The Dim-Post

February 6, 2013

The Messiah will come when they are no longer necessary

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 6:58 am

Josie Pagani has a post up on Pundit regurgitating her one big idea about political strategy: that Labour needs to move to the right and embrace National’s ‘get tough’ policies on crime and welfare.

The Paganis have been saying this for years and it still makes very little sense to me. The National Party wants to get tough on welfare, criminals (and teachers) to distract people from their actual policies, or the failures thereof. The number of unemployed rises and falls with the economy, crime has been trending down for many years across the entire western world, and our education system is regularly rated as one of the best in the OECD.

If you’re a National politician you try and solve these problems that don’t actually exist because it’s part of a wider strategy to promote other policies that are unpopular with the general public but benefit your donors and core voter demographics. But why would a (nominally) left-wing politician buy into that scam? Why not address real problems that would help your constituency? Or, failing that, create your own fake problems that advance your own political agenda instead of your opponents? Or – if you’re not inclined to help your voters or advance your own values – just leave politics and go and do something else with your life? I genuinely don’t get it.

Update: Josie responds. Opening quote:

If you think crime, welfare and unemployment are ‘problems that don’t actually exist’ you are out of touch with the facts as well as public opinion.

 

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99 Comments »

  1. That piece is just awful. It made my eyes bleed.

    This single sentence has so many errors of fact and logic it could have been written by an Objectivist or Matthew Hooten:

    “if the left can’t debate crime and welfare with more depth than saying ‘but look over there! At the economy!’, then it is repudiating its own principles.”

    She doesn’t get paid to do this I’m hoping.

    Comment by Guy Smiley — February 6, 2013 @ 7:47 am

  2. Someone over at The Standard described her as “living in a Blairite bubble” from which she is unlikely to emerge. Seemed as good a summing up as I have read anywhere!

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 6, 2013 @ 7:53 am

  3. P.S.

    “…Or… …just leave politics and go and do something else with your life? I genuinely don’t get it…”

    The siren of a nice six figure salary on the party list might still call loudly through the fog to Josie. Just sayin’.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 6, 2013 @ 7:55 am

  4. It’s eminently gettable. She’s saying that “tough” law and order policy (for example) is consistent with left/liberal principles of “keeping people safe”. As a left/liberal, you can still address the root causes of crime (i.e. poverty. But without falling into the trap that poverty causes all crime) and penal reform (e.g. conditions in prison, opportunities for rehabilitation, etc.) But, if you are charged with formulating law and order policy, don’t abandon such positions to the right.

    Comment by Danny-boy — February 6, 2013 @ 8:11 am

  5. It might work to get Labour into power. It might also work to get the Greens into power, since abandoning everyone who is not middle class does leave room. I don’t think it would grow Labour, it just might shrink National.

    The bit I don’t like about it is what it means after the election, rather than what effect it has on the chances of getting elected.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 6, 2013 @ 9:04 am

  6. Furthermore, it just isn’t that convincing to many voters that a Labour Party would actually implement tough on everything policies, because throughout history they (fortunately) haven’t. So if you like those policies, why would you give your vote to Labour who may or may not follow through, rather than just voting for National or the Conservatives who you know absolutely will follow through.

    Comment by awbraae — February 6, 2013 @ 9:16 am

  7. My problem with the proposed crime focus is that it’s based on the fallacy of perceived high crime rates. Overall crime in NZ is low and has been declining steadily for years. Total offences recorded in 1994: 447,525. Total offences recorded in 2011: 406,056. Which if you factor in population translates to an offence rate of 0.123 per person in 1994 declining to a rate of 0.094 per person in 2011.

    Comment by eT — February 6, 2013 @ 9:48 am

  8. eT is absolutely right. And that goes for the fear of beneficiaries ripping off the system and welfare reform too. This is one reason why the Pagani programme is so bizarre: it is not anchored in fact, and believes the claims advanced from the right.

    Another reason is that Pagani-ism doesn’t recognise ideology, and only knows about values. One word “values” like “fairness” and “justice” are ambiguous and claimed by all. Without a rigorous definition or analysis — without ideology — there is no policy that is inherently impossible for the Paganis, as long as that policy is justified by these weaselly values. And that’s how the Paganis have ended up wrapping themselves in Left as a brand while being rightly howled at by people who actually think about politics as something more than the red team vs the blue team.

    Comment by Stephen J — February 6, 2013 @ 10:57 am

  9. There’s a fine line between taking the concerns of voters seriously – and proving a leftish response – and pandering to populism.

    I gather Josie is aiming for the former. Perhaps not feasible, I tend to think it’s a position that has merit.

    But Labour has gone for the latter anyway which is a lot worse.

    Comment by NeilM — February 6, 2013 @ 11:03 am

  10. it just isn’t that convincing to many voters that a Labour Party would actually implement tough on everything policies, because throughout history they (fortunately) haven’t.

    i recall Goff being pretty hawkish on crime in the Clark govt

    Comment by NeilM — February 6, 2013 @ 11:07 am

  11. But whatever one thinks of that I do think Josie’s comparison of Labour with Hollande’s centre-left govt is well worth extending. There’s a fair amount that can be gleaned from observing what Hollande was promising before his election and what he’s doing now. and how he’s dealing with economic troubles and international affairs.

    He’s got a pretty competent team who are on the whole centre-left but they don’t have any magic solutions. How would Shearer and his team fair in comparison.

    Comment by NeilM — February 6, 2013 @ 11:26 am

  12. “i recall Goff being pretty hawkish on crime in the Clark govt”

    Goff’s pandering on that score was one of the main reasons I stopped voting Labour after the first term of that government.

    Comment by Stephen J — February 6, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

  13. Who’s going to be a coalition partner for Nats or Labour in 2014? The Maori Party and Act look like toast, so it’s NZF and Greens. I reckon Labour are banking on voters choosing the most workable, stable coalition involving the Greens. Otherwise, why would voters choose Labour as opposed to National, as awbraae at #6 says?

    Comment by Scintilla — February 6, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

  14. I love this “oh crime has been trending down. Why worry about it!”

    Poverty (i.e. real/absolute poverty) has been trending down as well since the industrial revolution. Why worry!

    Comment by swan — February 6, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

  15. It also seems stupid since it’ll put Labour on the wrong side of history and risk changing your position just at the time that position looks like being vindicated. If you look internationally (particularly at the US) there is a strong move away from ‘tough on crime’ because the economics of it are starting to bite. Instead, they’re looking at things that work (like good rehabilitation programmes, employment etc) and getting rid of costly things that don’t work (like mandatory minimum sentences). Even here we’ve had Bill English say that prisons are a moral failing, and the government trumpeting that they’ve been able to reduce the size of the prison population.
    Its pretty sympomatic of the normal quality of her advice that shes now saying ‘quick change policy before we win the debate’.

    Comment by BeShakey — February 6, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

  16. If you think crime, welfare and unemployment are ‘problems that don’t actually exist’ you are out of touch with the facts as well as public opinion.

    It must be possible for the left to say that violent crime will not be tolerated without being accused of repudiating principles of restorative justice and rehabilitation. People in poor communities are more likely to be the victims of crime – and I know that from experience as a founding member of Pillars (an organisation set up to help families with loved ones in prison), having been involved in the Allan Nixon Trust, belonging to the Howard League and having worked with former Alliance minister of Corrections Matt Robson to introduce restorative justice processes and family group conferences. No one takes seriously calls for rehabilitation unless you first demonstrate that you are sincerely anti-crime. Trying to persuade people the problem doesn’t exist, as you state, only alienates them.

    It is entirely consistent to believe in rehabilitation and redemption while taking a muscular position on the need to stand up to crime in our communities. Just as it’s consistent and morally right to believe in the welfare system being there for those who need it while rejecting the damage to lives and opportunities of being stuck on a benefit when you can work.

    What drives some on the right to blame those on benefits for their joblessness are values that I reject – that the state has only a limited role in helping those in need.

    But the right can only succeed in using these issues to distract from their economic plans if the left abandons the ground to them.

    The insight from Manuel Valls in Hollande’s socialist government is that left is motivated by values of fairness and opportunity for everyone, no matter how much money you have or what family or suburb you’re born into, and that when our policy positions get in the way of those values we need to return to a principled position and not lazily assume that what is unpopular is principled.

    Comment by Josie Pagani — February 6, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

  17. I’m not the only one to suspect that the real driver of the crime and welfare debate is crypto-racialism – it’s certainly the case in America. Would those issues be as burning fiercely as they are, if the crims were trailer trash instead of “gangstaz from da projectz”? Chris Trotter seems to concur.

    Pagani’s favoured policies only risk reinforcing the 3-D’s agenda (Divide, Divert, Dehumanise) of Paula Bennett et al, instead of convincing floating voters to switch from blue to red. Third Wayism might have had its day in the sun during the late 1990s, but politics can be a fickle mistress.

    And when I read the words, “Being tough on crime is consistent with left ideology”, I immediately thought of the illiberal authoritarian leftism of Pope Benedict and Hugo Chavez.

    Comment by deepred — February 6, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

  18. “…being stuck on a benefit when you can work.

    What drives some on the right to blame those on benefits for their joblessness are values that I reject – that the state has only a limited role in helping those in need.”

    Those two statements are not so different as you want to believe, Josie. Indeed, most of your piece seems fundamentally confused about what collectivism or values even mean.

    Comment by Sacha — February 6, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

  19. No one is saying crime is not a problem. Myself, I would say that violent crime is decreasing and it is not as serious a problem as news coverage (which is increasing) and the right wing noise machine make out.

    No one is saying unemployment is not a problem, but a reform program premised on the idea that the unemployer are all shirkers who won’t find work without coercion is not a left approach to reform.

    For me the Right’s approach to being tough on crime is longer sentences, increased police powers, harsher parole terms, worse prison conditions and chipping away at the civil rights of prisoners and the accused, all of which things I find unacceptable. Josie, what does a muscular position on the need to stand up to crime mean if not making these concessions? I think I could get behind more police patrols, but now I’m out of ideas.

    Comment by Stephen J — February 6, 2013 @ 4:44 pm

  20. Josie, at this point in the debate, it might be worth starting to talk about concrete policy proposals here, and the concrete evidence backing those proposals. I agree that Labour needs to stand up for the rights of everyone to live free of fear and violence. But we can’t start adopting the failed policies of the unprincipled right, because they don’t work. So what would you have a future Labour government do? What policy should Labour be adopting?

    I think the draft Platform puts it quite nicely when it says that one of Labour’s values in in the Justice sector is making justice decisions based on evidence-based policy, not retributive ideology. Another value is taking a long term approach to addressing the underlying causes of crime, and not playing to the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” audience. I think those are pretty core Labour values in the justice area.

    So I definitely welcome a debate about where we go with justice policy, but it has to be underpinned by evidence, and it does have to be underpinned by those Labour values.

    Comment by Keir — February 6, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

  21. Let’s say that Labour and the Green Party were able to perpetuate a myth that 100% tax rates on high income earners and multinational corporations would lower the national incidence of cancer (and if you look at some of the arguments made by fans of the Spirit Level hypothesis, this scenario is not impossible). And let’s say they managed to get the public excited/scared: corporate fat cats are giving us cancer!

    How would right-wing political parties, and their shills like David Farrar and Matthew Hooton respond? I’m not sure – but I know what they wouldn’t do. They wouldn’t throw up their hands and say, ‘The public is scared of cancer! We have to move to the left on this issue and introduce 100% tax rates! We have to get tough on cancer – or are you going to pretend that cancer doesn’t exist? Because cancer is real, buddy! You’re out of touch with the facts and the public!’

    The violent crime rate is decreasing. We already have a robust and puntitive criminal justice system. There’s no evidence that additional ‘tough on crime’ policies do anything other than waste money. They’re a public relations stunt. The public is terrified of crime and supportive of those tough on crime policies because people like you aren’t doing your job properly.

    Comment by danylmc — February 6, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

  22. Gee Danyl you make it sound like a true lefty tolerates crime.

    Comment by titsonabull — February 6, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

  23. Perhaps the discussion would be more enlightening if Josie or somebody else could give examples of the previous Labour-led government being soft on crime, or Labour in opposition moving to a position of ‘softness’.

    I’m sure we can all think of slogans that appeal to certain voters, but what policies should those slogans lead to?

    Josie says “Violent crime will not be tolerated”. Who’s tolerating it? And how do we “not tolerate” it? One strike and you’re out? Death penalty?

    Specifics please.

    (but if the real answer is “Don’t be silly, Labour should just change the rhetoric, not the actual policies”, please say so).

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — February 6, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

  24. There’s no evidence that additional ‘tough on crime’ policies do anything other than waste money. They’re a public relations stunt.

    Talking tough on crime doesn’t cost much, though.

    but if the real answer is “Don’t be silly, Labour should just change the rhetoric, not the actual policies”, please say so

    I presumed that was what was being suggested. The clue was the total lack of any detail about what being tough on crime meant, and many paragraphs about the positioning it implies, how it could be argued into the core values. It was a strategic argument, with a small core of underlying values that are actually no-brainers (these convert nicely into slogans). It might work, as I said. My only worry is what it might mean, when the detail is completely absent, but then I fear that about everything Labour does or stands for, really. Which is why *I* don’t vote for them.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 6, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

  25. “There’s no evidence that additional ‘tough on crime’ policies do anything other than waste money.”

    Getting prisoners to work helps with rehabilitation. Having criminals incarcerated prevents them from further offending. Thats just two off the top of my head.

    Comment by swan — February 6, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

  26. Criminals being incarcerated is evidence of being ‘tough on crime’?
    And I thought it was evidence of judicial interpretation of the Crimes Act. Silly me.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 6, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

  27. “And I thought it was evidence of judicial interpretation of the Crimes Act. Silly me.”

    Well I dont think anyone other than extremists is calling for anything more strong than incarceration. Flogging etc. And I dont recall the Nats vowing to take away the prisons sky tv subscription. So what is being tough on crime then??

    Comment by swan — February 6, 2013 @ 10:32 pm

  28. Let’s say that Labour and the Green Party were able to perpetuate a myth that 100% tax rates on high income earners and multinational corporations would lower the national incidence of cancer

    but it’s not a myth that people are hurt by crime.

    The public is terrified of crime and supportive of those tough on crime policies because people like you aren’t doing your job properly.

    Well maybe the public just want to have the Blue Chip directors behind bars.

    Comment by NeilM — February 6, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

  29. Talking tough on crime doesn’t cost much, though.

    In the short run, sure, talk is cheap. But in the long run? It makes it harder and harder for politicians to make the brave moves towards evidence based policy that we need. And that costs a lot.

    Comment by Keir — February 6, 2013 @ 11:09 pm

  30. As Danyl noted at the top, “tough on crime” etc are great distractions. They repeat the right’s framing beautifully. And it’s even working right here.

    Comment by Sacha — February 6, 2013 @ 11:52 pm

  31. OK so over at pundit I posted a long response, that I am sure anyone who is interested can read and form their own opinion on. However, one aspect of the reply from Josie Pagani in the comments thread there interested me. To reprise, Pagani defended the French intervention in Mali in the following terms:

    “…The French socialist’s intervention in Mali for example continues a Left tradition going back to the Spanish Civil war of standing up to fascism, in whatever guise is occurs…”

    to which I replied

    “…What sort of nonsensical historical revisionism is this? Are Islamists fascists? Islamists are Islamists, although I suppose you can label them fascist if it makes you feel better…”

    To which I got the response

    “…If he (Tom Semmens) wants to defend the barbaric Qaeda conservatives who burned the historic Muslim libraries of Timbuktu then he should not confuse his position with leftism or civilisation…”

    Now, this is so feeble it is not really worth responding to. It is “question my narrative? you must hate me because I am free!” stuff. Of course, an Islamist of the flavour we apparently see in Mali is a dangerous enough fellow without having to label him a fascist to boot. Opposition to Islamists for a leftist could, for example, be couched in simple terms of opposing the backward darkness of reactionary religion (be it Catholic regime enablers in Barcelona in 1936 or mad Mullahs in Mali in 2013) with the progressive light of socialism, or whatever. But Pagani didn’t chose that. She chose the emotive term “fascism”. The neolgism of linking Islam with fascism is the language of Christopher Hitchens and Fox News, of the Daily mail and Daily Telegraph and, dare I say it, of Tony Blair. It is fig leaf to often used to justify the Imperialist adventurism of the neo-con right. It seems to me more likely the Islamist movement in in Mali is the usual mix of ignorant fundmentalists with a whole cocktail of ethnic conflict, rather than a sophisticated syncretic ideology blending nineteenth century political theory with Islamic belief. Certainly this document – (http://studies.aljazeera.net/ResourceGallery/media/Documents/2013/1/20/201312011308159734French%20intervention%20in%20Mali.pdf) – makes no mention of the desire of Islamists in Mali to make the trains run on time or conduct large and impressive torch lit ceremonies.

    Why dwell so much on this so much, you may well ask? Well to me, in the context of Pagani’s central thesis and the language of her political positioning, the choice of language here is a perfect illustration of her cuckoo-in-the-left’s-nest reactionary politics. She accepts the language – and therefore the premise – of the right without question. It isn’t ignorant Muslims engaged in ethnic conflict in the failed state of Mali. It is plot by Al Qaeda, lamo-fascism on the march, people who hate us because we are free. If you accept that framing of the debate, then you must accept everything else – the invasion of iraq, the “state building” in Afghanistan, unquestioning support for Israel.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 7, 2013 @ 9:04 am

  32. >In the short run, sure, talk is cheap. But in the long run?

    In the long run, I don’t know what to expect. Part of being Labour or National is that you talk shit before elections and then pick and choose amongst it for what you’ll actually do.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 7, 2013 @ 9:46 am

  33. So what is being tough on crime then??

    And there’s the rub, swan.
    While in a rhetorical sense it’s a handy dogwhistle, in a political sense I think being ‘Tough on crime!’ is a policy of inaction rather than a strategic response.

    ‘Tough on crime!’ immediately frames solution as being punitive (harsher sentences, more prisoners) as opposed to being preventative (address issues of education, escalating inequality/poverty, political/social disenfranchisement and the degradation of civil society).

    Addressing the issue of crime in a passive, punitive fashion – the logic being ‘The more prisons we build and the longer sentences we dish out, the fewer crims will be on the streets, ergo less crime) requires a lot less thought than an active, interventionalist approach of ‘Let’s look at the causes of crime in our society and nip it in the bud, ergo less crime’.

    It also helps that the former approach addresses the innate,emotional human need for retribution where the latter sets the far more uncomfortable challenge of asking society to reflect on its structures and values.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 7, 2013 @ 9:47 am

  34. The problem is that no matter how hysterically Labour pontificates about its crime policies, people for whom crime is the main issue will always prefer National. Their branding’s just too deep on that issue to be budged.

    Comment by Hugh — February 7, 2013 @ 9:53 am

  35. “the former approach addresses the innate,emotional human need for retribution where the latter sets the far more uncomfortable challenge of asking society to reflect on its structures and values.”

    Yes, and it helps us see who is really underestimating the humanity and intelligence of voters, doesn’t it?

    Comment by Sacha — February 7, 2013 @ 10:21 am

  36. The Pagani crew seem to be strong on tactics and weak on outcomes. Their ideas might win elections…..and lose the war by committing to bad policy. If labour was as bereft of purpose as this, they should fold the tent and the ones who still care about “we” values (as opposed to “me” values) should join the Greens. They appear to still give rat’s about that sort of thing.

    As for “krime ‘n pnishmunt”, I used to be a Corrections Officer in a New Zealand prison. I got into it partly because I was curious about what REALLY went on in prisons. I found out a few things. I found out most of what we see in the media is rubbish. I found out prisons are Crime University. If you spent much time there, you’ll be a better criminal in many ways…AND you’ll have acquired a fully-operational criminal network to try out all this new stuff. Pick your gang. They’re all there. I doubt gangs could survive in NZ if it weren’t for the way we imprison them. All together. What an awesome boost for cadre discipline and esprit de corps. Perfect hot houses for crime.But basically, prisons are warehouses for the “mad, bad and sad”. The only way to REALLY change these people would be surround them with people NOT like them. But we do the opposite.

    Prisons have also become the defacto dumping ground for the mentally ill…and what a terrible environment it is for them. You don’t have to stand at a small window watching (in case it looks like he’s succeeding) some guy try to kill himself very many times to work that out. Those moments bring prisons into fairly sharp focus.

    Bottom line: if you want more criminals, build more prisons. If you want the mentally ill to top themselves….send them there, too. Oh…we do.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — February 7, 2013 @ 10:36 am

  37. In the long run, I don’t know what to expect. Part of being Labour or National is that you talk shit before elections and then pick and choose amongst it for what you’ll actually do.

    This is, uh, not really accurate as a model of political behaviour. Politicians generally keep their promises, and not just in the sense of not doing things they said they wouldn’t, but also generally doing the things they said they would.

    Comment by Keir — February 7, 2013 @ 11:05 am

  38. If you re-read the original piece, I’m talking about France not New Zealand, and M Valls response to the very real issue of crime in the banlieue. Not crime in New Zealand. His principled position has made him unpopular in his own party and very popular with the public.

    That’s what interests me.

    How could the most popular politician in France be the most unpopular politician in his own party? He is now standing up to party critics, and rejects the notion that he is choosing pragmatism over principle.

    My general point was not to critique NZ Labour’s justice policy (or welfare or tax), but to argue that if a left party’s policy is out of step with public opinion, our first response should not be ‘What’s wrong with the voters?’ but ‘Are we being true to our values?’ In some cases the answer will be ‘yes’ and we must stand up to prevailing public views (I use the extreme example of slavery in the US). In other cases, it is right to ask ourselves if we are acting on principle or on blind dogma. Are we serving the public, or vested interests? I want the Left to reclaim the moral highground in areas that we avoid talking about – welfare, crime and tax. Because we’ve got a better story to tell than the right. That will only happen when people on the left who want to explore these issues, and take public views seriously, don’t get silenced or excommunicated. That’s why Manuel Valls is a politician to watch.

    (This response also appear in the comments on pundit.co.nz)

    Comment by Josie Pagani — February 7, 2013 @ 11:07 am

  39. I want the Left to reclaim the moral highground in areas that we avoid talking about – welfare, crime and tax. Because we’ve got a better story to tell than the right.

    Sure. But Labour hasn’t represented the Left – actual Left as opposed to 3rd-wayism – for a long time.
    You can’t claim the high ground when you’ve abandoned core principles. To attempt to do so is, rightly, ridiculed as opportunism and brand management.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 7, 2013 @ 11:28 am

  40. Hey Josie, does your “muscular position” on crime include doing something principled and pragmatic such as decriminalising cannibis for adults ? Or are you principles only to be used if they are signed off by National’s target demographic ?

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — February 7, 2013 @ 11:28 am

  41. It’s interesting to see what Hollande is doing about job losses in manufacturing:

    http://gauche.blog.lemonde.fr/2013/02/05/psa-le-gouvernement-critique-par-le-reste-de-la-gauche/

    It’s sort of similar to here. The “left” are accusing the centre-left for being too pragmatic and not left/principled enough. There’s some difference in that the there are parties further to the left than the socialist party – and real parties not vanity projects like Mana – in the national assembly.

    Comment by NeilM — February 7, 2013 @ 11:46 am

  42. >I want the Left to reclaim the moral highground in areas that we avoid talking about – welfare, crime and tax.

    By doing what, exactly?

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 7, 2013 @ 11:49 am

  43. “…The French socialist’s intervention in Mali for example continues a Left tradition going back to the Spanish Civil war of standing up to fascism, in whatever guise is occurs…”

    to which I replied

    “…What sort of nonsensical historical revisionism is this? Are Islamists fascists? Islamists are Islamists, although I suppose you can label them fascist if it makes you feel better…”

    To me extreme islamists come across more as extreme right than extreme left but I suppose in terms of misery caused there’s no real difference.

    You say this is important because of “framing” but it’s Hollande and his centre-left govt that are being hailed in Mali as defenders of liberal values, not left-wing activists.

    Comment by NeilM — February 7, 2013 @ 11:58 am

  44. Josie says:

    “That will only happen when people on the left who want to explore these issues, and take public views seriously, don’t get silenced or excommunicated.”

    which is just a longer version of … “The PC police blah blah I got nothing”.

    Again, all straw, no specifics. Who in the Labour party, or on the left generally, has been “silenced” or “excommunicated”? Are there leaders or MPs or staffers or columnists or talkback hosts being shut down because they are too right-wing? Who? When?

    I don’t know much about France, but I’m certainly struggling to see any relevance to reality in New Zealand.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — February 7, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

  45. I don’t know much about France, but I’m certainly struggling to see any relevance to reality in New Zealand.

    it’s an opportunity to watch a centre-left govt in action, a centre-left govt that has a Green Party minister, a govt trying to tackle similar economic problems to ours (eg loss of manufacturing jobs), a party that promised much prior to the election and has had to wind that back.

    there’s some similarity there to what we might expect with a Shearer govt.

    Comment by NeilM — February 7, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

  46. “areas that we avoid talking about – welfare, crime and tax”

    I’d say your thesis falls over right there.

    Comment by Sacha — February 7, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

  47. I’m pretty sure that just talking about these things would be better than talking about talking about them.

    If the problem is that when you do talk about them people disagree with you, then deal with that disagreement. Saying it would work if everyone would just shut up about their disagreements is silly.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — February 7, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

  48. there’s some similarity there to what we might expect with a Shearer govt.

    Huh? Aside from political window dressing – “Look! Two leftist Premiers!” – comparing Hollande France to a possible Shearer NZ in a broader sociopolitical context is nonsense.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 7, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

  49. So Josie asks:
    “How could the most popular politician in France be the most unpopular politician in his own party? He is now standing up to party critics, and rejects the notion that he is choosing pragmatism over principle. ”

    Many LOLs, see the parallel with David Cunliffe being unpopular in Labour caucus but more attuned to what the public and the membership wants to hear and being more principled…

    Comment by Me Too — February 7, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

  50. @ Pascal’s Bookie – I don’t think Josie was asking for everyone on the left who disagree with another leftie to ‘just shut up about their disagreements’; she just seemed to be asking for us on the left to not hysterically scream others down. One of the few times I agree with Josie.

    Good example – sanctuary in #31 above takes Josie’s remark, “The French socialist’s intervention in Mali for example continues a Left tradition going back to the Spanish Civil war of standing up to fascism, in whatever guise is occurs”, and interprets her as equating Islamist terrorists in Mali as being fascists, and then howls her down for his perception of what she said. Whereas I interpreted Josie’s remark as being a rather loose grammatical way of saying the left have always stood against terrorist attacks on human liberty and life, so we fought the fascists in Spain and today the Islamists in Mali. Loose language by Josie, but hardly worthy of such a shrill response.

    Sigh. I don’t know or care too much about Josie and Labour, but would like it if the liberal left could tone down the invective of their responses. Makes for much nicer debate, even if we don’t get to agreement.

    @ MeToo – that is a beautiful analogy – I wonder if David C will use it in caucus; I’m just principled like M Walls ;)

    Comment by bob — February 7, 2013 @ 2:15 pm

  51. bob, if the intervention in Mali is in fact a continuation of a Left tradition going back to the Spanish Civil war of standing up to fascism, in whatever guise is occurs, then the Islamists are fascists. That’s the only way it can be true.

    Otherwise it’s an argument for intervening everywhere and anywhere.

    It’s also a ‘loose grammatical way’ of saying that if you have misgivings about it then you are outside the tradition that stands against fascism. I’d say that was a bit ‘shrill’ as well.

    I don’t have any particular problem with France’s intervention per se, but it would be better if there was a bit more discussion around the war that preceded the islamists getting a foot hold. Self determination for the people in the north perhaps? A redrawing of the boundaries so that they make ethno-geographic sense perhaps?

    Reducing to just ‘fascism’ is a conversation stopper. And seeing we have dragged Spain into it, perhaps Orwell’s ‘politics and the english language’ might be worth a re-read. Words matter.

    Sorry for being shrill, but it’s a leftist tradition that goes back to at least the spanish civil war.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — February 7, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

  52. @Gregor W

    It’s a centre-left party in govt with the greens, I find it interesting to observe and think how things might playout here.

    Watching the Minister of Industrial Renewal say, in reference to the imminent loss of 8,000 jobs in car manufacturing – “In any case, we haven’t found another solution” might give people cause to take a second look a some of our Labour Party’s promises.

    Comment by NeilM — February 7, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

  53. Reducing to just ‘fascism’ is a conversation stopper.

    only if you want it to be.

    I think it was pretty evident that Josie was referring to the old left-wing tradition of fighting injustice even when that meant actual fighting.

    Characterising the islamists as fascists was just short hand for the worst of the worst and there have been plenty of left-wing voices, check out The Guardian, who prefer not recognise that it is a fight against the worst of the worst.

    By all means discus the realated issues, Josie’s words aren’t stopping anyone.

    Comment by NeilM — February 7, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

  54. @NeilM

    I’m just pointing out that looking at a problem in the discrete way you describe – Job losses in NZ Sector X vs French Sector Y and the comparative centre-left govt response – isn’t that instructive unless when you ignore some pretty enormous external factors (e.g. France’s massive GNP and market depth, France’s labour relations history, France’s place in the EU and the state of the eurozone etc.)

    It’s basically chalk and fromage.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 7, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

  55. @Gregor W

    I think some of the political dynamics are similar enough to make for an informative comparison. I think more similar at the moment than Great Britain, the US and Australia.

    I agree there are large differences. France is a wealthier country with a broader economic base and a more competent centre-left team. And yet despite those advantages things aren’t going well and wont for some time.

    I’m not suggesting everyone will find it interesting or its at all necessary.

    Comment by NeilM — February 7, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

  56. ‘I’m not suggesting everyone will find it interesting or its at all necessary.”

    Quite. Josie, just say what you mean.

    Comment by Scintilla — February 7, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

  57. Also, Hollande is keeping the retirement age at 60 whereas Shearer wants to put it up to 67. The differences might not be in our favour.

    Comment by NeilM — February 7, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

  58. I mean the differences make for an interesting comparison as well as the similarities

    Comment by NeilM — February 7, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

  59. One reason that Josie is a successful political adviser and you ain’t is the fact she isn’t as much of a pussy as most of you.

    Comment by Tim — February 7, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

  60. “One reason that Josie is a successful political adviser …”

    Evidence for that claim?

    Comment by Flashing Light — February 7, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

  61. Josie, if you really think the French left avoids talking about tax, I wonder if you paid any attention to Hollande’s last election campaign?

    The idea that the thing you want to talk about is something that nobody has talked about until now is just a cheap rhetorical tactic to make your views look more unique than they actually are. Everybody wants to be seen as breaking the silence on [X]* rather than contributing to an ongoing conversation about [X].

    *[X could be taxes, crime, immigration, policing, parking tickets or batfucking for all it matters

    Comment by Hugh — February 7, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

  62. I don’t think Josie was asking for everyone on the left who disagree with another leftie to ‘just shut up about their disagreements’; she just seemed to be asking for us on the left to not hysterically scream others down.
    Yeah right, just like the cuckoo wishes the birds would STFU when they discover the imposter in the nest.

    Comment by Joe W — February 7, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

  63. Joe W takes gold.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 7, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

  64. ” in a political sense I think being ‘Tough on crime!’ is a policy of inaction rather than a strategic response.”

    It’s not an either/or though, is it? You can be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime can’t you?

    Comment by Swan — February 7, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

  65. 34: “people for whom crime is the main issue will always prefer National. Their branding’s just too deep on that issue to be budged.”
    Or for that matter, Winston First or the CCCP.

    Comment by deepred — February 8, 2013 @ 12:13 am

  66. Swan – I agree.

    However, the weight of policy evidence does not favour this assumption (unless you can show me a political programme with the catch cry of ‘Equally Tough on Crime and Inequity!’)

    Comment by Gregor W — February 8, 2013 @ 12:21 am

  67. @Gregor W: “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”

    British Labour’s slogan during the 1997 election campaign.

    They won.

    They didn’t really follow through, though.

    Comment by Hugh — February 8, 2013 @ 1:16 am

  68. “…Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”
    British Labour’s slogan during the 1997 election campaign.
    They won…”

    A certain King Pyrrhus of Epirus springs to mind.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 8, 2013 @ 8:14 am

  69. Well spotted, Hugh.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 8, 2013 @ 9:21 am

  70. @Sanc: Well, they stayed in power for 13 years. That’s a pretty good run by anyone’s standards.

    You might argue that their time in office didn’t result in any meaningful change, but that’s not what a pyrrhic victory means.

    Comment by Hugh — February 8, 2013 @ 11:17 am

  71. Josie, if you really think the French left avoids talking about tax, I wonder if you paid any attention to Hollande’s last election campaign?

    He’s going to try and introduce a financial transaction tax which I support. We might have the luxury of watching it being implemented and seeing what goes right and wrong.

    Comment by NeilM — February 8, 2013 @ 11:50 am

  72. To be fair while Blair was pants on the “tough on the causes of crime” he was sure as hell hot on weird authoritarianism.

    Comment by Keir — February 8, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

  73. Blair’s “tough on Crime” manifested as “tough on Terror”, which turned into “tough on Iraq”. Crime rates in Iraq soared dramatically ;-)

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 8, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

  74. And you’re still talking about crime. Distraction achieved. Josie can pick up her pay cheque.

    Comment by Sacha — February 8, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

  75. Sacha you are a pure genius, seeing through the ways in which we are all being manipulated without our even being aware of the fact! Amazing!

    However, for someone seemingly so adept at the clever manipulation of opinion, you seem surprisingly unaware of the typical human reaction to being patronised by a voice on the internet, viz. fuck off.

    Comment by Keir — February 8, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

  76. Keir your eloquence and sheer political effectiveness never cease to amaze. Yours in humble awe, etc. Go the workers, etc.

    Comment by Sacha — February 8, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

  77. Agitating a bunch of blog denizens with too much time on their hands is setting a pretty low bar for ‘Distraction Achieved’.

    She needs to work a monorail into her pitch to get some traction.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 8, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

  78. Maybe it’s just me. I do see this as a rehearsal of broader conversations. Not promising.

    Comment by Sacha — February 8, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

  79. If you feel you’ve been distracted the solution could be don’t spend so much time being distracted.

    Comment by NeilM — February 8, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

  80. Truly, any argument over political effectiveness occurring in the comments on the DimPost is two bald men fighting over a comb.

    Comment by Keir — February 8, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

  81. I wasn’t saying that Blair’s policy was successful, I was just trying to show that it is actually possible to win an election with a crime policy that tries to be all things to all people.

    Whether that policy is good for anything other than winning elections…

    But I stand by my broader point that what Josie is trying to promote as some kind of mind-blowing, ground-breaking political eureka moment is actually the received wisdom, and has been for about fifteen years. I wonder if she’s been taking policy lessons from Pete George, he also has a penchant for trying to pass off same-old same-olds as white hot reformist dynamite.

    Comment by Hugh — February 8, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

  82. Wow. This post must set a new record for the greatest number of John and Jose sock puppets for all time.

    Comment by neither pagani — February 8, 2013 @ 10:42 pm

  83. God, it must be so difficult for Josie Pagani, being “silenced and excommunicated” to the point where she only has a Pundit login, a Truth column, and regular appearances on Radio NZ National to exercise her freedom of speech in.

    Comment by QoT — February 8, 2013 @ 10:52 pm

  84. What Josie is saying isn’t new but then her targets are still around.

    Have there been any left-wing demonstrations supporting the Syrian opposition? What happened to left wing international solidarity.

    Too busy arguing over the correct use “fascism” and quaking in terror of mind controls making them think things they don’t want to think.

    Comment by NeilM — February 8, 2013 @ 10:54 pm

  85. @QoT: When your ego’s big enough, anything short of being instantly flown in for top level briefings with the PM and GG whenever something even mildly relevant to your self-proclaimed field of expertise comes up counts as being denied your rightful voice.

    Comment by Hugh — February 9, 2013 @ 12:29 am

  86. @keir – At what level of the Labour Party is one expected to cease being a normal, run of the mill, laid back kinda person and turn into a thin skinned dick? People ned to know, so they can avoid standing for election to those offices.

    @NeilM – “…Have there been any left-wing demonstrations supporting the Syrian opposition..?”

    Have there been any right wing ones? As far as I can tell the right is busy decrying the fall of dictatorships in the Middle East and blaming the progressive left for allowing it all happen. So take that bit of strawman bullshit and put it away in that little shoebox you keep under your bed. The bottom line in a place like Syria is a loathsome regime is locked in a dreadful civil war with a desperate and ruthless opposition. Who wants to march in support of slow motion disaster at least partially of our own making? Hanging our heads in collective shame at our leaderships culpability in the disasters of the middle east seems quite an accurate left wing response to Syria.

    Oh, and I don’t recall the right turning out in their thousands calling for the end of the rule of banksters, like the occupy movement did, or marching against austerity, like the left has across Europe.

    I am not busy arguing over the correct use of “fascism”. What I am interested in is the hijacking of language to serve a deeply right wing agenda. Saying that taking a skeptical view of imperialist adventures – in Mali or Iraq – makes you a fascist is an abuse of language.

    Right now on NatRad Prof. Guy Standing is talking about the emerging “precariat”. He makes the point that right wing populists are playing on the fears of the precarious working class by blaming “others”. The “others” are (in New Zealand) the poor, immigrants, teachers, unionised workers. Just check the usual hate fodder of kiwiblog. This baiting of the general public with the suggestion that the real cause of their declining standards of living is the enemy within is what is the real fascist project here. The context of Josie Pagani’s “get tough on crime” is that of right wing populism with a slow drift to neo-fascist authoritarianism. Her context of her “discussion on welfare” is about who can best manage a deliberately created enemy within, with all of the usual amnesia of history one has come to expect from a communications “expert”. Her conversation on tax is going to be polluted by the defeatism of total surrender to authoritarian global capitalism.

    Josie Pagani is hardly having her freedom of expression repressed. What she doesn’t like is the intrusion of reality into the conceits of how she perceives herself.

    As a final word, it is worth re-reading Chris Trotter’s post on her – http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz/2012/06/despising-working-class-reply-to-josie.html

    I would have thought the comprehensive debunking of Josie Pagani as being anything other than a Blairite middle class apologist over at least a year would have seen her deleted from any list of “go to” left wing commentators. But as QoT points out, her hubris and her role as a useful idiot keeps her on the radar (her and Pete George have that much in common, at least). I think what really gets to Pagani though is the rude intrusion of reality into the conceits by which she perceives herself that she gets everytime she opines in a open forum.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 9, 2013 @ 9:22 am

  87. @NeilM You realise the rebels in Syria are just as much ‘AQ’ as those in Mali are, right? It’s pretty bloody complicated. What do you suggest doing?

    The nightmare scenario at the moment is that the Syrian regime collapses and the next day the Sunni in Iraq in areas along the border declare war on the Shiite regime in Bahgdad. The ‘awakening councils’ are restive, some have put the govt on notice that they are considering war. Regular suicide bombings continue.

    But fuck it hey. It’s all really about scoring domestic brownie points over who you support in a simplistic reduction to a short cut fascist.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — February 9, 2013 @ 10:30 am

  88. Sanctuary: sadly, ongoing empirical research tends to show no clear correlation between office and general likeability. Many MPs are relaxed, decent people. Many branch chairs are petty authoritarians.

    Comment by Keir — February 9, 2013 @ 10:41 am

  89. France’s economy is in a terrible state. Since Hollande came to power France, which has the largest government in terms of its share of the economy in Europe, has lost its triple A credit rating, unemployment has risen to its highest since the early 1990s when the Socialists were last in power at 10.5%, and capital is fleeing the country. Hollande has had to make an embarrasing U-Turn on his pledge to lower VAT, which has now risen (so much for a politician’s promises) and his 75% income tax on French citizens earning more than 1 million euros annually has been halted by the Constitutional Council of France which, because it “failed to recognize equality before public burdens,” found it unconstitutional. The French employment minister in Hollande’s government recently said “There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state” and German officials now say that France is the biggest problem in the Eurozone. Perhaps then the lesson that Labour should learn from France is an economic one and what that says for their own illiberal policies.

    There is an interesting piece of research mentioned in this piece from ZeroHedge: French Socialist Nightmare: ‘The State Cannot Do Everything’

    The same Institut Montaigne that had shocked the establishment last April with a new French Paradox: employees in France were more dissatisfied with their jobs and more stressed at work than their counterparts in the rest of Europe—despite highly protective, “dense and complex” labor laws that allowed the French to work fewer hours, work less often over the weekend, and have a “less sustained pace of work.” And it dared to wonder if the sacrosanct labor laws were still protective, or if they’d become counterproductive even for employees. Gasps all around.

    Comment by Quoth the Raven — February 10, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

  90. QtR – you can’t be seriously suggesting that all of France’s economic woes can be laid at the at a guy who’s been in charge for 9 months, are you?

    Comment by Gregor W — February 10, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

  91. Gregor – No. You are obtuse aren’t you. France’s economic woes go back a long way. It has the largest government as a share of its economy in Europe, its economy is one of the least free in Europe, and as a result of this over-regulated state-burdened economy it has persistently high unemployment (its unemployment rate hasn’t been below 7% for nearly three decades). That is the result of many governments. Hollande like all politicians, and the Labour party here, was going to turn it all around, his policies were going to spur economic growth and reduce unemployment, with his bold anti-austerity pledges and promises of a more interventionist government (i.e., hands on), but what has happened in the last 9 months has been a near unmitigated disaster, with an ever quickening pace of worsening economic news. As a result of this economic reality he has had to backtrack. It seems the Socialists in France have learned nothing from Mitterand’s economically disastrous interventionism in his first couple years in office before he made a reversal on economic policy.

    Comment by Quoth the Raven — February 10, 2013 @ 9:56 pm

  92. @Quoth: But wait, where does France’s government rank in terms of its share of the economy, on a European scale?

    Comment by Hugh — February 10, 2013 @ 11:38 pm

  93. “Wow. This post must set a new record for the greatest number of John and Jose sock puppets for all time.

    Comment by neither pagani — February 8, 2013 @ 10:42 pm”

    er and the greatest number of aggressively aggrieved greens blathering on. She’s a political commentator of the center right persuasion what do you expect some treatise on reintroducing compulsory unionism?

    Comment by TransportationDevice A7-98.1 — February 11, 2013 @ 8:00 am

  94. ha ha ha, ‘center right’ my bad shiould be ‘center left’ but hey they both look the same in the dark.

    Comment by TransportationDevice A7-98.1 — February 11, 2013 @ 8:05 am

  95. France’s economic woes go back a long way.

    Which is why I was wondering why you devoted your opening paragraph to describing how awful Hollande was.
    So, I’m not really being obtuse – merely gently taking you to task for being an ideological bore.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 11, 2013 @ 9:23 am

  96. I wonder if this is some sort of Dim Post experiment to see how long a circular argument can run. So far its been going almost a week, not bad at all.

    Comment by awbraae — February 11, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

  97. Yup. The usual useful idiots are are obliging by slapping their cocks of the political theory text books.

    Comment by Tim — February 11, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

  98. You really are fascinated with cock, aren’t you timmy? Perhaps you should spend less time on the internet – you’ll go blind.

    There we go … things have degenerated to personal insults. Oh – and Josie Pagani is just like Hitler.

    Comment by Flashing Light — February 12, 2013 @ 7:47 am

  99. You gotta admit, Flashing, penises ARE pretty fascinating.

    Comment by Phil — February 12, 2013 @ 9:13 am


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