Friday, 28 November 2008

contemplating God

another 24 hours gone, and things have not yet settled down in bombay. in the meantime, the analysis is well underway. there was a really good discussion on radio nz's the panel this afternoon, and dr sapna on the same programme yesterday is also worth listening to.

an interesting thread at sepia mutiny, with some good links. and the comments deploring the labelling of this tragedy as "india's 9/11" are spot on.

all of our family and friends are thus far safe. the danger will arise after the situation is over and the backlash begins. as always, the violence is a cycle in india. which is why it is disappointing but predictable that some blogs are listing all the bomb attacks without the contextual violence in which they occurred. ie the 1993 bomb blasts in bombay occured in the context of the preceding riots and extreme violence relating to the demolition of the babri mosque. attacks in 2003 happened in the context of extreme and brutal violence in gujurat in 2002. none of it can be understood without looking at the rise of extreimist groups and right-wing political parties in india using hate-filled rhetoric.

but of course, none of that analysis will bring back the lives lost, nor end the suffering and pain of this particular incident.

i've got an extremely busy weekend coming up. so much for relaxing after the election. tomorrow is a garage sale to raise funds for shama. then on sunday, we'll have a strategic planning session. in the afternoon, the theosophical society are having a seminar to celebrate their 100th anniversary. i'll be on a couple of panel discussions, where i get to discuss esoteric questions like:

1. Is a set of beliefs essential to Faith?
2. What is your personal concept of God or the Absolute, and how did you come to it?
3. Does your concept differ from that of the religion closest to you?
4. Can these be modified without threatening your identity?
5. Is the Divine within us or is it “out there”?
6. Does evil exist, or is it just the failure of the good?
7. How can you co-operate with people of equally strongly held, but different, beliefs?
8. Should faith communities help to change the widespread belief in
the value of individualism (or selfishness), economic progress, human dominance over the World, fundamentalism (whether religious or scientific)? How?

it should be interesting, at any rate. i suspect i will be spending a lot of tomorrow afternoon in deep contemplation...

Thursday, 27 November 2008

a terrible night

i was going to post about other things tonight, but the attacks in bombay have driven everything else out of my mind. i don't really have any meaningful words to say about all this.

i have friends who live around the corner from the taj, and relatives in various other parts of the city. i'm hoping they're all safe. and feeling very sad for those who have lost loved ones or who are otherwise suffering because of these attacks.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

vested interests

a friend sent me this link to obama's scrapbook, which is actually quite a nice background with old photographs. something to look through at leisure on a lazy sunday afternoon.

here's a story about a last minute smear against kate sutton in the epsom electorate. i have to say that i was totally shocked by the nasty email i received from mr keesing on friday 7 november. it was sent to all labour candidates, and was absolutely appalling. i certainly don't intend to publish the contents here. but i'd have to say that of all candidates, kate has had the most difficult time in this campaign, when it comes to personal attacks. i definitely put it down to having the ACT party as the opposition. given how awful they are in the blogoshpere, it's not surprising that a candidate standing against their leader would face the worst kind of crap.

i seriously hope that charges will be laid, and i also hope that this won't put kate off from being a candidate in 2011. she's a wonderfully strong person who will definitely be an asset in our parliament.

it turns out that the standards predictions of current journalists taking jobs in the new national administration have turned out to be correct. here's the prediction:

It works like this: gallery journos need access, that means they have to get the new leader and his ministers to trust them, and that means no critical articles. To protect their ability to gain information for writing stories, the media have to only write nice stories. The new government has the power to shut them out, so they’ve got to protect their own arses. The new leaders are also building relationships. Flush with victory they are in an open, welcoming mood and with the media being so nice to them, they are minded to be even more open and friendly toward them. When you’re getting to be friends with people, and when your job prospects depend on good relations with them, it’s easy to have a honeymoon.

It’s not until one of the half-dozen people who essentially control our political discourse starts writing critical articles and others follow them that the honeymoon ends. That never really happened to Key during his time in opposition. Sure the political editors all got in their pro forma critical pieces but all were afraid of getting offside with someone they were certain would soon be PM. Moreover, some of them have a career change to consider. Watch over the next few weeks for at least one, possibly more, of the top political journos to join Key’s office.

and here we go:

The change of government has resulted in an exodus of press secretaries and staff from Labour's ministerial offices and a rash of new appointments under National.

Among them are New Zealand Herald political reporter Paula Oliver, who was confirmed yesterday as joining Prime Minister John Key's office.

Mr Key's chief press secretary is another former Herald staffer, Kevin Taylor. Former TV3 political reporter Stephen Parker is also being lined up for a job as Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee's press secretary.

which leads one to wonder whether these people failed to provide the critical reporting and analysis that was required during the campaign, in order to improve their personal post-election earnings. not a good state of affairs for our democracy, any way you look at it.

and the final excerpt from deborah mackenzie's speech is now up at the hand mirror.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

"changing" women won't solve the problem

i've put up the second of three excerpts from deborah's mackenzie's speech at the hand mirror.

i also found this post at shakesville regarding domestic violence in the US military really sad, but compulsory reading.

white ribbon day is an initiative that's supposed to be "a symbol of men's opposition to men's violence against women". which is why i tend not to wear one, seeing as i'm not a man. but it seems to be largely organised by women in nz, and mostly it's women who are wearing the ribbon, which seems rather to defeat the purpose. so it was nice to see the police being active this year in promoting the day.

Monday, 24 November 2008

knowing is not enough

i've posted at the hand mirror tonight, an excerpt from the speech by deborah mackenzie, as promised yesterday.

i found this press release regarding the "failure of the christian right" vote interesting reading, especially these bits:

My own view is that the elections in USA and NZ shows the death of the white, evangelical voter which have traditionally lined up on anti-abortion, pro-‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ and “global warming is bunkum” issues. People want a sense of hope not gloom as the message of Jesus to all, was one of hope; fitting the issues within the context of practical solutions rather than the simply “correct”.

Abortion needs to be lowered by persuasion and incentives and proper counseling that show the true impact on the mother and father of termination. Global warming is another issue but trying to get a better emission trading system that does not stifle economic activity must be balanced against trying to appeal to the NZ Pacific Island vote when many have experiences of rising sea levels...

With regard to the anti-smacking debate, the emphasis should have been on smacking as a last resort, the real issue being parental inability to control... There are lots of measures in the cupboard to influence children along the right lines.

i wonder how influential this person is within his party and his community, and how representative his views might be. but it seems to be a roundabout concession that strongly conservative policies don't necessarily fit well into the christian philosophy.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

mindless vandalism

in case you missed it, i posted at the hand mirror on friday morning. i was in auckland on friday night and saturday. saturday morning was quite interesting, at the pacific women's watch annual conference. there were some excellent speakers, including the ever-wonderful rosslyn noonan (chief human rights commissioner), deborah mckenzie (preventing violence in the home), judi clements (CE, mental health foundation) and ruth thomas (communications lecturer, uni of auckland).

all of these women made some wonderful points, and i hope to get copies of their speeches over the next week so that i can highlight some of the main points. i'll be posting these over at the hand mirror.

in the meantime, i've been having a terrible time with my letterbox. some moron has devoted their life to it's continual destruction, with what purpose i'm not sure. it's a wooden letterbox in the shape of a little house, and it has been pulled apart in various ways, and taken off the base. the first attack was in the midst of the campaign. but the latest spate started a few days after the election. within 2 days of my getting it functional, the vandal strikes again.

it's not just annoying, but pretty frustrating. because no-one else of my neighbours is currently having this problem, it does seem to be pretty personal. i've reported it once to the police, not really knowing why i bothered (in fact, i even felt guilty about wasting police time) except that i wanted to have it on record in case something worse happens. not that i expect it will. this person's aggro seems to stop at the letterbox; it's destruction seems to appease whatever demon is tormenting his spirit (yes, i'm pretty sure it'll be a "he").

so in the meantime, i'm looking for a bricklayer in order to build a more indestructible letterbox, just to get some peace. sigh.

Thursday, 20 November 2008


yes, i did manage to get a decent amount of sleep last night, thanx for asking! and today woke up to one mr al-zawahiri of la-qaeda fame making some stupid comments about mr obama. i haven't actually read the comments, really can't be bothered because i have yet to hear anything sane and sensible coming from that particular direction.

i suppose i should say, as CAIR does, that mr al-zawarihi does not speak for muslims, that i condemn whatever it is he has said, and renounce terrorism in all its forms no matter what the justification. except that i would hope by now that people who regularly visit here would take that as a given. i just feel that i shouldn't have to say it because people who know me would know that these are my deeply ingrained views.

i find that i get more worked up though about the widespread reporting of this stuff. there are so many crackpot groups out there saying all kinds of stupid things. is another stupid statement from al-qaeda really news. and even if it is, why does the media worldwide want to play into the hands of these people by spreading the message much further and wider than it otherwise would have reached?

the problem being that when reasonable people speak words of peace and reconciliation, it doesn't often get reported in quite the same way. the crackpots get a greater share of public space than the rest of us. which means they get to have more influence. i recall a conversation with the kuwaiti ambassador some years ago, when he talked about exactly this problem. he said (and i paraphrase) "if one of the ministers gives a statement, it's buried in the middle of the paper and given a couple of paragraphs, but every word of al-zarqawi (now deceased) is faithfully transmitted by media all around the world." he was essentially trying to point out how difficult it was to counter the hate-mongers.

on the other hand, i think of the "obsession" dvd which i have mentioned several times. one of the main problems i had with the whole issue (aside from the widespread distribution of a hate-filled message) was the fact that the media had not reported what was happening, not in US and definitely not in nz. nor had there been the widespread condemnation of this kind of thing that there should have been.

let me be clear, i don't want the contents of the "obsession" dvd to be played widely in the media just as i don't think the al-zawahiri comments need to be. but people do need to know that it has happened and about the impacts it has had on ordinary people trying to go about their lawful business and practice their religion in peace. and it definitely needs to be condemned.

and yes, i see the inherent contradiction in my two positions, so let me state clearly that mr al-zawarihi does not speak for muslims, that i condemn whatever it is he has said, and that i renounce terrorism in all its forms no matter what the justification.

great to see the labour shadow cabinet announced today, and its a solid looking team. one funny thing though. i see that chris keeps ethnic affairs, but there are three associate ethnic affairs positions - i'd say three too many for such a small area of government. i expect that the portfolio will move to one of the ethnic MPs prior to the next election, and it will be interesting to see who ends up with it. and i wouldn't have picked pete hodgson for immigration, but there you go. i wonder what's going to happen with the immigration bill, which is still in committee and which needs some drastic changes. i don't see a champion for those changes within the current government though. in fact, given some of the statments ms turia has made in recent times, i would hate to have her influencing the bill in any way.

and finally, i'm starting to think more favourably towards price controls after hearing excuses from fonterra about why they can't drop the price of milk locally, even though the international price for milk powder has dropped majorly. how is it that there are always excuses for not bringing the price down? despite all the PR statements, i suspect the real reason we'll continue to pay high prices domestically is because fonterra will make us pay for the san-lu disaster. we'll have to pay a higher price because they stuffed up in not knowing the market, in not having adequate controls, in not assessing the risks properly. and i really don't see why we should. the losses should fall where the responsibility lies ie with the company and it's management.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

a sleepless night

i couldn't sleep last night. mostly, i think i was feeling disturbed having read sapna's blog after posting here. i hate reading about the activities of right-wing groups in india, partly because of my own identity, partly because of the disturbing stories i've heard from friends and family, and partly because of my own experiences.

of the latter, let me say that nothing untoward has ever happened to me nor have i seen first hand any acts of violence when visiting india. it's more the atmosphere and the fear of living in a place when violence is happening relatively close by. i was in aligarh (northern india) on 6 december 1992, the day the babri mosque was demolished. it wasn't so much the demolition of the mosque but the random violence afterwards and the fear that spread throughout the state and through most of the country that was most disturbing.

i remember living in total curfew which lasted at least 2 weeks, and having to travel to delhi during that period. we had to get permission from the district police commander, and have an escort to take us to the railway station. the tension was palpable, almost shimmering in the air.

i remember my first trip to india back in 1978. again, having to live in aligarh under curfew for a month. i don't think people here can begin to imagine what it's like not being allowed out of your house at all. i remember hearing the riots in the neighbourhood one night, and gunshots as well. i remember us cowering in the house, hoping desperately that the rioters would pass us by.

but even more than the fear of violence is the helplessness. the knowledge that there is really nothing you can do to fight back. even speaking out can lead to potentially dangerous consequences, if not for yourself then for your family members who have to live in that atmosphere long after you've boarded the plane for nz. so you learn to swallow your anger, and keep it inside. to vent it only in the company of family and close friends. there really is nothing more soul-destroying than powerlessness.

i face bigotry here in nz. i face it often. but it's not often that i feel powerless. if it's verbal abuse, i usually return that with interest. if it's something more insidious, i know there's the human rights commission and all sorts of other support to help me get justice. i can speak about my experiences in any open forum or through a letter to the editor, without worrying about what will happen to me. in this country, i have a voice. without that voice, i know i would just shrivel up and die inside.

so how do they live, those minorities who live constantly in fear and constantly feeling powerless? how do they get up every morning and carry on their daily struggle, knowing that the deck is heavily stacked against them and there is no way out? what an amazing amount of courage it must take.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

i always read your blog...

decided to have a night off last night, cos denzel washington was on tv, and i hate to miss a denzel washington movie! ok, i'm allowed a few idiosyncrasies.

in the meantime, i've been thinking about blogging. as you've probably seen, chris trotter is back blogging on his own moderated site (hat tip: the standard). i hope things will be better for him there, as i don't think he got off to a particularly good start at his previous place. one of his mistakes was to annoy many left-wing bloggers (no right turn, the greens, us at the hand mirror) so that those of us who would have been his natural allies in the comments section pretty much stayed away. which left a pretty nasty and distinctly right-wing bias to the comments.

moderation will help in that regard, as he can now directly control the tone of the comments. that's something i'm still not ready to do away with, even though i know it puts people off commenting. i guess it's because my time on the internet is limited, so i'm not able to immediately respond to any nastiness that might come my way. it's so much easier at the hand mirror, where there are a group of us who can keep an eye on things. mind you, can't say i've refused to publish any comments (except for the viagra spam i got as a result of a post titled "men's health". sheesh.)

but what had me thinking even more about blogging in general was the meltdown that melissa mcewan had over at shakesville. hardly surprising, when you look at the amount of time and effort it takes for her to keep that site running. which makes my own attempts look rather weak in comparison! but then, what an impact her work has had on so many people around the world. i'm so glad she's back, and i hope things work out over the next little while for her and the shakesville team.

and i guess that's what blogging is about. trying to change the way people view the world, with the force of our writing. there are some days when i feel like blogging is a chore, but those are very few. mostly i love to write, and i still hope one day to have the time to write the novel sitting inside my head and waiting to get out. (aaah, paid to write, how nice would that be!)

i've figured out, given the way people react when i say it to them and the way i react when someone says it to me, that saying the words "i always read your blog" are about the nicest compliment you can give a person. in fact, it's pretty close to "i love you", because you're basically telling them that you love their written thoughts enough to come back and read them regularly.

on to other things. dr sapna has written an interesting piece about one of the new members of mr obama's team. i haven't had time to go through it and the related links yet, but i can see that it raises some important concerns.

mr key has announced his new cabinet, and it's more than a little scary. the worst bits are mr mccully as our foreign minister, and wayne mapp in charge of defence. let's just hope that mr obama is much more successful at peaceful international relations than his predecessor, because i hate the thought of these 2 making any decisions about us joining in a foreign war.

the waikato times makes the point that the top 4 members of cabinet have all the business-related portfolios, so you can see what's most important to the incoming government. social development doesn't chime in until number 16, and has gone to a newcomer with no previous experience in holding a ministerial position. in fact, she's only had 3 years in parliament. now that is really scary.

the women of colour feature, but with pretty insignificant portfolios. ms te heuheu gets courts, which is meaty, but PI affairs and arms control not much. ms wong gets ethnic affairs and women's affairs.

rod oram pointed out this morning how mr key has already gone back on his election promise to implement the ETS, and can't see how new legislation can possibly be ready by sept 2009, as is being claimed currently. read here for the consequences of private sector consultants reviewing the public sector, without public sector employees being allowed to have any input.

too depressing really. so i'm concentrating on what's shaping to be a great day on 10 december here in hamilton. looks like we'll have participation from some schools, the museum, amnesty, the united nations organisation, shama, artmakers, waikato interfaith council, waikato ethnic council, waikato migrant resource centre, the police, hamilton city council, and various other social service agencies. if you're from the waikato, or know anyone in the waikato, please send out our flyer (pdf) to your networks and encourage everyone you know to get involved at some point during the day.

Saturday, 15 November 2008


i've posted this morning at the hand mirror on issues of class and colour.

the mayor of invercagill, mr tim shadbolt, seems to continuing his move towards the right with this dicussion on radio nz this morning. he's now proposing elected sheriff's in nz, following the american model. without showing any actual need, nor any reason why this is a better system than the present one. the comments from len brown were great though, especially when he said he would be happy for south auckland to be in the position invercagill is, when it comes to crime.

at this rate, when the next election comes around, i expect mr shadbolt will be supporting the ACT party. and in 2014, he will no doubt be supporting the libertarianz. just goes to show that wisdom does not necessarily come with age.

and while i'm having a moan, i hate how various companies in the transport industry are now trying to justify keeping prices high even though the price of petrol has come down considerably over the last coming month. their behaviour is consistent with that of the banks as the OCR was dropping. somehow in the private sector, there is always an excuse to not drop prices. yet in the public sector, i recall a time when nz post had dropped the price of stamps, and even had a free post day when they were in profit. i know that the companies office has consistently been dropping rates for incorporation and various other services.

which is not to say that i support the public ownership of all industry. just that i hate how the "free" market fails to work for the benefit of the majority so often.

an just to end on a positive note, i'm loving november. the magenta rhododendrons outside my window never fail to cheer me up every morning. the roses are out as well, in their various shades of pink and yellow. walking down to the river (which is about 5 mins from my house) is a wonderful experience. the whole neighbourhood is in full bloom, lots of bright colours and natural beauty in every garden. it's a daily reminder of how lucky i am to be living in this country, in this city, and in this neighbourhood.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

justice will not be served

just like my friends at the hand mirror, i'm appalled that the nz law society has decided that clint rickards is a "fit and proper" person to be admitted to the bar. there are so many reasons why this is plain wrong, which I/S and julie have basically covered. but let's look at the reasons the law society have given for their decisions:

* The trials involved conduct that occurred over 20 years ago.
but his conduct during and after the trial was surely sufficient to cast significant doubt on his abilities.

* The applicant had since had a distinguished career in the Police
then why is he still not in the police force? why did he not go through a disciplinary hearing and clear his name, instead of pulling out at the last minute? the man left under a cloud, which can hardly be called "distinguished".

* The applicant was acquitted of the historic charges
despite being acquitted of rape, he had admitted to behaviour that is surely not becoming of a police officer using classified information to target teenagers who were already vulnerable because of coming to the attention of the police. besides which, see item 1.

* If the Law Society refuses a certificate of character, the applicant can apply to the High Court for admission and, in other cases, the Court has taken a "forward looking" approach.
so let the court make that decision if it has to. why should that stop the law society from taking a principled approach? this is surely the biggest cop-out (pun intended) that i have heard. it is not for the law society to pre-determine what the courts will do, so this should not be a factor in their considerations.

on another note, the ACT party and its leader are looking a little grim these days. it's a similar look to the one on the face of jeannette fitzsimmons shortly after the 2005 election, when she realised that the green party would not be in a coalition government. ACT, while promising to support the national party during the campaign, are finding that the national party aren't much interested in supporting them.

this is the basic dillema of small parties to the left or right of the major parties. because it's inconceivable that they will go with a party on the other side, they end up having little bargaining power. i guess ACT would have had more bargaining power if they had a couple more MPs and the maori party had a couple less.

personally, i'm happy if ACT has very little say in the new government because i can't think of one single policy of theirs that i support. even so, there will be an arrangement of sorts and it seems that heather roy is going to be the next minister of consumer affairs. which means that there will be some policies of the ACT party that will be put forward. not even the weakest deal comes without any cost.

back to the point though: both ACT and the greens will need to be rethinking their strategy going into the next election. because when the major parties have a choice in the centre, experience shows that's the party they will go for.

finally, here's a link with further information about the "obsession" dvd that was distributed in the US (hat tip: CAIR). it looks like the same group is planning another video titled "the third jihad". i find it really hard to understand what they hope to achieve from this campaign, other than hatred of all muslims. how does that make the world a better place?

and yes, the usual disclaimer applies: i don't intend to denigrate any particular religious group; i know that hate material is produced by extremist groups run by muslims which i similarly denounce.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

onwards and upwards

i still remember the day i first met hon phil goff. it was 27 october 2001, and i was at an all day symposium organised at the university of waikato. the symposium had been organised as a result of 9/11 bombings, and in response to a very left-wing forum that had been held a few weeks previously.

the whole day had been one of muslim-bashing, with one speaker after another criticising muslim states and presenting a wholly one sided view of the muslim world. this was the day i first heard (or indeed heard of) mr paul buchanan. i can assure you that he wasn't the reasoned person that he is today. on that day, he told us that the only reason america had been bombed was because they were too nice. the soviet union used extreme torture techniques, and no-one would have dared to bomb them. but the americans were weighted down by all these human rights concerns internally, which stopped them being as brutal as they should have been. had the CIA been as brutal, america would have been spared. i kid you not, he carried on in that vein for a good 40 minutes.

we also had to hear from hon max bradford (the ex-national minister that left us with the mess the electricity industry is in now) and the first secretary from the american embassy. there were various other speakers, and all in a similar vein. i won't go into more of the nastiness, there isn't much point. let's just say that it was a thoroughly depressing and difficult day.

then, around 2.30pm in the afternoon, our newly appointed foreign minister entered the room, and he was like an oasis in the desert. there was so much common sense and balance, such a lack of hatred and bigotry. when someone questioned him about the palestinian situation, he got up and said there would be no hope for peace in that region until the building of illegal settlements stopped completely.

i was already a fan of mr goff before that day, mainly because he had had the courage to personally visit yasser arafat, as our foreign minister, even though he was put under severe pressure by ariel sharon. it showed he was a man of courage and conviction, someone who was able to see both sides of an issue and who had a strong sense of fairness and social justice.

nothing i've seen him do since that day has changed my opinion of him. in fact, another memory i cherish is a half-hour i spent talking to him one morning, about 2 years ago. it was such an interesting conversation, and no, i won't be telling you about anything that was said. but the impression i got was of someone with strong principles, who was very confident and focused.

i'm thrilled that he's become the leader of the labour party. if he's a little to the right, so be it. his "right" is very much to the left of the national party, and that's good enough for me.

hon annette king i only met this year. but i've been a fan of hers too, for a long time. i most admire her work as the minister of health, taking on the medical establishment in order to implement the primary health care strategy. making doctors visits and prescriptions affordable for all nz'ers is one of the 5th labour government's best and most effective policies. as minister of police and minister of justice, she has been doing a great job, particularly when it comes to issues of concern for women. and watching her in the house, as i have for the past couple of years, no-one can doubt her strength and abilities. i've yet to see anyone get the better of her.

this is supposedly labour's "tired" and "uninspiring" team. well, all i have to say to that is bollocks. if you're not inspired by these two, it's because you don't know much about them and what they have achieved for this country. in every portfolio either of them have held, there have been significant and lasting gains. i'm looking forward to helping them back into government in 2011.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

interfaith activities in nz

i've got back from the school prizegiving late tonight, so not in the mood for writing much. funny how these functions remind me of my own final prizegiving, so many years ago. it probably helps that some of my old teachers have been teaching my daughter - pretty wierd actually. my old economics teacher taught her, as did my old history teacher. her principal used to be my form teacher, and the music teacher is still there. the deputy principal who started when i was in 4th form has only just retired this year.

but it was nice to see these young people full of hope, and a big future to look forward to. some of the kids had amazing achievements covering sports, music and academic fields. i figured out that they just don't bother sleeping, cos i just don't know how they find the time.

anyway, since it's too late to come up with anything very serious, i've cut and pasted an email i just sent in response to a request from a friend to list some interfaith initiatives in the country. so here they are:

1. the hamilton city council was refusing to provide specified cemetary space for a particular religious group (who wish to remain unidentified) who require their space to be blessed before a burial can take place. the waikato interfaith council wrote to the council on this issue. the council decide to do a full review of the cemetaries bylaw (which included full public consultation). the council made a submission, as well as each individual organisation making a submission. members met and had discussions with individual reigious groups, then there was a full group discussion which was well attended by council members. the combined efforts resulted in a change of position by the council, and a separate space has now been set aside. it was a wonderful example of the various faith communities working together to support a minority community. in particular, the support of some of the major christian denominations really helped the marginalised minority, which shows the importance of the majority group supporting rights for minorities.

2. the waikato museum had a "keeping faith" exhibition, which tied in with the human rights national statement on religious diversity. the exhibition selected families from different faith communities, and focused on how that family practised their faith, and the significance of faith in their lives. by having this focus on the individual and his/her family, the museum did not have to provide a definitive definition of, for example, catholicism or islam or any other. rather, they could focus on the religious practice as it was followed by that particular family. this saved a lot of arguments on tenets of faith which can differ between sects, and it also meant that the exhibition was more accessible, in that people were able to relate to individuals. the exhibition included interactive elements (eg matching the face to the religion) as well as displaying holy books and other items of significance. the museum also ran a series of seminars on religious diversity, to tie in with the exhibition.

3. the national statement of religious diversity is actually a wonderful achievement. the process of developing the statement involved representatives from at least 9 major faiths to develop the wording. the whole project was led by the race relations commissioner, joris de bres. once the statement had been drafted, it was widely circulated for public consultation. 42 group submissions and 56 individual submissions were received, which were collated and used to modify the draft statement. the revised draft was discussed at the fourth national interfaith forum in hamilton. the final stage of the process has been for various communities to ratify or adopt the statement. a very large number of organisations have done so, to date. i don't know how many or who - this information can be gained from the human rights commission. the main advantage of the statement has been to start a discussion on what religious diversity means, and how we can live alongside each other in a peaceful and respectful manner. i believe it has had a very positive impact.

4. the auckland interfaith council last year ran a very succesful "life series" set of presentations. they had (i think) four stages of life: birth, rites of passage, marriage and death. for each of these stages, representatives of major faith groups would talk about what their religion had to say on these subjects, and what particular rites and rituals were followed. it was a highly successful and informative series.

5. on an international scale, nz has been involved with regional interfaith dialogue, with our neighbouring countries. this lead to representatives attending meetings in yogyakarta, cebu and waitangi. we have also been involved in the alliance of civilisations initiative, which is run by the united nations. so we have been actively trying to engage with our neighbours to ensure positive relationships between faith communities. hopefully you can find more on these initiatives on the internet as well.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

winners & losers

ok, i'm ready to give up now (on the 2008 campaign i mean, it truly is over). i was totally exhausted yesterday after a full day of door-knocking, some phone canvassing and a quick interview on community radio. at night, i was with the ham east team, didn't dare go over to the west as it was a very sad night for them.

i feel so bad for martin gallagher, but even more for his wife. she has been one of the true heroes of this campaign. a mother of four, she has put her life on hold for the last 6 months and done very long hours. if anyone deserved a win, it was this couple. martin is a great electorate MP and i don't think the people of ham west have realised what they've lost. they will though.

my thoughts also go out to the electorate agents who have just lost their jobs. maxine and janine were lovely, hard-working, strong women and i wish them all the best for the future.

i'm also really sad about mark and carol burton who were on a hiding to nothing, once the boundary changes came in for the taupo electorate. mark got a lot of flak in his role as minister of justice, but one of the things he took care of was the setting up of the task forces for action on domestic violence and sexual violence. again, i wish them and their team all the best.

we all knew it was going to be a tough campaign, and winning a fourth term would be extremely difficult. i'm horrified at the result, because national and ACT can now pass all kinds of legislation privatising our prisons, rolling back the compulsory tea breaks and other workplace legislation, introducing competition to ACC thereby basically weakening the whole system. this country is not going to look like a very nice place in 3 years time, even if this new government only legislates those policies it campaigned on.

nonetheless, there's nothing we can do about it but sit and watch, and keep trying to raise issues that continuously get ignored by the mainstream media. tonight tv1 did a little piece about helen clark, and it was the most petty, meanspirited bit of reporting i've seen. the only 2 people they had commenting were the ex PM she rolled (and thank goodness she did) mike moore, and the last national party leader she defeated (and thank goodness she did) dr don brash. their comments were nasty and negative, which was to be expected, but there was nothing at all to balance it out. it's pretty much consistent with the type of media coverage we've had over the past few years. i wonder when they'll get over it.

having said that, there are some MPs that i'm not sorry to see leave. the chief of these is the immigrant-hating immigrant, peter brown. can't say i'm sorry the rt hon winston peters is gone, although sad about the manner of his leaving. also sorry that the people behind the sustained campaign to smear him have come out the winners. yes, i know he made things worse through his own behaviour, but the campaign against him was very well organised and i doubt he could have come through it in any kind of positive fashion. i will, however, really miss doug woolerton who was a salt-of-the-earth type person who made a great contribution.

i certainly won't miss gordon copeland and the kiwi party. surprising that their petition with 390,000 signatures didn't get them more votes. also won't miss taito philip field, nor family first.

best news of the night was seeing grant robertson win wellington central. a well-deserved victory. also nice to see hon nanaia mahuta keep hauraki-waikato, and brendan burns keep christchurch central. and charles chauvel, what a great challeng to hon peter dunne. in 2011, i'm sure that seat will be yours.

it's the end of the clark and cullen era, an era that brought us strong primary health care, working for families, savings for the future through the cullen fund and kiwisaver and so much more. i was as shocked as everyone else to hear miss clark resign last night, but it's the best timing. it gives the party the opportunity to regroup and rebuild quickly. i'm definitely a fan of phil goff and would be quite happy to see him take the leadership. julie would like to see hon maryan street as deputy, but i'd prefer hon annette king who is a formidable performer.

as for myself, i'm glad it's over and glad to have my life back. i'm going to relax for a while and spend some well-earned time with my kids. as to my future in politics, i'll take some time to think about that. in the meantime, there are the various community organisations i'm involved with to keep me busy. i'll be working on the local celebration of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the human rights declaration on 10 december, there's the fifth national interfaith forum coming up in feb next year, and the launch of the asia nz foundation's book on asian muslims in nz. i've got a garage sale and some strategic planning to do for shama by the end of the month, and there's the usual round of end-of-year functions. there's the root canal to be finished off tomorrow (aagh). and the best news i've had in the last week is that my older daughter will be recieving a special award at the school's prize-giving. we don't know what it's for, but there will be one very proud mummy sitting in the audience, cheering for my little girl who has grown up so fast.

life just keeps going on...

Friday, 7 November 2008

don't give up

it's been a long day, but a very positive one. despite all the polls that were designed and timed to give the left campaign a good hard kick in the guts, the response from voters has been great. we were on the bridges in the morning and at hometime, we were in the biggest shopping mall in ham east all afternoon, and we drove a labour party cavalcade through town. the response had us all buzzing. i can't say if we'll win the electorate, but i just can't see the landslide that the polls of the last 24 hours are giving us.

i remember the 2005 campaign, where we were in a similar situation. the polls had us losing, people were feeling downheartened, but my own sense at the time was that we would pull through. of course, this time around i don't expect labour to get more votes than national. but i'm still quite hopeful that the left-wing parties will pull through. it's definitely not over til it's over.

neither do i think that we will know the answer tomorrow night. a lot of people have voted early, and special votes are very likely to have an impact on the results. generally, special votes have favoured the left.

the best thing you can do, as a left-wing voter, is to please get out and vote. and get others out to vote. if you have any spare time tomorrow, please head over to campaign headquarters in your electorate, and help get our voters out to the polls. there is a whole heap of work to be done, and i expect to be as exhausted tomorrow as i am today.

some light reading, if you're still trying to make up your mind, as russell brown reminds us what this government has achieved in it's nine-year term. and the standard reminds us what a national/ACT government will mean. your vote counts. please help us to prove the polls wrong.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

some great policy

more policies are coming up on the labour party website. a couple that i'm particularly interested in are the immigration policy and the family violence policy.

in terms of immigration, i'm really pleased with the immigration advocacy policy. i think it's long overdue. most electorate offices of MPs spend a majority of time on immigration work, which means the government is already paying for it. i'd much rather we had specialist advocacy service, which would mean properly trained staff. it would actually save the nz immigration service time, because staff would ensure that all applications and related documents were filed correctly.

one of the worst problems with NZIS at the moment is the contradictory advice you get if you ask them a question on detail. talk to two different staff members, and you'll get to completely different answers to the same question. they rarely give out anything in writing, so you're unable to challenge them. it's really frustrating. having an adequate advocacy service that provides the right answers and guidance to potential migrants will smooth the process and make settlement much easier.

another issue is that there is new legislation for oversight of immigration consultants, which is an attempt to clean up that particular industry. however, for the new system to work, potential migrants must have the language skills and the money to make a complaint. having the advisory service will assist those migrants who have just paid all available cash to a shonky consultant, and aren't otherwise in a position to make a complaint.

from the family violence policy, i'm particularly interested in this bit:

Labour will fund an available and appropriate forensic evidential support service for victims of rape (for example the Sexual Assault Referral Centre model in the United Kingdom or Australia).

The aim of this initiative is to ensure that any evidence gathered by the support service can be stored and the evidence and reports from the service be admissible as evidence in any subsequent criminal or civil proceedings.

Not all victims of violence wish to make a complaint to the police immediately. Having Sexual Assault Referral Centres in place would ensure all victims of violence could easily access a service that can document any injuries and gather forensic evidence to support a prosecution in the future should the victim choose to make a complaint. This allows the evidence to be gathered outside of a police investigation but preserves the integrity of the evidence should it be required later.

this is a great proposal, and will definitely need a labour-led government to implement. because it's just the kind of area of expenditure that is encaptured by the term "bloated bureaucracy" used so often by the national party.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

a new president

wow. what an amazing day. america has elected its first black president, and it feels like the whole world is rejoicing.

i ended up driving to auckland to attend the event at the american consulate. i left at 3pm, when the result was uncertain. by 4 o'clock, it was almost decided but too late to turn back. i'm glad i went though. it was an excellent place to watch senator mccain's concession speech and president-elect obama's speech.

there were plenty of people at the event, many were supporting obama. madame shipley turned up. and judith tizard sailed in, in that rather regal manner that she has. there was also david skilling from that right-wing think-tank. i didn't quite have the courage to wear my labour party rosette, which was a good thing because one woman told me she wouldn't have talked to me had i worn it. the one thing you can say about national party supporters is that they're consistent!

i met the consul-general of canada. they've just had their elections, and she was surprised at how little coverage it had generated. i guess that the leadership of canada just doesn't have the same impact on global events that the american leadership does. i also talked to a couple of staff members from the irish consulate. i found it interesting that when their PM stepped down last year, the whole country voted on who would be the next PM.

but i honestly just couldn't wipe the smile off my face all evening. and the speech by mr obama was great. i was sitting with an american woman who works at auckland uni, both of us obama supporters. we both had tears in our eyes as we watched the speech. i could feel the weight of history, of a very special moment.

mr mccain spoke really well too. in fact, most of us were in agreement that it was the best speech of his campaign. if we could have seen more of that side of him during the campaign, there might have been a different result.

one wierd thing i noticed at the consulate was that, for a long time, i was the only coloured person there. once mr obama's speech was over, i saw another person of indian origin, and that was it - out of at least 70 people watching a person of colour become president.

i got home to see the end of the leaders' debate on tv1. i was surprised at how tired mr key was looking. and it was so nice that they each got the chance to be heard without the constant talking over each other. a much better job by mark sainsbury. under those conditions, it seemed so clear that the PM is superior to mr key.

if mr key thinks that mr obama's victory is good news for him, he must be dreaming. the only parallel he can draw is that americans voted for a change so nz'ers will too. does he really think that no-one will actually think about what kind of change americans have voted for? as gordon campbell reported:

ABC News asked a sample of voters earning $200,000 or more whether they would vote for someone who had pledged to raise their taxes. Answer, yes they would - by a margin of 53 - 45 %.

america has shifted firmly to the left, away from right-wing policies and away from everything that mr key stands for. if he wants to pull out these kinds of parallels, then i have one too. we could say americans have pulled off an historic result and if nz'ers vote in miss clark for a fourth term, then we will have pulled off an historic result.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

half as good?

another good day of campaigning. we're getting a lot of positive responses on the bridges, with people tooting and waving in support. i only had a couple of negative responses, which is quite an improvement on the 2005 campaign.

also had a meeting this afternoon for planning hamilton's celebration of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the universal declaration of human rights (whew, i wish there was a short way of saying that!). it going to be a great programme, starting with the official opening of the waikato museum's "walk this way" exhibition. then we'll have a march to garden place, where there will be a couple of hours of speeches and musical performances. there will be stalls and interactive activities. then in the evening will be a function for those who couldn't make it during the day, discussing various aspects of human rights such as supporting refugees, free speech, domestic violence and more.

the best thing is the range of organisations that are buying in to this event. it's going to be an opportunity for all of us to realise just how lucky we are.

i recorded the leaders' debate and watched it late last night. and have read various commentary during the day. it still totally pisses me off that the standard used to judge performances is so disparate. isn't there a saying that women have to perform twice as well as men to be considered half as good? cos that's definitely what seems to be happening here. even after the second debate, apparently mr key has done well because he didn't slip up. but the PM has not done well because she wasn't sparklingly brilliant. when, oh when, does this kind of nonsense stop? it was clear to pretty much everyone who voiced an opinion that she outperformed mr key, but they're still calling it a draw. go figure.

i've been invited to the US consulate tomorrow to watch the results of the election come in. i've had difficulty all week in making up my mind: should i go? or should i stay back here and campaign? i can't imagine there would be too many labour supporters at that gig, but who knows? and i'm sure the atmosphere will be great. i'll decide tomorrow.

and once again, the excellent tapu misa says what i was trying to say yesterday, only much more eloquently. she must have written her piece well before the ex-rugby players were out with mr key, yet it's so appropriate:

A friend tells me Pacific Islanders give their vote away too cheaply, but when you compare the Pacific policies of National (one page) and Labour's, there's no contest...

What do Pacific voters want? What everybody wants.

Morality matters, but I can't understand why beating children and same-sex marriage matter more than secure jobs, a living wage, good schools, quality pre-schools, free healthcare, decent and affordable accommodation, an adequate safety net when things fall apart, and safer neighbourhoods - where liquor outlets, pokies, loan sharks and "P"-peddlers aren't permitted to prey on vulnerable communities.

A recent study by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good in the United States has found that providing social and economic benefits to poor women does far more to reduce abortion than endless moralising.

Which suggests that economic policies that help the neediest rather than the asset-rich middle class may be a more effective path to a more moral and stable society.

Has the Labour-led Government been good for the Pacific Island communities? It all depends on whether you're the glass-half-full or the glass-half-empty voter.

Labour's delivered cheaper doctor's visits, income-related rents, fewer jobless and a rise in the minimum wage. But much more could and should be done for the poorest families of all ethnicities. The glass is never full.

finally, speaking of the american election, it was pretty sad to hear that senator obama's grandmother died today. what an awful thing for him. but this comment at shakesville really brought tears to my eyes:

If it comforts you, imagine that she walked him to the doorway that is right now, and tomorrow, he walks through it with all of us.

i can't say that i'm a big fan of mr obama (in case you hadn't guessed!). i'd rather have seen hillary clinton win the nomination. of course, i totally support him over mccain. but this is just a horrible thing to happen to anyone.

Monday, 3 November 2008

wilfully blind

we have a tradition in hamilton every campaign of getting out onto the bridges with lots of people and signs. there are 5 main bridges in the city to get people across the river, and we target a bridge each morning with a team of enthusiastic supporters. the response this morning was great, with lots of toots of support.

tonight was a candidates meeting organised by NCW. this is an area where labour has made significant gains, from paid parental leave, flexible working hours, breastfeeding breaks at work, interest-free student loans (which affected women more, because they were more likely to take breaks from working but would still have interest being charged), the task forces on sexual violence and domestic violence, and so much more.

this link was sent by a friend this morning, and is well worth a read. and i have to agree with the standard that john key visiting the progressive enterprises factory with mr jones and mr tuigamala was an act of extreme hypocrisy. it's hypocritical for two main reasons.

first, the national party has consistently opposed any measures that support lower paid workers. they have voted against raises in the minimum wage, the employment relations bill which strengthened collective bargaining, compulsory tea breaks, flexible working hours, cheaper doctors visits etc etc etc. national's tax cut package makes no difference (and in some cases worsens the position) of those 70% of kiwis who earn the average wage or below. should national get in to government, these workers will be considerably worse off.

second, the main issues raised by mr jones were conscience issues around prostitution law reform and civil unions. dr brash voted in favour of prostitution law reform, as did lockwood smith, rodney hide, heather roy, deborah coddington, and maurice williamson. mr key voted in favour of civil unions for the first and second reading of that bill, but changed his vote on the third reading as a result of the national party securing significant funding via an anonymous third party campaign from the exclusive brethren. he and all national MPs voted in favour of the repeal of s59. he has clearly stated that he has no plans to repeal any of these bills. he opposes moves to restrict the number of liquor outlets in the suburbs. he voted against the bill put forward by gordon copeland that would have banned same-sex marriages. he supports the current laws on abortion. he supported the bill on voluntary euthanasia. on what basis are these two rugby players siding with mr key when it comes to these "moral" issues? it surely can't be on the basis of facts and nor on mr key's voting record. it can't be for the attention, they've had plenty of that in their lifetimes. it makes no sense whatsoever.

it's sad to see people voting against their own self-interests, but it happens way too often. i know that labour has strong pasifika candidates, and i'm sure they will be getting the message out there about not only the above industrial relations and conscience issues, but all of labour's other policies from working for families to investments in health and education which have hugely benefitted this community.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

shake it!

i've just got back from an arab wedding. what an experience! i tell you what, those arabs really know how to party. it was a segregated affair, with the men in a totally separate room. this meant that the headscarves and abayas came off, and underneath were the hottest and most gorgeous gowns you could imagine. and the dancing was pretty hot too!

it's such an amazing contrast. this was the first time i'd seen many of these women without their full islamic clothing. those who i thought were pretty chaste and demure ended up being the best dancers of the lot. if you didn't know it, all (yes, i mean ALL) arab women know how to belly-dance. whether they are from egypt, syria, lebanon, jordan, the emirates or anywhere else in the middle east. even iranian women are great dancers. age is totally not a barrier, with young and old all having a great time.

and i think it only works so well because of the total absence of males. it means that all the women can relax and not be self-conscious. and the best thing is that these women are all having a wonderful time with having had a drop of alcohol or any other mind-altering substance.

helen clark has given some great interviews this morning. if you missed her on agenda, you can watch it here. she was also very good on marae and on eye-to-eye. and she's on prime tv as i write. in all her interviews, she has looked relaxed and confident, even though she's had a pretty tough grilling by all journalists thus far. i have to say the rt hon winston peters made mincemeat of one mr john roughan on agenda. it doesn't matter how many blows he gets, this man just doesn't give up fighting.

one more week to go, and it's going to be a very hectic one. one potential voter i came across today decided he didn't need to vote since labour was going to win anyway. needless to say, we did our best to persuade him otherwise. but it was nice to know that some are so confident!

oh, and here's a link to the rod oram piece i mentioned in my previous post.

radio appearances

just a quick post to say that i will be on community radio hamilton tomorrow morning, 8.40am. you can catch the interview via live streaming here. i'll also be on the women's voices programme on planet fm, this coming thursday. i'll let you know exact details as they come to hand. if the interviews are available as podcasts, i'll get those details out too.

here's an excellent piece by richard boock on national's policy to gut sports funding. there's also a good piece on economic management by rod oram, but not on-line yet. will put in a link if i find it, otherwise will put up the article.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

political suppression in the heartland

yesterday i went to ngaruawahia for a function to support hon nanaia mahuta and jacinda ardern, the labour candidate for the new waikato electorate. i had the chance to hear some young kiwi musicians, one a 6th former who performed his own songs accompanied by guitar and the other a group of 5 from the whairmarama youth complex who also had a couple of original songs. it was wonderful to see this talent from our young people and to see their confidence.

i tend to get sick of the focus on youth as a problem, when i see so many inspirational young people around me. wouldn't it be so nice if we could celebrate them more consistently and vocally, so that they can be raised in a society of loving of support rather than one that points fingers and looks down on them? in today's waikato times, there is a bunch of letters from kids at st andrews middle school, objecting to a previous correspondent who called all children "toe-rags". good on the kids for fighting back.

from there i went to a hallowe'en party at a hamilton west park. there were heaps of people there, and most noticeably, the crowd was mostly brown. lots of maori and pacific islanders, plenty of activities and people having fun. i pretty much agree with anna's views on halloween, in that it's a highly commercialised imported tradition that really doesn't add much to our society. on the other hand, i've never refused to give out sweets when kids come to my door, nor do i stop my kids from going out. i guess i just don't feel strongly enough about it to put my foot down, there being other much bigger battles that i want to save my energy for.

today, i went to a buddhist kathina ceremony, for a short while. it's always nice to get a flavour of different experiences, and watching the colourful monks and the devotion of the crowd was quite interesting. they were a really friendly and welcoming bunch too.

after that, it was back to some old style campaigning. there were still people to put on the roll, and still plenty of undecided voters. hamilton west is looking to be a very close campaign, but i definitely believe it's winnable. there was a fair chunk of labour support out there, and martin gallagher is a great local MP who works hard for his constituents.

an interesting piece appeared in the times today, which i can't find on the stuff website. it's about dairy owners in nelson who have found that business has dropped simply because they have a labour party hoarding out on the roof of their shop:

A Labour-voting dairy owner claims he's the target of a "blinkered and ridiculous" strike against a Labour billboard which graces the roof of his Nelson store.

Ruby Bay Store owner Kester Macfarlane claims National and ACT's "Rogernomic roosters" were those avoiding shopping at the dairy while the billboard featuring a smiling Helen Clark was on its roof.

"I bet your bottom dollar we (Labour supporters) are in a minority here in our Ruby Bay pocket."

Mr Macfarlane and his wife Carol Comie least the store to Neville Nisbett and his wife Ruth, and have decided to take the billboard down so the business would not lose trade.

so much for political freedom. apparently it's ok to punish people financially for their political affiliations. this kind of story is not isolated. i've been hearing of accounts from the campaign trail in some small towns, where people are genuinely afraid to declare they are labour supporters, for fear of repercussions. in a country that prides itself on values of freedom and democracy, this kind of thing is appalling.