Hard News by Russell Brown

All souls

Jordan Carter took the trouble to retype the results of the BRC political poll highlighted on page, er, five of the Sunday Star Times. Why did he retype? Because he's on an Xtra connection and can't reach Stuff any more. Mummy, why are these people allowed to break my Internet? And could somebody smack them?

The poll's lack of prominence suggests that Labour-in-the-lead (by 11 points) isn't really news. It will be interesting to see whether a disparity remains between the reliably Labour-friendly polls in the SST and NBR and the high-profile One News Colmar Bunton poll, which recently had the gap closing to five points. National will be hoping the BRC poll is an anomaly, because in several ways it's an absolute shocker.

Frankly, if National (and Act for that matter) can't make hay while the government is as exposed as it's been since 1999 - why wait until Ken Shirley nails the case to do something about Te Wananga o Aotearoa and the further reaches of the tertiary sector if problems were apparent last year? - then things are not looking good.

Sure, the tertiary industry bunfight was launched under National, the Shipley government committed a string of cock-ups and NZQA was a bizarre place in 1999, but that was then, this is now. (nb: the Herald stories I linked to there are all wrongly dated as 2000 rather than 1999) A flexible and responsive tertiary sector is all very well, but the system should have been cleaned up after last year's Christchurch Polytechnic rort became evident. If nothing else, the current climate will allow an injection of sense without the danger of being accused of interfering with the market or something …

There's also a lively debate in progress related to Jordan's comment on the EPMU's call for a 5% wage rise.

There were a couple of reader responses to yesterday's observations on sunny Nelson. Rodger Donaldson reckoned "eat in Blenheim, culture in Nelson":

Seriously. I go through the area once a year, typically, and while Nelson has the better of places to go and things to see, the food is, as you say, expensive and inferior, and the accommodation ridiculous. Nelson is, I think, lazy because it's the default destination in the area.

Blenheim, on the other hand, feels like it's making a bit more of an effort when it comes to accommodation, and the food is fantastic (Bellafico, for example).

Lucy Richardson, however, is loving it:

You missed the best bar in Nelson. opened recently from some out of towners with vision. I've just moved to sunny Nelson from Auckland and I have to say there is nothing, not even love, that would take me back to that souless city.

Nelson's cultural heart is a mix of 80-20 provincial New Zealanders (yes they do exist in a majority outside of Ponsonby) and people like me who have moved here for the lifestyle. Like all places it has its good and down side but I still get to go to arthouse movies, see the likes of Fat Freddy's, go walking on the beach every day, swim in the pool at rush-hour and there's only 20 people in there, walk to work, tramp on the weekends. I live 2km from the beach, 500m from my favourite cafe and 15 minutes from the river. IT'S PURE LIFESTYLE, that's Nelson's charm. And yeah the pay is crap. The compromise one makes.

Ah, the rivers. Last time I was down with the family, our friends Pete and Jo took us to the most wonderful secret swimming hole. There's nothing better. But Auckland is soulless? Nah …

Speaking of souls …

The excellent One Good Move blog has commentary on and a clip from an interesting discussion of religious tolerance - or, rather, the tolerance of faith - on Bill Maher's Real Time.

Republican Newt Gingrich muses about ending university tenure and replacing it with a law "that says, proof that you’re anti-American is grounds for dismissal."

An ageing religious leader strikes out against Western democracy, pluralism and human rights. The Pope, I believe he's called.

And Paul Myers of Pharyngula blog (an actual scientist) has been having a high old time making fun of conservative flagship Power Line's professed disbelief in "Darwinism". See: They aren't just petty and mean, they're stupid, and Myers' subsequent response to Power Line's hilariously precious reply, in which he detects "the usual whimper of fragile right-wing egos demanding that they be treated better than they treat others, while still insisting on holding the line on the rank foolishness of the original post." Heh.

In light of Power Line's recent whingeing about getting rude emails from liberals, it's interesting to note that the scientist copped two obscene phone calls, an attempted denial of service attack and a flood of abusive email after his original post.

PS: Daniel Hodson notes that someone has been trying to sell the seabed and foreshore on TradeMe. Although I must say that even for such a lovely property, $900 trillion seems a bit steep …