The Dim-Post

September 18, 2014

Election predictions and uncertainties and strategic voting

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 12:29 pm

I reckon:

  • National will get between 42 and 44%
  • Labour will get between 22 and 24%
  • Greens will get between 13 and 15%
  • New Zealand First will get between 7 and 9%
  • Before today I thought the Conservatives would get somewhere between 5 and 7%. But with the resignation of Colin Craig’s press secretary two days out and the inevitable whiff of scandal around that, I think that there’s a chance that the news coverage tonight or tomorrow could put him back under 5%.

I don’t know about:

  • The strategic electorates. I have this vague notion that this might be an ‘anti-strategic’ election in which voters get rid of Harawira in Te Tai Tokurau, ACT in Epsom and Dunne in Ohariu. I don’t really know why I think that though.
  • Advance voting. What does the massive increase in advanced voting mean? Have all the parties run ‘Get Out the Advance Vote campaigns and cancelled each other out, or will this advantage some parties over others?
  • GOTV campaigns on the day. Have Internet/Mana spent their pile of money wisely? Will they mobilize loads of young potentially non-voters in Auckland?

I voted today at the VUW advanced voting booth. I voted for the Greens and (strategically!) cast my electorate vote for the Labour candidate in Ohariu. But as I contemplated the ballot boxes for the other Wellington electorates I reflected that if left-wing Hutt South voters cast their electorate vote for the National candidate and Trevor Mallard loses Hutt South, then Labour will get a  list MP who will – probably – actually give a shit about the Labour Party. Vote out Mallard and you might save, say, Jacinda Ardern. AND in three years time you’ll get a new Labour electorate MP you can vote for who also, hopefully, will give a shit about their own party.  So that’s a strategic vote worth considering.

September 17, 2014

Brief Winston Peters predictions for the record

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 5:27 pm

If he’s returned to Parliament and holds the balance of power after the election, Winston Peters:

  • Will not support a Labour/Greens government
  • Will not sit on the cross-benches
  • Will be a senior Minister in a National government
  • Will not deliver any of his ‘bottom lines’ as part of his coalition deal


September 15, 2014

Greenwald vs Key

Filed under: intelligence,Politics — danylmc @ 5:52 am

The ‘Moment of Truth’ is tonight. Greenwald will release his documents and then Key has announced that he’ll declassify documents disproving whatever it is that Greenwald proves. I found this timeline in the Dom-Post helpful:

November 2011 – Two un-named New Zealand companies come under signficant “cyber attack”

Early 2012 – In response, GCSB suggests it starts looking at carrying out mass surveillance. Key takes the idea to Cabinet, which authorises the agency to begin work with other intelligence partners in the Five Eyes network.

September 2012 – It emerges the GCSB had illegally spied on Kim Dotcom ahead of the January 2012 raid on his home

October 2012 – Rebecca Kitteridge is seconded to the GCSB to begin an internal review

March 2013 – Key tells the GCSB to put its business case into mass surveillance on hold

April 2013 – Fairfax reports that the Kitteridge review found the agency illegally spied on 88 Kiwis over a decade

May 2013 – The Government introduces two pieces of legislation to beef up GCSB and SIS powers

June 2013 – The first leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden appear, sparking a global debate on privacy and spy agencies

August 2013 – The GCSB bill passes, despite protests.

A couple of points:

  • Yes, we’ve been members of the five-eyes alliance for a long time. But the proliferation of consumer digital technology and the fact that it enables intelligence agencies to place huge sections of the population under surveillance at a minimal cost, and those agencies have just gone ahead and done so means that the nature of the alliance has changed in the very recent past.
  • Protecting government departments and companies from cyber-attack has NOTHING to do with mass surveillance. It’s a distraction, designed to confuse people because they both involve computers. Harvesting meta-data about phone calls or web traffic of New Zealand citizens does absolutely nothing to stop Chinese hackers targeting Fonterra or MFAT. It’s a bit like your local police officer saying ‘I think someone is trying to break into your house so I’m gonna drill peepholes in the walls of your bathroom and bedroom to keep you safe’.
  • When the GCSB put their case for mass-surveillance to Cabinet and Cabinet authorised them to go ahead, they were authorising the GCSB to break the law because at that time spying on New Zealanders without a warrant was illegal.
  • There might be something to Key’s story. Note the timing: he sends Kitteridge to review the GCSB and just before she reports back he (allegedly) cancels their surveillance program. Is that because Kitteridge was the first person to figure out that it was unlawful?
  • If so, was it cancelled – as Key alleges, and claims he will produce documents to prove – or was it suspended until the legislation was passed later that year authorising the agency to spy on the public?

September 5, 2014

Tracking polls

Filed under: Politics,polls — danylmc @ 9:20 am

These charts correct for poll bias. First the large parties:


And the rest:



So two weeks out I predict: 

  • Epsom won’t bother to vote for David Seymour and ACT will be gone from Parliament. 
  • Internet/Mana will win one or two electorate seats and either two or three MPs. 
  • The Conservatives will probably cross the 5% threshold. 
  • New Zealand First will be comfortably above the threshold. 
  • If the Conservatives make it then National might be able to form a government without New Zealand First in it. Which I think they’d rather do. Something tells me Winston Peters would quite like to be Justice Minister. 


August 24, 2014

First thoughts about National’s Housing Policy

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 4:04 pm
  • It is probably clever. $20,000/couple is not an election bribe any other party will be able to match and it is targeted at a very specific group of people: first-home buyers on low and medium incomes. Presumably National has decided that these are an important demographic in this election. 
  • It is easy to ridicule. Pouring taxpayer money into the housing bubble is not a great way to solve the housing affordability crisis. If the subsidy increases prices by $20,000 then the government is simply wasting money. I guess the Nats will argue that it will increase the demand for new houses, or that they’ll gut the RMA to increase the supply. 
  • It is not a ‘gamechanger’. It’s probably what the Nats were planning to do before Dirty Politics, and they’ve decided to go ahead with it and pretend everything is business as normal. Good luck with that guys!
  • National’s ideology and values are not (yet) delivering any policy ideas during this campaign. Free money for first home buyers, free doctor’s visits for children and MOAR ROADS are not right-wing (or ‘center right’) ideas, in the way that the partial sales of the energy companies was. Having a popular right-wing party simply unable to campaign on its values or ideas is a pretty sweet place for the left to be, long term. It would be nice to be in government, but having National in there implementing left-wing policies for us is the next best thing. 

August 20, 2014

Let’s not overestimate these idiots

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:05 am

One of the most prevalent responses to Dirty Politics is that it just shows us ‘politics as normal’. (Here’s Trotter insisting that dirty politics is ‘the only kind there is’.) This is weird on a couple of levels. Firstly, in the week before Hager’s book was released everyone was running around insisting that the crowd of students chanting ‘Fuck John Key’ meant that this was the dirtiest, nastiest election ever. Now that we have a book documenting behavior that is so far beyond that, and linking it to the Justice Minister and the Prime Minister’s office, people are running around scoffing that politics has ‘always’ been like this. 

Well, sure, people in politics have done nasty things before. Back in 2004 under Clark’s Labour government Leanne Dalziel  was caught leaking private information to the media and then lying about it. People were disgusted by what Dalziel did, and she resigned. We didn’t have all these very sophisticated world-weary cynics running around insisting that it was no big deal because politics is always dirty so nothing bad should happen to her. It is like saying ‘Well, duh, we all know crime happens so let’s not have a justice system.’ 

Also, I know a few people in politics on both the left and the right, and while some of them might be cunning and ruthless (Hi Honey) they’re not sociopaths. If you go around insisting that political operatives who ruin people’s lives because that’s what gives them pleasure is ‘politics as normal’ then you’re enabling these unusually horrible people to turn our political system into something very ugly. Don’t do that. 

Lastly, there’s a quote from Hager’s book that lots of people have picked up on by Simon Lusk about how negative campaigning and dirty politics favors the right. From the afterword: 

There are a few basic propositions with negative campaigning that are worth knowing about. It lowers turnout, favours right more than left as the right continues to turn out, and drives away the independents.’ In short, many people stop participating in politics. If politicians cannot be trusted, if politics looks like a petty or ugly game, and if no one seems to be talking about the things that matter, then what’s the point of bothering to participate? Just leave them to it. There are innovations in US Republican Party thinking on this point; election tactics do not have to be just about winning votes; they can be equally effective if groups of people in society just stop voting altogether.

Maybe that was the conventional wisdom in political science when Lusk wrote that, which I believe was in 2006 or 2007. But it’s not true. The Obama campaign ran a ‘two tier’ campaign against Mitt Romney in 2012. Their media advertising was almost 100% negative, and their direct targeting and ground campaign were positive. They won by suppressing right-wing voter turnout and maximising turnout among their own supporters. So let’s not assume that Lusk, Slater et al have any idea what they’re talking about when it comes to political strategy, or that the revelations about them can only have negative consequences for the left. 

August 19, 2014

Social media election

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:48 am

The person behind the WhaleDump leaks gave the Herald an exclusive with all the emails about Slater and his prostitute friend. That’s significant for several reasons. (1) The Herald reaches the same conclusions Hager did, so this is an exercise in building confidence and integrity in Hager and his book, (2) it tarnishes Key with some of Slater’s most vile dirt and (3) this seems like a really, really well planned and well executed communications strategy, doesn’t it? 

Cameron Slater and Jason Ede considered themselves masters of political ‘black-ops’. (There was a Dom-Post editorial recently taking Nicky Hager to task for using such a loaded term, but someone who worked for National during their first term told me a while ago, with some amusement, that Ede did, actually refer to himself as a ‘black-ops’ guy, and that this mostly consisted of reading Hansards of Phil Goff’s speeches from the 1980s and 90s and finding ways in which Goff had changed his mind in the last thirty years, then running around the Beehive yelling ‘I’ve nailed the bastard! He’s finished!’) Anyway, Slater and Ede and look like amateurs compared to the black op currently being conducted against them and their party. 

We’ve seen third parties intervene in New Zealand elections before. In 2005 the Exclusive Brethren ran an anonymous negative campaign against Labour and the Greens. They put out a bunch of pamphlets. But that was in collaboration with National, even if they didn’t admit it. I don’t think these people are collaborating with any political party. And if they manage to change the minds of, say, 20,000 voters who switch from National to Labour, then a group of anonymous activists will have managed to change the government. 

That’s a big deal. I’m sure they would say they’re just helping voters make an informed decision by putting information before them. And I think voters should know about National and their contacts with Slater. That was a really stupid, horrible decision and people have a right to know about it. But having a group of anonymous activists breaking the law to target political parties they don’t like and then waging a full-scale war against them in the media during an election campaign is new territory. I don’t think this has happened in any other democratic country before. It’s one of the reasons National are so dumbfounded and clumsy in their responses. They can’t go to Crosby/Textor (or whoever) and say ‘What do we do here? What have your clients in other countries done?’ Because this hasn’t happened to anyone. 

August 18, 2014

State of play

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:43 pm

Various points:

  • People have been talking about what they think the most important revelation from Dirty Politics is. The SIS stuff? The blackmail? Judith Collins’ leaks? Etc? I don’t know, but I think that focusing on the individual bombshells eclipses what the overall book is about: a small cabal of vile, vicious ruthless people trying to take over one of our major political parties.
  • I don’t think many National Party members are going to read Dirty Politics, which is a shame, because I think they’d be shocked about what this handful of people are doing to their party. The chapter on the Rodney selection process – in which Mark Mitchell came back to New Zealand from overseas, decided he’d like to be an MP in a National safe-seat, and paid Slater and Lusk to run smear campaigns against his opponents who were all local members of the National Party, subsequent to which Mitchell won the seat – is something National Party members should take an interest in.
  • Now, there are always factions in political parties. There are always plots and gossip and leaks. And the argument some of National’s apologists are putting up is that if any operative from any political party got their emails hacked and selectively published it would look just as bad: filled with death threats and blackmail plots and lies and smears and bile. I don’t think that’s true. And we happen to have a really great real-life example of a leaked politician’s emails in one of Hager’s previous books, The Hollow Men. Hager published excerpts from hundreds of emails between National leader Don Brash and his staffers and advisers. There was a lot of cynicism in The Hollow Men emails, and a lot of material about the duplicity of the National Party (Brash’s beliefs and agenda if he because Prime Minister were very different from the way he was presented to the rest of the country) but there was nothing that came close to the contents of Dirty Politics, and I’m pretty sure that if there was anything like that in the emails from Brash and his advisers Hager would have published it.
  • Things aren’t going that well for John Key in terms of fronting the issue. There’s a lot of criticism of the way he’s handling this. Key’s problem is that this is probably the worst thing that could possibly have happened to him during the election campaign. Building a strategic alliance with Cameron Slater and incorporating him into National’s communications strategy was a terrible, terrible mistake. There’s no way to spin that. There’s no reasonable explanation Key can possibly give. ‘You can’t unshit the bed,’ as they say in US politics. Right now Key’s trying to tough it out because him and his team have decided that is the least terrible option. They might be right.
  • But the game changed again today with the emergence of the @whaledump account on twitter. This is, evidently, Nicky Hager’s source for Slater’s hacked emails, and they’ve published screen shots substantiating this.
  • Who hacked Slater? My first reaction – at the book launch for Dirty Politics  was that it was Kim Dotcom. Slater’s alleged the same thing. Dotcom and Hager have both denied it.
  • I’m inclined to believe Hager’s denial. Not because I think he’s a saint, but he’s a very smart man who has put his integrity on the line for very, very high stakes, and I think that if Dotcom did hack Slater he’s just as likely to have a falling out with a staffer or business associate who would then run to the media and tell everybody all about it, or just blurt it out on twitter at 4am. I don’t think Hager would risk that.
  • But the @whaledump account seems very Kim Dotcomesque, doesn’t it? Or at least very tech-geek, with the cute graphic and Futurama memes. It feels similar to the Team Key parody account which is widely suspected of being an Internet Party creation. And they’re posting their stuff on mega, which is owned by Kim Dotcom!
  • I suspect some heavy-duty trolling there. I searched for whaledump’s encryption key on the PGP server. They registered it on Tuesday the 5th of August, a week before Hager’s book was published, and listed their user id as: Whaledump <>. It’s designed to keep us guessing.
  • Whoever it is it seems like a very different entity to Nicky Hager. Maybe that’s what we’re meant to think! But it means that National doesn’t know what’s coming. The very first dump of information contained emails that weren’t mentioned in Dirty Politics. Hager said that he would not release any personal details about MP’s private lives, but no one has any idea what the person or people running @whaledump will do.
  • Which means that Key’s office will have to vet Judith Collins’ correspondence with Slater because any of it might be released on twitter at any moment. Maybe I’m misjudging Collins here but I don’t think her career can survive that vetting. I think there’s a high chance that she’ll get a call tonight from one of her fellow MPs who she considers a friend and that they’ll ask her to stand down tomorrow ‘for the good of the party’.





August 17, 2014

Crime wave!

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:17 pm

National’s latest PR stunt is to claim they’re the victims of an ongoing criminal conspiracy. David Farrar was on the news tonight insisting he’d been hacked, despite admitting on twitter that this almost certainly has not happened. Judith Collins’ husband’s office was robbed! Six weeks ago! Mark Mitchell’s constituency office and Parliamentary office was robbed! Last year! You see! You see how it all fits together!

So. Why target Collins’ husband and Mark Mitchell? Seems like an odd combination. Almost as if they’re just two random victims of random crimes, that both happened a while ago and have nothing to do with anything. Also, Mitchell’s Parliamentary Office was robbed? That’s also odd. The security at Parliament is as robust as you’d expect. I don’t know where Mitchell’s office is but I’m guessing its on a floor with a whole bunch of other National MPs and staffers, which can only be accessed via swipe card once you’ve gotten past the security at every entrance. And the whole place is under camera surveillance and all the swipe card activity is logged. That seems like a risky heist for Nicky Hager, or Kim Dotcom’s private investigators, or whoever is supposed to have gone after Mitchell.

Update: A reader writes:

Cunliffe’s office was robbed a while back. Not to mention bullets fired into Harawira’s office. Hager has been real busy

The Rodney Hide allegations

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:51 am

Rodney Hide has a column in the New Zealand Herald today dismissing the allegation that he was blackmailed into standing down as leader of the ACT Party. He writes:

Hager never rang to ask: “Hey, I have just come across the damnedest stuff and just have to ask, were you ever blackmailed?”

To which I would reply: “No, definitely not. I would never give in to blackmail. I would go straight to the police. It’s a crime. I have no doubt the police and the courts would take a dim view of any attempt to blackmail a political leader and Government minister. It never happened.”

Let’s timeline his resignation alongside the allegations made in Dirty Politics.

Hide poured scorn on Brash’s claim of being offered the co-leader’s job. He said he had offered to pay Brash’s membership if his friend joined the Act Party.

“He wanted to be leader. I said the way you become the leader or co-leader is to join the party and work your way up.”

He said Brash was too old for the job. “We’re looking forward to the next generation of leaders and Don has had his shot with National. It’s hard to see him contesting the 2014 campaign.”

  • Sunday, 24th April 2011: Simon Lusk (allegedly) contacts Cameron Slater advising him that ‘we can fuck up Rodney. Jordan is talking to a girl that Rodney has been sending dodgy texts to.’ Lusk suggests to Slater that they tell Hide they will release the texts if Hide does not resign by Friday.

Mr Hide has said Dr Brash’s bid is a takeover attempt by a member of a different party.

Confident of keeping his leadership, he said if Dr Brash wanted to become leader, he would have to follow the process and first become a member of the party.

Rodney needs to be careful with any dodgy plays because the tipline is running so hot that it is practically on fire. This includes some information about his destruction of Heather Roy’s career that would not play out kindly for Rodney. He should remember carefully how he used me in that play.

In a continuation of the “Roy play”, Rodney is also contemplating a personal attack on Don based on his ethics. This would be a great play for Don because it would mean personal life was absolutely fair game, and I just absolutely love politicians dirty laundry being aired in public, just ask Stuart Nash and the new Mangrove Iain Lees-Galloway. Not a classical scholar, Rodney probably is unaware of William Congreve, but here are a couple of excellent quotes:

“O fie, miss, you must not kiss and tell.”

And the better known

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,”

Followed by:

Meanwhile my predictions of Rodney’s bunker pals running “Don Brash is an old man” lines has come to pass with Rodney Hide staffer Chris Diack commenting freely on Kiwiblog. Word via the tipline is that they wil keep up that line for a couple of days and then change to smears involving Don Brash’s personal life. It surprises me that Rodney Hide of all people wants to go down that path but if he plays those cards then he will reap what he sows.

But current leader Rodney Hide says he is not resigning and that he is proud of what he has done for the party.

He said he had heard rumours about his resignation but said they were not true.

When asked about Don Brash taking over the party’s leadership he said: “I believe Don Brash hasn’t even joined the Act Party yet.”

Dr Brash’s bid seemed to take a blow yesterday when deputy leader John Boscawen said through a spokesman that he backed Mr Hide as leader and would vote for him in a leadership challenge.

  • Thursday 28th April: Hide resigns

    Rodney Hide has stepped down as leader of the ACT Party, paving the way for challenger Don Brash after days of mounting pressure and speculation.

    Dr Brash will lead the party from outside Parliament, so its current MPs will keep their spots, including Mr Hide’s ministerial posts.

    Mr Hide announced his resignation at a press conference in the Auckland suburb Newmarket this afternoon, in the heart of the Epsom electorate he has represented since 2005.

In his Herald column today Hide writes:

I tracked down Jordan Williams. He had no texts. He says the claims are “utterly, utterly false … outrageous. … disgusting”. I believe him. I emailed Don Brash. No, Simon Lusk never worked for him. I believe him.

According to Dirty Politics, page 70:

Lusk wrote to Slater via Facebook: Don [Brash] has told [New Zealand Herald reporter] Derek Cheng I was not paid by him and I was not paid by ACT as far as he knew and wasn’t going to comment any further on who was involved in his coup.’  Slater wrote back, ‘Lol, bwahahaha.’

If I was Slater, Lusk or Williams, I think this is the stuff I’d be losing sleep over. I am not a lawyer, but I looked through the crimes act and asked a real lawyer about this, and if the police can establish that these messages really were sent by Lusk and Slater they are admissible as evidence whether or not they were obtained illegally, and might be used, along with Slater’s blog posts, to charge them with conspiracy to commit blackmail, irrespective of whether Hide feels that he was actually blackmailed. Maximum sentence seven years.



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