Hard News by Russell Brown

Culinary crimes

Well, that's that sorted: the sweetcorn on pizza thing, I mean. Apparently it's a cultural thing. Two Hard News readers, Renee Leckey and Ian Johnston, have been in touch to advise that sweetcorn on pizza is all but unavoidable in Japan and Korea.

Says Renee:

I lived in Korea for two years and never managed to get my pizza place to skip the corn, even when I asked in korean for 'no corn'. Anyway, in the end i grew resigned, threw down my guns and came to tolerate corn on pizza. am now in france and have not yet sampled any pizza so cannot advise you of presence of corn or not.

Says Ian:

Come live in Asia and you'll see sweetcorn on pizza everywhere. Hard to take, I know - I've refused to touch it for the last 12 years I've been an expat in Asia.

More worringly, this from Paul Caples:

Flashback to Hamilton mid-80s. After a solid day's skiing the lads stop overnight in Hamilton for some R&R. Victuals were required, so we order pizza ... and sure enough, sweetcorn! Haven't stayed in Hamilton since ...

Craig Ranapia on NZPundit claims to be disturbed that I thought the statement issued by National's broadcasting spokeswoman Katherine Rich - which held that "New Zealanders should be very nervous" that Brian Edwards is doing a chat show - was silly. Well, it was, and as Damien discovered on the radio, even Rich didn't actually believe what she said in her press release.

Ranapia also quotes from a fairly bizarre column by Jim Hopkins. I don't usually read Hopkins because I find his prose style unbearable, but in this case his content is a bit laughable too. The attempt to equate Brian Edwards with Alastair Campbell is fatuous. Alastair Campbell works at Downing Street and deals with the press and his Prime Minister on almost an hourly basis. Brian Edwards lives on Waiheke Island: he is not "the Prime Minister's principal media adviser" - that would be Mike Munro - he's the co-owner of a media training business.

I have some misgivings about that line of work, especially with politicians (it's made the job of interviewers harder) and I wouldn't do it myself, but it's hard to expect Edwards to dump his business to front a TV show that might only run for 12 weeks. Hopkins' flip comment that "it's only natural that the beneficiaries of privilege in TVNZ will know exactly what's expected of them - and provide it," by, presumably, hiring Edwards to front a personality chat show, borders on the defamatory.

For God's sake, even Lindsay Perigo was keen on the idea of Edwards returning to television for a long-form interview show when I interviewed him last year. Is he part of the vast left-wing conspiracy too? (I'd quite like to see Perigo back doing interviews too, for that matter - because he's a good interviewer, rather than because I subscribe to his politics. He's always good value on Mediawatch.)

This idea of ideologically profiling broadcasters at the door has become a bit of meme with the right this year. There appears to be a belief that broadcast appointments shouldn't be made on the basis of talent, experience or desire, but on the basis of declared political belief.

Thus, Pam Corkery will forever be referred to as a "former Alliance MP", even though she has spent nearly her whole career as a professional broadcaster. Reality check: she was a celebrity list MP for five minutes then bailed out and wrote a book dumping on her erstwhile leader and his party. The Last Word is clearly a ghastly mistake, but her brief fling in politics is not the problem with it.

And apart from anything else, this is all a bit rich coming from a website that has been singing the praises of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi this week. Berlusconi, you may recall, has established hands-on editorial control of 90 per cent of Italian television, via his private ownership of three commercial channels and his unabashed direction of the public broadcaster Rai, and is currently pushing a law through the Italian senate to further extend his influence. Berlusconi also isn't averse to forcing the resignation of newspaper editors he doesn't like. Apparently, he's NZPundit's kinda guy …

Reason.com is fretting over US forces' prospective entry to Liberia. I can see their point. But frankly: you created the damn country, you clean it up …

Dorothy Rabinowitz addresses a handful of the historical howlers in Ann Coulter's new comic, er, sorry, book, in the Wall Street Journal. The forum at the bottom is sort of interesting, if only as a measure of right-wing denial.

And the Miami Herald has the first story on the forthcoming report from the congressional investigation into the September 11 attacks:

A long-awaited final report on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks will be released in the next two weeks, containing new information about U.S. government mistakes and Saudi financing of terrorists.

Former Rep. Tim Roemer, who served on the House Intelligence Committee and who has read the report, said it will be ''highly explosive'' when it becomes public.

That should be entertaining.

Oh, and I said this six months ago: "Yes, there, will be flag-waving and relief as the tanks roll in - but what happens when 100,000 US troops are still in Iraq six months - or five years - later? This is a country with a brutal and sophisticated secret police. Which is more likely: that they just melt away on cue, or that they start picking off American boys from the freshly-liberated rooftops? Does the word "Lebanon" mean anything?"