The Dim-Post

July 24, 2013

More noise

Filed under: blogging,books,Politics — danylmc @ 9:07 am

Yes, it’s been a while between posts. Not so much because of the novel (thanks again to everyone who came to the party and/or bought the book. Sales have been brisk. Reviews have been great.) but because I’ve been reading Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise and one of the comments in it – about the surfeit of information about the political process means that  political commentators tend to just pick the datapoints that confirm their pre-existing biases – hit close to home. That’s me! And most everyone else on the blogosphere. I’d like to do more OIA based stories, more data analysis and more satire, but I really don’t have time for any of that stuff. So maybe I should just shut the fuck up?

I’m still meditating on these issues. In the mean-time I’ve updated the tracking poll. nzpolls20130724

(This chart corrects for poll bias – just like Nate Silver! – the code to generate it was writter by Peter Green. You can see a non bias corrected chart here. Note how the aggregated curves for National and NZ First are miles away from the actual election results?)

Labour are losing votes to National, and they’ve lost them during the period of time in which the GCSB bill was introduced and the Sky-City deal signed off. They should be winning, not losing. Shearer has responded by replacing his Chief of Staff with Fran Mold, his former press secretary, and Labour’s MPs are leaking to the gallery that his leadership is under threat if he doesn’t reverse this downward trend.

I don’t have any close contacts within Labour these days, but the second-hand gossip I hear is that staff morale is very low, there’s no longer any expectation they’ll be in government next term and there’s very little respect for the senior MPs currently dominating the party, who are seen as chronic underperformers (Annette King – elected to Parliament thirty years ago – was billed as a superstar Health opposition spokesperson when Shearer reshuffled at the start of the year. How’s that working out?)

Changing the CoS doesn’t seem likely to fix the party’s problems, but neither does changing the leader, unless its accompanied by more drastic change.

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35 Comments »

  1. More satire. You’re good at it. There’s no shortage of straight political blogs – hell, one or two new ones probably started in the time its taken me to make this comment.

    But although The Civilian and a couple of others are showing a recrudescence [I have been waiting for a chance all month to use that word] of satire in NZ, there’s still plenty of scope.

    Comment by Rob Hosking — July 24, 2013 @ 9:13 am

  2. This chart corrects for poll bias – just like Nate Silver!

    No… not it doesn’t.
    To be fair to you and Peter, it’s more a reflection of lack of NZ data rather than anything you’re actively doing to manipulate said data.

    Comment by Phil — July 24, 2013 @ 9:32 am

  3. I used to bang on about Labour’s failings and now everyone’s doing it. Makes it harder to be contrary.

    It was mostly that I thought they were all a bunch of deceitful, talent-less opportunists but now I’m actually worried about the consequences of not having a functioning opposition. Or is that just concern trolling.

    Comment by NeilM — July 24, 2013 @ 9:32 am

  4. That is a little harsh regarding Annette King, she has had more traction than the non-identity she replaced but in general you are right if that is the answer then the wrong questions are being asked

    Comment by Raymond A Francis — July 24, 2013 @ 9:32 am

  5. ^ No… no it doesn’t.

    (eugh)

    Comment by Phil — July 24, 2013 @ 9:32 am

  6. “…the surfeit of information about the political process means that political commentators tend to just pick the datapoints that confirm their pre-existing biases – hit close to home. That’s me!”

    Well – that’s everyone who isn’t Nate Silver (or equivalent). But … so what? It’s only a problem if you are purporting to use those datapoints to objectively predict a future outcome (like Silver does). If you’re simply presenting “the world according to Danyl”, what does it matter?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — July 24, 2013 @ 9:46 am

  7. Oh … also, was your copy of Silver’s book as full of annoying typos/mislabelled graphs/etc as my one was?

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — July 24, 2013 @ 9:49 am

  8. The amount of resignation and broken spirited lefties that are around the blogosphere at the moment gives me a boner.

    Comment by King King — July 24, 2013 @ 10:08 am

  9. “…The amount of resignation and broken spirited lefties that are around the blogosphere at the moment gives me a boner…”

    Personally I rely on an attractive woman for that, but I guess the cold showers and all boy boarding schools the right wingers prefer can do strange things to a fellows sexuality.

    Stick with the satire Danyl, your satire is of a particularly Swiftian kind that has carved it’s own unique place.

    The long term threat of incumbency protection of under performing and aging time servers in the Labour Party caucus was identified at the time of the publication of the 2011 Labour party list, and the predictions have been proven so in spades. I am increasingly leaning towards a split in Labour, with an impatient party membership trying to seize control back from the parliamentary caucus and passing remits that are designed to force out the old Rogernomes.

    Comment by Sanctuary — July 24, 2013 @ 11:13 am

  10. Maybe the public don’t mind the 1000 jobs and shiny new convention centre, same deal that labour did 10 years ago. Perhaps if they said “this is a great deal for hard working traddies to earn some good coin”. The GCSB bill is on no ones radar, the power policy is just shocking etc etc. all of Labours stances and policies are the Greens position. To top it off they want a capital gains tax. If they keep following the Greens then its not surprising their polling will follow.

    Comment by David — July 24, 2013 @ 11:43 am

  11. @David 10

    Polls (noisy or not) consistently show support for the opposition’s policies far ahead of the main opposition party and its leader. You cite four examples – the convention centre deal, GCSB, CGT and the power policy. But you are wrong on all four (evidence: recent Herald Digipolls, TV3, Colmar Brunton/TVNZ polls etc … all showing majority support for the positions you dismiss, and all available online). It’s abundantly clear the Labour messenger is more unpopular than the message.

    Feel free to write more fiction, but Danyl does it better.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — July 24, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

  12. Why don’t you include New Zealand’s 5th highest polling party? The Conservatives are polling higher this year than they were last year, and at the election got more votes than half of the parties in parliament.

    Comment by Steve — July 24, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

  13. Annette King lost her enthusiasm for parliamentary politics a while ago. I’d like her to contest the Wellington mayoralty, but I think certain factions are more worried about her replacement and the shenanigans that could bring. So she stays in Parliament, ripping new ones into Health Ministers. Or lack thereof.

    Comment by Auto_Immune — July 24, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

  14. “Changing the CoS doesn’t seem likely to fix the party’s problems, but neither does changing the leader, unless its accompanied by more drastic change.”

    Unfortunately, stripping away an entire generation of senior MPs is almost impossible to do without a mass shooting. It’s not even a matter of making the right decision – people like Mallard and King have a powerful internal constituency which will resist their replacement. Saying ‘Labour needs to regenerate its leadership and show unity’ is telling it to do two contradictory things.

    And Danyl, as someone who’s been a pretty harsh critic of some of your serious stuff, I have to agree. I won’t tell you to go back to being a purely satire blog, but I do think you often claim an empirical mandate for your opinions that isn’t justified. Every commentator wants to be Nate Silver, but few are. (Hell, even Nate Silver only became Nate Silver through some good luck)

    Comment by Hugh — July 24, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

  15. @Sammy With Sky City I guess it’s how you ask the question. “Auckland has reduced pokie machine numbers by 6000 over the last decade and for just 230 more with increased monitoring for gambling addiction NZ will get a 400 million dollar convention centre, a 1000 new jobs, 90 million more in tourist spending at no cost to the taxpayer do you support the deal”
    “NZ has a gambling problem that affects 6000 families a year, do you support a new convention centre being built in return for vastly expanded gambling opportunities ”
    The difficulty I have with polls is they never tell you the details of the question,,having experienced a Colmar Brunton call that was frankly outrageous I am a little sceptical that many people oppose the convention centre, support CGT or care that much about the GCSB.

    Comment by David — July 24, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

  16. @David I know Colmar Brunton have the full wording of the poll questions in the report on their web site, possibly the others do as well.

    Comment by Dave — July 24, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

  17. but I think certain factions are more worried about her replacement and the shenanigans that could bring.

    Indeed. I predict a carpet-bagging Jacinda Ardern in Rongotai – IMO a good thing as it should galvanise the Green vote + left(ish) electorate to fight free of the voter-deathgrip of that stinking, bloated corpse that is the zombie NZLP

    Comment by Gregor W — July 24, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

  18. David – I guess you didn’t read Treasury’s analysis that called bullshit on all those numbers then.

    To save you the trouble of looking, a couple of choice quotes:

    “Public costs will only go to private gain”
    “Treasury has strong concerns that private benefits to SkyCity will exceed public benefits to New Zealanders.”

    Comment by Gregor W — July 24, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

  19. @Hugh…

    Is it not obvious that all/most of Danyl’s claims to an empirical mandate to his various opinions are satire.

    Comment by RJL — July 24, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

  20. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

    Comment by Hugh — July 24, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

  21. This is bad for Phil Goff!

    Comment by andy (the other one) — July 24, 2013 @ 8:52 pm

  22. I’d like to do more OIA based stories, more data analysis and more satire, but I really don’t have time for any of that stuff.

    What happened to all the Dim-Post Staff Reporters you used to have? Sounds like they really dropped the ball.

    Comment by Phil — July 25, 2013 @ 11:07 am

  23. What happened to all the Dim-Post Staff Reporters you used to have? Sounds like they really dropped the ball.

    I hit my head on a branch and when I woke up they were gone.

    Comment by danylmc — July 25, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

  24. We vote satire and more Labour ridiculing. You know back to the classic gold.

    Comment by TransportationDevice A7-98.1 — July 25, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

  25. >Labour are losing votes to National, and they’ve lost them during the period of time in which the GCSB bill was introduced and the Sky-City deal signed off. They should be winning, not losing.

    Well, it is entirely possible that Labour voters are becoming more conservative all by themselves. It’s an aging demographic after all. The grand confluence of people who have all the money and jobs and a big chunk of the welfare too.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — July 25, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

  26. @Ben: A tempting demographic argument, but hard so sustain. Not only is the shift to short-term to be exchanged by generational ageing, the ‘people are getting older and more conservative’ dynamic has been going on for centuries. If it was that decisive, Labour’s voted would have disappeared generations ago.

    Comment by Hugh — July 25, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

  27. >If it was that decisive, Labour’s voted would have disappeared generations ago.

    Population distribution is not a particularly even thing in the western world. There is a large clump of people who form a demographic bulge, which moves the voting center that the main powerbrokers aim for. This bulge is not just “aging”, it’s actually “old”. So the natural slide to conservatism due to aging may be coming on a little harder than usual at the moment. When a population is growing rapidly due to births (rather than immigration) then there will actually be more young people than old fairly quickly. NZ is not in this situation.

    I don’t think Labour will last too much longer as the dominant second party. Maybe another 15-20 years? When the tipping point comes, it often comes fast. I think they will fragment. In fact, I hope they fragment, it would be better for the Left if they do. Their progressive movement, spawned in the last Great Depression, achieved most of the things it was aiming for, but it was built for the industrial revolution, not the information revolution. They’re still predicated around an economic model that has had its day. Socially, they achieved a lot. That’s probably the most important legacy.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — July 25, 2013 @ 8:52 pm

  28. “This bulge is not just “aging”, it’s actually “old”. So the natural slide to conservatism due to aging may be coming on a little harder than usual at the moment.”

    By ‘at the moment’ you mean ‘in the last few weeks’, right? Because that’s the framework in which this drop in Labour support we’re discussing has occurred.

    Comment by Hugh — July 25, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

  29. Nope my comment is about the long run. The short terms ups and downs are pretty damned minor. I don’t think an aged demographic cares that much about the chances of their internet messages being spied on, and the Sky dealing is mostly of interest to wonks.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — July 25, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

  30. Well, you brought it up in the context of the discussion of short term trends, so I think the rest of us can be forgiven that you were trying to answer the question that had been posed, not another question.

    But leaving that aside, I still think you’re wrong. Has there been a long-term trend away from Labour that can’t be explained by the electoral cycle? Bear in mind that Labour’s result last time, generally seen as abysmally poor, is only half a percentage point worse than it was in 1996.

    Comment by Hugh — July 25, 2013 @ 11:04 pm

  31. Labour failing to capitalize on National’s mistakes is not a short term trend.

    > Bear in mind that Labour’s result last time, generally seen as abysmally poor, is only half a percentage point worse than it was in 1996.

    Proportionally, quite a lot more people voted in that election, so yeah, that time they got their arses whooped in the 90s? This is worse than that.

    >I think the rest of us can be forgiven that you were trying to answer the question that had been posed, not another question.

    The rest of you being the other 2 Hughs? What question was posed? Where? I quoted what I was answering, that Labour’s failure to prevent vote hemorrhage to National is perhaps not just because the party is weak as shite, but also because the traditional core of people who have stuck to that party are actually now wondering if there really is anything in it for them, since National is at least open and honest about the fact that they will protect the elderly and owners of property from any possible economic harm.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — July 26, 2013 @ 12:43 am

  32. I don’t feel like going back through the discussion and arguing about what was actually being discussed, and as I say I’m willing to talk about this on its own terms, so forgive me if I don’t engage the last part.

    Anyway, while turnout in 2011 was certainly low, it was an across-the-board phenomenon. Habitual Labour supporters didn’t fail to turn out in greater numbers than habitual National supporters. I don’t think one can place the blame for poor turnout solely on Labour.

    And hey, if you think Labour is failing to capitalise on National’s mistakes, I agree! (Kind of). But unless you believe Labour’s failure to capitalise is a product of its supporters moving right due to generational changes, well, I think you’re arguing against yourself?

    Comment by Hugh — July 26, 2013 @ 3:00 am

  33. Habitual Labour supporters didn’t fail to turn out in greater numbers than habitual National supporters.

    I’m not sure that this assumption has been actually tested Hugh.
    I believe at the time Bryce Edwards said it’s effectively impossible to know.

    Comment by Gregor W — July 26, 2013 @ 9:42 am

  34. “…about the surfeit of information about the political process means that political commentators tend to just pick the datapoints that confirm their pre-existing biases – hit close to home…”

    Giving up political commentary because of this comment from Silver is IMHO akin to deciding not to coach the Kilburnie under 13s because you’ve not got the insight of Steve Hansen. Just as not everyone can be Hansen, so not everyone should expect to be Nate Silver. But it doesn’t make your contribution to our corner of the world any less valuable :)

    Comment by Sanctuary — July 26, 2013 @ 10:27 pm

  35. >I don’t feel like going back through the discussion and arguing about what was actually being discussed

    Neither did I, until you suggested that I was somehow missing the “question that had been posed”.

    >I’m not sure that this assumption has been actually tested Hugh.
    >I believe at the time Bryce Edwards said it’s effectively impossible to know.

    Yup, I’ve got my story, which is that the young people who aren’t voting would in the past have been a core Labour constituency. Now, they aren’t.

    > But unless you believe Labour’s failure to capitalise is a product of its supporters moving right due to generational changes, well, I think you’re arguing against yourself?

    I don’t follow any of that. What I’m saying is that because Labour is failing to widen its appeal to younger people, its demographic is aging and shrinking.

    I would love it if they would actually widen their appeal but I don’t think they can. Their core is old, their members are old, the party is old. The ideas behind it are old. The people running it are old. The whole machine thinks like an old person.

    The ideas of fairness and equity and the importance of hard work were nurtured in a time when there was very low unemployment, so just turning up at the docks as a pair of hands during a break between (free) educational jaunts, and getting paid a decent living wage, was a viable option, and the education led to an excellently remunerated career. Now, the education is expensive and possible only through indebtedness, the jobs to fund it aren’t there, and the outcome is that being well educated is so commoditized that it doesn’t guarantee you any kind of work afterward. The idea that even the most high level brain-work is now outsourcible to well educated people in the third world, or can be implemented on a cheap machine, is not an idea that Labour’s form of socialism was ever built for.

    The irony is that this situation is actually really awesome, except for the poverty. A world where everyone is educated as much as they want, and where work is paid for more for being hard than because it is something only the upper classes can learn how to do, is a much improved world on 100 years ago. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it – socialism’s only real hope from now is to to decouple remuneration from work. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution this has always been the end-game, but it’s never been reached because always there was work for the privileged, sustained in value by its difficult access, and justified because of the context of the “investment” that it required. Now that’s all leveled out, and we’re falling backwards to the main difference in classes actually coming down to capital ownership again. Labour have no answers, because they are predicated around labour, they are even named after it. And labour is devaluing at an accelerating rate.

    We are at a time when the main thing that we need to change is ourselves, what we value, and how we value it. We’ve done a fantastic job of setting the world up for humanity in a purely technical way, but our social organization lags behind and is even regressing because of that.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — July 27, 2013 @ 3:41 pm


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