Obamania-mania: Obviously, this is plastered all over the paper today. It's rare that I feel positive about any political phenomenon, so the whole shebang makes me slightly uneasy. I suppose it's nice to see the unambiguous joy which the election has brought to so many people, even if it's only shared by the 52.9% of people who voted for him (just in case you forgot.) Before the election, there was a theory doing the rounds that the devotion towards Obama from his 'fans' bordered on a personality cult. Certainly, if you had actually asked his voters for one of his concrete policies, nine-out-of-ten of them would have just stared at you, slack-jawed.
Whether or not the 'personality cult' idea is 'true' (whatever that would mean) I'm not sure I see it lasting once people lose their jobs and have no food to put on their Obama '08 commemorative plates. What excites me most about Obama coming in is that no-one knows what he is going to do! When Bush came in, everyone knew he was going to be a right-wing arsehole. But Obama?!? Is he a radical socialist who is going to nationalise healthcare and make gay marriage compulsory? Is he a right-wing cipher who, having mind-controlled half of America, will scrap the minimum wage and lock up single mothers? But seriously now, folks - he won't be Bush, and he won't be Lenin, but there's quite a spectrum there between open for guesses. You'll forgive me if I don't raise my hopes too high.
El Presidente Chavez throwing his toys, and the dice: Speaking of Obama, Sr. Chavez got into the paper for slagging off the president-elect in response to comments (that were apparently never even made!) that Chavez was an obstacle to progress. Now, we could be charitable to Chavez and admit that the previous administration(s) weren't exactly friendly, but it could just be that in the run up to the rehash of the constitutional referendum Chavez worries that, in Bush, he is losing his greatest asset. Oh, and he used teargas and rubber bullets on student protesters.
Seeing Chavez lose, or throw away, more of his marbles is another letdown for 'progressives' such as myself who hoped that it would be a new dawn for a continent that, let's be honest, had had a rough century. Of course, and I probably should have known this, all it demonstrated was that Lord Acton was right about absolute power corrupting absolutely.
Auckland, brought to you by Sir Edmund Hillary: Of course, this isn't strictly news but, for some unknown reason, bored people have been writing in to the Letters page with their wonderful suggestions as to how to further honour the most-honoured New Zealander: rename One Tree Hill 'Mt Hillary; rename the airport 'Sir Edmund Hillary International Airport', presumably to commemorate his legendary love of flying; or how about renaming Auckland 'Hillary City'. Hillary fucking City!
The worst part is not, of course, that the man had more honours than any NZer since Ernest Rutherford (a point made recently by Helen Clark - you could almost hear the sigh in her voice while reading her quote), but that he actually said he didn't want any of this. He was fundamentally a humble man who wanted his memorial to be a continuation of his charitable work, rather than wasting money on a statue. So, NZ Herald, for the love of God, enough with the letters!
Te Maori flag: Thanks, Catalina Young, of Mt Roskill, for this incisive contribution to the Maori flag debate:
'... every time I've seen it [the tino rangatiratanga flag], it's being borne by a bedraggled bunch of abject, unemployable no-hopers dressed in tracksuit pants/jeans, vests [!] and sneakers, most of them wearing dark shades [!!] and clinically obese. This evokes a sense of national pride?'
Wow, Catalina. You really managed to cover all the bases of Maori stereotypes there, although there is no mention of them beating children (yet). Imagine not wearing a suit while on a protest or a march! Or perhaps Ms Young is referring to high-powered legal meetings where they waved the flag with pride in trackies (and wore sunglasses inside - major faux pas). And news just in: fat people deserve no respect! Sigh.
Kosher cafes: So I wonder if Mustafa Tetinkaya is regretting banning two Israeli women from his Turkish Cafe in Invercargill (suddenly finding itself in the middle of international geopolitics). Certainly the letters in the Herald have come down pretty hard. It's certainly a bit of a storm in a teacup compared to what is happening in Gaza - I'm sure that a few doors down is another cafe more than willing to take $4.00 off their hands for a coffee. Catherine Spencer of Remmers (of course) thinks it 'can lead to the slippery slide [which, let's face it, sounds much more fun than a slippery slope] of banning people on the grounds of skin colour, religion or sexual orientation.' Really? And I thought it was just a cafe owner losing two customers.
Meanwhile, the better-educated M.W. Stevens of Freemans Bay compared the Gaza invasion with the atrocities against Kurds and Armenians in Turkey, and - gasp! - finds Mr Tetinkaya a hypocrite. Well, of course he is, but that's hardly big news. Ever cried a tear about African poverty and then bought Nescafe? What's 'interesting' about M.W.'s letter is that he claims that the owner's failure to ban himself from his own cafe means 'this can only be viewed as an anti-Semitic attack'. Yawn. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Maybe it's just a rather misdirected, bad-taste attempt at genuine solidarity. Let's just say that I'd rather be an Israeli in Invercargill (*shudder*) than a Palestinian in Gaza City - but ask me again in a month.