Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Trump and Jesus

Trump seems to be gathering support from a significant section of the American Christian community. I wonder why? His comments about many groups, including women, Mexicans and Muslims, and now advocating torture, is contrary to what the Christian message is supposed to be. Yet the more outrageous the comments, the more conservative Christians seem to be drawn to his form of intolerance and bigotry. I keep asking myself why?

Christians here in Aotearoa New Zealand clearly don’t see any part of Trump’s message as Christian, and a church in Auckland has expressed its opinion rather bluntly. It has put up a large billboard which depicts Jesus nailed to the cross, and Trump standing before him holding a hammer in his hand and saying “I don’t like losers”.

The minister of the church says Trump’s message directly contradicts the word of Jesus.

To the Trumps of his day, and to those who see winners as having money and power, the Jesus of the Bible was a loser who associated with those rejected by society. And he died broke. Jesus had an alternative vision of reality, however. He was a person who sided with minorities and those who were most vulnerable, and it was this that got him killed.

No-one will convince me that Jesus was anything other than a human being. I like much of his message, even though the Gospels distort some of it in an attempt to make him greater than he really was.

St Luke’s minister Glynn Cardy says that the billboard will stay up over Easter and as long as Trump’s candidacy is undecided.

Should religion keep out of politics, and if so is this billboard crossing that line? Personally I don’t think so, but then we Kiwis don’t have large numbers of those who believe in Bible literalism to contend with. Perhaps if I lived elsewhere, the US Bible belt or some east African nations for example, then I might think otherwise.


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Super Tuesday crashes Canadian Immigration Website

 

 

Thank goodness not all Americans think Trump is the next Messiah. Apparently, after the news that Trump had secured big wins from the Super Tuesday rounds, enquiries overwhelmed a Canadian Government immigration Website causing it to crash. If Trump does win the presidential race, will Canada be far enough away? Come to think of it, will Aotearoa New Zealand be far enough away? Antarctica, may find itself with its first permanent immigrants.

And Google reported a large spike in “move to Canada” searches. Of course his supporters are likely to blame both events of the success of Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primaries, but that’s the kind of nonsense they will fool themselves into believing.

Meanwhile the rest of the world wonders how so many Americans have fallen for Trump, hook, line and sinker. To gather in the conservative, and Christian fundamentalists, he now claims he’s a Christian – just like them. But is he? I guess it depends on what qualities one considers are necessary to justify the claim.

From my perspective, he lacks even the barest minimum qualities. Fellow Kiwi Bill Peddie is asking this question in his post Is Donald Trump a Christian? It’s worth a read irrespective of whether your are a believer or a non-believer.

Clare Flourish, in her post Drumpf raises many concerns about Trump and his rise and rise. Her last paragraph in that post says it all:

How authoritarian is the US? How despairing are its voters, to be shilled by this man?


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The Mad World of Donald Trump

Last night while my wife was flicking through the schedules for the evening’s TV viewing, the title of a late night documentary caught my eye: The mad world of Donald Trump. My interest piqued, I decided to watch it instead of my usual habit of sitting in front of the computer.

It’s a British Documentary, and while I take all all “factual” programs with a grain of salt, the program does accurately portray how most of the western world outside the US perceives both Trump and the American political system.

One thing that has struck me over the years is how many Americans seem to be looking for some sort of “messiah” in their presidential candidates, only to turn against them when they are unable to perform the miracles that had been promised. From this distance it often seems cult-like.

The documentary is currently on Youtube, but if it disappears, a search using the string “The Mad World of Donald Trump” should provide a link that you can view. For those who find the Trump phenomenon incomprehensible, or simply wish to see how much of the world sees American Politics, I recommend watching.


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Balance of power in the US Supreme Court

Over on Amusing Nonsense, Sirius Bizinus has written what I feel is a balanced and reasoned article regarding the appointment of a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court. His is one of the few that has neither expressed vindictive pleasure at the passing of Scalia, nor expressed outrage that Obama might have the opportunity to appoint a “liberal” to the position.

I find it fascinating that appointments to what should be non-political positions turn into party political circuses. Mind you, it does bring an element of entertainment from a distance that I find lacking in our own system here in NZ.

I don’t recall any judicial appointments here causing controversy, and I believe there are two reasons for this. The first is that by convention, judicial appointments are isolated from politics, and second, unlike in the US, the courts do not have the final say on matters constitutional.

Constitutionally, judicial appointments are made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Attorney-General. For those not familiar with the constitution of the Realm of New Zealand, think of the Governor-General as the de facto head of state. The Attorney-General is a member of the Cabinet and as such must be an elected member of Parliament. By convention, the roles of Prime Minister and Attorney-General are not held by the same person, although the constitution does not prohibit it.

By convention, the Attorney-General accepts advice from the Chief Justice and the Solicitor-General for appointments to the higher courts and from the Chief District Court Judge and the Secretary for Justice with regards to District Courts.

They in turn accept advice from the Judicial Appointments Liaison Office (JALO), which is required to consult widely. JALO has no legal or constitutional standing, and like so much of our system is based on continuously evolving conventions.

To avoid possible political influence, the convention is for the Attorney-General to mention judicial appointments to Cabinet, but for the appointment not to be discussed.

One difference between NZ and the US is that here there is a mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges.

Unlike the US, we don’t have a binding constitution. In fact our constitution is made up of multiple acts of Parliament, and ultimately parliament has supreme sovereignty. Therefore any bill passed into law cannot be unconstitutional.

It may seem strange to Americans that the majority of Kiwis prefer our existing constitutional arrangements and don’t want a binding constitution interpreted by the courts. While we perhaps don’t have the guarantees of freedom enshrined in the US constitution, in practice we have always had, and continue to enjoy greater levels of freedom than the good citizens of the USA do.

 


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Will Trump ban Jews and Catholics too?

So the Trump wants to ban all Muslims (even US citizens) from entering America due to the “risk” they pose. Exactly how high is that risk?

Since 2001, a total of 45 Americans have been killed on American soil by Islamic extremists. While that’s 45 too many, it works out at 3.2 persons per year. Let’s put this in perspective. Over the same period 254 Americans were killed by home-grown right wing extremists.

While Islamic extremists have been responsible for 6% of terrorist related attacks, Jewish extremists have been responsible for 7% of the attacks. Just to be clear,  this is not based on the religion of the terrorist, but on the motive for the attack. On that basis it makes as much sense to prohibit the entry of all Jews into the USA.

According to FBI statistics, Latinos are responsible for 42% of all terrorist attacks. Perhaps Trump would like to ban them too? The predominant religion of Latinos is Roman Catholicism. While he’s at it, he might like to ban all Catholics as well.

How else could Trump make America a safer place? The communists and other left wingers are responsible for 21% of terrorist attacks, so a ban on all socialists and anyone favouring a public health system would be prudent. To be absolutely sure that no left wingers get by the ban, he might consider banning everyone who isn’t a registered republican.

Let’s not forget that the anti-abortion, animal rights and other single cause extremists are responsible for 16% of the terrorist attacks, so supporters of those movements should also be subject to the ban.

Now that the borders are closed to everyone who is not a card carrying republican with absolutely no axe to grind, America should be a much safer place.

Except we’ve forgotten:

More American women are killed by their husband or boyfriend each day than are Americans killed by Islamic extremists in a year.

For each American killed by an Islamic extremist, more than 100 American Children are killed by a parent.

For each American killed by an Islamic extremist, 2870 are murdered by someone they know, and a further 950 are murdered by a stranger.

Did you know that you are twice as likely to be killed by a Fourth of July firework as you are to be killed by an Islamic terrorist?

The chances of being killed in an elevator accident verses being killed by an Islamic terrorist is greater than 8:1.

You are fifteen times more likely to be killed by a lightning strike – an act of God – than being killed by an act of an Islamic extremist.

Did you know that American police officers kill more than 300 times as many Americans each year as do Islamic extremists.

For each American that dies at the hands of an Islamic terrorist, almost 12,000 Americans die in motor vehicle crashes.

While the threat of terrorism can’t be dismissed, the fear of terrorism is way out of proportion to the danger it presents. The greatest danger lies in the political reaction to that irrational fear. We are likely to allow our politicians to impose curbs on our freedom that cannot be justified by the risks terrorism presents.


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Treaty of Waitangi 101

This post is primarily for Kiwis who haven’t bothered to understand the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi / Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We Pakeha were guilty of ignoring the Treaty for more than a hundred years, and it is only in recent decades that an attempt has been made to redress some of the wrongs committed by the crown over many generations. We still have a long way to go, and it’s often a case of two steps forward and one step back.

Too many Pakeha have made no attempt to understand what the treaty means to Māori and to us as a nation, and in essence, want Māori to “integrate” by abandoning all that is sacred and unique about their culture and become “brown Pakeha”. They don’t want Te Reo (the Māori language) taught in schools, nor the preservation of customary rights, and especially not the partial restoration of land and and the payment of compensation for all that was confiscated from Māori after the Land Wars in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Understanding the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi is not really too difficult – it consists of three articles. Most of us understand understand Articles I and III, but for many Pakeha and for successive governments we have failed to honour Article II. It’s time this was redressed. The video clip below explains the basic principles of the three articles.

Now that wasn’t too difficult was it?


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So what is MMP?

When discussing politics with people from around the world, one question I am frequently asked is how does Mixed Member Proportional representation (MMP) work. There are only a handful of countries that use MMP to elect their national legislature, Aotearoa New Zealand being one of them, so I understand the curiosity.

My attempts at describing the system are usually unsuccessful, as I tend to give an overly detailed explanation which bores the pants off the other person. So to avoid me wasting my time, and that of anyone curious, I have located a clip that explains it more succinctly than I ever could. It is explained in a North American accent, so you don’t need to struggle with a NZ accent, and it makes liberal use of a “Kiwi” connection.

Currently there are seven political parties represented in the New Zealand Parliament


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Sexuality unimportant in NZ politics

A recent NZ poll surveyed how a range of the attributes of political leaders would affect the party vote of those polled. The attributes in question were sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, gender, union affiliation and religious beliefs.

The ethnicity and gender, were not significant factors for the majority of those polled, whereas age and strong religious beliefs were.

Attribute Total* More likely
to vote
Less likely
to vote
No
difference
Don’t know
/ Refused
Of a different ethnicity to you 100 3 8 88 1
Of the same ethnicity to you 100 10 2 87 1
A woman 100 11 3 85 0
Gay (homosexual or lesbian) 100 2 20 77 1
Immigrant to NZ 100 2 34 60 3
Strong links to a union 100 11 32 53 3
Strong religious beliefs 100 7 41 48 3
Over 75 years old 100 4 59 36 1

*In some instances the total may not add up to 100 exactly due to rounding

It’s interesting to observe that only 20% of voters would be influenced negatively by a political leader being gay, whereas 48% would be influenced negatively by the leader having strong religious views. It’s pleasing to see that one’s ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation will have little bearing on one’s political standing.

I am surprised by the fact that being an immigrant might affect one’s chances at the polls. We are somewhat more xenophobic than I thought. Thankfully our constitution does not prohibit immigrants standing for the top political job in this country.

I wonder how these results compare to other parts of the world?

The survey was conducted by Research New Zealand using a nationally-representative sample of approximately 500 New Zealanders over 18.


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New Zealand 6, Australia 0

Over the last week I seem to have come across an unusually large number of blogs discussing the oddities of the English language. So here is my little contribution to the discussion relating to regional dialects.

Most English speakers from outside the antipodes are unable to distinguish the difference between New Zealand and Australian English. But there are differences, particularly in vowel shifts. In Australian English (Strine) The “I” sound in hit has moved to sound more like heat. In New Zealand English (Nyu Zild), Vowels have moved further but in the opposite direction, resulting in hit sounding more like hut.

Nyu Zild has also seen shift in “e” in red and pen so that it sounds like rid and pin to British and American speakers. A similar shift has occurred with the “a” sound as in mat and sad sound like met and said.

So If I were to say “Peck the pack of pickles“, an American might hear “Pick the peck of puckles“. If I said “Fix the bit that’s bent” they might hear “Fucks the but thets bint“.

A New Zealander can sound like Lyn of Tawa:

Or like Member of Parliament Maurice Williamson during his speech supporting the the final reading of the Definition of Marriage Bill:

Oh what a beautiful sound!

So what’s the relevance to the Title of this post?

A Kiwi was driving on an Australian motorway, and noticed some graffiti on a overpass, which read NZ sux (New Zealand sucks). A few days later, he passed under the overpass, but now someone had added AUS nil. Get it?


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America the Land Of The Free: Fact or Myth (part 3)

In my previous posts in this series I looked at press freedom and economic freedom. In this post I’ll look at a freedom that every American believes they excell at – democratic freedom.

Democratic Freedom

Firstly, lets look at some figures from Freedom House.

What does Freedom in the World measure?
Freedom in the World assesses the real-world rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals, rather than governments or government performance per se. Political rights and civil liberties can be affected by both state and nonstate actors, including insurgents and other armed groups.

Freedom House does not equate legal guarantees of rights with the on-the-ground fulfillment of those rights. While both laws and actual practices are factored into the ratings decisions, greater emphasis is placed on implementation.

Comparing our five countries, the USA, France, JapanSouth Africa and New Zealand, all achieve a score of  1 (Free) (on a scale of 1 to 7) for political rights and civil liberties, while South Africa scores 2 (Free) for each.

No doubt about it. The US does as well as many other countries. But lets look at another source – Global Democracy Ranking. According to their mission statement:

The Democracy Ranking is an annual ranking of all democracies (country-based democracies) in the world by focusing on the Quality of Democracy in an international perspective. The Democracy Ranking publishes the ranking scores and displays ranking score increases or decreases over time. The Democracy Ranking is a ranking of the Quality of Democracy in the sense that the ranking scores should reflect a ranking of democracies according to their differing qualities; and the Democracy Ranking is a ranking for the Quality of Democracy, because it wants to contribute conceptually to how democracy quality may be measured as well as wants to support the awareness how important democracy quality is for the further development, reform and enhancement of democracies.

They also state:

The Democracy Ranking applies the following conceptual formula: Quality of Democracy = (freedom & other characteristics of the political system) & (performance of the non-political dimensions) The non-political dimensions are: gender, economy, knowledge, health, and the environment.

The Dimensional structures (and weights) are: Politics (50%), Gender (10%), Economy (10%), Knowledge (10%), Health (10%) and environment (10%). The total score enables each country to be ranked.

Comparing our five countries we see the following rankings: USA 16th, France 15th, Japan 21st, South Africa 71st, and New Zealand 7th. The top three placings are held by Norway, Switzerland and Sweden.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) also ranks countries by Democratic Freedoms. It measures five criteria: Electoral process; Functioning of GovernmentPolitical participationPolitical culture; and Civil liberties.

Overall rankings (and score out of 10) are USA 19th (8.11), France 27th (7.92), Japan 20th (8.08), South Africa 29th (7.90) and New Zealand 5th (9.26). The EIU ranks Norway (9.93), Sweden (9.73) and Iceland (9.65) as the most democratically free countries. What will surprise most Americans is that the most free countries are those that embrace the welfare state.

Breaking down the USA and NZ results, we get: Electoral processUSA 38th= (9.17), NZ 1st= (10); Functioning of GovernmentUSA 24th= (7.5), NZ 4th= (9.29); Political participation USA 15th= (7.22), NZ 3rd=(8.89); Political CultureUSA 14th= (8.13), NZ 14th= (8.13); Civil liberties: USA 44th (8.53), NZ 1st= (10). NZ out performed the USA on all but one criteria, where both are ranked equally.

I’ve now compared press freedom, economic freedom and political freedom, and America, while not doing too poorly is certainly not performing as well as I expected.

Of the five countries I’m comparing, the order of ranking so far is:

Press freedom: New Zealand, France, South Africa, United States, Japan

Economic freedom: New Zealand, United States, Japan, South Africa, France

Democratic freedom: New Zealand, United States, Japan, France, South Africa

While America may still be a land of the free, it’s no longer (if it ever was) the land of the most free.