Hard News by Russell Brown

Meme moratorium

I'm calling a moratorium. On, that is, the making-ourselves-feel-better meme coursing through centre-right circles that, in fact, the centre-right actually won more votes on the 17th, and it was only rotten old MMP that snatched away the victory.

There are many things awry with this hypothesis - which is based on the idea that United Future and New Zealand First are really centre-right parties whose intentions were perverted by the system - the most prominent among them being that it's ludicrous to try and map the voting pattern under one electoral system onto hypothetical voting choices under another.

Further, NZF's economic platform (which calls for import substitution, for goodness sake) is by no definition a centre-right one (it is in fact arguably to the left of Labour's) and polls have consistently found, by a modest margin, that Winston's support base wanted him to go with Labour. If National had achieved more votes than Labour, or been able to nurture other coalition support parties, it would be forming a government. But it didn't, and it isn't. You've got till the specials come in on Saturday, folks. Then get over it.

So Hurricane Rita wasn't quite as destructive as feared, but the prospect was bad enough to require a calamitous evacuation. The question is: is this the shape of things to come? Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, spat the dummy late last week, declaring the hurricane wave to be the "smoking gun" of global warming:

Asked what conclusion the Bush administration should draw from two hurricanes of such high intensity hitting the US in quick succession, Sir John said: "If what looks like is going to be a horrible mess causes the extreme sceptics about climate change in the US to reconsider their opinion, that would be an extremely valuable outcome."

Asked about characterising them as "loonies", he said: "There are a group of people in various parts of the world ... who simply don't want to accept human activities can change climate and are changing the climate."
"I'd liken them to the people who denied that smoking causes lung cancer."

If the frequency and intensity of hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico really has permanently increased, then, Houston, we have a problem. The authorities can hardly ignore the worst-case threat of storms like Rita, but they can also hardly relish the thought of annual mass evacuations.

Meanwhile, Boing Boing has a disturbing Katrina round-up.

The Christian Heritage Party has finally fronted and officially dispensed with its policy director, Mark Munroe, after the leak and publication of a revolting email in which Munroe sought to contend that Capill's offences - raping children - did not meet the Biblical definition of rape and were in fact of a lesser degree than the act of raping a married woman.

The leaked email first appeared on Kiwiblog, where it was followed by some astonishingly farcical discussion about whether Munroe had in fact read the scriptures properly. (Here's the thing, folks: our criminal law is not based on the bizarre edicts of the Old Testament, but sound, secular ideas about consent.)

The story was taken up by The Fundy Post, which published a version of the email showing that the recipients were the mad Flanagans (for some reason, DPF removed that information). Hilariously, Munroe accused The Fundy Post's Paul Litterick of behaving unethically.

So … any more sordid personalities still lurking in the shadows of this creepy little party?

Staying on the moral tip, Ars Tehcnica has an interesting comment piece on the new FBI "obscenity squad", and the Slashdot community muses further on the plan to ban B&D.

Some video: a great interview which demonstrates what happens when Fox News's Bill O'Reilly comes across an interview subject he can't intimidate - in this case, veteran talk show host Phil O'Donoghue, in the topuc of the Iraq war.

Some audio: my interview with Shane Jones on The Wire last week. Judging by the phone calls afterwards, the listeners liked him a lot. I'm hoping to talk to National's Tim Groser this week.

The pro-Bush angry brigade predicts 20,000 for a pro-war demonstration to match the 100,000 who marched against the war in Washington this week. They get … about 400.

And finally, I've love to point you to John Roughan's explanation as to why he decided not to vote Maori Party - and voted UFO instead - but, of course, I can't, because that's "premium" content. Thanks anyway …

It appears that not all of the Herald's columnists knew they were to be locked up in the "premium" cells. Business columnist Jenny Ruth only found out when she was preparing an invoice for her work, went to check her work online - and found that she wasn't allowed to see it. She says:

Something else you might want to consider is if my work is "premium content," shouldn't the Herald be paying a premium price for it. I think you'll find the other columnists are as angry about this as I am -- particularly that they didn't tell me about this and provide me with free access. Will they make me pay to research Herald stories?

And Matthew Harman has been in touch with the final word on stories you find through the Herald's on-site keyword search. They won't expire as such after seven days - but after that time they will become "premium" content, and will attracted a fee. If you find the same stories by another means - drilling down through the Herald site's index structure, or using an external search engine, the links will behave like they always have. Everybody clear on that now?