Saturday, November 08, 2008

You say you're so lonely / well that's all that you deserve

A few weeks back Brigid and I sat in a restaurant on Hong Kong’s peak with a few friends. One of these, Felix, had brought his dad, Kevin, along.

His dad was an enormously successful importer / exporter out of and into Hong Kong. We talked and we laughed a fair bit and I enjoyed his company.

After a while he asked where we came from. New Zealand I answered, explaining that we were Asian based expats.
You must be enormously proud of your Prime Minister said Kevin.

I explained that proud was not really the right word…well yes it was a word I’d use, as below but perhaps supportive and grateful were more appropriate.

Supportive because I generally agreed with both her philosophical and policy. And grateful because of the enormous strides the industry I’d been involved in had been able to take over the past decade as a direct result of her active personal input in furthering the industry. Last month there were, in one week, 13 New Zealand albums in the NZ Top 40. That would have been unthinkable if we’d had a continuation of National’s arts policies of the 1990s.

Kevin seemed an unlikely fan though...he was a very conservative aging businessman, the sort of person you’d assume would support the right. So I queried his opinion.

His opinion of Ms. Clark, he said, was based on how she was perceived outside her home country. Kevin explained that New Zealand’s mighty, and much improved in recent years, reputation, at least in the Asia-Pacific region, rested in no small part upon the way she was perceived. As honest, decent, clean and principled. And, importantly, independent.

It’s hard to overstate how positively New Zealand is viewed beyond it’s shores and it, too, is hard to overstate the role Helen Clark has in that perception. It wasn’t always so. Before 2000 we were seen as pretty much a US satellite state. Clean though…

As a non resident New Zealander I feel a little, no that’s silly, more than that, quite a bit, saddened by the end of the Clark era. She’s someone who, and I think my opinion is echoed by most New Zealanders I meet offshore, that does give me some pride. Taxi drivers around Asia ask where I’m from...they either respond to my answer with “Kia Ora!” or a thumbs up “Helen Clark!”.

She has substantial international mana and I’m pretty sure John Key, who from a distance looks like a personality free zone (an opinion emphasized by his pathetic leap onto Obama both before the election and in his victory speech…does he have his own personality or simply borrow?), will be lucky to achieve same level of respect beyond the nation’s shores. And of course that respect translates back to New Zealand’s standing.

This election, in an odd way also changes, ever so slightly, my feelings for my home country. In the last few years, since I left NZ, I’m finding some parts of it harder and harder to relate to and this change unfortunately confirms that distance.

I don’t quite get the bile that’s infested parts of the political landscape of NZ, such as the rampant hate of many of the right wing blogs and those that inhabit them. Or the likes if the wacko fringe like Ian Wishart or Lindsey Perigo. Maybe I missed it before, but did we always have these sorts of nutters? Maybe we did but before the net came along they simply festered and hung out at dusty halls shouting slogans at candidates before the police rustled them off. Now they get an audience and the festering…with slogans like Helengrad and Liarbor… finds bizarre currency. Or they wail endlessly corruption without having any idea of what corruption actually means to the sort of kids in third world countries who spend years studying and passing exams but are unable to get the paperwork to prove it because their parents can’t afford to bribe the teacher and headmaster...that’s corruption, not the signing of a picture or not, or a hundred other things that’ve been thrown at Helen Clark.

This despite the fact that both her, and her unfairly maligned husband are amongst the most dedicated and profoundly decent people I’ve met, in or out of politics. The need to slur them, and god, haven’t they been slurred, says more about the sludge who make the slurs that the targets.

Today the sludge won and I really don’t know if I want any part of it.

Myself, I think history, and we need to wait a few years, for this will view the last Labour Government, but in particular it’s leader as important and of substantial note. Someone said she’s of the ages which is a bit tough..she is after all, still alive…but the idea is correct.

That said I can’t help but feel that maybe it was time for her to move on, not because of what she had or had not done, but because she was of her time and that time, in NZ at least, and not for the better, seems to be passing.

The old cliché about a country getting the government they deserve has been tossed around a fair bit in recent hours and I can’t help but concur. Maybe it’s time for the gray, mediocre drones to have their shot. That last bit may be a little unfair but having lived through several National governments, it feels that way each time.

But they surely reflect a side of New Zealand that I don’t miss or crave.

Thank you Helen.

You step inside but you dont see too many faces / Coming in out of the rain to hear the jazz go down

I guess I'd better see if I have any grey slacks left in the back of the wardrobe...last worn in 1999.

I'll need them next time in in NZ to blend, if you will..oh and one of those nice thick brown belts you get from Hallensteins..

Friday, November 07, 2008

I seek to cure whats deep inside / frightened of this thing that I've become

Is it wrong of me? Maybe...but I'm thoroughly enjoying the US rightwing implosion after this week's rout. Witness the reliably odious Michelle Malkin:

Sarah Palin worked her heart out. She energized tens of thousands to come out who would have otherwise stayed home. She touched countless families. I didn’t agree with everything she said on the campaign trail. But two fundamental conservative stands she took mattered greatly to me: She vigorously defended the Second Amendment and the sanctity of life more eloquently in practice than any of the educated conservative aristocracy.

And she did it all with a tirelessness and infectious optimism that defied the shameless, bottomless attempts by elites in both parties to bring her and her family down.

Shame on the smearers who don’t have the balls to show their faces.

Malkin's no fool..she thoroughly despises her audience, she's in it for the bucks, but knows that they lap this stuff up and there's potentially (a few million) dollars in it for her in the future if she pushes this line.

This is in response to Fox's increasingly bizarre 'fair and balanced' reporting that Palin didn't know Africa was a continent:

I'm not sure if I buy that at all. She's conniving and dumb but surely not that dumb..although on second thoughts maybe she is, there is voluminous evidence that points in that direction, much from her own mouth. But more likely this is just the other side swinging first, and as Malkin correctly says, McCain chose her, and that, regardless of how thick or dishonest or just plain nasty she is, really is the bottom line. That she accepted, of course, is another matter altogether and speaks unpleasant volumes about her. Surely you know when you are not up to the job. Maybe not.

can't you be somebody else? (no)
look at you described to a tee (huh)
you're a fool of many in society
I know some more, I shall go on
and continue in the song, fooled the fool*

This guy is a fool, but hell, he gets published. His odd fact free argument is just to stomp his feet and say it ain't true, with gems like:

The McCain camp simply wanted to use Sarah Palin. And the liberals are quick to tear at the flesh thrown to them. Fact of the matter is.. She scares the living crap out of the left because she is sharp, talented, independent and a quick study.

and then there is:

Like she really couldn't name a Newspaper. More like she didn't want to single any particular one out.

And I also think McCain's concession speech was thoroughly dishonest. After all the sludge and slime that he has not only been a part of, but actively encouraged, how can he stand in front of that seethingly ugly and inconsolably angry crowd, who think that American has elected a Marxist Child Murdering Terrorist because he and his ilk have repeatedly told them so, and preach unity.

If you have a spare moment and a thick skin, go to Redstate, right now it's better than The Onion or The Daily Show. These guys rock!

So you go Michelle....this will only get better as the crazies try and out-froth, and consume each other.

*courtesy of A Tribe called Quest

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

they still call it the white house / but that's a temporary condition too

All I really need to say is thank god I was wrong. I'm a firm believer, especially as I'm now residing in the land where voodoo, or a local variation of it, is a legitimate political philosophy, that one should not be too optimistic about these things

I'm a pessimist but I'm also hopeful.

I'm hopeful that Obama will have the foresight and wisdom to invite all the Clintons to his inauguration, but most of whom George, who will then be persuaded to perform the original version of Paint The White House Black (or Chocolate City as it's more correctly called) as the song's been thirty years in the wings waiting for this very moment.

We went to an American expat gathering in Sanur to watch the flag go down on eight years of Republican hell. It was a fairly uncontroversial gathering...a straw poll (anonymous) gave Obama one hundred and something votes to one, and the appropriated named organiser, Jack Daniels, wisely advised the lone Repug to keep very quiet.

That, of course was hardly a surprise, since, from personal observation, Republicans rarely travel unless they are a) posted places by big corporations, or b) in the army. Hell, most don't leave their county I'd imagine.

The two hired Indonesians dressed as Uncle Sam, on stilts, really looked the part. I'm just not sure what part it was supposed to be.

It was all going rather well..the food was overpriced but OK and the beers were even more ludicrously priced but try as we might we couldn't win any thing in the raffle, aside from two very un-American Heineken towels...until they announced the CNN forecast of an Obama slam.

This was followed by a very loud rendition of Hail To The Chief which seemed odd since the chief was nowhere to be hailed, either in Sanur or in Chicago at that stage. And then the speakers roared out The Boss. Born in the USA came rattling out of the PA at deafening levels and the bloke next to us, who I think was European rather than American..or maybe he was just born in Hawaii and grew up in Europe, as you do..screamed out something that sounded like hallelujah, and burst into tears.

Bruce, evocations to the almighty, and was all too much and I decided I'd pass on the reduced ($7.50) Obama 08 t shirt on sale. They gave me an official Obama / Biden badge instead which was fine and will go well with my, keep-the-Marxists-together, Mao t shirt from Shanghai.

The chap from Europe was happy. We all, bar the lone Republican in hiding (we think it was Tom, who sells grossly overpriced 'antiques' on the Bypass) , were.

And then, with some timing, the AV guys decided to fine tune the CNN feed as Obama was about to hit the stage. A flurry of hands at the guys, not least from the distraught guy next door to us who was about to miss his moment. And it came back on, with a red tint..which seemed out of place this late in the game.

The guy next door shouted out series of whoops and Obama wandered on and said his, very impressive, bit before handing back to Wolf Blizter. The Indonesians dressed as Uncle Sam wondered what it was all about. Tom from the Bypass looked depressed and Jack Daniels said it was time to party, but being midday we thought it was time to leave.

I'm very happy.