Hard News by Russell Brown

Front page next day

So how was, ermmm, Licencegate for you? It won't be the story of the year, but the investigation on which TV3's Campbell Live based its debut programme was competent and at times even stylish. And at least there was an investigation, albeit one pinched from 60 Minutes, as the presence of Melanie Reid indicated. The contrast between this debut and those of the Herald on Sunday and Paul Holmes, which, in journalistic terms, both staggered into existence, is notable.

So having Max Cryer reading from the Brash biography was better as a clever idea than a reality, and the live cross to Carol, in the dark waythehellout at WestGate, was ill-advised, but I thought it was a fairly strong debut.

Public Address reader Keith Ng begged to differ:

This is hardly a killer story, when it seems that the corruption is happening right at the bottom. And even if it is, I can't believe how much they're stringing it out! 25 minutes, and all they got was the one "driving instructor" they started off with!

And they're giving us part 2 tomorrow? So they nicked the story from 60 Minutes - but did they have to take the 60 minutes part so *literally*?

The whole "under-the-hood" style of journalism feels like more like an out-takes reel.

I'm tempted to start watching taped Simpsons episodes at 7 in protest...

Adam Hunt was also unimpressed in his blog.

But Morgan Nichol was happier:

Wow, being nice to your guests - yet still getting the whole story.

So it turns out you don't need to get all snarky like Linda Clark to get the facts.

I've only caught Holmes on Prime a couple of times (the late at night reruns), it' ok, but I don't watch that RUBBISH -- "This is what's happened, and this is exactly how you feel about it." -- on One any more

Campbell is in an easy lead -- he's so nice, he must be a hit with the (old) ladies.

I think, in the end, when your debut story makes the front page of the Herald the next morning you can fairly claim to have pulled it off. There is also a Campbell Live website. Damn shame it's one of those ropey Microsoft-based sites that won't work in my web browser of choice …

I thought one interesting element of the licence scam story was the fact that this sort of thing appears to have been advertised, with varying degrees of frankness, in the local Chinese press for years. There is a whole side of life in Auckland that is lost on us in our English. Ditto for the fact that a letter, in Mandarin, on a Chinese website called Skykiwi, has provided police investigating the kidnapping of Kelly Zhao with some very useful evidence.

GayNZ has conducted an investigation on the origins of the Jim Peron slur. And it's one that - so far - reflects very, very badly on his one-time admirer, Lindsay Perigo. It also make the local libertarian movement look ghastly.

Jordan Carter comments on the Labour list released yesterday.

Bloodbath in Baghdad. Not an insurgency, just civil chaos and daily murders. The two-year anniversary of the US invasion was marked with 45 violent deaths. Fisk speculates that Qatar's first terrorist car bomb attack is only the beginning. The Bush administration caught flat-out lying to its allies about North Korean nuclear exports.

The political manoeuvring around the right-to-life case of Terri Schiavo has been, frankly, quite disturbing. I presume I wasn't the only one who listened to her parents' lawyer passionately describe to Linda Clark yesterday her apparently responsive behaviour and hopes for recovery and thought: if that's the case, why has the system found otherwise?

The truth is that Terri Schiavo has no hope of recovery. Her cerebral cortex, the seat of consciousness, has largely dissolved over the last 15 years; the space filled by cerebral fluid. The case has been ploughing through a success of courts for nearly seven years. In 2000, a judge ruled emphatically that there was no hope of recovery and clear and convincing evidence that she would have chosen to be removed from life support.

The same judgement also repeatedly questions the credibility of witnesses on the parents' side, suggests they may have a conflict of interest regarding Terri Schiavo's estate and notes that Michael Schiavo had continued to be his wife's "most frequent visitor" in hospital. It cites expert medical testimony, "supported by CAT scans in evidence", that "her movements are reflexive and predicated on brain stem activity alone, that she suffers from severe structural brain damage and to a large extent her brain has been replaced by spinal fluid." The only medical evidence to the contrary was, said the judge, given by a witness "so biased as to lack credibility."

As this sober and balanced summary of the matter explains, the case has been through six courts in seven years, during which time the parents have alleged Terri Schiavo was physically abused before her death and called an obscure osteopath as a medical witness, the Florida House and Senate passed "Terri's Law" (subsequently declared unconstitutional in two courts). And still, on the evidence and in line with the law, the courts have found for Michael Schiavo.

Yet now, the US House has been suddenly reconvened to pass new law over a case in which virtually none of the legislators are actually familiar with the evidence. Just another day in the War on Expertise.

And why? Political mileage, according to a Republican Party memo obtained by the Washington Post:

An unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators, said the debate over Schiavo would appeal to the party's base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is up for reelection next year and is potentially vulnerable in a state President Bush won last year.

"This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue," said the memo, which was reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. "This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats."

Other observers have noted that its suits Republican House leader Tom DeLay to wade into this sad family dispute, because it distracts from the flurry of corruption issues around him. Cynical is hardly the word. An LA Times editorial speculates on whether "this is the new front in what began as the abortion war, an effort to translate religious dogma into law under the right-to-life banner." Meanwhile, an ABC News poll indicates that mainstream Americans don't really think the way their representatives have voted.

And finally, I haven't had the chance to assess National's policy launch of "parenting orders yesterday" (although the scorn from the nigh-untouchable Celia Lashlie, in the One News report last night seems a poor start), but an observation. If National is going to use policy launches to boost the leader's profile, it should make sure the leader is actually properly briefed on the policy. Don Brash's performance in his interview with Mary Wilson on Checkpoint last night was absolutely lamentable. It's clearly Tony Ryall's policy, and if Brash can't discuss it chapter and verse, then he damn well shouldn't be fronting it.