Hard News by Russell Brown

Power and people

Is there an equivalent to karma in Islam? The literally powerless people of Baghdad and Basra might be seeing some grim justice in today's massive power outage in Northeast America. But why Canada? And for that matter, why poor old New York?

At least Salam Pax has some good news - a book deal with The Guardian, no less. On the other hand, his friend G - presumably the G who also has a blog - has been beaten up by American troops ("His sin: he looks Iraqi and has a beard").

It's easy to snigger about Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign for governor of California, but it must be said that his recruitment of the world's second-richest man, Warren Buffett, bolsters his credibility considerably.

Like Schwarzenegger, Buffett does not sign up the 19th century social agenda that has colonised the Republican party - indeed, he's often regarded as a liberal sort of Democrat, and in May he wrote a widely-quoted column in the Washington Post that described the Bush administration's waiving of the tax on stock dividends as welfare for the rich.

Schwarzenegger has a website, on which the closest thing to a philosophy - let alone a policy - is a namecheck for a legendary former governor, Hiram Johnson, the "progressive" Republican who sought to curb the power of special interests in the legislature through direct democracy, and thus fathered the very recall process that brings Arnie into the spotlight.

California's manifold ballot initiatives have achieved a few notable things in the name of people power - and a few more in the name of wealthy interest groups. They have also, along with the extreme requirements demanded of the California legislature to just set a budget (a two-thirds "supermajority" is required) made the state difficult to govern and administer in any rational way.

So, you have a Democrat whose only real skill seems to lie in campaigning, a recall election only nine months after a normal one, procured by campaigners paid by a millionaire who wants the governor's job, that will almost inevitably lead to a new governor with a minority of votes. And, still, a $US38 billion deficit. As a test case for direct democracy, California tends on balance to look like a good advertisement for the old-fashioned, representative kind.

So, anyway, about 180 of the top 200 search terms which people typed into a search engine to reach Public Address so far this month have been some permutation of the words "Hosking", Marshall", "tabloid", "pictures", "Herkt", "queer", etc, etc. Fully 30 per cent of the searches were on the phrase "Mike Hosking". Sheeeit. I'm coming around to the view that it's time to turn off the oxygen of publicity here. But before I do, two things:

(a) The Being Jonathan Marshall website has been taken down, apparently at the behest of Marshall's lawyers, who said, among other things that its contents "are grossly defamatory of our client and must be removed from the world wide web within twelve (12) hours of this cease and desist order." Meanwhile, Marshall is continuing to actively solicit sleaze about Paul Holmes on his website. What a sorry little man Marshall truly is.

(b) We have a great interview about celebrity culture on Mediawatch this week. It's a killer show, in fact. So that's Mediawatch, after nine on Sunday morning, on National Radio …

And there remains only the rugby. Tracey Nelson didn't come up with stats for last weekend's Bok game - I think she must have been too excited about our mailing list reunion for the Bledisloe Cup decider tomorrow night. There are people flying in from the States and everything. Shame about the weather, though. If you have no pressing business, I would recommend staying the hell indoors in Auckland this weekend. It's already mental out there on the roads: I got rear-ended by a four-wheel drive on the way into town this morning, and it can really only get worse.

See you on the terraces then …