Banning letting fees

Generally I would expect that costs will be recovered one way or another, but it depends on the market situation.


A tax incidence primer. Twyford is right that changes in letting fees will be eaten by landlords (at least in places where supply is constrained.) General principle: the inelastic side of the market bears the burden of a tax.

But for that same reason he is wrong about the extra money for students. Market is tight in Wellington and not Christchurch so we expect the benefit of the subsidy to go primarily to landlords in the tight markets.

It is hard to argue simultaneously that the change in letting fees will be eaten by landlords and that the benefits of the student subsidy did not go to landlords.

Banning letting fees seems to be fiddling at the edges of the housing situation.

‘Having a conversation’ on Air NZ and the regions

Phil Twyford has just appeared on his weekly Newshub morning spot alongside Judith Collins. He is Minister of Transport. Duncan Garner asked him about the Shane Jones attacks on Air NZ.

Twyford effectively backed Jones’ stance on pushing for air services for regions.

He said that as a Minister he would have a conversation with the head of Air NZ over better services for regions.

He was asked if he supported using some of the $200 million annual profit from Air NZ being used to provide regional services, he avoided answering that.

Garner pushed him on what he wanted Air NZ to do, and he copped out with the standard Labour fob  off ‘ they will have ‘an ongoing conversation’.

So without being up front Twyford has effectively backed Jones’ attention seeking stance, which is contrary to what the Minister responsible for state owned companies Grant Robertson has said, and contrary to the sort of reprimand Jacinda Ardern directed at Jones.

I’d expect Newshub to do a news item on this.


The Coleman resignation

It was relatively easy for Bill English and Steven Joyce to resign from Parliament, they were list MPs who were automatically replaced by the next on the National list.

But if an electorate MP resigns, and they don’t wait until just (a few months) before a general election like John key and David Cunliffe, it is more consequential, as a by-election is required.

Yesterday Jonathan Coleman announced his resignation from Parliament, just six months after the general election. He stood for and won the Northcote electorate, so a by-election will be necessary.

In some ways Coleman’s resignation wasn’t surprising. He has spent most of his time in Parliament in government and as a Minister. Some MPs with similar experience struggle to adapt to being relatively ineffective and powerless in Opposition.

Coleman had also just failed in a leadership bid, his second unsuccessful attempt (he also competed with English to replace Key in 2016).

So he’s packing his bags and leaving Parliament. Obviously this option is open to him, but I think is poor.

Like anyone standing for an electorate Coleman effectively committed to representing people for a three year term. To leave after half a year is bad, for no reason other than (he claims) he was offered a better job.

This is cynical pissing on democracy. And taxpayers have to fork out for the substantial cost of a by-election.

On the plus side Parliament will be better off without a poorly committed politician. Better that Coleman is replaced by someone who is committed to the job and to the responsibilities.

Trump lawyer leaves

Another exit from Donald Trump’s staff, this time his lead lawyer on the Mueller investigation.

NY Times: John Dowd Resigns as Trump’s Lead Lawyer in Special Counsel Inquiry

President Trump’s lead lawyer for the special counsel investigation, John Dowd, resigned on Thursday as his strategy for cooperating with the inquiry grew increasingly at odds with Mr. Trump’s desire for a more aggressive posture.

Mr. Dowd, who took over the president’s legal team last summer andconsidered leaving several times, ultimately concluded that Mr. Trump was ignoring his advice, a person briefed on the matter said.

His departure marked the most significant shake-up for the president’s legal team in months and underscores the president’s growing frustration with the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russia’s election interference and possible ties to Trump associates as well as whether the president obstructed the inquiry.

The president has in recent days begun publicly assailing Mr. Mueller, a shift in tone that appears to be born of Mr. Trump’s concern that the investigation is bearing down on him more directly. He has also insisted he should sit for an interview with the special counsel’s office, even though Mr. Dowd believed it was a bad idea.

It would be difficult to keep providing legal advice for someone who keeps ignoring it.

It’s highly like that some of Trump’s public statements are going to come back to haunt him legally.

The president was said to be pleased with Mr. Dowd’s resignation, as he had grown frustrated with him, particularly over the weekend when Mr. Dowd called on the Justice Department to end the special counsel investigation. Mr. Dowd, who had forged relationships with the special counsel’s office, said at first that he was speaking for the president, but later backtracked.

The president was angered with Mr. Dowd’s handling of the episode, telling people it was ham-handed and Mr. Dowd should not have backed off his initial statement. Mr. Dowd, a former Marine Corps captain, has told people that the president has recently implored him to stay but was said to be considering quitting on Monday, which he denied in an interview that night.

Now he has quit.

Despite claiming otherwise on Twitter, the president has expressed displeasure with his legal team for weeks. He has met with the veteran Washington lawyer Emmet T. Flood, who represented President Bill Clinton during impeachment, about coming inside the White House to serve as his top lawyer. Neither Mr. Dowd nor Jay Sekulow, the president’s other personal lawyer for the investigation, knew about the meeting at the time, and after The New York Times reported about it, were said to be concerned that their standing with the president had fallen.

He tried to reassure them on Twitter.

“The Failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and am going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am VERY happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job.”

Not any more. Not only does Trump continue to lose experienced staff and legal advisers, his impetuous public pronouncements will probably deter others from joining his team – the risks of being ignored or being fired are obvious, and since Trumps campaign many have been reluctant to be associated with the Trump wreck.

Meanwhile the Special Investigation continues: Mueller Examining Cambridge Analytica, Trump Campaign Ties

Special counsel Robert Mueller is scrutinizing the connections between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the data mining firm Cambridge Analytica, which has come under fierce criticism over reports that it swiped the data of more than 50 million Facebook users to sway elections.

Mueller’s investigators have asked former campaign officials about the Trump campaign’s data operations, particularly about how it collected and utilized voter data in battleground states, according to a person with direct knowledge of the line of inquiry but not authorized to discuss it publicly.

The investigators have also asked some of Trump’s data team, which included analysts at the Republican National Committee, about its relationship with Cambridge Analytica, according to two former campaign officials. The campaign paid the firm just under $6 million for its work in 2016, according to federal records.

Authorities in Britain and the United States are investigating whether Cambridge Analytica may have used data improperly obtained from Facebook to try to influence elections, including the 2016 White House race.

Mueller is leading a criminal probe into whether Trump’s Republican presidential campaign had ties to Russia and whether he may have obstructed justice.

The investigation isn’t going away. Trump support is.


New Zealand media is suffering another mania moment. They like to label ‘things’, sometimes as somethingmania, and then grossly overdo their coverage.

Their labelling is really self-describing their own  behaviour, a maniacal belief that people are interested in gaga coverage of something that doesn’t warrant such extreme levels of adulation and trite news.

This happened with the rise of Jacinda Ardern – sure with her there was a valid news element, but the mediamania was at time ridiculous. Sometimes they simply played at being silly buggers, besotted out of all proportion to the importance of the subject. But they were also played by the subject, who milked their mania for their own political advantages.

There are now real risks that Ardern is incapable of living up to the heights she has been elevated to. The realities of ruling a small country, and the obvious unpreparedness of the incoming Government to govern, are showing that some of the claims framing and coverage were never going to fit the facts.

This time over the visit of an ex president of another country. A fairly mediocre president at that, at best. He was another who was raised to heights he never lived up to, awarded a Nobel Peace Prize before he had proven his international credentials, which were far from worthy of such an award. He also failed to inspire much of any note in his own country.

He is visiting New Zealand for the first time, as a private person. It is a private visit, sponsored by private companies, with private events, and the main event has banned any media coverage.

Yet the media are acting like maniacs, going all gaga over nothing of any real importance. Some of it is pathetic, most of it is over the top.

I’m not the only one trying to avoid this mediamania, but it’s difficult when ones hobby is to keep an eye out for news of interest.

There have been a number of comments on Twitter about the overkill of a subject that doesn’t affect most people and I expect most people don’t care about.

Some journalists get thrust into mania assignments, and they do their jobs as professionally as the subject overkill allows. Others seem to relish rubbing shoulders with the over-elevated subjects. It can drip with cringe.

But this sort of mediamania, once reserved for royal visits or royal weddings or royal births (mostly in a country on the other side of the world), is a growing phenomenon, media coverage of many things has become more trivial, more superficial, and overdone on the fewer things they focus on.

It is particularly garish when over-celebrification is involved.


Facebook faltering, slow Zuckerberg reaction may be futile

While a lot of the recent news has focussed on a UK based company, Cambridge Analytica, and it’s involvement in many elections around the world, in particular the UK Brexit vote and the 2016 US presidential election, the company at the core of all of this, the enabler of all of this, has been Facebook.

After several days silence in the face of a growing storm Facebook founder and head Mark Zuckerberg emerged with an attempt at damage control yesterday. He made tis statement )on Facebook of course):

I want to share an update on the Cambridge Analytica situation — including the steps we’ve already taken and our next steps to address this important issue.

We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you. I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.

Here’s a timeline of the events:

In 2007, we launched the Facebook Platform with the vision that more apps should be social. Your calendar should be able to show your friends’ birthdays, your maps should show where your friends live, and your address book should show their pictures. To do this, we enabled people to log into apps and share who their friends were and some information about them.

In 2013, a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan created a personality quiz app. It was installed by around 300,000 people who shared their data as well as some of their friends’ data. Given the way our platform worked at the time this meant Kogan was able to access tens of millions of their friends’ data.

In 2014, to prevent abusive apps, we announced that we were changing the entire platform to dramatically limit the data apps could access. Most importantly, apps like Kogan’s could no longer ask for data about a person’s friends unless their friends had also authorized the app. We also required developers to get approval from us before they could request any sensitive data from people. These actions would prevent any app like Kogan’s from being able to access so much data today.

In 2015, we learned from journalists at The Guardian that Kogan had shared data from his app with Cambridge Analytica. It is against our policies for developers to share data without people’s consent, so we immediately banned Kogan’s app from our platform, and demanded that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica formally certify that they had deleted all improperly acquired data. They provided these certifications.

Last week, we learned from The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data as they had certified. We immediately banned them from using any of our services. Cambridge Analytica claims they have already deleted the data and has agreed to a forensic audit by a firm we hired to confirm this. We’re also working with regulators as they investigate what happened.

This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that.

In this case, we already took the most important steps a few years ago in 2014 to prevent bad actors from accessing people’s information in this way. But there’s more we need to do and I’ll outline those steps here:

First, we will investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and we will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity. We will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps. That includes people whose data Kogan misused here as well.

Second, we will restrict developers’ data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse. For example, we will remove developers’ access to your data if you haven’t used their app in 3 months. We will reduce the data you give an app when you sign in — to only your name, profile photo, and email address. We’ll require developers to not only get approval but also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data. And we’ll have more changes to share in the next few days.

Third, we want to make sure you understand which apps you’ve allowed to access your data. In the next month, we will show everyone a tool at the top of your News Feed with the apps you’ve used and an easy way to revoke those apps’ permissions to your data. We already have a tool to do this in your privacy settings, and now we will put this tool at the top of your News Feed to make sure everyone sees it.

Beyond the steps we had already taken in 2014, I believe these are the next steps we must take to continue to secure our platform.

I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform. I’m serious about doing what it takes to protect our community. While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn’t change what happened in the past. We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.

I want to thank all of you who continue to believe in our mission and work to build this community together. I know it takes longer to fix all these issues than we’d like, but I promise you we’ll work through this and build a better service over the long term.

It was noted that he made excjses but didn’t apologise in that statement, but he went on to say sorry in an interview.

CNN: Mark Zuckerberg has regrets: ‘I’m really sorry that this happened’

“I’m really sorry that this happened,” the Facebook (FB) CEO told CNN’s Laurie Segall in an exclusive TV interview on Wednesday.

“I started this when I was so young and inexperienced,” the 33-year-old Zuckerberg said. “I made technical errors and business errors. I hired the wrong people. I trusted the wrong people,” he said.

“I’ve probably launched more products that have failed than most people will in their lifetime.”

But ultimately, he said, he’s learned from his missteps.

“That’s the commitment that I try to have inside our company, and for our community.”

But that’s a piss poor apology. He has said he is sorry it has happened, but then went on to make excuses. His assurances he can put things right are very late and quite lame.

Also on the CNN interview: Mark Zuckerberg tells CNN he is ‘happy to’ testify before Congress

Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the data debacle that has upended Facebook and opened the door to testifying before Congress.

“The short answer is I’m happy to if it’s the right thing to do,” the Facebook (FB) CEO told CNN’s Laurie Segall in an exclusive TV interview on “Anderson Cooper 360.”

“What we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge,” Zuckerberg said. “If that’s me, then I am happy to go.”

If Congress subpoenas him to appear it doesn’t matter how happy Zuckerberg is, he is compelled to appear, it won’t be his choice.

He seems a long way from properly accepting responsibility for the shoddy security of billions of people’s privacy.

And Zuckerberg and Facebook may have put themselves into a hopeless situation.

Blomberg: Mark Zuckerberg Has No Way Out of Facebook’s Quagmire

There’s simply no way to fix the fake news and data abuse problems without destroying the social network’s business model.

I think I understand why Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg hasn’tpublicly responded to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He’s stuck in a catch-22. Any fix for Facebook’s previous big problem — fake news — would make the current big problem with data harvesting worse.

Zuckerberg has obviously responded since this was written, but the same problem persists.

As a media company and one of Americans’ top sources of information, Facebook’s de facto anonymity and general lack of responsibility for user-generated content make it easy for propagandists to exploit. Making matters worse, it isn’t willing to impose tighter identification rules for fear of losing too many users, and it doesn’t want to be held responsible in any way for content, preferring to present itself as a neutral platform. So Zuckerberg has been trying to fix the problem by showing people more material from friends and family and by prioritizing “trusted publishers” and local news sources over purveyors of fake news.

Facebook continues to struggle on the sharemarket today (Thursday US time) after an abrupt fall early this week. And the worst may be ahead for Facebook.

Media watch – Friday

23 March 2018


Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Open Forum – Friday

23 March 2018


This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

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Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
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FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria.

Free speech is an important principle here but some people who might pose a risk to the site will have to keep going through moderation due to abuses by a small number of malicious people.

World watch – Friday

Thursday GMT


For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.