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Monday, July 31, 2006

Mexican Marxists Taking Battle to the Streets

Mexico's Marxist led "Alliance for the Good of All", is not taking its recent razor thin electoral defeat lying down.

Alliance leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has accused the victorious National Action Party of massive fraud and is claiming to be the rightful president of Mexico.

He is calling on the left to take to the streets in a massive campaign of civil disobedience.

According to the latest Green Left Weekly

Mexicans went to the polls on July 2 to elect a new president. Officially, Felipe Calderon from the pro-business National Action Party won by 0.58%. However, it has become increasingly clear that the elections were stolen by Calderon with the help of the Federal Electoral Institute. Opponents of Calderon have responded with mass demonstrations in the country’s capital.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the opposition candidate from the Alliance For the Good of All coalition, which includes the Party of the Democratic Revolution, has claimed he won the vote. Obrador, who ran under the slogan “For the good of all, the poor first”, has called for a national campaign of civil disobedience. On July 9, within a week of the election, close to 1 million people protested at the central square in Mexico City condemning the fraud.

Obrador held another demonstration at the Zocalo (Mexico City’s central plaza) on July 16, which was attended by hundreds of thousands protesting the vote-rigging.

Obrador has announced that a civil coalition will plan a campaign against the electoral fraud and he has called for another mass mobilisation on July 30.

Did Iran Spark the Lebanon Debacle?

According to Jane's Intelligence Digest of 21.7.06, Israeli Intelligence suspects Iran was behind the Hizbullah attack on Israel on the 12th of July during which two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and several killed.

The Israelis believe that Tehran "influenced the timing of the incident in order to divert international attention from its nuclear programme which was high on the agenda of the G8 Summit in St Petersburg."

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has publicly repeated this claim.

Putin, Will He Be the New Stalin?

From INQ7News

Russian President Vladimir Putin approved late Friday a new law against "extremism" that critics say could allow the country's authorities to crack down more on dissent.

"The president signed a federal law with amendments to the federal law 'On Countering Extremist Activity' that was approved earlier," the Kremlin said in a statment published on its website.

The law "is aimed at improving the definition of extremist activity by classifying socially dangerous actions as extremist", the statement said.

....opponents say it moves towards making criticism of the authorities by the media, opposition parties and rights groups a crime.

Among activities defined as "extremist" crimes the new law includes "humiliating national merit," "public slander of state officials" and "hampering the lawful activity of state organs."

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Curly Capitalist Questions 15 Flogging Off Nukes

Anonymous has a question on private control of WMDs

Under pure capitalism, could I sell nuclear weapons to third world dictatorships?

The right to keep and bear arms is an axiom for many libertarians. The debate centres around what type of arms and what, if any limitations should be imposed on their use.

What follows is my opinion only and I welcome criticism. ACT policy on firearms, is basically to maintain the status quo.

While I used to be an enthusiastic small game hunter, the major reason I support the right to keep and bear arms is political.

I believe that an armed populace is a major check on tyrannical government. Whether widespread gun ownership lowers or raises violent crime levels is secondary to me.
When Hitler took control of Germany he imposed strict gun controls. Dictators do not like allowing anyone the means to depose them.

I believe an armed society is more likely to remain a free society.

That said, I am willing to accept some limits on weapons ownership. Those limits should be locally determined, by vote. I do mean locally, not by central government, for obvious reasons. I was surprised to read on Not PC some time ago that Ayn Rand was OK with gun registration. I personally don't believe that private weapons, below a certain level of firepower, should need to be registered with the state as this would defeat their primary purpose.

I believe people should be able to own sufficient arms to protect themselves, from criminals and tyranny.

For example in Iraq, I would allow people to own light machine guns, rifles and pistols as these are effective defensive weapons. I would not allow bazookas, flame throwers, mortars etc as these are primarily offensive weapons.

In NZ, I would allow rifles, pistols, mace, etc, but not light machine guns, mortars, rocket launchers, tanks or guided missiles. I would forbid the sale of firearms to any convicted violent criminal or known mental incompetent.

I would certainly not allow private ownership of nukes, or any other WMDs.

I would allow people to manufacture heavy armaments, but would expect the state to monitor where they were sold. Allies would be fine. Enemies or potential enemies would be proscribed. Other nations considered likely to use the weapons offensively against their neighbours would also be forbidden.

No doubt I will be flogged here some who consider me far too restrictive and others who think I'm far too liberal. This is a very tricky and emotionally charged area.

Red Lops Dreadlocks

That was then

This is now.

Victoria University student prezzy and Workers Party radical, Nick Kelly has shorn his trademark dreads. Even worse he's selling them on Trade Me.

Why this blatant capitalism? Why doesn't he give his hair away to someone who needs it more? Rodney Hide for example.

What next, a three piece suit and membership of the Young Nats? Are we seeing the beginnings of the long awaited redemption of Nick Kelly?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Rodney Reborn?

From Rodney's Blog

Texts and emails have been flooding in concerned about me going soft:

MPs wonder what’s happened to the old rough-and-tumble Rodney

If we don’t adapt and evolve we die!

Besides, it’s time others learnt to be opposition MPs. And I’m more of a dancer than a fighter…

Curly Capitalist Question 14 Capitalism and War

Anonymous has a good question

Trevor,you would accept that competition between firms and corporations is a fact of free market national capitalism. Many of these have states to protect their interests. But what happens when different nation states compete over resources. Is war not just an extension of this economic competition?

It is quite true that nation states do compete for resources and this may lead to war.

As a libertarian, I am in favour of nation states, but not as they are commonly known today.

Ideally the state's role should be confined purely to matters of justice and defence. There should be no economic role whatever for government. If the state was tiny, not at all involved in economic matters and strictly bound by a formal constitution, how warlike could it be?

If the power to declare war was limited to a tiny congress, that had to go to the voting public to raise a large army and to pay for it, how common would wars of aggression be?

Your question anon. addresses a common misconception about capitalism-that it is an aggressive system.

Yet all the evidence says that most wars are started by states that are burdened by some form of powerful centralised government (socialism, national socialism, monarchy, oligarchy, fascism, Theocracy).

Once the US was a semi-libertarian country. The power to declare war was limited to Congress. US foreign policy was Jeffersonian, semi isolationist and militantly against involvement in foreign wars and alliances.

Woodrow Wilson had to drag the US kicking and screaming in WW1. FDR had to have Japanese help to get the US into WW2.

After WW2, the US became more and more statist and more and more warlike. Under Bush, the constitution has become less and less relevant and the Neo-con oligarchy has assumed near dictatorial powers. They seem hell bent on starting WW3.

That is not capitalism, that is statism.

To sum up, free societies live by trade. Governments, especially tyrannical ones live by war.

If you want less war, seek less government. If you want peace and prosperity, limit government to the bare essentials. Allow private traders to build international trading networks that bind peoples into mutually beneficial and peaceful cross border commonwealths.

Peace through freedom.

Hard Left Beats Left for Union Post

According to Indymedia
Scenes of jubilation and tears of joy greeted the stunning victory by Jill Ovens in yesterday's election for the new Northern Region Secretary of the Service and Food Workers' Union. The special delegates conference of 112 voting delegates gave Ms Ovens the clear mandate of a 68 to 44 winning result.

Ms Ovens upset success over Lisa Eldret, Darien Fenton's anointed successor, was achieved in spite of repeated and sustained interference in the election process by the new Labour MP. Fenton even turned up at the special delegates' election conference in the guise of Eldret's scrutineer, the only capacity in which she was allowed entry into the closed meeting. This was so she could talk to delegates and try and convince them to vote for her nominee, Eldret.

Jill Ovens is as "old left" as they come. A co-leader until 2005 of what's left of the Alliance Party, Ovens has taken a leading role in opposing war on Iraq, the Vietnam War, US backing of contras in Nicaragua, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons by the US. She has also spoken out against the privatisation of water services, rail and tertiary education. Jill has twice stood as Alliance candidate for Mt Albert on an anti-privatisation, anti-war platform... she is active in the wider trade union movement at a national level as CTU Women’s Council Convenor and recently attended the ICFTU World Women’s Conference as one of two CTU delegates.

Ovens is also active in the NZ/Cuba Friendship Society and was a member of the 1999/2000 Southern Cross Brigade of 40 Australians and NZers who travelled to Cuba during the 40th anniversary of the revolution. The Brigadistas generously picked 45 tonnes of oranges for the people of Havana to help relieve the food shortages caused by the evil US blockade of Cuba.

At the 2003 Alliance conference Ovens stated "that the conditions are right to unify the left and turn the growing anti capitalist movement into a force to replace capitalism with a fairer more equitable society"

In 2004 she stood for the Auckland Regional Council on the Manukau Vision ticket

Ovens, has a Masters Degree in Journalism and was an AUT Senior Lecturer in Journalism and former National President of the Association of Staff in Tertiary Education

Friday, July 28, 2006

Kahui Twin's Death is Capitalism's Fault

Here's Communist Workers Group member, Justin Taua on the death of the Kahui twins, quoted on his comrade Scott Hamilton's blog, Reading the Maps.

Taua gave this talk to the Waitemata Branch of the UNITE trade union. He is a close relative of the Kahui family.

Yes, some people really do think like this.

The families and individuals who are part of the rootless army of excess cheap labour, unable to cope, too poor and demoralised, are forced to gather in clusters under one roof to share the ever increasing cost of living. Hope is drenched in a cocktail of drugs, alcohol and slot machines. At every stage along the way, the wheels of profit suck the very dignity out of these people. This is life for the Kahui whanau.

PM Helen Clark’s announcement that a special working task force be set up to investigate housing where overcrowding by beneficiaries is a problem, will in short amount to a witch-hunt. Without addressing the real problem of insufficient housing, that task force is more likely to recommend more sweeping powers for the police. In a climate of increasing draconian State intervention (War on Terror) and ‘get tough on crime’, the scene is set for a standardised imperialist police state modelled on that of which the United States is hoping to achieve.

When Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples was asked to intervene by one of his personal staff (also a Kahui), it was in accordance with the kaupapa of whanaungatanga (supporting family) as well as his duty as MP for Tamaki. For the state and traditionalists, the mana of that leadership together with that of tribal elders was being put to the test.

The inevitable failure of that intervention can be put down to the new mode of Maori leaders being no more than bureaucratic bargaining agents for the State. Sharples’ description of the Kahui whanau as ‘dysfunctional’ and showing disrespect towards himself and the elders, shows how out of touch and blind to the real causes he and that leadership are. Stripped of any real power, their limited politics and compromise has forced many individuals and communities to seek alternative directions.

For the more marginalised such as the Kahui whanau, that direction could potentially have a more brutal outcome. As gang affiliates, they know the retributional nature of gang justice, particularly in regards to crimes against children. Their silence has meant a determination to settle justice on their own terms with honour and without interference from the State. Unlike State law where the aggrieved are no more than passive bystanders; it is the aggrieved who will decide the fate of the guilty.

To paint the Kahui whanau as honourable would force the State to give recognition to a set of values outside of its control. Political and media silence on the issue is driven by the fear of opening up a Pandora’s Box that would threaten to undermine bourgeois power and authority. The recent case of two Headhunters tried for chopping off the finger of a fellow gang member for breaking gang rules, reminds us that parallel justice (or injustice) systems do exist outside of the State in Aotearoa.

Workers could independently put the ‘system’ on trial and set up courts to try the real criminals responsible for inflicting the chaotic ‘dysfunction’ that is capitalism. Its reactionary barbarism and gang behaviour expropriated from the past would be consigned to history.

None of the concerns focused on the issue of guilt, have addressed where the real guilt lies. Justice determined outside of workers control is always going to be in the interests of individuals who do not have the mandate of the majority who constitute the working class.

The present reality for workers is far from what is being described. But independence as a working class free of State control is a goal that must be achieved in order to affect the process leading to revolutionary change. By doing so, real and lasting justice will come to babies Chris and Cru Kahui together with their distant cousin Steven Wallace all working class descendants from Ngaruahine Iwi of South Taranaki.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hone Harawira on the Jews and the White Man

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira has a tactful way with words. According to Liberty Scott, Harawira, speaking in Maori, had this to say about the Middle east situation

"The violence perpetrated by the Jews must stop".

In February 1987 Harawira represented the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre at a Physicians for Social Responsibility Conference in Moscow. According to Peacelink of September 1987, Harawira made this equally balanced and diplomatic statement.

"In terms of resource monopoly, economic slavery and potential for death, European civilisation is more barbaric, savage and destructive than any other since the beginning of time. . . and at this time I wish to recognise the Soviet people for hosting this conference . . . Our fight for a better world will only be won . . . when the white man comes home."

The Middle East; ACT's View vs Socialist Stance

I have some pretty mixed feelings on the Israel/Lebanon/Palestine tangle. I am certainly not blind to the plight of innocent Lebanese and Palestinians and do not regard the Israelis as angels. However I think it will be easy to see which of the two following statements I most support.

Here's what Rodney Hide said in Parliament yesterday

RODNEY HIDE (Leader--ACT): Thank you, Madam Speaker. The ACT party rises to join with the Prime Minister in deploring the loss of life in the Middle East, and especially the four UN peacekeepers. But we do not endorse the Prime Minister’s statement. In particular, we take issue with the Prime Minister’s repetition of the statement of “disproportionate violence”. I can do no better than to refer to page B3 of today’s New Zealand Herald, where Dominic Lawson, writing for the Independent, states: “What is the proportionate response to a terrorist organisation which repeatedly sends rockets packed with ball bearings to cause maximum civilian casualties in your main domestic tourist resort? And what do you do if that organisation, backed by Iran and Syria, also has two ministers in the Government of the country from which they are sending those rockets?”.

I ask New Zealanders and this Parliament to consider what New Zealand’s response would be if we had to confront a neighbour right on our borders who would commit such atrocities, and whether we would stand idly by and talk about a proportionate response. I say to this House and to New Zealand that until Hezbollah stops the violence and recognises the State of Israel’s right to exist, then we cannot expect peace. Our focus should be on achieving that peace, not on repeating propaganda. Thank you.

Below is a July 20th statement signed by more than 50 communist and workers’ parties from around the world, including Palestinian, Israeli, Lebanese, Syrian, US, British, Greek, Cypriot and Australian parties:

From the Communist Party of Australia's Guardian of July 26th

We strongly condemn all aggressive acts by the Israeli army in Gaza and Lebanon with tragic consequences for the lives of the Palestinian, Lebanese and Israeli people but also for people from other countries.

We reject and condemn the blames and threats by US and Israeli Government addressed toward Syria and Iran and against other countries of the region. These threats reveal that the real aggressive and expansive force in the region is Israel.

We strongly protest the US policy which encourages the Israeli aggressiveness. We reject the hypocrisy shown by the G8 leaders and the "equal distance" policy pursued today by certain forces.

We are highly concerned about and warn of the great dangers for a general spread of the crisis in the Middle East, for a new civil war and for a massive imperialist intervention in Lebanon under the pretext of "peace building measures".

The bombings against Lebanon follow the fierce offensive in the Gaza Strip, the kidnapping of Palestinian political figures, the attempt to eliminate the Palestinian National Authority, to destroy the infrastructure and to sink the Palestinian society into a state of chaos.

The raids in Gaza and Lebanon constitute new steps of the "Greater Middle East" US and NATO policy which is directed against the legitimate rights of the peoples, the popular resistance, the progressive and peace loving forces.

The Israeli Government, the only military nuclear power in the region, demonstratively ignores UN Security Council resolutions, violates agreements with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, undermines the agreements by the Palestinian organisations regarding the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, and rejects the cease-fire proposals. It is also in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, an international law that prohibits collective punishment, "targeted" assassinations, and destruction of the infrastructure of an occupied territory.

We call upon all peace loving forces to strengthen their solidarity with the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples, with the progressive forces fighting for peace in Israel and to intensify the struggle for a political solution based on:

The immediate cessation of the attacks and withdrawal of the Israeli army.

The respect of national sovereignty and territorial integrity against any imperialist intervention under any pretext.

The immediate release of the political prisoners.

The complete dismantling of the settlements and withdrawal of the Israeli army from the territories occupied in 1967, the establishment of a Palestinian state (Gaza Strip and the West Bank) with its capital in East Jerusalem, alongside Israel.

The solution of the refugee question. The return of all Palestinian refugees should be based on the resolution of UN Security Council No. 194 and according also to the other UN resolutions.

Only pulling out Israeli soldiers from Gaza and Lebanon and a just and viable peace would put an end to the bloodshed and guarantee the security for all peoples of the Middle East.

New Zeal The socialists don't ask for much, do they?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Chavez; Just Another Dirty Dictator

Venezuela's Marxist president, Hugo Chavez is the darling of the the young left. These are the people who laugh at the old pro Soviet left and won't have a bar of the Chinese.

Chavez is different. Chavez is for "21st century socialism". He represents the future.

So why then does Chavez make friends with the world's old fashioned tyrants? Mugabe, Castro, Hu Jintao, Putin and now Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

From Yahoo News 24.7.06

MINSK, Belarus - Leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez exchanged declarations of solidarity Monday with the authoritarian leader of isolated Belarus, who shares his anti-U.S. views.

Chavez, a frequent and harsh critic of the United States, made Belarus the first stop on a major international tour that will also take him to Russia,Iran and Vietnam.

He was greeted at the presidential palace in Minsk with an honor guard, a military band and warm hugs and smiles from President Alexander Lukashenko— a man known in Europe and Washington as "Europe's last dictator."

Lukashenko, like Chavez, accuses the United States of trying to overthrow him.

"Here, I've got a new friend and together we'll form a team," Chavez said before one-on-one talks with Lukashenko. "I thank you, Alexander, for solidarity and we've come here to demonstrate our solidarity."

"Our two nations have a lot in common, we can form a strategic alliance," Lukashenko said.

Chavez has courted foes and critics of Washington in what he calls an effort to create a global counterbalance to U.S. domination. He has crafted a socialist trade bloc with Cuba and Bolivia, signed a series of deals with Iran, and supported North Korea's right to test-fire missiles.

Chavez also was slated to visit Qatar and Mali. He has abandoned plans to travel to North Korea.

Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington-based think-tank, said Chavez intends to secure oil deals, enlist support for a non-permanent UN Security Council seat, and bolster Venezuela's international standing — all at Washington's expense.

The U.S. government, which frequently clashes with Chavez, is lobbying to block Venezuela's council seat bid, backing Guatemala instead. The General Assembly will decide the issue in a secret ballot in October.

Chavez has cast himself as the voice for smaller, weaker nations

During the talks with Lukashenko, the two sides signed seven agreements on military-technical cooperation, economic and other ties as well as a declaration pledging a strategic partnership. Bilateral trade was just under $16 million in 2005.

Lukashenko, an open admirer of the Soviet Union, has been in power since 1994, quashing dissent, jailing opponents and extending his time in office through votes widely considered illegitimate. The United States and European Union imposed sanctions and a visa ban on him and other top officials following March presidential elections that the opposition denounced as fraudulent.

The highlight of Chavez's trip to Russia is to be a signing ceremony for a series of major Russian weapons contracts. On Friday, Russia's defense minister announced a deal worth more than $1 billion to supply Venezuela with 30 Su-30 fighter jets and 30 helicopters.

The Bush administration in May announced a ban on U.S. arms sales to Venezuela because of what it called a lack of support for counterterrorism efforts.

Chavez nonetheless has been using surging oil revenues to modernize Venezuela's military, signing multibillion defense deals with countries including Russia and Spain. Venezuela earlier reached a deal to buy 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and is hoping to set up factories to produce the rifles under license.

New Zeal Chavez looks just like one more in a long line of communist would be dictators to me.

Hat Tip Clint Heine

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

P.R.A.T.T. Number 3, Simon Wilson

The subject of my third "Pinkos and Reds Against The Tour" profile is Simon Wilson.

If you knew Simon Wilson 25 years ago, you wouldn't pick him as the future editor of NZ's leading culinary magazine "Cuisine". Mind you, before Cuisine he did 12 years editing "Consumer" magazine and a long stint sub-editing the "Listener", both of which gave him at least some scope to attack capitalism.

Back in the late '70s/early '80s, Simon Wilson was in the thick of Maoist student politics, both at Victoria University and nationally.

In 1978, Wilson edited the Vic student magazine, Salient and in 1980 he served as president of the NZ University Students Association. He resigned early from NZUSA however after being arrested for spraying anti-nuke slogans, during the visit to Wellington of the American warship, USS Truxtun.

In 1981, Wilson as a leader of the Third World Solidarity Committee, also protested the Wellington visit of US Secretary of State, Al Haig.

Around this time, Wilson was named by both Minister of Education, Merv Wellington, PM Muldoon and the Security Intelligence Service as a member of the Workers Communist League or its predecessor, the Wellington Marxist-Leninist Organisation.

Wilson's real moment of glory came in 1981, when he and Dave MacPherson were elected to the Marshall's Committee of Wellington's leading anti Tour organisation, Citizen's Opposed to the Sprinbok Tour.

Wilson was in charge of COST's Yellow Section which was assigned to mass outside the Shaw Saville Lodge, where the All Blacks stayed before the second test. Later that day Wilson led his troops into action in Riddiford Street, to support an embattled Green Section led by Roger Tobin.

Later Wilson also commanded a segment of Orange section after the arrest of Dave MacPherson. Wilson was in the thick of the action right through the tour and after the action, used his writing skills as part of the COST writing group.

He helped write the official COST history "56 Days".

From Mao to Merlot, from revolution to Ravioli. Just proves that anyone can change.

Lunatic Wants to Run the Asylum

From the latest Green Left Weekly

Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez condemned Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, commenting that “They are bombing entire cities, it is a true genocide. Where will this madness end?”, according to a July 21 report. He also slammed the US for using its UN Security Council veto to override a UN motion calling on Israel to halt its offensive against Gaza.

Venezuela is currently pushing for a non-permanent seat on the Security council. In a July 16 media release condemning Israel’s brutal attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, Venezuela’s foreign affairs ministry explained that it was seeking the seat to push for the democratisation of the UN in order to counter the “hegemony” of the US within the organisation.

The July 7 Trinidad and Tobago Express reported that the 15-member Carribean Community (Caricom) decided at its 27th summit, which concluded on July 6, to back Venezuela’s bid.

The seat, which will be vacated in October when Argentina’s two-year term expires, is also being contested by Guatemala, which is strongly backed by the US.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez confirmed support for Venezuela’s bid from the Arab League at the second Arab-South American Summit in Caracas on July 17-18. The summit also confirmed Venezuela’s entry into the Arab League as an observer.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Despair of a Moderate

Not all protestors are mindless Marxists. Here is Sophia from Red Confectionery giving her account of the Anti Israel march in Auckland on Saturday.

Today was an interesting day; in fact I didn't think it would be that interesting. Students for Justice in Palestine from the University of Auckland (SFJP) had organised a march down Queen Street and rally to protest against Israel's heavy-handed (slight understatement in my opinion) attack on Lebanon. It drew quite a large number of people, notably Chris Trotter, Martyn 'Bomber' Bradbury, the Unite! Union and others.

It started off quite peaceful. Everybody met up at Aotea Square where several people spoke. One of the organisers of (SFJP) gave an impassioned speech in both Arabic and English which the gathering crowd responded to enthusiastically. I was having a good time, apart from one guy trying to sell me a class struggle magazine for 50c, which I couldn't buy because I literally had no change on me, and personally, wouldn't buy anyway. He came up to me three times! He also got quite carried away in one of the speeches that was been giving.

Anyway, at around 1.30pm we all walked onto Queen Street and began the march down to the US consulate, namely because the US is giving its tacit approval of Israel's attack on Lebanon. It was around this time when I started to feel not quite right about the protest. Several Unite members had taken control of the microphones and were chanting out slogans. Some were ok: "Israel, USA, how many kids did you kill today," but some I refused to chant, which ended up being practically all the slogans that were being chanted:

"Down, down, Israel"
"Victory to Hezbollah"
"Up, up Hezbollah"
"Burn down Israel"

Now, don't get me wrong, I have serious issues with Israel and its treatment of Palestinian people and now, its treatment of Lebanon, but to call for a victory of Hezbollah? Hezbollah is fucking terrorist organisation. I understand why it is angry (again, another understatement) but I seriously don't support its actions. It really bothered me that there were these Unite people that had virtually taken over the protest and in my opinion were hijacking it.

My condemnation of Hezbollah however is not some approval of Israel. I think Israel is virtually just as bad. It is sad that Israel and its allies have managed to create an envorinment where people feel so much despair that they turn to such awful messages to resist. However the conflict is just so mad and crazy that I think it is extremely misguided to take such a strong position when most people in New Zealand would not have first hand experience with the conflict in the Middle East.

Anyway, back to the protest. Once we got down to the US consulate there were more speakers. It got really out of hand here, when Simon Oosterman decided to climb on the veranda of the consulate. Big mistake. He managed to half take down the US flag, and then ended up waving a Palestinian flag while the crowd chanting "Victory to Palestine" "Victory to Lebanon"

Of course the police weren't too happy about this, and began to gather around the fire escape where Simon Oosterman had climbed up. However, when he climbed down a minor riot broke out in the alleyway. It was pretty appalling, as a skirmish broke out among the cops and some of the most hardened protestors. While they were fighting the protestors started to shout "Let him go!" and "Shame." Now, I was right in the middle of all this, and it freaked the hell out of me, because I’m quite a small person and there were a lot of big guys there. I managed to get to the side, but then the skirmish moved closer to me, and then I couldn't escape. It was about this time that I actually started to panic. Luckily, I managed to get out. However, I was thoroughly disgusted at what had happened. Mainly at the protestors. I mean, yes, if you climb on private property you will be arrested, and the police have every right to do so. It just sickened me that in trying to protest against the violence and death that is happening in the Middle East, we ended creating out own violence. It hardly sends a good message to the rest of public. Exactly how do you get the general public on your side when you act is an immature, irresponsible way? It completely undermines your entire message. I was appalled by the protest today. It sad that there are some mad people out there that completely dominated the protest and don't allow any moderate opinions to get through.

In saying that, how exactly do you protest against Israel? Non-violent protests can be successful but it requires one to 'shame' the oppressors. Would that work against Israel? It's hardly likely. So what should people do? Is the conflict in the Middle East a lost cause? Or should we maintain some idealistic dream that things will eventually resolve themselves?

I don't think I have ever felt so cynical about something.

The Don's Not For Turning

From Don Brash's speech to the National Party conference in the weekend.

Hat Tip David Farrar.

There are always those who believe the only way we can win the Treasury benches is by trying to "out-Labour Labour". If Labour wins office by taking $25,000 in tax off a successful hardworking Kiwi and bribing five voters with $5,000 each, perhaps National has to "up" the stakes, and take $30,000 in tax off a successful hardworking Kiwi and bribe five voters with $6,000 each, or six voters with $5,000 each?

But that way surely lies disaster. Not only do we erode the spirit of personal responsibility and self-reliance on which this great country was built, but ultimately those who are more and more heavily taxed to finance the political bribes decide they've paid enough, and either arrange their affairs so they can substantially avoid tax or leave for places where they can pay much less tax. And of course plenty of affluent New Zealanders have done exactly that.

Minto; The Honesty and the Idiocy

Here's some honesty and some idiocy from veteran Anti Apartheid activist, John Minto's column in this morning's Christchurch Press.

First the honesty

However in the 12 years since the election of the ANC to power, the political rights gained have led to no improvement in the social and economic position of the big majority of black South Africans. In fact, for most, their economic and social situation has worsened.

Ending apartheid was a symbolic victory only.

The proportion of South Africans living in absolute poverty almost doubled from 1996 to 2004.

Now the idiocy.

The reason is very simple and familiar. The ANC has followed the same, failed, free market ideology that has driven our economy for the past 20 years.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Simple Simon Met A P'liceman, Pulling Down a Flag

Guess who pulled down the US Consulate's flag during an anti Israeli demo in Auckland yesterday?

Fittingly for a halfwit, Simon (Bobo) Oosterman only pulled the flag down to half mast, but managed to get himself arrested while allegedly fleeing from police custody after the event.

Oosterman is the protestor's protestor and his name pops up with amazing regularity.

According to his Wikipedia entry He is best known for coordinating the Unite union campaign which targeted the fast food industry and led to (among other results) the worlds first Starbucks strike, and for his involvement in the World Naked Bike Ride

In a NBR article on 29 May 2006, Unite Union President Matt McCarten stated that Oosterman left Unite after "a disagreement over tactics" but also recorded Oosterman as saying that his contract had ended. He now works as a media liaison for the National Distribution Union.He was a member of the short-lived Black Cat Anarchist-Communist Collective.

In 2003 Oosterman "occupied" the pavement in front of the Auckland US consulate for 120 hours in protest against the US led war in Iraq.

In August 2003 as a part of an anti-vivisection demonstration in Christchurch he jumped under a bus that was carrying vivisectors from the ANZCART and ANSLAS conferences.

Starting on the 28 August 2003, Oosterman joined the 700km long Seed Carriers hikoi from Cape Reinga to Taupo in protest against the lifting of New Zealand's genetic engineering moratorium.

In 2005 Oosterman was arrested at the start of the Auckland World Naked Bike Ride for refusing to put on underwear. In court he pleaded not guilty to the charge of indecent exposure, although he was naked not only at the time he was arrested, but during his court appearance. The charges were later dropped due to the Police's lack of evidence.

On the 22 March 2005, after occupying an ANZ bank and an intersection with 100 other anti-war protesters, he was arrested for obstructing a footpath with three other activists who were arrested for similar charges.

In May 2006 he filed papers at the Auckland district court seeking NZ$50,000 in damages from the New Zealand police after being pepper sprayed at a January 2005 protest against an alleged genetic engineering experiment outside the Forest Research Institute in Rotorua.

Oosterman has recently became active in the Campaign against the Taser because "Police have proven themselves too irresponsible with their use of pepper spray and should not be given a more deadly weapon like the Taser. The 50,000 volt Taser stun gun has killed people overseas even when used following correct police procedures and should not be introduced into New Zealand."

Oosterman is also invoved with John Minto and Mike Treen's Global Peace and Justice Auckland.

In October 2005 he spoke on trade union work to Socialist Workers "Marxism 2005" conference in Auckland.

Simon Oosterman's brother Jon has been very active in the Save Happy Valley campaign on the West Coast, where it is far too cold to walk around naked.

P.R.A.T.T. Number 2, Dave MacPherson

Another Pious Radical (or Pinkos and Reds) Against The Tour was Hamilton City Councillor and anti gambling activist Dave MacPherson.

Though Timaru born, MacPherson became active in radical politics at Flinders University, Adelaide, where he was student president.

By the late '70s he was back in NZ working as a researcher for the NZ University Students Association.

MacPherson fitted in well with the Maoists who ran NZUSA and later joined them and other like minded activists when they formed the Workers Communist League in 79/80.

The WCL was strongest in Wellington, especially at Victoria University where it controlled the students association for many years. The WCL or "Weasels" as they were fondly known, were militantly anti Apartheid and were strong backers of Steve Biko's Black Consciousness Movement of Azania.

It is not surprising then, that the WCL played the leading role in the Wellington anti Tour protests of 1981, co-ordinated through their front, Citizens Opposed to the Springbok Tour.

MacPherson played a major role in COST, as a member of the Marshalls Committee and as leader of "Orange Section", charged at one point with blocking all the main routes into Wellington.

On July 22nd, MacPherson was chief marshall of Day of Shame march in Lower Hutt, he and 21 others were arrested for occupying Ewen Bridge for two and a half hours.

On August 15th he was arrested on the Hutt Motorway with 63 others. On August 29th he was again arrested on the same motorway.

The WCL, through COST caused huge disruption in Wellington throughout July and August of 1981. They cost this country huge amounts in lost productivity and police time.

Dave MacPherson certainly did his bit for the revolution.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Curly Capitalist Question Number 13

liberty through profit has a question that's dear to my heart

why is the salary cap in the new Air NZ NPC Rugby comp a bad idea?

I think the salary cap has been a disaster in the National Rugby League competition and I think it will yield similar results in our rugby National Provincial competition.

The idea behind the salary cap is simple. Make sure no one rich club can buy all the best talent and therefore dominate the other clubs. By forcing the clubs to share the talent around, theoretically the competition will be more interesting and attract more punters. The other bonus being that clubs won't be bankrupted trying to buy high quality, expensive talent.

The one problem is; it doesn't work.

As Former rugby and rugby league international, Matthew Ridge wrote in the Sunday Star Times of July 2nd this year "the NRL is not some socialist utopia ; if a rich club wants a player it will get him, whether you put a salary restraint on it or not"

Therefore all salary caps actually achieve is increased corruption and dishonesty. How many salary caps scandals have we seen in the NRL? Didn't our own Warriors pay a huge fine and lose four competition points this year for that very offence?

Our own NPC has every right to try to limit pressure on clubs by limiting salaries. However any attempt to bypass the law of supply and demand will always create undesirable side effects.

In attempting to insulate their competition from the rigours of the market, the NPC bosses will do several things.

a increase corruption
b eventually lower the reputation of their sport.
c make club management slacker and less responsive to the demands of players and punters.
d give rugby league easier access to rugby talent as the potential salary difference between the two codes will be lessened.
e gradually reduce the standard of rugby on offer so that punters become less enthusiastic about the game.

Any attempt to introduce socialist ideas into high performance sport is doomed to failure. South African rugby is obviously handicapped by racial quotas. Similarly, the NPC will suffer in the long term if it persists with this dopey salary cap idea.

Friday, July 21, 2006

P.R.A.T.T. Number 1, Marion Hobbs

Labour MP, Marion Hobbs, has a long history of activity in the Anti-Apartheid movement. Much of it ran concurrently with her Marxist-Leninist activities.

In 1969 Hobbs was on the Canterbury University Students Association executive and stood for the Canterbury Hospital Board on the Labour ticket.

In 1970, Hobbs joined Trevor Richards' newly founded anti Apartheid organisation Halt All Racist Tours. She remained a member until 1984

From 1971 to 1974 Hobbs was a Vice President at NZUSA, then one of the main focal points of NZ Maoism.

From 1974 onwards, Hobbs was very active in the Christchurch Committee on Southern Africa. In the groups minutes Hobbs stated "that CCOSA had been set up to co-ordinate anti-apartheid activity and to carry on with general anti-apartheid work."

In 975 Hobbs joined the Christchurch branch of the Communist Party. She has referred to this as a "flirtation", but it lasted for seven years.

The CPNZ in 1975 was a small sect paying homage to the memory of Stalin and Mao. In 1977/78, the CPNZ broke with China and transferred its allegiance to Enver Hoxha's Albania. Marian Hobbs was no moderate Eurocommunist, she was a Stalinist and a Hoxhaite!

By 1981, when the Springbok Tour rolled around, Hobbs and her comrades from the CPNZ were ready. The Christchurch Press of the 14th July 2001 claims that Hobbs was a member of a secretive inner cell which spent months preparing the ground for the Springboks arrival.

Hobbs took on the role of HART medical aid team co-ordinator and as an official in Christchurch's Coalition Against the Tour.

She was arrested several times, including once for the occupation of the Christchurch National Party offices in Lichfield St. My wife was one of Hobbs' pupils at Mairehau High School at the time and remembers missing a class because her teacher had been arrested.

Hobbs credits the violence she saw in 1981 with her decision to leave the CPNZ the following year. She claims it brought home to her, the implications in human terms of a real revolution.

P.R.A.T.T.S. R Here

It's 25 years since the Springbok Rugby Tour of NZ. The left has created the myth that the disgraceful violence, vandalism and thuggery perpetrated by many anti Tour activists was motivated by noble ideals and should be excused, or even glorified.

Many old lefties regard their court convictions from that time as some kind of badge of honour.

The anti Tour movement did attract many who were appalled by Apartheid and thought that holding up traffic and obstructing footpaths in NZ, would teach the " dirt-tee ricist Afrikaners" a lesson.

However the leadership of the Anti Tour movement was almost exclusively Marxist-Leninist and was motivated by more by the dream of a socialist South Africa than a non racist one.

Many of those who were so allegedly anti racist over South Africa went on to help build the Maori Apartheid movement in NZ.

Why, because to transform South African society, you had to destroy its underpinning philosophy, Apartheid.

To revolutionise NZ's non racist society, the opposite had to occur. Apartheid had to be built in NZ. To a Marxist-Leninist there is no contradiction here. A revolution takes whatever it takes.

What amazes me is how pious a lot of these old anti Tour people are. You'd think they'd marched with Gandhi or helped Wilberforce free the slaves the way they go on.

I thought I might devote some space in the next week to profiling some prominent anti Tour activists (Pious Radicals Against The Tour)and some of the organisations involved.

As I know I will be asked, yes I did support the tour and would again. I wore my little green badge throughout, but beyond some letters to the editor, did nothing practical for the cause.

Why? Though I was a conservative then, I strongly believed in free markets and that all people are individuals and should not be categorised by race. I believed that Apartheid was on its way out in South Africa and that market forces and public opinion would gradually finish it off.

However I was very much aware that the ANC was controlled by the South African Communist Party and therefore the Soviet Union. Their rivals, the Pan African Congress and Steve Biko's Black Concioussness Movement of Azania were Maoist leaning.

Therefore I was not about to support any ANC/PAC/BCMA power grab. I was also not about to support Marxist-Leninist radicals trying to bring my country to its knees.

At that time I didn't give a stuff about the rugby, I wanted to support the anti revolutionary forces in South Africa and the right of law abiding Kiwis to go about their business in peace.

My only regret is that I didn't do more to support what I believed in when I had the opportunity.

Curly Capitalist Questions

I haven't forgotten that I've got a few to go. Will try and answer at least one a day until they're finished.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I Think Maia Likes Me

Just found this little exchange between Scott Hamilton of Reading the Maps and the Communist Workers Group and Maia of Capitalism Bad, Tree Pretty

MAPs said...the guy's not as bad as Trevor Loudon. First he banned me from his blog, saying that I talked a load of rubbish, then he did a cut and paste job on one of my posts on East Timor! You can't come over, but I'll come to your place and borrow what I like...

Maia said... No-one is as bad as Trevor Loudon Maps.

I think Maia likes me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bolshevik Blair, the Bludger's Buddy

Paul Blair, a Rotorua based beneficiary's advocate, is a man to watch. A long time activist, Blair works a bit below the radar, but is a very busy comrade.

In 1981, Blair was secretary of the Auckland Combined Beneficaries Union. An article on him in the Socialist Unity Party's "Tribune" of 2.11.81 stated "Today Paul considers himself a Socialist".

In June 1986 Blair wrote an article on Chernobyl for "Tribune". In June 1988 he was featured in "Tribune" and named as the secretary of the Auckland Unemployed Workers' Union, a well known SUP front.

In 1989, Blair was the AUWU representative at meeting of the Union, Greenpeace, Auckland CTU and "Guardians of the Planet" to clean up Manakau Harbour. In 1990 he was charged with willful damage to Laingholm sewage pumping station, with SUP member and "Guardians of the Planet" activist, Pat Shepherd.

In 1989, I was told by Christchurch SUP member, Peter Hall-Jones that Blair was not a party member. However I have seen an SUP Auckland regional committee report dated 27.1.89 stating that "Paul Blair will be reapplying"

In 1990 Blair took part with Sue Bradford, in an "invasion" of the Auckland Treasury offices.

The same year, Auckland Trades Council leader, Bill Andersen left the SUP to form a new party, the even more radical, Socialist Party of Aotearoa. Virtually the entire upper North Island SUP membership either dropped out of politics or joined the SPA.

By 1991, Blair was an executive member of Andersen's new party.

By the mid '90s, Blair was based in Rotorua, working out of the offices of the SPA controlled, National Distribution Union.

In 1998, he was on the founding executive of a new union for the unemployed and low paid, UNITE.

In June 2,000, Radio New Zealand reported that Blair, representing the Rotorua Peoples Advocacy Centre, had been meeting, since the 1999 election, with Minister of Social Welfare, Steve Maharey and the Minister of Social Development.

In January 2002, advocates from around New Zealand carried out a benefit "impact" in Rotorua organised by Paul Blair. The primary purpose of the impact was to encourage and assist people to apply for special benefits.

In 2002/03 Blair served as Rotorua co-ordinator for the anti Iraq War movement.

In 2002, Blair was a leader of the local Electoral Reform Coalition, agitating for the adoption of the Single Transferable Vote system by the local council.

In 2003 he was an organiser for the Rotorua branch of UNITE.

In December 2004 Three Rotorua beneficiaries forced a law change for single parents with split custody of their children, in an out-of-court settlement with the Ministry of Social Development.

The law stated that two parents living apart but who had split-custody of their children could not both receive the Domestic Purposes Benefit. One was eligible for the sole-parent benefit and all the benefits that went with it, while the other was limited to the unemployment benefit.

Paul Blair and two other solo fathers, Leon Broughton and Richard Amoroa initiated legal proceedings in the High Court at Rotorua against the CEO of the MSD.

The MSD CEO agreed, in the settlement that the second parent in split-custody cases would receive the emergency maintenance allowance, with similar advantages as the DPB.

In 2004, Blair was identified on the Green Party website as a "Green Party agent".
There are several possibilities here. Firstly, he has left the SPA and is now a Green, secondly he is still a secret SPA member inside the Greens, thirdly he is an open SPA member inside the Greens.

The fact that he was still working out of the local National Distribution Union HQ at the time would tend to indicate an ongoing relationship with the SPA.

In September, 2005, Blair was one of several SPA linked people listed as endorsing Socialist Worker's, "Workers Charter".

According to Stuff July 11th, 2006 The Rotorua People's Advocacy Centre claims the Government is adopting a position of demonising social security beneficiaries in a knee jerk reaction to the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the Kahui twins.

Spokesman Paul Blair describes as outrageous the inference that more than one social beneficiary in a house somehow indicated illegal activity or that the system' was being ripped off.

"Our message to Rotorua beneficiaries is to resist any attempt on the part of the Government or its agencies to violate their perfectly lawful living arrangements."

Mr Blair said that according to law social security claimants have all the rights of citizenship that every New Zealander has.

"If you are singled out for investigation because you are part of a "cluster" (of beneficiaries) tell them where to go - stand up for your rights and hold your head up high.

"Resist this latest attempt by central Government to smash into a sector of the population for its own misguided and misconceived political grasp for votes from the beneficiary-hating, "red-neck" sectors of the population."

I hope Paul Blair isn't talking about people like me.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Apprenticeship, the Overlooked Institution, Part 3

The third and final part of a speech on the apprenticeship system, that I gave to several ACT regional conferences in late 2004. Check out Part 1 and Part 2

This part starts with the second of several steps I believe are required to restore NZ's apprenticeship system.

Broaden the System

Secondly we should extend apprenticeships and cadetships back into areas like primary teaching, journalism, nursing, and new areas like computing, retail and tourism. Even some professions such as the law, surveying and accountancy should return to training at least some of their staff through apprenticeships

In Germany young people can and do apprenticeships in almost any area.The mighty German economic machine has no shortage of skilled tradespeople and technicians and very low youth unemployment.

Throughout Western Europe, it is the norm for non university bound teenagers to start their working life in an apprenticeship.

Why shouldn’t we have 60% or more of our school leavers in apprenticeships?

Start Them Early

Once a teenager could
leave school at 15, start an apprenticeship and be qualified at 19. Now most will leave school at 16 or 17, do a year at polytech on a pre-apprenticeship course (with a student loan), then, if they’re extremely lucky start an apprenticeship.

People in this situation have commitments and want an adult wage. They don’t want to start at the bottom and are often less teachable. Pre-apprenticeship courses are no substitute for the real thing and are often actually counter productive. Many employers complain that some of these trainees think they are above the simple tasks that real apprentices are required to learn.

Life has its hierarchies and by starting at the very bottom of the ladder, apprentices tend to learn them very well. Apprenticeships should be geared as much as possible to start in the mid teens.

Reduce Government Involvement

Fourthly We should reduce government involvement in apprenticeship training as much as possible. Each industry should run its own training, to its own standards.

The 2002 budget committed an extra $41 million to “Modern Apprenticeships” over the next 4 years. Recently the government announced that it would pump in 9 million dollars to produce an extra 1,000 apprentices. That’s $9,000 per apprentice. That money will not go to apprentices or employers. It will go to Industry Training
Organisation bureaucrats.

The beauty of apprenticeship is that it is (or should be)self funding. A properly run apprenticeship system should cost the taxpayer virtually zero. In fact there should be a net gain as apprentices each pay a small amount of tax rather than taking out a student loan.

Industry should be awarding its own qualifications, so NZQA involvement could be axed and even the small polytech input could be privatized.

Governments love to bureaucratise and complicate things. A recent Human Rights Commission document on the “modern apprenticeship” scheme proposed that taxpayer funded apprentice co-ordinators should take over the role of apprenticeship recruitment from employers.

It further proposed that these co-ordinators be set recruitment quotas based on
race, sex and disability. Even worse it wants co-ordinators to be paid bonuses for recruiting from the appropriate minorities.

Do you you pay taxes so that that car can be fixed by a Tongan lesbian with a gammy

Labour’s “modern apprenticeship” scheme is an expensive,”politically correct” bureacratised scam. Don’t be fooled by it.

Industry likes to simplify. The cheaper and simpler we can make apprenticeships, the more employers will embrace them. Give employer a choice “modern apprenticeships” with “unit standards” or a simple traditional time based system. See which approach wins out.

Utilise the Military

Fifthly we should expand the one area where government should play a role in apprentice training-the military. The Army, Navy and Air Force used to train hundreds of diesel mechanics, radio technicians, aircraft engineers, carpenters, chefs and sign writers. Some industries, such as aircraft maintenance were built largely on ex military staff.

The forces have the infrastructure and the skill base to turn out highly skilled people and we’re paying for it through our taxes anyway.

In the late 80s the Government abolished the Army cadet scheme and with it most of the army’s apprenticeship programme. Today the army employs approximately 10 apprentices a year. The situation is not much better in the Navy or what used to be our Air Force.

The coming ACT/National Government should immediately implement an extensive system of military apprenticeships. This would help both the military and future civilian employers. It would also very inexpensively increase the pool of military trained people for any future defence emergencies.

Some funding for this could come from part of the education vote which remains unspent each year. Some of the rest could come from an unused student loan budget.


Not training apprentices costs us all. It costs us economically, through lost production and under utilization of training resources and personnel.

It costs us socially, through increased crime and anti social behavior.

Most importantly it cost thousands of young people an opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families.

There are thousands of employers who would like to train more apprentices. There are thousands of parents who would love to see their teens in trade training. There are tens of thousands of school leavers every year who could and should be ”doing their time”. There are millions of taxpayers who would rather see their burden shared by thousands of apprentices than be forking out billions on student loans.

Politicians must realize that the people who would gain from the restoration of a real apprenticeship system, far outnumber the education bureaucrats and training providers who might lose out.

Any politician prepared to champion the apprenticeship cause will earn a lot of friends.

The near destruction of the New Zealand apprenticeship system was an act of incredible folly. Let’s not perpetuate the mistake.

Apprenticeship is an overlooked institution. Like marriage, it is a bed rock of society and like marriage, it is in trouble.

I hope ACT will seize the opportunity to champion the traditional apprenticeship system. I believe there are votes in it. I believe it would help ACT’s image to promote such a positive and popular idea.

But bugger all that, we are a party that does things because they are right.

What more reason do we need?

Victory in Tauranga

In a good example of ACT/Libertarianz co-operation, Frances Denz and Ron Scott have been elected to the Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust.

ACT members Frances and Ron, together with Libz member, Russell Watkins formed the Power Rebates Team. They campaigned on returning dividends to consumers rather than dishing the funds out to community groups.

Trust chairman Michael Cooney was returned with 7035 votes, Ron scored 5619, Frances got 5281 votes and Russell, 5184.

As there were only three positions available, Russell just missed out. There were 22 candidates in the field.

It is a good lesson that a liberal message, properly packaged, can be sold to voters, especially at a local level.

With councils spinning out of control and with huge rate rises looming all over the country, is there a message here for liberal/libertarian activists?

Congratulations Ron and Frances and better luck next time Russell.

Hat Tip Andrew Falloon

Monday, July 17, 2006

New Indonesian Crypto Communist Party Formed

Indonesia's most active Marxist Party, the The Partai Rakyat Demokratik (PRD) or People's Democratic Party, has just got bigger.

According to the latest Green Left Weekly

The spirit of unity filled the air as democratic organisations agreed to build a Party of National Liberation Unity (KP-PAPERNAS). Trade unions, student organisations, progressive political parties and poor people’s organisations agreed on a common platform and strategy at a conference on June 20-21.

Participants agreed that imperialism and its agent in Indonesia, the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, are generating the main crises across the nation. Neoliberal policies have plundered the country’s natural resources, devastated its national industry and impoverished its people. It has also removed the nation’s independence, sovereignty and dignity.

The national founding members of the KP-PAPERNAS are the

People’s Democratic Party, the Automotive Workers Union, the Indonesian National Front for Workers Struggle, Unity of Workers Struggle, the National Student League for Democracy, Unity of Buddhist Student, the National Peasant Union, the Urban Poor Union and the Indonesian Transportation Workers Union.

Joining at a local level are: Belawan Transportation Workers Union, (Medan-North Sumatra), Movement of the Poor, Labuhan Batu (North Sumatra), Lampung Street Vendor Union (Lampung Province), Jogjakarta Student Community, Solidarity of Indonesian Students, Amasutra, Lespek Boul, Central Sulawesi Union of the Poor, Forum of Lembata Youth (South East Nusa, NTT), Peasant Community of Rotanolet, Peasant Community of Liavua, Forum of Latena Community and People’s Alliance for Decent Housing.

The new party will be officially launched on 23rd July 2006.

Clearly an initiative of the PRD, the new party could be a major step forward for the Indonesian far left.

The PRD itself was formed in 1996 and was originally led by Budiman Sujatmiko.

Quickly and quite correctly labelled as "communist" by the Indonesian authorities the party endured severe harassment by the government and military.

Budiman Sujatmiko, infuriated the government when he met Timor Leste pro-independence figure Xanana Gusmão and declared the PRD's support for the independence of East Timor.

The PRD played a role in the 1997/98 anarchy that led to the resignation of President Suharto and supported leftist President Wahid (Gus Dur).

The PRD is now led by union activist Dita Sari. The PRD and especially Sari have long standing ties to Australia's largest Marxist-Leninist group, the Democratic Socialist Perspective.

Dita Sari and US Trotskyite, Caroline Lund at the DSP's Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference in Sydney, 2002.

The PRD is also closely associated with several "national liberation" and Marxist groups in the Asia/Pacific region, including the Timor Socialist Party.

Message to Michael Cullen

Neville Bennett, writing in the latest NBR, claims that tax receipts in the US are expected to increase 11.4% this year, despite tax cuts.

According to Bennett "in the 11 quarters since the tax cuts were introduced, the US economy has grown more than 20%. The total pie has expanded $US2.2 trillion, equivalent to the total GDP of China.>

Business investment has increased 37% in the past three years."

Won't Ever Let My Kids Go Nude By My Old Pool...

PC has reached my old home town. According to the Christchurch Star of 14.7.06 a mother of four, Amanda Crozier was forbidden from changing her 16 month old daughter, Ophelia, by the poolside at the Kaiapoi Aquatic centre.

Mrs Crozier was told by a pool staff member that changing children outside the changing rooms provided was no longer allowed.

She was given a memo from the pool's administrators, the Waimakiriri District Council, explaining that children could be put at risk by going nude.

The memo added "it is unfortunate we must take these measures, however with modern technology and changing human behaviours, we as an aquatic facility provider, must put systems in place to minimise the risk to our customers".

Sunday, July 16, 2006

W.A.Y.N.C.R? Number 11, Grant Robertson

My latest Where Are You Now, Campus Radical? Profile concerns Grant Robertson.

Many will remember Grant Robertson from Otago University in the early '90s, where he studied political science.

His career in politics, (student and real world) has encompassed a literal alphabet soup of mainly left leaning organisations.

In 1992, Robertson was on the Otago University Students Association executive and in 1993 became OUSA president.

The Aotearoa Youth Network was formed that year by Radical Society Maoists from Auckland University. AYN united Maoist, anarchist and socialist leaning students from most universities against student fees and for other leftist causes.

Grant Robertson was apparently on good terms with some Otago AYNers and contributed occasionally to AYN's newsletter.

In 1994 AYN No 10 carried an article signed by Otago students, Grant R, Nathan M, Anita J on the campaign to save compulsory student association membership.

In May 1994, Robertson ran a session on public speaking at an AYN run activists workshop in Dunedin. Peacenik Warren Thomson, well known Dunedin stirrer Alan Cumming and commentator Chris Trotter also ran sessions.

In 1995, Robertson moved to Wellington to become vice president of the New Zealand University Students Association. He was also a supporter of the Next Step Democracy Movement, which unsuccessfully tried to raise signatures to force referenda on increasing health and education spending and other socialist measures. NSDM was supported by AYN and other allied groups.

In 1996 Robertson was co-president of NZUSA with ex Waikato president and lesbian activist Alayna Ashby.

At NZUSA, Robertson helped establish a Queer Project Worker position that led to the establishment of the UniQ support groups for glbt students on campuses around the country.

Robertson was also involved in launching the Public Tertiary Education Coalition.
Unsurprisingly PTEC's main purpose was to lobby the government for more "resources" for the state education system.

Next up, Robertson joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He worked for MFAT in Wellington which included managing New Zealand's overseas aid programme to Samoa, then spent 2.5 years in New York at the UN.

Robertson worked at the UN as a member of the Executive Board of the UN Development Programme and UN Population Fund. This included a period as vice-President of the Board representing donor nations.

By 2001, Robertson was back in NZ working as a senior advisor (or minder as some suggested at the time) to then broadcasting minister, Marian Hobbs.

Robertson moved from Hobbs' office to work for PM Helen Clark, managing coalition arrangements and advising the PM on foreign affairs, sustainable development, the environment and education.

Robertson's affiliation to Labour was not just professional. In 2003 he was chair of the LP's Harbour branch in Wellington Central.

In December 2005, Robertson was appointed to the board of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

His decision to join the NZAF board was "motivated by his work on HIV at the UN, increasing rates of HIV infections in New Zealand over the last few years, and personal contact with those affected by the virus."

In June this year, after four years with Clark, Robertson began work in Wellington for his old university.

Robertson has been appointed as Senior Research Marketing Manager with the University of Otago's Enterprise Office. The job involves matching business with Otago University's top researchers.

I wonder if we will see Grant Robertson back in the political arena any time soon?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Scratch Marx?

Question What would Karl Marx be doing if he were alive today?

Answer Scratching the lid of his coffin.

Apprenticeship, the Overlooked Institution, Part 2

Part 2 of a speech on the apprenticeship system, I gave to several ACT regional conferences in late 2004. Part 1 is here.

Check out Peter Cresswell's excellent piece on apprenticeships at Not PC.

Social Costs, Social Gains

Our totally inadequate apprentice training system also carries huge social costs. Teenage years have a huge impact on later life. It is then that good work habits, goal setting, teamwork and self responsibility are learned.

Also, they are when criminal and anti social behavior, drug and alcohol abuse usually start. Young people often turn to negative behavior because they lack purpose and discipline.

An apprenticeship provides purpose, discipline and hope for the future. Apprenticeships also expose teenagers to mature mentors and confidants who can help guide them through the tough years. Most young people will accept guidance more readily from their “master” than they will from Mum or Dad.

If you’re a 17 year old whose got his girlfriend pregnant-where do you go for advice? Mum and Dad or one of your mentors from work?

Many of our armies of fatherless young males would also hugely benefit from contact with older male tradesmen.

Even the traditional low wages paid to apprentices have a social benefit. Junior apprentices have to budget every cent, the value of money is learned early. Young apprentices almost always have live at home, in hostels or in private board. This means more adult supervision for longer and consequently less likelihood of a young person running off the rails.

New Zealand is rapidly developing a welfare dependent underclass, comprising largely of Maoris and Pacific Islanders.

Once Christchurch was host to hundreds of young maori apprentices who lived in marae based hostels. Those former “hostel boys” are now, mostly self employed or highly paid tradesmen. They are part of the maori “middle class”.

Those hostels were closed some years ago. Those boy’s younger brothers and sisters aren’t becoming carpenters, diesel mechanics or hairdressers any more. Many are on the dole, working as labourers or doing “hip hop” or or basket weaving courses on student loans.

Expanding the apprenticeship system would give hope to thousands of disadvantaged young people. It would whittle away at the underclass and give poorer people a clear road to a better standard of living. It would help bring the underclass back into the mainstream.

Rebuilding the apprenticeship system would even breathe new life into dying rural communities. Young people could learn a trade in their own community and then start their own local businesses to train the next generation.

Apprenticeship is a rite of passage. It eases the transition from child to adult in a very practical manner. A strong apprenticeship system would do more to lower drug abuse, juvenile crime and youth suicide than any number of social workers, policemen or boxing politicians.

Apprenticeship, formal or informal is a key component of building a stable, free, society.

By providing a way for older people to pass on experience it helps bind the generations. Apprenticeships are excellent for teaching respect in younger people and humility in their elders.

Apprenticeships are the ultimate win-win. They are good for the individual apprentice, they are good for the employer, they’re good for the economy and they’re good for our society.

How Do We Do it?

To get people employing apprentices in large numbers, I believe we must do several things; all of them taxpayer friendly!

A Abolish Unit Standards.

Firstly we must sideline the “unit standards” system which is probably the main disincentive to employing apprentices. The “Unit Standards” system attempts to train by dividing trades into numerous physical skills which must be mastered. This produces apprentices who are basically trained monkeys. They can do a series of tasks on command but may not necessarily understand why they are doing them.

Learning should be an organic process. Principles should be learned, then applied in practical reality to produce understanding.

A good tradesman instills in his apprentice the principles of the trade, whether it is how yeast works in baking, how paint flows or how to bone out a cattle beast.

By understanding basic principles, the apprentice can apply his or her skills to varied situations. They can learn to integrate skills, to problem solve and become real masters of their art.

The “Unit Standards” system, is an extremely clumsy and primitive approach to learning. All New Zealand’s universities have rejected the systemit and few if any other countries have adopted this idiotic approach.

To get an idea of how useful “unit standards” are-apply them to Rugby.

Imagine if rugby coaches were required to award “unit standards” to all players. Passing the ball-tick, hooking the ball-tick, jumping in the line-out-tick, taking a dropped goal-tick, tossing the coin-tick, having a conversation with your coach’s mother-tick, having a tidy uniform-tick, putting in your mouth guard-tick, back chatting the ref-tick.

This would make life so much simpler for selectors. They wouldn’t have to worry about watching players play, examine track records, how they react under pressure etc. It would be simple. You would pick the All Blacks on the basis of who had the biggest number of the appropriate “unit Standards”. We would know that we had the best team available because he would have a “record of learning” to prove it.

Abolishing “Unit Standards” would immediately eliminate the need for assessors. Currently large firms must train an on site assessor to mark off their apprentices “progress” Smaller firms must do this job themselves or pay an outside assessor $40 or more an hour to do it for them.

Trained teachers are getting bogged down with “unit standards” in our High schools. How is a one man band paperhanger mean’t to cope?

Small wonder that very few small companies now employ apprentices.

Friday, July 14, 2006

S.A.P. Number 8, Brian Roper

My latest Socialist Academic Profile is of Otago University senior political lecturer, Brian Staples Roper. Dr Roper has an MA from Canterbury University and a Phd from Queensland's Griffith University.

Brian Roper probably first got radical during the 1981 Sprinbok Tour of NZ. He was involved in Canterbury University "Students Against the Tour" and was one of 26 arrested at a July anti Tour march in Christchurch.

By 1986, Roper was working in Canterbury University's Sociology Department and hanging around with a small Trotskyite group, the Revolutionary Communist League, which had taken over the leftist journal "NZ Monthly Review".

In September 1989 Roper wrote a letter to the late Bruce Jesson's "The Republican", stating "for this reason the kind of socialism that we must work toward... must be a socialism based on the democratic exertion of working class power through a system of workers', women's and Maori' councils. Our political practice should be directed towards that goal."

In 1990, Roper joined the staff at Otago University. He quickly became active in the university's "Progressive Left" club and began gathering around him some young followers.

In early 1993, Roper and his partner, Laurel Hepburn founded the Otago University "International Socialist Organisation". The ISO was then affiliated to the British Socialist Workers Party and soon became the most militant group on campus.

From 1993 to today, their would hardly have been a demo, march, registry occupation, sit-in or picket in Dunedin that the ISO would not have joined, or led. Otago University's Education Action Group has always had a significant ISO component.

In 1994, the ISO joined the remnants of the Communist Party of NZ to form the NZ Socialist Workers Party. I remember at the time, one Canterbury ISOer, Robyn Sullivan, telling me what a great bunch, the ex Stalinists of the CPNZ were.

By 1997, the merger was all over and Roper's group re-adopted the ISO name. They are no longer aligned to the British SWP, but to the US ISO and the Australian, "Socialist Alternative".

Dr Roper has co-edited two books:"State and Economy in NZ" and "The Political Economy of NZ". He has a book currently in press entitled:"Towards Prosperity or Poverty? The Keynesian Era, Neoliberal Restructuring and the Third Way in NZ."

He has been recently on another book,"The History of Democracy: A Marxist Interpretation".

Riveting stuff.

Apparently Roper does like one thing about capitalism-Coca Cola.

Maybe This Communism Does Work After All!

From the Communist Party of Australia's Guardian of 12 July, 2006

The sweeping electoral triumph of the Bengal Left Front under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was replete with significance. For the seventh consecutive time a Communist-led government could be established in a country within the confines of a bourgeois-landlord State led by the big bourgeoisie. This in itself is perhaps unprecedented in the political annals of the world. Certainly, the triumphant continuous existence of the Left Front government in Bengal has created a new chapter in the history of India.

The Left Front is not a coalition of convenience. It is not a mere electoral alliance. It has come up through the rigours of struggle. It is deeply set in the hearts and minds of the people, especially of the toiling masses. The Left Front government is a government with a difference.

A few instances of the pro-people outlook of the Bengal Left Front government may be cited. In 1977, the first Left Front government was swept to office riding on a popular wave. In 1978, the new government put into practice a comprehensive program of land redistribution where big areas of surplus land were redistributed among the rural poor. At the same time the new government organised to secure the rights of sharecroppers. In the same year, elections to the rural panchayats (village councils) were held and these third-tier institutions have functioned since as the rural government.

Irrigated land parcels grew rapidly. In less than 25 years the state of Bengal became surplus in food production. The economic base of the state was built up solidly and the base was located in the realm of land reforms and agricultural growth.

In 1994 a state industrial policy under the stewardship of the then chief minister Jyoti Basu was introduced. Infrastructure was built up rapidly and in a coordinated manner, including communications, roadways etc.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

CCQ 12 Do We Need a Commerce Commission?

Broadstairs asks

Is there a need for bodies such as the Commerce Commission?

Now I originally posed this question as an example. What I was getting at here (and I hope Broadstairs agrees)is this. Is their really a necessity for a body to regulate anti competitive practices in a free economy?

The NZ Commerce Commission carries out various roles, administering the Fair Trading Act (unnecessary), regulating electricity and telecommunications (downright destructive) etc. All of the Commerce Commissions few legitimate roles could be carried out by the Ministry of Justice.

What I really despise the Commission for however are the competition regulating powers given to it by the Commerce Act.

The Commerce Commission has both an enforcement and adjudication role in relation to anti-competitive practices prohibited by Part II of the Commerce Act.

The Act:

prohibits behaviour that restricts competition; and

allows the Commission to authorise, on public benefit grounds, proposed anti-competitive practices that would lead to the substantial lessening of competition in a market.

This is destructive and dangerous stuff. It is based on the BIG MYTH of capitalism.

That unregulated free enterprise will inevitably lead to the existence and maintenance of monopolies and cartels.

People who believe this (and this includes many business people and even some ACT members), are quite happy for a body like the Commerce Commission to ban proposed business mergers and even order existing businesses to break up.

As this proposition is completely false, there is no need for such a body, or indeed for anti-trust legislation at all.

The one and only cause of harmful or enduring monopoly is government regulation.

If you look at the Internet, you will see probably the largest near free market on the planet. The Internet is a pan global "cyber economy" made up of millions of businesses, voluntary groups, individuals and activists, all vying for your attention, your money, your bank account details, your hot body or your support.

Where are the monopolies on the Internet? Marxist logic tells us that the Internet should be careering towards centralised control as big well financed sites squeeze out competition and begin to dominate the market.

The reality is the opposite. The Internet is highly de-centralised and very "democratic". There are millions of Blogs, anyone can set up a website and sell globally, great or crap writers can transmit their work to millions, political opinion of every shade can be disseminated with ease. No site is any better than what it is producing NOW. Great sites can be forgotten tomorrow if their standards drop. New talent can emerge overnight.

That is exactly how a true free market economy works. De-centralisation is the natural consequence of free markets-not monopoly.

Imagine if a government or the UN ever gets hold of the Internet and starts to regulate it.

Then you will see huge negative changes. Certain sites that toed certain lines would get government favour and/or contracts. Certain sites that were "objectionable" would find life being made very difficult for them.

Certain favoured companies and sites would start to get competitive advantage and others would follow their lead in order to secure similar advantage. You would have to "go along to get along".

State control of the Internet would cut competition, reduce diversity and encourage centralisation and monopoly.

That is exactly what happens in a socialist or mixed economy. Companies get big on government contracts (Fletcher's carrying out state construction contracts on cost plus 10% for example), government favours, concessions etc. This leads to very cosy and often corrupt state/private relationships forming, to the disadvantage of smaller, more honest or newer competitors.

While some small temporary monopolies many exist in a free economy (a single shop on a small island, an exclusive right to a new drug until the patent runs out), they are all vulnerable to competition at any time.

The only entities safe from "dog eat dog" competition are those in some way protected by the state's power to force compliance.

While some will always conspire to form cartels, this should not be illegal. If people want to be lazy and stupid, let them. By doing this, the carteleers only weaken themselves and become easy meat for the entrepeneurs who relish competition and never miss the smallest gap in the market place.

If Air NZ wants to join Qantas, let them. Just make sure you remove ALL legislative impediments to other airlines, Zeppelins, rocket ships, hovercraft or magic broomsticks entering the market.

Anti competitive law and hence, the Commerce Commission is totally unnecessary and counterproductive.

If you want to increase competion and make monopoly impossible, simply completely de-regulate the market and get government out of business.

Apprenticeship the Overlooked Institution, Part 1

Here is part one of a slightly edited speech I gave to several ACT regional conferences at the end of 2004. While I never did an apprenticeship myself, I have trained several and very much value the institution.

I hope that anybody interested in trade training or the wellbeing of our youth will take the time to read these posts. Comments or suggestions, much appreciated.

Apprenticeship, the Overlooked Institution

In the early 1990s the National Government made two major mistakes, the effects of which are with us every day. The first was Jim Bolger’s sacking of Minister of Finance Ruth Richardson.

The second was Minister of Education, Lockwood Smith’s, near destruction of the apprenticeship system. Dr Smith, who promised to rein in the education bureaucrats was instead seduced by them. The illegitimate offspring of that ill starred union became known as “seamless education

Rather than complete a three to five year apprenticeship, people could instead train over an indefinite period of time, accumulating “unit standards” which would lead to more flexible qualifications and “prove” competence over a range of areas.

This “seamless” system was backed by a student loan scheme (or scam) which financed trainees into virtually any program that could gain New Zealand Qualifications Authority approval.

This approach, had four major flaws.

Firstly it created a huge and expensive bureaucracy that financially drains trainees and mentally exhausts employers.

Secondly it weakened the commitment to high quality training by both parties, trainer and trainee, that a stable, three to five year apprenticeship fosters.

Thirdly it caused most employers to reconsider their training intake and in many cases to either reduce or stop training apprentices altogether.

Fourthly it created a huge industry of private training establishments, some good, some indifferent, some diabolical. These helped to create a culture where it is almost the norm for a young person to start life with a large student loan.

By the mid 1990s apprenticeship training had almost ceased and has only begun a slight recovery since the introduction of the “modern apprenticeship” scheme.

After the 1987 stock market crash apprentice numbers went into deep decline. By 1992 there were only 14,000 apprentices in New Zealand. Today while there are tens of thousands in some form of “training” today there are just over 6,000 actual

So What?

Training organization bureaucrats would argue that there are more people in training than ever before. That is true, but training should be to serve a purpose not be an end in itself. Numbers do not equal quality. In reality there is a huge shortage of skilled tradesmen in New Zealand and there are no where near enough apprentices to fill the gap

Conversely, there are thousands of unemployed or under skilled young people languishing on benefits, stuck in dead end jobs or wasting their time and taxpayers money on courses of dubious value.

Why should we care? Young people are still in training, either on the job, at polytech, or in private institutions. We should care because the best and most cost effective method of training is struggling, while more expensive and less satisfactory options are growing.

We should care because thousands of young people are incurring huge student loans to do courses of questionable value when they should be getting paid to learn on the job. Student debt is ballooning out of control while teenagers are paying big money to earn “unit standards” in everything from scuba diving to basket weaving.

We should care because many of these courses, are little but “self esteem factories” turning out “graduates” with totally unrealistic ideas of their ability. Some time ago I spoke to an 18 year old girl who was about to start her own car wrecking yard on the recommendation of her business course mentor. This girl and hundreds like her should be starting at the bottom in an apprenticeship, not wasting time and money on stupid schemes.

New Zealand industry is starved of skilled tradesmen which is stunting economic growth. We have the insane situation where thousands of bright young people are doing expensive courses or dead end jobs while hundreds of employers with huge skills to offer are either reluctant or unable to train them.

Many of those businesses that could be training our future tradesmen are simply refusing to do so. Hundreds of ridiculous “unit standards” must be assessed and written up in triplicate. They are not even all work related. I have to assess my apprentices on brushing their teeth, or holding a conversation with their mother in law.

Employers are sickened by the countless farcical “assessments” that apprenticeship training now entails, the huge drain on time and the spiraling costs from the multiple bureaucracies involved.

In many parts of the country there are even community trusts who handle paperwork and subsidise costs so that local businesses can be enticed into employing apprentices. That people are willing to do this is admirable. That they should have to, is disgraceful.

In the South Island the 4Trades scheme which is funded by WINZ, the Canterbury Development Corporation, and the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs hires out apprentices to firms. In return for handling taxes, assessments etc $Trades charges employers $2 an hour over the apprentices wage. Taxpayer and ratepayers money is being used to relieve a problem caused by Government bureaucracy in the first place.

The “baby boomers” who learned their trades in the ‘60s,’70s or ‘80s are now retiring or moving into management. Who is going to train the next generation on the factory floor?