Posts tagged ‘politics’


Half an hour is a long time in politics

20.07.2022

Hat tip to Johnnie Moore for this one, on Twitter earlier today.


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I’m not the Jack Yan running for mayor of Toronto

11.07.2022


 
As far as coincidences go, this was unexpected.

To readers from Toronto, and anyone else emailing me about this, I’m not the guy running for mayor there.

I realize I’m way more likely to come up in searches for my name and for my name with mayor or mayoral candidate, since my namesake doesn’t appear to have much of a digital trail yet.

If you’re the Toronto mayoral candidate, please get in touch. I have a domain name you might be interested in. English and French spoken. (Which no doubt will add to the confusion.)
 
PS.: My namesake now has his website up. Head here to visit it. Some decent policies here!


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They’re brainwashed by the cult of Boris, so the next Tory leader will be an ideologue

10.07.2022

Sean O’Grady puts into his opinion piece what so many of us have said. He does it far better than I could.

They backed Johnson through the Dominic Cummings scandal, through the resignations of two ethics advisers, through the scandal of a party donor paying for the decoration of his flat, through the mishandling of the pandemic and the mismanaging of Brexit with a rotten deal, Partygate and law breaking, an unlawful prorogation of parliament and breaking treaties and international law, allegedly trying to get Carrie a £100,000 job and Wilfred a £150,000 treehouse, depriving kids of free school dinners … and much, much more …

So it’s not just Johnson who’s morally compromised, but the whole Tory party, with rare exceptions. They are all guilty men and women because they voted for him, campaigned for him, sustained him, lied for him and generally disgraced themselves and the country in the process. They were all members of the cult of Boris, and they knew exactly what he was.

They didn’t care because he was a winner. He hasn’t suddenly turned nasty – he was like this since about the age of eight. He’s outlived his usefulness to them, but if they thought the devil incarnate could win them the next election they’d be signing his nomination papers right now. Parties tend to get the leaders they deserve.

Sunak, Javid and others are in no position to be preaching about integrity. If seeing the monarch mourn her husband whilst sitting alone due to COVID-19 restrictions at the same time Johnson partied at his ‘work event’ didn’t concern them, are we to believe that they are one bit concerned about sexual assault? Pull the other one.

If the Tories are smart, they’ll go for someone well outside this band of muppets. But as O’Grady also states, ‘Your next PM, like Johnson, will be chosen by about 90,000 mostly elderly, reactionary and unrepresentative members of the Conservative Party.’ In such cases, name recognition and familiarity will decide the next leader. Sadly, that’s unlikely to be anyone from the moderate wing of the Conservative Party. That is now a minority.

Will they promote a better culture than Johnson did? Possibly. If they have some sense of organization and leadership. But that alone is not going to fix the UK’s problems. Ideologues should not come before pragmatists, but it’s hard to see any other outcome given what the Conservative Party has become.


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My notes from RNZ’s The Panel, Wednesday, June 22

25.06.2022


I write notes for my appearances on RNZ’s The Panel, and while I don’t read them verbatim, they are useful for copying and pasting into this blog afterwards. (Anyone who has ever attended a conference where I’ve spoken might find this familiar: I’ll upload the notes but they aren’t a word-for-word reflection of what I said.)

Last Wednesday’s notes for ‘I’ve been thinking’ are:

I’ve been thinking that we pay our politicians a lot, and in some cases we get value for money. But I want politicians to be pragmatists, not ideologues. No government is perfect, and ours isn’t. When ours makes mistakes, what does the opposition do? Spout more ideology, rather than do the hard yards and genuinely figure out how to fix things. There are some incredibly able MPs in National, some of whom I know well. Yet they’re not the loudmouths who get press. Why are we giving these folks air time when they don’t do their homework, don’t have basic awareness of Kiwi political history, and what makes economies work? Why do some media talking heads fawn over them, looking at them doey-eyed like Stephen Colbert looks at Jacinda Ardern? I thought by the time you’re 25 you have a reasonable understanding of actions and consequences, and spouting ideology in the hope that a little gaslighting might fool voters isn’t going to swing this swing voter. George Gair, whose politics were similar to my own, would not recognize his party, and neither do I.

You can find the three parts here on the RNZ website: the pre-Panel, part one, and part two. Wallace and Sally were in the Auckland studio, while I was in the Wellington one, trying not to change Kathryn Ryan’s desk set-up. I have to say Wallace is a very capable host as he knows I can’t see them, so he’ll give me little nudges where I can chime in. It was nice to be back on after six months and hopefully I kept up the notion that RNZ National is for the thinking New Zealander.


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Political coverage is not based around merit

15.06.2022

How fascinating. Eight years ago, I had high hopes for this Christopher Luxon, according to this blog. Who knew that as a politician, the guy would really let me down?

I Tweeted:

The reality is I see a guy who doesn’t have a full grasp of the issues at hand, spouting soundbites that fail to satisfy any real analysis, yet media are giving him an easy ride.

I’ve recorded my gripes with how some media cover politics before—and I reflect on how suited my 2010-campaign policies, authored in 2009, could have placed this city in such a great position for the pandemic—and once again, we realize that coverage is not meritorious.

In some cases, it will be down to the limited intellect of the journalist or editor to grasp the issues at hand (can I name some names!), and I believe in other cases, there is an editorial slant that proprietors want (and hire accordingly).

We saw it with Tony Blair in 1997 (‘Change’; ‘New Labour, new Britain’), and we’re seeing it again.

I tend to vote for people who do the hard yards, and this bloke isn’t the knight in shining armour that many thought he was. The likes of George Gair would not recognize this National Party.


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Where democratizing technology got the better of us

13.02.2022

From the start, I’ve been a supporter of the democratization of design. Everyone has the right to access it, because fundamentally good design is something that makes the world a better place. A lot of websites are founded on this, such as Shopify, which has enough flexibility to give most of the stores we visit a unique look. Wordpress’s templates are generally good lookers that take into account the latest trends. There’s an entire industry out there making templates and skins. And, it has to be said, most social media have reasonably good looking interfaces, so people can feel a sense of pride after they’ve posted that they’ve shared text or a photo that has been presented well.

It’s quite perplexing when you confront some other facts. People will judge the credibility of a website by how good it looks (among other criteria). People can also become addicted to social media, and they’re designed to be addictive. And as design democratizes, it’s only natural that the less educated (and I don’t necessarily mean in a formal sense), those who are not trained to discern fact from fiction, will have access to the same technology and present their work as capably and as attractively as anyone else.

It would be wrong to deny this, just as it would be wrong to deny access to technology or good design because we disagreed with someone’s political views or their beliefs, even ones we might find distasteful. The key must be to bring social awareness and education up to a point that there’s no appeal to engage in behaviour that’s harmful to society at large. By all means, be individual, and question. We should have ways in which this can be done meaningfully—one might argue this is done in the corridors of power, as anyone in a good, functioning democracy can stand for office. But in countries with low trust in institutions, or those infected by forces that want to send nations into corporatist fascism, there has to be something that balances the wild west of the online world, one that has marched so far one way without the structures to support it. We have, in effect, let the technology get the better of us. There is no agreed forum online where tempers can be abated, and because we have encouraged such individualist expression, it is doubtful whether some egos can take it. We have fooled ourselves into thinking our own selfies on social media have the same value as a photo taken by the press for a publication. As such, fewer can lead, because no one wants to play second fiddle.

These are confusing times, though the key must be education. It is often the answer. Keeping education up with the technology so our young people can see and understand the forces at play. Give them a sense of which corporations are wielding too much influence. Teach them how to discern a legitimate story from a fictionalized one. Teach them how the economy really works—not just the theory but how the theory has been hijacked.

This can’t wait till university: it has to be taught as early as possible. If today’s kids are bringing their devices to school, then it’s never too early to make them aware of how some online content is questionable. Tell them just why social media are addictive and why they can’t open accounts on the big sites till they’re 13. In fact, tell them how the social media companies’ bosses actually don’t let their own kids use the services, because deep down they know they’re bad for them.

If they know from a young age why some things are harmful—in the same way we were told that cigarettes were, or to say no to drugs—then hopefully they can steer clear of calls on social networks funded by parties who seek to divide us for their own gain.
 
There’ll be a delay in having a gallery on this blog this month as a dear friend is helping me migrate our sites off an old AWS instance. He doesn’t wish to be named. But I am deeply thankful to him.

The data have already been shifted off this server. At this rate I will have to repost this on the new box once the domain is set up. Reposting a gallery might just be a bit tricky, so there mightn’t be one for February 2022, depending on when my friend can get to this domain.


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Targets painted, opposition misses again

03.12.2021

Our government’s response to COVID-19 has been better than many nations’, but it is far from perfect, as Ian Powell points out in a well reasoned blog post, and in his article for Business Desk. It’s backed up by a piece by Marc Daalder for Newsroom. To me, Powell’s piece makes a great deal of sense, and for those who feel the new system feels, instinctively, politically driven, then they are right. He says, inter alia:

At the time I thought that the traffic lights system had been initiated by the Ministry of Health (experts outside the Ministry were not supportive). Subsequently, however, according to senior Health Ministry officials privately, it came from the Prime Minister’s department.
   This helps explain the working it out as you go along approach that is causing confusion among many. Jacinda Ardern’s claim of the system being world leading is overcooked.

   He cites Daalder, who writes:

While the outbreak was expected to have a long tail, the Government fully intended to return to zero cases and even to maintain an elimination status after reopening the borders in 2022.
   Just two weeks later, Cabinet threw in the towel on elimination.

   We know that the government is working on overdrive through this whole pandemic, but it seems there are areas where the experts are being overridden.
   But what does our opposition do? Instead of firing at the targets that Powell and Daalder have helpfully revealed, new leader Christopher Luxon repeats the ad nauseam cries of his predecessors to open up, to put Auckland into the “green”. Any expectation that National had found pragmatism with its new leadership vanished in smoke mere days after Luxon took the helm.
   This is the identical complaint I have over Sir Phony Blair over in the UK with not only missing the targets painted on the Tories by themselves, but turning 180 degrees and firing the other way.
   We need an opposition that holds a government to account but it seems Luxon, who bafflingly refers to Simon Bridges as having ‘intellectual heft’, might be yet another ideologue, importing more of the same but in more hidden, calm language than his predecessor.
   Are there any pragmatists left in politics, or is everyone following ideology these days?


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The post-Panel podcast

16.11.2021

Taking some of the themes today on RNZ’s The Panel with Wallace Chapman (pre-Panel here, part one of the show here, and part two here), I offer a bit more commentary. Today’s topics: the COVID-19 mandate for schools; quitting drinking; Finland planning to let people see others’ salaries; the level of spending above New Zealand Superannuation; Countdown’s toy gifts; and the multi-modal commuter.

   Big thanks to Amelia, Wallace and Julia today for a very enjoyable hour and 15 minutes!
   Please note that this podcast is not affiliated with Radio New Zealand—this has been done of my own volition and from my own inspiration.


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John’s on first

27.08.2021

Bill Owen posted the above, and I replied in this thread on Twitter.

‘John’s on first, John John’s on second, John’s on third.’

‘Who’s on first?’

‘John.’

‘The guy on first.’

‘John.’

‘But that’s the guy on third.’

‘One base at a time!’

‘I’m only asking you, who’s the guy on first?’

‘John.’

‘I don’t want to know third! Who’s on first?’

‘John.’

‘So John’s on first now? Who’s on third?’

‘John.’

‘But you just changed the players around!’

‘I’m not changing nobody!’

‘You’re saying there’s one player on two bases! It’s John! John!’

‘He’s on second.’

‘Who’s on second?’

‘John John.’

‘What? John’s the name of the guy on second base?’

‘No, John’s on first.’

‘But John’s on third.’

‘He is.’

‘He can’t be on both! Which base is John on?’

‘Which one?’

‘Yes.’

‘Which one?’

‘I just asked, which base is John on?’

‘Tell me which one!’

‘I’m asking you!’


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Facebook continues to give in to fake accounts, much like the UK with COVID-19

10.07.2021

At the beginning of July I noticed Facebook had changed its reporting options. Gone is the option labelled ‘Fake account’, replaced by ‘Harmful or spam’. It’s a small change that, I believe, is designed to get Facebook off the hook for failing to remove fake accounts: since you can’t report them, then you can’t say they’ve failed to take them down.

   Except, if you choose ‘Harmful or spam’, Facebook does acknowledge that your report is for a fake account:

   Of course they’re harmful. Harmful to us regular people who have to pay more and more money to reach our human supporters since the fakes command an increasing amount of fans on our pages, for instance. It isn’t harmful for Facebook’s revenue or Zuckerberg’s wealth. So it really depends how you define harmful; one would imagine that a competent court would define it from a consumer’s point of view.
   Their new group policy, where Facebook has also given up against the bot epidemic, letting fake accounts join public groups, is a disaster. As you can see, the majority of new members to one group I oversee—and where I usually get tips to new bot accounts—are fakes. They’ve used scripts to join. It’s a bit of a giveaway when there are brand-new accounts joining groups before they’ve even made friends. The legit names have been pixellated; the fakes I’ve left for you to see.

   It’s not as bad as, say, giving up on the people who elected you to run the country and letting COVID-19 do whatever it wants, killing citizens in the process. But it comes from the same dark place of putting people second and lining your pockets first—Mark Zuckerberg does it, Robert Mugabe did it, etc. Distract and plunder.
   In The Guardian:

Boris Johnson will revoke hundreds of Covid regulations and make England the most unrestricted society in Europe from 19 July despite saying new cases could soar to 50,000 a day before masks and social distancing are ditched.

   In fact, one Tweeter jokingly showed his interpretation of the UK’s COVID alert levels:

   On this, let our own Prof Michael Baker have the last word. Also in The Guardian, which I shared three days ago on Mastodon:

   Baker said public health professionals were “disturbed” by the UK’s return to allowing Covid to circulate unchecked, and that the phrase “living with it” was a “meaningless slogan” that failed to communicate the consequences of millions of infections, or the alternative options for managing the virus.
   “We often absorb a lot of our rhetoric from Europe and North America, which have really managed the pandemic very badly,” he said. “I don’t think we should necessarily follow or accept Boris Johnson and co saying: “Oh, we have to learn to live with virus.’
   “We always have to be a bit sceptical about learning lessons from countries that have failed very badly.”

   We really need to be confident of our own position on this. There are too many, especially those propelled by foreign forces with their friends in the foreign-owned media, advocating that we follow other Anglophone countries—probably because they lack either intelligence, imagination, pride, or empathy. I’ve spent a good part of my career saying, ‘Why should we follow when we can lead?’


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