The Dim-Post

November 30, 2015

Just for the record

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:03 am

I want to get down my early prediction for the 2017 election which, contra Rob Salmond, is that it won’t be close and that National will win very easily but probably won’t be able to form a government without New Zealand First. Key pointed out over the weekend that pundits always predict Peters will be the kingmaker and they’ve been wrong three elections in a row, but I think that short of a shock retirement or some other outlier that he will be this time around.

Update: Also, I’m gonna predict – although this one is more of a guess – that Judith Collins won’t be back in Cabinet. It strikes me that there haven’t been any scandals or disgraces in the National Party for a while. Sabin’s resignation is the last one I can think of. People are behaving themselves, or at least not getting caught.

The exception is Judith Collins who raised eyebrows promoting a car dealership in her electorate who gave her a new car to drive, an activity that turned out to be illegal for Ministers but not MPs.

Do Key/Eagleson really want Collins back in Cabinet skating extremely close to the law, conducting covert attacks on Cabinet rivals through the media, and repeatedly forcing the PM to grit his teeth and say that he stands by her? I doubt it. Maybe they’ll reckon its safer to have her in than out, but realistically it probably isn’t.

November 28, 2015

The climate march

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:16 am

There’s a good overview in the Herald about climate change ahead of the Paris conference and the global climate march today.

Back in the early days of climate change activism there was a big emphasis on catastrophic sea-level rises, which will certainly be a big problem in the decades to come. But now that we’re actually living in a climate changed future it’s apparent that the present threat is from ‘extreme weather events.’ Droughts. Heatwaves. Floods. Storms. Mass extinctions. And the fallout from these will be political and economic. Recessions. Resource scarcity. Conflict. Many, many more refugees, everywhere. Problems we already have today and cannot solve. There won’t be a tipping point when the world suddenly ‘wakes up’ and realises it needs to get serious about climate change. Things will continue to be basically like they are now but gradually and incrementally worse.

I don’t think there is any hope of the Paris Climate Conference preventing that or accomplishing anything. It is just an opportunity for the governments of the world to pretend to be doing something. I will mostly ignore it. It won’t matter. I am going on the climate march today, even though I don’t like going on marches. I’m an introvert and being around large groups of people stresses me out. Also, these things tend to be dominated by the activist left who I think are basically just crazy, and I don’t like marching alongside idiots wearing Guy Fawkes masks and waving around placards with Key’s face and a swastika on it, or ‘9/11 was an inside job’ billboards.

It is worth doing anyway, I think, because at least it’s something rather than nothing. It’s a signal to the future that we weren’t all morons (‘There’s no climate change – it was cold last winter!’). At least we can tell subsequent generations that our political systems were broken but we still did what we could.

November 25, 2015

Research as propaganda

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:25 am

Sociologist Jarrod Gilbert has a column in the Herald about police censorship of his research. It’s all very sinister on its own but it’s related to a deeper problem in the public service that got bad under Clark and is now so much worse under Key, and that is the transformation of the public service into a giant public relations machine for the government of the day. All sectors of the public service now have large communications departments and their primary role is to ‘manage risk’ for the Minister, Director/CEO and the rest of the organisation, in that order.

What if this risk mitigation conflicts with their obligations as a public servant to serve and inform the public? Well, ‘the public’ can’t fire them, or give them a bonus or a promotion, and the head of their organisation can. So all of the incentives are for them to censor research, fight OIAs and generally mislead the public. Identifying and ‘managing’ risk from academic researchers is just a natural progression of that culture.

November 20, 2015

Greive on Scout

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:40 am

This post is mostly just here to send you over to Duncan Greive’s piece on Scout, the new and seemingly doomed MediaWorks gossip website run by former New Zealand Herald gossip columnist Rachael Glucina, which I basically just love (the Greive story, not the gossip site).

One of the bombshells is that Scout’s traffic is abysmally low. Like, lower than this blog. Which is amazing because it gets a promotion at the beginning of 3News every night, something MediaWorks would charge a commercial customer millions of dollars for.

It’s pretty obvious why TV advertising doesn’t drive traffic to a web site though. How do you click through to Scout from the TV? The way to boost web traffic is to get links, mostly through social media platforms like Facebook, and the way to do that is to get stories, which Scout didn’t really do.

That in itself is interesting. Contra what Greive and Russell Brown say in the article, Glucina did continue to get front page leads for the Herald, both leading up to and after the election. Her ability to do this vanished when she left the Herald though, which points to the very transactional nature of her scoops. People like the Prime Minister’s office gave her stories because she could get them on the Herald’s front page, and as soon as she couldn’t she was dead to them.

November 17, 2015

Shorter Ng/Rachinger/Slater/Key

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 3:30 pm

Keith Ng has a fascinating post up on all of the strange things that were happening regarding Cameron Slater and Ben Rachinger and their hilarious and dysfunctional search for ‘Rawshark’, the mysterious hacker that gave Slater’s emails to Nicky Hager. You should go and read the whole thing, but because Keith is so comprehensive its easy to miss the absurdity of what happened here, which is:

  1. Slater told Rachinger he wanted proof that various enemies of his (mostly journalists, but also Kim Dotcom, Rangi Kemara and Keith himself) were involved in the hack. He agreed to pay Rachinger for the proof
  2. A brief time – sometimes a matter of hours – after each enemy was named Rachinger got back to Slater and assured him that he had obtained this proof. Slater then paid Rachinger who provided with very questionable-looking chat transcripts or encrypted files that Slater couldn’t open. Then onto the next enemy!
  3. Slater then repeated the names of the people that Rachinger had ‘proved’ were involved in the hack to senior journalists, senior police officers and the Prime Minister, and police and journalists started running around the country investigating or trying to interview the people who Slater had named.

One of the strangest things about the WhaleOil phenomenon is that someone who was pretty obviously a troubled fantasist briefly became one of the most powerful people in the country by drawing a lot of our most senior political and media leaders into his fantasies.

Barely coherent thoughts on the west and war

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 11:04 am

I wasn’t planning on writing anything else on the Paris attacks. It is mostly a tragedy that will lead to other tragedies. But one of the side-debates has been around media coverage and global reaction to the attacks in comparison with the relative dearth of information about a suicide bombing in Beirut the previous day. This series of tweets has been widely shared:


And Max Fisher at Vox has written a great column pointing out that there was plenty of media coverage of the suicide bombing in Beirut, but that the harsh reality is that consumers of media simply don’t care about bombings that happen in places like Lebanon, but they care a lot about attacks in Paris.

This is true for me. I have this non-rational intuition that western cities like Paris are supposed to be safe, and terrorist attacks against them are horrific crimes that almost defy explanation. I think that’s a widespread attitude and all of the debate about whether the attacks were caused by refugees, or French colonialism, or that there’s ‘something’ wrong with Islam and/or that we’re involved in a big clash of civilisations are attempts to fill that explanatory void.

What’s odd about the debate is that France has been at war with ISIS for two months. Their air-force has been bombing them since September. I think France and other western nations can make a pretty strong moral argument for going to war with Islamic state – I’ll talk more about their strategy later – but when you attack a cruel terror state that is known for savage attacks against civilian targets, why are we so bewildered when they strike back against civilian targets? The day after the attack President Hollande declared that France was now at war with ISIS, and then launched retaliatory air strikes against the ISIS capital Raqqa in Syria. It seems a little odd to declare war against a state that you’ve been at war with for two months, and to punish them by bombing a city that France, the US, UK, Russia and Iran have been bombing for over a year. It is hard to imagine that many senior ISIS commanders were hanging around to get killed after launching the Paris attacks and blowing up a Russian passenger jet the day before. The attacks were almost certainly symbolic and pointless in military terms.

Western states like to conduct air-strikes. It is a very low risk way of waging war. Actually, western states rarely explicitly announce they’re waging war. Instead we engage in nation-building or peacekeeping or deploy troops or commit air-forces, or some other euphemism. For civilians in the west these are very low-risk activities, generally carried out through local proxy forces while we provide training or air-support. Which might help explain the confusion around motives for ISIS’s attack. Most western nations have been at war in the middle-east – or someplace else – for so long, with so little direct consequence we can basically just ignore it until suddenly we can’t.

It looks like the air-strikes/proxy force strategy is shaping up to be the solution to ISIS. The west will probably decide to support Assad and the Iraqi government in Baghdad in a campaign to recapture all of the territory claimed by ISIS. But ISIS is also a solution to a big problem, which is that there are millions of Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria that don’t want to be ruled by the Assad regime or the Shia government in Baghdad, both of which are just as cruel and murderous as ISIS.

If this happens it will be a great solution in terms of the domestic politics of the west. We can all go back to forgetting we’re at war until we get another horrific reminder, when we can all get angry and dumbfounded and confused again, and our leaders can look decisive by declaring war on whoever we’re already at war with and bomb something they’ve already bombed. But it will probably be the worst strategy in terms of the long-term stability of the region, and lead to a vast number of people being killed or displaced, albeit in places that people like me don’t particularly care about.

November 14, 2015

Paris terrorist attacks

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:40 pm

The news is still a bit confusing but there seem to have been multiple coordinated attacks across the city with over a hundred people dead.

  • People on twitter are sternly warning everyone not to jump to conclusions but I feel safe predicting that an Islamic group carried out the attacks
  • Anything this big usually has a policy target. The most likely outcome of this attack is that European nations close their borders to refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria and Iraq. So my wild uneducated guess is that these attacks were carried out by ISIS to discourage people who they consider the subjects of their Caliphate from trying to flee to Europe.
  • ISIS carried out a similar attack in Beirut yesterday. Lebanon is home to over a million refugees
  • It is less than a year since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. The fact that an even larger attack on the French capital could be organised and carried out doesn’t say much for the competence of France’s intelligence services.

November 13, 2015

A reminder that people really like Key

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:10 am

In the 2014 New Zealand Electoral Survey – taken shortly after the election – researchers asked respondents for their opinion on our political leaders. Here’s the chart for Key:


People in the ‘Strongly dislike’ column would all like to think that the events of the last few days have shifted that distribution to the left. Maybe it has, but there’s no particular reason for that to be the case, and it seems just as plausible to me that it’s the other way and that more people like Key now, or, maybe, that some people have diverged from the centre.

Also, too, if you feel frustrated that Key is so popular and think that should change, I should remind you that complaining about him on twitter is the least meaningful way you can effect that change. Join Labour or the Greens, and/or donate money to them, and/or volunteer, and/or donate money to a rape crisis centre. Most of the people engaged in political social media debates are in the far left-most column or the far right-hand column and aren’t persuadable.

November 12, 2015

Just while we’re hating on Parliament

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:56 pm

I want to remind everyone of the time Bill English as acting Prime Minister signed an SIS warrant on behalf of the Prime Minister, and didn’t tell him, and then Key was asked about it in the House and didn’t show up. So English answered the question on his behalf and explained that he didn’t know what the Prime Minister didn’t know about what the acting Prime Minister didn’t know about what the Prime Minister didn’t know.

Disorder in the House

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:40 am

I think there are a few things driving the events in Parliament over the last few days:

  • Labour is ‘moving to the centre’, and we often see politics become nasty when parties fight for centrist votes because they’re not battling over ideology or policy, but rather voter perceptions of the parties and their leaders. So our politics may continue to be very nasty until the election
  • The Speaker is terrible at his job. I don’t just mean that he’s biased – Labour’s last Speaker Margaret Wilson was biased, but Wilson was also a trained lawyer and a Professor of Law and she (mostly) applied her bias through deft application of the Standing Orders. Carter doesn’t have the wit for that, and he applies his bias through changing the rules every few minutes depending on who is speaking and throwing opposition MPs out of the House whenever they challenge him on it, and by childish tricks like pretending not to hear offensive statements from National MPs, which is less than convincing when he’s just been roaring with laughter at them.
  • Carter also seems to have a big problem with women MPs. He’s generally happy to engage in debates over Points of Order with people like Chris Hipkins and James Shaw, but Metiria Turei or Jacinda Ardern, say, tend to get snapped at and silenced within a few seconds of rising to their feet.
  • Not everything in politics has to be strategic. MPs who have been the victims of sexual assault and who have worked as advocates for the victims of assault are going to be pretty angry at being accused of ‘backing rapists’ (especially now we know that the Prime Minister mislead the media and the House about the presence of rapists and murderers among the New Zealand detainees on Christmas Island.) Like, I’m sure there are considerations that this stuff will hurt Key with female voters and maybe it will, I genuinely have no idea. But most of it is driven by people being genuinely offended by Key and his Speaker.
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