The Dim-Post

October 31, 2008

Dim-Post Party Profile: Te Tōrangapū Māori

Filed under: Politics,satire — danylmc @ 3:26 pm
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Founded In: July 2004

Number of MP’s: 4

Leaders: Tariana Turia and Dr Pita Sharples

Slogan: Nā tō waterbed, nā taku waterbed, ka ora ai te iwi

Policy Achievements: Formation of party led to an increase in health funding required to treat Prime Minister Helen Clark’s blood pressure; strong performance in Marae-Digipolls has forced ACT and National Party MPs to pretend they care about indigenous persons and treaty issues; pressure over police handling of the notorious ‘anti-terror raids’ may make it easier for sensible everyday New Zealanders to stockpile weapons and plot to kill whitey.

Party co-leader: Hon Tarina Turia

Strengths: Has forged strong working relationship with National leader John Key, partly because Key admires Turia’s pragmatic straight-forward approach to problem solving and partly because she kind of reminds him of Yoda.

Weaknesses: Could be accident prone; during a 2005 speech to the staff at Te Puni KoKiri Prime Minister Helen Clark cautioned Turia against spending too long at Parliament advising her that it was ‘a dangerous place’ and expressing concern for her safety. ‘As Minister of Intelligence I hear all about the accidents that happen to people there,’ Clark said. ‘Fires, sudden falls. Bad air – or not enough of it.’

Party co-leader: Dr Pita Sharples

Strengths: Can cast Web, Power Word Kill and Darkness 15′ radius/3 times per combat round.

Weaknesses: Takes double damage from blunt weapons.

Brain Food

Filed under: books,general idiocy — danylmc @ 3:06 pm

The New York Sun has an article about my favourite short story; Borges Library of Babel. There are a few reasons I’m not a writer, but the fact that Jorge Borges has already written all of the things I want to write about is one of the main ones (profound lack of self-discipline is another, not wanting to spend my retirement years eating dog food is a third).

In Borges’s imagining, the Library of Babel itself is a building composed of an indefinite number of hexagonal galleries. A ventilation shaft in the center of each allows the visitor to see the floors above and below, in endless sequence. Each wall of each hexagon holds 32 books of identical size; each book has 410 pages; each page, 40 lines; each line, approximately 80 letters. All possible combinations of the 25 orthographic symbols make up the books; therefore, every conceivable book must exist in the monstrous library. In his story, Borges gives just a few examples of what might be found here: “the detailed history of the future, the autobiographies of the archangels, the faithful catalogue of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the proof of the falsity of those false catalogues, the proof of the falsity of the true catalogue …”

The numbers he chose for the shelves and books in his story, Borges later confessed, were simply those of the municipal library in which he worked — and which he himself found so horrible. “Learned critics,” he noted later, with some evident pleasure, “studied these figures and generously lent them a mystical significance.” Mr. Bloch, with similar generosity, and in an exercise he himself describes as “tedious, uninspired, but straightforward” if carried out in full, asks whether our entire universe could in fact contain this dizzying number of books. Even if it could (if the size of the library, as Borges suggests, coincided with that of the universe), the inconceivably vast space would make it impossible for a human librarian to even barely begin its exploration. Walking 60 miles a day for 100 years, notes Mr. Bloch, our vigorous librarian would only travel a distance slightly less than that which light covers in two minutes. “To cross our universe, which is incomprehensibly dwarfed by the Library, light would need to travel for a least 15 billion years.” It would take a librarian, moving at the leisurely pace of a connoisseur, considerably longer — a mathematical certainty that mirrors the nightmarish vision Borges said he wished to convey.

Jacob Weisberg at Slate takes an amused look at the response of libertarians to the collapse of the unregulated $62 trillion Credit Default Swap market, which they inevitably regard as a failure of government regulation:

The argument as a whole is reminiscent of wearying dorm-room debates that took place circa 1989 about whether the fall of the Soviet bloc demonstrated the failure of communism. Academic Marxists were never going to be convinced that anything that happened in the real world could invalidate their belief system. Utopians of the right, libertarians are just as convinced that their ideas have yet to be tried, and that they would work beautifully if we could only just have a do-over of human history. Like all true ideologues, they find a way to interpret mounting evidence of error as proof that they were right all along.

The Economist has endorsed Barack Obama – like everybody else they’ve cited Palin as one of their main reasons for abandoning McCain. Epic fail. They’ve also written an article about their recent history of Presidential endorsements. It took me a while to see the pattern.

You can now clone your pet.

“Are they all related?” a woman asks as she watches three puppies romp around Eastwood Park, a little slice of doggy heaven in Mill Valley, California. One of the pups, Mira, is notably larger than the other two, Chingu and Sarang, but they all share similar markings: white snouts and chests, darker fur on their backs and crowns.”They’re clones,” Lou Hawthorne replies.

I’ve been reading Neal Stephenson’s book Anathem. If you (a) know what a directed acyclic graph is and (b) like the idea of a Harry Potter style novel in which the main characters make jokes about graph theory and platonism while using their knowledge of linear algebra to solve mysteries then this is definitely a book for you. If you fall into the ~99.9999% of the population that don’t meet those criteria then I’d give this one a big miss. Stephenson also uses a lot of made-up words in his books which might ring alarm bells if you subscribe to the xkcd rule of thumb:

October 30, 2008

The Trail of Slime

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 10:53 am
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Poor old Labour. It’s worth taking a minute to imgaine the elation they must have felt for a few days there: they finally had that fucker Key dead cold. Perjury. Fraud. Victory.

Labour president Mike Williams spent several days last week reading court documents in Melbourne, backed up by Wellington-based members of the party research unit.

Last weekend, the party believed it had a smoking gun – a signature on the A$39m first H-Fee cheque bearing a striking resemblance to Mr Key’s. Senior party figures advocated making the document public immediately.

Within days, though, court documents proved that what would have been the campaign’s most explosive allegation was wrong. The January 11 cheque was actually signed by an Australian-based executive of the firm Mr Key worked for.

Colin Espiner has blogged about the origins of this non-scandal:

So where did the Herald story come from? Well as it turns out, from the president of the Labour Party, Mike Williams, who it turns out has been in Melbourne researching it from 13,000 pages of court documents. Did Williams have better things to do during an election campaign than trawl through 20-year-old court records looking for dirt on Key? Apparently not.

What’s interesting is that Labour leader Helen Clark is running a mile from this story. She is refusing to even say whether she thinks it raises questions about Key’s integrity or honesty. Her office says Williams is running this show, not Clark, and while the president may think Key has questions to answer, she’s not making any comment.

Vernon Small at the Dom-Post also has some interesting insights into how the story was propagated:

The saga began when a pile of court and other documents were dropped in a Dominion Post reporter’s letterbox wrapped in a copy of the Otago Daily Times. That was followed by an anonymous text and several drops of further documents from someone calling himself Batman. All pointed to Mr Key and the H-fee scheme.

David Farrar points out that The Standard recently featured a guest-post written by someone called Batman that discussed Keys involvement with the H-Fee, and that The Standard have recently deleted the post.

My (totally uninformed) guess is that Williams and his little helpers found their evidence on Key during the weekend and set events in motion to get the story out there as soon as possible, but the Prime Minister – who is super-cautious when it comes to stunts like this – told them to hold back until she was confident the story was sound. When it transpired that they had nothing they’d already primed the story in the media. It’s hard to walk a story back when its being spread by a guy called ‘Batman’ sending reporters anonymous text messages.

So this is all pretty embarrassing but it could have been SO much worse. Imagine if Labour had gone big with this on Monday or Tuesday night only to have National reveal that it was someone elses’s name on the cheque.

- UPDATED: IrishBill from The Standard has pointed out in the comments that contrary to DPFs claims they haven’t deleted their post by ‘Batman’, merely changed the attribution from being a web-site author to a guest post. It also occurs to me that DPFs outrage towards The Standard is a bit rich for a guy who’s travelling around the country with disturbed National Party activist Cameron Slater, who has spent the election campaign fabricating some pretty spectacular smears of his own, the general loathsomeness of which make the current allegations against Key look mild indeed.

October 29, 2008

You come at the king, you best not miss

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 3:47 pm
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Labour have released their much vaunted ‘neutron bomb’ against John Key:

John Key faces accusations of misleading the public about his knowledge of one of New Zealand’s most notorious white collar crimes.

The allegations centre around the so-called H-Fee – two payments totalling A$66.5 million to Equiticorp funnelled via sham foreign exchange transactions in 1988 – and an interview Mr Key gave the Herald last year.

The timing is most felicitous – this kicks Peters off the front page and will likely keep John Key on there for the rest of the campaign. Whether Mr Key comes out of this alive or not depends in part on how he responds  to the allegations. Remember boys, its not the crime that kills you – its the cover-up.

As far as Labour are concerned, they’ve been rubbing their hands and gloating about this for a while – it had better work. They’re so far behind in the polls that if Key simply blows this out of the water – as he’s done with a couple of other Labour smears – they will look pathetically desperate.

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 11:35 am
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From Bill Ralston

The NZ Herald reports it understands Prime Minister Helen Clark was so worried by Peters’ pressuring of the Ministry she asked to be informed if he tried it again. By the way, those words “understands” is press gallery code for the NZ Herald was told “off the record” or on un-attributable “background” by the Prime Minister that she did so.

It is nice to have people like Ralston around to spell these things out for the rest of us.

Shocked! Shocked and . . . well, maybe not so shocked.

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:25 am
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I cannot muster up the energy to be outraged about the latest Winston Peters allegations, possibly because it seemed obvious that Peters lobbied to have Glenn made consul to Monaco and the TVNZ investigation has only confirmed what everybody kind of knew all along.

I don’t think this will hurt Winston – his voters seem impervious to events back here in reality – but will probably damage Labour. Its a reminder that a vote for Helen is a vote for her gleefully corrupt and dishonest foreign minister who hates foreigners.

Like everybody else I’ve had conversations this year with life-long Labour supporters who were planning to vote National for the first time ever (Deborah at In A Strange Land sums up this sentiment nicely, although she doesn’t reveal who she’ll be switching her vote to); in the past couple of weeks a couple of them have told me they’re drifting back to Labour. This will surely help to stop that rot.

When will this show up in the polls? I’m not sure – my normal rule of thumb is that it takes three to five weeks for political developments to manifest themselves in the polls – this has served pretty well so far this year: often when political commentators struggle to find post-hoc explanations for a new poll based on the last weeks events you only have to ask yourself what happened a month and a half ago and everything starts to make sense.

I’m not sure if this will hold true during an election campaign when almost everyone is paying attention to politics though – but its worth bearing in mind that the polls being conducted right now are the ones that will be released just before the election, so everything that happens from here on in will not be properly reflected in the polls until after the election.

End of Conservatism?

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:44 am
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This meme seems to be cropping up in various think pieces around the world; Matthew Yglesias points out the obvious flaw:

It seems to me that any talk of the end of conservatism is not only premature, but fundamentally misguided. It’s in the nature of things that politicians and intellectuals whose ideas tend toward the preservation of existing wealth and privilege are going to manage to find money and institutions to support them. The right sequence of events could push such a movement out of power for a while, but any incumbent regime is bound to be tripped up by bad luck or mistakes soon enough. And when it does, people turn to the alternative.

I’d also add that the train wreck that is the current US Republican Party isn’t even about the collapse of a conservative party – its about a conservative party transforming itself into a christian nationalist party and becoming intensely unpopular in the process.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that political movements rebuild fast these days; after the epic failure of the Kerry campaign in 2004 the democrats were a spent force – look at them now.

October 28, 2008

Eternal Return

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:23 am
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If Winston Peters campaign appearances are anything like his debate performance last night he will easily win more than 5% of the vote. I’m so depressed – are we ever going to get rid of this guy?

October 27, 2008

Dim-Post Party profile of the ACT Party

Filed under: Politics,satire — danylmc @ 3:18 pm
Tags: ,

ACT New Zealand

Founded in: 1994, although the ACT principles of free markets and classical liberalism date back to the creation of the universe 15,000,000,000 years earlier.

Number of MP’s: See, it’s about what your MP’s do, not how many there are.

Leader: Rodney Hide

Slogan: Capitalism – what could go wrong?

Policy Achievements: Government policy isn’t the solution to the problem, its the cause of the problem; also Heather joined the army and Rodney was on Dancing With the Stars.

Position on Political Spectrum: John Key is a Communist

Stands For: Making schools, hospitals and prisons as safe, efficient and effective as private industries like banking and insurance.

Major Financial Backers: Charity is for the weak! However, a generous donation to the ACT party now will be rewarded with your very own government department, national park or electricity grid after the election.

Party Leader: Rodney Hide

Early Life: According to his official biography Hide was born in Asgard during the late Pliocene era; he seduced Freya goddess of war, outwitted Loki Lie-Smith in a battle of wits, slew Jormungund the World Serpent with a spear of sharpened mistletoe and created the mid-Atlantic basin when Odin threw him to the ground in a wrestling match. Hide’s Wikipedia biography claims the ACT leader was born in Oxford, Canterbury in 1956 and studied Zoology and Botany at Canterbury University. The real truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Electorate: Represents the simple, decent, hard-working folk of Epsom who have honored Hide by dedicating a solid platinum statue to their MP; ninety feet tall it shows him crushing a member of the middle class between his powerful thighs (to reduce materials costs Steve Pio (33), a computer consultant from Pakuranga has been welded into the statue, although his eyes have been replaced with Burmese rubies. If freed Mr Pio says he will not be voting for Hide in the upcoming election).

Strengths: Powerful convictions in the power of individuals operating in an unregulated free market to create wealth, defeat poverty, raise living standards and free people from the soul crushing dead hand of the state.

Weaknesses: Entire belief system is a pile of horseshit which may dent credibility with some voters.

Campaign Strategy: Rely on the feelings of universal love and respect New Zealanders feel towards ACT founder Sir Roger Douglas.

Currently Polling: Around 1% nationally.

Packer on Insanity of Blogging

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:51 am
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New Yorker contributor George Packer, the author of The Assassins’ Gate blogs about the general insanity of the right-wing bloggers in regards to the Obama candidacy:

Much of it has appeared on popular right-wing Web sites, including National Review Online, disclosing the “news” that Bill Ayers wrote “Dreams from My Father,” Obama was involved in domestic terrorism during the South Africa divestment campaign of the early 1980s, Michelle Obama used the word “whitey” in recorded conversation with Louis Farrakhan, Obama has had a female lover as well as a gay lover with a criminal record, he was fed answers during the first debate via a clear plastic device in his ear, and his birth certificate was forged, casting doubt on his citizenship (which is why he’s now in Hawaii—to preserve the cover-up, not to visit his very ill grandmother).

Wading for a few minutes through the sewage of these Web sites reminds me uncannily of the time I’ve spent having political discussions in certain living rooms and coffee shops in Baghdad. The mental atmosphere is exactly the same—the wild fantasies presented as obvious truth, the patterns seen by those few with the courage and wisdom to see, the amused pity for anyone weak-minded enough to be skeptical, the logic that turns counter-evidence into evidence and every random piece of information into a worldwide conspiracy. Above all, the seething resentment, the mix of arrogance and impotent rage that burns at the heart of the paranoid style in politics.

The problem isn’t lack of education—it’s that of a self-isolating political subculture gone rancid. I heard an Iraqi engineer claim that American soldiers allowed Kuwaitis to steal hundreds of Iraqi cars as revenge for the first Gulf War. I heard a Shiite cleric argue that the Kerry campaign was behind suicide bombings. Bloggers like Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who peddled the Ayers theory, and Ann Althouse, a law professor who pushed the plastic-device story, hold diametrically opposed views to those of Islamists and Arab nationalists. But their habits of mind are just the same.

We’ve seen a similar phenomenon in New Zealand during this campaign, although right-wing bloggers and the blogosphere in general is a lot less influential here than it is in the US. And during the whole Winston Peters scandal a couple of left-wing bloggers – like Chris Trotter – jumped on board the ‘vast media conspiracy’ bandwagon. I’d actually argue that Trotter, with his love of conspiracy theories, hysterical hyperbole and comparison of anyone who disagrees with him to Adolf Hitler is basically a right-wing blogger who through some accident of history has wound up supporting the left.

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