Note to Subscribers — this is the last email

January 4, 2011 Leave a comment

If you are currently subscribing to this blog and thereby receiving emails when I publish posts, this will be the last you get.  The blog, now renamed is now hosted independently and no longer generates such notifications.

Believe me, I want you to keep following me — you are the best, most loyal readers I have.  Please add me to your bookmarks if you haven’t already, or add an RSS feed or some other fancy alternative.

And this way, I won’t be clogging yup your inbox. so we all win.

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Last poll of the year, and Gallup shows Obama at 50 percent approval

January 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Just before the mid-term elections in the US in November, I made a series of dire predictions which turned out to be a little optimistic in the House and a tad pessimistic in the Senate (or the reverse if you are a Republican I guess…scary).  Anyhow, I added the following prediction right at the bottom.

President Obama’s approval to reach 50 percent by end of 2010.

to which I added, after the shellacking:

I dare to dream.

I had to wait till the absolute last tracking poll of the year for my prediction to bear fruit.  As anyone who follows these things will know, when one talks of presidential approval ratings one is invariably referring to the gold standard:  the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll.  And, after six months below fifty, this happened:

Obama Job Approval Reaches 50% for First Time Since Spring

Returns to that level for first time since late May/early June 2010

by Jeffrey M. Jones

PRINCETON, N.J. — Barack Obama’s job approval rating reached the symbolic 50% mark in the latest three-day average from Gallup Daily tracking. Obama’s approval rating has been in the mid-40% range for much of the latter half of 2010. He last hit 50% approval in a three-day average near the end of May/beginning of June.

That is a healthy number for this point in a presidency, and relatively impressive when you consider high unemployment and widespread economic gloom.

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Reader Question UPDATED

January 4, 2011 Leave a comment
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My New Year’s Resolution: to guest-blog at @tnr #thenewrepublic

January 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Jonathan Chait: I would giggle if I met him, seriously. Super-smart. Great writer.

Before I ever held in my hands a copy of The New Republic, I liked the idea of The New Republic. As a young leftie with centrist leanings in mid-to-late eighties’ New Zealand, the notion of a magazine solely dedicated to points of view with which I could almost always agree seemed impossibly exciting. In my patchy recollection, NZ only had the Listener back then and, by dint of its status as the country’s solitary news magazine, it was obliged to cover every point on the ideological spectrum, as if trying to illuminate a dense forest with a dim torch.

At around 17, I discovered a bookstore in Wellington that featured an extensive collection of magazines that weren’t called the Listener, including — to my great delight, as if I had found a stash of porn in my Uncle’s unsupervised shed — The New Republic. Whenever opportunity allowed, I would make my way to Unity Books on Willis Street and furtively glance through the latest edition, although they were never very recent. To give you an idea: it was 1987, but I remember reading something about Geraldine Ferraro. I never purchased The New Republic because the cost of freight inflated the price well beyond my meagre means, especially after I had typically blown whatever cash I had at McDonalds on Lambton Quay on the way from the station.

It should come as no surprise, then, that, upon moving to the States in 2009 to pursue my dream of accessing cheaper subscriptions for magazines like The New Republic, I subscribed to The New Republic. (In fact, it’s fair to say that I engaged in something of a subscription binge, which explains the arrival each month of Condé-Nast Traveller, an event that never fails to startle me).

Perhaps Unity Books nostalgia clouds my view, but I maintain that TNR is a great magazine. Even if it warrants some of the criticism it seems so prone to attracting, the magazine (and, increasingly, the website) almost never fails to hold my interest. As I have written before, Jonathan Chait is my favorite writer on US politics — and his colleague, Jonathan Cohn, is indispensable as well, especially on heath reform. (Bernstein is one Jonathan too far, if you ask me, but this post is designed to suck up to TNR  so I will keep a diplomatic lid on it.)

So there it is: my New Year’s Resolution is to, some way or how, secure a guest-blogging spot at The New Republic.

P.S. I will change my name to Jonathan if necessary.
P.P.S. While it makes for clunky prose, the repetition throughout this post of the magazine’s name in both full and shortened forms — The New Republic, The New Republic, TNR, TNR, TNR — is my attempt to attract their cyber-attention.

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Rhetorical Gay-bashing, then and now #lgbt

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

For unrelated reasons, I discovered two quite startling examples of homophobia during the course of other carry-on today. One is rather quaint, the other quite vile. Both are funny.

The first comes from some ongoing research I was doing into the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, a religious cult that have captured the multi-billion dollar addiction industry in the name of an intolerant Protestant God. AA sprung from the vile waters of the Oxford Group which was itself aligned to the Moral Re-armament movement: an especially virulent clique of wowsers, hypocrites and ant-Semites. I knew this before today, albeit vaguely, but I must admit that I was pleased to learn that the spiritual founder of Moral Rearmament, Frank Buchman, was also an incorrigible Nazi sympathiser and self-loathing closeted homosexual. It was in this context that I read the following passage from a 1954 Moral Rearmament brochure advising people how to spot a gay:

There are many who wear suede shoes who are not homosexual, but in Europe and America the majority of homosexuals do. They favor green as a color in clothes and decorations. Men are given to an excessive display and use of the handkerchief. They tend to let the hair grow long, use scent and are frequently affected in speech, mincing in gait and feminine in mannerisms. They are often very gifted in the arts. They tend to exhibitionism. They can be cruel and vindictive, for sadism usually has a homosexual root. They are often given to moods.

. . . There is an unnecessary touching of hands, arms and shoulders. In the homosexual the elbow grip is a well-known sign

I could de-construct this litany of stereotypes line by bigoted line, but fear that doing so would reveal too much of my cruel, vindicative, sadistic and moody homosexual root. It’s best to leave it alone, pristine, as a prize exhibit in the Museum of Rhetorical Gaybashing.

The second item is a video that speaks — nay, hollers! — for itself.

I would love to dab on some Gucci by Gucci, pick out my finest green hanky and neatest suede loafers and mince my way into the meeting where the Ugandan delegation follows through on the threat to demand that President Obama defend gay sexual practices on behalf of America’s sodomites.

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MediaSlapper: Journalists Interviewing Each Other…in 1973

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

A second new feature here at is MediaSlapper, a corner of the site dedicated to discussing issues concerning new and old media, its history, future and the tiny sliver in between.

Because I am not required to raise or supervise children, care for elderly or infirm family members, procure my household’s water supply from increasingly fragile sources, hunt or grow my own food, or engage in any form of armed conflict to protect my village’s way of life, I have spent a pleasant couple of hours this afternoon at NZ Onscreen. If you are similarly unperturbed by famine, drought, disease, ethnic strife, war and the obligations of child-rearing, I sugest you take a look, especially for the K-One-W-One’s amongst you. This is an extraordinary archive of New Zealand film and television footage, and quite a jaunt down Memory Lane, not to mention Nostalgia Street and Well-Before-My-Time Crescent. (You can find Billy T, Gilding On and music video of Moana and the Moahunters, among much, much else).

I watched a 1973 interview with Labour PM Norman Kirk on a current affairs show called Gallery. Given that I was only 3 years-old at the time — and didn’t start following politics closely until just after my fourth birthday — I missed the show at the time. I have edited one chunk and will upload it here and it actually doesn’t feature Kirk at all; if that interests you, you can find the whole interview here. (What a gently-spoken, intelligent man!).

What I have included here is a minute or so from the lead-in piece to the Kirk interview that focuses on the then-new PM’s stellar diplomatic performance at the 1973 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) meeting held in Ottawa. What is intriguing (to me, at least) is how they feature door-stop interviews with two journalists (one of whom, Peter Costigan, happened to serve as Melbourne’s Lord Mayor between 1999 and 2001).

This technique of holding press conferences to allow a gaggle of reporters to interview other reporters (presumably chosen because of their seniority and/or proximity to the story that is making the news) struck me as odd, but it plays out here as if it is standard procedure. (As I write this, I asked my Dad on the phone whether this approach was common, and he doesn’t think so). Does anyone who reads TheNewTasman (which, in case you’re wondering, is what you’re reading now) remember whether this was indeed a normal practice and, if so, when and why it died out. If so, please let me know.

The criticism that journalism boils down to “reporters interviewing reporters” is commonly applied to our current media culture. Take this fairly typical piece of finger-wagging from an extremely stern blogger at

Journalists interviewing each other as part of news coverage and analysis has become an epidemic. It is particularly egregious on TV and on the radio, but print and online publications share the blame as well*.

Good to see there’s plenty of blame to go around — but this clip demonstrates that, at least for some of the time, news reporters doubling as newsmakers is not really news at all.

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Obama must rewrite the playbook

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

My latest piece in the Business Spectator published here.

While the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives guarantees tough times ahead, a roadmap has emerged from the past eight weeks that sets Obama on a discernible path to re-election.

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