Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Welcome to the land of the free

December 6, 2008

For a couple of months, I’m calling Pasadena home, and get to reacquaint myself with the oversize, adolescent problem-child that is Los Angeles. The city that gave the world Hollywood, drive-in churches, gangsta rap, and now, organic sunless tanning,amongst other cultural treasures.

On arrival at LAX, my heart skipped a beat when my wife responded to the Customs & Border Protection Officer’s dry observation that “you’ll notice a few changes” with a cheery, “Yes, change you can believe in.” As I started to warn her, “Best not to discuss politics…”, she followed that up with a bright, “We’ve come to a land of hope.” A friend was once flung into jail with little cause by the customs officials here, and another, transitting through Miami hauled off and interrogated for half a day, so I drew a deep breath. Luckily, the CBPO was either a Democrat or Obama-Independent, or a Republican with a sense of humour. He was cool, but twice wished us an enjoyable stay as our encounter came to an end. Then we were in the Land of the Free.


Comeback Kid M.I.A.

October 24, 2008

Watching Faux News yesterday you would have been amazed to hear that the US presidential election race is getting tighter. “Neck and neck” the caption read. Faux News was highlighting a poll that showed Obama only one point ahead of McCain. Their own poll showed Obama ahead by 9 points, but never mind that old thing. Couldn’t get much more “fair and balanced” than that, could you?

Here’s the spread of national polls and tracking polls, and movements since the previous poll:

There’s a spread from 1% (the AP poll that Faux News chose to report) to 11%. More importantly, these polls ticked Obama’s lead up for the fourth day in a row. So, yes, McCain gained a very small amount of ground around the weekend, but then… lost it again. The swiftboats never docked.

Obama’s now back where he was last week (at around 7.5%). But now there’s less than two weeks to go. And this picture is backed up by the state polls, which is, after all, where the electoral votes are:

That’s 354 Evs to 184. I’m inclined to think that, as James Carville puts it, “You can call the dogs in, wet the fire, and leave the house. The hunt is over.” Whatever Faux News says.

Glenn adamant Peters asked for donation

September 4, 2008

Owen Glenn has affirmed to the Parliamentary Privileges Select Committee that Winston Peters asked for the donation last December about which Peters says he knew nothing until July (letter here):

“My recollection is that I was called by Mr Peters to seek financial assistance for his electoral petition challenge. I agreed to that request because I understood that it would be of assistance to the Labour Party, which had the confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First at the time we spoke. I do not recall that I had any conversation with Mr Henry about my donation. There is absolutely no doubt that the request came to me from Mr Peters. I would not have made the donation on any other basis through any intermediary. I did not do so.”

Glenn also provides details of the first meeting with Peters that he recalls, on 3pm in Sydney on Friday 12 August at the Four Seasons Hotel, and asserts that he met Peters at the Karaka sales in 2006, as he was not at the sales in 2007.

Glenn will appear in person before the Committee next Tuesday, and Peters has delayed his appearance until after Glenn’s.

So, the fire’s been stoked for another week, and Peters’ credibility stays on the line.

Update: Idiot Savant points out that:

“The administrators of the Spencer Trust have admitted they channelled more than $10,000 to NZ First in 2007. Despite a clear requirement in the law, this money was never declared by the party in its annual return of donations – a prima facie breach of the law.”

He says that the Electoral Commission must investigate this apparent breach before the 16 November deadline, “and if a case can be made, bring charges.” He’s right.

Update2: It seems the Electoral Commission think so too.

Sarah who? as running mate

August 30, 2008

Once Obama choose as his running mate someone who complemented him — Biden has truckloads of experience in government and foreign policy — McCain’s choices narrowed. The word is that he made a hurried decision, meeting his last-minute choice Sarah Palin for the first time only yesterday.

He’s done the obvious thing and chosen a woman as his running mate. One who underlines his “reformer” narrative (however hollow that is in 2008). As Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has been an energetic reformer, eschewing “business as usual” politics. She also ticks all the conservative boxes. A clever choice in many ways.

Clearly, McCain’s camp thinks that Palin, a mother of five, will appeal to women voters, especially the Hillary fanatics who are so grieved that they are willing to jettison things like abortion rights. But she’s nothing like Hillary Clinton. One of them has extensive experience in government at national level and the other doesn’t even know what the Vice President does. One of them is pro-abortion and the other anti. Will women fall for this? Hope not.

Palin’s hugely popular in Alaska, so much so that she will probably deliver her home state to McCain, something that not many VP candidates actually manage to do. It’s not many electoral college votes (3), but it was a factor in Obama’s “Many roads to the White House” strategy. Obama has been very competitive in the GOP stronghold state.

(Note that the senate and house races are another matter, with both of the Republican incumbents mired in scandal.)

Not that they count for that much, but the Veep candidates’ debates should be fun. Biden should have Palin for breakfast when it comes to foreign policy and national-level issues. And some are already asking whether she’s ready to be Commander-in-Chief, should McCain, now 72 years old and a cancer survivor, not complete his term.

PQT: Cullen at his best

August 28, 2008

Call me a party hack, but I thought Cullen was at his majestic best in Parliament’s Question Time today, swatting off the vast majority of questions from the other side. (Both Clark and Key were absent.)

The problem the Nats seem to have is that they get ahead of themselves, just like their supporters in the blogosphere. Time after time Bill English referred to “facts” that quite simply are not facts.

You could see Cullen’s frustration as he had to explain repeatedly that Clark did not learn in February that “Owen Glenn made a donation to NZ First”, as English put it (and the Herald, “Updated 2:27PM Helen Clark this morning said Owen Glenn told her in February that he gave $100,000 to NZ First.”) Here’s what Clark is reported to have said on this aspect:

“Mr Glenn on [the occasion of the opening of the Business School in February] said to me pretty much what he said to the Privileges Committee.”


“He (Mr Glenn) stated his view then that he had contributed money — whether it was to New Zealand First or to some other fund that’s lost in the mists of time. But as I say at every time that this issue has arisen, I have rung Mr Peters and asked for his word.” (NB: Clearly, there should be a comma after the word “fund” in this transcription.)

And Peters denied knowing anything about it. As Cullen pointed out over and again “nothing has changed” in that respect.

Cullen also made the crucial point that the Nats have prejudged the outcome of the Privileges Committee hearings — one of them called it a “facade” — and in doing so were undermining due process. This even despite the fact that (for the first time) there is an opposition MP chairing the committee.

The Nats only started to get traction when they began asking, at the very end of the supplementary questions, why Clark hadn’t revealed what she knew before. But it was too little, too late.

Tip to Bill English. Don’t try to build an argument on dodgy foundations. Doesn’t work.

You’d trust him again?

August 7, 2008

To understand the import of the comments of Lockwood Smith, caught out telling the truth, it pays to recall the background. Lockwood Smith in 1990:

The Standard also has an image of Lockwood Smith’s signed pledge to electors in 1990…

“I, Lockwood Smith, MP, hereby pledge to tender my resignation as Minister of Education if National having become the government in 1990, has not implemented most of the National Party Education Policy, as stated in 1990, by the beginning of the 1992 academic year.”

“In particular, I pledge to tender my resignation if the $1250 tertiary tuition fee has not been abolished by this time…”

It wasn’t. He didn’t. And now he says:

“Once we have gained the confidence of the people, we’ve got more chance of doing more things.”

“We may be able to do some things we believe we need to do, perhaps go through a discussion document process… you wouldn’t be able to do them straight off. … I’m hoping that we’ll do some useful things that way, that may not be policy right now.”

Negative and, well, weird

August 1, 2008

When I posted yesterday on McCain’s “low road strategy”, I was a bit surprised by the latest attack ad, called “celeb” for another reason. It felt distinctly weird.

For one thing, who would buy the idea that a Harvard law graduate — indeed, editor of the Harbard Law Review, which signifies that he wasn’t any old law graduate — is as shallow as Paris and Britney? And then, why make an ad that highlights just how popular your opponent is?

The Obama campaign responded with humour:

“On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking Senator McCain to task for a steady stream of false, negative attacks, his campaign has launched yet another. Or, as some might say, ‘Oops! He did it again.’”

Others have noted more sinister messages. The spot has been compared to this:

Well, you know, massed crowd of Germans chanting in support of charismatic leader with classical monument in background… Not sure about that one.

US blogger Chris Bowers says that McCain has, “just played an entire campaign’s worth of identity politics in a single ad.” He believes the comparison with the sexually active young blondes suggest:

  • Obama is a girly-man.
  • Obama will sleep with your white daughters.
  • Obama is too young.
  • Obama is a Hollywood liberal.

I’d say the sexism is in the use of two women to suggest shallowness and preening celebrity. No male role models of that type were available. Yeah right.

Even former McCain strategist John Weaver has criticised the ad, calling it “childish.”

“John’s been a celebrity ever since he was shot down,” Weaver said. “There is legitimate mockery of a political campaign now, and it isn’t at Obama’s. For McCain’s sake, this tomfoolery needs to stop.”

Comedian Steve Young jokes that “Satirists Refuse to Spoof “The Spoofiest Campaign Commercial…Ever”. Sacha Baron Cohen: “I can’t tell if they’re joking.” But that’s the whole point of the exercise. The ad gets the pundits chewing over the latest Republican attack line (“no, he’s not really a preening celecbrity..”) and gets coverage way beyond the time bought to air it.

Bottom line: McCain is an arsehole.

[Update: William Bradley at HuffPo has a go at explaining the sudden burst of negative advertising from the McCain campaign.]


July 28, 2008

Well, it took two and a half months to get to 4,000 views. Now it’s taken a little under four weeks to get to 10,000.

I really enjoy the debates that we have here and look forward to many more. Thanks.

Reminder to drink liberally, tonight

July 23, 2008

WHEN: Wednesday 23rd July from 7.30pm
WHERE: London Bar, cnr Wellesley St and Queen St, opposite the Civic.
WHAT: Regular event for Drinking Liberally’s Auckland City chapter
WHO: You and any of your friends who may be interested
THIS MONTH: Mix and mingle, a great chance to meet fab new people, have a beverage or two, and talk politics if you are so inclined.
COST: Free, you will just need to buy your own drinks.

Or, you could always join me at the Takács Quartet concert.

Apology & clarification

July 8, 2008

In the post “Dirty politics: A response” I incorrectly stated that the Australian political consultant Lynton Crosby had used push-polling to spread a “total lie”. I was, as Crosby’s lawyer notes, relying on an article in the British newspaper The Guardian which itself was incorrect.

I am always more than happy to apologise if I have got anything wrong, and do so unreservedly in this case, to Lynton Crosby.

Edit: Mr Crosby’s lawyer has helpfully clarified that the push-polling incident in Canberra was conducted by Roy Morgan on the instructions of the Liberal Party, and infers that the ABC National Radio report is incorrect in at least some of its details. Readers are therefore advised that they (and I) cannot rely on the details contained in the ABC report.