Review: Perfect Hostage – Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma and the Generals by underground

Perfect Hostage: Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma and the Generals

by Justin Wintle


The problem with reading many non-fiction books is that you know how it is going to end. Reading a history of World War Two, for example, you know will know before hand who will be victorious and who will be defeated come 1945. Such is the case with Perfect Hostage, Justin Winton’s biography of Burma’s most famous political prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi. As you read this book, such is the brilliance of the writing and the subject, you will be pulled by every ebb and flow of Burma’s people struggle to gain democracy. But alas, any optimism you may feel will be short-lived, as no sooner then the military given its people basic rights it again tightens its iron grip on the country. And of course, you know that to this day, Burma, or Myanmar as the junta calls it, remains impoverished due to the tyranny of the military and Suu Kyi remains under house arrest.

Continue reading

Obama should not give Clinton the Secretary of State role by underground

During the democratic primaries there were two very different candidates on offer when it came to Barack Obama v Hilary Clinton. One area where this was certainly the case was on foreign affairs. Voters were given two opposing view points. In debates and TV commercials Clinton tried to play herself up as a tough hardliner, loathe to give an inch to America’s enemies and those the country has uneasy relationships with. In contrast Obama famously said he would talk to likes of Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Castro, favouring dialog and diplomacy as opposed to threats of violence and sanctions against innocent civilians. The proposed stance was slated by Clinton, the media and some voters, however many foreign affairs experts at the time said the policy was a promising move, particularly after Bush’s disaster years.

Part of Obama’s popularity was due to his policy on dialog, especially outside of America. Obama has been given the mandate by the electorate to explore this avenue. If it was good enough for Nixon to go to China, Obama should go to Tehran. The last America or the world needs is the continuation of Bush’s failed policies on foreign affairs.  Considering Clinton was at pains early this year to cast herself as a hardliner, she is not the kind of Secretary of State American needs to get back onside with the world and would only further inflate current problems with “rogue” states. Her vote for the invasion also shows her lack of judgment in this area. Barack, look elsewhere!

Slaying Springboks – on and off the field by underground

I enjoying the sight of a deflated Springbok, defeated by a superior All Black team, especially if I’ve woken up at three in the morning to witness it. But I don’t like the thought that there may no longer be a Springbok team for my boys to beat. The recent announcement that the South African Rugby Union has decided to abandon the famous emblem of the country’s world champion rugby side for a less controversial symbol will end a 102 year tradition. But this is just another episode in the politics v sports saga.

The small gold antelope leaping on the left chest is apparently to some, like street names, place names and other emblems, a reminder of South Africa’s painful history. The Springbok side was once whites only, barring even non-whites from touring. Even a former rugby board once said blacks would never be allowed to wear the emblem because they have their own symbols. Butana Komphela, chairman of parliament’s Sports Portfolio Committee, has insisted the change be made to the Protea, which is the emblem for all other South African sports.

“The Springbok divides us,” he said. “We have a responsibility to unite our country on one national emblem.” Continue reading

Don’t worry, the future of New Zealand journalism is in safe hands! by underground

I’ve just had an opinion piece by Deborah Coddington in the Herald on Sunday bought to my attention. Coddington commented on the performance of the media through the election, commending some for fine work, whilst slamming others for their waffling and incompetitance.

“And why, on election night, did Sainsbury have Noelle McCarthy wittering on breathlessly?

She came over like a pretty little teenager woken up by adoring dad to join the grown-ups’ party.

It was cruel to watch and McCarthy was completely out of her depth.

The Irish lass is dangerously muddled – does she want to be a celebrity or a journalist? Posing for gossip pages in designer frocks is not really the best way to be taken seriously.”

However, and this is where my and my fellow former student friends get to slap ourselves on the back, Coddington says the future of journalism is in safe hands.

“And are we in New Zealand well-served in the future?

Most definitely, if the publication put out by AUT journalism students, Te Waha Nui (Big Mouth), is any indication.

I picked up their pre-election special in late October and was impressed – good questions asked, short items clearly written, no sign of student smart-arse.

Let’s hope they’re our future Cliftons, Robinsons, Edwards, Clarks – political reporters who’ve become household names for their talents and skills, as opposed to celebrity scribblers who rise without trace because they can dress up and attend the opening of an oyster.”

Well done Te waha nui 2008! Now let’s try find some bloody jobs. Sorry Deborah, but it looks like we’ll end up in PR!

Sore losers or bad winners? by underground

Elections are always going to leave one section of voters elated and the other disappointed. The victors and their supporters will seek to quickly bring up the changes they’ve desired throughout the campaign. There will be some soul searching and some hard questions asked, but eventually those defeated and their supporters will move on and live to fight another day. There will be some venting, comments posted on message boards and blogs. There will be some sour grapes, but there will also be some insightful analysis and considered commentary. However many on the right slate those on the left as being sore losers for whatever comment they make on the election result on Nov 8. People have rightly said that National does not have the mandate to, along with Act, steer the country hard to the right. The election result was not a sign that New Zealand has shifted to the right, because National has gone to great lengths to adopt much of Labour’s policies and shift itself far further to the left then it was under Don Brash. National are going to find it difficult to govern this term, economic crisis aside, as the government formed comprises of many conflicting ideologies. National may have won the election my a large margin, but Labour did not lose because voters rejected the party, they merely support change. To point this out to people is not sour grapes or being a sore loser, it is merely stating fact. However rather than argue these assertions made often by those on left, many choose to brag “we won, you lost”, stoked that “Helengrad’s dykocracy” has ceased to be. Just like prior to the election many National supporters could not articulate why they supported the party apart from saying “it is time for change” and “Labour’s fucked up the country”, they can also not engage in debate or conversation following the election. Morons will only make eventual Labour victory all the more sweeter for supporters, but I encourage them to be more humble than their unintelligent counterparts.

Just as many on the left sometimes disown some of their comrades for ill thought out comments, well done those on the right capable of doing the same, and engaging in civilised discussion with opponents. Debate should not be silenced by personal attacks and slogans, although we can all be guilty at times.

The good, the bad and the ugly – The ministers in National’s new government by underground

John Key has shown some promise, and left even his doubters reconsidering their opinions of the man, with the new ministers he announced yesterday. Of course those on the Left are never going to be happy with a National-led government, but there are some signals that, at least for the first term, National will be sticking to the centre ground. It is certainly a lot more pleasant than anything I could have imagined Don Brash coming up with had he won in 2005. The likes of Paula Bennett with the social development portfolio may temper National’s tendency to screw over those on the bottom of the heap, as will the inclusion of Tariana Turia and Peter Sharples from the Maori Party. Turia is minister of the community and voluntary sector and Sharples is Maori affairs minister, which must be reassuring for many Maori. National has given the Maori Party more than Labour managed, particularly when they dropped the ball siding with New Zealand First and Greens in 2005, shunning the more principled partners of the Greens and the Maori. National has trumped Labour in their post election arrangements here, although they have created a four-headed monster after warning of the perils of something similar from Labour. Another example of National Party hypocrisy, expect more to come! Continue reading

Anti-Flag postponed? How will I vent my post election blues? by underground
November 16, 2008, 8:44 am
Filed under: Music, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Pittsburgh’s Anti-Flag were to offer New Zealanders an avenue to let off some energy and some political rage on December 3, but according to their website they will be postponing their Australian and New Zealand tour “until further notice” due to “circumstances beyond our control”, whatever that means. Looking at the upcoming overseas schedule they won’t be returning until at least the middle of next year. Holders of tickets are advised to return to place of purchase and get a refund.

I was looking forward to this show like nothing else. Not just because the two previous times I have seen them were for pathetically short slots at festivals, and not just because even during these short shows they totally kicked arse, but because I was looking forward to running around in a sweaty mosh pit full of like minded individuals singing political slogans at the top of my lungs. How better to get over being sold out by your countrymen and women? Man I love this band!

Oh well, I suppose I’ll be waiting for Rise Against on March 31 then.