Blogs can be echo chambers for the disgruntled in opposition

Something I have noticed on political blog commentariats since the 2017 election is the increase in moaning on Kiwiblog, and a better tone at The Standard. For forums that are largely aligned with the left or right, or with National or Labour, the tone of comments seems to be significantly affected by whether the preferred party and politics are in Government or in Opposition.

This came up at Kiwiblog today in response to what are common complaints about the perceived affect of moderation on commenting there.

mara:

By the way moderators, what has happened to what was once a robust, feisty liberal blog? It appears to be moribund now and I wonder why I bother to write. It is sad to see the passing of good history.

Charmaine Hawke:

I will also add what happened to if we can determine who you are you will bypass moderation? It seems to me very few of the regulars are getting through.
DPF why didn’t you just say everyone will be moderated and leave it at that.

SGA:

the real time conversations you used to be able to have to thrash out ideas

That’s been slowly dying on KB for a while now sadly, imho. It was happening before moderation.
KB was better when National was government. Now it’s a bit of an echo chamber for the disgruntled. I’m guessing the Standard was a bit like that when Labour was in opposition.

I think to an extent at least SGA is right.

The Standard commenting quality seems to have improved since the Labour led Government took over, and Kiwiblog does seem to have taken over more of the  “echo chamber for the disgruntled” mantle.

Whale Oil has also become more or an echo chamber for the disgruntled, but the chief disgrunter was moaning a lot about the last government when he was cut out of the information and leak channels. Now with SB in charge she seems to be trying to model on more on Breitbart, with more ‘conservative’ (extreme) Christian leanings as well.

Has The Daily Blog changed?  I don’t follow things much there, I find the website a mess and difficult to find my way around, so don’t bother most of the time, but there are indications that Martyn Bradbury has moved his criticisms of National to criticisms of Labour since the change of Government. he isn’t keen on the greens and there is no other party that suits his politics to back.

Update – I just checked out The Daily Blog and Bradbury, obviously dismayed at the CGT capitulation, is promoting the idea of a far left ‘anti-neoliberalism’ party to challenge Labour’s lack of real transformation:

A new political party in the wake of the CGT betrayal & the Politics of Kindness vs the unCivil Service

Terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka – more than 200 killed

The death toll in the multiple bomb attacks against Christian targets in Sri Lanka is now over 200.

Already prominent on Twitter are complaints that because Christians were the target the media has been ‘silent’.

Obviously CNN haven’t been silent. It was the lead on 1 News last night (not long after the attacks occurred) –

– and leading ‘Today’s Top Stories’:

Lead news on other New Zealand media sites:

RNZ:

Stuff:

NZ Herald:

Only Newshub has a more prominent story – promoting their own programme about ‘stars’ that hardly anyone has heard of dancing, but they also cover the Sri Lankan attacks:

Some useful information here:

I’m so shook about what is happening in Sri Lanka, I’m not sure what to do. I’ve just been sitting here staring at Twitter like a helpless goof. I thought I would provide just a snapshot of the country for people unfamiliar:

Sri Lanka is massively ethno-religiously complex and a lot of reporting is likely to get it wrong.

Of the 20-22 million people in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese comprise the majority ethnic group, with 74%. They are predominately Buddhist and speak Sinhala.

The Tamil community in Sri Lanka is made up of Sri Lankan Tamils (12.6 percent) and Indian Tamils (5.6 percent), most of whom are Hindu, but with a significant number of Christians (mostly Catholic). They speak Tamil.

The Muslims of Sri Lanka make up about 7 percent of the population. They speak Tamil, but don’t see themselves as ETHNICALLY Tamil. This has put the community in the crosshairs of many militant groups on all sides.

There have been rumours of Muslims in the country being radicalized and groups being funded by KSA/gulf states since at least the early 90s (including the group that is being linked to this attack). And it has been used as an excuse to preemptively attack Muslim communities

With this attack, the target selection doesn’t seem to point to Buddhist extremists (not sure what they would get out of killing tourists).

I would also be very careful using certain media sources out of India, random Facebook pages, and even some Sri Lankan media outlets and government officials as the sole source of info.

 

“The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion”

Partisan posturing over Donald Trump’s partial exoneration by the Robert Mueller report has dominated attention, but I think the most important aspect of the investigation has been sadly sideline. The report stated that “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” That should alarm people cross the divided US political spectrum.

New York Times editorial: The Mueller Report and the Danger Facing American Democracy

The report of the special counsel Robert Mueller leaves considerable space for partisan warfare over the role of President Trump and his political campaign in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. But one conclusion is categorical: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”

The Justice Department’s indictment of 13 Russians and three companies in February 2018 laid bare much of the sophisticated Russian campaign to blacken the American democratic process and support the Trump campaign, including the theft of American identities and creation of phony political organizations to fan division on immigration, religion or race. The extensive hacks of Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails and a host of other dirty tricks have likewise been exhaustively chronicled.

But Russia’s interference in the campaign was the core issue that Mr. Mueller was appointed to investigate, and if he stopped short of accusing the Trump campaign of overtly cooperating with the Russians — the report mercifully rejects speaking of “collusion,” a term that has no meaning in American law — he was unequivocal on Russia’s culpability:

“First, the Office determined that Russia’s two principal interference operations in the 2016 U.S. presidential election — the social media campaign and the hacking-and-dumping operations — violated U.S. criminal law.”

The first part of the report, which describes these crimes, is worthy of a close read. Despite a thick patchwork of redactions, it details serious and dangerous actions against the United States.

Despite a thick patchwork of redactions, it details serious and dangerous actions against the United States that Mr. Trump, for all his endless tweeting and grousing about the special counsel’s investigation, has never overtly confronted, acknowledged, condemned or comprehended. Culpable or not, he must be made to understand that a foreign power that interferes in American elections is, in fact, trying to distort American foreign policy and national security.

It isn’t all about Trump. Far more importantly, it has been about the integrity of US democracy.

But Trump seems to see his win in the election as all important and he claims that to be on his merits alone and does not want credit attributed to the Russians (the lack of merit of Hillary Clinton was also a significant factor).

The earliest interference described in the report was a social media campaign intended to fan social rifts in the United States, carried out by an outfit funded by an oligarch known as “Putin’s chef” for the feasts he catered. Called the Internet Research Agency, the unit actually sent agents to the United States to gather information at one point.

What the unit called “information warfare” evolved by 2016 into an operation targeted at favoring Mr. Trump and disparaging Mrs. Clinton. This included posing as American people or grass-roots organizations such as the Tea Party, anti-immigration groups, Black Lives Matter and others to buy political ads or organize political rallies.

At the same time, the report said, the cyberwarfare arm of the Russian army’s intelligence service opened another front, hacking the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee and releasing reams of damaging materials through the front groups DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, and later through WikiLeaks.

The releases were carefully timed for impact — emails stolen from the Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, for example, were released less than an hour after the “Access Hollywood” tape damaging to Mr. Trump came out.

A carefully and deliberately orchestrated campaign. Whether there was any collusion or not between Russia and the Trump campaign, there were plenty of interactions that should be concerning.

All this activity, the report said, was accompanied by the well documented efforts to contact the Trump campaign through business connections, offers of assistance to the campaign, invitations for Mr. Trump to meet Mr. Putin and plans for improved American-Russian relations. Both sides saw potential gains, the report said — Russia in a Trump presidency, the campaign from the stolen information.

The Times documented 140 contacts between Mr. Trump and his associates and Russian nationals and WikiLeaks or their intermediaries. But the Mueller investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

That is the part Mr. Trump sees as vindication, though the activities of his chaotic campaign team that the report describes are — at best — naïve.

With an absence of evidence of direct collusion it looks to me to be more like separate campaigns with a common purpose, with some opportunistic use of each other’s efforts.

It is obviously difficult for this president to acknowledge that he was aided in his election by Russia, and there is no way to gauge with any certainty how much impact the Russian activities actually had on voters.

But the real danger that the Mueller report reveals is not of a president who knowingly or unknowingly let a hostile power do dirty tricks on his behalf, but of a president who refuses to see that he has been used to damage American democracy and national security.

I think that it is pointless trying to rely on Trump addressing this. But this is what US authorities, and the US Congress and the Senate should now be focussing on – especially, how to prevent this sort of foreign interference from happening to the same degree again.

A perceived victory for Russian interference poses a serious danger to the United States. Already, several American agencies are working, in partnership with the tech industry, to prevent election interference going forward. But the Kremlin is not the only hostile government mucking around in America’s cyberspace — China and North Koreaare two others honing their cyber-arsenals, and they, too, could be tempted to manipulate partisan strife for their ends.

That is something neither Republicans nor Democrats should allow. The two parties may not agree on Mr. Trump’s culpability, but they have already found a measure of common ground with the sanctions they have imposed on Russia over its interference in the campaign.

Now they could justify the considerable time and expense of the special counsel investigation, and at the same time demonstrate that the fissure in American politics is not terminal, by jointly making clear to Russia and other hostile forces that the democratic process, in the United States and its allies, is strictly off limits to foreign clandestine manipulation, and that anyone who tries will pay a heavy price.

Trump is a problem, but he has been largely a distraction from a bigger and more important problem. The integrity of the US democratic system is at stake, and a lot of repair work is required for that to regain credibility.

 

 

 

Brexit Party contesting local UK and EU elections

Missy reports from London about the quick success of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party in the UK.

The UK is on election footing at the moment for (first) local elections and (second) EU elections in May.

Many Conservatives have openly switched to Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party (it is what it says on the tin), and today it was reported that 40% of Conservative Councillors will support the Brexit Party, this comes as many Conservative grassroots activists have said that they will not campaign for the Conservatives until the UK has left the EU.

The Brexit Party launched just over a week ago and is already leading in the polls for the EU elections, and as the EU Parliament is decided on proportional representation there is a fear amongst Remainers in the UK, and in the EU, that they may gain the majority of the UK seats.

Wikipedia: The Brexit Party

The Brexit Party is a pro-Brexit Eurosceptic political party in the United Kingdom, formed in 2019. The party has fourteen Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), all of whom were originally elected as UK Independence Party (UKIP) candidates. The party is led by one of these MEPs, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who announced he would stand as a candidate for the party in any future European Parliament elections, in the event the UK had not left the European Union.

The Brexit Party website headlines:

Change Politics For Good

Democracy is under threat, join us to start the fightback.

We Are The 17.4 Million

Britain Can Do better Than This

Their pinned tweet on launching

Recent tweets:

Guardian:  Nigel and Annunziata’s Brexit show basks in the sun, but winter is coming

On Saturday Nigel Farage made a triumphant return to Nottingham, where, five years ago, when leader of UKIP, he was hit with an egg by a protester. Much has changed since, and now Farage is leader of the Brexit party, which was holding a rally at the city’s Albert Hall.

Beforehand Farage went on a walkabout in the town centre with a small band of activists carrying placards with the defiant legend “Fighting back”. Against whom? I asked one. “The government,” came the reply. Other answers included “the establishment”, “the political class” and “all of ‘em”.

There were, however, plenty of genuine supporters queueing outside the Albert Hall in the glorious afternoon sunshine.

Farage duly announced that the Brexit party would be “intolerant of all forms of intolerance”. And on stage he called for a greater “civility” in British politics, before going on to denounce local Nottinghamshire MP Anna Soubry as “dishonest” and “undemocratic”.

“Nelson, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Ian Botham and Nigel Farage, they’re the people who put the Great into Britain,” said Gary Wilkinson, a retired railway worker.

But no one could upstage Farage, the professionally reluctant politician, driven by the burden of history and his unsleeping conscience to again take up the fight, in the words of the Brexit party slogan, to “Change Politics For Good”. He gave a declamatory speech, full of sweat, denunciation and sideswipes at the likes of EU Commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker and Lord Adonis.

The Brexit Party may well change politics in the UK and potentially in the EU, but it’s too soon to know if it will be for good or not. But it doesn’t look good for Theresa May and the Conservatives, who have been split over Brexit. Missy points out:

Today it is reported that May has been told to resign before the end of June or face the party rules being changed to allow for another vote of no confidence in her as leader, this is not only due to her handling of Brexit, but also down to the amount of support that the Conservatives are losing as a result of their failure on Brexit.

Politics has been in a mess in the UK for years now, and it doesn’t look like improving any time soon.

Media watch – Monday

22 April 2019

MediaWatch

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.

Social chat

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

Do it here. Social only, no politics, issues or debate.

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

Open Forum – Monday

22 April 2019

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, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. 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.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

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. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

World view – Monday

Sunday GMT

WorldWatch2

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

Shaw contradicts Peters on timing of CGT decision

On the day it was announced that the Capital Gains Tax implementation would be dumped, Winston Peters said the decision was made “in the last few hours, but James Shaw has said “We knew about this last week and had been preparing for it,”

Stuff Apr 17, 2019 3:00 PM:

NZ First leader Winston Peters says the decision on CGT was reached in the last few hours, but the direction of travel had been clear for a long while.

NBR today on Twitter:

Who to believe?

Ardern a great leader occasionally but otherwise lacking

There were always going to be questions asked about the leadership of the coalition government, with a relatively young and inexperienced Jacinda Ardern at the top as Prime Minister, and the relatively old and experienced Winston Peters as her deputy.

Peters has ruled the roost at NZ First for a long time, since he founded the party. He is used to having disproportionate power in his party, and there was a risk that he would exercise disproportionate power in the coalition. And it appears that that is how things are.

Peters and NZ First certainly wield significantly more power than the Green Party, despite having just 1 more seat in Parliament – 9 compared to 8 (and less than a quarter as many seats as Labour).

Ardern surprised many with how she stepped up and performed as Labour leader after Andrew Little stepped down. And she has shown admirable leadership qualities in her response to the Christchurch mosque massacres. In both cases she acted very well, largely on instinct.

But Ardern has struggled with leadership that involves getting her Ministers to perform, and especially when getting her Cabinet to agree on which policies to implement.

Her capitulation over the Capital Gains Tax has highlighted this lack of effective leadership, and Fran O’Sullivan points out in  PM’s leadership missing on CGT issue

Jacinda Ardern is at the peak of international celebrity yet she can’t — or perhaps more accurately won’t — even try to sell a capital gains tax.

That’s the paradox that now confronts New Zealand.

It might be overstating it to accuse the Prime Minister of being an outright cynic. But not even fighting for a policy she says she believes in — and would not only have made a difference, but introduced more fairness into the tax system — is a total cop-out on her part.

It is also a failure of leadership.

Not just that she failed to get Cabinet approval to proceed with some sort of CGT, but that she showed no sign of leadership in trying to make it happen.

…the reality is that neither Ardern nor Finance Minister Grant Robertson has made a concerted effort to go over the head of Labour’s coalition partner and make a case to the public to support the introduction of a broad capital gains tax regime.

Ardern claimed that it was “time to accept that not only has a Government that reflects the majority of New Zealanders not been able to find support for this proposal, feedback suggests there is also a lack of mandate among New Zealanders for such a tax also.”

She added that in short, “we have tried to build a mandate, but ultimately been unsuccessful.” This is disingenuous.

Capital gains tax regimes have been at the heart of Labour’s policy thinking for at least a decade now. Ardern could have built a mandate from among her own party’s supporters.

But the only mandate that she appears to have sought was that of New Zealand First.

James Shaw has indicated that she virtually ignored the Greens over the CGT.

In fact, there were options. The capital gains tax could have been set at a significantly lower rate than the top personal income tax rate, and carveouts made for businesses and farms under a certain threshold as had been advocated in prior Labour policy. The bright line test could also have been extended for investment properties.

This would have demonstrated a commitment to at least moving towards establishing equity in New Zealand’s tax system.

Instead, Ardern has made yet another of her captain’s calls on tax.

Her captain’s calls on tax have been somewhat flip-flop-flippy, with no sign of leadership.

In her first flush as Labour leader during the 2017 election campaign, Ardern put them back again, saying it was a captain’s call. But ultimately she took capital gains tax off the table again after Labour lost support in the polls.

She promised not to introduce such a tax in Labour’s first term in Government. Instead, a working group would be tasked with framing options; the Government would introduce empowering legislation. The capital gains taxes would not, however, take effect until 2021.

The upshot is that Labour would have sought its public mandate at next year’s election.

That’s what Ardern promised, but she has now promised to not try anything at all, not just for next year’s election, not just in Labour policy, but forever while she remains leader. This must dismay those in Labour who think that policy is decided by the party, by the members.

It is simplistic to blame New Zealand First for this defeat.

New Zealand First did not rule out a capital gains tax within the Coalition Agreement.

But neither did Labour specifically require New Zealand First to commit to empowering legislation by making it a confidence matter.

The lesson from this is that major parties which get into bed with more muscular junior parties to form Coalition Governments better make sure their own signature policies will be supported.

What we don’t know, but can now suspect more than ever, is that the discussion document that supported the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement ruled out any support from NZ First for a CGT.

Ardern also promised to run the most open and transparent government ever, but she has never lived up to that. Being open and transparent about her family life to women’s magazines isn’t enough.

RNZ (4 December 2017):  Jacinda Ardern on ‘secret’ documents

Ms Ardern and deputy PM Winston Peters have been defending the decision not to make the 33 pages of notes from their coalition negotiations public, with National claiming they now look like they have something to hide.

She said the documents have no directives to ministers, despite Mr Peters initially saying it did, and said she would not describe it as a “document of precision”, as Mr Peters had.

Ms Ardern said the documents were more a record of some of the coalition discussions, and any policy details that had been discussed had already been released.

“When something becomes an official part of our work programme, then that’s the point at which, absolutely, we have to be transparent about that. But when it comes to documents that sit behind a negotiation, that aren’t necessarily going to be pursued, as soon as you release it, that gives an expectation that it is a hard and fast policy, when it might not be at all.”

She said the government was still dedicated to greater transparency.

That’s a classic ‘yeah, right’ statement.

Did keeping this document secret hide an agreement between Ardern and Peters on CGT?

Did it hide a secret  agreement on who was actually in charge, despite the official Prime Minister and deputy Prime Minister designations?

One could say that Labour, with Grant Robertson as Minister of Finance holding the purse strings, was in charge of what mattered the most, but Ardern and Robertson gave Peters a substantial foreign affairs budget boost, and have Shane Jones NZ First a $1 billion per year open cheque, while pressuring Labour and Green ministers to reduce their financial demands, on things like child poverty, mental health, climate change, nurse and teacher salaries.

Effective leadership means saying the right things, which Ardern seems adept at when thrust into challenging situations.

But it also requires managing ministers and managing governing parties and reaching consensus on important policies. Ardern has got a lot to prove on that still. So far the indications are weak leadership, if she is in fact leader in reality.