Thursday, August 31, 2017

That old gang of mine

Odds are that most of us will make it to or near a reasonably old age. Statistically speaking, each year we attain makes the odds we’ll get older better—until we get old enough that the odds of us not ageing anymore begins to increase with each passing year. And because, on average, we’re likely to live for quite awhile, we’ll also witness a lot of changes in ourselves and others. Sometimes, that can be somewhat jarring.

Recently, my high school class celebrated its 40th Reunion, held several months after the actual anniversary of our graduation, as is fairly common, I gather. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t go, but because I’m Facebook Friends with several of my classmates, and am part of our class’ Facebook Group, I saw a lot of photos from the event and it was—enlightening.

There comes a point in our adulthood where we suddenly realise we’ve become our parents. We don’t always mean that we literally act/look like they were at our age, but that we are similar to the folks who were the parents when we were younger (although sometimes it IS literal…). We have entered a new stage of life.

Looking at the photos, I realised we’re becoming our grandparents. In fact, several of my classmates really are grandparents, but the point here is that many of us are starting to look like many of our grandparents did that June day in 1977. This will be even more obvious in another ten years, when we hit our 50th anniversary.

I’ve written several times [see all posts tagged “Ageing”] about dealing with the “ravages of age”. Some of those posts were serious, at least in part, but many were coming from a sort of lighthearted resignation to the fact of ageing, even if sometimes I was trying to make the process not quite so obvious. As I often say, I feel younger than I actually am, and I want to make my outer appearance a better match for what I feel—or, at least, to not look older than I really am.

There’s one revelation more that’s come from all this: Many of my classmates I’m friends with on Facebook turned out to be really great people—interesting, funny, smart, engaged. I sometimes joke (to myself) that if I’d known how cool they were going to be, I’d have spent more time with them in high school. The real truth, however, is that I’m ordinarily a shy person, always have been, and in high school maybe even more so. I had a small circle of friends, including only a couple close friends (who I’m still friends with to this day). So, the fact that back in high school I wasn’t active friends with the classmates who are now Facebook Friends has nothing to do with them, but with me at 18 or whatever. I don’t think it could have been any different.

While I may joke about how we’re becoming our grandparents, the truth is that I really like those people (and picked up some more Facebook Friends as a result of us trading comments and stories at the time of the reunion). This was the most unexpected thing of all.

When I left high school, I really expected that to be it. I went away to university, then moved away from my hometown after that. While I visited family in the area, I never got together with folks from high school or attended any reunions. In fact, there were years in which the idea of going to a reunion was laughable to me—why on earth would I want to do that? Time changes everything, and I’ve found that as I get older I’m increasingly interested in reconnecting with people who were important in my life (and also people who would have been if only I'd known them better back then). 20 years ago, I couldn’t imagine that every happening, but slowly it did.

So, the fact my class had a 40th Reunion, while a little surreal (how on earth could it be forty years?!!!), was a fun thing to experience, even from this far away. I’ve re-made friends, you could say, and been surprised by how great they are as people. Some of us are better preserved than others (I always feel I’m in the “less well preserved” category), but some of our classmates are not only extremely well preserved, some look better now than when they were teenagers. Those, of course, are the classmates I now despise (yes, I’m joking—mostly).

This is just another example of what I’ve tried to make my life about: Growing, changing, and moving forward. Ever forward, onward always, as we once sang together. And we all still know the words. Maybe ageing isn’t so bad after all.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The campaign comes to us

Tonight I went to a local “Meet the Candidates” night, my first and probably only such event during this election campaign. It was very different from any other I’d been to before, and not always in a good way. These are my entirely subjective and very opinionated reactions.

I’ve never been to the venue before, and I didn’t know or recognise anyone apart from a realtor, so I started out feeling uncomfortable. I was early, and so was Jon Reeves, the New Zealand First candidate, who greeted everyone who came in the door. He creeped me out instantly, and yes, I suppose that was personal.

I stood for quite awhile, but it reached a point where I was feeling more awkward and uncomfortable doing that than becoming one of only a handful of people who were sitting down, so, I sat down. I picked an end chair so I could get up and take a photo (above). At nearly 7:30, a woman came in and sat in the chair in front of me, she seemed nice enough, and said to me, “I thought they were starting at 7…” and I replied “I think they wanted us here by then so they could start at 7:30.” I thought I’d read that somewhere, but I now think I was mistaken. However, that ended up being the case, anyway, so—does that make me correct after all?

Five candidates showed up, but no one was there for the Green Party, who were to be represented, but not by a candidate. The organisers were unsure whether the person was just late or not attending, and that was a very bad look.

Numbers were drawn for each candidate to give a maximum ten minute speech.

The first candidate was an independent named Ian Cummings. I’d seen his ads in the paper, where he talked about being a “family man”, which I thought was a dog whistle to social conservatives, especially because he also touted his being on the Board of Trustees for a Christian school as being a qualification for being a Member of Parliament. Turns out, I was correct.

He said that the fact that he wasn’t part of a party was somehow a good thing because there was no party whip to make him vote a certain way. I didn’t really get how that was supposed to mean anything when, as an independent, he obviously wouldn’t have a party whip. He went on to say that voting for him would bring real change, though he didn’t explain how one lone MP could do that. He added that he was "very much for life", opposes abortion and euthanasia, and added that he "doesn't like evolution". In his long and rambling speech, he was at times belligerent, other times incoherent, and often just plain loopy. I was busy Tweeting when he finished—over time, and after not saying much worth listening to—but even if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have applauded. I have principles, after all, and I don’t give respect to those who do not deserve it. I didn’t boo him, and that was all the respect I felt he deserved or that I could provide.

The Labour Party candidate, Baljit Kaur, was next. She also made an often rambling speech introducing herself. She didn’t make an obvious connection between her background and standing for the Labour Party, apart from one or two offhand references to Labour.

The Act Party candidate, Anthony Smith, followed Baljit. He began by congratulating and complimenting Baljit for her speech. He then made clear that he was not asking for the Electorate Vote, that the National Party candidate would win, and he just wanted people to give their Party Vote to his party. He was also shorter than his allotted time, and the only one who didn’t run over time.

The National Party candidate, and current MP for Hunua, Andrew Bayly, was the next to speak, and was the first one to talk about actual issues. He was impressive in his talk about electorate issues, but talk about issues facing the country were less persuasive since I don’t support the National Party.

The New Zealand first candidate was last (which made me chuckle). He said that if NZ First Leader Winston Peters holds Northland, which he’s MP for at the moment, then he would be an MP because he’s 16th on the Party List. That would actually probably require them to get at least 13% of the Party Vote which, based on current polling, is a tall order. We’ll see. Still, that was the high point of his talk.

He talked about the "iwi-isation" of the National Party because of their association with the Māori Party and what he alleged were consultation requirements in changes to the Resource Management Act. He was actually parroting ex-Leader of the National and Act parties (at different times) Don Brash, who is now part of a racist group called “Hobson’s Pledge”. Most of what Brash and NZ First are saying is utter rubbish and pretty openly racist (NB: NZ First Leader Winston First is Māori).

NZ First guy then complained about immigration, and said they want "a breather" with only 10,000 immigrants for "a few years". He then attacked National Party Leader Bill English, and uttered the cute but banal phrase, “red or blue, nothing new”. He talked quickly and bombastically, which is how he got through so much—though he of course ran over his time.

Questions were next, and the first was utterly bizarre: A guy had a go at Labour because before Andrew Little resigned as party leader, current leader Jacinda Ardern said there was "no Plan B". As I said on Twitter, “WTF?!” Baljit didn’t do a good job answering, in part because she didn’t understand the question. Actually, neither did I.

The rightwing Christian candidate was then asked about his pledge to keep “bad” people out of New Zealand, but he clearly had no idea how he’d actually do that. He said New Zealand didn’t want to have the problems that European countries have with terrorism, and so we’d have to keep the bad people out. He was asked again, and specifically if he’d have to draft new legislation, and he claimed again that he didn’t write laws, apparently failing to grasp what the job of an MP actually is, before admitting that new legislation might be necessary. He was then asked point blank if he was really saying he wanted to keep out brown people, or whether he only wanted to let Christians in, but he again failed to answer the question directly. To me it was clear he was using dog whistles again, and he meant keeping Muslims out, but I must emphasise that he did NOT say that.

The most bizarre moment was when somone asked a question about funding for apprenticeships, then when candidates didn’t answer the way she wanted, she clarified that she really meant ensuring Kiwis get trades jobs, not immigrants. National’s Bayly did the worst on his answer to this question, because he didn’t want to spend money, but said they already were—very confusing.

Another question was about the proposed tax on the commercial use of water, including for farming. Questioner wanted to know the parties’ positions and whether they supported “giving money to iwi authorities”. This came from the woman I spoke with about the start time, and I realised she wasn’t nice, after all. In fact, by this point I’d stopped being surprised at the not-very-subtle racism so easily expressed by so many frightfully nice people.

NZ First guy was asked about “bottom lines” for a coalition deal in the event that Winston Peters really is the kingmaker. He said the repeal of RMA amendments—which was the topic of his earlier racist rant—was “fundamental”, and added his Party has TEN (!) bottom lines, which National’s Bayly rightly mocked them about.

By this point, I was having trouble paying attention to the questions and answers. Crime: Most candidates avoided answering directly, but the rightwing Christian candidate said something was wrong with Council because there was crime (again, “WTF?!”). Baljit and Bayly both assured us more cops were coming, but neither had specifics. Early Childhood Education: Some nice platitudes, but National wouldn’t be spending any more money, Labour would, NZ First thought more money was needed, rightwing Christian candidate thought it was uncessary and government shouldn’t pay for such things (yet again, “WTF?!”)

The most popular question was someone wanted to know why National today announced ultrafast broadband for tourist areas when our local area can’t get it, and sometimes can’t even get a telephone landline. Lots of applause for that one, but no enlightening answers—or maybe I just wanted it all to stop by then.

I’d never seen or met any of the candidates until tonight, and my initial impressions of all them were my final impressions, but underscored:

Labour’s Baljit Kaur was woefully unprepared. She didn’t have a good grasp of party policies, and so couldn’t “sell” them to the audience. That would be acceptable early in the campaign, especially with the change in Party Leader and changed policies, but by this point, at the end of August and a little over three weeks until Election Day, it’s not good. If she’s ever a candidate again, she’s got to fix that.

NZ First’s Jon Reeves creeped me out even more by the time the forum was over. Listening to him made my skin crawl, and I found him boorish, insufferable, and more than a bit of a jerk. I hope he doesn’t get into Parliament.

The rightwing Christian candidate I was suspicious of going in, but grew to really dislike by the end, and not just because I’m sure he doesn’t like people like me. Most of the time he clearly didn’t know what he was talking about, didn’t understand how Parliament works, was out of his depth, and constantly tried to just “bloke” his way of rhetorical holes he’d dug for himself: He’d tell blokey jokes or display a sort of folksy dumb act—at least, I think it was an act. He was annoying and thoroughly unlikeable. But the good news is that he won’t get many votes. Of course.

National’s Andrew Bayly put in the strongest performance of any candidate, had a better grasp of the issues than all the others combined, and seldom veered into snark. He was lightyears better than the National guy who’s the MP for Northcote, where we used to live. But, he was still representing National, a party I don’t support, so I disagreed with a lot of what he said. Still, if we have to have a National Party guy as our Electorate MP, we certainly could do a lot worse. I spoke to him after the event, and he actually seemed like a decent guy.

And that was probably my only campaign-related event this year. We may run into politicians out glad-handing somewhere, but that will be by accident. And that’s actually okay with me: This year I was determined to take time off from politics, and I’ve succeeded. But one thing hasn’t changed: I STILL can’t wait to vote!

In the photo above, the moderator is standing talking to the candidates about the rules. The candidates, who are all seated, are, from left to right: Baljit Kaur (Labour Party), Anthony Smith (Act Party), Jon Reeves (New Zealand First Party), Ian Cummings (Independent) and Andrew Bayly (National Party).

Disclosures: I’m a supporter of the New Zealand Labour Party, but have no position of any kind with them, nor am I in contact with party leaders. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, based on more than 40 years closely following election campaigns.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Squashed Bella

There’s really nothing that I need to add to what I said in the Instagram caption, since it really tells the story of this photo. However, I should add one thing: Lately Bella has been the only furbaby whose photo I’ve shared, and there are two reasons for that.

First, she's thrived over the past year, despite the vet telling us in July of last year that she had days to live. I’ve gotten into the habit of documenting her as much as possible, first because I thought her days would be few, then because they weren’t.

The other reason is simply that the dogs are very shaggy—overly furred, one might say—and they would be embarrassed to have have their photos shared online (if they were capable of being embarrassed…). The fact is, they were due for a clipping about the time we moved to the new house, we didn’t get to it with everything that we needed to do, then the cold weather set in and it was too late. But Spring is imminent, and so is their Spring clipping, so photos of Jake and Sunny will resume soon. We wouldn’t want to embarrass them, now would we?

All that aside, the photos of Bella sleeping in weird places/positions IS kind of cute and weird and all that. That’s usually reason enough to share a photo.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

National’s terrible, awful ads

It had to happen sooner or later: I had to share terrible ads, and the National Party is the culprit. The video above is one of the two ads they’re currently running on TV, and by far the most often broadcast. The video at the bottom of this post is not an ad, which will take some explanation—assuming one has the energy after watching the ad up top.

The short fact about these ads is that they’re not promotion for a vibrant political party focusing on moving ahead toward the future with excitement. Instead, they promote a party that’s clearly tired, arrogant, and totally out of ideas, content to let the bland and banal take the stage. Their entire campaign is built on “don’t rock the boat”, evidently meaning for both their party and the country, but it’d be nice if they put some oars on the boat at least, rather than to leave it to drift in dead calm waters,

There’s so very much wrong with the ad up top, it’s hard to to know where to begin, so let’s begin with the fact it’s a stale reworking of their ill-fated ad from 2014. That year’s ads featured young, male and female fit people of all ethnicities in a slick racing boat appearing to be in a rowing racing competition, all wearing National Party blue. Most versions of the ad cut to a shot of an ordinary row boat with people wearing jerseys (more like sweatshirts) in colours meant to represent the other parties, with people rowing their oars in both directions. While visually humourous (the first few times one saw it…), the ad became notorious when it was revealed that the party ripped off Eminem when they used a blatant and obvious slight reworking of his “Lose Yourself” song. Eminem rightly sued them for copyright infringement, and the party was roundly mocked when the details of their theft became known.

This year’s ad features “young” fit people in National Party blue all running together. Then they pass older, unfit people representing various parties—the same concept, reworked slightly, as their 2014 ad. The original casting call was for “5 people vaguely representing the two Labour leader [sic], the two Green leaders and Winston Peters.” In the end, the four people appearing are merely in the colours of other parties and bear little resemblance to actual party leaders, making the final ad even more directly comparable to 2014 than had originally been planned.

Aside from being a tired rehash of their 2014 ad, the visuals in the 2017 ad are also awful. The National Party front bench is hardly a group of young, fit people of various races and ethnicities: It’s mostly middle aged white men, and a couple middle aged white women—not a very accurate portrayal of National at all. This ad reminds voters how old, tired, and unrepresentative of modern New Zealand the National Party caucus is. But by far the worst visual was this: Some genius thought it would be a great idea to have one actor pull a younger woman’s ponytail—you know, just like ex-National Party leader John Key did to young girls and young women many times, igniting a major controversy when one waitress objected and the full weight of National’s media allies and cronies came down hard on the woman to try to deflect attention and defend Key. Who on earth said, “Hey, I know! Let’s remind everybody how John Key used to pull the ponytails of young girls and young women! It’ll be great!”

It’s a truly awful ad and an insult to the intelligence of voters.

The music used in the background is bland, boring, and banal. It’s the same music used in their other ad. However, I can’t share that ad because National hasn’t shared it online yet—not on their Facebook Page nor their YouTube Channel. The ad was basically a shorter version of the video below, which was used at the party conference earlier this month. The ad uses images from that video and the same banal and boring “Let’s Get Together” song used in the background of the ad above, but with the singing intact.

There’s no point on commenting on the second ad, since I can’t share it, but you can get the soporific feel of that ad by watching some of the video below. National Party leader Bill English isn’t exactly charismatic, and is pretty boring, really. Why did the ad makers reinforce that with a drowsy look and feel for their ads? Where’s the energy and sense of drive? Where’s the optimistic look toward the future? National’s tagline is the stupefyingly dull, “Delivering for New Zealanders”, but none of these ads focus on what, precisely, they’re planning to deliver, apart, maybe, from a good night’s sleep.

National’s ads so far promote a party that’s clearly tired, arrogant, and totally out of ideas, content to let the bland and banal take the stage. There’s nothing to inspire in their ads, and that could be their undoing.

Update – 28 August: National have shared the 15 second version of their terrible ad from the top of this post, and it actually managed to make a bad thing even worse: The ad is nothing but negative and even keeps the ponytail pulling. Either National is taunting its adversaries, or the people who made the ad don’t like National and wanted to include a secret message to that effect. We can conclude that because putting it in the 30-second ad was bizarre and idiotic, but including it in the 15-second version is utterly inexplicable.

Disclosures: I’m a supporter of the New Zealand Labour Party, but have no position of any kind with them, nor am I in contact with party leaders. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, based on more than 40 years closely following election campaigns. In the interest of even-handedness, at the moment I’m sharing only ads that have been posted to YouTube because they’re easily accessible to anyone. I do not verify that all ads are actually broadcast, and anything I say about them being on TV is based entirely on my own experience; other people’s experiences may be different.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Daffodil Day

Today was Daffodil Day in New Zealand, the major annual fundraiser for the New Zealand Cancer Society that’s been running since 1990. It’s such a small thing, really: People spend a few dollars for an artificial daffodil to pin on their jackets, and together that money adds up into some serious dollars. And it’s all so very worth it.

It’s been nearly four decades since cancer killed my mother, but one day that result will be rare. Science is making discoveries all the time that are already saving people’s lives and improving the quality of life for those who cannot yet be saved. I’m utterly sure that one day science will conquer cancer.

This is one of those causes where a little donation can go a long way, helping people now and into the future. But it’s one of those good causes that I fervently hope will one day will be gone because it’s no longer needed. But until then, I’ll buy my daffodil every year, and I’ll give more when I can. No one could save my mother, but I can honour her by helping, even in my tiny way, to hurry the day in which no one will lose someone they love to cancer. I’ll never stop hoping that we’ll win, and soon.

This is the TV commercial I was referring to in my Instagram post, and the boy I mentioned specifically is the first person to face the camera:

First Green Party ad

The video above is the first TV ad for the NZ Green Party. It was released a week and a half ago, but I missed it at the time. I saw it on TV for the first time yesterday, a day after I first saw the NZ Labour Party ad on TV. It’s a solid enough ad.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I actually saw a little bit of the ad in a news report when the Greens held a re-launch of their campaign after their co-leader Metiria Turei resigned. I wasn’t listening closely, I guess, because I assumed it was a video they showed to people who were there—it was only a snippet, after all. It turns out it was a snippet from this ad, and I found that out only after I checked the Greens’ YouTube Channel as I started looking for various parties’ ads.

As such ads go, it’s solid: It emphasises what’s important to the Greens, and the issues they focus on the most, so, in that sense, it does what it needs to do. However, it’s not as strong as it could be, nor is it, in my opinion, as strong as Greens ads in previous years. This ad has no urgency and offers no compelling reason to vote Greens rather than another party until the very end, and that is what’s wrong with the ad: In journalism terms, it buries the lede.

The thing is, most campaign ads are exactly like this: Delivering the heart of the campaign message and little else. This is so common, and understandable, because it’s very difficult to provide anything more than emotion in an ad that only lasts 15 or 30 seconds.

The narration near the end: “Don’t sit this one out: All of our futures depend on it. Party Vote Green” does have some urgency, but in light of recent news organisations' overreaction to one opinion poll, viewers could be forgiven for thinking—sarcastically—that the “all of our futures depend on it” refers to Green Party MPs.

However, this is also the strongest part of their ad, beginning right before that somewhat unfortunate wording: “This election is crucial. It’s time to give New Zealand a great Green heart in government”. The closing animation in the ad shows green hearts coming together and forming a map of New Zealand (in green, of course). This is a really good visual, and combined with the “great Green heart” line does what the rest of the ad doesn’t: It provides a strong reason to give one’s Party Vote to the Green Party, and to help people feel good about that vote. That’s outstanding, and the strongest part of the entire ad.

So, if I was to re-do that ad, I would rearrange the narration to something like this: “Don’t sit this one out, because this election is crucial. It’s time to give New Zealand a great Green heart in government. Party Vote Green.” This also dumps the mockable “all of our futures depend on it”, which doesn’t really add anything special, anyway.

What lets the ad down are the fairly generic visuals in most of the ad and generalisation in most of the voiceover. There’s nothing wrong with those, they’re just not strong enough, certainly not nearly as strong as that last thought and the closing graphic. If they do a 15 second version, they should concentrate on that part—ideally something along the lines of my edit—because their goal has to be to get enough people to give them their party vote that they can be a strong coalition partner for the NZ Labour Party.

Still, it’s a solid ad, and a good start.

Disclosures: I’m a supporter of the New Zealand Labour Party, but have no position of any kind with them, nor am I in contact with party leaders. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, based on more than 40 years closely following election campaigns. In the interest of even-handedness, at the moment I’m sharing only ads that have been posted to YouTube because they’re easily accessible to anyone. I do not verify that all ads are actually broadcast, and anything I say about them being on TV is based entirely on my own experience; other people’s experiences may be different.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Visiting the Manukau again

One of the things that moving closer to the Manukau Harbour should have brought is more frequent trips to the shore, but that hasn’t happened. It turns out that there are a lot of things to do when moving from one house to another, a lot of projects to complete. Who could have guessed that?! Today, that changed a little bit.

My mother-in-law is visiting us, and today after lunch we swung by the harbour’s edge and I took some photos. The first one I shared to Instagram is above. The earlier photo I was referring to in the photo caption was back in February, and it was a very different harbour that day. I shared more of today’s photos in an Instagram montage (below).

We’ve had rain nearly every day all winter long, but we’ve had four sunny days in a row—a welcome change. Today was pretty much dead calm—the harbour was like glass. It was pretty much the exact opposite of my visit last February, which is entirely accidental (I had no idea how nice the views of the harbour were until we arrived).

In the months ahead—especially as the weather gets better—I’m going to take more photos of the harbour, and at different areas, as well as some of the countryside. Maybe other stuff, too. Naturally, I’ll share most of them here, or you can follow me on Instagram.

In any case, I look forward to sharing more about my home.

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AmeriNZ Podcast 334 ‘Still more change' now available

A new AmeriNZ Podcast episode, “AmeriNZ 334 – Still more change” is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast: This episode is mainly about New Zealand politics, but “has 98% less talk about the details of political polls”.

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.

Disclosures: I’m a supporter of the New Zealand Labour Party, but have no position of any kind with them, nor am I in contact with party leaders. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, based on more than 40 years closely following election campaigns. In the interest of even-handedness, at the moment I’m sharing only ads that have been posted to YouTube because they’re easily accessible to anyone. I do not verify that all ads are actually broadcast, and anything I say about them being on TV is based entirely on my own experience; other people’s experiences may be different.

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.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Seen being seen

There are electorates in New Zealand that are strongly associated with either the Labour Party or National Party, and a lot more that are at least theoretically competitive. New Zealand’s electorates are drawn by a non-partisan commission, so the concentration of supporters has to do with the demographic make-up of those electorates. It’s nothing untoward, but it still can be kind of annoying when you support the minority party.

For all but six of the 21+ years since I arrived in New Zealand, I’ve lived in an electorate with an electorate MP from the National Party. Those six years were when Labour’s Ann Hartley represented the Northcote Electorate. I worked on her 1999 and 2002 campaigns, but in 2005, when she lost the seat to the current National Party MP for the electorate, we lived in the Coromandel Electorate (then as now it had a National MP).

When we moved back to Auckland, it was back to the Northcote Electorate and its National MP. I voted for the Labour candidate in 2008, 2011, and 2014, and worked for the candidate in 2014 (my friend Richard Hills, who is now an Auckland Councillor). Each of those years was worse for Labour than the year before, and each time I saw the Labour candidate in Northcote lose and Labour failing to win government.

Nearly six months ago, we me moved to the Hunua Electorate in the former Franklin District (which is now part of Auckland Council). The electorate has only existed beginning with the 2008 election (from 1996 through 2005, it was part of the Port Waikato Electorate, which was abolished in 2005 when the boundaries were redrawn). Since 1996, the voters in the area have always elected a National Party MP, and usually by substantial margins, making this the MOST pro-National Party electorate I’ve lived in.

There’s only one election hoarding (sign) near our house, and it’s for the National Party’s candidate. A little further away, there’s a settlement with several signs, including one for Labour, but you have to travel to the bigest town in the electorate, Pukekohe, to see large numbers of signs, including a lot of Labour signs.

So today when I cleared the letterbox I saw the flier I shared on Instagram (photo above), and it was really nice to finally see something from my side, as it were. we’ve received at least a couple fliers from the current National Party MP, at least one of which was paid for by the taxpayer (perfectly legal at that time), as well as the taxpayer-funded newspaper I mentioned in the photo caption. Because I’ve been in the printing and publishing industries for so many decades, I know how much a paper like that costs to produce. That MP, Judith Collins, is from the Papakura Electorate, which the Hunua Electorate mostly surrounds. So, one could argue it was an easy mistake, but it was sloppy and also kind of annoying to receive a taxpayer-funded paper from someone who’s not even our MP. I put our copy directly into the recycle bin, unread.

Aside from the National Party stuff, we also received a badly colour laser printed flyer from NZ First promoting a public meeting, and two separate copies of a flier promoting a new racist pressure group fronted by a former National Party leader who later became leader of the Act Party before he failed to win an election for them, too. Maybe the bitterness has kind of festered?

All of this is much less than what I was used to seeing in Northcote, where we constantly got things from various parties, and hoardings were everywhere. Here, it’s suprisingly—well, peaceful, is probably the best word. But campaigning IS happening in the electorate—just not where we are. The local business group is having a candidate forum later this month which I hope to go to so I can actually meet the candidates.

Every election since the Hunua Electorate came into existence, I’ve known the Labour candidate, though apart from 2011, when Richard Hills was the candidate, I only knew them through social media. Labour has a policy of running candidates in every electorate in the country, but when the electorate is unwinnable, the Labour candidate can be a sort of “sacrificial lamb”. In Hunua, a painted stick would win with a 16,000 vote majority just as long as it wore a National party rosette (which is not a slam against the current MP, just the harsh reality of this electorate). Because of that, Labour has sometimes had candidates they wanted to “train” run in unwinnable electorates like Hunua so they could get campaign experience without risking anything. Their real job is to promote the Party Vote for Labour, because it's the nationwide Party Vote total that matters, and even unwinnable electorates can add to a winning nationwide tally.

So, I have no illusions or high expectations for success in this electorate next month. Although I’ve never met the current MP, and he’s a bit of an invisible backbencher, I haven’t detected any sort of groundswell against him. The National Party will also probably win the Party Vote in this electorate, unless there’s a huge nationwide swing to Labour, in which case it will tighten up dramatically (this last happened in 2002 when the National Party suffered its worst-ever election defeat under then-Leader of the Opposition, Bill English).

While I’m realistic about what the results of the election will be in this electorate, I nevertheless like to see Labour promoted. That’s not just a “fly the flag” kind of thing, but a long-term marketing necessity. Sure, the electorate is currently overwhelmingly pro-National Party, but as more and more housing developments are added, the demographics will change. Also, people who already support Labour, or who might do so, need to know the party is here in this electorate, too, and wants their vote. Being seen matters for both groups.

And that’s why I was especially glad to see the Labour Party flier show up in our letterbox. By itself, it won’t influence this year’s election, but it’s part of the necessary groundwork to one day make this electorate competitive, and that’s something that’s absolutely possible. Something as simple as a flier—being seen being seen—is part of what will make the possible, probable.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

New media realities

All media companies are trying to figure out how to do their work in the Internet Age. Publishing ink on paper is not longer enough, and neither is a text-based website alone. Instead, a multi-media—what experts call “rich content”—is now necessary for any company in the news and information business. This is mostly a good thing.

The video above is from The Atlantic, a venerable American magazine founded in 1857, and it talks mostly about media coverage on television. The video was shared on their YouTube Channel—a print media company that has moved ot a lot of online publishing made a video that’s available online talking about other media companies that themselves make their content available online. It kind of completes the circle.

But all traditional print media companies are now multi-media, as are traditional broadcast news and information companies, though some do it better than others. You’d expect a broadcaster to do a good job of posting video online to an open platform like YouTube, and the USA’s ABC News does a pretty good job on their YouTube Channel. Similarly, the Associated Press—a company that used to be called a “wire service” because news stories from overseas were sent to newspapers by telegraph, then teletype before branching into radio and television—post a large numbers of videos with varied subjects to their YouTube Channel.

Newspapers are a much more varied bunch. The New York Times does a good job with their YouTube Channel, posting both current topical news items and more “back of the paper” items that may add more context or detail to a print story, or they could even be independent of anything in the print or online editions. The Guardian’s YouTube Channel is similar. At the bottom of the heap, papers like the Chicago Tribune have a YouTube Channel that seems like an afterthought because it’s poorly curated and not updated very frequently.

New Zealand’s newspaper sites—that of the New Zealand Herald and the papers owned by Australian company Fairfax—are similar to the Chicago Tribune: Slowly updated with new content, content which isn’t terribly newsworthy most of the time, and often not terribly interesting. Their YouTube Channels are so useless, in fact, I felt there was no point in providing a link (both the Herald and Stuff do have channels, of course, but if you look at the URLs I reluctantly included for those Channels, you’ll see the publishers couldn’t even be bothered to get a proper YouTube address—even I have one of those!).

If someone goes to the Stuff website, many stories have videos made by Fairfax journalists. Visitors to the New Zealand Herald website will find the same thing. What is incredibly annoying about those videos is that none are embeddable on other sites (like this blog) so that if I want readers to see the video, they need to go to the site, presumably so the site can keep the visitor or, at least, have them see ads. In fact, it’s almost impossible to watch a video on those sites without sitting through an unskippable ad—even when the video IS an ad! That’s not just annoying, it’s contrary to the developing ethos of online videos, namely, that they’re easily sharable, and that long ads can be skipped. This does explain why both newspaper publishers have rubbish YouTube Channels.

As bad as the Herald and Stuff are, there are good New Zealand options. First is Radio New Zealand (now known as RNZ). Their text news coverage is first rate, and they have two YouTube Channels: A general Channel that has much of their programming and RNZ Live News, which is used for livestreaming news and the recorded versions. Newsroom is a relatively recent start-up news site that offers conventional text stories as well as video. The site is gaining particular attention for its investigative journalism, which the TV broadcasters seldom do these days. The Spinoff is a 3-year-old sometimes irreverent site that provides news and commentary from a more or less Left and younger perspective. It has a related YouTube Channel that doesn’t do stories as much as explain things, though it’s not well managed. It also produces podcasts.

These days there are also plenty of online-only options. There are sites like Vox (whose YouTube Channel is what Newsroom’s should be like) and BuzzFeed, for example, that produce a wide variety of content, including text and video. But there are also some that specialise in video information, including ones I’ve shared before, like [links are to their YouTube Channels] TED-Ed, CGP Grey (who also is part of a podcast called Hello Internet), ASAP Science, and The Thinking Atheist (which is an online radio show with audio released as podcasts, and also videos released on his YouTube Channel, where his podcasts are also available), among others (and countless more that I haven’t shared on this blog).

There’s clearly a number of different approaches to the changing media landscape that various organisations are taking these days, and they have various funding models to make them work (a topic in itself). What they all have in common is that they’re trying to meet the consumers of news and information where those consumers are, and that primarily means on mobile devices, and it may mean text, video, and/or audio content.

I firmly believe that newspapers printed on paper are doomed, and they will die out far sooner than anyone realises—and twice as fast as media companies want to believe. Magazines will evolve, as The Atlantic, for example, is doing, but printed versions of most magazines will probably die out, too. Even the name we gave to newspapers and magazines as a class—periodicals—has become irrelevant as newspapers and magazines alike publish stories online between their print editions, and that often includes things that never make it to their print editions—not just the obvious audio and video, but even just text-based stories. This is what “periodicals” are evolving into.

Many people are sad about all this change, and plenty of older people are finding it difficult to cope with the new online realities. Younger people—digital natives and digital immigrants alike—are adapting quite well, and many now expect as a matter of course to be able to access breaking news and in-depth information in text, audio, and video formats on their phones and tablets. I know I certainly do, and I would be very annoyed if I couldn’t get that content on my phone—not that this is ever problem.

So, the ability to access news and information in a variety of multi-media forms, and being able to access that wherever we are, is becoming the norm. I worry a bit about those who cannot adapt, but I worry more about how the huge amount of choice on offer can make it easier to spread low-quality stuff, or bad or misleading information (regardless of whether it's bad or misleading deliberately or accidentally). And that’s why I say all this change is mostly a good thing.

I hope it proves to be very good.

Saturday, August 12, 2017


News and media companies are increasingly diversifying. Traditional newspaper publishers now expect their journalists to record video and take photographs, as well as to prepare their stories to the paper’s website. Online-only media outlets create text-based stories as well as videos and often audio podcasts. This is the new reality. And somehow us small “content creators” need to fit into the multi-media expectations that are part of this new media landscape. I’m no different.

For quite awhile now I’ve been sharing things I post to Instagram by embedding those posts here. I usually talk about the post in more detail, but I nevertheless am sharing the Instagram post, and not just re-publishing the photo. Similarly, I now publish announcements when I post another AmeriNZ Podcast episode, as I did yesterday. I’ve also embedded videos from my AmeriNZ YouTube Channel. But until today, I’ve never embedded anything I first posted to my AmeriNZ Facebook Page. I have no idea why I haven’t.

The embedded Facebook post up top is from the AmeriNZ Facebook Page, and it’s something that in a somewhat different format could have been a blog post. In the past, I’ve adapted things I’ve posted to Facebook into blog posts (as I did last on Monday), but I’ve never just embedded one of my Facebook posts before today, and I think it’s time I did.

The way one gets attention on Facebook—what they call “Reach”—is by having people read posts there, comment on them, share them, etc. I’ve always shared announcements of new blog posts and podcast episodes, but I’ve also shared articles to the Page, and I’ve sometimes written commentary to go along with the things I’ve shared, as I did today, and sometimes they’re longer and blog post like.

One of the ways to keep people interested in a Facebook Page is to post things to the page, but not just shares of things from other sites (like my blog or podcast or YouTube Channel), but also original content created for the Page. That’s what today’s post was—original content. Rather than repurposing and reqorking that content into a blog post, I think it makes more sense to embed the posts here, as I already do with Instagram posts (which is also owned by Facebook, of course).

There are several reasons for this. First, it potentially increases the “reach” of posts as well as potentially increasing awareness that I even have a Facebook Page. If my goal is to increase awareness of whatever content I create, it makes more sense to embed things from other places than to re-create it here. Although, just like now, I’m likely to use it as a starting point for further commentary, as I also do with my Instagram posts and YouTube videos.

Those who maximise their Facebook Pages also do live video broadcasts and post recorded videos as part of the mix of content they chare on their page. I haven’t yet done a Facebook Live video, but I wouldn’t rule that out. I can later embed the recorded version of the video here, as I did the other day with a Labour Party Facebook video.

Media companies do all the same things I do, only they do more of it and they monetise what they do. I’ll never be in competition with them, but if I want to gain and grow an audience, I need to be doing some of the same things they do, but—and this is the tricky part—without sacrificing any particular part or medium. This is going to require a lot more organisation than I’m used to doing, and I’ll have to actually start planning and scheduling what I want to post, where, and when.

While all this is new for me, it’s not really new for anyone, at least, not the individual parts. With blogging, for example, my blogging friend Roger Green has long planned his posts, a discipline I’ve always admired but (so far) failed to emulate. I also know that the prominent YouTubers I watch plan their videos well in advance and don’t just turn on their cameras and start talking. I also know podcasters who make notes for the episodes they record. I’ve done very little of any of that. This will have to change.

What I’m really talking about here is doing the same sorts of things I’ve always done, but doing them slightly differently and in a more planned and structured way. That doesn’t mean I won’t still do spontaneous or unplanned things like blog posts—I doubt I could stop myself even if I wanted to. But it should mean there could be a little more coherence and unity to to all the things I post to various places.

I mention this at all because I believe in transparency, and also because I’m just one small, tiny example of what major media organisations are also going through on a much larger scale. Tomorrow, I’ll talk a little more about that part, because some of what media organisations are doing is really interesting and even exciting.

Mainly, we’re all—content creators and consumers (and I’m both, of course) alike—finding our way through this new media landscape together. I like that. Now, let’s see where this leads.