Hard News by Russell Brown

Better, faster, cheaper?

So I get some relief on broadband pricing - but only if I drop from full-speed JetStream to a 256k service. As ever, Telecom is inclined to do no more than meet the market. And for so long as the market remains tepid, so will the incumbent's offerings.

Certainly, the new deals - which include a flat-rate offering - are better than nothing, but still not good enough, especially in respect of their impact on competition (they make it even harder for anyone else to make a dollar reselling JetStream).

I'll probably step down from proper JetStream to flat-rate 256k, just so I can stop fretting about the bills, but don't expect me to be happy about it. Chris Barton also has a steaming great vent in today's Herald about the strange about-face on unbundling.

Don Brash was quick to declare Australia's "free" trade deal with the US a "tragedy" - which it is: for genuine trade liberalisation. This pork-barrelling deal runs counter to everything countries like Australia and New Zealand have been trying to achieve through the WTO - and the Trade Liberalisation Network is suitably appalled. They're already having their doubts in Australia, too.

Those sympathetic to the campaign against harmonisation with Australia's stricter regulations on dietary supplements should really read this story from the New Yorker, all the way to the end.

Ironically, if the business practices adopted by the US supplements industry - hard-to-trace shell companies, unacceptable use of flimsy research, emotionally manipulative sales pitches - were employed by a major drug corporation, many of the people currently opposing regulation would be up in arms.

The industry lobbyist Ron Law has been back in touch offering to set me right on the potential risks of the "traditional" herb brew K4 - I'll have a look at the evidence I guess, but the belief that somehow supplements are good and drugs are bad - m'kay - seems as flawed as ever.

Law can be found on various bulletin boards playing down the risks of ephedra - recently banned by the FDA for use in supplements - but granting that there have been "reports of side effects" from its improper use in dietary supplements. Actually, there have been reports of people dropping dead. But the problem is the vast bulk of ephedra - active ingredient ephedrine - wasn't being taken on prescription from kindly Chinese doctors but in off-the-shelf weight-loss formulas for people who really actually needed to eat properly. I should note that I occasionally use a supplement, Thompson's Immunofort II - and you can take when you prise it from my cold, dead hands, etc - but that doesn't affect my view that this is an industry that needs to be kept on a short leash.

Parliamentary pop quiz: who is Murray Smith? Give up? He's United Future's Maori issues spokesman, and he made a brief but sensible contribution to the Treaty debate yesterday.

And, in conclusion, over to Gordon Dryden (who'll turn up as a Speaker guest some time soon) with a nice comment on yesterday's Hard News:

Well put. However, a chance discussion while playing golf yesterday confirmed how easy it is to perpetuate myths.

For all my life I have believed the oft-stated English version of Governor Hobson's comment: "Now we are one people."

He was speaking in Maori, of course, and said (we believe): "He iwi tahi tatou".

My golfing companion yesterday was Dr Joe Williams, former Minister of Education in the Cook Islands (and the first student from Aitutaki to be granted a scholarship to come to New Zealand: at a time when he did not speak English). Said Joe yesterday: "That is not the correct translation. I would have thought that every New Zealander would now know that iwi means tribe. So the correct translation is: "Now we are one tribe."

And I have never once questioned the generally-stated version.

As I sit here, updating The New Learning Revolution, I have in front of me an American book titled "Lies my teacher told me", by James W Loewen, which debunks almost every major point about American history - as recorded in most US history textbooks. (Michener, in his autobiography, incidentally has some interesting sidelights on the role of Texas in distorting American history. As you probably know, Texas and California are the two biggest states with a state-dictated educational curriculum - and therefore the top textbooks get that way if they are accepted by Texas and Californian educational authorities. Michener originally worked as a textbook editor - and tells how, to be accepted in Texas, Lincoln had to be virtually eliminated from a textbook, but Sam Houston lauded and covered in great glory.)

And I recall that until Dick Scott, the best man at the Dryden's wedding over 47 years ago, wrote his two books on Parihaka, the name Te Whiti-o-Rongomai was never mentioned in New Zealand school history books.

Nor, of course, was the full story of the Maori musket wars which, as Michael King, in The Penguin History of New Zealand, now correctly writes: " . . . if any chapter in New Zealand history has earned the label 'holocaust', it is this one."

Coincidentally, as we talked yesterday at golf, we were playing the second, third, fourth and fifth holes of Remuera golf course, the original site of the Lake Waiatarua that separated the land once occupied by the Tamaki "branch" of the Ngati Whatua and the Ngati Paoa (whose massacre by Hongi's Ngapuhi in the area now known as Glen Innes-Panmure probably goes down as the greatest slaughter in New Zealand's history).

So let's all keep on putting the record straight. In all ways.