You can now find me…

…over at my new general blog, Le Matt Juste. Yes, it’s a pun.

I’m considering today my official launch, although I did set things up and start posting yesterday. I will be posting about feminism there too, and will probably consider this blog an archive. Thanks very much for reading!

Why yes, I do have a name.

Just a quick note here, I’m not coming back to actively update ST yet, but as you can see my posts are no longer anonymous, because I’m planning a non-anonymous GENERAL politics blog. You’re welcome, world.

Vote Yes

For those truckers who don’t follow me on G.Blog, here’s a cross-post:

Just a reminder to everyone who supported Sue Bradford’s Bill to repeal ยง59 of the crimes act and extend full protection from assault to children- there is a referendum coming up that is designed to undermine that decision, even though it passed overwhelmingly and attitudes (not only to abuse of children, but also to physical discipline of children) have already changed dramatically since the implementation of the new law.

There’s a great non-partisan campaign to support the current law on at http://yesvote.org.nz/. The site is very rigorous and straightforward in its facts, doesn’t overreach, and has excellent talking points for the current policy and why it needs extra time to be successful. In short, their main thrust accords with the Party’s reasoning for supporting the bill in the first place: It draws a line in the sand and uses that to motivate slow change towards a society where physical discipline is largely abandoned and unnecessary.

If you can get out and help spread the word that people supporting our current, sensible laws regarding assault against children, please do so. Their recommendations for supporting the “Yes” campaign are here1, and you can find resources for grassroots campaigning here.

1 Basically, they recommend writing your local MP and keeping up with news from the campaign.

Fat Satan

Bow down to your deity, puny mortals. It’s nice to know I’m not an irrational freak and that the bad feeling when I gorge myself with chocolate1 is not me worrying about getting fat even though it seems all but impossible for me2, it’s actually Fat Satan trying in vain to steal my soul.

I’ve had trouble with this whole looking after yourself without feeling guilty thing- mainly because feeling guilty is like, a favourite passtime of mine or something- but the idea of dark obesity deities is strangely comforting even beyond the feeling of “yay, parody!”. I’m thinking Fat Satan is going to enter my everyday vocabulary. ๐Ÿ˜‰

1This happens approximately 100% of the time that I buy quantities of chocolate that exceed the size of the average “candy bar”, to wax American.
2I have an astoundingly inefficient metabolism, and the only time I ever noticably gained weight was when I was on a student exchange to Germany. Coming back and not fitting my tight jeans was a surprise. Fat Satan will have to make do with conquering the Americas for now.

And you’re out.

So, it’s strike eleventy1 for the beleaguered three strikes law. I can’t say I’m surprised or disappointed, as every evaluation of the practicality of such laws (as opposed to the pure feel-good politics it generates of being seen “getting tough”) has concluded that this law is a terrible step backwards that violates the bill of rights. (Because it’s disproportionate punishment, the same clause in the BORA that prevents torture) Not only that, but it’s been pegged as violating one of the pillars of western justice, (proportional and consistent punishment,) blowing out the budget paying for extra prisons, increasing re-offending and generating more victims, and also presenting a risk that third-time offenders will resort to homocide rather than leave a witness around to testify for their life sentence.

Naturally, “Family First” rubbishes this news, contending that California’s crime rate went down after the law was implemented, and that our crime rate is going up.

Let me address the claim that our crime rate is increasing first: Yes, more victims are reporting crimes. No, the rate at which crimes are committed compared to the increase in population has not had a “real” increase – a lot of the new reports can be attributed to increased public awareness around domestic violence due to the perfect storm that was the convergence of the “It’s Not Okay” campaign with the Section 59 repeal law.

Secondly: I’ll concede that California’s crime rate went down. But correlation doesn’t have to imply causation. California is also one of the most liberal states in the USA, even when it’s under Republican governorship, and it may well have taken good preventative measures in concert with enacting a three-strikes law. Also, most of the side effects of such laws are long-term. I certainly share their optimism that nobody be killed should such a law be implemented here, but I don’t doubt that it will make re-offending worse, undermine rehabilitation, (Which FF probably doesn’t mind as some spokespeople have demonstrated they don’t believe it ever works) and create more victims for only a perception of safety.

Here’s hoping that the debate is ended by National finding a viable way to drop support for this Hindenberg of a law.
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Busy busy!

I’ve been relatively busy lately which is why ST has been lagging behind my stuff at G.Blog and elsewhere.

However, enjoy the festively censored banner for internet blackout day(s)! I’ll be back late feb.

Happy Holidays!

A merry (war on) christmas to everyone in advance! Be happy, be with family if you want, be safe, and make the holidays what you need them to be, not what you think other people want them to be. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m undecided if I’ll take a christmas break from writing or not, so we’ll see on that. And big hugs to anyone who is alone this time of year and doesn’t want to be. ๐Ÿ™‚

A Primer on Dogwhistling

Because it’s election season, we’re bound to see plenty dogwhistling in this campaign, (in fact we have already) so I think it’s time to discuss what it is, and just why dogwhistling matters.

Many people less suburban than myself will know that a dogwhistle emits a noise too high-pitched for the human ear to discern. Likewise, a political dogwhistle is a message specialised enough that the general public are unlikely to understand it, but that has some special subtext to the core voters of the politician that uses it. And no, dogwhistling is not just people getting upset that other people aren’t being “PC”, although often dogwhistling is used to disguise a politically disastrous message so that it sounds tasteful to more moderate voters.

At the core of it, a dogwhistle is essentially when you say one thing and mean another- the only complication is that the hidden meaning has to be subtlely implied to those who would support it.

For example, “We should solve women’s pay inequality by increasing women’s access to education and training.” is a dogwhistle. Why is it a dogwhistle? Well, because even when women are equally qualified with men, pay inequality still happens. So either the politician involved is genuinely too stupid to understand the problem involved, (not good) or they’re trying to frame the phrase “I’m not going to address pay inequality at all” in positive language. (even worse) What better way for someone concerned with their image to not solve a problem than to insist that solutions that haven’t worked in the past will be enough? Especially when many men are genuinely convinced that the problem is really that women aren’t working as hard as they are- no surprise, people LIKE to be told they’re working hard and deserve what they have.

So why is this bad? Well, because it means that someone who takes a politician for their word will actually think they’ve got a plan that’s moderate and sensible. It misrepresents their policy, and poisons good debate over what we can do to solve problems in our society by essentially saying they don’t really exist- or even worse, it frames positive solutions as problems like, say, using the DPB to address the fact that men run out on their partners.

Why should we even be worried though? While we know dogwhistling happens all the time in larger countries like America, does it really happen in New Zealand? Sadly, yes, every election is full of multiple dogwhistles from most every party.

For example, National has already dogwhistled all over beneficiaries of various types when the only benefit that at any time allowed an excessive amount of people to stay out of work when they didn’t need to- the unemployment one- has taken incredible dives thanks to Labour’s incentives for people to get into work, and their attempts to create an economy where we have a labour shortage.

What other types of dogwhistles have we seen or might we see? We’ve already had the “influencing our young people” dogwhistle for homophobia used by the family party. (If seeing two women kissing influences young women to be gay, how does all the heterosexual kissing and rubbing and hugging they see on TV affect them, I wonder? Why aren’t the family party coming out against that equally strongly? Because being gay “makes it worse”. Except they can’t say that in public because it makes them look bad)

Then there’s “lower taxes”. How’s that a dogwhistle, you might say? Well, think about it- are these lower taxes for you? Are they fair to people who work hard but don’t get a high paycheck? Do they value people who do volunteer work, or parents? Probably not. Yet lower taxes are being touted as a solution to lower effective wages, to economic downturn, to social inequality- like some sort of magic political fairy dust that solves every problem it touches. In reality, even the most insanely generous tax cuts are unlikely to exceed fifty dollars a week- and that’s if we seriously constrain spending on really important public goods, like trains, buses, hospitals, (and nurses and doctors) education, (and teachers) and more. Hell, I’ve only listed the big stuff- a few dollars a week, you can also subsidise music and the arts, educate the public about health issues, ethical dilemmas, civics, or what have you. Even if that fifty dollars is very useful to you, there’s an enormous opportunity cost to having it. But let’s stop and think about it- will fifty dollars a week help you with rising power prices? Probably not. Will it help you if your job is being shipped off overseas in our free trade deals? Unlikely. Who will it largely help? Those who earn enough to get a significant benefit from a few percentage points of reduction on their tax. And to be fair, I don’t mind that the wealthy get a tax break along with the rest of us. What I mind is that it’s a tax break that scales with how much tax they pay.

We accept that the wealthy in our society generally provide services that are scarce or valuable, and so paying them more so that they can free themselves from money-related stress, or use money to free up their time, can generally be a good thing. But if that’s so, then they also have the responsibility to contribute more to our society with that money. And we trust their judgement in that- people who can afford to donate any money at all to charity are exempted any tax on that donation, and we’re removing the cap on that exemption.

But if a tax break is intended to solve issues with rising food and power prices, then why does one person need more of a tax break than another? Because there’s a hidden message. Because “tax break” doesn’t mean that everyone gets what they need. It means that the people on top get to keep more and more of what they have. It means that people who might, but don’t necessarily work harder or smarter- who have had an education better tailored to them, had a better-connected family, or have simply been lucky- also get a better deal than you, because they already have more.

On a lighter note…

Did you know that New Zealand has a population per capita of 1?

๐Ÿ˜‰

Weekenders 4 & Open Thread

Here’s another batch to keep you sorted:

  • A very different type of emissions trading scheme is proposed.
  • The five geek social fallacies are interesting reading. Shorter geek social fallacies: It’s okay to be mean to people who act like jerks, and not everyone has to like each other.
  • Shakesville has a wonderful guest post on what domestic violence is really like, and why victims don’t realise they’re victims as fast as the rest of us do.
  • The Feministing community is awesome. Ann has highlighted a piece about how many stores and abortion clinics obstruct teenagers from using birth control, pregnancy tests, and getting abortions, even though there aren’t any laws allowing them to do so.
  • The F-Word have a great article on attempts to close a loophole allowing lap dancing clubs to be zoned as if they were cafรฉs or bars, and how their calls for his support are embarrassing Boris Johnson, the mayor of London.