Archive for ‘This blog’ Category
Since it is the season to take stock and make predictions, I will join the self-absorbed blogging hordes in summarizing KP’s year (as opposed to pontificating about the 2012 universe or what will happen next year).
This was a year of slow retrenchment, which is a nice way of saying that we wrote many fewer posts and as a result have lost readers. We now average 200 or so a day (about 615,000 total unique views), with episodic upsurges when things get topical. For various very justified reasons my two blogging colleagues could not keep the pace of previous years (we are now approaching our fourth year anniversary). That left the bulk of posting to me, which given my interests and press of other business greatly reduced the scope of topics covered. As a result, we did not cover gender, Maori or NZ domestic political issues in the measure that we have before, so I presume that is where we lost the readership. My most fervent desire when it comes to blogging is that Anita and Lew will rejoin the fray. Their combined talents are too precious to remain unheard, although I completely understand why they need to tend to other things.
On the bright side we appear to have a dedicated cadre of serious and smart (and seriously smart) readers that keep us on our toes.
We banned one individual with very clear, uh, “issues” (and no, it is not redbaiter) for continually abusive trolling, and there is another person on final warning for what can be called nuisance trolling–the act of making a comment just to be snarky, flippant, or to wind people up. That is not helpful and violates the comments policy, so the person has been given a final warning before being banned.
Otherwise it was a year without highs or lows. There were no serious slanging matches like on the infamous Mutu thread last year, but other than Lew’s GC post, there were no major breakthroughs in the MSM or linked to other blogs (although mention should be made of Bryce Edwards’ occasional reference to this blog in his MSM “link-and-comment” articles as well as at his own blog, Liberation). We still get most of our traffic from NZ, with OZ and the US following. Our major referrers are Bowaley Road (thanks Chris), No Right Turn (thanks Malcom), Kiwiblog (thanks David), The Standard (thanks Lynn), Lew’s twitter feed, Facebook and the NZ Herald when Bryce mentions us. We get a fair bit of links from right-oriented blogs, so I take that as a sign that we may be small but are worth the opposition’s attention.
I could tell you a lot about the search terms that lead to us, but let’s just say that “Wendy Petrie’s breasts,” “your ass in jail” and “pink and blue things” are a constant. Go figure, but I am gonna blame Lew for that.
There is plenty of other data to mine but that would be overly self-indulgent. So let me first wish my co-bloggers the best of the New Year in all aspects of their lives. Let me wish the readers just as much but without the personal interest. And let’s hope that KP can rebound and reinvigorate the political debates in Aotearoa in the lead-up to the 2014 elections.
Saudades pra o ano novo!
I have been very scarce, again, and I will continue to be for at least a couple of weeks. In addition to cyclical work commitments that take up all my thinking and writing energy, my daughters have recently had some serious and complicated medical issues. We’re all fine, but it’s been enough to shunt this blog well down my priorities. Thanks again to Pablo for keeping things ticking over.
The anniversary of the Norway massacre has passed, and I wanted to write something about it; particularly about how the trial has shaped discourses of nationalism and extremism there and elsewhere.
I haven’t, but DeepRed has probably done better than I could on his own blog, Kumara Republic. I highly recommend you read it here: Rise of the neo-crusaders. His post covers some of the ways the extreme right has reconfigured itself in recent decades, and some of the ways in which its members attempt to distance themselves from, while not really distancing themselves from, Anders Behring Breivik and his actions. A good read.
A fellow named Andrew Geddis posted on another NZ blog a post about electoral reform in which he takes a swipe at KP for not having “dirt under its fingernails.” I do not know this fellow, and he certainly does not know me. Nor does he seem to know that KP is a collective, not an individual effort.
I take it that he believes that KP (whether singular or plural) does not practice what it preaches, as if KP was some sort of effete armchair intellectual circle jerk that is not grounded in real life praxis or any experience with real politics. In a word, he appears to think that KP is all bluster and no substance.
I cannot speak for the other KP members but I know them and can say with some confidence that we, collectively and individually have, are and/or will continue to engage in real politics as well as in political discussion and debate. My experience was mainly in US government service of one sort or another as well as academia (teaching aspects of politics), and after I came to NZ, in voluntarilly helping in the defense of Ahmed Zaoui and the Urewera 18 against scurrilous charges of terrorism, among other things academic and not.
I am therefore somewhat perplexed by Mr. Geddis’s negative mention of KP. Does he have a beef with one of us? Is there some history I am unaware of? Otherwise I am at a loss to explain what in any event appears to be an unprovoked jibe that has no basis in fact.
Can anyone illuminate me as to what might be going on?
Update: As several readers including Andrew himself have pointed out, the remark that I found untoward was in fact a joke. As I said in the comments, that pretty much confirms that I am humorless, or at least thin-skinned where KP’s integrity and “grounding” is concerned. I apologise to Andrew for misconstruing his words. What is interesting, once again, is that in contrast to more thoughtful posts, this post on a trivial matter enjoyed a strong upward spike in page views. I guess even reasoned people like to read about unreasonable silliness.
When I moved to NZ in 1997, one happy aspect that I had not considered prior to arrival was that I was headed back to the Southern Hemisphere. That meant that Xmas and New Year’s are summer events (well, most of the time), and my childhood memories are littered with snippets of summers gone by spent in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. Although I also spent many years in the Northern Hemisphere and came to embrace, within limits, the winter version of the holiday season, the prolonged interlude that is the Southern Hemisphere festive season has always been my preference.
In the winter version the return to work and school routines is quick, with no more than 2 weeks of down time usually taken between Xmas and New Years. The further North one goes the less incentive there is to holiday: the days are short, wet and very cold, when not frozen. In the South the turn of the year is a turn to warmth and light so the incentive is to maximize exposure to them as well as take respite from work and other daily routines. Annual and sick leaves are extended and mixed in order to maximize the statutory holidays. Commodified life cuts back to idle so that personal and inter-personal issues can be addressed and renewed at some length.
How one spends one’s time depends on the nature and proximity of those relationships. I have spent several years of solitude, North and South, over the year end hiatus, which gave plenty of room to reflect on my condition while otherwise occupying time. I have had an equal if not greater number of holidays spent with family and friends, to include family in New Zealand. What strikes me in either instance is that the summertime makes the experience better: there is more to physically do outdoors, there is less corporate incentive to rush back to work, the nature of social events is more open, and things just get silly.
In a way, the Southern Hemisphere year end holidays are a turn inwards as well as renewal. The point of reflection and the pause to refresh are simply longer in summer. It may give the appearance to some (in the North) of a sleepy third world village approach to life. To me it simply represents a better way to spend a holiday.
Better than marching like lemmings to shopping malls and fighting grid-locked traffic in the search for a better bargain (which pretty much sums of the notions of commodity fetishism and false consciousness). The consumerist lemming movement appears to have taken root in NZ and the vehicular exodus to choice destination spots is often akin to driving across Manhattan at rush hour. Even so, in NZ as in other Southern Hemisphere locations, the summer holiday experience is preferable to that in the Northern Hemisphere. The global North may have the doldrums of July and August to disport in (and my exposure to Southern Europe in summer suggests that pretty much everything is put on hold for the duration), but they do not have the holidays to enjoy at the same time. The global middle–those from 20 degrees North to 20 degrees South–take their holidays more leisurely, given the distribution of pre-modern, modern, colonial, imperial and post-modern identifications.
Which is to say that I hope that NZ and other Southern Hemisphere readers are taking full advantage of their down time. As our first full summer back in NZ after 3 years away, my partner and I have spent the holidays quietly, mostly devoted to garden and landscape work, dog training, some small varmint hunting and the inevitable bbqs (although mine are done Argentine-style), with a little bit of reading and writing thrown in. Whatever suits your fancy and wherever you are, I hope that yours has been as restful as ours and wish you all the best for a productive and happy New Year, Southern Hemisphere style.
Around 9PM last night KP reached 500,000 unique page visits. That comes a little under two years after we started up (Jan 2009). It is not much in the grand scheme of things but as a niche soft-lefty intellectual type of forum based in a small country, it represents decent growth. We average over 500 visits per day and between 7-8000 visits per month, with the largest number of page views directed at posts on domestic topics. We get a fair bit of traffic from other NZ political blogs, but search engines, Facebook and twitter are starting to dominate our feeds. Most of our readers are from NZ but we are getting a steady flow of foreign readers as well. Not surprisingly, if the comments thread gets acerbic the number of page reads increases. Even so, and barring some notable transgressions (to which I unhappily have contributed), the overall tone of the discussions on the threads has conformed to the civility guidelines outlined in the comments policy. Of particular interest to me is the tendency of threads to go off-subject even when people are not trolling, and how some of these tangents then take on a life of their own that many times are informative and/or expands my comprehension of tangental subjects. In any case, I believe that KP has been largely been able to show that a political blog can be civil as well as provocative, with just three people banned for malicious trolling (and no, one of them is NOT Russell the anti-communist).
The blog saw readership drop while Anita and Lew were not posting regularly (our lowest total was in October 2011 when both were absent), but has been on the upswing in recent weeks now that both are back on-line, if only sporadically in Anita’s case (the more we see of her posts the better we are). Lew’s posts never fail to generate serious interest and seem to get the most referrals. Weekdays see the most reads (Mondays in particular), with a fair drop off during the weekends. This suggests to me that, although there is a fair bit of evening reading people tend to read KP at work and have better things to do on the weekends.
There is more to the KP demographics but this is just a brief recognition of our progress rather than a dissection of it. I am grateful to have Lew and Anita as partners in this venture and hope that we can continue to contribute to public debate in the months and years to come. In the meantime we shall think about revamping the site and perhaps look for another writing partner whose interests are a bit different than and complementary of ours.
Is the global “Occupy” movement a genuine grassroots mobilisation with revolutionary potential or is it bound to fizzle out, be coopted, voluntarily moderate its demands or splinter into myriad fringe groups without promoting substantive change in the socio-economic status quo?
Interested readers are invited to share their views.
As an antidote to some of the heavy discussion occasioned by Lew’s recent posts, I figured that I would interject with a mention that two weeks from today my partner and I return to NZ. The definitive return was delayed six months by an offer of a teaching position in Singapore, but that has now finished. All of the marking has been done, and other than a videoconference lecture by me, a brief holiday in Bintan and packing, we are done in Singapore. Although it has not always been the most pleasant experience, it has been interesting in many ways and we have learned from our stay. I expect that either individually or together we will write at least one scholarly essay about the place, simply because analyses of things like the gross exploitation of foreign low-skilled labor and domestic workers needs to be more widely exposed. We also have in a mind a comparative project using Singapore and Cuba as case studies–two one party authoritarian island states whose regimes were born of traumatic circumstances that were originally led by charismatic leaders, now in a slow process of political liberalisation in which the original leadership cadres are being replaced by a third generation of less battle-hardened and dogmatic cadres, and in which the attitudes of the younger generation of citizens are not shaped by the origins of the regimes in question.
There is more to the comparison–the state-centric nature of the economies is a structural likeness that defies the clear differences in macro-economic approaches–so it will be interesting to delve into the subject in greater analytic depth. I also have an interest in studying the role of the third generation Singaporean Armed Forces in the process of regime liberalisation, as its role as regime defender is being challenged from within and without the SAF by a new generation of “professional” officers more interested in meritocratic and technocratic advancement than cultivating political ties to the PAP, and who find echo in young professional in the civilian bureaucracy who are not as interested in joining the PAP patronage networks that underpin the supposedly “meritocratic” criteria for promotion to senior ranks.
I think I have a fair grasp on these subjects. My post on the Singaporean elections, along with the version on Scoop, got a lot of play in Singapore, most of it favourable. This a good sign because (especially Chinese) Singaporeans have a good deal of anti-foreign sentiment and reject being told, in spite of what economic growth and government propaganda lead them to believe, about the flaws in their system of governance and culture (for example, the endemic racism against Malays, Indians, Filipinos and Tamils by the dominant group that is codified in not-to-subtle legal jargon, as well as the simmering resentment of Anglo-Saxons in spite of the fact that the country can not operate successfully without them). The fact that I was not pilloried in the coverage of my essay indicates that, written in the appropriate manner, some of what I/we propose to research could provide a contribution to debates within Singapore about the future of the country. We shall see.
In the meantime we are looking forward to wearing sweaters and jeans, enjoying cool weather, breathing clean air and resuming the existence on the western slopes of the Waitakeres from whence we came. That, and contributing in our own ways to political and social debates in the land of the long white cloud.
NB: In light of Phil’s remark I have amended the title less readers think that I have developed some pop idol fixation.
A little over two years ago KP was launched. It started as the brainchild of Anita and Jafapete, who then invited me to join. The idea was to have a non-partisan, avowedly “intellectual” moderate Left outlet (I use the word “intellectual” carefully these days in light of recent debates about that term). Jafa subsequently had to leave due to other concerns, but we got lucky and Lew came on board. There have been others briefly attached to the blog and Anita has had to take a long hiatus, but KP keeps rolling along in its small niche in the blogosphere. Lew and I do the posting these days, and we are always on the lookout for someone to join us in the event that Anita cannot return (or even if she does). We remain committed to civilised debate, which is why swear words are censored and trolling and personal attacks largely deleted. Only one person has been blacklisted, and that was because I accidentally hit the “blacklist” rather than “delete” button when dealing with a personal attack comment from an otherwise passionate but sane regular reader (his comments now go directly to the spam filter where we fish them out). And no, the individual in question is not that rabid anti-communist ranter Russell. In general, other than some quarrels with commentators and my occasional bouts of grumpiness or frustration, I think that we have kept the discourse pretty civil.
The stats show a decent progression. We have made 568 posts and received 8,676 comments. We have had over 336,500 unique page views. Most of our linkages come from other New Zealand political blogs, although Facebook and Twitter referrals are increasing. We have elicited some interesting responses, both in public and in private, from members of the NZ policy community.
I do not have access to our demographic profile but judging from regular commentator’s profiles reckon that the readers are largely NZ resident male Pakeha with university degrees and Left inclinations. I hope that there is a significant number of women and Maori readers, but am concerned that with Anita absent the female readership may have dropped (hence our interest in soliciting the participation of someone whose primary interests involve gender, environmental, health and welfare politics). There seems to be fair bit of RSS feeds to the KP site, and our overseas readership shows signs of growth. All in all, we are small but comfortable given what we are in terms of content and where we are in terms of the ideological spectrum represented in the blogosphere.
I cannot speak for Anita or Lew by I find that blogging offers me an outlet that complements my editorial and scholarly writing. In particular it allows me to address current events as they happen, and provides a daily dose of mental exercise in the form of the commentary and debate. Although I have been told in this forum that I am a conservative security and international affairs commentator, a check of my posts will reveal that there is more to my interests than guns, war and power politics. Among other things I have posted, with a Left focus, on comparative labour politics, done a 5 part series on democracy (focusing on NZ), covered regime characteristic and cultural dynamics in a variety of places, thrown in some game-theoretic and rational choice-inspired essays, and even made a few attempts at humor or NZ focused social commentary. That range is much harder to cover in scholarly publications, and editorial writing tends to be more episodic and medium- to long-term in its focus. Thus I am thankful for the opportunity to use KP as an outlet for expressing views on a number of issues of contemporary import (at least to me).
I look forward to more writing and more readership growth in 2011, as well as to my return to NZ after a few years abroad. It will be interesting to see if that shift effects my choice of subjects, but whatever the case it will be good to be physically closer to my KP colleagues (who I know personally and have high regard for) as well as any new contributor(s) who may volunteer for the project of keeping another informed NZ-based non-partisan Left perspective alive and well on the internet. And, of course, much thanks to you readers for coming back and sharing your thoughts with us. We may not agree on most things but it is comforting and invigorating to have you as interlocutors with whom to hash out ideas and opinions.
A voces, muito obrigado.
OK, you knew this was coming. In the interest of ideological balance, or better yet, just because I am curious, I would like to ask readers who the under-60 Right thinkers are. Given that the Left thinker thread spun off into tangents about age limits, outlets and who and what constitutes the “proper “Left (thereby confirming the view that Lefties would rather argue about ideological purity and how many Marxists can balance on the head of the pin than simply answer a straight-forward question), here the label “Right” includes anything that is not skinhead neo-Nazi holocaust denier (which means Ann Rand enthusiasts and those of religious inclinations are eligible). In order to avoid nomination of the fossilised architects of the neo-liberal destruction of NZ’s welfare state, I have placed an age limit of 60 so that we can see if there is new blood in the Right waters.
Please be nice. I was gratified to see that only one commentator on the Left Thinker thread engaged in trolling, and just once at that. Thus I ask that Lefties not engage in bad behaviour and either refrain from making nasty or derisive comments or be sincere in their choices. Of course the same applies for any Right-oriented readers. That means, among other things, that due to reason of probity Rick “I think that my argument is so powerful that it’s not necessary to talk about it” Giles is ineligible for nomination. Beyond that and within the guidelines mentioned above, the field is open.
Although the Left Thinker post elicited a spike in page reads and much commentary (still going), it only elicited a couple of consensus names and a few others, thereby falling short of the short list I had asked for (perhaps that was my mistake, as I figured that a short list would be somewhere between 5-10). Thus I wonder what the Right list will look like (should there be one) even if I have added 20 years to the upper age limit and made no negative editorial remarks about various Right factions in the post (except about skinheads, neo-Nazis and their ilk).
I yield the floor to you.
This weekend I return to SG for one more semester of teaching and research. It marks the beginning of the end of my stay in this interesting–some might say remarkable–SE Asian country, as I will return permanently to NZ in five months. While engaging in my academic responsibilities I will continue to build the nascent political risk consultancy I have established in NZ, chasing down some potential leads and developing the web site concept in order to reach a larger audience and client base. Come June I will be doing that full time.
It has been wonderful to have spent the last two months in NZ, and out on the Auckland west coast in particular. I made in down to the South Island for the holidays, but mostly enjoyed a remarkable run of weather as I reclaimed my home and restored my roots in the community in which it is located. In spite of its problems, I often feel that Kiwis do not fully appreciate how lucky they are and how (relatively) minor the majority of its social and political problems tend to be (some notable and unfortunate exceptions notwithstanding). In the larger scheme of things it may not be exactly Godzone but it sure is a darn good place to live–and I say this having personally experienced the downside of NZ in the form of my direct exposure to unethical academic management and duplicitous politicians who say one thing then do another without regard to the costs imposed on innocents and the country’s international reputation. But even then, a few ethically bankrupt elites do not detract from the broader, more positive picture.
In any event I plan to compile a short “to-do” list of places in SE Asia to visit while back in SG (one mayor attraction of the country is that it is a transportation hub with many options when it comes to regional travel). Since I enjoy open water swimming and snorkeling, the top of my list is the Bornean East Coast, which I understand is unspoiled and non-touristy (which is why I have no interest in Bali or the tacky Thai resort destinations). I have been to Pulau Tiomen and Bintan, so want to go further afield in the search of reefs, surf and fish. If anyone has suggestions along those lines, I am all ears.
I will continue to post and attempt to contribute to NZ policy discussions while finishing up in SG, and look forward to what promises to be another interesting chapter in a life yet to be fully played out on either a personal or professional level.