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Posts Tagged ‘conservative’

People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children.

Says a prominent conservative pundit in the US. In the year 2013. No, I mean 2013 A.D.

This is why fuck conventional views, fuck them in the goddamn neck.

(via Pharyngula)

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News: Busted!

Although it starts off being about grammar, this post at the Sadly, No! blog has a great line about the double-standards employed by conservative news outlets such as NewsBusters:

Over at Newsbusters, disagreeing with a conservative is hate; suggesting that gays shouldn’t even appear on TV unless they are portrayed as dismal, dispirited, suicidal homos who can only save themselves by finding religion and the opposite sex is, of course, an act of love.

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A Conservative MP in the UK recently suggested that the minimum wage might be a “hindrance” to some people who want to find work, and that the “vulnerable” – such as those with disabilities – should be able to work for less than this legally mandated lower limit.

The internet heard about this, and exploded.

People were angry at Philip Davies’s insensitivity, and it’s not hard to see why. After the outrage bounced around Twitter for a while, an official response was posted by mental health charity Mind, as well as a damning riposte in the Guardian (not forgetting the admirably quick-off-the-mark NewsThump).

The people vehemently disagreeing with Davies are clearly concerned about people with disabilities, learning difficulties, or mental illness being discriminated against unfairly, and would be against any legislation implying that such people are less worthy of the basic human rights that we tend to think all members of society deserve equally. And while this is admirable, I think that Davies is getting unfairly swept up with a slew of other bad ideas that are worth criticising.

Partially, anyway.

Simon Perry has highlighted some of the over-zealous criticism better than most, and has tried to clarify what Davies was and was not saying, and why it may not have been as abhorrent as all that.

I think he’s only sort of right as well, though.

Davies was highlighting one of the effects of having a minimum wage: sometimes people won’t get hired for a job they wanted, which they could have got if they’d been able to agree to work for below the legal minimum. This limitation has no doubt closed off some opportunities for people willing to work at very low rates.

So, he argues, some of the “most vulnerable people in society” should have the option of working for below minimum wage, if they find this helpful in getting them onto the job ladder.

It’s not that clear from the articles I’ve read, but it seems that the following ideas are the only ones that can really be read from what Davies seems to be saying:

  1. People with disabilities or mental illness should accept that they’re often not worth as much in the job market, they oughtn’t expect to be paid as much as the rest of society can expect, and they’re just going to be poorer because of it.
  2. Everyone should earn at least the minimum wage, unless they want to accept less.
  3. There should be no minimum wage.

The first option is discriminatory and callous.

The second is either meaningless (there’s no point to a law you have to follow unless you don’t want to) or it’s effectively equivalent to the third.

The third would at least be a coherent idea, but I suspect that if that was what he meant, he’d have said so far more straight-forwardly.

So, in a way, it’s hard to be particularly angry with Philip Davies, as it’s not entirely clear to me what he’s getting at.

But I’m still a long way from being on his side.

Davies would argue, no doubt, that he’s concerned for the rights of the disabled, and the otherwise “vulnerable”, and is seeking ways which might make it easier for them to find a position in the workforce. But his apparent compassion and desire to genuinely help people doesn’t bear up to much scrutiny.

Whatever he meant to say, it’s clear that mental health charities, sufferers of mental illness and disability, and basically everyone else have all criticised him for being insensitive. If he had a valid and compassionate point in there somewhere, nobody got it. People felt he was being unfair and unkind, and at the very least he had expressed himself poorly.

And his response has been to get snippy and passive-aggressive with his critics, dismissing their concerns as “Left wing hysteria”. He’s made no apparent effort to explain why his suggestions are not the unfair and prejudiced ones he made them sound like, but is painting the whole liberal wing as some kind of monolith that’s resistant to new ideas and is just out to get him.

This is not how you behave if your primary concern is caring for people and making positive changes. This is how you behave if you’re responding to any slight on your character with stubbornness and petulance.

And for what it’s worth, I don’t even think it’s a good idea.

Most countries have a minimum wage law, and it’s worth considering why it’s there in the first place. The reading up I’ve done on the actual answers to this complex question has been minimal, because I know what you’ve come to expect from me by now and I hate to disappoint. But I think this is a fair characterisation: it’s a restriction on the free market that society tends to find necessary, in order to save the working class from the natural result of unrestrained capitalism.

A part of me wonders what I’ve become, that I can type a sentence like that with a straight face. Let me try that again without sounding like quite such an unbearable wanker.

If minimum wage laws weren’t there, many people would be working for less than the current limits. (Otherwise the laws would be doing absolutely nothing.) This implies that, if the market were free of this particular restraint, people would end up working for rates of pay currently considered unacceptably paltry. The way a free market would actually value many people’s labour would be so appallingly low, we’ve put laws in place to make sure things don’t get quite that bad for anyone.

The idea of a truly free market may have a certain libertarian appeal, but the vast inequalities between sub-minimum wage workers and their corporate employers should be of grave concern to anyone who thinks a freer market is always better.

While increasing the pay gap even more might open a few doors in the short-term for some individuals, surely what’s more worth addressing are broader problems in the way things are structured. There are keen 20-year-old men and women in the workforce, young and energetic and eager to work, who are having to decide between selling their labour for £4.92 an hour, or not working at all.

There’s a bigger issue in play when so many people are that desperate to keep their heads above water, and Philip Davies is not alone in failing to address this with his proposal.

If the only solution you have is that some people ought to accept even less than the current limits, then you’re tacitly accepting a seriously fucked-up economy with grossly unjust class divides as being either basically fair or sadly inevitable.

Which, unfortunately, seems to be what Davies is doing. This particular gem from the BBC report especially infuriated me:

Mr Davies replied that, irrespective of whether it was “right or wrong”, that was “just the real world that we operate in”.

Dude.

YOU’RE A POLITICIAN.

You’re an elected member of parliament, entrusted with the responsibility to represent the people and enact national legislation to try to make society run in a functional manner.

If you’re resigned to the way things already are, think that whether something’s “right or wrong” is “irrespective”, and aren’t trying to change the world we operate in, then what the fuck are you good for?

Anyway.

Is it just me, or am I sounding more and more social libertarian every time I try and write about serious things?

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– I observed recently that a number of Conservapedia‘s editors seem to be deliberately turning it into a parody site, and it’s deranged proprietor is entirely failing to notice. Not quite to the same extent, but Fox News sometimes seem to be doing a similar thing, and doesn’t even need to be ridiculed.

– You might be letting your religion turn you into an inhumane wanktard if… You don’t want other people to get any help with their addiction problems unless it’s on your terms.

– Bank of America. Fuck yeah.

PZ Myers argues with Islamic fundamentalists for our sins. What does Jesus know about self-sacrifice?

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– There has now been a lot of research into this, and the bottom line is that your mobile phone won’t give you cancer.

– “Show me the sausages“. I’m going to start using that line in every philosophical discussion I ever have now, even if it’s totally inappropriate. (via PZ Myers)

– Nice quote from a prominent conservative radio host. As Ed observes, it’s all about small government with the American right.

– Remember: these people are not racist. So don’t go making that mistake.

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I’m writing this on 3rd May 2010, by which time it may be too late for any of these links to be a great deal of use in the UK general election this time around. But there’s still time to decide who’s worth voting for, and in a way that’s just the start. Once people have been voted into office, they get to start doing stuff, and we get to start keeping them accountable to make sure they don’t fuck things up.

So, this is a complete list of all the political websites that I’ve encountered in recent weeks, categorised by the questions they can best help you answer, along with brief descriptions of what use they might be, either before or after the big day. They’ve all apparently been set up by enthusiastic activists, to allow uninformed idiots like me to become less of both those things, and to get involved without having to do any real work.

Who are these people?

TheyWorkForYou.com – Details on your current/former MP, including their voting record on key issues, and speeches made in the House of Commons.

YourNextMP.com – Complete lists of all the candidates standing in your constituency, with contact details and external links to further information.

UK Polling report – Candidate information for all seats, with detailed statistics on past results, predicted results, boundary changes, and so forth.

Where do they stand?

TheStraightChoice.org – Scan in any election leaflets you receive here, or see what other people have been receiving from their local candidates.

The TheyWorkForYou.com election quiz – You can prod your local MP or candidates to answer these questions on various local and national issues.

Skeptical-Voter.org – Find out how your MP or candidates have responded to the suggested questions. If their answers aren’t there, why not use some of the links below to ask them yourself?

Where do I stand?

VoteMatch.org.uk – Rate where you stand on certain key issues, and see how closely your views match with those of the political parties who are after your vote.

VoteForPolicies.org.uk – Pick the set of policies that most appeals to you, without knowing whose they are. At the end, you’ll be told which party’s ideas you seem to be most in line with.

WhoShouldYouVoteFor.com – A list of statements on one page for you to agree or disagree with. Based on your answers, you find out who you should vote for. Simple.

How can I get hold of them?

WriteToThem.com – You can send an email to any of your local councillors, MPs, MEPs, or other representatives here, just by filling in a message on the site. All the work of looking up the names and contact details of the relevant people has been done for you; just plug in your postcode, click on a name, and have your say.

EmailYourCandidates.heroku.com – Send an email through the form on this site to any or all parliamentary candidates in your area (for whom an email address is available).

What else can I do?

DemocracyClub.org.uk – Raise local issues important to you, or help get things done that have been suggested by others.

AboutMyVote.co.uk – Register to vote in future elections here, as well as finding out about things like postal voting, or how the polling stations work.

Any more suggestions, leave a comment. I’m trying to keep it non-partisan, though, so I’m going to avoid including anything with a leaning to any particular political party – though I certainly don’t plan to keep this whole blog politically neutral.

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So, a quick follow-up to Wednesday’s big political blah.

One thing that occurs to me in retrospect, which probably deserves to be better highlighted, is that this is all just a suggested starting point. I was intending to address people like me, who have never really found a way to engage with politics before, but can find things in it worth their attention if there was just some way to connect.

There are, of course, many other ways to get involved in politics, including some which can’t or shouldn’t be done in ten minutes from in front of your computer. I found this kind of approach illuminating and liberating, but some people may also find something to be said for actually going outside and doing stuff.

I know I was rather dismissive of political reps and canvassers, but they’ve no doubt changed many minds and made a great deal of incremental difference in their time, and played a bigger part than most in the public conversation about how our country should be run. I don’t want you to think I’m being contemptuous of that way of getting involved. It just wouldn’t suit me, and wouldn’t suit a lot of people, and I’m trying to talk about more palatable (to some) alternatives.

Also, a couple of thoughts on the Skeptical Voter questions.

When I sent my email to Sam Webber and the Bromley Lib Dems last week, I didn’t just cut and paste the suggested skeptical questions. A few of them I quoted verbatim, but some others I gave a little context to. I was in a chatty mood, so ahead of the question about libel reform, I very briefly outlined why this was important to me, and mentioned people like Simon Singh and Ben Goldacre. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but I think providing a little more context to the questions might be a useful thing.

Someone mentioned on Twitter earlier that their Conservative candidate had asked if there was anything specific in mind behind question 7: “Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive?” And personally, I’ve no idea.

The answer to the question should be “Yes”, incidentally (with some slight nuance sacrificed for the sake of pith). But it might help if, say, I could point to some specific example where this wasn’t what happened, and ask the candidate’s thoughts on it. It seems likely, for instance, that whoever came up with question 4 (about independent government advisers being able to give advice that conflicts with government policy without being fired) had the Nutt Sack Affair in mind, and being able to refer to that might help make more sense of the question.

My suggestion, then, might be to provide an expanded version of the ten Skeptical Voter questions, with some background to each one, either to give the candidates a better idea of what exactly they should be responding to, or to give the voters asking questions a better idea of how to engage with them. I might submit my suggestions to the wiki later.

As you can probably tell, I’m still rather having fun with this.

Oh, wait, two more exciting things turned up since I wrote all that.

Some enterprising chaps and chapettes have done yet more of the hard work for you, and made nearly every step in my big how-to guide even easier. YourNextMP.com will provide a list of all the candidates in your constituency, contact details and personal background information, and links to their profiles and websites online. It’s still a work in progress, but might tell you lots that you don’t know – and if you’ve found something out about these people which they don’t already have, you can add it to the list. There’s less data on their policy positions than TheyWorkForYou has, but it’s still handy.

And finally, while the whole “Labservative” thing I mentioned is no doubt achieving some worthy snark, it’s worth remembering that differences in policy between Labour and the Conservatives really aren’t wholly mythical. My gay vote pretty much speaks for itself.

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