Monday, March 26, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Iraq can be a St Paddy's day issue
On Saturday I joined the anti-war march in Auckland. Scoop has a neat little video with extended coverage of the march here.
There was also the St Patricks Day parade on at the same time, so we had to wait until the paddy costumes had cleared Queen St. As I mulled over the possibility of us cheekly joining in the end of the St Patricks Day parade, even though it was going in the opposite direction, I began to consider the comparisons that can be made between centuries of English imperialism in Ireland and US imperialism in Iraq. The US controlled Green Zone of Baghdad is a modern equivalent of the Pale, the small area around English controlled Dublin in the 14th-15th century. The English phase 'beyond the Pale' has very anti Irish overtones.
The English policy of 'plantation' of Protestant settlers, now has its counterpart in the way the US is lining its multinationals up to take the oil, and the no bid contracts for 'services' in Iraq are nothing but a modern form of Elizabethan patronage. I might add that such practices are now considered corruption.
But then I made the mistake of thinking a St Patrick's Day parade had anything to do with a celebration of Irish Independence. A friend told me they specifically banned any 'political' floats some years ago - meaning the parade was only a 'celebration' of things Irish that have been co-opted by consumerism. So not very Irish at all.
While the Irish eventually got rid of the British in the South, the Americans arrived after World War Two as a brand new bunch of Normans.
The US also currently uses the Irish airport at Shannon to fuel its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Terror (wherever country that is). This may endanger Ireland's claim to be a neutral power. In April 2003 the High Court of Ireland ruled that for Ireland to be a Neutral Power under international law, it must prevent "belligerents from making use of neutral territories and neutral resources for their military purposes". Wikipedia also reports:
On 6 December 2005, the BBC programme Newsnight alleged that Shannon was used on at least 33 occasions by United States Central Intelligence Agency flights, thought to be part of a US policy called extraordinary rendition, referring to the non-judicial transfers of prisoners to other jurisdictions, including those where interrogation routinely uses torture. The New York Timesreported the number to be 33, though referring to "Ireland" rather than Shannon, while Amnesty International has alleged the number of flights to be 50, a figure they published in response to Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern, who had pledged to investigate rendition if presented with evidence.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
On Monday evening this blog saw its 20,000th visitor. Someone on an Xtra connection who appears to have clicked on a direct link to my post explaining how raising the drinking age will only raise the hypocrisy.
Apologies to blog for failing to mark an important anniversary earlier!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Yay to the Onehunga Express
Very happy to hear today that the Onehunga Branch rail line will reopen for both passengers and frieght in 2009. Well done to the Government, Ontrack, Auckland Regional Transport Authority and the Auckland Regional Council. As I am currently living in Onehunga, I only wish it was open so I could use it to go into town on Friday!
Its happy days in Onehunga for the Campaign for Better Transport too.
This particular line represents an important part of New Zealand rail history. Auckland's first railway opened between Auckland and Onehunga in 1873, so there may be some value in promoting this fact - how about a couple of steam train trips for the tourists? New Zealand's first public railway opened in Ferrymead in 1863, but one would expect an ex-Christchurch person to point that out wouldn't they!
Ironically a friend and I were recently discussing a creative little action to encourage the powers that be to put the Onehunga line back into service. We were getting quite enthused by the idea and then we hear it is happening - oh well - its still great news!
Helen's support for Bush's wars
NoRightTurn notes yesterdays announcement by Helen Clark and Phil Goff to "extend" New Zealand's military commitment in Afghanistan. In particular he criticises the decision to continue to operate a New Zealand frigate in the region at the same time US President George Bush is making noises about bombing Iran.
The Government Press Release today says "New Zealand will also again deploy a frigate to join the Maritime Interdiction Operation (MIO) in the Arabian Gulf. The frigate will join the MIO for just over a month in mid 2008 as an extension of a planned deployment to the South/South East Asia region."
There is actually a more fundamental reason why New Zealand should not have a frigate in the Gulf at present. A New Zealand frigate on non-combat duties gives the US and the UK the opportunities to deploy more of their frigates on more active roles, in other words helping to kill the population in Iraq, Afghanistan and (possibly) Iran. So, to the people of the Middle East New Zealand sending a frigate for non-combat duties is as good as dropping the bombs ourselves.
We sent the Te Mana frigate at around the time of the Iraq invasion - perhaps an indication that while NZ publicly opposed the invasion of Iraq, Helen still felt she had to give penance to our so called 'allies' who were bullying all in sundry for "support" for their illegal invasion.
Helen Clark's announcement would not have anything to do with meeting with George Bush next week would it?
PS: Tried to post this last night, but Woosh Internet slowed down to a crawl. Not at all impressed with the speed or reliability of their service, and phone calls to customer service can be left waiting for 30 minutes with no answer. I have no qualms calling from a cellphone!
PPS: The new blogger spellcheck is a big improvement and much easier to use.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Rickards case raises real issues with jury trials in New Zealand
Says it all really. Now there may be some out there who think I should be showing more respect for the judicial process, but Clint Rickards demonstrated no such respect in his comments outside the court where he declared that his best friends are not guility of rape of a woman in Mt Maunganui in 1989.
"They shouldn't be where they are," Mr Rickards said. "Brad Shipton is a good friend. Bob Schollum is a good friend. They are still good friends of mine and always will be."
In New Zealand a jury is not allowed to take previous convictions into account when arriving at a verdict. This was the reason for the suppression orders.
Not surprisingly, requesting a jury trial became a key part in the defence strategy. But in this case I think it ought to be reasonably asked why the Judge did not disallow a jury trial on the basis the previous convictions were so material to the case.
Now it would not be fair for a previous conviction for burglary to be become a consideration in a rape case, but what about when a convicted person is accused of committing a similar crime under remarkably similar circumstances?
I understand the earlier case involving former policemen Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum also involved "group sex" where one of the participants did not give consent.
A friend raised an interesting example when we were discussing this case in the pub on Friday. If a convicted murderer had a quirk of painting the toenails of his victims blue, and another blue toenailed victim was found, should people be more than a little suspicious if his defence team opted for a jury trial, and he/she got off? It defies "common sense" for want of a better word, and this may help explain the public reaction to the verdict in the Rickards case.
I would also love to see some statistics on how many times cops have been found guilty in a jury trial compared to the average of the rest of the population. I suspect these numbers would be rather interesting...