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Polity: Australian election: Dust and Diesel

public address - Wed, 13/07/2016 - 3:24pm

It looks like the curtain has finally come down on Australia’s cliffhanger election, with Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal/National coalition hanging on by way of deals with several one-seat parties.
One underreported aspect of the results, though, is the bias in them.
That bias favours the right-wing parties, and occurs in basically all single-member-district electoral systems, including Australia’s Alternative Vote system and New Zealand’s old First Past the Post system.
The reason for the bias is that there tend to be tighter concentrations of lefties in inner city and low-income electorates, compared to the more even distribution of lefties and righties in…

Hard News: Friday Music: The Curse of the Chills

public address - Fri, 08/07/2016 - 11:37am

Chills founder Martin Phillipps has always been a student of pop music mythology; of the way talent and destiny draw an arc that doesn't always land in the right place. And since the very early days of the band he has willingly embraced a thing called "The Curse of the Chills".
It's the idea that on the cusp of greatness – or at least, greater success – something will happen to undo it all. That might be something as hard as the tragically early death of the band's drummer Martyn Bull (the song Phillipps wrote in tribute to him, 'I Love My…

Hard News: The war is still with us

public address - Thu, 07/07/2016 - 10:45am

The first post published on this blog, on November 14 2002, was titled Extreme Pragmatism. It was about the prospective invasion of Iraq and specifically the Clark government's decision to send a New Zealand frigate to help with anti-terrorist surveillance in the Mediterranean.
I noted that Opposition parties saw the move as" joining the war on Iraq by the back door. For the Greens this is a bad thing, for Act and National it’s a good thing." I ventured that "the Clark government is – as it has in so many spheres – practising pragmatism."

Swiftly offer modest aid in Afghanistan – but…

Hard News: Drug Intelligence

public address - Tue, 05/07/2016 - 10:11pm

Newshub's Michael Morrah got a good scoop in obtaining a copy of the National Drug Intelligence Bureau's cutely-named report Psychoactive Substances Amendment Act: One Year Through the Looking Glass.
The report is seven months old – which actually makes it 17 months rather than a year since the Psychoactive Substances Act was amended to pre-emptively ban all substances presumed to be psychoactive – but it still makes for interesting reading.
The headline is that, as you've heard here before, synthetic cannabis products are still being sold and used. Moreover, the report says – contra Morrah's news report – that although helpline calls have decreased…

Polity: Post "post-truth" post

public address - Tue, 05/07/2016 - 12:58pm

In the wake of Hurricanes Trump and Brexit, Andrea Vance penned a thoughtful column the other day about “post-truth politics.” Vernon Small had voiced similar musings earlier. Vance says:

The polls don’t punish National for straying from the truth. And Labour are desperate, throwing mud in the hope something gets traction.
Whatever the motivation, the truth has gone out of fashion.

She catalogues the imaginary MSD flying squads and the memory-hole treatment National gives to unwelcome reports on inequality, 90 day trials, MFAT leaks, and foreign trusts. I’d add repeated mendacity about tax and offensive murmurings about Maori and housing…

Hard News: Monday Music! Outrageously right

public address - Mon, 04/07/2016 - 2:05pm

One of the real triumphs of the Outrageous Fortune prequel Westside has been the way its creators have curated and employed music to tell their story. Music was a part of the original series, but Westside's use of period tunes to evoke each year of its era took things up a level.
And I think series two is up a level again – perhaps because it moves into the era where its creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang have their own strongest musical memories, but also because 1981, the year in which the whole series is set, was an incredible year…

Hard News: Back in Christchurch

public address - Mon, 04/07/2016 - 11:33am

The walk from Pomeroy's Pub to the Antigua boatsheds is a passage through several different cities.
Along Kilmore, at the northeast corner of Christchurch's CBD, the gaps are largely filled, first with new townhouses jammed into compounds, then commercial buildings in the new Christchurch style: quick, squat, steel-boned and glassy. The new Piko Wholefoods building, consciously organic in in its materials and style, stands out. It seems determined to fit its purpose rather than its circumstances.
Across the river, the Margaret Mahy playground is a colourful oasis, both whimsical and defiant. Even on a Friday morning, kids are all over…

Hard News: Orcon IRL 4: The Pictures

public address - Wed, 29/06/2016 - 3:20pm

Hello! I'm delighted to say that Orcon IRL at The Golden Dawn is back this year for another season. Our talk (and music) events will each have a theme – and, because it's NZIFF time, the first one will be all about film.
Where: The Golden Dawn, Ponsonby
When: 6.30pm, Tuesday July 12 (yes, that’s two days before the film festival launches)
Hosts: Russell Brown and Esther Macintyre
The Tickled Twins: Co-directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve reflect on what a long, strange movie journey it’s been – and where it might go next. There's a good backstory about how the…

Hard News: Dreams of New York

public address - Wed, 29/06/2016 - 11:53am

Matters of Substance has published my report on the UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem – UNGASS 2016 – and it might at first glance appear to be a rather depressing read.
After all, this is a meeting that not only failed to deliver on the overwhelming desire for reform of the global drug control system expressed by the UN's own agencies and (to varying degrees) by the large majority of member nations, it's a United Nations meeting that failed to even condemn the death penalty for drug offences.
But there's a fairly strong argument for saying that…

Polity: English canards

public address - Wed, 29/06/2016 - 9:40am

No, this post isn’t about either Brexit or the soccer. It’s about Finance Minister Bill English, who’s continuing his decade-long quest to spread lies about tax to trick New Zealand’s well-off into feeling overly sorry for themselves.
Here’s a Stuff article from the weekend, fed by English:

More than one in four households are contributing nothing to New Zealand's tax take.
A table from Finance Minister Bill English's office shows 663,000 households - or 40 per cent - receive more in tax credits and other benefits than they pay in tax….
By comparison, the top 3 per cent of individual…

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