The Dim-Post

February 26, 2014

Speaking for the 0%

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 10:32 am

Another day, another raft of New Zealand Herald columns, news stories and editorials about the ACT party. The editorial is happy to see Richard Prebble running the campaign but isn’t sure about flat tax. Fran O’Sullivan loves Prebble and ACT’s ideas about superannuation (Prebble is pictured in a field of daisies playing with a dog.) Earlier this week we had an approving story by political editor Audrey Young based on Jamie Whyte’s thoughts on superannuation. Young also ran a story the same day on Prebble and his flat tax. The day before that: another story about Prebble. And on it goes. Search the Herald site for Jamie Whyte and you’ll find dozens of glowing interviews, editorials, features and columns about the new leader of the ACT Party. At this point in the election they’re easily receiving as much coverage as National and Labour.

Which is weird because this is a really, really, really tiny party. They only recieved 23,889 votes in the 2011 election. Fewer than the Mana Party. WAY fewer than the Maori Party. Less than a 10th of the support of the Green Party. In the only by-election we’ve had since then they were beaten by the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (Where are their editorials and columns and soft interviews?). According to my aggregated poll results ACT are on about 0.4% at the moment which, based on 2011 turnout, suggests they’ll get less than 10,000 people voting for them in the election.

ACT aren’t totally irrelevant, since National will give them an electorate and they’ll get to be in government. But this party is approximately as popular and significant as United Future. Who is their campaign manager? What are their new policies? We don’t know because, frankly, it doesn’t really matter because United Future aren’t a real political party. Neither is ACT but because a bunch of activists for this microscopically small party WAY out on the lunatic fringe happen to be senior staff at a major newspaper we have to hear all about it.

Wartime Consigliere

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:02 am

There are a couple of rumours running around about who Labour’s new CoS will be, and one of them – Matt McCarten! – is floated in the Dom-Post.

Labour doesn’t seem like a happy place right now. There’s staff turnover. The longest-standing MPs in the party hate the current leader. Every time Cunliffe takes a position on anything related to trade or foreign affairs Phil Goff instantly issues a press release contradicting him. The same faction is briefing people like Duncan Garner, Matthew Hooton and Cameron Slater to undermine Cunliffe.

Can Matt McCarten turn things around? If you’re seeking to unify the party then the answer there would be a massive ‘No.’ The last thing Labour leads is a Chief of Staff with a big personality, big profile, big ego, talent for skullduggery and a strong left-wing political agenda that’s totally at odds with those of his leader’s enemies within the party.

But if you’re Cunliffe and you’re looking at Goff, Mallard, Cosgrove, King et al and coming to the conclusion that unity with them is impossible, war is inevitable and the best thing to do is try and win it then McCarten would be a pretty great choice

February 24, 2014

Tracking poll update

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:16 am

The bias corrected poll (it compares polling before the election against the actual result and adjusts subsequent polls) is here, also non-interactive version below. Non bias-corrected is here. It all speaks for itself. National definitely trending up. Labour trending down. New Zealand First probably trending up (National ruling them in?). The Greens probably down (Norman meeting Dotcom?). I’ve added the Conservative Party to illustrate the lack of traction this party has despite extensive media coverage and repeated stunts.

nzpolls20140224

The economics of homemade Thai Green curry

Filed under: economics — danylmc @ 8:42 am

Dita De Boni suggested in the Herald that the government set up its own chain of supermarkets that, like KiwiBank, introduce competition to a market that doesn’t seem to be working very well.

Matt Nolan hits back against the idea, writing:

Let us think about Progressive vs Foodstuffs a bit here.  If both organisations are thumping around their wholesalers, and the duopoly is competitive (due to the organisations selling a homogeneous product where consumers have good information about prices), then the lower cost for products is PASSED ON TO THE CONSUMER!

If Progressive is bullying, and Foodstuffs isn’t, then Progressive has a lower cost structure than Foodstuffs.  As a result, Progressive can bid down prices, but is likely to keep a large part of the surplus to themselves.  In this case, Foodstuffs is squeezed, and may lose market share, so they have an incentive to bully their wholesalers as well!

If neither firm bullies their wholesalers, they both just charge higher prices, and the consumer pays the difference.

So here is the thing.  We feel bad for the wholesaler being bullied by these big companies – understandably!  However, if we look at the issue more broadly, their bullying activity may well be reducing the price of some goods and services for the consumer.  If we force them to give up their bullying, the consumer then pays a higher price.  There are always trade-offs, let’s at least make a slight attempt to remember that – instead of pretending that government ownership will somehow come in and make everything magically better.

I’d just make one point here which is that its really easy to take a look at the prices at the supermarkets, compare them to competing vendors and see if bullying suppliers does lead to lower prices. And, like I’ve pointed out before, places like farmers markets and green-grocers are consistently way, way, way cheaper than the supermarkets. As an urban-liberal I need a steady supply of lime and coriander and spring-onions and these are usually available at the farmer’s market at around a third of the price the super-markets sell them for.

But, an economist could say: the supermarket adds value because I can buy things other than fruit and vegetables, like, say, coconut milk and and pistachios, and the overheads of building and running a gigantic supermarket are built into that cost. Which is true. But compare the cost of chippies, soft-drinks, chocolate and wine in the super-markets to the cost in your local dairy. It’s usually 100% to 150% more than the supermarket.

So products sourced from small local growers are far more expensive in the supermarket while products sourced from large corporations are a lot cheaper. That suggests to me that (a) suppliers get treated very differently depending on their size and (b) the lower prices being gouged from small, local suppliers aren’t being passed onto the consumer.

February 19, 2014

Gut feeling update

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:35 am

So the big political story on TV3 news over the last few nights has about a bunch of reporters in TVNZ’s Maori and Pacific Unit acting as Labour Party activists. It’s a good story, and another indication of how comprehensively the TV3 political journalists are setting the news agenda and dominating political reporting. (I keep seeing people on my twitter feed demanding to know the difference between Shane Taurima and, say, Mike Hosking or Paul Henry. I think the main difference is that if Mike Hosking wanted to set up a fundraising operation inside TVNZ the National Party wouldn’t let him because it would look terrible and destroy his career).

But it was a clip from another TV3 story the same night that’s really haunting me. Here’s a screen-grab of Labour leader David Cunliffe standing in front of a super-luxury yacht company explaining that his $2.5 million dollar mansion is just a ‘do-up’, after criticising Key for living in a nice house.

cunliffeIt’s hard to compress so much failure into a single image. Up to now I’ve felt that the outcome of the election is too close to call. The sides are pretty even, small changes at the margins could have huge impacts on the results. But my gut feeling now is that Labour’s support will collapse and National will win a third term. It feels like a replay of the 2011 election in which Labour keep doing baffling, stupid things and then demand to know why the media is biased against them and how anyone could like John Key. People don’t want idiots running their country.

February 13, 2014

Alternate theory

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 1:59 pm

Everyone – including me! – is excited about the idea that John Key found out about Winston Peters visiting the Dotcom mansion via the state security services.

But an allegation that Peters made three visits was in the Herald’s gossip column last Friday, which also ‘broke the story’ of Russel Norman’s visit. The Herald’s gossip journalist Rachel Glucina is a loyal little cog in National’s comms wheel so I guess you could claim that the Nats gave the story to her. But would they really give GCSB intel to the gossip columnist? Sure, maybe ‘that’s the genius of it all!’ But I doubt it

Meanwhile Kim Dotcom is on twitter claiming that virtually no one knew about Winston Peters’ visits so the PM’s information must have come through surveillance. Now, I’ve never owned a gigantic palace filled with servants but I have sat through a few episodes of Downton Abbey and I’m guessing it’s harder to keep secrets in the country’s largest mansion than Dotcom thinks. And I’m also guessing that not everyone who works there is totally loyal to their boss, and that at least one of them is willing to sell information about what goes on there to, say, a gossip columnist. The advantage National has is that they could – hypothetically – call Glucina and query the legitimacy of the source before they raised it in Parliament.

The supermarkets of August

Filed under: books,Politics — danylmc @ 11:45 am

I’ve been reading The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark, a very good history of the origins of WWI. And I’ve been joking to myself that if I were Chris Trotter I’d be gleefully stuffing every event in New Zealand politics into some tortured parallel of fin de siecle Balkan history. (Just as Dragutin Dimitrijević outmaneuvered Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić, David Cunliffe must outwit John Key and assassinate the arch-duke of west-Auckland voter turnout.)

Only, this thing with Australian and New Zealand supermarkets does have a pre-July crisis vibe to it. You have an international system in which politicians and other players make short-term rational decisions based on business needs or domestic politics, possibly leading to an escalation as individuals in the other country also respond with their own domestic politics or short-term interests at heart.  Hopefully this won’t all lead to a trade war. (Or an actual war.)

Also of note about The Sleepwalkers. Clark notes in the introduction that the various statesmen involved in the outbreak of war all published post-war memoirs giving their eye-witness to history account of things. And when their private diaries, meeting notes etc were declassified decades later the memoirs all turned out to be steaming piles of self-serving lies. Worth bearing in mind. (I’ve noticed that politicians tend to read political memoirs rather than actual history.) Also of note. None of the key political players involved in the outbreak of a war that led to approximately twenty million deaths ever showed the slightest flicker of remorse or self-doubt about their actions.

War pigs

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:24 am

I know I’m not the only person offended by Patrick Gower’s ‘yarn’ based approach to reporting (see previous post) in which the political editor makes something up and then runs around breathlessly reporting it as a breaking news story. But it’s easy to forget that Gower used to be a serious journalist and that his instincts are still sharp. Underneath the mountains of bullshit there’s often a substantive issue.

So I don’t think the Green’s Russel Norman made any deal with Kim Dotcom. Norman has always said the case against Dotcom was compromised by the illegal actions of the New Zealand Police and Intelligence organisations. He went to Dotcom last November and asked him not to form a political party. Dotcom turned him down and went ahead with setting up his party. This turned into a fiasco. Initial polls have it at zero, so Dotcom’s indicated he’ll disband it if that doesn’t increase. Hard to see a deal there.

And yet . . . Dotcom is such a problematic person for our MPs to be sitting down and meeting with. Here’s a guy with a criminal background, a staggering amount of money and serious legal problems that a sympathetic government can solve in an instant. Our MPs need to understand that if they meet with someone like that and keep it quiet there is (a) HUGE public interest in the media covering it and (b) HUGE political capital to be made by their political enemies in painting the meeting in a sinister light.

Thinking about Dotcom this morning put me in mind of those war pigs the Romans used in battle. They’d cover them with grease, light them on fire and send them into the enemy ranks where they’d run about setting fire to everything. The difference with Kim Dotcom is that he doesn’t seem to get burned. The allegations as-of this morning are that in addition to Russel Norman, Winston Peters and two Labour MPs have gone to Dotcom’s mansion to meet with him.

Aside from the obvious question of how the Prime Minister – and Minister of Intelligence – knows so much about who his opposition MPs are meeting with, I do wonder why so many politicians are keen to sit down with a guy who seems to destroy the career of almost everyone who goes near him.

February 12, 2014

Labour planning dodgy electoral deal with immortal giant

Filed under: media,satire — danylmc @ 10:53 am

TV3’s political editor has broken another story about a political party rorting the MMP system:

It’s dirty. It’s dodgy. And it’s happening. Yes, the Labour Party who have stuck the knife in and twisted the boot attacking National’s electorate deals have done a dirty dodgy dirty deal themselves.

Yes. You heard right. And it gets dodgier and dirty. The deal is with Ymir, King of the Frost Giants. A being of pure malevolence formed from the frozen rivers of poison that run through hell. Ymir has a real grudge against John Key. And the bad blood flies both ways. It’s a grudge match. Also a perfect storm of grudge.

Behind the scenes Labour is stiching up a dirty deal with Ymir for the electorate of Ginnungagap, a formless void of ice and rime located on Auckland’s North Shore.

Details of this deal are kept tightly under wraps. The Electoral Commission won’t even admit that the Ginnungagap electorate exists. Journalists who vault their reception desk and smash open computers looking for proof of Ginnungagap are led away by security. That shows you just how sensitive these deals are. A week is a long time in politics.

Labour’s spin-doctors say there is no deal and that Ymir doesn’t actually exist. They say I’m locked in a psychotic delusion. Well I’ve heard that before. Hundreds of times. It means they’re scared. They know that hard-working families don’t trust immortal frost giants. And with good reason. Remember, when Odin wounded Ymir in the runup to the 2002 election Ymir’s blood flooded the whole world. Yes, that won’t go down well with hard-working voters.

At the end of the day this last ditch effort might just see Labour in government and a giant made of snake’s venom on the Treasury benches. Only time will tell.

February 8, 2014

Scenario

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:11 am

This chart shows the aggregated poll results for National vs Labour-Greens adjusted for poll bias: combined20140208There’s been a bit of talk recently about Winston Peters being ‘Kingmaker’ after the election. But if something like this happens Peters won’t have much power at all. If National polls around 40% and Peters polls around 5-6% then even a National+Peters+ACT+United Future+Maori Party coalition won’t have enough seats in Parliament to form a government. The only viable coalition is Labour+Greens+Peters.

Obviously that changes if National gives an electorate seat to Colin Craig and he pulls in ~2.5%. Then we see the very sane, sensible National-Colin Craig-Winston Peters-ACT-United Future-Maori Party coalition running things.

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