Wednesday, November 30, 2005

...and a little justice.

Those with better memories than mine will remember my comments here on the two bright little sparks who thought a bit of paint and desecration was warranted on Auckland's three mosques.

Well here, at last, is the outcome.

Jason Paul Molloy, 19, and Ross Mark Baumgarten, 18, were yesterday each sentenced to one year's imprisonment for seven counts of intentional damage on mosque and cultural centres.

They have been given leave to apply for home detention and will have to pay reparation of $5000 each at a minimum rate of $20 a week once they are released from jail.

To put that sentence into context, compare it with this -

Karen Jolly in her Honda Accord, Travis Green in his Mazda 323 and Kok Kie driving his Toyota MRS were strangers on May 7 this year.

Green threw down the gauntlet on Great North Rd about 6.30pm, Kie grabbed it at speeds of up to 130km/h and Mrs Jolly sat at the Waikumete Hill intersection in Glen Eden oblivious.

The 44-year-old was waiting to turn from Awaroa Rd, near the cemetery, on to Great North Road when they met, Kie's car slamming into hers, Green allegedly speeding off.

She died in hospital three days later.

Green, 20, has pleaded not guilty to street racing causing Mrs Jolly's death, failing to stop and failing to render assistance.

In the Waitakere District Court yesterday Kie, 38, was sentenced to two years in prison.

...flying children...

A quick note on Air New Zealand's (and apparently QANTAS and many other airlines) seating policy...

Qantas and Air New Zealand's ban on men sitting next to unaccompanied children on flights may breach the Human Rights Act.

Acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner Joris de Bres told the Herald the policy was "clearly discrimination" because it treated people differently on the basis of gender, which is prohibited under the act

On Flying Indians...

Last night, yesterday being my birthday, I was taken to see "The World's Fastest Indian" and I must say it is a most enjoyable filum. That is not just 'cos it is a local yarn or 'cos it happens to be true or 'cos Anthony Hopkins does a very good job of getting into the skin of a good Kiwi joker - even if he doesn't quite get the Southland burr on his "rr"'s.

Now this might be a bit difficult to get a Yankee head around, but NZ takes some pride in what we call "No 8 wire technology". Essentially, that is the story of Bert Munro, a 1920 Indian Scout Twin, and a world speed record set in 1967 for Motorcycles, Streamlined, Under 1000cc. From making his own pistons (2/3 Chevvy, 1/3 Ford is a good mix) to pursuading recalcitrant Americans that he did not come half way round the bleedin' world to fill in a bunch of paper and piss away the day just watching the locals having fun.

So, if you see the name at a theatre anywhere within 50 miles, and irrespective of whether you like Motorsickles or not, GO SEE IT!!! It deserves at least to become Cult Film of the Year.

Oh, and speaking of flying Indians, Commander John Herrington was last night guest speaker at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Inside Iraq...

I unashamedly post this direct and in full from Baghdad Burning.

I post it as a message to Mr Republican, Robertopia, Right Wingnut, and all of those others who believe that the Iraq of today is better than it was under Saddam.

We woke up yesterday morning to this news: Sunni tribal leader and his sons shot dead.

“Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms shot dead an aging Sunni tribal leader and three of his sons in their beds on Wednesday, relatives said…”

Except when you read it on the internet, it’s nothing like seeing scenes of it on television. They showed the corpses and the family members- an elderly woman wailing and clawing at her face and hair and screaming that soldiers from the Ministry of Interior had killed her sons. They shot them in front of their mother, wives and children… Even when they slaughter sheep, they take them away from the fold so that the other sheep aren’t terrorized by the scene.

In war, you think the unthinkable. You imagine the unimaginable. When you can’t get to sleep at night, your mind wanders to cover various possibilities. Trying to guess and determine the future of a war-torn nation is nearly impossible, so your mind focuses on the more tangible- friends… Near and distant relations. I think that during these last two and a half years, every single Iraqi inside of Iraq has considered the possibility of losing one or more people in the family. I try to imagine losing the people I love most in the world- whether it’s the possibility of having them buried under the rubble… or the possibility of having them brutally murdered by extremists… or blown to bits by a car bomb… or abducted for ransom… or brutally shot at a checkpoint. All disturbing possibilities.

I try to imagine what would happen to me, personally, should this occur. How long would it take for the need for revenge to settle in? How long would it take to be recruited by someone who looks for people who have nothing to lose? People who lost it all to one blow. What I think the world doesn’t understand is that people don’t become suicide bombers because- like the world is told- they get seventy or however many virgins in paradise. People become suicide bombers because it is a vengeful end to a life no longer worth living- a life probably violently stripped of its humanity by a local terrorist- or a foreign soldier.

I hate suicide bombers. I hate the way my heart beats chaotically every time I pass by a suspicious-looking car- and every car looks suspicious these days. I hate the way Sunni mosques and Shia mosques are being targeted right and left. I hate seeing the bodies pile up in hospitals, teeth clenched in pain, wailing men and women…

But I completely understand how people get there.

One victim was holding his daughter. "The gunmen told the girl to move then shot the father," said a relative.

Would anyone be surprised if the abovementioned daughter grew up with a hate so vicious and a need for revenge so large, it dominated everything else in her life?

Or three days ago when American and Iraqi troops fired at a family traveling from one city to another, killing five members of the family.

"They are all children. They are not terrorists," shouted one relative. "Look at the children," he said as a morgue official carried a small dead child into a refrigeration room.

Who needs Al-Qaeda to recruit 'terrorists' when you have Da’awa, SCIRI and an American occupation?

The Iraqi Ministry of Interior is denying it all, of course. Just like they’ve been denying the whole Jadriya torture house incident and all of their other assassinations and killing sprees. They've gone so far as to claim that the Americans are lying about the Jadriya torture house.

In the last three weeks, at least six different prominent doctors/professors have been assassinated. Some of them were Shia and some of them were Sunni- some were former Ba’athists and others weren’t. The only thing they have in common is the fact that each of them played a prominent role in Iraqi universities prior to the war: Dr. Haykal Al-Musawi, Dr. Ra'ad Al-Mawla (biologist), Dr. Sa'ad Al-Ansari, Dr. Mustafa Al-Heeti (pediatrician), Dr. Amir Al-Khazraji, and Dr.Mohammed Al-Jaza'eri (surgeon).

I don’t know the details of all the slayings. I knew Dr. Ra’ad Al-Mawla- he was a former professor and department head in the science college of Baghdad University- Shia. He was a quiet man- a gentleman one could always approach with a problem. He was gunned down in his office, off campus. What a terrible loss.

Another professor killed earlier this month was the head of the pharmacy college. He had problems with Da’awa students earlier in the year. After Ja’afari et al. won in the elections, their followers in the college wanted to have a celebration in the college. Sensing it would lead to trouble, he wouldn’t allow any festivities besides the usual banners. He told them it was a college for studying and learning and to leave politics out of it. Some students threatened him- there were minor clashes in the college. He was killed around a week ago- maybe more.

Whoever is behind the assassinations, Iraq is quickly losing its educated people. More and more doctors and professors are moving to leave the country.

The problem with this situation is not just major brain drain- it's the fact that this diminishing educated class is also Iraq's secular class…

I have opined in the past that Iraq will likely move toward a Shi'a state closely allied in both politics and religion to Iran. Quite apart from the politic of the present Iraq Administration, the background, the history of its leading players all point in that direction.

But then I started reading this

If I may, I want to quote the last couple paragraphs...
Add to the above mentioned kind of terror the death squads of Badr and SCIRI (Adil’s party), the Wolf Brigade and the Scorpion Brigades of Al-Shahwani (whose salary is paid directly by the CIA), and Adnan Thabit's Special Police Commandos that have led to extensive torture and extrajudicial killings in Iraq.

Adil 'diplomatically' states: "There is terrorism on only one side," he said. "Inappropriate acts by the other side, by the police—this is something else. This is a reaction.", and, "You can't fight terrorism without attacking some popular areas."

The fury of what is unleashed by the "reaction" of these terror squads is best captured by the eloquent Iraqi young lady Riverbend, with which I totally and humbly concur:

... [Here he has insterted the passage I quote above]

When it is a matter of a war crime being committed against my country and many tens of thousands of Iraqis "wasted", yes, it is white and black.

Now I want to make the point.

These people (Riverbend, Imad and his correspondents) are intelligent. They are experts at expressing their emotions and the facts as their history develops. It is immaterial to me what their religion is. They are Iraqis. They are Moslems. They are moderates.

But this is what they see -

But I completely understand how people get there.

One victim was holding his daughter. "The gunmen told the girl to move then shot the father," said a relative.

Would anyone be surprised if the abovementioned daughter grew up with a hate so vicious and a need for revenge so large, it dominated everything else in her life?

Sorry, Auntie Helen...

Imposing a death sentence for drug smuggling in Singapore might not be moral, but this aint gonna change anything.

Prime Minister Helen Clark has registered with Singapore's Prime Minister New Zealand's concerns about the planned execution of Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van.

She talked to Lee Hsieng Loong in Malta at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

"She raised the matter informally, making her concerns known to him and her views on capital punishment," a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said.

As I have said to a number of people on the American side, if I were to go to Texas and then to shoot someone I would deserve to be punished in accordance with their laws. The morality does not count. I should comply with the law of Texas. Failure to so do brings the corresponding punishment whether capital murder or a parking ticket.

Nguyen probably new the risk he ran.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

On international labour exchange - Vanuatu III

Vanuatu III –

I mentioned an op-ed piece that appeared in the Daily Post in Vila while we were there.

The same topic, reportage and conclusions were this morning (Sunday 20 Nov) broadcast in a radio op-ed programme back here at home.

A lengthy report from Danny Lui “Where next on labour mobility?” covers the discussions on the South Pacific Forum meeting held in PNG. Now this is not a Vanuatu issue, it is one which is important to most of the Pacific Islands, and to the small nations in particular. Danny notes right at the start that the representatives of these nations – from Kiribati to Palau and including Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu – had attended the Forum with the intent of making some break-through in this area of “labour export”.

Australia and New Zealand – being the “big brothers” of the Forum – had the intent of signing all of the island nations to “The Pacific Plan”. This is described by Lui as a “new vision for regional integration which includes everything from opening up trade to information technology, to qualifications, and even movement of labour between the Pacific Islands themselves... In the end the though, it seems that the Plan includes everything except a labour scheme between the Pacific and Australia and New Zealand. [Emphasis mine]

So, what happened at the meeting?

Sadly the two ANZ countries had not read the script. While Pacific nations asked the questions, the answers they heard in Madang were not very encouraging... for all the talk of a Pacific community and regional integration, the meeting showed that there is still a big difference in power between the region’s developed countries and its small islands – and it is the “big brothers” who are still definitely the boss...

Well, for a starter I guess I have to concede that the big brother power is universal. We cop it from those with greater power than ourselves, and we give it to those smaller. Law of the jungle yet!

It goes a bit further as well.

Tonga has been applying for membership of the WTO apparently. I have seen nothing of this in the news until just this past week.

Then it was reported that in order to “qualify” for membership, Tonga must meet two (at least) primary requirements –

First, removal of all import tariffs.

Second, to “deregulate” all of its service industry to allow overseas competition.

The import tariffs is the Tongan government’s primary source of income. There is little to no “income tax” as most of the economy is barter, uncontrolled, and subsistence. There is little to no corporate tax, by choice, to attract employment prospects to the islands. Take away the import tariffs and what is the Government going to use as income?

Secondly, given the nature of the Tongan economy – very much a third world model – there is no way that the informal and barter systems could compete against external competition. Equally difficult is the idea of "de-regulation". How does one “de-regulate” a market system that operates on the street corner.

The truth is that the WTO members (the “big brothers” again) in fact want to lay their hands on two things. Prime Tongan land – for the recreation of the rich and famous – and most particularly the infrastructure and resources of Tonga’s tourist industry.

And at that point my mind goes straight back to Vila.

I have been trying, over the ten days that we were there and since, to put my finger on just what has changed in the eleven years since our first visit to Vanuatu. The answer was there in a conversation I had with an Australian who owns a tourist resort about 18km outside Vila.

The major resorts in Vila were all foreign owned first time we visited. There were also a number of smaller motels and similar sized guest accomodations being run by Vanuatu people (I include those Europeans who stayed on after Independence). More importantly the tourist services – tours, fishing, and so on – were predominantly run and staffed by ni-Vanuatu. That is changing. That is where the difference lies. That makes me sad as it takes the investment and the return away from the ni-Vanuatu.


This to hand following a search for another source...

Ni-Vanuatu may be able to find employment soon in the tourism, medical and seasonal work in Australia and New Zealand or even Europe, thanks to the endorsement of a Melanesian Spearhead Group proposal to boost labour mobility.

A proposal to include World Trade Organisation (WTO) Mode 4 Services Agreement by the Vanuatu delegation to the 2004 MSG Senior Officials Meeting has now been taken forward and accepted by the special Trade Expert Advisory Group (TEAC) in their meeting in Fiji last month.

Mode 4 Proposal specifically relates to labour and human resource mobility between one market and access to other competitive markets, for example in the case of the MSG both Australia and New Zealand on the PACER Proposal and with the European Union on the proposed EPA.

and at the end -
The Vanuatu delegation submitted this proposal to the MSG Senior officials meeting which was subsequently accepted and endorsed by the recent meeting of the Trade Expert Advisory Group, a special high level committee advising the Forum Island Countries on the progress of the forthcoming ACP/EU EPA which will be concluded by the end of 2007.

For Vanuatu, important policy decisions at the highest political level are yet to be done to facilitate the implementation of this important proposal.

As I implied, and in the absence of direct access to Lui's op/ed the quotes are not direct, neither Australia nor NZ were particularly impressed by the idea at Madang. In Australia's case, Howard came out with a flat "No." Auntie Helen was a bit more pragmatic about it pointing out the "difficulties" that would be associated with such a programme.

It seems that others are recognising the same thing.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Decision making at the highest level...

Irrespective of the validity of the memo behind this; irrespective of who is trying to do what to whom; irrespective of anything else; there are two very important lessons being learned here.

The first is being learned by Joe Public. Here we have an absolute illustration of how far one government is prepared to go to protect itself and others.

If the record is accurate and factual, and the remark intended as stated, then the diplomatic and political fallout will obviously be immense. There are so many people who will want to follow that particular line on both sides I will leave it be.

If the statement was “a throwaway” as has been stated, then there is a NZ example which illustrates exactly how embarrassing these can be, and how quickly the hooha dies after.

There was a meeting, some months back – I may even have commented on it at the time – at which Brash Donnie and his then FA sidekick Quizmaster Lockwood Smith were meeting and greeting with US highups in Wellington. The question of ANZUS and the anti-nuclear legislation was raised. Brash Donnie was recorded by a MFAT official as stating that “it would be gone by lunchtime” if the National Party were to win the elections. To say the least, the fallout of that little exchange could have changed the course and outcome of the election. Certainly it resulted in some extremely red faces, from both rage and embarrassment. But there was a very valuable lesson learned by a comparatively novice politician – none other than Brash Donnie himself.

That brings us to the second lesson to be learned. It is the benefit of honesty in politics. Now to me (and probably most of you) that is a prime oxymoron. The two are (usually) mutually exclusive.

And that, dear readers, is why the occasional injection of candid honesty into an embarrassing situation can work wonders. It more often than not can turn a minor “oops” into a political plus. A simple “I stuffed up, and have learned the lesson” can work a miracle or two. Obviously, it does not pay to make the same mistake twice, nor to make too many too often.

Also as obvious is that the scale of the “oops” is important.

Being frank and open about a sexual peccadillo in the Oval Office might get you off dining at that particular feast of consequences.

There is no way that I can imagine America (the rest of the world can butt out for a moment) thinking kindly of a Presidential Statement announcing that the war in Iraq (for example) was a misjudgement and mistake. But to be frank about an aside to the effect that “I wish I could bomb the shit out of al Jazheera” and saying that it should never have been thought let alone said might, just might, make Joe American Public feel a little easier about things.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Naah! Of course it wasn't about the oil...

Yep, ok, so this is a book promo, right?

How about this then?

Iraq expects oil exports to rise by about 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) daily by January, when a new government is elected with authority to decide on foreign involvement in the sector, the head of Iraq's Energy Council said recently.

Ahmad Chalabi, who has emerged as a key player in a transition government formed earlier this year despite falling out with Washington, said he still favoured giving priority to the US and British firms in developing Iraq's oil reserves, the world's third-largest after Saudi Arabia and Canada. “We expect 1.8 million bpd by January,” he said...

Funny that name should crop up...

Chalabi has previously said that Iraq’s political leaders realised that they could not afford to politicise the oil industry, and that production decisions had to involve the central government, although regional governments would autonomously negotiate with foreign companies.

“The oil sector will stay out of political disputes, (because) Iraqi officials recognise that it is the lifeline of the economy. The cabinet has already decided to allow foreign majority share ownership of Iraqi banks and foreign investment and ownership in downstream oil, including refineries,” he said.


Here is another -
Thamir al-Ghadban, in an interview to the state-run daily al-Sabah published Tuesday, pointed to the "necessity of privatising the Iraqi oil sector, particularly in the area of services such as transport, laying pipelines, building facilities and supplying equipment".

Ghadban, who was minister of oil in the transitional Iraqi government that was replaced after the January elections, also urged his country "to enter into partnerships with foreign companies in the investment sector and for building refineries and importing petroleum derivatives".

...however you might interpret that!
Zebari said that huge oil exploration contracts lost by Russia in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule might be reviewed.

"Naturally the Iraqi leadership carries responsibility for contracts signed in the time of Saddam Hussein," he told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

In 1997, the Russian oil company Lukoil won the rights to explore oil deposits at the West Qurna-2 field, one of Iraq's most promising fields.

The contracts were later annulled by Iraq...

Now, there IS a thorn in the foot for Halliburton. I wonder what will become of that little idea. I think not a great deal. Someone will be told to sit down and shuddup if he wants to keep his job.

This observation deserves an acknowledgement as well -
Leonard Doyle, Foreign Editor

On the eve of the war in Iraq, there was a shocking moment of clarity in the Commons when Jack Straw revealed that when it was all over, France and Germany would not be allowed to "get their snouts in the trough".

This public slap in the face to Britain's biggest EU partners gave an insight into what was really concentrating US and British minds. Having constructed a tortuous case for war over Iraq's lack of co-operation with the UN security Council, plans were being laid for post-Saddam Iraq excluding non-coalition countries.

Straw's remarks revealed the focused on Iraqs oil. The World's four oil giants (BP, Exxon, Chevron and Shell) , have been desperate to get back into Iraq, since being booted out in the nationalisation of 1972.
Iraq's new constitution - practically written by US and Foreign office advisors, guarantees a major role for foreign companies. Production Sharing Agreements would hand over control of dozens of oil fields, like the gian Majnoon .

After next month's elections, when a new Iraqi government takes over and contracts are signed it will become clearer how much oil was part of London and Washington's pre-war plans.

Well, we will see about that, but there is a seam still running...

Final few stitches
...For months, the State Department denied the existence of this 323-page document ...


...The switch to an OPEC-friendly policy for Iraq was driven by Dick Cheney himself. "The person who is most influential in running American energy policy is the Vice President," who, said the insider, "thinks that security begins by . . . letting prices follow wherever they may."

TWO AND A HALF YEARS AND $202 BILLION into the war in Iraq, the United States has at least one significant new asset to show for it: effective membership, through our control of Iraq's energy policy, in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the Arab-dominated oil cartel.

The US, a proxy member of OPEC?

I gotta go think this through...

Monday, November 21, 2005

"Let the Revolution begin!"

This, perhaps more than anything that the US has done in the Middle East, might be the first signs of change.

Earlier, Leftist Labour's central committee, encouraged by fiery new leader Amir Peretz, voted overwhelmingly to leave the government it had joined to help Sharon counter rightist Likud rebels who opposed his withdrawal from the occupied Gaza Strip.

"Let the revolution begin," said party official Eitan Cabel as he announced the result of the vote in a show of hands.

Sunday's events were the expected first step in a week that will reshape Israeli politics, thrown into turmoil since union leader Peretz defeated veteran peacemaker Shimon Peres in a surprise leadership vote.

I will wait on the reaction from the Palestinians, and the rest of the Arab world with interest.

I shall also wait on the results of the coming elections - is there the desire for peace in the Israeli electorate? I most certainly hope so.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

On the nature of International Aid – Vanuatu II

In the course of trying to get on-line data for this post, I unearthed this particular page which gives a good concise description of international aid definition.

One of the hot street topics (otherwise known as “talk to the taxi drivers”) in Vila was the “fish famine”, in particular the deep sea species. Principal cause (at least as perceived) of the famine tracks back some four years.

In 2000, a fairly severe hurricane struck the northern islands. The damage was generally “no more than usual”. On the main island of Efate the “ring road” was broken in two places and two bridges were washed out. This ring road is important for the locals, but particularly so for the tourist industry.

The Japanese very generously offered to chip in some USD2.5 million to effect repairs. There was, however, an expected quid pro quo. That was signed up in 2001. There was literally a hook in the agreement.

The Japanese, and registered contractors, were given an unlimited catch, unlimited time, right to long-line fish Vanuatu waters. Eighteen months later the Vanuatu government was expressing concern. Early this year the commercial fishing of Vanuatu waters was closed. Totally.

Try going for the sport fishing – both the Tanna and Ambrym grounds are closed. In Tanna that also includes closure of what in NZ would be called the “customary fishing”. The Tannese administration (as far as I could gather, a kind of Council of Chiefs) had closed ALL fishing some three months back in the hope that there would be some preservation of existing stocks and eventual recovery. How long will that take? Any guesses under a year?

Sport fishing is now limited to two day plus cruise charters. Most of the fishing time is outside of twelve miles. Compare that with eleven years back; cruising the outer Vila Harbour to pick up wahoo and skipjack with the occasional small marlin.

There are no tuna left, even skipjack is a comparative rarity, around Vanuatu. The ubiquitous poulet fish (a bream) is scarce. A serving of fish in the top restaurants is now about 150 grams or 5 ozs. Instead of the dominant restaurant main course selections being fish, Santo beef now figures prominently (and I can highly recommend it too).

Quite a good deal, as far as “aid” is concerned, but only for the donor.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bumper sticker of the week -

The kids are running wild.
The dog is at obedience school.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Vanuatu notes - I

Visiting another country always interests me.

Quite apart from the usual touristi things; sight-seeing, spending money, lying in the sun, spending money, eating, spending money… I really enjoy getting into the local media and finding out what is going on locally as well as how much of the international news is being reported and the sources and slant it is given.

Well, for me one of the true joys of Vanuatu is that the international news can, to most intents and purposes, be ignored. Yes, there is satellite tv. I could if I wanted watch the likes of CNN, or Fox, or even TVNZ if I were in Fiji or the Cooks. But to be honest, where would the fun be in that?

So, on our daily jaunts into Vila I could pick up the local Daily Post for a quick catch-up.

Total length – 8 pages max, take out perhaps three for advertising.

What does disappoint me just a little is that two stories and an op-ed that tweaked my fancy have not been included in the e-editions of the paper. I can only speculate at the reasons why this might be.

The first, an item on Australian gun laws, came from an Australian paper so there might have been rights issues involved.

The second, an article on the outcome of the municipal elections and the political maneuverings involved was published in Bislama. That might have been the reason for limiting the distribution of that to the wider world.

The op-ed was one which I was hoping to quote extensively. It was a report from the South Pacific Forum meeting held in PNG while we were away. It was a very interesting read indeed as it gave an intelligent and very perceptive view of the impact of Australia and NZ on the region. I came away after reading it with the realisation that the same actions and attitudes I complain of in relation to the US are on a smaller scale present in the impact that Aus and NZ have on the small Pacific nations.

There is a third story, referenced in the Letters to the Editor. The letter spells out most of the story. And it is written in Bislama which makes the reading just a little more to think about... :D

So, in the meantime take a quiet jaunt through the Daily Post. There are issues that you might note as having a more than passing similarity to events in Auckland, Sydney, El Paso or even Washington…

It is not just Islam...

There has been a bit of a hiatus here, hasn’t there!

The reason will become apparent over the next week or three.

In the meantime I want to pick up on a matter which was forefront of the news in late October, and which is still hitting the headlines and the right whinge blogspots, that of the continuing riots in France. There is an excellent report and comment through Random Fate on the (smaller) riot in Grenoble.

I am sitting here, Sunday 9 a.m., listening to a radio doco/op-ed on Auckland’s own version of the same problem.

Being presented in the South Auckland case are some “simple” explanations – the “gangsta” culture, the hip-hop, rasta mix, racial tension between Maori and various Pacific peoples... and so the list goes on. Yes, it is possible for there to be racial (and it is very definitely racial) conflict between Samoan and Tongan in particular. It tracks back in part to long-standing historical wars between the islands.

There is the influence of the worst of American culture; the “colours”, the street gangs, the rumbles, the finger languages, and the uniforms.

There is the mix of Polynesian culture; the “patu” honour (of scoring a hit against an opponent, the greater the hit the higher the score) and the tradition of tribal loyalties to reinforce the gang culture.

There is also the lawyer who spends Monday morning in Manukau Court as one of 15 duty solicitors. Her clients are entirely PI, Maori or immigrant. Her clients are, most frequently, functionally illiterate. They are aged between 16 and 25. They have never been employed. They are most often still living at home with their parents. Most of those families do not have a telephone. The only car takes dad to work at 5.30 in the morning and he returns at 7 in the evening. There is not enough money to buy a newspaper regularly. Getting to the unemployment office is difficult, to apply for a job is difficult, to get to an interview close to impossible.

For these kids, an evening’s entertainment is stealing a car, thrashing it until it stops, then burning it. Or it is pushing the boundaries of the next gang in the hope of provoking an attack. Hanging out in the local shopping centre will provoke the law. More serious is the utu (revenge) for prior wrongs – the equivalent of the “rumble” in America. Weapons of choice are knives, hammers and broken bottles.

The parallel with France?

There are several –


Unemployment, particularly long term and inter-generational unemployment.

Perceived if not actual racial discrimination.

Ghetto style agglomerations of poverty.

The solutions are not simple. I will return to this theme as well as part of a planned series of reports coming out of the hiatus just broken.

UPDATE - 15 Nov

There is an interesting op-ed in the Herald this morning. As it is a contract columnist, Herald does not put it on its e-edition which is a shame.

Essentially, the comparison is made between France and the current riots with Britain and the Brixton riots of some years back.

The conclusion, and this for me is the most interesting aspect, is a matter of cultural difference.

Britain is a nation with a population that includes peoples from many different cultures, a result of its colonial power in the past. Britain has changed, culturally in particular, to include and allow the introduced cultures to create a "multi-cultural" society.

France on the other hand had a far less extensive "colonial empire". Most of that it had was in western Africa. France accepted the same immigration from the colonies to homeland in the same way as did Britain.

The very big difference, as pointed out in the op-ed piece, is that France is trying very hard to remain mono-cultural. You are either French or you are not.

To add my comment, that argument is supported by the fact that France prohibits any of these "ex-pat colonials" to hold French citizenship. That prohibition applies even if you were born in France.

At least Britain has had the courage to learn from past mistakes. Brixton was certainly a turning point in their cultural outlook and attitudes. It is noted that those changes did not prevent or divert the underground bombings.

There is a very interesting parallel to this line of argument in the South Pacific at the moment. I will return to this point later...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Rod Donald -

He deserves a longer and better recognition than I will give here.

Rod was co-leader of the Green Party, Green activist, politician, and generally very thoughtful guy.

I might not agree with much of his politic, but I do recognise what he has achieved with respect.

Rod died on Sunday last at the age of 48 from viral myocarditis.

This morning's cartoon had Rod reporting back that he had met up with huia, Haast's eagle, moa and other extinct NZ flora and fauna.

Rest well, Rod.