Hard News by Russell Brown

Flocking Mental

To read the rambling letter sent by Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President Bush is to be put in mind of a slightly dotty blogger who doesn't know when to stop writing.

He makes obvious points - what would Jesus think of Gitmo? - and leaves well alone the issue of his own regime's dreadful human rights record. The concluding paragraphs consummate an invitation implicit throughout the letter:

The people of many countries are angry about the attacks on their cultural foundations and the disintegration of families. They are equally dismayed with the fading of care and compassion. The people of the world have no faith in international organisations, because their rights are not advocated by these organisations.

Liberalism and Western style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems. 
We increasingly see that people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point – that is the Almighty God. Undoubtedly through faith in God and the teachings of the prophets, the people will conquer their problems. My question for you is : Do you not want to join them?

Mr President, 
Whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty and justice and the will of God will prevail over all things.

No faith in international organisations? Flocking towards God? You may fancy you've heard those ones before. Earlier this year the American government supported (along with the fun-loving types who run things in Sudan, China and Zimbabwe) an Iranian initiative to deny United Nations consultative status to gay rights organisations. It's not the first time the two enemy states have converged on "moral" issues and it won't be the last. I guess you can't blame Ahmadinejad for thinking that maybe he could work with these people.

As the Christian Science Monitor story points out, Ahmadinejad might be a lunatic, but he's a lunatic who knows the value of public relations. In a country where 76% of people would like warmer relations with the US, he needs to be seen to be reaching out, even if it is by means of a list of grudges dressed up as a personal message. It seems not insignificant that Ahmadinejad made his name as a populist city mayor. He has that feel about him: slightly mad, self obsessed, forever living down his own political Tourette's. You may be able to think of other examples.

I was thinking last night about the Coalition of the Willing. No, really, I was. One of the popular clichés about a year ago was that their electorates hadn't punished the leaders who signed up for the Iraq project: Blair and Bush got re-elected after all. Things aren't going quite so well now. There's no leader who sent more than a thousand troops to Iraq who isn't in strife with his voters.

Bush's job approval rating hit a new low of 31% in the CBS/NYT poll this week; since July last year he has registered a positive job approval rating in one poll. Tony Blair is clearly on the skids: his approval rating - 26% - is now the lowest for any Labour Prime Minister in modern times; worse than Harold Wilson rated after the devaluation of the pound in 1968. Poland's Lech Kaczynski has spent months trying to form a workable government, and has had to do by bringing in a populist party that is demanding a timetable for troop withdrawal (no one thinks it will last, by the way). And South Korea's ruling party is looking at a landslide defeat in local elections that are regarded as a pointer to the presidential vote to follow.

And, of course, even Berlusconi couldn't rig the system enough to prevent his defeat in Italy. Of the most prominent war-boosters, only John Howard (just shy of 1000 troops) looks politically indestructible.

Oh, and this one made me personally very angry. US Army recruiters, having missed targets last year, are now so desperate for young Americans to throw into the grinder that one of them approached an 18-year-old autistic boy in Oregon and signed him up. The poor kid didn't even know there was a war in Iraq. He was to be trained as a cavalry scout - the most dangerous role in the army, and a chillingly inappropriate one for someone who can't make sense of his environment. The kid's parents tried to talk sense to the Army but failed to get him released from duty. He has been let go now, but only after the local paper took up the case. Unfortunately, this case does not seem to be an isolated one.

This week's reports (especially Monday's and Tuesday's) on Today In Iraq are barely believable.

On a lighter note … Stacey Perrett's intriguing art-mission to reproduce Kiwiana in giant size continues, with some giant Spaceman ciggies on Trade Me. Awesome. David Young/MediaCow wrote about Stacey's special thing and his hassles with Trade Me last year. Since then, says Stacey:

Due to my problems with unorthodox items I've gone down a more straight path involving giant Kiwiana items in a form of B-Grade modern art. They exist, they can be verified and more importantly they can be sold for an amount used to finance the next item.

I mean who wouldn't want to buy a foot long pack of Spaceman Cigarettes?

Next on my list as a minor one more or less before this vein is tapped is a foot long K Bar and my crowning candy glory I hope to achieve will be 10 x 5ft High Eskimos distributed around the Wellington CBD at 4am. Some will be adorned with Moko as a statement of the appropriation of indigenous imagery by corporate design in historic Kiwiana. Really I just want to put 5ft Eskimo's around town and film the reaction, but it's good to have an ulterior motive on standby.

Indeed. Staying on the fringe, Mondo Weirdo is back tomorrow night at the Academy cineman, and this time the feature is Polyester - and will screen with Odorama cards. I have two double passes to give away, but I'm determined to make it challenging. So … you must hit reply and tell me this: what does Polyester director John Waters have in common with this man? Apart, that is, from them both being brilliant freaks?

1pm update: No one has come up with the right answer, possibly for the reason that I got the question wrong (I had an idea that Sun Ra was once based in Baltimore, but actually he just played some of his most famous shows there). But that's been a handy way of keeping the passes open for later arrivals for once. So get in there, hit "reply" and they could be yours ...

And finally: last Friday night at the Music Month party, I made a pact with Mr Otis Mace (guitar ace), recently of London and now once again resident in the parish of Auckland. He would link to my website, and I would link to his. He promptly kept his side of the bargain, and now, so am I. Ladies and gentlemen, do feel free to cruise on over to OtisMace.com.