Friday, September 26, 2014

Election and Labour reckons...

Around the 2012 US Presidential Elections (while I was working in the Labour Leader’s Office), I took a holiday to the United States. Somehow I found myself at a debate watch party for the first debate between Romney and Obama in Denver (where the first debate was being held, which Obama bombed) with a bunch of youngish Republicans. One guy asked me, “So you work for the Labour Party in New Zealand – that’s the equivalent of being a Democrat right?” My response was, “Well actually, the ‘right wing’ party in our country is arguably more left wing than the Democrats here, and I work for our ‘left wing’ party, which is too right wing for me.” He was confused and I think he definitely thought I was more dangerous than a communist.

What this story shows is “the left” and “the right” is pretty arbitrary. It makes a difference which country you are in, what the political climate is, what the economic climate is, and at what point and time you are speaking. There’s been much discussion about National’s lurch to the right to increase support after their 2002 showing and the need for Labour to do the same. People have all sorts of ideas about “what Labour should do”. A friend of mine told me that Labour needed to focus more on “the economy”. When I pressed him harder as to what he means by “the economy”, he didn’t seem to have an answer. So let’s make one thing clear:
  • Poverty and income inequality IS a product of the so-called “economy”.
  • Housing crisis IS a product of the “economy”.
  • Inability to access adequate healthcare IS a product of the “economy”.
  • Inability to access higher education of choice IS a product of the “economy”.
  • Employment opportunities limited to part-time or low-wage IS a product of the “economy”.
  • Climate change effects are a direct result of actions taken in the name of the “economy”.
  • The privatization of law enforcement and access to the justice is an “economic” decision.
  • Even mass surveillance is presented as necessary to protection our “economic” interests.

There are many more but in essence, the difference between public good and the protection of private interests is ALWAYS about the economy. The question is, whether a government should engage in the former or the latter? I see no evidence that National won because of “the economy”. I do however, believe that they have successfully presented themselves as good managers of “the economy” and that’s what won them the election. They didn’t need to have a policy; not having a policy WAS their policy. Perhaps we as a nation no longer believe that Government should intervene in “the economy” because all of the things I have mentioned above are not associated with “the economy”.

Let’s go back to the story I told you at the beginning of this post. You might be wondering, if Labour doesn’t reflect your political views, then why would you work for them? I not only worked for them but I’ve also voted for them – party and electorate. I have also voted for other parties and candidates from other parties. I’m not a member of the Labour Party and I don’t feel I have to always vote for them. BUT, and this is a big but (not butt), I am generally a pragmatic person. After I left Labour, I worked in the public service of NZ under a National government – it wasn’t the end of the world for me. If I were to talk one of those compass tests, I would bet that it would tell me to vote Greens or Maori Party. Because I put a lot of emphasis on environmental and indigenous issues. I also care a lot about civil rights and social justice so Labour would be up there too. But truthfully as much as I love Greens policy, I don’t see them mastering enough support of the nation to be running this country so when I do/did vote for them it is usually tactical.

The way that Labour MPs behaved last week was absolutely despicable. They essentially told all Labour voters that they were lying this whole time. That they didn’t support their leader and that they didn’t support the policies they campaigned on. That the entire campaign was a self-interested endeavor to get Ministerial positions. It was wholly unprofessional. (This obviously doesn’t apply to the MPs who managed to keep their mouth shut.)

The fact that:
  1. They obviously knew that Labour would lose the election and did not have a post-election messaging strategy is a failure of the leadership.
  2. David Cunliffe didn’t manage to unite the caucus and garner their support is also a failure of his leadership.
  3. Labour and Greens weren’t presented as an alternative government is a failure of both parties. (Note: I said parties not leadership)
  4. Labour isn’t united internally is not going to change just by changing leadership.
  5. The failure is being attributed to identity politics or far left policy is insulting to those who have supported Labour for addressing those very issues.

As it stands, I have no one to vote for in 2017. Greens election results is troubling to me. It is also interesting to me that their ‘failures’ haven’t been translated to a leadership failure whereas Labour’s ‘failure’ has. The Labour caucus is deeply divided and the actions of some of the MPs on Sunday morning also left me troubled. That they couldn’t stand behind their leader after his pretty impressive debate showing and a campaign that was extremely volatile was disappointing to me. Labour MPs should take responsibility for their policy position collectively. It isn’t like David Cunliffe held a gun to their head. I know for a fact that this so called “lurch to the left” is not just a DC position.  I say “so-called” because it really isn’t a lurch to the left. Labour’s policy positions are a reflection of where the government has been – ie largely a response to this Government’s policies. National have cherry picked when they go left and when they go right and on issues they have gone slightly to the left has inevitably forced Labour to mimic that movement.

I am not going to presume to know the answer. I don’t know the answer. Those who presume to know the answer are kidding themselves. But any answer, I believe, should be based on reflection and evidence. Show me the data and not just your frustrated outbursts. The next three years will be interesting. Some believe we have already handed National their fourth term. Those people ought to be proven wrong. I myself am going to think some more. There will be posts here and elsewhere but for the sake of my degree I will be off Twitter for a tiny little bit. 

My final thought is that the Labour Caucus should consider having open dialogue with each other and coming to some kind of understanding of support and compassion for each other’s position. There are a lot of personalities and points of views, which is good. But their anger and denigration of each other not only hurts the party but is costing the country. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A sexy three-step guide to voting

1. Ignore policy: Yes, everyone wants to assert their superiority complex by talking about policy and the economy but really what’s the point? You know what Labour stands for broadly and you know what National stands for broadly. That hasn’t changed and it aint gonna change anytime soon. If a party all of a sudden has a big idea, then maybe we could focus on that. Asset sales – that was National’s big idea. Except they did it in the 90s, so whatever. Capital Gains Tax – that’s Labour’s big idea – pretty much a no-brainer given our housing market. National would implement it if it hadn’t backed itself into a stupid corner by virtue of John Key. Whether you are a single issue voter or a multi policy stud, I say you go with your gut but don’t vote on an empty stomach. Hangry voting is like hangry grocery shopping. But let’s be honest here, you are not going to look at party manifestos, you aren’t going to go watch interviews and Parlmentary speeches, you aren’t going to make a pro-con list. You are going to go with what you have heard and seen while browsing at work. And that is ok. It’s ok to vote National because you think John Key is a swell guy. It’s ok to vote Labour because David Cunliffe’s Harvard education appeals to your sapiosexuality (might be a real word). It’s ok to vote Greens because you think Metiria is really cool. It’s ok to vote Internet-Mana because they are a flash new toy and you are curious. It’s ok to vote ACT because you pride yourself on being a heartless libertarian. It’s ok to vote CrayCons (Colin Craig's Conservative Party) because you like hitting children. Wait… that’s not ok. Nope. Not ok at all. I don’t know why anyone would vote for them. Seriously.

2. Strategery: That’s not a real word. That’s a G W Bush word. But I like that word a lot. Anyway, moving on. We live in a MMP world. We have to break ourselves free from the prudish FPP outlook on our electoral life and embrace the free-spirit world of MMP. You no longer have to subscribe to the monoga-vote (also not a real word) but you have the freedom to biga-vote (not a real word, but should be). Two votes! At the same time! Sexy! Think about what you are trying to get out of your vote. In some electorates, it will be a straightforward two ticks. But in some places, you could get adventurous. Consider it. Think about the boring voters in Cluth-Southland and their lack of choices. Election after election, it's the same two ticks. Boooooring. If you are on the social conservative or ‘libertarian’ side you have to think about whether or not you should give your party vote to the CrayCons (Colin Craig’s Conservative Party) or ACT. Will Epsom get David Seymour in? Will the CrayCons get to the 5% threshold? It’s anyone’s guess really. Trust the polls? It almost feels like Game Theory here. What will the other prisoners do? If you are on the left, you may have to consider voting for a National candidate in a place like Epsom. Scary. But strategery. What is the end game here for you?

3. Have fun: Whether you go to the polls on election day or you choose advance voting – have fun. Take your kids. Take your friends. Get a coffee. You are exercising your democratic right that many people in this world still don’t have. There are people who literally risk being beat up as they go to the polls.  Even if you subscribe to that school of thought that says “your vote doesn’t count” – who cares? It might count, it might not but you have a teeny tiny role to play in choosing who governs this country. Make it fun. You don’t have to vote National or Labour – there are all these other parties unlike the United States where people have to choose between 'really horrible' and 'kind of bad' candidates. The government makes laws that govern every aspect of your life. You might as well try to put in some constraints. Tick those circles! We may end up with 9 political parties in the 51st Parliament - SUCH FUN! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Something is rotten in the state of New Zealand

So while I was sleeping Nicky Hager’s book was launched in Wellington today. While you were sleeping I had to write down my thoughts. I did not expect it to be a sequel to the Hollow Men but so it was. I guess the proverbial “Fool me once…” is in order. I won’t get to read this book for a long time and I expect most of the book will be traversed in detail in the next few weeks by those who do. Once thing that was very evident to me from the preface and the information that is out there is that now we know why Judith Collins was never sacked.  If "the machine" was engaging in this level of unethical behavior just to win elections can you imagine the kind of dirt they have on each other? It is well known that WO and Judith Collins are close, I hate to think what they have over John Key that makes him so powerless when it comes to her. Some of the excerpts are truly frightening to me.

"the prime minister’s office used its knowledge of secret SIS documents to tip off Slater" from website.

I was working for the Labour Leader’s Office during and leading up to the 2011 election. This is extraordinary! Surely this needs independent investigation because it is a major breach. I'm not even sure that we will ever know the extent of the abuse. It is well known that political operatives in the Beehive go out of their way to make sure their actions are not OIA-able. But I don’t see how the investigation could happen while John Key is still PM. I would not have confidence in any such investigation! This alone means that he can no longer stay. 

“They include persistent attacks on Labour Party politicians, attacks that consciously set out to distract, wear down or demoralise them rather than trying to debate issues or win a political argument…”

Well that tactic certainly worked during the 2011 election. I remember that very well because I worked through those days for Labour. 

"how our defences as a society (news media, electoral laws and so on) are inadequate to protect the public."

This right here terrifies me the most. We misplaced our faith in the idea that New Zealand is the least corrupted country. We were fooled by the beauty and the simplicity of our small nation in the thinking that nothing bad ever happens here. Time and time again we are proven wrong but our faith in our own goodness means that people who do want to take advantage can and do take that advantage. Some practical solutions: OIA needs urgent reform, political donations need to be far more transparent, our law enforcement agencies needs to reigned in, and we need to restore civil service neutrality. Everything to me right now reeks of undue influence and abuse of power. 

I’ve been referred to as a hack (because I worked for Labour). It is well established that I sit on the left of the political spectrum. Despite never been a member of any political party and despite having multiple combinations of the two ticks in the last three elections I will always be seen as Labour. An yet this book gives me no joy. No solace. I feel no glee. Hager says:

"This is a technique originally from US republican politics...."

How can anything borrowed from US Republicans be good for New Zealand? Have we as a nation not been watching the destruction of political goodwill in America precisely because of these kind of tactics? The apathy, the anger, the misinformed choices? Do we want that as a country? It is clear to me that our politicians don’t really care about good governance. They are motivated by power and wielding that power for personal gain. Finally this –

“Journalists have suspected these activities but the evidence has been hard to find.”

Well I guess it didn’t come up when John Roughan was writing that biography. It didn’t come up when they were actively spreading rumours about Labour Party donations. It didn’t come up when they had to actively denyusing Government agencies to find out how they knew how many times Winston visited Kim Dotcom. I guess none of that really required thorough investigation because if you were a journalist – would you really think a political party would go this far? In this day and age? This many years after Watergate? Spying on the opposition? Why would you risk your professional reputation wondering if such a scale of underhanded activities was occurring?

If there is anything I take away from this – it is “constant vigilance”. More to come I'm sure... 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Epsom - Not a dirty deal - a tactical opportunity for the left.

“Dirty deal!” exclaims Patrick Gower or as he is known in the political circles “Paddy”. Paddy doesn’t like the Epsom deal or the Ohariu deal. He calls them dirty and assumes we all hold them to the same contempt as he does. We don’t. “Coat-tailing” or an attempt to work the electoral system to leverage otherwise wasted votes is not dirty. In fact it is quite legal. As legal as the Cabinet Club. What is dirty is not the deal nor the club, it is the lack of transparency associated with both. In an ideal world the corporate money in politics would be restricted and we would all vote on policy (and there would be unicorns delivering ice cream every Monday).  That is not how the real world works. I don’t have a problem with electoral deals because I think votes get wasted even more without them because of the threshold. But, even if the threshold were lowered,  there would be some votes that would be wasted, although not nearly as much as they were under FPP. The only time it makes sense to waste the electoral vote are under these circumstances:
  1. There is a clear winner and that clear winner (National or Labour candidate) will most definitely win so you vote for someone you like.
  2. There is a clear winner and you really really despise them so you make a statement and vote for anyone but them.
Other than those circumstances, I don’t see why anyone would waste their vote by voting for someone who clearly is not going to win. Electorate votes do not determine the number of MPs in Parliament so unless one has a huge vested interest in their local MP representation, why would anyone care about the electorate MP? In my experience those who do, still do not understand MMP properly. (That's a whole different post)

So let’s take a look at what’s happening in Epsom. If you are on the ‘broad New Zealand right’, you might vote for David Seymour because John Key said so. You might be a National supporter and if National needs David Seymour, you give them David Seymour.  Or you think National is too left wing and you like ACT policies, so you will vote for him and hope other likeminded people elsewhere in the country will give their Party vote to ACT so maybe another ACT MP will get in to wield some real legislative influence. Although, even lone John Banks has managed to change the landscape of our education policy so maybe even one is enough. Maybe next term David Seymour focuses on the flat tax? Or maybe Maori seats gets abolished. If you are on the right and you vote for David Seymour, you have absolutely no reason to feel dirty. You are helping the party you like implement the policies you want to see. Paddy does not get to vote-shame you. 

But what happens if you are on the ‘broad New Zealand left’. Who do you vote for? Unless one of the above two applies to you, tactically it makes sense for you to vote for National candidate Paul Goldsmith. Your party vote goes to the party you want to see in government or at least a "left government".  You don’t like National’s policies but ACT policies are even worse and you know that National presents itself as the sane alternative by positioning ACT as “extreme”. In the end ACT is out, National would be in anyway and everyone is happy. 

So what’s the problem? Here’s the problem with the current situation: 
  1. John Key never actually says “Vote for David Seymour”. In fact apparently he will be voting for Paul Goldsmith.  One the other hand Paul Goldsmith is in the awkward position to tell people to vote for David Seymour for no explicit reason. What? Why?
  2. Labour and Greens never say “give your electoral vote to Paul Goldsmith if you want to keep ACT out”. What? Why?
We are not stupid. We are the ones that vote. We should get to vote for whoever we bloody well please for whatever bloody reason. Political parties aren’t pulling the wool over our eyes unless they are doing the two things that I just mentioned. That is the problem. Lay out reasons. Make a case. We’ll do the voting thank you. And Paddy – seriously if this is the biggest political grind you have, you’re doing the profession of journalism a huge disservice. Your focus should be on transparency and access to information. Denial of that right is what’s contrary to democratic principle. Electorate deals actually help some votes be better counted (or counted at all).

Epsom is a hot mess but there is one truth - if ACT comes back into Parliament because of Epsom, the blame lies squarely on Labour and Greens voters in that electorate.

On 2011 numbers, if the Labour and Greens voters had given their electorate votes to the National candidate (and a lot of people did) instead of their own candidates than we wouldn't have to deal with ACT right now.  
As pointed out by this extremely succinct and perfect tweet - the left needs to see it as a vote against National and ACT rather than a vote for Goldsmith. Unless those two points I mentioned in the very beginning applies to you, there is absolutely zero reason you should be voting for the Labour or Greens candidate.

There is no reason for ACT to be in the 51st Parliament and if they are, John Key is the last person who should be blamed. In fact what John Key is doing is giving the left one last opportunity to kill off ACT. That is the *hint hint* *nudge nudge* message the left should be getting should there be another cup of tea.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Top 10 #nzpol tweets this week - July 31, 2014

This week was the last sitting week of Parliament before the election. 50th Parliament is now officially done. Jamie Whyte, leader of ACT made some pretty outrageous comments. If you were as horrified as I was go read this by Carrie Stoddart-Smith (@ellipsister). Also I myself went through his stupid little book and got out some choice quotes which you can read on twitter under the #JamieWhyteThoughts. Moving on. Top tweets this week:

Election is coming up close. It's already August in New Zealand today! I feel this way too :(


No but seriously though... has National announced any policy at all?


THIS. But then again, what promises has he kept?

Hmmm... interesting thought..not sure where I stand on that. But superannuation policy is an area ripe for public debate!

There's been some talk of "electoral deals" because of Colin Craig but not nearly as there was last time with the Epsom Cup of Tea incident. I think there should be a concerted campaign by the left to elect Paul Goldsmith for no other reason than - it would be funny. Also it would give ACT to get itself together and see if they can be a proper libertarian party in the future sometime.

I think this has been the new normal pretty much since before the 2011 election. Remember that Labour did not make it to 30% in 2011 under Phil Goff. I wasn't really that vested in the Labour leadership contest (I definitely did not want Shane Jones though) but I was hoping that DC or Grant Robertson would do a better job this year. Maybe Labour supporters think that this is a trend towards a more favourable poll showing. I don't know. There are a lot more parties on the left and so I don't see Labour really going back to 2002 and 2005 numbers in the near future. Nor do I see them being able to run a stable government on current numbers. Something has got to give!

Yes well...

Look at this tweet. Look at it! "Removing racial discrimination" against who? White people? When people don't educate themselves on history and how policies are developed and why they are developed we get ignorant comments like this. This kind of attitude is what's worrying.

Top 10 #nzpol tweets - July 25, 2014

Last week was a pretty active week in #nzpol. Te Wiki O Te Reo Maori kicked off, Green's launched their "Love NZ" campaign, Gerry Brownlee offered his resignation, Labour picked a fight with TVNZ, John Key photo shopped himself with the All Blacks and yet another National MP chose not to stand in this year's election. (Internationally the tragic events continued so once again I chose to stay away from highlighting #nzpol tweets. The lifeless faces of children in Gaza was just too traumatizing). But here are my picks from last week:

This tweet highlights how GST disproportionately affects those on low income. If you make 6 figures, these make up a small percentage of your income. Not if you make minimum wage though. When ACT goes on and one about flat tax what I hear is that they do not get arithmetic. It makes them sound fiscally and socially irresponsible.


To be honest, initially I was going to devote this weeks tweets to all of the Te Reo ones, however, there were hardly any that specifically talked about politics. Next year I'd like to see politicians talking about politics and policy in Te Reo on social media. I think it would be cool and interesting.

I love this tweet simply because I love Kim Hill. I'd love to see her interview John Key. That incredulous tone she takes when people say ridiculous things is my favorite!

Ha ha! To true!

I found that photoshopping into All Blacks kind of tacking. Maybe it would be more acceptable if it had been an actual photo he actually took with the team. I don't know. Also Captain Key? What was that? The whole thing was weird and the magazines explanation was also weird. But this right here is funny!

I don't know if I want to see that.

I agree with No Right Turn here. I don't like the phrase as much as I like the photos. Granted they are "negative" compared to previous Greens campaigns. But actually "Not our future" is kinda cool though it would be feeding into National's "Brighter Future" narrative, which seems to be gone. How come? Answers we will never know...

Ha ha ha ha ha... oh dear.

Yeah his pronunciation leaves much to be desired. He needs lessons with Lockwood Smiths but good for him to show leadership. There needs to be more Te Reo in the political sphere.  

Top 10 #nzpol tweets - July 18, 2014

The events in the last 3 weeks have left me pretty distraught and sad about the state of the world. I figured the silliness that can sometimes be New Zealand Pols can maybe take a break. But that doesn't mean I haven't been watching and collecting. Here are the tweets from about 3 weeks ago that I thought were great. News has changed a lot in those weeks, so maybe treat these as a look back. These are posted without comment.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Before you comment on the Israel-Palestine issue...

1. Know the difference between a state and an ethnic group of people. Israel is a state, the Jewish people are an ethnic group that exists outside of Israel all over the world and Israelis can be Arabs or Jews that belong to the nation-state of Israel (or Palestine) who may or may not have a defined state. Israel is taking action on behalf of a large number of Jewish people. However, many Israelis do not support this action. Many Jews around the world also do not support this action. Your opposition should be directed at the state and its political leadership not the Jewish people. 

 2. Once again, to reiterate, the state of Israel is responsible for the offensive in Gaza and atrocities against Palestinians. The state of Israel does not equal all Jews. If you see Jewish people making terrible comments or writing/sharing hateful comments on social media, it does not mean they represent all Jews. It doesn’t even mean they represent all Israeli Jews. Some Jewish people out there are responsible for saying offensive/racist things just like every other group of people. 

3. If you have a problem with what the state of Israel is doing, great. Let’s talk about how the state of Israel is breaking International Law. How it is exacerbating a volatile situation. Do not go around talking about how Jewish people are scum or deserve to die. There are many oppressive governments all around the world that have done/are doing exactly the same thing as Israelis. The current Bangladeshi government is arguably corrupt and has engaged in extrajudicial killings of Bangladeshi citizens, so do many Arab countries, and many countries in Africa. Governments do illegal and inhumane things in the name of and on behalf of their citizens. Most of the time citizens have no control over those actions even if they have voted for that government. 

 4. If you have to invoke Hitler, you are uninformed. You are losing your argument and most importantly you are no different than what Israel is doing right now. What happened during the Holocaust was a stain on humanity. It is something all of us as humans should be collectively ashamed of. How can a state kill 6 million people based on their race and the world just stand by and let it happen? It was unacceptable and it will always be unacceptable (I cannot believe I have to actually write this out). Under no circumstances will Hitler’s actions EVER be justified. And neither are Israel’s actions now. They are two separate incidents occurring at two different times. Don’t conflate the two just because one situation contributed to the current situation. 

 5. Palestine was a British Colony and Jews emigrated there to flee persecution in Europe (which as you all know included the Holocaust). Palestine did not have a choice or say in the matter when the UK devised this plan to relocate a group of people who were clearly in need of assistance at the time. Since that relocation, indigenous Palestinians have been forced to leave their homeland or become refugees in their own land and face continuous institutional discrimination from the newly created Jewish state of Israel. Israel has locked them in small pockets, illegally occupied their land, extended Jewish settlements in places that legitimately belong to Palestinians and used the might of their military to oppress the very people who opened up their country to them. 

 6. How did Israel do this? They have the support of most of the international community including the very powerful UK and US. They receive economic and military aid including weapons and technology. They are guaranteed the US veto in the Security Council whenever the international community attempts to hold them to account  for their illegal actions. Their oppressive and illegal actions have led Palestinians to fight back and that action has been branded “terrorism” (which in some cases it is). However, Palestinian terrorism is not the same at terrorism in other parts of the Middle East and Asia. This is not related to religion. This is in response to occupation, oppression, and appropriation of land (all of this is a breach of international law which goes unpunished). And militant groups in Palestine is not limited to Hamas. Every group has their own agenda and like the Israeli government, most Palestinian citizens do not get to dictate how these militant groups behave. 

7. This is a very cursory overview of the conflict but the point of this is to say – stop directing your hate towards an ethnic group. Atrocities are committed on orders from the top. In this case it is the Israeli leadership with support from the international community (this includes US, UK, Arab countries and other Europeans countries). This is not the first time an ethnic minority has been oppressed and murdered for their resources. This is our collective human history. Your protests should be directed towards Israel. Speak up. Write. Share your protest photos online. Demand action from your own government. Educate yourself on the history. Educate those who are spreading hate on the internet via social media. Verify facts. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The top 10 #nzpol tweets of this week - July 10, 2014

Another week passes us by as September 20 seems to be edging closer and closer. John Armstrong makes yet another prediction for Labour's annihilation at the polls and John Key actually invokes #notallmen. Perhaps the biggest news story of this week broke last week when David Cunliffe "apologised" for being a man. So we had our NZ version of #yesallwomen as many women on Twitter (and a whole bunch of men as well) attempted to explain why Cunliffe's apology is important. I myself wrote about why this was the least a man could do. In any case, House wasn't sitting and not a lot of policy was discussed. Labour launched it's education policy over the weekend during Congress as well as a hashtag or two. There's been a lot of hashtag discussions on Twitter and I think the "Twitterati" are in agreement that you cannot dictate hashtags from the top. (More on that below) Let's get onto the top tweets this week! 

I've been wondering this since I was like 14 and someone explained libertarianism to me. I don't get why you would believe we shouldn't have government still want to be in government.  

I still can't get over the nonchalant way this whole thing has been handled!  

Wow.. this pic. Not a good call. 

Ha! Some days I feel this way too. Some days I can't articulate what I want a government to actually do. I rarely hear anything that makes me sit up and go - this is exciting! 

This really suprised me! Normally major political parties want to stay away from 5 topics. They are abortion, euthanasia, marriage equality, decriminalization of marijuana, and prostitution. To see a Labour candidate do so before even being elected is interesting. I suspect Tamati gets a certain amount of freedom that other candidates do not.  

Ok this. I could do a blog on this but this makes me so angry. If you do not know about Sarah Wilson and her fights with WINZ, you've been living under a rock. The fact that she had horrifying health news from the doctor but going to the WINZ is more scary means our welfare system does not work for the people. People who have to access this system are often the most vulnerable and we treat them like dirt when we should have empathy. Nobody wants to be in this situation willingly. I can't even believe I have to write this out. Sort yourself out NZ - this is completely unacceptable. We are a better nation. Let's not try to be like America. [End rant, not really, I will rant about this again] 

Ha! I love love love dinosaurs so maybe this will only be funny to me. And gifs on Twitter! Yes!  

I don't even. No. I have to walk away. This post can only handle one rant.  

Ok, so I mentioned hashtags above. I really like this hashtag. I will be using it. Dictated hashtags do not work but hilarious, creative hashtags do!  

10 Rules of Top 10
1. Tweets must be funny or thoughtful or informative or display critical analysis 
2. What is funny or thoughtful or informative or display critical analysis is subjective and determined by me.
3. I may provide commentary on the tweet if it particularly strikes my fancy
4. They are not ranked from 1-10
5. Disclosure: I *am* particularly looking to highlight gender and racial minority voices
6. If you want to point me to the direction of a good tweet, please do it!
7. Using the #nzpol/#nzqt/#nzvotes is helpful but not required
8. I hope to get better about this as the weeks progress
9. I am a big fan of correct spelling and grammar (but I know mistakes happen too!)
10. Let's try to use social media for good and raise the level of debate! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Apologizing is the least you can do

Labour has released it's policy to provide for "$60 million over 4 years for family and sexual violence to support front-line services, primary prevention and education". So it's going to be $15 million per year. Hopefully it will go some ways to addressing the horrifying domestic violence situation in New Zealand. Just today it was reported that New Zealand is one of the worst countries for domestic violence in the OECD. But of course the focus isn't on that. David Cunliffe has rightly pointed out that family and sexual violence is perpetrated overwhelmingly by men against women and children. 

What did David Cunliffe say? 

"I'm sorry for being a man right now, family and sexual violence is perpetrated overwhelmingly by men against women and children. It cannot continue that women and children are the victims of this kind of awful madness."

What did the media report? 

That Cunliffe apologised for being a man. I have screenshots of many of the tweets that went out below. Queue #notAllmen malarkey. Including the Prime Minister. Our Prime Minister actually responded with essentially - well not all men. How absolutely disgraceful.

After the #yesallwomen movement on Twitter, one would have thought, that our eyes and minds would have somewhat opened to the real situation plaguing women everywhere. We are not safe anywhere at anytime. It is not about dark allies after midnight. It is happening in our homes by our families - the very place where we are supposed to be the safest, in the company of the very people (men) we should, trust the most. But it is an election year and David Cunliffe is our favorite person to hate. 

An apology? 

To the men - yes, you should be sorry. All of you. 
  • How many times did you hear women being degraded by your friends and have said nothing? 
  • How many times did you see women being abused and said nothing? 
  • How many times did you see that article "35 practical steps men can take to support women" on your social media and you read it? Shared it? 
  • How many times have you felt "entitled" to physical intimacy with a woman or to her body because you took her out on a date? Because you bought her a drink? Because of whatever reason?
  • How many times have you worried about the pay disparity? About the effects of childbirth?
  • How many times have you treated your daughter dating a guy differently to your son dating a girl? How many times did you warn your daughter about young guys "because I was once a young guy"?  
  • How many times have you wondered whether you got a job just because you were a man? 
  • How many times have you trivialized a woman's opinion? Talked over a woman in a discussion? 
  • How many times have you called your friend a "pussy" or accused him of doing something "like a girl"? 
  • How many times have you taken emotional responsibility in a relationship? 
  • How many times have you used PMS-ing as an insult? 

This is not even a comprehensive list. In every way, men have controlled every aspect of women's lives. Their public lives, their private lives, their body, their autonomy and in exercising that power they have enjoyed a privilege in society that will never be compensated for. 

So yes, you should apologize. And no it isn't for being a man - it is for the things you have stood by and allowed as a man. It isn't for something other men have done. It is for things that you are responsible for. Men are part of our society and part of the culture. Saying 'not all men' does not mean you get to abrogate that responsibility.  

This right here is a disgrace. The media actively and collectively decided to take the conversation there and not where it should have been. Disappointed, sad, and angry. 

The top 10 #nzpol tweets this week - July 3, 2014

Another riveting week in New Zealand politics. The MFAT's mishandling of diplomat accused of committing a crime dominated the news, the results of #TeamKey made international headlines, an MP's electorate office got shot at (yes, you read that right, SHOT AT), and last but not least there was the whole Moa situation - I honestly can't roll my eyes hard enough at this point. In any case, let's get started.

I don't have a lot of institutional knowledge of the NZ Parliament. I moved around the world as a child and really didn't take an interest in New Zealand politics until very late into my undergrad. So everything I know, I know because people have told me or I read about it. But I was working at Parliament through 2011 and 2012 and there were certainly some very 'animated' days in during Question Time. I myself have been frustrated by the then Speaker's rulings but I really don't think it was ever as bad as it has been recently and that was an election year too! Speaker Carter seems to be really inconsistent in his ruling and very partisan (my opinion, maybe someone can do an empirical analysis for a Masters thesis).

Ah yeah. THIS tweet right here. Universal, not just #NZPOL.

National's talk of tax cuts irks me to no end. This government has cut so many programs over the last 6 budgets just to get us to this sliver of surplus. Instead of going some way to restoring some of those very crucial programs, they are once again up to their old antics. I just don't understand the economic or policy justification for this. I simply do not get it.

Earlier this week, National announced that they were going to tackle domestic violence. They tweeted a much talked about image that is circulating twitter (They can't seem to control their content at all). But once again they failed to incorporate the important aspect. The crucial piece.

John Key actually said GCSB were protecting us in response to a child poverty question.

The more I try to get away from covering Colin Craig, the more I get sucked in.

And finally, this did not make much news this week. Pretty serious. Back in '09 someone threw something in John Key's electorate office in the wee hours of the morning, and I remember it made news all day long with reporters on location. Of course he is the PM so technically more important. It is important for us to have robust political debated and to be passionate about what we believe in and to be angry about our opponents too but this is so many steps too far. It is very important that other Parliamentary leaders are quick to condemn this kind of behaviour. I didn't see that this week, I expected that from John Key.

10 Rules of Top 10
1. Tweets must be funny or thoughtful or informative or display critical analysis 
2. What is funny or thoughtful or informative or display critical analysis is subjective and determined by me.
3. I may provide commentary on the tweet if it particularly strikes my fancy
4. They are not ranked from 1-10
5. Disclosure: I *am* particularly looking to highlight gender and racial minority voices
6. If you want to point me to the direction of a good tweet, please do it!
7. Using the #nzpol/#nzqt/#nzvotes is helpful but not required
8. I hope to get better about this as the weeks progress
9. I am a big fan of correct spelling and grammar (but I know mistakes happen too!)
10. Let's try to use social media for good and raise the level of debate! 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The anatomy of a headline…

Since John Key's book has come out along with high poll numbers and the National Party Conference, we have seen a series of adulated headlines about John Key. I guess if things are going so well, why should it be otherwise. 

But then this morning I came cross this headline: 

Election between far left and centre-right, says PM

Read the story below that headline. Could you imagine the headline if three retiring Labour MPs boycotted David Cunliffe? (Do you feel like you have no idea what I'm talking about? Read the story.) I also highly doubt anyone will ever see a headline that ever talks about the far right. ACT and Conservatives – what are they? Undoubtedly the false dichotomy created by the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ works really well for politicians and for selling papers. But it’s never that easy.

As one keeps reading the story, one finds that it is entirely about National’s election strategy with one quote from Steven Joyce about how the question should be different if the answer is "Laila Harre, Hone Harawira, Pam Corkery, Kim Dotcom, Russel Norman, Metiria Turei, David Cunliffe, Matt McCarten and John Minto". Once again, neither Joyce nor Key has to justify why they can get away with running the “far left” vs. “centre right” dichotomy. They don’t have to because the Herald does not require a policy justification for the statements made by Joyce and Key. Whatever Key says is the truth. Just like when John Key said he had heard "rumours" about Liu donations to Labour – it was reported as if it was a fact. (Clearly the PM has never ever said anything misleading in the public sphere)

I myself worked in Labour for some time. There were many policies and many speeches I did not agree with. The broad left and the broad right have to find a party that they can live with voting for when they go to the polls. I myself have never had the same two ticks in all of the elections that I voted in (since 2005). National understands that this. They understand that this election is not about Labour and National. They understand the meaning of 61 seats under MMP. And when one looks at that, the conclusions are no longer simple and easy. The MMP landscape is hugely complicated but it is easier for our nation’s newspapers to run headlines like “National could govern alone” because that sounds better than “National will probably have to govern with ACT, United Future, Maori Party and maybe will still need the Conservatives to get them over the line.”

Yesterday I tweeted the cartoon below (by Chris Slane) that has been retweeted many times. I think it’s time we start asking what “far left” really is and how that translates in terms of policy. Because if the difference between  the centre right and far left is 18 weeks vs. 26 weeks of paid parental leave, maybe we should all sit down, have a cuppa and decide what this election really is about.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The top 10 #nzpol tweets this week - June 26, 2014

The last week has been chock full of political events and so twitter was buzzing. Prime Minister John Key finished up his visit in Washington DC (*ahem* NSA),  Labour list was announced, we found out that the NZ Herald and John Key are far worse than gossiping girls from the Upper Eastside, a Labour MP used the phrase "boys will be boys" in response to a stabbing at a school, John Key's biography came out - also courtesy of a Herald journalist, and we found out more about the details of Shane Jones appointment, which looks even dodgier than the appointment of Susan Devoy (athlete) as Race Relations Commissioner, Dr. Jackie Blue (National MP) as EEO Commissioner, Dr. Wayne Mapp (National Minister) at the Law Commission, Ian Fletcher (John Key's mate) at the GCSB - to name a few.

But I managed to have great conversations on Twitter about hashtags - specifically related to the upcoming New Zealand election with folks from many sides of the 'aisle' and had a near twitter fight with National/Greens supporter Ben Rachinger on the last Labour govt. We ended on a good note though. A reminder that 140 character is up for all sorts of interpretation and political colours are often more than just red and blue. 

But enough chit-chat, here are the top tweets in #nzpol from this week! 

On Labour's list, which attempts to close the gap between men and women politicians. had an horrendously sexist headline and front page and used scare quotes to talk about Labour's talented list (because, women) but we got through it without invoking 'man ban' too many times.  

Speaker David Carter's #nzqt performance continues to be shockingly bad. He desperately needs remedial lessons with Lockwood. 

I thought we had put Colin Craig behind us after last week but then this photo emerged. TVNZ Journo Heather duPlessisAllan makes a very important point. Please make it stop. 

We are starting to see more photos being shared on Twitter as it has become more photo-friendly (recently also gif-friendly). @nintendoug continues to provide us with great book covers. He even has a Tumblr page. But this little graphic was gold! 

The NZ Herald's handling of the Donghua Liu "donations" has been shockingly bad. Or is it really that shocking? There was the 'statement vs. affidavit' mistake, the reporting of John Key's "rumours" as facts, the 'confirmation' of donation to a rowing club, the inability to distinguish between an office party and donation... the list goes on. Twitter people can be so funny. Like this: 

Wait what? I must know more about this: 

Ha ha ha.

This should not be surprising. Kiwiblog and David Farrar are not neutral observers. I don't know why people think that. 

And finally, John Key's book. This made me laugh so hard. (If you haven't read Harry Potter, I have judgmental feelings towards you.)

10 Rules of Top 10
1. Tweets must be funny or thoughtful or informative or display critical analysis 
2. What is funny or thoughtful or informative or display critical analysis is subjective and determined by me.
3. I may provide commentary on the tweet if it particularly strikes my fancy
4. They are not ranked from 1-10
5. Disclosure: I *am* particularly looking to highlight gender and racial minority voices
6. If you want to point me to the direction of a good tweet, please do it!
7. Using the #nzpol/#nzqt/#nzvotes is helpful but not required
8. I hope to get better about this as the weeks progress
9. I am a big fan of correct spelling and grammar (but I know mistakes happen too!)
10. Let's try to use social media for good and raise the level of debate!