Friday, 19 December 2014

Target Obama! Any Obama!

Does the American right have a problem with women?  That's sort of a rhetorical question, of course.  It is pretty obvious that they do.

Not all parts of the right, perhaps, and not all women.  But enough of them to make the question valid.

Some parts of the right.  Real conservatives, who may be slightly fuddyduddy and myopic (they may need a new prescription for their rose-tinted glasses) but are blessed with a certain chivalrous attitude, which may be rather old fashioned (positively ante-bellum) but which at least embodies a basic courtesy and decency.  They know what is on, and what is not on.  And while they may think hemlines exposing ankles, non-gingham dresses and VOTING are terrible, their sense of decorum prevents them from doing more than looking slightly pained.

A large swathe of what might be loosely called the right, however, knows no such restraint.  Here I am thinking primarily about the more modern, economically right wing section.  Which is strange, because you would have thought that modern market liberals would be inclined towards social liberalism as well - at least, you'd have thought they don't hate women who dare to do things like be successful at things other than cake baking and child making.  But there is plenty of evidence that they do.

Oddly, it seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon.  Ronald Reagan managed to be both ferociously right wing economically while still embodying some sort of olde-world courtesy.  As long as you weren't an air traffic controller, he would treat you with respect and decency.  If you were unlucky enough to come from a socially disadvantaged minority, he might cut funding for programmes designed to help you - but at least he wouldn't be rude about it.  And he was always polite to Margaret Thatcher, which must have strained even his reserves of charm.  But the adherents of Reaganism only seemed to have inherited the slash-and-burn free market mentality, and ditched the chivalry.

Since the 90s at least, this section of the right has been vitriolic in its attacks on women.  In his book, Blinded By The RightDavid Brock recounts being commissioned to do hatchet jobs first on Anita Hill and then on Hilary Rodham Clinton when he was the "rightwing Bob Woodward" (only without Woodward's ethical sense or commitment to fact checking).  In his memoir about his disillusionment with the right, he notes that Clinton was "easily the most reviled figure on the national scene, even more so than her husband ... Critics [sic] compared Hilary to Leona Helmsley, Ma Barker, Eva Braun, and minister Louis Farrakhan."  He also quotes speculation about her sexuality, and Anne Coulter referring to Hilary Clinton as a "Prostitute."

Bear in mind, this is the mid 90s, when Hilary was not manifesting presidential ambitions of her own.  Since when did political wives become fair game in this way? I don't recall Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush or Laura Bush being subjected to this hatred.  Hell, the only reason I could recall Barbara Bush's name was because the Beach Boys sang Barbara-Anne at her husband's inauguration.

Of course, these ladies kept very much in the background, doing little more as First Lady than providing a wholesome backdrop for their husbands.  Hilary was unashamedly ambitious and - to be fair - the rank Clinton marital situation warranted some investigation.  But to argue Bill's endless skirt-chasing justified attacks on Hillary is tenuous, to put it mildly.  There is something deeper here, some sort of issue with successful, public, confident women who don't conform to idealised images of feminine behaviour and - horror of horrors - are left wing (by American standards).  And it is down right creepy.  Think of the seedy fantasies peddled around the right about just what went on in the Clinton bedroom (can anyone recall similar speculation about the marital relations between George W and Laura Bush?  I can't.)

It isn't just Hilary Clinton, of course, though her case stands as a grim illustration of just how far the right will go.  Brock also infamously savaged Anita Hill and cites plenty of other examples of ramapnt misogyny, often tinged with a bit of racial hate as well - Clint Bolick's campaign against Clinton's nominee, Lani Guiner, featured the racially tinged epithet "quota queen".  You can't help wondering if the continual stream of misogynistic ranting helped frame Jared Lee Loughner's madness, and focused his wrath on Gabrielle Giffords.  He expressed the 'opinion' that women shouldn't be in positions of power, and referred to her as a bitch.  Which is bad enough.  And then he shot her.

Which brings me to the Obamas.  It's hard to imagine a nicer couple in the white house, regardless of your opinion of their politics.  He's handsome and clean living, she's attractive and successful in her own right.  They have two lovely daughters.  Oh yes, you might have heard about them, recently, being described as ungracious tarts and tramps ...unsurprisingly, a right wing commentator.  That's right folks, it isn't enough to attack a man in power, or smear his woman, his children are now fair game.

(For the record, I can't even recall if Reagan or Bush I or II had children.  I know Clinton did, because the right wing media liked to focus on her and show unflattering pictures and Rush Limbaugh referred to her as a 'dog'.  Nice going, Rush.)

Michelle has also come in for negative attention.  I argue a lot on the interweb, and recall a discussion with a British right winger in which he speculated with just a bit too much interest in what might happen in the Obama bedroom.  Slightly more significantly, we have a yarn doing the rounds, concerning about how Michelle has twisted an anecdote she told as a positive experience two years ago, into an example of everyday racism, post Michael Brown.

Basically, in the first version of the story, Michelle describes going to Target in disguise and how a woman asks her to get something from a shelf:
No one knew that was me because a woman actually walked up to me, right? I was in the detergent aisle, and she said — I kid you not — she said, ‘Excuse me, I just have to ask you something,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, cover’s blown.’ She said, ‘Can you reach on that shelf and hand me the detergent?’ I kid you not…And the only thing she said — I reached up, ’cause she was short, and I reached up, pulled it down — she said, ‘Well, you didn’t have to make it look so easy.’ That was my interaction. I felt so good. … She had no idea who I was.
So she 'felt so good' and wasn't it cute and heartwarming and yaddah yaddah yaddah.  Thn, two year later, according to the right wing narrative, she's re-telling the same story, but with a different spin on it:
I tell this story – I mean, even as the first lady – during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf. Because she didn’t see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t anything new.
See the difference?  The heartwarming has been transmogrified into the harrowing.  The first lady is being mistaken for a shop assistant!  Because she is black!

That's the right wing spin on it, of course.  Don't take my word for it.  Here's the lad himself, the chap responsible for highlighting this glaring example of hypocrisy - the not at all worryingly named 'Allahpundit':
Are there any Targets in the metro D.C. area where the employees don’t wear red polo shirts with Target logos on them? They do in every one I’ve ever been to. Which means, unless FLOTUS was disguised as a Target employee, the odds that anyone shopping there thought she was “the help” are small. I myself have been asked in the grocery store by a fellow customer to help them get something off the top shelf. You know why? It’s not because they thought I worked there; I had a cart just like they did. It’s because they were short and I was tall enough to reach — just like FLOTUS, who stands almost six feet. That’s her “racism” story at Target.
Only, alas, Allahpundit is so blinded by his own hating he can't see what the story is actually about.  The issue Michelle is raising is not that someone asked her for help - that's still presented as a sweet encounter ("she didn’t see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her") but the way that she felt she was being ignored by the staff - "the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her".  The point she is trying to make is that the stores salespeople were not interested in her, presumably because she was black and so viewed as low value - a phenomenon that has been commented on by many minority ethnic groups.

(It is worth noting that Michelle doesn't tell us the ethnicity of the woman asking her for help - Allahpundit simply assumes she is white.  Big assumption, and rather revealing about his/her attitude.  Or perhaps his/her knowledge that the story only works if this person is white.)

But Allahpundit, blinded by his right wing hate, can't see it.  Because no power on Earth exceeds the power of the right ... to delude and bamboozle itself.

Have the Cubans thought this through?

Obviously the moe to normalise relations between the USA and Cuba is a Good Thing, from most points of view. The two countries have a lot in common. But there are still grave concerns:
“We fully expect we will continue to have strong differences, particularly on democracy and human rights ... [but] engagement is a better tool than isolation and nowhere is that more clear than Cuba,” added a senior US administration official in a White House briefing call for reporters.
Indeed. I hope the Cubans have considered the impact on their reputation of resuming relations with an anti-democratic, warmongering, torture endorsing rogue state like the USA.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Foul elitist Tory scum!

Emily Thornberry was sacked for sharing a picture of a house. Now the tories have - inevitably - gone one worse.
In the recording, Garnier said a stronger offering should be given to Conservative supporters. 
“We need to be giving a much clearer message to them that they don’t have to worry about politicians mucking around with tax rates in order to try and attract a few dog-end voters in the outlying regions of the country.”
Will Dave act with the courage and decisiveness Ed showed recently? WIll he sacks this pompous, arrogant born-to-rule windbag? Of course not. It would be like sacking himself.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Ahahahahahahahaha!!

The ultimate humiliation for George Osborne, courtesy of YouGov:
Exclusively for Red Box, we asked: "Do you think Gordon Brown was a better or worse chancellor of the Exchequer than George Osborne is now?"

- 33 per cent said better

- 29 per cent said worse
That's right. Gorgeous George loses out to Gordon "Gold selling, pension stealing, city deregulation, world economy wrecking, 'No more boom and bust'" Brown.

That'll be another prominent Tory looking at his place in history and feeling just a little bit disappointed.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Tory lies and deceit on immigration, Part 356,000,000

Seems the Tories can't make realistic promise, or keep the unrealistic ones the make.  It seems Tories all live in a sad fantasy land of delusion.  In this benign envirornment - let's call it Bullindonia - it is okay to go about calling her Majesty's faithful servants 'Fucking plebs' for doing things like enforcing the rules on those who think they are only for the little people.  Or, should I say, the little plebs, more.

Unfortunately, as Mr Mitchell discovered, reality has a way of invading Bullingdonia and - faster than you can say Jonathan Aitken - overthrowing it's effete, inbred aristocracy of simpering ninnies and congenital idiots.

Confronted with the awkward fact that immigration might not obediently fall into line with David Cameron's desire that it drop to the tens of thousands in time for next years election, the Tories resort to their usual routine of lying, prevaricating and downright delusion.

Cameron still thinks it might somehow happen, even though the latest figures show immigration going up, stupendously, (rather unlike his credibility):
Net migration to the UK rose to 260,000 in the year to June – 78,000 higher than the previous year. The figure is also higher than net migration in the last year Labour was in government. 
David Cameron pledged to cut net migration to "tens of thousands" before next year's election – a promise which will now be broken.
I doubt Cameron ever thought for a moment that he could really somehow reduce immigration in line with his preposterous target. It seems more likely that he simply planned to get very tetchy, blame Europe (one assumes he had a passing familiarity with the place before he was elected Prime Minster, though one is tempted to wonder if - given his impossible promises and increasingly demented rhetoric on the topic, he had even heard of it prior to perhaps 2012.

Having made a ridiculous pledge to cut immigration to impossibly, stupidly low levels, and done nothing to make it happen (other than trash the British economy, a tactic that may pay off in the long term) he now promises to get tough and reduce immigration.  Just like he promised us five years ago, no ifs, no buts.

Which brings us to the inevitable conclusion - TORIES ARE USELESS LIARS.

And when they can't lie their way out of trouble, they simply try to hide the truth.

Exhibit B, your honour:  Theresa May, a hard working minister who does not sit upon her laurels so much as on reports that might, inconveniently, contradict the way she wants the world to be:
In a damning letter to the Public Accounts Committee, seen by The Independent, John Vine reveals that the Home Secretary is currently sitting on five reports believed to be critical of the Government, one of which was completed five months ago. 
Mr Vine warns the MPs that the failure to publish his reports in a “timely” manner is “reducing their impact” and has “compromised” the independence of his role. 
His letter, which comes just months after he announced he was stepping down early, raises serious questions about the extent to which Ms May’s is attempting to control critical stories about immigration in the run up to the election.
David Cameron might have made an impossible promise and failed to keep it.  George Osborne may have made impossible promises and failed to keep them.

But this cabal of Satanic arrogant clowns has managed to do at least one thing that I thought was surely impossible - they have managed to make the last administration look skilled, principled and adroit.

Highfalutin toff scum brought to justice

Andrew 'Pleb' Mitchell, the gift that keeps on giving:
Andrew Mitchell, the former Conservative cabinet minister at the centre of the long-running Plebgate saga, lost his high court libel trial on Thursday in a ruling that leaves him facing an estimated legal bill of £1.5m and his political career in tatters.

In a devastating blow to the former chief whip, who had hoped to use a victory in the courts to revive his cabinet career, Mr Justice Mitting ruled that Mitchell did use the “politically toxic” word “pleb” during a row with police officers in Downing Street in September 2012.

Mitchell lost his cabinet position, as chief whip, after the Sun reported his comments.

Outside the court, Mitchell, flanked by his wife and his daughter, told reporters it had been “a miserable two years” but added: “We now need to bring this matter to a close and to move on with our lives.”
That's good, but the next bit is even better:
Friends said that Mitchell accepts that he has no future as a minister, at least not under David Cameron. But they suggested that he was still prepared to stand again at next year’s general election.
Excellent. Nothing like a stupid Tory for not knowing when to quit. Cameron needs this like he needs a hole in the head.

Just think, Cameron could go down in history as the man who lost to Ed Milliband. Now that's a prospect that'll give him nightmares.

Monday, 24 November 2014

More rubbish stupid Tories

Back in 2010, George Osborne made some rather stupid promises:
The formal mandate we set is that the structural current deficit should be in balance in the final year of the five-year forecast period, which is 2015-16 in this budget.
And:
In order to place our fiscal credibility beyond doubt, this mandate will be supplemented by a fixed target for debt, which in this parliament is to ensure that debt is falling as a share of GDP by 2015-16. 
Of course, Osborne can argue he can meet the first target, because it isn't actually a promise to eliminate the structural deficit in five years; it's just a promise to forecast the structural deficit will be eliminated in five years from the date of the forecast.  Basically, he's promising to say that the deficit will be eliminated five years from when-ever he happens to make a forecast.

Which isn't quite the same thing as actually getting rid of it, eh, George?  It's always jam tomorrow, if only we work harder and suffer gladly today.

In the real world, not the fantasy land five years from now Osborne wants us to inhabit, things are not looking good for this most optimistic of chancellors:
After seven months of the 2014-15 financial year, borrowing is more than 6% higher than it was in the same period of 2013-14, despite being slightly lower this October than last.

Whoops! Things are not going quite as scripted. At the time of the budget, George Osborne was expecting the deficit to decline by 12% this year, to a little over £85bn.
And here's a pretty picture to go along with it:


Meanwhile, as he manfully fails to make the deficit disappear by the power of positive thought, the debt continues to build up, faster than the sluggish recover can eat it away.  Currently, public debt is running at 90.6% of GDP.

GDP, in fairness, is growing.  Even George Osborne can not keep the economy in permanent recession, though he certainly tried his best.  Fortunately, other countries are doing okay, so pulling Britain up; also, by running a deficit, Osborne has probably, unintentionally, helped stimulate the economy.

Basically, the British economy is doing okay-ish because we're the only country unlucky enough to have George Osborne and because he's too useless to manage to inflict his own insane dreams upon the nation properly.

So Britain may manage to shrink the debt mountain by growing the economy - as GDP increases, so debt will be reduced as a share of GDP.  So having increased debt to over 90% of GDP - the level we were assured (by the Tories) would send the economy into some sort of death spiral - Osborne could claim some feeble vindication by reducing the debt from 90.6% of GDP to 90.5%.

But even that's looking dicey, with the global economy wobbling and the British Chnacellor tryig his best to destroy the British economy by choking off domestic demand.

They lied about the deficit.

They lied about immigration.

They lied about being "all in this together."

They lied about being the greenest government ever.

They lied, and lied, and will carry on lying.

And their self serving allies in the media will continue to try to distract and bamboozle the voters with SHOCKING news about Ed Miliband eating a sandwich.  Or some Labour shadow minister taking a photograph of a house.

Tories admit they are stupid liars

From the Guardian:
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1, May said: “It is of course unlikely that we are going to reach the tens of thousands by the end of the parliament. Why is that? It is because we have seen increasing numbers of people coming from across Europe, partly because our economy is doing better than other economies across Europe. We have been doing what we can in relation to EU migration, but there is more to be done.”
May’s remarks contrasted with Cameron’s unequivocal declaration in April 2011 that the government would bring down net migration to below 100,000. 
Cameron said at the time: “I believe that will mean net migration to this country will be in the order of tens of thousands each year, not the hundreds of thousands every year that we have seen over the last decade. Britain will always be open to the best and brightest from around the world and those fleeing persecution. But with us, our borders will be under control and immigration will be at levels our country can manage. No ifs. No buts. That’s a promise we made to the British people, and it’s a promise we are keeping.”
I don't know which is worse - the easy cynbicism with which they lie, or the dumb eagerness with with people believe the lies.

Time for Dishonest Dave to go.

No ifs.  No buts.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I was of course, completely right - Little wins

Back in October, I suggested that
For Cunliffe's supporters, Little has the distinct advantage of not being Grant Robertson; for Robertson's adherents, he has the decisive positive of not being David Cunliffe.  Given that it is a preferential voting system, the curious position of being no-one's first choice may serve him well. 
There is precedent.  Ed Miliband won the British Labour Party leadership by being no-one's first choice and everyone's second choice; I suspect the Cunliffe / Robertson camps are so embittered that they will probably find they do the same as the supporters of David Miliband, Ed Balls, Dianne Abbott and Andy Burnham, and achieve curious unity and elect the leader none of them want.
And so it came to pass.  Little won less than 16% of the caucus vote in the first round, and 43% in the third round as Parker and Mahuta's votes swung his way.  The same pattern in the membership vote, surging from 25% to 44%.  Though it is inevitably going to be pointed out that he trailed Robertson in both, and only beat him by a whisker.  The comparisons with Ed Miliband, also brought home by the unions, seem even more apposite than I had imagined.

This means that Robertson will be deputy. Even if Little got to pick his deputy - which he doesn't - the likelihood is he would pick Robertson, given the way the votes fell. He lost caucus and membership votes. If his leadership is to be credible beyond the weekend, he needs a popular, heavyweight candidate.

Mahuta (a popular choice among Standard commentators noted for their lack of attachment to the real world) does not have that support. Ardern lacks the experience. Robertson is the obvious contender.

And - though it will stick in the craws of the partisan self-deluders on the left - it will probably be an effective combination.

I think Robertson, having run twice and lost twice, knows he isn't likely to get it now. If he knuckles down and gets on with being the most effective deputy the world has ever seen, he might be in with a shout in the future, though perversely the better he does his job (and thus helps Labour win) he will postpone that date. But another short-lived, ineffective leadership will simply leave him tarnished as well - either because he refuses to be part of the team, or doesn't play his part fully.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Philae

I'm not convinced by the claims that the European Space Agency has successfully landed a probe on a comet.

First of all, we all know 'comets' are actually dragons, tearing through space, going about their business.  It is highly unlikely a probe could have landed on a dragon's back and not been eaten - unless the dragon was thinking really hard about something, and didn't notice.

Second, we've been assured for the last 40 years or so that it is impossible for anything innovative or exciting to happen in the public sector, and the ESA is very much a publicly funded body.  Worse, it is a multiple national Euro-pudding of an organisation.  It defies credibility that they could have the sense and wherewithal to actually bring the paper and pens to a planning session, far less come with a plan, build a spacecraft capable of hurtling through space and intersecting with a comet/dragon and land on its hindquarters.

It's clearly a fake.

In fact,the more I look at it, the more this so called 'comet' look like a bit of wasteland in one of Glasgow's less affluent areas. Like most of the locals, the lander sprawled in disarray amid the debris, possibly clutching a bottle of Buckfast or Whyte & MacKay.

It isn't 'running out of power.  It's just drunk.

If, remarkably, it really has happened just like the scientists say, it is excellent work by Europeans. (And to think David Cameron wants to stop Britain being European. The man is demented.)   And a real triumph for of state funded research and innovation. Public bodies have reached the moon, Mars and now landed on a comet-dragon. And there are all sorts of other probes out there, tootling about and frightening the asteroids.

Let's hear it for the comrades at NASA and the ESA. And don't forget CERN. Massive scale public funded research is doing all sorts of cool stuff.

Private space travel on the other hand ... well, Richard Branson assures us it is going well.  Other than assurances, the private sector has given us ... Britain's Got Talent, and The Apprentice.

That is it.

Nothing else.

(I'll grant the private sector contributed something to deciphering the human genome. But that's it. Nothing else. Reality TV and and a score draw in genetics are all private enterprise has to boast about.)

Musical interlude

I don't think I've listened to Diamond Dogs in a decade. What was I thinking? It's quite Bowie's best album. Except for all the others that weren't released in the 80s.

Take 10 minutes and enjoy.



If Bowie ever dies (or just goes back to Mars) a state funeral and a year of mourning will be in order.

(Note this is from the CD, and there's a distinct pause between the tracks, which you don't get on the vinyl.  Maybe I'd better explain what Vinyl is ...)

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Save us from Ebola, Muslims but not guns!

For some reason, Americans are terrified about the threat of Ebola, the dangers of Muslim terrorists, but not gunzzzzzzzzzzz.

Meanwhile:
At least three people have been hospitalised after a student reportedly carried out a shooting at a high school north of Seattle on Friday morning (PDT).

Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville is currently in lockdown as police attend the scene, according to officials.

The suspect is thought to have died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, two police officers told the Seattle Times.

The Marysville School District said in a statement that "Marysville Pilchuck High School is currently in lock down due to an emergency situation. Police and emergency services have responded."

Live video footage from the scene shows students being evacuated from the school in the state of Washington.
The New York doctor may have behaved irresponsibly; quarantining people who might have dreadful diseases makes sense. There are crackpots out there who want to maim and kill in the name of their diseased perception of religious duty. The population at large needs to be protected from them.

But lots of other people other than doctors and Muslims can be irresponsible or insane.

But yeah, I get it. The fundamental rights must be protected. But only when it comes to gunzzzzzzzzzzz.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dunno what to say about this, really

Donald Trump and Russell Brand are having a spat on twitter.  It puts me in mind of Oscar Wilde's quip about fox hunting - "The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable."  Though in this case, more a matter of the despicable in affray with the punchable.  You can choose who is which.  I recommend alternating them as the mood takes you.
The digital fight started when Trump tweeted that the Forgetting Sarah Marshall star is a 'major loser.' Brand, however, hit back - and eventually suggested that Trump is not the entrepreneur he has claimed to be, by linking to an an article that mentioned his multi-million dollar inheritance and financial aid from the US government. 
'I watched Russell Brand @rustyrockets on the @jimmyfallon show the other night—what the hell do people see in Russell—a major loser!' Trump first wrote. 
Trump's comments came three days after Brand appeared on 'Late Show with David Letterman' on Monday. Brand is not scheduled as a guest this week on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'. 
Trump then published another tweet, which read '.@katyperry must have been drunk when she married Russell Brand @rustyrockets – but he did send me a really nice letter of apology!' 
It was not immediately clear what 'letter of apology' Trump was referring to.

Perry and Brand were married in 2010 and divorced two years later, with Perry telling Vogue in June 2013 that Brand announced his intention to divorce in a 2011 New Year's Eve text message. 
Brand soon retaliated and responded to Trump's second message with jokes about Trump's sobriety and his much-lampooned hairline.
Smells like two sad publicity whores staging a phoney fight for attention.

Meanwhile, John Lydon, of Sex Pistols, PiL and buttermongering fame, sums up Brand pretty well in a typically bracing Q&A session in The Guardian:
The youth of today have every possibility as being as smart or a stupid as the youth of past. So long as you remove Russell Brand from the agenda. I think he's absolutely clarified himself as arsehole number one. It's not funny to talk nonsense. I think his words are the words of somebody else. Misconstrued.
Excellent.  Elsewhere in the Q&A he advocates voting, no matter how dire the options, as "everybody should try to make the best of a bad situation, and for me I despise the entire shitstem because it is corrupt, but that corruption has only come about because of the indolence of us as a population." Which is about the polar opposite of Brand's recent (well, recent-ish) whiney call for mass apathy in the face of drab, uninspiring or actively corrupt or malevolent politics.  Brand justified - nay, bragged - about his disengagement from politics:
I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.
Well, that's nice, Russell.  You really showed those nasty corrupt venal self-serving troughers, didn't you!

Incidentally, Brand was born in 1975, the year after I was.  That would mean the first election he would have been able to vote in was in 1997 (probably).  That was a big one, and anyone who couldn't see a difference between John Major's corrupt, exhausted Tories and Labour (even with Tony Blair in charge) was being wilfully blind.

It is staggering how willing people are to discount the impact of democracy on their lives. Born in an NHS hospital? Had NHS treatment? Enjoyed a free schooling? Voted out the Tories in 1997? Worked in a safe environment, with the right to join a union (which you probably ignored) and with recourse to the courts and law when you needed them? These are not rights but privileges, and they need to be defended as there are powerful people who want to destroy them. I'm going to hazard a guess that someone who can't be bothered to vote would make a fairly piss-poor revolutionary. Brandism, a political creed of shrugging ones shoulders and doing nothing, would help people who want to attack the privileges he - and you - are taking for granted.

Someone who can't be bothered to vote isn't going to accomplish much as a revolutionary, no matter how much he styles himself on vaguely remembered 60s icons.

And authoritarian governments fear an active citizenry. They aren't scared of passive refuseniks who bleat about how "nothing works," how "they are all the same" and how they are "giving up on political parties." That's the sort of thing Thatcherites love to hear. It gives them free rein and forces the opposition to appeal more an more to the pool of active voters.

So if "They are all the same" as Brand calims, it is because people are passively enabling that evolution.

Brand qualifies his stance slightly by saying it is "current" politics and political parties he is disillusioned with.  But political parties can be reformed. We saw this, negatively, in the 90s when Blairism subverted the Labour Party, or in New Zealand in the 80s when the neo-liberals infiltrated Labour.  Or in the 2004 when ACT tried to take over the National Party.  Just because the obvious examples are negative, showing parties going the wrong way, it doesn't have to be that way.  And sitting on your hands saying, "But I don't like this, give me some parties I want to vote for," isn't going to work either.  Because if you're not in the game, why should they care what you think?

And no matter how dire, there's always ther stark reality of choosing between 'bad' and 'worse.'  Standing aside and letting others decide for you might be a superficially noble act, but it's a bit shitty, really, for all the people who aren't Russell Brand and have to live with the consequences of 'worse.

The fact is, politics and political parties can make people's lives better (or worse).  Comedians, with an amplified idea of their own importance, don't.  From the 1940s to the late 70s things were moving in the right direction.  Leftwing political parties made the country better.  Comedians told some funny jokes.  Then the crises of the 70s gave the ruling class a chance to reverse the progress made over that time, almost back to pre-WW2 days.  Comedians told some funny jokes.  Some of them were even political.  But they didn't change anything.

(As an aside, the reversals suffered in the 70 illustrate something too many on the left have failed to grasp. Progress is not made in times of crisis. The assumption that 1927, or 1977, or 2008 (love those Kondratiev long waves!) would lead to the final demise of capitalism is naive. A crisis gives the ruling class the chance to re-establish control. Progress is only made during times of plenty and relative ease, when people are able to worry about more than what they are eating for dinner tonight and whether they will have somewhere to sleep next week.  That is why the French and Russian revolutions ended so badly - they were a desperate convulsion that played into the hands of the bandits and psychopaths who wanted power for themselves, not for the powerless.)

Brand's message is a naive bit of posturing, couching basic ideas in preposterous language (He really should read Orwell, particularly 'Politics and the English Language,' or at least look at the five rules of good writing at the beginning of The King's English by the Fowler brothers.)

It appeals because it justifies people's indifference - getting involved in politics and actually making the Labour party (or, if you are That Sort Of Person, the Conservative Party) into a properly functioning, distinct political force, is hard, tiresome and not very well rewarded. We'd much rather watch TV.

Or follow him on twitter, because berating someone about his hair is so revolutionary and daring.  Well done, Russell!  That showed that unspeakable oligarch!  He'll think twice before he garners even more wealth!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Tory MP, gun, foot

The Tories appear to have gone completely mad over their routing at the Battle of Clacton:
David Cameron is under pressure from his backbenchers to break up the coalition and harden his message on immigration after Ukip took its first seat from the party in the Clacton byelection. 
The prime minister was urged to change strategy after losing Clacton by more than 12,000 votes to one of his former MPs, Douglas Carswell, who defected in August over unhappiness about the EU and a lack of political reform. 
Sir Edward Leigh, a former minister, said breaking up the coalition would be one way of showing fed-up Conservative voters that Cameron was serious about addressing their concerns, instead of being shackled to the Liberal Democrats.
Because, of course, getting rid of your parliamentary majority and rendering your party incapable of passing any legislation without relying on parties that no longer have any interest in supporting your bigoted agenda, and leaving yourself vulnerable to a vote of no confidence and thus allowing (as Cameron can not dissolve parliament without two thirds support) other parties to form an administration is PRECISELY the way to show your supporters you are looking after their interests and are a credible party of government.

People this confused hould not be allowed to even LOOK at the levers of power, far less touch them.

Even funnier, Sir Leigh then adds that, "Every Conservative MP is desperate to stop [Ed] Miliband getting into No 10," even though his idiotic ramblings would likely do just that. If the coalition was dissolved acrimoniously, Cameron and his minority administration would last a week before being put out of Britain's misery - and as parliament can not be wished out of existence any more, the only option would be for a broad coalition to propel a slightly startled Ed Miliband into Downing Street rather sooner than anticipated.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Bloody Hell!

Ouch.  Turns out the Mail was right and I was wrong.  Labour were indeed 'clinging on,' holding Heywood and Middleton by only 617 votes.

But it's not all bad, as that shows how wildly inaccurate Ashcroft's polling in, and he's a Tory, so I can jeer and scoff at him a bit.

Obviously, that result looks like a massive blow for Labour.  It's actually more important in lots of ways that the far more predictable Clacton result.  Yeah, UKIP have ot an MP - but that was a given, once Carswell announced he was defecting and triggered a by election.  A UKIP win, for a popular local MP, in that part of the country, was pretty much a given.

But Labour getting bearded in their heartlands is very much against the form book.

Up until now the evidence has shown they are holding their vote and the UKIP are leeching Tory support.  But getting (almost) taken to the cleaners in Manchester is a bit of a bad look.  Especially when the preliminary polls (not just Ashcroft's to be scrupulously fair) were predicting a comfortable win for Labour.

It might not be as bad as it looks, as Labour's SHARE of the vote stayed stable - they still polled as as big a share of the vote much as they did at the general election.  The UKIP share was made up of the collapse in the Tory and Lib Dem vote.  The Conservative vote fell by almost 15 and the Liberal Democrat vote fell by almost 18% (The Liberal Democrat candidate appears to have retained his deposit, which is something of a novelty for the party, these days.)  The BNP also got 7% in 2010 - with no official racist bigot to vote for, a lot of that would likely have gone the UKIP's way.

The interesting thing is the massive tactical vote here - previously, anti-Labour support had been harmlessly divided between the Tories and Lib Democrats.  And the two parties hated each other sufficiently to ensure they would never sort out a tactical arrangement.  Power seems to have shaken loose the adherents of both parties, however, and fate has gifted them a third option in the form of the UKIP.  And having almost tasted victory tonight, they may be inclined to give it another go next year.

So Labour IS still holding onto its support.  They can be relieved about that.  But the other parties are losing theirs in such absurd numbers, and the previously fragmented Conservative / Lib Dem voters are uniting.  It could be very interesting in 2015.

Я тебе люблю, Україна!

I have no idea if Babelfish rendered that correctly.  But I feel the need to acknowledge my loyal Ukrainian readership.  I do not know why my musings on stuff are followed more avidly there than in New Zealand.  Perhaps, like singing, it sounds more interesting and meaningful if you don't understand what is actually being said.

(We'll soon know if the number of hits from English speaking countries spikes because of the intriguing post title.)

And on the subject of music, here's a nice Ukrainian lass singing some of their traditional folk music:



I hope this isn't the Ukrainian equivalent of The Proclaimers or O.M.C.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Little chance in leadership race

So Andrew Little is going to contend for the Labour leadership.

For Cunliffe's supports, Little has the distinct advantage of not being grant Robertson; for Robertson's adherents, he has the decisive positive of not being David Cunliffe.  Given that it is a preferential voting system, the curious position of being no-one's first or third choice may serve him well.

There is precedent.  Ed Miliband won the British Labour Party leadership by being no-one's first choice and everyone's second choice; I suspect the Cunliffe / Robertson camps are so embittered that they will probably find they do the same as the supporters of David Miliband, Ed Balls, Dianne Abbott and Andy Burnham, and achieve curious unity and elect the leader none of them want.

Whether a universal second choice not that is what Labour (British or New Zealand editions) needs is a very profound question.

Hager to hit 40K

While the Usual Suspects might complain, predictably, about the 'morality' of donating money to help someone who has 'profited' from a criminal act, or tried to 'influence' an election, the support fund for Nicky Hager should cross the $40,000 mark sometime this afternoon evening.  Wonder if Jim Mora Simon Mercep will find time to mention it on The Panel?

That's an astonishing achievement, given it has only been running a couple of days and - lets be honest - helping out Nicky Hager isn't quite as viscerally appealing as helping a brave woman hurt trying to help someone being assaulted.

But, it seems, the pockets of the left are deep, and they see this is important enough an issue for us to reach into them. And I thought socialism was supposed to equate to poverty?

(Also, a salute to any honourable right wingers who have donated to the fund, interpreting the raid on Hager's home as an abuse of state power against an individual. I have more time for principled opponents than unprincipled allies.)

Where will this end? Somewhere well past $50,000, I hope. I don't know how much of a lawyer you can get for that amount, or for how long you can have it for, but there is something psychological about the number. A good big number may cause a few queasy stomachs among the Wellington police and in the Prime Minister’s office. They may not have anticipated a real fight through the courts. All sorts of things might come to light there. Oh, dear.

There is going to be an almighty fight. Do they think it is worth it?

And maybe they will think twice, next time, before they set the Repressive State Apparatus in motion.

Daily Mail in stupid lie SHOCK

There are a rash of by elections happening in Britain.  Most of the focus has been on the high profile Conservative defectors to the UKIP, Carsewell and Reckless, but the Daily Mail draws our attention to another contest.

According to that august and impartial rag, "Labour are expected to cling on in the northern seat of Heywood and Middleton, where another by-election was triggered by the death of local MP Jim Dobbin."

Indeed, according to the sub-heading, not only are Labour likely to merely 'cling on,' the UKIP will be 'hot on their heels.' Actually, polling suggests Labour will hold very comfortably. The latest is from Ashcroft:

CON 16%(-11)
LAB 47%(+7)
LDEM 5%(-18)
UKIP 28%(+25)

If this poll is accurate, Labour are not 'clinging on' - they are getting about half of all votes cast, as they almost always do.  Meanwhile, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat vote will collapse.The UKIP will claim about 1 in 3 votes cast - a commendable effort, but will be almost 20% behind Labour. That is neither Labour 'clinging on' nor is it the UKIP being 'hot on their heels.'

Obviously, polls can be wrong, and it is a by election, and results of those can be a bit random, but it is just dishonest by the Mail to say Labour are 'clinging on.' They're trying to continue the narrative that UKIP is drawing support from Labour, when it just isn't. By election after by election has shown Labour support holding up, and support for the coalition parties support in free-fall. Of course, some of that support will come back at a general election, but that isn't any excuse for spewing lies.

The Mail's other goal is to continue undermining Milliband's leadership (he doesn't need any help there, thank you).

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Help Nicky Hager

I don't think my little blog will draw in much support that isn't already aware of the defence fund set up to help Nicky Hager, thanks to the efforts of the much more widely read (but younger) The Standard.

But you never know.  Perhaps some of my loyal readership in Ukraine will feel their lives are not already difficult enough, and will decide to take up the cause of a New Zealand journalist.

Those wanting to contribute may do so here.

Currently, the fund stands at over $16,000, which is quite impressive.

UPDATE - Almost up to $24,000!  Thank you (on Nicky's behalf) people of Ukraine!

Is Hager a journalist?

One claim I'm seeing repeated in various guises is that Nicky Hager may not have been acting as a journalist when he published Dirty Politics and thus can not claim protection under section 68 of the Evidence Act.

An example of this was left in the comments section on yesterday's post:
I think this revolves around whether he is a journalist as defined in that section. Recent judgement was that a book author was not a journalist.
The case referred to by my anonymous correspondent is based on the case of David fisher, the NZ Herald journalist who wrote a biography of Kim Dotcom.

David Farrar - an honest commentator if ever there was one [/sarc] - commented on the case, siding (unsurprisingly) with the police in their dispute with Kim Dotcom.  He refers favourably to the judgement handed down by Justice Helen Winkelman.

Farrar's main point, incidentally, was that the judgement was correct because, "Otherwise it would have given some authors a special status that other authors do not have." Then, a few lines later, he contradicts himself, saying, "I would never assume that telling things to someone writing a book has the same journalistic protection as talking to someone writing for a newspaper," which is, surely, giving some authors (newspaper writers) "special status" that others don't have.

I don't mind people disagreeing with me, I don't even mind if they are wrong (the two are nearly, but not entirely synonymous). I do mind when they are idiots who contradict themselves within a couple of breaths.

Getting back to Hagar, and whether he is acting as a journalist hen he published a book revealing hitherto concealed, important information to the public.  I think you can detect a whiff of bias in the way I framed that.  I think exposing the activities of the political class is the essence of journalism.  I think it is absurd to suggest that Hagar would enjoy legal protection if he had published his revelations in a newspaper, but these protections disappear because he sandwiched them together between thin cardboard covers.

With regards Fisher, his case was being considered under the Privacy Act.  Under that act, a 'news medium' is defined as "any agency whose business, or part of whose business, consists of a news activity" and Justice Winkelman found Mr Fisher did not count as a news medium in his own right:
Mr Fisher’s authorship of the book was not undertaken by a “news medium”. It is true that Mr Fisher is a journalist working for a news medium, the New Zealand Herald, and that in that capacity he has written extensively on Mr Dotcom. But his book on Mr Dotcom is not affiliated with the Herald, and was published by an independent publishing agency. There can be no suggestion that Mr Fisher is himself a news medium as that phase is defined in the Privacy Act. (Paragraph 69)
Her second reason for her decision was:
The definition of news activity protects two different forms of journalistic endeavour in its two limbs: preparing stories and disseminating stories. The first limb protects gathering, preparing, compiling, and making of observations on news, for the purpose of dissemination. The second limb protects the dissemination of the prepared story, provided it is about news, observations on news or current affairs. The end product of the two activities is specifically provided for in the definition: articles and programmes. Investigative journalism takes its form in long, detailed articles, which are covered by the Act’s definition. Books, however, are not.  (Paragraph 70)
That would appear to be fairly clear, yeah?  Books are not considered to be 'journalistic endeavour' or 'news activity'.  Which looks bad for Hager.  You can't be a journalist if you write books, right?!

But, Justice Winkelman's ruling was under the Privacy Act.  That is not the act that I, or my anonymous correspondent, was referring to.  We were talking about the Evidence Act, a very different piece of legislation.

(It is worth noting that the ruling was the result of some very complex legal buggering which I don't

According to the Evidence Act, Section 68, a journalist "a person who in the normal course of that person’s work may be given information by an informant in the expectation that the information may be published in a news medium" and "news medium means a medium for the dissemination to the public or a section of the public of news and observations on news."

('News' is not defined. I recall, from my media student days, a handy definition - "News is something that someone, somewhere, does not want people to know." If you don't want to go with that definition, then I think we can safely 'news' define as "Stuff not known before that is of public interest.")

That's a massively broader definition than the one used in the Privacy Act.  I would say it easily encompasses Hager's activities.  He's a person; the normal course of his work involves receiving information from informants; when informants give Nicky Hager information, it is on the understanding that he is going to publish it in a book or article; and a book like Dirty Politics is a medium for disseminating news and observations on news.

I think Hager is safe under those definitions as Rawshark gave him information to disseminate through the medium of a book. And it was definitely in the public interest and definitely something the powers-that-be would have preferred to keep quiet.

I do not know if the legal means exist to exploit other acts to get at Hager's information.  But as it stands, my anonymous friend is making a comparison between apples and wildebeest and saying they are the same.  A ruling based on the provisions of the Privacy Act doesn't mean that a similar ruling would be made using the provisons of the Evidence Act.  They are very different pieces of legislation, serving different purposes and using different definitions.
n.b. Please don't take this as expert legal opinion and go to court based on it.  I might be totally wrong.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hager raid: mis-use of the Evidence Act?

Assuming the police have not been totally incompetent, and are acting under the law when they searched Nicky Hager's home for material identifying Rawshark, it sets a worrying precedent, as Hager himself has stated.

I think the justification used is basically the same concept outlined by Justice Asher with regards Cameron Slater in the Blomfield trial. Asher ruled that while he (Slater) might be a journalist, and thus protected by section 68 of the Evidence Act; but as the material was obtained criminally, the public interest in apprehending the criminal negated Slater's right to not disclose sources, and the exceptions detailed under section 68.2 applied.

High Court Justice Asher’s ruling was that Slater had to cough up names because “This is not a whistleblower case. There are no political issues, or matters of public importance at stake … There is nothing to indicate that the informers have been driven by altruistic motives”  (Paragraph 129.)

(No, I did not read it all - hat tip to LPRENT at The Standard for doing the hard work for me).

That was for Slater; but there is no comparison with the Hager / Rawshark situation.  In Hager's case, there is a political angle and there is a public interest in knowing our political leaders are venal backstabbers.

Further, the exemptions outlined in 68.2 do not seem to apply.

Hager’s reputation and credibility would be seizing of his documents even if it leads to the identification of Rawshark.  Thus, the first article of 68.2, where the public good in apprehending Rawshark outweighs "any likely adverse effect of the disclosure on the informant or any other person", does not apply.  Hager would undoubtedly be harmed more than we would be helped by the violation of his right to protect his sources.

As for the second article, where the public good in apprehending Rawshark outweighs "the public interest in the communication of facts and opinion to the public by the news media and, accordingly also, in the ability of the news media to access sources of facts" does not seem to fit either.  There is an overwhelming public interest in Rawshark's detailing of the sordid goings on in the beehive and on Whaleoil.  That public interest would not be served by compelling Hager to hand over his documents.  As Hager points out, if police are allowed to seize documents and computers over something as comparatively trivial as Cameron Slater's pique, it will make sources and journalists very uncomfortable - and not just those directly associated with the case.  Public interest are not served by making people more nervous of speaking out against abuse of power.

These are very important concepts that are intrisic to journalists being able to hold those in power to account.  It is very #*%$ing doubtful that the disclosure of who hacked into an attack blog is in the same league.

I’d say NEITHER 68.2 a and b apply (and they both must for the first article to be set aside).  It is a massive imbalance of interests. Hager's work as a journalist is far more important to the good of New Zealand society than Slater's desire for revenge.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Police raid on Hager's home

The police raid on Nicky Hager's home, seeking information relating to the identity of the hacker Rawshark, has provoked perfectly predictable reactions from the left and from the right.

From the right comes predictable gloating and strange claims that Hagar is getting his comeuppance for Dirty Politics.  Which overlooks the whole public interest argument around the issue, and suggests a really worrying short-sightedness on their part.  If it is okay for the apparatus of the state to target people who annoy a right wing government, presumably they accept it would be okay for the same apparatus to target people who annoy a left wing government.

El Salvadorian death squads, Pinochet's Chile and Stalinism legitimised in one ill thought through outpouring of right wing partisan gloating!

Or, to put it another way:


And that's okay if you're on the unprincipled, tribalist right.  As long as the police are stamping on lefties, its okay.  And it could never be any other way, could it?

From the left comes the wild assertion that this is the action of a police state and an attempt by the Powers That Be to suppress dissent and opposition.  This is, on current evidence, a paranoid over-reaction.

The police were not targeting Hagar himself.  They were looking for evidence identifying Rawshark.

Hagar is not being targeted for publishing Dirty Politics.  He is being investigated as the recipient of stolen information.  Stolen in the public interest, but still stolen. That's a crime. The police are seeking evidence relating to a crime and Hager has already acknowledged they are quite right to do so. He just thinks the police are being more than necessarily stupid thinking he would leave Rawshark’s name on a post it note stuck to his computer screen.

Hager has already said the police had warrants and were empowered under law to search his property for evidence. The law may be draconian, but the actions of the police appear to be covered by it.

Rawshark committed a crime. No-one denies that. It was (probably) in the public interest but it is still a breach of the law. A complaint appears to have been made and the police are investigating it.

That is not controversial.

What may be controversial is the enthusiasm with which they have gone about the job. A bit like Slater's OIA requests, this one seems to have been suspiciously expedited.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The state that we're in

First, a nice song:


Listen while reading what follows.  It will help, one way or another.

One of the basic tenets of most strains of socialism is that people are the product of their environment.

This can be abstracted to the nth degree, with the materialist view of the world; or targeted specifically, where we try to tease out the socio-psychology of the individual.  The concept is the same, and fundamental to most socialists.  Circumstances create people before people create circumstances.  Otherwise, why bother about the material and economic relations of society?  If they aren't fundamental to the shaping of people, why worry?

But there's an uncomfortable shadow to that, the fact that we live in a society that has been openly, aggressively encouraging selfishness, individualism and consumerism for over three decades, in most countries of the developed world.

If we accept that people are formed by their environment, then we probably have to accept that people have been changed by the relentless narcissism and consumerism which has been the (hem) predominant discourse in western societies for the last 30 years. This is why I’m not convinced by the loud voices wailing that Labour's current woes can be alleviated by a sharp turn to the left.

People voting National are not going to suddenly vote Labour when they are offered a more left wing alternative. They’re going to be even more repelled. The most we can do, in the short term, is pry off the centre vote, and then when people realise the Sky Has Not Fallen, persuade them it will still not fall if we move a little bit further, then a little bit further.

The neo-liberals had the advantage of circumstance when they moved the country the other way in the 80s. But I think a crisis generally favours the right (and they deceived as to how far they were going to go) as witnessed by the right wing retrenchment after 2008.

Unless there is some system busting crisis (which we’ve been waiting for for over 150 years now!) Fabianism is probably the only way for the left to return to power. Bolsheviks might dream of seizing control and imposing (their version of) the dictatorship of the proletariat, and then persuading people they were right all along, but most historical examples warn against that route.

(By Bolsheviks, I meant (nearly) literally that – a small group of extremists seizing power by non-democratic means. This happened in the 80s, when the neo-liberal Bolsheviks won power through deception. Do we want to go down that road? Democracy requires winning the argument before taking power.  If we can not win compliance, coercion or deception are our only options.  I don't think they are good ones.)

It’s an argument born of practicality.  Yes, we're facing a catastrophe in the form of climate change and environmental destruction.  But the Greens get about 10% of the vote. They need another 40% before they can do anything. The planet, unfortunately, is a big place and it is hard to take in the impact of human activity.  And people – weaned on consumerism and selfishness for three decades – are more receptive to iphones than egalitarianism or environmentalism.

Hence the needs for small steps.

The missing million have sat out three elections now. It is unlikely they will be tempted back in significant numbers. They are the flip side of the neo-liberal-narcissistic-consumerists; the permanently disenfranchised and alienated.

If they couldn’t be bothered voting AGAINST John Key, what sort of inducements can we offer them that will get them to vote FOR the left? It’s a pleasant fantasy that they will roll up to the polling station in 2017, if only we offer a sufficiently leftwing program … And even if we entertain that fantasy for a few moments, what do you think will happen to centrist voters if Labour lurches left? They’ll leave, probably in greater numbers than the ‘missing million’ are being won back.

(The great thing about the ‘missing million’ delusion is that it can be recycled, of course. It’ll work just as well prior to the 2020, 2023, 2026 and 2029 elections as it does now.)

They won't vote because they don't care. It's alienation.  It's not a pleasant thing to contemplate, but it seems to me to be the reality.  If you don't like reality, you can dream about them all you like. You can devise a fabulous platform of policies. They won't listen in significant numbers. And for every one you win, you'll lose two at the other end. You might not care, too much, but you won't win. Savour your ideological purity because it is all you'll have to enjoy until 2026.

And in the mean time, another generation will have had their lives blighted by the right.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Media malice

There has been a lot of talk, over on the Standard and elsewhere, about media bias.  The election was lost because of it.  Cunliffe's leadership ruined because of it.  The Scottish independence referendum lost because of it.  The media are to blame for climate change.  And so on.

The last two may actually have some slight merit.  I commented a few times on the hysterical reaction of the Mail to the possibility of Scotland leaving the union.  If anything though, that showed how powerless the media actually are as opinion shapers.  Inspite of their relentless pro-union coverage, polls narrowed, and unionist panic increased.  In the end, I doubt the Mail's hysteria made a difference.  The final result was what had been predicted in almost every poll - a win for the union camp.

That's an example of genuine, palpable media bias.  But what about the claims of media bias distorting politics in New Zealand?  Are our media really just opinion trumpeters for National and Act?

Yes, ultimately, the mainstream media is in the hands of the capitalist class - of course it is, as it is a means of making money - you wouldn't expect them just to leave something like that just lying around for the proles to get their hands on, do you - but that does not mean that tere is a strong or persistent bias against Labour or in favour of National or Act.  Bluntly, there isn't really enough difference between the National and Labour for it to be worth while running a deliberate campaign to undermine Labour.

There's something similar and more visceral going on here.

The media likes one thing - winners and losers.

Yeah, I know, that's two things.  No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

The media love to celebrate a winner, but even more, they love to put the boot into a loser.  Labour, unfortunately, has been looking like a loser for almost a decade, now.  It's hard not to, when you've churned through a grab back of leaders and the party is polling 30% and National is on 50% (remember those heady days when 30% seemed low!?).  That's why I've always eschewed talk of grant multi-party coalitions.  We live in an MMP environment, but most people don't think MMP.

IF Labour managed to drag the party to the right side of 30% ... (Dare I say the right side of 35%?) and managed to stop the continual factionalism and squabbling, and had a leader with the sort of vim and energy of Norman Kirk, or the grim technocratic authority of Clark, the media would be much more positive towards Labour.  National, of course, has had someone who has looked like a winner since 2006, which is a bit of an advantage for them

Consider how the Greens were treated in the election.  They had a fairly easy time of it.  This wasn't because of Norman's comment about working with National, but because the Greens were seen as a party on the upswing ... so the media - being little more than nasty bullies - didn't put the boot in.  Or contrast the treatment of Don Brash - the media had a field day with him, once they decided he was a rightwing zealot (worse) and a fumbling loser, not the plain speaking champion of middle New Zealand.

Ultimately, the mainstream media exist to sell advertising to people.  As long as they perceive people as being more inclined towards the right, they will pander towards that.  Labour needs to makes itself important and interesting again.  Then the media will be ready to make nice.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Carpetbaggers

So, those wishing to participate in the Labour leadership election (2014 edition) have until 11.59pm on Wednesday the 1st of October to join.

I won't be joining, but I've noticed an alarming number of people on The Standard announcing that they will join, because they want to vote in the election.  Fair enough.  But then they add that if David Cunliffe doesn't win they will resign their membership.

This is a particularly worrying aspect of the Cunliffe cult-of-personality that seems to have deranged too many on the left.  The really seem to think Cunliffe is something different to the other options.  Much talk is made about factions and positions and ABCs and the need for a shift to the left (as if the million voters who have studiously say out the last three elections while National assailed their quality of life will be motivated to vote if Labour just nudges a bit further left ...)

This over looks the fundamental reality.  Cunliffe, Robertson, Shearer and whoever else you care to name are just politicians.  They are all politicians. Cunliffe comes across as no different to Robertson or Shearer – he’s a professional politician, just like them, and part of the monied, highly educated elite, just like them. He doesn’t speak to the ‘missing million’ – you may have noticed they didn’t show up last week.

One is good at waving his hands about and shouting at John Key.  The other is liked by his colleagues but no-one else.  The third one has an amazing backstory and isn't shouty but possibly isn't even very talky.

But that's beside the point.  The issue is the carpetbaggers - people signing up just to vote for one candidate and intending to flounce off in a huff if he doesn't win.

For people contemplating joining and planning on leaving if their preferred candidate doesn't win ... please don't. What you are doing is profoundly undemocratic. It's tantamount to stuffing the ballot box.

Beofre you join, ask your self it you would still be willing to maintain your membership if Cunliffe (or whoever) is not elected leader? If not, don’t join. It’s a democratic process electing the leader of the party and if you aren’t willing to accept the decision of the party, you have no business joining it. People doing that are simply trying to fix the result.

(I suspect they might often be the same people signing the ludicrous ‘recount’ petition and who are claiming the election was fixed …)

If you are not willing to stick with the result of a democratically agreed decision, you have no business joining a party just to try to force the decision one way or another. If you want to join a party, fine, but it is a commitment, and you shouldn’t be resigning just because your favoured candidate didn’t win. If your loyalty is that precarious, you shouldn’t be joining that party in the first place.

What if a horde of Nats joined up with the explicit intention of voting for Robertson? Would you be happy with that?

Don’t lie and say you would be.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

What now?

By the time I post this, I suspect David Cunliffe will no longer be the leader of the Labour Party.  He's on his way into a conference with the party's governing council, and he's called a press conference for afterwards.  Those are not great omens.

As I said on election night, I'm indifferent to whether Cunliffe, or Robertson, or Shearer, or Old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh is the leader.  I don't particularly like Cunliffe and I think he comes over as arrogant and (unlike most people) I think he did badly in the debates, waving his hands about and trying to shout over Key and being poorly prepared for blindly obvious attacks.

But when the talent pool is as small as Labour's is, you can't really go about changing your leader every five minutes.  It's  a measure of how few options Labour have that some people are seriously talking about bringing back David Shearer for another shot.  One wonders, what are thinking?  One wonders, what dead animal will he present to parliament this time?

People seem to be fixated on the importance of the leader.  Cunliffe's advocates seemed to think - I remember the conversations on The Standard - that his elevation to the top job would see the party surge to above 40%.  Quite seriously.

I don't blame Cunliffe for the debacle on Saturday night.  It would be beyond the ability of even the most profoundly useless leader - and Cunliffe is/was not profoundly useless - to accomplish that feat, and in just eleven months.

Labour were up against a dreadful political perfect storm - incumbency, a growing economy (though watch this space), the miasma of Dirty Politics which prevented the party getting their own campaign underway, and the profoundly difficult issue that they were massively behind in the polls.  Floating voters obey the laws of gravity.  They will tend to be drawn towards the greater mass.  I'm no mathematician, but I think 45% is bigger than 25%.  And their own overwhelming, systematic incompetence.  Let that never be forgotten.  Like who thought it was a good idea to announce the New Zealand Inc policy - which was interesting and important - on the same day as Dotcom's Big Reveal?

If there is one issue that should always be front and centre of every single Labour campaign it is education.  I'm trying to think of times when it was mentioned in the campaign.  I'm struggling.  I'm sure it was but ... Not exactly with feeling.  It is one issue that the left own and on which National is eternally vulnerable - charter schools!  Novopay!  Classes of over 40!  Branding children losers at 6!  And it is the Great Issue that unites left and centre - because everyone, pretty much, sends their kids to school, or employs people that have been through school.

Now we have an ACT associate minister of education, who will likely be used to front for every hideous policy National want to inflict on New Zealand.  He won't mind the opprobrium heaped on him - he's safe in Epsom, where people are hardly likely to oppose charter schools or bulk funding or support teachers' unions.  It's looking grim for the rest of us, however.  While mouthing sweet nothings over child poverty, Key's government will push through changes that will gut the education system and reinforce the pattern of inter-generational poverty, failure and despair that has blighted New Zealand since the 80s.

I don't care if David Cunliffe is still Labour leader in half an hour's time.  Because it doesn't matter who is.  Until the party sorts out it's prodigious crap mountain, whoever leads it is never going to be Prime Minster.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Election 2014!! The live, rolling, increasingly intoxicated Post From Hell

7.00 - Drinking red (naturally) wine.  A 2011 Mt hector Pinot Noir.  Very nice it is too - likely the last nice thing I may experience for the next couple of hours.  We're doomed, I tell you, doomed!  And if we're not doomed, we may be in even bigger trouble.  Imagine if the person who scheduled the NZ Inc. announcement for the same day as Dotcom's Big Disappointment gets a hand on the levers of power ...

So I am NOT anticipating a good night.  I expect John Key's corrupt, incompetent government to be returned for another three years.  This prospect is, of course, terrible.  The only thing worse might be if it includes ACT.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining.  The next few months should see the slow motion destruction of John Key's reputation and his government's exposure as a bunch of miserable, self-serving conniving liars as Dirty Politics continues to corrode.  By 2017, even the most vindictive lefties and stalwart Tories will be desperate to see National put out of its misery.

So let's get on with it ..

7.01 - Nothing too bad so far.  Other than Mike Hosking.  Which is quite bad enough, really.

7.04 - Will this be a 2005 election, where Labour start miles behind and slowly fights its way back, or like 2008 and and 2011, where Labour starts behind and stays behind?

If it is like the last two, we can put the myth of the mighty Labour vote in South Auckland to bed once and for all - whatever happened in 2005 must have been a once-off.

7.05 - Mike Hosking officially says something stupid, wondering if Labour 'might' increase their share of the vote from 19% of early votes.  took him just five minutes.  Which is probably an improvement.

7.10  Early numbers show the Nats on 50.9% with 3.5% counted ... Are they about to dip under 50%? that's a pretty quick falling away.  A percent off for every percent counted.  Long may it continue!

7.13 - Nats on 50%, falling fast.  Dare I say they will end up on 40%?

7.16 - A majority of the 7.2% of votes counted reject John Key!  There is hope for the nation!

7.19 - The conservatives are hovering about 4.6%.  In the interests of democracy, I'd rather the they got 5.1% rather than 4.9%.  I hate to see votes wasted, even when they are for ridiculous parties.  I'd much prefer to see then get no votes at all, of course.

7.23 - If this is going to be a 2005 election, then National could be in trouble.  In 2005, Labour started very far behind (just like tonight) and dragged it back at 1% per 10% counted.  If that happens tonight, then Labour will be comfortably above 30%.  Of course, that didn't happen in 2008 and 2011, so the odds are it won't happen ...

7.24 - Mike Hosking must have almost choked on that grudging praise for Cunliffe - "A better opponent" than anticipated!  Piss off, Mike!

7.29 - National on 48.6, so falling away nicely.  But where is it going?  Labour seem stuck on 23.5%.

19.31 - 431 people in Epsom have voted for Christine Ranking (thus far)?  Oh dear.

19.37 - Mike Hosking is a national embarrassment.

19.42 - Has everyone stopped counting?  We've been stuck about 15% for yonks.

19.50 - Just piss off, Mike Hosking, with your inane right-wing, biased unprofessional bleating.

19.56 - Ahahahahahaha.  One of Hosking's studio commentators just tried to mention Nick Hager.  Hosking immediately tried to cut him off and then terminated the conversation.  What a dick.

20.04 - Count, New Zealand!

20.08 - Percentage counted is starting to move again.  18.2% in.  Unfortunately, National are still stubbornly above 48%.  Have they not read the script?

20.10Greens are in ‘Desperate trouble’ according to Hosking. I think I might be complaining, tomorrow, when the hangover clears.  They've actually just topped 10%, so building nicely.

20.17 - Insanely, National's vote is going UP as more votes are counted.  Only very marginally, from about 48.4% to 48.5% - but it is still abhorrent and wrong and entirely at odds with the Laws of Electoral Physics.

20.20 - Labour might FINALLY be about to trip over 24%.  EDIT - That was based on TV1 figures.  But the official Election Results website still has them stuck below what TV1 is showing.

20.27 - According to the Election results website, National's share of the vote is climbing.  It's now at 48.57.  This is MADNESS!!

20.28 - 48.71%.

20.29 - 48.75%

20.32 - 48.81% ... Then 48.79% ... THE TIDE HAS TURNED!!

20.33 - Unfortunately, Labour are also going backwards.  23.70%.

20.34 - National 48.83.  Damn it, I said THE TIDE HAS TURNED!!  Listen to me, New Zealand.

20.35 - National collapse to 48.75%.  Mwahahahahaha!  The rout commences!  I'm going to stop doing this now ...

20.40 - So, a quarter of the votes have been counted.  National are sitting on 48%.  Labour are mired on 23.5%.  The Greens and NZ First are both about 9-10%.  Mana will get 2 MPs on current figures.  Ditto Maori.  Obviously, that's good news for one party but not for the other.  Singletons for ACT and UF.

I'm prediciting the Labour and the Greens may get another 3%.  But hopes (or fears) of a grand coalition of the left are looking very faint.

20.43 - And no sooner do I post that than National's share of the vote goes up and Labour's goes down ... 48.84% versus 23.75%.  The horror!  The horror!

20.49  - National hit 49% of the party vote. (And then immediately drop back to 48.96% .. I feel like I'm being toyed with!)

20.51 - Michelle Boag sounds sane compared to Mike Hosking.

20.52 - National plummet to 48.90%!!  They are being driven from the field in total disorder!!

21.00 - We have a third of the vote in now.  National are still riding very high at 48.9% of the vote.  Labour are sinking, slowly.  And everything else is as it was 20 minutes ago, when we had a fifth in.  Once we get up to half way, I think we may see a bit of movement in the left vote.  Upwards movement, I mean.  But by that point, the amount of vote left to effect a change with will be very, very small.

21.04 - Colin Craig doesn't like "the system" - presumably he means MMP.  Does he actually believe he would be doing better under First Past The Post?

21.06 - Internet Mana have just vanished from the Election Results website 'Sets' column.  Davis must be sneaking ahead.  I think Harawira will get there in the end, but it is carnage out there.  Carnage.

21.10 - National only getting 62 seats, down from 62 a moment ago.  Unfortunately, that's at least 10 too many.  Labour finally creep up to 31 seats.  31.

21.12 - Election Results website has half the results in.  Nothing has changed.  National still just under 49%.  Labour just under 24%.  Yes, you read that right.  Twenty four per cent.  Greens and NZ First both under 10%.  Conservatives and IMP heading to the dustbin of history.

21.16 - It's 2011 all over again.  Only with (thus far) less voting for the left.

21.18 - 55.9% counted and Labour mustering up some courage and edging up to the big bad 24% mark ...

21.22 - Whatever the final result in Te Tai Tokerau, I did say that linking up with Kim Dotcom was a very bad idea.  I'm rather sad that I'm being proven right.

21.24 - National currently able to govern alone, assuming the Conservatives don't enjoy a late surge.

21.25 - Labour teeters on the edge at 23.96% of the vote!  Come on!  You can do it!

21.26 - 24%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Next goal!  Matching Phil Goff's 27.48%!!

21.27 - 24.02%!  The Long March has started!  Onwards to victory!

21.30  - Labour negatively surge to 23.95%  A cunning flanking move that will leave National nonplussed!

21.36 - On a more serious note, Labour seem to have moved decisively across the 24% boundary.  Yay!!  Almost 1 in 4 voting New Zealanders was not totally repelled by Labour!!  And National are sinking like a very light, floaty stone, all the way down to 48.67%!  This is massive and John Key really must resign.  Right now.

21.36 - Some (comparatively) serious movement with the Labour numbers now.  24.19%.  Cunliffe might just get enough to hang on.

21.42 - National now definitely trending downwards.  Labour moving upwards.  Too little, too late, with 75% counted.  How could the left have screwed this up so badly?

21.54 - greens building, slowly.  They need to get to 12%, or 13% for respectabilty.  I think they will make it, because once the conservative wasted vote is taken out, they'll have a bigger share of the leftovers, and specials and so on.

22.07 - Well, at least we can discard the comforting myth of the 'big urban centres coming in late.'  Guess what?  Whoever swung it for Labour late in the day in 2005 isn't there any more.  If they were, they'd have shown up tonight.  They've managed to do worse than in 2011 and they had almost everything going in their favour.  And.  They.  Blew.  It.

22.14 - If ... IF ... Hone survives in Te Tai Tokerau ... Perhaps he'll realise the link up with the Internet Party was utterly stupid.  He could have done it by himself.  Perhaps - just perhaps - he might have brought another MP with him.  He could have looked to being the main party of the Maori seats.  But.  He.  Also.  Blew.  It.

22.26 - So, should David Cunliffe resign?  I don't care.  This isn't about Cunliffe.  If every single vote that was lost between 2011 and 2014 was lost because of Cunliffe, it was hardly important.  There is a deeper issue here than who fronts at PMQs.  Cunliffe is perfectly adequate (as Shearer was perfectly adequate, and Goff was perfectly adequate)  but he is leading a party that is intent on self destruction.

Arguing with the leftier left for the last three years over on the Standard, I've become unhappily convinced there is a curious self destructive urge on the left.  They are so possessed by hatred of the middleclasses that they have lost sight of the real enemy.

Please, just accept, that middle classes are people too, and Social Democrats are as viable members of the Labour party as Socialists. Stop fighting them. Look where it has got you. 24%. Outstanding.

YOU CAN NOT WIN WITH OUT THE CENTRE.

There are enough sane, decent, middle class, who can be united with the working class to win every election. They are not the enem.

Remember the 99% vs the 1%?

22.35 - Laila Harre gets to oversee the destruction of another party.  Three hours ago I had respect for her.  Now she's successfully destroyed two leftwing parties.

22.38 - On a more positive note, ACT have only 0.68% of the vote.  Over 99% of New Zealanders are not insane.

22.42 - Labour make a late surge to 24.5%!!!  It ain't over until the fat lady sings!

22.46 - OMG!! I'd completely forgotten about the contest in Palmerston North, between Iain Lees Galloway and Jono Naylor.  It turns out that - against the odds - I've managed to be on the winning side in at least one election in 2014.  Normal service will be resumed shortly, I'm sure ... Lees-Galloway won, comfortably, and given the current state of theparty must be wondering if he might be in charge in 2017.  It isn't a ery broad, or deep, talent pool.

22.49 - Cunliffe stayed put for ages.  He must have been watching the percentages to see if he could survive.  What was his 'hang on' figure??????????????????????  Surely not 24.5%??

23.03 Obviously, it was 24.5%.

23.10 - National currently on 61 seats, but that's including (I think) the conservatives in the equation and not including special votes.  They might still get pushed down below 50% ... It is a measure of how disappointing this night has been that the idea of National being denied the chance to govern alone feels like a victory.

23.19 - Judith Collins retuned with a majority of almost 5000.  The icing on tonight's cake of shit.

23.37 - Bloody Hell.  Keys forcing me to crack open the scotch.

23.44 - Actually, with more time to consider the strategic situation, the return of Collins to the front bench is the best outcome we can hope for … Should make 2017 a walk in the (red) park.

23.47 - As if the night could not get any worse, I've jsut realised Mike Hosking has been proven right all down the line.  Disaster for Labour.  Disaster for Mana.  Disaster for the Greens.  Triumph for Hosking.

23.50 - Mana polled 5 times as much as United Future.  The Conservatives polled EIGHTEEN times more than United Future.  guess which party gets an MP?

The Big Man

So, Alex Salmond has announced he will step down as First Minister of Scotland.  This is, of course, being presented as throwing his toys and peevish behaviour following the independence referendum and the defeat of the 'Yes' campaign.

Which is an odd reaction, given the blind panic that has been the defining feature of the 'No' campaign for the last fortnight or so, ever since the polls started to narrow and it became to look like 'Yes' might just make it.

Credit where it is due. His goal was to give the people of Scotland a chance to decide if they wanted to be independent or not. He achieved his goal. He could have continued to lord it over the Scottish parliament for years to come, but has decided to step aside. He's shown himself to be what, in Scotland, we'd call a big man.  Not just a tough guy or a hard man, but someone who can take knocks as well as giving them out.  William McIlvaney wrote a book with that title, exploring the strange permutations of Scottish macho.

Salmond's dignity in defeat an example David Cameron might consider following in victory.  Only, it is unlikely Cameron has half an iota of Salmond's principle.

But Cameron, of course, has shown he has neither principle or backbone.  He used to glory in a 'Flashman' reputation.  He tried to play the big man, as a Tory would imagine a big man - acting like a strutting peacock, a loud-mouth bully at PMQs, scoffing at anyone who dared to, you know, ask him a question that wasn't about how fabulous David Cameron and his shabby government was.  it was a disgaceful display of arrogance but it allowed the clueless Cameron to bluster his way out of tight corners the uselessness of the his ministers and his own blinkered inadequacy got himself into, week after week.

(Aided, it must be acknowledged, but the profound uselessness that is commonly referred to as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.)

Cameron's Flashman alter-ego dominated the early stages of the referendum debate, trying to rig it by insisting on a Yes / No option because he was feart (good Scots word) of the likely widespread support for enhanced devolution.  But when that seemed to be about to blow up in Flashie's face, the swaggering toff revealed his true colours, magnificently soiled himself, blubbed (while muttering threats) and ignominiously rushed into offering the things he had tried to keep off the negotiating table in the first place, promising at all sorts of new powers for the Scottish parliament and ponies for everyone.

Such unstatesmanlike behaviour might have been worth it - just - if it had bought time for Cameron to lick some wounds and rebuild his shattered reputation and credibility.  But Cameron, having been humiliated in the North, has another arduous electoral ordeal to endure.

He must now face the UKIP in the south, where Douglas Carsewell's defection and resignation (another man of principle, Mr Carsewell) means the UKIP will likely gain their first MP and Cameron will have to deal with a devastating defeat.

Like King Harold of Hastings fame (only less noble and impressive and without that man's legitimate claim to power) Cameron must charge from one end of the kingdom to the other to fight swarming enemies intent on his destruction. Like Harold, he has been fatally weakened by the battle in the North and will meet nemesis in the south.

Unlike Harold, he won't be remembered in history as a bold man brought down by overwhelming odds, but as a fool who engineered his own destruction.

Salmond - a bit of a joke for as long as I can remember - proved himself to be a big man in the end, both in delivering on his promises, fighting a brave campaign, and accepting the dashing of his life's hopes with dignity.  Cameron has been revealed to be very, very small, and the process of reduction of Flashman to Flash-in-the-Pan is not even over.