Hard News by Russell Brown

Long Days

With the 9/11 commission report offering, as these things tend to, a little something for everyone, the public and commentators will presumably be urged by the White House to move on from all the unpleasantness. It's hardly that simple, of course.

Nobody will be truly moving on until the news from Iraq improves considerably, and there seems little immediate prospect of that. The Today In Iraq blog provides daily tallies of deaths, attacks and other unhappy events in that country - and it's been very lengthy lately.

US Army prison abuse investigators have now totalled 94 "aberrations" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US military has spent most of the $US65 billion approved by Congress for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is scrambling to find $12.3 billion more to get through to the end of the fiscal year.

Meanwhile, ways to keep people in the US Army: free cosmetic surgery, including breast enlargements (patients must supply their own implants) and liposuction. Weird.

The conservative Christian movement - with wide-boy pastor Brian Tamaki to the fore - is rather feverishly (I've seen the emails) gearing up for its own Hikoi in Wellington, basing the project around its Enough is Enough website. Its "vision" is expressed thus:

The cornerstone of society is the family - the cornerstone of the family is marriage. Marriage is a lifelong covenant commitment between a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’, which provides the best possible environment to raise and nurture our children – tomorrow’s generation.

Sadly today our nation’s leaders have disregarded these simple yet profound truths. The institution of marriage is under unprecedented attack by politicians who wield an agenda to advance the privileges of an extreme [homosexual] minority over the rights of our society and our children.

Yadda-yadda, democratic right to protest and all that. A casual browse through the site will turn up a number of claims best characterised as lies (child prostitution is "now the accepted norm" apparently) but the thing that really annoys me is the prominent quote from Martin Luther King on the top page ("Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter"). It's not the first attempt to rope King into homophobia - his fundamentalist Christian niece tried it several years ago and was slapped down by the great man's widow, Coretta Scott King. Although King never put his views about homosexuality in writing, his former wife was adamant that he was concerned about discrimination against gays and lesbians, and one of his close confidants in the 1960s, Bayard Rustin, was openly gay. The Google Answers page on the matter has further information.

Apart from trying to hijack the image of the civil rights leader, the Enough is Enough campaign is following the line of the Destiny New Zealand political party in looking to establish an appeal to Maori. There's a page complaining about the seabed and foreshore legislation, and the "Stand En Mass" (sic) will feature a haka. I wonder whether, given the signals chucked out by the Maori Party, we're shaping up for a battle for the conservative Maori vote.

Anyway, the enough.org.nz domain is registered to a Raymond Greenfield of Hamilton, who is presumably not the same Raymond Greenfield as this one. It would have been a laugh though, wouldn't it?

Israel's cheerleaders tend to hold that there is no action that cannot be justified in the defence of the state - hence we ought to be more understanding about its need to penetrate and abuse our passport system. It was something of a relief to read this column in Ha'aretz in which Gideon Levy ponders what the response might be if some of the state's recent actions had been perpetrated by Palestinians on Israeli citizens:

What would happen if a Palestinian terrorist were to detonate a bomb at the entrance to an apartment building in Israel and cause the death of an elderly man in a wheelchair, who would later be found buried under the rubble of the building? The country would be profoundly shocked. Everyone would talk about the sickening cruelty of the act and its perpetrators. The shock would be even greater if it then turned out that the dead man's wife had tried to dissuade the terrorist from blowing up the house, telling him that there were people inside, but to no avail. The tabloids would come out with the usual screaming headline: "Buried alive in his wheelchair." The terrorists would be branded "animals."

A reader has pointed me to the video clip in which Michael Moore notoriously green-lighted file-sharing of his movie. It's at a press conference, but I still can't tell where or when.

The Guardian has a rare and very funny interview with an out-of-character Sacha Baron Cohen about Ali G's adventures in America.

Interesting story in the New York Times about where the Bush and Kerry campaign war chests will be spent.

Salon has an interview with comics genius Alan Moore. I still have my signed copy of Watchmen.

Rod Oram took a typically sensible look at the latest focus for screaming business hysteria - the Resource Management Act - pointing out that the survey quoted by Nick Smith - which placed New Zealand last among 60 countries for its environmental laws was not based on actual data (many of the countries rated at the top of the survey actually have stricter protections), but just "New Zealand business's unrealistically negative view of the RMA." No Right Turn, who is in fine form lately, offers a similar view.

Tom Bennion, who, along with Rebecca Paton and Malcolm Birdling, has a book on the seabed and foreshore issue out imminently, offered this comment on the government's largely ignored announcement that it may consider a time limit for the processing of historical Treaty claims:

The government announcement is not as revolutionary or politically fraught as it might have been a few years ago. All players in the treaty field are moving in the same direction. The Waitangi Tribunal realised some time ago that it would be unjust to have some major tribal groups awaiting settlements more than 10-15 years from now, given the "head start" which groups like Ngai Tahu and Tainui have into a post settlement era. There are also risks of "settlement inflation" over time - and related to that, the relativity clauses in the Tainui and Ngai Tahu settlements effectively requiring the government to keep all settlements within the fiscal cap (or pay the relative extra amount above the cap to those two tribes).

For several years the Tribunal has been trialing options to speed up claim hearing and resolution. Claimants (now grouped into large hearing districts) have the option of a fast track hearing, involving one short (2-3 week) hearing of generic evidence for a district, and then going straight into negotiations. You may note also that the foreshore and seabed bill has a cut off date for applications of December 2015.

Tracey Nelson has stats for last weekend's Bledisloe Cup test. I must say, I'm feeling less confident about the Springbok test tomorrow than I did before the Bledisloe game. For one thing, a glance at the stats suggests that Greg Somerville will have to do very well to match the workrate of the man he replaces in the front row, Carl Hayman.

Righto. That's more than enough for today. It's my birthday, and I'm fixin' to hit the streets and shake off the vague intimations of mortality that have been lingering like a bad smell all week. Just watch me.