Friday, September 13, 2019

AmeriNZ Blog is thirteen

Today is the thirteenth anniversary of the AmeriNZ Blog—it’s a teenager! I published my first post, “I live in a land downunder. No, the other one…” on September 13, 2006 at 10:53pm NZST. This blog and I are are both still here to tell the tales.

For me, this blog has been a lot of things over the years—fun, exasperating, interesting, educational, even exasperating. It’s also been challenging, at least when it comes to meeting my goals. Last year I said:
Last year [2017], I looked at where I was in my annual blogging goal of an average of one post per day, and at this point last year, it wasn’t great. I had a shortfall of 64 posts from where I should have been if I was on track. That meant needed an average of 1.59 posts per day to meet my goal. That never happened, because I was right: It WAS a tall order.

This year [2018] is better. Including this post, the shortfall is 55, and the daily average required is 1.5 posts per day. That’s a somewhat shorter order than last year.
Here in 2019, the shortfall (as of today, and including this post) is 45, meaning a daily average of about 1.41 posts per day, which is better than last year, but—fair warning—I know that I almost certainly won’t achieve my blogging goal this year, for reasons I’ll explain another time. Right now, though, I’ll say this: I don’t care about that. Part of the reason for that is, as I’ve said before, the goal itself doesn’t really matter. I now truly understand that.

As always, thanks for joining me on the journey so far.

Previous posts on my blogoversaries:

Anniversay Time (2007)
Blogoversary 2 (2008)
Anniversaries Three and Fourteen (2009)
Fourth blogoversary (2010)
Fifth blogoversary (2011)
Sixth blogoversary (2012)
Seventh Blogoversary (2013)
Ten years of the AmeriNZ Blog (2016)
The AmeriNZ Blog is eleven (2017)
The AmeriNZ Blog is twelve (2018)

This 2015 AmeriNZ Video explains the origins of the name “AmeriNZ”:

Thursday, September 12, 2019

24 years ago

Twenty-four years ago yesterday, I arrived in New Zealand as a tourist, the beginning of my current story arc. I left New Zealand later that month, and returned five weeks later to stay. I’m still here, and that’s what matters.

I used to remember this anniversary for the first few years, and then everything changed six years later, something I’ve explained before: September 12 here is September 11 in the USA. As I said last year.

Despite that, and even in the years I’d “forgotten” about it, September 12 is an important anniversary because of the past 24 years of my life. I’ve called it “a sort of foundation date”, and it was. And that’s why I remember it each year, even if there are sometimes it seems better not to say so.

I’m still here. That’s what matters.

Previous posts about this anniversary (the first three only mention it):

Anniversay Time (2007)
Blogoversary 2 (2008)
Anniversaries Three and Fourteen (2009)
Where it began (2010)
Anniversary of the beginning (2011)
Another anniversary (2012)
18 years ago today (2013)
19 years ago today (2014)
Twenty years ago today (2015)
21 years ago today (2016)
22 years ago today (2017)
23 years ago today (2018)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Last week, I talked about an album Waiata/Anthems in which New Zealand artists took their hit songs an re-recorded them in Te Reo Māori for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week). The album has now been released, and artists are starting to share their work. Here are two of those.

Among the songs on the album are two I’ve previously shared, and because some people may want to hear the two side-by-side, here they are, with the new audio-only version first, followed by the original video.

First, and the oldest of the two, “Don’t Forget Your Roots” by Six60. Originally released in July 2011, it was their second single and hit Number One in New Zealand:

Now, the original version:

I first shared the original version in a post for NZ Music Month back in 2014, and I shared a different video in a post last year about the NZ Music Awards.

Next up Drax Project, and their first big hit, “Woke Up Late”, a song released twice already:

And, the original version

This particular song has now had a triple life: The first, original version (which I also shared in that NZ Music Awards post last year) was released in November, 2017, and hit Number 15 in NZ. That was followed by another version with, with Hailee Steinfeld an American Singer/songwriter and actress. That song also got a new video (WATCH) shot in Los Angeles. The original video was shot in New Zealand. The 2019 version only hit Number 35—maybe it didn’t seem new to Kiwis? I have no idea whether the new version for Waiata/Anthems will chart or not, but it is a very different version.

The entire album is available for streaming on Spotify, though the embed may work for some people, too (it is ad supported for those without Spotify Premium):

As with pretty much every various artists compilations, we may like some songs more than others—I certainly do. I'm not exactly a "fan" of any of the artists, though I like songs by many of them. But that's not the entire point with this album. Instead, it's about helping people perceive Te Reo Māori in new ways, in this case by exposing people to it through pop songs they already know, recorded by the same artists who made the songs a hit in the first place. That's an interesting and fresh approach to spreading awareness of, and appreciation for, the language. It may bother some folks that the lyrics are often interpreted rather than literally translated, but it shouldn't: Literal translation is seldom used in any translation we encounter. In fact, for the sake of understanding and, in this case, artistry, it should be interpreted rather than literally translated.

Probably most of us who hear the songs don't speak Māori, or, at least, not fluently; many of us never will, either. But many of the artists who re-recorded their songs also don't speak the language. If they can do their songs in a language they don't even speak, maybe there's hope for the rest of us, too.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Dumber than a box of markers

One of the many "Sharpie-Gate" photo memes.
There’s a harsh, cold reality that the current occupant of the White House just doesn’t seem to understand: When you dig yourself into a hole, stop digging! Everyone else understands the truth of that statement, though smart people can be dumb about this and fail to pay attention to the wisdom. But the current occupant has staff—are there no grown-ups left to tell him he’s being an idiot over the latest hurricane?

Another reality is that if he’d merely mistakenly Tweeted out an already old forecast that Alabama was at 5-20% risk of tropical storm conditions in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, he could have easily moved on by saying that in the earliest stages experts thought it may have been true, but that they later felt otherwise. Most of us would have ignored that—after all, he says and does truly dumb and laughable things in the course of an average day, and this didn’t need to be that.

In this case, his bizarre overreaction to criticism of his erroneous Tweet says a LOT about him.

First, he pulled out an obviously doctored map to “prove” his erroneous claims about the possible path of Hurricane Dorian were “true”. Then he claimed he had no idea who doctored the map, but then reports emerged that he was the one who doctored the map, with an unnamed White House official commenting to The Washington Post, “No one else writes like that on a map with a black Sharpie.” Indeed, he always uses one when publicly signing a document, both real and fake.

As if that wasn’t dumb and laughable enough, then he Tweeted out a doctored CNN video to try and back up his false claims. So, when he Tweets out a doctored video, isn’t that the definition of “fake news”?

All of this comes from a man who claimed, "I'm not sure that I've ever even heard of a Category 5. I knew it existed." Trouble is, he said the exact same thing back in 2017 after Hurricane Irma hit. In fact, there have been four Category 5 hurricanes since that man took up residence in the White House, three of them since Irma. But, despite all that, he didn’t remember having heard of Category 5 hurricanes before, even though, well, he did—at least three times before Dorian.

Things then took yet another bizarre—and very ominous—turn when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is supposed to be a scientific agency, politicised the weather by taking the side of the current occupant of the White House. They claimed that their National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama, was wrong when they Tweeted on Sunday that the Alabama was not at risk. NOAA said the Birmingham office’s Tweet was “in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time.” Oh, really?! In fact, there was one prediction that southeastern Alabama might face a 5 to 10 percent chance of experiencing 40 mile per hour winds. In the end, winds there were actually no more than 9mph—proving the original assessment was correct.

So, why did they rush to defend the current occupant from—well, what exactly? Alarming people for no good reason? Or maybe it was because he was merely caught out misunderstanding something he heard somewhere (maybe on Fox “News”?). Whether it was their intent or not, they ended up running political interference designed to help the current occupant, but, worse, their politicisation also means people can no longer trust the NOAA to provide accurate forecasts—unless, it’s purely by accident, and in accordance with what seems to be their new mission of making the current occupant of the White House look good.

As for the latest utterly bizarre behaviour from the current occupant, there are several plausible conclusions. First, and simplest, it’s merely another example of his malignant narcissism, where he cannot be criticised, he cannot be shown to be wrong, and he has to lash out—lying whenever necessary—to “prove” his lies were true, and that he was “unfairly” criticised. However, it’s also entirely possible that this is the result of advancing dementia, or perhaps underlying insanity. Whatever the case is, this latest bizarre behaviour is clearly not normal, and there’s something seriously wrong with him—as in, 25th Amendment seriously wrong. That option won’t be used, obviously, so we must expect to see a lot more utterly bizarre and inappropriate behaviour from the current occupant.

We also now know that there are no grown-ups in the regime, no one who can tell him to stop digging himself in deeper. At least when he does dumb things like this it gives us yet another reason to laugh at him. Right now, that’s all we get. Hopefully in November 2020 the joke will finally end.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Unions make us strong

Monday of this week was Labor Day in the USA (New Zealand’s Labour Day is the end of October), and also the 125th anniversary of the first one. For years now, a common narrative has been about the decline of unions, and the Right has constantly added rhetoric about how awful they think unions are. In fact, things are better than they have been in some time, and they’re likely to get better.

The graphic above is by Gallup who recently reported, “As Labor Day Turns 125, Union Approval Near 50-Year High”. Gallup explains it this way:
Union approval averaged 68% between Gallup's initial measurement in 1936 and 1967, and consistently exceeded 60% during that time. Since 1967, approval has been 10 points lower on average, and has only occasionally surpassed 60%. The current 64% reading is one of the highest union approval ratings Gallup has recorded over the past 50 years, topped only in March 1999 (66%), August 1999 (65%) and August 2003 (65%) surveys.
That sounds like good news, but tGallup also reported:
Higher public support for unions in the past few years likely reflects the relatively good economic conditions in place, particularly low unemployment. By contrast, the lowest union approval ratings in Gallup history came from 2009 through 2012, years of high unemployment that followed the Great Recession. Gallup also observed relatively low union approval during the poor economic times in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Put another way, the one thing that will stand up for workers—unions—are shunned when the economy turns bad. That could plausibly mean that workers blame unions for higher unemployment, rather than the corporations cutting costs to maintain profit levels.

We see some evidence for that assumption in the data about union membership. Again according to Gallup, around 10% of the USA’s full and part-time workers belong to a union, which continues record low levels.

The largest share of unionised workers are in so-called “white collar” jobs, especially workers in all levels of government. While there’s little statistical difference in party identification (union members are slightly more Democratic than Republican), the biggest differences are in geographic region (workers in the South are least likely to be unionised), and income (workers earning over $100,000 per year are more likely to be union members).

In recent years, unions have been working to unionise low-paid workers, such as fast food workers, whose employment conditions and schedules leave them vulnerable to being disadvantaged or even exploited by their employers. That means that generally low-paid workers in industries like fast food, retail, and service jobs (including “gig economy” jobs like ride-share drivers) could be a real growth area for union membership, just as it was for similarly vulnerable workers in factories a century ago.

This post was inspired, in part, by a US Labor Day post by Roger Green, “Labor Day: unions; corporate greed”. Roger discussed the current state of work in the USA, and referred to a piece titled, “The Answer to Burn Out at Work Isn’t “Self-Care” — It’s Unionizing”, which included my current favourite observation about work in the Corporatist Era: “Eating a salad isn’t going to fix the systemic problems at your workplace.” Indeed. But unionising would help.

Labour unions have fallen on hard times, relative to their past, but the same economic forces that have made things so dire for ordinary working people in the USA may also help unions rise again. Sick of being exploited and constantly losing out, they tried voting for a political party actively working against them, and many of them put their trust in a presidential candidate they knew to be a con-man and fraud, all in a desperate hope that things might get better for them. They haven’t, and they won’t. To really change things will require doing things differently, and joining a union could be an important step in that direction.

Also, voting for the Democratic Party wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. Nothing they’ve tried so far has changed things. It’s time to try something different.


Robert Reich talks about “The 5 Biggest Corporate Lies About Unions”:

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Forgiveness is a gift

I posted the above to the AmeriNZ Facebook Page yesterday. The questions raised by the linked article are simple: Can we forgive those who have caused us grievous harm? Also, should we?

The story is about a man who promoted the myth that gay people can be “cured” though so-called “conversion therapy”, which is also known by the colourful phrase, “pray the gay away” and the more pointed, “ex-gay torture”. His work harmed countless vulnerable LGBT+ people over the 20 years he promoted that nonsense. Can they forgive him? Should they?

By promoting the ex-gay myth, he also harmed the friends and families of LGBT+ people, not merely through giving them “false hope”, but especially by putting them through it all for nothing. Moreover, it also gave people without LGBT+ friends or family members reason to hold onto their anti-gay animus: They could continue to believe that “change” was possible, that gay people who lived their lives with honesty, integrity, and authenticity were being wilfully sinful and disobedient, instead of the reality, namely, that they were being themselves. Can they forgive him? Should they?

People like this guy harmed specific LGBT+ people and their family and friends, and he hurt us all by providing a sort of moral cover for his kindred religionists to cause us great harm. That can’t possibly be undone merely because he’s repudiated his past and come out as gay.

The now openly gay former “ex-gay” torturer was part of a whole system that leads to hatred and violence against LGBT+ people. He cannot escape his role in that. So: Can we forgive him? Should we?

I think that the answer is entirely personal: We each must decide for themselves. But we also have to realise that there are no easy answers, that each instance is unique and requires thought and reflection.

Personally, I think the “ex-gay” torture guy could merit forgiveness if he sincerely and appropriately atones for his wrongdoing—and merely turning away from it or saying it was wrong isn’t enough. Similarly, the fact he’s now out doesn’t absolve him of his duty to atone. Because he did such enormous damage to individuals and to an entire community, he has a moral obligation to try and make up for that. Then we might be able to talk about forgiveness.

People often say, “forgive and forget”, as if they’re the same thing, or at least connected. They’re neither. We can forget about grievous wrong done to us without ever forgiving the person who did it. Basically, we move on with our lives. Or, maybe based on our personal belief structure we forgive such a person, despite the fact we can’t forget what they did. Others can’t do either.

It is a rare person, I think, who can do both. Forgiveness really is a gift of sorts, as I said in the Facebook post. It’s something that many of us can never quite achieve when it comes to the big wrongs done to us individually or as part of a larger community. I think that’s okay.

I stand by what I said the other day, that when people do or say bad or stupid things, they need a path to redemption. I’ve laid out one path the “ex-gay” torture guy could take, but, obviously, that path won’t please everyone. Ultimately, he needs to choose his own path to redemption, and leave us to decide for ourselves whether he’s earned forgiveness. Or not.

Forgiveness is a gift. The people who have caused us harm are the best ones to give us that gift. The choice on forgiveness, ultimately, is theirs well before it’s ours.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Video: ‘All Blacks to the Nation’

The video above, titled “All Blacks to the Nation”, is an ad, obviously, but there are a couple reasons I’m sharing it. First, it’s pretty quintessentially New Zealand, and second, because of the music in the background.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup will soon get underway in Japan (which is what this ad relates to; Air New Zealand is a sponsor of the NZ national rugby team, the All Blacks). Although the importance of rugby has been slowly declining in recent years, it’s still important to this country, especially when the World Cup rolls around (and this year New Zealand will attempt to win it for the third time in a row). The ad captures some of the passion of fans, kids in particular.

The music in the background is the new Te Reo Māori version of Six60’s big hit, “Don’t Forget Your Roots”, the original version of which I shared back in 2014. The new version is part of a project headed up by Hinewehi Mohi to re-record hit New Zealand songs in Māori (all were originally done in English). Another recent hit included in the project is Drax Project’s “Woke Up Late” (I shared the original video last year). The various clips of the project I’ve heard sound awesome [See also the video about the project below].

The thing is, 20 years ago Hinewehi Mohi sang the NZ National Anthem at a quarter final of the 1999 Rugby World Cup, but she sang it in Māori only. She instantly became probably the most hated person in New Zealand—on talkback radio, anyway. At the time, the NZ National Anthem was sung in English only at All Blacks rugby matches. However, also at the same time, it was sung in Māori, then English, at international netball matches, which I thought was great, and I thought should be done at rugby test matches, too.

Nowadays, the Māori-then-English method is used at all international events where the national anthem is sung, including All Blacks test matches (only the first verse is sung in each language; most countries only sing their anthem's first verse). A lot has changed in 20 years.

To be sure, a simple change in singing the national anthem didn’t end racism or prejudice, nor will re-recording English-language pop songs. But it does put more cracks in it—and it helps advance the Māori language. So, while New Zealand isn’t perfect, obviously—since NO country is, this shows that if this country can get over racist attitudes around our national anthem, it shows that progress can be made even on something that people feel passionately about, and that should inspire hope for all countries.

And all of that is embodied in one simple ad. No wonder I shared it.

This is a revised and extend version of something I posted to my personal Facebook earlier today.