The Political Scientist: Underneath the ‘underclass’

Written By: - Date published: 1:13 pm, July 31st, 2012 - 7 comments
Categories: class war, Deep stuff, poverty - Tags: ,

Many of those who participate in the comments here at The Standard also run their own excellent blogs. We regularly feature No Right Turn and Imperator Fish. Today we’re reposting (with permission) pieces from two other blogs that attracted some attention in Open mike recently. Here’s the second one, from The Political Scientist


Underneath the ‘underclass’

Posted on 29th Jul, 2012 by Puddleglum

Out of the mouths of rednecks

Joe Bageant died on the 26th of March last year.

Apparently, he was sometimes referred to as an American ‘leftneck’ – which is not a bad label for him.

Bageant’s book (and, more generally, his literary life) has been devoted to laying out the answer to a question that, if considered at all, is usually given a ‘once over lightly’ varnish of simplistic rhetoric substituting for a real understanding or explanation.

The question in question is “Why is there a so-called ‘underclass’?”

I was thinking of writing a post about what he had to say on this after I recently finished his memoir “Rainbow Pie“.

I didn’t get around to it.

Then, I was reminded it would be a good idea after reading the comments in response to Matt McCarten’s piece ‘Cheerful free-market ride about to nosedive‘.

But I still didn’t get around to it.

Then, I remembered that this year – and this term of a National-led government – is going to see a focus on supposed ‘welfare reform’. According to John Key, this will involve “a comprehensive reform of the benefit system, building off the recommendations of the Welfare Working Group“. [An outline of the establishment of the Welfare Working Group and its subsequent reports, in full, can be viewed here.].

In fact, over two years ago – and long before Joe Bageant’s death – Minister of Social Welfare Paula Bennett bluntly told the unemployed that the (bad?) “dream is over” (sadly, she didn’t mean that National had a plan to provide jobs)

This ‘welfare reform’ initiative builds upon other ‘reforms’ first announced in August last year which indicated use of the private sector to ‘case manage’ young people, including those on the Independent Youth Benefit (about 1600 under 18 year olds) and a further 11,900 under 18 year olds not in work or education.

But I still didn’t get around to it.

Then, the onslaught began as a slew of welfare reform proposals – and strangely timed kite-flying – rained down on us: long-lasting contraception for beneficiaries; various requirements for DPB recipients to seek work while their children are young; penalties for beneficiaries who refuse or fail pre-employment drug testsproviding food parcels rather than food grants to beneficiaries, etc..

National clearly has its sights on ‘the underclass’.

The final nail in the coffin of my tardiness was the National Party Conference this year. As well as the Prime Minister’s general bullishness about his party’s “absolute mandate and authority” supposedly gained at the last General Election, there was, yet again, the aggressive assertion of the ‘rightness’ of the government’s ‘welfare reform’ agenda:

Today [22 July, 2012] delegates will also debate the next round of welfare reform.

“We will be introducing social obligations, so they will have to enrol their child in early childhood education and get well-checks at the doctor by enrolling with the local PHO,” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett told 3News.

“If you have kids, then you will lose 50 per cent of your benefit. That’s the worst case scenario. We hope it doesn’t get to that.”

Given all of that political provocation, now I’m finally getting around to it. So, just why is it that there is a so-called underclass?

In Bageant’s estimates, America has a white underclass – alone – that numbers around 60 million people. Using his criteria, it’s anyone’s guess what the same figure – for all ethnic groups – would be in New Zealand.

So why is there such a large so-called ‘underclass’ in supposedly ‘advanced economies’?

There’s two general proposals to answer this question: One type of analysis focuses on deindustrialisation and the shift to unreliable low-paid service sector jobs; Another increasingly common analysis sees the primary cause in a permissive welfare state.

It is this second ‘analysis’, of course, by which the National-led government seems primarily driven.

Both of these proposals are based on particular events and processes in particularsocieties.

But there’s a more general approach that I’m interested in here: What are the basic processes of change that lead to the creation of a so-called underclass, irrespective of the particular place and time?

Before answering this more general question, it’s worth reviewing the particularexplanations that have been given in the New Zealand context.

In New Zealand, the usual place to begin – for those on the right – is the establishment of welfare (see my take on that explanation here – it concerns Don Brash’s convictions in this regard). Hot on the heels of this virtue-sapping institution, according to the familiar narrative, was the abrupt arrival of the ‘permissive society’ and a lax, liberal social climate.

This latter was inspired by everything from rock music, leftie academics swanning around university campuses in Europe and the United States (aped elsewhere by wannabe celebrity academics preaching ‘people’s revolutions’), Dr Spock, ‘political correctness’ and other morally weakening conditions too numerous to list.

This concoction of moral corrosivity was the result of unceasing efforts by an amorphous group – often termed ‘liberals’ in the vernacular – apparently intent on undermining the moral order for no greater reason than the perverse pleasure they gained from those attempts.

The overall effect, so the story goes, was to undermine personal responsibility, ‘good parenting’ and community in general. This sapping of the population’s moral character has resulted in widespread and “deeply ingrained … drug and welfare dependency.”

The other explanation proffered in New Zealand’s case is the effect of the 1980s and 1990s radical restructuring of New Zealand’s economy and, therefore, society.

Roger Douglas looms large in this version, as the initiator of changes that wrecked communities, families and individuals. Evidence in support includes rising rates of most social ills, increased rates of psychological disturbance and suffering and casualisation and insecurity of employment.

The picture painted in this version is less about the undermining of the moral (or ‘behavioural’) fabric as it is about the direct tearing apart of social and economic fabrics. Communities that, for generations, had stable employment and prosperity – often on the back of public sector dominated industries and infrastructure – were suddenly cut adrift, with individuals required, in essence, to look after themselves.

All of that immense destruction was supposedly a creative force to unleash innovation, ‘real jobs’ and a vital and vibrant new New Zealand. The ‘collateral damage’, however, has been with us since and been topped up regularly with each new ripple of neoliberal policy enacted.

But, as I said, there’s a second way to answer this question and it involves looking for a general explanation or theory of what produces – at any time and in any place – a marginalised, so-called dysfunctional ‘underclass’.

My answer, in that generic vein, goes like this.

The first step is that viable cultures that have often sustained themselves effectively for decades or hundreds, even thousands, of years dissolve or are actively dismantled as a result of externally imposed change.

In English history there are plenty of examples of just this process that set the scene (and forged the initial pattern) for the ‘development’ of the rest of the world and the consequent ubiquitousness of various forms of ‘underclass’.

The examples, for England, include the progressive removal of the customary and legal rights of peasants in the Feudal system; enclosure of the commons (and, hence, removal of the options for a way of life); the flight of unemployed agricultural workers to urban areas to form the new urban working class; and, through ‘deindustrialisation’, the dismantling of those urban, working class communities that existed, for example, next to coal mines or shipyards, etc..

At each turn of that particular historical wheel a ‘new class’ was generated that, in essence, was a class without a viable means of reproducing its previous way of life.

What is missed – or glossed over – in this kind of account, however, is that the loss of this ability to reproduce a ‘culture’ or ‘community’ has direct implications for creating individuals. People are, principally, socio-cultural products rather than biological ones. This might come as a surprise to some so I’ll explain the point further.

Human beings are principally biologically defined (and reproduced) but persons are defined and generated only within a socio-cultural setting. A person, so to speak, is what a society does with a human being.

To invert Thatcher’s well-known comment:  there’s no such thing as an individual person outside of a society. There is, however, such a thing as an individual human being outside of society, but most of us wouldn’t wish that fate on our worst enemy. To be unacknowledged by a social world is to cease to be, as a person. As William James pointed out in his Principles of Psychology:

No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed.

The conclusion is obvious: to dismantle a culture – or, more generally, the way of life of a particular group – is, in effect, to dismantle the very ‘machine’ that creates and develops individual persons.

The second step towards the creation of an underclass takes place in the vacuum created by the – sometimes incremental and sometimes only partial – destruction of this ‘person-creating’ machinery. The next essential step is the exploitation of the fractured remnants of the culture or social group – in other words, of the remaining individuals by those groups who are fully acculturated within the ‘new’ way of life.

This turns out to be relatively easy because the very attitudes and values carried along by the individual members of the dismantled group are, inevitably, ill-suited to the new arrangements. Cooperative, collective values, for example, do not serve one well in a system predicated on the pursuit of individually-defined ends. In a competitive context, then, such ‘fragments’ (i.e., persons) are relatively easy to use for other purposes (e.g., as consumers) as they carry along with them residues of these no longer materially effective values and ways of operating.

In Bageant’s books you get a clear picture of the kinds of communities that gave rise to the modern American, white ‘underclass’. Surprisingly, those communities seem to possess none of the ‘suspect’ values or ways of life that might lead you to predict that they would – within a matter of a generation or so – be the seed-bed for today’s American underclass.

They were communities in which people had a very hard but nevertheless effective way of making a life for themselves by sheer dint of effort. As he described this quintessentially American, rural life:

The farm was not a business. It was a farm. Pap and millions of farmers like him were never in the ‘agribusiness’. They never participated in the modern ‘economy of scale’ which comes down to exhausting as many resources as possible to make as much money as possible in the shortest time possible.

Instead, this was a material life generated from a “community economic ecology” – a ‘culture’ – that brought with it a set of values honed to that way of life: Thrift, hard work, pragmatism, independence within a local and interdependent community.

But, it got dismantled.

When World War II began, 44 per cent of Americans were rural, and over half of them farmed for a living. By 1970, only five per cent were on farms.

Bageant describes the process in terms of the individuals of his childhood and youth. How they lived most of their lives and how that way of life disintegrated as they aged.

As one reviewer puts it:

Looking in on Joe’s world it’s immediately apparent that his dilemma in looking back, is that by the time capital got around to demolishing Joe’s “community economic ecology”, it had pretty much gotten through destroying everything else, in fact ever since the days when Joe’s ancestors landed in 1755. … So even while Joe’s community was still intact and functioning, it was already surrounded by an advancing tide of avarice and destruction.

What’s left is what Rainbow Pie describes, millions of poor, uneducated whites, who have been left to rot on a once intact rural ecology, just as the original inhabitants, or what’s left of them, have been left to rot on ‘reservations’ or to call them by their correct name, Bantustans.

And;

The rural life that Joe describes, though whilst poor, barely above subsistence level, nevertheless reveals a culture that was in balance with the environment and to Joe’s credit, it’s not a romanticized vision of a life lost but echoes a lost culture that used to be the bedrock of the life of millions of working Americans.

The creation of an underclass is a tried and true process. Again and again it has happened. As I said, it begins with the dismantling of a culture. But then comes the second body blow; the exploitation.

Bageant was pretty clear about that too. Once you’ve dismantled a way of life – an entire means of producing the material goods and meeting the needs of a community (as was the case with the viable Southern, white communities within which Bageant was raised) – you then fully and rapidly submerse the residue, the people, into the deep end of a new way of life within which the old values and attitudes cease to be effective, or are even counterproductive.

Bageant’s “community economic ecology” with its attendant dogged values and virtues is unsuited to a more individualistic life in which failure consciously and constantly to plan and strategise in your own self interest is punished.

A subsistence, community-based economic order is a very poor developmental environment for gaining the ‘aspirational’, self-focused world-view and associated values that are obsessively pursued by the modern, urban middle classes. Being outcompeted in the marketplace of success then becomes the likeliest result. So what do individuals caught in this predicament do?

The story then becomes a familiar one, and one to which, today, we are all susceptible.

We all know its allures and it’s called ‘consumerism‘ amongst the intelligentsia. But it’s pretty basic. Shops, loud tv ads, television, cell phones, cheap booze and fast food. Not purely an accident, either.

Try the BBC’s ‘Century of the Self’ for size.

Or, read clinical psychologist David Smail’s Origins of Unhappiness, especially chapter 4, a case study of Britain in the 1980s. His withering description of a working class, ‘all-consuming’ family on a train, is a study in modern tragedy and pathos. (At a personal level it amounts to a description of my own extended family who remain in the North of England.)

For Bageant, the all-consuming self of the consumer is the only viable means of living left to those whose previous ways of living – and the skills adaptive within it – have been destroyed, dismantled, dissolved and disintegrated. And it has odd effects.

The paradox of Joe’s underclass is that it has been harnessed by the most Conservative elements in US capitalism and for a lot of reasons. Firstly, Joe’s community has always been very religious and secondly conservative with a small c. Thirdly, it’s been jettisoned as being surplus to requirement by what Joe calls the urban-based Establishment except when it comes to voting day. Stereotyped as ignorant and inbred hillbillies in the mass media (shades of ‘Deliverance’), the only ‘voice’ they have is one supplied to them by the likes of Oral Roberts et al, who allegedly speak on their behalves. After all, forty million voters come election time is a pretty big slice of the action.

This explains in part why so many people can be screwed over and over again and yet never revolt. The other part is the simple fact that they are mostly illiterate and deliberately under-educated, fed on a diet which is literally killing them physically and mentally.

As yet another reviewer cites the words of Bageant directly:

The bottom line, however, is that they can’t read. Feel free to blame anyone you choose, except the free-market system’s extreme preference for dim-witted consumers and workers …

Ultimately, these kids will join the millions of adults who cannot read. And they cannot read because:  1. They do not have the necessary basic skills, and don’t give a rat’s ass about getting them; 2. Reading is not arresting enough to compete with the electronic stimulation in which their society is immersed; 3. They cannot envisage any possible advantage in reading, because the advantages stem from extended personal involvement, which they have never experienced, are conditioned away from, and is understandably beyond their comprehension; and 4. Their peers do not read as a serious matter, thereby socially reinforcing their early conclusion that it’s obviously not worth the time and effort.

Again, from Bageant:

When it comes to the underclass, there is no arguing that some people are members because they are so damned uneducated they cannot count their toes or read well enough to fill out a job app, the causes of which are too deep and tangled to go into at the moment. Others just don’t care to do the smiling grammatically correct wimp assed customer service zombie thing. They prefer swinging a bigger hammer than that – doing real work, like America used to do. And doing it without kissing ass, which is why they are called the “permanently jobless.” As sociologist Christopher Jencks points out, “There is no absolute standard dictating what people need to know in order to get along in society. There is however, an absolute rule that you get along better if you know what the elite knows than if you do not.

In this way it can come to seem as if the problems of the ‘underclass’ boil down to the ‘choices’ and behaviours of the individuals in the ‘underclass’. It can appear as ‘moral failing’, ‘ignorance’ and the like. It can come to be seen as the necessary outcome of so-called ‘welfare dependency’.

But it isn’t. The so-called underclass simply faces more acutely than the rest of us a realisation about the modern world that is almost as punishing as the anguish James predicts would arise “if every person we met ‘cut us dead,’ and acted as if we were non-existing things“.

In the end, there’s an underclass simply because ‘we are all individualistic now’.

Underneath the underclass is simply the logic of today’s world.

Without wanting to distract attention from the severe plight of those most clearly at the sharp end of this experience, there is a real sense in which we are all experiencing, day to day, the forces that push people into the so-called underclass.

Lives – and ways of life – are being dismantled constantly. Many in the middle class are simply better able to afford the self-medications and have the wherewithal to put enough strapping around the ‘centre’ to ensure it holds together each day.

But there’s always the fear that the strapping will come loose. The last word on the scale of the underclass belongs to Joe Bageant:

If in my travels and experience in American life I see that tens of millions of Americans being screwed silly by a handful of chiselers at the top, or if I see one percent of Americans earning as much annually as the bottom 45 percent of Americans, then that 45 percent is an underclass.  When I see a 70 year old man on his second pacemaker limping through Wal-mart as a “greeter” so he can pay at least something on last winter’s heating bill this month, then he is part of an underclass.  When I see the humiliated single mom waitress tugging downward on the ridiculously short red plastic skirt she must wear at the Hooter’s type joint so her crotch won’t show, she’s part of an underclass of humiliated and socially oppressed people. Screw the hairsplitting about who qualifies as underclass and what color they are. Just fix it. Or reap the consequences.

7 comments on “The Political Scientist: Underneath the ‘underclass’”

  1. The ‘underclass’ is bullshit bourgeois term for the ‘reserve army’ of the proletariat or ‘surplus population’ terms which Marx used to describe a widening layer of those at the bottom of the working class as capitalism sucked the blood out of those who produce the wealth and accumulate it as the prize of their natural selection.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/46658784/The-Capital-by-Karl-Marx#outer_page_793.

    • I agree, and that’s why I put it in quote marks and tried to keep saying ‘so-called underclass’.

      I know that Marx used those other terms but that’s because he had a theory into which those terms fitted and had meaning. Imagine the term ‘surplus population’ being used by a Tory – outside of Marx’s theory – and it could sound pretty bourgeois itself.

      Exploiting the ‘underclass’ is much the same as using it as a ‘reserve army’ of labour (and of consumers, I guess). The economic function is an important consequence whatever the term. 

  2. Populuxe1 2

    There’s two general proposals to answer this question: One type of analysis focuses on deindustrialisation and the shift to unreliable low-paid service sector jobs; Another increasingly common analysis sees the primary cause in a permissive welfare state.

    It is this second ‘analysis’, of course, by which the National-led government seems primarily driven.

    I disagree. National is primarily driven by neoliberal scum obsessed with the former and who are ascendant over the tory scum obsessed with the latter, but throw the tories welfare reform as a sop.

    The picture painted in this version is less about the undermining of the moral (or ‘behavioural’) fabric as it is about the direct tearing apart of social and economic fabrics. Communities that, for generations, had stable employment and prosperity – often on the back of public sector dominated industries and infrastructure – were suddenly cut adrift, with individuals required, in essence, to look after themselves.

     
    That’s not accurate, especially of New Zealand. Rural and small comunity life has always been very unstable and hard, dependent on weather, markets, and other variables. Similarly farming communities have always relied heavily on itinerant workers, both “surplus males” and seasonal professionals like shearers, shepherds and fruit pickers – individuals who look after themselves. And while I believe government should be working hard to create a job rich environment, I think it would be failing if it did this primarily by inventing jobs through public sector dominated industries and infrastructure – a Potemkin solution if ever there was one.
     
    To invert Thatcher’s well-known comment:  there’s no such thing as an individual person outside of a society. There is, however, such a thing as an individual human being outside of society, but most of us wouldn’t wish that fate on our worst enemy. To be unacknowledged by a social world is to cease to be, as a person.

    While that is true within a fairly reductive definition of society, what neoliberal capitalism (and totalitarian communism) actually wants is a mass of non-individuals, drones who can be easily and cheaply controlled. Or are you just advocating for the crab bucket of complacent mediocrity? Individuals are frequently the great innovators largely because they feel less bound to pressure to conform to traditional prejudices. Society is also made up of subcultures with diverse value structures – being unemployed, for example, doesn’t suddenly mean you cease to exist. Society consists of consenting individuals, it is a self-perpetuating construct. To completely submit to Society in return for security is also to cease to be as a person – that’s why tens of thousands of people risked their lives defecting from the communist bloc, not because they were particularly inspired by the baubles of capitalism.
     

    A subsistence, community-based economic order is a very poor developmental environment for gaining the ‘aspirational’, self-focused world-view and associated values that are obsessively pursued by the modern, urban middle classes. Being outcompeted in the marketplace of success then becomes the likeliest result. So what do individuals caught in this predicament do?

    Well one thing they shouldn’t do is stick their heads up their arses in a fit of class-conscious snobbery about people’s choices in popular entertainment because that would be distinctly unhelpful. Are you seriously trying to suggest that the urban middle classes don’t have a sense of community, because following the Christchurch earthquakes it was bloody obvious to me that they did? Suddenly everyone who lives in the suburbs is a solipsistic and complacent John Key? That is breathtakingly arrogant. It is also rather patronsing of this “subsistence, community-based economic order” as if they’re all somehow too stupid to understand the nature of their predicament.
     
     

     
     
     
     

    • Hi Populuxe1,

      I disagree. National is primarily driven by neoliberal scum obsessed with the former and who are ascendant over the tory scum obsessed with the latter, but throw the tories welfare reform as a sop.

      I’m not sure but I think your confusing my point about two different ways that social scientists (and others) have tried to explain the development of a so-called underclass. I said that National is adhering to the second view (that it’s all down to welfare) solely based on the policy prescriptions they are pushing through, which are only justifiable, rhetorically, by their claim (that I think is false) that it’s all about ‘welfare dependency’.

      I agree that ‘welfare reform’ is also a distraction from other issues – but I was simply looking at how we might explain those policies on some sort of supposed explanation of why the so-called underclass (who are the target of the policies) came to exist.

      That’s not accurate, especially of New Zealand” 

      Very possibly. But I wasn’t claiming the story was correct, just that that was the story put forward (which I think it often is).

       “While that is true within a fairly reductive definition of society, what neoliberal capitalism (and totalitarian communism) actually wants is a mass of non-individuals, drones who can be easily and cheaply controlled.

      I think you’re reading more into my words than I put into them. What I was explaining in that extract was how persons are created, not how dependent or independent individual persons are of social norms, rules, roles or whatever you want to call society’s explicit ‘rules’.  

      Put it this way, individuality, autonomy and the ability to break free from what society expects or demands is something that only a person can do just because they are social creations.

      I think you’re mistaking my comment about the origins of persons (i.e., how we get these things we call persons in the universe) with some notion that I think that society ‘controls‘ these persons. The thing about persons is that they are autonomous or have the capacity to be autonomous (even if they don’t exercise or haven’t developed that capacity). And, no, I’m not advocating for crab bucket mediocrity – quite the opposite. That’s why I want a society that generates more than drones.

      Are you seriously trying to suggest that the urban middle classes don’t have a sense of community, because following the Christchurch earthquakes it was bloody obvious to me that they did? Suddenly everyone who lives in the suburbs is a solipsistic and complacent John Key?

      No, I’m not suggesting that the urban middle class doesn’t have a sense of community – but that doesn’t preclude an obsession (maybe that’s too harsh a word) with ‘aspiring’ and a focus on the values of status based on position in the economic hierarchy. Sure, when an earthquake happens we all help our neighbours but, when work calls, we’re off to our jobs to keep the mortgage payments up – and we leave the remaining silt shovelling to someone else.

      And I didn’t mention anything about stupidity. There’s nothing stupid about being raised according to certain values and then living by them and doing your best to get by in a society arranged in a way that means following those values and ways of living isn’t rewarded – or is even actively punished.

      Why is that stupid? Or do you just think it’s stupid for someone not to instantly adopt the ways of the culture that is dominant and has been responsible for destroying the viability of their own way of living and values?

  3. blue leopard 3

    “Of Systems of Political Economy

    Political Economy, considered as a branch of the science of a statesman or legislator, proposes two distinct objects; first, to provide a plentiful revenue or subsistence for the people, or, more properly, to enable them to provide such a revenue or subsistence for themselves; and, secondly, to supply the state or commonwealth with a revenue sufficient for public services. It proposes to enrich both the people and the sovereign.” (p341)

    …so if this quote from Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” still holds true; that there is a so called “underclass” is a monumental failure of governing bodies throughout the Nations that hold Mr Smith as still relevant reading.

    Rather than seeing this phenomenon of so called “underclass” for what it is, a symptom of poor policies, the recipients of this failure are touted as the cause.

    As I understand it; money was revered as “the great equalizer”; allowing more than those who were born into wealth to create wealth for themselves and become influential people in society; i.e allowed for social mobility. Now we appear to be heading back to a situation of less social mobility.

    New Zealand isn’t there yet, yet we are headed in that direction; an expected result due to the Nations whose policies we appear to be slavishly following, appear to be further along that path.

    So what’s going on?

    Perhaps when both people and governing bodies “get” it; that our collective fates are entwined, we rise together and we fall together as a society, things might start heading in a more positive direction…?….

    • rosy 3.1

      “i.e allowed for social mobility. Now we appear to be heading back to a situation of less social mobility”

      We still have social mobility – but it’s in a downward direction – the middle class is squeezed and the underclass is growing.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Petrol companies promise prices will come back down once peace is restored to the Middle East
    BP, Z and Mobil all insist that petrol price hikes are temporary, “in a very literal sense.” The nation’s major petrol providers are trying to allay customer fears over prices, promising that they’ll move to lower them again “immediately” when the Middle East is returned to its formerly peaceful state. ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    4 hours ago
  • All Blacks unveil boat for Rugby World Cup 2019
    South African coach Rassie Erasmus says he has no idea what they’re going to do about the boat. In a highly anticipated press conference this afternoon, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has finally unveiled the team’s boat for its Rugby World Cup 2019 campaign. In a press conference that went ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    5 hours ago
  • An increasingly shoddy coverup
    The Operation Burnham inquiry continued to question senior NZDF staff today, and their shoddy coverup over their knowledge of civilian casualties continue to fall apart. If you recall, first, we were asked to believe that it was all a series of "mistakes and errors": a senior officer with multiple degrees ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    8 hours ago
  • If we are to avoid making the earth uninhabitable, we need to rapidly decarbonise our civilisation, and cut emissions to zero as quickly as possible. This seems like an impossible task, but its not. Pushing hard on a few technologies and trends will let us halve emissions in a decade:Greenhouse ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    10 hours ago
  • A further attack on transparency
    The Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2) had part of its committee stage yesterday. its a generally tedious bill about the nitty-gritty of local government reorganisation. But it includes a clause making the Local Government Commission subject to the Ombudsmen Act, and hence the OIA. Great! Except of ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    11 hours ago
  • Ihumātao and Treaty settlements
    Yesterday Ihumātao's mana whenua reached a consensus that they would like their land back, and asked the government to negotiate with Fletcher's for its return. The government's response? Try and undermine that consensus, while talking about how doing anything would undermine existing Treaty settlements. The first is just more bad ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    15 hours ago
  • Protecting our history
    Its Suffrage Day, the 126th anniversary of women winning the right to vote (but not stand in elections) in New Zealand. And to celebrate, the government has bought Kate Sheppard's house in Christchurch:The government has bought Kate Sheppard's former home in Christchurch for more than $4 million. The Ilam villa ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    16 hours ago
  • Climate Change: Ostracising the coal-burners
    The UN climate summit is happening in new York next week, and unlike previous years, coal-burners and denier-states are not being invited to speak:Leading economies such as Japan and Australia will not be invited to speak at next week’s crunch UN climate change summit, as their continued support for coal ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    16 hours ago
  • Jojo Tamihere Salutes Herr Goff.
    Get Back Jojo! The elation in Mayor Phil Goff’s camp may be easily imagined as they watched social media light up in indignation at challenger John Tamihere’s "Sieg Heil to that" quip. Just when JT’s notoriously right-wing, sexist and homophobic stains were beginning to fade back into his ‘colourful’ past, ...
    18 hours ago
  • Hard News: A fun but flawed weed documentary
    Patrick Gower is good value when he's high. Not that I've ever, you know, got stoned with him. But in the second part of his documentary Patrick Gower on Weed, he does what you'd expect in a modern weed documentary and immerses himself – first with a doctor, then a ...
    1 day ago
  • Candidate Survey: Western Bay of Plenty – Local Body Elections 2019
    We surveyed candidates on their attitudes to issues facing the Western Bay Region, find out what they think: “Closing the Gap” Tauranga, one of the area groups of Income Equality Aotearoa NZ Inc., has surveyed all candidates in the three local body elections to discover attitudes to some basic issues ...
    Closing the GapBy Tracey Sharp
    1 day ago
  • Project Nettie calls on scientists to defend biology
    Please spread widely, and sign, to support science and rationalism over the new irrationalism sweeping universities and institutions.  PROJECT NETTIE Sexual reproduction, the generation of offspring by fusion of genetic material from two different individuals, evolved over 1 billion years ago. It is the reproductive strategy of all higher animals ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 day ago
  • I’m glad I don’t live in Auckland
    Just when I was thinking that Palmerston North's mayoral race (which includes a convicted child molester / public wanker and a convicted child beater) was the worst in the country, Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere opened his mouth:Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere is being slammed for using the words "sieg ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 day ago
  • Index of Power Update, 2018-19: China #2
    We reprint below an article from the excellent website the Economics of Imperialism by Tony Norfield This is an update of the statistics for my Index of Power, using data for 2018-19 and discussing what a country’s ranking reflects. The major change is that China’s rank has shifted up and ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 days ago
  • Climate Change: A history lesson
    Why is New Zealand climate change policy so crap? The Herald this morning has a long article on the twists and turns of climate change policy in New Zealand [paywalled / depaywall script], which shows where we've been. The short version is that the government first began worrying about this ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 days ago
  • What the All Blacks Mean to Us
    The All Blacks have been, for more than a century, arguably the most successful International sports team in the world. But they are more than that; even for those Kiwis who are immune to the charms of rugby (and there are more than a few), the All Blacks are ambassadors ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 days ago
  • No one is born into the wrong body
    A short and incredibly powerful speech from a young lesbian woman. No one is born in the wrong body. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 days ago
  • Contempt
    Back in June, the UK Court of Appeal ruled that that country's continued arms sales to Saudi Arabia were unlawful. So you'd expect that the UK government stopped approving them, right?Of course not:The government has apologised for breaching a court ruling against the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 days ago
  • Covering up the cover-up
    Yesterday NZDF officials were put on the stand about the lies they had told over Operation Burnham, making implausible claims that it was all a big mistake. But along the way, we learned they had already been put on the spot about it by a previous Defence Minister, who had ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 days ago
  • Not as important as they think they are
    Farmers have been whining a lot lately, about the methane targets in the Zero Carbon Bill, about Canterbury's proposed nitrogen limits, and about the government's new proposals to stop them from shitting in our lakes and rivers. These policies are "throwing farmers under the tractor", they will force farmers off ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    3 days ago
  • Behind Every Good Woman Should Stand – Another Good Woman.
    Alone, Alone, All, All, Alone: To argue that the Prime Minister is the victim of her advisers’ failure to keep her informed may offer Jacinda some measure of exoneration – but only at the cost of casting her as a hopeless political ingénue. A star-dusted muppet, whose only purpose is to ...
    3 days ago
  • Poor quality, poorly educated kiddie ‘Journalists’ spreading fake news
    In times of hysteria about the “World coming to an end” and “rising sea levels” so-called ‘Journalists’ who can barely spell words longer than four letters are having a ball! Though the majority of the Public have worked out that manmade climate change is nothing short of pseudo-science, and the ...
    An average kiwiBy admin@averagekiwi.com
    3 days ago
  • Chris Trotter on the BFD
    I don't want to give pblicity to certain parts of the internet that are better left to fester in their own irrelevance (I know, a bit like this place) but the listing of Chris Trotter as a 'author' on Cameron Slater's spinoff website, the BFD requires some explanation.Now, I don't ...
    3 days ago
  • Sex is not a spectrum
    The text below is a Twitter thread by Heather Heying that explains the essence of sexual reproduction and it long evolutionary history. She is an evolutionary biologist and a “professor-in-exile” after she and her husband, Bret Weinstein, stood up to supporters of an enforced “Day of Absence” for white staff and teachers ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    3 days ago
  • Climate Change: Trees, aviation, and offsets
    With crunch time for new Zealand climate policy approaching, most of the New Zealand media have got on board with a global reporting effort to cover the issue. There's one strand of stories today about polling and what it shows about changing public attitudes to the crisis, but the strand ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    3 days ago
  • Pissing-Off The Israelis Is A High-Risk Strategy.
    Dangerous Foes: For those readers of Bowalley Road who feel disposed to dismiss any prospect of an Israeli destabilisation of New Zealand politics, the example of the United Kingdom repays close attention. Ever since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party, the Israelis have sanctioned, funded and ...
    3 days ago
  • Something to go to in Wellington
    Make It 16, the youth-led campaign to lower New Zealand's voting age, is holding an official campaign launch at Parliament this Friday from 16:30. If you'd like to attend, you can register using EventBrite here. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    4 days ago
  • A founding member responds to Peace Action Wellington
    by Don Franks It was a lovely sunny Wellington afternoon with blue skies above  the beaches.  In Courtenay Place, political activists packed out a stuffy upstairs room for an important meeting. The assembled pacifists, anarchists, communists and independent young radicals of Peace Action Wellington felt the need for a mission ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    4 days ago
  • “Mistakes and errors”
    Current and former NZDF top brass are being publicly grilled this week by the hit and run inquiry over their public responses to allegations of civilian casualties. Previously, they've claimed there were no casualties, a position which led them to lie to Ministers and to the public. Now, they're saying ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    4 days ago
  • “Homosexuality is same-sex attraction and relationships, not heterosexuals with delusions of gende...
    by Rafael D. Quiles (gender-critical gay man from Puerto Rico) The writing on the wall is right in people’s faces and people just don’t see it or don’t want to. What could actually possess a heterosexual male to want to feminize himself and claim that he is a lesbian? Because ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    4 days ago
  • Trump: “Where’s my favourite dictator?”
    From the Wall Street Journal:Inside a room of the ornately decorated Hotel du Palais during last month’s Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, President Trump awaited a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. Mr. Trump looked over a gathering of American and Egyptian officials and called out in ...
    5 days ago
  • Magdalen Burns, 1983-2019, fighter for women’s liberation
    by the Redline blog collective At Redline we are very saddened to hear of the death of Magdalen Burns who passed away on the morning of Friday, September 13 (British time). Magdalen was a great fighter for the rights of women in general and lesbian women in particular, a defender ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    5 days ago
  • Parliament and the Executive
    The Brexit issue has certainly brought with it a series of apparently difficult constitutional issues, many of them concerning the respective roles of the executive and parliament. Most of them arise because of the unwillingness of MPs, despite their professions to the contrary, to be bound by a constitutional rarity ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    6 days ago
  • The Abigail Article; Martyn Bradbury’s Article, and My Response
    . . This blogpost is different to my usual format of reporting on issues… Since July 1011, I have blogged on a variety of political issues; near always political and/or environmental; mostly highly critical of the previous National Government. Other issues included Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and repression of ...
    Frankly SpeakingBy Frank Macskasy
    6 days ago
  • Police will have to wear silly Buckingham Palace hats from now on, says Police Minister
    Those close to the Police Minister believe the initiative may be the result of Nash “seeing a great deal” on AliExpress. In a move that comes seemingly out of nowhere, Police Minister Stuart Nash announced this afternoon that he expects all frontline staff to don bearskin hats, famously worn by ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    6 days ago
  • A sensible crackdown
    The government has released its Arms Legislation Bill, containing the second tranche of changes to gun laws following the March 15 massacre. And it all looks quite sensible: a national gun register, higher penalties for illegal possession and dealing, tighter restrictions on arms dealers and shooting clubs, and a shorter ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    6 days ago
  • California bans private prisons
    Private prisons are a stain on humanity. Prison operators explicitly profit from human misery, then lobby for longer prisons terms so they can keep on profiting. And in the US, prison companies run not only local and state prisons, but also Donald Trump's immigration concentration camps. Faced with this moral ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    7 days ago
  • Why PPPs are a bad idea
    When National was in power, they were very keen on Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) - basicly, using private companies to finance public infrastructure as a way of hiding debt from the public. They were keen on using them for everything - roads, schools, hospitals. But as the UK shows, that "service" ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    7 days ago
  • A Movement That No Longer Moves.
    Moving And Shaking: There was a time when people spoke matter-of-factly about the “labour movement” – a political phenomenon understood to embrace much more than the Labour Party. Included within the term’s definition was the whole trade union movement – many of whose members looked upon the Labour Party as ...
    7 days ago
  • NZ ‘left’ politically embracing extreme postmodernism
    by Philip Ferguson Much of the left, even people who formally identify as marxists, have collapsed politically in the face of postmodern gender theory of the sort pioneered by American philosopher Judith Butler. For Butler even biological sex is socially constructed. “If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • The obvious question
    The media is reporting that the (alleged) Labour party sexual assaulter has resigned from their job at Parliament, which means hopefully he won't be turning up there making people feel unsafe in future. Good. But as with everything about this scandal, it just raises other questions. Most significantly: why the ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • The moment I found out that you found out, I acted swiftly
    By Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern I am every bit as angry as you are. I am every bit as disappointed as you must be. The people with power, oversight and the ability to do something about these processes within the Labour Party should be ashamed. Whoever those people are, I ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • This is why people hate property developers
    Property developers think there is an "oversupply" of houses in Auckland:High turnover rates and falling prices may be a sign that there are too many new houses going in to some parts of Auckland, commentators say. [...] Property developer David Whitburn said there was a "bit of an oversupply" in ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Australia to Pacific: “Fuck you, you can all drown”
    World leaders are meeting in New York in two weeks for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, where they are expected to announce new and more ambitious targets to stop the world from burning. But the Australian Prime Minister won't be there, despite being in the USA at the time:Scott Morrison ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Implausible ignorance
    Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the party's sexual assault scandal. But while that's good news, its unlikely to take away the stench of a coverup. Because according to Paula Bennett in Parliament yesterday, pretty much everyone in the Prime Minister's office was involved as well:I have been ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Labour’s Fatal Flaw.
     Two-Faced? Labour insiders' commitment to the neoliberal status quo puts them at odds with their party’s membership; its trade union affiliates; and a majority of Labour voters, but this only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a ...
    1 week ago
  • Ten reasons the Tories do NOT want an election
    There has been a lot of talk about Boris Johnson wanting an election, and he has blustered with great gusto about 'chicken' Jeremy Corbyn refusing one, but I think there are many reasons why he is secretly glad he has been refused the opportunity:The Tories are an utter rabble,tearing themselves ...
    1 week ago
  • Prorogation Illegal, rule Scottish judges
    Scottish appeal court judges have declared that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful. The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in the prime ...
    1 week ago
  • Let me explain what I meant by Everyday New Zealanders
    By Simon Bridges. The following is a press release from the office of Simon Bridges, leader of The National Party. Key ora, New Zealand. Happy Maori Language Week. Look, I’m writing to you today because I want to clear something up. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle around some things ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Yes, the SIS is subject to the Public Records Act
    I understand there's some stuff going round about how the SIS "was removed from the list of public offices covered by the Public Records Act in 2017". The context of course being their records derived from US torture, which will be disposed of or sealed. The good news is that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • An evidence-based discussion of the Canadian fluoride/IQ study
    Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry discuss the recent Canadian fluoride/IQ research. They provide an expert analysis of the paper and its problems. Click on image to go to podcast. The critical debate about the recent ...
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: Australia in denial
    Australia is burning down again, and meanwhile its natural disaster minister is denying climate change:Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, has said that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. Clarifying earlier comments that the question is “irrelevant” when considering the Coalition government’s response to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    1 week ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    1 week ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    1 week ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    2 weeks ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    2 weeks ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago

No feed items found.