You had your time in the limelight so just leave with your dignity in tact

Just reading yet another example of someone so jaded that they lash out like a wounded animal at anyone close by (link). At first, just after the election of Donald Trump, I gave Hillary Clinton the benefit of leniency given that the election was a horrible experience with it culminating in someone grossly unqualified being made president. I could understand that after working within the system for years to start to second guessing oneself, wondering whether one had done something wrong, whether something that could have been done differently and questioning the system itself that she had grown to respect given her legal training and involvement in politics. I personally don’t think that she would have been as angry had it been someone like Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush winning because had the election being fought on policy rather than having to deal with the constant barrage of conspiracy theories, the blatant sexism etc. 

The problem is that here she is almost 4 years later and still haven’t moved on from 2016 – who is she trying to hurt? She is lashing out at Bernie but is it really going to help her get over the loss in 2016? She is allowing Donald Trump to live rent free in her brain rather than moving on resulting in the only person she is hurting is herself. Something I learned long ago, after being screwed over at a company I worked for, do I allow myself to get wound up where every minute of the day I am constantly bitter and angry at the person who slighted me or do I move on to better and greater things?

What is also pathetic is the lack of self awareness or more correctly how Hillary Clinton loves to play the victim when she doesn’t get her own way – it was her campaign that created the felicitous accusation that Obama had the ‘Obama Boys’ which had no basis in reality but she played the misogyny card. This same move was done when Bernie Sanders ran as a candidate with the same garbage regarding ‘Bernie Bros’. In the most recent primary the same nonsense was tried by the Kamala Harris supporters aka KHive labelling anyone who dared to question her track record as prosecutor or her policy positions as ‘misogynist’ and ‘racist’.

Ok, and if Hillary Clinton is going to play the game that the candidate is responsible for what their supporters do then would it be fair to link birtherism (link) to Hillary Clinton’s campaign?

“There has never been evidence that Clinton or her campaign started the birther rumors,” said Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, who as a POLITICO reporter in 2011 linked the origin of the “birther” movement to a fringe politician in Illinois. Some hardcore Clinton backers circulated the rumors in 2008, but the campaign itself steered clear.

After all, a small number of Clinton supporters started spreading the misinformation – using the same criteria should Hillary Clinton apologise? Step down? Perform self flagellation to demonstrate true contrition or should people be expected to behave like adults and accept that we aren’t responsible for what others do in our name when it is clear that there is no connection between ourselves and that particular persons actions? This is what happens when you weaponise identity politics, be it the identity politics of the right wing or the liberalism, rather than arguing based on track record and policy you end up with the likes of Donald Trump. In the case of Donald Trump he offered simplistic solutions and peddled in white identity grievance culture where he framed ‘the white man’ as the perennial victim but he, the great man of history, was going to swoop in and save them and make them great again. The lack of analysis which involves the intersection between class, race and other identities (intersectionality) results in a grotesque bastardisation of identity politics which ultimately fails to help the very people it is claiming to advocate for.

Fueling anxiety to generate more demand…

When you take economics at high school the very first thing you learn about is supply and demand – the ‘customers’ have a demand for a given good or service then the that sends a signal to the marketplace to which the response is the creation of businesses that meet that demand. The point of marketing? to tell the consumer, “hey, you know that thing that you’ve always wanted? well, we make that very thing!” and if there is a competitor making the same product then that marketing will also talk about why your particular product is better than the competition. Like many things you learn in economics, when first starting out, the explanation is simple and straightforward – there is demand and in respond someone addresses that demand through building a business to produce a good service or service. Once everyone has obtained that given product or received that particular service then how do you have a repeat customer? you create an upgraded version but what happens if customers are happy with what they have even after explaining all the benefits of the new version? well, there is planned obsolescence where you’ll say that you will only provide software updates for a set number of years but then there is a more ingenious way of getting to people.

With the rise of YouTube a whole new genre of videos emerged in the form of ‘unboxing’ and ‘product reviews’ which are another avenue of marketing that a business can take advantage of. A business will recognise that a certain reviewer has a large enough audience and will send a review unit so then, rather than having a someone from the business speaking about the product you have someone whom the audience already has a parasocial relationship with – a sense of implied trust that the person speaking is speaking from a place of genuineness rather than it being the result of that person simply carrying out their job as a spokesperson for the business aka “I have no skin in the game so I’ll give the upfront truth”. Then there are the influencers, be they online such as Instagram or offline, that imply that if one wishes to be ‘up with the play’ and on the ‘cutting edge’ then one should get this new product or service that they are using.

Then there is the role of social pressure which is amplified not only through real world interactions but also through social media. Where such products and services are seen as embodiments of social capital – friends and family only ever uploading videos and photos of the good things in their life thus giving the perception that everything is going well with examples of that success being that they have bought in terms of ‘symbols of success’ (along with the cultural cachet that comes with it) such as the latest phone, laptop, desktop or some intangible such as a holiday. The company taps into the angst over whether you’re missing out/falling behind your social circle and because we’re social creatures we want to conformt to be seen as part of the group – we’ll of course try to justify the purchase to ourselves but ultimately it is the peer pressure to ‘keep up with the Jones’ and be part of the ‘in crowd’ which will shape our behaviour.

Then there is the atomisation of society of individualism off the rise of capitalism then it taken to the extreme with the rise of neoliberalism and its emphasis on the individual but as noted before we’re social creatures so in lieu of a sense of a community based identity a new form of neo-tribalism has developed around companies, products, sports teams etc. where we associate our own self image to the image that those particular vestiges of identity which are associated with particular brands, sports teams, products etc. If one were to slip into Marxist mode, one could see this as an example of people trying to deal with alienation by substituting real relationships based on shared interests, values, religious beliefs etc. with the fetishisation of commodities then creating common interest around that shared commodity usage through virtual communities online.

The below video makes a light hearted look at the situation – reminds me of when I see an smart watch, I think of all the things that I could find useful but then I quickly realise that I’m trying to justify an impulse buy rather than a situation where the product itself is addressing unaddressed needs that existed before the arrival of the product to the market claim to address a need that in reality never actually existed in the first place.

On the matter of the recent defeat for the left wing and what lessons can be learnt…

I thought I would leave it for a few days before writing something about the recent defeat of Labour UK at the most recent election. There is a process of post mortem about what went wrong and during this time I am reminded of a saying my boss used to say about ‘controlling the controllables’. The meaning of that is the idea that there are things that we cannot control and we shouldn’t fixate on those but instead focus our energies on the things that we can control. In the case of working at the restaurant I was employed at – we couldn’t control the hours of operation, the location or a host of other issues but we could control the freshness of the cooked ingredients, speed of service and the regular maintenance of equipment to ensure that customers can buy the products when they want it.

When it comes to politics the left wing will always be at a disadvantage when compared to the right wing – we don’t control capital or the means of information dissemination so any time we are given an opportunity to spread our ideas we need to ensure that peripheral issues aren’t taking away the focus. In the political world there is a limited supply of ‘oxygen’ and we need to use that ‘oxygen’ in the most effective way possible. If we are spending our time defending ourselves because we’ve surrounded ourselves with people who have a questionable past or associate with questionable people then that valuable ‘oxygen’ will be wasted trying to defend a decision that could have been avoided had that appointment not take place. The net ‘being on the defensive’ results in the focus moving away from being spent on policy and instead it is focused on being in defensive mode. The most recent example of that would be the article by Tina Lowe (granddaughter of NAZI collaborator) entitled ‘Bernie Sanders has an anti-Semitism problem’ (link) by virtue of Linda Sarsour being a surrogate for the Sanders campaign for president. Why focus in on Linda Sarsour? because of her relationship with Louis Farrakhan. I made some tweets on Twitter pointing this article out, not because I think that the accusation holds any water (the accusation by dismissing Bernie Sanders as ‘merely culturally Jewish’ which lays the foundation for the reader to draw the inference rather than the author coming straight out with it) but rather the fact that the right wing in the United States are already starting their dirty tricks campaign against Bernie Sanders early.

Then there is the man himself, Jeremy Corbyn, who had a low approval rating even before the media got a hold of ‘Jeremy’s dumbest quotes’ that the media repeated on regular basis. After the 2017 election he should have stepped aside and allowed a fresh face to carry the ideas forward without the person advocating them being a distraction. A position I’ve always stuck to is this, if you go for the top job and you fail then one should at least have the humility to admit that maybe you’re not the right person for the job and allow someone else to take over leadership. It is something that Hillary Clinton should have done the first time around when running in the primaries against Obama, when she lost she should have stepped aside and let a new generation of leaders come through. Not all people are destined to be leaders – some are better suited to being technocrats who work behind the scenes to get things working and others have that charisma about them which can unite people from within the party and outside a party towards a set of objectives. There is also the matter of antisemitism within the party, there are many videos talking about it but this one is pretty succinct:

Then pair that up with Corbyn referring to Hamas and Hezbollah as ‘friends’ and a ‘force for peace and justice in that region of the world’ then I think it is fair to ask some pretty serious questions as to whether he is antisemitic or at the very least tolerates it. Then there is an astute observation by Howard Jacobson regarding how conformable Jeremy Corbyn appears when surrounded by antisemitic people (Ken Livingstone and George Galloway to name a few). Then to compound the situation further is the denial by supporters online (and in real life) who attack anyone who bought up the issue of antisemitism within Labour as if it were some sort of ‘vast right wing conspiracy’. As @JewishWorker noted in a recent tweet:

So when allegations were raised regarding antisemitism within the Labour Party it should have been taken seriously rather than having the usual noise makers on social media and the the real world smearing any who dares to bring up the issue by labelling them as ‘angry Blairites’. The net result of that defensive posturing? it re-enforced the conclusion that Labour has an antisemitism problem and that they’re in denial.

Regarding the attempts to try to draw parallels between Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, I would be cautious about drawing such parallels simply because Corbyn was never a popular person outside the legion of supporters who signed up as members. When it came to polling, Labour never had a chance of ever winning which is why I keep reminding people that Twitter (and social media in general) doesn’t equal the real world. Yes there was a lot of momentum and excitement but these were pockets of echo chambers that never represented the real world. Compare that to Bernie Sanders and when they have done polls in terms of a ‘Trump vs. Sanders’ the end result is Sanders comes out on top where as where as with Corbyn he was unpopular and remained unpopular even after the electorate had a better look at what he stood for.

The big question is whether the left in the United States learn from the mistakes made in the United Kingdom or whether the left in the United States waste that valuable ‘oxygen’ justifying who they appointed to various positions or whether they defuse the situation by having a top to bottom audit of everyone involved in the campaign and remove anyone who has the slightest hint of possible associations with undesirable characters such as Louis Farrakhan. The right wing are testing out the waters so even though The Washington Examiner is a right wing tabloid the reality is that the right wing media is very much the human centipede of news – eventually it’ll make its way to Fox which in turn will eventually make its way into the mainstream whether you like it or not:

Policies also need to be realistic – politics aren’t about making giant leaps forward that cause disruption and instability but a gradual progression forward which involves ensuring that you bring not only along your ‘hard core’ supporters but also the wider society into your vision for the country – this is the reason why I talk about the need to focus on the general trend (are we moving the overton window to the left and shaping the discourse to our advantage) rather than whether we get everything done in a single election cycle. There is no use in sitting around boasting about being the most pure of the pure in adherence to one’s ideology if the net result is that you lose every election but you have the smug satisfaction that “well, I kept to my principles and never compromised”. Congratulations, rather than getting into power and being able to make incremental changes to improve the lives of millions of voters you have instead engage in purity boasting only to lose the election and now millions are going to find that their conditions will keep getting worse. Here is a good interview outlining just that:

When came to the issue of Brexit, although there was a graph (circulated on Twitter) which showed it was the second most important factor for why people did not vote Labour (behind Jeremy Corbyn being the leader sitting at the top of that list) the survey was based on people who turned out to vote. The question I ask is how many didn’t turn out to vote because they would normally vote Labour but saw a second referendum as a betrayal but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for one of the other parties. Ash Sarkar posted on her Twitter feed a graph with voter turnout, over the last 40 years the voter turnout has been going down with the parties fighting over a smaller and smaller number of voters. How many of those who saw the promise of a second referendum as a betrayal of the first referendum would have turned out had Labour steadfastly said that the British public voted Brexit and we should work to get the best possible deal for Britain? if the remainers within the party accepted the result rather than trying to relitigate the past and throwing a temper tantrum of “I’m going to vote for lib-dems if I don’t get my own way” then one has to ask whether the defeat wouldn’t have been as bad.

Regarding the what one could call ‘the liberal establishment’ (sometimes known as the ‘liberal census’) or what the journalists who describe centrism as in the following video:

The class of people that the journalist refers to don’t make up the majority of the electorate and they never have – 40 years of capitulating to the Islington/London liberal cosmopolitan set has resulted in 40 years of declining voter turn out for the Labour Party with the culmination being 15 years of wandering around in the wilderness where neither Blairism and Corbynism have addressed why people stayed home and not vote who in past elections would have voted for Labour. Corbynism went to far in the crazy direction (see comment in video about foreign policy, views regarding IRA, Hezbollah, Hamas etc) direction and Corbyn was the wrong person to advance it but if there is a drift back closer to the centre left in terms of of retaining scaled down versions of those populist centre left policies then there is a good chance of winning back those voters who held their nose and voted Tory at this recent election.

Activists also need to take a good hard look in the mirror – the woke brigade of self appointed upper middle class white folks, who embrace on a superficial basis language of social justice but lack a coherent class analysis because they’re addicted to virtue signalling, made it easy to portray the left as out of touch elitists who have a vanguardist condescension about themselves which amounted to talking at the working class rather than listening to the working class. When you tell an already down trodden people without power or influence that they’re horrible humans for voting for Brexit and that they’re racist, xenophobic for ‘not making the correct decision’ then is it surprising that will be a backlash? Same can be said for what happened in the US with Hillary Clinton’s ‘basket of deporables’ which the media and Donald Trump campaign run with then compounded it further where Hillary Clinton pretty much said, “I won in the states that matter”. There is no use talking about having a working class movement when you can’t even lead the working class out of a paper bag.

Things work out for the best in the end

After having the experience with Clove regarding ordering a Pixel 4 XL then finding out that they none in stock I resigned myself to the fact that I’ll probably never get a Pixel 4 XL. Well, as they say, it all works out for the best in the end and in the case of my unsuccessful attempt to buy a Pixel 4 XL it allowed me to hold off and as a result I’ve ended up saving over NZ$600 by buying it from Amazon thanks to the sale that they’ve got running.

I’ve got my domain setup with G Suite along with all my music backups being backed up to the cloud – 1TB total storage available is more than enough for not only now but also into the future as my music collection expands further. Everything is working reliably with the uploading of my music backup being an overnight process which, at the time of this post, has just finished.

When it comes to my finances – things are going well particularly now that ASB have finally realised that, “hang on, we’re a bank so why are we getting involved with our own payment platform” so the net result has been not only ASB supporting Apple Pay but also ASB also supporting Google Pay as well. Along with that ‘change of heart’ they’ve also finally modernised the app on Android so it no longer looks old and out of date look which is a nice change.

Regarding the Pixel 4 XL – the case, earphones and phone will arrive next week some time which is around the same time that the new GST rules kick in. What I will find funny is whether retailers will get the expected ‘windfall’ after claiming for years that the reason why they’re struggling is because overseas retailers have an unfair advantage because stuff bought from overseas slipped under the allowance (the allowances’ removal comes in effect on 1 December 2019) so it was artificially cheaper because no GST was charged (the rate of GST in New Zealand is 15%). I’m sorry to say this but they aren’t going to see a sizeable uptick because those who buy things from overseas fall into one of two categories 1) The product is considerably cheaper when buying it from overseas even if you were to include the cost of postage and packaging along with the GST being charged as it has come through customers and/or 2) The product simply isn’t available in New Zealand such as me having to order a Pixel 4 XL from Amazon because no New Zealand retailer sells it.

WINZ policies: The law of unintended consequences

One of the first things you learn when you take economics is the law of unintended consequences particularly when it comes to policies enacted by government – tax loopholes implemented with the best of intentions, such as not taxing an uncompleted home, so what happens? a sea of half finished houses and the government left wondering, “why aren’t we collecting as much revenue as expected?”.

There has been a quick to and fro on Twitter regarding this very issue and one of the biggest problems has been that the labour shortages have been in areas with unpredictable or seasonal work. Due to the way in which the welfare system is setup, if you apply for the unemployment benefit they calculate a stand down period based on what you were earning and then extrapolate from there the theoretical basis on which one could support oneself on the assumption that one would have saved a certain amount of money. In other words, a means tested system to sift through those who need help immediately vs. those who can wait based on their individual circumstances.

The problem with such a system is that there are a lot of baked in assumptions. The first assumption is one of the person being able to save money from a job with an unpredictable schedule such as a seasonal worker or even if they a fair amount of hours the assumption that they went into the job on a strong financial footing. Let’s assume the person had been unemployed for 6 months, building up debt and bills are in arrears so what is the first thing you do when you get a job? you start throwing as much of your money onto the bills and debt to get yourself in a good financial situation. Lefts assume after 6 months of seasonal work is it unreasonable to expect that maybe the person has saved no money?

The second assumption is modelling a cost of living on anything but what the client is actually spending to support themselves. As someone who has gone into WINZ, they never asked me what my rent or mortgagee is, what my power, telephone, internet or any other obligations. If you’re going to means test a system to calculate a stand down period then wouldn’t it make sense to find out what their outgoings are? sounds kind of strange if you’re trying to work out when and what kind of help a person needs given their circumstances when you disregard the most poignant questions that need answering.

The third assumption is the abatement system where a person can earn up to a certain amount before they start losing part of their welfare payment. Right now it is sitting at NZ$83 before tax but seriously, who is going to hire someone to work 4 1/2 hours per week? when the cost of getting to work and getting back home (assuming that day care isn’t required) pretty much wipes out any benefit gained from the job. So you’ve got a situation where employers aren’t going to hire someone who is restricted to 4 1/2 hours per week and someone desperate to get experience along with getting some extra money to make life a little easier. Given that situation does the abatement system as it current stage encourage of discourage people on welfare to seek job opportunities when they arise?

The forth assumption is when it comes to emergency assistance where assistance is only provided when you’re about to get evicted from ones house or when they’re about to turn off the power. The problem with that? there are many jobs these days where a credit check is part of the employment background check and when WINZ allows people to get to that state then it limits ones options when it comes employment. So when one is faced with a destroyed credit record and dealing with WINZ or taking ones chances with a loan shark then is it surprising that many find themselves into financial dire straits?

So in conclusion we have a situation where assumptions are made which don’t fit reality, parts of the economy with unstable jobs cannot find employees because the welfare system hasn’t adjusted to that new reality in the job market and those who do depend on the welfare system are stuck in a ‘catch 22’ between receiving assistance, trying to get experience plus some extra money on one hand then balancing it up with the cost of that experience such as reduced welfare and the additional cost of getting to and from work each day (not to mention organising day care if one has children).

The solution is to firstly get rid of the stand down period and where possible automate the payment system to avoid needless visits and utilise the existing online services that WINZ currently has when it comes to reporting income. What I mean by automated system is this, I worked as a seasonal worker which tracked the university year so why not plug the dates in when the universities holidays are then send me on my merry way where unemployment kicks in when I don’t have work and when I do pick up extra work I can report it via the website? People will be more willing to take on seasonal or contract work if they know that when there is down time that they can receive assistance without the hassle and drama associated with the current situation. There is am army of willing and able employees but the question is whether WINZ is going to be there to support or punish.

When it comes to abatement, triple or quadruple the amount one can earn before abatement kicks in – it is a quick financial stimulus into the economy because low income workers spend all their money (as was seen back in the 1990s in the US where the majority of the tax relief went to the low end up which kick started the economy) as well as giving individuals opportunity whilst ensuring that there is a safety net if the job doesn’t follow through which is particularly important given the unstable nature of employment these days. If employers are worried that employees might limit themselves then be better employers – offer stable hours with better conditions and pay as an inducement to move from being on welfare to working full time. The motivation to move off welfare needs to be provided by the employer not WINZ trying, through making life as difficult as possible, to get people to take up full time employment.

When it comes to emergency assistance – the focus should be on ensuring that assistance is provided before it turns from a manageable situation into a full on crisis. It is like finding cancer early – the earlier you find cancer the higher the likelihood of survival because the disease is manageable in its early stages where as if you leave it until too late then it would pretty much require a miracle. Same situation when a person falls behind on rent or power – the time to deal with financial hardship is when it is manageable. Also, they need to stop with this nonsense that someone who is asking for a grocery assistance is doing so because they’re bad with money – all the ‘budgeting advice’ in the world isn’t going to change the reality that if someone has next to no money they cannot magically make more money appear out of nowhere no matter how much the policy wonks at WINZ try to make it out be so.