Labour leaks targeting Bridges

There have been a series of leaks of internal information obviously designed to damage Simon Bridges and National.

This began with the odd expenses leak just a few days before the information was due for public release, followed by the onslaught from Jami-Lee Ross as the now ex-National MP self destructed. There have been further anonymous leaks of historical information that look suspiciously like a continuation of that attack.

There has also been what looks like a Labour campaign to discredit Bridges and destabilise National heading into the holiday period.

Leaked UMR polling information has progressed from whispers to journalists to drip feeing of poll graphics. I posted on this one yesterday –UMR polling history – which notably was monthly polling with the last result from October, so without the latest poll. One could presume someone is only able to get old data, or the November poll didn’t fit the hit.

There is also a word cloud floating around – Stuff reported on it here How public view Simon Bridges – that was purportedly ‘sent to corporate clients in late November’ and has just popped up. This also indicates it is October data – from the time of the Jami-lee Ross saga, so an out of date targeted hit on Bridges.

Ex Labour staffer Neale Jones, now working for a ‘public affairs company, specialising in Government Relations, Strategic Communications and Campaigns’, keeps tweeting a stream of criticisms of Bridges and National. Whether that is personal or part of Strategic Communications and Campaigns is not clear.

And The Standard has a steady diet of anti-Bridges/National posts. Over the past week:

Mostly this is preaching to the converted, and several authors are involved, but it looks like they have more interested in damaging the Opposition than promoting the Government.

Over the same period there are three posts on Labour/Government bills.

Will all of this have any overall effect? It’s hard to say, but even though there has been a string of media ‘opinions’ from political journalists dumping on Bridges the consensus is that a leadership challenge would be unlikely with National polling higher than Labour (apart from the leaks of cherry picked UMR polls.

In the meantime Jacinda Ardern and Labour keep polling reasonably well – but news of Government progress has not been prominent. Perhaps that’s why there is more focus on attacking National.

The way forward to The Future – the big picture

They are trying an ongoing discussion on suggestions on the way forward to The Future at The Standard. Robert Guyton elaborated in Open Mike:

Plans for a post titled, “How to get there” and intended as a platform for TS readers and commenters to display their ideas and aspirations for improving the chances for each and every one of us (humanity that is) to “get there” have been floated over the past couple of weeks and today might be, by the grace of the TS authors and tech people, the moment for it to surface, glistening and quivering, into the light of day. Fingers crossed.

The title has changed but here it is The Future Is …:

This post is intended to be a place for discussion of the way forward.

The idea comes from an exchange on Open Mike a few weeks ago. TS regular Robert Guyton suggested we have a dedicated thread where “the way forward can be discussed, within parameters such as doable suggestions, successful examples, contributions from readers who support the concept of the thread, new takes on the future etc.”

So, an Open Mike for ideas, solutions and the discussion of the possible. The Big Picture, rather than a snapshot of the day’s goings on. Topics rather than topical.

You might want to talk about gene editing or free public transport.

Maybe the future is solar? Maybe it’s female? Maybe the future is merely a philosophical concept that’s had it’s day?

It would be worth getting a wider range of views than are likely at The Standard. We all hope to get what is now ‘the future’ – the best way forward is a collaborative but keenly contested approach across the political spectrum (and outside it).

 

Anti-climate change comments no longer allowed

Anyone arguing against climate change happening can’t comment any more – don’t worry, not here, but that seems to be what Stuff are imposing on comments there.

I think that climate change is potentially a major problem facing our planet, and facing humankind. We are having a significant impact on the planet, and most probably on the climate.

I largely disagree with those who say there is nothing to worry about. We should be concerned, and we should be doing more to reduce the human impact on the climate and on the environment.

Not all climate change effects will be negative, some areas may benefit. But overall it poses a major risk, especially considering the huge and expanding human population and the need to feed everyone.

However we should not, must not close down arguments against climate change, or for natural climate change, or against doing anything. For a start, a basic premise of science is that it be continually questioned and challenged, no matter how strong the evidence is one way or another.

And there is a lot to debate about what we should be doing in response to our impact on the planet.

So censoring one side of a debate is a major concern to me. There are whacky extremes on both sides of the arguments. Why target just one side with censorship?

From The Standard: Stuff is banning climate change deniers from articles and comments

Congratulations to Stuff.  Instead of the endless on the one hand but on the other hand reporting, where on the other hand is nothing more than incomprehensible babble from the anti science right, they have adopted this policy:

Stuff accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity. We welcome robust debate about the appropriate response to climate change, but do not intend to provide a venue for denialism or hoax advocacy. That applies equally to the stories we will publish in Quick! Save the Planet and to our moderation standards for reader comments.

The change in policy is accompanied by the announcement of a new series of stories and opinion pieces under the title of Quick! Save the planet which is described in this way:

Quick! Save the Planet – a long-term Stuff project launching today – aims to disturb our collective complacency. With insistent, inconvenient coverage, we intend to make the realities of climate change feel tangible – and unignorable.

This project accepts a statement that shouldn’t be controversial but somehow still is: climate change is real and caused by human activity.

Mature adults can disagree about the impact of climate change and how we should react. We’ll feature a wide range of views as part of this project, but we won’t include climate change “scepticism”. Including denialism wouldn’t be “balanced”; it’d be a dangerous waste of time. The experts have debunked denialism, so now we’ll move on.

There were 268 comments to the editorial written by Editor in Chief Patrick Crewdson, mostly supportive, but a few were clearly testing the boundaries.

Well done Stuff.

It is great that the tide of opinion is flowing towards accepting climate change as a reality and working out what needs to be done.  The question will be is this too little too late.

Maybe, but it is not great to see a banning of opposing views. That is bad for debate, bad for democracy, and bad for science.

This is just one of a number of very concerning developments in trying to shut down free speech that are happening right now.

Two contrasting comments early in the Standard discussion:

Robert Guyton:

Stuff’s sidelining of deniers is bold and decisive – good on them. I made this point at our regional council meeting yesterday, with any closet deniers who might be sitting around the table, in mind. There was a squirm 🙂

Chris T:

Totally and utterly disagree.

Deniers of climate change are blind, but to censor differing views that are being put foward (that aren’t breaking swearing rules etc), no matter how stupid they are, or no matter how they may differ from yours, on topics that are as contentious as this, is ridiculous.

There is another argument currently about whether media should provide ‘balance’ by giving a voice to whacky extremes, or at least whether they should provide a forum for minority views with significant slants – Bob McCoskrie comes to mind.

Media articles should be balanced towards factual and scientifically backed information. They shouldn’t give anyone a voice who wants to spout nonsense, or extreme views. Media can choose what they publish.

But when they start to censor comments – free speech – I think they are getting into worrying territory.

Chris T: Is there a master list of topics people aren’t allowed to disagree with or do we just make it up as we go along?

mickysavage: Claiming that climate science is a Soros funded attempt at world government would be a start, saying that scientists are engaged in scare mongering for money is another and claiming that ice cover is actually increasing and that temperature increases have stalled for years is a third topic.

Wayne: Your list, especially the last two, looks indistinguishable from censorship.

Banning arguments against “ice cover is actually increasing” is a particular worry.

Ice cover actually increases every winter. Obviously it decreases in summer. It always varies with seasons. Most science generally suggests that ice cover is decreasing overall, but even with climate change (warming) it can increase in some areas.

Awful comment, good moderation

What appears to be fair criticism of a comment at The Standard, but a good response:

That’s correct, here’s the comment from The dirty politics of beating up on Karel Sroubek:

Jack Ramaka 4.2

Jacindarella and Winnie the Pooh need to flush out the corrupt officials and dismantle the Stazi Network set up by the Hungarian Jew JK, which exists here in NZ in the Police, Intelligence Services and Government Departments. These people are employed to serve the best interests of New Zealanders not Mike Hoskins, Duncan Garner, Simon Bridges, Pulla Benefit and the Canterbury Pie Eating Champ ?

[Going to leave this unedited as an example of How Not To Comment on TS. Jack, if you go down the ‘blame the Jews’ line again, you’ll be gone. TRP]

There’s a few things in that comment that deserve condemnation, but I think this is good moderation – leaving the comment so it can be seen how awful it was,  but making it clear it is unacceptable.

The same day ‘Jack Ramaka’ posted quite a few comments, including:

I need to be careful what I say here as you are not allowed to mention a certain word on this site as it is culturally sensitive. However people closely aligned to the Isreali’s have a very big influence in Hollywood, enough said otherwise the RWNJ’s will be jumping up and down squealing and demand that I be removed from the TS site.

One should visit the Whale Oil & National Party’s Kiwi Blog sites and see how culturally insensitive they are towards indigeneous people of Maori or Pacific Island extraction ? Enough said otherwise I will be described as being racist and may be banned ?

I don’t know how long he will last there.

Spin winds up as Labour battles

Labour have had a bad week, on top of bad weeks before it. They have been widely criticised for conceding power to Winston Peters, and have been dogged by problems, especially the Clare Curran/Derek Handley saga that continues to cause them embarrassment.

The weekend commentary continues to challenge Labour’s credibility.

Audrey Young: Failings in Coalition Government become glaringly apparent

Illustration / Guy Body

In March, the honeymoon between the new Coalition Government and the public ended after the mishandling of Labour’s summer school complaints and the bumbling around New Zealand’s position on Russia.

September marks the end of another honeymoon – between the partners in the Coalition Government, Labour and New Zealand First.

This week also marks another milestone: Peters finally came clean about how he sees his party’s status in the relationship, as an equal partner to Jacinda Ardern’s Labour which explains a lot.

This week has been more like the first falling-out rather than a crisis in the relationship but both parties behaved very badly to the other.

Young details a plethora of problems.

Duncan Garner:  Don’t write this fumbling coalition off just yet

It’s been a messy, incoherent and rudderless 12 months. The winner has been the surplus National left behind. It has given Labour options. The loser has many names. Clare Curran, and all those average jocks posing as ministers, and those using the “c” word.

Peters prefers to describe criticism of this governing hybrid with a turn-of-the-century word, “balderdash” which is ultimately a pretentious gum movement meaning utter nonsense. The use of such a silly word should be a warning to voters to stay well clear, but you simply can’t save all the conspiracy theorists all the time.

If you wanted a trainer wheel Government, this is it. Yes, there are a few policy scraps and differences right now. That’s because there are three partners and the tail does wag the dog more often than it should. That’s called MMP in action. They’ll sort it. It’s the only option.

So what do they do to try and improve things? It seems like they are spinning up their PR department to try and look better (or at least less bad).

I have noticed a change in attitude at The Standard recently, back to being very sensitive about any criticism of Labour.

MickySavage has kept plugging away with post attacks on National, nothing much new there. (And he puts up some good posts on less party orientated subjects as well).

But some with close Labour (and Green) ties have started to pop up in the mix.

Mike Smith (ex Labour general secretary): Is Politik a propaganda mouthpiece for the UK Embassy?

It very much looks as though Richard Harman would have been one of the selected journalists. I know Richard well, like and respect him, but I think he is barking up the wrong tree on this issue.

Winston Peters is and deserves to be treated as a substantial politician and diplomat. One doesn’t have to agree with everything he says, but he is no fool. On this issue, for our country’s sake, I am very glad he is not knee-jerk following the “western” group.

Curious to see a Labourite supporting Peters, who copped more criticism than from Harman.

Simon Louisson (former journalist who reported for The Wall Street Journal, AP Dow Jones Newswires, the New Zealand Press Association and Reuters and has been a political and media adviser to the Green Party): What does it take for bosses not to get their bonus?

Fonterra’s $196 million loss for the June year – the first loss in the co-op’s 17-year history and a staggering reversal of last year’s $745m profit – failed to seriously dent the remuneration of its former CEO Theo Spierings.

Part of the trouble lies in the fact that people on very high salaries get the same employment protection that ordinary workers receive. I would argue that the law should be changed so that once an employee receives remuneration of over ten times, or even five times, the average income, he/she should be prepared to take the responsibility that they live or die by their performance.

As a former businesses reporter, time and again I would see bosses fired for incompetence but paid enormous “golden parachutes”.

Louisson is back posting at The Standard after a break of six month break, since authoring a flurry of posts (six) at the start of the year).

Te Reo Putake (an active Labour member and activist and seems to be close to some Labour MPs): Coalition Problems? Tell ’em they’re Dreaming!

The National Party and their paid stooges have been promoting the narrative that NZ First is the party that’s really in control of the new government. That’s bollocks.

“Their paid stooges” is a dirty politics type allegation. Trying to blame critics for Labour’s run of incompetence is not going to fix or even paper over the bad press they have been getting.

What’s actually happening is that we have an MMP Government that is functioning in exactly the way it was envisaged to work. The three parties negotiate, they argue for their positions, they seek consensus and then they enact legislation. And, yes, it is a three way deal. The Greens have managed to find ways to build a relationship with NZ First that must be annoying the hell out of the Nats.

It’s not ‘the Nats’ who seem annoyed as hell by Labour’s bad media coverage.

And that’s because the strength of this coalition is respect for different opinions and a way of working that emphasises consensus.

Consensus as long as Peters approves? That is how it is being portrayed, with some justification.

How very different from the undemocratic FPP when a one seat majority ensured an effective dictatorship over legislation.

Inseat there’s a growing perception of one MP who dictates what goes in a small party now dictating to a party with five times as many seats.

No, this is the modern way. No wonder the right can’t understand why they lost the last election.

They’re dinosaurs, watching the comets fall.

It’s not National who look to be in danger of falling at the moment. As self inflicted comets fall around labour their PR dinosaurs try to patch up yesterday’s mess. Too late as the rapid news cycle continues to steam roll them.

A comment on that thread: from Incognito:

Very good post! Bryan Gould wrote a similar post: http://www.bryangould.com/coalition-government-working-as-it-should/

Gould often trots out pro Labour pieces, and plays a similar tune to TRP:

It is increasingly clear that some supposedly expert commentators on the political scene have a poor understanding of how a parliamentary democracy actually works.

When the coalition partners occasionally do not agree on a particular issue, here is no reason, in other words, no reason to froth at the mouth, or bemoan the fact that National, with the largest number of seats but not a majority, is not in government, or to ask, who is running the government. A coalition government that has to muster a parliamentary majority to get its measures passed is what both our constitutional principles and the will of the people as represented by the outcome of the election both dictate; it is called democracy at work.

So, when New Zealand First declines to support a particular proposal put forward by Labour, or if the roles are reversed so that Labour fails support something New Zealand First wants, we should celebrate, not fulminate. We have the best of all worlds – a more representative parliament, a government that has to take account of a wider range of opinion than just its own, and a coalition government that provides stability and a consistent strategic direction.

Perhaps some of our commentators should pause to reflect for a moment before going into print.

Jacinda Ardern has often batted away suggestions of dysfunction by saying it is just how MMP works. In a just released book on the 2017 election (see ‘I remember the crunch point’: Jacinda Ardern looks back on the 2017 election) she says:

The rest really is history, and now with the most genuine MMP government we’ve ever had, it’s also up to us to make history.

What makes the current government any more ‘genuine’ than past ones?

Tracy Watkins: Is Winston Peters Labour’s dud Lotto win?

There might have been lots of calming words spoken about  MMP in action – but that’s just Labour putting on a brave face.

Seems like a few brave faces are being trundled out by Labour’s PR department.

Ardern, Labour and their mouthpieces can claim as often as they like that ‘MMP is working as it should be’, but they currently look like they are insisting the seats look comfortable as the wheels get very wobbly.

Standard oversensitive to being criticised on an insensitive post

This should have just been me making a point at The Standard this morning, but showing signs of past intolerance of criticism they overreacted, threatened me with a ban, demoted the thread and then it seems banned me anyway because i couldn’t in response to lprent’s censorship (he may not have seen the post as it was originally so may have fired a broadside half cocked).

MickySavage posted Which National MP leaked Bridges’ expense details? In the main it was similar to my post on the same topic this morning, but it included a very inappropriate graphic that mocked mental health and named MPs – here’s the graphic, still on their tweet of the post:

I simply said “I think this is a poor taste post in the circumstances. Mental health is not a joke, nor should it be used for making cheap political shots.”

Te Reo Putake reacted:

Pete, with the exception of the ‘cluedo’ picture, there is nothing humorous in this post. No jokes are made in the post about the mental health issues of the MP concerned.

So, in short, your comment is in poor taste and you are using the matter to make a cheap political shot.

Poor form.

There was nothing political about my comment at all, and the cluedo picture was prominent (before any text) and that was worse than a cheap political shot.

But TRP was still overreacting:

Pete, the graphic has been around since the original leak. Posts have to illustrated with something and in the circumstances (a fast breaking news story about a mystery MP) it’s not inappropriate.

However, you didn’t specifically mention the graphic in your whinge. You specifically called out the post.

So you were having a crack at the author for your own beigely bland political purposes.

If I were you I’d just be grateful you were merely admonished, not banned. If you have anything to say about the substance of the story, have at it. If not, silence is golden.

The graphic was the most prominent part of the post, so yes, I called out the post. Perhaps I could have referred specifically to the graphic but it was fairly obvious.

I didn’t have a crack at the author at all, I didn’t refer to the author. I called out a crappy post.

And got threatened with a ban for it – that’s how The Standard used to operate when called out for crappy posts. Seems like now TRP is back they are back to message control.

MickySavage was initially defensive:

I thought about this.

First there is no proof that the person has mental health issues.

Second it is clearly a topic of public interest.

Third there have been numerous allegations from the right that Labour was responsible for the leak. Clearly this is not the case.

Fourth the emphasis is on disunity in National’s ranks and Bridges’ poor judgment.

Fifth I raise the possibility of canning the inquiry.

It has been made very clear through the day that it was predominantly a mental health issue. Otherwise his poinnts are fair given the issue and circumstances.

And he must have thought some more about it, because a wee while later the graphic was replaced and the post was amended:

Update:

I agree that mental health is an important issue so I am replacing the picture associated with the post.  The story is relevant however.

So my comment was effectively accepted as valid and appropriate action was taken. Good on MickySavage for that.

But then lprent got involved

[lprent: Just read through this thread. Basically TRP is correct. You are wrong. Shoving this silly diversion thread to the end of post. ]

He may not have seen the original graphic, but TRP was wrong and MickySavage eventually took the right action.

I don’t care about it being dropped to the bottom of the post, from here, and I don’t care if they ban me, but while i can and where I’ll can I won’t back down from giving my opinion on what i think are crappy aspects of posts or moderation.

And they also seem to have banned me without saying, because i haven’t been able to respond to lprent’s interfering (it had already been dealt with) and his typical overreaction.

Hard lefties oppose National cooperation on climate change

Jacinda Ardern has described climate change as “my generation’s nuclear free moment” (in a campaign speech in August 2017).

Simon Bridges won’t go that far. On Q+A yesterday

CORIN DANN So certainty. Is climate change the nuclear-free issue of your generation?

SIMON BRIDGES I would not go that far. Is it the most significant environmental issue? Is it an important long-term issue that we need to deal with and deal with seriously and provide certainty on? Yes.

Bridges was vague about where he actually stands on a number of climate issues, and is nowhere near as radical as the Greens, but National have signalled a willingness to work together with other parties – National supporting non-partisan Climate Commission.

But how genuine are they? Not at all according to some on the left.

MickySavage asked yesterday: Does National really want climate change to be a bipartisan issue?

His post concludes:

If this is what National and Simon Bridges is promising then all good and the Government can get on with things.  But if this is merely a replacement of outright denial with a more nuanced approach designed to delay urgent action being taken then he should rethink this.

Bridges has just been reported criticising National MPs expressing doubts about climate change.

Many comments at The Standard didn’t trust National and didn’t want them involved. Petty partisan politics is so ingrained some people can’t countenance cross-party cooperation.

Gabby: “Much easier to wreck things from the inside.”

Robert Guyton: “National’s funders will say, nah.”

Jess: “Bi-partisan means two parties. National wants to regress to Nat vs Labour with Nat as the bigger party, instead of a coalition. Or if they really see Govt and opposition as two parties, their perspective is going to be no help whatsoever (no surprise there).”

Kat: “Agree with you Jess in that National just want to maneuver into a position of taking out the coalition in 2020 by appearing to be genuine about serious issues.”

marty mars: “Simon is insincere imo. The gnats don’t care. Last throw of the die in many ways.”

Stuart Munro: “Trying make a wedge to peel off a few blueish Green voters.”

Jenny: “Feeling the ground shifting under them, National’s corporate sponsors desperately need a bipartisan consensus to do nothing meaningful about climate change.”

Draco T Bastard: “Translation: He wants Labour and the Greens to compromise and accept National’s position. And National will not budge from its position.”

What I think DTB really means is that he doesn’t want Greens to budge from their position – ignoring the reality of an MMP Parliament that requires agreement (and compromise) from at least three parties.

I joined in and said: This is the best opportunity ever for cross party cooperation on dealing with a major issue facing New Zealand and the world. Getting pissy about shunning parties because they don’t measure up to ideals (non of them do) is a bit pathetic given what is at stake.

Robert Guyton:

“Moving towards doing something”
Shuffling their feet so they aren’t considered dead.
That’s all.

I queried Robert: What approach do you think is best Robert – MMP democracy, or petty partisan politics? Greens will get closest to what they want if they’re prepared to work hard with all other parties in Parliament to get the best out of all of them – kinda like the James Shaw approach.”

Robert:

James is handling this issue beautifully, in the way a snake-handler manipulates vipers. Still vipers though.

This was Shaw’s response to National’s announcement they would work with other parties ion climate change:

Fortunately commenters on left wing blogs don’t run things in Parliament, but as Eugenie Sage found out, they can kick up a stink when Ministers follow laws and procedures and allow something activists don’t like.

Wayne Mapp also joined in:

Thank goodness the commenters here are not actually in govt. Most of you would not talk to National on anything (except for terms of surrender).

In reality in a range of issues governments and oppositions co-operate. For instance on national super, various environmental issues, a number of national security isssues there is dialogue and adjustment to get a bipartisan (sometimes multi partisan) consensus.

In fact John Key’s initiative in Opposition was to do the anti-smacking deal with Labour.

But hard lefties seem to hate dealing at all with the political ‘enemy’. In response:

Stuart Munro: “Well you’re a pack of lying assholes.”

One Anonymous Bloke: Here’s a radical idea to improve your public image: stop lying and killing people.

Fortunately people like that are nowhere near real political decision making, all they have is futile vitriol in social media.

This morning on RNZ:

“Nationalise all broadcast media”

There is a lot of angst being expressed over news coverage during the week at The Standard: The manufacturing of a narrative

They are complaining about the excess of coverage of stories they don’t think are important, and a lack of coverage of stories they think are important. The media are the immediate scapegoats, but National and big business and world conspiracies also feature in the list of culprits.

Ironically with a post and comments that try to play down Clare Curran’s indiscretions in trying to promote her policies for a publicly funded broadcast television alternative, these claims and suggestions propose that media is fully controlled by the state.

Unicus:

Of course the Government can and must act to protect our country from what is a rampant corporate propaganda machine . It is not enough to simply express disgust about this calculated and co ordinated attempt to bring down the legitimately elected government of our country Although Curren is not the individual to do the job RNZ and Television NZ must be re structured imediately .

Ed:

The media are paid puppets for international finance.
The government will control the narrative if it takes control of the airwaves from private corporate interests.
The airwaves are the commons.
They should be returned to the 99%.

solkta:

Yes, the government should immediately nationalise all broadcast media; along with all law firms, insurance companies and banks.

One of the primary and most important functions of media in a democracy is to hold the government to account. This would take an important check on power away.

I’m not sure that they will be so keen on the government controlling the narrative by taking control of the airwaves when National takes over the government again.

And on the right wing conspiracy – Robert Guyton:

No, Baba: ” A narrative is building being built of incompetence and dishonesty around this government that will be very difficult to shake”.
The perception is being created, purposefully, in order to destroy the Labour-led Government – who’s doing this? You know full well, ol’ mortar’n’pestle witch!

Babayaga:

The narrative is being self inflicted. It really is that simple.

Robert Guyton:

“Self -inflicted”?
Bullsh*t!
Inflicted by the Right Wing machine.
Baba – you’re full of it!

John Drinnan:

So are you saying that most journalists in the country are corrupt and promoting a story that they know is untrue – all to meet the demands of a cruel lying media That famous right wing Gordon Campbell? For goodness sake?

I’m not sure why that last sentence has a question mark.

Russian judgment – “Winston Peters and Jeremy Corbyn are sane voices”

There have been claims that Russia has been set up over the allegations of nerve gas poisoning in Salisbury, England, ranging from valid questions to conspiracy theories.

Mike Smith at The Standard says that “Winston Peters and Jeremy Corbyn are sane voices calling for evidence” and suggests that there are “all the signs of another false flag operation” in Russian to Judgment.

The possible poisoning of Sergei Skripal and the consequent  hysteria have all the signs of another false flag operation, as we saw before the second American invasion of Iraq. The chain of circumstantial evidence has more holes in it than a swiss cheese, and while  attempted murder (if that is what it is) is a criminal act Winston Peters and Jeremy Corbyn are sane voices calling for evidence before any attribution still less action.

Smith questions whether anyone was poisoned at all – “possible poisoning”.

What we don’t know is what evidence may (or may not) have been circulated around intelligence agencies and governments.

Its not hard to see why the British government would like to draw attention away from the looming disaster of their bungled Brexit. The French and Americans are also unhappy about the continuation of Assad’s government in Syria. With the sudden firing of Rex Tillerson and the looming exit of McMaster, the neocons are firmly in charge in Washington and we know what that led to in 2003.

The situation now in Washington is very different to 2003, as the US reacted to the 911 attacks.

Helen Clark’s Labour-led government took a principled stance not to support George W. Bush’s  “coalition of the willing,” and no doubt had to withstand considerable pressure to do so. It is concerning to read that the British High Commissioner is briefing New Zealand media about Theresa May’s view of events, and sending out barely disguised threats in an attempt to interfere in our trade policies.

Smith seems to be a fan of Winston’s attempts to negotiate a trade agreement with Russia despite opposing the TPPA.

It is not as though we haven’t seen anti-Russian hysteria before. Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report seems to have gone full ‘Dancing Cossacks,’ following the lead of CNN which has led the charge in Washington since the election of Donald Trump.

Who sounds hysterical?

We live in a very uncertain and dangerous world and New Zealand is not immune. The Doomsday Clock is at two minutes to midnight. Now more than ever we do not nee to seed tensions escalate on such flimsy grounds as the latest beat-up. We need to maintain our independence and our principles, and not be sucked into other people’s wars.

Smith was asked in comments what signs there were of a false flag operation. He responded:

Signs of a false flag operation are those similar to the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was in Canada in early 2002 watching hyped-up American television in my hotel room. I came back and reported to the Labour caucus that America was going to invade. A year later they did.

One sign is heightened tone in the media allied with treating allegation as fact.

Those signs sound flimsy – “heightened tone in the media” is hardly unusual, nor is “treating allegation as fact”.

A false flag operation is a terrorist act committed by one group for the express purpose of discrediting another group, which is framed for it.

Smith is suggesting that Russia has been framed, but he doesn’t specify who he thinks framed them, but the obvious implication is the UK and perhaps the US.

Smith also said:

Nobody’s giving deference to an oligarchy – just don’t want more war, and as for ramping up nuclear capabilities that’s more true of the US at the moment.

Few people want war, especially between nuclear powers, but as for ramping up nuclear capabilities – Russia’s Putin unveils ‘invincible’ nuclear weapons (BBC): The weapons he boasted of included a cruise missile that he said could “reach anywhere in the world”. He said of the West: “They need to take account of a new reality and understand … [this]… is not a bluff.”

What Smith asserts is at odds with our Government response. Jacinda Ardern on The Nation yesterday:

Okay. Well, let’s move on to an entirely different topic. Britain is out kicking 23 Russian diplomats, aka spies. Now, this is over the nerve-gas attack in Salisbury, and things are really ratcheting up. The US has issued sanctions; this is over interference with elections. So are we going to join any further sanctions in relation to Russia if we are asked?

Yeah, and, obviously, we’re working very closely with the UK and other partners. We’ve joined with them in saying these actions are repugnant. We’ve made strong statements in The Hague over it as well. The use of nerve agents–

But what about actual sanctions?

The use of nerve agents is an illegal international act. So at the moment, it is a matter of keeping in close contact with our partners to see what actions they’re taking. At the moment, they’ve isolated down in the UK and dealing with them at an individual diplomat level, but it is a matter of making sure that we’re in constant contact as those decisions are made.

So at the moment, you’re not ruling out the possibility of expulsions from New Zealand?

We haven’t ruled anything in or out at this stage, because, as we say, we’re working closely with our partners, and this is an ongoing matter, but we’ve been very clear this is an illegal act; it is a repugnant act.

A quite different view of Russia in Ardern stumbles badly on Putin-Peters axis:

…since invading and annexing the Crimea in 2014, Russia has:

  • Interfered with elections in the US, France, Germany, and possibly also in Italy.
  • Continued to carry out a clandestine war in Eastern Ukraine.
  • Provided military support in the form of soldiers, air power, equipment, and training to Assad’s regime in Syria which is again using chemical weapons on civilians.
  • Continued to murder and harass political opponents and journalists in Russia.
  • Continued to repress ethnic and minority groups within Russia.
  • And Putin has even revealed he’s antisemitic too in trying to blame Jews for any meddling in the US election!

Salisbury hasn’t changed anything. Russia is still the same brutal, aggressive, and repressive dictatorship that it was in 2014 when FTA negotiations were suspended over Crimea, the only thing that changed in that time was that Winston Peters had the balance of power following the 2017 election and used that power to wring a concession for a Russian free trade deal in his coalition deal with Labour.

It was a surprise concession considering Peters and NZ First had not campaigned on a Russian free trade deal.

It’s healthy to have some scepticism about what is asserted by the UK (or US or NZ) in situations like the Salisbury poisoning and the escalating diplomatic stoush. But it is also healthy to have some scepticism about Russian denials, and defence of Russia by people lie Smith.

I have seen some claim that Jeremy Corbyn is a sane voice on the current situation, but he seems to agree with evidence pointing to Russia – Jeremy Corbyn: Salisbury attack ‘evidence points towards Russia’

Jeremy Corbyn said the “evidence points towards Russia” being responsible for the Salisbury attack but he did not go as far as his shadow defence secretary.

He said the source of the chemical weapon used “appears to be Russia”.

Earlier, his shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said the party accepted “Russia was responsible”.

The Labour leader condemned the “appalling” attack but pressed the PM on whether the UK had supplied traces of the nerve agent used in the attack to Russia for analysis before Wednesday’s deadline, as the Kremlin had asked.

And he asked what action the UK was taking with its allies through the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons.

The UK’s response, said the Labour leader, should be underpinned by support for the rule of law and international agreements and respect for human rights.

But in a later Facebook post, Mr Corbyn called for the Russian authorities to “be held to account on the basis of the evidence and our response must be both decisive and proportionate”.

Is that the sane voice that Smith was referring to?

Few have supported Winston Peters or called him a sane voice over the poisoning issue – he has been strongly criticised. But even he joined condemnation of the poisoning – NZ joins condemnation of nerve agent attack

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the New Zealand Government has grave concerns over the use of a chemical nerve agent in the United Kingdom resulting in critically serious injuries to some of those exposed.

“We share and support the concerns expressed by other nations about such use of chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons as a tool of war, or for murder or assassination is totally repugnant, and this incident is an affront to global rules and norms. As New Zealand has stated on many occasions, we are deeply disturbed at any use of chemical substances banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention,” he said.

“How this military grade nerve agent was transported from Russia and released abroad is the key issue here, and warrants urgent international investigation,” said Mr Peters.

 

Smith’s ‘sane voices’ seem to disagree with him.

 

“Attempts by some fringe Labour supporters to minimise these issues”

It is normal for political activists to over play attacks on opponents, and to make excuses and minimise issues that put their favoured parties and politicians in a bad light. This has been apparent over the sexual abuse claims at Young Labour’s summer camp.

This can go to the extreme of trying to shift blame to opponents, sometimes to a ridiculous degree. Like this from ‘Anne’ at The Standard:

I am becoming convinced that this Youth Camp incident is being used by Labour’s opponents to destroy General Secretary, Andrew Kirton. The MO is remarkably similar to that used on David Cunliffe… grab a piece of info. (eg. a letter he had received 12 yearspreviously) and create a false meme around it. Make sure your MSM acolytes keep it on the boil for as long as possible. They all know the truth will out eventually, but that doesn’t matter because by then the damage has already been done.

And Draco T Bastard:

I’m pretty sure the only reason it’s in the news is for the political point scoring done by the RWNJs.

No other case of sexual abuse gets this sort of attention from the MSM.

Anne again:

Warning! Right wing concern troll calling him/herself John Selway has been sent to TS. Wonder who his/her masters are… and what his/her previous mission was?

Now there’s a real conspiracy theory for the deniers to dig their fangs into.

Ironic that she mentioned conspiracy theory.

Tim Murphy at Newsroom (where the story broke) writes How bad is bad enough?

By common consent the Labour Party has handled the sexual assaults against four young supporters at a political summer camp badly. Labour’s top two names certainly think so. Among their statements on Wednesday were

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

“This sexual abuse took place.”

“The event was not undertaken in a safe and responsible way.”

“Things went very, very wrong.”

 

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth:

“We have failed in our duty of care since the event.”

Their acceptance of failure and distress on behalf of the victims was unmissable. No gilding of the lily at the top level.

But among their supporters there were those determined not to take their leaders’ lead and accept that Labour did not do right by these victims.

On social media some have claimed the disclosure of these sexual assaults was somehow a political attack on Labour; that National did not get intense media scrutiny over John Key’s ponytail pulling or Todd Barclay and Bill English’s behaviour over the taping of a staff member; that Newsroom, in breaking this news showed no concern for the four victims.

They have been shooting the messenger. They have been minimising.

Shooting the messenger is common on political forums, but more problematic is the minimising of what Ardern and Haworth have admitted are serious problems that include sexual assault.

They are wrong, wrong and wrong. Key was confronted with the starkest and most intense coverage of his bizarre and indefensible fetish, Barclay was forced to resign after weeks of media scrutiny.

Whataboutism has been rife – including here at YourNZ. That’s a common diversionary tactic.

But with the clear acceptance at the top that so much went wrong – for the victims, and *after* the camp – the ongoing confidence in Kirton and the attempts by some fringe Labour supporters to minimise these issues are more than a little troubling.

In effect they are minimising what could amount to multiple serious assaults. That is troubling – and also troubling is that nonsense claims on this are allowed to stand unsubstantiated at The Standard.

There are also many troubling comments on this issue at Kiwiblog, but that’s another story.

Also another story, from NZH – Witness: People were vomiting in the toilets and bushes from too much boozing at Young Labour summer camp

An eyewitness at the Young Labour party during the Waihi summer camp says it was a “recipe for disaster”, describing it as an unsupervised party where people were throwing up in toilets and in the bushes from excessive boozing.

And there was a giant walk-in fridge where anyone, including people as young as 15, could just walk in and grab any booze they wanted.

The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the public deserved to know the true nature of the event, during which a 20-year-old is alleged to have sexually assaulted four people aged between 16 and 18.

“On the Saturday night, even before dinner, people were playing goon bag roulette with the clothes line, hanging a bag of cask wine and sitting underneath it and spinning the clothes line,” the man said.

The use and abuse of alcohol is one of the problems accepted by Ardern and will be included in their inquiry into what went wrong.