Hard News by Russell Brown


Truck Off, etc

The trucking companies have done a magnificent job of getting most of us to cheer for their right to shift road maintenance costs off their bill and onto ours. I don't claim to entirely understand it, but over at that haven of deep thought and reason, the Herald's Your Views pages, people are lining up to back the truckies.

The paper's editorial advances the view that there may well be a sound case for the increase in the road user charge, but if people are being irrational and unreasonable, then that's the government's fault.

At any rate, the Road Transport Forum has done a magnificent job of organising a nationwide protest in 48 hours (anyone who thinks that Tony Friedlander and his chums might actually have done some advance planning for the increase they knew was coming some time this year is clearly a cynic) and of avoiding any detailed discussion of the size of the actual increase.

As the Herald editorial notes, Annette King says the Forum's own study indicates that a 10% increase in the RUC (which is rather less than that recommended by officials) adds up to a 1% increase in annual costs, or an additional $500 a year for a five tonne truck that travels 100,000km. Friedlander hasn't explicitly denied that analysis, and he was so evasive about actual costs in conversation with Sean Plunket this morning that Plunket eventually just cut him off.

But the thing that occurs to me is this: although the impact of the truck blockades has been notably uneven (Great North Road was almost empty at 8.30 when I dropped the boy at school), there will be small businesses which have dropped the additional annual cost of the RUC in just one morning. No one will be compensating them. (For everyone's sake, I hope there wasn't someone trying to get to hospital past the all-lane blockade the truck drivers put on the Southern motorway around Greenlane.)

But that doesn't matter. Because my unfocused sense of grievance and resentment is worth more than your fancy facts and numbers any day.

Anyway, cheerier things for a Friday. There are embedded clips and links for the 48 Hours festivity here in OurTube.

You could join the global celebration of independent music on Independents Day by purchasing the limited-time Independents Day compilation for only $19.95 from Amplifier (it features local artists including Tiki and Shapeshifter, plus four from Britain: Prodigy covering the Specials, the Charlatans covering New Order, Devendra Banhart covering Oasis, and the Infadels covering the Raconteurs).

At the Independents Day site, there's also a public poll where you can choose your personal top 10 independent albums since 2000.

You can even place a bid in the Independents day auction on eBay.

On the local front, it's all brought to you by Independent Music New Zealand.

Also, I've finally worked through my pile of bonus downloads at eMusic. If you were interested in joining eMusic -- monthly subs start at $US11.99 month for 50 tracks -- then you could email me and I'd do the tell-a-friend thing and get 50 free downloads. (You'd still get the usual freebie introductory offer.) Excellent releases to arrive there recently include the Ladytron album, the simply gorgeous new record from The Watson Twins, and a big swag of quality back-catalogue reggae and jazz releases. And, if you want the inside of your skull scrubbed out, Fake Blood. All in DRM-free high-quality MP3 format.

Also: Spare Room catches Telecom making shit up again. The happy company in that new TV ad doesn't exist. Ana also has some choice links.

Jack White joins Beck onstage for a cover of '99', Barbara Feldon's ode to her own character in Get Smart. Freaky. There's an MP3 here.

And, finally, Hamilton's very own robot band The Trons have become an internet sensation. Truly, this is good news for hard times …

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