Posts Tagged ‘NZ blogs’

Chris Trotter blogging near you

August 21, 2008

Chris Trotter is taking the plunge and joining the blogosphere. His new blog is at

Chris aims to “Smarten us up”:

“In a world that seems hell-bent on dumbing us down, this blog unashamedly declares its intention to smarten us up.”

His blog is not for those looking simply to “heap abuse upon the heads of your political enemies”…

“If, however, you enjoy a good argument, and are willing to marshall the evidence that makes a good argument, then I would like to hear from you. And if you have a compelling turn of phrase, a flair for witty repartee, and/or a talent for satire and parody, then I would be delighted to hear from you.”

My philosophy too.

In his first post, Chris wields his words with wit and wisdom. He advises the Greens that thwarting the ETS is liking to see Labour in “full attack mode” against them, using all of the Greens’ “iconography (belching smoke-stacks, dwindling ice-shelves, polar bears) … in their own campaign ads.” Russell Norman needs to stop:

“obsessing with cows piddling and pooing in the odd DOC-administered river, and get back on message. The voters are concerned about climate change and peak oil. The ETS is a step (albeit a very small one) along the road to addressing those two mega-problems.”

Well said. We look forward to much more of the same.

[Update: Danyl at DimPost takes a contrary view.]

USA is a truly free and open society. Yeah right.

August 20, 2008

Over at kiwiblog, Farrar promotes a new website “formed by some Londoners to fight anti-Americanism. It must be important to some people that the whole world has the same ill-informed, brain-washed view of the greatness of the USA that your average flag-worshipping Jefferson County Hoosier entertains.

Farrar, for whom ridding the world of this terrible scourge — anti-Americanism, not the Bush-voting rednecks — seems urgent, tells us that the new website has, “a useful myths page, including:

  • Myth: America is not a truly free and open society”

What myth?

A very few of you will recall a discussion about the lack of freedom in the USA on my very second post. In it I recounted how:

“I once pointed out to some Americans who were crowing but how “free” they were compared to me (!) that I was planning to visit Cuba, but that their government wouldn’t allow them this freedom of travel. Not well received. I stopped myself from adding a few more freedoms that they are denied when I saw the trouble they were having with the cognitive dissonance this example caused.”

Challenged to add a few more I came up with:

  • Laws governing what people could get up to in the privacy of their own bedrooms were still on the books in a number of states in 2003, when the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas ruled laws criminalizing private, non-commercial sexual activity to be unconstitutional. The “Land of the Free” stopped at the bedroom door.
  • Gays can get married in NZ, but only in Califonia, I think.
  • Straight or gay, we can legally pay for sex in NZ. (Spitzer was in the wrong place at the wrong time, clearly.)
  • I checked on the rules surrounding “patriotic customs”, an area where the USA has been noted for its stringent controls on its citizens’ freedom to express themselves, and see that the penalties for desecrating the flag, etc, have been removed, at least from the Federal Code. So now its just strong societal pressure that keeps people in line. Or perhaps the states have moved to fill this gap.

Things have got worse since the 1990s, of course, with the wholesale phone tapping, monitoring of citizens’ bank accounts (Spitzer wouldn’t have been caught in NZ), and so on.

For an authoritative and thorough account read the Freedom House report “Today’s American: How Free?” on the state of freedom in the United States.

From the review in the EconomistLand of the free? Liberty in America is not quite as revered as its leaders pretend“:

““How Free?” not only details and condemns the administration’s familiar sins, from Guantánamo to extraordinary rendition to warrantless wiretapping. It reminds readers of its aversion to open government. The number of documents classified as secret has jumped from 8.7m in 2001 to 14.2m in 2005—a 60% increase over three years. Decade-old information has been reclassified. Researchers report that it is much more difficult and time-consuming to obtain information under the Freedom of Information Act.”

That latter point is a gross understatement. Read Jimmy Carter’s recent piece on the FOI Act in the Washington Post. Carter notes that according to the National Security Archives 2003 report, median response times (mandated by law at 20 days) may be as long under the Republicans as 905 working days at the Department of Agriculture and 1,113 working days at the Environmental Protection Agency.

So, Farrar, there are some suggestions for your summer reading.

Jane’s Slips

August 19, 2008

Jane Clifton ruminates in the Listener on the fast-changing nature of journalism (hat-tip: Russell Brown). Clifton is threatened. Indeed, she pines for a good, old-fashioned demarcation dispute:

“… political activists are doing journalists’ work for them by blogging and commentating as though they were professional journalists, and being taken increasingly seriously as such – including by professional journalists, who routinely cite them as authorities in news stories.”

True. Inexorably, we are following developments in the US. There Arianna Huffington’s website, for example, retails news, breaks news and carries blogs. Huffington herself is Clifton’s worst nightmare. She describes herself as, “one of the most widely-read, linked to, and frequently-cited media brands on the Internet.”

As I argued in response to Vernon Small’s confusion, the boundaries between blogging and journalism are blurred because of the false, value-laden, image of “journalism” and “news” to which journalists still cling in order to claim some legitimacy (and, in my experience, often to justify to themselves what it is that they do).

Once one dispenses with the fallacy that journalists are reporting objective news for some higher purpose, there is little to distinguish many bloggers from journalists and vice versa.

Take, for example, “professional journalist” Anthony Hubbard’s “profile” in Sunday’s SST of Tony Veitch’s PR person. Hubbard uncritically accepts the spin doctor’s picture of, “the honest PR agent, helping the client towards clarity, and their intelligent conversation with a well-meaning reporter who in turn conveys a complex truth to the world”, commenting, “It’s certainly a great picture.” In whose interests is this piece of puffery served up? If you’re unsure, read a “blogger’s” commentary. It’s clear which is the more honest.

Inevitably, then, Clifton gets it wrong:

“And, as we’ve found with Dead Fish-gate, some activists are even turning unwary journalists into political activists by selectively leaking them choice tidbits of covertly taped conversations. Unable to resist, journalists are effectively running party spin holus-bolus.”

Apart from the fact that she can’t know who dunnit, and therefore whether it was “party spin”, journalists have been using covertly leaked material — for whatever purposes — for a long time. Most recently, generations of journalists have been inspired by the example of Woodward and Bernstein.

“We’re in a new era where what’s generally taken as journalism has been democratised by the internet, and as with old-fashioned radio talkback, it’s hard to tell whether the information providers are accurate, biased or simply malicious.”

Is Clifton really unaware of the rise of “opinion news” in the US? Perhaps when she watches the most-viewed cable “news” service in the US, Faux News, she thinks that it’s accurate, unbiased and not designed to promote any particular party?

“I can’t even decide whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, this job-poaching. First up, best dressed, let the market decide, and all that. But morally and practically, it’s now the Wild West out there, because we can no longer easily tell where journalism ends and politics begins. We used to be separate species, but now we’re hybridising.”

And a good thing too, if it brings into the open the bias that has always been there. Those venturing onto the internet in search of information must know — confronted as they are by the enormous range of views — that everything they read is biased in some way. This was not the case when, not so long ago, we (in Auckland) depended on Granny for our daily news, and most people believed that it was serving up unbiased, objective fact.

That Clifton apparently still believes this the case is the biggest surprise.

Eco bulbs

August 15, 2008

Energy Safety, the governmental agency charged (oops) with ensuring the safe supply and use of electricity and gas, has warned the Fire Service about the potential hazard of eco bulbs (compact fluorescent lamps). Eco bulbs are reported to be “melting, blowing up and blackening surrounding electrical equipment.”

This comes a couple of months after the Minister of Energy (along with the Government Spokesperson on Energy Efficiency and Conservation, Jeanette Fitzsimons) announced that new energy efficiency standards would lead to traditional incandescent bulbs being phased out from late next year. The move is part of the Efficient Lighting Strategy. NZers could save an estimated almost $500 million of the $660 million spent on lighting electricity annually.

It’s not clear from the DomPost’s report whether there has been a sudden upsurge in reports of problems with the eco bulbs. Energy Safety says it has received 13 complaints about eco bulbs in the past fortnight. However, a spokesperson for the Minieter said the agency had received no reports of “serious problems” and a spokeperson for the Fire Service says, “We do not know if there is a manufacturing fault, a user fault or a dud batch…”

In other words, we need to know more before we start drawing conclusions.

Well, not all of us. Egged on by David Farrar — “… they may burn your house down!” — the kiwiblog right greeted this news as more evidence of a big brother conspiracy to foist dangerous and user-unfriendly light fittings on the unsuspecting citizenry, presumably for the sheer hell of it since eco bulbs don’t save energy anyway.

Never mind that the Efficient Lighting Strategy was developed in partnership between the lighting industry, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, and the Electricity Commission. What would they know!

Around the blogs

August 14, 2008

Bryce Edwards at Liberation posts on the Independent Financial Review’s pre-election survey of business opinion.

Apparently the business community is really down on Labour (surprise!) and doesn’t give it a show of winning (who cares, apart from Labour’s fundraisers, who must be finding it tough going). On the other hand, they’re not convinced that National will do their bidding, which is kind of reassuring.


Couch potato gold

August 9, 2008

Another regular jafapete reader has started his own blog. Denis Edwards has a blog, Armchair Olympics, on Granny’s blogsite:

“Writer and award-wining sports journalist Denis Edwards pulls his comfy chair in front of the television to enjoy two weeks of sporting excellence and memorable goofs.”

The idea, says Denis, derives from the simple fact that the vast majority of those who watch sport do so through the medium of television. So there you are. Enjoy!

Blurry lines lead to turf wars

August 8, 2008

Vernon Small airs some thoughts on the blogging vs journalism issue, and he’s confused. “The advent of blogging, websites and online newsletters, has blurred the line to the point where I can barely see it at times.”

The immediate trigger for Small’s ruminations was the presence at National’s weekend conference of David Farrar — NZ’s best read blogger and organically a key part of National’s media machine, though not a paid part — “sharing the scoff and liquid largesse put on by the party for the media in the room set aside for us.”

We know that Farrar enjoyed the press hospitality, because he blogged about it. The Standard’s Clinton Smith a.k.a. Steve Pierce, on the other hand, was refused press accreditation.

For Small, the key issue seems to be subjectivity (though he avoids this word) and partisanship:

“… several reporters have told me they are uncomfortable having someone so closely aligned with the party – or with any party – seamlessly incorporated into the media, sitting alongside them, and potentially hearing conversations between frontline reporters and their news editors and the like.

“So where should the lines be drawn?

“Is “biased” blogging any different from left or right wing reporting?”

Delightfully naive. One doesn’t have to have taken a course in the politics of the media to know that (1) “objectivity is bullshit” (as Ruth Butterworth put it when I did one such course) and (2) the “mainstream media” props up the capitalist system and the existing power structures every hour of the day, every day of the week.

If you rule bloggers out because they take a partisan stance, then you’d have to refuse press accreditation to Radio America and Faux News, most British papers (tabloid and broadsheet) and … it’s not getting any better. The mainstream media are increasingly mixing opinion with their news, if you haven’t noticed.

Perhaps mindful of this, Small allows that while he finds it “hard to envisage a situation where I would in his role as chair of the press gallery give the nod to [an application for accreditation from a blogger] under our existing rules… that’s not to say there would never be a justified case.”

So, if we jetison the quaint fiction that our news media are unbiased reporters of objective facts, can we distinguish between bloggers and journos?

Some would argue that bloggers just rant. Well, that line’s easily disposed of. Anyone read Granny’s deputy political editor Fran O’Salivatin’ recently?

Oh, you say, the news media hunt out original facts, bloggers just repeat and add some commentary. Hell, let me introduce you to the “wire services”. And remind you of how many journos have been laid off in recent months. It’s not as though some blogs don’t break stories anyway.

So, let a thousand bloggers bloom. Out with the stuffy old-school pretence of professionalism and objectivity and in with transparency and colour. Let the market rule!

Hat-tip:The Hive who tackles this question, but is singularly unconvincing. It seems that capacity to tolerate the grinding vapidity of party conferences is the key feature distinguishing journos from bloggers. I doubt this, and QB provides no evidence that the journos assigned to party conferences enjoy them in any degree.

Update: A good solution to Small’s conundrum from Homepaddock, who writes that, “My answer is some journalists are bloggers, some are not; some blogging is journalism, some is not.” Now, we just need to define when blogging is journalism. I’d say, when something that is “news” is gathered and/or disseminated by the blogger. Now, we just need to define what we mean by “news”…

After hours doctors’ charges

July 31, 2008

Regular commenter here MacDoctor has started his own blog, MacDoctor Moments: Pondering the Politics of Medicine. It aims to discuss issues to do with the politics of medicine for a general readership.

MacDoctor’s just posted on the recent Herald report on a survey of after hours doctors’ fees. Interesting stuff.


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.

Roger goes bonkers

July 27, 2008

Over on kiwiblog this week, Farrar retails a Salient interview with Roger Douglas that raises some serious questions. But they’re questions about Douglas’s mental faculties. And Farrar’s understanding of economics.