Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The sound of the 80s

This video from Vox’s “Vox Pop Earworm” series talks about “the sound of the 80s”, gated reverb drums. I loved the sound of music in the 1980s, and this is part of what I loved about it. It’s interesting to me that I understand what they’re talking about, even though I’m not a musician (in any way whatsoever…) because I’ve been podcasting for a decade. Through that, I learned about how recording works, what microphones can do, and how technology influences all of that. I could actually duplicate that sound using the same technology I use for making podcasts. I like that.

In any case, it’s nice to post something non-political for a change.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

First Labour Party ad

The video above is the first ad from the New Zealand Labour Party. This is a good ad, and among the best Labour Party ads during the past 20 years. It has good imagery, cinematography, use of music, and the message underscores the message of positivity while taking on the martketing and attack lines of the National Party. It’s a winner.

The ad above is the 30 second version, and the one at the bottom of this post is the 15 second version. I personally think that one is too short to convey the messages well. But here’s the long (90 second) version of the ad which provides the fuller message the two shorter ads are taken from:

The messaging conveys urgency, optimism, and inclusiveness. The successful National Party ads from 2014 did the same thing, without the inclusiveness, of course. National’s main argument is that people shouldn’t rock the boat, they should stick with National. And this ad takes that message on directly and explains why New Zealanders can and should change the government.

These points are made most clearly in the 90 second ad, of course, and the core message is still there in the 30 second ad. The 15 second ad would be fine for later in the campaign, after people have had a chance to absorb the overall message. In that case, the essential message is encapsulated in the ad's narration, serving as a reminder of what Labour has been campaigning on:
Now’s the time we’ve been waiting for. This moment. An opportunity to build a better, fairer future for New Zealand. I am ready. We’re all ready. Let’s do this.
All advertising designed to get action has to have a clear, easy-to-understand message, one that can be kept for later when action is required and possible—in this case, voting. This ad works on all those levels. This ad is unlikely to win over opponents, but no political ad does that—in fact, that’s not their purpose. Instead, they’re intended to fire up the base and to get the attention of uncommitted voters who can be persuaded. Not all ads do all of this, or even any of it, necessarily, but this ad does. And all of that is why it works so well.

I think this ad is a winner.

Season of change

This year’s New Zealand election season has been unlike any other, certainly for the past two decades, perhaps ever. There have been leaders lost, leaders gained, fortunes reversed, and momentum gained. The ride’s been nothing short of breathtaking.

It’s time to take a breath for a moment and to reflect. The NZ Labour Party lost a leader, then gained a new one, Jacinda Ardern, who has completely turned the party’s fortunes around. What looked like an historic defeat is now looking more like a possible victory, all with a few short weeks. In the 21+ years I’ve lived in New Zealand, I’ve never seen this sort of enthusiasm for a party leader and the party she leads, except, maybe for the last Labour-led Government under former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

The Greens, meanwhile, lost their co-leader when she was driven out in a media frenzy. People can—and do—argue about how much she was personally responsible for that, but the fact remains that she was treated more harshly than other politicians who committed arguably more serious transgressions.

Then yesterday Peter Dunne, the sole MP for the United Future Party, announced he was standing down and would not run for reelection. Colmar Brunton conducted a poll in his electorate of Ohāriu that found that the Labour Party’s candidate, Greg O’Connor, had a 14-point lead over Dunne. That was unlikely to change. Dunne was undefeated in 33 years, looked to be facing defeat, and is now quitting while he’s ahead.

Dunne’s departure is bad news for the National Party because it deprives them of a coalition partner, and makes it easier for the Labour Party to form their own coalition. The MMP electoral system used in New Zealand is designed to make sure that Parliament resembles, as closely as possible, the will of the voters. Because of that, it’s highly improbable that any single party will ever govern alone—our governments will always be coalitions. So, having viable coalition partners is important.

This brings us back to the Greens. Their support is much stronger than one poll seemed to suggest, though the media obsessed about it as if it was the only one that mattered. After that poll hit the media, Roy Morgan released a poll showing that the Greens were at 9%—twice what Colmar Brunton showed. Moreover, Stuff’s “Poll of polls”, which has a surprisingly good record of getting the results right, today has the Greens on 7.1%. All of which means that the Colmar Brunton Poll is the only one so far to show the Greens in jeopardy of being out of Parliament.

The strength of the Green Party matters a lot, because they must be in Parliament for Labour to form a centre-left coalition. If they’re not in Parliament, Labour could probably form a coalition with New Zealand First, possibly with the Māori Party, which has been supporting National in government for years. Recently, Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox signalled that they could go into coalition with Labour and the Greens, saying, "We could change the world – I think that would be amazing." NZ First’s Winston Peters always plays it coy before an election, and, like the Māori Party, he’s not committed to changing the government—only Labour and the Greens are.

There’s still four and a half weeks to the general election, and considering what we’ve seen so far, only a fool would dare to say we won’t see any other big or unexpected developments. But at the moment, based on what’s been happening over the past few weeks, a change in government looks like a distinct possiblily—just as long as people vote for change.

The deadline to register to vote to be on the general roll is tomorrow, August 23. As of last week, some 450,000 eligible New Zealanders were not enrolled to vote, more than half of them under 30, according to the NZ Electoral Commission.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Change may come

Today the New Zealand Labour Party officially launched its campaign (Facebook video above). The turnout was far larger than planned—some 2400 people who had to split among four venues to get them all in, and that was after reportedly turning away hundreds of people. Party launches are usually for hardcore supporters, but this—this was something next level.

I’ve seen quite a few of these campaign launches over the years, including several I was at in person. But even from home I could tell that the energy was very different, stronger, than I have seen. Even the sometimes negative Patrick Gower of newshub said, “I have covered the Labour Party for 10 years and never seen scenes like today.”

I’ve been watching New Zealand politics for over two decades, and the last time I saw this much energy around a Labour campaign was 1999, the year NZ Labour won government from National. Could this year be like that? Could Labour be about to win government? Absolutely.

The energy behind this campaign is only one of the reasons for this increasing possibility. We’re also looking at generational change. The National Party Leader, Bill English, is 55 and has been in Parliament for 27 years. Labour’s Jacinda Ardern is 37, and has been in Parliament since 2008. This freshness is why so many people have been comparing her to Emmanuel Macron, 39, who came out of almost nowhere to become President of France, or Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, seen as a young leader for a new era, though he’s the ripe old age of 45. I don’t know that the international comparisons are relevant—people will say what people will say, after all—but what is indisputable is that Jacinda Ardern is very different from anyone New Zealand has ever seen. If she becomes Prime Minister, she will be the youngest Prime Minister since Edward Stafford became Premier (as the office was then called) in 1856.

It’s also important to point out that Labour will see the Green Party back in Parliament. Yesterday, I wrote about how support for the Green Party is there, but there’s more evidence: Polls. The latest Roy Morgan poll has the Greens on 9%. The latest UMR poll has the Greens on 8%. Stuff’s “Poll of Polls” has the Greens on 8%. The only logical conclusion is that the Colmar Brunton poll is an outlier, and the Greens WILL be back. The stronger they are, the more likely that the Greens will be in government, and the stronger they are, the more influence they will have.

So, what sort of government will Jacinda Ardern lead? She outlines that in her speech (at roughly the 48 minute mark in the video above). It will be a government that’s committed to lifting children out of poverty. She will lead a government that recognises that climate change is the “nuclear free” issue of this generation. A government that cares about the people of this country, and not just those who are already well off. The kind of government New Zealand needs—and deserves.

Let’s do this.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The support is there

The biggest question arising from the latest Colmar Brunton One News Poll, aside from why the poll results were reported so poorly, is where did the Green Party support go? Answering that will suggest the way forward, so it’s important. However, no one knows for certain, so it’s all just speculation and supposition. Here’s mine.

As I said in yesterday’s post, much of the Greens’ 15% support in the July Colmar Brunton Poll wasn’t about the popularity of the Greens, but about the unpopularity of the Labour Party, which was polling at 24% in that poll. Left-leaning Labour voters who were unhappy with their own party really only had one alternative: The Green Party. It will be in Parliament, its policies have always been the most closely aligned with Labour’s (from their perspective, at least). I also think that many Left-leaning Labour supporters felt that the Greens’ Co-Leaders were more appealing than Labour’s leader at the time, Andrew Little. I say that because in that July poll, Andrew was tied for third place in “preferred prime minister”, and he was tied with his own deputy, Jacinda Ardern, on 6%—nowhere near the 24% who said they’d vote Labour.

After Jacinda Ardern became Leader of the Labour Party, things changed—dramatically. In the latest polls, Labour has skyrocketed in popularity, and so has Jacinda Ardern, to the point where she’s now tied with the National Party Leader, Bill English, for “preferred prime minister” at 30%. For Ardern, that’s close to the party’s support—37%—a near parity that Andrew Little never achieved, which reinforces my belief that disaffected Labour voters didn’t like Andrew.

Meanwhile, the Greens had their own problems. Former Co-Leader Metiria Turei had revealed benefit fraud from some two decades earlier, and was pilloried in the news media and by the punditocracy. On the other hand, her admission made her popular among party supporters.

A short couple weeks later, however, and on the eve of a new poll that showed a drop for the Greens, she stepped down from co-leadership of the party and announced she would not return to Parliament. I won’t play “the blame game”, but on social media play was fast and furious. Some blamed Turei herself for the predicament, but many Greens supporters blamed Labour for not being supportive enough—though what “enough” meant varied quite a lot. I saw plenty of Greens supporters—the most hardcore of which don’t like Labour very much—say they’d switch to Hone Harawira’s Mana Party. The Colmar Brunton poll shows that didn’t happen.

Nevertheless, there was a strong part of the Greens supporters who were angry that Turei was forced out as co-leader, and, based on the evidence, I believe they told pollsters they were “undecided”, as I said yesterday. So, the 15% support the Greens had in the Colmar Brunton poll in July included a large number of disaffected Labour supporters who'd gone “home” in the most recent poll, and other Greens supporters who were pissed off about the way Turei was treated, and who are probably not fans of the Labour Party (since so many aren’t) had nowhere to go. Hurt, angry, but still with a green heart, so to speak, they became “undecided”. To me, this seems the most likely scenario.

I think “undecided” was the best name for them: They couldn’t or didn’t want to support Labour or any other party, they didn’t like what had happened, and so, they truly didn’t know what they were going to do. They really were undecided.

Labour’s gains, meanwhile, came somewhat from the Greens, sure—those disaffected Labour voters. But support for National and New Zealand First was also down, those voters had to go somewhere, and Labour was the only party to rise by a large number. Meanwhile, the number of voters calling themselves “undecided” also declined, though still at 13%.

What this means is that the Greens’ almost certainly didn’t lose all their lost support to Labour, even though the headline reporting made it look that way. Actual voting behaviour is always far more complicated than polls suggest or journalists report.

The reason this matters is that if the Greens support really did move to undecided, it should be fairly easy to win them back—certainly easier than winning over, say, National or New Zealand First supporters. Because they’re unlikely to take votes from Labour, given the popularity of Jacinda Ardern, campaigning to win undecided voters is their best strategy, anyway, regardless of whether their support went there or elsewhere.

And finally, one more point. In the July Colmar Brunton Poll, the combined support for Labour and the Greens was 39%. In their latest poll, that support was 41% at the same time support for both National and New Zealand First dropped. In polling, it’s always important to look at the trends, and what we see is the Centre-Right declining and support for the Centre-Left increasing. This is important for changing the government, and Labour and the Greens are STILL the only two parties publicly committed to doing that.

So, where did the Greens’ support go? Many places. But the most important thing is that support for the Centre-Left is rising, improving the chance the government will change, and if these trends continue, we WILL see a Labour-Greens government.

If we stay the course and keep telling our message to voters, especially undecided voters, we can change the government. Let’s do this.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Something’s not right

Yesterday, TVNZ’s One News released their latest opinion poll conducted by Colmar Brunton (video above). Newsmedia all over New Zealand reported it as being disastrous for the Green Party who, based on that poll, were in danger of being turfed out of Parliament. But then we found out they were rounding the result for the Greens downward. And then I also noticed something far more troubling.

The poll results as reported really were disastrous for the Greens, who fell from 15% to 4%. National fell three points to 44%, and Labour surged from 24% to 37%, a clear indication that changing leaders really helped Labour, especially because in the “Preferred Prime Minister” beauty contest poll, Labour’s Jacinda Ardern is now tied with National’s Bill English at 30%. In the last Colmar Brunton poll, former Labour Leader Andrew Leader was tied with his then Deputy Ardern on 6%, meaning they were tied for third place. Things definitely are looking up for Labour.

But based on the reporting on this latest poll, Labour may have trouble forming a coalition, especially if the Greens are out of Parliament. The trouble is, the reporting was deeply flawed.

The Greens are actually on 4.3%, but journalists rounded it down to 4%. In ANY other field, rounding to the nearest whole number would make sense, but in political polling it creates a false impression of relative strength/weakness. After all, the Greens are closer to 4.5% (a figure some journalists used) than they are to 4%.

This matters first because it creates the false impression that the Greens will be out of Parliament. In New Zealand, a party must win 5% of the Party Vote or win one Electorate Seat in order to be in Parliament. While the Greens are pushing hard for the Nelson seat, it’s been held by a National MP who’s been in Parliament for two decades and been a minister many times. If the Greens lose that seat, they'll need to get 5% of the vote.

The reporting made it sound like they had to gain an entire percentage point when, in fact, they need 0.7%. That’s not splitting hairs because it’s a much lower number of votes they’ll need, and because one percent sounds much more difficult than seven tenths of one percent, and in election campaigns impressions influence voter behaviour (there is no President Hillary Clinton, for example, in part because journalists were reporting that polls showed she was certain to win). Of course, when you factor in the margin of error alone, the Greens could possibly be doing much better (or much worse) than was reported, but that complicating factor was never mentioned, either, as far as I can tell.

This fudging of the numbers made me look a little harder at the reported numbers, and I noticed something even more disturbing.

Look at all thse percentages reported: National 44%, Labour 37%, NZ First 10%, Greens 4%, Māori Party 2%, and TOP (The Opportunities Party) 2%. That adds up to 99%. So, we can guess that the other 1% must be for all other minor parties, including the Act Party, which is in Parliament because of deal with the National Party that allowed them to win the Electorate Seat of Epsom here in Auckland. On Election Day in 2014, Act got 0.69%, so if true this time that would mean that 0.31% must be divided among all the other very minor and fringe parties, right?

And this is where there’s a HUGE problem with the reporting of the poll: Most reports, incuding One News’ own televised report, only included the headline figures, which includes ONLY those who have decided who they’ll vote for. The reporting completely omitted any mention of the number of undecided voters. In fact, the poll found that 13% of voters were undecided (down from 20% in the July poll; this was reported on their website, not on television). That 13% could decide everything—the fate of the Greens, whether Labour or National forms government, how many seats any minor party that wins an Electorate Seat might get. Or, they might not vote at all, but no evidence supporting that possibility was reported, either.

Undecided voters matter for the Greens because their voters who abandoned the party did not all go to Labour. The Greens’ 15% figure from the last poll included disaffected Labour voters who “came home” in this poll, thanks to Jacinda Ardern, and that accounts for some of the Greens’ loss in this poll. But the Green’s natural level of support is around 8% of the electorate, give or take, and—trust me on this, because I’ve seen it first hand—hardcore Greens supporters don’t particularly like Labour (I’m being nice), so it’s highly improbable that all the sudden they jumped to Labour for the first time ever.

My suspicion is that a chunk of the Greens’ support called itself “undecided” in this poll, because they truly don’t know who else they’d vote for (and some of the Labour supporters who were previously “undecided” are now again supporting the party; given poll movements, this is a reasonable assumption). The most common party I heard Greens talking about switching to was Mana, which would be included in that 1% of “also ran” parties. So, clearly Greens voters didn’t actually go there.

This is not Colmar Brunton’s fault, of course, but the fault of One News and subsequent re-reporting. The undecided figure should have been widely reported because it matters so much—or were they more interested in spinning a narrative that the poll is “disastrous” for the Greens and they “could be out of Parliament” when the same poll, especially when undecideds are taken into account, also suggests that the Greens could do just fine?

The reality here is that, historically, undecided voters in New Zealand don’t make up their minds until late, sometimes in the last two weeks. This means that the election is still anyone’s game, and it was irresponsible for New Zealand news media to report this poll as drama when the data doesn’t support that as the only conclusion, or even necessarily the most likely.

We all deserve better.

Addendum – August 19: Since I posted this, I realised there’s one more point I should add: To win Government, Labour does not need to take votes from the Greens—or New Zealand First, for that matter. The undecideds are up for grabs, and if Labour gets a good share of that, and takes some votes from National, then it can form government with the Greens whose vote will likely recover to their regular levels of support if we get balanced and responsible reporting. Those who are promoting the narrative that Labour is trying to “steal” votes from the Greens are often mischief-makers on the Right, as well as some on the Left who didn’t realise, thanks to poor news media reporting, that there were so many undecided voters to draw votes from.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A moment of distraction

The photo above is one I shared to Instagram two days ago. The reason I shared it was that I needed something a little light that day, so when I saw the barstools, a sarcastic post was the only natural conclusion to the adventure. I never intended to share it here, but the reason I'm now sharing it is the same reason I did then: I need a distraction.

The day I posted the photo was the same day that Don—who I’ve now started calling “P45”*—made his infamous fiery defence of nazis and white supremacists. I saw his idiotic rant several times that day in different contexts, and each time I found myself yelling at whatever screen I was facing. Of course I knew that was pointless, but I also found that I was feeling an irrational, instinctive rage every time I heard that man defend nazis.

So when I saw those barstools and thought they were funny, I shapped a photo and shared it with a sarcastic caption, thereby taking the piss out of those stools (which I really DO think are ugly) and myself (even though I really DON’T care about the “distressed look”; whatever makes someone happy, I reckon).

In the couple days since I posted that photo, which was autoshared to my personal Facebook, as usual, I’ve sadly still found myself yelling at whatever screen I was facing whenever P45’s infamous rant was re-broadcast somewhere as commentators all over the world rightly condemned him for it. I’m still as thoroughly disgusted now as I was when I first heard him—maybe even more so, actually, which means I need a little levity more than ever.

So I return to my photo and my own pseudo rant. But unlike P45, my rant wasn’t real or consequential. But at least mine wasn’t—um, uh, …the fact is, I STILL have no words for what that thing polluting the White House said. No words. And no sympathy whatsoever.

At some point, when it won’t send my blood pressure into the danger zone, I’ll put my thoughts down, because everyone—the great and the small—needs to utterly denounce him for what he said, and for everything he is and represents.

But, not today. Today, I just needed another brief break.

*Long-time readers will remember that I started calling the current occupant of the White House “Don” because it was a way for me to express my contempt for him without using the obscenities that are so often in my mind when he says or does something imbecilic (every single day, in other words). I read somewhere that he insisted that everyone—all his staff, and maybe even his wife and kids, for all I know—call him “Mr.” followed by his surname that I will not mention. I also noted that everyone in the media and politics called him by the full version of his first name. I surmised that he would hate anyone calling him “Don”, and so I did. But calling him by ANY of his names, even when the intent was to show disrespect, still showed too much respect. So, it’s now “P45” which is derived from “president 45” because, sadly, that’s what he is. But calling him “P45”, with just the letter, reminds me of the videotapes the Russians supposedly have of him, and that makes me laugh a bit. And these days, I’ll take every opportunity to laugh that I can get, because they are so very, very rare.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Australian circus

The video above is a monologue from the TV3 programme, “The Project”, a sort of current events infotainment show. Host Jesse Mulligan often delivers pointed messages about topics of the day, and this one shared yesterday is a good example.

The backstory is that it was revealed that Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, has New Zealand citizenship by descent because his father was a New Zealander. He claims he had no idea. This is a huge problem for him because, unlike New Zealand and many other countries, Australia forbids dual nationals from holding office in Australia. It’s an even bigger problem for the current conservative government because they hold a one seat majority in the Australian House, and if Joyce is forced out, the government could fall and new elections could be called.

Julie Bishop, the Australian Foreign Minister, went on the attack, alleging that a Kiwi working for an Australian Labor Party Senator contacted a friend of his, a New Zealand Labour MP, to make enquiries. There’s apparently an element of truth to this, but it almost certainly didn’t happen the way Julie imagines. In any case, the Australian news media were contacted, the New Zealand government confirmed that Joyce is a New Zealand citizen, and the game was on.

However, as Jesse shows in the video, Julie is being extremely silly in her attack. New Zealanders living in Australia are treated appallingly badly, and when the New Zealand government complains about the latest outrage, the Australian Government completely ignores them. Julie had a tantrum, declaring that she’d find it hard to build trust with anyone in New Zealand involved in ''allegations to undermine the government of Australia"—which means NZ Labour if they win the election next month. But wouldn’t that mean Australia would first have to start actually working with the NZ Government?

There’s actually a huge irony in Julie attacking the NZ Labour Party for supposedly trying to “undermine” Australia’s government, when she herself just meddled in and tried to influence the New Zealand election next month—although, to add another layer of irony, Julie attacking Labour is likely to help them, and certainly won’t hurt them at all. New Zealanders don’t like it when Australia throws its weight around and tries to bully Kiwis—which their parliament seems to do like once a year. It makes Julie a hypocrite to whine about New Zealanders supposedly “undermining” her government when she just did the same thing to New Zealand.

Julie also looks more than a little silly using THAT attack as a distraction, as if we wouldn’t notice. She’s really only upset only that people found out that Barnaby Joyce is a dual national, not that he actually is one and could be forced out of the Australian Parliament.

For his part, Barnaby Joyce claims he didn’t know he was a New Zealand citizen by descent. Yeah, right. He obviously knew his father was a New Zealander, and in the past year numerous Australian MPs have been forced out of Parliament when they were revealed to be dual nationals. Yet Barnaby seriously expects us to believe that despite all the controversies with dual national MPs, and despite the fact his father was a New Zealander, it NEVER occured to him that he might be a dual national? Right. Okay, then. I don’t believe him, but I’m not Australian, so that doesn’t matter.

Interestingly, the fact that Barnaby is a dual national, and New Zealand permits dual nationals with NZ citizenship to run for office, Barnaby could run for our Parliament any time he wants. I’m not sure any of our parties are quite rightwing enough for him, but maybe they could make some sort of accommodation just for him—the ol' Anzac Spirit and all that.

These days, the Australian government looks like a clown-filled circus, and this is only the very latest reason. Amid the chaos, Julie has managed to make herself into an international joke and laughingstock, which isn’t exactly a great accomplishment for someone who’s supposed to be a foreign minister, and Barnaby looks a bit dim. Oops.

Oh well, the Australian Government couldn’t possibly care less what we think about them or their antics, so we may as well just enjoy the hilarious show they’re giving us. It’s terrible, though, that ordinary Australians have to put up with the antics of that government. As an American, I know what it feels like to be embarrassed by the government of one’s homeland. But, then, I'm also a dual national like Barnaby, so may I should cut him some slack. Um, no.