The Dim-Post

September 29, 2016

New Cardinals

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:53 am

Via Stuff:

Dame Patsy Reddy has been officially sworn in as New Zealand’s 21st governor-general at a ceremony in Wellington.

Hundreds of people, including film-makers Sir Peter Jackson and Reddy’s former neighbour James Cameron, were at Parliament’s grounds on Wednesday morning.

Maybe I’m overthinking this, but it seems very symbolic that people like Peter Jackson and James Cameron now oversee the swearing in of the new head of state. Like, a couple decades ago it would have been the clergy who represented a higher power sanctifying the occasion, but now that role is played by celebrity members of the trans-national elite.

September 28, 2016

Kim Stanley Robinson has a lot to answer for

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:11 am

Via Vox:

Musk sketched out a vision of thousands of ships launching toward Mars, each carrying up to 100 or 200 people a flight. If we had, say, 10,000 flights, we could start building actual cities on Mars, although it’d take decades to actually get a self-sustaining civilization on Mars, Musk said.

Musk even hinted at the possibility of terraforming Mars — releasing huge amounts of carbon-dioxide to warm the planet and bring back liquid water, making it habitable for humans. “If we could warm Mars up, we would once again have a thick atmosphere and warm oceans,” he said.

You know what they never had in Robinson’s Martian colonies? A dentist. So what happened if one of his super-genius left-wing intellectual colonists needed their wisdom teeth out? The question isn’t as trivial as it sounds. If you’re going to build a self-sustaining colony you don’t just want scientists with radical political views, you want dentists, and dental equipment, and obstetricians, and all of their equipment, and engineers to service it all, and the infrastructure to support an education system all the way through to advanced degrees to train the next generation of all those specialists. I wonder what the minimum viable number of people is to support all that?

The First Trump Clinton Debate

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:24 am

I haven’t really paid much attention to Hilary Clinton – it’s hard to take your eyes off Trump. And, watching the debate last night I thought he was awful: worse than I expected, worse, I think, than any presidential candidate ever – at least by my standards, but he’s not pitching himself to guys like me.

But I thought Clinton was pretty poor too. Not compared to Trump, obviously, but the standard critic of Clinton – that she’s too scripted, too insincere, has not articulated a positive vision, recites focus-tested platitudes – all felt very true to me watching the debate. (Tactically I thought she was very good.) It helped explain one of the mysteries of the contest: why Clinton isn’t doing much, much better against such an obviously terrible candidate.

September 27, 2016

Problem solved!

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 10:25 am

Everyone relax. The head of Barfoot and Thompson has figured out how to solve the housing crisis.

September 26, 2016

Notes on the Lionel Shriver controversy, or whatever it is

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:42 pm

Shriver is a novelist (I haven’t read her latest book: people tell me it’s pretty good) who gave a speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival criticising identity politics. Someone walked out and wrote a withering blog post which went viral. Shriver’s column about it all – with the awesomely stupid title ‘Will the Left Survive the Millennials?’ which I hope was assigned by a sub-editor because surely no novelist would be that banal? – is here.

It would be a lot easier to support Shriver as a hero of free speech and artistic expression if she didn’t give her speech on identity politics wearing a large novelty sombrero. Also, she writes:

Protecting freedom of speech involves protecting the voices of people with whom you may violently disagree. In my youth, liberals would defend the right of neo-Nazis to march down Main Street. I cannot imagine anyone on the left making that case today.

Did liberals really defend the rights of neo nazis to march? Really? Ever? Noam Chomsky defended the right of a holocaust denier to free speech. Once. And it was hugely controversial.

Anyway, something the critics of identity politics don’t get is that it isn’t really about being ‘offended’. The theory is that speech shapes culture which shapes behavior. So identity politics activists would oppose the right of neo-Nazi’s to march, because that perpetuates a culture of racial hatred, which has many terrible real-world consequences. That’s the argument. You don’t have to agree with it – and there’s no empirical evidence proving that culture works the way left-wing cultural theorists say it does – but it is more substantive than the straw-man argument people like Shriver make, which is that millennials – or whoever – just can’t stand to be offended or have their ideas challenged.

Edit: Graeme Edgeler writes in the comments:

The ACLU represented the National Socialist Party of America all the way to the US Supreme Court in National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie

wiki reference

It’s a pretty famous case, so I would imagine Shriver was referring to it when she spoke.

 

Yay capitalism

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 11:07 am

Via Radio New Zealand:

The maker of Nurofen has been charged by the Commerce Commission for misleading the public about its “specific pain range”.

Eight of the charges alleged that the packaging and promotion of four different types of specific Nurofen pain relief products – Nurofen Migraine Pain, Nurofen Tension Headache, Nurofen Period Pain and Nurofen Back Pain – were misleading.

The Commerce Commission said the advertising and packaging was misleading because the specific pain relief products contained the same ingredients and were equally effective.

Also containing the exact same ingredients and having the exact same effect: the generic off-brand pills two shelves down, at a third of the price.

Last week I went to the optometrist to get new lenses for my glasses. The optometrist quoted me $1,200 for the lenses. I walked down the road to OPSM and got the same prescription from the same manufacturer for $430.

Notes on the unidimensional spatial model of politics

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:28 am

Via Stuff:

Labour leader Andrew Little has rejected a suggestion by his predecessor Helen Clark that parties on the left must “command the centre ground” to win elections, describing the suggestion as “a pretty hollow view”.

Little says he instead is focused on building “a coalition of constituencies” as he prepares for next year’s election.

Clark told TVNZ progressive parties like Labour could not be written off and had to “roll with the punches” despite poor results around the world in recent years.

“The truth is that the modern politics in democratic societies has become a bit like a consumer exercise. You try something; you try something else.”

However, they had to ensure they had the support of voters in the centre in order to succeed, she said.

“It’s possible and it’s necessary, because to win an election in New Zealand or probably any Western society, you must command the centre ground.

“You have your strong core of supporters, but you must get the centre ground voters, and I think I was successful in that for quite a lot of years.”

But Little said he didn’t think an analysis about the centre is at all helpful – “it’s meaningless”.

Yes, this was a dumb thing for Little to say, but I sympathise. Talking about ‘the left’ or ‘the centre’ is useful shorthand, but the ‘median voter theory’ or, as political scientists call it, the ‘uni-dimensional spatial theory’ of voter behavior is meaningless and has been discredited for several decades, although some pundits still seem attached to it. The Republican Party in the US didn’t win the 2014 mid-term elections by appealing to ‘the median voter’. Trump is competitive in the US race and he ain’t ‘moving to the centre’.

For intellectuals interested in values and policy the unidimensional model is important. You can pick your side – ‘the left’ or ‘the right’ – and decide that they’re the good guys, and the others are the bad guys, and convince yourself anyone voting for the bad guys is doing so out of bad intentions or false consciousness. But very few voters think about politics like this. They decide based on social identity, valence issues like competence, their mood, largely determined by economic factors but also influenced by retail politics: interactions with politicians and their supporters. I think of this as ‘The Good Look’ spectrum (based on the press gallery’s current favourite euphemism for when a politician does something illegal or evil or stupid, that it is ‘not a good look’) and it interacts with the left-right spectrum

gls

On one hand, it feels like the Ideological Spectrum should be bounded by the Good-Look Spectrum: Move too far to an extreme on the x axis and it’s ‘not a good look’, while moving to the centre IS ‘a good look’. On the other hand: Trump.

But in NZ terms, when most voters move from Labour to National, ie from the bottom left quadrant to the top right quadrant it looks to an ideologue as if they’re moving from left to right. But voters just see themselves as moving from a less competent party to a more competent one. This is good news for the left in one sense: we don’t need to compromise our values to win voters! On the other hand, being more competent and organised than National over a long-enough timeline to win an election will be really very hard, much harder than just changing your policy platform and ‘moving to the centre’.

 

September 19, 2016

Unfortunate experiment watch

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:13 am

National’s grand plan to unleash the power of the market and remove the dead hand of the state from social housing reaches its absurd endgame:

Housing New Zealand has bought a South Auckland motel to help meet the area’s housing shortage – but ironically the existing residents will have to move out to make room for the homeless.

A spokesman said the agency bought the 10-unit Cimarron Motel in Waterview Rd, Takanini, as “part of our work to make more housing available in Auckland for those who require it urgently”.

But the motel was already being used for long-stay accommodation, and former resident Roland Stehlin said he was worried about what would happen to the remaining residents.

“There’s an elderly couple there who have been there 11 years, they have nowhere to go,” he said.

“We’ve got a family that’s in the house [formerly the manager’s house]. Their kids are all going to the school there. The last I heard was apparently they are going out to Pukekohe, now they have to find some way of getting their kids into school there.”

 

September 16, 2016

A heretical question about inequality

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 4:52 am

Newshub had a story last night about the booming economy:

International economist Ann Pettifor says New Zealand’s economy is “hugely imbalanced”.

“But what’s interesting about New Zealand is that inequality rose in this country more than in any other developed country in the world between 1980 and the 2000s – that’s extraordinary.”

She says those levels of inequality lead to political instability which has led to the rise of the likes of Donald Trump and “fascists in Europe”.

The idea that inequality = political instability is canonical on the left and I’d always just agreed with it and assumed it was true. But because this time it was an economist making the assertion, it made me wonder if it was false. And given that we did have the fastest rise in inequality yet have such an extraordinary degree of political stability that it frustrates the hell out of the left, doesn’t this seem like a false claim?

September 13, 2016

Ever decreasing circles

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 5:39 am

Via TVNZ:

There are fresh worries for Labour following the latest ONE News Colmar Brunton poll.

The party has slipped three points to 26 per cent. That’s the lowest it’s been in the ONE News poll since the last election when it recorded 25 per cent.

National, however, remains in fine form riding high, steady this month at 48 per cent, the same result it picked up on election night in 2014.

The Greens are trucking along solidly up one per cent to 13, although the big mover is New Zealand First which is up to two points in our poll to 11 per cent. The Maori Party has also had a small gain up one, to two per cent.

My current theory of New Zealand politics is that the party voter bases look roughly like this:

linearvenn

People are often surprised when there’s lots of political activity, and then a poll comes out and National haven’t shifted. I reckon this is because no one but Winston Peters is contesting their voters. Probably there was some movement during that period: people churning between the Greens and Labour and Labour and New Zealand First as the opposition parties all try and peel off their ‘next available voters’ from one another. We wouldn’t expect any of that to move current National voters – and it doesn’t.

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