31 December 2017

28 December 2017

24 December 2017

Red bands

Skellerup Red Band gumboots, Piopio, Waitomo

20 December 2017

‘Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose’

Colin Kidd discusses Daniel Ziblatt's theory of the influence of conservatism on the development of modern democracy:

'In Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy Daniel Ziblatt conducts a comparative analysis of the European transition to democratic politics between roughly the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. He notices an unwelcome truth, that the successful and – perhaps more important – stable transition to democracy depended less on the strength of pro-democratic forces than on the character and strategies of their conservative opponents. Ziblatt identifies two distinctive pathways from hierarchical to mass democratic societies. Some countries, such as Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy and pre-1880 France, went on a rollercoaster, with significant democratic breakthroughs ‘followed by complete democratic breakdowns or coups d’état’. Democratisation took a more sedate course in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, where – despite some resistance and occasional hazards – there was steady incremental progress towards settled democracy. Old conservative elites, Ziblatt explains, confronted a fork in the road. Should they adapt to the rise of democracy by foul means or fair? Might they be best advised to develop techniques of electoral fraud, corruption, clientilism and intimidation, relying either on local power-brokers or perhaps a proactive ministry of the interior? Or should they take a huge risk and develop ‘mass competitive political parties’ able to ‘win “clean” elections’? In countries where conservative forces saw politics in pragmatic, transactional terms – ‘Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose’ – and invested heavily in constructing viable election-winning organisations run by professional party agents on behalf of their patrician masters, a ‘virtuous cycle’ ensued. Electoral success begat confidence in new constitutional arrangements. On the other hand, Ziblatt notes, if ‘old-regime elites do not buy in’ to competitive, unrigged elections, ‘a democratic political order is much harder to build and also much harder to sustain.’ When confidence in the ability of the right to succeed in fair electoral politics runs low, it’s all too easy to panic, to succumb to the temptations of the coup, the counter-revolution, the cancelled election'.

- Colin Kidd, 'Gove or Galtieri?', London Review of Books, 5 October 2017

17 December 2017

Well, looks like someone got to his private parts before us

Rewatched this slice of Ang Lee genius this evening for the first time since seeing it in 1997, and what a treat it still is. I still remember the sense of quiet awe I felt emerging from the cinema in Haymarket having been absolutely engrossed by this marvelous, unpredictable adult drama with its tremendous performances from Joan Allen, Christina Ricci, Kevin Kline, Tobey Maguire, Sigourney Weaver, Elijah Wood and a scene-stealing turn by Katie Holmes. Cruelly overlooked by the awards ceremonies, apart from the supporting actress Bafta for Weaver, this is still a modern classic. If you've never seen The Ice Storm, you owe it to yourself. 

15 December 2017

Family outing

California quails at the Zealandia wildlife sanctuary, Wellington.

03 December 2017

Neil Wagner

New Zealand bowler Neil Wagner takes a break to sign autographs for the kids on day 3 of the first test against the West Indies at the Basin Reserve, Wellington. Wagner was named man of the match for his match aggregate of 141-9.