. we had a discussion about the iranian elections, and came to the conclusion that neither of the candiadates were particularly great. for more (brief thoughts on that), see my comment here.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

ethnic communities listening forum

i've just come back from hamilton city council's fifth ethnic communities listening forum (see here for reports on forums held in previous years). i've been going to these every year, and they're a good opportunity for members of ethnic minority communities to give direct feedback to councillors and staff regarding issues of importance to them.

discussions are usually held in five groups, centred around education, employment, health, social connectedness, and general issues. this year i sat in the education group, and there was a lot of discussion around the cutting of ACE funding (see my post of yesterday).

one of the issues brought up was that ACE classes are important for migrants, not only because they provide an opportunity to upskill, but also because it provides a social connection with the community. these classes enable them to develop friendships and contacts with locals, which in turn serves to develop a connectedness to the community and can smooth the settlement process.

there was also anger at the cut in funding to ESOL assessors. i just can't understand this cut. it's only 6-8 jobs around the country, it was hardly costing a fortune. however, the job that these assessors are doing is crucial, particularly to the refugee community. the assessors, on request, will provide a full assessment of the language skills of a person. that assessment can be used for job applications, and it's useful in terms of connecting the person to the right level of english education if further education is required.

but more than that, the assessors end up providing a social service role. they become aware of problems in the household, and are able to connect these people to any social services they might need.

i also sat in with the employment group for a while, and there continue to be concerns around discrimination in hiring practices. as well as the lack of recognition of overseas qualification and experience.

i left early, so didn't hear the report back from other groups. but i find this particular forum really positive, because there is real engagement, and there is accountability in terms of a report back each year on the issues raised from the year before. it's also the hard work of ethnic communities advisor, philip yeung, that makes the forum a success.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

throwing away the ACE

another post up at the hand mirror today about cuts to funding for adult and community education.

and yes, i should have taken the first sentence out of my quote of yesterday. just for the record, iran is definitely not an arab country.

Monday, 8 June 2009

influencing iran

i have a couple of posts up at the hand mirror today, one on asian women's cancer screening rates and the other on a new study being carried out on pre-trial and trial processes in sexual violence cases.

going back to yesterday's topic, there was some good discussion (initially, deteriorated to some pretty nasty islamophobic ranting later on) about mr obama's speech at larvatus prodeo. i found this comment particularly interesting:

...Iran would be considered an Arabic Muslim country yes, it just happens to be Shiite rather than Sunni. And yes, he was most definitely talking to the Iranians, from the blunt speech on anti-semitism & holocaust denial & nuclear non-proliferation, to the clever but nevertheless startling admission that the USA had a hand (although Obama rather modestly described what was essentially a CIA led coup) in the 1953 overthrow of the Shah.

I’m thinking Katz [a previous commentor] would say all that was aimed at influencing Iranians towards more moderate candidates in the upcoming elections in Iran, by undermining the whole ‘great satan’ premise of the USA put forward by the current Iranian pres (or is he PM, I forget).

which is indeed a possibility, and it will be interesting to see whether or not the speech has an impact on the iranian elections.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

the cairo speech

i've put up a post at the hand mirror about president obama's speech in cairo, covering the section on women's rights. i'd like to put some thoughts on other aspects of the speech here.

to start, i'll copy a comment i made on the other post: "this is a speech... that understands he is speaking in an environment gifted to him by his predecessor, where there is a huge gap between america and the muslim world. his first purpose is to begin to bridge that gap, to get the other side to start listening, then to start talking. in that way you begin to have a dialogue and some movement in a positive direction."

on the whole, i find it positive and refreshing. it certainly signals a new direction, a much more positive direction that involves engagement and seeks to build relationships that are much more equal and based on mutual respect, for example:

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.


the speech is not particularly hard-hitting, but does strike a nice balance between recognising the positives elements of arab history and culture, and the negative actions by america against the need for change in the middle east. he doesn't shy away from the key issues, but he doesn't say anything particularly startling either. he raises the issues without being overtly critical and confrontational. i think that's a good thing.

this bit was nice, it was good to see the contribution of american muslims recognised:

The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores - that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

there were a few things of concern. i'm not sure that the position on afghanistan is a great one. a lot of the bombing there has created enmity and bred extremism. in areas that were already very poor, the attacks which have often killed civilians, have caused more psychological than physical damage (and the physical damage is pretty extreme). so continued military action of that nature is hardly going to be helpful.

however, this was a promising sign:

We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

let's hope it actually happens. promises were made to pump money into afghanistan soon after the 2002 invasion, but very little of that money made it into the country. and even less of it was spent on key infrastructure and social services. that has simply got to change, this country desperately needs stability after decades of warfare.

on iraq, this is brilliant:

I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources.

it's impossible to hope that the missing $3 trillion will somehow be accounted for, but even if iraqis can get the full income from their own natural resources, that country will start moving towards recovery.

on palestine, on the whole pretty positive. i feel a little annoyed at this bit:

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

while i totally condemn violence that has been targetted towards innocent israeli civilians and totally agree with the sentiments in this paragraph, it would be nice if mr obama would recognise that palestinians have tried and continue to try peaceful resistance and all diplomatic means available to them. it would be nice to recognise that for many, many years, no-one was listening to those peaceful efforts, rather than to leave the impression that no peaceful efforts were being made.

still, it was good to see the commitment to the two-state solution. there was this on settlements:

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

but that needs to go further. not only do the settlements have to stop, they need to be dismantled. even condoleeza rice spoke strongly against settlement building, but never did anything to stop them. and so they have proliferated at an increasing rate in recent years. all of those settlements must be dismantled and the land returned, and i would have liked to see that clearly stated.

on iran, this was brilliant:

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation - including Iran - should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

yup, i'd give a standing ovation for this paragraph alone. if mr obama can achieve this, it will be the work of a great human being. and this on democracy was also very nice:

And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments - provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

i'm conscious that this is getting to be an extremely long post, so i'll leave the rest for you to read. my last thoughts echo those of one young egyptian woman interviewed after the speech, when she said that she hoped these words would translate into action.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

inheritance

i've decided that i'm against inheritances, altogether, completely against it. to the extent that i think nothing should be passed on to one's children. why should it, after all? it's not like the children "earned" the assets, in the sense that they won't be receiving these assets in return for work done or risk taken. it's simply a passing on of wealth that is in no way deserved.

the fact that you are born to rich and/or hard-working parents is merely a matter of fate. and each individual is responsible for making their own way in the world. why should you be waiting around for someone to die in order to inherit wealth? make your own money, as much as you are able. and if it's not much or you are not able, then the state is there as a back up for you. and the state should provide a fair and sufficient back up so that you have enough for your needs.

and i'm particularly against family wealth that is passed down through the generations. which in effect means that one child (usually the oldest male child) inherits the bulk of the family inheritance and the others have to survive on their own talents. this seems to be preposterously unfair - why should one child inherit due to an accident of birth? or if the most deserving child is chosen, why should the others be totally left out? it makes no sense, and with modern laws, is not seen much at all.

but i would rather see those assets widely dispersed to those who have most need of them, who are usually not the children of the deceased. said children have often had a pretty good upbringing with access to the best education, and they have the ability to earn a decent income of their own. they don't need the wealth as much those who weren't so lucky in the circumstances of their birth.

i'm feeling more strongly about this today because i've seen yet another instance of families wrangling over wealth and an old person being pressured to do something that is highly unfair. by children who show nothing but greed and entitlement to something that they personally have done nothing to deserve. and i recall one particular person who moved all his assets (worth several millions) into a trust of which only his son was a beneficiary. this was done solely to prevent the daughter from splitting up the family wealth, and i can't even begin to imagine how she feels.

unfortunately this is the way of the world, and our cultural customs are so strong that i don't realistically believe it would in any way be possible to do away with inheritances. even though we would all be so much better off without them - well maybe not economically in each individual case, but in other ways.

someone asked me what would happen to all the wealth if we followed this particular proposal. and so on one of my flights of fancy, i said it should be put into a massive fund to be used for eliminating child poverty, so that no child ever died of starvation on this planet. it's nice to dream a little, isn't it?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

the real world

i'm feeling better today, though not quite 100%. i have a post up at the hand mirror about the importance of a strong academic sector.

but mostly today, i'm thinking of the lives lost as result of the airplane crashing into the atlantic. over 200 people killed, that's a lot of grief and my thoughts are with their families.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

notes from my sickbed

unfortunately not any kind of a decent post today, as i'm still struggling with a cold that had me in bed for the whole of the long weekend. which is probably part of the reason why i was feeling a little depressed at the time of my last post. so all the things i was planning to do over the weekend didn't get done but at least i didn't have to take time off work. don't worry, i have my own separate office so wasn't spreading germs everywhere.

i attended a ministry of women's affairs meeting last week, which i wanted to write about. maybe tomorrow. also am concerned about the attacks on indian students in australia, and good to see that amitabh bachchan has turned down an honorary degree in protest. a lot of the media (and particularly talkback) in australia has a hand in creating a very negative attitude in that country, and sometimes i think they should be tried alongside the perpetrators. this kind of stuff doesn't happen in a vacuum.

i'm also really saddened at the death of dr tiller who was murdered because he carried out late-term abortions. regardless of what you think of his work, this man did not deserve to be gunned down in his church. and he was providing life-saving services, as late term abortions are only performed when the mother's life is at risk or the baby is so severely deformed that there is little chance of them surviving for long. there had been no killing of persons providing abortion services during the bush regime at all, but were several during the clinton term. this killing appears to be more than what it seems - it's just as much a statement of outrage that the democrats are now in power.

and as usual, the media have been avoiding the "T" word. this was nothing more than a calculated act of terrorism, an act intended to cause fear to many more people than the intended target.

in any case, i'm going to hunker down & have an early night in my warm bed and hope this cold goes away really fast.