Hard News by Russell Brown

Here's hoping

It wasn't the tickertape parade that the war's backers would have hoped for, but we should all hope that the surprise handover of sovereignty in Iraq does actually improve things for Iraqis themselves, even if what emerges looks more like the old regime than the new democratic dream.

The Oxford International poll of more than 3000 Iraqis published by the BBC yesterday depicts something of a collapse in confidence in both the Americans and the future of the country. The number of Iraqis who believed life would be better in a year's time has fallen to 56% (from 71% in February) while the proportion believing that attacks on coalition forces are acceptable has nearly doubled, from 17% to 31%. In February, nearly half thought the war had been "the right thing to do". Now, only 38% think so, with 56% saying it was wrong. More than half of Iraqis now want foreign troops out and more than two thirds see the coalition as either an occupying (as opposed to liberating) force or a force that "exploits Iraq".

More than two thirds of those surveyed also placed little priority on acting against former regime members - which would seem to tally with the generally positive view of the interim Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, a former Ba'athist. Back to Iraq's Christopher Allbriton offers a useful snapshot of public opinion in Baghdad: support for both Allawi and the prospect of martial law, a strong desire for the Americans to leave and a clear distinction in perceptions of the homegrown Iraqi resistance and the horde of foreign jihadists.

In this sense, the jihadists have done the Americans a favour. As would any population that finds itself overrun by foreign terrorists, the Iraqis simply want security and are presently displaying little interest in quibbling over the composition of the interim government. How long that holds is a matter of conjecture. In the week before he departed, Paul Bremer appointed nearly two dozen Iraqis to senior government jobs. He also made orders that the national security adviser and national intelligence chief appointed by Allawi should serve for five years, regardless of the result of January's planned election, should that actually take place.

The next few months will be interesting: Allawi is, it seems, already talking to the resistance. Meanwhile, about 160,000 American troops will be station in a country where a third of the population - more, in places like Fallujah - regards them as fair game and a majority want them to leave. Iraqis are, hopefully, on the path to a better future, but it isn't the future as previously advertised.

Back on the home front, Fighting Talk's Matt Nippert is now on staff at The Listener, replacing Olivia Kember who has been poached by Damian Christie to report for Flipside. People get headhunted so young these days …

The trial of predatory former Takapuna Grammar teacher David Arthur seems to be producing a slightly different account of events than what gossip had held to be the case, but not one in which Arthur emerges in any better light. How good do you reckon Jonathan Marshall's Hosking impression was?

In Australia, that great moral beacon of our times, the Catholic church, has been paying off sexual abuse victims - and moving the abusers to Samoa and Fiji, beyond the reach of Australian police.

Slashdot has a lively discussion on the Beastie Boys' response to the uproar over the copy-protection on their new album: the group say that the special WMA player that launches on your computer installs only into RAM, and not on hard drives. I am given to understand from those who have tried it that the player itself is a great steaming piece of shit.

I've been going through the government's new Digital Strategy discussion paper and, having seen quite a few of these reports in my time, I can say that it's actually pretty good. Once you get past the 25 pages of scene-setting, there are real actions with real target dates, not least a National Content Strategy that will encompass a New Zealand Creative Commons. On the other hand, the broadband targets for 2010 - 85% of homes and small businesses enjoying at least 50Mbit/s connectivity - place a heroic degree of faith in our telecommunications companies.

The finalists of the 48 Hour film contest - which roughly half my friends seemed to enter this year - are progressively being posted on NZShortFilm.com this week, in Flash video at rates of up to 1Mbit/s - great for viewing at the office or, in my case, over Ihug Connect. The site (formerly lessfilm.com) has been built by our developers, CactusLab and its based on the same Supermodel content management system as Public Address. I hope and trust that it will demonstrate to the culture industry decision-makers the virtue of getting short films online. Basically, there's no good reason not to make this stuff available.