The Dim-Post

January 3, 2016

Mediocrity or cynicism?

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:52 am

One of the big political stories of 2009 was that John Key, our dynamic new super-Prime Minister declared war on P.

Prime Minister John Key is proposing to combat the drug P by banning its main ingredient, pseudoephedrine, from use in over-the-counter cold and flu tablets.

Mr Key said he was surprised by the amount of methamphetamine – known as P – being made from locally obtained pseudoephedrine.

Gangs and drug syndicates often use “pill shoppers” to go from one pharmacy to the next, buying the pseudoephedrine-based tablets and turning them into P.

He said New Zealanders wanted the Government to “show some leadership” on dealing with P.

More money would be provided for treating addicts – a problem area identified by the Herald’s War on P series.

The Government would also address “border issues” that allowed the importing of the drug and its ingredients.

Five years later, quietly, on a public holiday, the Ministry of Health announced (via Radio New Zealand):

Data released by the Ministry of Health shows the use of methamphetamine has not changed in the past four years.

That’s despite 22 percent more convictions for meth-related offences over the same period.

The government launched an action plan in 2009 and made the meth-precursor pseudoephidrine a prescription-only medicine in an attempt to reduce the prevalence of meth.

The ministry’s data shows that in 2014/15 0.9 percent of the population admitted to using meth.

The figures show no difference in prevalence since the ministry started its surveys in 2011.

Data from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2015 also shows the overall availability of meth as reported by frequent drug users has not changed since 2008.

At 0.9 percent the prevalence in New Zealand remains slightly above the global average of 0.7 for use of amphetamine-type substances.

It’s interesting going back to 2009 news stories and seeing (a) how ambitious Key was in terms of his political goals: he was going to build a national cycle-way to boost tourism, turn New Zealand into a financial hub, rid the country of P and stop Japanese whaling with a ‘secret plan’; and (b) how absolutely none of this has come to pass. Compare this to Key’s role as Prime Minister nowadays which consists of talking about the rugby on soft media and stealing a couple of watered-down ideas from Labour and the Greens when the budget rolls around each year.

Was the commitment to mediocrity always there, I wonder? Or did he genuinely want to do stuff at the beginning of his tenure and then fail and lose interest?

December 28, 2015

First thoughts on The Force Awakens

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:35 pm

Firstly, that was a fuck-lot of ads we had to sit through until the movie started. I think it clocked in at about half an hour. Half an hour! We paid almost fifty dollars to sit in the dark and watch ads for half an hour! I hope the revenue was worth it, Embassy, because my Netflix account costs less than a third of that a month and has zero ads and that’s where my movie dollars are going from now on.

Secondly. That was okay. I mean, it was fun. I enjoyed it. But it was a jaw-droppingly lazy film. My first impression, walking out was that the original Star Wars films are filled with so many iconic crowd-pleasing tropes that any competent filmmaker can just recycle them with minor variations into an enjoyable movie. It is a weird quirk of cinematic history that the prequels were written and directed by George Lucas when he was an ageing billionaire studio head who still conceived of himself as an auteur but had lost any aptitude or inclination for making movies yet had total control over the franchise, thus the laughably terrible second trilogy – otherwise we’d have figured that out by now. 

Lucas’s films were always ground-breaking in terms of the technology though. Jar-Jar Binks was one of the first digital characters, and those prequels were very influential in terms of digital technology and computer graphics (which is partly why they’re terrible: I watched a ‘Making Of’ documentary about Phantom Menace on a plane once; the shooting process was Lucas in a studio surrounded by about a hundred flunkies laughing at all of his terrible jokes while the actors performed in a vast green-screen stage and just drifted around in its emptiness, delivering lines with a sense of boredom and futility that pervaded every scene no matter how much CGI crap Lucas threw in the background behind them) .

But it was still new, and there’s nothing new in the new Star Wars, nothing we haven’t seen a hundred times in other movies in technological terms, and very little we haven’t seen in the previous Star Wars movies in terms of the storytelling. So maybe that’s the future of Star Wars – that it’ll be like the Bond movies and do pretty much the same thing each time over and over forever. That’d be a shame. It’d be fun to go along thinking you were going to see something totally mind-blowing and new – like the AT-AT walkers on Hoth! Or that speeder-bike chase through the forests of Endor! But given that Disney’s just made a billion dollars in the last week off this movie, they don’t actually need to push the envelope so they probably won’t.

December 27, 2015

Thoughts on the second season of Fargo

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:39 am

(Contains spoilers for the second season of Fargo)

We’ve just finished watching this. It made the top of a lot of the critic’s best-of-year lists and I can see why. It is a triumph of style and technique.

But it is also a TV show that desperately wants to be about something, and much of the final episode is taken up by characters delivering very forced monologues that point to the themes of the season. What they’re saying isn’t always clear but, near as I can tell, the core message of Fargo is that white middle-class domesticity is the epitome of all that is good and decent; it must be protected by the law, violently if necessary, from evil: represented by a murderous Native American, a murderous capitalist black man and Peggy, a stifled house-wife whose dreams of independence and liberation are manifestations of her insanity. The Gerhardt family, meanwhile, are destroyed when they lose their patriarch and his wife is incapable of uniting or controlling her family.

The goodness and decency of ordinary people is the message of the original Coen Brother’s movie, so there’s some continuity there. But that movie didn’t have a bunch of evil ethnic characters or an insane hysterical feminist housewife and when you throw them into the mix it distorts the simple celebration of wholesome domesticity into something very reactionary and creepy. Also, there are UFOs in the show and I have no idea why.

December 21, 2015

Kathryn Ryan sums up 2015 in NZ politics

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 1:06 pm

I transcribed this from her 9 to Noon politics segment. She said:

This is aligned with what’s happening in the media world as well. Politically there’s a complete policy vacuum. Some of the stuff we’re going to talk about today – pony-tail pulling, Colin Craig – frankly it’s just barely worthy of the public’s time. And yet what we’re seeing is a very effective management by the incumbent government of a new media environment. John Key rightly copped a fair bit of criticism for the embarrassing ridiculous situation he walked into on radio stations but if you look at it from a perfectly cynical point of view many of the listeners would be people who are completely disinterested in politics. And what they heard was something that made them laugh and a good guy who showed up and played along with the joke. So the loss of the centralised media and the scandal of the day means that being able to occupy a place in all different parts of the spectrum whatever it takes is not only necessary but very effective and that is very hard for an opposition to counter.

December 17, 2015

In case you missed it

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:52 am

I wrote this review of Cameron Slater’s new political newsletter for The Spinoff

December 14, 2015

‘Music’

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:25 am

As previously mentioned every few months a group of my friends meet up for an ‘under-appreciated music evening’. This weekend the theme was (partly) Christmas songs, and someone played this which is pretty much the worst thing I have ever seen or heard.

Although mostly forgotten now, Mr Blobby was briefly very popular in the mid 1990s. I remember when the Reading cinema complex on Courtney Place was being built there was a giant inflatable Mr Blobby doll trapped between two pre-cast slabs of concrete on the site. Mr Blobby’s wikipedia page notes:

Although popular, the character was not well received critically.

And:

A Sun article published the previous month had reported that Blobby reduced a young girl to tears after throwing her birthday cake onto the floor during a show, causing the girl’s father to mount the stage and assault Blobby. . . A trio of failed Mr Blobby theme parks also resulted in considerable negative press and scandal.

Update: via Nick R in the comments, a Daily Mail article with photos of an abandoned Mr Blobby theme park:

article-1220390-06D1E157000005DC-894_634x448

December 8, 2015

Also too, Paula Bennett as Minister for Climate Change

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:11 am

Up until now National’s strategy on Climate Change has been (a) defensive and (b) based around technical arguments around emissions and sectors and gases. The appointment of Bennett tells us, I think, that they’ve decided this isn’t working. Bennett will be very aggressive and make it an emotional issue. National does care about climate change, she will explain in the House. That’s why she’s commissioned a report or task-force or inquiry on it due to report back in three to five years. But she also cares SO MUCH about KIWI kids living in poverty, and National wants to create jobs and opportunities for them, and the Greens want to DESTROY their lives by making us all live in CAVES and eat DIRT and die. SHAME on them. And so on. So that’ll be awful.

Wrong again

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 5:25 am

Contra me a week ago, Judith Collins is back in Cabinet! My argument that she wouldn’t return was predicated on the idea that she’s high risk. But I guess for Key pretty much nothing is high risk. If anything goes wrong in Collins’ portfolios they can just insist that it hasn’t.

December 4, 2015

Notes on politics in 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 8:32 am
  • It wasn’t a very inspiring year. The most interesting/surprising thing was Winston Peters’ victory in Northland. But the circumstances around that by-election were very unusual – almost unique – so it probably doesn’t mean anything in terms of long term political trends.
  • In terms of polls I think that (a) the Conservative Party collapse has strengthened National and New Zealand First and (b) John Key’s declining popularity has sent some voters from National to Labour.
  • Andrew Little appears to be (another) uninspiring Labour leader. His last reshuffle showed that the endless factional wars within the Labour Party continue to grind on.
  • John Key’s role as Prime Minister seems to be mostly ceremonial. He follows the All Blacks around. He goes on More FM and talks about the All Blacks. He attends international conferences mostly, it seems, to get his photo taken with world leaders. None of this seems to promote New Zealand’s interests, or his own personal policy agenda, or do anything except generate positive publicity for himself.
  • The most significant political development of the year was the ‘Mediapocalypse’ – the ongoing collapse of serious journalism in New Zealand driven by challenges to the fundamental business model of the media industry. Those changes have been matched in state-owned media outlets. Maori TV shut down its investigative journalism show because it was exposing corruption among Maori elites. TVNZ has an infotainment show on every week night where the host gives a speech praising the government and attacking its critics.
  • The resignation of Murray McCully over the Saudi sheep deal should have been the biggest political story of the year. Back in 1999 when McCully was found to have acted illegally in his role of Tourism Minister he was forced to resign. This time the allegations were much more serious, but because of the decline in influence of mainstream media outlets, and the fierce competition between them – TV3 and the Herald largely ignored the scandal because it was broken by journalists at rival companies – the Minister simply dropped out of sight until it all blew over.
  • The appearance of Jacinda Ardern in the polls as preferred Prime Minister (at 4%) seems like the other major development this year. It is the first time a non-party leader has rated so high, and it is unrelated to any substantive political accomplishments. Ardern’s popularity, like Key’s (only more-so), appears to be driven by a high profile in soft media and social media.
  • This is going to have big implications for our domestic politics. The opposition is supposed to hold the government to account by breaking and developing stories like the Saudi sheep deal. But if half the media neglects to cover those stories and Ministers can simply refuse to front and refuse to resign, and the government suffers no loss in popularity, then the incentives are to do less of them. And if politicians can become nationally popular via non-political cover stories about themselves in soft media outlets then that’s where their energy will go.

 

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.

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