The Dim-Post

June 3, 2014

On the logic behind a strategic loss

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 1:49 pm

Rob Salmond makes fun of Bomber, which is something we can all enjoy. But I do think that Bomber’s theory that a faction within the Labour Party would prefer a National victory in 2014 if the alternative is a Labour/Greens/New Zealand First/Mana/Internet Party government is pretty plausible.

Imagine you’re part of Labour’s infamous Anyone But Cunliffe faction, and Labour manages to form a coalition with the aforementioned parties after the September election. That’s going to be a government that is (a) unpopular – the Venn diagram of voters that have positive or neutral attitudes towards all five of those parties is damn close to an empty set; it will also (b) probably be highly unstable, and (c) be a government with intense competition for Cabinet seats, so ABC faction members are likely to miss out on them. So you’re facing the prospect of three years as a backbencher followed by a crushing election defeat followed by six to nine years of a subsequent National government. If you’re Phil Goff or Trevor Mallard that’s the rest of your career.

On the other hand, if Labour loses the election because, hypothetically, Labour wins Te Tai Tokerau and all of the Internet/Mana party votes get wasted, the most probable outcomes are (a) Cunliffe resigns and your faction retakes control of the Labour Party, (b) National forms a coalition with New Zealand First which will also be a weak and unstable government, and (c) you get to run the country in three years time.

June 2, 2014

Inequality, MMP, Internet-Mana and the Conservatives

Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 7:23 pm

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about this weekend:

  • Inequality: the status of inequality in New Zealand isn’t controversial. We underwent a huge rise in inequality during the 1980s and 1990s. It dipped slightly under the Clark/Cullen government and its jumped around a bit under National. New Zealand (arguably) saw the largest increase in inequality of any OECD country since the 1970s.
  • MMP. We have the Mixed Member Proportional electoral system. It’s mostly a good thing, but many of the other unequal OECD countries – and all of the anglo countries that we compare ourselves to – have FPP style electoral systems that are dominated by two large parties.
  •  If you’re a very high net-worth individual – the number of which will increase as your society gets more unequal – and you want to influence the political system in an FPP nation you’re pretty much stuck doing so through the two dominant political parties, and if your agenda or policy needs are outside the window of what’s palatable for those mainstream parties you’re out of luck.
  • But MMP happens to be a system where (a) small parties can make it into government, and (b) they can have a disproportionately large impact on a government’s policy agenda if they can position themselves into a kingmaker role.
  • So while Kim Dotcom and Colin Craig and their self-funded political parties seem like weird highly individual cases, I wonder if they’re symptoms of two converging trends: increased inequality and increased electoral proportionality.
  • Most businesses and many wealthy individuals who want to influence the political system can do so through lobbying and donating to Labour and National, but for an increasing number of the very odd/very rich, setting up your own party becomes a much more viable, rational way to influence policy.
  • I don’t believe many (or any?) of the other countries New Zealand likes to compare itself to have this interesting combination of high inequality and electoral proportionality, so this might be a problem that’s unique to us.

May 30, 2014

Uncertainty and the Internet Party

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 3:25 pm

Gordon Campbell writes:

The real key player in all of the above is the Labour Party and its Te Tai Tokerau candidate Kelvin Davis. If Harawira loses in Te Tai Tokerau, as much as 4% of the centre left vote nationwide could be lost, and go in the wasted vote dustbin. It will be National’s interest to urge the 1,814 Te Tai Tokerau voters who voted National in 2011 to vote for Kelvin Davis this time, in order to erase Harawira’s 1,165 majority and thereby sink a large chunk of the centre-left vote, nationwide. It is in Labour’s self interest NOT to make that happen. Logic and political nous in an MMP environment demand that Labour should now quietly decide to run a fairly token effort in Te Tai Tokerau, and put a good recruit like Davis into a safe position on the Labour list.

Labour does not want to be in coalition with the Mana Party. Or the Internet Party. It REALLY doesn’t want to be in coalition with the Mana/Internet Party which will probably be unpopular with many centrist voters and is utterly loathed by the nation’s political and media elites (who are sick with disgust over the unprecedented new phenomenon of politicians accepting political donations and doing electorate deals.)

But if Mana/Internet can give them the numbers then Labour will suck it up and accept their votes. In that respect the Internet/Mana Party is very similar to the Conservative Party. National would rather not, but if needs must then National will give Colin Craig an electorate seat rather than let his votes fall underneath the 5% threshold and go to waste.

The problem for Labour is that it’s going to be really, really hard to determine whether they should let Harawira win Te Tai Tokerau and let the Internet Party coat-tail in behind him. According to the latest 3 News /Reid poll, the combined Mana/Internet Party vote is only 0.8%. If that’s true then they’re not worth it. Let Kelvin Davis win the seat, and let Mana/Internet die. Up til this Monday that was probably the plan.

But now the Internet Party has Laila Harre and several million dollars, which – they claim – they intend to spend turning out non-voters. If Harre can turn out, say, 50,000 new voters then she might just bring in enough MPs to change the government – if Hone Harawira wins his electorate seat. Otherwise those votes will be wasted.

And here’s Labour’s big problem: how will they know whether the Internet/Mana party’s GOTV campaign is working? What will winning the votes of a bunch of tertiary students and poor young Maori look like in the polls? How will they know those voters are actually going to turn up and vote until they actually do so?

I don’t think anyone knows the answer to those questions. A lot will depend on the team Harre puts in place, and I note that her first hire has been Pam Corkery as her press secretary. My impression is that that’s a very poor decision and doesn’t point towards the technology-based data-driven political party the Internet Party needs to be to have an impact in the election.

May 29, 2014

All in the game

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 5:26 pm

Paddy Gower has a kind of parody of himself piece up about the Internet/Mana Party deal:

The Hone-Dotcom-Laila political triangle is one of the dirtiest deals in New Zealand political history.

It is as dirty as National-Act in Epsom.

It is as dirty as the Key-Dunne deal in Ohariu.

Frankly, Lalia Harré made me feel sick today when she said “it’s time for New Zealanders to take back MMP”.

That’s because Laila Harré is wrecking MMP.

Hone Harawira is wrecking MMP.

And Kim Dotcom is wrecking MMP.

They are using Harawira’s seat and MMP’s “coat-tail” rule to get a back-door entry into Parliament.

It is a rort.

It is a grubby deal, made all the worse by the fact Harawira holds the Te Tai Tokerau seat – a Maori seat.

And on it goes for many hundreds of words. He’s right, of course – it is a rort. That’s what I love about it. National had the opportunity to reform both electoral finance and the MMP system and they refused in the face of overwhelming arguments in favor of ditching the coat-tail loophole, because they like having a deliberately broken system to work with – because they can game it to their advantage. The beauty of the Internet/Mana deal is that it turns National’s strategic undermining of the electoral system against them. (Or at least tries to – there’s no guarantee any of this will actually work.)

I’m not sure what Gower thinks the left is supposed to do here. Sit back and lose election after election because National and its allies are allowed to scam the electoral system by running fake parties in Epsom and Ohariu but the left aren’t allowed to do the same thing in Te Tai Tokerau? This is the system. This is how John Key and Judith Collins decided our elections should work. Why should the left cripple itself by refusing to maximise their chances in a rigged system just because they argued against it and got ignored?

Thoughts on Laila Harre and the Internet Party

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:51 am
  • Politics is hard. Smart, ambitious, dedicated people spend years and years of their lives building up the unique set of skills it takes to run a successful political party. That’s why I’ve always been skeptical of the Internet Party project. Who on earth was going to lead Dotcom’s party for him? A c-list celebrity? Some social media evangelist? A crazy mayor?
  • Turns out Laila Harre is going to do it. In many ways she’s the perfect choice. Former party leader and former Cabinet Minister, Harre can hit the ground running and immediately perform at the same level – or higher – as the rest of our political leaders. She solves the compatibility problem between the Internet Party and Mana Party. Why are they in a coalition together? Because, as of Harre’s appointment, the Internet Party is now a left-wing party (and that political space is starting to look crowded).
  • Sue Bradford’s simultaneous resignation from Mana gives us a really interesting case-study in comparative morality. Bradford thought it was wrong for a left-wing political party to be funded by an ostentatious multi-millionaire. Harre – presumably – believes that if someone wants to pay millions of dollars to get rid of a National government, reform our intelligence services, withdraw from the TPP etc then she’ll enable them no matter who they are.
  • What do the people who downloaded the Internet Party app and joined that party think of the appointment of a left-wing activist and former Alliance MP? I have no idea, and I kind of doubt the Internet Party really knows either.
  • I don’t want to over-sell the significance of this. 2014 has seen a number of political appointments that various political elites have celebrated as ‘game-changing’. Matt McCarten as Cunliffe’s Chief of Staff. Richard Prebble as ACT’s campaign manager. Shane Jones’ defection from Labour. But none of these appointments seem to have had any substantive impact in the polls. Political junkies know who these people are and get excited when they pop up in the news, but no one outside elite circles has heard of them. The Internet Party’s voter base is supposed to be disaffected tech-savvy youth, and I doubt they have a special affinity for former Alliance Party MPs.
  • This could also be a disaster. Rumour has it that Dotcom has spent millions on this party and will, not unreasonably, consider it HIS party, while everything I’ve heard about Harre indicates will now consider it HER party.
  • She’s also at a huge disadvantage in organisational terms. It’s less than four months out from the actual election, and her primary rivals – Labour and the Greens – have been ramping up their campaigns since the start of the year. I can’t see Internet/Mana taking many votes off either of them.

May 26, 2014


Filed under: polls — danylmc @ 9:15 am

I’ve updated the tracking poll. The bias corrected poll is below. Non bias-corrected here.


  • Things aren’t great for Labour. But they could be worse! According to John Armstrong, Shane Jones’ exit had Labour polling at ‘a mindblowing low of just 23 per cent.’ That was in National’s internal poll though. Weird how none of the public polls ever replicated that.
  • Speaking of weird, there are going to be some interesting people a ways down the New Zealand First list who will probably be MPs in six months time.
  • Not pictured but ACT is still on less than 1%, and they have a tough decision ahead of them: stick with running as a ‘classical liberal’ party or play the white supremacy card?
  • As always, when the sun goes down and the night darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old I think of David Shearer and look at Labour’s trajectory over this term. I think of David Shearer.

May 21, 2014

The Campbell Live GCSB story

Filed under: intelligence — danylmc @ 12:14 pm

Is here. The Standard provides a timeline here. I did my own GCSB timeline a couple of years back, which is here.

A lot of the questions raised in the Campbell Live piece are ones we already knew. Why did Key shoulder-tap Ian Fletcher for the role of GCSB director? Why did he lie about it? Why did he pretend he barely knew Fletcher and had virtually no contact with him before the appointment when he met Fletcher for breakfast three weeks before Fletcher applied for the GCSB role?

The show revealed that Key had a secret meeting with Fletcher on the 12th of December 2011. This was after Fletcher had been appointed incoming head of GCSB but before he’d left his old job. The timing seems significant because a few days after that meeting the GCSB began its illegal surveillance of Kim Dotcom. Key has insisted he’d never heard of Dotcom until the raid on his house on January 20th, 2012. If anyone can prove this wasn’t the case then Key will have intentionally mislead Parliament and the public many, many times.

Campbell Live also ties in meetings between Key and our intelligence chiefs with (a) a March 2011 meeting with James Clapper, head US Intelligence and (b) the improved ties between the US and New Zealand. The narrative is that Clapper’s visit and Fletcher’s appointment signalled a shift in the focus of our intelligence agency away from military and security issues and towards intellectual property and trade issues, and that the operation against Kim Dotcom was a key moment in that shift.

But Kim Dotcom is only one of 88 instances of illegal spying that we know about, and the GCSB were, presumably, also conducting some surveillance that wasn’t against the law. Kim Dotcom is their only operation we’re aware of so I think there’s a temptation to build narratives around him. If we didn’t know about Dotcom and instead knew, say, that the GCSB had illegally spied on New Zealand based friends and relatives of Daryl Jones, the dual New Zealand/Australian citizen assassinated in a drone strike in Yemen in November 2013 (there’s no evidence this happened but it’s not unlikely) then we’d be looking at it all very differently and try to find meaning in Fletcher’s appointment there.

Because Fletcher’s appointment is weird. Why did Key shoulder-tap this guy with no background in intelligence to be head of our signals intelligence agency and then repeatedly lie about it? Even if you don’t buy into the Campbell Live narrative and – like DPF – think its all an absurd conspiracy theory, that’s still a pretty relevant question.

May 18, 2014

This actually happened

Filed under: books,economics — danylmc @ 6:58 am

I read the introduction to Piketty last night, then dreamed that my computer stopped working because – it claimed – it was contributing to the aggregate increase in the rate of return on capital over economic growth. I do not remember how the dream ended.

I will write more about the actual book later. But I’ve been interested in the debate in the economics blogosphere. Left-wing economists all seem to think Pikety is right and right-wing economists all seem to think he’s wrong. (I would note that the objections I’ve heard from some on the right: ‘Piketty disregards the decline of inequality between nations, cf the development of China,’ or ‘Pikety disregards the ability of education and skills transfer to reduce inequality,’ seem to be issues Piketty addresses in the introduction to his book. Maybe there are more substantive critiques out there?).

Anyway, my point is that the question Piketty asks is important: does capitalism reduce or increase inequality over time? He reckons it increases inequality, left-wing economists agree with him; right-wing economists reckon he’s wrong. What are non-economists supposed to make of a discipline that splits along partisan lines over a fundamental empirical question?

May 16, 2014


Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 3:04 pm

Last week I posted about the predictive accuracy of polls in the 2011 election. Gavin White of UMR wrote to inform me that I’d made a mistake in the formula, so my chart was wrong. Here’s an amended chart. My original point still stands: the Roy Morgan poll isn’t as meaningless as some political commentators and Cabinet Ministers seem to think it is.


I should note that the Fairfax poll is now conducted by Ipsos, not Research International. They still seem to measure National higher than most other pollsters, and New Zealand First quite a bit lower. Also I was intrigued to see the latest Fairfax/Ipsos poll polled 1,011 subjects over three nights. If they’re getting a representative demographic sample in that time then that’s pretty impressive . If they’re not then that’s a bit worrying.

They write comments

Filed under: intelligence — danylmc @ 7:14 am

From the discussion thread in a previous post:

Anonymous activists broke into [Redacted]’s Tinakori Road apartment when he was in Auckland with his boyfriend. We photocopied documents relating to his and his wife’s messy divorce and employment proceedings with the GCSB. We copied the hard disks of his laptop. We have a mass of documents relating to the GCSB’s spying on Japan, Indonesia, and Middle Eastern Countries and people of a MIddle Eastern origin in New Zealand as well. We also have evidence of the GCSB monitoring Chinese commercial interests on behalf of the United States.


1. [Redacted] was caught by his wife fucking men when stationed to the NSA

2. NZ spied on Japan re the IWC

More to come if you can handle it Danyl, or maybe I should seek another outlet?


Much more to come; much more

I can’t handle it. Go bug Andrea Vance.

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