Friday, 27 April 2012

The Standard: "There's no such thing as 'rational' debate!"

For those of you not familiar with the website, The Standard is a blog hosting various lefties, environmentalists and socialists. I had never previously commented there but had read their stories from time to time. In an effort to pimp my own blog I signed up and began discussing the Crafar Farms deal. But I found myself rubbing a moderator the wrong way. Was it my language? Was I asking for trouble? You decide!

It began with my discussing the Crafar deal - outlining it as I have done here – and a user wondered about how Allan Crafar himself fared as farm owner and manager:

I commented that Allan Crafar himself was looking to offload the whole damned farm himself which caught the eye of the kind and friendly moderator, 1prent, who responded in bold:

I wasn't particularly perturbed but felt he was being rather rude so I provided a source and suggested he might want to apologise. This obviously flew in the face of 1prent's hallowed beliefs so it must be wrong and I must be a gullible fool for swallowing such a ridiculous story. Hence I mustn't be able to read let alone understand what I was reading:

I was feeling a little bewildered by this point. I couldn't understand why this user was getting so upset by what I had presented. Undeterred I provided some more information. Perhaps, if I explained myself better, we could be friends. 

Ahhhh but it was not to be...

Now I was highly amused. Obviously this was a guy not used to being wrong. Not only wrong, but wrong on his own goddamn territory!
"Oh no! I'm losing! Quick, pile on the denigrating comments!"

The most amusing remark was that I was trying to swing my e-dick around. The accusation coming from a guy who was telling me,
"I'm a moderator round these parts and I can block you whenever I damned well please, hur hur hur".

Well, I couldn't leave this just hanging out there so I made, once again, a disarmingly polite yet direct comment (at this stage 1prent had logged in instead of merely moderating):

Wait what?
"I don't think that anyone didn't know that"?
Hang on buddy...weren't you the guy who said,
"I have never seen anything that said the Crafar's were trying to sell the 16 farms"

I didn't have time to reply as something interesting was happening further down the page. 

You'll notice I say,
"...I find it ironic you are berating me for not providing links yet lower down in the page you are berating me for asking others for links"

Let's have a look at that bit now. This gentleman named "vto" was complaining that no one could explain to him how foreign ownership was better than NZ ownership. I had called him up a few times on this blatant Strawman argument because no one, anywhere, had said foreign ownership was better. I explained this once again and got the following response:

John Key and all his government has claimed foreign ownership is better? Really? I would like to see a source for that claim.

I wasn't quite sure what 1prent was going on about and before I could query him a second moderator jumped in:

Nice save RedLogix! The strawman just wasn't enough so Redlogix decided to spice things up with a Burden of Proof fallacy. That'll surely confuse him now!

Ahhh but I am cleverer than that:

1prent again jumps in to save the day! 
"We aren't interested in formal rules"

Whoa whoa, back the fuck up buddy. Aren't you you the guy who said,
"Stating something as fact generally requires that you link to it to substantiate it..."

"There is no such thing as 'rational' debate"
What the fuck, dude?

After I try to explain myself 1prent closes up the debate with some awful gibberish and then put me on the moderation list which means any comments will be vetted first and my foolish insistence on discussing things logically will no longer infect everyone.

Ho ho ho! What fun to be had!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

It isn't dishonest if no one notices!

Well, it finally happened: I’ve been banned from posting on Martyn ’Bomber‘ Bradbury’s Facebook wall.
What action was it that caused me to be banned?  Was it swearing and rabid abuse?  Did I make some kind of racial slur?  A tasteless comment regarding someone’s mother?

No, I pointed out that he had made some disingenuous and intellectually dishonest comments.
Sure, I might have made a pain of myself.  But if you’re going to make demonstrably false claims, hypocritical statements and dishonest commentary in a public space – and expose yourself to public scrutiny by describing yourself as a media personality – you can expect others to counter you, investigate your claims and call foul when you say something less than honest … particularly if you have a history of calling foul on people yourself.

For the record: when engaging those with whom I have a difference of opinion I never swear, I try to avoid being condescending, I provide sources for my claims and consider opposite opinions carefully.  Above all, however, I am prepared to be wrong.

In this particular case it was claimed that Roy Morgan polling data is flawed; that it manipulates – rather than represents – public opinion in order to promote John Key’s popularity.  Whenever one of these polls shows Key or National at 50 percent or higher, Bradbury calls foul – claiming that themethodology is flawed, the mainstream media wants you to believe Key isunbeatable, and on it goes.  However, that same poll – using the same methodology that Bomber had claimed was “bullshit” – recently gave the Greens 17 percent.  In that instance Bomber was a little more forgiving and accepting of a result that played nicely into his ideological beliefs.

It stands to reason that if you accept that a methodology is poor and flawed, then you must also accept that the poll based on that methodology must also be poor and flawed – as must any outcome of that poll.  My personal view is that no poll can accurately capture the mood of the populace and, in this case, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle – ie National and Key are still popular, but the Green Party is rising to become an electoral force in its own right.

The first time Bomber did this, I pointed out the discrepancy – only to be sworn at, called a few names and generally berated by a few of his acolytes.  This second time, however, I was banned and all my comments were deleted – and not just on the update in question but, rather, over the entire page.  Bomber has made it clear that inconvenient truths shall not be tolerated.  He has recreated his page as an echo chamber where he can always be right and there is, and has, never been any dissent.

It strikes me as counter-productive – not to mention dishonest – to ignore and delete comments that either disagree with you or raise valid points that you may have not considered before.  Equally so to ignore polite dissent, but let others berate the dissenter in your name; or to accuse those who disagree with you of hypocrisy and dishonesty, but then display those very same flaws yourself.

People might say – usually while defending said rude behaviour – that you can write whatever bullshit you want on your own page.  That may be true – but if you proclaim yourself to be a political pundit and media personality, then you can expect people to follow your posts and question your comments when they see something they know to be false. Even more egregiously bullshit was when Bomber claimed the Green Party walked away from the National Party when his linked article said the exact opposite.

So … who do you think you’re kidding, buddy?

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about the other rude and nasty individuals who moderated me today and actually told me, with all sincerity, that “there is no such thing as 'rational' debate when I tried explaining that rational and logical debate means it is incumbent on the person making a claim to provide the evidence for said claim.

Jesus, I’m stirring up all types of ire today. 

Saturday, 21 April 2012

John Banks boards the train to Crazy Town

Wait, what?

If John Banks actually believes the ACT party, under his leadership, is going to be anything more than a sideshow in the 2014 election then he is pushing the Crazy Train to previously unknown speeds. John Banks is so completely hopeless I wouldn’t even trust him to make me a cup of coffee. The idea that Banks can think he is anything but a simpering animal who is unelectable without sucking up at the National Party teat is delusional at best, downright psychotic at worst.

Watching Banks sifting anxiously along the sidewalk in lieu of John Keys arrival, all red faced and puffy like a schoolgirl awaiting her date, was awkward in such a fashion that you’d think it was Ricky Gervais. The faux camaraderie between the two men, when they eventually got to around to ordering a pot of tea, was embarrassing to the point that even Key looked as though he wished he were somewhere else.

At least Rodney Hide didn’t act like a whimpering sycophant and while Don Brash was so utterly out of touch that when he finished speaking during a debate he seemed to look around as if he didn’t quite understand who had just been talking he at least made some valid, if not controversial, points and stuck by his guns in the face of ridicule.

But I could be wrong and it wouldn’t the first time nor will it be the last. Seriously though, what the hell?

Friday, 20 April 2012

Wailing banshees and the Crafar Farms saga

While fumbling down the street this morning, walking into all and sundry while trying in vain to pin my Chinese-made ANZAC poppy to my lapel – succeeding only in repeatedly stabbing myself in the chest before losing the pin in the gutter – I was reminded that today is the day the Government plans to announce the sale of 16 former Crafar Farms to Chinese conglomerate Shanghai Pengxin.

A large section of society is howling that we are “selling out New Zealand” and “bowing to China”.  People are being swayed by the slightly jingoistic argument that the Government is selling “our” land to uncaring foreigners.

But let’s look at the reality of the situation behind the screeching slogans and nationalistic fear of overseas investment; let’s look at it without the knee-jerk “tenants in our own land” argument and without invoking the Yellow Peril.

Crafar Farms went into receivership in October 2009 – owing some $200 million to Westpac, Rabobank and PGG Wrightson Finance – and, by all accounts, were poorly managed financially and physically.  Using his existing land as leverage, Allan Crafar was rapidly expanding his holdings at a time when the recession was biting and when Fonterra had dropped the prices it was paying for milk, sending the Crafars into receivership.  On top of the massive fines levied for pollution and animal mistreatment, one could guess things were going to end badly no matter what happened.

So here we have Australian banks left holding the bag with a $200 million hole in it.

The banks passed the debt on to receivership company KordaMentha, which was actively seeking buyers to take on the farms and thereby relieve it of the debt.  At no stage was this “our land”.  It is private land and, before going into receivership, Crafar himself said: "You'll get vultures around wanting to buy up one or two of the good [farms]."  He also stated clearly that he was holding out to sell all 22 farms in one hit, and was in talks with both Australian and Chinese companies.  Before the receivership took effect – and before the Government got involved – Allan Crafar was looking to sell the entire whack to foreign owners and actively declined selling individual farms to New Zealand investors.  This was his right as a private landowner.

But, nonetheless, the banks took the land and – as the new landowners – sought their own buyer.  The banks are merely trying to plug the holes in their books – as Allan Crafar was doing with his.  So they looked around and found a Chinese buyer willing to pay the price.  The Overseas Investment Office then gave approval to proceed and, on that advice, the Government rubberstamped it.

And that’s when the banshees began to wail.

Tenants in our own land!

Selling out NZ to the highest bidder!
Selling our children’s future
All the money will be funnelled offshore!
Shame on you Prime Minister!

Despite the fact that this is a private land sale, and that Crafar himself was heading down the same route, the issue got a lot more public attention.  It was seized upon by Left-wing bloggers and far-Left political Parties who stoked the negative public opinion by claiming that the National Government was selling out New Zealand.  The Labour Party has also called on the Government to reject the deal – but is much more cautious in its language because it recognises that the land is open to be sold to foreigners.  Labour’s main concern is around the benefits of selling to this particular buyer, and not the actual selling of the land itself – which is a reasonable position to take and much more restrained than some.

The fact still stands, however, that this is a private sale – it is no more “our land” than it was when Allan Crafar owned it.  Not only that, but the cries of selling out New Zealand ring hollow when you consider that it currently isn’t New Zealand-owned land.  Rather, it is owned by Australian receivers – leaving the Government in the unenviable position of having to sign the whole thing off without actually have any title to the land.

Some suggest rejecting the Chinese bid and instead considering one from the consortium headed by Sir Michael Fay.  Fay presided as a ’consultant‘ during the biggest stock market crash in New Zealand history; sold New Zealand assets in the 1980’s and 1990’s to enrich himself and his cronies; was twice investigated for insider trading; was fined $20 million for dodgy dealings; and currently lives in Switzerland while his New Zealand companies siphon all their money overseas.  Fay’s bid is $30 million less than the Chinese bid and some people realise he would buy it, sell it to the Chinese at a lower price than the receivers have asked, and keep the profits offshore for his own enrichment.  Yet these same people think Fay is the better option – which plays directly into the hands of the biggest New Zealand crook of them all.  Fay is not a reasonable option.

Another suggestion is that the Government reject the deal outright and either direct the receivers only sell to a New Zealand owner, or compulsorily take the land back into New Zealand ownership.  There are two problems.  First: if the current bid is rejected, what happens next?  The receivers are under no obligation to sell to a New Zealander and the Government has no way in which to dictate the sale outside of rejection.  If the receivers then approached the Government with a US buyer, the Government must then reject that offer or be accused of racism.  So we hold out and reject every offer – thereby causing the receivers to take a lower New Zealand bid – meaning the Government has effectively forced a private company to take a loss on its own private holdings.  That doesn’t sound like an appropriate response.  I’m sure that those pushing for this solution might kick up a fuss if the Government took a similar approach to private citizens’ sale of their own property – ie: forcing you or I to sell our house to a New Zealander for less than it’s worth, rather than to a German who is offering to pay the full value.  As for the Government retaking this land into New Zealand ownership – well, that just amounts to theft.  Plain and simple.  Unless they pay for it, which I don’t think we are in a position to do.

Unfortunately it would appear we have our hands tied.  While I’m sure John Key and his team are pretty pleased to sell to these Chinese investors, the reality is that they don’t really have a choice.  I don’t like it much – Hell, I would love the land to stay in New Zealand hands.  But I’m a realist and, as such, I don’t subscribe to the bullshit being propagated by those with an axe to grind against the Government or those who dislike the idea of foreigners buying New Zealand land.  The xenophobic and borderline dishonest ‘the Government selling us out‘ and ‘selling off our land’ arguments against this sale are worse than the sale itself.  Meanwhile, those expounding and supporting them are doing so for political expediency – forsaking reality and replacing it with their own version of events.  What’s worse is that people actually believe them because it plays into their fears.

Besides, if my Chinese-made ANZAC poppy is anything to go by, the whole fucking thing will fall apart anyway.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

That first taste of fermented gibberish

It’s been a long time since I did any writing, several years in fact, and over that period I have been studying politics, intensely scanning all avenues of the media, trawling the seedy back alleys of the internet and getting into arguments with religious conservatives, far left hippies, right-wing neo Nazi’s, communists, rationalists and, quite bizarrely, people who believe that the world is secretly run by shape changing reptiles from another dimension. These online antics have taught me a few things about constructing logical arguments, how to find and present evidence for or against a position and that people are incredibly reluctant to give up a notion once held dear when it is proven false.  Not only reluctant but occasionally the amount of hoop jumping and mental gymnastics some will go through in order to hold on to a long disproved position can be quite extraordinary. 

It’d be amusing if it wasn’t so damned frustrating. Hell, I remember one instance when trying to convince a religious nut that the person he thought he was quoting never actually uttered the words he claimed he did. I tracked down the source of the quote (a goddamned magazine cover no less) and showed quite plainly that it was the magazine editor and not the subject person who said the words we were debating. 

The fact this whack-job hadn’t bothered to check his claims was bad enough but he still attributed the words to the subject stating something along the lines of “Well, that is how the magazine editor summed up his position so it is appropriate to attribute the quote to the subject involved”.  Never mind that this is a stupid and idiotic approach to any intellectual endeavour but it is fundamentally dishonest. I was eventually banned from the website where this debate took place after uttering some bad words in response to the breathtaking inanity after I had a few too many whiskeys one evening. But the reality of the situation was this debate had been going on for a goddamned year and I was tired of the stupidity.

I still visit on the religious quacks, the scientifically illiterate and wingnutted conservatives on occasion (and will no doubt write about it) however what really got me back writing again were things closer to home.
Over the last 10 months or so I have started getting a little fed up with some of the verbal goulash foisted upon the NZ public by fraudulent hacks with nothing better to do than broadcast their own opinions as fact while trusting the reader to not have the intellectual fortitude to go check on the claims presented because it fits nicely with their preconceived biases. So I thought maybe I would try beat the bastards at their own game.

I’ll always post sources for my claims, try to avoid egregious logical fallacies, try to remain nonpartisan and give credit where credit is due while admitting fault when fault has been shown.
Time to get busy and release the gibberish I have been fermenting.