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Pretty Boys and Bangable Faces

Pretty Boy Floyd

In her excellent Sideswipe column in the Herald Ana Samways today takes a look at.some ‘untranslatable’ words from other languages. They include the German ‘Backpfeifengesicht’ which apparently means ‘a face that is begging to be slapped’.

Despite having been a lecturer in German literature, I’d never heard the word. But I can tell you that when I was at school in Belfast we had a shorter and equally expressive word for certain unfortunates among our classmates. The word was ‘bangable’. Some people just have bangable faces. Faces that invite you to hit them.

Now you don’t have to remonstrate with me for making this observation. I don’t applaud the instinct to assault people with bangable faces. Indeed I condemn it with every fibre in my being. I merely observe that such an instinct exists. And it’s better to acknowledge such instincts and expose them to the light of reason than to let them fester in the dark of denial.

After all, some of the world’s most violent criminals have gone under the moniker ‘Pretty Boy’. Say hello to Pretty Boy Floyd. (Don’t stare though. Pretty Boy doesn’t take well to people staring!)

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Is this Democracy?

As I write this Winston Peters may or may not have made up his mind whether to go with Bill or Jacinda. How many brain cells to you have to lose in order to regard MMP as a workable and satisfactory form of democracy. One egotist – I would have used a stronger term but my wife says it would be defamatory – one egotist is offered the keys to the kingdom and gratefully, if not graciously, accepts. And this is the third time it has happened.

This is not democracy; this borders on autocracy. Only the names of the powerbrokers change. When the leaders of the two largest parties in the country have to go cap in hand to the joker in the pack in order to govern, something is very amiss with the system. This might not be the case if the joker in the pack were motivated by altruism on behalf of the citizenry. But that really is stretching credibility.

It’s fun though. No denying Winston really is a hoot. So that’s all right then. Isn’t it?

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Power, the Aphrodisiac

Power is an aphrodisiac. Fame, often power’s companion, is an aphrodisiac. Anyone who has enjoyed power or fame will know this to be true.

The aphrodisiac qualities of power and fame are to a large degree unrelated to the physical attractiveness of the powerful or the famous person.

Whether your name is Trudeau or Muldoon the aphrodisiac qualities of power will apply, differing only in degree. In my career as a television interviewer I have observed this at first hand on numerous occasions.

Trouble arises when the powerful person fails to recognise the connection between their power and their attractiveness. They fall victim to the delusion of their own inherent and irresistible appeal to the opposite sex. They can neither understand nor accept rejection. Down this path lie inappropriate advances to women and rape. Think Harvey Weinstein and armies of rich and/or famous men.

And you, Brian? Well, my father was a womaniser who abandoned me and my mother and did prison time for bigamy. Sometimes it’s quite useful to have an appalling role model. Teaches you what to avoid.

Cheers!

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Going, Going, Nearly Gone!

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OK, what we have now is a sale! You might call it a bargain basement sale. Or a reverse auction maybe where the price of the goods goes down with every bid. Let’s join the bidding.

‘Item 2017 on your programme, ladies and gentlemen, Running The Country. Can I get a starting bid of a zillion dollars? Gentleman with the blue tie. Thank you sir. Any retreat from a zillion dollars? Lady in the red dress. 500 million. Thank you madam. Any retreat from 500 million? Young man in the green jersey. A lifetime supply of mung beans. Thank you young man. Elderly gent with the dead cat. Five bucks. My goodness! Thank you sir. That’s going to be hard to beat. Dapper Gentleman smoking the cigarette. What’s that sir? Minus anything any of the others bid. And a partridge in a pear tree. But you’re willing to share Running The Country for the next 3 years with any of the previous bidders. Any further retreats? No? Final chance, ladies and gentlemen? Going, Going! Gone! That concludes the auction, ladies and gentlemen. If the gentleman smoking the cigarette will join me and the other bidders in a dimly lit back room, negotiations can begin.’

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Labour’s New Tax Plan: A Helluva Lot to Ask

I’m a huge fan of Herald political commentator John Armstrong. His writing is superb, his analysis invariably astute and his objectivity beyond question. The proof of this is that he pleases and offends Right, Left and Centre in equal measure.

So I was surprised by his column this morning which is an unqualified assault on Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that she will not release Labour’s tax policy until after the 2017 election.

This morning’s column headline left little doubt of what was to come:

“HOW JACINDA’S CUNNING PLAN FELL APART”

And the subhead removed any doubt of what was to come:

“‘Let’s not do that’ becomes Labour’s motto as tax nips the party’s ankles.”

Armstrong begins:

“Like the sands through the hourglass – it has taken just four short weeks for Jacinda Ardern’s ‘campaign of our lives’ to become more akin to The Days of our Lives.

“Labour’s Wonder Woman has found herself cast in a long running soap opera – but not as a super hero.”

Read it here:

 http://nzh.tw/11922858

Well, in short, I think Armstrong is absolutely right. Given the relevance of taxation policy, directly or indirectly, to the lives of every man, woman and child in this country, it is simply outrageous to say, “Not telling! Not even a hint! You’ll just have to trust us till after the election. Long after!”

Well of course you could read their current policy. And that would be fine if the Leader of the Opposition could guarantee that it won’t change between now and the 2020 election. But she can’t/won’t do that either.

So here’s what this boils down to.

Jacinda wants you to make her Prime Minister of New Zealand this year. I’m assuming that she has some opinion in her head of our current tax system, whether it benefits or disadvantages most New Zealanders. For the answer to that question she refers us to Labour’s current tax policy which she says will not change without a mandate from New Zealanders at the next election in 2020. She’s saying, ‘Give me almost three years in office as Prime Minister before I even disclose my ideal tax regime. In the meantime here’s a taste.

Seems to me that’s a helluva lot to ask.

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Semantics Perhaps, but Important

In a dodgy piece of journalism in yesterday’s Sunday Star Times, entitled ‘The cynical art of the cheap apology’, Jonathan Milne castigated Finance Minister Steven Joyce for his most recent defence of his claimed $11.7 billion ‘fiscal hole’ in Labour’s campaign promises.

Milne wrote: ‘Challenged to explain his discredited calculations, Joyce took the art of the cheap apology to a new low. “Well I’m sorry,” he said, “but… they’re accurate.”‘

‘And with that, New Zealand’s finance minister devalued the word “sorry” further than he or his predecessors have ever taken the New Zealand dollar.’

Now here’s the problem: when Joyce responds ‘Well I’m sorry… but they’re accurate,’ to the accusations about there being a fiscal hole in his calculations, he isn’t apologising for the calculations, he’s simply being polite. His apology is for disagreeing with the questioner or commentator.

We all do it:

‘Well I’m sorry, I don’t care what it cost, I really don’t like that hat.’

‘Well I’m sorry, you can argue till the cows come home, but I still think Edwards is an idiot.’

‘Well I’m sorry, if that’s art, I’m a Dutchman!’

In every case the ‘sorry’ indicates an apology for disagreeing with someone else’s position. It’s not a mea culpa.

Challenged to defend his calculations, Joyce’s ‘Well I’m sorry’ wasn’t an apology for those calculations, but a common way of prefacing disagreement with something said.

It scarcely deserved the headline: ‘The cynical art of the cheap apology’.

Semantics perhaps, but important.

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Terrible Advice for Bill English that may be Spot On

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Here’s how you look at the moment, Bill:

Tired
Ineffectual
Beaten
Nice
Down
Pleasant
Resigned
Polite
Lost
Moderate
Bewildered
Civil
Unsure
Reasonable
Wet

It’s not working, Sunshine. This girl is having you for breakfast.

What to do? Well, I said it before and I’ll say it again: Man up!

And here’s your new motto, free, gratis and for nothing. (Practice by shouting it from your ninth floor Beehive window.)

I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE!

I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE!

I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE!

It’s not original and it didn’t end too well for the guy who first used it. But he went too far. And Bill mate, it isn’t in your nature to go too far.

What have you got to lose? Being Leader of the Opposition is a shit job. Just ask anyone who’s been there.

OK! “I’M MAD AS HELL…..”

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Just a Crazy Thought

Here’s a crazy thought: let’s ban political journalists from delivering ‘who won/who lost’ judgements on election debates.

Why? Because their judgements are worth no more than yours or mine, but their professional status invites us to assume that they are and to be guided by those judgements.

This leads to what you might call ‘a pre-election vote count’.

Let’s say there are ten political journalists covering the election debates. On average six give the overall win to candidate A, four to candidate B. A bit like a boxing match, except that the judges announce their chosen winner before the fight starts.

Well, this may not affect the hardcore supporter of either major party, but the wavering or undecided voter may well be guided by by these ‘expert opinions’ delivered before the final bell.

It’s simple psychology really. We all want to be on the winning side. And if a majority of pundits are calling it for Party A… Well, you’re swimming against the tide, aren’t you, if you vote for any other party.

Doesn’t that amount to undue influence?

As I said: just a crazy thought.

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Thoughts on the Newshub Debate

Jacinda Ardern  Bill English

I was standing in for Kim Hill on National Radio. On that morning’s guest list was the Leader of the Opposition Helen Clark. Her ‘preferred prime minister’ ratings at the time were dire. Towards the end of the interview I said to her, “You don’t look very happy.”

Not long afterwards I had a call from Helen’s office asking if I could come over for a chat. The possibility of Callingham & Edwards giving Helen some media advice was discussed. To my eternal shame my reply was that I was unsure whether she ‘could be fixed’.

My closest friend at the time was Michael Hirschfeld, then President of the Labour Party. We talked. Michael later brokered a one-off training session with Helen. We looked at tapes of several of her previous TV interviews. In most of them she was overly formal, spoke too loudly and barked.

We explained that the television interview is an intimate, close-up affair and suggested that she speak more quietly and in a more personal tone.

We had a second go.

We’ve trained a helluva lot of people. But Helen was/is the fastest learner by a country mile. She would have won the 1996 election were it not for Winston Peters.

I’m telling this story because I was reminded of those events as I watched last night’s debate between English and Ardern. English was his usual amiable self. He spoke quietly and calmly and showed virtually no sign of being fazed.

Jacinda was more abrasive, more combative, generally louder and occasionally shrill. A kinder interpretation would be to say that she was more passionate.

From a quick read of this morning’s papers the majority view appears to be that English won the debate. Ms Ardern doesn’t want my advice but here it is anyway: Even when you are debating in front of a large and sometimes voluble studio audience, the audience that really matters consists of small groups of people sitting at home in their living rooms distractedly watching the box. Television is an intimate medium. Treat it like a town hall meeting at your peril.

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Some Man to Man Advice for Bill English

Bill English

I’m conflicted. There’s a war going on in my brain. It’s a war between the media trainer and the champagne socialist, a title given me by my so-called friends.

The champagne socialist wants and expects Jacinda Ardern to win the election.

The media trainer prides himself on his ability to turn sows’ ears into silk purses. He has a rescuer mentality. He backs losers, and himself, to win.

The current and probable loser is Bill English. A nice enough chap I would say, but no-one who makes it to the top job in politics is ever entirely nice.A

Paradoxically it’s his niceness that’s buggering his chances of keeping his current job. He needs to harden up, to stop playing the gentleman farmer.

I have a deep suspicion that lurking in his deep subconscious is an early message from his mum and dad, an injunction against ever being mean or nasty to females. Laudable advice for every young boy – who has no ambition to pursue a career in politics. And, paradoxically, demeaning to those women.

Man up, Bill! Stop being a wimp. Stop thinking of your opponent as some nice young Kiwi lady. Start thinking Merkel, Thatcher, Golda Meir, Shipley, Clark … strong, confident, determined women who took no prisoners.

So here’s your choice at the next debate: Get stuck in OR get ready to go back to farming

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She Gave Him His Due

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Who won? Well, I’d give it to Ardern. But not by much. And not really because her arguments were more telling or she scored more points. Sporting analogies aren’t really my thing. I’m my own sports free zone. But for once I can’t find anything more apt to say than that, throughout the debate, Jacinda played the ball and not the man. And more than that, she was generous to her opponent. She gave him his due. SHE GAVE HIM HIS DUE! Wow! That’s not just new, that’s revolutionary. And inspiring. And probably unanswerable. Bring on the next debate!

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Common Sense Dancing

Bill English

Yesterday I posted on Facebook:

‘Never thought I’d say this, but Bill English was brilliant tonight on The Project. Tremendous sense of humour and completely unfazed. Gave me pause for thought.’

There was an immediate and unsurprising response. Treachery or insanity at best! You’re a Labour man, Brian! Worked for Helen Clark! What’s got into you for heaven’s sake?

This is how tribal politics rots your brain: Everything Bill English says or does must be bad; everything Jacinda Ardern says or does must be good. Latest news – It ain’t necessarily so.

What you don’t want in any Prime Minister is lack of a sense of humour. Rob Muldoon had a sense of humour but it was at the expense of others. Helen Clark had a sense of humour, but it rarely made an appearance. Andrew Little claimed to have a dry sense of humour. When I suggested that ‘arid’ might be a more appropriate term, he had the good grace to be amused.

Clive James once wrote: “Common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing moving at different speeds. A sense of humour is just common sense dancing. Those who lack humour are without judgement and should be trusted with nothing.”

Good advice for both participants in tonight’s Leaders Debate.

No charge!

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On Mike Hosking – Don’t Say I Never Warned You

 

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Hi, my name is Brian. Edwards to be precise. You may remember me. I used to be on television. Started in Christchurch on a magazine show called Town and Around. Went North to Wellington to audition for a current affairs show called Gallery. Knew bugger all about politics and stuff and was even less interested. Bluffed my way through the audition.

Cut a long story short, got the job, got famous and thought I was the bee’s knees. (Hazard of the job really – being up yourself.) Fast forward: Left TV, did this and that. In no particular order: unsuccessful Labour candidate for Parliament, trade union worker, school teacher, TV game show host, polytechnic lecturer, Saturday morning radio host, media advisor and media trainer with wife Judy Callingham. Clients included PM Helen Clark and Labour Party ministers. Today semi-retired media consultant and occasional broadcaster. Read the rest of this entry »

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On Metiria Turei and the Quality of Mercy

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The quality of mercy, according to the Bard, ‘is not strained’. Though I got the gist of it, I’ve never actually known precisely what ‘strained’ meant in this context.

Enter Dr Google. ‘Strained’ means ‘not held back; freely given’.

I have journalist Barry Soper to thank for this enlightenment.

Like every other hack in the country Soper has taken the cudgels to Metiria Turei. In an online Herald editorial entitled ‘Now you can understand why Helen Clark never embraced the Greens’, he clinically dissects the former Green Co-Leader’s revelation of her criminal past and her subsequent behaviour.

Like most of the recent comment from the Fourth Estate on this topic it’s self-righteous and unkind.

Two photographs of Turei accompany the text. In one she looks relatively cheerful; in the other utterly despairing. I can’t say who chose the two pics, but they seem designed to illustrate the story of Turei’s downfall. Read the rest of this entry »

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On Relentless Positivity

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The new Leader of the Opposition has undertaken to be ‘relentlessly positive’ between now and the Election in September.

If her appearance on yesterday’s ‘Q & A’ with Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis is anything to go by, his role is to be ‘relentlessly negative’.

‘Relentless’ is generally a negative term: ‘relentless rain, relentless suffering’ etc. One would not commonly refer to ‘relentless good weather’ or ‘relentless happiness’. The same is true of ‘relentlessly positive’. It sounds incongruous, fake.

To illustrate her relentless positivity, Jacinda Ardern smiled relentlessly during her interview with Jessica Mutch on yesterday’s Q &A. That seemed incongruous too, with ‘fake’ not far behind.

Between now and September Jacinda will be relentlessly feted by her adoring supporters. It will be tempting for her to hear little else. I would counsel against that. That dry, laconic, southern man currently running the show comes pretty close to the Kiwi version of the ideal joker. He wouldn’t have looked out of place in the front passenger seat with Barry Crump.

Cheers.

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On Whited Sepulchres

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I’ve been trying to find a suitable term to describe the army of self-righteous Kiwis who have emerged from the swamp of primarily anonymous online and talkback comment to take aim at Metiria Turei. ‘Hypocrites’ came close but just didn’t seem adequate to fit the bill. Frankly I wanted something stronger, something that would convey my disgust at the lack of honesty, self-awareness and common humanity displayed by these writers and callers. And by some of her colleagues in Parliament. I needed something biblical.

And there it was: Matthew 23:27:

‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.’

‘Whited sepulchres’! It fitted the bill nicely. Read the rest of this entry »

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You Can’t Win, Baby.

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It’s been interesting, if not exactly cheering, to note that, within hours of her winning the job of leading the Labour Party, the possibility that Jacinda Ardern might conceive a child while in office has been advanced as an impediment to her ability to be an effective Prime Minister.

Precisely the opposite argument was advanced by the Right about Helen Clark when she entered Parliament and as she rose to prominence as a potential party leader. Her choice not to have children was not only held against her but interpreted and expressed in the most cruel fashion as evidence that she was an unnatural woman and, in all probability, a lesbian.

One might have thought that Helen’s subsequent career might have put paid to this level of chauvinistic prejudice but it seems not. As the French have it: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. The more things change the more they remain the same.

You can’t win, baby!

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My White Car Theory

White suv

Judy and I drive quite a lot. Most weekends we head for the bach in Leigh. There and back a couple of hours in total.

In the process I’ve developed a theory about people who own and drive white cars. They are almost invariably selfish, irresponsible and reckless drivers. Within this group there is a subgroup of even worse drivers – the owners of white SUVs.

I have some understanding of the mentality of the SUV driver. For a time I owned and drove a geriatric blue Mitsubishi Pajero. I quickly became intolerant of every other driver on the road, frequently driving up their bums, the horn blaring. Why? Well, I think the answer has to do with one’s elevated viewpoint. I looked down on them!

This goes some way to explaining the mentality of white SUV drivers, but what about the rest of the white car drivers?

I can’t really answer my own question beyond noting that white reflects the most light and stands out more than any other colour. If you want to be seen, go white. Read the rest of this entry »

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On being Mates with the Aussies

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Spent some time in Brisbane recently visiting our son and daughter-in-law who is ‘with child’. I say ‘our son’ which is technically inaccurate, but I’ve been on the scene so long that what’s hers is mine, and vice versa. Love’s the same either way.

We had a really nice time. They’ve chosen to live in Australia, have a lovely home, good jobs and the weather’s great.

But I worry. We like to think of the Aussies as our good mates across the ditch. But it’s an uneven relationship, something less than a partnership. Generally speaking, I don’t think the Aussies give a stuff about New Zealanders. All that ‘mateship’ rings pretty hollow when it comes to being a Kiwi and living and working in Australia. A child born to New Zealand parents in Oz will wait a decade before it can become a citizen. That’s a longish trial period. And really we’re not that welcome.

We need to take our blinkers off about the Aussies. What we have in common is sport and a history in wars that a majority of us can barely remember. Or not at all. We like them and they sort of like us. As long as we both stay on our own side of the ditch.

I’m up in Leigh, lying in bed, looking out at the sea as I write this. Wouldn’t be anywhere else. We’ll pop into Matakana a bit later for lunch. Everyone knows us round here and we know everyone. I’m reminded every day that coming to New Zealand was the best decision of my life.

And Australia?

Nice place to visit.

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Oh What a Tangled Web WeWeave…

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