Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

18th December 1998

Copyright © 1998 Russell Brown

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well it wouldn't be Christmas without a little bombing, would it? Having tired of slowly starving the poor Iraqi people through sanctions, the US and Britain decided to change tack and take out a few directly.

That, regrettably, is one of the only two things that can certainly be said about the effect of the new season of bombing on Baghdad. Clinton granted that there would be "casualties", and of course there have been. The US hasn't actually set its sights much higher than that.

The other thing that can certainly be said is that this critically undermines our first, best hope for a sane world - the United Nations. The November attack that copped the coitus interruptus in November had the approval of the only body mandated to authorise such an action - the United Nations Security Council. But this time the security council was duped. They were actually debating the latest UNSCOM report when news came through of the bombing.

How unedifying then to hear our Prime Minister line us up behind this attack - and to see our newspapers dutifully fall into line. Like the Australian Prime Minister John Howard, the papers offered the line that the US and Britain had no choice but to enforce the will of the UN.

Surely it's up to the UN to decide how and when it will enforce its will? If these two countries have "no choice" but to enforce a UN resolution, then does Syria have "no choice" but to enforce all the resolutions that Israel has flouted these past few decades? Are there two sets of rules? Of course there are.

The fact that Clinton ordered the strikes THE DAY BEFORE he was to be subjected to an impeachment vote in the US House of Representatives taints and cheapens everything about this. Is this Wag the Dog?

Well, we do now know that the bombing Clinton carried out last time he was in strife - the so-called terrorist munitions factories hit on the eve of Monica Lewinsky's grand jury testimony - was almost wholly bogus.

Clinton's fall from grace is evident in the fact that anyone could even consider that he might have chosen to do something like this to bolster his domestic political position. But we do have to consider it.

The bombing did, at least, provide an alternative to the low farce being generated by the departure of Deborah Morris MP and the prospect of the regrettable Gilbert Myles coming to Parliament off the New Zealand First list.

Myles, next on the list and thus the candidate to take her place, apparently told Morris that as soon as he had come into Parliament as a New Zealand First he'd defect and support National instead. He also claimed that certain business interests were looking to pay certain MPs a cool $100,000 to resign from Parliament.

Unfortunately neither Myles or New Zealand First were strangers to stealing the votes of New Zealanders. Myles, who was once a National MP, has hopped parties as it - National, Liberal, Alliance, New Zealand First. The so-called Tight Five have chosen to prop up a party in government striggled to get into double figures in the electorates that delivered them to Parliament.

And Winston Peters, of course, began the whole sorry spectacle by campaigning as the only party thought could keep National out of government and then choosing to keep National in government.

Anyway, don't mess with Morris. Figuring that it might be handy to have Myles on record, she taped a conversation and calmly led him through every incriminating thing he'd previously said to her. And like the sad buffoon he truly is, Myles let himself be led through by the nose, broadcast quality andall. Morris gave him time to deny all, and then released the tape. He called it "gutter journalism".

Anyway, Gilbert Myles thinks he can and should still be an MP. Jenny Shipley says she'll have his vote and never mind the deceit, lies and talk of corruption. I think this whole sorry mess needs to go back to the voters to sort out. Can you imagine how tragic this government is going to get if it hangs on another whole year?

In the interests of that very thing happening, the Prime Minister has hired yet another highly-paid media handler - former journalist John Goulter, on a salary of about $150,000 a year. That makes six. SIX. next time the Prime Minister says we can't afford to pay 120 elected MPs, remember that without any notice to you and me, and purely to serve her own interests, she has just spent the equivalent of two MPs' base salaries.

It doesn't end there. Last week Shipley also hired Doug Martin as her chief of staff. That's the Doug Martin who has been serving as right hand man of Robert Estall, the chairman of the Fire Service Commission, who was further embarrassed this week by a critical select committe report about "perceptions" of his conduct. How nice of Jenny to bail out his offsider.

Then there's the SIS business, and the quickie law change to allow the service to do what they've no doubt always done. I do accept that an internal security service must have, in the end, the ability to enter private property without the owner's knowledge. Such a service wouldn't be much good without that ability.

And, after all, a threat launched from within - a bombing campaign or economic espionage perhaps - is a thousand times more likely than the preposterous maritime attack from South East Asia that Max Bradford has been trying to get people to believe in so that they want a $600 million frigate.

BUT ... I want the bar on that sort of authority to be set very high indeed. I accept that the country's senior elected officials have to make the calls - that's what representative democracy is all about. I would like to see a High Court judge have a role here. We saw the SIS let way off the leash in the Muldoon years and I never want to return to that.

I'm also a teeny bit worried about the SIS's brief, which was recently updated to include threats to New Zealand's economic wellbeing. That might be legitimately responding to industrial espionage - or it might be harassing poor Aziz Chroudry.

Aziz Choudry thinks free trade is a bad thing and that organisations like APEC represent some sort of high council of trans-national bully-boys. He protests against both. I don't actually agree with him. But I sure as hell don't think he has done anything to warrant having his house broken into by a couple of SIS spooks - especially spooks acting outside the limits of their interception warrants.

I also, as a taxpayer and citizen, would hope that future adventures won't be quite as inept at this one. I understand that the two SIS agents disturbed by one of Choudry's friends two years ago were wearing suit and tie. They legged it and ran to - get this - a big, shiny new four-wheel drive, which stood out like dog's balls in cheap suburb. Very secret, I don't think. Idiots.

The other select committee report to land this week was that of the health committe on cannabis and health and the law. The MPs conclusion, basically, was that having heard all the evidence they didn't think dope was harmful as had previously been claimed. In fact, moderate use didn't seem to be harmful at all.

This won't come as a surprise to anyone who has actually taken the trouble to read the research on pot - pretty much every study of its kind reaches the same finding as the government's one has - but it has already upset Tom Scott, whose book full of long-discredited factoids is in far too many schools.

The select committee, admittedly one of fairly liberal persuasion, has, on the basis of its report, invited the government to consider whether the prohibition is asustainable policy. It won't happen overnight, but this might actually go somewhere.

As might the resolution by Australian health ministers to require labelling of all genetically-altered foodstuffs. Our health minister, Tuariki Delamere, was at the same meeting, but declined to follow suit. I think New Zealanders might start to ask questions.

On the same tip, how nice to see the Green Party getting into the spirit of Christmas with a warning that your Christmas turkey is full of hormones and the rest of the festive dinner is probably full of chemical crap as well. Cheers guys - good timing. I'm sure that makes the poor families who have sprung for a supermarket turkey feel great.

Anyway I was out and about last Saturday and I can declare that you, me, all of us, going about our near-Christmas business, we were beautiful. Beautiful bloody Auckland wankers. And the weather was fine, too. None of that grim, wet La Nina weather. Till today.

I have arranged to take my rest this summer on the Kapiti Coast, which all the forecasters agree will enjoy the best weather in the North Island. Bloody Auckland wankers with a bolt-hole in the Coromandel will, on the other hand, either mope around in the drizzle or live in fear of a devastating tropical cyclone. Well, that's the theory, anyway.

And that's it from me for the year. I'd like to thank most heartily the good ship bFM and all who sail in her; Peter Belt of the Plug and Mark Proffitt of Akiko who both do an amazing job of distributing Hard News on the Internet, and Peter Fowler and the crew at Newsroom, the Internet news service by which others should be measured.

Salutations to TVNZ and BossTV, who've both had me on, and congratulations to RIANZ, which has finally been persuaded to wave its rights fees so Triangle TV can play 24 hours of New Zealand music videos on Christmas Day.

And the people who have, all year, come up to me and expressed their affection for this bulletin. Cheers. Oh, and Matua Valley and Weta for the odd bottle of wine.

And finally, if it's okay to offer Christian greeting to an Islamic population - a happy and safe Christmas to the long-suffering people of Iraq, both those in the country and those who have families in the firing line. It can't last forever. Nothing does -


    ==  ==      Russell Brown
  [ @ / @  ]                      
     /        ________________________________________
    (_)         "The views expressed on this programme
    ____)       are bloody good ones." Fred Dagg, 197?

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