What is it about the Christian Right?

datePosted on 18:02, February 24th, 2009 by Anita

In my short time blogging I have discovered that posts which mention the Christian Right get some kind of kneejerk reaction: sometimes someone leaps to the defence of the CR despite the lack of attack in the post, sometimes people leap in to attack the lunacy of the CR despite my lack of opening for the attack.

It’s not just blogging either. When I argue for lowering the MMP threshold one of my arguments is that it will allow the CR representation in Parliament, often people’s immediate reaction is that they’re the kind of lunatics the threshold is intended to exclude. When I talk the history of the family values movement in New Zealand with conservative people (which, you’ll have to trust me, I do respectfully and with interest) someone often leaps in to defend the CR and tell me that they’ve been misrepresented and are far more moderate than they have been painted.

What is it about the Christian Right that polarises views and creates an attack-and-defence dynamic so quickly?

I know many at the socially liberal end of the spectrum will say that the CR is prejudiced and tells them what to do. But so do many other political, religious and community groups.

Many in the CR will say that they’re ridiculed for their religious and moral beliefs and they are, to at least some extent, right. Some of their knee jerk defensiveness is a response to that contempt, some is probably out of a sense of moral certainty.

What is it that makes it ok for the socially progressive to sneer at the CR? We would never allow it to be said of GLBTQ communities, or the disabled, or ethnic minorities, or women; why do we allow it to be said about this religious minority?

Atomic kittens

datePosted on 06:51, February 24th, 2009 by Lew

Two innocently political photos:

countdown

alyona_2

Discuss.

(via the wonderful Amy Stein)

L

Family values: a code for anti-welfare rhetoric?

datePosted on 20:15, February 23rd, 2009 by Anita

I have recently been reading about the rhetoric of family values, starting with the assumption that it is simply a dogwhistle for conservative Christians. Yet the more I read about the origin of the phrase in US politics the more I saw analysis saying it was initially a neo-liberal anti-welfare construction. It’s original intent was to aid the transfer of responsibility for poverty from the state to the the poor (Dana Cloud’s article is quite a good read, but there are lots of others out there).

Marion Maddox’ analysis of John Howard’s Australia is very similar; family values provided both a call to arms for the Christian right, and a rhetorical device to soften the fear-inspiring free market:

[The Market God] has proved too dynamic and unsettling. It sabotages family and community life and tears away safety nets. It has had to make Olympian room for another deity, one would brings “Us” a renewed sense of the security the Market God took away. They repressive God of racism, authoritarian “family values” and  exclusion tries to make “Us” feel secure by turning our anxieties upon “Them”, corralling Australian tolerance and generosity behind an unbreachable white picket fence.

So, what’s the story in New Zealand, is it also the bridging point of the neo-liberalism and conservative Christianity? The original users of “family values” in recent NZ politics were United Future which was formed from the neoliberal refugees of the fourth Labour government and quickly joined by the evangelical and conservative Christian right.

Nowadays “family values” is most often heard from Family First, an organisation which uses classic anti-welfare rhetoric like:

  • welfare should not reward dysfunction or be a motivation for dysfunctional behaviour
  • long-term welfare dependency can be demoralising and is linked with poverty. Work can bring dignity and a level of independence

The Sensible Sentencing Trust, another “family values” organisation holds welfare provision like the DPB responsible for having

destroyed the tried-and-proven values of accountability, responsibility, respect and discipline from young peoples lives; the result a catastrophic disastrous escalation in violent crime and prison population

So it appears that family values, like private schooling, is a carefully crafted concept providing a common cause for both the neoliberal economic right, and the morally conservative Christian Right.

Blackout review

datePosted on 11:29, February 23rd, 2009 by Lew

This morning’s blackout was quite widely observed. My impressions (and ratings) of some of the usual suspects’ efforts are presented below. Overall – I’m a bit underwhelmed.

The point of the action was not about colouring your site black – it was about withholding content. To black your site out and to obliterate all the content on it, demonstrating what might happen in a s92-safe world. Many did, many didn’t.

So, according to my totally unscientific rating scheme, if you didn’t remove the content the best you got is a bare pass. Other than that, it was points on or off for clarity of message, design, and general commitment to the cause. Don’t take this as me being uncharitable – I figure everyone benefits if actions like this are as well-produced as possible.

publicaddressPublic Address – clear, punchy, doesn’t get bogged down in detail, links through to information. A.

kiwiblogKiwiblog – One post blacked out, ads off, comments off. Given that KB is one of the banner sponsors and organisers of this action, you’d think it was important enough to do properly. Bloody weak. But then some time around 0945, the site redirected to http://creativefreedom.org.nz/blackout-homepage.html, thankfully. B overall.

The Standard [shot] – Nuked the colour scheme and all content, but didn’t make it black! C+.

The Hand Mirror [shot] – Changed the colour scheme, but didn’t make it black. Page looks like it’s been haxx0red. Content still there too. D+.

Scoop [shot] – `404 Page Censored’. Mixed messages, but 404 is the http error meaning `file not found’, and this is what we’re looking at under s92. Requires people to engage (which they might not), but `page censored’ is a strong statement. A.

Not PC [shot] – Weak. Clearly not an important issue. D.

No Right Turn [shot] – Stock CFF page, nothing else. B.

noministerNo Minister – Partisan hackery plus no blackout and all the content still there – only the animated gif. Minor points for leaving up a full explanatory message. Not quite worse than useless, but almost. D-.

Homepaddock [shot] – Customised blog post and theme, which gets the full point across well. Content remains, however. C.

Macdoctor Moments [shot]- Properly blacked out, but busy and complicated design obscures the message somewhat. B-.

cbtpCapitalism Bad, Tree Pretty – Properly blacked out, Dylan Horrocks cartoon instead of s92 message is a nice touch. B+.

Kiwipolitico [shot] – Stock CFF page, nothing else. B.

TVHE [shot] – Blacked out, but content remains. C.

frogFrogblog – Nice work on the theme, but content remains and the advertised cartoon isn’t actually showing. C-.

BK Drinkwater [shot] – Yeah, it looks like a plain black page, but that’s just because I took the screenshot while the animated GIF was all black. No other content. A-.

Monkeys With Typewriters [shot] – Animated gif and all the rest of the site as usual. D-.

Tumeke! [shot] – Just the banner; the rest of the page links through to CFNZ. Vivid, but not obvious. B-.

The Dim Post [shot] – Stock CFF page. B.

micropartywatchMicro Party Watch – Technical fail, but at least done with some humour. D.

I haven’t rated those who didn’t participate – they all just get `F’ for `Fail’. Also, these are just the sites I got around to checking – add others below, if they’re notable.

Indentured Servitude, Modern Asian Style.

datePosted on 23:26, February 21st, 2009 by Pablo

A few weeks back I wrote a post about European complicity in an Asian experiment in developmental authoritarianism. Aside from one blogger who felt that the post was racist because I noted the Confucian justification for this particular brand of authoritarianism, most readers understood that my points were simple: that when living in an authoritarian country one does not have to subscribe to the local cultural logics and ideological justifications for oppression; and it is dangerous for small liberal democracies like NZ to have returning ex-pats and new immigrants who subscribe to such logics assume positions of political and economic control.

Now I will give a specific example of why I believe this to be true. It involves the plight of maids in the Asian state in which I reside.

In this country maids are not covered by local labour law. They are required to learn English before their arrival. Employers are required to post a $5000 bond for securing their services, which is forfeitable if the maid engages in “unacceptable” behaviour. Such behaviour include getting pregnant, drinking in public and consorting with foreigners. By law, maids have zero days off per year–read that again: ZERO days off. The length of the working day and conditions are set by the employer. By law, maids have to be foreign, in this case usually Philipine, Indonesian, Indian, Bangladeshi, Thai, or mainland Chinese. They must always be female, and they must, unless otherwise specified, be under the age of 30. Maid recruitment agencies specialise in different nationalities depending on the employers preferences. Some employers want docile characters, some want ethnic kin, some want high school grads, some want children-friendly, some want cleanliness freaks, some want sultry, some want young (18 is the legal age for contracting a maid). It all depends on the employer’s penchants and proclivities. For their service, maids are paid, in a very generous household, a salary of $200/week.

Maid quarters are most often windowless cubicles located off an open air laundry with a toilet, washbasin and cold water shower. In many cases the maid cubicle has external locks to prevent their unauthorised exit from the employer’s premises.

Given the bond requirements, there is no incentive for employers to allow the maids out of sight. Thus the no-holiday rule plays neatly into the employer’s (and the state’s) rationale. To be sure, an employer can forfeit  the bond if the maid, say, falls to her death while cleaning the windows of a high-rise apartment (that has happened). But the thrust of the laws are to control the maids, not protect them. The servitude of the maids is such that foreign MNCs calculate in their relocation packages not only the costs of losing the bond should the maids of their executives misbehave, but also the costs of the maid being upgraded to the status of domestic partner (which is common to the point of becoming a joke amongst resident expat Europeans). 

The incidence of maid abuse is a well guarded but open secret. Since they are not covered by labour law, any maid subject to sexual, physical, financial or emotional abuse must report the complaint to the Police. The Police are wary of “he said, she said” type of complaints and are ordered to be suspicious of foreign nationals in any event, so it takes an extraordinary (young) woman to make a formal complaint knowing that the best result will be her deportation.

NZ has strong diplomatic, economic and security ties with this country. In fact, it has  a Free Trade Agreement with this country as well as a defense partnership. NZ-born executives populate the upper reaches of its managerial elite, and they enjoy the services of these maids. NZ fetes this country’s leaders whenever they visit. In fact, NZ uses this particular country as a model for economic development in a trade-dependent state. Yet at no point, either under Labour or National, has the NZ government questioned the propriety of close relations with a country that uses indentured servants as part of its economic development. The country in question is not the PRC–that is a whole other kettle of stinking fish.

There is much more to this picture but I will stop with this question. Do you, as a New Zealander, countenance close state-to-state relations with a country that uses indentured servitude as a component of its development strategy?

Who is this guy?

datePosted on 23:05, February 21st, 2009 by Lew

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the news over the past year or three, you’ve seen his face hundreds of times. You know who he is and what he stands for. You’d probably know who you were listening to if you heard his voice on the radio.

But can you name him, based on this close-up full-frontal portrait?

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(Answer and story here)

L

Hate crimes law so that the Police can collect stats?!

datePosted on 18:18, February 21st, 2009 by Anita

TV3 had a piece in the first segment tonight about the Police wanting hate crimes legislation. Oddly they twice said that the reason the Police want the change in legislation is so that they can collect statistics on racially motivated crimes.

This makes me puzzle about four things:

  1. What are the racially motivated incidents that the Police currently can’t prosecute but would like to?
  2. Can’t the motivation of a crime already be used as part of the sentencing decision?
  3. If the Police want to capture statistics about racially motivated crimes why can’t they do that now?
  4. The Police are abysmal at responding to information requests, often saying they don’t have the data (even when it’s clear they once did), what would they do with these extra statistics?

Either way around, I’d be pretty uncomfortable with the idea that something is criminal because it is motivated by racism, rather than because of its actual outcomes – if you hit someone because they’re Asian it’s just as wrong as hitting them because they’re queer, or remind you of your ex, or because you’d had too much to drink.

[I recommend Rich and Lew's posts about hate speech legislation which canvas some of this area]

Women are paying for bankers’ excesses

datePosted on 12:26, February 20th, 2009 by Anita

The recession is spoken about as if it is universal: blind to gender, class and race it will hurt us all. Yet the reality is that groups which are already disadvantaged will pay the biggest price: not only are they they worst affected, but our government is providing them with the least support.

This is not the first time this pattern has occurred, the Asian recession in the 1990s forced women out of the workforce and back into the kitchen, or overseas, or into sex work. This recession is no different, early last year a US Senate committee investigated the impact of the growing recession and reported

These findings clearly demonstrate the severe and disproportionate impact of this recession on women and their families.

Analysis in the UK similarly predicts more severe effects on women. In New Zealand no-one seems to have done the research yet, but there’s every reason to expect the same outcome: women will experience redundancy, loss of hours, and reduced pay at greater rates than men.

So our government’s response? Well there are the tax cuts, which will disproportionately benefit men, there’s the economic stimulus package which appears targetted toward working men and, of course, Tony Ryall’s instructions to the public sector to suppress women’s pay.

National is determined to keep bankers in business, corporates afloat, construction workers busy, and boost the pay packets of the wealthy; women should expect no help as their jobs, hours and pay are cut.

Four-day week – analysis?

datePosted on 23:17, February 19th, 2009 by Lew

Since I spend my workday up to my eyeballs in the media, it’s very rare that I watch ONE News Tonight, and even rarer that I come across something I don’t already know.

12152008_bigdig
(Red Planet Cartoons)

Today, I managed to elude the fact that the government is considering support for a four-day week for businesses which might otherwise consider layoffs, paying (part of?) the fifth day’s income, while staff undertake training or community work. Until Tonight, that is. This seems to me an excellent idea, if it can be well-implemented. It accounts for the necessary scaling-back in production which some industries will experience, while subsidising future productivity increases to come from improving the skill base of NZ workers, which means that once the recession passes, the country will be better-positioned to hit the ground running, as it were, and enable the government to pay back the debt which will necessarily accrue from the scheme.

(As a sidebar: that a National government is even considering such a thing represents a huge change in political culture.)

There are certainly pro- and contra- arguments to this sort of scheme which I’ve not considered; as you can tell by the cartoon, I’m not unaware of the general uselessness of make-work-for-the-sake-of-making-work schemes. Friedman’s quote, on the linked site, is especially well-taken:

“If all we want are jobs, we can create any number — for example, have people dig holes and then fill them up again, or perform other useless tasks. [...] Our real objective is not just jobs but productive jobs”

The question is one of implementation: what would be necessary for a make-work scheme which results in productivity improvements down the line to be better than redundancy – the consequent productivity increase that brings as they try to better themselves, less the productivity drain they represent, being out of money and therefore not consuming, or on welfare?

This is a complex question, and I invite you to argue your corner. But please, I’m not interested in ideology-bound doggerel of the `OMG statist corrupt meddling communism’ sort, or its inverse – I’m not an economist, but I expect a high standard of analysis, the more formal the better.

L

Three strikes: providing an incentive to kill

datePosted on 19:55, February 19th, 2009 by Anita

Chris has used up two strikes; a pub fight, and getting caught carrying a knife during a burglary. Back out of jail it’s hard to find work, money’s really tight, and old habits kick back in so late one night Chris opens a window in an dark house in an expensive street.

Part way through checking through the house for valuables, there is a noise, and a light turns on. Grabbing a knife Chris sees a woman standing in the doorway to her bedroom. Chris has two options:

  1. Run out the front door – knowing that if the woman picks Chris out of a line-up or the Police solve it with forensics it’ll be a life sentence for aggravated burglary; or
  2. Stab her – if she’s dead there’ll be no line up, so unless the Police can solve it with forensics there won’t even be a trial.
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