Wednesday, April 12, 2006

We Won!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Map showing size of today's protests in France

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Photo of the day

Students at Paris III-Censier university prepare for street protests. The poster translates as “Dialogue according to the government”, and the cop logo is modelled on one of the most famous posters from the 1968 revolt.

The changing face of the anti-CPE movement

Its hard to believe that only ten days ago, much of the mainstream media were comparing this revolt to 1968. It was labled ‘a middle class revolt’, and some right-wing critics were condemning these students as selfish, in aiming to block a law that they believed would help the deprived youths of the banlieue.

Read more here

Trip to Parliament kept students off demo

Takapuna Grammar principal Simon Lamb said he made a deal with students that if no-one went to the Radical Youth rally in Auckland then he would take three students to meet with Ruth Dyson and Steve Maharey in Wellington next Monday.

On the one hand, this is obviously fantastic - the principal obviously wouldn’t have been taking his students along unless they’d threatened the walkout.

"While I support students' concerns about youth rates, I can't support students being absent from quality teaching and learning activities."
"I suggested that there's a far more effective method of realising positive change and smarter ways of communicating your point of view than striking," he said.

Well, no, there aren’t. Would the French ruling class be shaking in its boots right now if the young workers and students threatened by the CPE had filled out a petition and held a nice polite meeting with the prime minister? Of course bloody not!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Quote of the day

Make no mistake: what started as an imitation of May '68 looks like being a thousand times more revolutionary. In fact, the current crisis is an exact reversal. In '68, everything was possible in a France where there was full employment, but nothing was permitted. Today, everything is permitted for those with money, a good job, but nothing is possible for the vast majority of our fellow citizens."

- Serge Faubert in France-Soir

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Quote of the day

"This is not truancy...this is activism.... no more youth rates,"
- Auckland protester, quoted by TVNZ

And a close second:

"You try living on youth rates or the minimum wage"
- Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson, in a press release

Beneath the paving stones, the beach...

France’s protests continue to grow. The unions have now called a one-day general strike for next Tuesday.

WSWS also has excellent
ongoing coverage.

Meanwhile, an
amazing protest by high school students in Auckland yesterday over youth pay. As shown by the photo (left), it’s fantastic that they’re making these connections with the French workers and students. Article and video from TVNZ here. (Underneath the photo, where it says ‘Related Video’, click on the last item, ‘Youth pay protest turns riotous’.

As usual, the cops managed to create plenty of
trouble, but the discipline and organisation of the students prevented any serious injuries, though one protest marshal was dragged into a nearby building and badly beaten up by cops.

The awesomely useful
libcom blog is currently leading its coverage of the French protests with coverage of the Auckland action! (Archived here.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Revolting students

What I should have reminded everyone about in that last post was, of course, the amazing mass protests by high school students here in June 2002.

Basically, there had been ongoing limited strikes by teachers over their pay claim. Their union, the PPTA, had adopted what was possibly the worst possible strategy: a ban on 'extracurricular activites' such as sports' coaching, drama and music. This put absolutely no real pressure on the government whilst systematically alienating both students and parents. Indeed, so disastrous was this strategy it's possible it was all quite deliberately aimed at provoking a crisis in order to scare teachers away from taking unofficial actions.

And crisis it was. Tens of thousands of students walked out of their classes, in defiance of teachers and sometimes the police. The PPTA labelled them 'rioters', but the students were amazingly disciplined. In Lower Hutt, where several hundred students converged to protest at a busy intersection, a boy tried to light a cigarette. Immediately the media pounced, hoping to get photos to prove that the kids were really just wagging - but before they could, he was surrounded by large numbers of other students who blocked the photographers and 'suggested' that he put the smoke out.

The protests petered out after a few days, but remain an amazingly inspiring memory, and proof that teenagers with little or no activist experience can show union officials a thing or two about struggle.

Clark: We live in a democracy, kids

Oh this is priceless!:
Students skip school to rally against rates

Auckland school students say they are going to skip class today to support a rally to back a move to abolish youth pay rates.

School students are being bussed to the rally in downtown Auckland, organised by a group called Radical Youth.


Prime Minister Helen Clark said students should be at school, not striking.

Labour has backed Ms Bradford's bill but Miss Clark today told TVNZ she "absolutely" did not support the call today for students to leave school to take part in strikes in support of the bill.

"I have to say that all those students I would think would be breaking their schools disciplinary codes.

"Look, the school holidays aren't that far away and Sue Bradford's bill will still be in the parliamentary system at that point.

"That's when students should be using their own time to make the point about it. We live in a democracy, students are able to express their rights but they also have obligations to their school community and they shouldn't be leaving school for a protest."


National education spokesman Bill English said the students should be at school and schools should enforce their usual procedures to punish the students who were truanting.

"The best thing they can to avoid being on $10 an hour for the rest of their life is to stay at school and learn something."
Now, I have one or two political differences with Sue Bradford, but I'm right with her here:
Greens industrial relations spokeswoman Sue Bradford says it is great to see the support for her bill.

She says it is an urgent issue which affects students most, so she is not worried about them missing a bit of school.

She is pleased there are some radical students who are willing to take action, and she says students can sometimes learn more by doing, than by sitting in a classroom.

Income major factor in health, says study

Income major factor in health, says study

20 March 2006

No matter how much money is invested in the health sector, research indicates that the wealthier you are the healthier you are likely to be.

A team of Otago University researchers, in its latest study, have quantified the benefit to the health of certain socioeconomic groups, of levelling the discrepancies in income.

And the benefits are simple: reduce inequalities in pay, and you'll reduce inequalities in death rates.

The study – which claims to be the first in the world to quantify the potential benefits – used data from 1.3 million 25-59 year old 1996 census respondents to determine the risk of death for different levels of income.

Researchers concluded overall death rates could be reduced by 2 per cent to 13 per cent, if everyone's income shifted by 10 per cent to 40 per cent towards the average New Zealand income.

". . .you can't escape the fact that narrowing income distributions by taxation and other means should modestly reduce the country's overall death rate and notably reduce inequalities in death rates," associate professor Tony Blakely said.

Even more strikingly, current inequalities in death rates – between rich and poor – should be reduced by 6 per cent to 38 per cent with the same shifts, he said.

"Economists, Treasury and high-level policy-makers can no longer ignore the fact that income redistribution matters for both the overall death rate and inequalities in death rates."

Mr Blakely added although inequalities in health would be reduced by income redistribution, "it is not the panacea."

He has called for interventions at a range of levels – "including those targeting known risk factors such as tobacco and poor nutrition".

The study is published in the latest issue of Social Science and Medicine and is part of the ongoing New Zealand Census-Mortality Study undertaken at Otago University's Wellington School of Medicine & Health Sciences.

In a study released last December, researchers looked at the impact poverty has on New Zealand's child mortality rate, with children from lower income households more likely to die than those from medium or high income households.

The study examined the deaths of about 2250 children who died between 1981 and 1999 for the contribution of causes of death and socio-economic inequalities in child mortality.


Mass protests continue against France's proposed labour laws. The truly excellent UK-based Libertarian Community blog has easily the best English language coverage I've seen. Meanwhile, Wikipedia finally has a limited entry on the events here. Don't get me wrong, I love Wikipedia and waste far too much time on it, but maybe this is a more important topic than, say Star Trek or The Simpsons? Wikipedia's poor coverage is even more surprising given it's excellent coverage of last year's revolt by France's immigrant youth. Please let me know if you find any other useful sources.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Stop the War! March this Saturday

The US has launched a major new terror campaign against the Iraqi city of Samarra to mark the third anniversary of its invasion.

Anti-war march meets at Midland Park, Lambton Quay at midday on Saturday. More info here.

Demos will also take place in other centres. See here and here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Read this book

I read this over the weekend. The first publication from Medialens editors David Edwards and David Cromwell, Guardians of Power is, to paraphrase John Pilger, one of the most important books about journalism and the media ever written.

You can read some excerpts here, some reviews here, and several interesting interviews with the authors here.

When the authors started the Media Lens project, many people told them they were crazy to concentrate on the 'liberal media' in the UK, such as the Guardian, Independent and BBC. They're the good guys, the argument went, you should have a go at the Sun and the Telegraph instead.

But the authors point out that those who consider themselves on the left of the political spectrum generally don't have illusions in the Sun or the Telegraph, but often do believe that supposedly 'liberal' publications like the Guardian really do offer an alternative.

Debunking this myth provides a powerful indictment of even the supposedly 'good' media. As the authors noted in a recent interview about the book:
The liberal media tell both sides of the story – kind of. They emphasise the state-corporate version of the truth, particularly in news reporting. This is then ‘balanced’ by commentary that presents superficial or trivial counter-arguments that do not seriously challenge the official view. So, for example, on the issue of Iraqi WMD, the official view – that Iraq was a threat that had to be disarmed, by force of necessary – was countered with a superficial, trivial view – that this may well be true, but any action should be endorsed by the UN. The real counter-argument – that Iraq was clearly not a threat and that any attack on Iraq, with or without UN approval, would be the supreme war crime – the launching of a war of aggression – was almost nowhere to be seen. The result is what Edward Herman describes as “normalising the unthinkable”. The liberal audience – the section of the population that might be expected to be most compassionate, most fiercely opposed to government crimes – was subject to endless liberal propaganda persuading them of the basic reasonableness and respectability of the US-UK government position. This consistently has the effect of pacifying and neutralising the most concerned and motivated section of society - people drawn to progressive, liberal ideas. By contrast, the right-wing press preaches to the converted, people who are happy with the status quo and keen for it not to be challenged.
Another rather well-made point was made in repsonse to the question: "Why do you think the UK media does not behave more like the United States media where dissenting voices are almost totally excluded? Which system do you think is more effective in controlling the domestic population?":
Bush and Blair are both currently in office rather than in jail, so we conclude that both systems must be extremely effective.

With the complete absence of any serious media criticism in NZ and practically every other Western country, the need for two, three, many Medialenses is profound.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Students Invade Paris School in Protest

Scores of students stormed one of Paris' most elite schools Monday, hurling stones and cinder blocks at riot police in the latest protest against a government plan to reduce France's sky-high unemployment rate among young adults.

About 200 high school and university students swarmed into the College de France to demand that Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin withdraw a measure that makes it easier for companies to fire workers under 26 during the first two years of employment.

Many students holed up inside, and others came back outside to face down officers on the street. Police used tear gas to try to disperse the chanting crowd.

The law, which takes effect next month, offers a measure of flexibility the government hopes will spur employers to hire young people, knowing they will be able to get rid of them if they have to. But critics say it would offer younger workers less job security than older colleagues and undermine France's generous labor protections.