How the Middle East wasn’t won; journos behaving badly; and talking te reo in New Zealand.
HOW THE MIDDLE EAST WASN'T WON
The attempt to understand US President George W Bush’s motivations for going to war in Iraq (Editorial, July 23) describes a list of red herrings and ends up in a blind alley in tracing events back to the Crusades.
Many commentators fail to appreciate the significance of the deal Nixon and Kissinger struck with Saudi Arabia, having abandoned gold as the physical asset underpinning the value of the dollar in 1971. The deal with Saudi Arabia – and later with most of the other Gulf oil states – was that in exchange for arms, these countries would trade their oil in US dollars. This would create a global demand for the dollar, which would not only allow the US to essentially print trillions of dollars, but allow these dollars to be re-invested in the US economy by those same Gulf states. This then allowed the US to build the empire we see today.
However, the petrodollar (as it is called) is actually the Achilles heel of the US economic edifice. Should an oil-trading country (or countries) opt out of the dollar, the US economy would be gravely threatened. Consequently, the fundamental aim of US policy in the Middle East is to stifle opting-out stirrings.
If one were to make a list of the oil-producing countries that have either opted out or attempted to opt out of the petrodollar, it would be made up of just about every country the US has either invaded, threatened to invade or attempted to disrupt: Iran, Libya, Russia, Venezuela and, of course, Iraq. Saddam Hussein attempted to abandon the petrodollar. For its own survival, the US simply could not let that happen.
Lack of understanding about the petrodollar – even by students of international relations in most New Zealand universities – is a disconcerting mystery. Perhaps they are too busy learning about the Crusades and the alleged influence they have on contemporary US foreign policy.
The editorial says Helen Clark was wise to “stay out of the hideous mess” of Iraq when the UK, the US and others invaded in 2003. But we turned up eight months later with armed troops and engineers.
History and politics are always prey to myth-making. The Labour Government, just like its UK counterpart, did send troops to Iraq, whatever revisionists would have us believe. That they arrived a few months after everyone else is little different from the Americans arriving late to World War II.
If it is difficult for obese people to keep excess weight off (“Weight, there’s more”, July 23), it is even more important to prevent children from becoming obese. Hopefully the latest findings will stimulate the Government and society to make preventing child obesity a high priority.
(Mt Wellington, Auckland)
LETTER OF THE WEEK
My grandmother, Martha, lived happily to 97. I stayed with her often as a child and learnt to love roast beef with all the trimmings, golden cauliflower cheese made with whole milk and strong cheddar, steak and kidney pie, bacon and eggs, and apple pies that my Yorkshire grandad enjoyed with a slice of cheese instead of cream. We would have a snack before bed and a little something mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Fresh vegetables were always part of lunch and dinner.
I love to eat this way and now my grandchildren enjoy such food at my house. Although I would be overweight on some charts, I am enjoyed as cuddly Grandma Carol, and I hope to be around, too, until I am 97.
JOURNOS BEHAVING BADLY
The Editorial about the behaviour of some journalists hit the nail on the head (“Terms of engagement”, July 2). Since then another NZ Herald writer (TV columnist Matt Heath) has been the subject of a successful Press Council complaint about his unfair treatment of a female member of the public.
This is by no means the first time a Herald writer has used a review for his own purposes: Steve Braunias “declared war” some months ago on a popular Wellington establishment at the same time as posting derogatory and offensive comments on social media about young women working there.
Thank goodness Diana Wichtel’s Listener TV reviews are so much better that there is no need to look elsewhere.
Seen any good telly lately? The best recent TV programme was The Night Manager (Your say, July 23), with Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Elizabeth Debicki and Tom Hollander, based on the John le Carré book.
It was gripping and intriguing and I doubt it will be bettered this year.
(Aro Valley, Wellington)
TE REO ENTANGLEMENTS
Pronouncing “a” and “u” together as suggested by George Foote (Letters, July 23) is correct for Tauranga but not for Paraparaumu. The place name is a combination of two words – parapara (scraps) and umu (oven) – said separately.
I notice that Foote is from Remuera, and I hope he says it correctly: “rair-moo-air-rah”. Sounds matter, by George.
If Paraparaumu is pronounced as George Foote wishes, what does he give as its meaning? PM Ryan’s Raupo Dictionary of Modern Maori suggests paraparau means puzzled and mu means silent, draughts, insects or grumble.
It was saddening to read Molly Cass’ hoary colonial rationales for not taking the trouble to pronounce te reo properly (Letters, July 23) as if they proved it was wrong-headed to celebrate wider use and improved pronunciation of the Maori language (Editorial, July 16). Neither dialectical variation across the British Isles nor the fact that most New Zealanders Anglicise place names in other countries justifies the assertion that it is okay to pronounce Maori place names however we want to.
Rather, those rationales are a reminder that the founders of our settler society were completely sure that, as English was the perfect language, newcomers did not need to learn how Maori people spoke because the aim was to have the natives speaking only English, a practice that had earlier worked in Wales and Scotland.
The mangling of “Oda-hoo”, “Para-pa-ramme” and “Tee Papper” was a constant reminder of that “speak only English” programme that included overwriting Maori place names to honour functionaries of the empire. Replacing a people’s place names is a form of imperialism, as is imposing English as the language of instruction, commerce, justice and politics. So, while we celebrate the steps that have been taken to undo those benighted practices, we know there is a great way to go and we need to resist efforts to have us revert to those colonising ways.
(Mt Eden, Auckland)
People should pronounce names the way their owners want them to, so if Tau Henare wants his name to rhyme with toe, that is what we should say, no doubt. But Tau has two vowels that should be pronounced then elided, in this case “ah-oo”, which is more like cow than toe.
I recall the fuss over the pronunciation of Adam Parore’s name a few years ago and felt the same then – it is his name and he is entitled to pronounce it how he wants, and have others pronounce it like that.
Thanks for the enlightened editorial, which made a plain and encouraging case for all of us to engage more in te reo. I am looking forward to your dual masthead.
It was gratifying to see the pleasures and benefits of knitting acknowledged (Health, July 23).
One of the most creative, enjoyable and treasured aspects of this ancient craft is the selection of the next project: deciding on the pattern and choosing the wool; the colours, feel and smell all coming together.
So to knitting’s spiritual, communal and therapeutic qualities, let’s add the delights of the unleashed, unbounded, magical potential available to all for a few dollars or even for free when knitters gladly share their leftovers.
Education in Auckland is compromised because of a lack of housing for the teachers who are essential to make it happen. But this is just a symptom of a national malaise.
The solution is this: the community (which is another word for the Government) buys a few houses near schools. It makes these available to teachers and their families to rent at a reasonable proportion of their salary. That’s it. No sweat.
So why don’t we just do this? The barrier is the neo-liberal delusion that any social ill or deficiency can be fixed by making it possible for someone to take a profit out of it. That works for cars, breakfast foods and funeral insurance, but it’s not the way to deliver the services (education of the next generation being right up there) that are essential for a civilised 21st-century community. Let’s get our priorities sorted.
(Titahi Bay, Porirua)
POLITICS AND LEADERSHIP
History remembers decisions that change the status quo for better or worse. When it celebrates progress, it is about good leaders making decisions that need to be made.
John Key has enjoyed great support as our leader. He is seen as a pleasant, affable fellow. This translates to political capital, which could and should have been used to bring in necessary policies that might need a bit of bravery. History would then remember him and his government.
Top of the list for our kids’ future is climate change. Key went to Paris and mixed with the brave and good, agreeing that much needs to be done. Since then, total silence, no policies and, worse, no expectations of us, the people.
Inequality and housing difficulties probably come next. They overlap and are issues that can destroy the fabric of our community. How hard is it to bring in a capital gains tax and require residency before land ownership? Most countries do. How hard is it to feed our kids and support young parents? We are happy to pay $100,000 a year to put people in prison; how about a bit to keep them out?
Farming and fresh water come next to mind. The Government has promoted intensive dairying, even replacing Environment Canterbury with commissioners to hurry things along. The result is many dairy farmers taking on huge loans and facing insolvency; worse is the pollution of lowland lakes and rivers.
Pension affordability and health and education are also on the list. All these are matters that transcend party politics and ideology; they require good cross-party consensus in the Scandinavian tradition. Politics exists to make policy. Science and evidence are there to give validation and legitimacy to policy. We know all this and are just crying out for leadership. Where is it?
Dr John Moore
Peter Carey (Letters, May 28) is correct when he says maintaining soil carbon on farms is complex. However, a high rate of fertiliser use doesn’t necessarily have the positive effect that he outlines, as it allows farmers to increase stocking rates.
This in turn can lead to an increased proportion of pasture primary production being diverted to animals, to the detriment of the soil. Consequently, a decline in carbon amounting to 0.7-1 tonne per hectare per year on conventional dairy farms has been documented by Landcare Research over the past 30 years.
On average, organic dairy farms do better at retaining or building soil carbon, mostly because they have fewer cows per hectare.
Organic farmers are sometimes accused of mining their soils of nutrients. Those running heavily stocked conventional farms could perhaps be equally accused of mining their soils of carbon.
Massey University Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences
BOOZE TAX PUZZLE
Michael Richards (Letters, July 2) notes how governments are quick to tax cigarettes but drag their feet on alcohol taxes. This is hard to fathom, given alcohol’s far greater personal and economic harm.
Smoking doesn’t turn mild men into monsters who beat their wives and children or impair your driving skills. Smoking will only get you into trouble with the law if you do it in the wrong place. Alcohol, on the other hand, is reckoned to be a factor in 300 offences every day.
Alcohol, if it were illegal, would be a class B drug, in the same category as morphine, Ecstasy and hashish. The World Health Organisation classifies it as a Group 1 carcinogen linked to the three most common cancers: breast, prostate and bowel. You can buy it almost anywhere at almost any time of day, so long as you can convince the vendor you are over 18.
We’ve banned tobacco advertising – but not yet alcohol. Both have been banned in France since 1991. Why are we so far behind?
Letters to the editor
firstname.lastname@example.org; The Editor, Listener, Private Bag 92512, Wellesley St, Auckland 1141.
- Letters under 300 words are preferred.
- A writer’s full residential address is required on all letters, including emails. A phone number can be helpful.
- Pen names or letters submitted elsewhere are not acceptable.
- We reserve the right to edit or decline letters without explanation, or to post them to our website.
- This magazine is subject to the New Zealand Press Council.
- Please direct complaints to the editor: email@example.com
- If unsatisfied, the complaint may be referred to the Press Council, PO Box 10-879, The Terrace, Wellington 6143 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Online complaints form at presscouncil.org.nz
Follow the Listener on Twitter or Facebook.