The Dim-Post

October 27, 2008

Poll Bias Porn

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:25 am

Via The Standard, someone at Wikipedia has gone to an awful lot of time and effort to chart the New Zealand political opinion polls for the last couple of years:

Graph by Wikipedia user Trewa used under a Creative Commons license

The trend in the last couple of weeks seems pretty clear; National are losing votes to Labour and Labour are losing votes to the Greens (and the Maori Party, who are not included on the chart).

Over on the talk page for this article is another, arguably more interesting chart, a box plot showing bias for the individual polls:

Chart by Wikipedia author Mark Payne, used under a Creative Commons License

Chart by Wikipedia author Mark Payne, used under a Creative Commons License

The chart was generated by averaging out the poll results and then charting the deviations from the average; its worth noting that while the TV3 TNS poll appears to favor Labour over National that poll was the most accurate at predicting the actual election results back in 2005.

(For those not blessed with a background in statistics, the whiskers coming out from the box represent the furthest non outlier data points in each set, the line through the middle of the box is the median result.)

October 26, 2008

Two weeks to go – thoughts on the race

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:15 pm

What a difference three years makes. I’ve never really been one for supporting political parties but back in 2005 the prospect of New Zealand becoming ein volk under the ‘leadership’ of Dr Don Brash terrified me into becoming a staunch Labour Party supporter. I spent the last month of the campaign in a state of near panic – the polls and the end result were awfully close. We dodged a fucking huge bullet back then.

This time I’m much more ambivilent about who wins and I can enjoy the race as spectacle. Ideologically I am  sympathetic to Helen Clark and the Labour Party but I really can’t get past Clark’s support of Peters over the last six months – although for all the thousands of column inches written about the Winston Peters affair her comments were the most prescient:

Mr Peters is a lawyer. His brother Wayne Peters is a lawyer. Mr [Brian] Henry is a lawyer, and has a good deal to say around this. Taking all those things into account, and taking into account that electoral law has been wide enough to drive bulldozers through, I would be surprised if there’s illegality.

Helen Clark, remarks to media, July 28th 2008

While Peters didn’t break the law he did campaign against secret donations from big business while soliciting secret donations from big businesses and then lie about it to the entire nation for nine months. I simply can’t vote for a party that tolerates that kind of behavior from a senior minister.

While I find it hard to get excited about the prospect of a National Party government I was optimistic about John Key. Despite his poor performance in the media I’ve hoped that he’d be good at tasks like strategic thinking and managing a team. This confidence was dented by the sheer hopelessness of his flagship tax policy, the very poor quality of Nationals election campaign and the constant rumors about infighting, poor morale and intermittent civil warfare within the party. Their dearth of coalition partners and lack of a coherent strategy was also disturbing. Did they really think they were going to get > 50% in the list vote? Was that their whole plan?

But Key had a good day today – his interview on Agenda was probably the best performance we’ve seen from him; a couple of hours later he appeared at Parliament to stand beside Peter Dunne for the United Future leaders ‘always been at war with Eastasia’ moment in which Dunne announced that he could not possibly find a way to work with the Labour Party – with whom he has been in government for six years and is still their Minister of Revenue.

How ironic that Dunne voted against Prostitution Law Reform. This probably seals the election for National and the announcement will almost certainly boost Dunne’s poll results – currently hovering around the 0.5% mark. More importantly it will give Key an experienced, reasonably competent politician in his cabinet, a commodity National is in short supply of. I suspect that when their time comes Dunne and Hide will be given relatively presitigious portfolios – Key and English would have real trouble running the country with the mediocre talent available to them in their own party.

This was also an obvious move for Dunne to make – the polls suggest that any Labour government will rely heavily on the Greens, Dunne hates the Greens so National are the only palatable option.

Like I said, I think the United Future-National deal will probably sink Labours chances. (This is a shame, if only because it means we’re going into a dire recession with Dunne’s gold plated vanity project – the Families Commission, a totally worthless multi-million dollar white elephant – hanging around the governments neck in perpetuity.) But the polls are so contradictory and the electoral math so convoluted that its impossible to call. And who will the Maori Party support? Would they really go into coalition with National? Do National really think that could somehow work? And how could Clark and Turia possibly sit down and hammer out a deal?

I just don’t know. I don’t know who I’m voting for yet either but I’m happy for either major party to lead the next government; Clark has no ethics but she is a very capable leader. Most of Key’s senior MP’s might be rubbish but at least he’s no Don Brash.

October 25, 2008

Campaign 08: Campaign Diary #2

Filed under: Politics,satire — danylmc @ 7:25 am
Tags: ,

Friday 24th October: On the Road with Gordon Copeland

9:05 AM Rolls out from beneath John Key’s carbon neutral campaign bus and upon clambering to his feet he is pleased to discover he is in the Hillcrest suburb of Hamilton. ‘I own this town,’ Copeland declares.

9:30 AM Discovers half a rotisserie chicken while ransacking dumpsters behind the local mall but at the last minute a stray Jack Russell terrier seizes the chicken and escapes with it after a brief struggle. Dejected, Copeland admits that he would have put up a stronger fight but didn’t want to harm the dog in front of the media. ‘That’s modern politics in a nutshell,’ he says ruefully.

10:45 AM Reads St Paul’s letter to the Romans to a group of lingerie mannequins in the window of Farmers department store until he is ejected by the manager of the perfume counter; standing outside the store doors he thunders ‘they who are of the flesh cannot please God’. He leaves after being sprayed with Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men.

11:50 AM Agrees to buy alcohol for two minors in exchange for their votes. Is undeterred to learn that minors are not allowed to vote. ‘This is how you build a base,’ he explains. Upon obtaining their sixpack of KGBs both girls promise to support his party in 2011 but refuse to vote in favor of a referendum to ban smacking. ‘That was never the deal’, they reply.

12: 30 PM Amicable discussion with a group of Hare Krishnas ends with Copeland exchanging some Kiwi Party pamphlets for a copy of The Bhagavagita As It Is and a vegan lunch. ‘I think I came out on top that time,’ he gloats. ‘All this wheeling and dealing is great practice for negotiating a coalition post-election.’

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM: After receiving a text message reporting Kiwi Party internal polling results Copeland spends an hour in a cubicle in a toilet in the Hillcrest library sobbing then stands in front of the mirror slapping himself in the face while delivering a torrent of vicious abuse to his reflection. Stops when reminded by his assistant that the media are present, begs Duncan Garner, Francesca Mold and their film crews not to use the footage.

4:30 PM: Delivers speech on fiscal policy to flock of pigeons; explains that New Zealand dollar is weak because it is printed on flimsy paper.

5:00 PM Curses sunny evenings of daylight savings as they make it difficult for him to climb under John Key’s campaign bus and strap himself to the undercarriage without being detected by diplomatic security. Promises that if elected all future campaigns will be conducted in perpetual darkness before scuttling into the car park using a row of shrubs as cover.

October 23, 2008

Campaign 08: Daily Diary

Filed under: Politics,satire — danylmc @ 11:38 am

Thursday 23rd October

    • Prime Minister Helen Clark appeared outside John Key’s Helensville home challenging the National leader to a fight; a spokesperson for Key responded that he was not home. Clark left after gouging deep furrows in Key’s lawn and spraying on his front doorstep.
    • The Prime Minister later met with a group of pre-schoolars at a creche in Pakuranga where she read to the appreciative children from one of the popular ‘Hairy Maclary’ stories before promising the starstruck young audience she was going to ‘tear that fucking retard Key a new asshole’.
    • While speaking to a small group of army medics in Waiouru John Key announced that Dr Lockwood Smith’s plane has been shot down over the sea of Japan
    • The Green Party held a photo opportunity at Pauatahanui estuary in Mana electorate at which co-leaders Russel Norman and Jeannette Fitzsimmons pitched Green fiscal policy to a thick film of marine algea.
    • New Zealand First leader Winston Peters met with police detectives and the Reserve Bank to discuss his plans to stimulate the New Zealand economy by printing more money; the detectives have confiscated a Macintosh computer and two color printers from New Zealand First offices.
    • ACT leader Rodney Hide promised a crowd of shoppers at a mall in Epsom that if elected he would learn morse code and eat a lightbulb. Hide’s opponent, National MP Richard Worth appeared alongside him and encouraged Epsom voters to ‘Party vote National’. Elections New Zealand officials based in the wealthy Auckland electorate are puzzled by the low voter registration rate in the area.
    • Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia announced that the removal of Tin from the periodic table of elements would be a bottom line for any coalition deal with a major party.
    • United Future leader Peter Dunne proposed suspending GST charges on krill, sea urchins, molluscs and crustaceans. With over 150 thousand strands of hair per square centimeter Dunne’s fur is the most dense of any major party political leader; the fur consists of long waterproof guard hairs and short underfur. The guardhairs keep the underfur dry.

    October 21, 2008

    Ready or Not

    Filed under: general news,media,Politics — danylmc @ 10:47 am

    A number of opposition MP’s and pundits have been screaming themselves shrill about the governments failure to implement a wholesale bank desposit scheme. The same people also insist that John Key and Bill English should get to help write it, despite the fact that they have absolutely no mandate or legal authority to do so.

    I suspect that Cullen and Clark would like nothing more than to announce such a scheme – it would give them a chance to look leaderlike and decisive, and win them another news cycle. And as this story from Herald business writer and Theremin enthusiast Adam Bennett points out, such a plan is currently in the works:

    A domestic banking crisis caused by the absence of a wholesale deposit guarantee is not imminent because the industry’s Australian owners and the Reserve Bank have the capacity to ensure sufficient liquidity, say commentators.

    A Government guarantee for banks’ wholesale funding, which would see the taxpayer stand behind the approximately $300 billion local banks borrow from big lenders both overseas and in New Zealand, is looking more likely.

    On Sunday and again yesterday morning, Finance Minister Michael Cullen confirmed Treasury and Reserve Bank officials were working on such a scheme.

    Personally I find it reassuring that Treasury are taking things slowly when it comes to exposing the taxpayer to $300 billion dollars of liability.

    I’m a bit bemused by Bernard Hickey’s suggestion that the best way to solve the crisis is for Parliament to be recalled so they can debate the issues. Has Hickey ever actually been to a Parliamentary debate? I’m guessing not. I find it hard to imagine how several hours of National screaming about Owen Glenn and pledge cards while Labour barrack them back with howls of protest about the Exclusive Bretheren will solve our current financial crisis.

    UPDATE – Brian Fallow, the Herald Finance Editor is also wary of rushing into a wholesale deposit scheme:

    The Australian parents of New Zealand’s banks have made out like bandits during the good years.

    Now they are hiding behind the Australian banking regulator’s rules which limit the extent to which they can extend funding to their New Zealand subsidiaries. The extent to which that is a binding constraint will vary from bank to bank, but in any case it is an unedifying spectacle.

    Once extended this guarantee will be difficult to unwind.

    It represents an enormous contingent liability, and a transfer of risk from the shareholders of Australian banks to New Zealand taxpayers. It deserves parliamentary scrutiny. Claims that the problem is too urgent for that don’t wash when there are Reserve Bank guarantees of liquidity in place.

    Going Negative

    Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:20 am

    The Standard have a pretty good attack ad they’ve created to raise doubts about John Key. I think this is the direction the campaign is going in now. Neither party can win votes by spending money so the campaign will move on to issues of (a) culture and (b) personality.

    I don’t know what kind of wedge issues either party could campaign on; they both agree on law and order (‘nail ’em up!’) and Key is trying to get into bed with the Maori party so he can’t campaign on racial division the way Don Brash did. Besides, since National are (probably) way ahead, it’s up to Labour to pick an issue. I quite like John Key’s excuse that he didn’t pay attention to the Springbok Tour because he was too busy shagging – I think this is a dead issue; Labour will have to find something better. No doubt they have their marketing, focus group and polling people toiling around the clock to fabricate some trivial but divisive position they can take a bold stand on.

    UPDATE – In the comments section Tane from The Standard points out that the ad was submitted by one of their readers.

    Old School

    Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 7:04 am

    During WWII Dr Seuss – nee Theodore Seuss Geisel – joined the airforce and produced propaganda cartoons for the war effort. He also made an academy award winning documentary called ‘Design for Death’ about the history of Japan.

    There’s a collection of his war propaganda cartoons up here. They make the notorious ‘Muhammad cartoons’ look tame by comparison.

    October 19, 2008

    Business leaders hail Key’s New Economic Policy

    Filed under: Politics,satire — danylmc @ 3:15 pm

    Investors, economists and prominent businessmen have all praised the new economic plan unveiled by National Party leader John Key this weekend.

    Key’s proposed strategy to kickstart the New Zealand economy was announced yesterday in a speech to local party members at the Winter Palace restaurant in Parnell. Key has promised that if elected the government will provide unlimited liquidity to banks and other major businesses in exchange for 100% equity.

    ‘This will provide the stability and confidence that Kiwi business needs to compete globally in these troubled times,’ Key said.

    In response to the ongoing crisis in the real estate market that has left many investors with negative equity Key has proposed another bold solution.

    ‘A National government will buy out the mortgage of every property in New Zealand, both business and residential,’ Key said. The news was met with cheers of support from the enthusiastic crowd of National supporters.

    Business Round Table Director Roger Kerr welcomed National’s new scheme. ‘It’s about time we ditched the tried and failed socialist ideas of the Labour Party and moved on as a country,’ Kerr said.

    Business commentator Bernard Hickey agreed. ‘This is a breath of fresh air after nine years of the outdated left-wing policies of Helen Clark and Michael Cullen. This is just what the New Zealand economy needs at this crucial juncture.’

    Key elaborated on the details of the scheme, explaining that 100% equity businesses would be run by councils that reported back to a centralised ‘union of councils’. These would make business and investment decisions for the country.

    ‘We will be looking for the council union to try and plan in the medium term – say five years out,’ Key said.

    ‘At last we have someone with experience in the real world making practical decisions,’ Hickey told the Dim-Post. ‘It’s hard to see how this could go wrong.’

    Some pundits remain wary of the scheme. Maverick investment analyst Gareth Morgan has refused to endorse the New Economic Policy, replying that it ‘just did not sound quite right,’ although Morgan has admitted he was ‘unable to put his finger’ on what was troubling him.

    Although Finance Minister Michael Cullen has released a statement strongly criticizing National’s plans, the scheme has been met with cautious support by Green Party MP Kieth Locke, who offered to meet with Key and discuss his ideas for implementing the scheme.

    Ross Wilson, the President of the Council of Trade Unions has also spoken out in favor of Key’s vision, altough he was dismissive about the National party plan to retrain members of the public service and redeploy them in the agriculture, construction and canal-building sectors of the economy.

    John Key has replied to the negative reaction by admitting that some complaints about the policy were inevitable, but that once in government National had plans to deal with criticism ‘with surprising robustness’.

    Dear Investor

    Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 10:04 am

    Andrew Lahde is/was a 32 year old California based Hedge Fund manager – last year he took a speculative position that the sub-prime mortgage market was a catastrophe waiting to happen and invested heavily on that premise. This year his fund has returned a profit of roughly 1000% to it’s investors. Ladhe has recently renounced his retirement and sent his investors the following letter, which I reproduce in full. No, this is not a joke – he really sent this thing out:

    Dear Investor:

    Today I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

    Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, “What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it.” I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

    There are far too many people for me to sincerely thank for my success. However, I do not want to sound like a Hollywood actor accepting an award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the endless list those deserving thanks know who they are.

    I will no longer manage money for other people or institutions. I have enough of my own wealth to manage. Some people, who think they have arrived at a reasonable estimate of my net worth, might be surprised that I would call it quits with such a small war chest. That is fine; I am content with my rewards. Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. Steve Balmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten. I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.

    So this is it. With all due respect, I am dropping out. Please do not expect any type of reply to emails or voicemails within normal time frames or at all. Andy Springer and his company will be handling the dissolution of the fund. And don’t worry about my employees, they were always employed by Mr. Springer’s company and only one (who has been well-rewarded) will lose his job.

    I have no interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate. I truly do not have a strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life — where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management — with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.

    On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to make a modest proposal. First, I point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reigned in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. Since Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith passed, I would argue that there has been a dearth of worthy philosophers in this country, at least ones focused on improving government. Capitalism worked for two hundred years, but times change, and systems become corrupt. George Soros, a man of staggering wealth, has stated that he would like to be remembered as a philosopher. My suggestion is that this great man start and sponsor a forum for great minds to come together to create a new system of government that truly represents the common man’s interest, while at the same time creating rewards great enough to attract the best and brightest minds to serve in government roles without having to rely on corruption to further their interests or lifestyles. This forum could be similar to the one used to create the operating system, Linux, which competes with Microsoft’s near monopoly. I believe there is an answer, but for now the system is clearly broken.

    Lastly, while I still have an audience, I would like to bring attention to an alternative food and energy source. You won’t see it included in BP’s, “Feel good. We are working on sustainable solutions,” television commercials, nor is it mentioned in ADM’s similar commercials. But hemp has been used for at least 5,000 years for cloth and food, as well as just about everything that is produced from petroleum products. Hemp is not marijuana and vice versa. Hemp is the male plant and it grows like a weed, hence the slang term. The original American flag was made of hemp fiber and our Constitution was printed on paper made of hemp. It was used as recently as World War II by the U.S. Government, and then promptly made illegal after the war was won. At a time when rhetoric is flying about becoming more self-sufficient in terms of energy, why is it illegal to grow this plant in this country? Ah, the female. The evil female plant — marijuana. It gets you high, it makes you laugh, it does not produce a hangover. Unlike alcohol, it does not result in bar fights or wife beating. So, why is this innocuous plant illegal? Is it a gateway drug? No, that would be alcohol, which is so heavily advertised in this country. My only conclusion as to why it is illegal, is that Corporate America, which owns Congress, would rather sell you Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and other additive drugs, than allow you to grow a plant in your home without some of the profits going into their coffers. This policy is ludicrous. It has surely contributed to our dependency on foreign energy sources. Our policies have other countries literally laughing at our stupidity, most notably Canada, as well as several European nations (both Eastern and Western). You would not know this by paying attention to U.S. media sources though, as they tend not to elaborate on who is laughing at the United States this week. Please people, let’s stop the rhetoric and start thinking about how we can truly become self-sufficient.

    With that I say good-bye and good luck.

    All the best,

    Andrew Lahde”

    October 18, 2008

    To the Finland Station!

    Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 8:11 am
    Tags: , ,

    WASHINGTON — The chief executives of the nine largest banks in the United States trooped into a gilded conference room at the Treasury Department at 3 p.m. Monday. To their astonishment, they were each handed a one-page document that said they agreed to sell shares to the government, then Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said they must sign it before they left.

    Drama behind a $250 billion banking deal
    New York Times, Tuesday 14th October 2008

    The passing of power from one class to another is the first, the principal, the basic sign of a revolution, both in the strictly scientific and in the practical political meaning of that term.

    Vladamir Lenin
    What is to be done? 1902

    It’s on America’s tortured brow
    That Mickey Mouse
    has grown up a cow
    Now the workers
    have struck for fame
    ‘Cause Lenin’s on sale again

    David Bowie
    Life on Mars?
    Hunky Dory, 1971

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