TV news gets on high horse about the evil internet again
On TV3 news: another tut-tut story, via CBS, about how dangerous and horrible the internet is, this time about the voyeurs who did nothing while a netizen, Adrian Biggs, committed suicide online, live.
It’s to be expected: old media are still scared of new media, so any story about the evils of the internet will be accepted with greater glee than in a rational world.
While the story of the suicide is morbid and it does rightly highlight that there were thousands of uncaring people out there, it’s plainly wrong to group all netizens together as though they were one group. It’s a mistake that old media make constantly—probably because 15 years after the web became mainstream, they still haven’t ﬁgured out what to do in response.
The ’net is segmented just as any medium—including TV networks who like to say this to advertisers all the time.
In May 2008, one netizen in the US sent what amounted to a suicide note, which came into my emailbox overnight. The result was that dozens of people worldwide acted to prevent him from taking his own life. Emergency services were notiﬁed and the gentleman’s life was saved.
Get it, old media: the internet prevented a suicide attempt. Of course, that was good news about the internet, the sort of thing not celebrated on TV network news during prime-time.
If there is any nastiness, it’s a reﬂection of the human race, whose less savoury members are simply more easily found, sometimes congregating online. But old media don’t want to remind us of that—after all, these people could be readers, viewers and listeners. Posted by Jack Yan, 07:09
Getting down to being sensible
That was one of the more entertaining Vista Group gatherings for a while, with the entire ‘A’ Team there (minus our equivalent of B. A. Baracus).
In summary, about the US automaker bailout, the views were the following:
• Jim: Chapter 7;
• Mark: Chapter 11;
• Natalie: the good thing is that the Hummer brand will die;
• Jack: loan guarantees but with harsh conditions.
As usual, some of the more interesting things came up off the agenda. An important one, which no doubt affects most readers, is the value of social networking and similar services.
Natalie cannot see much merit in certain sites such as Digg, Twitter and Facebook beyond their core raisons d’être, and Facebook, in particular, was good to keep in touch with old friends, for instance for a get-together. Jim and Mark felt that sites such as LinkedIn did their networking task far better.
I have to agree in most respects. Last night, Campbell Live interviewed my friend Helen Baxter, who commented about Facebook. In its quest to ﬁnd the most connected New Zealander, it noted that John Key had 5,000—the programme neglected to mention that 5,000 is the upper friend limit on the service—while Helen Clark remained in the high 2,000s. DJ Pauline Gillespie had between 3,000 and 4,000.
If politicians have Facebook pages—as they have had for some time—then we can say that the cool factor has worn off. If a prime-time TV programme does a segment on friend numbers on Facebook, then we can deﬁnitely say the cool factor has worn off (albeit Campbell Live is still cooler than Close up).
Before you say that there is no way that these sites will lose patronage, remember that no one said that of Yahoo! or AltaVista as the last decade ended. Yahoo! stock has been heading south (to the point where Reuter and others no longer put the exclamation mark at the end of the name), while most people under a certain age have not even heard of AltaVista. Once upon a time, both sites behaved as though they would be around forever: the thought of Yahoo! being acquired was about as likely as that new upstart singer Britney Spears announcing she had lost her virginity.
Their downfall began happening around 1998 when they began adding non-search services and moved away from what they did best: maintaining a directory and search services respectively. Then some new site called Google started up. The rest is history.
I personally loved AltaVista and thought the site did the portal thing better than most. The AltaVista Entertainment Zone was a good place to get more in-depth, well written content in the early 2000s. But the model was not sustainable: Entertainment Zone was killed off, and there was one less reason to go to AV. Especially as those folks at that Google site began growing the index.
So we know that success as a dot com can be ﬂeeting. Facebook has shown itself to be one of the most arrogant sites out there. Statistics show that we still get a bit of trafﬁc through the service on our sites, but I wonder if Natalie is right when she predicts that people will move away from such networks in favour of speciﬁc content sites once more.
While I am around 18 friends away from the 1,000 mark—with around one in seven not known to me, who are most likely my customers—I no longer go in to Facebook regularly. I have the feeds from this blog plugged in, and it keeps my contacts in touch with what I have Dugg or posted. About a year ago I would say I was a daily or twice-daily visitor. Or worse: some of my team say they remember my having one laptop open just on Facebook. (Hey, that counted as one visit. Just a really long visit.)
For many of the less well known social networks out there, I say they need to be profession- or interest-speciﬁc in order to survive.
I’d rather concentrate on developing our own media properties then, write the occasional blog post so Mark can link to my experiences about ‘Asian banking’, and do what I did at the beginning of the century when it came to the ’net: increase our search engine visibility with solid articles.
As to LinkedIn, I wonder if its heyday has passed, too. However, it has survived all these newer social networks and it has remained a viable business one. Never mind that it has a few things to answer for with its corporate behaviour, we might be in an era when people want to take away some of their lives’ complexities, focus a bit more on the real things (real-life friendships are more fun than Facebook-only ones), and see what we can do to give our existence some meaning.
Fun time with Facebook, just as with AltaVista, might be over. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:32
Do the US automakers deserve a bailout?
Today at the Vista Group luncheon, we’ll be discussing the US auto industry’s desire for a government bailout. My view: of course it’ll be great to protect US manufacturing jobs, since the situation is not of the plant workers’ doing. As mentioned in one of my papers, ‘Saving Detroit’, the troubles are self-made: brand mismanagement by the Germans when Chrysler was part of DaimlerChrysler, which I have documented elsewhere; and internal politics within Ford, which is the stuff of legend. GM isn’t totally in the clear but it has done more to attempt to integrate an unwieldy structure (just not quickly enough, with hindsight), coordinate automotive platforms, spread its risk with small cars than its other US rivals, and even engage with consumers via its blog. It’s also taking a useful innovative chance with the Chevrolet Volt, reversing the failures of the EV-1 electric car project.
Rationalization of any of these groups will only lead to repeating what happened in the UK when British Leyland began imploding after it was effectively nationalized in 1975. But a major restructuring of all car ﬁrms in the US is needed, whether they get taxpayer money or not. And if they do, then restructuring becomes all the more urgent because it’s the US taxpayers’ money they’re spending.
Chrysler has a terrible product line other than minivans and Jeeps, for the most part—Daimler left it in such a state that it has a poor product line in passenger cars, and the 300 is becoming increasingly dated. Ford’s political structure is so ingrained and so biased against its German and Australian outposts—which design and make far better passenger cars than Dearborn—that it keeps shooting itself in the foot by actually creating ﬂops when they are sold Stateside. I wonder if Alan Mulally can change it. Lee Iacocca couldn’t. And GM has such a poor record of taking steps backwards over the last 20 years—but at least it accepts that it has centres of excellence around the world that can potentially create the cars that people want.
As the ﬁrms run out of money, the options are not great. Renault failed to acquire Chrysler, so a merger with GM might be the only path to take—which means job losses anyway and the end of the Chrysler and Dodge marques. Ford should federalize some of its overseas models and stop sabotaging itself. General Motors itself probably needs to simplify its product ranges—it’s easier to understand Toyota and Honda’s ranges—and use Saturn as its Opel-importing arm, which is happening anyway (bring in the Brazilian Chevrolet Vectra, for example, for sedan-loving Americans, and the Opel Corsa D to beef up the supermini end of the range to ﬁght Honda’s Fit). And all three need to trim the number of retail outlets if their support costs are too high.
We’re also talking major cultural changes that I can’t see Chrysler and Ford accepting that quickly, but strangely, Chrysler has a better chance: it was well integrated prior to Daimler-Benz buying it, and that was just over 10 years ago. There should be enough people around who can turn back the clock. GM has started and it needs to pick up the pace, and certainly it needs to deﬁne its individual brands.
I say the US Government could provide some guarantees and certainty for the sake of jobs, but the conditions need to go well beyond salary caps and executive compensations. We are talking serious rebranding (and I mean the vision-, culture- and process-changing deﬁnition and not slapping on a new logo) here—something that large US corporations tend to have a problem understanding, executing and absorbing. Or, they get caught up in the rhetoric of branding thanks to the way some of the consultancies work.
It’s through such a process that they can see the forest for the trees, understand their businesses at a global level, connect better to the future needs of their customers, and avoid this happening again. They even need to learn to listen to their own. It’s this failure to learn that is making the current crisis smell like the 1970s for the US car industry—except this time the problems have been worsened by the arrogance that has come with years of easy credit. And if you do search around the ’net, you’ll ﬁnd that some of us saw this coming years ago—which begs the question, why were the car industry’s best and brightest within these ﬁrms shut up? They need to be heard.
The automakers will survive, but it will be a slimmer industry than what we have known for most of our lives. And the French and Japanese will continue to employ US workers to assemble Toyotas, Hondas, Nissans and other brands Stateside. It just won’t be the same as foreign companies will look after their own bottom line—which means proﬁts heading to Paris or Tokyo. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:43
Politically incorrect and segregational signs
I’m not sure if you can do this sign in the US, but in New Zealand, you can with our sense of humour: it’s at the New Orleans bar (formerly Paris), on Lambton Quay, Wellington. Two of the staff are Frenchmen so we chatted more about the fact that Orléans is a French town. You can even do a President Bush impersonation and say, ‘I see the reconstruction’s ﬁne, and you don’t need my help,’ and not get nasty glances.
This one at Get Funk’d might be more universal though:
We never found out if she did get ﬁred.
However, I did not know what to do with this one at the National Bank on Manners Street, Wellington:
The ﬁrst time I was not sure about this. I thought it was some modern form of segregation. I went to the regular queue with them white and brown folk. When I got to the teller, I asked him if the bank expected Kazakhs, Iranians, Indians and Asiatic Russians to go with the ‘Asian Banking’ sign. He was a bit humourless and it went over his head. But he did tell me that the staff were multilingual or spoke different dialects as I noted I did not speak Mandarin. I was welcome to go there next time.
The second time I put this to the test. I ﬁgured that if the National Bank wanted all Asians—if you are one of the group descended from or related to the 3·7 billion from Asia—to turn right and not left, and segregate us, I would go along with it. Plus the teller from the time before said the staff were multilingual. I went to ask if any of the Chinese staff (I did not see any Japanese, Kazakhs, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis or any others) if they spoke Cantonese. They did not. Therefore, I went to queue up with the regular folk.
The Mandarin-speaking woman working there did come to ask if she could help me. I said I wanted a cheque cashed. She said I was in the right queue. I remarked that I was just following the signs about segregation because I didn’t want to go all Rosa Parks-on-the-bus on them. (And the last time whites pulled this stunt with Chinese we got so pissed off that we brought down the Ching Dynasty in 1911, so bringing down a single bank is not too hard.)
This time, my teller was (probably locally born) Chinese and could appreciate the nuances. She, like me, thought it was inappropriate for Chinese to be grouped with 3·7 billion people on the Asian continent. And we had very little in common with, say, the ﬁctional Borat, who is from Asia. Or Emperor Hirohito. Or Gandhi. Or my friend Merrill Fernando who sells tea on TV.
She said I was the ﬁrst customer to have interpreted the sign as requesting Asians go to a separate part of the bank but she would raise it with the manager. I said that even the Chinese writing said ‘Asian banking’. But I still do not know what the sign means: clearly all ‘Asians’ cannot be assisted because there are only Mandarin-speaking staff in that section of the bank. Clearly there, the services are specialized and regular banking is still with the regular tellers. This was deceptive advertising.
I am so glad I have closed the majority of our ANZ–National–Post Ofﬁce Savings Bank–Countrywide–whatever-else-was-merged accounts. I don’t understand this lack of logic and it shows a poignant lack of cultural awareness. (As a non-customer it is a stupid thing to have a laugh about and I hope they will leave it up as a relic!)
So they want Asians in another part of the bank but they don’t. And they can’t serve any Asians anyway unless you speak Mandarin, which is about 28 per cent of all Asians, but it’s pretty sweeping and arrogant to say all Asians should go that way. I do not know of any Chinese who would not ﬁnd this sign either insulting, humorous, or stupid (count me in for the last two), which are probably three qualities that the National Bank wishes to convey. And I bet every other Asian, say folks from Tajikistan or Azerbaijan or Vietnam or India, are wondering why they can’t get served in that section or why their languages aren’t included on the sign or by the Chinese staff.
The sign should read, in Chinese, ‘Specialized services for Mandarin-speaking customers’ which, believe it or not, would ﬁt into the space they have anyway, and is probably what the bank means.
Congratulations, National Bank, you’re stupid in two languages. Which is better than being stupid in three:
PS.: Since when was Monotype Garamond a permitted typeface based on the National Bank’s corporate identity or graphic standards’ manual? I know I haven’t been a customer for a while, but I remember when it was Plantin and then Foundry Oldstyle. The website is in Foundry Sans. Maybe I missed something along the way. Or the bank has a problem communicating with its signmakers. (It clearly has a problem communicating with Asians.) Posted by Jack Yan, 01:37
The fundamentals of our economy are sound
As I call in around the country to different companies, I have noticed a few things. First, the General Election has made no real difference to the way people feel. It’s no surprise: John Key voted the same way as Helen Clark on many of the least popular pieces of legislation, and fewer people trusted him yet wanted him in ofﬁce. I also wonder if the US presidential election, having had such a grand effect on people around the world, caused our own to be such an anticlimax.
Secondly, people are still hurting out there economically. Every day the media tell them that things are bad. And as a result consumer conﬁdence gets driven down. Yet I wonder how much of this is real.
The usual indicators of petrol prices and interest rates are good. Granted, our petrol prices have not fallen as much as in the US: Stanley Moss, CEO of the Medinge Group, notes that it has dropped US$1. Ours have dropped between 50 and 60 cents. So why are we feeling the pinch this badly?
Our exposure to world markets has been limited. We have been simply lucky that even our banks have not had a tough time relative to the US. The links between them have not been that strong, so their exposure to the sub-prime mortgage mess there has not been that great.
Even our Australian-owned banks have had relatively minimal exposure. It would have been worse had Lloyds TSB held on to the National Bank, but it didn’t. They only say they’re hurting because they haven’t been able to screw as much out of us as we go to TSB (no relation to the UK one!) and Kiwibank.
Under Labour, there has been more of an emphasis on culture over the technocracy, at least in its ﬁrst term. In many respects, we have been shielded, more by accident than design.
House prices are on the rise again, too.
The troublesome industries are tourism, which is no surprise and never has been to me, but that will likely readjust as our Australian neighbours might consider New Zealand again; and automotive, as people hang on to their cars for a little longer.
Exporters are hurting, too, and I am one of them. But I think many of us were prudent, too, about whom we dealt with, and while the Labour government embraced Red China with open arms, hopefully enough of us have held back on depending on a communist nation going through its share of troubles.
What is hurting consumer conﬁdence is the failure to communicate the positive elements of the economy—because many in the mainstream media are technocrats who are not fans of a strong New Zealand. And bad news makes some people feel important.
They would rather we be weakened so our companies can continue to be acquired by foreign interests that see New Zealanders as units of production to be exploited.
So if it’s doom and gloom for their way of life, we are told that it’s doom and gloom for ours.
We’ll pull through this because we haven’t pursued technocratic, monetarist policies with the fervour that we did in the 1980s under the reforms of the Architect of Doom, Roger Douglas.
The last nine years have not been great under a government that failed to generate real growth in innovation or support small businesses that had potential to create national champions.
However they have also been less technocratic than the nine years before that.
National did some things in the 1990–9 term that interestingly paved the way for foreign direct investment that buoyed the start of the 21st century, admittedly going against what I have been saying is healthy for us. Yet the other indicators have been less optimistic, such as our failure to pay for free education, rising crime and a growing gap between rich and poor—things that Labour has failed to repair but at least it was aware of the problems. National was less aware back then.
Consequently, we have not been as exposed to foreign ﬁnancial woes as greatly as we could have been.
All we need to do now is wake up to these basic facts. Among ourselves, we can keep trade moving. And I know we can do it. After all, we haven’t had much support from government for a while anyway, so we’re used to ﬁxing our own problems. Posted by Jack Yan, 02:20
Fiction from The New York Times, courtesy the Yes Men
A prank edition of The New York Times, published by the Yes Men, had me going a bit earlier today.
After receiving a realistic looking release and knowing that 1·2 million copies had gone out in print, it was a heck of an expensive prank from the liberal group. But it worked.
My ﬁrst reaction on downloading the newspaper was: ‘Wishful thinking or a total departure from reality? Have the editors seen one too many Early Editions? Whatever the case, it’s an interesting marketing ploy and bound to generate discussions about the conﬁrmation of media bias, optimism for the Obama administration, the accusation that the new President is a quitter, that Jayson Blair was not the only journalist in a culture of creating ﬁction, that Republicans are humourless, and more.’
Until, of course, I realize one of life’s little ironies: as I have been on my high horse about believing stuff over the internet, a pretty realistic prank got me pretty good as I got phished on to the spoof site.
Here’s what the Yes Men had to say: ‘Hundreds of independent writers, artists, and activists are claiming credit for an elaborate project, 6 months in the making, in which 1.2 million copies of a “special edition” of the New York Times were distributed in cities across the U.S. by thousands of volunteers. …
‘The people behind the project are involved in a diverse range of groups, including The Yes Men, the Anti-Advertising Agency, CODEPINK, United for Peace and Justice, Not An Alternative, May First/People Link, Improv Everywhere, Evil Twin, and Cultures of Resistance.’
With hindsight, it’s all 20-20: the email even says it came from the Yes Men and on closer inspection, the typefaces aren’t even The New York Times’, though they come darned close. Close enough for a non-NYT reader to be fooled.
This edition goes on for 14 pp. including full-page advertisements.
I take my hat off to the Yes Men: an expensive exercise, great exposure for their point of view, and a fantastic (albeit short-lived) way to get blogosphere discussions going. Posted by Jack Yan, 21:37
When intellectuals are hazardous to your health
One of the reasons I advocate plain English in our consulting work, or got into media, or even into politics, is battling the pomposity and jargon that prevail—and attempt to be a substitute for true effort and thinking.
Other than typeface design, where people can see and judge the work clearly, most of the industries or endeavours I found myself in has this common thread.
So it was refreshing to be referred to Thomas Sowell in his discussion on intellectualism.
While Dr Sowell is associated with writing politically, often with a conservative bent, what he says makes a lot of sense. For years I read the Hoover Digest to share in his opinions. He points out that the most intellectual of presidents have not necessarily been the greatest contributors to their nation.
Similarly, we have seen some of the best marketed and promoted rebrands fail. Or, for that matter, some of the most hyped dot coms.
His conclusion is that groupthink plagues some of our most praised intellectuals: people who got their degrees through regurgitation, and by playing the establishment game to get themselves published in some of our academic journals.
Our other problem is the psuedo-intellectual: people who might appear to have the form at ﬁrst glance, but are clueless when it comes to real, critical thinking. They tend to lack intelligence, hence they have to cover it up. And there are many in politics who fall into this realm.
I may be spoiling Dr Sowell’s conclusion by citing it, but it is worth repeating: ‘But the ignorance of Ph.D.s is still ignorance and high-IQ groupthink is still groupthink, which is the antithesis of real thinking.’
It’s why conventional thinking will only ever work for some, and it’s usually those who have the dollars to back it. For many of us, unconventional thinking and ﬂanking work far better. And not burying your message in volumes of jargon is a useful ﬁrst step in making progress in any endeavour. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:50
Mike at Own Your Brand asked how things went for us at the General Election. Not brilliantly in that we did not secure seats, but I think it was important to at least get word out about our party, about the same-again nature of National, which voted for the same bills that people said they hated Labour for, and provide an alternative. It was a pity we faced a media blackout for the most part (for Americans: Nader and Barr got more coverage), and that many protest votes went to Bill & Ben, a party started by two celebrities from one of my favourite TV shows. I say roll on ’11, and in the meantime, we need to make sure PM-designate John Key keeps his word on being a centrist and not a far-right Morgan Stanley-alum technocrat, and that the Architect of Doom, Sir Roger Douglas, Friend of the Rich, has zero inﬂuence on our affairs.
Posted by Jack Yan, 05:54
Kevin Rudd’s stimulus package could create innovative cars
I congratulate Australian PM Kevin Rudd for announcing a A$6·2 billion stimulus package for the Australian car industry.
I have been following the industry for many years and predicted some of the shifts in companies there before they came to light.
And since I believe the next Ford Falcon will be a tweaked Mondeo and engineered in Köln while Ford Australia’s R&D will be used on adapting more humble models for the Asian market, a stimulus package that encourages the Big Three—GM, Ford and Toyota—to innovate and go green sends the right signals.
Australia has long innovated in the automotive industry but a lot of its contributions have not seen the light of day. With Rudd’s political will—as one would expect from any top–down approach of this sort—I am hoping that this time things will be different.
Doing the same old, same old will not help Australia and the 61,000 people employed by the motor industry—ﬁve per cent of Australian manufacturing’s workforce.
What Rudd wants to see are innovative alternatives to the petrol-driven internal combustion engine.
GM and Toyota will likely go to the hybrid route and Ford is looking at diesels and natural gas.
New Zealand was once a world leader in natural gas-powered cars and creating a national infrastructure for CNG and LPG, knowledge which I have always maintained could have given us a competitive advantage and export royalties and income.
Like so many things, I think Australia will show us what could have been as it uses its new technologies for those very reasons.
Countries like Red China are obsessed with regurgitating old technologies, which means that whatever lead Australia is able to create from the extra funds can be signiﬁcant as far as the Asia–Paciﬁc region is concerned.
With Ford Australia in particular developing for Asian markets, Australian-spearheaded technologies may ﬁnd their way across the region.
The concern I have is that these ideas will ultimately not be Australian-owned as the automakers are all foreign-owned. Australians need to remember that while Holden is referred to colloquially as ‘Australia’s own’, it hasn’t been that way since 1931. Detroit engineers even cooperated with Australian ones on the ﬁrst supposedly all-Australian Holden, the 48-215.
While it will keep some manufacturing in Australia and prove to the world that the R&D departments there are worth more than their parents realize, it’s not the same as all the proﬁts remaining in the country. However, if it encourages their parents to put more work Australia’s way than they currently do, then Rudd has achieved his aim and the $6 billion will ﬂow back into the country’s coffers.
Looking even more widely, Rudd’s injection could even change the face of motoring, making it more green globally, and that, too, must be worth it. I hope the Australians get even more creative than the plans they currently have on their drawing boards. Posted by Jack Yan, 08:41
What disease would you rather have than see Sir Roger Douglas get a ministerial post?
I’d go with malaria.
New Zealanders: please treat this as a meme. No rules, just spread this sucker. Inquiring minds wish to know. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:25
I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges (well, maybe one)
Even though I was able to crash the program (as I can usually crash most programs), getting a syntax error, the Twitter Grader still ranks me at 96, according to the badge that one can download:
Hmm. Well, like I said, I can crash any program. Ninety-six there, zero here.
I still cannot see the point of Twitter, but thanks to Simon Young I plugged in Twitterfeed, which sends my blog post titles to the service, giving me a higher total. It’s an easy way to participate in it without changing my habits—after all, technology is here to serve us, not the other way around. Posted by Jack Yan, 10:51
Quantum of Solace opening title appears on YouTube
I certainly do not condone piracy, which I feel is how this ﬁle came into existence, but on the other hand I am very interested in the MK12-designed opening title for the new James Bond ﬁlm, Quantum of Solace. I had read some less than stellar reviews about them, but I think directors Ben Radatz and Tim Fisher have done a very good job. If these titles stayed in the past, they will stagnate and MK12 has modernized them without losing the spirit set by Maurice Binder and Robert Brownjohn in the 1960s. Director Marc Forster, who chose MK12, made a good choice. I even like how they look typographically, with the use of the Chalet typeface and the reduction in leading.
PS.: I was totally wrong about the opening titles’ type, which is another problem with watching low-res YouTube videos. Custom job? Perhaps someone could enlighten me. But I certainly enjoyed the animated Os. End credits in Scala—not bad. Shame about the title cards announcing each location though. Some loved them but I was going, ‘Caslon is not Italian,’ ‘Futura is not Austrian,’ etc. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:46
A little too literal
This is not a dig at the person who said this, because we all have those ‘Duh’ moments in life. But it did make me wonder if we should publish our full email addresses on our companies’ sites.
Last week, a nice lady called me and wondered why messages from her company were not getting through to me on email. She asked, ‘Is your address ﬁ[email protected]?’
‘They don’t seem to be getting through.’
I asked how she spelt my name and then it dawned on us that they were literally typing ﬁ[email protected].
So, the villains that Hedley Lamarr hired to attack Rock Ridge were not atypical when they repeated verbatim, ‘I … your name … pledge allegiance …’
Posted by Jack Yan, 23:15
Vote for change you can believe in
And remember, National voted for: the legalization of prostitution, the anti-satire rules in Parliament, the anti-smacking law, and the free-trade deal with China.
John Key even refused to meet with HH the Dalai Lama when he came to New Zealand.
A vote for National and ACT means the return of Sir Roger Douglas, the man whose cold, anti-humanist free-market ideas saw to our drop in the OECD, the increase in food bank numbers, and the widening gap between rich and poor.
Whomever you vote for, vote for real change today.
Minor parties can be a moderating inﬂuence on the major ones, to keep them in check and to keep everyday New Zealanders like you and me at the top of their minds.
Of course I am running for the Alliance but you need to make up your mind on who is best for your values. But I can bet you it won’t be a major party. And of the minors, I can bet you it won’t be ACT. Posted by Jack Yan, 23:32
Think about your vote on Saturday
I didn’t rehearse this and it was totally off the cuff, but since I am still coughing, there was a bit of editing. It’s my little MP3 about going to vote, and why Labour and National are bad choices for voters wanting a change. There is a recorded disclaimer in case it is regarded as an election advertisement but I still believe it to be my opinion. You can download this MP3 at this link. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:23
Gov. Palins hatchet-job reveals more about GOP than her
I’ve been having a think about the hatchet-job that Gov. Sarah Palin is getting, surprisingly, from the Murdoch Press, speciﬁcally its Fox News Channel arm. Considering that she was championed by this network after her selection by the party (over Sen. McCain’s own choice of Sen. Joe Lieberman, who even my Democratic friends felt would have been a better choice to win moderate voters), the about-face shows a level of deceit either now, or before, by the media company.
While there may have been some gentlemen’s agreement over concealing this information till after the election, I don’t think I have seen the Murdoch Press go after a political ﬁgure in quite this fashion since Hard Copy did its exposés on Sen. Ted Kennedy in the late 1980s. (Exaggeration acknowledged.)
To be fair, even Newsweek, on the left, has kept mum about matters till now, and I imagine other media outlets have done the same in order to maintain their access to the candidates.
We are hearing some things about the Democrats and we now know that then-Sen. Obama wasn’t above swearing, but overall the post-mortem, even in the conservative press, has been relatively muted about the winning side.
But not against Gov. Sarah Palin.
It also shows a disloyalty within the Republican Party that is not becoming of it, if it wishes to be seen as a party that was unjustly cheated out of the election this week.
In 2000, Democrats could point to the recount process in Florida and the alliance between the state’s Attorney-General Katherine Harris and the Republican Party as having taken the presidency from Al Gore.
This time, the divide that has occurred might leave Republicans thinking that the disunity in the party cost them the election, and they were beaten by Democrats who hid their divisions better. They may fairly and rightly point to the media as being complicit in giving Sen. Obama a free ride, just as Conservatives in Britain could in 1997, but the reality may be that there was something rotten within the GOP.
I can’t believe campaign aides and workers coming out and breaching a level of trust by revealing such details as Gov. Palin coming to greet them in a towel, and having this make the news pages.
Even the supposed hatred by Sen. Clinton’s campaigners for Sen. Obama stayed relatively under the radar, either by a cooperative liberal media or by a sense of loyalty to the Democratic Party.
We’re hearing news of the Governor’s tantrums and that the $150,000 shopping spree may have been more expensive than ﬁrst thought.
This is a personal attack on her that shows party workers who can’t maintain any sense of dignity and trust.
Importantly, you do not see someone of the standing and decency of Sen. John McCain rubbish his running-mate.
If this division has been inspired by higher-ups in the Republican Party, then Americans might be fortunate that this version of the GOP did not get into power on November 4.
One may argue that it is our right to know, and maybe it is. But the pace of this so-called knowledge being disseminated points to a party that is acting out sour grapes and playing the blame game a little too soon, and I ﬁnd it troubling.
Every party says it will regroup after a loss. It is fair to note that the loss that the Republicans suffered was in fact very small, given how they were outspent by the Democrats to such a degree. At this stage, I do not think there will be much re-evaluation of where it will lead, because I am not sure if the Party itself realizes where it wishes to head. It may need to rebrand much later, but for now, it hasn’t been able to protect its own from this onslaught—and may well have caused it. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:12
Barack Obama is president-elect: now what?
Earlier this year, I held out great hope for Sen. Barack Obama amongst attacks from Sen. Hillary Clinton. I felt some of the attacks were racist. And in a multicultural United States, there was no room for that.
The same motive saw me pointing out that there were elements about the free ride that the American mainstream media were giving Sen. Obama once he became the Democratic candidate for the presidency.
I have always desired a fair ﬁght, even if I have put my own name forward as a candidate for a political party with ﬁrm views.
Now that Sen. John McCain has conceded, and that we can now refer to ‘President-elect Obama’ till Inauguration Day, one might wonder: what now?
The president-elect has given some hints already in an excellent speech. He sees himself as a uniting ﬁgure.
Just as Sen. McCain’s concession speech was classy and heartfelt, President-elect Obama attempted to reach out. He paid tribute, as did Sen. McCain, to the rival campaign.
He hinted that the racial barrier had been shattered. He was more speciﬁc about his desire to end partisanship, and was speciﬁc about wishing to extend a hand in friendship to peace-loving nations.
The internationalist speech of the president-elect included the ‘forgotten’ nations who were listening to his speech over the radio, a recognition that not every nation is as fortunate as the United States in its standard of living.
In trade-mark fashion, President-elect Obama gave a hopeful speech.
His opponents might well seize upon his hand of friendship to foreign nations as troubling, but one would expect that the president-elect may be more pragmatic. He issued a warning to the US’s enemies. He certainly was more centrist in his speech than some might have expected.
Over the last half-year or more I have been corresponding privately with William Shepherd, a public relations’ expert in California. And I do not think I am revealing any conﬁdences when I say that we both see Sen. Obama’s victory as historical.
I see this as the beginning of the end of colour being an excuse: all youth, and I do not refer exclusively to African–Americans, but even those of my own race who are American-born, who perceived a glass ceiling to the presidency can be inspired by his example. Once upon a time, there might have been apathy.
Certainly there has always been a perception of my own race being apolitical, but one glance at the 2008 General Election’s party lists in New Zealand reveals some east Asian names, and some south Asian ones, too.
America moved a little closer to being a true democracy today, one that no longer excludes a person from the White House because of one’s colour. Its next step is to break the gender barrier.
It has been over a century since President Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to the White House, and even longer since African–Americans gave their lives in the Civil War for a country they loved as much as Caucasian–Americans. A lot of the pain and sacriﬁce of the Civil War became worthwhile in this election. I hope he will heal as effectively as he has spoken and it is time to build a decent Cabinet.
While this victory is signiﬁcant, will he still be as effective years on? Britain elected Tony Blair in 1997 on a promise of change, a major keyword of his campaign, but no real speciﬁcs on how to get the job done. And the roots of its ﬁnancial troubles can be found in the government releasing control over the Bank of England soon after that victory. Blair was a charismatic speaker. But he left ofﬁce under a cloud.
I still have a few troubling thoughts over his running-mate, whom I was concerned about even before his selection; and other senior Democrats who have not been that helpful to the president-elect.
There is still the matter of a lack of transparency over some elements of the Obama–Biden campaign that I have highlighted on my blogs.
No candidate is perfect. Sen. McCain has ﬂip-ﬂopped on numerous issues during the campaign: his ﬁrst reaction to the housing crisis was letting laissez-faire economics sort it out. Later he talked about buying up mortgages. Gov. Palin may have had more executive experience, but she confronted more than her fair share of critics and sexism. If there was a McCain victory tonight, there would equally be question marks, but with the obvious difference of true sacriﬁce for his nation.
Now is time for President-elect Obama to begin outlining a few more speciﬁcs. His cabinet choices will begin showing just how true his promise of change will be. It will be disappointing if he appoints “business as usual” Democrats. He has had some good advisers during the campaign, from many sectors, and it is time to tap into their knowledge.
I agree with both the president-elect and with Sen. McCain when they asked their supporters to place nation before partisanship. The people have spoken, and America may begin to heal. In the US, the twenty-ﬁrst century truly started today. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:23
Renault, Chrysler call off talksthat isn’t good news for workers
As guessed, the negotiations between Renault and Cerberus, the private equity company that owns Chrysler, have ceased.
The deal would have seen more jobs preserved as Renault does not have much of a manufacturing base in North America other than its Nissan plants.
The problem, as far as I can see, is that Renault doesn’t have a ﬁnancial arm. Cerberus would love to get its hands on GMAC, GM’s credit company, even if Moody’s rates the long-term ratings at junk status.
Bugger American jobs: at the executive level, what Cerberus sees a corporate ﬁt between its own operations and GMAC. GM sees a way of eliminating certain competing models and keep Jeep and the minivans. That’s bad news for the workers.
It’s a cinch that the majority of Chrysler models will die if GM and Chrysler got together, and plenty of the workforce will go, too.
Models such as the PT Cruiser, developed as a Plymouth, are after their sell-by date, and the Sebring and Avenger have never really been that good to begin with.
Through mismanagement under DaimlerChrysler AG for many years, the Chrysler brand has ceased to mean much and would not survive. Dodge conﬂicts too much with Pontiac’s performance image, though it could still work on trucks and on the Viper for as long as people buy it. But they may disappear as marques within GM just as AMC (renamed Eagle) did within Chrysler.
The result is that the combined ﬁrm won’t see a need to carry on with so many plants and so many workers. The Murdoch Press estimates the number of lay-offs could be as high as 200,000. And the multiplier effect that any ﬁrst-year economics student will tell you about says that that isn’t good news for the US economy. Posted by Jack Yan, 05:25
I’m standing for the Alliance
Above, some of my fellow candidates speak on why they are standing for the Alliance Party, as I am.
The important thing about politics these days is not so much capitalism versus socialism, but the values of transparency, humanism and reciprocity (between citizenry and government). Which party is willing to exhibit them, and live their brand?
As I said to a friend of mine in the US, capitalism only works when transparency is present; its greatest failures (the crashes of 1987 and 2008) have been due to a lack of transparency. The derivatives market is all about covering up the security of tradeable risks.
I am a believer that the argument over left and right is well over and that in many nations the distinction is no longer meaningful. This is true in the US, with all presidential candidates largely on the right (by international standards). Here, too, the major parties are right-wing. The important thing for government to realize is that some enterprise must take shape with national support, but this does not necessarily mean pure capitalism. Public–private partnerships have yielded superb results in many nations: Hong Kong and Singapore are excellent examples.
New Zealand was the poster boy for the freest markets in the world in the 1980s and 1990s, far freer in most respects excepting healthcare and education than what the US has seen. Even prisoner transportation is done privately here.
It is very clear that monetarism has failed this country in terms of standard of living (dropping in the OECD) and social stability (murder rate and crime are up, and the rich–poor gap has widened). But the exact opposite is anathema, too. Thinking about life and government in terms of left and right should be restricted to textbooks only.
Transparency, humanism and reciprocity are the three qualities that grew the Asian tigers, from what I can see; ditto the growth of China during the Sung Dynasty, and even New Zealand in the 1950s when we led (or were among the top of) the charts on standard of living (with single-digit unemployment). The monolith of Labour–National cannot see this, and it seems that only the smaller parties do. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:59
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