The Dim-Post

September 9, 2011

Just so you know

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 8:37 am

We’ve all had the experience of being trapped with a bore – sitting next to one on a plane, or at a wedding or in their taxi, or wherever. And they browbeat you about some subject they’re obsessed with but you have no interest in. Cars. Conspiracy theories. Apple products. The politics at their office. And you just want to read your book, or go to sleep or talk to someone else – but they won’t shut up! You can’t get away from it!

That’s what the Rugby World Cup is like for those of us who don’t care about rugby. For the next six weeks. Spare some sympathy for us.

September 7, 2011

Complex tapestry

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 10:06 pm

I’m not an expert, but I wonder if there’s some kind of link between our high youth suicide rate and the fact that some of our schools let students sexually assault each other with screwdrivers and pairs of scissors?

One percent

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 8:58 pm

Robert Winter is discussing the Urewera 18 with (heh) Chris Trotter. Here’s an excerpt from Trotter’s argument:

Liberal democratic states are accutely vulnerable to terrorist attack precisely because they hesitate to launch preventative measures against citizens who have yet to commit an actual offence.

The Terrorism Suppression Act was intended to address this problem.

I think you’d find that the public have very little time for all the legal niceities when they’re watching firemen and ambulance officers carrying away the bodies of the victims of a terrorist attack.

The questions they’d put to the Police at such a moment are: “Why, if you had been monitoring these people for 12 months, did you sit back and do nothing? Why did you let this happen?”

What would you offer them, Robert, by way of an answer?

The presumption of innocence?

There’s a really famous name for this argument. It’s called ‘The One Percent Doctrine’, and it was cited by former US Vice President Dick Cheney. The logic is that the consequences of terrorism are so terrible that even a low probability terror event must be treated as a certainty and responded to accordingly. Cheney used this argument as a pretext for the invasion of Iraq, which cost his country at least $2 trillion dollars and the lives of four and a half-thousand troops, a catastrophe that nicely illustrates the flaw in this argument: repeated over-reaction to low probability events will inevitably do more damage than the events they’re trying to prevent.

How appropriate that Urewera means ‘burned penis’

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 9:47 am

Lest we forget, the ‘Urewera 18′ were members of groups that espoused a revolutionary ideology, and they were running around in the bush ‘training’ with firearms, and speculating about assassinations – it is the job of the state security services to keep an eye on people like that.

But it’s also their job to accurately asses the threat these people pose and to respond appropriately – they got that wrong in just about every way imaginable, set back race relations, made themselves look like fools and wasted at least a million dollars of our money. And nobody apologises. Nobody resigns. Nobody gets fired.

We now know that the Urewera groups were just one of many left-wing organisations that the police and intelligence services were spying on in our recent past. They were also monitoring unions, environmental groups, poverty and beneficiary rights groups, anti GE groups and animal welfare groups – ie any broadly left-wing activist organisation.

And about the same time all of this was happening neo-nazi groups around New Zealand were highly active, attacking mosques, desecrating jewish graves at cemeteries, assaulting immigrants – and nobody ever got arrested for any of these crimes. Almost as if the police intelligence unit had absolutely no oversight into the activities of these highly dangerous hate groups.

August 20, 2011

Lede of the day

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 6:46 pm

Wife killer Malcolm Webster has reportedly hired a paedophile wrestler to protect him in prison.

Currently the top story on Stuff. You’ll want to check out the photos.

Anticlimax of the day

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 8:09 am

A couple of weeks ago the HoS ran a story about the lavish culture at the now defunct Securities Commission, and some people (mostly me) got excited about the $12,000 SecCom spent on massages. So I OIA’d the new Financial Management Authority for details of this expenditure. It’s not as salacious as you’d fear/hope:

The receipts reveal that these were 20 therapeutic minute massage sessions (the rest of the $12,000 was spent on a similar service at the Auckland office), the number indicating that most SecCom employees used the perk.

August 10, 2011

Disagreeing with people

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 3:59 pm

I/S condemns Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms, in which beneficiaries regularly reapply for the unemployment benefit. The policy is aimed at reducing benefit fraud and overpayment:

The (not very-) subtext: “all beneficiaries are fraudsters, and we’re going to do something about it”. The economy’s in the can, times are hard, they’ve got no plan to make things better, so they’re going to focus on othering those in need and scapegoating the victims, whipping up the very social divisions which are currently seeing cities burn overseas.

I haven’t taken a close look at these reforms, but if they’re working as described – ie leading to a reduction in the number of people defrauding the welfare system – then they are a successful left-wing policy initiative. They’re improving the efficacy of the welfare state, and making sure its limited resources are targeted to those in genuine need. You can make the argument that they stigmatise welfare recipients – my response is that it’s more important for the taxpayers funding the  system to have confidence that their money is being spent wisely.

On the other side of the ideological spectrum, Matt Nolan disagrees with the left-wing analysis of the UK riots, in which they’re a class-based crisis of capitalism:

In this context, I find the comments of Nina Power in the Guardian not just distasteful, but sickening.  She lays the blame for these riots not on the shoulders of selfish individuals, but on capitalism and on society . . .

Truly, it is not the free market system we have that requires wholesale change, it is the victim mentality of people in society that needs to change – we can only have a “better society” when the individuals within it are willing to take responsibility for their actions.

Do I believe there is injustice and inequity within society, within institutions, and within government – yes.  But the solution needs to be built from individual responsibility and mutual respect, not the arbitrarily defined institutional structure suggested by intellectuals and columnists.

If you’re going to blame the riots on ‘selfish individuals’ then you need to explain why there are selfish individuals in Crydon and Totenham but not Chelsea or Knightsbridge – is any plausible explanation going to preclude equity and class? And why are these selfish individuals rioting now? One of my readers suggested:

The British have avoided the political stasis of the US, which enabled them to implement policies to avoid the EMU sovereign debt crises, which have unfortunately impacted on the British young, who have rioted.

And just to restate a point I’ve made before. Matt suggests ‘individual responsibility’ as a solution to these problems. But asking people so irresponsible that they’re out torching police stations and looting consumer electronics stores to just ‘be more responsible’ is not a serious solution. Sure, things would be better if irresponsible people were responsible, and disrespectful people were respectful, but that’s like solving  public health problems by suggesting that people should be well instead of sick.

August 9, 2011

Maybe blogging about it will stop me from humming ‘Hang the DJ’

Filed under: art,general news — danylmc @ 2:13 pm

I don’t have many deep thoughts on the London riots. The political situation is that the wealthiest sector of society wrecked their economy and the burden of paying for it is falling on the poorest, and there’s an obvious injustice there. But I don’t think the gangs of teenagers looting Footlocker stores are really motivated by issues of equity.

Also, I like this AP photo of a burning bus. If Turner painted pictures of 21st century looting epidemics I think they’d look like this:

August 2, 2011

Whaddarya?

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 4:11 pm

It’s an endlessly repeated maxim in our national culture that real New Zealanders are fanatical about rugby and worship the All-Blacks, which is a little tedious if, like me, you’re a New Zealander with no interest in rugby whatsoever, for whom the All-Blacks are just a bunch of interchangeable TV-advertising shills for breakfast cereals or sports shoes.

So I was interested to read the results of this UMR survey:

Many New Zealanders are immune to Rugby World Cup fever, with only four in 10 looking forward to the upcoming tournament, a survey has found.

The UMR online survey, which questioned 850 New Zealanders aged 18 years or over in late July, found Kiwis had mixed feelings about the seven-week tournament.

The poll showed 37 percent of Kiwis were keen for the Rugby World Cup to kick-off, while 35 percent were not looking forward to it and 29 percent were neutral.

UMR said enthusiasm was particularly low in Canterbury, with just 16 percent saying they were looking forward to the event.

I’ve long suspected that the ‘all New Zealanders are rugby mad’ trope is linked to the fact that most of the senior news editors I’ve met happen to be older white men who form the core of that genuinely rugby-mad demographic.

Not that I’m against the game, or the RWC. It should bring in some extra cash for the economy, which is a good thing. But I’m unlikely to buy a newspaper or watch the news for the two month duration of the event, and I’m dreading the toxic amounts of fake nationalist idiocy coming our way and the implied rebuke that you’re not a real New Zealander if you don’t buy into it.

The Letterman appearance and the efficacy of advertising

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 9:04 am

Via the Herald:

A public relations firm was paid $10,000 to broker John Key’s appearance on the Letterman Show – a deal Tourism NZ says is well worth the money.

The Prime Minister confirmed yesterday the United States-based public relations company lobbied for the 2009 appearance in which he read out a jokey top 10 reasons to visit NZ.

The company – Hill & Knowlton – was hired by Tourism NZ two months before Mr Key’s appearance. It subsequently brokered the 2010 filming visit to New Zealand of America’s Next Top Model judge Tyra Banks and the Biggest Loser filming early this year.

Okay. So we’re spending money to promote tourism. At $10,000 you only need to persuade one or two additional families to visit New Zealand and you’ve recovered your costs.

But I note that tourist visits from the US have declined over the last four years. Global financial crisis, weakening dollar: you could argue that visitor numbers would have declined more if Key had never gone on Letterman and Tyra Banks never came here, but the null hypothesis is that these gimmicks have zero impact on tourist numbers, and are basically a waste of money unless proved otherwise.

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