The Dim-Post

August 31, 2011

Not rocket surgery

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:49 am

Two trends of note in the Fairfax poll. The first is that support for ACT is now so low that if the election were held tomorrow, former National Cabinet Minister John ‘I’m just there to support the National government’ Banks would be their only MP. Which is awesome.

Secondly, the Green Party continues to steal votes that rightfully belong to Labour. Fairfax has the Greens up to 11% and the Labour Party down to 25% (and recent statements by Labour MPs suggests to me that that Labour’s internal polls mirror these results).

We hear a lot about how the media and the voters aren’t focused on policy or issues, but the Green’s tactic of releasing good policy and talking about issues, and getting covered for those things in the media seems to be working out pretty well.

All parties have a ceiling of potential voters and I’m guessing the Green’s are bumping up against theirs right now. But election campaigns are an opportunity to raise that ceiling, and their co-leader Russel Norman is a more formidable campaigner than he was three years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go even higher than their current polling – although the Greens always have trouble getting out the vote on election day.

August 30, 2011

Clown show watch

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 3:04 pm

Via Stuff:

Labour Leader Phil Goff is refusing to accept his party’s poor popularity saying its bad polling is because people aren’t focused on the issues.

He continued to deny rumours he asked his colleagues whether he should stand down as leader.

“People aren’t focused on the issues at the moment and we need to focus on the electorate, on those issues, once the world cup is behind us and the election campaign is underway.”

Meanwhile, in totally unrelated news, Shane Jones was on The Nation last weekend implying that David Cunliffe was behind the recent caucus leaks, and today Trevor Mallard has hinted to gallery journalists that Shane Jones was the culprit*.

Anyway, leadership spat aside, I was more intrigued by these comments made by Jones during his interview with Garner:

Duncan So if you win the seat you have said that you want to play a bigger role in the party?

Shane Sure.

Duncan What sort of role?

Shane Oh no I think that – there’s a couple of things that I’d like to think we can do going forward etc. Number one is never ever be afraid to project why we really exist, but secondly is, there has been a misapprehension grow that we the Labour Party or parties of the left, are parties of big government, and the country doesn’t have an appetite for big government.

Maybe it’s just rhetoric, but I have heard from my own leakers in the Labour Party that Jones is ‘to the right of ACT’, as well as being socially conservative.

The other question to ponder here is why someone – Cunliffe, Jones, whoever – is leaking to undermine their own leader prior to the election. Goff will announce his resignation on election night or a couple of days later – why stab him in the back now?

Is it possible that some of the MPs lower down on the list are in a rival camp to whoever leaked, and that while losing those MPs (Nash, Sepuloni, Davis) might be bad for the party, it’d be highly advantageous for someone with leadership ambitions who doesn’t enjoy their support? Is anyone that devious?

Update: Trevor Mallard insists he was pointing to the men’s room, not Mr Jones’ office as the place where the leak occurred.

The situation

Filed under: economics — danylmc @ 2:53 pm

The Herald reports:

The Earthquake Commission’s Natural Disaster $6 billion fund has been cleaned out, and the Government’s finances have taken an additional $1.3 billion hit as its bill for repairing Canterbury earthquake damage more than doubled this morning.

Finance Minister Bill English this morning announced the Earthquake Commission has increased its estimated Canterbury earthquake liability by $4 billion to $7.1 billion.

The excess above the Natural Disaster Fund will be met directly by the Government worsening what was already forecast to be New Zealand’s worst-ever operating deficit of $16.7 billion.

This puts English in a horrible position. Either he (a) raises taxes, which the Prime Minister will oppose bitterly, (b) introduces an austerity budget in 2012 with massive spending cuts, probably tipping the country back into recession, or (c) does nothing and the ratings agencies downgrade our credit rating.

August 29, 2011

Reductio of the day

Filed under: philosophy — danylmc @ 1:54 pm

Sam Harris boils down the debate about equality, freedom and wealth creation by asking (I paraphrase slightly):

If some future entrepreneur invents a labour saving device that makes them a multi-trillionaire but puts dozens of millions of people out of work, should the government redistribute their private wealth?

Cult of savviness

Filed under: media — danylmc @ 8:22 am

I’ve been reading this speech by media critic Jay Rosen on the dysfunctional nature of political journalism, and one of his criticisms is of the ‘cult of savviness:

In the United States, most of the people who report on politics aren’t trying to advance an ideology. But I think they have an ideology, a belief system that holds their world together and tells them what to report about. It’s not left, or right, or center, really. It’s trickier than that. The name I’ve given to the ideology of our political press is savviness. And I see it in Australia too. When you watch political journalists on a roundtable program summing up the week and looking ahead, what they are usually performing for us is… their savviness.

So let me explain what I mean by that term.  In politics, our journalists believe, it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere, thoughtful or humane.  Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.)

Savviness is that quality of being shrewd, practical, hyper-informed, perceptive, ironic, “with it,” and unsentimental in all things political. And what is the truest mark of savviness? Winning, of course! Or knowing who the winners are.

I would defend the worship of savviness – to a certain extent. Government is hard: it’s not enough for someone to be good, fair, decent etc – they have to be smart. Worthy policies aren’t sufficient – they have to be implemented properly, and if they aren’t then you alienate voters from the values and policies you’re trying to advance. You make it harder for your party to introduce similar policies in the future. Savviness is a key quality, in politicians and the journalists writing about them.

But they do need to understand the basic ideas and value systems behind all the skulduggery and political machinations. For a hilarious counter-example, take a look at the Q & A panel struggling to comment on Guyon Espiner’s interview with Richard Wilkinson, author of The Spirit Level.

Wilkinson’s interview is here – it’s not difficult, just an academic discussing his subject in layman terms. And his thesis isn’t difficult to critique – did he cherry pick the countries he included in his study? But the panel don’t go there – instead they obsess over his performance as an interview subject. You get the feeling that if Wilkerson had received media training and thrown in some jokes about Charlie Sheen they would have been avid converts to his hypothesis.

August 28, 2011

Thoughts on the ACT Party list

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 5:35 pm

Which is here. My first thought is that people like me pay too much attention to the ACT Party. Not only is it very marginal and unpopular, nowadays it only exists as a way for the National Party to scam the electoral system and grift votes from ACT’s old libertarian donor base – and the only way for them to win an electorate is by standing a former National MP. They’re closer to Anderton’s Progressive Party, but they get more press because of the high rate of mental illness in their candidates.

Anyway, that said:

  • Hilary Calvert is not on the list. Her crucial decision to support Brash over Hide doesn’t seem to have played out very well for her. Or, actually for ACT.
  • Don Nicolson is number four. Not likely to get in on current polling. I’d have thought the former president of Federated Farmers could have won a safe seat or a high list spot in the National Party, but I’m guessing Nicolson is just too bat-shit insane. Certainly the new FF spokesperson – who appeared on Q & A this morning – was doing his best to distance himself and his organisation from the public relations catastrophe that was Don Nicolson.
  • John Banks is number five – although he will probably win Epsom by a landslide. I think they’ll get at least three MPs, and the party dynamics will be fascinating. Brash is the leader but Banks will have the only electoral mandate. Brash is a really, really inept politician – and Banks is very accomplished politician, a former Cabinet Minister and former Mayor of Auckland. And Brash is radical – his political goal is to immanentize the eschaton, while Banks is deeply conservative – ideologically he’s further from ACT than John Key, who ACT are supposed to function as a right-wing counter-weight for.
  • Brash has dibbed Minister of Education in the next government. I predict he’ll get Associate Minister tasked with responsibility for something trivial. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him resign after the election ‘in protest’ over some pretext once he realises he’s not going to get to dismantle our school system.

August 26, 2011

Unforseen consequence of the day

Filed under: economics,Politics — danylmc @ 4:24 pm

Via Stuff:

Prime Minister John Key has defended the Government’s decision not to include a minimum price in the alcohol reform legislation.

The Alcohol Reform Bill, which was reported back from select committee yesterday, allows for the collection of data needed to set a minimum price but does not go as far as saying one will be brought in.

The Law Commission identified price as a factor in the problem of binge drinking and recommended this investigation into minimum pricing, with an interim 50% increase in excise tax.

The results from the various modelling exercises all show strong support for the
introduction of a minimum price regime. When “minimum prices” were set below
or at the low end of the purchasing price points they had little impact on reducing
harmful outcomes. But as the level set for a minimum price increases, alcohol-related
hospital deaths and admissions fall, as do alcohol-related crimes.

Young and heavy drinkers prefer lower
cost products, so policies such as minimum pricing (and, less directly, excise tax
increases) which preferentially target low cost alcohol and in particular cheap
or discounted takeaway liquor will affect harmful drinkers proportionately more
than moderate drinkers.

It also mentions ‘loss-leading’ wherein retailers – ie the supermarket duopoly – sell alcohol at below cost to attract customers and increase the prices of products like fruit, vegetables and dairy to offset the loss.

So if we don’t have policies that address this practise, what happens after the election when this government rolls out their benefit card? It seems likely that the only outlets that will update their sales software for the benefit of a few thousand customers will be the supermarkets – so we’ll have policy settings in which the poorest people in the entire country are locked into buying their groceries from outlets that charge a premium to offset the sale of their alcohol – which the beneficiaries won’t be able to buy. So . . . under-age beneficiaries will be subsiding low cost alcohol for the rest of the community?

Surely I’ve made some logical error here?

We’re all socialists now

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:30 am

Well, maybe:

Prime Minister John Key told United States diplomats all New Zealanders have a “socialist streak” and they secretly thought he was a “natural politician”, recent Wikileaks cables show.

Several US diplomatic cables from Wellington address domestic news and political issues.

Key met with visiting charge d’affaire Glyn Davies and told him National could not adopt conservative policies because a “socialist streak” runs through all New Zealanders, the cable said.

It’s useful to remember that a US charge d’affaire is not a therapist or a priest, and conversations with them do not give us a glimpse into the PMs soul. Key might just be saying this because it’s a useful thing to say to a representative from a very right-wing administration.

But lets say Key meant it. Are New Zealanders socialists? In the technical sense of the term, in which all economic capital should be owned by the state – no: hardly anyone in New Zealand endorses this ideology. In the rather loose, modern sense of the term in which anyone who doesn’t hold right-wing economic views is somehow ‘a socialist’, then yeah – most New Zealanders are socialists.

What the modern non-radical left actually believes in is welfare state regulated free market capitalism – but we haven’t come up with a catchy name for that yet so we’re stuck with being called socialists.

August 25, 2011

Or else

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 11:32 am

Via the Herald:

Labour MP Shane Jones has indicated he is weighing up his future in politics if he does not get strong endorsement from Maori voters in November’s general election.

Mr Jones said on Te Kaea on Maori Television he wanted to win the Tamaki Makaurau seat – currently held by Maori Party leader Pita Sharples – and if he did not he would “reconsider my options”.

Asked to clarify his comments by the Herald yesterday, he said winning the seat would give him a strong platform for “future developments” in his political career.

“If that doesn’t come to pass, a whole bunch of other factors have to be weighed up. If I don’t win the seat, then I’ll assess what happens – whether or not I stay on and look to play a more meaningful role in politics, or whatever.”

This is about what happened in the Te Tai Tokurau by-election. The main problem with Kelvin Davis’ campaign was that he was already in Parliament, so voters could cast their vote for Hone Harawira and they’d still have Davis, but if they voted for Davis they lost Harawira.

So Jones is sending a signal that even though he’s a list MP, if the voters of Tamaki Makaurau don’t support him as an electorate MP they won’t get the same ‘two for the price of one’ reward for voting strategically. Although . . . they probably will because the only reason you issue a threat this deliberately vague is so you can go back on it after the election.

You’ve been cold to me so long I’m crying icicles instead of tears

Filed under: blogging,Politics — danylmc @ 7:41 am

Clare Curran issues an apology. Not a politician’s apology – ‘I’m sorry if you choose to be offended’ – a real person’s apology!

 . . . it’s important to acknowledge mistakes. I made one this week. For that I apologise. It was never my intention to argue entitlement to a share of the votes.

I have to earn votes. Whether it be personally or for the Party. And I’ll be judged, along with everyone else standing on November 26.

Bravo Clare. I guess when you see Cactus Kate speaking out in your defence it’s a strong sign you’ve gone beyond the pale of acceptable adult behaviour.

And on the subject of social media faux pas, Stuff reports:

ACT has appointed a former adviser to Rodney Hide as its election campaign manager, fuelling suggestions of further turmoil in the party.

Stuart Wilson was appointed by the party’s campaign director and parliamentary leader John Boscawen this week, to replace Karen Bridgman.

Ms Bridgman was an out-of-Parliament adviser to Mr Boscawen from 2008 before becoming an assistant to Dr Brash.

But she was forced to explain comments posted on her Facebook page last month which read: “I love helping dysfunctional organisations. Some, however, are beyond saving and should be left to die.”

Just yesterday I was thinking about writing a satirical piece: ‘Apolitical web developer one angry resignation away from becoming ACT’s campaign manager’.

Update: After posting I had a hankering to listen to the Meatloaf song referenced in the title. I love the video:

And the top comment in the youtube thread from ‘peatloaf':

2 of my children were conceived to this song, There is no and will never be performer like this man

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