Gordon Campbell on using ‘kaupapa Maori’ as a cloak

The faux outrage yesterday from the Maori Party over the ‘kaupapa Maori’ critical comment made by Labour leader Andrew Little has been quite a sight to behold. Surely in an election year, it is very much open to question whether the Maori Party’s collaboration with the National government’s policies on unemployment, housing, health and welfare is consistent with a viable, sustainable sense of kaupapa Maori. That’s the real point. Its not whether some ‘feel good’ sense of Maori unity is being fostered by the deal; its whether the deal itself can be shown to serve the interests of Maori.

What Tariana Turia, Pita Sharples and Hone Harawira seemed to be demanding yesterday was the right to drape the cloak of kaupapa Maori over their collusion with National, and thereby claim they had a right – merely by dint of being Maori – to be exempt from criticism by Labour for doing so. Hey, if the Maori Party can’t stand the heat of criticism, maybe it should get out of the kitchen.

Nor, in the circumstances, were the claims of racism credible. Harawira’s depiction of Little’s comment as an example of a white man telling Maori what they should, or shouldn’t do, was particularly obnoxious. As Willie Jackson pointed out on RNZ this morning, if the charge of racism is to be made, and Labour’s past sins over the foreshore and seabed are to be brought up once again, then the Maori Party cannot have a selective memory about this sort of thing. It also has to explain its own willingness to collude with the National Party so soon after Don Brash had played the racism card flagrantly and cynically against Maori during the 2005 election campaign. On balance, Jackson went on, a Labour-led government has more to offer to Maori communities (on housing etc) than the National government that the Maori Party is now manoeuvring once again, to support.

Unfortunately, the competing merits of the policies that National and Labour are offering to Maori voters has been totally missing in action from this week’s developments. As Sandra Lee also pointed out inn the same RNZ link, this week’s events have been all about opportunities for the politicians involved, and nothing at all about which policies might best benefit their constituents.

That’s the grim reality, behind the Maoriana posturing. With one sweep of his hand, Harawira has flattened the Mana Party like a house of cards, in order to win back control of his fiefdom in Te Tai Tokerau and return to Parliament. The Maori Party has won a clear run at Labour in every seat except Te Tai Tokerau. More than anyone, National stands to benefit from this exercise in self-interest. Bereft of policy details as it is, the Mana-Maori Party deal is a monument to rank opportunism.

Trump appoints someone competent !

Selecting General H.R. McMaster as the White House’s National Security Adviser is maybe the only appointment that the White House has made so far on actual merit, rather than as (a) payback for ideological purity or (b) for what they did to get Trump elected. Sure, one can jib at yet another military man being parachuted into the White House. Yet swapping a proven flake like Michael Flynn for McMaster looks like a giant step up in ability while also removing one of the most blatant friends of Russia from Trump’s inner circle.

Tellingly, McMaster’s credentials as a military thinker and tactician include his book on the Pentagon’s inability/unwillingness during the Vietnam era to resist the policy follies of its political masters – ie Defence Secretary Robert McNamara and President Lyndon Johnson. Hopefully, McMaster will be willing and able to temper any similar outbreaks of adventurism on the part of this current President.

It can’t be taken for granted though. As a serving military officer, McMaster cannot impose preconditions for the job upon his commander in chief, and he will have limited ability to resist a valid order. Moreover, McMaster will also have to serve with former Fox analyst K.T. McFarland as his deputy, a pre-condition by Trump that was decisive in causing a previous candidate, Robert Harward, to reject the job offer.

Still… at least McMaster has proved his tactical counter-insurgency abilities on several occasions in Iraq. More to the point, he knows firsthand the nuances of the sectarian divides in the region, and has shown a good deal of tactical innovation in working around those realities. He knows the job isn’t as simple as using mega military might to kill’ terrorists.’ Overall, the fact Trump has finally made one crucial appointment on the basis of the normal grounds of competence that one would expect from an incoming President should not seem like such a big deal. Yet McMaster stands out like a beacon amidst the cronies and ideologues that Trump has elevated to date.

Moonlight Songs

The black coming of age drama Moonlight is a masterpiece on many counts, and the film’s soundtrack is definitely one of them. For starters, here is the devastating use of the Barbara Lewis oldie “Hello Stranger” at a crucial point.

Less obviously, while the main charcter is driving to a rendezvous director Barry Jenkins uses this beautiful rendition by the Brazilian composer/singer Caetano Veloso, which was formerly used – as the clip indicates – by the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar in his film Talk To Her. .

Yet that wasn’t the hat tip that Jenkins had in mind. As he’s said in interviews, the reference was really to the use of the same song in the Wong-Kar Wai classic film Happy Together – which offers an interesting counterpoint to Moonlight. In various incarnations, it seems that the song has been appearing in films since 1955.

Here’s Veloso doing ‘Cucurrucucu Paloma Hable Con Ella’ but to repeat – this is the Almodovar footage, and not the Wong Kar-wai or Moonlight usage of the same song.