- I’ve got quite a bit of writing to do next year, on two separate books, so blogging might be light.
- A couple of weeks ago I decided to give up twitter. I’m supposed to be using my idle moments to think about my writing, and instead I was using them all – and then some – to check twitter, or think about stuff to say on twitter, so this was just about freeing up some mental space.
- But two weeks of not-being-on-twitter made me realise something: somewhere along the way twitter became completely awful, and not constantly exposing myself to – and participating in – this endless cacophony of advertising soaked shrill, mean-spirited outrage is a wonderful experience. I encourage other compulsive twitter users to try it.
- Update: the more I think about writing, and social media and left-wing activism, the less sense it makes for me to spend my time and energy generating unpaid content for tax-avoiding, libertarian Silicon-Valley billionaires to monetise. The blogging is fun though, so that’ll probably continue.
- Also, too – my wife no longer works for the Green Party. She’s moved on to a job in local government. This’ll make it a bit easier for me to criticise the Greens if I think they do anything silly – or, compliment them without looking like a total shill. I’m still a member of the Greens, and hopefully this year I’ll find some time to contribute to the party. First priority: get them to change the name of their regional newsletter from ‘Wellingreen’ to ‘Anything else’.
- Happy New Year everyone! Thanks for reading.
December 31, 2014
October 14, 2014
- I’m not saying I’m taking a break from blogging, exactly, because every time I do that something really interesting happens that I want to blog about and I look like a doofus. But I’m taking a break from blogging unless something interesting happens.
- Partly because this is because I’m busy with other stuff. But I’m also feeling despondent about left-wing politics: Labour is a horrible mess and looks to remain one, and the Greens couldn’t capitalise on Labour’s failure and grow their vote. It’s depressing.
- This might sound solipsistic but I feel like some of the left’s problems stem from over-engagement with social-media. If you’re listening to and engaging with a cacophony of voices online it’s easy to lose touch with the silent but demographically much, much larger section of the population that aren’t commenting via blogs or twitter etc, and have very different priorities and concerns. So I’m part of the problem!
- And the left-wing blogoscape seems pretty bleak. I think The Standard, especially, need to stop and ask themselves some tough questions; right now it feels – to me – that they’re doing more harm than good, mostly to Labour and that having a bunch of anonymous and pseudo-anonymous bloggers widely suspected of working in the Labour leaders’ office hasn’t worked out for them.
- Also, people should stop writing content for Bomber, or reading anything he says, or generally doing anything that acknowledges that he exists. He’s a fool and a buffoon and the suggestion that he speaks for the left, or is representative of the left is very harmful to the left.
- If there’s one thing I think the left can learn from National it’s that we need to talk about what the public cares about, not what we care about – because nobody cares about what we care about. That doesn’t mean left-wing parties have to abandon the things we care about. It’s not like National have abandoned the TPPA, say, or expanding the powers of the security state. They just know that those issues aren’t relevant to that many voters so they talk about things that are. And it works.
January 31, 2014
Cameron Slater’s WhaleOil blog has been down for a few days:
Blogger Cameron Slater has handed over a stack of death threats to the police after angering hundreds by calling a dead man “feral”.
His website has been hacked and he wants a police investigation, while the grieving family of Judd Hall say they want a face-to-face meeting with him.
Clutching pages of evidence, Mr Slater claims he’s the victim of cyber bullying.
The blogger is known for the often inflammatory posts on his Whale Oil website, but this time the reaction has been extreme.
“Yes I might say offensive things, but I’m allowed to say offensive things. What you are not allowed to do is threaten people with death threats and rape against your daughters,” he says.
The threats were incited after he labelled West Coast man Judd Hall, who died in a high-speed car crash, as “feral”.
It’s not like the ‘feral’ remark was a first offense. Making fun of the recently deceased and their families is one of Cameron Slater’s favorite things in the whole world. He finds it especially hilarious when young children who have non-traditional names die horribly, the big joke being that funny names correlate with violent death.
So here’s Slater laughing at a six week old baby who died in Titahi Bay. Here’s Slater laughing at a fifteen month old baby who was savaged by a pitbull. Here’s Slater mocking a two year old accidentally crushed by a car and killed. Search his site and you’ll find dozens of ‘Silly First Name’ posts, most of them laughing about the death or serious injury of very young children. There’s other horrible stuff of a similar nature on a pretty constant basis. If you’re reading WhaleOil regularly you’re reading a lot of content that mocks the victims and families of horrible tragedies.
I can’t really get past this. To me this material marks Slater out as an obvious sociopath, someone so horribly damaged that all you can do is pity them and ignore them. Right? So I find it a little weird that so many other people read Slater’s site and don’t have a problem with how deranged it is. The Justice Minister Judith Collins is a huge fan; the Prime Minister’s office supply him with content. He’s a regular guest on various talk-back radio shows. Duncan Garner and Sean Plunket appear to be WhaleOil fans. The Herald’s media columnist John Drinnan routinely links to his site.
People generally defend him by saying, ‘He’s controversial’, or ‘I don’t agree with everything he says.’ Fair enough. I can’t tell people what they should and shouldn’t read. But I sometimes feel like a character in a horror movie who can’t convince the rest of the villagers that the mysterious stranger is obviously the monster responsible for all those disappearing cattle. I just don’t get how people read this site and simply think ‘Hey! That’s controversial! Let’s put this guy on the radio’ and not, ‘Hey! What a vile hateful animal!’ Or am I crazy here?
July 24, 2013
Yes, it’s been a while between posts. Not so much because of the novel (thanks again to everyone who came to the party and/or bought the book. Sales have been brisk. Reviews have been great.) but because I’ve been reading Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise and one of the comments in it – about the surfeit of information about the political process means that political commentators tend to just pick the datapoints that confirm their pre-existing biases – hit close to home. That’s me! And most everyone else on the blogosphere. I’d like to do more OIA based stories, more data analysis and more satire, but I really don’t have time for any of that stuff. So maybe I should just shut the fuck up?
(This chart corrects for poll bias – just like Nate Silver! – the code to generate it was writter by Peter Green. You can see a non bias corrected chart here. Note how the aggregated curves for National and NZ First are miles away from the actual election results?)
Labour are losing votes to National, and they’ve lost them during the period of time in which the GCSB bill was introduced and the Sky-City deal signed off. They should be winning, not losing. Shearer has responded by replacing his Chief of Staff with Fran Mold, his former press secretary, and Labour’s MPs are leaking to the gallery that his leadership is under threat if he doesn’t reverse this downward trend.
I don’t have any close contacts within Labour these days, but the second-hand gossip I hear is that staff morale is very low, there’s no longer any expectation they’ll be in government next term and there’s very little respect for the senior MPs currently dominating the party, who are seen as chronic underperformers (Annette King – elected to Parliament thirty years ago – was billed as a superstar Health opposition spokesperson when Shearer reshuffled at the start of the year. How’s that working out?)
Changing the CoS doesn’t seem likely to fix the party’s problems, but neither does changing the leader, unless its accompanied by more drastic change.
June 19, 2013
Editor Cameron Slater has confirmed speculation Truth will not publish this week.
In October last year, the Whaleoil blogger was drafted to rescue the struggling tabloid.
Tonight he told NBR ONLINE, “The paper was just too far gone … I’m proud of the editorial and production staff and the changes we made, but ultimately the hole it found itself in was just too deep.”
Mr Slater blames previous management and owners for the paper’s plight.
I picked up a few copies of Truth after Slater became editor, and I always meant to write about them but never got around to it. ‘Strange’, is probably the best word: there was extensive racing coverage, extensive prostitution advertising (I would have expected this industry to move online years ago, I wonder why it hasn’t?), there was a column giving advice on how to have a threesome, and extensive political coverage in the form of attack stories about obscure back-bench opposition MPs. But the stories didn’t actually explain who the MPs were: just that Gareth Hughes – to use one example – was a hypocrite because he flew on a plane somewhere.
Maybe Slater is right and he inherited a dying paper, but I can’t imagine the Venn diagram of paying readers who are interested in sex tips, horse-racing and Gareth Hughes overlaps a whole lot, or that many of the paper’s stories made the slightest sense to anyone who wasn’t already plugged into the world of right-wing political blogs.
It’s also an interesting insight into the whole ‘bloggers will replace journalists’ meme. One of the advantages of blogging is that you never have to explain anything – you can just link to a news story in the mainstream media containing all the relevant background about the issue at hand, assume they’ve got all their facts straight and then go on to complain about how rubbish the mainstream media are. That doesn’t really work if you replace the mainstream media, or try to.
June 14, 2013
National’s new comms strategy is very smart. Normally if a party has a minor story about someone in an opposing party – like the half-wit Labour MPs in the Sky City corporate box – they shop it around the press gallery or raise it in Parliament, but often-as-not the story just dies or ends up in a side-bar.
But if National gives it to DPF who publishes it as a rumour on his blog then suddenly the press gallery are competing with each other to track down the story behind the rumour! And when they do it’s a big scoop that they’ve uncovered through the awesome power of journalism, not a trivial political attack.
February 21, 2013
I’m trying to put together something to document the relationship between National’s countless scandals and blunders and National’s equally countless and seemingly closely correlated ‘crackdowns’ on prisoners, beneficiaries, boat people etc. So could people list either scandals, blunders or crackdowns in the comments; if you could link them to a news story or press release that’d be even better.
December 9, 2012
Now that they’ve rid themselves of the threat of David Cunliffe, the Labour caucus has turned their sights on their real enemies: the Labour Party membership and the Greens. John Armstrong, senior Herald amanuensis ran a column yesterday consisting of a warning dictated to the Green Party by Labour’s leadership:
Now that David Shearer no longer has to worry about a knife being plunged into his back – at least not for a while – he needs to tackle another longer-running attempted putsch of a very different but equally serious kind.
Along with other colleagues, the Labour leader is getting increasingly perturbed by the ever more brazen campaign by the Greens to try to displace Labour as the major party on the centre-left.
Shearer, meanwhile, is understood to have given several senior spokespeople greater rein to criticise the Greens if they seem too far out of line with Labour’s thinking.
Essentially the Greens are the tail that is wagging too much on the end of a rather distracted and sometimes slow-moving dog.
In the end it is down to Shearer to give the Greens the occasional flick to remind them who is the senior partner in the relationship. But it is a delicate matter. Still, expect a tougher line from Labour from here on.
I doubt this struck much fear into Russel Norman’s heart. The current trend in the polls – Labour gaining, National declining, Greens holding steady, NZ First above 5% – is the best direction Labour could possibly wish for. Are they going to risk that trend and go to war with the Greens for the left-wing vote? (I guess it’s possible. When Labour sees the Greens steady at around 11% of the vote I don’t think they think ‘that’s money in the bag for a left-wing coalition’, but rather ‘That’s 250,000 votes that belong to us that the Greens have stolen.’ If Labour had that vote share they’d be neck and neck with National. So a war for the left is conceivable, but not very sensible.)
Labour’s other new front are their own members. There have been a few posts on The Standard recently about the Labour leadership trying to censor party members from commenting on blogs. And now a couple of the authors on the Standard have announced they’re retiring from the blog after pressure from the party.
My understanding of what’s happened here is that most authors on The Standard comment under pseudonyms. And they’ve commented on the Labour blog Red Alert using those same pseudonyms. Now, when you comment on Red Alert you have to provide your real email address. So these have been matched to Labour’s membership and the dissenting members have been contacted by party officials. All pretty creepy.
November 3, 2012
This is one of my daughter’s stuffed toys. The official name for the products is something like ‘Mr Snuggle-bunny’, but my name for him/her/it is ‘The Irish Grim Reaper.’
The Irish Grim-Reaper has a song (naturally), and the first verse goes:
Oh I’m the Irish Grim Reaper
I dance a little jig as I slay
But I’ll let you live
If you pay me one pig
I’ll skip home and drink whiskey all day
But I’m struggling with the second verse. I think it starts out:
Oh I’m the Irish Grim Reaper
I’ve potato stains on my grim robe
I’m not sure what’s next. Something about mud on his scythe? Help a blogger out and submit your verses in the comments.
October 18, 2012
He links to a Stuff Nation – article? columns? story? blog? eh – suggesting that only people who pay positive tax should get to vote.
We should only count the votes of people who paid a positive amount of tax (less any cash benefits), and preferably weight them by that amount. This would skew the decision making in favour of productive, intelligent people, leading to much better outcomes for the nation as a whole.
This is such a weird idea, and it crops up all the time on right-wing blogs. But think about it for five seconds: you only get to vote if you paid a positive amount of tax. So all retired people would lose the right to vote. You take a year off work to have a baby you lose the right to vote. Want to start up a business and live off your savings for a year? You lose the right to vote!
Anyway, DPF also dismisses the idea, but then goes on to say:
I don’t support this, but the issues Connell touches on does go to the heart of politics. There are systemic problem when such a huge proportion of the voting population are dependent on the state.
In a very broad sense, the parties of the left that advocate higher taxes aim to get 51% of the country dependent on the state – either through welfare, state jobs, Working for Families, taxpayer funded NGOs, student support etc. That is because it creates a voting constituency in favour of higher taxes, and hence them staying in power.
This is a reprise of Romney’s 47% argument. It’s a pretty common trope on the right, which buys into the Ayn Rand fantasy of a static society divided into productive workers and unproductive parasites, as opposed to, say, a society in which people are young, and don’t work, and then older, and work, and then even older when they retire and don’t work.
As many, many commentators pointed out when Romney made this arugment, the largest group of people ‘dependent on the state’ are the elderly, who skew towards the right when they vote. The second largest group are welfare beneficiaries, who don’t vote. How does that reality fit into this alleged left-wing strategy of electoral domination through state-dependency?
I guess you could argue that people employed in the state sector are ‘dependent on the state’ and thus left-wing. Nurses, teachers etc. Except that category includes police and military staff, who aren’t notoriously left-wing. How about the public-service? Well, they mostly live in Wellington which mostly party-voted National in the last election.
DPF goes onto say:
Likewise parties of the right try to reduce the number of people dependent on the state. They do stuff like promote asset sales, as the more voters who are private investors and the like, the more who support lower taxes etc.
I’m at a loss to see how the mixed-ownership model ‘reduces the number of people dependent on the state’. The New Zealand private sector seems completely dependent on the state and its ability to use taxpayer money to build profitable companies which can then be sold onto the private sector.
The solution isn’t to restrict voting rights, but to be aware of the dangers of getting a majority of the population dependent on taxpayer funding, because that is how you end up with say 55% receiving most of the taxes, demanding the 45% pay more and more.
Like I said, an increasing majority of those ‘dependent on taxpayer funding’ are going to be the elderly, without whom National would be unelectable, so I wish DPF good luck in convincing his party – its interventionist, authoritarian Economic Development Minister in particular – to implement the values he seems to think it should represent, but doesn’t actually deliver in any of its major policies.