Hard News by Russell Brown


There are many ironies to the Auckland City Council's mad-headed bid to stage the V8 Supercar Championship Series around Victoria Park: not the least of them that a council that has aggressively pursued any kind of noise made in pursuit of culture is apparently happy to subject its residents to something much louder, whether they like it or not.

The noise is not, of course, the craziest thing about the idea - that honour goes to the implications for Auckland's roading network. For those of you not familiar with the lay of the land, the proposed route cuts off the main access route between the city and the North Shore, leaving just the already jam-packed viaduct over the park and one single-lane off-ramp in Herne Bay.

By cutting off Nelson Street from the TVNZ complex down, it will also screw up access to downtown from both the Southern and Northwestern motorways. The route will be completely closed for three days, including a Friday, and there will be "disruption" while the course is being set up for an additional 17 days. It's unclear exactly how spectators from the Shore would get to the race. On boats, according to council events committee chairman Scott Milnes …

Among other concerns: the council agreed without reference to ratepayers to lodge a joint bid with its prospective partner IMG which would involve the council making an interest-free loan to IMG that would cost the council a net $900,000 over seven years. Hang on. IMG is the largest sports marketing and management company in the world, with 66 offices in 38 countries. Why on earth would Auckland ratepayers be giving it an interest-free loan? [Local readers may recall previous issues with CitRat bunnies on the council offering interest-free loans during the Britomart I saga.]

In an impressive bit of rationalisation, Milnes also said that there was no point in consulting with the local community until such time as the council had successfully bid to host the event. By which time, of course, the council will be locked into a seven-year contract …

The council has been so busy totting up the prospective financial benefits of staging the race that it doesn't appear to have had time to properly count the costs. I'm all in favour of events - the city needs them - but Auckland seems to be so badly suited to seven years of V8 racing that I really, really hope the CitRats are saved from themselves and somebody else (Wellington would seem to fit) gets it instead.

There have been two interesting polls to mark the first anniversary of the launching of the Iraq war. The first, conducted for the BBC's Newsnight programme, is a testament to the optimism and pragmatism of the Iraqi people. Their respect for the coalition forces is negligible, but they are realistic enough to recognise that they need troops there for now to maintain security. As many Iraqis consider the invasion a "humiliation" as a "liberation" and, worryingly, nearly one in five believes it is acceptable to attack coalition forces. It's a quite complex picture worth studying in full.

The other poll is the latest from the Pew surveys, which indicates that the American leadership's progressive loss of hearts and minds virtually everywhere else in the world is continuing. Worringly, support for the war on terror appears to be ebbing everywhere. Unsurprisingly, the US is the only country surveyed in which a majority of people expresses a favourable view of President Bush. Again, worth reading in full.

Meanwhile, something we can all laugh about: the US media's panic reaction on "decency" issues since Janet Jackson's breast moment. It seems that just about everything live and unpredictable, from basketball games to kids' request shows, will soon be slapped with a delay. Doesn't there seem to you to be something pathetic - something un-American - for there to be some sweaty standards guy hanging there on the button, day in day out, in case something happens that might displease those in charge?

Network dramas have begun to self-censor. With FCC fines raised 18-fold overnight, attorneys are now warning broadcasters to excise any content they even suspect might be risky.

Thank goodness for George Carlin. As John Gorman says, it's getting pretty stupid out there.

Still, it's not all one-way. The Oklahoma legislature is has passed a bill exempting breastfeeding women from public indecency laws. But only if they do it in a a "discreet and modest way"