Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Bullshit, bad news and really, really good news

Local political news this morning includes real news, no real news, and no news at all, really.

It's no news that politicians lie.  John Key lied about his ownership of Tranz Rail shares (and you can see him do it here - just click the 'Related Video' link).  Winston Peters lied about his knowledge of Owen Glenn's donation, (and about pretty much everything else over the last twenty years).  And Helen Clark lied about when she knew of Owen Glenn's donation to Winston Peters (and about pretty much everything else related to the subject of party donations). So they're all doing it, aren't they.

Q: So how do you know when a politicians lying?
A: Their lips move.

WinstonPetersNo Is it news that politicians lie?  No, it's not.  It's not news that politicians lie, or that as weapon of mass distraction they release news of each others' lies when their own are about to be exposed.

It's no real news that Winston Peters is to be "censured" for lying.  While he's still suspended from office, he's not to be stripped of the baubles thereof.  While he can't really bestride the hustings with the aura of a foreign minister in office, he will still have all the taxpaid resources available to him to campaign (and he still hasn't paid back his overspending from 2005).  So of what does his "punishment" consist?  As Newstalk ZB has been saying, it has all the force of a wet bus ticket.

No real news then.

So where's the real political news then?  There's one story from Auckland, one from Wellington, and one from Washington. 

The story from Auckland is related to John Key's lying. His family trust bought and sold Tranz Rail shares, from which he made a substantial loss on the whole position, even after he tried to talk them up. For a man whose political reputation is based almost solely on competence in the financial markets, that's genuinely embarrassing.

The story from Wellington is related to Winston's lying.  Watch Russel Norman, Helen Clark and Uncle Tom Cobley and all use the news to push (again) for taxpayer funding of all the anointed political parties.  Expect it to become an election issue both as a means of distraction, and a means to dig themselves out of the whole they've all dug for themselves by demonising the few remaining businessmen who want to throw money at them.

And the real, real story is from Washington.  The United States is rewarding Trade Minister Phil Goff's heroic efforts promoting free trade in the Asia-Pacific region by joining New Zealand in talks to achieve a free trade between the US and NZ a four other Asia-Pacific 'partners.'

In amongst the bullshit and the bad news, that's some really, really good news.  For us, and for the US.


  1. Two comments.

    You wrote: For a man whose political reputation is based almost solely on competence in the financial markets, that's genuinely embarrassing.

    First, that he invested in government enterprises is genuinely embarrassing.

    But that he made the loss might be because he got out immediately when he realised having these shares might have political impact.

  2. Which means, if you were correct, that Key either lacks political acumen -- since he didn't realise having these shares might have political impact -- or he lacks financial acumen.

    Either way, he still lied.

  3. Yeah, that's the funny thing about politics: it's political. Bullshit, indeed.

    Re Win: for someone who airily remarked that it would "all be cleared up in a few minutes", it was a mighty long few minutes, eh?

    And the only thing that's "clear" is that the man was lying through his teeth all along, and that his boss knew he was lying through his teeth all along.

    And that's my conclusion in half a minute. ;)

  4. A plea to john key - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arjuaYk9INc

  5. Nicholas Nassim Taleb has a great expanation of the fallacies around survivorship bias in finanical markets in his book "Fooled by Randomness".

    He suggests you perform the millions-of-monkeys-with-millions-of-typewiters experiment. Then pick out the monkey who wrote Hamlet.

    How much would you be willing to bet that next time round that one monkey would bash out Romeo and Juliet?

  6. Bernard

    Please elaborate. Your point is not clear.


  7. There is a good coverage of Taleb's proposition here:

    Mandelbrot & Taleb on "Wild Randomness" in the Financial Times


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