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Archive for ‘June, 2010’

The dam breaks

datePosted on 09:33, June 30th, 2010 by Lew

“Where does the political correctness end?”

That’s the question from Michael Laws in response to the shocking news that local Māori are calling for “Rimutaka” to be changed to “Remutaka”. His dire predictions are coming to pass. The savage, foreign spelling of Whanganui has been coercively imposed by the forces of craven self-hating white PC liberality upon the good burghers of Wanganui — sorry, I mean Wonganewy — and now every Māori place-name in the country is going to be similarly stripped of the light patina of civilisation bestowed upon it by the linguistic touch of the God-fearing right-thinking settler.

As local councillor John Tenquist — or should that be Tinquist? — says, it’s always been that way for more than his 76 years, so that’s how it should always be:

What is wrong with the way it is? Once again we are pandering to a minority. We have some European heritage in this country and, rightly or wrongly, it has been Rimutaka for over 150 years, so if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. The locals on either side of the hill will never change the name from what they have always known.

Of course. Those old people knew what they were doing back then when they changed the name. Wouldn’t have done it without a reason. Back in those days, they knew that eating at the dining table was the final bulwark against the collapse of Western civilisation, betokened nowadays by so much more than the creeping advance of Hori-fied place names. We are losing our grip, little by little. We even have to sing the national anthem in Māori — and the Māori version first, even though they didn’t write it! Our country’s most-trusted citizen and most-decorated war hero is a Māori. We’ve got a Māori flag, a Māori All Black team, and half our goals at the World Cup were scored by a Māori! I fully expect that by the time of the 2014 World Cup we’ll be fielding a team called the All Browns. In the unlikely event that we can qualify, given the well-known lack of footballing skill possessed by those not of European extraction.

And would you look at that: Mayor Michael was right all along. Once again, spearheading this frontal assault on all that is right and proper are those bloody river Māoris and their unpronounceable names:

The story behind the area’s name is that a Maori chief, Haunuiananaia, an ancestor of the Te Ati Hau a Paparangi people of the Whanganui region, left his home in southern Taranaki to pursue his errant wife Wairaka, who had run off with a slave.
During his journey, he sat down to rest on a mountain and think about his quest. He named the mountain Remutaka – which means to sit down.

The Mairist Republic of Whanganuistan draws ever closer. And we’re supposed to call the highest peak in the Wellington region after something some savage once sat his arse on?

It’s past time for New Zealand’s downtrodden, powerless, disenfranchised white majority to rise up, and let the clarion cry be heard: “Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, we’re being repressed!

L

Rudd’s problems in a nutshell

datePosted on 19:18, June 29th, 2010 by Lew

Just a quick hit: this article in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph from last Valentine’s Day details the less-than-lovey response Rudd received from students invited to the annual Parliamentary Q&A.

It’s not that they were set against him — young Australians overwhelmingly supported Kevin ’07, and continue to support Labor. It’s that he treated them with disdain. He didn’t prepare for what should have been a PR gift; made things up to suit the narrative he wanted to project; and then pulled rank and got angry when his prevarications were exposed.

Clearly rattled, Mr Rudd answered the perfectly legitimate questions like an annoyed schoolteacher, pointing his finger and disputing her claims. “Well, you’re shaking your head. Can I just say that is a fact, and if you ring up principals around the country it’s happening,” he said on air. The Australian National University student [Angela Samuels, 18] has since been backed by principals around the nation, saying they had not been given the laptops that were promised. “I was just shaking my head because I wasn’t happy with what was happening,” she said. “I’m in contact with schools. I know what he’s saying isn’t the truth. It’s annoying that he stands in front of cameras and says things that aren’t true.”
[…]
“He came in with the message that the Government was taking action,” Kate Campbell, 21, said. “He’s a very good political operator, he knows how to manage the media and manipulate people and their perceptions.” Andrew McDonnell, 22, said young people were now questioning their loyalties to the Government as a result of their experiences. “I respect him for his intelligence but if he tried to be more genuine and honest he’d be more popular,” he said.

Lesson: even when your gameplan is to emphasise style over substance (which is fair enough), it is imperative that you’re able to fall back on substance when style fails — as, under sustained and competent critique, it inevitably will.

L

Blog Link: Two Sides of the Afghan COIN.

datePosted on 12:00, June 29th, 2010 by Pablo

In the most recent “Word from Afar” column at Scoop I examine the broader context in which General Stanley McChrystal was forced to resign from his position as commander of US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan. Beyond the issue of his insubordination and civilian control of the military in a democracy, the incident has brought to the surface the tensions between two competing views on how the US should prosecute counter-insurgency. One involves hearts and minds and nation-building, the other involves what I describe as a “drones and bones” approach that focuses on discrete operations against high value targets using high technology weapons and special forces. Although both are in place at the moment, there is competition between the two views with regard as to which ultimately will prove more successful at countering Islamicist threats to the West. Whether or not the ISAF mission succeeds may well depend on which perspective gains greater traction in coalition circles during the next twelve months (since the timetable for the gradual withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan begins in June-July 2011).

My latest article on New Zealand foreign policy after the Cold War has appeared in Political Science Quarterly. Unfortunately the article is behind a pay wall but there is a synopsis that outlines its basic thrust (copyright provisions prevent me from reproducing it here). In the essay I examine the economic, diplomatic and military threads of New Zealand foreign policy after 1990, arguing that New Zealand has combined realist, idealist and constructivist approaches in a “principled but pragmatic” foreign policy that has allowed it to punch above its weight in international affairs. The reason for that was because the principled but pragmatic foreign policy  gave New Zealand diplomatic autonomy and independence even as it maintained traditional alliances and UN commitments while forging new foreign relations. That provided NZ with room for policy maneuver  and an international role uncommon to small states. Since the article is in a refereed professional journal there is a fair bit of theoretical discussion and conceptual framing, but for the lay reader the important thing to note is that by the end of the 1990s and some minor differences notwithstanding, this broad approach to foreign policy was shared by Labour and National alike, something that gave consistency, continuity and respect to New Zealand’s international endeavours.

Not any more. Over the last year it has become apparent that National has de-emphasised, if not abandoned the idealist and constructivist strands of post Cold War foreign policy, and has replaced true realism with what can only be characterised as a pandering approach to international affairs. The latter is characterised by obsequious solicitation of  larger states in pursuit of material favours, no matter how unsavory the regime, unhappy the involvement or demeaning of Kiwi notions of democracy, universal human rights and international peace that approach may be. Be it the shifting rationale for having NZDF troops in Afghanistan (and shifting assessments of their chance of success), trade deals with Arab oligarchies and Asian despots, reorienting NZ aid programs towards cronyistic business ventures, the failure to pursue justice over the sinking of the NZ-flagged Ady Gill (and the illegal arrest and trial of its skipper), or  in John Key personally apologising to the PRC for Russell Norman’s antics at parliament during a visit by the Chinese vice president, it appears that the National government will bend as far over as it can to accommodate the desires of its foreign patrons, even if at the expense of its hard won reputation in the international arena. Career diplomats must be shaking their heads in disbelief as they see New Zealand’s image as an honest international broker and independent global citizen tarnished by this pandering, solicitous approach to foreign affairs.

To put things bluntly: After a long history of of conducting itself with dignity and autonomy on the international stage, New Zealand has become just another cheap trick on the boulevard of small states. Like the difference between house call escorts and street hookers, the difference between National’s foreign policy and that of small island states that exchange their votes for cash and credit in the International Whaling Commission is one of degree, not substance. That is a shame, and quite shameful. After all, a reputation built over decades can be ruined in days due to impaired judgement, narrow self-interest and opportunistic alignment. When it comes to foreign affairs, National appears to be saddled with all three vices.

The question is whether the damage it is doing to New Zealand’s international reputation will outlive National’s hold on government. One can only hope that MFAT is working hard to ensure that it does not.

From the Department of Random Ideas

datePosted on 12:22, June 22nd, 2010 by Lew

How about Shane Taurima for Sean Plunket’s replacement on Morning Report?

A radically different style from Plunket, but he does have good interviewing chops, very extensive experience and strong credentials, especially in hard political news. His interviews with party leaders before the election were exceptional and demonstrated that he can’t be pigeonholed as a “brown issues” journalist. To my knowledge he has been scrupulously neutral with regard to politics, throughout both the present and previous governments. He is fluent in te reo, and has — dare I say — a deeper understanding of Māori issues than any other journalist who would be considered for the role. He would bring a marked change of style and perspective to the programme.

I am on record stating a preference for Radio NZ to elevate someone from within their existing journalistic ranks rather than head-hunting a star, but we sure could use some more Māori faces and voices in the mainstream broadcast news. There are a few: Julian Wilcox, Eru Rerekura, Willie Jackson, John Tamihere, Jenny-May Coffin and others all do good work, but at the fringes — on low-rating or niche channels, constricted bulletins and difficult timeslots, or in sports or talkback rather than proper news. There are a number of senior reporting and editorial/production staff — such as Duncan Garner, and Carol Hirschfeld’s departure from Campbell Live in particular is sorely missed — but all in all Mike McRoberts is the only Māori anchor of a mainstream news programme, and most people don’t think of him as such (which is in many ways a testament to his success).

Shane has just quit his job at Marae due to the impending format shift, and his role with TVNZ is apparently in doubt. John Bishara of Te Māngai Pāho says he must be “going to something better”, so I suppose one question is whether Morning Report is “something better”.

L

Brown still on the horse

datePosted on 09:59, June 22nd, 2010 by Lew

Bless the Herald, burying the most important point of an article about the Auckland supercity mayoralty race at the very bottom:

Mr Brown also spoke of leadership and the need to deliver a resounding majority for the mayor so he or she could sit there with the mandate with the support of the community. [sic]
Judging from the mood of the meeting [in Point Chevalier], he won a resounding victory last night.

It seems remarkable to me that Brown could beat John Banks “resoundingly” in gentrified Pt Chev, of which (as I recall) Banks is himself a long-time resident. But then, I don’t know Auckland very well, and perhaps I’m misreading it. Is there something I’m missing or is this actually a biggish deal?

It apparently counterindicates DPF’s and Hamish Collins of No Minister’s reasoning that Len Brown is toast because Kerre Woodham reckons he’s a nutter and she is some sort of bellwether for this “Grey Lynn liberal” demographic. Because her status as a talkback host and columnist who recently came out in favour of three strikes didn’t disqualify her from that already.

Disclosure: According to 8 Tribes questionnaire, bogus pop-sociology though it might be, I’m very squarely a member of the Grey Lynn tribe myself. I’m sure you’re all shocked, just shocked.

L

Visual perks of office

datePosted on 10:02, June 21st, 2010 by Lew

(NZ Herald.)

I don’t have much time today, but wanted to note the above image of John Key in an All White strip after this morning’s 1-1 victory over Italy. The significance of the event notwithstanding, the slightest chance of a result such as this, and its reflected glory, was surely a significant reason for Key to attend the All Whites-Italy match. Fair enough, too.

It also reminded me of when then-PM Helen Clark donned a Kiwis Warriors jersey after a momentous rugby league victory (2005 Tri-Nations?). But for the life of me, I can’t find a photo of that event. I know it was pretty well-seen at the time — footage of the team celebrations with Clark was part of the post-match TV broadcast and made the news, but it’s like the stills have just vanished down the memory hole.

Ironically, while googling, I did find a photo of John Key as a Warrior, though this one is apparently advertising bumpf:

(H/T NZ Conservative, who asked “I wonder if Helen would have done it?” Well, wonder no more.)

Those look suspiciously like Steve Price’s forearms.

Edit: Pat, in the comments, points out that I’m probably remembering the Warriors, not the Kiwis. Probably right. There are certainly a bunch of PR shots of Clark with the team after their 19 September 2009 playoff win over the Roosters — conveniently just a couple of weeks before the general election.

(Stuff gallery.)

Thanks Pat.

L

A Diplomatic Dilemma: Kowtow or Confront?

datePosted on 17:53, June 18th, 2010 by Pablo

The manhandling of Green Party leader Russell Norman by Chinese security guards as they escorted a high-level delegation into Parliament raises some thorny questions for the government. Norman was protesting in favour of a free Tibet when his flag was taken from him and he was shoved to the ground. Technically speaking, he was exercising his democratic right to free speech and protest on parliament grounds, so the minute the guards laid hands on him they were guilty of assault. Of course, it remains to be seen if Norman did anything to provoke the guards reaction, such as by rushing at the visiting officials or uttering threats (neither of which appears at this juncture to have happened). Some commentators believe that he deserved what he got because he was being provocative merely by protesting , or because the whole episode was a PR stunt anyway. Even so, if the assault on him was provoked by his holding the flag or shouting “free Tibet”  rather than him posing an immediate physical threat to the delegation, then the guards were in fact violating his rights as well as NZ criminal law and parliamentary protocol. So what is the government to do?

China is now the second largest trading partner of NZ, which has secured the first bilateral free trade agreement between China and a Western country. The National government has worked hard to deepen ties with the PRC, to the point that it is working on the details of a military exchange program with the Asian giant and has not opposed the sale of strategic assets to Chinese consortia. In the past the 5th Labour government has coordinated with visiting Chinese delegations to prevent protesters from getting close to the visitors. There is, in other words, a history of NZ officials working to appease Chinese sensitivities about protest and dissent within a larger context of improving relations between the two countries.

But there has never been a direct confrontation between members of a Chinese entourage and NZ citizens, much less a shoving match between Chinese nationals and an MP inside of parliament itself (as far as I know previous protests by Ron Donald never escalated this far). So a precedent is about to be set. If the NZ Police charge the security guards with assault, or if the government declares them personae non grata and expels them, then NZ runs the risk of having these strengthening ties disrupted by a Chinese diplomatic backlash. Even of short lived or partial, any retaliatory curtailment of trade and investment could end up costing NZ millions of dollars in lost revenue (and the jobs that go with it). But if the Police or government do nothing, then they send the signal that NZ’s commitment to civil rights is secondary to its commitment to trade. Some might see that as kowtowing to an authoritarian one party state in the pursuit of profit. So far the Police have said that they will investigate Norman’s complaint about the incident, but  that does not mean it will result in charges being laid.

One line of argument could be that NZ has to look at the broader and longer-term picture and not jeopardise a relationship that is crucial to NZ’s future prosperity over a trivial incident. A counter-argument is that NZ has more to lose if it abandons its democratic principles in favour of the ethereal promise of cash down the road. One rationale privileges principle over practicality; the other privileges the reverse.

So, what is to be done? What should be Labour and ACT’s responses be (as the majority opposition party and supposed champion of individual rights, respectively)? Should pragmatism triumph over principle, or should principle outweigh economic and diplomatic considerations? Is there a compromise solution in which face is saved all around? Will the Police go through the motions of an investigation but do nothing, and if so, what will National do by way of official follow up?

Less one think that this conundrum could only occur because of the nature of the Chinese, consider this scenario:

A protester attempts to approach US Vice President Biden and/or Secretary of State Clinton at the Beehive entrance in order to deliver a petition demanding closure of Camp X Ray at Guantanamo, or better yet, a summons to the International Court of Justice for complicity in US “war crimes” in Iraq and Afghanistan. What do you think the Secret Service response would be, and if the Secret Service agents surrounding the US dignitaries were to react in a physical manner, would the NZ Police or government press charges against them?

Such are the quandaries of being an elf amongst giants.

Life mimicking art: outrageous vainglory

datePosted on 13:56, June 18th, 2010 by Lew
This is John Galt.

“This is John Galt.”

If there lingers any doubt the film production of Atlas Shrugged is going to be an epic adolescent ego-stroking festival, it must surely be dispelled by the news that the director (Paul Johansson, of teen-angst-dram series One Tree Hill) is also the hero: John Galt. The resonant hubris of this is so stark that the fact he’s never directed a feature film before barely deserves a mention.

There’s one point of interest for New Zealand viewers, though: Grant Bowler, probably better known as Wolf from Outrageous Fortune, is down for Hank Rearden.

There is no such thing as a temporary (career) suicide.

“There is no such thing as a temporary (career) suicide.”

Grant Bowler has some chops, and he suits the character. My previous misgivings notwithstanding, I reckon that’ll be reason enough to watch it. But, my goodness, what a brush to risk being tarred with.

(H/T to Peter Cresswell and his always-excellent ramble.)

L

Bestest

datePosted on 08:52, June 18th, 2010 by Lew

Stuart Dye’s column which uses perfectly sound* logic to reach the conclusion that the All Whites are the world’s fifth-equal-best football team,** is a bit of fun. The only problem is that while reading it I kept getting flashbacks to the flimsiest rationalisations of the left’s 2008 election campaign. By careful selection and weighting of the criteria by which to judge the political field it was possible to argue — at times convincingly — that Labour and the Greens had it in the bag, and that’s what many people did instead of taking a long hard look at their team’s performance.

Ironically enough, I’m pretty sure those picking the criteria and making the rationalisations weren’t surprised in the slightest when their outcomes failed to eventuate.

Delusional partisan jingoism in a sport where we have a snowball’s chance: harmless. In politics: not so harmless.

L

* For unusual values of “perfectly” and “sound”.
** Above us are Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands and Argentina — and by now Mexico and Nigeria Greece, which I suppose makes us seventh equal.

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