Hard News by Russell Brown


The New York Times has a backgrounder on Lee Kyung Hae, the Korean farmer who committed suicide last week as a protest against the WTO meeting in Cancun. Lee's action was hailed by Jane Kelsey in one of her newsletters from the meeting. But some context is useful here: South Korea imposes tariffs of more than 100 per cent on 142 farm products.

As a result, South Koreans pay four times American prices for rice, and farmers from developing countries in Asia are cut out of the market. This is the system that Lee was defending with his death.

Lee's case is sad, but the contention from Kelsey and others that poor countries should pay the price for a relatively rich, industrialised nation such as South Korea to delay social and economic change is simply wrong. If South Korea can play hardball on farm trade, why can't Europe and the US? How on earth can Kelsey square supporting Korean farmers with locking out the farmers of the G23 countries that represent the developing world?

There's an answer of sorts in the Pew Survey of Global Opinion. This analysis indicates that support for anti-globalisation protestors is strongest in rich countries, and belief in the benefits of global trade itself is strongest - by far - in Nigeria and South Africa. There are nuances galore, but it's not unreasonable to see WTO-bashing - especially when it's as confused as Kelsey's - as an affectation of the residents of rich countries; comfy left-wing academics in particular.

Writing in the Herald today, Simon Duffy of World Vision also climbs into the anti-capitalists:

Opponents of "corporate globalisation" will be celebrating after the collapse of World Trade Organisation talks in Cancun. Few will share their joy.

The collapse jeopardises the WTO's development round, and every hour that an agreement is delayed means more unnecessary suffering in poor countries disadvantaged by skewed trade rules.

You don't have to be a free-trade disciple to want the development round to succeed. It's not about unfettered globalisation, it's about rebalancing rules that favour the rich and undermine poor countries.

Oh, and it's handy that I can have a kind word for Denis Dutton in the same week as the Skeptics' conference: his Herald column about the malleability of memory - especially with respect to the Peter Ellis case - is useful.

Philip Matthews' blistering feature on the never-ending story of Joel Hayward's thesis is perhaps the best thing in the local print media this week, but The Listener is making you buy the magazine to read it. Never mind: Diana Wichtel's gobsmacked review of Big Night In is available online.

Staying on the theme of TVNZ's bold new age of entertainment, I'm struck by the bitterness with which people seem to approach it. I've had email from people who seemed to hate Pam Corkery purely because she is - or was - there.

The Herald has some similar letters today, including one from a woman who seems to have transferred her entire stock of self-loathing onto TVNZ. That's what living in Howick does to you, I guess.

And am I the only person who thinks that Mike King Tonight didn't entirely suck? When it got past trying to be a carbon copy of Letterman, it actually had its moments. King should look a little harder at Letterman, get more writers with better jokes, and lose the puerile asides and gags about Nicky Watson's breasts: they don't work and nobody laughs. But you can't kill every telly baby at birth. I'm for letting this one live a little longer …