The Dim-Post

October 18, 2013

Code Brown

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:14 pm

The Herald has an update on Auckland Mayor Len Brown’s sex scandal.

I have a strong bias here. I’d like to see Len Brown survive. I don’t have any sense of allegiance for Brown, particularly, but I do think Cameron Slater is a walking slick of multi-cellular diarrhea so I’d like to see his enemy triumph.

But at this stage it seems dicey, The advantage of hitting a political opponent with this kind of scandal is that it shakes the tree of their incumbency, and you never know what else might fall out. Free hotel rooms for trysts, job recommendations, a mysterious cell-phone number used to send an ominous message. All of these are still up in the air, while Brown has gone to ground because this scandal is still developing and he doesn’t know what questions might get thrown at him if he fronts up to the press. He has no control over the story.

I think Brown is actually lucky this fell into Slater’s hands and not those of professional political operatives. Because Slater’s Dad is a former National Party president who ran John Palino’s mayoral campaign, the story is hopelessly contaminated and has poisoned Palino’s chance of re-running if there is another election. If the story was broken strategically it would have been used to force Brown into making denials that could be disproved, and rolled out over a series of days with separate components leaked to rival news organisations – the usual bag of tricks Labour and National employ when they get something juicy. But Slater just vomited it all out there on his blog, which possibly saved Brown’s mayoralty.

October 17, 2013

On what the Luminaries is actually like

Filed under: books — danylmc @ 8:50 am

The Guardian has an interview with Eleanor Catton who won the Booker Prize yesterday. Here’s the precis of her book:

The novel has an entirely original organising principle: each chapter is preceded by an astrological chart and each character is associated with a heavenly body; the characters act in accordance with the actual movements of the cosmos as they were, starting on 27 January 1866. At the same time, the novel is organised in 12 parts, each half the length of the previous one – thus the novel itself wanes.

Every review I’ve read dwells on the astrological charts and the book’s odd structure, and that’s understandable because it is kind of odd – but its also not something you notice when you’re reading The Luminaries, at least until you get to the very end of the book when the chapter lengths are very short. It also makes Catton’s book sound very experimental, and the constant references to the size of the book make it sound very daunting and dense. But it isn’t. To me Wolf Hall seemed a lot longer than The Luminaries (possibly because there’s a lot of dialog in Catton’s book, and that makes for quick reading).  

Anyway, all this talk about the mathematical structure and vast size of the book and how avant-garde it is misses the point: that The Luminaries is primarily a very entertaining crime novel. It’s amazingly well written (which is one of the reasons it just won the world’s most prestigious literary award and not some crime-writing award) but it is, basically a mystery novel about stolen gold and drug-addicted whores and evil scar-faced ship captains. It’s written in the style of a Victorian novel but I suspect that two of the biggest influences were the golden age HBO shows Deadwood and The Wire. Deadwood because of the frontier goldrush town setting, obviously, and The Wire because Catton is interested in using crime stories to examine how the society she’s writing about really works in terms of power-relationships and influence.

October 14, 2013

Compare and contrast

Filed under: media — danylmc @ 9:32 pm

My land is bare of chattering folk;
The clouds are low along the ridges,
And sweet’s the air with curly smoke
From all my burning bridges.

– Dorothy Parker. Sanctuary

A couple months ago John Key went on Campbell Live to defend his GCSB legislation. The issue was getting huge traction, John Campbell was fronting it, and Key gave such a comprehensive performance that the issue all but died as a topic of debate in the mainstream media.

And today one of the up-and-coming superstars of the National Party, Energy Minister Simon Bridges tried to do the same thing, and failed about as badly as I’ve ever seen a Minister fail on national TV. So I went back and watched Key’s interview again to try and spot the difference.

Both Key and Bridges were well prepped with lines and talking points. But Key’s success and Bridges’ failure are, I think, due to them addressing different audiences. Key didn’t go on Campbell Live to talk to John Campbell. Key didn’t care about John Campbell. Key was talking past him, to Campbell’s audience. Bridges, on-the-other-hand, is pissed. He’s there to talk to John Fucking Campbell and put him in his fucking place.

So all the lines are completely different. Key’s comms team has sat down, watched previous episodes of Campbell Live and said, ‘Here’s what John Campbell will say. How do we neutralise that?’ And then they work out responses and then go through the lines with their boss. Bridges has, I suspect, watched the episodes in his office with his comms adviser, stalking around in a rage and shouting at the screen, ‘What about your fucking car John? That flash Mazda at the start of your show? How are you going to drive THAT without oil mined from the Pegasus basin? Make a note of that – I’m gonna ask him that. And now he’s on about Anadarko owning shares in BP. How many shares does John Fucking Campbell own in various companies? What’s his answer to that? Put that down too.’

The result is a Minister who looks like he’s close to tears and about to start throwing punches because someone is talking trash about a Texas-based oil company that was involved in an environmental catastrophe in the US and is about to start drilling down here. Which is hilarious, but not great for the government. I bet political advisers will use these two interviews as comparison studies for years.

October 7, 2013

Undesirable plot

Filed under: economics — danylmc @ 9:31 am

I didn’t pay much attention to the Reserve Bank’s LVR policy. I’m sorta inside a bubble in which everyone I know has equity in a home in a nice part of Auckland or Wellington.

So I had a good laugh at Labour’s case study: some 23 year old trying to buy a $500,000 investment property. It’s not until you talk to people outside that bubble who are trying to enter the property market – trying to buy a fix-er-up house in an outer suburb of Wellington for $350,000, say – but now can’t because they need to save a deposit of $70,000 on average salaries while still paying rent on their current accommodation, that you understand the magnitude of the RBNZ’s policy.

Wheeler explains that policy here. I guess it makes sense to him from his 20,000 feet up perspective, but to the people affected – prospective property owners on low and medium incomes – it seems like the government is deliberately locking them out of the market. It seems unfair. And it is! And when the government does stuff that seems really unfair to tens? hundreds? of thousands of people, opposition parties get to oppose it. Right?

Here’s John Armstrong on the subject:

 . . . some kind of consensus between the two main parties would be of considerable assistance to the Reserve Bank if they stopped questioning its efforts to cool a dangerously overheated property market as it sees fit.

The central bank has put its credibility very much on the line as to whether its swingeing intervention in the home mortgage market will work or not.

It could do without political parties – most notably Labour – making promises that would sacrifice the bank’s flexibility solely for naked political self-interest.

The Conventional Wisdom is that the Reserve Bank MUST be independent, because the Reserve Bank must be independent. It’s sacred! But when you see the Reserve Bank pursuing a near-zero inflation policy at a time of high unemployment it does make you wonder why an independent central bank is so vital. And now this! It’s like the RBNZ is handing left-politicians a gun and begging them to shoot them.

October 5, 2013

The dubious strategic value of the corporate group hug

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:54 am

Hamlisch Rutherford has a column up on Stuff examining the Green Party’s adversarial relationship with multi-national corporations and the energy sector ending:

If the Green Party ever wants to be taken seriously in the corporate sector as part of a government now might be the time to reassure people that cooler heads will prevail.

This is a good time to throw in the disclaimer that my wife now works for the Green Party but I have the same problem here as I’ve always had with Fran O’Sullivan’s columns begging politicians from all parties to be nicer to corporate executives and shareholders. I’ve never understood why left-wing parties need to be nice to the corporate sector and these columnists never explain it. It’s just a given. Another odd feature of New Zealand mainstream political discourse in which corporate executives are simultaneously god-like wealth creators who just need government to get out of the way of their genius and fragile neurotics who constantly need to be ‘reassured’ by everyone so they can have ‘confidence’. (And who repeatedly need government owned companies to be privitised so they can invest in them because they can’t grow their own.)

But political parties do things out of self-interest. Basically they want people to vote for them. In electoral terms the corporate sector accounts for a few thousand voters, most of whom are high-net worth older white men with right or far-right voting preferences. They will never vote for the Green Party and even if they did, somehow, it wouldn’t boost the Green vote by much. Executives and shareholders have great power outside the electoral system, obviously. They can (and do) donate vast sums of money to political parties, and they can convince journalists to write columns advocating for their interests. But to capture that power the Greens would have to be nothing like the Green Party (currently polling about 15%) and more like the ACT Party (0%).

The final point I’d make here is that we never, ever see columns from from pundits and political journalists pleading for, say, National to reassure unionised workers, or ACT to reach out to Pacific Island voters, even though in electoral terms these groups are hundreds of times larger than the corporate sector. Just this repeated insistence that every one needs to be really, really nice to banks and multinational corporations, even if it makes no sense for them to do so.

October 3, 2013

What are they thinking?

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:57 am

I’ve updated the tracking poll. Interactive version here

nzpolls20131003Labour’s Cunliffe bounce appears to be real; this (partly) explains the desperate weirdness of the right-wing blogs over the past few weeks.

(We went through a lot of this weirdness when Clark was PM. Did she know her motorcade went over the speed limit? Was her husband arrested overseas?? Did something happen when Winston Peters went to Las Vegas??? National’s bloggers wrote hundreds of thousands of words about these non-issues and the press gallery spent years chasing various conspiracy theories and rumours, and nothing ever came of any of it. Labour tried to copy National’s tactics when it beat up a story about John Key’s (non) involvement in faked foreign transactions – the so-called ‘H-Bomb’ that blew up in Labour’s face. It seems significant to me that the smears and conspiracy theories are instantly back in play after five years of dormancy under the Goff and Shearer interregnums.)

Anyway, back to the poll: The next government could be a Labour-Green coalition. But it could also easily be a National-New Zealand First coalition. Peters is unpredictable though. I kind of suspect that if Labour and the Greens can govern alone he’ll go into government with them. It’ll let him retire from politics with a knighthood and diplomatic posting to London.

In the twenty-two months since the last election roughly 150,000 people have changed their vote from National to Labour. I’d be really curious to know why. Asset sales? Power policy? House prices? Something else? If any swing voters are reading this I’d like to know why you’ve switched support.

September 27, 2013

High Trotterism, or What do women voters want?

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 9:22 am

This Herald column by Massey University lecturer Damien Rogers is a target rich environment, so I’ll restrict myself to a few points:

When Labour Party president Moira Coatsworth and general secretary Tim Barnett influenced recent decisions to select Meka Whaitiri to fill the vacancy left by Parekura Horomia, and Poto Williams to fill the vacancy left by Lianne Dalziel, they sent a strong message to the voting public, party members and party affiliates.

The message is that under their leadership, the Labour Party is gearing up for – when it is not already waging – a war for gender equality and minority rights.

Interested observers could be forgiven for thinking Coatsworth and Barnett are no longer, if indeed they ever were, committed to winning the next election.

Both seem more concerned that their reform agenda attracts international attention for its pyrrhic victory in addressing gender equality and minority rights within the narrow confines of the Labour Party.

The fact that the battles over gender equality and minority rights were largely decided elsewhere during the early 1980s seem to have passed Coatsworth and Barnett by. The quota-based approach favoured by the Labour Party leadership not only fails to evade the ugly structures of gender and ethnic discrimination, but helps to strengthen those structures.

I suspect Dr Rogers is about to have a number of robust conversations with his female colleagues and students over his allegation that gender equality was won in the early 1980s (why the early 1980s? Because that’s when ‘9 to 5’ starring Dolly Parton came out?) and I wish him luck there because he’s going to need it.

Firstly, the issue of women as minority voters: according to the 2011 New Zealand Electoral Survey, 55% of the people who cast votes in the 2011 election were female. So this is one of those interesting minority groups that is actually larger than the majority group of male voters. Which is the minority. If you follow me.

Secondly, female voters are swing voters. In 2005 – the last election won by the Labour Party – 48% of eligible female voters voted for the Labour Party. In 2011 only 25% gave their party vote to Labour. So targeting female voters isn’t so much a frivolous politically correct waste of time, as it is vital to Labour’s chances of winning back government. Finally, according to the NZES a plurality of female voters would like to see more female MPs in Parliament. I thought that the ‘man ban’ was a terrible idea. But trying to use the lists to increase the number of female MPs in the Labour Party is a smart thing to do. Women vote! More than men! And women want more female MPs in Parliament!

Update: Someone in the comments section alleges that the column was written by the partner of Labour’s recently dismissed Chief of Staff (Fran Mold wrote in to say that she wasn’t dismissed, so let us say ‘recently departed Chief of Staff). Which might explain a few things.

September 21, 2013

Making the Wellington local body elections REALLY easy

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:44 pm

Remember the Wellywood sign?

A motion by Wellington City Council opposing the controversial Wellywood sign has been condemned as “posturing” by one councillor.

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown successfully moved a motion at last night’s full council meeting asking Wellington International Airport to reconsider its decision to put up the sign. It passed by 10-4.

But Wellington City councillor John Morrison told Radio New Zealand this morning that the resolution was “a posturing effort” that would achieve nothing.

But the person you REALLY want to be ranking last behind every other candidate (if you live in the right ward) is:

Economic portfolio leader Jo Coughlan, a Wellywood supporter, said: “It is all part of a longer-term plan to position Wellington internationally as a destination and it’s got to be a good thing.”

If you’re going to any of the candidates meetings, please raise the Wellywood sign with John Morrison and Jo Coughlan. And if you find yourself working as the editor of Wellington’s only daily newspaper you might want to report on embarrassing gaffes made by Morrison, a mayoral candidate, even if it might hurt his chances against an incumbent Mayor you openly despise.

Remember: under STV the most effective way to vote against a candidate is to rank ALL of their opponents and leave your nemesis unranked.

September 20, 2013

The million dollar press release: sometimes you just have to applaud

Filed under: finance — danylmc @ 1:29 pm

The Herald reports:

Retail investors in Meridian Energy will pay $1 per share as a first installment and no more than 60 cents per share as a second installment – up to 30 cents less than institutional investors.

At a .30c price differential ‘Mum and Dad’ retail investors would be crazy not to buy a couple of thousand dollars worth of Meridian shares and then flick them on as soon as they float, If you buy $2000 worth of shares and sell them the day of the float at the institutional price you make $400, no risk. Minimum. The shares are probably undervalued, so will probably go even higher than that.

It’s a big loss to the taxpayer of course. Millions of dollars thrown away for nothing except, crucially, Bill English and John Key will get to put out a press release citing the huge number of New Zealand ‘Mum and Dad’ retail investors who pre-bought Meridian shares.

September 19, 2013

Conspiracy theory of the day

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:55 am

David Cunliffe continues to demonstrate his weakness as Labour leader by hiring staff he knows and trusts and appointing whips that haven’t publicly denounced him. Yesterday he appointed Auckland based lawyer Wendy Brandon as his Chief of Staff, but what’s interesting is that rumors of alternate candidates kept popping up in various places. Gallery journalists were tweeting that it was going to be Chris Harrington or, alternately, ‘some guy called Karl’, WhaleOil confidently announced that it was someone called Sarah Clark.

Maybe that was all just fabrication, but I wonder if Cunliffe and his team are employing a little counter-intelligence here, confidentially advising Labour MPs and staffers with bits of disinformation and then waiting to see which false rumors pop up where. If you tell one of your staffers something and it shows up on WhaleOil or Kiwiblog, that’s probably not someone with the best interests of the party at heart, which makes re-appointment decisions real easy.

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