Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sigh ... here we go again

(First published in The Dominion Post, February 21.)
IT’S STARTED already, and the election is still months away. I refer to the tiresome (but all too predictable) Winston Peters blusterfest, which can be expected to gather momentum as the year progresses. 
He started 2014 as he no doubt intends to continue, spraying press gallery journalists with what one reporter described as a “suite of insults” in response to perfectly legitimate questions about his dealings with Kim Dotcom.

First he was evasive about whether he had met the grotesque German. None of the media’s business, he snarled. (In fact it’s very much the public’s, and therefore the media’s, business.)
Then, when he was cornered, Mr Peters admitted he had met Herr Dotcom, but had given him an assurance that their dealings would be confidential. That was the cue for a sanctimonious rebuke of the media for supposedly expecting him to betray a confidence.

“In many years of politics,” Mr Peters harrumphed, “I have never broken a confidentiality agreement and do not intend to start doing so, despite the squawking of beltway reporters in Parliament.”
Classic Peters. Deflect attention from the issue. Indignantly claim the moral high ground. Portray yourself as the aggrieved party. Turn the blame onto the media for trying to do its job, which is to tell the public what their elected representatives are getting up to behind their backs.

In a further display of the diversionary tactics at which he excels, Mr Peters affected moral outrage at the fact that the prime minister knew about the secret meetings. The only possible explanation was that the government was spying on him.
I thought it deeply ironic that a politician who has made a career out of making sensational allegations without disclosing his sources should be affronted when someone uses a similar tactic against him.

We can expect much more dissembling from Mr Peters as the year progresses. The tragedy is that a small proportion of the electorate will fall for it. The best we can hope for is that being bewildered souls, they won’t be able to find their way to a polling booth.
* * *
PHILIP Seymour Hoffman was one of the very few actors I would go to see regardless of what film he was in. His death from a heroin overdose was a shock and a tragedy.
But it brought into the open a strange phenomenon. Suddenly the press was full of junkies and ex-junkies describing how their lives had been affected by their drug habits.

The justification, presumably, was that all this publicity would serve as a warning to others. But in the eyes of the impressionable, the overall effect may have been to romanticise drug addiction and lend it in air of alluring mystique. 
Even former junkies who have been clean for years seem to relish talking, almost to the point of boasting, about their addiction.

There’s a note of nostalgic yearning in the way some recall their junkie days, as if they still rather miss the buzz and the danger. And the media seem to get a vicarious thrill from recounting their stories. Perhaps they should all just shut up.
* * *
ONE OF THE least surprising pieces of news in the past 100 years or so is the revelation that women in the armed forces are given a hard time.
Allowing women to join the military may have been considered a glorious milestone in the march to sexual equality, but it was bound to end in tears.
The armed services have been male institutions for centuries. They attract men who enjoy the company of other men.
Expecting them to shed their strange tribal traditions and open their arms to women was a worthy but naïve ideal. Bullying and sexual harassment, as reported last week, were almost inevitable.
Personally, I don’t understand why any sensible woman would want to join the military in the first place. It makes as much sense as a rabbi applying to join Al-Qaeda.
* * *
I RECENTLY drove across the Rimutaka Hill behind a McLaren sports car. It was so low you could park it in the garage without having to open the roller door.
I have no idea what it would be worth, but I’d hazard a guess and say several hundred thousand.
What intrigued me was its colour. It was grey.

Now why would you spend megabucks on one of the world’s most exciting performance cars and have it painted a dull grey? It’s a mystery.

Perhaps this says something about us as a country. Internationally the most popular car colour is white, but my own unscientific surveys suggest that in New Zealand it’s grey. Perhaps that should be the colour of the new flag everyone’s talking about.


Karl du Fresne said...

My apologies for the blotchy appearance of the above blog. If anyone can give me a clue as to why certain paragraphs mysteriously appear in white, I'd be grateful.

Sam said...

I reluctantly have to agree that we Peters supporters may have difficulty finding our way to the poling booths. We are mostly quite elderly and can remember what NZ was like before the ravages of Roger Douglas. Things like full employment, livable pensions, little crime, livable basic wages, 40 hour week, parents with time to coach sport on weekends and Chief executives with fair remuneration. And we can remember only Peters on the right and Jim Anderton on the left who actually stood up against the actions. So while we can navigate our electric scooters to the booths we will still do so.

Jigsaw said...

I think Sam typifies much about the Peters supporters. They are seen to be old -therefor the old vote for NZ First. Notice how the cameras always pan around the grey heads at his meetings. being old - the perceived truth goes on-they are all confused and vote for Winston. Truth is Sam that life before Roger Douglas was unsustainable-we were hurtling toward the edge of the cliff. Winston and Jim will never see that let alone admit it. Can I suggest that you watch Winston in the house any day and see just how out of touch he really is and what an ineffective group he has bought into the house with him. He has really lost it and the Huka lodge episode is just the latest manifestation of that.

Unknown said...

I am a woman and served in the NZ Army for 27 years and am proud of my service. My dad influenced my decision to enlist and I never regretted it. I find your remark about not understanding why any sensible woman would join the military amusing and ignorant and I think your blog profile sums your working knowledge of the military up nicely “I know a little bit about a lot of things and probably not enough about anything.”

WO1 (Rtd) Lou Kirby

Karl du Fresne said...

Believe it or not, my intention was never to disparage women in the military, but obviously that's the meaning some readers have taken from it (including one who had a letter published in the Dom Post today). I guess I'll have to be more careful in future about making flippant throwaway remarks.

Ricardo said...

Karl, how did you know it was a McLaren? Did it have a Mercedes Badge on its back?

Karl du Fresne said...

From the rear I picked it for a Ferrari at first. Then I noticed the number plate, which indicated its provenance. Anyway, who would paint a Ferrari grey?

Ricardo said...

Did the number plate start with a U and end with an L? If so believe me the colour is silver and stock and that's the way the Germans wanted it painted. Leave flamboyance to the Italians, a good functional silver for the Teutons.

Sam said...

In answer to Jigsaw, once again you have to be tolerant of us elderly and confused, It just never occurred to me that the way to control the 3 or 4 unions who were holding the country to ransom and wrecking the economy was to cheaply sell our assets to a group of tax dodging robber barons so they could grandstand round the community and make no contribution what so ever.

Karl du Fresne said...

In response to Sam, who seems to have fond memories of the pre-Rogernomics era, I think the following recollection by former National Party whip and Muldoon lieutenant Michael Cox in today's Herald, referring to the last months of Muldoonism, are pertinent.

"His [Muldoon's] fortress economy with controls on wages, interest rates, prices and dividends, was collapsing in a large heap. The Budget finally passed contained a deficit of 6 per cent of GDP, the biggest in history.

"Eight months after that drunken night [this was a reference to National's attempt to get its Budget passed in Parliament] he finally called an early election. Behind the scenes he was struggling to get his next Budget to a deficit of less than 10 per cent of GDP."

So even those in government at the time recognised that things had to change.