The Dim-Post

September 30, 2008

Beat That

Filed under: nz blogs — danylmc @ 7:11 pm

Poneke has come in for a bit of stick recently from some of the more loathsome corners of the wingnut blogosphere – I say that if you have Ian Wishart and Keri Hulme squaring off in your comments threads you must be doing something right.

Conspiracy or Cockup

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 12:27 pm
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The Economist:

The word on the politics of the deal is this—Congressional leaders had come to an understanding whereby “safe” members of both parties (those not facing a serious challenge in November) would vote for the bailout and endangered members of both parties would be able to vote against if they chose. For the most part the Democratic breakdown proceeded as anticipated. The Republican caucus, on the other hand, does not seem to have delivered the expected “yea” votes. So, strictly speaking, GOP defections were the proximate cause of the defeat. Whether it will appear that way to voters, amid so complex a legislative scenario, is unclear.

The Democrats are screaming about a GOP conspiracy: that sounds very unlikely to me. Hours before the vote their Presidential candidate Senator John McCain announced that the Republican Party would support the bill and promoted himself on the basis of his ability to unite his party for a bi-partisan solution:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his top aides took credit for building a winning bailout coalition – hours before the vote failed and stocks tanked.

The rush to claim he had engineered a victory now looks like a strategic blunder that will prolong the McCain’s campaign’s difficulty in finding a winning message on the economy.

Shortly before the vote, McCain had bragged about his involvement and mocked Sen. Barack Obama for staying on the sidelines.

“I’ve never been afraid of stepping in to solve problems for the American people, and I’m not going to stop now,” McCain told a rally in Columbus, Ohio. “Senator Obama took a very different approach to the crisis our country faced. At first he didn’t want to get involved. Then he was monitoring the situation.”

The House Republicans just totally screwed their presidential candidate. Nobody does that on purpose. I guess the plan was to have the vote pass by one vote – just enough republican support to get it through and avoid the financial meltdown we just saw – but passed by a vast majority of democrats so that the republican candidates in unsafe seats can go into their re-election campaigns having opposed the unpopular bill. The simplest explanation for what just happened is that the GOP house whips screwed up. Oops.

In retrospect the bill suddenly looks like a good idea – a lot of US voters just watched a good chunk of their retirement savings vanish in a little less than three hours – and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an amended bill introduced later this week and comfortably pass with bi-partisan support.

Senator McCain can still probably recover from this, but it makes the third or fourth major blunder this month that he can probably recover from. At some point he needs to stop blundering and start recovering.

Quote of the Day

Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 10:17 am
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The singular feature of the great crash of 1929 was that the worst continued to worsen. What looked one day like the end proved on the next day to have been only the beginning. Nothing could have been more ingeniously designed to maximize the suffering, and also to ensure that as few as possible escaped the common misfortune.

John Kenneth Galbraith
The Great Crash 1929

September 29, 2008

Tribes

Filed under: nz blogs,Politics — danylmc @ 7:35 am
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DPF is trying to start a meme that Labour’s core voters are deserting them, in support of which he posts various anecdotes about anonymous lifetime Labour supporters who are suddenly voting National.

Another leftie friend told me last night that she now thought she might hold her nose and vote National. Now a month ago she was absolutely adamant she would vote Labour, but the sticking up for Winston is just a step too far for her.

The polls don’t really bear this out though – Labour’s core support remains remarkably stable. National are killing them in the polls and some of those votes come from Labour but most of their support comes at the expense of the minor parties – ACT, United Future and New Zealand First.

Maybe these anecdotal switches haven’t translated into poll results yet and in the upcoming weeks we’ll see Labour drop down into the mid-20’s.

It’s possible – however my experience in talking to pro-Labour friends over the past couple of weeks is that they’re as loyal as ever; they think Key is untrustworthy and that the media have been horribly unfair to poor Winston Peters. My impression is just as anecdotal (read worthless) as DPF’s but I think that Labour’s pro-Winston spin has been successful at maintaining the loyalty of many of their supporters.

September 28, 2008

Quote o’ the Day

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 4:23 pm
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I’m asking the questions Mr Peters. If you want to ask questions and be a journalist you can go to polytech, learn short-hand and knock a zero off the end of your salary.

- Guyon Espiner interviewing Winston Peters on Agenda this morning.

I really question the wisdom of giving air time to the New Zealand First leader at this stage – he’s never going to answer any of your questions and if you try and push him on a point he’ll just start yelling about conspiracies.

Peters has been accused of serious crimes and he should be given right of reply in any news story written or broadcast about him but there doesn’t seem much point in attempting to engage him in debate.

Hud

Filed under: movies — danylmc @ 8:49 am
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In the upcoming deluge of Paul Newman movie tributes (The Sting, The Verdict, Cool Hand Luke ect) make sure you check out Hud, his seriously underrated cowboy film from the early 1960’s. Pauline Kael wrote:

Hugely entertaining contemporary Western, set in the Texas of Cadillacs and cattle, crickets and transistor radios; handsomely designed, and shot in black-and-white (by James Wong Howe), it’s visually simple and precise and unadorned. The film is schizoid: it tells you to condemn the nihilistic heel Hud (Paul Newman), who represents modern “materialism,” but casting Newman as a mean materialist is like writing a manifesto against the banking system while juggling your investments to make a fortune. Newman has energy and wit and his physique and “them there eyes.”

‘General Kael’ seems to have carried quite a torch for Newman; her critical essay about his work is called ‘The Man From Dream City’.

(You can find Kael’s essay about Newman in her collection ‘Raising Kane’ – they’ll have it at the library . If you watched Citizen Kane and wondered what the hell all the fuss is about I encourage you to read the title essay.)

Bonus trivia: Hud was co-written by Larry McMurtry before he hit the big time with Lonesome Dove.

September 27, 2008

Post Debate Note

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 4:42 pm

I missed the start of the US presidential debate – I was downtown eating pancakes at Capitol. My initial impression is that it was basically a tie. Conventional wisdom is that a tie is considered a loss for the losing candidate and right now that’s McCain.

I found Senator McCain’s body language fascinating: he appears to genuinely despise Obama and hold him in contempt. He thinks he’s a lightweight and a joke. That’s a fine attitude for the pro-McCain bloggers to adopt but the Senator needs to take his opponent seriously. This guy came out of nowhere and beat the Clintons and he’s currently leading in the polls.

Another point I noticed was that McCains jokes were very much aimed at the political in-crowd. He stated that he didn’t have his own presidential seal yet (a dig at the stupid Obama seal the Democrat has on the side of his plane) and referred to Kim Jong Ill of North Korea as ‘dear leader’. Nobody who isn’t a politics junkie (and that’s most people) would have had the slightest idea what he was talking about.

UPDATE

James Fallows at the Atlantic has a pretty good rundown of how the candidates fared:

But the personas that the two men chose to present in the debate indicated the difference in a profound way. The truths of debates are these:

  • Emotional messages, which are variants on “how do I feel about this person?”, are all that matter in presidential debates. Issues discussions are significant mainly to the extent they shape these impressions. For instance: a candidate’s view on the economy feeds the impression of whether he sympathizes with “people like me.” Or views on foreign policy feed the impression on whether he would be “a leader we can trust.”
  • Barring a truly disastrous performance, each side’s partisans will think their candidate did well, and will be reinforced in the reasons for supporting the person they already like. Thus John McCain supporters will think he sounded confident and masterful; Obama supporters will think he kept presenting the big-picture perspective on national security and the economy. Which means therefore:
  • The audience that matters is people who start out undecided or uncertain — and finally are looking for emotional reassurance about who they can imagine as president for the next four years. In general, such viewers are only now starting to pay serious attention to the campaign — in contrast to people already committed to helping (or stopping) one of the candidates. That is why the first debate is a unique “re-launch” opportunity for the candidates to present themselves to people who realize it’s time to make up their minds.

Everything John McCain did on stage last night was consistent with trying to score tactical points in those 90 minutes. He belittled Obama with the repeated “he doesn’t understand”s; he was explicitly insulting to him in saying at the end “I honestly don’t believe that Senator Obama has the knowledge or experience” for the job (a line Joe Biden dare not use so bluntly on Sarah Palin); and implicitly he was shockingly rude and dismissive in refusing ever to look Obama in the eye. Points scored — in the short term, to the cheers of those already on his side.

Obama would have pleased his base better if he had fought back more harshly in those 90 minutes — cutting McCain off, delivering a similarly harsh closing judgment, using comparably hostile body language, and in general acting more like a combative House of Commons debater. Those would have been effective tactics minute by minute.

But Obama either figured out, or instinctively understood, that the real battle was to make himself seem comfortable, reasonable, responsible, well-versed, and in all ways “safe” and non-outsiderish to the audience just making up its mind about him.

My initial impression was that it was a draw but the internal polls now being released suggest that Obama overwhelmingly won with undecided voters:

The CBS poll of undecideds has more confirmatory detail. Obama went from a +18 on “understanding your needs and problems” before the debate to a +56 (!) afterward. And he went from a -9 on “prepared to be president” to a +21.

Debatable

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:48 am
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NZPA reports on the upcoming leaders debate:

Prime Minister Helen Clark and National Party leader John Key have refused to share the stage with other party leaders in an election campaign TV debate.

They say only their head to head debates really matter because one or the other will lead the next government.

TV3 and TVNZ wanted the leaders of all eight parties represented in Parliament to take part in an MMP debate, which has happened in previous campaigns.

But the two leaders refused, and did not change their minds when both networks asked them to reconsider.

This seems like a poor decision on both parts. Back in 2005 Helen Clark benefitted greatly from having Jim Anderton on the stage during the leaders debate. Anderton savagely attacked Don Brash, Brash blinked furiously in retaliation and Clark got to rise above it all and look dignified and leaderlike.

For Key’s part, going up against Helen Clark on his own is a huge risk. John Key seems like a nice, fairly bright guy but he cannot think on his feet and his media performances have been getting worse, not better over the last few months.

If Key were behind in the polls it would be a risk worth taking – but he’s miles ahead. He has nothing to gain and everything to lose if he gets ripped to shreds by a feral Clark on live TV. If the other leaders were there the Clark-Key confrontation would be diluted down by their presence.

Meanwhile, the first McCain-Obama debate is set for tonight. Neither candidate did very well in the primary debates (which indicate just how small a role these things actually play in the campaign). Senator Obama also performed very poorly at the Saddleback forum last month. He’ll have spent most of the week doing debate prep, the onus is on him to perform well. American’s already know and admire Senator McCain, Obama has yet to really prove himself.

UPDATE: The Economist will be scoring the debate:

• One style point from either candidate for each promise to kill Osama bin Laden.

• One point from Mr Obama for any long answer that sounds smart and seems to mean nothing.

• One point from Mr McCain for any short answer that feels bracing but unconsidered. Exception: “We do not torture.”

• Five points from each candidate for smug self-righteousness, deducted automatically before the first question is asked.

• Ten points from Mr Obama for invoking “the speculators who attacked us on 9/11″.

• Ten points from Mr McCain if he sings.

September 24, 2008

Your Urgent Help Needed

Filed under: satire — danylmc @ 7:58 am
Tags:

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a
transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had
crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion
dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most
profitable to you.
I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my
replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may
know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the
1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.
This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds
as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names
of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family
lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person
who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.
Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account
numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to
wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for
this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with
detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the
funds.
Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

From AngryBear

Persecution Complex

Filed under: media,Politics — danylmc @ 7:45 am
Tags: ,

Like Poneke I’m a bit confused as to why the Dom-Post has suddenly gone soft on its coverage of Winston Peters. Yesterday they shifted the findings of the privileges committee onto page three; today Peters being censured by Parliament is on the front page but in a tiny box below the fold.

I think it can be argued that the Dom-Post (unlike the Herald) really were persecuting Peters. While some of Phil Kitchens stories (like the donations from the Vela’s and Sir Bob Jones) were great scoops that were of enormous public interest, a number of his front page leads about donations to New Zealand First detailed activity that was (a) totally legal and (b) also practised by every other party in parliament.

Peters complained about this, but his rather justified outrage was obliviated by his rants against all the legitimate stories written about him.

It sounds as if the Dom-Post is blessed with an ever dwindling number of journalists and an abundance of managers and executives (always a recipe for success), maybe this accounts for the confusion in their editorial direction.

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