Hard News by Russell Brown

Snot Fare

Lyndon Hood notices National MP Shane Ardern's take on the Didymo "rock snot" river infestations. It was the gummint's fault, because it failed to "kill" the first two rivers where the algae was found. ("This stuff can be killed, but unfortunately they have to kill the river for a few years to do it. But surely it would have been better to sacrifice one or two rivers than let it spread through the South Island.")

Lyndon could find no evidence that temporarily "killing" rivers is practical, or even possible. Neither can I. The Biosecurity NZ FAQ says "We know of no systematic attempts to eradicate invasive blooms of Didymo overseas."

The comments on the issue on Frogblog seem to bear this out. It seems as if Ardern simply made it up. Can you imagine the government declaring it was going to dam or poison two major rivers on the basis of no evidence at all? Frog also points out that those crazy old Greens were sounding the alarm about this last year.

Speaking of the Greens, check out yesterday's bunfight on Kiwiblog over Roger Kerr's little essay on why he doesn't like the Greens. Kerr - apropos of bugger-all - picked up a popular right-wing talking point: that the Green movement is responsible for "millions of deaths" from malaraia in developing countries through its efforts to have DDT banned. (Actually DDT was banned by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1972, and is included in the Stockholm Convention list of persistent environmental pollutants to be phased out. The convention was ratified here by the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (Stockholm Convention) Amendment Bill. The Greens voted for that. So did National.)

Kerr claims there is "massive evidence" that DDT is in fact harmless to humans and wildlife. Actually, there isn't: three studies in the last four years have raised real concerns that environmental exposure to DDT causes reproductive health problems, including early pregnancy losses. But the WHO (and Greenpeace for that matter) has backed the use of DDT for mosquito control in Africa (generally as an indoor spray), as the lesser of two evils. (Our Stockholm Convention law makes similar provision for "emergency" use of DDT and other toxins.)

The problem with widespread use of DDT, even in that context, is that mosquito populations develop resistance to it. Returning to its use as an agricultural pesticide would be something akin to madness. Roger Kerr would do well to check his facts before he sounds off next time, lest he further embarrass himself. Anyway, there are competing links galore in the Kiwiblog thread. Just don't be alarmed by the angry right-wing bloggers. Although being amused is fine.

You know, it's not so much that the War on Terror is costing American taxpayers $7 billion a month - security has a price tag, right? - as that $6 billion of that monthly figure is being spent trying to hold the line in Iraq.

I'll leave you to come to your own conclusions about that.

OneGoodMove has quite a good - and very lively - discussion on religion from Bill Maher's Real Time, with Maher and Salman Rushdie playing devil's advocates to Andrew Sullivan and Ben Affleck.

A couple of reader comments on yesterday's stuff about the Maori Party and the foreshore and seabed issue. Benita Kape said:

Good on Atareta. Her speaking it like it is is just what is needed, now not later. Sure Tariana did what was needed and formed THE Maori Party. She was never the one who would be able to hold it together. It is not that at this particular point they looked an unstable party, it was at the very moment that Tariana said she wanted the hui. We need a substantial leader beside Peter Sharples and that would be Atareta. That would keep both Brash and the Labour Party honest and we would have a Maori Party that would go in to the fray far, far stronger than with Tariana at the helm. Tariana will have to realise that now is not her moment. She has in fact squandered it when in essence you ask your people to re-vote by going through this particular hui process. Once they were voted in, they knew where the people had voted. What an interesting precedent we are now setting with the hui. Atareta may not want leadership but whatever happens she is brutally honest and to use her words no gal for 'the glad -eye' approach. She trusts her people within the voting system and knows what they want and what they have asked of her. Hone Harawira certainly does.

And Anthony Trenwith saw an opportunity to revisit the F&S amid the coalition horse-tranding:

The problem with the F&S Act is simply that it was rushed (and not to mention wholly unnecessary) legislation brought about by a kneejerk reaction on the part of the government to Don Brash's own speech at Orewa. If Clark, or more appropriately, Margaret Wilson; has actually taken the time to read the Ngati Apa decision they would have had a better understanding of the situation and would have been able to engage in intelligent and rational debate with Brash. In fact, given that Brash himself probably hadn't read the decision either, they would have been able to make their point more effectively than they did. Instead, caught on the back foot, they decided to rush through a divisive and badly drafted piece of legislation in response to a perceived threat that existed only in their own imaginations. As Jim Evans pointed out last year, these are, after all, two highly intelligent people, who have access to legal advisers. We expect leadership from them. What they have given us is not good enough.

Very little has changed since then. The Maori Party was established out of the wake of the unrest arising from what Maori rightly perceived as a gross injustice - the government legislating away the fruits of their victory in the Court of Appeal. Yet if that is the one thing that binds its individual members together, one has to ask what will happen should then ever achieve their goal?

If Labour had any sense, they would agree to be "open to discussions" on amending (if not totally repealing) the F&S Act. A little constructive dialogue can go a long way. If the Maori Party had any sense, they would make it clear that they were willing to work contructively to achieve an equitable compromise on the issue without going so far as to sell out, or pay any price. Finally, if National had any sense, they'd recognise that the hardline approach on race-relations, while not without some merit, is ultimately injurious to the country as a whole and needs to be watered down. Bill English's recognition of, and appreciation for diversity of ethnicities and cultures is a clear sign of the appropriate direction.

Whether the hardliners in all of the parties will (ever) understand or appreciate the need for these changes remains to be seen. Yet, at the same time, it's important not to loose sight of the fact that New Zealand's track record in race relations isn't actually half bad, and there is the real possiblity of distinct progress towards complete reconcilation between Maori and Pakeha allowing all of New Zealand to move forward together. Whether or not this happens is of course entirely dependent on the people in Parliament.

I tend to agree. If National really is offering abolition as a coalition sweetie, it could hardly hurt Labour to promise a review.

Some geek stuff: Slashdot posters get techno-stiffies over the new kit commissioned by Weta Digital.

Very interesting post from Ben Metcalfe on the BBC News website's "dirty little secret" - that the vast majority of the 10,000 comments it fields every day don't get read, let alone published. But they're doing something about it: going to a Slashdot-style moderation system. Huzzah!

Synthetic Thoughts is bitching about not getting a link from my current Listener column on the issue of copyright in forward TV listings. Dude, I thought you wanted to stay under cover …

While we're at it, here's my story on business and blogging for Unlimited magazine.

Xeni from Boing Boing writes about how Yahoo gave up the identity of a Chinese journalist to stay cool with the regime. Yahoo gets to keep on doing business in China, the journalist is in jail for 10 years.

And you still have a chance to make your stand on press freedom in New Zealand by bidding for the exclusive and historic signed copy of the injuncted issue of Salient on Trade Me.