Hard News by Russell Brown

The Usual Bastardry

I planned to lead with something else today, but this finds me quite exercised. As No Right Turn explains, Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who was forced out for being "over-focused on human rights", has written a book on his experience.

The book draws on documents sought and released under Britain's Freedom of Information and Data Protection acts. But Murray has now been contacted by the British Foreign Office to tell him he cannot make those documents available because they claim that would breach Crown copyright. The abuse of copyright law to suppress information has become a familiar tactic of corporations (and the Church of Scientology) looking to suppress criticism; its use by a democratic government is simply risible.

This irks me for two reasons. One is that it is a story of the enthusiastic appeasement (more annual US aid than the whole of West Africa!) of a vicious, torturing plutocracy - under the cloak of freedom - culminating in the removal of a career diplomat who voiced an inconvenient truth. The other is that it is yet another example of Tony Blair's government's endless preparedness to subjugate open government to political management.

No Right Turn has links to various sources for the documents, including a torrent for a 12.8MB Zip archive. I have the torrent and will be seeding it for at least the next week.

The New Zealand Labour Party got a 90th birthday present over the weekend, in the form of the TNS TV3 poll, which had the party up four points to 46% support and National down two to 39%.

The result contrasts strikingly with those of two other recent polls, and the most that can really be said about the headline figure is that the various polls continue to demonstrate their established biases. Labour will be happy enough for any result out of a period when its caucus has looked spooked most of the time.

But there looks to be more in the leadership figures. Don Brash is down five points to 13% as preferred Prime Minister, and fewer than half of respondents believed he was a capable leader. Fewer than a third believed he was performing well in his job. And no bloody wonder. Has anyone seen him lately? I don't think employing a man to scout ahead for potential photographic pratfalls is going to help much. It's interesting to speculate how Dr Brash would be performing now if National had won the election. Given some of the extreme and impractical elements of National's manifesto, you have to suspect there would have been some fun and games.

A Telegraph story appears to confirm suspicions that the recent abduction and beheading of two US soldiers in Iraq was by way of retaliation for the rape and murder allegedly committed by their comrades. Unnervingly, the story suggests there are eight more revenge killings to go. And Editor & Publisher rounds up coverage and commentary on more horrible news from Iraq.

On (considerably) less grave matters, there are already a couple of YouTube caps of Jerry Collins' nervous on-field pee just before Saturday's test match kicked off. But you really don't want to watch that too many times. Meanwhile, also on YouTube, a reminder of how naff the All Black haka used to be, from 1979. No new instances of Kapa o Pango as performed on Saturday evening, but a number of older ones.

And for the geeks, CNet's Worst Tech of 2006 is pretty funny.

PS: Clearly, fart jokes touch your sensitive liberal souls. Downloads so far for Farting Preacher 2: Fart Harder (see below): 1600 and counting ...