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Gordon Campbell on Murray McCully’s avoidance strategy

Gordon Campbell on Murray McCully’s avoidance strategy for his latest disaster

Blame the officials. Go to ground. Looks like standard operational procedure for Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, this time with respect to Malaysia over the diplomatic immunity case. Domestically, our government has needed to look tough about wanting to try the Malaysian diplomat in a New Zealand court, while internationally… we apparently rejected the Malaysian offer to enable this to happen, and let the diplomat go home. Was this a deliberate collusion with the Malaysians, or an accidental mix-up? Hard to tell, really. McCully has fallen silent, and isn’t doing interviews. You’d think he would be feeling obliged to front up, if only out of courtesy to the 21 year old Wellington woman whose right to justice has been bungled - reportedly - by MFAT officials.

We will never know what really happened. Yet we are being expected to believe that in mid May, the New Zealand government issued a strong request that the diplomat be tried here. At a meeting held only two days later, the Malaysians claim they volunteered to waive diplomatic immunity. Yet apparently our officials - at the same meeting – told the Malaysians that it would be OK with us if the accused went back home to Malaysia. The Malaysians have been quite clear that an offer along these lines was made by New Zealand, and they accepted it. Subsequently, Prime Minister John Key has continued to insist that we wanted the diplomat tried here. Yesterday, McCully conceded in a statement that New Zealand might have sent “mixed messages” to the Malaysians on this point.

How on earth could that possibly happen? There are only two options here. One is that the New Zealand public – and not the Malaysians – are the people who have been sent the mixed messages. Did New Zealand do a deal whereby our government can staunchly claim to have wanted the diplomat tried here, while colluding with the Malaysians to send him home, thereby saving a friendly country from further embarrassment? Or did our MFAT officials really and truly manage to convey a position that was the exact opposite of the one that our government had publicly taken only two days beforehand ? Standards may have slipped at MFAT, but that seems a little hard to believe. Could it have been that in an honest attempt to be sure that diplomatic immunity was being waived, we managed to suggest to the rather more subtle Malaysians that this was a door we were holding open for them, and inviting them to walk through ?

Either way, the real victim here is the woman who was attacked in her home and has now seen the person responsible scuttle home, scot free. Since her right to justice has been violated by official bungling at MFAT, shouldn’t McCully at least be willing to emerge from his bunker and apologise to her ?

WWI Battle Rap This has been doing the rounds on the Net for over a week but it's worth the link - if only as a classroom aid for teachers as the centenary of Gallipolli approaches next year. The BBC has managed to condense a comprehensive explanation of the origins of WW1, in the form of a battle rap between the contestants.

One Youtube commenter summed up the Battle Rap version of the outbreak of WW1 this way : “The Serbian assassin of the Black Hand shot Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austro-Hungary, in Sarajevo who was the heir to the Austrian throne so then Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia, but then Russia declared war on Austro-Hungary because Serbia was its ally. Germany backed Austro-Hungary because they were its ally. Fearing an attack from France because they were the other sides ally, they decided to invade it via Belgium….so Great Britain declared war on Germany because France and Belgium were its allies and so the war started. A domino sequence started the war, a chain of events...” Exactly.

Bobby Womack, soul man. Bobby Womack was gifted in so many ways – as a soul singer, as a terrific session guitarist with Chip Moman’s studio in Memphis, and as a talented songwriter (“Its All Over Now” and other stuff with George Benson, Wilson Pickett etc ) that he never really made the most of any one of those talents. A taste for excess seemed to be hotwired into Womack’s identity, and it took his lifelong struggles with addiction and more recent battles with pneumonia, cancer and Alzheimers to finally bring him down last week, at the age of 70.

Womack played a part in almost every development in soul/funk/pop in the past 50 years. He began his career as a Sam Cooke protégé just as gospel elements became secularized in the soul music of the early 1960s. He watched the Rolling Stones have a hit with their revival of the “Its All Over Now” song that he’d done with the Valentinos. He did session work with the Box Tops and Elvis and Wilson Pickett, sashayed flamboyantly through the hippie soul era with Sly Stone, hung out and promoted niche indie guys like Jim Ford, did blaxploitation era movie soundtracks, had hits in the Philly soul/disco era, did soul /jazz and soul/country crossovers…and ended up working with Damon Albarn on the Gorillaz project. Versatility was never a problem. If anything, it cost him cred among the sort of critics who prefer less complex, more one dimensional soul men.

If forced to pick a favourite Bobby Womack track from about a dozen contenders, I’d have to go with the single “Baby, I Can’t Stand It” which dates from the circa 1968-70 period when he was with Minit Records. Anger, shame, regret and desire are coiled up in this springy arrangement, and Womack runs through all those emotions in only two and a half minutes…


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