Quick Shots

I miss being able to blog about things in the world. Writing here helps me process and understand things. My comprehension of reality has reduced while I’ve been busy. Anyway, to spare you lengthy tortured posts, here’s some quick thoughts.

Shipwreck: A ship on a reef leaking oil, and the election just changed again. Our PM is under pressure from the media for a change, and he’s not coping. Key has been protected from tough questions his entire premiership for this reason – he can’t handle the pressure while keeping his smiling “nice Mr Keys” persona going. It won’t cause a huge desertion of the National party by voters, but expect Key’s preferred PM #s to drop and the Greens to continue to gather up votes.

OvalBall: I’ve never seen our country like this. The Rugby World Cup really has become a national celebration (even as the promised economic benefits fail to appear, SURPRISE). When we roadtripped up to Hastings and back a few weeks ago, the whole route was lined with festive signs. All Blacks flags in so many windows, flying from so many cars. And so many other flags! And every little town dressing up in global-village finery for the visiting rugby teams. A genuine spirit of love for the game, huge applause for the little-guy teams when they play well. It’s quite a wonderful atmosphere. I’m genuinely delighted. (Of course, if the All Blacks lose to Australia this weekend, there’ll be… well, not riots. But it will be rough. And hard to avoid even if you care not one tiny fig about rugby.)

Occupy: Yes yes, the Occupy Wall St movement has a vast overrepresentation of university-educated hipsters, and elides differences between middle class and working class, and hasn’t articulated unifying principles, and harbours madness on its fringes. It is important to note all of these things. But for heaven’s sake, don’t mistake these concerns for justifications not to celebrate the appearance of a genuine grass-roots societal justice movement that is driving the conversation in the US. (The US being the society whose abject brokenness all other Western societies are striving so hard to match.) There isn’t a completely different movement that does a better job waiting in the wings. This is the shot we get. Wish it well.

Who: loved Matt Smith’s performance this season of Doctor Who, but my enthusiasm for the show as a whole is at a very low ebb. Moffat as showrunner has lost me completely. His big villains are a complete failure of storytelling craft, and the more you try to forgive that, the more holes show up elsewhere. I stand by my earlier call: Torchwood season 4 > Doctor Who season 6.

Climate in Court

I was mostly intending to stay quiet on the court challenge to NIWA’s temperature record on account of it being nonsense and well-covered elsewhere, but last night while watching Outrageous Fortune (NZ free-to-air = graphic rendition of a twincestuous threesome in an 8.30pm show)(scene played for pathos) I followed a link to Poneke’s blog comments, where Iwi/Kiwi advertising guy John Ansell was holding court.

He referred to the Inconvenient Truth court case in the UK: “the movie was banned from schools” he said. Another commenter challenged him: “Banned?” he was asked. “Yes, banned in its original form.” I couldn’t resist mocking this farcical display, to which he replied with further dancing around the subject and pretending “banned” was an appropriate word to use when of course nothing of the sort was ordered by the judge.

And it strikes me that this is exactly what the court challenge is designed to do – not merely to gain the oxygen of publicity, as I’ve read all over, but to provide another chunk of narrative that can be circulated through the denier infosphere, heavily manipulated into service of their pre-defined conclusions. It isn’t intended to convince anyone of anything – but a year or two down the track, *whatever* happens, this court case will be one of the talking points mentioned by the John Ansells of the world, one more factoid in the rolling maul of misinformation and disinformation thrown out by people desperate to believe in a comforting conspiratorial lie.

Coincidentally, Ansell has just now gone off the deep end on race. Charming.

(See also this headache-inducing Kiwiblog thread where friend-of-FTM Repton tries to take up a wager on the outcome of the court case. The other party has gone strangely silent as of this writing.)

Emissions Trading Begins

The NZ emissions trading scheme launches in NZ today. It’s a market-based mechanism putting a price on carbon emissions as a means of holding back climate change, or more correctly, a step towards full-cost accounting in the environmental arena.

It’s a good thing. The ETS is riddled with holes and problems, according to sources I trust (e.g. this book co-authored by the very smart economist and all-around good egg Geoff Bertram), but fundamentally I’m pleased that we’ve managed to get a price of some kind on at least some of the carbon emissions generated out of NZ. There has been a fair bit of shouting about the ETS, including a protest at Parliament and lots of letters to the editor, but my impression is that these objections didn’t run deep – the public perception is in support of an ETS (c.f. Now We Have Won).

The Key government has delivered something worthwhile here, for all their many flaws. Yes, it is a full six months after the deadline Key set for imposition of the ETS, but it’s still 2010 – not too late to get changes rolling. So Key, in the end, wasn’t a Rodney – well, not as much of one as I feared. I suspect Nick Smith deserves some kudos for this, because you can be certain he was talked to about backing down from the ETS plenty of times but he has withstood this pressure. Well done that man.

The international effects of this will not be small, either. We are another country putting our markets where our mouths are, and even if we’re not nearly at the level the science calls for, we’re part of a growing consensus that action is needed and needed now. Our ETS will influence our trade partner nations and others besides. It’s a worthy and important position in which to be.

It’s important to note, however, that this isn’t the end of the story, but rather the long-delayed beginning. As Bertram & co’s book notes, our ETS needs to be improved, made more fair and comprehensive and convincing. Ordinary households are going to feel the bite at the petrol pump and the power bill, with corporations relatively insulated from the new costs – that needs to change. Popular support for the ETS needs to continue at the current level despite the extra costs starting to pinch. Indeed, popular support for the ETS needs to grow. It’s a massive communications challenge and one the current government will think twice about working on, especially if it starts to hurt their electability. Once again, the responsibility falls at the feet of ordinary people like me and you to think about the scheme, judge the costs worthwhile, and spread that message around.

Anyway. It’s a good day. I’m happy.

Mining Protest Was Mining Protest

There were a lot of people there. The house monkey spotted me and my Cal in this crowd photo from Scoop’s coverage (and I found him in this one). Ran into china_shop, who pointed out how weird it was that the speakers kept citing The Economist (thanks to this article that rips into this nation’s environmental credentials).

The fellow moose was elsewhere in the crowd, and mentions it at the end of this post. Also there was Stephen Judd, who adds a mighty GRAR, too. Both the dancing moose and Mr Judd lead with another story I hadn’t even heard of until their posts: sacking the democratically elected Environment Canterbury council to make way for some National cronies. See also Brother Knife. The Nats have opened the ‘gates and it’s all rushing through now. Expect morer, and worser.

A few dates short in the scone department

The above title is from Claire Browning’s great response to Gerry Brownlee on the subject of mining. It’s a clean and precise rebuttal. Read it. (I found it via the Dim-Post.)

I was talking to Dale yesterday about this and we shared our confusion at this whole situation. As Dale said, how can they not see this as a big vote-loser? Where are the gains to balance that out? Claire expresses similar feelings down in the comments, with the post title above being one of her explanations for the behaviour on display. I am no wiser. I’ve heard some conspiracy theories that it’s about controlling the media while other changes get pushed through, or about putting this or that MP over, and the govt will pull back and say “sorry folks we listen love us!” but I don’t have any faith in the present govt’s ability to run that kind of disciplined strategy, and Brownlee has totally nailed his credibility to this endeavour so I don’t think an elegant backdown is possible any more.

Insanity. So I’m intending to get to the protest today at Parliament, 12.30 to 1.30.

Mining on conservation land

I can’t even bring myself to write anything coherent on this subject. The calculated gains are so petty and the symbolic cost so huge (let alone the real costs) it just infuriates me.

If you’re a Kiwi, write to the PM about it. I just did. He’s at j.key@ministers.govt.nz and you can write to him this very moment. Stephen Judd has a great exemplar.

(If you’re not a Kiwi, feel free to write as well – living up to the international branding of NZ as clean and green is important to our tourism industry.)

Edited to add: the estimable Keith Ng rips into the facts, rationally.