The Dim-Post

February 5, 2015

Correction

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:38 am

Via the Herald:

Reserve Bank governor Graeme Wheeler today raised the risk of a “sharp correction” in the housing market.

He warned that “the more that house prices get out of line with historic relativities, the greater the risk of a sharp correction, leading to financial instability”.

Wheeler listed rocketing house prices in Auckland and Christchurch as one of the main risks to the economy.

Though expectations were that house prices in Christchurch would eventually settle, “in Auckland, much more needs to be done”.

All the serious, smart people are saying that Auckland house prices are a bubble, that we’re like Ireland, that we’re heading for a ‘correction’, a collapse, the threat of negative equity etc. I’m just a humble blogger, but it seems to me that the supply of Auckland housing is still incredibly limited, and the fierce demand is driven by a combination of population growth, migration, low interest rates, tax loopholes and various other demand-side factors that aren’t going to change in the foreseeable future.

When I was in Ireland in, I think, 2005, their property market was insane. People were building vast Spanish style beach resorts on the coast of Donegal, where it rains for about 350 days a year. That was a bubble, and it burst because those holiday homes purchased at over-inflated prices with 100% mortgages were more or less worthless. But how is Auckland property a bubble? If the price of a scarce resource that loads of people want to buy is increasing, that means that the market is ‘working’. Why would it correct itself?

February 4, 2015

Shorter Sabin Summary

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:16 am

Andrea Vance has an overview here. The crux is that Key appointed Sabin to chair the Law and Order Select Committee while he was being investigated by the police, which is just a horrible, horrible conflict of interest. Key claims he didn’t know Sabin was being investigated when he appointed him, but he’s changed his story about when he did know three times in one week as new facts came to light, so everyone thinks he’s lying but no one can prove it.

On the one hand it seems really unlikely that our super-gossipy Prime Minister didn’t know one of his own MPs was being investigated for a very serious crime. On the other, if he did know, why would he appoint the guy to a position which could – and has – blown up into a scandal? Makes no sense. Maybe they thought they could ride it out? That Sabin is an ex-cop and the police would look after their own, and it wouldn’t go to court? No one would ever find out and Sabin’s career could go on as normal.

Which kinda begs the question: how did this get out? Who tipped off the media? Someone in National? Who feels slighted by the PM and his office? Who has close ties to the police and justice sector? Who would very much like Sabin’s position as Chair of the Law and Order Select Committee? Who is very close to WhaleOil. But who???

January 29, 2015

Back to two-track

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:25 pm

There are lots of good pieces on the Eleanor Catton contretemps – Morgan Godfrey, Brian Easton, Gordon Campbell, Andrew Geddis, Simon Wilson – all focusing on issues around intellectuals and criticism and New Zealand attitudes towards same, which are all valid points. But what’s also meaningful, I think, is that this is a reprise of National’s two-track communications strategy we spent so much time talking about last year. Sean Plunket isn’t just a talk-radio dofus: he’s very close to the National government and, just like his mate Cameron Slater, Plunket is there to smear and bully and intimidate anyone who speaks out against John Key or National, so that National themselves don’t have to.

If – like most of the country – you haven’t heard anything from Plunket since he left Morning Report a few years back then his attack on Catton probably seemed very strange. But if you listened to him during the 2014 election campaign, most of which he spent in a state of flat-out hysteria ranting about terrorists and traitors, culminating in Plunket phoning Paddy Gower live on air and accusing him of being involved in a conspiracy against the government because he was reporting on Dirty Politics, it’s easier to see that abusing critics of the National Party – real or imaginary – is pretty much just his day to day role.

January 28, 2015

Literature and politics collide!

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 11:42 am
  • I agree with some of what Eleanor Catton said. I’m not particularly outraged by Key’s response because if you accuse the Prime Minister of being a ‘neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, shallow and money hungry politician’ while speaking on the international stage he’s going to hit back.
  • I do disagree with pretty much everything Sean Plunket said when he called Catton a traitor and an ‘ungrateful whore’ for criticising the government, partly because Plunket is a horrible clown, but also because almost everything he says about her is partly or completely wrong.
  • EG. Catton wrote the bulk of The Luminaries in Iowa when she was an adjunct lecturer there, not ‘moonlighting on a government salary’ as Plunket claims.
  • But yes, Catton is currently ‘paid by the government’. She teaches creative writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology where she is, I suspect, the lowest paid Booker Prize Winner in the world. It’s a bit like having Mark Zuckerberg teaching programming down at the local polytech. The employer/taxpayer isn’t really in a position to demand people like that keep their heads down and their mouths shut if they want to keep their jobs.
  • Besides which you don’t really employ people at universities to buy their silence and political consent. That’s not how it works. Or, actually, unfortunately that is mostly how it works, but universities are supposed to be bastions for free speech and criticism.
  • Plunket himself was ‘paid by the government’ for a very long time when he worked at TVNZ and Radio New Zealand, and he was extremely critical of the government (at least while the government was a Labour government.) Why was that okay for him but not for Catton?
  • At about three minutes in Plunket calls Catton ‘an ungrateful whore’, for which he should, I think, apologise or be suspended or sacked, because really?
  • Since Plunket is so outraged about this issue of conflicts of interests, it would be a good time to clear up the question of whether he himself has done media training for, or provides communications advice to the National MPs or Ministers he interviews or reports on, and on whose behalf he is so wroth with Catton today – a question he’s always dodged in the past.

Update: It’s been bugging me all day. Plunket’s ‘hua’ pronunciation is Ralphie from The Sopranos!

SOTN

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:29 am

Andrew Little’s State of the Nation speech is up on The Standard:

  • Some on the left are freaking out because he’s addressing a business audience. It’s true that Labour is never going to win over ‘business’, but median voters seem to want competent managers of the economy and its okay for Labour to signal to them that they’ll fill that role by making nice with business.
  • Little’s actual speech is pretty clunky.
  • His emphasis will be on growing small businesses
  • So he probably should have talked about small businesses instead of Air New Zealand and Fonterra
  • Labour will get rid of zero hour contracts
  • He’s promising the lowest unemployment in the developed world.
  • Inevitable content about housing affordability, inequality, manufacturing, possibly cut and pasted from near identical speeches given by Goff, Shearer and Cunliffe.
  • I have nothing else to say about this speech. I give it a 5/10. Seems like a wasted opportunity.

December 25, 2014

Thoughts on ‘The Bone Clocks’ by David Mitchell

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:50 am
  • The only other Mitchell book I’ve read is Cloud Atlas. I thought that was pretty good. A lot of people consider it the first great 21st century English novel, but I really don’t see that. Maybe I just don’t get Mitchell?
  • But at the beginning of Bone Clocks I felt like I did get him. The first section of this book is great. Strong character, strong story-telling. Beautiful style. Artful setting up of the world and the narrative. I read it in one sitting with this bubbling happy feeling that this was going to be one of my favorite novels ever.
  • Oh, there were a few things I didn’t like. Mitchell’s dialog is pretty clunky. It’s all like: ‘This is what I’m thinking and why and I’m articulating it perfectly.’ ‘This is exactly what I think about that, and here is my artfully worded witty reply.’ Also, there are genre elements – fantasy horror – that he’s pretty clumsy with: heavy on exposition while simultaneously confusing. Good genre writers – someone like China Mieville, say – make sure the reader always knows what’s happening, but not why. That’s the mystery that keeps you reading.
  • Unfortunately these bad features get far more pronounced, and the good things fall away. Bone Clocks consists of six linked novellas, all with different characters, with the main character reappearing throughout and telling her own story again in the sixth and final section.
  • Critics seem especially dazzled by this. Such formal invention! Polyphony has been a major feature of the novel since, like, the mid-19th century so I’m not sure why everyone acts like Mitchell invented it, but again, maybe I’m missing something here.
  • The second section is about an amoral, wealthy Cambridge student. The third is about a journalist covering the Iraq war in the early days after the invasion. I particularly hated this bit: if Mitchell wants to write a screed about how he thinks the Iraq war was a horrible mistake he can put that highly original and unique perspective in an essay or something, not cram it into a fantasy novel in which his characters articulate the author’s political opinions in long speeches and (worse) pseudo-witty quips back and forth to each other.
  • The next novella is a (long) piece of literary satire. The main character is instantly identifiable as Martin Amis, although for some reason Mitchell denies this character is based on Amis. Maybe this part of the book will be interesting to readers who like Martin Amis, or hate Martin Amis, or even care a bit about Martin Amis?
  • Next section: the fantasy elements take over and we see a centuries long war between magical immortals play out. This is more boring than it sounds. Good fantasy writers spend lots of time establishing the rules of their world and the parameters of their magic systems so that the reader understands what’s happening during the climax, and what everyone can and cannot do, and what the stakes are. Mitchell has a bunch of magicians show up and start casting spells with stupid names at each other.
  • Final section: the original character at the end of her life living in rural poverty on the west coast of Ireland in the 2030s in a climate-changed, post-oil-crash world. And hey, this part is also pretty good. Pity about the 400-odd pages of really-not-very-good content between the opening and closing sections.
  • What I thought Mitchell was doing in the opening section was writing a genre novel with literary qualities. Something like Lev Grossman’s Magician books, or Elizabeth Knox’s adult fiction. What he’s actually done is write five literary novellas and a fantasy novella and link them together with genre tropes: secret societies of immortals, evil sorcerers and characters learning telepathy, etc.
  • The result is a bit like those fake novelty book-covers you can buy to slip over a copy of 50 Shades of Grey and pretend that you’re reading Proust. Bone Clocks provides the illusion of ‘literature’ but it’s driven by genre elements. With Cloud Atlas you kept reading because you wanted to discover the links between the characters, and what happened to them; with Bone Clocks you keep reading because there’s sexy magicians and psychic powers and shit. None of the genre elements work on a literary level. The sexy blonde magician doesn’t represent anything the way, say, the ghost in Beloved represents the ghost of slavery. She’s just a sexy blonde magician.
  • Not that I have anything against sexy blonde magicians. But Bone Clocks doesn’t have any of the pleasures of a good fantasy novel. It doesn’t even make sense. Even the critics who liked this book – and there are a lot of them, many of whom ranked this as their favorite book of the year which is how I wound up hate-reading it in late December – admit that the climax of the book is ‘bewildering’, by which they mean ‘incomprehensible nonsense’.
  • And you don’t have to take my word for all of this: Mitchell points out most of the flaws in his novel in a review inside his own book, something which admiring critics seem to find particularly brilliant, but which made a kind of red-mist descend over my vision for a few minutes.
  • The obvious comparison to Bone Clocks is Cloud Atlas, Mitchell’s much-better third book, which has a similar structure. But the real template for Bone Clocks, I suspect, is Earthly Powers, an Anthony Burgess novel published in 1980, which didn’t win any major awards so is a little forgotten today: its also a world and time spanning epic with a metaphysical war playing out in the background, and the super-erudite, too-clever voice of most of Mitchell’s characters is almost identical to that of Burgess’s protagonist. I haven’t read Earthly Powers for about twenty years: maybe its been sort-of forgotten for a reason? But I remember it being an awful lot better than The Bone Clocks, so let me recommend that in lieu of this.
  • And here’s one last thing, just while my dander is up. Most of the reviewers who loved this book mention – in terms of reverent awe – that Mitchell’s books are linked. Characters in one book have the same name as characters in the others. Maybe I’m missing another trick here, but so fucking what? Stephen King (among others) has been doing that for forty years. Why is this simple, gimmicky unoriginal trick another hallmark of Mitchell’s unique genius? What gives?
  • Merry Christmas!

November 26, 2014

The very odd Slightly Left of Centre

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:11 pm

There’s a new voice in the blogosphere. Josh Forman, the author of SlightlyLeftofCentre:

27 years old, from the left, and on a mission to reclaim the centre left from the loopy extremists from the far left who have hijacked the Labour Party.

Josh doesn’t care if Labour survives in its current state, as long as the people it used to represent are given a voice, and as long as there is a strong opposition to the National Government.

If you look through his posts Forman doesn’t seem all that left-wing though. His views seem pretty right-wing. And his targets aren’t the usual left-wing targets. He really dislikes National Party president Peter Goodfellow. And Bomber. And Kim Dotcom. And muslims. And the New Zealand Herald’s investigative editor David Fisher. You might say he happens to hate everyone Cameron Slater hates.

The similarities don’t stop there. Forman’s style seems very familiar. Politicians are troughers. If they lie they tell porkies. There are loads of breathless exclusives, all on issues close to Slater’s heart. Forman is very sympathetic to the Whale, as we see in the cached copy of this post that Forman has deleted. And the Whale loved Forman and promoted him heavily. You might even say it looks like Slater has set up a fake left-wing blog to disseminate his smears from, which is such a typically Slateresque thing to do I can’t believe he’s only just gotten around to it.

Josh Forman is a real guy. I met him for coffee earlier this week. He denied having any relationship with Slater, or that any of the content on his blog came from Slater. Something in his manner made me think that wasn’t quite true though, so I did a little more digging and found Forman’s  completely brilliant press release back from when he launched his blog:

Josh Forman is pleased to announce the creation of a new force on the Left of politics in New Zealand.

“My goal is to create an online environment that provides sane and reasonable views from the left of the spectrum.” Mr Forman said this morning when asked about his motivation to create the site.

“For far too long, the dominant online voices on our side of politics have been the shrill and hysterical ranting on offer at The Daily Blog and The Standard.

Slightly Left of Centre will provide calm and reasoned views that more closely reflect the views of compassionate New Zealanders in the centre. These are the people that have flocked to National under John Key, and those who have abandoned Labour in droves.”

Responding to questions about working with WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater to build a voice for the centre left, Mr Forman was blunt. “He is extremely successful at what he does and we need a comparable success story of our own for the sake of decent democratic debate. The time for name calling and identity politics has passed.

And today Forman – the guy who has no relationship with Slater – posted this:

Dirty Politics: John Key – Pork Pie PM

Have you really never spoken to Cameron Slater in your capacity as Prime Minister?

I would like you to consider the following questions before you answer this, because I would suggest you choose your words carefully. Remember John, no-one likes a liar…

1) You told Parliament in late October that that you have never spoken to Cameron Slater in your capacity as Prime Minister. Was this really true?

2) Did you talk to Cameron Slater the night before the release of the IGIS report, and the Justice Chisholm report on Judith Collins?

3) How many times in the last month have you spoken to Slater?

4) Does Cameron Slater records his phone calls, and if he does, how much leverage does he now have over you (whether in your capacity as a private citizen, PM, Minister of Tourism etc, etc)?

5) Are you OK with the possibility of Slater having the calls you have made to him, or received from him released to the public? If any such recordings were to be released, how would they reflect on you? Would your position as PM be tenable if they were?

Forman is – allegedly – the person who leaked the details of recent Key’s text conversation with Slater, forcing Key to return to the House and make a personal statement correcting a question he answered earlier today in which he claimed he hadn’t been in conversation with Slater. And now, this evening, here’s Slater in a post titled ‘LABOUR’S OWN DIRTY POLITICS SCAM BUSTED, JOSH FORMAN AND ANNETTE KING NEED TO EXPLAIN':

In my conversation with Josh Forman I got suspicious because of his intense interest and so fed him some information that wasn’t strictly true so that it could be easily verified by cellphone records.

I repeat. I never had a text conversation with Judith Collins on Monday night. Cellphone records will clearly show this.

The following day Josh Forman continued along that line of inquiry and was imploring me to out the txt with John Key, I couldn’t work out why.

That is until this afternoon.

Josh Forman is a man who lacks integrity. In good faith I was willing to coach someone from the other side so they could have a better voice in the blogosphere.

I now know that his request for coaching was a subterfuge, at the behest of the Labour party in order to gain my trust.

He has used that and disseminated an email that only he was party to and so the media source was easily identifiable as was my plan.

Josh Forman works closely with Annette King, his own emails show that.

Labour’s own willingness to play dirty politics team has now been busted. Their sanctimony in parliament is shown for what is is worth.

What the hell is going on? I don’t know. But based on the premise that everything Slater says is a lie, my guess is that Slater had Forman leak the details of his text conversation with Key, and that this ‘falling out’ is a sham to make Forman look like a slightly less obvious sock-puppet of Slater’s, and to try and smear Labour with the ‘Dirty Politics’, ‘Labour does it too’, brush.

Update: As far as I can tell Forman has never worked for Labour, and their senior staffers have never heard of him.

And another update: Another post from Slater detailing the collaboration between Forman and Slater, but which tries to attack Forman’s job and makes me wonder if their split is real. Maybe?

October 31, 2014

The idiot

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:29 am

Here’s why this Steffan Browning/Ebola/Homeopathy thing is a really big deal for the Green Party. (a) Historically they’ve been stereotyped by their opponents as a bunch of nutters (b) The main focus of the party for the past five years – at least – has been to counter that perception and convince voters that they’re a sober and credible political alternative. (c) Arguing that homeopathy should be used to cure Ebola is so fucking crazy it instantly undermines a lot of that work and reveals to the public that at least one of the MPs in the party is a total nutcase.

Just after the election someone asked me what they could do to help the Greens, and I told them to join the party and vote for candidates that weren’t deluded lunatics. Disasters like this illustrate why it’s important for sane, sensible people to contribute to the political process at a grassroots level and make sure the MPs in their party aren’t laughable weirdos.

October 3, 2014

Just shut up

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:27 am

So in the past couple days of Labour’s leadership contest we’ve had @TarnBabe67, James Dann’s open letter to David Cunliffe threatening to resign from the party if Cunliffe is re-elected, and now Phil Quinn publishing Labour President Moira Coatsworth’s email urging Labour members not to act like jerks during the contest, which Quinn describes as ‘a sinister Orwellian gambit designed to restrict speech.’

I guess that if you’re really invested in what’s happening inside Labour then it’s very satisfying to put this stuff out there attacking your opponents and see it amplified by the mainstream media. But I really doubt that the general public are so engaged that they’re won over by these tweets, or blogposts or whatever. I’m pretty sure they’re thinking what I’m thinking: that Labour looks like a party filled with hysterical, squabbling egotists who all despise each other and can’t keep their damn fool mouths shut. And that’s a perception that’s going to endure long after this contest is over – especially if it goes on like this for two more months.

Just shut up

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:26 am

So in the past couple days of Labour’s leadership contest we’ve had @TarnBabe67, James Dann’s open letter to David Cunliffe threatening to resign from the party if Cunliffe is re-elected, and now Phil Quinn publishing Labour President Moira Coatsworth’s email urging Labour members not to act like jerks during the contest, which Quinn describes as ‘a sinister Orwellian gambit designed to restrict speech.’

I guess that if you’re really invested in what’s happening inside Labour then it’s very satisfying to put this stuff out there attacking your opponents and see it amplified by the mainstream media. But I really doubt that the general public are so engaged that they’re won over by these tweets, or blogposts or whatever. I’m pretty sure they’re thinking what I’m thinking: that Labour looks like a party filled with hysterical, squabbling egotists who all despise each other and can’t keep their damn fool mouths shut. And that’s a perception that’s going to endure long after this contest is over – especially if it goes on like this for two more months.

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