Tuesday, May 16, 2006

In the ballot X

Another batch of Member's Bills currently in the ballot. Previous batches are indexed here:

Human Rights (Women in Armed Forces) Amendment Bill (Lynne Pillay): This would repeal s33 of the Human Rights Act, which allows the military to discriminate on the basis of sex in deciding who does and does not get a combat role. The clause isn't used any more - the New Zealand military finally having been dragged kicking and screaming into the twentieth century - but the fact that it is still on the books is offensive, and it deserves to go.

Liquor Advertising (Television and Radio) Bill (Nandor Tanczos): This is an old bill, originally presented to the House in 2002 as a response to calls to raise the drinking age. Rather than combating increased youth drinking by targeting the drinkers, it would instead impose a total ban on broadcast alcohol advertising (meaning TV and radio). The bill is closely modelled on s22 of the Smoke-Free Environments Act 1990, and exempts material produced overseas unless specifically produced for the New Zealand market or to advertise alcohol. It would not affect billboards, or printed advertisements.

Dog Control (Cancellation of Microchipping Requirements) Amendment Bill (Jeanette Fitzsimons): This bill is currently before the House, and (all going well) will be voted on tomorrow. It would amend the Dog Control Act 1996 to remove the recently inserted requirement for all dogs to be microchipped. Instead, only dogs classified as "menacing or dangerous" would be required to be chipped, and such dogs would be required to be chipped before release if impounded. As I've said before, chipping isn't about controlling dangerous dogs - it's just a basic way of identifying an animal, one that cannot be lost and is far more difficult to remove or change; limiting it to dangerous dogs defeats much of the purpose. Unfortunately, the government hasn't really tried to sell it as such, preferring instead to ride the moral outrage whipped up by dog attacks.

As usual, I'll have more bills as they trickle in.


a basic way of identifying an animal, one that cannot be lost

Not true. Our animals all had to be chipped for the journey here. One of the five (two dogs, three cats) arrived at the airport with an unreadable chip, after only a few months. From what our vet said, it isn't all that uncommon for the chip to move within the animal, making it difficult or impossible to find and read.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/16/2006 12:26:00 PM

Ouch. Still, a lot safer than a tag, which can simply be removed at will.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/16/2006 12:40:00 PM

What I don't understand is why farmers object to getting their dogs tagged. They already have to put eartags on all their stock (and an average farm has got to have many more cows and/or sheep than dogs). I'm sure this will change to microchips quite soon.

I suspect it's simply that farmers feel they are entitled to a veto over everything that the majority population want to impose on them and just kick back by reflex.

Posted by Rich : 5/16/2006 01:39:00 PM

Why is there this obsession with needing to identify dogs? If it's to be able to track dogs which attack people back to their owners, then I predict it will be a miserable failure - a number of the supposed owners of dogs which have attacked have turned around and denied it was their dog. "Oh wait!" I hear you cry, "but then the chip can tell us who owns the dog!" - No. Because the owners won't chip them in the first place. Just like they don't bother registering them now. It's not that they're removing the collars and tags, they're not putting them on in the first place.

Anyone remember why dogs had to be registered in the first place? Hydatids. Dogs were registered so that you could "prove" that your dog had been given its pills. This isn't done as part of the dog registration process any more, so what purpose does registration serve?

Ditch registration completely, and ban known aggressive dog breeds.


Posted by Anonymous : 5/16/2006 04:29:00 PM

In defence of the Military being able to discriminate on the basis of sex for combat roles... as you say the Military currently doesn't and shouldn't avail itself of the provision. But surely that's because we're not in a real, fighting-for-the-survival-of-the-community war, a la WW2, when you have a draft etc..

If we were then sex discrimination for combat roles would be essential. The combat age women *are* the future of one's community - they're generally needed to have at least 2 children each and, post-terrible conflict, it's always time for a baby-boom! It would therefore be crazy to expect the military to rely on sex-neutral criteria for combat roles to weed out enough women if things got to that existential struggle point. Rather, under the anticipated circumstances there just are facts about the survival of the community to be faced and those facts aren't sex-neutral: each combat-age woman is far more important to the future of the community than each combat-age man. S 33 merely allows for policies that acknowledge those facts.

As long as the military is just another relatively dangerous job then the Military need not and arguably should not exercise its S 33 prerogative (codify *that* into S 33 if you have to, reserving the exemption for declarations of war or insitution of a draft conditions or whatever it might be - I think it's OK the way it is), but to *remove* that prerogative altogether would be insane. (If some European countries have already done this then they either have a nihilistic/death wish for themselves or they are just aren't being serious and are stupidly pretending that all-out-war could never happen again - and they'd change their policy immediately if it ever did. Either way though they shouldn't be imitated.)

Shame on Lynne Pillay for her ill-considered and dangerous Bill and on i/s for endorsing it (and for treating the status quo on this point with such thoughtless disdain).

"Knowledge slowly builds up what Ignorance in an hour pulls down. Knowledge, through patient and frugal centuries, enlarges discovery and makes record of it; Ignorance, wanting its day's dinner, lights a fire with the record, and gives a flavour to its one roast with the burnt souls of many generations. Knowledge, instructing the sense, refining and multiplying needs, transforms itself into skill and makes life various with a new six days' work; comes Ignorance drunk on the seventh, with a firkin of oil and a match and an easy 'Let there not be' - and the many-coloured creation is shrivelled up in blackness." George Eliot, Daniel Deronda Chapter XXI.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/20/2006 02:29:00 AM

combat age women *are* the future of one's community - they're generally needed to have at least 2 children each and, post-terrible conflict, it's always time for a baby-boom!

This may have escaped you, but women are not state-owned baby factories, and the idea that the law should treat them as such as simply abhorrent.

More generally, I don't care about the survival of the community; I care about the survival of people and the protection of their freedom. And this includes the freedom to choose that they will not contribute to the perpetuation of that community. If people decide not to have kids - or decide to go away and get themselves killed so they can't - and in consequence their community slowly dies a demographic death, then that's their choice to make.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/20/2006 11:09:00 AM

Scales falling from eyes....

Individual freedoms and flourishing and survival are important (although it's hard to see how *you* really think so - you'd evidently have no problem with mass uncoerced suicides - "it's their choice" - for example and would regard any govt. position beyond indifference to such a development to be illegitimate) but so is the flourishing and survival of the community as a whole, i.e., that sustains those freedoms.

The exact tenor of your remarks suggested to me that perhaps you read _The Handmaid's Tale_ at an early age, but did not understand it. Atwood's point wasn't that all community-, group-level concerns about fertility, community-perpetuation and so on are somehow illegitimate - one of her many sharp sticks is reserved for feminists who have exactly your hyper-individualist views! Rather her thought was that such concerns are perfectly legitimate and necessary. Atwood's nightmare society is a worry/threat precisely *because* it speaks to a legitimate concern. Atwood challenges us to find (and keep! - she was worried about collusion between Dworkin-Mackinnon feminists and the religious right) other solutions, including the sorts of societies we actually have in the West. She doesn't (unlike you!) say "Well of course *we* can see that social-level concerns are a delusion and that we should only concern ourselves with individual flourishing and freedoms".

It's interesting, therefore, to find my call to not-eradicate the legal provision for obvious, legitimate social-level concerns in-time-of-all-out-war heard by you as a call to treat women as "state-owned baby factories", i.e., as calling for or as only making sense in Atwood's Gilead. That's an absolute misreading on your part, one that's as unsophisticated as it is hyperbolic.

All societies acknowledge community- group-level imperatives and policy-settings of various sorts. Choosing how many degrees of whatever type to fund for example, or whether to express a tax preference for home-ownership rather than renting, or for saving for retirement over consumption now, etc.. Or setting special penalties for the murder of judges or other public officials. Or, getting closer to our topic, any society that knows what we know about intelligence and heritability *has* to try to respond to compelling data it receives that highly intelligent folks aren't having many children, and so on. To pretend that these aren't real questions and issues for governments because they don't fit some sort of preconceived hyper-individualist model is self-deceived or crazy or both.

In the all-out-war case I say that a society should reserve to itself the right to take account of reproductive potential when sending people off to possibly die for the sake of that very society. You don't send your best scientists into combat because, with their intellectual potential, they can do more good for the cause - ensuring that the society *has* a future - elsewhere, and similarly I believe for those with reproductive potential. If there *is* a sense in which people are being treated as "state-owned baby factories" in this situation it's the same sense in which the scientist are being treated as "state-owned idea factories." It's a sense that doesn't exclude being treated as a full human being at the same time etc..

Your remarks about people as individuals deciding "to go away and get themselves killed" (i.e., in war) are the revealing nadir of your reply to me. I can't begin to explain all that's wrong with that.... But you have some serious thinking to do my friend.

"More generally, I don't care about the survival of the community."

Just keep talking....

"And this includes the freedom to choose that they will not contribute to the perpetuation of that community."

Like, say, the freedom to choose never to get out of bed in the morning, this is an essentially exceptional case, and beloved individual freedoms strongly condition what we could ever do if it threatened to become non-exceptional. But it could and should never be a matter of indifference to the state if it did. I wouldn't bet against Augustus-style bachelor taxes as well as a myriad of carrots!

"If people decide not to have kids - or decide to go away and get themselves killed so they can't - and in consequence their community slowly dies a demographic death, then that's their choice to make."

And society itself has no agency at all in the matter? It just has to project its trend to zero and take no position on it? That's simply bizarre...

How simple life would be if there were no legitimate group level concerns! A legitimate society does have to make sense to its current individual members - it has to be in the first instance a cooperative venture to their mutual advantage. But it's much more than that and that's where social-/group- levels concerns come in.

Consider a parallel tempting simplification - there's always some undergrad. who's prepared to maintain boldly that only (very narrowly specified) human interests count, so that if I roast your dog on spit the only thing that could possibly be wrong with that is that it's *your* dog I roasted - *your* ownership etc. interests have been compromised. If only things were that simple! And if *only* all the bold undergrad. had to do to support her case is show or at least make plausible that dogs etc. don't have full blown rights.
Now imagine a case in which suddently no one can get pregnant. That would be bad we're all agreed, but for you, i/s, its badness is *simpler* than it is for the rest of us. For you its badness is just a matter of a bunch of people's wishes to have children being frustrated -a whole lot of individual lifes are now not going to work out quite as they planned. The rest of us think that there's an additional massive loss incurred by the passing out of existence of a whole community or way of life. (Change the example so that, say, the grand-children of all children born from here on will be sterile to refocus the example in interesting ways. Again, there are additional dimensions to human experience than you allow.)

In conclusion, I'm afraid that things look pretty bad for you i/s (unless perhaps you're an undergrad. in which case all is forgiven)! You're an empiricist who's blind to whole levels of important fact , and you're a socialist without any intelligible account of society. (I haven't checked but it simply must be impossible to square what you've said here with your views on a wide range of other issues from climate change to tax to maori language.) And you react with shallow mischaracterizations when you're called on your unfortunate combination of ghastly syndromes.

Unless I've missed a thing or twelve...

Posted by Anonymous : 5/20/2006 05:18:00 PM