Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this weekend:
- Inequality: the status of inequality in New Zealand isn’t controversial. We underwent a huge rise in inequality during the 1980s and 1990s. It dipped slightly under the Clark/Cullen government and its jumped around a bit under National. New Zealand (arguably) saw the largest increase in inequality of any OECD country since the 1970s.
- MMP. We have the Mixed Member Proportional electoral system. It’s mostly a good thing, but many of the other unequal OECD countries – and all of the anglo countries that we compare ourselves to – have FPP style electoral systems that are dominated by two large parties.
- If you’re a very high net-worth individual – the number of which will increase as your society gets more unequal – and you want to influence the political system in an FPP nation you’re pretty much stuck doing so through the two dominant political parties, and if your agenda or policy needs are outside the window of what’s palatable for those mainstream parties you’re out of luck.
- But MMP happens to be a system where (a) small parties can make it into government, and (b) they can have a disproportionately large impact on a government’s policy agenda if they can position themselves into a kingmaker role.
- So while Kim Dotcom and Colin Craig and their self-funded political parties seem like weird highly individual cases, I wonder if they’re symptoms of two converging trends: increased inequality and increased electoral proportionality.
- Most businesses and many wealthy individuals who want to influence the political system can do so through lobbying and donating to Labour and National, but for an increasing number of the very odd/very rich, setting up your own party becomes a much more viable, rational way to influence policy.
- I don’t believe many (or any?) of the other countries New Zealand likes to compare itself to have this interesting combination of high inequality and electoral proportionality, so this might be a problem that’s unique to us.
This Herald piece by John Roughan about waiting to see the royals drive by:
We waited only 15 minutes past the scheduled time of arrival, 45 in total, a millisecond in royalist time.
Then, noise and fluttering flags down Jellicoe St said they were coming. First came police bikes, then a police car, another, followed by a real car. Could that be it? Hard to see through tinted windows. No.
The next Crown limo was the one. She was on our side of the car and not just waving, leaning forward, looking happy to see us all, really waving, genuinely smiling.
The cars had not stopped. She passed in a second. We would have seen far more on television but there is something about the briefest glimpse of real life that you never forget.
Reminded me of a famous passage from Delillo’s White Noise:
We drove 22 miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the sign started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were 40 cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides — pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.
“No one sees the barn,” he said finally.
A long silence followed.
“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”
He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.
We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”
There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.
“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.”
Another silence ensued.
“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said.
Via Andrea Vance at Fairfax:
Here’s a heads-up to staff in Chris Finlayson’s office – he is passionate that they should not sloppily split infinitives, or use Oxford commas.
Ten pages of guidelines have emerged, setting out the language the culture minister expects officials to use in correspondence and briefing papers.
It is accompanied by speech-writing instructions, with a list of more than 20 banned expressions.
Some people care about grammar and syntax because they love language and care about clarity of expression. Others are pedantic bores who derive some sad but creepy pleasure out of running around lecturing everyone on how they’re allowed to write and speak. Getting upset about split infinitives is a flashing warning sign that you’re in the second group. Here’s David Foster-Wallace on language and grammar nerds or, as he terms them, SNOOTS, and the split infinitive.
This is probably the place for your SNOOT reviewer openly to concede that a certain number of traditional prescriptive rules really are stupid and that people who insist on them (like the legendary assistant to PM. Margaret Thatcher who refused to read any memo with a split infinitive in it, or the jr.-high teacher I had who automatically graded you down if you started a sentence with Hopefully) are that very most pathetic and dangerous sort of SNOOT, the SNOOT Who Is Wrong. The injunction against split infinitives, for instance, is a consequence of the weird fact that English grammar is modeled on Latin even though Latin is a synthetic language and English is an analytic language. Latin infinitives consist of one word and are impossible to as it were split, and the earliest English Prescriptivists — so enthralled with Latin that their English usage guides were actually written in Latin — decided that English infinitives shouldn’t be split either.
Also telling: Thatcher fan-boy Finlayson has added the word ‘community’ to his list of banned terms.
Chris Trotter muses on Peter Dunne’s downfall.
These extraordinary events have the shape and feel of a very old and tragic tale. The bones of the story may be found in the mythology of every culture, but I first encountered it in the legends of King Arthur and the Round Table. There it is called the tale of Merlin and Vivien.
It gets so much worse.
Every now and then I hear someone in my liberal, left-wing enclave (either real-life or online) wonder at National’s enduring popularity in the polls and question as to why anyone still supports them. Well, the Al Nisbet cartoons and the widespread public support for them are a pretty awesome explanation.
There’s a large – mostly white, predominantly male, generally older – section of the population for whom unemployment, child poverty, Maori and Pacific educational under-achievement and poverty related diseases simply don’t exist as problems. To them the real issue facing the country is welfare-bludging and the vast unproductive class of brown people living lives of lavish indolence, drinking and smoking and gambling in their taxpayer funded homes crowded with expensive consumer electronics. When you think like that, the idea of spending more money to feed the already spoiled children of welfare-bludgers is simply risible. Hence Nisbet’s cartoons and all the online comments and vox-pops agreeing that the state shouldn’t provide breakfasts for poor children because ‘parental responsibility’ and that Nisbet’s cartoons ‘represent a reality’.
Speaking of reality. According to the latest MSD benefit fact sheets (which tell us, incidentally, that the majority of welfare beneficiaries are Pakeha) there are about 2000 people recieving an Invalid’s benefit who are caring for dependent children aged under six years.
Let’s be conservative and assume that there are that many again caring for children between six and twelve and that they’re caring for 1.5 children each and you have 3000 primary school children right there who are growing up in poverty while being cared for by a person suffering from a physical and/or mental illness.
I think it’s safe to assume that these children are over-represented in the cohort of kids who are turning up to school without food. We keep hearing that the solution to this problem is ‘parental responsibility’, not state (or corporate) welfare. But it’s not the fault of these children they were born to parents with depression or schizophrenia or a painful skeletal-muscular disorder that requires that parent to remain heavily medicated. And those parents can’t just magically stop suffering from chronic diseases that compromise their ability to care for their children. Most parents love their kids – if they would they could.
There’s no actual proof that Nisbet’s bludgers exist. The children enumerated in the MSD Benefit fact sheets do exist – but this is where the idiocy of welfare-bludger rhetoric has bought us. People literally want children growing up in conditions of terrible poverty to go hungry because of their commitment to a race-based political fantasy.
Via Scoop, Susan Devoy’s statement on the racist Al Nisbet cartoons published by Fairfax:
Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says a cartoon published in newspapers is sadly insensitive to the issue of children living in poverty.
She says, “This is not particularly clever and many will find it hurtful and offensive. The worst aspect, in my opinion, is that it stigmatises efforts to address the situation that sees too many of our children living in poverty.
“Beyond that, it is glaringly obvious that the cartoon portrays Māori or Pacific as the butt of its attempted humour. Using such negative stereotypes in this way is insulting and derogatory in the extreme. “
We’ll see how it plays out, but Devoy could be an unexpectedly effective Race Relations Commissioner. If even the totally unqualified, unengaged Devoy thinks you’re a racist then that’s pretty damning.
Nisbet has defended his art thus:
Obviously the cartoon worked. It got reaction. You’ve got to push the envelope otherwise you have namby pamby PC cartoons.
We seem to be perpetually blessed with a glut of old, white men who demonstrate their bravery by mocking the poor, ethnic minorities and other stigmitised groups in the name of taking a stand against ‘political correctness’.
NZX data on Contact Energy’s share price, which – according to Matthew Hooton and the Herald’s Liam Dann has suffered an unprecedented form of destruction in the wake of the Labour Green power policy announcement:
So Contact’s shares are at their lowest level for like, seven weeks! And still way above their historic average! Hooton is paid to regurgitate preposterous bullshit, and he’s pretty great at his job, but the Herald’s business editor should be a little less gullible.
Via Radio New Zealand:
Customs Minister Maurice Williamson says he is extremely worried about what 3D printers will do to border security.
Mr Williamson says the printers are actually manufacturers of products and 3D computer files can be emailed or downloaded from the internet.
He says household printers will soon be able to produce drugs and weapons, and the country’s borders are extremely vulnerable.
“If people could print off … sheets of Ecstasy tablets at the party they’re at at that time that just completely takes away our border protection role in its known sense.”
Mr Williamson says the printers will become as common as PCs and he has asked his officials to think hard about how to keep up with this kind of technology.
I’d have liked to have overheard the conversation between Williamson’s officials in the taxi-ride back to their Ministry.
Inspired by this op-ed on Stuff by Otago Law Professor Rex Ahdar, Mclauchlan’s law states that if you make an argument against gay marriage and look like a vile racist if you replace the words ‘gay’ with ‘inter-racial’ then it’s not a valid argument.
States recognise marriage; they do not invent it.
Gay Interracial marriage proponents will argue that defines marriage so as to exclude gay interracial couples, a neat trick that fools no- one.
Not so. Recall their key claim:
gay interracial couples deserve equal legal recognition.
That is an empty argument. To insist upon equality is to require that “like things be treated alike”.
Gay Inter-racial couples should not be permitted to marry because they lack the essential traits that constitute true (conjugal) marriage.
We may treat
gay interracial couples the same as heterosexual homogeneous couples when it comes to property division, pensions, inheritance and so on, but not when it comes to marriage.