Hard News by Russell Brown

Mighty wind

I lived on the West Coast for several years as a kid, and came away with a great regard for the power of nature there. From our house, you could see muscular, miles-high cumulonimbus clouds marching in from the Tasman. That mighty sight was a herald of big weather, and I loved the big weather.

The Coast also happens to be the only place in New Zealand prone to tornadoes, most of which occur away from its few towns. But yesterday, one came to visit Greymouth and wreaked the kind of concentrated destruction we usually only watch on foreign news. That no one was killed seems extraordinary. TVNZ has a little am-cam video online, along with a photo gallery. The tornado was, amazingly, a story as far afield as Israel, where the Jerusalem Post covered it.

David Slack noted an interesting entry from Hard News passim: 1996 to be precise:

"By deliberately building and titillating widespread public interest in a non-existent incident, I think Mr Peters cynically manipulated both the media and the public," the judge said.

No! Really?

GayNZ has a follow-up on yesterday's second round of slurs under privilege. Scoop's comprehensive coverage of the story is still up in case you missed it.

Mr D Cohen of the parish of Wellington kindly directed me this week to Gerard Baker's column What have the Americans ever done for us? Liberated 50 million people... , which draws an amusing parallel between the "what have the Romans ever done for us?" conversation in Monty Python's Life of Brian and the imagined mutterings of "the anti-American hordes in Britain, Europe and even in the US itself" over what Baker regards as a new dawn in the Middle East.

Indeed, the so-called Cedar Revolution in Lebanon has been hailed with what might be seen as unseemly haste (and while various forms of unseemly slaughter continue in Iraq) by leading necocon pundits, but it's an interesting question: if democracy breaks out, does that amount to an endorsement of the Bush doctrine?

I actually got many paragraphs into a dutiful consideration of the issues, and then decided I might as well hand over to The Daily Show's report on LebaLebanon. Very funny. Again.

And in something that you really wish was comedy, a Fox News "journalist" has declared that if Lebanon was silly enough to vote democratically to retain Syrian troops, "we could bomb it back to the Stone Age with a clean conscience."

You want gravity? Oh. Try Juan Cole then:

I'm all for democratization in the Middle East, as a good in its own right. But I don't believe that authoritarian governance produced most episodes of terrorism in the last 60 years in the region. Terrorism was a weapon of the weak wielded against what these radical Muslims saw as a menacing foreign occupation. To erase that fact is to commit a basic error in historical understanding. It is why the US military occupation of Iraq is actually a negative for any "war on terror." Nor do I believe that democratization, even if it is possible, is going to end terrorism in and of itself.

You want to end terrorism? End unjust military occupations. By all means have Syria conduct an orderly withdrawal from Lebanon if that is what the Lebanese public wants. But Israel needs to withdraw from the Golan Heights, which belong to Syria, as well. The Israeli military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank must be ended. The Russian scorched earth policy in Chechnya needs to stop. Some just disposition of the Kashmir issue must be attained, and Indian enormities against Kashmiri Muslims must stop. The US needs to conduct an orderly and complete withdrawal from Iraq. And when all these military occupations end, there is some hope for a vast decrease in terrorism. People need a sense of autonomy and dignity, and occupation produces helplessness and humiliation. Humiliation is what causes terrorism.

Um, what he said.

PS: I'm off to Christchurch for the day to advise Sound Archive (but no time for the cricket, sadly) but preparations continue apace for Sunday's Great Blend 2 event. Peter McLennan of Dub Dot Dash blog has come on board as our DJ, West Lynn Organic Meats (or, as the Mad Butcher put it, "the orgasmic butcher") is providing some sausages, Foodtown/Woolworth Online have flicked us some platters - and of course there will be lashings of Karajoz coffee.

If you've RSVP'd please be prompt at 4pm, because the show will open with a special international guest. Groovy.