Saturday, 2 September 2017

How does Labour win the election?: A strategic guide.

With all the water that has passed under the bridge in the last month or so of New Zealand’s election campaign (and it’s been a torrent), I thought I’d offer some strategic insight if I was in the captain’s seat looking change the government and offer New Zealand a genuine progressive alternative to the last nine years of selfish soul-crushing neoliberalism. This strategy will be brief and not necessarily analyse in depth parties, or policies. Many others have done this so I wouldn’t be offering anything new. I’m by no means an expert of New Zealand politics, but I read about it a lot. This is based entirely on where things are now, and what’s currently on the table. I’ve looked at voting data from the previous election and compared it with more recent data.

So what do we know so far?:

— National’s support under Bill English is slowly eroding. The emphasis being slowly. They are no longer at the dizzying Key era heights of 47% polling. However they have still regularly been in the mid-to-low 40s. That’s not a bad place for them to be in, and governments can still be formed on those numbers. But inevitably they will need a coalition partner. The Labour leadership change might entice some centrist voters back from National, especially middle-class and educated women, and some might switch to Labour. The trend: a slow leak, but not necessarily in a dire position thus far. The latest Colmar Brunton poll that put National at 40%, 3 points below Labour, can’t be taken as a done and dusted sign. However, if the current trend continues I think this is where the result might settle. This is unless, they do something chronic which could see them dip into the 30s, but not by much.

—Labour’s rising star also must be taken with a grain of salt for two reasons. In order for a strong result they need those young, poorer, and non-voting types to actually turn up or the flashy gimmicks will all be a waste. Despite the latest poll that has them just in front, National could pip them at the post if they get their voters mobilised because of the threat of losing out on the coveted fourth term. But secondly, and more importantly, the need to adhere assiduously to the strategic importance of the Green Party as a valuable support partner. They signed the memorandum of understanding with the goal of changing the government to a real progressive alternative. The data from Horizon released this week suggested that 70% of voters who have switched to Labour have done so on the basis of Labour’s new leadership rather than the Green Party’s own internal strife. A little bit of switching was always expected, but if Labour starts sending the message that it no longer needs the Greens they risk losing this partner if they fall below the 5% threshold. Of course they will be flirting with the idea of New Zealand First, but strategically speaking the more coalition options the better. New Zealand First are a risk: they could join a Labour government that shuts out the Greens like 2005, or they could choose to support National. The point is, if you are someone looking for a strong progressive government, New Zealand First are not reliable in the same way that the Greens are. To me, a Labour-New Zealand First government is more tolerable than a National-New Zealand First Government (with or without the Green Party in Parliament). Even if Labour are still looking towards Winston and co., it would be strategically unwise for them to strangle the Greens out of Parliament as they could offer supply and confidence without being in coalition.

—Which brings me to the next party that Labour needs for a viable progressive coalition: the Māori Party. Party President Tokoroirangi Morgan has suggested that the party, on advice from members and constituents is open to working with Labour again. This certainly works well with kaupapa Māori of always having a seat at the table. On current polling the party still needs electorate seats to remain in Parliament. Labour has suggested it wants to hold all Māori seats, which is a dangerous strategy, because National has proven time and time again the importance of coalition partners. Labour seems to forget it is entitled to seats based on the party vote (unless of course you are a minor party that has a good chance of winning an electorate seat). If the Māori party could hang on to a couple of seats that would be strategically beneficial for Labour.

So what does all this mean? Well here are some things if I was Jacinda Ardern I would be thinking about with regards to forming a government on current number, as well as my prediction.

Here's where I see the number's settling. Below I will offer a bit more explanation as well as some basic MMP strategy.

Party vote (%) Electorate seats List seats Total seats
Labour 42.5 29 23 52
National 39.5 39 9 48
NZ First 9 0 11 11
Green 6 0 7 7
TOP 1.5 0 0 0
Māori 1 2 0 2
ACT 0.5 1 0 1
United Future 0 0 0 0
100 71 50 121

I know there's probably a certain degree of optimism, and therefore some bias, but I have tried to generous to even the right block parties.

The electorate seats here are based on my belief that Labour can win back the Maungakiekie, Ohāriu, and Christchurch Central. United Future is at a loss without Dunne, and National voters in Epsom smart enough to give ACT the tick. New Zealand First will pass the Greens as the third largest party, and the Greens themselves will just hang in there. On current polling in the Māori electorates, if Te Ururoa Flavell can hang on to Waiariki, and if Howie Tamati can pick up Te Tai Hauāuru from Labour, then that's two seats Labour ought to take advantage of. Given these numbers Labour can put together what I believe can be a working coalition of Labour, Greens, and Māori to provide a one seat majority of 61. The remaining parties would add up to 60. In this scenario New Zealand first could offer confidence and supply. This also means National's chances of coalition forming are seriously diminished because not only would they be the second largest party (Winston goes to the largest first), a coalition with ACT seems unworkable.

If Labour was serious about using MMP to its utmost advantage it would have to think like National. It needs coalition partners. If too many Green voters jump to Labour, say 1-2 %, it will make the Labour-New Zealand First scenario inevitable. To anyone putting together a real progressive coalition this is massive disappointment, as the Green Party wouldn't even be in Parliament as a cross-bench or confidence and supply party. Labour can guarantee support partners by allowing the Māori party to retain its current numbers and one other radical strategy: withdraw Grant Robertson from Wellington Central to guarantee the Green Party an electorate seat in the event they fall below the 5% threshold. This is of course a risky strategy and the backlash from National and the media would be phenomenal. Electorate deals are acceptable for National but not Labour would be the message. However, I see the probability of both Labour and Robertson giving this seat to the Greens (even given its strategic value) as a snowball's change in hell.

Whatever happens, Labour needs to be pragmatic rather than attempting to have its cake and eat it too. Don't campaign at the expense of allies, because it's going to be a tight one.

Post script: Here's the "Wellington Central" strategy numbers adjusted from the above table.

Party vote (%) Electorate seats List seats Total seats
Labour 44 28 26 54
National 39.5 39 9 48
NZ First 9 0 11 11
Green 4.5 1 4 5
TOP 1.5 0 0 0
Māori 1 2 0 2
ACT 0.5 1 0 1
United Future 0 0 0 0
100 71 50 121
———————————————————————————————————————— "... we can explore space together, both inner and outer, forever in peace." —W. M. Hicks.

Friday, 1 July 2016

"That was probably just a facetious remark"—Top 10 Simpsons Presidential Moments

In honour of the United States' 240th anniversary of its independence, and the impending presidential election (and its equally impeding campaign), I've decided to honour the Office of the President of the United States by tirelessly assembling a collection of The Simpsons' greatest presidential moments.

The Simpsons has never been shy of political satire and laughing at their leaders. Most of them have been at the very least mentioned in some form. Remember Woodrow? Or Grandpa being spanked by Groover Cleveland on two non-consecutive occasions? Either Grandpa is ridiculously old (Cleveland was president in the late nineteenth century), or this is a very subtle and clever reference to Cleveland being the only person to have served two non-consecutive terms as president.

Anyway, without further ado, here's the list, starting with the honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

Dwight D. Eisenhower in "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming" Season 7, Episode 9

Guest appearance on "The Stingy and Battery Show": let's get busy.

Jimmy Carter in "Marge in Chains" Season 4, Episode 21

Malaise forever: he's history's greatest monster.

Thomas Jefferson in "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington" Season 3, Episode 2

Remembered for the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, and the dumbwaiter.

"The Mediocre Presidents" Zachary Taylor, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Rutherford B. Hayes, William Henry Harrison in "I Love Lisa" Season 4, Episode 15

The adequate, forgettable, occasionally regrettable, caretaker presidents of the U.S.A.

#10 Abraham Lincoln in "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" Season 5, Episode 20.

Disheartened by the prospect of going to school on a sunny summer's day, Bart attempts to escape reality by day-dreaming. His fantasy in includes himself floating on a raft with Huckleberry Finn down what is assumed to be a stereotypical Southern river. Also on the raft, standing tall with his trademark top-hat, unlike the boys who are reclining, is President Lincoln. Bart is bemused by Lincoln's presence and asks Finn, "Hey, Huck, what's L-I-N-C-O-N doing here?"—of course a misspelling of Lincoln. Finn replies, "I don't know. It's your fantasy." Bart then casually greets Lincoln, who says "Hello, Bart," cheerfully in response.

#9 George Washington in "Lisa the Iconoclast" Season 7, Episode 16

During her research for an essay on founder of Springfield, Jebediah Springfield, for the city's centenary, Lisa discovers the truth about Springfield's shadowy past. In a flashback to 1781, Springfield, who is revealed to be a pirate named Hans Sprungfeld, ambushes President Washington at his Trenton, New Jersey home and demands, "give me all your money!" to which Washington retorts, "Never!" A vicious fight ensues between the two men, and the painting which Washington was posing for is damaged; a piece is torn off by Sprungfeld as he retreats. This a reference to Gilbert Stuart's unfinished painting of Washington. The fight is interrupted when a women enters carrying an early incarnation of the US flag and says to Washington, "I got the white stars you wanted, but I couldn't find any red hearts, yellow moons, or green clovers." Washington, quite clearly disgruntled by this change of circumstance, replies, "We'll use it. But I'm not paying for it." This is likely a reference to the contentious mythology surrounding the "first flag," or the so-called Betsy Ross flag.

#8 Teddy Roosevelt in "The Day the Violence Died" Season 7, Episode 18

Chester Lampwick, a bum who claims to have invented Itchy and Scratchy, is determined to prove it to Bart and Milhouse so shows them the very first cartoon, "Manhattan Madness," he created in 1919. The cartoon only features Itchy, but Teddy Roosevelt makes an appearance. He exclaims (on an intertitle), "Ah, Manhattan Town. An agreeable sight for an old Knickerbocker like me," before being brutally decapitated by Itchy.

#7 Al Gore in "Grandpa Simpson vs. Sexual Inadequacy" Season 6, Episode 10

Strictly speaking, this not a presidential moment, but a vice-presidential moment. Nevertheless, I've included it because it's great. While out book shopping, Lisa purchases a copy of Al Gore's new book "Sane Planning, Sensible Tomorrow," a follow up to a previous book titled "Rational Thinking, Reasonable Future." When the book is scanned at the register, an electronic signal is sent to Washington D.C. to inform one of Gore's staff that someone finally bought a copy of his book. Gore, in a dry monotone replies, "well, this calls for a celebration." He leans over to a nearby turntable and starts "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang. The chorus rings out: "celebrate good times, come on!" To which Gore replies, "I will," still in monotonous excitement.

#6 Richard Nixon in "Homer Goes to College"
 Episode 3, Season 5

Homer and some nerds at Springfield University, want to pull a prank on rival college Springfield A&M. They kidnap Springfield A&M's mascot pig Sir Oinks-a-lot, who subsequently gets severely intoxicated after splitting a case of malt-liquor with Homer. When the team is caught, the nerds are expelled; the dean regrettably informing them, "I'm sorry boys, I've never expelled anyone before, but that pig had some powerful friends." Then appears Richard Nixon to scold the nerds: "Oh, you'll pay! Don't think you won't pay." Earlier, when planning the kidnapping, Bart shows the team a picture of Sir Oinks-a-lot conferring an honorary degree on Nixon.

#5 Bill Clinton in "Homer to the Max" Episode 13, Season 10

Homer and Marge are attending a party on an invite by Homer's new well-to-do liberal friend Trent Steel that is attended by other well-to-do liberal celebrities including Woody Harrelson and Ed Begley Jr. Also attending the party is President Clinton, who Marge dances with while he attempts to seduce her by suggesting, "I know you don't think you're good enough for me. But believe me, you are. Hell, I've done it with pigs. Real no-foolin' pigs." This is almost certainly a reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal that broke a year before this episode aired.

#4 Ronald Reagan in "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" Episode 1, Season 5

The Be Sharps, the barbershop quartet Homer is in, are the performing guest at the centenary of the Statue of Liberty in 1986, and President Reagan is present. Showing his capitalist Protestant work ethic, he bemoans having to be at the event: "damn ceremonies, this is time I could be working."

#3 Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter in "Rosebud" Episode 4, Season 5

Waiting in line, carrying wrapped gifts, for Mr. Burns' birthday party are former Presidents Reagan, Nixon, and George H.W. Bush. Reagan and Nixon are allowed in the party, but Bush gets stopped and rejected by a security guard at the door who tells him, "Hey, no one-termers." After being rejected he is consoled by fellow one-termer Jimmy Carter. Bush is obviously not ready to reconcile with old political rivalries telling Carter, "Get away from me, loser!"

#2 John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in "Duffless" Episode 6, Season 4

This one is basically for the nerds of United States political history. On a tour of the Duff Brewery, Barney and Homer are shown a Duff beer commercial featuring Vice-President, then eventual President Nixon, and Senator, then eventual President Kennedy. It is a reference to the first of four televised debates between Kennedy and Nixon during the 1960 presidential election campaign. Nixon's comment (in this episode), "if you knew the president, that was probably just a facetious remark
," is, verbatim, what Nixon said in response the statement, "President Eisenhower was asked to give one example of a major idea of yours that he adopted. His reply was, and I'm quoting; 'If you give me a week I might think of one. I don't remember,'" made by Sander Vanocur of NBC News. It is because of this episode that I can no longer read any speeches by Kennedy without it automatically reverting to a Mayor Quimby voice in my inner monologue (Quimby's Boston accent is based on Kennedy's).

#1 George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford in "Two Bad Neighbours" Episode 13, Season 7

How could it not be number one? An entire episode dedicated to the tired old conservatism of the first Bush. Showrunner Bill Oakley took inspiration from the show's previous feud with the Bushes; instead of wanting to make a political statement about Bush, he suggested it was more about making fun of his "crotchetiness." The episode features many classic moments when Bush faces off with Homer and Bart who don't like his presence in the neighbourhood. Bush's exchanges, similarity to, and partiality for Ned Flanders, resonate with his family friendly brand of conservatism. He even picks up an "Okily dokily" from Flanders' gibberish lingo. There's a reference to Bush vomiting (a bout of the flu) on the Japanese prime minister at a state dinner in 1992: "I'll ruin you like a Japanese banquet!" This episode also features a brief appearance by Nixon's post-resignation successor Gerald Ford, who Homer immediately takes an interest in because of his mutual like of football and nachos. They both trip on the curb, shouting "D'oh!" on their way to Ford's house, a reference to Ford's unfortunate habit of falling down.

Some more memorable lines from Bush include:
—"And since I'd achieved all my goals as President in one term, there was no need for a second... Hmmm... Good memoirs. Good, not great." 
Typing the conclusion to his memoirs.
—"That guy is louder than World War II. Ray, go see what the rhubarb is, will you?" Waiting in the Krusty Burger drive-through with Homer honking his car-horn behind him.
—"Oh good, they're roasting the new guy." 
Upon seeing Bill Clinton on the cover of US News.
—"But, Bar, we can't show any weakness in front of the Russians." 
After being forced to apologise to Homer by his wife Barbara in front of former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.
———————————————————————————————————————— "... we can explore space together, both inner and outer, forever in peace." —W. M. Hicks.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Breferemdum: A Comprehensive List of Media Buzzword Portmanteau for Future EU Referenda.

In light of the "Brexit"—Britain's referendum to leave the European Union—I've concocted a handy go-to reference for all your future portmanteau buzzword needs. Because any profit-turning media organisation has a penchant for portmanteau. Just like celebrity power couples, it doesn't make sense to the senseless hordes unless we take two existing words and smash them together in a cringe-inducing manner.

So the following contains many original "exitisms" for when you just can't find a word short enough for "[insert EU country here]'s proposal to leave the EU." These are organised into The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good: The words that sound great, feel great, and can be just dropped into conversation at your pretentious cocktail parties like you've used them all your life.
- Brexit* - United Kingdom
- Grexit* - Greece
- Czexit* - Czech Republic
- Frexit* - France
- Spexit - Spain
- Nexit - The Netherlands
- Luxit - Luxembourg
- Swexit - Sweden
- Fixit - Finland
- Laxit - Latvia
- Lixit - Lithuania

The Bad: While not tounge-twisters in their own right, these mashups just don't have that great mouthfeel—to borrow wine terminology. The $10-15 bottle so to speak.
- Gexit (pronounced with a soft G) - Germany
- Poxit - Poland
- Dexit* (I feel as if this one has already been coined—Denmark is quite Eurosceptic) - Denmark
- Bexit - Belgium
- Exit (highly original of course) - Estonia
- Auxit - Austria
- Huxit - Hungary
- Roxit (pronounced with a long O) - Romania
- Buxit (pronounced with a short U) - Bulgaria
- Maxit - Malta
- Croxit - Croatia
- Slexit (or Slovaxit) - Slovakia

The Ugly: No, just no... Any journalist that dare to use these should be fired—immediately. Or just go work for Fox News.
- Irexit - Ireland
- Itexit - Italy
- Cyxit - Cyprus
- Porxit - Portugal

*Note these are not original coinages, and as far I am aware have already entered the cheese-filled world of journalistic buzzwordery.

———————————————————————————————————————— "... we can explore space together, both inner and outer, forever in peace." —W. M. Hicks.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

"Everybody Knows Rock Achieved Perfection in 1974": A Homer Simpson Mix-tape

To spread some peace, love, and rock 'n' roll while everybody is enjoying their summer holiday, I've decided to share my hand-crafted Homer Simpson mix-tape titled, "'Everybody Knows Rock Achieved Perfection in 1974': A Homer Simpson Mix-tape." It's a compilation that Homer himself would have tirelessly assembled on an 8-track tape sometime in about 1985 to relive the glory-days of 1970s rock music before all those opportunities to "rock-out" faded with the onset of family with Marge. While Bart naïvely called Homer's favourite music, "dinosaur bands," and this might seem true for a self-centred ten-year-old, Homer's music taste actually has some really groovy and hard-hitting riff-rocking magic that's reveals something about Homer's rebellious, but optimistic, 1970s adolescence.

Shinin' On - Grand Funk Railroad - 1974
Frankenstein  - Edgar Winter Group - 1972
Two Tickets to Paradise - Eddie Money - 1977
Mississippi Queen - Mountain - 1970
Louie Louie - The Kingsmen - 1963
Logical Song - Supertramp - 1979
Come Sail Away - Styx - 1977
The Joker - Steve Miller Band - 1973
Taking Care of Business - Bachman Turner Overdrive - 1973
We Built This City - Starship - 1985
Hot Blooded - Foreigner - 1978
The Dream Police - Cheap Trick - 1979
Queen - We Are The Champions - 1977
Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who - 1971
In A Gadda Da Vida - Iron Butterfly - 1968

Homer was a little too late for embracing the peak of 1960s counter-culture (however, as a toddler he did dance to Jimi Hendrix's rendition of the 'Star-spangelled Banner' at Woodstock with his mother, his disgruntled and conformist father, as well as his mother's hippy friends Seth and Munchie). Homer grew up in the uncertainties and ambiguities of post-Vietnam America; the Carter-Mondale "Malaise Forever." The economy hit hard times. Nixon resigned in shame, only to be pardoned by his Vice-President Gerald Ford (Homer later befriends Ford after George H. W. Bush runs amok on Evergreen Terrace). Homer's mother, Mona, had been designated a wanted criminal after destroying Montgomery Burns' germ-warfare lab, forcing his negligent father, Abe, to raise him. Homer had a rough time at high school. His grades began to fail, and the girl he fancied, Marge Bouvier, wasn't interested in him. She was taken to the school prom by the pretentious and arrogant Artie Ziff.

However, what kept Homer going was his love for rock music. It is his solace and guiding light when times get tough. He is instantly transported to the past when he hits his portable radio out of frustration, causing it to change frequency, thus revealing the chorus of Eddie Money's 'Two Tickets to Paradise.' He sings along amusingly and approves of the, "excellent guitar riff." The song itself is symbolic of Homer's desire to have a ticket to his very own rock 'n' roll paradise. He shared his love for music with his best friend Barney Gumble, often conducting a cappella sessions with him in his bedroom. Homer wasn't afraid to sing along to Steve Miller's 'The Joker' while driving his car, or perform the odd air-guitar solo. This might explain his musical talent as he can certainly sing, and play the piano. It might also explain his alcoholism:

When I was seventeen,
I drank some very good beer,
I drank some very good beer
I purchased with a fake ID.
My name was Brian McGee,
I stayed up listenin' to Queen
When I was seventeen.

While Homer often clings to his 1970s rock bands, he is isn't afraid to dabble in what is new and hip as evidenced by his stint as a cannon-ball-absorbing-freak on the 1996 Hullabalooza music festival tour. He runs into Cypress Hill, Sonic Youth, and smiles politely for Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Although, Peter Frampton is pissed-off when Homer accidentally releases an inflatable pig that he bought from Pink Floyd's yard-sale. Homer also loves to share a musical moment with Marge, from making-out while listening to Iron Butterfly's 'In A Gadda Da Vida', to sharing a duet of Debby Boone's 'You Light Up My Life' shortly before (accidentally) conceiving Bart in a small windmill at the miniature golf course Homer was employed at.

Homer's music tastes reveal the complexities and richness of his past. Homer is the epitome of the suburban white working-class American male of the late 1970s. For him, in the 1970s, the American Dream seemed beyond reach. But this was not through his lack of ambition as shifting economic conditions in America meant tough times. The lyrics of Supertramp's Logical Song resonate with Homer's resistance to conformity and struggle to find a comfortable identity in a society that is quickly changing to something he doesn't like:

There are times when all the world's asleep.
The questions run too deep for such a simple mind.
Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned?
I know it sounds absurd.
Please tell me who I am.

Homer's dream of working as a pin-monkey at Barney's Bowlarama never came to fruition, but somehow he was employed at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant under "Operation Bootstrap" despite him neither enjoying the job, nor being qualified for it. It was just a pay-check to raise his growing family at the onset of the Reagan era. He was "woking overtime" and "taking care of business—everyday."

Homer's favourite music is a window to the past, of youth and innocence, through his nostalgic eyes. He longs for a time when he had hopes and dreams, despite the odds being  stacked against him, when life was free of responsibility, and when his only concern was chasing girls and rockin' out. However, Homer's nostalgia often distorts his sense of the past, and perhaps makes him forget how good his present is too. He has a stable job (most of the time), a caring wife, three wonderful children, many friends, and an exciting life ahead of him. However, the past remains the past. Homer is no longer cool. Abe disconcertingly says to Homer sometime in the early 1970s, "I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now what I'm with isn't it, and what's it seems weird and scary to me. It'll happen to you," to which Homer responds, "No way man, we'll be rocking forever, forever, forever, forever—" We love the music from our youth because it allows us to hold on to the past and escape the present as our lives become busy and filled with responsibilities. We used to "rock and roll all night, and party everyday," and then it became, "every other day", and now we're, "lucky to find half an hour a week in which to get funky."

———————————————————————————————————————— "... we can explore space together, both inner and outer, forever in peace." —W. M. Hicks.