The Dim-Post

April 13, 2016

Whaddya gonna do?

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 12:05 pm

Via Stuff:

Generous Wellingtonians are inadvertently funding criminals by giving to beggars, police say.

Inspector Terry van Dillen, of Wellington police, delivered that message to Wellington City councillors on Wednesday ahead of a debate on what to do about the city’s begging problem.

“Wellingtonians are very, very generous with their money. I’ve seen it myself on Friday and Saturday nights on Courtenay [Place] and Blair [St].

“People are throwing a lot of spare cash at the beggars,” van Dillen said.

It was unclear just how many Wellingtonians were aware that when they put money into a beggar’s bowl, someone else was often taking a cut, van Dillen said.

“What are we going to do about that?”

If only we had a large body of trained professionals granted extraordinary powers to capture and imprison criminals who steal people’s money.

April 12, 2016

Panama Papers thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:47 am

As usual, The Wire summed it up best:

You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money, and you don’t know where the fuck it’s gonna take you.

Nicky Hager has a post up on Pundit about his involvement with the Panama Papers:

News has been coming out of Washington DC recently of a massive leak of tax haven information. I have spent the past 15 months working on this project, helping to dig through the leaked material to find what should be publicised. It is probably the most secret financial information to reach the public and I hope it will be interesting to share some of the story.

It is a very good time to be shining a light on tax havens. These legal black holes are dotted around the world, partly helping people avoid tax (the traditional picture) but also helping all sorts of people and companies keep their business and crimes secret.

So that’s a fun guessing game for John Shewan as he undertakes his review of our trust laws. There haven’t been any big stories about New Zealand yet. Is that because there aren’t any? Or is that because Nicky Hager is going to write a book about all the New Zealand material?

(Update: My mistake: the Pundit piece by Hager is actually relating to a different tax story three years ago!)

Mike Hosking interviewed John Key yesterday on this subject yesterday. This little snippet about Key’s own financial arrangements intrigued me:

Hosking: Nothing in there that’s going to embarrass you?

Key: Nothing in Panama. No.

Okay then. Key also claims that his assets are in a blind trust, so he doesn’t know what’s in it, so there can’t be any conflicts of interest. That claim has always annoyed me. Key’s trustees don’t liquidate his assets into cash and then reinvest them as soon as they’re signed over to them. If Key owned, say, shares in a property investment company before he became Prime Minister, he still knows that he owns them, even if he doesn’t know their exact worth. But the public can’t see that he does, and Key can pretend that there isn’t a conflict of interest because it is a ‘blind trust’.

In terms of Key’s reversal from last week on whether our trusts need investigation, I wonder if National now have a formal process in which they respond to breaking stories like this. Phase one. Deny everything while blaming Labour. Stage two. Poll. Stage three. If the polling hits some pre-arranged benchmark then reverse your position and/or announce an inquiry.

April 11, 2016

Colmar Brunton Polls

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 5:34 am

TVNZ seems to be the only media outlet commissioning and running stories on political polls on an even vaguely regular basis (the Roy Morgan ones are out there but much lower profile). Which means they dominate political discourse more than single poll results probably should.

Having said that, the poor result for Labour seems plausible (they were also on 28 in the latest Roy Morgan). The party has moved to the far left for the first few months of 2016 and it hasn’t gone well. I think there are a few things driving this: Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have excited the imagination of many left-wing political activists and there’s a desire to try and replicate that dynamic here. But those guys are operating in polities totally different to anything like the conditions in New Zealand. I also think that many in Labour are invested in a cyclical theory of politics in which what they’re going through now is equivalent to what happened to National during the 2000s. Which is a comfortable thing to think, because if true it ends with them being swept to power again sooner or later. And part of National’s rebirth involved a move to the far right under Don Brash. Shore up the base and then attack from a position of strength! So they keep trying the inverse of that.

But if you look at more recent history, their poll results under the centrist leadership of Shearer went as high as 36%. Then he was rolled, Cunliffe took the party to the left, and they wound up in the mid 20s. Then Little came in and seemed more moderate, and the poll results went up. But this year they’ve campaigned on free tertiary education, a UBI, fuck the TPPA etc, with a subsequent decline in support and they’re back in the 20s. It kind of seems like the voters are telling them something here.

I complained bitterly about Shearer’s centrism at the time, and I’m sympathetic to the forces moving the party to the left. But there don’t seem to be many voters available to them there, and plenty of voters available in ‘the centre’.

April 8, 2016

The password is password

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:11 am

Via Fish:

Our spies have been rapped for loose controls around the largest collection of sensitive information held by any government department which includes details of people’s alcohol and drug use — and their sexual behaviour.

The systems were so loose the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security said there was a risk foreign spies would try and access the information and use it to compromise Kiwis with high-level security clearances.

Urgent changes are underway to the system after an inquiry found a large number of people in the Security Intelligence Service had access to its collection of highly personal information on thousands of people.

The information is collected by the SIS as part of its inquiries into people needing security clearances for government work, including in the intelligence community.

To make the judgment around someone’s security clearance — up to “top secret special” — it results in a collection of details about people’s sex lives, drug use and possible alcohol abuse, along with information about their mental health or personal finances.

It’s been conventional wisdom in Wellington for as long as I can remember that people being vetted by the SIS should never actually disclose anything because the information was completely insecure. Good to hear that this has filtered up to their watchdog. Also, we should definitely trust them with sweeping new powers because they’re so trustworthy and professional and competent.

April 6, 2016

A fascinating precedent

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:34 pm

Via the Herald:

New Zealand Post Group has received a $495 million indicative offer from the NZ Superannuation Fund and Accident Compensation Corp to buy 25 percent and 20 percent respectively of subsidiary Kiwi Group Holdings, which owns Kiwibank.

The indicative offer, which is subject to a number of conditions including due diligence and board and regulatory approval, values KGH at $1.1 billion though the final price is still to be determined.

KGH owns Kiwibank and its associated businesses such as Kiwi Wealth Management and Kiwi Insurance.

NZ Post chairman Michael Cullen said the offer reflects the government’s absolute position that Kiwibank must remain in public ownership.

So if a future left-wing government wants to raise some cash without increasing taxes or cutting spending it can just direct its wealth funds to pony up some cash for non-transferable shares in fading SOEs. KiwiRail seems like a good candidate there. Good to know.

April 5, 2016

Random tax shelter TPPA thought

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:22 am

With all this fuss about multinationals not paying tax in New Zealand and people using our dodgy trust laws as a gigantic shelter to avoid paying tax in their home countries, I can’t help think about the TPPA and how it was supposed to be this great mechanism for standardising business conditions across the region. And so it has chapters to standardise copyright laws and trade tariffs and it has the famous investor state dispute mechanisms. It regulates government procurement and competition. Pharmac needs to be more open about its decision making because that impacts on the multi-national pharmaceutical companies, which were heavily involved in the TPPA negotiation process.

So it seems like that would be a good place to negotiate and standardise rules about tax and tax shelters and avoidance and banking secrecy and trusts. Right? Isn’t it weird/telling/completely predictable that the TPPA regulates the way all of the governments who are signatories carry out their purchasing, or intervene in their domestic market so as not to disadvantage multinationals, but doesn’t reciprocate by requiring any kind of standardised tax regime to force them all to pay tax someplace.

April 4, 2016

Great paintings with dogs in them, an occasional series

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:09 pm

Giacomo Bella’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash. I also recommend his Futurist Manifesto of Men’s Clothing

Image property of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.


March 31, 2016

Voluminous disclosure

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:00 am

Rob Salmond and Matthew Hooton had a discussion about commentators and ‘paid political operators’ and conflicts of interest, which seems like a good time to disclose that I’ve recently done a bit of paid contract work for the Green Party (research, writing). Also, and possibly more significantly, as of last week I’m a member of the Greens’ Campaign Committee, which is tasked with planning and implementing the party’s 2017 election campaign. So I will not be a totally disinterested commentator when analysing the upcoming campaign or politics in general.

I don’t really do any of the mainstream media political commentary that Hooton and Salmond do. And no one in the Greens asks me to write or say certain things on the blog. (They have, in the past, but the requests were so lame I did not comply.) I find that my bias is mostly one of omission. I get confused about what I know that is and isn’t confidential, so I basically mostly say nothing about the Greens so I don’t get in trouble. If the party somehow becomes so newsworthy that I have to write about them, and I have to check what I’m writing with the staff or leaders I’ll make sure I disclose that. Otherwise they’ve got nothing to do with any of my pontificating.

March 30, 2016

Message discipline

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:36 am

Via Stuff:

The owners of a Waihi Beach home attacked by Labour MP Sue Moroney for flying Kyle Lockwood’s Silver Fern flag outside their “flash beach house” say they are shocked by her remarks.

The Hamilton-based MP has apologised for her remarks after being disciplined by Labour leader Andrew Little, who called the comments “ill-judged and inappropriate”.

Moroney said her remarks were not hypocritical, despite the fact she also owns a Coromandel holiday home.

She also claimed her remarks were misinterpreted “in several different ways” – although she will not explain what she originally meant.

I have this theory that MMP and the list process hasn’t been that great for the left. The way a lot of our MPs get elected is very indirect. The party campaigns externally to get the public to give them party votes, and the MPs (mostly) get into Parliament by campaigning internally to get high positions on the list. Obviously I can’t be sure, but I suspect that if Sue Moroney was directly accountable to the voters she probably wouldn’t wander around taking photos of random stranger’s homes and shaming them on social media. Also, she’d probably grasp that social media comms should be part of a strategy, and that the number of persuadable voters reading tweets/facebook posts/whatever is zero while the number of National Party staffers monitoring the social media feeds of left-wing MPs looking for content to attack the party with is higher than zero.

March 29, 2016

Still struggling to grasp the UBI

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:10 am

Via Stuff:

A new study by the Taxpayers’ Union has rubbished a Universal Basic Income (UBI), which the Labour Party is investigating.

discussion paper from  Labour  raised the possibility of a UBI,  where every adult New Zealander would receive $11,000 a year ($211 a week) in exchange for scrapping many current welfare payments.

The paper says a universal income would help to remove the insecurity associated with low wages or insufficient welfare benefits, which bred “personal shame, stress, [and] mental health problems”.

The Taxpayers Union’s Jordan Williams said it was “startling” Labour was considering the policy.

The proposal is part of the party’s Future of Work Commission, a project to look at the impact of new technologies on careers and the workforce.

The Taxpayers’ Union has come out swinging at the idea, saying its study shows the introduction of a UBI would mean record-high tax rates, and potentially result in another recession.

Firstly, I still find it (a) amazing and (b) depressing that the ‘Taxpayers’ Union’ works as a propaganda tool. On the other hand, Labour’s ‘discussion’ (‘We’re looking to give you all free money! Oh, we haven’t figured out how to pay for it yet. This is just a discussion!’ ) seems like a PR stunt, so maybe the Taxpayers’ Union is what they deserve.

Secondly, I’m still having trouble imagining how a UBI would actually work. Comments on the previous posts were very informative, so please help me out some more. How would payments differ between:

  • An unemployed 18 year old living with their parents
  • An 18 year old living away from home studying at university
  • A single parent with three children under five
  • A parent with three children under five with a partner on a high income
  • A person suffering from a serious chronic illness preventing them from working in perpetuity

Or do they all get the same amount?

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