The Dim-Post

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.

September 12, 2016

Chart of the end of the day

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 11:14 am

day

September 11, 2016

Things

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:17 am

I wrote a thing about the Wellington Mayoral race for the Spinoff. You can read it here.

We finished watching Stranger Things recently. I saw a couple of astute comments about it on the internet, but cannot remember where:

  • The online response to Stranger Things is proof that the internet can’t just like things, it has to love them.
  • It’s a show that is not anxious about revealing its influences. (The show is a convergence of 1980s pop culture masterpieces. ET, Poltergeist, Alien, Stephen King’s Firestarter) 

I liked it, but it felt to me like a show designed by an algorithm to make me like it.

I just finished reading Michael Faber’s Book of New Strange Things. The only other book I’ve read of his is The Crimson Petal and the White, which I didn’t think much of. I don’t think I’ve ever read two such dissimilar novels by the same author. I liked BONST, but don’t think I understood it at all. It reminded me a bit of the Priest’s Tale in Dan Simmon’s Hyperion. If anyone wants to explain it to me in the comments, feel free.

 

September 9, 2016

Darkness before beers

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:26 am

There’ll be an awful lot written about the convergence of issues in the Chiefs/Scarlette scandal, but something I think we’re seeing a lot of, generally, is the rise of the anti-show trial in which powerful people or institutions accused of wrongdoing investigate and then exonerate themselves, generally outside the bounds of the criminal justice system.

September 7, 2016

Where the bee sucks there suck I

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 3:13 pm

Via RNZ:

Colin Craig contemplated buying his press secretary jewellery and told her she had “healing hands”, a jury has been told

The former Conservative Party leader is being sued for defamation by Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams over comments he made at a news conference and in a widely distributed leaflet in July last year.

Mr Williams has told the High Court in Auckland that the comments suggested Mr Williams been dishonest and had made up allegations about why Mr Craig’s press secretary Rachel MacGregor had left her job.

Yesterday he detailed accusations that Mr Craig had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor, forcing her to leave.

Mr Williams also read a number of poems he said Mr Craig had written for Ms MacGregor.

In one poem, Mr Craig implied that he wished he was two men and could be in a relationship with Ms MacGregor, Mr Williams said.

In a section of the poem titled ‘beautiful’, which the letter said Ms MacGregor could skip if she thought it was inappropriate, Mr Craig allegedly wrote: “You look unbelievably good in your new dress. Your lips are so amazing to kiss. Your skin is so soft. You are wonderful because you have the most beautiful … (lol).”

Full disclosure: I am vaguely, peripherally involved in this court case, somehow. Someone in the Conservative Party emailed me a copy of Craig’s pamphlet when it came out, and I guess Jordan Williams found that out during the discovery phase and so I had to sign a deposition about it all.

There’s an ‘Iran vs Iraq’ quality to all of this, but back when this trainwreck happened, Colin Craig signed a confidentiality agreement with MacGregor which he almost immediately broke, making all sorts of allegations against her in the media, secure in the knowledge that if she responded he could sue her for breach of agreement, but that she didn’t have the money to do the same to him. So watching him suffer another intense round of humiliation as karmic punishment for that is pretty sweet.

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