Hard News by Russell Brown

Nightmare on Molesworth Street

The Herald has picked up today on the NBR's speculation about a possible deal to give Winston Peters the job of Prime Minister in a potential coalition with National, with Don Brash shuttling off to run the finances. Such talk will have been bolstered by last night's One News Colmar Brunton poll, which had Brash dropping five points to 15% support as preferred Prime Minister and Peters rising to snap at his heels. But … really?

It is possible to contemplate Peters making some sort of fist of a senior Cabinet post - at his third attempt. But Prime Minister? If I were a member of National's John Key-Katherine Rich axis, I'd be horrified by this idea, which has the potential to destroy National's long-term credibility. Much better to make an honest tilt this year and, if necessary, rewire the party for 2008, by which time Labour would also have to reinvent itself to have a hope of winning.

Update: DPF has spoken: "This is not going to happen. EVER. EVER. EVER. A disgruntled party member would throw a grenade into the caucus room, rather than allow such a deal to happen." Well, that might be going a bit far …

If no more V8 supercar racing in New Zealand meant never having to hear from Avesco CEO Tony Cochrane again I'd be inclined to think that was a good deal. Failing that, it would be nice if certain media - hello One News - could stop quoting him as if he were the Holy Oracle. This guy makes a career out of playing brinksman with city authorities. Or as V8X magazine put it, "sarcasm is his favourite method of putting down opponents but he is equally at home milking the pollies to stump up the cash for street races." Kerry Prendergast can blame the RMA all she likes, but her council got itself into this fix, by suddenly switching the route (from one that already had consents) to preserve its long-term plans to plant trees in the area. Public support for the race has plummeted as its implications - including digging up the streets annually - became clear. The idea that people on the new route did not have the right to be properly consulted about a multi-year deal that would have a direct impact on their quality of life is untenable. Was it ever really a practical proposition? And what's wrong with car races being held at, y'know, car racing tracks?

The White House response to the slaughter in Uzbekistan - urging calm but effectively blaming the victims - has been an utter disgrace, if not wholly unexpected.

This Moscow-based blogger has been extensively covering the story and makes a salient observation on the official White House comment:

...people who were not really inclined to armed opposition but became sufficiently fed up with the authorities' tyranny to rebel in a similar fashion - again, imagine this taking place in Belarus. Would the Bush administration be "concerned" that people unjustly imprisoned were out of jail? Would they urge restraint on the part of the opposition, as they have done in the case of the Andijan uprising? I doubt it.

Does this mean the Uzbek opposition is somehow less of a "democratic opposition" than the movements in Belarus because the Uzbeks happen to be Muslims and the Belarussians are not?

Another report from The Guardian:

Witnesses said that on Friday when a group of about 70 protesters holding hostages at the square waved a white flag, soldiers opened fire.

"What kind of government is this?" asked one witness. "People were raising their hands up in the air showing they were without arms but soldiers were still shooting at them."

On the same tip, No Right Turn suggests that history is repeating and has an update noting the very stern EU response and recommending Registan for continuing coverage. I'll leave you to imagine what the response might have been if the government in, say, Iran or Cuba had behaved like this.

Someone has scanned Jeff Sharlet's fascinating feature on the megachurches of Colorado Springs in the current Harper's magazine - and placed it here as a PDF. I was fascinated by his description of the eroticised spiritual art of Thomas Blackshear, which hangs in the New Life Church.

This blog discusses Sharlet's story and Blackshear in particular. And there's a The Vessel, the work that made the most impression on Sharlet.

The Weekend Herald had a timeline of foot and mouth day, which is quite interesting.