Profound US political crisis

Charles Lipson writes at RealClear Politics about the political and legal problems in the US in Why America’s Political Crisis Is So Profound (this post follows on from Each political side sincerely believes).

If both sides trusted the government’s standard procedures to investigate and prosecute crimes, these disputes could be sorted out in the normal way.

Alas, nobody does.

Republicans considered Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch little more than Democratic Party lapdogs trained to ignore misconduct by Obama’s White House and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Democrats managed to get the current AG, Jeff Sessions, to recuse himself from the department’s biggest case.

Everything James Comey said in 2016 and 2017, when he headed the FBI, was refracted through a partisan lens.

As a consequence, the reputations of Congress, the FBI, and the Department of Justice lie in ruins.

Along with the reputations of the republican and Democrat parties.

How serious do professionals think the crisis is? The best indicator is the unprecedented scale of leaking, especially of highly secret information. My conclusion: Many professionals in the intelligence community and the Justice Department—and perhaps some inside the Trump administration itself—believe that this president is doing things that endanger the country.

They are not leaking for the usual reason—to favor their policy. They are leaking as a patriotic duty.

I’m sure some of the leaking is for purely political and power broking purposes, and some will be out of spite, but that’s business as usual and the degree and type of leaks currently happening go much further than normal, so could well be out of a genuine belief in having a patriotic duty to do so. The consequences are significant, both for the US and for the individual leakers if they are prosecuted.

On the other side, Trump’s people think a “deep state” is pushing back, trying to destroy an outsider who came to Washington to change things. What they see is an unconstitutional effort to drive a duly-elected president out of office. These entrenched interests are essentially committed to pulling off a coup d’état.

Some will genuinely believe in a “deep state” conspiracy.I think things are much more complex.

In this dark tangle, there are two bright spots. One is the bipartisan collaboration between Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), who are leading the Senate investigation into Russian interference. If they can ultimately produce a report signed by both sides, they will go a long way to restoring confidence in government.

I’m not sure about this. Beliefs are so entrenched that it’s hard to see any outcome satisfying everyone and settling the rancour and restoring some confidence – confidence in the White House, Senate and Congress may be irreparably damaged.

The other is Robert Mueller’s appointment as a special counsel for the Justice Department. The former head of the FBI is an experienced, non-partisan investigator. Although his record handling high-profile investigations is hardly flawless, his integrity is unquestioned by either side. However, as many observed, there are cautionary examples indicating how easy it is for special prosecutors to overreach. The investigations last too long, go off on tangents, or reach for an easy trophy to display.

Mueller knows those dangers and, hopefully, can avoid them. He is not only a true, independent professional, he’s the only person with the stature to actually clear the president and his closest aides if they are innocent. It is crucial he move quickly, despite the complexity of the case, because the charges themselves are paralyzing Washington.

Mueller may be seen as genuinely non-partisan, but any outcome of the investigation he leads is unlikely to satisfy everyone. Partisans are likely to see a problem with any non-favourable outcome.

And after the investigation Donald Trump will almost certainly still be president. Unless there is a profound change in how he and his administration conducts itself, and unless there is a profound change in the degree and size of the partisan, I think the profound crisis in America will continue.

The Nation – housing again

Today on The Nation:

We take a look at the housing crisis. talks to about whether the Govt’s doing enough on social housing.

As Akl’s average house price breaks the million dollar barrier how do we hit the brakes? and John Bolton weigh in.

, , and are on the panel, with and on the Twitter panel

Migration is cyclical. Unaffordable prices cyclical AND structural.

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Social housing stock in New Zealand

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Affordability has been worsening for decades.

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Another Auckland housing poll

Polling on house prices seems to be in fashion. Following the release of UMR poll details on housing – see Poll on house prices (no party poll release this time) – The Spinoff has also asked some housing questions via SSI.

Background:

The median house price in Auckland has jumped by 85% over the last four years, with the average home now costing roughly 10 times the average household income. The corresponding figure before 1990 was around four times median income.

“Have you in the last two years considered moving away from Auckland because of house prices?”

  • Yes 32.2%
  • No, but it’s a good idea 36.3%
  • No 31.5%

Some of those will be thinking of looking for somewhere with more affordable housing so they can buy their first home, while others who already have homes will be wanting to take advantage of their surge in value with a view to buying a cheaper and perhaps better house elsewhere.

Obviously employment will be a major factor – many won’t be able to move away from their jobs.

“Do you think we have a housing crisis in Auckland?”

  • Yes 84%
  • No 10.3%
  • Don’t know 5.7%

I find the obsession with media and opposition parties to dramatically label things is a bit pointless.

A crisis “is any event that is, or is expected to lead to, an unstable and dangerous situation affecting an individual, group, community, or whole society”.

If the media and opposition had chosen to promote a different label then it would probably have rated highly when they polled on it.

“Why do you think we have a housing crisis?”

  • Foreign investors 55.7%
  • Government inaction 39.6%
  • Developers + speculators 38.5%
  • Incompetent Auckland council 28.8%
  • Selfish NIMBY baby boomers 9.1%
  • Over cautious Reserve Bank 7.8%
  • Ungrateful spendthrift Millenials 3.9%
  • Too much immigration 3.3%

Multiple responses were allowed. There is no ‘Other’.

This probably reflects more on media coverage over the past few months than anything. Is there any way of telling how close to reality it is?

It’s interesting that immigration barely rates.

Poll details:

Survey Sampling International (SSI) conducted an online survey among a representative sample of 760 Auckland residents aged 18 and over with quota applied to gender, age and region within Auckland. All respondents were screened to ensure they were New Zealand residents and eligible to vote. The polling period was 17-19 August and the margin of error is +/- 3.6%.

More polling and commentary at The Spinoff – One in three Aucklanders has recently considered quitting Auckland because of house prices – poll

 

Poll on house prices

According to Hive News UMR released a poll on housing yesterday, but I can’t find anything about it at UMR, only at Hive News and other websites that refer to Hive. So I’ll extract what I can from Hive News Tuesday: Poll finds 60% Aucklanders want lower house prices;

Nationwide (964 respondents) prefer house prices to:

  • to fall but not too much 37%
  • to fall dramatically 26%
  • keep rising at a slower pace 10%
  • keep rising rapidly 4%

Home owners wanted house prices:

 

  • to fall but not too much 40%
  • to fall dramatically 15%
  • rise at a slower pace 13%
  • rise rapidly 2%

 

Aucklanders:

  • wanted house prices to keep rising rapidly 4%
  • wanted house prices to rise at a slower pace 13%
  • prefer that house prices either fell a bit or fell dramatically over the next year 60%

They also asked if respondents thought there was a housing crisis:

  • Yes 81%
  • No 14%
  • Unsure 5%

I think these are the numbers but can’t guarantee I have sorted out the Hive jumble.

The poll of 1,000 New Zealanders over the age of 18 was taken from July 29 to August 17 through UMR’s online omnibus survey. There were 633 home owners and 331 Aucklanders who took the poll. UMR conducts polls for Labour.

Labour: 98% of people in crisis

Labour is trying to promote the housing crisis some more, saying that 98% of people are affected by it – because house prices in 98% of the country have risen faster than inflation over the past year.

Housing crisis affecting more than 98 per cent of NZ

July 14, 2016

Labour’s new housing map shows the housing crisis is now affecting more than 98 per cent of New Zealand, Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little says.

They have set up a housing map so you can see if you are in crisis. This makes questionable claims, has barely legible fine print and implies that they will capture your location automatically.

I am told that:

It’s getting harder to afford a home in Dunedin’s coastal suburbs.

In the past year, house prices rose by 4.5%, from $278,000 to $291,000.

That’s not right. I presume the average price in the region rose by that amount but that doesn’t apply to ‘houses’, only some houses.

24% of homes are now rented in your local area, and 30% of children live in rentals.

Just 39% of adults under 40 own their own home.

The Kiwi Dream of home ownership is slipping out of reach for more and more families.

76% house ownership in my area sounds remarkably high, way above average. I don’t see that as a local crisis.

In Otago, rents rose by 8.7% over the last year.

The average rent is now $364 per week.

That’s a problem for those who are renting and have had their rents go up faster than their incomes.

At the same time, incomes fell 5.6%.

I am very dubious about this claim. Very.

In Dunedin, 390 houses have no heating.

I very hard to believe that there are houses with no heating here.

And 75 families are waiting for state houses while 70 state houses are sitting empty.

There have been waiting lists for state houses probably since they started building them.

Without knowing why their are empty houses it’s hard to judge that, but I’m fairly sure they are not empty for no good reasons.

Next the take you to a screen that promotes the Labour plan – and then asks for you to sign an odd looking petition:

Do you agree?

Sign the petition in support of Labour’s comprehensive housing plan:

They now have petitions to agree with party policies? What if they don’t get enough signatures? Throw the policy out like they have with things like CGT, setting up a power authority and dying with dignity?

Of course they want your contact details, with some very fine print I can barely read:

LabourHousingPetition

The bit that is ticked by default that can’t be easily read:

LabourHousingPetitionFineprint

So they are not being very clear about putting you on their junk mail list.

And note that while the petition doesn’t require you to enter your address they say they will “collect your address to help us tailor our communications to you, based on your location”.

Presumably that’s the location entered at the start to “Find out how it’s looking in your community”.

Back to the headline: Housing crisis affecting more than 98 per cent of NZ

Talk about overstating a problem. I’m not buying or selling at the moment and am paying record low interest rates for my mortgage.

There will be many people like me who are benefiting from current conditions rather than being in a grossly overstated crisis.

The 98% claim is unadulterated bollocks.

Paddy’s flag crisis

Patrick Gower and Newshub seem to have concocted a flag crisis, claiming that the National Party is divided over it. It’s been obvious since the beginning and publicly known for months that National MPs have a variety of views on whether to change the flag or not.

Newshub ‘broke’ the news in dribs and drabs on Twitter.

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics
BREAKING – National MPs hold crisis meeting over flag change

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics
BREAKING – National Party leak about crisis meeting shows internal division over flag change

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics 3m3 minutes ago
BREAKING – National Party leak shows numbers of MPs in support of flag change – and it is not good for John Key. More soon at Newshub

Newshub Breaking ‏@NewshubBreaking
#LEAKED: @maggiebarrynz’s emailed @NZNationalParty MPs urging them to join her for a meeting about a campaign to support changing the flag

Newshub ‏@NewshubNZ
.@patrickgowernz: Are @NZNationalParty MPs divided over @johnkeypm’s NZ flag change? http://bit.ly/249bIcI

That got a response:

Audrey Young ‏@audreyNZH
@NewshubNZ @patrickgowernz Yes, they are. See Isaac Davison’s poll on it. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11581277 …

That links to a January Herald article that details flag preferences of a number of MPs, including various preferences by National MPs.

After about twenty minutes Newshub linked to a news item:

Newshub Politics ‏@NewshubPolitics 24s24 seconds ago
National Party flag crisis meeting leak http://www.newshub.co.nz/politics/leaked-nationals-flag-change-crisis-meeting-2016021714 …

This was initially very brief and was gradually added to.

Leaked: National’s flag change crisis meeting

Leaked National Party emails show its MPs are divided over John Key’s flag change and that a crisis meeting of MPs has been held to give the campaign a boost.

Of course key, Barry and other National MPs have denied there is any crisis, and it’s hard to see how it could be seen as a crisis.

An email obtained by Newshub shows that only 32 out of 59 National MPs were invited to a meeting about changing the flag today — meaning about 54 percent of Mr Key’s Caucus is in support.

It seems that most MPs were initially emailed and this email was to those who expressed an interest. Wow.

The email follows a Caucus meeting yesterday where the flag was discussed.d_maggie_email_17_02_new4

 

The meeting was later moved to Ms Barry’s office at the last minute.

d_maggie_2nd_email_17_02

(A 9.00 pm email for a 7.30 am meeting is hardly last minute).

Is it of public interest that some National MPs are having meetings about the flag? Slightly perhaps?

Is it a crisis? It’s very hard to see that. Ok, as Gower said on the 6 pm Newshub news it’s a bit newsy to political wonks that someone within the National caucus seems to have leaked him a couple of emails but he’s overdoing things somewhat.

The National caucus doesn’t even make any decision over the flag, MPs have no more voting power in the referendum than any of the rest of us.

Sure Key has a bit or a problem getting his flag change over the line with any sort of credibility. It was at best going to be close, neither he nor the flag panel have done great jobs, and opponents chose to make it a political shit fight rather than a genuine contest over flag change.

How can the National caucus be divided when there was never any claim or requirement for them to be united on the flag anyway?

Without a major shift in sentiment I think we will be stuck with drab old rag for another few decades at least, giving an important decision to people to decide has been hobbled by self interested parties and trashed by political activists. So those interested in a genuine democratic flag retention/selection opportunity have been shat on by those with political interests.

My take on this is that more direct democracy and power for the people is doomed due to the lack of responsibility and maturity of politicians and social media warriors.

People don’t deserve more power if they choose to trash opportunities to decide like adults like this.

The Herald have followed up Gower’s story with I don’t know what all this nonsense is about’ – John Key shoots down claims flag referendum is dividing caucus

Labour may be facing a crisis

A crisis seems imminent for Labour, with no apparent competence or will to prevent it or deal with it.

Labour seems to be increasingly dysfunctional after a poor start to the year by David Cunliffe and his caucus. If they don’t deal with it, urgently, then Labour could be in crisis long before the election they now seem to expect to lose.

Yesterday on RadioLive Duncan Garner claimed that Labour’s ABC club is back, they’re unhappy with how poorly Cunliffe is performing, MPs and staff and…

I’m told that there’s a bit of a go slow. Some of the MPs and the staff have decided well he can lose the election and we’ll roll him straight after the election.”

Full transcript and audio link

That’s not likely to be the end of it. Garner tweeted later:

The other political editors will write similar stuff in their weekend columns… Mark my words…

And bad poll news for Labour yesterday, Roy Morgan has them down 3 at 30% – Roy Morgan – grim for Labour.

None of this is surprising. There are many signs of being out of touch with mistakes, bad judgement, poor relationships, bizarre behaviour, staff bailing out – the list goes on and on.

It may not be a coincidence that recently Cunliffe announced that he would be talking to all MPs about their future.

Cunliffe and his leader’s office is misfiring and losing key staff.

Parliament seems to have been taken over by Trevor Mallard who looks to be conducting something like an ongoing personal vendetta over several weeks – see Groundduck day.

Shane Jones has stepped up. The rest of the caucus seem to have fallen out and are damaging Cunliffe through pettiness and spite.

The problem is this doesn’t just damage Cunliffe. It risks causing serious damage to Labour – the depths Bill English and National plummeted to in 2002 (20.93%) looks possible. Senior MPs may think their electorates are safe, or their list position will assure they keep their own seats.

But this sort of self destruction could be catastrophic for Labour, to the extent that it threatens being terminal.

National’s horror 2002 was their first election back in opposition. After that they rebuilt, coming close with Brash in 2005 and then winning with Key in 2008.

After Clark’s loss in 2008 Labour wasted their first term under Goff and dropped to their worst election result – 27%. Since then they made a major misjudgement with Shearer and then replaced him with Cunliffe who was unpopular with the majority of Labour’s caucus.

There were both positive and concerning signs with Cunliffe in his first few months. He needed a strong start to the year but instead has gone from cock-up to gaffe to embarrassment.

And it looks like the caucus rats aren’t deserting the ship so much as gnawing through the ropes and shitting in the gearbox.

There are many signs that Labour could be heading for a crisis long before the election. It’s looking very ugly, and they don’t even have the ability to paper over the cracks let alone prevent the cracks from gaping.

Obviously Cunliffe’s leadership is at stake. So too might be the future of the Labour Party. And this has significant implications for our democracy and Parliament – if a once major party crashes and burns we will all be the worse for it.

Cunliffe has to find something much different to what he has tried so far, and soon. Urgently.

And the Labour caucus has to grow up and act like they represent their constituents, not just their own selfish destructive interests.

Labour may be facing a crisis – with no apparent competence or will to deal with it.

Is there a male friendship crisis?

An interesting column by Rebecca Kamm in NZ Herald on The male friendship crisis.

Citing both her own and others’ research on the topic, sociologist Lisa Wade says that white heterosexual men have fewer friends than any other demographic. This, despite their yearning for closer, more intimate platonic connections with other men:

“When I first began researching this topic I thought, surely this is too stereotypical to be true,” she writes. “Or, if it is true, I wondered, perhaps the research is biased in favor of female-type friendships. In other words, maybe we’re measuring male friendships with a female yardstick. It’s possible that men don’t want as many or the same kinds of friendships as women.

“But they do. When asked about what they desire from their friendships, men are just as likely as women to say that they want intimacy. And, just like women, their satisfaction with their friendships is strongly correlated with the level of self-disclosure. Moreover, when asked to describe what they mean by intimacy, men say the same thing as women: emotional support, disclosure and having someone to take care of them.”

Deep friendship, she says, requires empathy, vulnerability and warmth: qualities that equate with girly-ness. Which equates with being lesser. So straight men tend to develop what friendship scholar Geoffrey Greif calls “shoulder-to-shoulder” friendships (doing things) in contrast to the “face-to-face” friendships (discussing things) typical of women.

As a result, “If a man does have a confidant, three-quarters of the time it’s a woman, and there’s a good chance she’s his wife or girlfriend.”

I wouldn’t say it was a crisis, but it does pose problems for (probably many) men who don’t have emotional bonds or outlets with either other men or women,

And like so much of the social studies of note, Wade’s is US-focussed. But I’d wager her conclusions resonate with a significant proportion of New Zealand women who have ever stopped to observe the nature of their partner’s friendships.

From my experience and observations (as a white male heterosexual) I’d say it applies as much to New Zealand.

Jill Goldson, a veteran Auckland-based relationships counselor, says she’s often struck by her male clients’ lack of emotional outlets:

“Generally speaking, they enjoy and value their male friends, but whilst they’ll be there for each other at times of crisis, they tend to be ‘there’ in a different way from women: with the spare couch to sleep on, or a beer. They often tell me they don’t really talk about ‘feelings’ with their friends. Rather, it’s their mother, or a female relation of some sort.

“Some of the most poignant stories are from the men who could never get close to their fathers, because of the emotional distance they felt he imposed on him as a boy,” she adds. “It’s as though they learned the ground rules within the family and then kept replicating those ‘norms'”

For many men, trying to get “closer” to their male friends would probably feel risky. It’d mean revealing the parts of them that are soft, unguarded and open. The very things they’re taught it’s not okay to be. And the very things that, even in small doses, take friendships deeper.

Are there any solutions? If it’s a learnt generational thing it’s not likely to be easy to address.

Is there a need for any solutions?

I find it easier to have closer relationships and more emotional relationships with females. And certainly most male socialising is very superficial.

I don’t see that as a problem for me.

Manufacturing a crisis

The opposition parties continue to try promoting a crisis in New Zealand manufacturing. Green Party spokesperson ‘James Henderson’ posted at The Standard:

The manufacturing crisis & the Right’s wilful blindness

Is there a crisis in manufacturing? Hell yes.

And part of that crisis is due to the fact that National and its lackeys refuse to acknowledge the problem.

Is the Left wilfully exaggerating? Commenter ‘tsmithfield’ thinks so.

I have to disagree with the word “crisis”. This has the implication of something, sudden, unexpected, adverse, and in need of a urgent solution.

I think the word “trend” is more appropriate. There has been a long-term trend, as in many other western countries, for manufacturing to be relocated to countries that provide cheaper labour rates for mass production (e.g. China et al.). The currency situation doesn’t help. But it isn’t the cause.

If we see the situation as a long-term trend, then the answer might well not be in “fixing” the manufacturing “crisis”. This might well be akin to trying to stop the tide, and simply mean tipping money and resources down the toilet. The answer might well be in adapting to the reality of the world, and focusing on our strengths. This might well mean a continuation of the trend in manufacturing. But as long as we are focusing on our strengths, and competitive advantages, then the country as a whole should prosper.

For example, for the last several decades we have seen many, if not most of our manufacturing clients relocate their production to the likes of China. We have adapted by aligning our business associated with food production or construction.

I think manufacturing can succeed in NZ. But it needs to be more “botique” in nature. That is, we need to focus on shorter-run, specialised type products, and high-end products that can’t economically be produced in the likes of China. However, I believe the days of long-run production of products for export in NZ are pretty much over. Other than for food related products where we have a competitive advantage.

In contrast to the Green rhetoric that is far closer to the reality of the situation with manufacturing.

I worked for a manufacturing company in the mid 1980s. It closed down in about 1987 due to the difficulties competing with cheap labour based manufacturing in Asia. I then worked for Fisher & Paykel at their Taieri appliance factory.

A generation later my son worked in the same F&P factory, and was just able to complete his apprenticeship before the factory shut down, moving it’s manufacturing to Thailand and Mexico – that was in 2008, while Helen Clark’s Labour ws still in Government.

Claiming we suddenly have a crisis now is one of the worst kinds of political overstatement and scaremongering, because it could impact on business confidence.

New Zealand manufacturing certainly faces challenges – as it has for decades. Another opposition ‘cry wolf’ won’t help them.

A party poll crisis does not justify manufacturing a crisis.