Hard News by Russell Brown

Don't describe, characterise

I was driving on Saturday to buy Tze Ming lunch, by way of reward for that great post, listening to Winston Peters being interviewed at length on National Radio. I realised that what he almost always does is to characterise, rather than describe, his party's policies.

Hence, NZ First's immigration policy is simply in line with those of all successful, sensible nations; its economic policy is simply a reflection of mainstream international wisdom, which is set against the free-market madness of the two major parties. Indeed, when it's not pure waffle ("implement a programme of thoroughly researching prospective markets, of facilitating ease of entry into these markets, and of ensuring that we have the best possible match between what we are producing and the demands of these markets") the party's economic policy is a flashback to the fortress economics of socialists like Wolfgang Rosenberg (or, if you prefer, Tories like Rob Muldoon). Like the immigration policy, it regards the world outside as a threat rather than an opportunity.

Brian Easton has written in defence of Rosenberg, but I find myself agreeing more with Chris Trotter ("Has socialism really degenerated to a demand that working people pay more for the shirts on their backs so that the jobs of a handful of their number can be protected forever?"). NB: I originally mistakenly attributed the speech to Daniel Silva, on whose site it appears. I am an occasional dunderhead.

At any rate, I'm no expert, but on the face of it, this policy is markedly to the left of Labour, and it's hard to see that, if he actually takes it seriously, Peters would find much common ground with National.

I meant to go home after lunch, but got waylaid looking for a Morrocan rub at Millie's of Ponsonby. Millie's had a sale, but I didn't buy anything. I never do there. And then I wandered next door into Moa-Hunter Books and eventually emerged with, among other things, a copy of Gordon Dryden's 1978 book, Out of the Red. (Following, I should note, a recent instruction from Dryden himself to go to a second-hand bookshop and do just that.)) It's a book absolutely screaming with ideas, some more sound than others. But I really think his ideas about the media, crystallised in Muldoon's New Zealand, were ahead of their time. He could see that the great promise of electronic media technology was to actively involve the mass of people. He thought it would be television; it turned out to be the Internet.

Anyway, the Weekend Herald had an intriguing story about a study of parents of young children, many of whom, it seems would like a free and frank discussion with Helen Clark about "over the top PC" and "social engineering". But the only example of such given in the story is oddly revealing: "they hear things like they are not allowed to have an egg and spoon race in schools anymore."

They hear, of course, completely wrong. As Dog Biting Men pointed out in a great post in February, the decisions on food practices in a couple of schools and playcentres are nothing to do with government coercion, but the opposite. They have been made by groups of parents given the autonomy to gather and make such decisions themselves. The government's only role has been to extend to them that autonomy. God knows how you get that across though …

Professor John Burrows has a timely word of warning for bloggers about what they say - or what other people say on their sites - about the Graham Capill trial. In a way, this is really notice that blogs have arrived enough to matter. But the Herald has aborted at least one trial in recent years through thoughtless cover - it would be nice to think bloggers could avoid that.

Cringely is creating quite a stir with his theory that Apple Computer's sensational switch to Intel processors foreshadows a merger between Apple and Intel, with Steve heading off to run a Pixar-Disney-Sony entertainment colossus. Interesting: but Cringely has been wrong before. And according to ZDNet's George Ou, he's wrong in some key respects this time.

The new progressive multimedia site Common Bits has the torrent for a video of BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen speaking at Stanford University in March. Cohen swivels around in his chair constantly, and has an annoying giggle, but what he has to say about what he's trying to achieve with the BT architecture is quite interesting.

There's also a torrent for Triumph the insult comedy dog's encounter with the mad Michael Jackson fans. It's cruel but funny. For non-BT users, Norm at One Good Move has a QuickTime 7 version.

The Times, which broke the "Downing Street memo" story, has an even more damning follow-up. A leaked cabinet briefing paper indicates what you probably already knew - the Americans had decided before April 2002 to invade Iraq, the British would be expected to provide bases, and everyone needed a pretext. The idea was not to get Saddam to agree to demands, but to construct demands that he might refuse. You may notice something of a disconnect with the official version here …

Funny thing is, I know exactly where I was while Blair's Cabinet was looking for a fix at the July 23, 2002 meeting: still celebrating the long and excellent day that had been my 40th birthday; about as happy as I've been. It's a funny old world order …