The difficulties of cleaning up Kiwiblog

David Farrar has a major challenge trying to clean up Kiwiblog, as comments on his latest post on proposals to clamp down on abuse demonstrate.

Abusers want to be able to continue to have an unfettered forum to abuse and bully.

Kiwiblog stands out as a major blog with very little restrictions on who can say what. Farrar has been a strong supporter of free and open debate, but this ideal has it’s down sides due to rampant abuses.

Farrar was noticeably reality checked by claims in Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’. He hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as Cameron Slater but has been an integral part of the ‘dirty politics’ way of life.

One of his initial reactions was to seriously consider walking away from Kiwiblog. Since then he has posted several times on cleaning up his blog. This is on two levels:

  • his own use of Kiwiblog as a political tool
  • the frequently awful and abusive behaviour displayed in the comments sections of his blog (Farrar rarely participates there but also rarely intervenes).

The latest stage of an attempt to reform Kiwiblog was posted yesterday: Proposed Comments Policy where Farrar asked for input into his proposals.

Some of the reaction was positive and supportive, but it didn’t take long for the thread to be taken over by the same old barrow pushing and abuse. An eventual comment:

Kiwiblog does not need any change. If people cannot handle vigorous debate let them leave. DPF is possibly being far too sensitive.

DPF has been saying that he wants some change. He isn’t trying to quash “vigorous debate”, he’s made that clear.

…on most topics, you should be able to reasonably and robustly disagree.

He made it clear what he’s trying to target:

Generally they are not a huge change from the status quo except in the area of personal abuse. I want more people to feel safe to post on Kiwiblog, without being abused for their views. Their views can be attacked, but not them.

I could imagine him being a bit disappointed by some of the comments on this thread. It’s hard to know whether ignoring DPF and using the thread to defend abusive behaviour and display some of the things DPF says he is trying to clean up is through ignorance or blatant defiance.

Wanting to reduce personal attacks, abusiveness and bullying has nothing to do with ‘PC’, it’s an attempt at moving towards basic decency in a democratic and civil society.

That some seem to claim a ‘right’ to freely be abusive arses on a blog who’s owner clearly wants to clean it up, and that they ignore requests by displaying behaviours that the blogger is specifically saying they want to clamp down on, is a pretty sad reflection on what the Kiwiblog community has to an extent become.

I think if the obvious abuses of a small but vocal minority are reasonably limited then many more people are likely to be willing to contribute here.

An unfettered forum for a few arses? Or a decent debate blog? Obviously it’s up to DPF but I thought he has made his preference quite clear.

“I want more people to feel safe to post on Kiwiblog, without being abused for their views.”

That people are arguing (and acting) against that on the thread is remarkable to me.

Cleaning up Kiwiblog will be a big challenge for Farrar. It will be difficult overcoming entrenched habits of abuse and repeated hijacking, as the comments on his post demonstrate.

His attempts look like being strongly challenged by those who want to keep abusing his forum by continuing to use it to bully and abuse others and drive away decent debate.

Kiwiblog is far from the only blog with similar problems but at least Farrar acknowledges the problem and is trying to address it.

Farrar versus Gilbert and ‘dirty politics’

A spat between David Farrar (DPF) of Kiwiblog and Dr Jarrod Gilbert continues, with connections being made to ‘dirty politics. Gilbert posted on Wednesday:

Proof of David Farrar’s deception: my own experience of Dirty Politics

In the lead up to the election the Minister of Corrections Anne Tolley launched a gang policy. In order to justify the government’s approach she used gang figures that overstated the gang problem. Not by a little bit, but a lot. And I mean a lot. I couldn’t prove it at the time (I can now) but because they were so obviously nonsense I called her out and said I would eat a suitcase full of carrots if she was correct.

Carrots proved to be the least of my problems. My problem proved to be the dishonest Right Wing blogger David Farrar. I initially took Farrar’s challenge in good humour thinking it would be a healthy tussle to seek the truth. It wasn’t. As we know now, he and Cameron Slater are birds of a feather, but where Slater is dim-witted Farrar is marginally smarter and this makes him more insidious.

Farrar quickly leapt to the Minister’s Defence. He was able to gain the figures – presumably from the Minister’s office – and with them he attempted to ‘prove’ that I was wrong and discredit me. Sound familiar? It was my own little experience of Dirty Politics.

Farrar responded with an apology:

Jarrod was right

September 24th, 2014 at 1:55 pm by David Farrar

May have some carrots to eat.

I had an exchange with in August about the proportion of crimes caused by gang members, in reference to his disputing a statement by Anne Tolley.

I blogged:

Is Dr Gilbert Saying the Corrections Department is lying when it says 28% of the prison population are gang members? They supplied the data, and I see no reason why they would make it up.

I’ve just been told that the Corrections Department figures do include associates and family – something they did not make clear at the time.

So Dr Gilbert was quite right that the Minister was not comparing apples and applies, as one figure included associates, and one did not.

UPDATE: of course I apologise for doubting when he says Police and Corrections were using definitions of gang members. They were!

Graeme Edgeler took him to task

I’ve just been told that the Corrections Department figures do include associates and family – something they did not make clear at the time.

You were told that at the time. In fact, you quoted Dr Gilbert and responded as follows:

What the 28 percent prison number represents is gang members as well as gang associates in prison.

So it is a technical argument over definitions. I don’t care what you call them.

What’s changed? You agreed it was an argument of definitions then, but didn’t think it mattered.

David Fisher at NZ Herald:

Minister used wrong figures on gangs

Figures used by Police Minister Anne Tolley to justify a new law tackling gangs were wrong, police admitted last night.

The error was picked up by police shortly after Ms Tolley announced the policy in the run-up to the election but it has yet to be publicly corrected.

“Our intention is to shortly publish the relevant Cabinet Paper and clarification online,” a spokesman said last night.

Ms Tolley launched the policy as a “whole of government” approach to gangs which included drug dogs at domestic transit points – airports and ferries – and a new gang intelligence centre.

Launching the policy, she issued a press release saying 4000 gang members were responsible for a crime wave, including a quarter of murders last year.

She said that during the first three months of this year those 4000 gang members commited 34 per cent of serious drug offences, 36 per cent of kidnapping and abductions, 25 per cent of robbery offences and 26 per cent of grievous assault offences.

University of Canterbury sociologist Dr Jarrod Gilbert, who challenged the figures at the time of the policy launch, was yesterday citing proof the press release was wrong.

And Gilbert countered Farrar yesterday:

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the government isn’t playing dirty.

Ten minutes or so before I posted my blog yesterday proving the Police and Corrections Minister had used dodgy gang numbers, David Farrar wrote something akin to an apology on Kiwiblog for attacking me for exposing the truth. He was getting the jump on criticism coming his way.

Was this a coincidence? Of course not. He was tipped off by the Minister’s office following an inquiry by the the Herald’s ever diligent David Fisher just an hour or so before Farrar posted. Tolley’s press secretary is a man named Gillon Carruthers. Leaked emails used in Dirty Politics show that Carruthers has been providing material to Farrar’s offside Cameron Slater since 2011. Old habits obviously die hard.

And:

When I wrote in my blog that I used somebody else to send in the Official Information request because I was concerned the fact I was doing so would be leaked to Farrar or others (to whatever end), I thought I might be seen as paranoid. To be honest, I thought I might have been too. Unfortunately it appears not.

It is already quite clear that numerous people have been attacked by Slater, Farrar, often at the behest of government ministers or those working for them. This is not a small matter, it is about how we want our democracy to operate.

After the revelations of Dirty Politics, it might have been assumed these practices were halted. It seems that they haven’t been. Cameron Slater said to me last week on Twitter ‘wait until you see Dirtier Politics’. The worst, it would seem, is yet to come.

Slater has sounded unrepentant about playing dirty in between claiming to be a victim.

Farrar has pledged to clean up Kiwiblog and be more vigilant about disclosure of sources but he’s also been taken to task about this by Edgeler:

“if any content substantially comes from a parliamentary … source, I will state so when using it.” cf.

I haven’t seen a response to this from Farrar.

Some of this has been highlighted in a post at The Standard. Anthony Robins concludes:

Business as usual then (what a surprise). Expect dirty politics, and personal attacks on critics of the government, to escalate even further over the next three years.

A bit ironic considering the levels of personal attacks on critics at The Standard but fair enough holding Kiwiblog to account.

Dirty politics and personal attacks won’t stop overnight, they are ingrained practices across the political spectrum and across blogs.

Steve R also commented at Kiwiblog:

You need to do more to make up for how poorly you treated Dr Gilbert who I note you now refer to simply as “Jarrod”.

You misrepresented his position and allowed ignorant vitriol to be published whilst at the same time you suppressed counter arguments in support of his position. For instance, I wrote the post below and then watched and waited, and waited, and waited for it to be made public and funnily enough you only released it to the public well after activity on the thread had died off. If you’re going to manage your blog with such little integrity and courage then why don’t you openly label it for what it is – a gathering place for those of the right with feeble minds that cannot cope with a dissenting opinion.

My earlier post: “The one thing that Dr Gilbert has got wrong is that you deserve a reputation for honesty. You are being quite dishonest to suggest that Dr Gilbert has conceded the point, he absolutely has not. And it is utter nonsense to suggest he is wrong by simply standing by the initial apparently flawed data.

Furthermore, your refusal to accept there is a significant difference between gang members and associates betrays nothing but sheer ignorance. Having worked with gangs as a police officer (including time undercover in their midst) I can assure you that there are numerous people who are recorded as “gang associates” that have no association with “the gang” although they might have a completely non-gang related association with an individual “gang member”.

For instance, consider the co-worker who has his name taken when he gets pulled over in the company of a gang member; the person whose cousin or brother in law is a gang member (such people include policemen, lawyers and even a Judge); the tradesman who does work for a gang member etc etc. All can be recorded as “gang associates” and in the event that they commit an offence it is recorded as having been committed by a “gang associate” notwithstanding the fact there is no “gang” connection to the offence. Thus, the definitions used do matter because if the “gang problem” is wildly overstated because of a flawed nexus between offences and “gangs” then policy decisions and resource allocations are potentially misguided.”

Holding prominent political blogs and bloggers to account has become an important aspect of New Zealand politics.

It will be interesting to see how Farrar and Kiwiblog responds to what will no doubt be ongoing pressure to clean up.

The Standard versus David Farrar and Dirty Politics

David Farrar was implicated in Nicky Hager’s “Dirty Politics” book. He remains a friend of Cameron Slater and appears to have worked in tandem with the Whale Oil blog via his own Kiwiblog. His disclosure statement is here.

His latest post at Kiwiblog is Issues that matter – the Economy where he says:

I think the economy matters and should be a much bigger issue in this election so I’ve put together almost a dozen graphs showing the difference between National and Labour’s record on 11 important economic indicators. These are issues that matter to families and businesses

He details eleven graphs with comment and concludes:

Government do not directly control many of these economic measures. But they can and do impact them with their economic policies. The difference between where we are today and where we were in the mid to late 2000s is stark.

The Standard has posted Dirty Politics Watch I with an image extract from Dirty Politics:

Standard Dirty Politics Watch IThe post then links to Farrar’s post and states:

It’s like deja vu all over again.

The ‘author’ is listed as By: – in other words, no name, no disclosure about their identity or their political links.

‘Gosman’ asks:

Ummm… what exactly is his ‘crime’ meant to be here?

‘Puddlegum’ responds:

As I understand it, the implication is that Farrar has been making use of the National Party Research Unit and posting it as his own work again (or the National Party Research Unit has been making use of Farrar, again).

Not a crime, but, if correct, a post by Farrar that misleads his readers about the providence of its content. A potential fact that might influence how it is read and interpreted.

That’s the implication I understood.

‘Lanthanide:

A pure example of two-track politics as advanced by Hager.

Instead of the National Party themselves posting these 11 graphs (or National giving this to the MSM themselves) to show the differences between National and Labour, they outsource it to their blogs so as to maintain distance and plausible deniability.

Pretty obvious I should have thought.

The insinuation was pretty obvious.

There is no proof or indication that the post is anything but Farrar’s own work.

Farrar has responded on Facebook:

Some anonymous poster at The Standard thinks that me spending five or six hours compiling data to produce some economic graphs for my blog, is an example of dirty politics!!!

Instead it was an example of common tactics used in dirty politics.

The poster was of course anonymous, as most of them posters are.

But what I love is how they label as dirty politics basically anything that doesn’t worship David Cunliffe and Labour.

I guess it is easier for them to anonymously smear me, rather than actually do what I did, and spend a few hours going through the Stats NZ database compiling information.

The Standard, as I showed in “Vote Positive” and The Standard, seems to have given up on praising Cunliffe and Labour, almost all their posts are negative attacks on John Key, National, Slater and Farrar.

Farrar is right, the economy is a critical election issue and deserves critical examination. His post is predictably pro-National and also deserves critical examination, but instead an unknown person with unknown political connections tries to go dirty instead.

Ignoring the issue and trying to discredit the messenger is a standard dirty political tactic.

The first comment, by long time Labour activist ‘Anne':

David Farrar is as guilty as sin when it comes to Dirty Politics.

His whining and moaning over the supposed hacking of his computer following the launch of the book “Dirty Politics” was nothing but a cover-up job to try and claim victim status and distract from his involvement in the rotten game.

Anyone who has ever been the victim of a dirty smear campaign – more often than not involving unlawful conduct similar to Slater’s – will know that the perpetrator (or perpetrators) always use this tactic to cover for their own behaviour. The sad part is they invariably get away with it because the ‘powers that be’ (read establishment) let them get away with it. You have to ask yourself… why?

Some irony there with “dirty smear campaign” and “always use this tactic“.

‘Nadis’ comments:

I don’t get the problem? Some benign (but obviously cherry picked) partisan data gets published. I cant see why the source matters, if it in fact is not Farrar.

Now I’d get the point if it were an allegation of wifebeating or corruption etc, but some economic charts? How does it matter whether the source is David Farrar, a top secret black ops team, or my grandma?

I think for dirty tricks, you actually have to be doing something dirty. Otherwise the bleating just comes across as tinfoil hat conspiracy theory. And yes I have read Dirty Politics.

That addresses the non-problem of Farrar’s post, it questions the insinuation “if it in fact is not Farrar” and calls it ‘bleating’. Fair call.

But it doesn’t address the hypocrisy of The Standard alleging dirty politics while playing dirty politics.

Standard sysop and trustee Lynn Prentice often complains about ‘The Standard’ being referred to as an entity, claiming it is just  ‘a machine’. He recently posted in Meet The Standard:

So now when you see me saying that you can’t treat The Standard as a person with opinions because it is a machine. You’ll now know what I’m talking about….

But the reality is that this is just the hardware. The Standard is the sum of the loosely cooperative authors and their mixture of different viewpoints, and the commenters who have fun analyzing everything to death.

No attempt at analysis by ‘Notices and features”, just doing dirty to death.

An insinuating post with no evidence sounds like someone is hiding behind the machine. A dirty machine.

Excuses and ethics for Hager don’t stack up

There have been very polarised views on Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics, from lauding him for exposing some of the dirtiest politics being practiced (including me with some reservations) to condemning him for playing as dirty as those he exposes using illegally obtained information (including me to an  extent).

Some have strongly defended and praised Hager, like Sacha at Public Address, endorsed by Sofie Bribiesca :

…an internationally-respected investigative journalist who has never had a single fact in any of his books successfully challenged.

Hager may be internationally respected as a journalist in some circles but this book was very shoddy journalism at best.

It was pointed out be me and others that Dirty Politics was also factually shoddy – there were few facts, it comprised mostly of a selected collection of online conversations.

A number of errors or contestable claims were cited. This resulted in what is common on blogs, they gave up their argument and turned to attacking the messenger. Dirty politics, albeirt on a different scale to Whale Oil but also clearly intended to intimidate, bully and shut up.

Sacha also said in the same comment quoted above:

Why else do you think people like the PM go straight to personal attacks on Hager (which when repeated often enough may result in people who do not do their homework forming an impression of a ‘controversial reputation’, exactly as intended)?

That’s rather ironic. Sacha was one of the ones who joined in the personal attacks.

One of the main criticisms of Hager’s book is his non-journalistic method of stitching together conversations to make damaging insinuations – David Farrar points out one example in How Hager got it wrong on The Princess Party and concludes:

If Mr Hager is doing reprints of his book, I would appreciate it if he could make the appropriate corrections.

And perhaps this is a lesson to everyone out there, not to take everything in the book at face value. If he has got this wrong, what else has he got wrong? Again this is what happens when you don’t verify anything or give people a chance to respond.

‘Toad’ commented on that:

If Hager had interviewed anybody, word would have got around and he would have been injuncted to prevent publication.

Yes, that may cause some inferences to be drawn from the emails that are based on hearsay and therefore not entirely accurate.

Real journalists make sure they have investigated properly and checked both sides of their stories so injunctions won’t be  unnecessary.’Nookin’ responded to toad.

Hager is on record as saying that journalists have a non-negotiable obligation to be accurate and fair and to protect their sources. See the link to his article on the thread about Goff. Are you saying that non-negotiable must be read “subject to the proviso that timing is everything and accuracy and fairness must succumb to the over-riding goal of kicking National in the slats”?

The link is to “Where are you, ethically?” A speech to the to the Records Management Association of Australasia conference, 10 September 2007 on Hager’s website. In this he says:

I was given the speech topic “Where are you, ethically?” and asked to challenge all of you to think about the ethical issues involved in your work. It feels presumptuous to launch into challenging other people about their ethics, so I thought it might be good to start off as an example by talking about the kinds of ethical issues and decisions that come up in my work. I will be trying to show the way that we all face ethical decisions in our work.

My work involves researching difficult subjects such as military operations, intelligence agencies, PR companies and the less open sides of politics. My research involves writing freedom of information requests, conducting fieldwork, reading archives, locating specialist or lateral sources of public information and interviewing people. For subjects that are very secret, I sometimes have to seek people inside organisations who will talk to me unofficially and sometimes leak information to me. There are lots of challenging ethical issues involved in this.

On privacy:

There are lots of interesting ethical issues involved that are at the heart of understanding which records the public has a legitimate right to see and which it does not.

The first issue is about privacy. I am well known for being an advocate for people’s rights to privacy. My first book revolved around those issues. So what am I doing publishing someone’s private communications? Where am I, ethically?

The answer lies in the meaning of ‘privacy’. ‘Private e-mails’ can mean two very different things. ‘Private’, in the sense of personal privacy, refers to people’s families, personal relationships, health information and so on. I believe there has to be a very, very strong reason before anyone has a right to intrude on other people’s privacy and accordingly I included no such information in my book on the National Party. There were no private e-mails in that sense.

I hope you agree that respecting and protecting people’s privacy is a fundamental ethical and professional issue for anyone in your profession. I think some organisations are too blase or careless about the protection of the personal private information that they hold.

However the other meaning of private e-mails is completely different. This is ‘private’ in the sense of something being kept confidential, as in ‘private ministerial meeting’ or ‘private diplomatic talks’. It is secrecy, not privacy. I regularly obtain and use private documents in this sense of the word. I couldn’t do my job properly if I didn’t. The National Party book contained hundreds and hundreds of this sort of private document.

This is interesting, because the email and Facebook conversations used by Hager in Dirty Politics were private, they were not ‘secret’ or confidential ministerial or Government records. They were from private individuals.

Some people would say, ‘if it’s a good story, just publish it’. Publish and be damned. But I believe that wherever our action or decision — or inaction or avoidance of a decision — might affect other people, we have a responsibility to think carefully and do what we think is best.

There’s justifiable claims that Hager just published this – perhaps under too much time pressure. David Fisher writes in Tidal wave of dirt that could swamp election:

“I heard a rumour about someone who had some stuff,” says Hager, whose books on spies have generated contacts in IT circles. “He already had a plan in his mind to set up a Twitter account and splash it all out there.”

Hager says he spent weeks talking the person into letting him see the material and use it to build the narrative which became Dirty Politics.

The hacker, says Hager, gave him everything. “I’ve seen everything. I’m 100 per cent sure.” The hacker then expressed a desire to keep back some material for himself. “We kind of negotiated how much,” he says. “I said ‘can I have all the political stuff’.” Hager got what he asked for and so, the book was written.

So Hager published his book ‘ethically’ removing personal details – even that’s debatable, he revealed identities and made damaging insinuations that were far from a journalistic standard – knowing full well that the whole contents would be revealed soon afterwards anyway.

Hager knew that his book was just a part of a greater degree of private revelations, but he chose to take part anyway.

Not only do the excuses for Hager not stack up, Hager’s own ethics are severely challenged by his involvement in this.

“Not as bad as Whale Oil”

Since the release of Nicky Hager’s book ‘Dirty Politics’ there has been much discussion and condemnation of what has been revealed – even though much of the dirtiness of Cameron Slater was already well known. He has boasted about his political uncleanliness.

Last year after the Len Brown revelations just after the local body elections Slater said on The Nation:

Mr Slater argued that Auckland politics was “a dirty disgusting despicable game”.

“It involves dirty disgusting despicable people at all levels,” he said.

“And to have this high and mighty belief that New Zealand politics is clean, it isn’t.”

(Frontpage)

He repeated this on his Whale Oil blog recently. He often quotes ” Never wrestle with pigs, two things are for certain if you do. You will get dirty and the pig will enjoy it”, along others from his list of ‘rules’.

Whaleoil’s Rules of Politics

1. If you are explaining, you are losing

2. Utu is good, even necessary

3. Never hug a corpse – it smells and you end up smelling like the corpse too

4. Always know where the bodies are buried

5. Don’t let mongrels get away with being mongrels

6. Don’t mess with The Whale or Cactus Kate

7. Never wrestle with pigs, two things are for certain if you do. You will get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.

8. Never ask a question if you don’t already know the answer

9. Speak plain, Speak Simple

10. Remember, I’m telling this story

11. Never trust a politician if you aren’t close enough to them to hit them in the back of the head with a bit of 4×2

12. Never trust a politician with a moustache or a hyphenated name

There might be a lot of people, especially politicians, giving serious consideration to rule 3 right now.

Slater’s personal attacks and vindictiveness are well known. There’s no one who comes close to his media prominence and dirtiness in New Zealand politics.

So all other bloggers can comfortably claim they are “not as bad as Whale Oil”. But that sets the bar very low and should not excuse lesser levels of dirtiness.

One of the more long serving and respected bloggers Russell Brown posted  We can do better than this at Public Address and concluded:

In one of the early reports that annoyed me, Radio New Zealand’s political editor Brent Edwards, talked about smears being unleashed to “blogs” and “the blogosphere”.

Actually, we’re not all like that. The multitude of bloggers, political bloggers included, have no part in this. And while the cynical side of politics is not new, I do believe that the scope, scale and nature of what is described in Hager’s book is unprecedented.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can, all of us, do better than this.

Russell is right, we’re “not all like that”. No one else is as bad as Whale Oil. I agree that “the scope, scale and nature of what is described in Hager’s book is unprecedented” – although it shouldn’t really have been a surprise to Russell if he was aware of what Whale Oil has been doing for years.

But in comments Russell seems to think that the ‘all of us” in “We can, all of us, do better than this” doesn’t apply equally to all of us.

It’s over to you, Pete, to identify a left-leaning blogger with even a tenth of the venality and vindictiveness of WhaleOil.

I feel kind of icky agreeing with Pete (sorry, Mr. George) but if our baseline is “not as bad as Whaleoil” that’s a depressingly low bar you can clear without lifting your feet.

Which is really just a morally elevated way of saying “everyone does it”. It’s simply not true. What has happened in and around Whaleoil these past few years is actually of a different nature.

He seems to be claiming it’s not true that everyone doesn’t do it, despite calling for “all od us” to do better.

Some of what Whale Oil has done has been of a different nature” and of a more extreme nature, but there are many examples of dirt mongering across the blogosphere. Russell moderates Public Address fairly well but even his own blog shouldn’t be exempt from criticism. There’s dirt at different levels but there’s dirt – there were even mild attempts to attack me personally to divert from the issues being discussed on that thread (eg ScottY and Kracklite).

Public Address is relatively mild but still allows personal political attacks and dirty comments. The other major left wing blogs The Standard and The Daily Blog allow and promote a lot of abuse and attempts to emulate some of Whale Oil’s “success”.

Lynn Prentice (lprent) at The Standard often boasts about his nastiness:

That is because in my sysop role I’m deliberately a nasty vindictive mean old man with abuse of power issues, whose only redeeming quality is that he is too lazy to be bothered exercising those traits, but who often and almost randomly goes totally over the top when roused.

And as chief moderator that sets the tone for blog with support of a one sided attack culture.

And Martyn Bradbury is well know for over the top rants and abuse, as well as doing party promotional blog posting without revealing he is being paid by or seeking payment for his work, one of the things Slater is correctly criticised for.

Josie Pagan is very familiar with how nasty the left wing blogs can get, they have blasted her a number of times. She recently posted The politics of vilification.

Nicky Hager’s book exposes both the politics of demonisation and the National Government’s role in facilitating it. The right wing blogs have been more extreme, more violent and more coordinated with the parliamentary party and so the book is their comeuppance. 

I agree with that. Whale Oil is obviously the main culprit but Kiwiblog can be very nasty in it’s comments and I think the generally and widely respected David Farrar would admit to overstepping lines of decency at times (as most if not all bloggers do to varying degrees).

But imagine how much harder would it be for the government to deflect some of the disgusting stuff they’ve been involved in if some on the left blogs had not spent so much energy vilifying and demonising people they disagree with.

I’ve been suggesting to left wing blogs for a long time thatthey would be fdar more credible and effective if they cut down on the crap – I’ve been banned from The Standard for giving them advice along those lines.

At least Farrar recognises problems and has pledged ttake measures to try to improve Kiwiblog – Some changes for Kiwiblog.

Josie concluded:

But there is also a wider lesson to everyone about the way politics is conducted. 

As I wrote back in December, “The fundamental principle of the left is our compassion…. Ours is the politics of redemption, forgiveness and humanity.” 

Or, as Nicky Hager elegantly stated on The Nation this morning, “if anyone is doing it, they should stop.

It’s hard to see Whale Oil changing it’s degree of nastiness but if we are to improve political discourse in New Zealand it’s up to all of the rest of us to do what we can to improve – bloggers and politicians.

Directing all the blame at the other lot and demanding action from them ignores those shitting in our own nests.

Yes Russell, we can, all of us, do better than this. ‘All of us’ means not opting out because we’re are not as bad as Whale Oil.

UPDATE: Russell has responded via Twitter:

Thanks for another droning restatement of what you’ve already said. I’m at a loss as to what I’m supposed to do about it.

I replied: Try using your stature showing some leadership in the blogosphere in raising standards perhaps?

Kiwiblog steps up

David Farrar has stepped up to a major challenge and is promising improvements at Kiwiblog – see Some changes for Kiwiblog.

Farrar has always been one of the most open bloggers on disclosure, and he is are taking that even further. 

I receive up to a dozen unsolicited e-mails a day, suggesting stories to me. Most are from people who are not politicians or staff – just ordinary readers. Some are just links to stories, some make some points on a topical issue. I sometimes quote these e-mails in posts. I have always been very careful to distinguish between content I write, and content people may send me (which I quote as coming from a reader). But I’m going to go a further step and if any content substantially comes from a parliamentary, or political party staffer, source I will state so when using it. I will not name individuals, but if I quote someone I will include information on their affiliations, when relevant. You will find this is very infrequently.

The comments and commenters at Kiwiblog have a reputation for being many things, usually negative. There’s no doubt it can be a very abusive and insenstitive forum at times. Amongst the noise there are also many very worthwhile and interesting comments and commenters, but reputation focuses mainly on the worst.

After the election (ie when I have more time) I am going to consult on a tougher moderation policy for the comments. I want them to be robust and forceful, but focused more on issues than people. I have very limited time to read them myself, so probably will ask for some readers to step forward as moderators. We’ll have that discussion in October.

Moderation can be very time consuming, a difficult beast to confront. It’s a REAL SHAME that more responsibility and respect isn’t shown by commenters who are guests on Kiwiblog. This will be a challenge but it’s worth doing.

Farrar is setting a higher standard for himself – now it will be interesting to see if the blogs to the left who have been busy claiming they are not as bad as those on the right step up and follow your example.

As Bunji has just posted at The Standard – Left wing blogs aren’t “the same”.

No, they are not the same. Are they willing to up their standards too? What about it lprent? 

UPDATE: Already The Standard has indicated where they stand on this, showing their hypocrisy in claiming the moral high ground – No Changes for Kiwiblog.

Whoever wrote and posted that didn’t even have the guts to disclose their name or pseudonym.

Who’s been hacking?

This post follows the Hager precedent where it is ok to float a few bits of information and let others join the dots.

Cameron Slater has accused Kim Dotcom of being involved in hacking his email and Facebook data. Dotcom has stated:

For the record: I haven’t hacked Whaleoil. I have nothing to do with Hager’s book. There will be legal action against Slater & co

However that is a loose disclaimer. I asked for clarification:

Can you confirm that you had no knowledge of or anything to do with the hacking of ?

No response to that.So there’s an obvious possibility there.

The next dot – David Farrar claims I’ve either been hacked or spied on.

I started reading more fully the book yesterday, and the footnotes in the book. To my shock I realised that Hager had info in the book that could not have come from the hacking of Cameron Slater, but could only have come from my computer, my apartment or my office.

Specifically he refers to copies of two scripts used by my company, Research, this year. There is absolutely no way they could have come from Cameron Slater’s computer systems, as Cameron doesn’t have them. No one has them but me and my office.

I thought about how this could have happened. The two most likely scenarios are that my computer systems have also been hacked, or that someone physically removed the scripts from my office (or possibly apartment).

A commenter ‘berend’ points out:

The source is an employee. Footnote 17 for chapter 9 says “Confidential source.” Footnote 18 calls him “The employee said”.

Next dot – as I posted yesterday, the gmail account I use for political correspondence and my Facebook account have been hacked.

What would I have in common with Slater and Farrar? They are big time bloggers with long and substantial involvement in politics and with the National Party.

I’m a small time independent blogger with scant political connections.

Another dot – suddenly another blogger who usually shuns mainstream media is going public – see Prentice irritated by Labour links and he was interviewed on Radio NZ this morning. Lynn Prentice, known as lprent.

Prentice and I have sparred online for years. He has made some funny claims like this last year in an ironic Pete George – an example of right wing blogging falsehoods (his grand entrance at The Daily Blog). He and many other left wing activists cal me a right winger. That’s very funny.

A post at The Standard (ironically on a post called Happy Labour Day):

The likes of Cam Slater, David Farrar, Brett Dale, John Key, Jami-lee Ross, Mike Hosking, Leighton Smith, Lucia maria (she also want to see the gays exterminated), Colin Craig, John Banks, Simon Bridges, Bob McCroskie, Gosman, Fisiani, Santi, Grumpy, Matthew Hooton Monique Angel, Pete George and all others that I have left off my list (sorry, will be here all night), are to trade unionists what the SA brownshirts were to the Jews in 1930′s Germany, common thugs who see those who belong to a trade unions (along with homosexuals) as vermin to be exterminated in a Final Solution.

Get ready folks, post 2014 we will see trade unionists streaming through our court system when National make joining a trade union to be a crime, and the PPTA outlawed in our schools.

Slavery, here we come.

That’s not an unusual view from the far left, anyone seen as an opponent is viewed as an enemy to be defeated by an means possible. 

Some of the Twitter respnses to Dotcom’s hacking denial are also indicative:

go get him kim, teach him a lesson the old fashioned way. Bet em’ at their own game! Eradicate the problem!

Slaters are nasty creatures. Slimy, greasy and sticky to stamp on.

Pete is missing the point. Whoever hacked WhaleOil’s computer deserves congratulation.

Back to a Standard stalwart, ‘felix':

felix

The thing that sticks out for me about the Slater boy, Farrar, and their unpaid intern Pete George, is that they all resort to variations of “He’s got to be more careful, there are some real scumbags out there who will twist his words against him at every opportunity”.

Hey dicks, that’s you guys.

No-one else gives a fuck.

And another:

Clemgeopin

@Pete George
The way you come across with your posts is that you are here to put down Labour and the left, and take the side of the right wing. That is irritating and mostly time wasting rather than genuine debate or discussion.

If your intention is to push the agenda of the right, your natural place to hang would be the well known right wing blogs, of Slater and Farrar.

And back to Prentice who links me with Slater

Leaving the perverted obsessions to Cameron Slater and even Pete George seems like a wise thing for us to do.

and the right wing

Appointing PG makes me immediately suspect the organisation is just another right wing shill like the Taxpayers union and other previous ones.

…etc etc – it’s fair to say I have irritated Prentice for some time and he seems to have had a habit of targeting me. And David Farrar. And Cameron Slater.

I have absolutely no evidence who hacked me. I haven’t seen any evidence who hacked Slater or Farrar.

There’s a likely connection between the hacking of Slater and Farrar. Who on earth would think to put me in that same basket of cases?

There is one piece of evidence linking lprent and the hacking of my gmail.

Got one of those this morning. Looks like PG’s email has been hacked. Virtually identical to several others over the years.

That’s just because he (and mickysavage) were in my gmail address book.

Who’s been hacking? I don’t know. But there’s as many dots here as in a Hager hatchet job.

In any case would lprent have the IT expertise or the desire to axe some opponents to resort to illegal hacking? 

 

I’ve also been hacked

A major part of the Nicky Hager ‘Dirty Politics’ book revelations is who hacked Cameron Slater and apparently illegally obtained emails and Facebook conversation data.

It would be an even bigger issue if the hacking was more widespread.

  • my Xtra email was hacked last year (Xtra were having major problems with email security)
  • at the end of last year one of my gmail accounts was hacked (the account I use for political correspondence only)
  • early this year my Facebook was at least flagged as under attack

I have no idea if this is related or not but one does wonder.

I have a fairly minor voice in the blogosphere and in especially politics in New Zealand, but I have been labeled by some as right wing alongside Cameron Slater and David Farrar, by people like Lynn Prentice at The Standard and Martyn Bradbury at The Daily Blog (in fact Prentice’s debut post at The Daily Blog did just that – Pete George – an example of right wing blogging falsehoods)

I’ve exchange a small number of emails with Cameron Slater of the years – and also with David Farrar of Kiwiblog, Prentice and other authors at The Standard, Bradbury and other authors at The Daily Blog, and other bloggers across the spectrum.

I’m not exactly on good terms with Slater (and never have been):

  • I’ve had a number of confrontations and debates with Slater on Whale Oil and in Twitter
  • I was banned from Whale Oil about a month ago with a trumped up excuse (I was arguing contrary to Slater’s views on issues around rape and cultures).
  • A few weeks ago Slater posted ‘Breaking News’ that tried to dump me in legal trouble over breaking name suppression.

While Slater has been ground breaking with his blogging/on line media and has had unprecedented levels of success – and I applaud him for that, to an extent – I have always been opposed to his dirty approach to doing politics and have argued against him on that.

But as stated some saw me as linked to the right wing conspiracy.

I would be flattered if I was the target of political hacking – but would also view it with extreme concern.

Data being stolen from Slater is a serious issue. If political hacking has been more widespread then it would be even more serious.

The hacking aspect of Hager’s revelations should get as much scrutiny as the dirty politics Hager claims to have revealed.

 

Hager’s book – early impact

Nicky Hager’s just released book Dirty Politics seems to mostly conform common knowledge but some interesting bits have been reported, especially:

@BrookSabin

Hager says Slater blackmailed Rodney Hide to stand down.

Felix Geiringer @BarristerNZ

To embarrass @phil_goff, it seems @johnkeypm told @Whaleoil to OIA classified docs, declassified them, and expedited release

Whale Oil and Kiwiblog comments are playing it all down as nothing to worry about but Cameron Slater and David Farrar should have some concerns, as should John Key.

Timing is awkward for Slater as he has just been in Fiji and is now in Korea. He has posted (with numerous comments following):

Hager’s Book

No doubt you will all want to talk about Hager’s book, even though none of us read it yet. This is the post to chat about it if you like – leave the Backchat for other things.

It is of course likely to be a very single sided affair, and a direct attack on the government to hurt it at election time. What is being framed here is only one side of politics in New Zealand. Hager conveniently appears to avoid what happens on the left.

But that’s ok. Nothing changes.

 A lot is likely to change. Maybe a Government, depending on how damaging this is.

I’ve only just got to Korea where I have pre-existing arrangements.

To other media – I will be hard to get hold of for a while. Time difference and a full schedule will get in the way. If you like, get your stuff to me via email instead of phoning me.

And if you like, my absence can be spun as part of the conspiracy story that Hagar has put together.

Of course it will be fascinating to get a glimpse behind the scenes of New Zealand politics. Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

I’m finding it very interesting, but I don’t find dirty politics enjoyable.

Farrar has played it light on Twitter but hasn’t posted yet. General comments on it at at Kiwiblog from here.

UPDATE: now posted The Hager book

Rather bemused to find an entire chapter of Nicky Hager’s book is on me, and also how banal it is. Almost everything in there is in the public domain, as I live a pretty open life. But what Hager has done is wave his normal conspiracy theory through everything and make the fact that bloggers and other talk to each other, some sort of sinister thing.

Basically the chapter is a revelation that I am a member of the National Party! I didn’t realise this was a big secret.

It’s worth reading his whole post, which includes some counter punches – of course there are left wing bloggers (anonymous) who are close to other parties.

The best of the blog threads so far is at Public Address where the comments discuss doubts over claims of how the data was obtained. There could be a lot more to be examined and possibly revealed on this yet.

The Standard has two posts so far:

Martyn Bradbury is going off like a bomber – The Nicky Hager Book – Dirty Politics. How Attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment

Interesting that two days ago Bradbury posted ‘guesses’ about the book:

Here are my 3 guesses on his book.

1 – Right wing spin doctors in Wellington will be crying harder than Matthew Hooton post the Hollow Men.
2 – We won’t hear from the Taxpayer Union for a while.
3 – This won’t be the only time Nicky makes an impact before the election.

I wonder how he knew. Dotcom and Harre seemed to be taking a close interest in the book release today.

Regardless of how serious this gets for National – and other parties that ‘secretly’ use blogs should be careful how much exposure on this they wish for – I hope this gives the party and social media dirty tricks a damn good shake up.

New Zealand democracy and Parliament and Government deserves much better. Now could be a good time to demand it.

Capital Gains Tax – how much more tax?

There’s some doubt about a claim by David Farrar that Labour to increase taxation by $5 billion a year through their proposed Capital Gains Tax.

On Q+A, David Cunliffe said:

By the way, a capital gains tax which at full running is going to bring in 5 billion dollars a year, close to, 4 to 5 billion is the single biggest change to New Zealand tax policy in decades and it’s one that I’ve personally championed for years.

That’s appalling. That’s an extra $5 billion a year ripped out of NZ families and businesses, to be spent by Government.

There is a case for a capital gains tax. I support a broad base tax system. However I’m sick of new taxes being added on, with no compensating reduction in income and company taxes.

If ’s capital gains tax was really about changing investment incentives, then they’d commit to reducing income and company tax by the same amount of revenue their CGT would bring in.

But in reality, their CGT is just about increase the tax burden on New Zealanders by $5 billion a year.

There’s doubt about the amount at least. Oddly Labour don’t list Capital Gains Tax in their announced policies.

It is mentioned in Monetary Policy:

Another step to encourage NZ savings, and investment in the export and import substituting real economy, would be to remove the tax bias which currently favours investment in land based investments by introducing a tax on capital gains from property, excluding the family home.

The current tax bias is unusual in western countries and contributes to underinvestment in the productive economy, and savings.

The tax advantages drive asset prices, and demand for mortgage borrowing, to higher levels than would otherwise be sustained. This increases demand for imported borrowings, which puts pressure on the exchange rate.

This distortion in the tax system also pushes up house and other property prices beyond the reach of many, while enabling wealthier New Zealanders to pay lower rates of tax on their economic income.

It’s not mentioned in their Fiscal Plan summary  but it’s in the associated media release (briefly):

“Labour will introduce a new, progressive top tax rate of 36 per cent on income over $150,000; that’s the top 2 per cent of income earners. We will also raise trustee income tax to 36 per cent to avoid trusts being used as tax avoidance vehicles.

“This combined with our capital gains tax will allow the Labour-led Government to run surpluses and pay down National’s record debt by the end of our second term,” David Cunliffe says.

David Parker says: “Everything is paid for, plus we are in surplus.

It’s in their detailed Fiscal Plan:

However this only claims to bring in an extra $1 billion per year:

This policy will raise an additional $25 million in its first year, growing in outyears to reach $1 billion a year by 2020/21.

Cunliffe or the Fiscal Plan must be inaccurate about how much extra per year Labour would tax.

UPDATE: a comment at Kiwiblog suggests another total:

From David Parker in the 2011/2012 budget debate

http://theyworkforyou.co.nz/debates/2011/aug/02/estimates_debate

Treasury’s estimate of the long-term revenue from a capital gains tax excluding the family home was $4.8 billion per annum. We remodelled that through our consultants, Business and Economic Research Ltd, and they cut that back by $2 billion per annum at the maturity of the scheme. So it is raising $2.8 billion per annum once it is a mature scheme, rather than $4.8 billion. The sensitivities in the Business and Economic Research Ltd analysis show that it could be $1 billion per annum more than that, but we have taken the conservative course and assumed the lower figure.

The maximum claimed there is $3.8 billion, still well under Cunliffe’s $5 billion.

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