Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009: Obama's balls, healthy politics, our heroes, and fruity letters

Inaugural Balls: So it turns out that my 'plans' to live-blog the inauguration didn't turn out, due to lack of interest (mine). Luckily I arose early enough to watch the thrilling spectacle of the presidential armoured car driving - slowly - to the White House. But apparently this was nothing compared to the spectacular coverage on CNN of Obama's train ride from Philadelphia to DC. If you thought, say, the last Lord of the Rings movie, or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Apocalypse Now Redux were long, you've never watched seven hours of gripping footage of a train travelling slowly cross-country. If I weren't so accepting of the official line, I would be tempted to think it was some kind of media experiment into how much paint television viewers are prepared to watch dry in one stretch. At any rate, as I sit here with CNN on now (muted, naturally), the bottom of the screen informs me of the day's schedule:

Now: Pres. Obama Watches Parade
Next: Former Pres. Bush Lands in Texas
Later: Inaugural Balls

Touché, CNN. Touché.

Why politicians do things: The other face staring out at me from the front page today is the rather less pleasing visage of Health Minister Tony Ryall. Not one to be outdone by the inauguration, Ryall has forced his way into my consciousness by calling off a health conference in Wellington that was to cost taxpayers $123,000. The Herald choose to headline this "Ryall's strong-arm kills gathering", which rather makes it sound like the Health Minister went on a murderous rampage in a Buddhist monastery. At the risk of appearing a wee bit right-wing, I'm not certain that it's a disaster for the health community, which could probably do with the money instead - especially considering that, as the Herald rather obliquely points out, it was actually costing $350,000 to run. The difference in costs was down to attendance fees paid by the doctors, nurses, pharmacists et al who were to attend. Most of whom were being paid for by district health boards. Which are funded by the government. Which, and I hope I haven't lost you here, is funded by taxpayers.
But my favourite part of this story is how Leader of the Opposition Phil Goff objected that 'Mr Ryall might have interfered for political reasons.' So, Mr Goff, you are claiming that the MINISTER OF HEALTH called off a HEALTH conference funded by money from the MINISTRY OF HEALTH for political reasons? Next.

It's your old mate, the Greatest living 'Kiwi': The Herald, having only just realised that Sir Edmund Hillary, the 'Greatest Living Kiwi' (tm), has died, has launched a contest to find out who shall inherit his mantle. Unfortunately it's not the good, Krypton Factor type of contest, but rather one where the type of people who frequent Your Views get to vote for their favourite, possibly right next to the poll where they get to vote on which MP they would want to back them up in a fight. The Herald have, luckily, done us all the favour of weeding out unapproved choices by unilaterally cutting the list to ten. The 'finalists' range from the boringly predictable (Helen Clark) to the completely bizarre (The Mad Butcher?? I repeat: The Mad Butcher).
Corporal Willie Apiata, recent winner of the Victoria Cross, is in second place (behind Clark). Now, I don't mean to denigrate Cpl. Apiata's bravery - god knows I wouldn't have done it - but I'm not certain that we want one of the state-approved armed maniacs known as the SAS as our greatest representative. What's more, at the risk of sounding blasé, he's only a living New Zealander because the enemy couldn't shoot straight. After all, that's how you get the VC - doing something that's extremely likely to get you killed. Bringing up the rear are Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall and the second-most bizarre pick (I repeat: The Mad Butcher), Louise Nicholas. You may remember her as the women who alleged that she was raped by that lovable posse of Rickards, Shipton and Schollum. Now, I have nothing but sympathy for her, and think of those officers as another excellent reason for our police to wear bright, sky blue uniforms. But I'm not certain it qualifies her as the greatest New Zealander ever. On second thought, she's probably no less 'qualified' (whatever that means) than Colin Meads.
Finally, I repeat: The Mad Butcher.

In Brief: I got briefly excited by the headline "Seal's bid for life on land ends happily", until I realised it was about the animal.

Strange Fruit: In the wake of my piece yesterday about the letters page, the Herald editorial borad have done precisely nothing. In fact, just to spite me, they lead off today with someone complaining about the price of fruit. It turns out that Chris Hayes, of Mairangi Bay, has 'never known summer fruit to be this expensive this long into the season.' And don't even get him/her started on apples. In a bizarre twist, Chris offers this: 'It appears we are paying for something that should be rightfully ours, something we all grew up with in our backyards and picked straight from the tree.' So, not only is $6 too expensive for a bag of apples, so is $1, or 6c. This must be why the UN Convention on Human Rights features the right to apples, somewhere in between life and liberty.
Now, I don't know if fruit is too expensive. But, if it is, don't buy it. Or, even better, go and pick the apples off that tree in your backyard.

Emmerson's view: Emmerson's cartoon might be mildly amusing - might be - if the Chief Justice weren't John Roberts, a Bush appointee and member of the conservative bloc on the Supreme Court. I can't imagine that they will be high-fiving each other any time soon. Also: does Obama have a massive forehead I haven't noticed before? Or is he just too handsome to accurately caricature?

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