Hard News by Russell Brown

They have a point

National's immediate response to the release of the QC's report on Philip Taito Field yesterday was fairly predictable: it called for a commission of inquiry. The problem is, National always seems to be calling for a commission of inquiry. You get the impression they'd demand a royal commission if Judith Tizard was seen crossing against the lights.

But in this case, they have a point. Field wasn't hung by Noel Ingram's report, but he certainly hasn't been cleared either. John Armstrong's column is frankly scathing.

At best, Field has conducted his affairs unwisely; at worst he has systematically taken advantage of the "gratitude" of those he has helped with immigration issues (it should be noted that simply helping people with immigration issues is not the problem: MPs and ministers do that all the time). Whether it's worth paying for another couple of lawyers' holiday homes with a full commission is debatable, but there's no reason this shouldn't go to the privileges committee. And that appears to be the path National is now pursuing.

Will the Speaker, Margaret Wilson, send the matter on to the committee? She'll certainly be under some pressure not to. Field has huge support in his community and in his electorate, and the Labour-led coalition has a one-vote majority on everything but confidence (where the Greens abstain as per their agreement). No government really wants to wade into that, but in avoiding it, Labour will basically choose to avoid further public damage to Field's perceived integrity by publicly damaging its own.

Elsewhere, WTF is up with Bush? In the midst of a major crisis in the Middle East there was his inadvertently broadcast chat with Tony Blair, in which he appears incapable of sustaining any gravity and possessed of an understanding of the situation that might kindly be described as folksy. And then there's this: Bush walked into the room for an important summit and gave the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, an uninvited neck massage, by which she was surprised and apparently not pleased. I'm sorry, but that's just weird. Photos and video via AmericaBlog.

Scoop has William Rivers Pitt's Cheerleading the Apocalypse, about you-know-what. He looks in on the dispensationalist Christians who vote Bush and buy those stupid books by the million:

A lot of them are thrilled by what is happening in the Middle East. An internet forum called "Rapture Ready" offers some insight into that particular breed of right-wing Christian who cannot wait for the Apocalypse. "Gosh!!!" writes one poster, "Here we are making plans to move to the east coast and we might not even have to move after all. I say, come quickly Lord!!!"

"Israel is not a land of un-walled villages so this is probably a war that will result in that," writes another poster. "Then Gog and Magog will come. But I believe we could be raptured before. I believe before Damascus is destroyed God may rescue His children out of there." Yet another poster writes, "In another thread, someone brought up the fact that the kidnapping of the first Israeli soldier that started this whole thing was on June 25th, and if you count from that day to August 3rd ... it is EXACTLY 40 days!!!!! I find that to be a HUGE coincidence.".

Perhaps it's unfair to focus on the tens of millions of deluded fundamentalist zealots who can't wait for the actual end of the world. So Rivers Pitt consults a prominent conservative commentator:

It is all quite terrifying, but most frightening of all are the voices being raised in support of widening this crisis into total war. William Kristol, editor of the far-right periodical The Weekly Standard, has openly stated that the crisis should be used as an opportunity to attack other Middle Eastern nations. "While Syria and Iran are enemies of Israel," wrote Kristol in an article titled "It's Our War," "they are also enemies of the United States. The right response is renewed strength - in supporting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, in standing with Israel, and in pursuing regime change in Syria and Iran. For that matter, we might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities."

It should be noted that Kristol was one of the most vociferous cheerleaders for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which has been working out splendidly thus far. One hopes there are some wiser heads somewhere who will remember this, and take Mr. Kristol's advice with a large grain of salt.

I'll say. By some reports there are already 100,000 displaced people in Lebanon. That's a huge number. Until you look at the very last paragraph of Baghdad starts to collapse as its people flee a life of death, a horrifying report from Baghdad for The Times of London, where you learn that 889,000 Iraqis have fled the country since the invasion and 644,500 of them are refugees in Syria and Jordan. That's a 2005 figure, so it's reasonable to assume the number of people displaced is now over a million. This, according to the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, is “the biggest new flow of refugees in the world”. How many people are displaced within Iraq is anyone's guess, but the widespread reports of ethnic cleansing suggest that number may be even larger.

But that's war. That's what you're talking about when you have one.

And finally, Jock Anderson's Caseload website is very much open for business. It looks good, but I think he's on the wrong track obliging user registration before any content can be viewed, especially if he wants to derive advertising revenue. Jock, lighten up mate: your first job should be drawing a crowd. Then you can take names.