Hard News by Russell Brown

So, what do you think of New Zealand?

So what exactly did yesterday's OECD report say about New Zealand's economic position and prospects. Depends who you ask. In the Dominion Post, Vernon Small's story leads thus: "The economy has won a strong report card from the OECD, which says New Zealand is on track to meet the Government's goal of a return to the top half of the rich nations club."

In the Herald, on the other hand, Brian Fallow detects a gloomier tone, saying the report "sounds a warning on tax cuts and suggests there is scope for some liposuction in Government spending."

Philosophically Made's Labour-friendly Stephen Cooper sees a ringing endorsement of Michael Cullen.

The perspective from less interested observers is relatively upbeat. Australian papers are running the Agence France-Presse report from the OECD headquarters in Paris, which notes that the report says "the country's prospects are bright", but sees a need to boost our long-running low productivity growth. The Forbes story takes a similar tack, and also notes praise for changes to business taxation in Cullen's 2005 Budget (and if there was a feature in that Budget that was blown away by the backlash to the raised expectations on personal tax, that was it).

Bloomberg's Wellington reporter, on the other hand, offers a view more pleasing to the Opposition, noting the report sees "little success in counter-balancing increases by pruning back lower-priority activities," and suggests a review programme aimed at nudging back such spending.

Although there has been some consternation behind the scenes in Wellington about what the OECD might say about the high marginal tax rates implicit as income-earners move out of the reach of Working for Families, its comments and the coverage seem relatively muted in that respect. The report's fretting about labour market flexibility (against a background of the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD?) and keenness for further privatisations can safely be taken as the sort of thing economists will always say.

Apart from the productivity conundrum - answers on a postcard for that one, please - the key point in the report seems to be this: the economy has been running beyond capacity for several years, creating inflationary pressures. The Reserve Bank's tight monetary policy seems to have done the job for now, but there is little or no room for fiscal loosening, either in the form of new spending, or tax cuts not matched by spending cuts. Say it again: not new government debt, but actual spending cuts.

Ooooh … this is creepy but compelling: a sex offender in America, who abducted a little girl and killed her family - and has been captured thanks to the smart work of a Denny's waitress - turns out to have been keeping a blog. The Fifth Nail (the name relates to a Crucifixion myth).

Today In Iraq has a massive second anniversary post. (Warning: graphic and disturbing photographs.)

After all the denials, Bush's evil wizard Karl Rove turns out to be right smack-bang in the middle of the Valerie Plame story. Lawrence O'Donnell broke the story for The Huffington Post. Rove could conceivably be charged not just with blowing Plame's cover as a CIA agent, but with perjury. Cool.

Greg Wood reported on watching the test match away from home:

The atmosphere at Father Flanagan's Fake Irish Pub in the old convent school in downtown Singabore on Saturday was not much different from the Cake Tin by the sounds of it; about half Kiwis, half Lions, with the Britpack (full of, as you say, faces only a mother could love; british bulldogs to a man) doing most of the yelling but the Kiwis (all recognisable; all very Carter-looking) doing all the jumping up and down and pointing. Freaking brilliant. The only thing that ruined it for all of us was a bloody POM won the trip for two (biz-class, too!) to Auckland this weekend. And he calls himself my FRIEND... baaaaaaaastard!

And, inspired by the Kiwi standards belted out at the stadium on Saturday, Rod de Lisle sent in an "adulterated" version of the Dance Exponents' 'Victoria':

The All Black haka was how they were greeted
Lions riposte that can't be repeated
Tana looked for a quick resolution,
prepared his prey like an execution
what do you want from him, want from him?
don't you go mess with him, mess with him.
He's up in time to bugger O'Driscoll,
Kevin helps with a very quick fistful
It is the fire that Bryan has been through
he's got a mind but it's the shoulder that they seeing to
you won't get much more from him, more from him?
what do see in him, see in him?
Woodhead is a man that sees only money
Losing his captain and the series ain't funny
he's in bed but he's not sleeping
It this a job that he will really be keeping?
what do you want from him, want from him?
don't you go mess with him, mess with him.
Henry is not only the rugby head master
Sundays are for bone-sets and doing the plaster,
after killing the Lions he's back on the phone
another jerk rung up who won't leave Tana alone
what do you want from him, want from him?
Sir Woodhead
what do see in him, see in him?

Rod, you clearly have way too much time on your hands …

Anyway, I'm going to the Auckland-Lions game tonight. Damn shame the weather looks like it will be appalling. And if you'd like your own digital video keepsake of Saturday's historic test match, there's a fairly lively torrent available for it right now.