Just catching up a bit this monday, but there is a very good quickie from I/S over at NRT on how staying together for the kids can be worse than divorce.
Would you prefer to have twenty people bash you to death with clubs, or one shoot you until you died? Either way you’re still hurting and dying. This principle is why I really don’t get people who say it’s okay to take away people’s rights so long as we do it by referendum- whether it’s the Māori seats, a child’s right not to be hit in an abusive manner under a defense of correction, the right of any two people to marry regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation- whatever.
The point is there is no difference between a totalitarian regime imposing a specific injustice because of the word of Dear Leader, and 50+% of us deciding to rob some portion of the rest of human rights. In matters of protections from abuse or entitlements to civil rights, the people who will actually be affected should also agree they aren’t needed before we start talking about a referendum at all.
And, to the current specific case before us with the upcoming referendum: seeing we don’t enfranchise kids, perhaps we should be even more careful about taking away their legal protections over some populist whip-up with no real weight of argument behind it. Let’s be neither the twenty with clubs nor the one with the gun, when we could instead so easily be a society of parents and other caregivers who realise that “corrective” violence, even when it starts off not hurting, just isn’t worth it. 🙂
(Cross-posted from G.Blog)
So, seeing I’ve been strongly critical of national on women’s rights, let’s do a retrospective of similar areas where Labour fucked up on identity politics, political freedom and non-discrimination. I have the feeling this is going to make me temporarily popular with certain other Greens who share with me a deep distrust of Labour, and of course I’m sure the National Partisans will laugh it up at both what I believe and the fact that I’m absolutely going to town on Labour. Don’t worry, you’re still in the targets, too. 😉
- Pay Equity (for women): They essentially started the investigation into pay equity in the public service to make the problem go away until next term. Except that was stupid: Labour ran a healthy surplus for most of its terms in government, an ideal time to implement the increase in public sector wages that would be the simplest way to address direct pay equity issues. Not only that, but they knew they had a pretty good chance at being ousted coming up to their third bid for re-election, so if pay equity is as important as they’re implying, they should have put it on their list to fast-track before the election. Overall their reluctance to act on an issue even the most anti-feminist of women would appreciate in some sense has been inexcusable, and it made their criticism on this issue pretty hollow.
- Seabed and Foreshore: Confiscating these was a disaster. Even if you accept they needed to be nationalised in some form rather than being claimed in settlement, the government should have at least let Maori have their day in court first and compensated Maori with something else in settlements if they did have a good claim. And even if nationalisation of some sort did go ahead, the seabed and foreshore should have been placed into the public domain (where everybody effectively owns it and has usage rights) rather than vested to the crown. (where we all just have to trust no government decides to do something incredibly dumb with it) Overall a fuck-up of massive proportions even if you didn’t want any seabed and foreshore claims going ahead. Not only that, but reversing this thing is part of the reason National doesn’t have to rely on the Greens to pass anything that Act don’t want to- both in the sense of the existence of the Maori Party, and in the sense of their willingness to form a coalition with National.
- Marriage is still straight-only: And labour defended it as straight-only. I don’t see why we didn’t go whole-hog on this, civil unions lead that way eventually, and giving space to idiots like Gordon Copeland and Brian Tamaki only encourages them. Make them steam it out.
- The bill of rights is still only paid lip service: The most ridiculous of bills are found consistent with the bill of rights that even a budding civil rights activist could see are not. If we’re going to maintain the idea that the bill of rights should limit the power of Parliament, let’s actually have at it. For one, we should be having judicial overrulings of implied restrictions of straight marriages for transwomen and transmen, and gay marriage. For another, Three Strikes should be disallowed if it passes. Labour made no move to tighten up our constitution here, and they deserve some of the blame for not doing enough every time National and its most extreme coalition partner rub it in their face with legislation with terrible civil liberties connotations.
- No checks on Parliament’s power: As the academic and social elite of New Zealand, (as opposed to the financial and social elite, who they sit opposite to) Labour seems to think that Parliament knows best, and even the biggest partisan reformists are reluctant to act quickly and decisively on any constitutional reform. The lack of any meaningful review of laws leads to low-quality legislation as there is no disincentive to sloppy drafting, and only select committees save us from elected dictatorships as it is. More oversight of Parliament is necessary, and I don’t just mean opening the books to OIA requests. Unfortunately, the phrase “constutional reform” sets off monarchists even if it’s unrelated to a Republic, and Labour didn’t have the guts.
- The EFA: While unlike many from the Right and Centre I don’t think law touched free speech with a ten-foot pole, and I supported the general motivations behind it, there were three big problems with this law.
- Was not radical or tough enough: If Parliament was going to get tough on electoral laws, they should have gone whole-hog. Instead we have anonymous donations below a thousand dollars in a world where donating anything to a political party is an extraordinary act of partisanship for most. Donations through filter trusts may still evade pubic scrutiny of their real sources, and the loopholes in the EFA are generally still big enough to run a train through.
- Poor drafting and implementation: Before I get to the political part, this law should probably have set every-year all-year caps at a more sensible rate on both party and issue campaigning. Beyond that, Labour left notification laws a muddle, and the procedure for dealing with them a farce, with even the minister responsible for the law being caught out on her opinions of what did or did not breach it very frequently.
- Parliament should not regulate politics: If Labour had wanted to do this the proper way, rather than leave the Greens to negotiate a Citizen’s Jury into elecoral finance, they should have put all the relevant laws in the hands of a truly independent body with a similar structure and lobbied like any other interest group. That approach would have probably been a publicity boost, and if it left them with less cash in hand, it would be likely that experts would attempt to be equally hard on National’s large donors to equalise the playing field.
- Gay adoption and provisions for other non-heteronormative families: This merited visiting in at least some manner after civil unions were passed.
- Their list: While claiming to be a left party and generally supporting freedoms and championing the underprivileged, Labour betrays the strains of elitism that run through its more powerful tiers by retaining strict central control of their party list. One of the big, and legitimate, criticisms of MMP is that list candidates can be chosen entirely by backroom meeting in most parties. Righting it is as simple as adopting a postal ballot for your list and using it to encourage members to join. Labour should have joined the Greens in this long ago.
- Prisons: Not only is Labour a staunch supporter of incubating more criminals with a policy of systematic over-incarceration and a justice policy based on vengeance rather than restoration of our community, but this is about the most likely aspect of their policy to get dramatically worse under Phil Goff.
- Cannot really be called centre-left: Centre-left would imply that there are significant aspects of leftism remaining within the caucus and among senior party members. Labour has been a centre party and a staunch supporter of the flawed attempt at free-market capitalism that trade liberals have unleashed on the world since before MMP, and is remaining one after it. Only their focus on reducing unemployment and their staunch social liberals make them a positive force in parliament. (although that’s a pretty big “only”)
- Environmentally kleptocratic: Despite their big promises of cleaning up New Zealand and moving towards sustainability, Labour put much more effort towards economic development and paid bare lip service to minimising global warming with their softball ETS that was hardly worth supporting.
Now, keep in mind that this is a very complete list in its strongest and most general form. Largely speaking, I think Labour is the third-best Party in Parliament and actually does more good than harm. I think that its policies for the middle class, its Keynesian streak, its financial (if not economic) management of the country, and its tax system are all very good “second bests”. Most of the MPs individually are good people who I have a lot of commonality with politically, they just have enough specifics wrong to drive me half-insane watching them failing so close to getting it right. Presumably even a pretty good government would generate a list at least have as long, and I think this last government has to be admitted as having managed okay on a fair amonut of issues by most of its critics.
But I have deep reservations on the current direction of the Labour Party, its priorities, its conduct, and its trustworthiness, and would not vote for it under any system where I had an ability to really choose another party. Labour has lost its hang of defending civil liberties, privacies, and its social liberals are mired beneath the free trade academics who think they can get a good deal for the country’s working class through imaginary infinite growth. It’s not gonna happen Labour, and you need to stop thinking that anything but a physically static economy can be branded with the word “sustainable”.mong
So, having been drawn into the topic of abortion lately by the comments, I want to wax philosophical1 about the antecedents to2 my beliefs about abortion.
One of the reasons I turned away from believing that abortion was largely wrong to seeing it as very difficult to understand (and eventually from there to believing that women are the best judges of whether they should have one or not) is the issue of the universal right to life. This may seem rather backwards to some people, as the right to life is a supporting argument to a pro-life position- but the reason it eventually led me to a pro-choice position was the problems with the universal right to life3 that make it a very extreme belief.
Firstly, the universal right to life is the most consistent justification for a pro-life point of view. It says simply that life itself grants the right to further life, and you only need DNA, enough size to have some sort of brain, and a pulse to have a right to life. As I said in the comments earlier, this has a number of implications: The first is, you better be one hell of an animal rights activist. Not only can someone who believes in a universal right to life that makes abortion immoral not eat meat, they have to be exactly as evangelical about vegetarianism as they do about their pro-life views. Also, you should probably move to somewhere they believe in reincarnation and sweep the street clear of insects if the right to life is to you, so sacred and universal, that you would never kill an animal.
Secondly, life implies violence4, and violence implies killing. Even if we don’t directly kill, business advantage takes food out of someone else’s mouth, we ignore poverty that leads to harm both here and overseas, we enable or directly wage wars, we stand back with our non-interventionist policies while other people oppress and murder each other, and that’s even ignoring all the times animals kill each other that we stand back and allow. If you believe in a universal right to life, you already have a lot of fires to put out.
So, many pro-life supporters don’t. There are two common restrictions on the right to life. The first is the personal restriction to killing: I believe in a right to life, so I will not kill. This is a functional position, but it prevents you from arguing for this standard for everyone else and thus imposing it by law, especially if you rely on others to kill for you- if you support war or soldiers, or lethal force in police action, or torture, or political assassination, or anything similar, even discounting the killing of animals involved in human life5. This really falls down when taken in context of other beliefs of the people who use it as an argument, because it’s so inconsistent with many pro-life values, it’s likely just a stand-in for the second idea.
The other idea sometimes comes bundled together with a personal restriction, a form that’s probably more viable than a personal restriction alone. In its most extreme form, it goes like this: Something about the human species makes us special, and anything concieved with our DNA has a right to life from conception. This is not usually an argument to the right to life from sentience or personhood, as these concepts are both very debatable in how early they apply to infants, fetuses, zygotes, etc… Neither is it an argument from human potential- this has its own problems. This restriction is usually about any human life being sacred, and it seems to have roots in an anthropocentric6 thought- it seems to be used as a justification that not only can humans not be killed, but that anything that prevents the proliferation of the human species is morally wrong. This sort of thought has always been problematic to me, and my opposition to it led to a lot of my current thoughts and beliefs- my criticism of “strong” catholicism, my Green beliefs about sustainable population, the view that the human race is just a particularly smart type of animal, and so on. This type of thought is fundamentally incompatible with modern life: it incites wistful denial of global warming7, it opposes birth control and sexual liberation, and it’s highly vulnerable to tribalism in its extreme form: “only people like me are really people!”
While I think they’re making things go disastrously wrong in terms of pay equity, I have a small amount of sympathy for National on Women’s Affairs. Not because they’re any good on women’s rights, (oh, they realise that they’re important, hence the $2 million funding increase for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs) but because Pansy Wong is at least correct when she says that National presided over a large catchup in the pay gap for women when they were last in Government.
But I don’t thing they can claim all the credit for that- their women’s policy at the time was essentially: “Okay, let’s outlaw blatant discrimination, then hope it gets better without looking at any of the tricky stuff.” And it did, because women were still moving towards becoming more professional, more educated, and businesses were moving towards taking advantage of that fact, and to their credit, the Equal Pay Act facilitated this process. But the transition towards a dual-gendered workface is now largely over; there is still improvement to be made stamping out pockets of gormless misogyny in say, the I.T. sector. But that doesn’t mean National can expect to cancel everything that’s going on in the MoW’sA, start doing things their way, and expect that to save them money and get better outcomes for women. Sometimes it’s actually more productive to maintain operational continuity.
Especially seeing the biggest thing on the horizon was that the government was going to try and lead the way by doing better about its own pay problems. Pansy Wong is going to look very embarrassed if one of the opposition MPs works out that they can just attack her on why the government doesn’t just pay women an equal amount itself if it’s so committed to pay equity.
I can tell National realise this is going to be important, I just don’t get how they think that sitting back and “not fucking things up” like they did after passing the EPA will be enough. That last twelve percent is full of tricky little problems, like unequal promotion and bonuses, relative over-qualification of women in any given position when compared with men’s qualifications, and business practices unfriendly to flexible work hours and parental leave. None of these have “fire and forget” fixes that National can use, and I get the impression they’re way over the heads in this.