April 17, 2010
First past the post versus democracy
The BBC reports a poll for The Sun which shows the Conservatives leading the popular vote with 33%, the Liberal Democrats second with 30% and Labour third with 28%. While the poll is almost certainly an outlier, the big tell is what this would mean in parliamentary terms: Labour would be the biggest party with 276 seats, the Conservatives the second biggest with 245 and the Liberal Democrats the third with 100.
Savour that for a moment. Under the British first past the post electoral system, the party with the smallest share of the vote (of the big three) would get the greatest number of seats. The Conservatives, with 5% more support than Labour, would get 31 fewer seats. The Liberal Democrats, with 2% more support than Labour, would get barely a third the number of seats.
Next year, New Zealand will be holding a referendum on electoral reform, with one of the options on the ballot being to go back to a British-style first past the post system. The current British election shows that this would be a terrible, terrible choice. You can have first past the post, or you can have representative government: you can’t have both.
March 31, 2010
Presented without comment. Well, maybe some comment
Evil ambush journalist and well-known DFH Oliver Driver allows Rodney Youth Section Leader Rick Giles to self-destruct on the subject of Earth Hour. Money quote: “I think my argument is so powerful that it's not necessary to talk about it.”
But Giles is dissatisfied with his presentation of the Argument That Is So Powerful That It’s Not Necessary To Talk About It, and records a statement in response “without Oliver Driver ‘jamming’ it.” Awesomely, this is even more batshit insane than his original interview, especially the bit at 1:30 where he explains that “tomorrow, Hiroshima, the communists, the Islamists and, I don’t know, all of Genghis Khan’s hordes are coming.”
Oh, you may mock now, but when those Mongol horsemen swim ashore at Cape Reinga, then you’ll be sorry you didn’t leave your electrical appliances turned on when you weren’t using them.
October 24, 2009
If only he really had been
Shorter Nick Griffin: “Being asked questions by the public makes me the victim of a lynch mob – quite unlike people who’ve been beaten up or murdered by gangs of BNP thugs for having the wrong colour skin.”
August 23, 2009
At least not in Wanganui
Shorter Michael Laws: “If, after enacting a law against something, incidents of that something still happen, the law has failed and should be revoked. Compare, for example, the drink driving laws, after which nobody ever drank and drove again.”
July 30, 2009
He who controls the present, controls the past
BBC News on Russia’s plans to criminalise ‘false’ histories: “The country sees its victory over Hitler's forces as the greatest moment of the 20th Century. The war is sometimes discussed in the news media as if it were a recent event, not increasingly distant history. Any attempt to tarnish the glory of that triumph is seen as a deliberate attempt to make Russia look bad. Russia’s past haunts its present.”
March 01, 2009
Small businesses and "fire at will"
Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn observes that the Employment Relations Amendment Act – the “fire at will” law that allows small businesses to sack employees within the first 90 days with no process and no reason – comes into force today, and advises, “If you have any sort of choice at all, I suggest not working for a small business.”
This is an obnoxious law, but this is terrible advice on how to respond to it.
Yes, there will be small businesses which abuse their employees by using this law to sack people because they fall sick or complain about discrimination or decline to work overtime, or just for no reason at all.
But many, many small businesses will want nothing to do with this kind of behaviour. My own employer, Mindscape, is a small business – currently the two directors and me – and I find it inconceivable that we would use this law in an abusive way. Wellington is a small town: word of abuse would spread almost instantly around our potential employee pool. We want high-value people, and high-value people won’t waste their time on an employer if that employer has a reputation for screwing people around. It’s bad, bad advice to suggest that people should choose an EDS or a Datacom over a Mindscape just because we’re covered by the “fire at will” law and the big companies aren’t.
Obviously, different businesses and different locations will be more or less affected by such considerations. A small manufacturing shop in Auckland employing semi-skilled labour could get away with abuse for a far longer time than a software development shop in Wellington. (Though it would be interesting to see if an “ERAA Watch”-type Web site a la NoCowboys could gain any traction in warning people about abusive employers.) Nevertheless, small businesses tend on average to need higher-value employees, and these people often do have a choice of where to work, and will therefore choose an honest employer over one with a track record of abuse. The mantra of “you don’t shit where you eat” remains an important one for businesses of all sizes.
Small businesses are a lot of fun to work for, much more than big businesses, and with plenty more opportunities for their employees. I’d hate to see people put off working for great small businesses like Mindscape just because this obnoxious law gives free rein to the bad ones. Better advice would be, “If you have any sort of choice at all, I suggest not working for an arsehole.” And that applies no matter what the size of the business.
[Note: I usually don’t bother with this disclaimer because it’s bleedin’ obvious, but since I used the word “we” when talking about Mindscape I should probably make it clear that I am speaking only for myself, not for my employer.]
November 09, 2008
Election results thoughts
It was a foregone conclusion that National would win the election: the only question was whether they would need a coalition partner and if so who it would be. The result was the worst possible: ACT. So, just as the rest of the world is finally discovering how big a disaster Chicago School economics is for all except the most rapacious of plutocrats, here comes an unrepentant Roger Douglas to do to the New Zealand economy what his fellow disciples have already done to the economies of South America, Russia and Iraq. (When John Key spoke at TechEd, he mentioned that Roger Douglas had said privately that Douglas wanted to see a crisis in New Zealand to shake things up. To readers of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, this pattern will be chillingly familiar.)
Interesting, though, that National also brought United Future into the coalition, and are still talking to the Maori Party. We were a bit puzzled at Vic and Jono's election party as to why Key was doing this when National plus ACT alone had a majority, but thought it was probably to give National some wiggle room when ACT's policies are too obviously electoral suicide. But it may also be symbolic. National plus ACT got only 49.1% of the popular vote, and have the seats only because NZ First didn't reach the 5% threshold. National plus ACT plus United Future, however, brings the coalition to 50% or just over of the party vote, allowing Key to claim the fig-leaf of a true popular majority rather than a mere plurality.
Finally, it seems ridiculous that NZ First with 4.2% of the vote got no seats, while ACT with 3.7% of the vote got 5 seats. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased to see the corrupt, racist Winston Peters finally kicked out of NZ politics (at least for now... I guess nobody thought Roger Douglas would be back either); but there's clearly something wrong here. I assume the 5% threshold was meant to ensure that parties had to have a reasonable base of support before they got into Parliament, but in practice it hasn't worked that way -- it just favours minority parties with entrenched electorate MPs -- see ACT, Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton. Some rethinking needed here, surely.
July 31, 2008
Presented without comment
In future, whenever someone asks me why I moved to New Zealand, this is the article I shall point to.
September 06, 2007
So not going back
BBC News: "The whole population and every UK visitor should be added to the national DNA database, a senior judge has said... Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said... 'I think there is a case for a compulsory database.'"
I've no wish to live in the UK again, but I would have liked to be able to visit my family again some day without being pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered, thank you very much.
June 15, 2007
BBC News: "[Scooter] Libby's lawyers ... argue that Libby was not able to present a full defence because classified information could not be discussed in court."