The Dim-Post

November 30, 2009

Poetic irony

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 5:34 pm

Funnily enough Brash does (inadvertently) point to one of the main reasons we’re falling behind Australia; his task force was based on the Australian Productivity Commission, an independent body reporting to the Treasurer.

The difference is that the Australian body has bipartisan support and is staffed by a spectrum of widely respected economists, business leaders, unionists, politicians and entrepreneurs. Ours is run by a deluded gaggle of irrelevant right-wing fanatics. The Australian commission enjoys public confidence and informs policy for both parties, ours is so reviled that even if they do come up with a good idea the source is so toxic the government will be reluctant to implement it. If the government is serious about catching up with Australia it needs to sack Brash, Caygill et al and appoint a new task- force with serious people that will produce serious proposals.

If our main opposition party wasn’t such a tasteless joke they’d be calling for Brash’s head and a bipartisan replacement ‘for the good of the country'; this would also (incidentally) be good politics, forcing a wedge between National and ACT. Instead Labour have announced that the report proves National has a secret right-wing agenda, a talking point they’ve repeated every twelve hours (or so) every day for the last four years, thus far to no effect.

Five five second film reviews

Filed under: movies — danylmc @ 3:20 pm

I found the protagonist in Happy-Go-Lucky so annoying that I stopped watching 30 minutes in; Oh Mike Leigh, I liked your characters so much more when they were raping each other and denouncing Thatcherism!

Synecdoche, New York : better than Adaptation, not as good as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a lot weirder and less accessible than either.

Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls seemed like a fine documentary, but I just couldn’t get past my lack of interest in the Topps or their music, so I stopped watching it and played Arkham Asylum for a while. My wife liked it though.

If you read the blurb on the DVD of Rachel Getting Married you’d think that the movie is a ‘hilarious family comedy’, and if you rented Frozen River based on the cover you’d expect to watch a thriller about a ‘deadly game of cat and mouse’. But the marketing departments are lying to you! Both films are really gritty, uncompromising dramas; they’re also really good. Also, Rachel Getting Married has the lead singer from TV on the Radio in it.

November 29, 2009

Transuranic, heavy elements may not be used where there is life

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:07 pm

The recommendations of the Brash task force into productivity have been leaked to TVNZ, presumably by the National Party so that they could proactively distance themselves from the report.

John Key and Phil Goff are so opaque and their real convictions so mysterious it’s a relief to be dealing with Don Brash again, with his faith in the magical powers of monetarist policy and his majestic indifference to anything that’s happened back on Earth since the repeal of the Corn Laws. Say what we like about Brash, at least we know what he truly, utterly believes. His advice has little to do with productivity and will be hauntingly familiar to the residents of Iceland, Estonia and other such nations that have recently had their banks nationalised and their treasury bond ratings downgraded to junk status: flat tax, slash spending, privatise everything.

Key told TVNZ that Brash was a psychotic maniac (I paraphrase slightly) and that he would not be implementing his recommendations.

The task-force was negotiated by the ACT Party in their coalition deal with National. Finding out that Dr Brash  likes tax cuts has cost taxpayers about half a million dollars.

Real toads in imaginary gardens

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:16 am

An interesting little glimpse behind the scenes. Chris Trotter, writing off the liberal left:

This segment of the New Zealand Left is risibly small – probably numbering fewer than 5,000 individuals. Very few of them occupy positions of genuine power or influence . . .

You can quibble about your definitions of liberalism, I guess but the Clark-Cullen government was undenaibly liberal and they held power for nine years; even when they fell apart in their last term they recieved ~800,000 votes in 08. The only demographic in which they maintained support was with educated, urban voters. I think it’s safe to say that a majority of university graduates have broadly liberal values, probably about 200,000 -300,000 voters in change (of course some of them vote Green, many more voted for Key after they were driven away from Labour by Clark’s indulgence of Winston Peters). So let’s assume at least 400,000 liberal left voters in New Zealand.

So it’s not unusual for Trotter to be ignorant and deluded and hopelessly wrong, and hopefully when I get this confused someone will have the decency to unplug my feeding tubes – but what is interesting is this comment at the end of the thread from one John Pagani:

I think this is the most astute reading of the state of left politics that I’ve seen recently Chris. It’s about connecting with things that matter to people and making politics work for people, instead of instructing people in what’s good for them and inventing fabrications about the people the left represents. (Emphasis mine.)

Pagani is Phil Goff’s strategy advisor.

Orewa-lite reax

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:52 am

Gordon Campbell sees the realpolitik but also feels politicians should be able to talk about racial issues and critique the Maori Party without being accused of racism:

Goff is not politically naïve. He knows he is playing to a gallery that includes racists, and that Labour can expect to reap a political advantage from that quarter. Yet the issues he was raising in Palmerston North were also substantive, and not reducible to mere dogwhistling to rednecks. Given the nature of the deal done between National and the Maori Party in Parliament this week over the ETS, he was in something of a ‘damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t’ situation when it came to mounting an attack on it. Calling the deal ‘ shabby’ and opposing its benefits to particular Maori tribes ( and large iwi corporations) at the taxpayer’s expense is not playing the race card. It is more like truth in labeling.

My feeling is that race is an important issue, and the Maori Party should not be immune from criticism. But we have to accept that race is also a sensitive issue and that politicians like Peters and Brash have exploited it in the past. So when Goff gives a speech about race he needs to signal that they he does so in good faith, not to get a boost in the polls. Don Brash’s Orewa address is the most notorious instance of race-baiting in our recent political history, and Goff gave his speech the same title, the same themes and delivered it to the same demographic. I think it’s pretty safe to say he’s not acting in good faith, even if he does make some valid points along the way. Brash also made some arguments about self-determination and equality under the law that were totally appropriate for a right-wing politician to make, it didn’t absolve him and it doesn’t wash Goff’s hands clean either.

Matt McCarten is too jaded to be angry:

Goff’s reneging on his party’s earlier support for a repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act is totally cynical and intended to whip up Pakeha New Zealanders. It’s the space that Winston Peters used to occupy. Goff and his advisers clearly believe they can close the gap with National with this desperate and, in my opinion, covertly racist strategy. It worked a treat for Don Brash and Goff no doubt hopes it’ll work the same magic for him.

Over at RedAlert, Clare Curran and Grant Robertson shill for their leader and insist that we listen to what Goff had to say. Eddie at The Standard did listen; he pours on the contempt:

I just can’t believe that Goff and his advisers didn’t know what they were doing with this speech. And in doing so they’ve alienated much of the left and done huge damage to Labour’s relationship with Maori. To much of the rest of the electorate he just looks desperate.

It’s possible that Goff might have won over some of the iwi/kiwi racists with the speech, he might even see a poll bounce (though nothing that would compare favourably with Brash’s 17%) – but even if it works, is this any basis on which to build a sustainable progressive alternative?

Goff’s speech was stupid and wrong on so many levels. We deserve better than this.

I haven’t read any right-wing analysis of Goff: the Nats decided not to give him the dignity of a serious response, right-wing commentators have largely followed this lead. John Armstrong (as usual) regurgitates publicly what  National Party strategists are saying in private:

National is not going to make Harawira’s mistake of giving Goff the attention he craves by accusing him of being a racist. John Key instead portrayed Goff’s speech as the work of a struggling politician desperately in search of a headline.

By not engaging with him, National is seeking to deprive Goff of oxygen, thereby forcing him to take even more extreme positions.

At least someone is happy: Chris Trotter is predictably rapt with Goff’s pivot and crows that the Labour Party has abandoned liberalism. Well, that depends on what happens in the polls over the next few weeks. Even if this gamble pays off the party is still broadly liberal, this is just a sign that it’s prepared to compromise those values.

Trotter sees events through the prism of his Marxist-Leninist worldview in which liberal values signify counter-revolutionary false-conciousness; he’s too stupid to understand that nobody in Labour shares his vision for New Zealand of a classless workers state ruled by a revolutionary vanguard. As far as I can tell, Labour’s only vision for New Zealand is that we should be a country governed by the Labour Party.

Goff is not politically naïve. He knows he is playing to a gallery that includes racists, and that Labour can expect to reap a political advantage from that quarter. Yet the issues he was raising in Palmerston North were also substantive, and not reducible to mere dogwhistling to rednecks. Given the nature of the deal done between National and the Maori Party in Parliament this week over the ETS, he was in something of a ‘damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t’ situation when it came to mounting an attack on it. Calling the deal ‘ shabby’ and opposing its benefits to particular Maori tribes ( and large iwi corporations) at the taxpayer’s expense is not playing the race card. It is more like truth in labeling.

November 27, 2009

Second time as farce

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 10:38 am

Although there’s been a lot of mainstream coverage of Goff’s Orewa-lite speech there hasn’t been much analysis yet. That seems appropriate for a politician as irrelevant as Goff but I’m struck by the dearth of support he’s received from The Standard and Red Alert. They haven’t even mentioned the speech – it’s hard not to read the vacuum as an embarrassed silence.

I went back and took a look at Brash’s Orewa speech – I note that it also had the title of ‘Nationhood’. Here’s Brash in 04:

So let me begin by asking, what sort of nation do we want to build?

Is it to be a modern democratic society, embodying the essential notion of one rule for all in a single nation state?

Or is it the racially divided nation, with two sets of laws, and two standards of citizenship, that the present Labour Government is moving us steadily towards?

Here’s Goff yesterday:

We can choose our future based on principle and with the interests of all New Zealanders at heart.

Or we can have a country where one New Zealander is turned against another, Maori against Pakeha

Brash:

the topic I will focus on today, is the dangerous drift towards racial separatism in New Zealand, and the development of the now entrenched Treaty grievance industry.

Goff:

. . . the government is keeping the grievance going.If you can never settle Treaty grievances, there can never be healing, and you keep alive a grievance from one age into another.

Brash:

National is absolutely committed to completing the settlement of historical grievances.  We will ensure that the process is accelerated and brought to a conclusion. It must then be wound up

Goff:

We must address grievance, but we must not sustain it.

Brash:

What we are seeing is the emergence of a population in New Zealand of multi-ethnic heritage – a distinct South Seas race of New Zealanders – where more and more of us will have a diverse ancestry. Hopefully, we will get joy and pride from all the different elements that go to make us who we are.

Goff:

There is so much New Zealanders have to be proud of, so much we have to achieve together. We can be proud of the bi-cultural foundation of our nation and the multicultural nature of our community today.

Brash:

We will deal with the foreshore issue by legislating to return to the previous status quo . . . Public ownership leaves room for recognising limited customary rights, but we will not allow customary title.

Goff:

The government has a choice between sticking with the status quo, which guarantees access but allows for agreements around customary rights, and the alternative of never ending court battles.

Labour believes in access for all New Zealanders, with respect for custom and heritage.

Obviously Brash went furthur – he promised to abolish the Maori seats, Goff isn’t there yet. But it is essentially the same speech with the same title, updated for contemporary issues.

November 26, 2009

Opportunity Cost

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 4:29 pm

I/S looks at the strategy behind Goff’s dogwhistle:

Despite Labour’s dear wishes, the Maori Party is not going to go away. Instead, it looks likely to be a permanent feature of our political landscape. More importantly, it looks to be setting itself up as the swing bloc which makes or breaks governments. That’s certainly likely to be the case at the next election, unless the government really screws up. What this means is that if Labour wants to regain power, it will have to sit across the table from and work with the Maori Party. And that will simply be impossible if they are running on a racist platform.

I’m not convinced of the permanence of the Maori Party and I think they’d go into coalition with a nest of poisonous spiders if the funnel-web threw in a couple of crown limos and some mana-enhancing overseas trips, so I don’t think this rules out a future Labour-Maori coalition. The long term risk is that Labour will lose support – in 2008 hundreds tens of thousands of Maori voters gave their electorate votes to the Maori Party while their party vote went to Labour – but the most immediate cost is that the Maori party and National have sold out Maori with the ETS; Goff’s transparent, desperate ploy for the redneck vote means he’ll be handicapped when he tries to point this out: Sharples and Turia can simply dismiss the attacks and respond that ‘Goff’s playing the race card again.’

This is turning into a trend with Goff. Earlier in the year the government was vulnerable to criticism around welfare entitlement until Goff argued that a millionaire property owner who happened to live in John Key’s electorate should be eligible for the dole, a self-inflicted wound that precluded Labour from making any legitimate points on the subject. He’s just made an identical error with the ETS.

I really don’t see how a politician as experienced as Goff could make such an obvious mistake (or how a Labour leader could have such little confidence in the values his party is supposed to represent). But I also struggle to conceive how people as canny as John Key and Nick Smith could introduce legislation as awful as their Emissions Trading Scheme. Our political class seems desperately mediocre right now.

A leaf falls

Filed under: finance,Politics — danylmc @ 1:46 pm

Goff has his (rather confusing) speech about Nationhood(!) up on the Labour web site (I love the graphic at the top of the text). Amidst all the tedious waffle (‘I dream of young entrepreneurs, Maori and Pakeha, who develop the exports of clean technology to the world . . .’) and bitching about Hone Harawira (divide and conquer, guys) he makes a good point that Labour really should expand on:

Just as we as taxpayers had to pay for Rob Muldoon’s supplementary minimum prices to farmers that many of you here will remember – so someone has to pay for the subsidies of today.

I’ve been thinking similar thoughts: it’s ironic that after years of Labour screaming about a secret neo-liberal agenda Key’s National Party has moved towards Muldoonist style protectionism, but here we are. The big difference is that under Muldoon we subsidised companies that created lots of jobs, now we’ll subsidise companies that create lots of pollution.

Alas, much of Goff’s speech is a medicore attempt to play the race card and complain about ‘Maori privilege’ (he then pretends that’s not what he’s doing and talks about ‘reconciliation’, ‘partnership’ and ‘healing’). It’s almost as if he dimly understands what a golden political opportunity Smith’s ETS has given him to attack both National and the Maori Party but he can’t quite comprehend how to go about it – he’s like a blindfolded man trying to carve an ice-sculpture with a blow-torch.

November 25, 2009

Coup de theatre

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 10:59 am

Hard to say how seriously to take this talk of a Maori Party revolt against the ETS: almost everything this party says and does seems strange and opaque to me. I understand Turia is recovering from a surgical operation today: unfortunate timing. The rhetoric from unnamed sources within the party sounds robust:

“The question needs to be asked, do we want to be remembered as a party that gave future generations a horrendous debt, or do we want to be known as a party that took a principled stand against a terrible scheme?” the party source said.

It would be a bitter blow for Turia if the party tore itself apart before it could consolidate it’s gains on the foreshore and seabed.

UPDATE: Stuff is now reporting that the Maori Party will vote for the bill although my understanding is that one member (Harawira?) is abstaining. The ETS strikes me as the kind of policy that’s going to be an open wound for the government, bleeding them support every time a new announcement or report comes out on how much it’s cost taxpayers, so Labour are probably a bit relieved that it’s gone through (although they’ll have the unenviable task of pricing carbon into the economy when they eventually get back into power).

These fragments I have shored against my ruin

Filed under: books — danylmc @ 7:59 am

The Herald has yet another op-ed up about Witi Ihimaera’s plagerism: the irony (I’m sure others have already pointed this out but it merits repeating) is that one of the Herald’s regular columnists, Garth George, was recently caught red-handed plagiarizing a climate change denial web site; 37.5% of the material in his column was written by someone else. No action was taken by the Herald.

Personally I think Ihimaera’s ‘crime’ was trivial; as Mark Twain wrote: ‘immature writers borrow, mature writers steal’. I’m surprised Ihimaera didn’t play the post-modernist card and cheerfully admit that his novel is a text with multiple authors (and none) and that he was a mere redactor, although I respect him more for not taking that option. It’s what I would have said.

From my perspective the biggest fools in the game are Auckland University who responded to Gracewood’s Listener article by insisting that they’d investigated and found that the plagiarism was minor and unintentional; Gracewood subsequently published another story revealing even more extensive plagiarism. Must’ve been a hell of an investigation. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before someone scans Ihimaera’s back catalog onto disk, OCRs it and runs a search algorithm (the DimPost endorses sed) against google books. If the university is smart they’ll do this themselves and control the way the story breaks.

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