Rapists and murderers

I already put together a Storify detailing the first half hour or so of events today in the House. Basically, PM John Key responded to questions about NZ citizens being held on Christmas Island with repeated accusations that the Labour party is supporting rapists. The Speaker held that this was not offensive and did not need to be withdrawn, because the measurement is not whether one member is offended but whether the House is offended. Apparently, the House is not offended by a member accusing the Opposition of supporting sex crimes. This prompted a large number of Labour and Greens MPs to walk out – according to Nathan Simms (@5WinstonSmith5) this was the biggest walk out since Muldoon claimed that Moyle had been stopped by police while gay cruising. That event took place when homosexuality was still illegal, in 1976.

There are some tweets in there regarding a few of the minor crimes detainees were convicted of; here’s a story with more detail about a couple of cases.

At the end of Question Time everyone came back in and Chris Hipkins filed a motion for a vote of no confidence in Carter as Speaker. Unfortunately, since you have to file a motion, even a single objection is enough to block it, and of course National did not allow the vote to be held.

Ironically enough, after this MP Tracey Martin called for an urgent debate regarding police inaction on a group of teenager boys posting photos of them committing sex acts on drunk and underaged girls (I don’t think I need to get more specific than that), which was also denied. By National. Twitter continued in this vein by listing other reasons Key’s accusations were highly hypocritical – defunding of rape crisis centres, for example, or Kelvin Davis’ own history of fundraising for victims through sponsored charity walks.


Personally, my position is staunchly that even if all 40 Kiwis being held on Christmas island were criminals of the worst sort, it wouldn’t matter. They served their time and have been released from jail. They should not still be held, whether in a Correctional facility (which Christmas Island is not) or a detention centre. It’s an abuse of human rights.

And it’s an abuse that is still even worse than what refugees there are suffering. What I very much hope is that if anything comes of the Kiwis being held there it’s that the media starts to pay more attention to the conditions. It’s not that we haven’t had serious eye witness evidence to these camps before, but the way the media in almost any country focuses so intently on the local connection to any situation (a hundred people die and we pay attention to the one Kiwi who hasn’t lived here in 20 years who was nearby at the time, etc), maybe, just maybe, having Kiwis in these camps will make it more real for people. Because we really have a strong moral obligation to call Australia out on this shit and instead we’re pandering to them – partly because they’re our bigger neighbour, partly because they’re in between us and most refugees. Politics and cowardice.

And then compare John Key’s behaviour to that of the actual Kiwis in question, as reported in the Herald of all places. (There’s an autoplay video there you’ll have to turn off.)

The unrest began with upset refugees asking officials what happened to refugee Fazel Chegeni, whose body was found on Sunday following his escape from the detention centre on Friday. “They just wanted straight-forward answers, and weren’t given straight-forward answers,” Mr Hohua said.

The hated ERT were sent in, he claimed, and jostled with the refugees. Mr Hohua claims that one ERT member challenged one refugee to a “one on one” fight.

“That’s when us 501s [convicted criminals with cancelled visas] got involved,” he said. “You can’t f***ing do that. Who are you? You know. We didn’t get involved, as in, throw any punches, but we made sure that he wasn’t going to touch the refugee, or any of them were going to touch the refugee. Refugees don’t fight. Refugees just yell and scream and argue and get beaten up for it.”

I’m pretty proud of the people who are working in defense of refugees – whether they be NZ citizens with criminal convictions in the camps or people like Kelvin Davis and the ordinary people going to protests and speaking out. It almost makes up for how fucking disappointing the government is.

The caption debate

Sarah (Writehandedgirl) has got a blog post up with a transcript of Sean Plunkett’s conversation with Louise Carroll of the National Foundation for the Deaf. If you’re not aware, she was arguing in the context of the Rugby World Cup that we need to mandate captioning for Deaf and HOH audiences, and Plunkett was extremely dismissive of her. Sarah’s post is a great look at the argument from a disability perspective, but I just want to add a couple of things outside of that scope: namely, that captioning is useful for everyone!

Think about it. How many times have you been watching tv when something noisy was happening in the background? Children playing enthusiastically and loudly or crying, someone vacuuming, neighbours listening to loud music, even strong wind can be pretty loud as we know in Wellington. Or a child is sleeping, and you don’t want to do anything noisy that might wake them. Rather than engaging in volume wars or having to turn it off until later, wouldn’t it be easier if you could just turn on captions? It’s the same principle as disabled access ramps – they’re marked as being for people in wheelchairs, and I think this is where a lot of the hostility to expensive PC regulations comes from, because… they’re also good for people with push chairs or prams, or wheeled shopping trolleys, or all sorts of other things. A lot of things that disability networks advocate for that make society easier to navigate for people with disabilities are useful to everyone else as well.

The other point Plunkett makes is that businesses would fund captions themselves if there was a market case for it. This sounds plausible on the surface, but there are also countless of examples of businesses acting against their own best interests. Pretty much every new technology for film – tv, video rental, video recorders, DVD, internet downloads – the studios have put up a huge fuss saying it would destroy the industry. Every single one of them has provided a huge boost to their profits as they allow greater access to their products. Then there’s all those products marketed aggressively to men or which actively snub female consumers, like the huge untapped market for merchandise for female Marvel characters. Or for a local example, TV3 ditching Campbell Live and losing a ton of viewers. A lot of businesses do not want to innovate. It’s risky. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. It’s easier to operate based on received wisdom and convention, and often they’ll cling to it even as the old model is suffering through its last gasping breaths. (See also: highly pollutive industries like coal, oil and gas extraction, as consumers increasingly divest from it and reserves become smaller and harder to access.) If we operated solely by whether businesses thought it was worthwhile to do something we would miss out on a massive amount of innovation and cultural and technological advancement.

Honestly, we should be mandating that broadcasters fund captioning on all content, most especially on pre-recorded content but also live. It’s a matter of equal access for all New Zealanders, it’s a good feature for even people without hearing loss, and it’s quite probably good business too.

“They like sex.”

People who follow politics and the news are likely aware of Anne Tolley’s eugenicist comments regarding “certain families” – namely, that the government should look into telling them to stop having children. Which is serious bullshit on many, many levels that very smart people have been unpacking for two days on Twitter, but today she doubled down on the offensiveness: when asked why she thinks low income women have children, she replied, “I think they like sex.”

For five words, there’s an awful lot of implication in that sentence, and I’m most certainly missing a lot of it. But for the most obvious, does she think well off women don’t like sex? (This enters into speculation about her sex life which I’m not going to entertain.) Or did she decide it was impolitic to end with, “…and are too stupid to use birth control properly”?

However, the racial aspect of poverty and of which families draw the attention of government agencies adds another angle to that line. I’m sure she wasn’t consciously thinking of this when she gave her answer, but that’s the problem with a lot of stereotypes – you don’t have to be thinking about them to reinforce them. In this case, it’s that of the nubile and passionate Pacific woman which dates back to the early decades of European intrusion into the region.

Google search results: nubile pacific womenTolley could do with looking at actual research into sexual, reproductive and contraceptive habits of low income families. (Not just the women!) Do they use birth control consistently? What kind? If not, why not? Do they have access to good advice and medical care? Is it significant that it would be illegal for them to get an abortion due to contraceptive failure, and the hoops to jump through to access it (multiple doctors signing off that it would be a danger to your physical or mental health) are a lot harder for low income women? Are their pregnancies even unintentional? Are they even having that many children? (Teen and unintended pregnancies have been steadily dropping over the last decade, as have abortions.) Why are they having children? Are they seeking partners to help support themselves and their existing families because their own income is inadequate? Are their partners willing to use birth control? (Reproductive coercion is a recognised part of domestic abuse – getting your partner pregnant to keep them vulnerable. This includes deliberately sabotaging birth control, as well as refusing to use it.) Do they place cultural importance on family? Do they see upwards social mobility as essentially impossible no matter what they do, and decide to focus their efforts on their children instead?

There is a huge amount of nuance in these conversations that makes blanket statements about long-term contraceptive use or even sterilisation not only offensive breaches of human rights (yep – the UN says it’s a human right to decide this sort of thing for yourself) that amount to a form of genocide when applied predominantly to non-dominant ethnic groups, but also just plain stupid. How does she expect to be able to set effective policy if her understanding of the situation is a straight out of the Victorian era idea that poor, mostly brown, women are just having unprotected sex all over the place because they can’t resist the penis?

Red Peak

redpeakThis is not my favourite flag. There were two or three from the top 40 that I liked well enough, and this was one of the ones in the middle that were okay but didn’t stand out a ton. But now that the final four are out and really fucking ugly, this seems to be the one everyone’s falling in behind.

I’d still pick a couple others in the top 40 over this. I’m not one of those whose fallen completely in love with it. But it’s better than the top four, and it’s better than what we have. And equally importantly, people are responding to it.

From the sounds of it there’s a couple of different discussions about what to do with the first referendum – one to boycott and one to make an informal vote (whether or not it has anything to do with the bizarre TPPA conspiracy theory that claims you need a specific wording for an informal vote – you don’t, trust me, I’ve worked elections). Personally I think it would be kind of cute if #RedPeakers did a write-in vote. Because even if they don’t count it (they won’t) it will count as an informal vote, and who knows? maybe someone will leak to the media how many of them there were. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do, but as things stand my vote for the second referendum will be to keep the current flag.


As a historical note, this page on Canada’s flag-picking adventures is kind of fun to scroll through, including several early proposals and then a selection from the 1964 submissions and the final three. Like our final four, they’re pretty similar – unlike our final four, though, there was overwhelming support for one of them. Incidentally, they adjusted it slightly after it was picked to make it easier to draw, perhaps relevant here too considering the number of fucking leaves on a fern. (I also kind of like the Canadian Duality Flag at the end.)

Refugees and help that isn’t

In the wake of an absolutely massive refugee crisis centering around the Middle East and Europe (we should all be able to agree that when people are hiding in vehicle engines, drowning at sea and dying in the backs of trucks, they’re not “migrants”) there’s been a lot of talk locally about increasing our quota of refugees, which is currently 750 a year and has been since 1987. We don’t generally hit that total, and the ones we take are usually on a family reunification basis – relatives of refugees who’ve already gotten here. At this point, all of National’s support partners have suggested raising it to 1000, and the hashtag going around Twitter is #DoubletheQuota, which I think would be a good start. (The main problem is that while we have very good services set up, they need more funding (and a bit of time) to be able to scale up effectively, and we know how tight-fisted the government is with funding social services.)

There’s also a push, sparked by the news that 10k households in Iceland have offered to take in refugees, for people to offer up their spare rooms. While this is obviously being done with the best of intentions, I’m very deeply uncomfortable with it as anything more than a symbolic gesture. For starters, it’s attempting to solve the wrong problem. The reason we don’t take more refugees is not that we don’t have enough beds for them. Yes, that might be an issue if we suddenly went from a quota of 750 to accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees right now, and in that case a very strictly temporary arrangement might be plausible, but as it stands it strikes me very much as somewhat equivalent to people who want to go to disaster zones to help, or aid schemes like Toms shoes where for every pair they sell they donate a pair to kids in poverty stricken areas of Africa. Expensive and ultimately counterproductive – foreigners who don’t know the area need to be fed and housed and taught what to do, free shoes are a stop-gap solution that destroys local textile industries, cause unemployment and don’t do anything about the reasons the kids need shoes (cited usually as being unhygienic conditions with walking through sewage, etc, in which case it’s much more effective to install better plumbing).

Think about this: a refugee family arrives in New Zealand, completely disconnected from everything they’ve known before, having been through experiences so traumatic most of us could hardly comprehend them, with almost none of their own belongings, and are moved into somebody’s spare room. The power relationship that results from this would leave them extremely vulnerable – they’re dependent on the goodwill of a stranger who most likely has no experience or training with even the most common of coping mechanisms, they don’t have a space that’s really their own, they won’t have much recourse if their host starts placing conditions on their charity that exploit them such as providing labour in return for board, and their emotional responses to all the trauma and upheaval are unlikely to be understood or catered for. Plus cultural and language differences.

Interestingly, with the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina recently, I just read this article a few days ago about how expectations and realities can clash badly in just this sort of situation.

What might be more useful would be people volunteering to work with refugees through organisations that are already in place, sponsoring families either financially (though this can get kind of murky when the sponsor feels like they have some kind of return ownership) or by helping them adjust to the community. Signing up to help them get places. Spending time with them answering questions. Making them feel welcome. And importantly, speaking out against the racism in our society, especially when it’s leveraged against those already here.

Pissed off

I am pissed off. And sad, but mostly pissed off, at a lot of things. Like this about no funding being available for counseling for two little girls who saw police kill their uncle. Or this, the Department of Corrections saying that they aren’t going to respond to an OIA request about the treatment of trans women in prisons because they’d have to look at their files and they don’t think it’s a good enough use of their funding. Or the violence that whiteness is constantly inflicting on everyone else because I don’t even know why, we’re too fucked up to deal with our own crap without shitting on everyone and shooting up churches.

Partly that’s all just sort of sitting there simmering in the back of my mind and coming out in something really trivial though. I’m pissed off that I just sat the last exams of my degree, which has had me studying constantly for like three years, no summers off, just two or weeks here and there between semesters, no matter how sick or unstable or insomniac I get, which is a fucking huge achievement, and I don’t even get to be proud because I’m too busy being terrified that now I have to face the job market and the punitive welfare system and the patronising “how to look for jobs” programs they make you take. It sucks because as hard as studying was and as burned out on it as I’ve been getting I kind of wish it wasn’t over. At least with university, it’s predictable. You put in the work. You study. You do your assignments. And you earn your grades. It’s all based on what you put in, pre-defined standards, they even give you marking schedules showing what they expect of you.

But looking for work? Especially the specific kind of work I need, most particularly part time work? There’s no control in it. You have to scour through everywhere to even find places you might fit and then you do whatever you can to impress someone who at the end of the day has a huge stack of applicants to pick through and you just have to hope they decide, on some arbitrary criteria that centres around looking at a couple of pieces of paper and hopefully talking to you for ten minutes or half an hour, that you’re the best there is. It would be like if you enrolled at university and then had to go through all the papers looking for the two or three that let you actually get an A grade and then once you’d signed up for them you had to beat everyone else because there’s only one, and if you didn’t manage to do that you don’t get your degree and everyone has the gall to act as though it’s your personal failing, because there are plenty of As out there if you want them. And it’s not just how people judge you, there’s also the government watching over your shoulder reminding you that if you don’t submit enough assignments they’ll take away the only money you have to live on.

I don’t even actually know if WINZ will let me only look for part time jobs without a medical exemption. You’re supposed to be available for full time work. I’m fairly close to needing to go to the doctor again anyway so I can get it, but what a hassle.

I don’t know. I’m just finding the world to be a very terrible place at the moment. There are too many people who don’t care about anyone else’s quality of life, or even their lives at all. The mental anguish, the torture, the terror, the lives taken violently through murder and colonialism and poverty and disinterest, they don’t even mean anything to society at large. It makes it hard, sometimes, to find the motivation to keep going.

Police show their pride side

For those who aren’t watching Twitter tonight, something has just gone down at Pride in Auckland. This is the first year police have been allowed to march in their uniforms, which some people kind of have an issue with. Queer and trans people do not have a good time in our prison system. Trans women are regularly placed in men’s prisons and they’re often targeted by other prisoners and guards. I’d get into it more, but this post isn’t about that.

What it’s about is three people who went to protest the police presence. One of the three, Emmy, is a Maori trans woman (and a friend of mine, full disclosure. I also know at least one of the other protesters and they are both super solid people). Security and police targeted her when the three jumped a barrier. They broke her arm. A bystander was filming this and was subsequently arrested; when they asked why they were told he was “being a twat”. Then they arrested Emmy too. It took forty five minutes of her screaming in pain from her broken arm before they decided to get her medical attention. As of quarter to nine she’s just arrived at Auckland Hospital with one of her fellow protesters, she’s been given gas but is still in pain.

This is such a fucking joke. Police are allowed to march in Pride like the criminal justice system isn’t fucking toxic to queers of colour every single day. Three people protest – three, this was not exactly a big scary riot – and they go after the Maori trans woman.

To make things even better, @GayNZ’s sole coverage of the event was this:

before carrying on with how pretty and fun everything was. No mention what they were protesting (many of the replies to this tweet seemed to assume they were anti-gay protesters!), no mention that the one detained was a Maori trans woman whose arm was broken.

Like, does everyone even remember that the Hero parade used to be a protest? What is wrong with this picture now where the police are on the inside of the barriers and a trans woman is being beaten up for trying to enter? All queer groups in this country really need to take a hard look at what happened here and think about what they can learn from it and who they should be including in events.

UPDATE 9.30pm: They’re still at the hospital. Emmy’s in a lot of pain and her bone may have snapped. RadioLive has expressed interest in doing a story. Hopefully this gets at least as much publicity as someone vandalising a fucking GayTM, ie a fucking object.

And here’s Stuff’s version of events! “One tweet claimed a transvestite had his arm broken in the incident but this could not be confirmed.” This is not only appalling and offensive, it’s just plain bad journalism. Emmy is not a transvestite and she does not use male pronouns and I have not seen anyone on twitter make this mistake.

10pm: The article has now been corrected after several people contacted the journalist and editor. It now correctly identifies her as a transgender woman, cites multiple people re the broken arm, and has slightly more context on the reason for the protest.

10:30pm: The hospital is being very difficult about pain medication. She is still in huge, huge pain and the staff refuse to give her anything more. They are treating them in quite a hostile manner like they are criminals. On the other hand, Stuff has not only corrected their article but acknowledged the change at the bottom, so credit where due for that.

7am: I’ve just looked through the updates that came in overnight. Here is Justine’s account of what happened. Here is a givealittle to help cover Emmy’s medical and legal costs. X-rays show she is going to need an operation on her arm, it looks like a displaced fracture. Also it now looks like at least two people were prevented from filming. One was grabbed by security who took her phone and threw it on the ground, and the other was the man who was arrested, Nathan Broczek. (If anyone knows how he’s doing, Justine would really like to know!)

11am: Emmy has twittered! She’s still in hospital but it seems she may not need surgery after all. She has a fractured humerus and is still in a lot of pain. Here is what Auckland Pride’s comm person has to say:

Forgetting, of course, that the Hero parade originally wasn’t approved either, and also that protest is still legal (as long as you’re not at sea) and that even if it wasn’t the punishment would probably be a fine, not a fractured humerus. As for “behaving in that manner”, it seems the hostile white cis crowd (some of whom were cheering while Emmy screamed in pain) have been putting out the story that three protesters decided to charge at police, two of them being little tiny people, and one woman claimed she was punched in the chest. Justine says she has video despite the police trying to confiscate it all or break people’s phones.

Who’s to blame for National

After the huge number of advance votes placed in the lead-up to election day, the overall turnout was shockingly low. It’s easy to imagine that this would follow pre-existing trends in favouring the right. National actually got fewer votes than they did last election, despite winning more seats, but the Greens drastically underperformed even in comparison to the landline polls.

People’s response is naturally to blame non-voters. It’s understandable, but incredibly simplistic and I ended up having to quit Twitter yesterday because of how prevalent it was. The thing is, it’s easy for actively political people to see the link between voting and quality of life. It’s much harder when you’re alienated from politics entirely and just trying to make ends meet. The consequences of not voting are entirely abstract, while the consequences of paying for bus fare or using petrol aren’t. Other things that aren’t abstract: trying to find childcare, the risk of illness if you take small children out in that miserable cold rain we had, the cost of a doctor’s visit if they do get sick, the fact that none of you have raincoats, the length of time it takes to dry clothes out when you don’t have a dryer. And while the Greens particularly had some good policy for those really low income families, knowing that is not necessarily widespread. Most people still think of Labour as the real left wing party – and Labour hasn’t exactly been endearing itself to the vulnerable and needy.

That’s not to say that all non-voters are in this situation. Some of them presumably just couldn’t be bothered, or were put off by Dirty Politics, or whatever. But blaming all non-voters for National’s win feels really fucking gross when a huge number of them are struggling to survive and being failed by the rest of society. We (as a group) can’t treat people like shit and then get pissed off at them when they don’t engage in society in the way we’d wish. That’s bullshit. Blame Slater and Collins and Key. Blame the media. Blame Labour. Blame whoever you want, just don’t blame our victims.

Age is a number

The polls have closed in Scotland and the count has started. Aside from the excitement of a nation voting on whether or not to become independent (peacefully!), there are a few other quirks about the referendum that have drawn notice. One is that 16 year olds were eligible to vote.

Some people think this is a bad idea. Some think it’s “insane”, even. Typically the argument is that the brain of a 16 year old isn’t fully developed enough to understand the consequences of their actions.

I am extremely uncomfortable with that argument for several reasons. Firstly, the fact that that’s exactly the same argument that was used to deny women and various ethnic groups suffrage in the past (and in a couple of places even today). This will be rebutted with the assumption that our knowledge of the brain is better now, but during those previous debates they assumed their knowledge of the brain was correct too. The fact is, we know very little about the brain. They’ve just found a woman in China who’s 24 years old and has no cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for fine motor control, balance, motor learning and speech. Normally when this happens, the person dies quite young. In her case she had the symptoms of a minor to moderate impairment – difficulty walking, slurred speech, late development of both (speaking at 6, walking at 7). Why? Science doesn’t fucking know. The assumption is that other parts of the brain took up the slack. The brain is the least understood part of the human body.

Basing civil rights on mental abilities is really gross. It’s lead to intelligence tests that were rigged for failure. It’s lead to people with any sort of mental impairment being barred from voting (and the history of insanity is pretty fascinating for how mental impairment has been assessed over the years). There are plenty of adults who don’t grasp consequences very well who are nonetheless strongly encouraged to vote. You can vote with a concussion if you want. You can vote no matter what your educational level. There’s no obligation to even read up on the candidates or parties, you can go in there drunk with absolutely zero clues about any of it, pick two options at random, and it’s still a legitimate vote. The fact that we have a tradition of satirical political parties should be some indication that this is not some holy rite that only the most worthy should be blessed enough to take part in.

Meanwhile we let 16 year olds make all sorts of decisions that affect their future in dramatic ways. Pick school subjects, drop out, have children, leave home (in certain circumstances), drive. Car crashes are a major killer, particularly affecting Maori youth, especially rurally.

If 16 year olds are allowed to participate in adult society, and be quite strongly affected by decisions made there (eg youth wages, employment law, tertiary policy, apprenticeship schemes), I think it’s a little outlandish to consider the idea of allowing them to vote to be “insane”. 16 year olds are fairly likely to be taking or have taken civics classes fairly recently, and still have that information fresh in their minds. They are a lot more intelligent than people give them credit for. Not all of them will want to vote, and when you look at the places where they’re allowed to you’ll usually find that at 16 you’re able, but at 18 it becomes compulsory (either to just enrol or also vote), or 16 year olds are only able to vote in particular kinds of election but not all of them. But 16 year olds are right on the cusp of entering the adult world and the decisions people make here tomorrow will affect them strongly. Very strongly, considering some of the areas that have been policy focuses lately. Someone who’s in Year 13 this year and hasn’t turned 18 yet won’t have a chance to vote until they’ve already been in the workforce or higher education (ideally), raising a small child (also pretty hard work), or stuck on a benefit (increasingly more realistically) for two and a half years. That would have been me if you shifted my birth year – I didn’t turn 18 until just after I started university. And yet they have no say whatsoever on who gets to define the terms of their participation for those nearly three years. Looking at it through a civil rights framework, I just don’t think that’s fair. I want to encourage young people to take an interest in politics early. Maybe if we can catch these 16 year olds, it will be one of the factors we need to improve youth engagement. That can’t be a bad thing.