Who stood out for me this year? I want to talk about two people who changed the conversation, for better and worse

I've got half written Key/English blogs to finish and post, but before Christmas I desperately want to share my hero and anti-hero of the year; our better and worse angels.

At this time of year, I remember a holy child born to parents who didn't have a roof over their heads at a precious yet fearful time in their lives; a family looking for a place to call home when there was no home to be found. It's a 2000 year-old story, yet it's also for me been the most powerful story of New Zealand in 2016. It's a heart-breaking thing to have to write, but homelessness was the number one issue in New Zealand this year, and, as with Mary, Joseph and Jesus, it was families in need.

Regular Pundit readers will know the story was broken by The Nation's Mike Wesley-Smith. What you won't know is how the story came about. When Mike first came to me, as boss of The Nation, wanting to do a story on homelessness, I demurred. If this was a story about 100-odd people - mostly addicts or abuse victims - sleeping rough around Auckland, well, that's a well-worn story. I told him I was only interested if there was a new angle. He went and talked to a few people, most notably Labour MP Jenny Salesa, who took him to Bruce Pullman Park in Takanini. And that changed things.

There he found the row of cars, where families were sleeping every night, conveniently close to some public toilets. At the weekend, as many as 50 cars parked up there full of people for whom there is no room at any inn. It was a tragic, transient, yet kind community of people who - for many different reasons - found themselves unable to afford to live in a house. Or even a garage. (Because the other angle we reported, was the emergence of a garage property market in south Auckland, where garages were being rented openly, and often illegally - for as much as $400 a week)

And it was at Bruce Pullman Park Mike met my hero of the year, a man I know simply as Rim. Despite the shame and hopelessness felt by those living at the park, Rim agreed to speak on camera to Mike. It was a brave thing to do. But in doing so, he made the story possible and gave a voice to, as we were to learn, too many New Zealanders who called their cars home.

Rim also introduced Mike to a family living in another car in the park; a family with two kids and a father who worked full-time. They had moved to find work, just as the unemployed are so often urged to do, but could now not afford a house. This was a new type of homelessness. Despite the government's spin that 'the poor have always been with us', the truth was entire employed families living in cars was a new low for this country.

Rim was the first person in this story to the plight of these families "a shame". He also had the grace to say he wanted home for the kids, not people like him.

The good news is that government agencies were shamed into action and many of those families got homes. The last we heard, Rim had a job and a house. Here's hoping that's still the case this Christmas.

The anti-hero is easy. He's the man who used a divisive, mocking message of race-baiting, fear, fake news, fake faith, climate change denial, abuse and lies to win the US presidency. Sometimes, when I hear news reports of Donald Trump having won the election, it still shocks and horrifies me. 

The message this victory sends to many minorities is scary enough, but, as I wrote at he time, it's also tragic how he - like the scorpion biting the frog half way across the river because 'it's my nature' - will betray so many of the people who voted for him as an act of protest and desperation.

Who knows which promises he will keep and which he will break. It will be a muddle of both. His cabinet on one hand is a bunch of outsiders and deal-makers and breakers. An uncabinet, if you like. But on the other, it is a group of one percenters who will surely act in the interests of the very elite so many Trump supporters loathe. 

I still fear what may happen as he comes to confront other countries on the world stage. I don't think it will be a good couple of years for Muslims or Mexicans in America. And I pray for the health of the Supreme Court judges, or women's rights are likely to take a hit as well. But who knows where his butterfly brain (and ego) will land?

One of the over-arching messages from his campaign is to be wary of change for change's sake. Things must, and do, evolve. I'm not arguing for stagnation or that many of our institutions aren't in need of significant upheaval. But.

But, be careful what you wish for. But, be careful of change without a clear alternative. I wonder whether over the next two years, for example, we might learn to love 'the swamp'. There is lots wrong with Washington DC, but an imperfect public service that at least tries to be independent and isn't completely compromised by business interests may suddenly be seen to be much more precious than it does now.

That same could be said for the mainstream media. For all its failings, surely we must appreciate now how vital it is that it remains vital. Not any particular organisation or company, but  rather a belief in fact-checking, skeptical reporting and rigorous questioning. 

This year has be a salient one for all those gleefully applauding the decline of 'old media' and arguing that it can and will be replaced by the wonderful democracy and transparency of the internet. I've argued for years that the internet is not the salvation of news, that 'citizen journalism' and blogging has serious flaws and that the so-called MSM is much more precious than we realise.

Now we know that - even allowing for bias and human failings - journalism is worse than nothing without rigorous standards, ethics and professionalism. Online media can go completely rogue and is easily fakeable. The internet isn't as transparent as some claimed and algorithms leave journos for dead with it comes to perpetuating bias.

So this Christmas, let's appreciate what we have, remember those who have less, and hope for a better 2017 and beyond.

  

Comments (31)

by Charlie on December 28, 2016
Charlie

Tim: "He's the man who used a divisive, mocking message of race-baiting, fear, fake news, fake faith, climate change denial, abuse and lies to win the US presidency. "


I'm afraid you're living in an echo chamber of your own making, with contributions from sadly uninformed NZ media. The truth of the matter is that it was Obama & Clinton along with all their mates in the mainstream media were the purveyors of race-baiting, fake news and personal abuse.

It wasn't Trump who arranged for malcontents to attack people at political conventions.

It wasn't Trump who pandered to BLM and implied it was OK to commit illegal acts, because the police are racist, when the facts show they're not.

It wasn't Trump who relied on 'identity politics' to attract votes

It wasn't Trump trying to shut down open debate on campuses across the US, and when that failed shout it down.

It wasn't Trump who rigged votes by allowing non-citizens to vote and by moving people across states to vote multiple times.

It wasn't Trump who turned every issue into a race-baiting exercise (Trayvon Martin being the classic example)

It wasn't Trump who was secretly fed the questions for the TV debates beforehand

It wasn't Trump who called anyone who didn't vote for him "deplorable"

It wasn't Trump who used all the mainstream TV and newspaper commentators as attack dogs.

It wasn't Trump who used dirty tricks to control his party's congress and gain the ticket.

It wasn't Trump supporters that resorted to violence at every opportunity.

 

So Tim, my new years resolution for you is to start listening to the views of people who aren't in your tight little academic and media circle. Because you, know diversity is good - especially when it is diversity of opinion.  ;-)

by Peggy Klimenko on December 29, 2016
Peggy Klimenko

I agree with you, Charlie. It is to the shame of the MSM that it was not impartial in its reporting of the US presidential election campaign. Had that been otherwise, the Trump victory would not have come as such a nasty surprise to so many people.

I'm a longtime listener to RNZ; its coverage of the campaign was abysmally poor. Journalists there almost completely abandoned reportage of facts, in favour of variations on "Ooh, isn't Trump just AWFUL!", along with propaganda pieces from CNN and similar outlets. I lost count of the times I contacted various news programmes, imploring them to look beyond the polls and the stories coming out of the US media. To no avail...

Tim: "That same could be said for the mainstream media. For all its failings, surely we must appreciate now how vital it is that it remains vital. Not any particular organisation or company, but  rather a belief in fact-checking, skeptical reporting and rigorous questioning."

We the citizens need to have access to news reportage and journalism that doesn't consist largely of press releases or propaganda pieces from various government mouthpieces and overseas media, reported uncritically or verbatim. For the most part, we don't get that here: coverage of the US election and the multiple conflicts in the Middle East are salient examples. Another very recent one is the Security Council Resolution regarding Israel. Michael Field has written on this issue here:

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1612/S00104/background-to-how-israel-ne...

This sort of thing is what I expect from MSM journalists. Absent Field's article, we'd have a one-dimensional view of the context. But there has been no other substantive coverage that I've seen or heard on the MSM.

Since childhood, I've been interested in politics, and what's going on in the world. But it's only in the last 25 years or so, with the arrival of the internet and the greater access it has enabled to dissenting opinion - such as that of Noam Chomsky - that I've been made aware of the extent to which the news coverage we thought of as impartial was in fact skewed at best and propaganda at worst.

As a consequence, I've largely given up on the MSM, with regard to journalism on international affairs or NZ foreign policy issues.

"...the internet is not the salvation of news, that 'citizen journalism' and blogging has serious flaws..."

And yet, and yet.... it was just those sources which alerted many of us to what was likely to happen in the US presidential election. The same is true of the UK referendum on EU membership. We were obliged to resort to such sources when it became clear that what was being reported couldn't possibly be the whole story. Many of us can tell the difference between wild-eyed conspiracy theory and loony anti-science, and well-reasoned dissenting opinion. And we'll continue to seek out alternative views on the internet, for as long as the MSM fails to provide us with such views.

by Tim Watkin on December 30, 2016
Tim Watkin

Charlie, you haven't given one piece of evidence that what I wrote was I'll informed. You weite purely about Clinton, not Trump. If you disagree with me, fine. But that doesn't mean I'm wrong or in an echo chamber. But to address the point directly, do you say Trump did not use race baiting to win the election? If that's your claim, I think you are ignoring he obvious evidence about the wall, Muslim ban and generalisations about black Americans. 

if you think Clinton was racist and divisive as well, then that's a legitimate difference of opinion. I see no evidence of her being racist and her most divisive line - deplorable - was clearly a mistake that hurt her. And she apologised. Trump clearly made tactical divisive comments and never apologised. You can see the difference?

Many of your other claims are either opinion or lack evidence. What evidence do you have of non-residents voting and of Clinton encouraging illegal acts? And Clinton can somehow control lots of different media? Please. Isn't it more likely that many observers saw Trump as a new low for US politics?

by Tim Watkin on December 30, 2016
Tim Watkin

Peggy you're repeatedly missing the point of journalism. I understan you didnt like some coverage of the US election, but if you discard professional journalism because you don't agree, you're gi away too much. 

And Michael's piece is a fine piece of analysis, but I'm not sure what you find in there that's distinct from other coverage. He speculates on a possible Kerry meeting, which is an interesting thought. But he offers no evidence. He quotes some dodgy bloggers from Israel and un-bylines writing, something that I would never do as a journalist. And that unnamed person makes the serious claim that McCully went rogue. If it's true the media would be all over it, so let's see what is said aboit that before believing anonymous sources, eh?

Oh and Michael has spent most of his career in the MSM.

by Peggy Klimenko on December 31, 2016
Peggy Klimenko

Tim: "...but if you discard professional journalism because you don't agree, you're gi away too much."

It emphatically isn't a question of whether I agree with a journalist's take on an issue: it's that in the course of the US election campaign, and in the MSM to which I have access, we didn't get journalism of the sort that Michael Field gave us in that link. That's my beef. It doesn't matter a jot what I or anyone else thinks about what a journalist writes on an issue: what matters is that journalists engage with issues and that they have the knowledge and background to recognise the complexity of the situations about which they're writing. I say again: I did not see or hear - or read - this sort of journalism in those parts of the MSM to which I have access. I certainly saw and heard - and gave up reading - much more cheerleading for the Clintons than I could tolerate.

"...Michael has spent most of his career in the MSM."

I'm well aware of his provenance; I've been around a good while, and I've been reading and listening to him probably since before you were born. I linked his article because it is an exemplar of what I expect to get - but mostly don't - in the MSM.

He brings a wealth of experience to his journalism. In that Israel article, he draws together a range of pieces of evidence and on that basis, speculates on what might have happened. Nobody is obliged to agree with him, but he makes connections for the reader that we would not necessarily have had the knowledge to make for ourselves. That's what I expect of journalism.

Among other things, he says: "New Zealand’s media has abdicated any role in reporting on or defining the country’s foreign policy. It accepts a line that foreign policy is about trade while the actual policy itself is worked out behind closed doors, and in this case, by Foreign Minister Murray McCully."

He's spot on. We're very poorly served by the NZ media in this regard especially, and it is to our great disadvantage. The media cannot hold the government to account for its foreign policy, and we the citizens are ignorant of the extent of what's actually being done in our name. Complacency rules: people think that everything the government does with regard to foreign policy is unexceptionable, because the MSM is apparently unable or unwilling to do the job of finding out what is really going on and reporting on it.

Elsewhere in the Field article: "As one New Zealand diplomat put it, commenting on this issue, New Zealand ” diplomacy is still conducted very much in secret, indeed much more so than in other democracies”. The diplomat added the New Zealand media didnt have the specialists to pursue international issues”. Using the Official Information Act to find out what happens is no longer effective as it had been “gamed by ministers and comprehensive PR has been a hall mark of the Key regime.”"

We've had indications from reportage on RNZ of the problems that their journalists are having with getting information via the OIA on other topics. With regard to the secrecy surrounding diplomacy and foreign policy formation, it's clear that the lack of specialist journalism in this arena allows that state of affairs to remain unchallenged, which undermines our democracy. Until the government is forced by the media to be more transparent, we are in no position to criticise or lecture other polities on the failings in their democracies.

by Dennis Frank on January 01, 2017
Dennis Frank

Tim's prediction that Trump "will betray so many of the people who voted for him as an act of protest and desperation" may come true - I predicted online a month or so back that the more sensible and centrist he becomes the more likely it gets that an alt-rightist will (feel betrayed &) assassinate him.

But why assume that Trump will copy Obama?  Obama's betrayal of the left on entering office eight years ago seems too much of an inconvenient truth for Tim to acknowledge.  Need leftist solidarity be quite so banal?  Or does Tim recall Obama issuing a feeble excuse for breaking his campaign pledge to close the US torture center at Guantanamo Bay - one sufficiently cogent that Tim will be happy to reproduce here to prove that leftists aren't really as morally-corrupt as the right?

Obama's eight years of posturing provides an exemplary demonstration of how to achieve a content-free presidency.  His feeble excuse (`the Republicans wouldn't let me do anything progressive') seems reasonable unless one notices that Bill Clinton got legislation through in the same situation.  But Clinton was a deal-maker.

Obama's expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats is intended to punish Putin for perceived interference in the US election campaign, so Putin's decision to refrain from reciprocal expulsions of US diplomats is an innovative repudiation of the traditional exercise of statecraft at the top level.  Trump's prompt approval signalling that Obama's empty gesture is irrelevant will have sensible folk the world over agreeing. Everyone knows hackers target the establishment, regardless which country they operate from.  The DHS/FBI report contains no proof of Russian govt involvement.

Foreign policy on the basis of speculation is puerile.  Obama's administration just looks like a bunch of lame ducks quacking loudly.  After more than 30 years of hackers doing their thing, any political organisation not employing competent security professionals to protect their enterprise ought to suffer the consequences. Obama isn't man enough to point out that they ought to take responsibility for their failures - trying to deflect public attention away from poorly-performing yanks by blaming Russians who are exploiting the opportunities is like shooting rabbits for eating your lettuce in your garden because you're too lazy to fix the hole in the fence that they enter through.  Pathetic.

Some yanks are capable of getting real:  "Jonathan Zdziarski, a highly regarded security researcher, compared the joint action report to a child’s activity center.  Tom Killalea, former vice-president of security at Amazon and a Capital One board member, wrote: “Russian attack on DNC similar to so many other attacks in past 15yrs. Big question: Why such poor incident response?”

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/29/fbi-dhs-russian-hacki...

I'll be just as keen to judge Trump as Tim, but we have to wait till the rubber hits the road.  Will the wheels come off rapidly, or slowly, or will his administration run soundly through four years?  I'd put the odds at 50:30:20 so far, but if the flakiness is just to entertain us & spook the establishment, they'll even up...

 

by Charlie on January 01, 2017
Charlie

Tim, in answer to your questions:

"do you say Trump did not use race baiting to win the election?"

Yes I am saying that, and the onus is on you to show us where he did, rather make rash claims and then not back them up with facts.

Two examples:

Firstly his call to close the southern border has nothing to do with race and everything to do with preventing illegal immigration. American workers are tired of illegal immigration undermining wages, increasing lawlessness and burdening the taxpayers. Do you want a million Indonesians coming to NZ? Because that's the same thing. Trump voters only wanted the rule of law to be applied.

Secondly, the fact is that Muslim immigration into any western nation represents a massive security threat. (Oh and by the way, Islam isn't a race.) The evidence is there for all to see. How many attacks and how many deaths does it take for you people to realize there is a problem here?

What evidence do you have of non-residents voting and of Clinton encouraging illegal acts? 

You DO live in a bubble!

Didn't you watch the Project Veritas tapes?

There they have a Democrat organizer bragging about such things. Bussing people around to vote multiple times, putting people into Trump rallies to start fights and lots of other illegal acts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IuJGHuIkzY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDc8PVCvfKs

(best reporting in 2016 in my opinion)

Moving on to 2017: Tim, brace yourself! Brexit and Trump were just the entree. Your PC worldview is likely to be shattered by election results in Europe.  ;-)

 

by Peggy Klimenko on January 01, 2017
Peggy Klimenko

Dennis Frank: "Obama's eight years of posturing provides an exemplary demonstration of how to achieve a content-free presidency.  His feeble excuse (`the Republicans wouldn't let me do anything progressive') seems reasonable unless one notices that Bill Clinton got legislation through in the same situation.  But Clinton was a deal-maker."

Exactly. When Obama was first elected, we in this household thought that he would struggle to achieve anything as president, because a) he's black (not for inside-out reasons, but for outside-in reasons: the Republicans would do everything possible to prevent him doing anything of note), and b) he had no record of having any expertise at all in the political process. Too aloof, too academic, was a common criticism at the time. And any critique of his performance would be characterised as racism; which has turned out to be the case.

Whatever one might think of Clinton, he is superb at politics: Obama is not, though he can give a good speech. Clinton can do both, of course.

Obama's expulsion of the Russian diplomats comes across as an adolescent tanty; Putin's response simply underscores that. Likewise the US abstention on the UN Israel resolution: a spiteful, last-gasp attempt to box in his successor, coupled with his resentment at Netanyahu's support of Romney in 2012.

Charlie: yes indeed. I was also sent links, among other things showing Clinton campaigners beating up hapless Trump supporters. I sent many links to RNZ, in the hope that journalists there would take notice of them, and that coverage of the campaign would become more nuanced as a result. Unfortunately, it didn't work.

We'll all just have to wait and see what a Trump presidency looks like; probably best not to underestimate him, though. We are perturbed at his stance on Iran; we hope that realpolitik will prevail there in the end. Which is probably more likely if Kissinger becomes a foreign policy advisor, though the Washington neocon interventionist schtick will be a considerable hurdle.

by Tim Watkin on January 02, 2017
Tim Watkin

Charlie, laws on Mexican immigrants change from state to state. I get the law argument but the reality with the number of migrants we're talking about, their place in the economic and the geography, talk of a wall is clearly playing the race card. There's no practical policy in that, just exploiting fears.

And do you know the facts of all those Muslim attacks in America? Four in two years I think. Certainly worthy of care, but not merely religious crimes and it seems bizarre to me that you would want to stop the free movement of a billion people. You could just as easily ban the migration of Africans, for example. Let's not pretend lazy prejudice and stereotyping is anything other than it is.

by Tim Watkin on January 02, 2017
Tim Watkin

Charlie, thanks for giving me a perfect example of why I keep banging on about the virtue's of the oft-derided mainstream media. If your world view is being informed by a guy like O'Keefe, who is a conservative activist pretending to be an "investigative journalist" then it's going to be a pretty skewed one. Now THAT'S a bubble!

This is a self described leader of a "guerilla army". His first campaign was based on a faked confrontation that he taped himself and he's carried on his set-ups, including those trying to prove election fraud by Clinton. He puts people undercover on campaigns of people he doesn't like (not onto the campaigns of people he supports). These are ethics that would be rejected by any serious newsroom. He's lost a lawsuit, been arrested by the FBI and even Glenn Beck has distanced himself from him. Still, he's been a favourite of Breitbart and, NBC reports, has even been funded by Trump (if that was a politician you didn't like, my guess is that you'd be outraged).

In fact he's been funded, according to PRWatch, via a trust that specialises in hiding the identity of donors and, in one case, by a conservative activist prior to O'Keefe carrying out a sting on one of his opponents.

As for your great reporting on crossing state lines, that liberal bastion TIME raises doubts about it, given his record if splicing together video to skew the facts. And says a short-term sub-contractor was fired. The New Yorker (yep, a liberal publication, but one that factchecks within an inch of its life) calls it "feeble". It certainly wasn't enough to prove anything; indeed one of the people accused publicly asked for the full unedited tape to be made public. The NYT followed up some of his claims (shock: liberal MSM actually checks out all kinds of stories), spoke to people involved and got another version of events.

I mean, c'mon, he's a Slater-type con figure. He's paid to stir it up. This is exactly the stuff – political spin and attack ops dressed up as investigative journalism – that is killing public trust in media which do actually subscribe to an ethic of independence, act without fear or favour and follow evidence in a non-partisan way. Sure, those media may lean left or right and make mistakes. But this guy looks like little more than a hatchet man.

If anyone's looking to understand why people are so concerned about post-truth (the fact that there are no agreed facts any more as a foundation for public discourse, because so many people are willfully muddying the waters), then this guy is a great example. He's a classic example where you can imagine people reading him, sharing his stories and taking him seriously, without understanding how far removed he is from serious journalism.

Peggy, again, given your reply this is a perfect example of what I'm trying to say to you. You can disagree with my analysis all you like, that's right and proper. But if you fish around online and find this nonsense and give it the equivalence of a professional, impartial news organisation, then you're being played. Real journalists checked those stories about the beating up of Trump supporters and found them wanting. You were asking about post-truth and fake news; well this is it.If RNZ and others didn't report your tips, this is why. It's because it's been checked by trusted agencies and been either unproven or found to be wrong.

It's not just 'he says, she says' or 'another way of looking at it'. There's no equivalence here. It's stuff created and paid for by activists and people with an agenda to win elections. Whatever other failings you ascribe to the MSM, presumably you don't think everyday professional journalists do that. I can only presume you know that they are not taking money from donors, picking sides or conducting such unethical 'stings'. (Or if any rare rogue is, they'd be fired in a heartbeat). This is just not journalism.

by Tim Watkin on January 02, 2017
Tim Watkin

Dennis, I'm not quite sure why the hostile tone and name-calling. I'm not going to go into my thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of Obama's record (it's mixed, as with any presidency), but I will point out that contrary to your assumptions (no idea where they come from), I've been quite critical of Obama and the many disappointments of his tenure on this site and others. I even agree with some of your points.

by Charlie on January 05, 2017
Charlie

Tim,

A few matters arising

Illegal immigrants

You're dissembling on this topic. If they have gained entry to the USA by illegal means then it matters not how individual states treat them once they're over the border. They're still illegal: It's a federal crime.

Democrat corruption

You cannot argue against the facts of the matter, so you attack the source. You know what that is: ad hominem. Nice try!

During this election campaign, the left leaning media threw all their weight in favour of Hillary. Every single chat show anchor and every news reporter turned into an attack dog against her opposition. They were an absolute disgrace to their profession. One decent piece of investigative journalism undermined the whole charade and now you're crying foul? Really?

Before you get carried away, I'm no fan of Trump either, but I think it's likely that I would have voted for him because he was slightly less nasty than his opponent.

by Dennis Frank on January 05, 2017
Dennis Frank

Nothing personal intended, Tim.  My hostility is directed at the leftist belief system that has been a handicap to progress for far too long.  Any perjoratives I used were certainly not an attempt at `name-calling', but rather what I believe to be accurate descriptions of the problem.

It's just a question of balance.  The leftist demonising of Trump simply replicates a similar demonising of John Key.  Acknowledging the negative behaviour of leftist political leaders along with a similar critique of the rightist ones would come across as fair to centrists like me.  A reasonable person will make allowances for how others with different values & beliefs have evolved on that basis due to their cultural niche & origin.  It's a nature/nurture paradigm, in which we can understand how some parts of a personality & character seem innate while others are produced by social environment & circumstance.  

I just find it offensive that leftists always pretend to be humanitarian & then go around denying the humanity of people unlike them.  The right are often guilty of the latter - but usually without the former hypocrisy, so they seem more honest in their bias & prejudice accordingly.  Anyway, as I've mentioned in prior comments, I share your scepticism re Trump, just as I saw the flaws in Key, but still see them both as valid reps of their constituency selected by democracy & deserving a fair go...

by william blake on January 05, 2017
william blake

It seems fair to compare Trump to Key in their post truth, post political, ego tripping vanity projects; talk of Left - Right bias has never been more redundant.

To ascribe merit to being an "honest" bigot in the comments of Tim's piece balancing poverty with narcissism is nothing short of breathtaking in its poverty of spirit.

by Dennis Frank on January 05, 2017
Dennis Frank

An excellent demonstration of leftist sectarian bias, William.  So all those poor folk who voted for Trump after being made victims of globalist neoliberalism have no place in your universe.  Such selective compassion reinforces the point I was making.

by Tim Watkin on January 05, 2017
Tim Watkin

Charlie, acknowledging complications is not dissembling. Just ask those who endured the dawn raids in NZ.

The point is your bald application of the law would be both disastrous and impossible. For a start, unauthorised immigrants make up five percent of the US workforce. About 2/3 of unauthorised immigrants have been in the US 10 years or longer and about a quarter have children born in the US. Then there are the unaccompanied children. Good luck dealing with the economic and social fallout from 'just applying the law'.

You may not be aware that Obama set a record for deportations (while conversely Regan gave amnesty to three million in his attempt at immigration reform) and the trend is downwards. You may also not be aware of sanctuary cities and their policy to not alert federal authorities when they come across unauthorised immigrants.

So it's not nearly as simple as you paint it. Which is why so many politicians have spent so long trying to find compromise. Oh, and that line of yours about a million Indonesians coming here is kinda silly and scare-mongering. That would be the equivalent of 80m unauthorised migrants from one country arriving in the US, whereas you've got 11m total from the whole world.

As for O'Keefe, read my comment again and you'll see I did question the facts. For a start, it seems has hasn't released the source material as requested and has a history of editing video to skew the truth. And yes I attack the source. If we've learnt nothing else in the past year, it's that sources matter. It's a very simple take, which surely anyone, including you, would agree with: People with partisan agendas or who are paid by one side are not journalists and what they do is not 'investigative journalism'. End of.

by Tim Watkin on January 05, 2017
Tim Watkin

Well, Dennis, you did make it personal. But I appreciate the clarification.

I fear you're tilting at some pretty rare windmills, however, and maybe your concerns about the leftist sins you see are blinding you to the fact that Trump isn't just one more tricky old politician.

I for one don't draw much of an equivalence between Trump and Key, and few are. I think Key's ethics will undermine his judgement by history, but Trump has taken political discourse to a new low. His was such an unusually divisive and foul campaign. He went from spinning to outright deceit.

So I think Trump is worthy of unusual coverage by the media, just as any demagogue with vast power demands extra supervision. I don't think, as you suggest, that he's just someone with different values and beliefs. That's a Rubio or a Bush etc. I would still have been disappointed if Clinton had lost to them, but you roll with those things.

Trump for me is much, much more dangerous. For me, he undermines some basic tenets of fairplay, of the US political system, of basic decency and sense. So for me, reducing it to 'left-wingers are more judgemental than right-wingers' is missing the elephant in the room. That is, this guy is very, very dangerous and terribly unsuited to the job and the exercise of government powers.

by Dennis Frank on January 06, 2017
Dennis Frank

Well Tim, I've reviewed what I wrote on New Year's day and I've been unable to find any personal criticism.  Since I believe it's always important to play the ball rather than the man, I'm reassured - but of course folks often take something personally that was not intended as such, because feelings work like that.  They self-identify with their beliefs too much for their own good.

I point out when the leftist belief system prevents an adherent from being open-minded because I see the damage being done by that sectarianism.  We need a center-left government in Aotearoa now, but we won't get it unless leftists shape up and collaborate with centrists.  Their belief system seems to keep them fixated on a failed prescription - when innovative progress is required.  If the Democrats had presented with an authentic positive alternative rather than the Clinton fakery, Trump would not have succeeded.

by Tim Watkin on January 06, 2017
Tim Watkin

Glad you didn't intend to play the man, Dennis. 

Need leftist solidarity be quite so banal?  Or does Tim recall Obama issuing a feeble excuse for breaking his campaign pledge to close the US torture center at Guantanamo Bay - one sufficiently cogent that Tim will be happy to reproduce here to prove that leftists aren't really as morally-corrupt as the right?

I took from that a rather snippy tone, that you were calling me banal and an erroneous suggestion that I had made some defense of these people call you call leftists and was blind to Obama's failings. Words matter. 

I do think you're making some sweeping generalisations about the left and right, which make me dubious. And while I agree Clinton prompted some anti turnout that hurt the Democrats, I think it's wrong to simply say another candidate could have won. There were so many variables at play. For example, a better advertising plan and ground game in those rust belt states could have still won it for her. Equally, she would likely have won without Comey or if the 'grab them by the pussy' tape had come a week later.

by Dennis Frank on January 06, 2017
Dennis Frank

It is the indoctrinated compulsion to exhibit leftist solidarity - even when there's no basis for it - that is the behaviour induced by the belief system.  That's the slippery slope of banality where evil lurks at the bottom.  Given that the left have slid down a few times the past century, I expect them to learn from the experience.  Koestler did.

I've just finished reading the kiwi leftist author Dick Scott's autobiography.  He did. But this important learning ought to be just a transition toward a higher stage of integration of political thought.  That's what I mean by leftists learning to work with centrists in a common cause, formulated on the basis of defined common interests.

Aspiring to such intelligent collaboration may indeed seem like windmill-tilting, but I've always been reluctant to write the left off as terminal losers.  Anyone is potentially able to get their act together and form a concord with others.  It's only the psychology of sectarianism produced by their antique belief system that makes them prefer fighting amongst themselves...

by Charlie on January 06, 2017
Charlie

Tim

Yes, the illegal immigrant problem is a difficult one and yes I agree with all the figures you presented.

So how to deal with it?

Do you kick the can down the road and pretend the problem doesn't exist like Obama has done?

Or do you throw your hands in the air and say it's all too difficult as I think you're suggesting.

A useful analogy would be a leaking boat. Sure you can man the pumps but first prize is to fix the leak and then begin to attend to the water already in the bilges.

You know, like building a wall? ;-)

If I was President I would be looking at some form or triage like Reagan did, but that's only useful if you've already established control of the border.

(As a aside, one of the reasons I chose to live in NZ is its naturally strong borders. People were writing about the looming refugee/immigration problem over 20 years ago and I thought that thousands of miles of cold, angry sea were far more effective than any wall)

by Jude on January 08, 2017
Jude

Good post, Tim. It is a pity that it has had such a hostile reception. 

I am very concerned at the prospect of President Trump and the Republican dominated legislature. The lies, populist agenda and vitriolic rhetoric from Trump in his campaign; his total lack of experience in politics and government; the myopic cabinet he has surrounded himself with; and his refusal to sever himself from his business or take advice from those outside his small circle just heighten this concern.

All of this poses a huge threat to international relations, the environment (combatting climate change in particular) and equality in the USA.  

by Stewart Hawkins on January 12, 2017
Stewart Hawkins

Charlie - agree with you 100%. Came here for the same reason too. The invasion of Europe by potentially nearly the entire population of Africa and the Middle East has been as obvious to me as the idiocy of those politicians that are enabling the replacement of Western Civilisation with Islam. Trump recognises the threat at least the USA faces, I can only hope he carries through with the wall and Muslim ban. Keep up the good work mate. On NZ's strong borders I think we need to look at a combined RNZNavy / Customs approach to our borders which currently appears to be fragmented and ineffective, according to recent press reports.

by Tim Watkin on January 12, 2017
Tim Watkin

Thanks Jude. Yep, it's a worry and it doesn't get any better. I don't imagine it will.

Stewart, your hyperbole does you no favours. Using words and phrases like "Invasion" and "nearly the entire population of Africa and the Middle East" amount to fear-mongering. Especially when you're in part talking about the desperate movement of refugees and others running from war. I'm be amazed if you'd do any different from them.

And the navy and customs do work together. But do let me know when the invasion of our borders begins!

by Tim Watkin on January 12, 2017
Tim Watkin

Charlie, what do you mean by kicking the can down the road? Obama has taken a tougher line on illegal immigrants than any previous president, certainly in terms of the number of deportations. And he's tried to get immigration reform through congress, to no avail. You may disagree with his solutions (though maybe not; your rhetoric suggests you're not aware of the hard line he's taken), but I think it's a stretch to say he's not tried something, or that he's kicked the can down the road.

I'm interested you're critical of Obama yet like Reagan's approach, when he gave amnesty to around 3m illegals. That's hardly the 'obey the law' line you have taken in this thread, is it? For me it seems sensible, but seems at odds with your views.

I'm suggesting that immigration laws change, and they need to change in the US. I agree that the rule of law should be enforced. Equally, no solution will be perfect and inevitably some families will be divided. But the solution needs to respect the importance of keeping families together, needs to consider the impact on the US economy (unemployment is down, immigrants are often hard workers and do jobs others won't do), and has to be sustainable. There's no point passing pie in the sky laws that deal with reality. Or building walls, when illegal immigration is falling or other reasons and so much of the border is fenced or patrolled already at huge cost.

You know something though... one sure way to start those number of illegals growing again is to damage economic growth in Mexico by, y'know, undermining its auto industry and the like.

by Peggy Klimenko on January 15, 2017
Peggy Klimenko

Tim: "If your world view is being informed by a guy like O'Keefe, who is a conservative activist pretending to be an "investigative journalist" ..."

And we've got a bunch of the other sort, of course: liberal activists as investigative journalists. And no doubt they annoy the hell out of conservatives.

I hadn't before seen the links to Project Veritas that Charlie posted, but I'd heard the information therein from other sources. And I guess the counter to O'Keefe's provenance would be that if the information he's obtained is verified, the means by which he got it is of less moment. I'm reminded of reaction to the Watergate scandal, prior to release of the tapes.

"This is exactly the stuff – political spin and attack ops dressed up as investigative journalism – that is killing public trust in media which do actually subscribe to an ethic of independence, act without fear or favour and follow evidence in a non-partisan way."

It's long years since I took at face value anything reported by the media. It was access to academic literature and academics, coupled with the emergence of the internet, that made me realise how much of what we'd thought of as straightforward news reportage was nothing of the sort. Over a lot of years, we've been subjected to propaganda regarding much of what's gone on in the world since WW2. For instance, as a consequence of reading Chomsky, I now assume that the CIA is - as likely as not - behind any political instability in South America and the Caribbean. With regard to people such as O'Keefe, I take what they report with a grain of salt as well, but I wouldn't dismiss it outright.

"Real journalists checked those stories about the beating up of Trump supporters and found them wanting."

I didn't send any of that to RNZ; the links regarding the beating up of Trump supporters that I was sent consisted of mobile phone footage, filmed without commentary and uploaded to the internet. They weren't attacks at rallies, either: just random stuff in the street. Not very pleasant viewing.

".... post-truth and fake news; well this is it.If RNZ and others didn't report your tips, this is why. It's because it's been checked by trusted agencies and been either unproven or found to be wrong."

Ha! Much more likely that my messages drowned under a tsunami of other messages coming in at the same time, or were just ignored. It's a pity that RNZ staff weren't able to follow up on stuff that I and others sent them. Or if our links weren't considered reliable, that they didn't in any case look beyond what the polls were saying and investigate the dissenting voices in the US and elsewhere. Because it scarcely needs reiterating that more sceptical reporting and analysis would likely have meant that they wouldn't have been caught flat-footed by a result they weren't expecting. Put another way: we were right and they were wrong.

Dennis Frank: "leftists always pretend to be humanitarian & then go around denying the humanity of people unlike them.  The right are often guilty of the latter - but usually without the former hypocrisy, so they seem more honest in their bias & prejudice accordingly."

A fair criticism. It's worth remembering that the Democrats did broadly the same thing to George W Bush that they're now doing to Trump. It didn't have the desired effect then, either.

Tim: "If we've learnt nothing else in the past year, it's that sources matter."

It seems that lesson hasn't been learned, at least in respect of the Russian hacking furphy.  http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/13/did-the-russians-really-hack-the-...

Jude: "I am very concerned at the prospect of President Trump and the Republican dominated legislature. The lies, populist agenda and vitriolic rhetoric from Trump in his campaign; his total lack of experience in politics and government; the myopic cabinet he has surrounded himself with; and his refusal to sever himself from his business or take advice from those outside his small circle just heighten this concern."

This chimes with Dennis Frank's critique above of leftists. During the election campaign, the msm delivered us a picture of Trump that was relentlessly negative, to the point that some of us began to doubt the picture being painted. Here's an account that articulates what some of us were thinking: https://contraspin.co.nz/how-liberal-media-turned-trumps-opposition/

He's been elected: we can't gainsay the US voters, and nor should we try. It remains to be seen what sort of president he'll be.

Tim: "...one sure way to start those number of illegals growing again is to damage economic growth in Mexico by, y'know, undermining its auto industry and the like."

I doubt that the citizens of the US rust belt who've been screwed over by the neoliberal bulldozer would care a fig for the Mexican economy. You're asking of them a degree of altruism that they don't have the inclination for: they've suffered enough. That's why they voted for Trump.

 

 

 

by Peggy Klimenko on January 16, 2017
Peggy Klimenko

This link is worth a read. The Democrats ought to take his advice, but won't, of course. Reading it, I thought that much of what he says could equally apply to the NZ Labour party. He's a software developer, not a journalist, but even so...

http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=7268

by Jude on January 18, 2017
Jude

"He's been elected: we can't gainsay the US voters, and nor should we try. It remains to be seen what sort of president he'll be."

Peggy, both of those articles you linked to in your comments above made some good points. Good reading and food for thought for the Democrats and MSM that wrote Trump off, and with him, the disillusioned white working class of the Rust Belt and other swing state voters that approved of Obama in 2008 and 2012.

However, there is a obvious difference between political appeal and connecting with voters on the one hand, and on the other, designing and delivering effective policies that benefit a country and society as a whole in the long term. i.e. good government. Trump arguably represents the former, and Hillary, arguably, the latter. My dire prediction for the Trump regime concerned the latter; based on the person that Trump is, the policies and rhetoric he campaigned on, and the administration that he has put together thus far.

I'm not trying to relitigate the election (the Democrats and others have wasted enough time already on that) or marginalise those who voted for Trump -- and I'll bet Tim isn't either: his point doesn't target the Rust Belt Trump supporters, but rather the incongruity of Trump castigating illegal immigrants in the US and at the same time looking to destroy economic growth in Mexico through bullying trade policy.

To suggest that we should all give Trump a free reign and the benefit of the doubt is to bury one's head in the sand and ignore the story thus far.


 

 

by Peggy Klimenko on January 22, 2017
Peggy Klimenko

Jude: "there is a obvious difference between political appeal and connecting with voters on the one hand, and on the other, designing and delivering effective policies that benefit a country and society as a whole in the long term. i.e. good government. Trump arguably represents the former, and Hillary, arguably, the latter."

Clearly, enough US voters disagree with this assessment of Clinton that Trump has been elected. Voters did not like or trust Clinton; moreover, her campaign team's flub over the critical electoral college votes sealed her fate. The Trump team out-manoeuvred her team in this area. A politician of her experience ought not to have been shown up in this fashion - and by a political newbie to boot - on a fundamental aspect of the US electoral system.

With regard to policy, she was proposing Obama-style business as usual, especially in the foreign policy area: a disastrous miscalculation on her part. She was an enthusiastic advocate for TPP, only reluctantly changing her stance when faced with voter opposition. I think we can be certain that, had she been elected, TPP would have been back on the table quicker than you can say ISDS. Her characterisation of Trump supporters as "deplorables" went down like a bucket of cold vomit, as we saw.

US society is fundamentally conservative, east and west coast liberal fringes notwithstanding. What happens there in terms of domestic policy really isn't our business, however much we might deplore some aspects of it.

My concern is US foreign policy; the neocon interventionist stance which has prevailed for many decades has been catastrophic for millions of innocents worldwide. If Trump can reset at least some parts of that policy - especially, but not exclusively, with regard to NATO and relations with Russia - it will be a relief. It might even reduce the risk we all face from ISIS and other jihadist groups. It remains to be seen whether he can bring about substantive change in this area, but I hope that's possible.

"...his point doesn't target the Rust Belt Trump supporters, but rather the incongruity of Trump castigating illegal immigrants in the US and at the same time looking to destroy economic growth in Mexico through bullying trade policy."

My point stands. Those Rust Belters voted for Trump; as did Latinos, women and African Americans, in numbers that came as a bit of a surprise to political commentators. And of course Latinos would vote for him: in virtue of what should we suppose that they would side with illegals, many of whose all-too-evident crime and drug-dealing besmirches the reputations of all Latinos in the US legitimately?

Voters impoverished by neoliberalism and free trade obviously had little concern for the Mexican economy. And it isn't up to us to blame them for that. We don't have to live their reality.

I'm not a Trump supporter; I'm an observer. And my initial comments about the US election were a criticisim of the msm, both here in NZ and elsewhere, for its over-reliance on opinion polls, unmistakable pro-Clinton bias, and resulting failure to see what was coming. This despite many of us imploring journalists at outlets such as RNZ to look beyond both those polls and US msm opinions masquerading as reportage. I haven't changed my views.

by Jude on January 25, 2017
Jude

Peggy, we will never know the full gamut of reasons (and the weight of each of the reasons) why Americans voted Trump in, but it's safe to assume that Trump's policy nous and political experience was one of the lesser ones. So to that extent, my point stands.

However, I think we're having different discussions, largely talking past each other. I'm lamenting the fact that America just made Trump the leader of the free world. You're telling me why that occurred.

by Tim Watkin on January 26, 2017
Tim Watkin

Peggy, I'm obvisouly still not making myself clear. You should always read media with your antennae on and not take anything at face value, be it leaks from the CIA, Chomsky Or anything in between. But please recognise the difference between opinion, analysis and news, for one. Three very different things that are all media.

but more importantly distinguish the activists masqueradimg as journalists. Sure there are liberal and conservative voices in the media. But if they are professionals seeking the facts and working for independent news organisation, they should be read differently than the O'keefes who are paid by people fighting for certain policies and ideologies To make stuff up. Yes, if stories are proven to be true how they were gained matters less. But you can't say 'oh the O'Keefe story may be verified so the provenance may not matter'. Because it won't be verified. It's been shown to be dodgy as hell. This isn't a guy doing his best and making a mistake or getting the truth through questionable means, this is a guy paid to attack opponents. Please, there is a huge difference. 

Post new comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.