RIP NZPA

August 31, 2011

The New Zealand Press Association, our only national news agency, will close today after 131 years supplying news stories to media outlets throughout the country.

Writing in April about the proposed closure Karl du Fresne called it a seriously retrograde step:

NZPA has fulfilled an historically significant role – one that remains valid even in the digital era. When it was launched in 1880, NZPA had the effect of bringing New Zealand together. For the first time, via the telegraph, New Zealanders had ready access to news and information from beyond their own regions. Historians have credited this with creating a sense of national cohesion in place of the narrow, regional parochialism that previously prevailed. At its peak, 74 member newspapers subscribed to the NZPA service, which gave them access to news of importance supplied by other member papers from all over the country.

Competition between APN and Fairfax which own most of our newspapers will determine how much we lose or gain from NZPA’s demise.


Word of the day

August 31, 2011

Jobbernowl -blockhead, fool.


9/10

August 31, 2011

9/10 in NZ History online’s weekly quiz.


Are we excited yet?

August 31, 2011

Exciting events to look forward to used to be few and far between - just Christmas, birthdays,  and the odd holiday or other special occasion.

Now we’re spoilt for choice. That makes it more difficult for anyone promoting anything to get our attention – and commitment – until the last moment.

This is possibly why the International Rugby Borad chief executive Mike Miller is concerned that New Zealanders don’t realise the importance of the Rugby World Cup.

I’m not among the critics of the Rugby World Cup but even so it hasn’t really been on my radar. We’ve bought tickets for one game and been invited to another but they’ve yet to register as much more than dates in a diary.

However, in the last week I’ve become aware of increasing excitement and not just among people who are interested in the rugby.

The radio was tuned to a sports talk show when I got into the car on Sunday and I heard a caller getting excited about the RWC because it meant Janet Frame’s house in Oamaru would be open.  They’ve even produced special book marks to give visitors.

What’s more Murray Deaker was excited in response.

Who would have thought that sport and literature could mix?

They’re all part of the Real New Zealand Festival which includes events as diverse as a special  Oyster Festival in Bluff and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s Odes to Joy in Christchurch.

There will also be some rugby. The Fijian team is the first foreign one to arrive and when I saw them and the enthusiasm of the people welcoming them I began to realise just what is in store in the next few weeks.

There’s going to be a party, and whether it’s rugby, literature, oysters, music or any of the other dozens of events, it’s something to celebrate and get excited about.


PGW’s loss SFF’s gain – again

August 31, 2011

PGG Wrightson’s misguided attempt to buy into Silver Fern Farms last year cost the rural servicing firm $40 million last year.

Another unfortunate deal with the meat company has cost PGW $9.6 million and made a major contribution to its $30.7m loss for the year to June.

In 2009, the company entered into a 10-year supply contract for livestock to Silver Fern Farms. To the extent that the company was unable to meet the annual agreed level of supply, in certain circumstances it was required to make a payment to SFF related to the shortfall.

Due to the level of supply and current livestock market trends, a provision of about $9.6 million had been made, representing the best estimate of PGGW’s expected liability for shortfall payments over the remaining contract term.

Stock agent’s are supposed to get the best deal for their clients. They can’t do that if the company they work for has tied itself to one meat company.

The huge loss of lambs after the snow storm last year combined with increased demand and much higher prices would have made it a difficult season for PGW anyway and the deal with SFF compounded its problems.

PGW’s loss has been SFF”s gain again.

SFF was on its knees before Craig Norgate led PGW’s merger bid. The penalty payments when that deal collapsed helped the meat company back into the black last year.

We’ll have to wait for SFF”s results to discover the importance of the amount PGW contributed to its bottom line this year.


Who would be left to pay? – Updated

August 31, 2011

Susan Guthrie and Gareth Morgan have come up with a grand plan which they say will ensure equal opportunity and choice for all:

A total rewrite of our taxation and transfer policies to correct the tax dodges available to owners of capital, to explicitly recognise the importance of non-paid work, and to foster equal opportunities for all citizens to participate in society and the wider economy, will go a long way to reasserting the values of egalitarian New Zealand.

In short, the following package addresses what is needed to get back on this path, while ensuring no blowout of government finances.

- An unconditional basic income (UBI) for every adult – $11,000 after tax, whether you’re in the paid workforce or not. This enables more people to choose paid or unpaid work – or not to work at all. Most importantly more would be able to pursue what they want to do, rather than what financial penury forces them to do. We are a rich society so to compel people to opt for paid work or face the stigma of qualifying for a benefit has no logic.

Let’s look at that last sentence again:

We are a rich society so to compel people to opt for paid work or face the stigma of qualifying for a benefit has no logic.

It depends on how you define rich.

We are a country blessed with a wealth of natural resources and human talent but we don’t have the income to pay for all the first world services and infrastructure most of us regard as necessities.

That income comes from work, particularly work which leads to exports, savings and investment from which tax is paid.

Anyone is free now to choose not to work with the very reasonable proviso that they don’t expect the rest of us to pay them when they exercise that choice.

Some people are unable to work and that is why we need a welfare system as a safety net.

But giving anyone who could work the option to do so or be supported by the rest of us is madness.

Why would anyone bother to work unless they could get considerably more than they were being paid for pleasing themselves and who would be left to pay not just for them but little things like health, education, roads and other services and infrastructure which we all net taxpayers contribute to now?

This is not a recipe for equal opportunity and choice, it’s a recipe for social and economic disaster.

UPDATE: Lindsay Mitchell points out other flaws - including that invalids and sickness beneficiaries would be much worse-off.


Events and issues

August 31, 2011

When British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was asked what was most likely to challenge a government he replied, “Events, my dear boy, events”.

It is not events but issues and the lack of focus on them which is challenging Phil Goff.

In facing, yet again, questions about his leadership he denied he was in trouble and said:

“People aren’t focused on the issues at the moment and we need to focus on the electorate, on those issues, once the world cup is behind us and the election campaign is underway.”

So which issues would he like us to focus on?

The economy? Probably not because the last Labour government in which he was a senior minister mismanaged it badly and there’s nothing in any policy announcements to convince the party has learned the error of its big government tax and spend ways.

The one policy in which the public showed a modicum of interest was the Capital Gains Tax and they don’t want us to focus on that because they haven’t got any details.

Education? No. Labour is critical of National Standards but has no convincing alternative ideas to address the problem of so many young people leaving school functionally illiterate and innumerate.

Health? That’s not a good idea when even Labour’s health spokesperson admits Health Minister Tony Ryall is managing the portfolio effectively.

Security? Another no. It’s difficult for Labour to say much on international security when its foreign policy doesn’t differ markedly from National’s and it has yet to announce any meaningful policy on domestic crime and justice matters.

Welfare? Again this is an area where Labour has been quick to criticise but slow to offer viable alternatives.

These are the big five issues that voters are most likely to be concerned about and Labour has failed to come up with any winning policy ideas in any of them.

That leaves side shows and leadership. There’s been enough of the former to destabilise the latter but although the knives are being sharpened in caucus, the likely successor to Goff lacks either the numbers or the courage to act.

That puts the focus on a divided caucus which already appears to have conceded this election and try as Goff might to shift attention elsewhere that will get far more attention than issues.


August 31

August 31, 2011

12 Gaius Caligula, Roman Emperor, was born (d. 41).

1218 Al-Kamil became Sultan of Egypt, Syria and northern Mesopotamia on the death of his father Al-Adil. 

1422  Henry VI became King of England at the age of 9 months. 

1803 Lewis and Clark started their expedition to the west. 

1870 Maria Montessori, Italian educator, was born (d. 1952).

1876 Ottoman sultan Murat V was deposed and succeeded by his brother Abd-ul-Hamid II.

1880 Wilhelmina I of the Netherlands, was born (d. 1962). 

1886 An earthquake killed 100 in Charleston, South Carolina.

1888  Mary Ann Nichols was murdered, the first of Jack the Ripper’s known victims.

1894 The new Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration (IC&A) Act, a flagship policy of Richard Seddon’s Liberal government, made New Zealand the first country in the world to outlaw strikes in favour of compulsory arbitration. There were no major strikes for 11 years and wages and conditions generally improved.

Arbitration Act becomes law

1894 Albert Facey, Australian writer, was born (d. 1982).

1897  Thomas Edison patented the Kinetoscope, the first movie projector. 

1907 Count Alexander Izvolsky and Sir Arthur Nicolson signed the St. Petersburg Convention, which resulted in the Triple Entente alliance. 

1918 Alan Jay Lerner, American lyricist, was born (d. 1986).

 

1920 Polish-Bolshevik War: A decisive Polish victory in the Battle of Komarów

1940 Pennsylvania Central Airlines Trip 19 crashed near Lovettsville, Virginia. The CAB investigation of the accident was the first investigation to be conducted under the Bureau of Air Commerce act of 1938.

1940 Jack Thompson, Australian actor, was born.

1943  The USS Harmon, the first U.S. Navy ship to be named after a black person, was commissioned.

 

1945 The Liberal Party of Australia was founded by Robert Menzies.

 

1945 Van Morrison, Northern Irish singer-songwriter and musician, was born.

 

1949 The retreat of the Greek Democratic Army in Albania after its defeat in mountain Grammos marked the end of the Greek Civil War.

1949 Richard Gere, American actor, was born.

 

1957 The Federation of Malaya (now Malaysia) gained its independence from the United Kingdom.

1958 A parcel bomb sent by Ngo Dinh Nhu, younger brother and chief adviser of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, failed to kill Sihanouk of Cambodia.

1958 Serge Blanco, French rugby union footballer, was born.

 

1962  Trinidad and Tobago became independent.

1965 Willie Watson, New Zealand cricketer, was born.

1965  The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy aircraft made its first flight.

 

1974 Leader of the Labour Party since 1965 and Prime Minister from late 1972, Norman Kirk, ’Big Norm’, died suddenly at the age of 51. He was the fifth New Zealand PM to die in office.

Death of Norman Kirk

1978 William and Emily Harris, founders of the Symbionese Liberation Army, pleaded guilty to the 1974 kidnapping of

1986 Aeroméxico Flight 498 collided with a Piper PA-28 over Cerritos, California, killing 67 in the air and 15 on the ground.

 

1986 The Soviet passenger liner Admiral Nakhimov sank in the Black Sea after colliding with the bulk carrier Pyotr Vasev, killing 423.

 

1991  Kyrgyzstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

1992  Pascal Lissouba was inaugurated as the President of the Republic of the Congo .

1993  HMS Mercury, shore establishment of the Royal Navy,  closed after 52 years in commission.

 

1994 The Provisional Irish Republican Army declared a ceasefire.

1997 Diana, Princess of Wales, her companion Dodi Al-Fayed and driver Henri Paul died in a car crash in Paris.

1998 North Korea reportedly launches Kwangmyongsong, its first satellite.

1999 The first of a series of bombings in Moscow, killing one person and wounding 40 others.

1999 – A LAPA Boeing 737-200 crashed during takeoff from Jorge Newbury Airport in Buenos Aires, killing 65, including 2 on the ground. 

2005  A stampede on Al-Aaimmah bridge in Baghdad killed 1,199 people. 

2006 Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream, which was stolen on August 22, 2004, was recovered in a raid by Norwegian police.

 

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


Word of the day

August 30, 2011

Mubble-fubbles/ mubblefubbles - depression for no apparent reason, melancholy.


Unreliable memories and thinking

August 30, 2011

Unreliable memory opened discussion with Finlay MacDonald  on Critical Mass this afternoon.

Eric Barker asked Should You Trust Your Memory? and found the answer was no.

This blog, Barking Up The Wrong Tree, is a recent find which has brief posts on research that make fascinating reading.

Be warned before venturing there that it will provide all sorts of opportunities for work avoidance.

Recent posts include: do letters of recommendation actually hurt women when it comes to getting hired or promoted? and does the internet make people happier?

We moved from memory to critical thinking with Louis Menand who writes in the New Yorker on the value of a university education.

 


$4b EQC liability increase doesn’t change surplus target

August 30, 2011

It’s easy for anyone outside Christchurch to forget just how difficult life is there.

Even those whose homes and workplaces haven’t been badly affected find day to day life more demanding because of damage to roads, infrastructure and properties; business disruption and the ongoing strain of continued aftershocks.

Today’s announcement by Finance Minister Bill English that EQC’s earthquake liability has been revised upwards by about $4 billion is financial reminder of just how bad it is.

However, the government isn’t using that as an excuse for moving its target to return to surplus:

“Despite the increased liability, which will have a one-off impact on the Government’s operating balance for the 2010/11 year, the Government remains on track to meet Budget forecasts of a return to surplus in 2014/15 and to keep net debt below 30 per cent of GDP,” Mr English says.

There is no hope that this target would remain realistic if there’s a change of government.

We need continued commitment to policies which reduce the burden of state and increase savings, investment and export-led growth.

Labour and Green policies to tax and spend will do the reverse.


Responsible use and increased royalties

August 30, 2011

Responsible use of resources is one of the guiding principles behind the Energy Strategy and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy which were released today by the Acting Minister of Energy and Resources, Hekia Parata.

Anotther very important part is the potential for $12.7  billion in royalties from oil and gas.

“New Zealand is blessed with an abundance of energy resources,” says Ms Parata.

“Our Government’s goal is to make the most of all the assets we have – hydro, wind, geothermal, oil, gas and minerals.

“We want to use those resources responsibly to secure our energy future and to lift our standard of living.  That is why the Government is taking a balanced approach to building a sustainable energy and resources future.”

On the renewables side of the energy and resources portfolio, New Zealand’s renewable energy levels are the second highest in the OECD, behind Iceland.

“Renewables and energy efficiency are a big part of our energy picture,’’ says Ms Parata.

”Renewables made up 79 per cent of our total electricity generation in the March 2011 quarter. New Zealand has a target of 90 per cent of electricity generation to be from renewable sources by 2025, and we are well on our way to achieving that.’’

Maximising the use of renewable resources gives us a natural advantage which we need to make the most of, although that doesn’t mean damming every river and putting windmills on every hill.

Fossil fuels will continue to play an important role in the global economy. Around half of the energy we currently consume is from petroleum,’’ says Ms Parata.

“We can’t just turn off the tap in our journey to a lower carbon economy. We also can’t ignore the major economic opportunity that continuing global oil demand could provide New Zealand. Petroleum was our fourth biggest export earner in 2010.’’

In addition to the energy strategies, the Minister today released an independent report assessing New Zealand’s oil and gas potential.

The Woodward report shows that New Zealand is set to earn more than $3 billion in royalties from oil and gas fields already in production.

That could increase to $12.7 billion with future discoveries, which would help pay for schools, hospitals, broadband and roads.

“People want to be sure that the environment is protected and they also want jobs and growth,’’ says Ms Parata.

“We have seen the difference the oil and gas industry has made in Taranaki, employing over 5,000 people (in 2009) and contributing $2 billion to our country’s GDP.’’

Sales of crude oil were one of the factors which led to last month’s trade surplus.

The full energy strategies are here. the Woodward Report on future royalty income is here.


Three times a world champ

August 30, 2011

Valarie Adams has won her third World Championship shot put title.

Her 21.24 metre throw equalled the world  record  World Championship record, breaking both the New Zealand record and her personal best.

Keeping Stock, the NZ blogosphere’s sports king, says:

At just 26 years old, Adams has the world at her feet. Her third World Championship sits alongside two Comonwealth Games gold medals and the Olympic gold medal from Beijing in 2008. She is well on her way to becoming New Zealand’s best-ever track and field athlete; shot-putters traditionally mature late, and it’s conceivable that she could have another ten years of competing at the top level and at the pinnacle of her powers.

I am in awe of the physical and mental strength it takes to be a top athlete and this win makes her one of our very best.


Who wants to be an MP?

August 30, 2011

Cactus Kate wrote a post before the announcement of the Act list which was a model of party loyalty and personal restraint.

It included this paragraph:

I am particularly aware what a sacrifice those candidates have made, who have actually given up jobs or scaled back businesses or put their careers on hold to campaign through to November. It was not one that I was personally willing to commit to and have always been open about that with the Board.

On Newstalk ZB yesterday evening Fran O’Sullivan said that Cathy had been offered a position which would almost certainly meant she wouldn’t have got into parliament. I can’t find a link but I think she said it was the 9th spot.

I can’t fathom the board’s reasoning on this. I’ve never met her but from what I know about her I’d have thought that she would have been an asset to the Act caucus.

Young, intelligent, accomplished females willing to forgo successful careers and take a significant cut in salary to serve as an MP aren’t numerous.   

Standing for parliament is a big sacrifice and it is one that fewer people seem willing to make.

In the recent past competition for selection was strong and people keen to be MPs were willing to stand in unwinnable seats as an initiation or apprenticeship. They were there to fly the party flag and demonstrate their commitment in the hope that next time round they might be selected in a seat where their chances of winning were greater.

It appears that people are less willing to do this now, and given the personal and financial cost of campaigning, who can blame them?

This might explain why Labour still hasn’t selected a candidate for every seat.

Being a candidate with no hope of winning an electorate could come with the compensation of a list seat. But since Labour did its list ranking in April it has nothing to offer would-be candidates for whom taking one for the team in tiger country obviously isn’t attractive.


August 30 in history

August 30, 2011

1363 Beginning date of the Battle of Lake Poyang; the forces of two Chinese rebel leaders— Chen Youliang and Zhu Yuanzhang—were pitted against each other in what is one of the largest naval battles in history, during the last decade of the ailing, Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. 

1574  Guru Ram Das became the Fourth Sikh Guru/Master. 

1590  Tokugawa Ieyasu entered Edo Castle.

1720 Samuel Whitbread, English brewer, was born (d. 1796). 

1791 HMS Pandora sank after running aground on a reef the previous day. 

1797 Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, English writer, was born (d. 1851). 

1799 Capture of the entire Dutch fleet by British forces under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby and Admiral Sir Charles Mitchell during the Second Coalition of the French Revolutionary Wars.

1800 Gabriel Prosser led a slave rebellion in Richmond, Virginia.

1813  Battle of Kulm: French forces defeated by Austrian-Prussian-Russian alliance.

1813  Creek War: Creek Red Sticks carried out the Fort Mims Massacre.

1835 Melbourne was founded. 

1836 The city of Houston was founded by Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen.

1862  American Civil War: Battle of Richmond: Confederates under Edmund Kirby Smith routed a Union army under General Horatio Wright.

1862 – American Civil War: Union forces were defeated in Second Battle of Bull Run.

1871 Ernest Rutherford, New Zealand-born Nobel Prize in Chemistry laureate, was born(d. 1937).

1873 – Austrian explorers Julius von Payer and Karl Weyprecht discover the archipelago of Franz Joseph Land in the Arctic Sea.

1903 Guide Joseph Warbrick and three tourists were killed instantly when Roturua’s Waimangu geyser erupted unexpectedly.

Four killed by Rotorua geyser

1908 Fred MacMurray, American actor, was born (d. 1991).

1909  Burgess Shale fossils discovered by Charles Doolittle Walcott.

1912 Nancy Wake AC GM, New Zealand-born World War II secret agent, was born (d. 2011).

1914  Battle of Tannenberg.

1918  Fanny Kaplan shot and seriously injured Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.

1922 Battle of Dumlupinar, final battle in Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922).

1930 Warren Buffett, American entrepreneur, was born.

1935 John Phillips, American singer/songwriter (The Mamas & the Papas), was born (d. 2001).

1942  World War II: Battle of Alam Halfa began. 

1943 Jean-Claude Killy, French skier, was born.

1945 Hong Kong was liberated from Japan by British Armed Forces.

1945 – Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Douglas MacArthur landed at Atsugi Air Force Base.

1946 Peggy Lipton, American actress, was born.

1951 Dana, Irish singer and politician, was born.

1956 Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened.

1962  Japan conducted a test of the NAMC YS-11, its first aircraft since the war and its only successful commercial aircraft.

1963 Hotline between the leaders of the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union went into operation.

1967  Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as the first African American Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

1972  Cameron Diaz, American actress, was born.

1974  A BelgradeDortmund express train derailed at the main train station in Zagreb killing 153 passengers.

1974 – A powerful bomb exploded at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries headquarters in Marunouchi, Tokyo – 8 killed, 378 injured.

1984   The Space Shuttle Discovery took off on its maiden voyage.

1995 – NATO launches Operation Deliberate Force against Bosnian Serb forces.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


Word of the day

August 29, 2011

Scurryfunge -  to rush around tidying when expecting visitors; a hasty tidying of the house between the unexpected news of approaching visitors and their arrival.


Time to decide what’s real and what’s illusory

August 29, 2011

Central Otago poet Brian Turner says it’s time for New Zealanders to decide “once and for all what is real and what is illusory, what is sustainable and what is not”.

He was speaking at a University of Otago graduation ceremony at which he was awarded a Doctor of Literature.

“That means working out how to manage the transition to a society based upon a different ethos, one that’s more ethical and imaginative.

“We need to be smarter, more caring in every sense, abandon the lust for instant materialistic gratification, and ignore the freakery of those who would have us believe in the possibility of perpetual euphoria.”

Decades ago, Aldo Leopold had implored people”to adopt a land ethic, to see all creatures and the very atmosphere we breathe, as a community to which we belonged” rather than mainly as “commodities to be used however we saw fit” . . .

. . . “I’m convinced that strengthening one’s localities, one’s regions, in the interests of our families and friends, and of the wider family of life on earth, is the best and most responsible thing we can do.

 

“Considerable resilience” was called for, everywhere, “if we are to make the transition to different ways of living and providing for ourselves”.

If he is arguing for more localism I’d take issue with it. Self sufficiency has its place but so too does interaction and trade between communities and countries.

However, I agree there is a need to seek continual improvements in the way we do things.

Such calls often taken to be anti-business and development but it doesn’t have to be that way. A reader emailed me this link to the obituary of Ray Anderson, the  head of the world’s largest commercial carpet-tile manufacturer, who was a trail blazer in reducing his firm’s environmental impact:

While much of what Anderson instigated is now relatively common – including measures such as car pooling for employees, moving distribution of goods on to water and rail, switching to an element of fair trade for suppliers, and introducing sustainability training for employees – his company blazed a trail. It also showed, as Anderson was keen to point out, that most of the measures were beneficial to the bottom line – money. Waste-saving innovations alone over the past 13 years have saved the company $372m.

Some initiatives such as fair trade are often based more on feel-good factors than fact, but treading more lightly on the earth can have positive affects on both the environment and the economy.

In seeking to do that we should also strengthen our localities and regions in the interests of people. If I read what Turner is saying corretly, we’ll make the world a better place for people now and for those who follow us.


Appearance and arguments vs realities in political coverage

August 29, 2011

Where on this graph would you put most political coverage:

It comes from a speech Why Political Coverage is Broken  by Jay Rosen who explains the grid:

Bottom left: Appearances rendered as fact. Example: the media stunt.

Top left: Phony arguments. Manufactured controversies. Sideshows.

Bottom right: Today’s new realities: get the facts. The actual news of politics.

Top right. Real arguments: Debates, legitimate controversies, important speeches.

It is much easier to cover stunts and sideshows than to report and seriously analyse real news, debates, legitimate controversies and important speeches.

Rosen blames this on what he calls three impoverished ideas: politics as an inside game;  the cult of savviness and the production of innocence.

The inside game is :

 When journalists define politics as a game played by the insiders, their job description becomes: find out what the insiders are doing to “win.” Reveal those tactics to the public because then the public can… well, this is where it gets dodgy. As my friend Todd Gitlin once wrote, news coverage that treats politics as an insiders’ game invites the public to become “cognoscenti of their own bamboozlement,” which is strange. Or it lavishes attention on media performances, because the insiders are supposed to be good at that: manipulating the media . . .

He explains the cult of savviness as:

In politics, our journalists believe, it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere, thoughtful or humane.  Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.)

Savviness is that quality of being shrewd, practical, hyper-informed, perceptive, ironic, “with it,” and unsentimental in all things political. And what is the truest mark of savviness? Winning, of course! Or knowing who the winners are . . .

. . .  Now in order for this belief system to operate effectively, it has to continually position the journalist and his observations not as right where others are wrong, or virtuous where others are corrupt, or visionary where others are short-sighted, but as practical, hardheaded, unsentimental, and shrewd where others are didactic, ideological, and dreamy.  This is part of what’s so insidious about press savviness: it tries to hog political realism to itself.

But even more insidious than that is the positioning effect . . .

On the production of innocence he says:

. . . I mean ways of reporting the news that try to advertise or “prove” to us that the press is neutral in its descriptions, a non-partisan presenter of facts, a non-factor and non-actor in events. Innocence means reporters are mere recorders, without stake or interest in the matter at hand. They aren’t responsible for what happens, only for telling you about it. When you hear, “don’t shoot the messenger” you are hearing a journalist declare his or innocence . . .

Rosen uses examples from the USA and Australia but it wouldn’t be hard to find many here too.

But he doesn’t only identify problems, he has a better idea for political reporting, based on the grid above:

My suggestion is to report appearances as just that: mere appearances. Which would be a way of jeering at them, labelling them as not quite real. So the appearances section would be heavy on satire and simple quotation. . .

Appearances, then, means downgrading or penalizing politicians who deal in the fake, the trivial, the merely sensational. In other words: “watch out or you’ll wind up in the appearances column.”

Under realities we find everything that is actually about real problems, real solutions, real proposals, consequential plans and of course events that deserve the title: political events.  This is the political news proper, cured of what Tanner calls the sideshow .

But then there’s my other axis. Arguments and facts. Both are important, both are a valid part of politics . . .

 . . . Now imagine all of today’s political news and commentary sorted into these four quadrants. This becomes the new portal to political news. Appearances and realities, arguments and facts. To render the political world that way, journalists would have to exercise their judgment about what is real and what is not. And this is exactly what would bring them into proper alignment with our needs as citizens.

We have some very good political journalism in New Zealand which treats appearances and arguments for what they’re worth and deals seriously with realities and facts.

But we’d all be better served and  informed if there was a lot more of that.

Hat Tips: Dim Post and Larvatus Prodeo.


Departing with dignity

August 29, 2011

Politicians need confidence and with that can go a fairly high self-regard which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

However, it can be a problem if their assessment of their own ability isn’t shared by other people and that is often demonstrated when parties announce their lists.

The only thing that really matters in a list place is whether or not they’ll be in parliament – and if they’re going to hold or win an electorate then it doesn’t matter at all.

Unfortunately not all candidates see this and take their list place personally, regarding it as a boost or insult to their ego.

It isn’t. It’s the reality of politics and if they feel undervalued they should breathe deeply and take a lesson from Hilary Calvert. She has worked as a volunteer for her party, put herself forward as a candidate in successive elections and disrupted her life to become a very short term MP.

In spite of that, and no doubt with good reason, the Act board decided she wasn’t wanted on the list for the upcoming election.

She could have had a hissy fit but she hasn’t:

Act New Zealand MP Hilary Calvert was philosophical yesterday despite being dumped from the party list for November’s election less than a year after entering Parliament.

“I’m happy and fully supportive of the decisions the board has made.”

Her parliamentary career will be short and hasn’t been stellar.

But at least she’s got the good sense to keep any feeling of being badly done by to herself. 

In doing so she’ll be departing  with her dignity intact and has provided a good example for others to follow.


Earthquake prediction reporting another nominee for Bent Spoon

August 29, 2011

NZ Skeptics awarded their 2011 Bent Spoon for journalistic gullibility to all media outlets and personalities who took Ken Ring’s earthquake predictions seriously.

The Bent Spoon was awarded telepathically by those gathered for the annual NZ Skeptics Conference which, appropriately given the winner was held in Christchurch at the weekend.

And there’s already another nominee for the next award. TV3 is reporting Ring’s predicting another big earthquake for Christchurch at the end of September.

He does qualify the prediction:

On his website, he says there is a “potent” lunar alignment in the last week of September, same as the one that existed at the time of the September 4, 2010 quake.

“Indeed, it may not happen, and we all hope not, but the main players will be in position,” he says. “For example we might observe that Dan Carter and Ritchie McCaw are on the field, but that does not guarantee a win.”

And the report does include this:

A 3 News analysis of Mr Ring’s predictions earlier this year failed to show any evidence he was able to accurately predict earthquakes, and even his long-range weather forecasts did no better than chance.

Given that, why bother reporting this latest prediction? There is no news value in further predictions from someone whose predictions have been proved inaccuarte and even with the qualifications giving the prediction coverage is taking it seriously.

The Herald report is even worse, it doesn’t bother to report the unreliability of his previous predictions.

All media should ignore his predictions as the unscientific guess-work they are and anyone with any doubts should read, or re-read, David Winter’s scientific evaluation of the predictions.


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