The Dim-Post

August 23, 2013

Book report

Filed under: books,personal — danylmc @ 1:56 pm

This is the longest, and therefore my favorite review of my book so far. I know how many of you deadbeats read this blog, and roughly how many books I’ve sold so yet again, here’s where you can buy an ebook and here’s where you buys your hardcopy.

Also, I’m speaking at Te Papa on Monday alongside Giovanni Tiso about:

In the age of the blog, how is the written word received, rated, and disseminated?

Wouldn’t you rather come listen to that than eat lunch?

I’m also going to tell a (mostly) true story at the Book Council event on Friday night. And I’ll be shopping for groceries at Karori New World on Sunday morning! See you there!

 

Very serious punditry

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 10:01 am

Via Guyon Espiner’s twitter feed:

espinerI love the mental picture. Murray McCully stroking his chin. ‘Shane Jones would make an amazing leader of the Labour Party. Jones is the leader we really fear.  The public would adore and worship Shane Jones. I hope no senior political journalists advise the Labour Party to pick SHANE JONES.’ While Espiner furrows his brow and nods. Yes. Jones. The guy who never won a seat, who stood down after charging pornographic movies to the taxpayer, introduced laws regulating shower pressure in the middle of the 2008 election campaign when Labour struggled with the ‘nanny state’ perception, who stood down again when he was investigated for immigration fraud and now only ever speaks out to attack Labour’s largest coalition partner. That’s who National really fears.

The actual leadership contenders are Robertson and Cunliffe. I think they’d both be pretty good. Neither of them are going to go on a bus tour of the heartland, or tell journalists they want to model themselves on Finnish neo-liberal politicians, or attack the welfare system, or hire the Paganis as political advisers, or hold up dead fish in Parliament, or forget about tens of thousands of dollars in a foreign bank account, or visit the Sky City box while the party is criticising Sky City any of the other awesomely terrible decisions Shearer made.

Neither are ideal. Robertson is a risk, partly because he’s gay and that’s an unknown commodity in New Zealand politics, partly because he’s the MP for Wellington Central, and that’ll be tricky to sell in Auckland and Christchurch. Cunliffe is a risk because, frankly, he’s very weird. We keep hearing that his caucus hate him, which seems like a ringing endorsement to me.

I don’t know which of them the party should choose.  I do know that they should listen to their god-dammed members this time around, and not just stitch something up in caucus or do a deal with the unions to block vote for a leadership team.

August 22, 2013

Politics and the GCSB

Filed under: intelligence,Politics — danylmc @ 10:19 am

I think the key point to take away from this Jon Johansson post on Public Address is that the GCSB and its involvement in the 5-eyes program is very important to New Zealand on a diplomatic level. That’s why there’s usually cross-party support (between National and Labour, at least) on intelligence issues. It signals our strategic allies that there’s certainty around the relationship.

But today we have new, highly controversial legislation, passed last night (with Attorney General Chris Finlayson helpfully explaining that anyone opposed to the expansion of the state’s power to spy on its citizens was a Nazi) and our allies have no certainty beyond the outcome of the upcoming election.

Key couldn’t reach a compromise with Shearer, presumably because he didn’t want to hand Shearer a political win. We’ll probably never know what happened between them. There seem to have been secret negotiations, revealed when Shearer complained in Parliament that there hadn’t been negotiations, Key replied there had, but they were secret, and Shearer got upset because the negotiations were supposed to be secret.

Anway, if Labour wins the next election there will be a review of our intelligence agencies. There will be new legislation. The Green Party will be involved. There’s no way for our allies to predict the outcome of that, or what might be disclosed in such a scenario.

From my perspective an inquiry and review into our newly empowered (and secretly merged) intelligence apparatus is great outcome. We (ie New Zealand) need an intelligence capability, but I have no confidence in the current agencies. Do they deliver any service of value to the taxpayers who fund them? Do we even fund them? The Prime Minister refuses to comment on allegations that the GCSB is funded by the United States government. If so, has the government just granted additional powers to spy on the New Zealand public to an intelligence agency funded by another country? It’d be nice to get answers to these sort of questions.

Correction: I’ve been sent a draft Hansard. Finlayson didn’t say this, but was still a horrible, sneering asshole

August 21, 2013

Better than any poll or focus group

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 10:38 am

Google suggests results for the leaders of our two main parties:

ShearerKey

August 20, 2013

Moneyscramble: round 2

Filed under: finance — danylmc @ 1:18 pm

The very pragmatic, fiscally sensible government led by very serious experienced businessman John Key has announced it will extend interest free loans to investors in Meridian Energy for 40% of the share value. Because giving people interest free loans to buy your own dividend returning assets off you is how things are done in the real world.

If you take a look at the share price for Mighty River Power you can see why they’ve come to this:

mrp

This also seems like a good time to revisit John Roughan’s column urging the Herald’s readers to buy these shares:

Investors in Mighty River Power should send the champagne next week to Russel Norman, Green Party, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

The stock looked a good buy even before he talked the Labour Party into threatening price control on electricity. It looks an even better one now.

I hope Roughan put his money where his idiot mouth is and invested heavily.

August 18, 2013

The grand inquisitor

Filed under: psuedopolitics — danylmc @ 8:49 am

One of the odd aspects of contemporary New Zealand politics is that opposition policies are subject to extraordinary scrutiny – what are the details? how much will it cost? can we see the figures? where will that money come from? – while the actual government can toss up schemes like Paula Bennett’s plan to subject about a tenth of the adult population to a paedophile test and instantly sack anyone who fails it.

Teachers, doctors and any other government employees who fail Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s tough new child-abuse screening test will be instantly sacked.

The new child-protection laws will trump existing employment legislation, removing the need for bosses to go through a fair process of verbal and written warnings to dump anyone suspected of sexually preying on children.

Screening of all government employees working with children is one of the main planks of Bennett’s incoming child protection regime, unveiled last week.

All staff working with children in schools, hospitals, government agencies and organisations that get government funding must submit to security screening every three years. It is estimated to affect 376,000 people.

What test will the government use? ‘Yet to be revealed.’ What are the false negative and false positive rates? (ie, how many actual paedophiles will it fail to detect and how many non-paedophiles will it falsely identify? That’d be useful to know, right? If you’re screening 376,000 people using a test with a very high confidence interval – say, 99.9% – that means you’re incorrectly identifying 376 people. How long will the screening test take? A day per person? That works out at 376,000 days of police time. Sounds expensive. How invasive will it be? What happens if you refuse to take it? Will the government sack, say, a paediatrician who refuses to take the test because they consider it a breach of their privacy?

 

August 16, 2013

All glory to the hypnotoad

Filed under: media,Politics — danylmc @ 11:00 am

Russell Brown attributes John Key’s triumph debating the GCSB bill on Campbell Live as ‘a study in media training’. The sentiment seems to be widespread among the left, including with John Campbell.

I thought the PM addressed Campbell’s questions very directly. His success wasn’t about any kind of media training Jedi mind trick, so much as it was about the PM enjoying a huge strategic advantage over John Campbell. Campbell Live had done clips on the GCSB bill all week. Key’s team knew exactly what their objections to it were. All they had to do was have a couple of people from their comms team watch each episode, break down each issue and craft a rebuttal.

Unfortunately (for the PM) they don’t seem to have run their rebuttal past anyone with legal knowledge of the bill, which means that while the PM was wiping the floor with Campbell he was also incorrect/lying on a pivotal point. Via the Herald:

In the course of the interview [Key] said incorrectly that under the bill, the GCSB would not be allowed to look at the content of communications when conducting their cyber-security functions.

In fact, there is nothing that prevents it from doing so. But what Mr Key is now saying is that in exercising his power to impose any conditions he wants on a warrant, he will use his discretion to set the default position not looking at content in the cyber-security function.

Which is just stupid. The PM can’t grant himself the power to secretly spy on people and simply promise not to use it, if only because he isn’t going to be Prime Minister in perpetuity. Key keeps warning us that Labour and the Greens are ‘the devil-beast’. Well if Winston Peters walks in front of a bus the devil-beast will probably in government in about fourteen months, and able to intercept the emails of New Zealanders with impunity.

The magic of jury duty

Filed under: crime — danylmc @ 8:23 am

I’d never been called for jury duty until this week. I always found it frustrating when friends and co-workers got selected and ducked out of it, getting their employers to write letters insisting they were invaluable and couldn’t be spared. Didn’t they want to do their civic duty? And, more excitingly, didn’t they want to sit in on an actual criminal trial? See what really went on? Glean that insight into society and the justice system?

Now I get it. Like most of the people who rolled up to Wellington District Court on Monday morning I didn’t actually do any civic duty or glean any insights. What most of us got to do was sit in a room on the third floor of the building, waiting. For hours. We got to do the same thing on Wednesday. Thursday was actually pretty quick. We only waited around for about an hour. Fortunately I wasn’t part of the cohort that got balloted on Wednesday and waited around all day for a trial that got cancelled.

A couple of weeks ago I thought the guy who a judge found in contempt for refusing to serve on a jury sounded like a douche-bag. Now I kinda see his point. The process does seem designed to inconvenience you as much as possible. Will you be called to appear at court the next day? They don’t tell you until after six o’clock when its too late to reschedule anything. If you appear and aren’t balloted can you just leave and go on with your day? Well, on Thursday we did, but on Wednesday they kept us at the court for an extra two hours for no apparent reason. Could I pick up my daughter from creche if I was selected for a jury? What time would the court adjourn for the day? Should my wife cancel all her late meetings so she could do it? No way to know. When would I know? No way to know that, either. That’s the magic of jury duty!

August 14, 2013

Something

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 2:22 pm

Via AAP:

Political parties and community groups have tentatively welcomed the government’s proposed child abuse laws but concerns about slapping restraining orders on suspected abusers are preventing unequivocal support from many.

The proposed laws, announced on Tuesday, include new responsibilities on government agencies, standard screening of the government children’s workforce and powers that will allow courts to define the guardianship rights of birth parents.

The legislation will also mean Child Harm Prevention Orders will be imposed on any person who has been convicted of, or suspected on the “balance of probabilities,” to have abused a child.

Those orders, which last for up to 10 years, can restrict a person from living, working or associating with children, going to parks and schools and changing their name.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the wide-ranging laws are necessary to protect the country’s most vulnerable children from abuse that “just has to stop”.

“More than 50 children have died in the last five years because of extreme abuse – we know many of their names,” she said when announcing the proposed legislation.

There’s a very famous scene in Yes Prime Minister in which Sir Humphrey asks Bernard questions on a controversial policy and gets him to change his support for the policy based on the nature of the questions. You could play a similar game with Bennett’s policy. ‘Do you think we need to protect vulnerable children from their abusers? Yes!’ ‘Do you think faceless bureaucrats should have the power to break up families purely on the basis of suspicion? No!’

Like the story says, the harm prevention orders are imposed on the ‘balance of probabilities’ and are predicted to effect about 80 people a year, which implies that about 41 actual child abusers will be prevented from any contact with children for a ten year period, and about 39 people who aren’t child abusers will suffer the same fate. That seems like a really terrible outcome, especially since the actual child abusers aren’t likely to respect the restriction orders, because they’re, y’know, child abusers.

We shouldn’t get too worried though – it’s a Paula Bennett policy. As usual the details are vague and she’ll probably spend a few days talking about this on TV – ‘We HAVE to do something for the children!’ – and then we’ll hear no more about it until she re-announces the same policy in twelve to eighteen months time. (‘We HAVE to do something!’)

August 13, 2013

Shut the door. Have a seat.

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:49 am

The ‘Are we 100% Pure’ debate rages on, with the PM insisting that the slogan is just a marketing campaign and is therefore ‘aspirational’, and Labour deciding, weirdly, that we just need to abandon it because that’s easier than not turning all our rivers into toxic waste dumps.

As with most of our national crisis, this can best be resolved by asking ‘What would Don Draper do?’ And I think he’d say something along the lines of ‘Slogans are aspirational. They don’t need to be true, but you need to aspire to make them true.’

Disneyland calls itself ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’. They don’t mean that literally, but they try and make their customers happy. They don’t claim they’re the happiest place on earth and then pump tear gas into their air conditioning, which is kind of what New Zealand does when it calls itself 100% Pure and then floods most of its waterways with cow shit and approves open cast mines in its conservation sites.

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