Wednesday 22 September 2010

Loving local democracy [updated]

The comic book came in the mail recently. The one with the pictures of all the candidates and their platforms.

Michael Hansen is again running for District Health Board. Last time, he promised to put an end to the Council folks who send the vans around emitting "nefarious tingle rays". What's his platform this time?
There is no such thing as "schizophrenia". It's all done with two way transmitting bugs to talk to mainly young people with potential. If the "talking" is ignored, they are stung with an electronic cruelty machine.
Major heart surgery may be a thing of the past if experiments I have done by flushing veins through with sulfaric (not sulphuric) acid with the registered CLR (Calcium, Lime, Rust) chemical, to get rid of lime, waterstone and cholesterol by making an insertion at a wrist vein. I can't go any further, and need 2 medical students to continue this.
We spend money on wars, football stadiums grand projects, while women with breast cancer only get 9 months "Herceptin". I will speak on this, even if we have to fund "generic Herceptin" from India.
Genetically modified fat tomatoes etc, result in genetically modified fat people. Exercise is not much help. Watch what you eat.
Given the relative impotence of district health boards, is his campaign really less credible than some others? Hansen's also running for mayor.

Other long-shot candidates seemed to be using the free space as advertising for their small businesses.

At least it's entertaining.

Joe Bennett's column today is excellent:
As I left the city I passed a poster advertising a candidate for the local elections. Here's the text on the poster in full: "Do you believe that parking at the hospital should be free? I do."

"Now that," I exclaimed to the steering wheel, "is a belter, a real biscuit-taker. In the long and inglorious history of election campaigning, has there ever been a slogan so blatantly emotive and yet so spectacularly trivial?"

"I was rather proud of it," said a voice from the back seat.

"Who said that?" I said.

"Me," said the voice, "the guy on the poster. The candidate. Call me Candy."

"Candy," I exclaimed, "how nice of you to join me for a hypothetical debate to while away the drive towards a windscreenful of mountains."

"What's wrong with my poster?" said Candy.

"In the long and inglorious history of election campaigning . . ."

"Yeah, I got all that," said Candy. "Blatantly emotive and spectacularly trivial, wasn't it? But what I want to know is what's wrong with it. I mean this is an election. And we're not going to pretend that an election is anything other than a mood- driven popularity contest, are we? Surely you're not going to suggest that it's about policy."

"Well," I said.

"Look," said Candy, "in the last couple of weeks the poll ratings of the two main mayoral candidates in this city of ours have reversed. Yet the two men haven't changed. Their policies haven't changed. And despite the quake, the city hasn't changed. The only change is that one of the candidates has been on telly a lot doing leaderly stuff. Apparently he's even winning the race for the Auckland mayoralty that he's not standing for. Now tell me what that tells you."

"I know, I know," I said, "but calling for free hospital parking is just a way of painting you as the good guy, oozing sympathy for the sick like a wounded Florence Nightingale. Hospital parking, I mean, it's so simplistic."

"Simplistic!" said Candy. "Have you seen the other campaign posters round the city? They make mine look like one of the denser texts by Noam Chomsky. Most of them consist of a photo of the candidate, the name of the candidate and a bloody great tick to remind the unwashed what to do. And that's that. At least I address something specific. Yes, I'm fishing shallow, but that's where the fish are."

"Point taken, Candy," I said. "I don't doubt your motives are as pure as the snow on Mt Hutt, and that you'd make a wonderful councillor or health board member or whatever it is you're standing for, but you can't deny that your little rhetorical question - and crikey, there's an emotive device as ancient as ancient Greece - is nothing other than a bribe."

"Of course, it's a bribe," exclaimed Candy as we speared across the plains past the evacuated prison. "When was an election ever won without bribes? Voters are selfish. But don't you see how clever the whole thing is. On one level it's a concrete proposal that only the hard of heart could disagree with. But on another level it ramifies. It suggests that I am a caring sort of guy who believes that the well should subsidise the unwell, that the fortunate should support the unfortunate. In other words, to clever dicks like you, it implies that I am politically Left of centre. Neat, eh? So much said in so few words. Concrete and specific, yet symbolic. As I say, I'm rather proud of it." "Candy," I said, "I'm warming to you. Indeed I've half a mind to vote for you. What was your name again?"

"It was on the poster," he said.

"Was it?" I said, "Was it really? I didn't notice. I was too intrigued by the subtle simplicity of your message."


"You still there, Candy," I said.

"You were right," he said in a voice steeped in gloom. "I should have listened. It is a lousy poster. But not because it's too simple. The trouble is that it's too bloody sophisticated. I should have gone with the tick after all. Bugger it."

And so saying he was gone.
I've seen the signs all over town too. I've cursed at them, thinking about how the already congested parking lots would be worse than useless at zero price. How could they be worse than useless? Think about a mom in labour whose partner pulls into the lot to drop her off then stuck in a queue of cars that are all waiting for somebody to leave.  He can't move, and she's getting to be in a hurry.

But I cannot remember the guy's name either. Absolutely no clue.


  1. I always enjoyed reading Hansen's blurbs at election time. Sadly now that we're out in Selwyn we don't see his wee gems. He is either a satirist or a complete nut job (more likely I think), but he certainly adds some colour and flavour to an otherwise rather bland menu every 3 years.

  2. I think the poster guy is Aaron Keown. I've been told that in previous elections his posters were all black with huge, white, block writing stating "AARON FOR MAYOR".

  3. I was flipping through looking for some glimmer of ability, stopped at a candidate with an econ BA, fell off my chair when I saw "member of Austrian Society" could it be true ?!?!? - of course 3 seconds on Google destroyed my hopes of getting a fan of Mises or Hayek instead of miserable Germanic hymns. Sigh


  4. "Do you believe that groceries in the supermarket should be free? I do."

    I'm practicing for the next election. And some idiots believe that there ain't such a thing as a free lunch...

  5. If I recall that poster you mention I imagine the candidate wouldn't be capable of the advanced discussion over the finer points of local politics you imagine him having. You see, for his "DHB" box, he has a big tick, reminding voters what to do. Unfortunately, DHBs use STV, and putting a big "tick" in the box will only ruin the ballot.