The Dim-Post

October 31, 2014

The idiot

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:29 am

Here’s why this Steffan Browning/Ebola/Homeopathy thing is a really big deal for the Green Party. (a) Historically they’ve been stereotyped by their opponents as a bunch of nutters (b) The main focus of the party for the past five years – at least – has been to counter that perception and convince voters that they’re a sober and credible political alternative. (c) Arguing that homeopathy should be used to cure Ebola is so fucking crazy it instantly undermines a lot of that work and reveals to the public that at least one of the MPs in the party is a total nutcase.

Just after the election someone asked me what they could do to help the Greens, and I told them to join the party and vote for candidates that weren’t deluded lunatics. Disasters like this illustrate why it’s important for sane, sensible people to contribute to the political process at a grassroots level and make sure the MPs in their party aren’t laughable weirdos.

October 29, 2014

Hiatus interruptus

Filed under: books,Politics — danylmc @ 9:04 am
  • My friend James gave his maiden speech in Parliament yesterday! 

 

  • I’ve just finished reading The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. Half-way through I was describing it to friends as one of my favorite books ever. One of the odd, quirky things about it was a minor character called Leonard who was obviously a deft little sketch of David Foster-Wallace. Then in the second half of the book Leonard becomes a main character and the book turns into a study of Leonard’s depression, and the fact that David Foster-Wallace is shuffling around inside this novel is just really weird and uncomfortable.
  • Here’s a point I meant to make before i went on hiatus. Here’s the aggregated polling for the Internet-Mana Party.

internetmana

 

  • So. The Internet Party and the Mana Party merged in May. They were trending upwards in the polls until August when they slumped. What happened in August? A few things – it was a crazy campaign – but the big events for Internet/Mana were the ‘Fuck John Key’ video and Pam Corkery’s on camera meltdown. My post-hoc hypothesis is that those events were terribly damaging for Internet/Mana. But when those events happened the conventional wisdom among on-line activists (on my twitter feed, the comments of my blog, places like Public Address System, see also many posts on The Daily Blog, like this one) is these events were great for Internet/Mana. They were ‘disruptors’, and although these things might have upset mainstream New Zealand, that didn’t matter because Internet/Mana appealed to radicals and the disenfranchised, and they’d love this stuff, which was tapping into this deep vein of anger among the youth of the nation.
  • And, at the time, that sounded plausible to me. After all, Internet/Mana was a radical party. It turned out to be totally wrong though, so it’s worth bearing in mind that most of the left-wing commentariat aren’t just out of touch with mainstream New Zealand, they’re also out of touch with radical left-wing New Zealand. Something I think left-wing MPs and their staffers need to bear in mind when they’re being howled at by these folks on twitter all day.

October 14, 2014

Hiatus

Filed under: blogging — danylmc @ 12:55 pm
  • I’m not saying I’m taking a break from blogging, exactly, because every time I do that something really interesting happens that I want to blog about and I look like a doofus. But I’m taking a break from blogging unless something interesting happens.
  • Partly because this is because I’m busy with other stuff. But I’m also feeling despondent about left-wing politics: Labour is a horrible mess and looks to remain one, and the Greens couldn’t capitalise on Labour’s failure and grow their vote. It’s depressing.
  • This might sound solipsistic but I feel like some of the left’s problems stem from over-engagement with social-media. If you’re listening to and engaging with a cacophony of voices online it’s easy to lose touch with the silent but demographically much, much larger section of the population that aren’t commenting via blogs or twitter etc, and have very different priorities and concerns. So I’m part of the problem!
  • And the left-wing blogoscape seems pretty bleak. I think The Standard, especially, need to stop and ask themselves some tough questions; right now it feels – to me – that they’re doing more harm than good, mostly to Labour and that having a bunch of anonymous and pseudo-anonymous bloggers widely suspected of working in the Labour leaders’ office hasn’t worked out for them.
  • Also, people should stop writing content for Bomber, or reading anything he says, or generally doing anything that acknowledges that he exists. He’s a fool and a buffoon and the suggestion that he speaks for the left, or is representative of the left is very harmful to the left.
  • If there’s one thing I think the left can learn from National it’s that we need to talk about what the public cares about, not what we care about – because nobody cares about what we care about. That doesn’t mean left-wing parties have to abandon the things we care about. It’s not like National have abandoned the TPPA, say, or expanding the powers of the security state. They just know that those issues aren’t relevant to that many voters so they talk about things that are. And it works.

 

October 6, 2014

Thoughts on the special votes and the Greens

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:16 am
  • The special votes really are special, in the sense that there were an awful lot of them (~13% of the total vote) and they’re weighted quite differently to the rest. So people (like me) who called Key’s victory two weeks ago ‘historic’ on the grounds that he defied gravity and increased his percentage of the vote going into his third term and won an outright majority now look rather silly given that he did not actually do either of those things.
  • Likewise, those people talking about how the Greens were ‘gutted’ or that their loss was as great as Labour’s in proportional terms also look pretty silly given that the Greens haven’t actually lost a seat and their final result is 0.36% lower than their best result ever.
  • They did under-perform relative to their expectations – they wanted 15% of the vote – and the polls which had them at around 12.5%.
  • More ominously, they failed to grow their vote even though Labour declined. If they can’t take votes off Labour during their worst election ever, how will the Green Party grow as a party?
  • From the far left? The missing million mostly young voters who yearn for an alternative to the neo-liberal consensus?
  • Probably not. I suspect the failure of Mana and then Internet/Mana to attract meaningful support – even though in the last election they had resources that the Greens could only dream about – signals the death of the activist far-left in mainstream New Zealand politics. Left-wing political parties can’t keep chasing after people who don’t vote at the expense of the support of people who do, and they can’t keep listening to online activists who claim to speak for the poor, disenfranchised non-voters etc, but whose values and rhetoric don’t actually attract any votes from those demographics.
  • Can the Greens win votes from the center right? Abandon their left-wing social policies, focus on their environmental policies and re-position themselves as a potential coalition partner for National?
  • Again, probably not. The Greens are an environmental party but they’re also a left-wing party. I know, I know – Twitter is flooded with know-it-alls braying that the Greens are neo-liberal middle-class sell-outs, but the actual Green Party as it exists in the real world is a left-wing party with left-wing policies. Even if the leaders could convince the caucus, party officials and members into supporting a National government, it is impossible to imagine this National government agreeing to the kind of environmental concessions the Greens would want. Are Joyce, Brownlee and Bridges ever going to sign off on, say, a moratorium on deep sea drilling and mining in national parks, cleaning up the rivers, scrapping the roads of national significance and investing in public transport, and a carbon tax? That would probably be the bare minimum of the Greens demands, and National would never agree to it. There’s no common ground there the way there is with, say, Winston Peters, whose coalition demands would have consisted of knighthoods and portfolios and other concessions that would have been (mostly) painless for the National Party.
  • I suspect that new Green votes will come from (a) the center left. Labour moved to the left under Cunliffe, both rhetorically and in policy terms (again, I know, the conventional wisdom of twitter is that Labour are far-right neo–liberal whatevers, but this was probably the most left-wing policy platform Labour ran on since the 1970s). I think we’ll see a more conservative Labour after the leadership contest and there will be opportunities for the Green Party there. I also think they can (b) pick up ‘center voters’ who care about environmental issues but didn’t vote Green in 2014 because they were afraid a left-wing vote was a vote for a Cunliffe/ABC/Green/Peters/Harawira/Harre/Dotcom fiasco. And (c) I think the Maori electorates are a huge opportunity for the Green Party. They saw percentage increases in most of those electorates (pre specials) and, intriguingly Jack McDonald and Marama Davidson both got significantly higher electorate votes than the Greens received party votes even though they campaigned as list candidates. I hope they can recruit high quality candidates for the three Maori electorates that didn’t have Green candidates and that there’s a resignation in the caucus before 2017, so that Davidson can come in on the list and campaign as an MP in those Maori seats.

October 3, 2014

Just shut up

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:27 am

So in the past couple days of Labour’s leadership contest we’ve had @TarnBabe67, James Dann’s open letter to David Cunliffe threatening to resign from the party if Cunliffe is re-elected, and now Phil Quinn publishing Labour President Moira Coatsworth’s email urging Labour members not to act like jerks during the contest, which Quinn describes as ‘a sinister Orwellian gambit designed to restrict speech.’

I guess that if you’re really invested in what’s happening inside Labour then it’s very satisfying to put this stuff out there attacking your opponents and see it amplified by the mainstream media. But I really doubt that the general public are so engaged that they’re won over by these tweets, or blogposts or whatever. I’m pretty sure they’re thinking what I’m thinking: that Labour looks like a party filled with hysterical, squabbling egotists who all despise each other and can’t keep their damn fool mouths shut. And that’s a perception that’s going to endure long after this contest is over – especially if it goes on like this for two more months.

Just shut up

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:26 am

So in the past couple days of Labour’s leadership contest we’ve had @TarnBabe67, James Dann’s open letter to David Cunliffe threatening to resign from the party if Cunliffe is re-elected, and now Phil Quinn publishing Labour President Moira Coatsworth’s email urging Labour members not to act like jerks during the contest, which Quinn describes as ‘a sinister Orwellian gambit designed to restrict speech.’

I guess that if you’re really invested in what’s happening inside Labour then it’s very satisfying to put this stuff out there attacking your opponents and see it amplified by the mainstream media. But I really doubt that the general public are so engaged that they’re won over by these tweets, or blogposts or whatever. I’m pretty sure they’re thinking what I’m thinking: that Labour looks like a party filled with hysterical, squabbling egotists who all despise each other and can’t keep their damn fool mouths shut. And that’s a perception that’s going to endure long after this contest is over – especially if it goes on like this for two more months.

October 1, 2014

Is New Zealand ready for an openly inane Prime Minister?

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:18 am
Tags:

In the current leadership race for the Labour Party there are two candidates: Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe. There has been much discussion of their strengths and weaknesses, but one subject has been delicately avoided; perhaps because of political correctness, or fear of reprisal, the unorthodox lifestyle of one of these candidates has been self-censored out of the public dialog. It is the issue that dare not speak its name.

David Cunliffe is openly, unashamedly inane.

Now let me begin by saying that I, personally, have no problem with inanity. There is inanity in my family. I have silly friends. I myself was absurd myself during a brief experimental period as a teenager and I fully support the inane community. But the Labour Party must ask itself hard questions about whether mainstream New Zealanders will elect a preposterous Labour leader as Prime Minister.

David Cunliffe has made no secret of his inanity. He has openly celebrated his inane lifestyle. Just recently he gave a rousing victory speech on the night of his historic election defeat and only yesterday he told John Campbell that he lost the election because voters prefer stability and prosperity. David Cunliffe deserves our support and praise for having the courage to be open about his daftness.

But is New Zealand ready to be government by someone who constantly says and does stupid, stupid things? Are we mature enough as a people to have a guy who criticised secret trusts while operating a secret trust, and who attacked Key for living in a large mansion while he himself lived in a large mansion representing us on the world stage? Are we wise and sophisticated enough to elect someone rash and silly? I would like to think we are, but realistically I fear the answer is no.

True, the inane have made great strides during the last few decades. People with terrible judgement were once shunned and mocked but now New Zealand’s business, entertainment and media communities are proudly led by gibbering, empty-headed morons. However, prejudice remains: not in wealthy, urban electorates where unconsciousness buffoonery is regarded as normal, part of our vibrant multicultural society. No, sadly it is lower-income Maori and Pacific Island communities where witless dolts still suffer terrible discrimination. Can Labour, in this moment of crisis, pretend that this bigotry against idiocy does not exist? Would it be foolish to force foolishness down their throats?

I do not pretend to know the answer to these questions, but Labour members must think deeply on these issues. In the grand tradition of the Labour Party, they must examine their own values, discuss them with their communities, reach intelligent considered decisions and then do the exact opposite. Labour can make New Zealand inane.

September 29, 2014

Nash equilibrium

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 1:50 pm
  • Labour seem to have gotten themselves into this weird position where they have (a) a leadership contest and (b) a long, extensive review of the party and its poor performance, meaning that they’ll either have to wait for the outcome of the review and have no leader for a good while, or decide on their leader before the review is done. So that’s pretty stupid.
  • Also, what if they surge to 35% while David Parker is their caretaker leader? It might happen – they were on about 37% when Cunliffe took over. But Cunliffe also might win the leadership contest, meaning the guy on 35% would have to hand over power to the guy who scored 24%. That’d be pretty funny.
  • Also, too, Stuart Nash – who won Napier after his opponent resigned and a Conservative Party candidate split the right-wing vote – is offering to tour the country teaching other Labour candidates how to win electorates.
  • Although Nash has leadership ambitions it looks like this leadership run-off will be between Cunliffe, Grant Robertson and possibly David Shearer.
  • Cunliffe announced he was running for leader and then went on holiday.
  • Related: I think Robertson will probably win.
  • I don’t know if it is a big deal that he’s openly gay, but I think that the combination of gay urban liberal career politician is problematic for Labour right now.
  • Robertson is running on a unity platform. ‘He can unite the Labour caucus.’
  • The problem is, the Labour Party’s caucus is filled with rivals who want to be the next Labour Prime Minister, or want their patron/faction leader to be the next Labour Prime Minister. There’s no incentive for Cunliffe or Shearer or Nash or any of Robertson’s other rivals in the caucus to unite behind him in the event of a victory.  Nothing bad happens to them if they plot against him, leak against him and campaign for the electorate vote during the next election while minimising the party vote. On the contrary, if they do unite behind the leader and ‘show unity’ and help boost the party vote then they lose, because then their rival gets to be Prime Minister instead of them!
  • Behavioral economists and game-theorists call this state-of-affairs a Nash Equilibrium (yeah, it’s named after the Beautiful Mind guy). None of the players has anything to gain by changing their strategy, given what they know about the strategy of all of their rivals, which means that Labour is deadlocked.

 

Updated poll of polls, now with dubious new ‘election’ datapoint

Filed under: polls — danylmc @ 9:18 am

electionresults

September 25, 2014

Oh yeah. My other post-Dirty Politics, clean-up democracy idea

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:50 pm

Is that the government fund an independent audit process for the oversight of OIA requests, and that this (department? office? I dunno) undertakes regular inspections of the OIA process in different government departments and Ministerial Offices, with anomalies (like instant turnaround for party apparatchiks, years of Ombudsmen requests for everyone else) made public, and repeated failure to meet benchmarks – as set out by the legislation – be made grounds for dismissal of the public servants responsible.

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