Hard News by Russell Brown


Ready to Fly

Couldn't Alan Bollard have waited till I went to the bank? In truth, the unusual overnight intervention in our currency still leaves the dollar as strong against the greenback as at any time I've travelled, and I think it's likely I'll still find the odd $US-friendly bargain in Ho Ch Minh City.

After, all the Vietnamese apparel industry is facing the prospect of a fairly major stock surplus, with the US Department of Commerce having spooked American importers into placing no orders at all for the third quarter, because it might declare the Vietnamese to be dumping.

The US market accounts for 55% of Vietnamese apparel exports. Can you imagine a major New Zealand exporting sector having its most important market closed down while a foreign regulator keeps its counsel? Yikes.

OTOH, it seems President Nguyen Minh Triet will sign a free-trade deal when he visits the White House next week. What manner of dead rat the Vietnamese will be obliged to swallow to get a deal? Given the way the US has behaved since Vietnam joined the WTO, it's not hard to imagine the sort of take-it-or-leave-it deal the Americans will be offering.

Still, the Vietnamese have other things to think about anyway: inbound floods of investment capital, 9% economic growth, product adulteration scandals, old-fashioned oppression of critics of the government, and fishermen facing the death penalty for scavenging the wrong cable. Everything seems to be going on at once.

It's a shame I'm only there for a few days before heading to Singapore for CommunicAsia, but I do have quite a busy itinerary, which includes, if I'm up to it, meeting some local bloggers at a coffee shop that holds swing dance classes on Wednesday nights.

Anyway, get Stephen Franks on The Panel yesterday - the podcast is here, and the money part starts about a quarter of the way through. Franks was weighing in on the Press Council's ruling on Deborah Coddington's 'Asian Angst' story for North & South.

Franks approached the key fact at the base of the complaint against the story - the "supposed drop in the rate of offending pro rata" in the Asian community - by claiming, without benefit of supporting evidence, that such a drop had only happened because people no longer bothered to report crime.

He didn't venture to explain why the Asian community should apparently have stopped reporting crime at twice the rate of the general population.

The not-just-making-stuff-up reading of the facts, of course, is that the statistics misleadingly quoted to depict a "gathering tide of Asian crime" actually show that Asians have gone from being twice as unlikely as the general population to nearly four times as unlikely. And yet Franks repeatedly implied that the story that made this claim was "the truth".

Franks raged on: "That shouldn't be a process for authorities … These agencies which should be standing up for free speech rights are becoming the engines of oppression."

For fuck's sake. The Press Council is a self-regulating body, constituted and selected by the print media industry - it has no statutory authority and is nothing to do with government - and North & South voluntarily makes itself subject to its standards.

And the appalling penalty suffered by North & South and its writer? North & South is obliged to print part of the Press Council's decision. That's it. It doesn't even have to acknowledge fault.

Surely Franks knows this? Well, it's hard to say what's going on in the head of a man who famously declared the gay community to be "so riddled with pathologies" as to be beyond redemption. You don't have to be barking mad to be a former Act MP, but it clearly helps.

And, pray tell, what part of Deborah Coddington's speech has been curbed? She has wilfully breached the embargo on the decision - applied in the first place to allow North & South to be the first to print it - with a self-serving Herald on Sunday column in which she not only denies any fault in her story but attacks the Press Council members as individuals.

She might have a particularly bad case of ill grace, but it's hard to see where she's "oppressed" - not without completely cheapening the word.

On the other hand, there was Damian Christie's really fine story on the issue for Close Up last night, which didn't seek to re-litigate, but, instead, looked at the impact of what the Press Council described as "dehumanising" stereotypes - New Zealand Asians' experience of brutality and prejudice from the rest of us. The page for last night's programme is here, but someone's bollocksed things up, and the video link for Damian's story plays the P story that ran before it. Fix, plz? [Fixed now. But does anybody else get the ad audio playing again over tghe first 30 seconds of every clip?]

And one more bit of video I'd hoped to point you to today will have to wait: Attitude TV's excellent story on our family, which aired on Sunday morning. It took a degree of trust to put the kids in front of the camera, but that trust was absolutely rewarded. I sort of wish I hadn't been so rampantly unshaven throughout, but apart from that, I am happy and grateful for the story - which I'll get someone to post to OurTube when it's ready.

I also promise in the story to get the humans.org.nz website up and running. Well, I am, now that we've got Leo's schooling on a more even keel. I've emailed a basic brief to my web guys, and when I get back in two weeks' time, I'll fire up the mailing list - so, to those people who offered to help, you will, finally hear from me.

And the next time you lot hear from me I'll be a long way away.

PS: My old mate Scott Young, having had interesting adventures in the dozen or so years since I last saw him - including playing a KGB double agent in a Ridley Scott produced mini-series - is living in Budapest and making quirky short films, several of which he has loaded into OurTube if you'd care to look. (Also: OurTube's System home page presence is to expand soon to a Top 10, at the expense of Monitor, which has - despite the welcome efforts of several contributors - not really taken off. And given that Fiona's going to TV-blog every week, telly talk can take place in the main Café forum forums.)

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