Tuesday, July 31, 2007

AmeriNZ #30 – Tuesday Talk

Episode 30 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.

I begin this episode with a brief look at comments, then it’s on to today’s main segment, a conversation with a listener, Yorky, who is neither a podcaster nor a blogger. He was back in
New Zealand briefly so we took advantage of the chance to meet up.
We talk about a lot of things, including how he and his partner, who’s an American, tried to live in the
US but had to come up with a creative solution to be together. Yorky also offers a listener’s perspective on podcasts. Special mentions go to Matt Blender’s Okay So Radio and to another podcaster. Will Yorky and his partner return to New Zealand some day?
Being new to recording using my digital recorder, I neglected to put in fresh batteries, so quite a bit was lost. Sorry. Are you a listener who’s always wanted to be on a podcast? Send me an email! We can work something out.

Leave me a comment at or send an email to me at amerinz{at)yahoo.com.

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Crazy Rudy

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is not one of my favourite people. Never has been.

Out on the campaign trail, Giuliani has resorted to—well, “lying” may be too strong a word, but certainly he’s been distorting the truth. This is either deliberate obfuscation, or he’s an idiot. Some of his ideas make me lean toward the latter explanation.

Using typical partisan rhetoric, he declared “Democrats are kind of falling over each other seeing who can raise taxes faster”. Yeah, well, politicians say stupid things like that all the time. But to suggest that Democrats would raise taxes “20 to 30 percent” with no specifics to back up his figures crosses the line from a typical politician’s B.S. to slander.

Giuliani said that Democratic candidate John Edwards would raise capital gains taxes 40 percent. What Giuliani neglected to mention was that the tax increase would be for the rich, the people who benefited from the Bushies’ tax cuts. The money raised would go to cut the taxes for the middle class—you know, the people who got jack from the Bushies’ tax cuts.

But Giuliani’s ignorance doesn’t end there. He also has some weird notion that giving people tax deductions for purchasing private health insurance would somehow fix America’s healthcare crisis. His “solution” would mean that employers would no longer be providing health insurance, and people would buy private health insurance and get a tax deduction for that. This has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve heard a politician say about health care in America.

Tax deductions would provide nothing to the millions of Americans who struggle to pay for everyday things—housing, food, education. There are 45 million Americans with no health insurance at all, and tens of millions more who are one accident or serious illness away from bankruptcy.

What Giuliani doesn’t get is that if people don’t have the money to pay for health insurance in the first place, giving them a tax deduction isn’t going to change anything. As part of the Republican establishment, maybe he can’t conceive of a solution that doesn’t involve first, foremost and most importantly—preserving, protecting and expanding the profits of the mega corporations controlling America’s health system.

To say that, “well, at least Rudy Giuliani isn’t as bad” as Mitt Romney or any of the others on the extreme right is no reason to vote for him. So far, he hasn’t offered any reasons, either.

One to rule them all

A Royal Commission is to be set up to look into the future structure of Auckland. At the moment, the 1.3 million people of Auckland are divided among four large city councils, three smaller ones (two of which are sometimes called “rurban” because they’re neither rural nor urban) and a regional council covering the entire region (dealing mostly with transport and environmental issues).

Proposals have included keeping things as they are, revising and strengthening the Auckland Regional Council, amalgamating into three larger cities or creating one “super city”. The Royal Commission will look into the realities of Auckland governance as it is now, and examine the various proposed options to change it.

The “super city” option has many ardent supporters and detractors. On the face of it, the proposal would seem to be more efficient and would enable Auckland to better compete with other, larger world cities. However, it would be a huge power within New Zealand, sometimes competing with central government, sometimes overshadowing it, which makes it unpopular with some politicians.

I have no idea what will eventually emerge as a proposal, nor whether that proposal will be adopted. However, I do think that some sort of amalgamation may be inevitable. In the meantime, I feel better knowing that an impartial Royal Commission will be looking into it, rather than politicians of varying kinds.

Famous but not?

You have to kind of feel sorry for what’s-his-name, the Spaniard who won this year’s Tour de Farce bicycle race in France (aka Tour de Pharmacie). He won, but may be remembered more as the guy who won after drug cheats were kicked out.

And that’s a shame. Assuming he’s drug-free (and with the history of the race over the years, it’s easy to see why some people wouldn’t automatically assume that), his own achievement will be lost in the dust and mist of the farce that was this year’s race. The blame for that must surely rest squarely with the race organisers whose regime allowed the drug-cheat atmosphere to flourish. The must clean up their act or end the race.

In the meantime, though, let Alberto Contador savour his victory.

Monday, July 30, 2007

One brief moment

I’m not the only one remarking on how, for one brief moment, the people of Iraq forgot their divisions and were, for a time, a country. And it was all because of soccer.

But that got me to thinking: It was one of the few times in that region’s bloody history that the religion that divides them was replaced by a shared one, a sport. It wasn’t much, but it was a glimpse of what could be.

So for that one brief moment I was able to, as John Lennon asked us to, Imagine “no religion, too”. So could they. Pity they, and we, can’t act on that imagination. Not even soccer can change that.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Snail’s Pace

The Internet is a great thing—it’s a tool for work, a source of entertainment and a way to communicate. Except when it’s not.

For about a week, I’ve been frustrated as hell by the abysmal connection speeds over our DSL “broadband” connection. Our ISP says they think the problem may be related to the storms week before last and have alerted Telecom NZ—the company that owns and runs the DSL backbone.

Telecom was once state owned, until neo-cons sold it off to foreign investors in a fire sale. In the years since, the company has under-invested in infrastructure, usually moving only when it was forced to by competition (as with mobile telephones when Vodafone entered the market and started beating Telecom).

More recently, the government, fed-up with Telecom’s endless empty promises, decided to regulate and essentially break up Telecom’s monopoly. Telecom’s CEO at the time, admitting defeat, promised not to obstruct or use delaying tactics to try and frustrate the government’s objectives. To this observer, it looks like they broke their promise as soon as it was made.

The news media suggest that
NZ broadband connection speeds are slow by international standards, with a theoretical ordinary speed of about 2 Mbps for most people, though their real connection speeds are generally far slower. However, the connection speeds at our house are usually much faster than the ordinary speeds the media tells us to accept.

That was until recently. This evening, I tested our connection and found we had 385kbps download and 506 kbps upload. Believe me, that feels like dial-up speed when you’re waiting for a web page to load.

It’s been so bad lately that sometimes I just give up trying to access a web page altogether. My iTunes often loses connection to podcasts I’m downloading, forcing me to try again and again and again to finally get an episode downloaded. My own podcasts take far longer to upload than they should.

There is, of course, nothing we can do about this. The New Zealand Herald conducted a survey among online readers and found that most experienced slow speeds. Not surprisingly, users of Telecom’s ISP, Xtra, reported fast speeds, but even a quarter or so of Xtra users reported unacceptably slow connections.

The whole point of government intervention was to force Telecom to do what it otherwise would not. Fast Internet connection speeds are a vital national interest for an island nation so far from the main world markets, and it now seems evident that the government will have to use real force to bring about the necessary changes. That can’t happen soon enough

Note: This post has been edited and expanded for clarity’s sake, so it differs from the version originally posted.

Friday, July 27, 2007

AmeriNZ # 29 – Race

Episode 29 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.

To understand New Zealand, you need to understand that it’s a bicultural country within a multicultural society. This all comes about because of listener comments, which is where I begin this episode (after introducing probably the most common phrase in Te Reo Maori, Kia Ora). I compare and contrast race relations in New Zealand with those of the US and Australia, and I provide an historical context by reading an excerpt from Americans and Maori during World War 2. I haven’t personally seen the sort of racism in New Zealand that I’ve seen in America, but that certainly doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues to be dealt with here.

A special guest will on the Tuesday episode.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

AmeriNZ #28 – Language

Episode 28 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.
It’s a short episode today. It’s Maori Language Week this week, an annual event celebrating and promoting the Maori language. This year is special, celebrating 20 years since Te Reo Maori was declared an official language of New Zealand, alongside English.
I begin by talking a little bit about the language from my perspective as a Pakeha immigrant, including talking about how relatively easy the language is to pronounce, if you try—and everyone should. The effort, even among tourists, is appreciated. But I don’t go into cultural details because that’s a topic in itself. For more information, you can go to the site of the Maori Language Commission. For even more, see “100 Maori words every New Zealander should know”.

Comments are next, and, of course, I expand on things in earlier podcasts. A new guest will be on my podcast soon, possibly Friday, maybe Tuesday.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Eighty Plus

The New Zealand dollar broke through the 80 US cent mark last night, and today it passed 81 US cents, with no immediate signs of stabilisation. Over the past year, the NZ dollar has risen 31 percent against the US dollar and 34 percent against the Japanese Yen.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen blames most of this increase on a weak US dollar, which is low against many world currencies. But constant increases to interest rates by the Reserve Bank of
New Zealand haven’t helped matters any. New Zealand now has the highest interest rates in the developed world, expected to hit 8.25 percent this week. Home mortgage rates are usually up to a couple points above that, though most New Zealanders have fixed-rate mortgages which are closer to the official rate (for example, on bank today is offering fixed rate mortgages at between 8.9 and 9.3 percent, depending on terms; floating rate are around 10.25 percent).

At the moment, this mostly hurts exporters, since most home mortgages won’t be going off fixed rates for a few more months at least. Also, the effects have been eased by record-high prices for farm produce, especially dairy products, which have meant increased income for farmers, despite the rising Kiwi dollar.

It’s long been predicted that the Kiwi would pass the 80 US cent mark. My prediction is that it’ll hit 90 to 95 US cents before it levels off and declines, unless either the US dollar suddenly regains strength or there’s a change in NZ monetary policy.

But failing that, it would be nice if stores and oil companies passed on their savings to us consumers, especially since so many of us will soon be paying a bit more on our mortgage payments. I’m not holding my breath.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mascara in the sky

So Tammy Faye Messner (better known as Tammy Faye Bakker) has died from cancer at age 65. Surprisingly, I actually feel sorry for her. And I think it’s a pity for televangelism and fundamentalism generally because the only truly human and humane one among them is gone.

You may remember how I felt no sadness at all when arch-homophobe and all-around bigot Jerry Falwell died. His death was no loss to society. Tammy Faye, however, was different.

I watched PTL Club sometimes during its heyday in the 1980s and noticed immediately how different it was from the other TV preacher shows on then: Falwell, Robertson, Swaggart (and many lesser-known salesmen) all peddled their hate-filled brand of extremist christianist dogma and political ideology. It was inevitably homophobic, sexist, often xenophobic and/or racist and quite frequently just plain nutty.

PTL Club, however, wasn’t like that. Tammy Faye embraced gay men with AIDS at a time when her peers were saying their suffering was their god’s judgement for having committed some “sin”. While the others used AIDS as a weapon and a tool to raise money, Tammy Faye sowed compassion instead (while raising money, of course—it was a TV preacher show, after all). Actually, I can’t remember ever hearing any anti-gay rhetoric on their show, but if I did, it would have been tame compared to the competition.

The show had great entertainment value, in a “I can’t believe they’re doing that” kind of way. From the cheesy songs and banter to waiting to see how long into the show it would be before Tammy Faye’s mascara started to run, there was always something pretty light. Among such shows, it was benign. As a non-follower, I of course found it easy to just turn the channel when their fundraising pitches were on, which, unfortunately, too many people were unable to do.

Tammy Faye certainly wasn’t perfect. Like Joe.My.God., I’m not convinced she was ignorant about her husband Jim Bakker’s stealing millions of dollars from PTL Club donors. Some people think she was an “attention whore”, and she probably was. So what? People like Paris Hilton are, and with far less substance to back it up.

To me, imperfect, overly made-up Tammy Faye was an entertaining departure from the grim lemon-sucking christianist TV preachers of that era. It’s just too bad that her humanity didn’t rub off as easily on her peers as her mascara did on TV.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

AmeriNZ #27 – Nigel Too

Episode 27 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.
Nigel’s back!
Nigel joins me again today. He’s recovering from a cold, one he seems to have shared with me. Please pardon the coughs (I tried to edit some out).
We take listener questions as our starting point, then I ask Nigel’s perspective on other listener questions I’ve already answered. Both provide loads of new information, including especially Nigel’s perspective on my early days in New Zealand.
We end with an email from a listener with a question about New Zealand in the news, then a listener comment from Japan. There’s even a (very) brief appearance from one of Nigel’s sisters.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Herald makes news

New Zealand’s largest newspaper, the New Zealand Herald from Auckland, seems to be making news—as in manufacturing it. It also seems to be promoting pet crusades.

On Sunday, they published an article called "Labour 'desperate' to keep Banks out", which I blogged about on Monday (second item). It turned out a former Banks aide had said it, arguably without justification, but in any case there was no challenge to the opinion.

Yesterday, the Herald published an online poll asking "Who do you think should be Auckland mayor?" These online polls have a disclaimer at the bottom of the results, stating "This poll doesn't claim to be scientific and reflects the opinions of only those internet users who have chosen to participate." By itself, holding the poll doesn't matter.

However, despite the obvious irrelevancy of a self-selecting sample of people "who have chosen to participate", for some reason the Herald decided the poll was news. Later that day they published an online story (updated later) declaring "Banks' mayoralty bid gets public's vote" (an updated version was datelined 6:30PM). The "story" declared "John Banks could be donning the Auckland City mayoral chains again this year, according to a nzherald.co.nz poll."

Let's state the obvious: The poll does not indicate that Banks might win. It only indicates the feelings of people who are adamant enough to vote online, possibly finding additional computers to vote from and maybe getting others to cast a vote, too. Other online polls have been manipulated, so there's no reason to think that this one is uniquely pure.

The Herald quoted Banks and some other candidates. This provided an opportunity to promote Banks' candidacy in a positive light and to help build momentum or, at least, provide the attention that Banks, who was a very unpopular mayor, sorely needs.

The updated versions added that University of Auckland political studies lecturer Joe Atkinson made the same points I have about the uselessness of online polls, but the actual quotes used seemed to imply the opposite. Also, this was near the end of the article, by which point many people would have stopped reading. Those people also wouldn't have seen the footnote at the very end: "The poll does not claim to be scientific but only allows one vote per computer. By 12.38pm, 2256 votes had been cast." Clearly the Herald didn't bother to update the footnote because the second paragraph of the “6.30p.m.” version began "With more than 3600 votes cast by 8.00pm today…"

In any event, the poll was reported (and lampooned) on the print edition’s editorial page today, but the mentions didn't include any disclaimer whatsoever. The average reader of the print edition would have no reason to know that the poll is useless.

But the apparent crusade for John Banks isn't the paper's only mischief. They also go out of their way to attack the Labour-led government.

A story today was headlined "'Lame duck' Government hits back over failed bill". The article, talking about the government's withdrawal of a bill due to lack of votes in the House, declares "The embarrassing situation has led to claims of a lame duck Government". However, the article doesn't say who is making that claim. Is it the Herald itself? We could certainly be forgiven for thinking so. In any case, the underlying assumption that withdrawing a bill makes a government a "lame duck" is flawed in an MMP Parliament where shifting coalitions and alliances are—and will likely remain—a reality for any party leading a government. That's the whole point of MMP, after all.

Today's edition also carried a story about the new web-streaming of Parliamentary proceedings headlined "Parliament online fails to stir the masses" without providing any evidence that the headline is, in fact, true. It seems to be saying that because the proceedings were "watched at its busiest by up to 350 people at any one time, according to monitoring of the website's traffic" that therefore means no one was watching. The service debuted yesterday with almost no advance publicity, and most of the proceedings occur when people are at work or, later, having an evening with the family. Moreover, New Zealand has poor broadband service meaning many people were too frustrated to watch (I was one of those people, actually). None of these points were in the article, leaving it unbalanced.

The article actually seemed intended to ridicule the service and to imply that it was useless and expensive. The bulk of the article focused on the news media's current favourite obsession, Parliament's ill-advised move to ban ridicule of Members. To do so, the article ridiculed Members of Parliament. That probably felt good for the journalist, but how was the public served?

I have no idea what's happened to the Herald, but it's a real shame to see the paper descend into such weirdness. Oh well, at least it looks likely to give me plenty of New Zealand material to comment on.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

AmeriNZ #26 – Good and Bad

Episode 26 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.
So far, I’ve talked about good things about New Zealand (and I think there are a lot). So, maybe, out of balance, I should talk about the bad things. Trouble is, to me there really isn’t anything that’s all that bad. Maybe I could mention the negativity among some people. Or maybe news media sloppiness, or the weird crusades of NZ’s biggest newspaper, Auckland’s New Zealand Herald. For me, that’s about it.
New Zealand’s Parliamentary sessions are now streamed on the Internet at www.parliament.govt.nz (or the direct link here).
I catch up on comments from the past two episodes, and tell another new story, this time centred on
San Francisco. The final air conditioning update.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Live from Wellington

Today the New Zealand Parliament begins live coverage of its proceedings on the Internet. Up until now, only Question Time was available, broadcast on Radio New Zealand, TVNZ’s website, or on Sky News on the Sky TV pay television digital platform.

At the moment, television will not be broadcasting this coverage of Parliament, though it may be included next year on the free-to-air Freeview digital platform. Generally, the House sits on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The basic timeline is:

  • 2pm: Question Time
  • 3pm (approx): Regular debate and business of the House
  • 6pm to 7:30pm: MP’s dinner time
  • 7:30pm to 10pm: More debate and House business.

Ordinarily, the ordinary business of the House may be debate on a particular bill or report, but it can be interrupted by a snap debate. To be honest, more often than not this coverage is likely to be pretty boring to watch. But when a controversial issue is being debated it could be fascinating. One day, coverage of select committees may be added, too.

To watch the live full coverage of House proceedings, log onto: www.parliament.nz .

Monday, July 16, 2007

News Notes

There are a few small items in the news that are worthy of comment. Well, maybe not, but I’m going to, anyway.

Third World?

Six days ago the
North Island was hit by a weather bomb. Parts of Auckland were without power until today. This is unacceptable for a modern city. The lines company points out this was an exceptional event, but with “once in 150 year” weather events becoming common due to climate change, isn’t it time they prepared for it? New Zealand’s Consumer magazine recently reviewed portable generators. Maybe it’s time to think about getting one.

Media Slant

Okay, so I’m a frequent critic of the news media and the general laziness and sloppiness that seems to be at its core these days. Sometimes, I’m provoked.

A NZ Herald article about the upcoming local elections was headlined “Labour 'desperate' to keep Banks out”, referring to a right wing nutter who was Mayor of Auckland, and who wants to be again. And who said this? A political scientist? An impartial political commentator?

No. The headline is taken from a former Banks aide—a partisan hack, in other words. He figures that the NZ Labour Party will want Banks defeated in order to raise their chances of winning a fourth term in government.

Trouble is, it’s a partisan, biased opinion—bullshit, in other words. The hard fact is that it doesn’t matter in the least who’s mayor of
Auckland. People elected a Labour government when Banks was Mayor, and they could easily do so again. To suggest otherwise is to grossly exaggerate Banks’ importance.

It would seem to be yet another example of the news media manufacturing news, something the NZ Herald has become quite skilled at.


Some pious Catholics in a town outside of
Chicago were foaming at the mouth over a proposal to erect a cellphone tower at their church. They weren’t afraid of radiation: It was pornography.

According to the Chicago Tribune, members of a Catholic church in the
Illinois town of Schaumburg (which means, appropriately enough, “foam castle” in German, and which is, oddly enough, the headquarters of Motorola) objected to a cellphone tower being placed on church property because, they said, “it could become a conduit for wireless customers to send and receive pornography.”

The church board had approved the decision, but last month the objectors persuaded the village board to postpone a decision on allowing it to proceed. The board has now voted to approve the antenna. The parish, meanwhile, expects to generate US$20,000 a year in rental from the tower. There is no estimate as to how much of that will come from pornography—or the pious.

And Americans wonder why they world laughs at it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

AmeriNZ #25 – Clean Up

Episode 25 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.

It’s episode 25 and my first car-cast! I feel like JayT. Actually, it’s the first time I’ve recorded outside of my house. A bit noisy in spots, but these things can be sometimes.

I begin by talking about why I’m, in the car today. Then it’s on to our storm damage (photo on my blog), and dealing with getting it fixed. I talk about returning to the part-time job after being away for three weeks, and the things that have happened since. I also talk about puppy training, including some things that surprised me.
It’s not all about me, though, as I talk a bit about Ponsonby and the value of non-mega bookstores. That goes into a mention of the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car” which I first heard mentioned on the Democracy Now! podcast.
No discussion of comments this week, since I was driving while recording. Special shout-outs this week to Arick West of the The Beat SF, CallBox 7, Kalvin of Hello Waffles and another podcaster.
The ending song is “True Love Waits” by Tom Smith from the Podsafe Music Network.
Leave a comment, or send an email to me at amerinz[at}yahoo.com.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Storm damage

For the first time ever, we received damage from a winter storm. The photo above (taken by our neighbour) shows the tree that was blown onto our house during last night’s storm. The guttering is obviously damaged, and the roof looks like it may be, too, but we won’t know the true extent until it’s assessed. With the huge number of insurance claims today, this could take awhile.

The storm that hit the upper North Island last night deluged the region with rain (180mm in some areas, which is about 7 US inches) and swept it with hurricane force winds (gusts of 180kph—about 112 mph in US measure) were recorded.

Emergency services took more than 2500 calls in the Northern District between noon and 10pm yesterday, an extremely heavy volume. Many local governments in the storm’s path activated their Civil Defence protocols.

Yesterday evening, ferry service on Auckland Harbour was cancelled, as was some train service (the latter mostly due to flooding). Motorcycles were banned from the Auckland Harbour Bridge after two cyclists were blown off their motorbikes. And power was knocked out to a large part of the area, including 90,000 homes and the Auckland Harbour Bridge (but not us—our power stayed on). Flooding was common.

And is all that weren’t enough, some lowlifes decided to exploit the situation by robbing blacked-out businesses.

We didn’t realise the tree in our back garden had been knocked over until this morning when we opened the curtains. We heard water flowing out of the gutter, but thought that the gutter was overflowing due to heavy rain; we had no idea that it was wrecked.

The latest forecast says the worst of the bad weather is over, which means the clean-up can begin. Apart from the tree, for us this mostly meant leaves and twigs blown onto our section (which was a bigger clean-up job than that sounds like), though the mesh from someone’s gutters landed in our yard. Actually, that could be from our wrecked gutter for all I know—it’s not like I’ve climbed up there and had a look.

Latest report says the loss assessor will assess tomorrow. Or Friday. Not surprisingly, they’re very busy.

Update: The event that hit the upper North Island on Tuesday has now been designated a weather bomb, and has been described as a "one 150 year event". Good thing, like the Bushies have said, there's no such thing as climate change, eh? If there was, we'd be hearing phrases like that all the time—oh, wait: We are hearing thos phrases all the time. Hm...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

AmeriNZ #24 – Stormy

Episode 24 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.
The bad weather is continuing in New Zealand, and today it’s affecting the top of the North Island (and the weather has become worse since I recorded this). Last week’s bad weather in Taranaki was worse than first thought.
Listener comments give me the chance to expand a little on some of last episode’s points, then listener Walt asks some questions that I haven’t answered before, and I spend most of this episode answering them. You’ll learn a bit more about me as an expat, and maybe a bit more about what that feels like to me.

The ending song is by the same group that ended last Friday’s episode. It’s called “A Mini Constellation Remix #1” and it’s by Spring Heeled Jacks Original Swinging Jass Band (their MySpace page is here), part of the Podsafe Music Network.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Monday, July 09, 2007

A time to heal

A New Zealand man is furious that the man who murdered his daughter will receive a bone-marrow transplant to treat his leukaemia. The operation is expected to cost perhaps up to a million dollars, much of that going to provide two guards around the clock while the murderer is in hospital.

The father, David Gunn, told the media,

He's sick. Rather than spend a million dollars on him, just spend a few dollars on an ounce of lead.

New Zealand has no death penalty. The murderer was sentenced to a minimum non-parole period of 21 years (which means he can’t be considered for parole before then). This is one of the New Zealand’s longest non-parole sentences.

The father also said,

They're going to pay over a million dollars for this bloody operation. I'd prefer him to rot in hell.

But a spokesperson for the Tauranga branch of the Sensible Sentencing Trust, Ken Evans, expressed the views of many New Zealanders when he said,

I believe his offending has to be dealt with by the courts and I think his medical condition is something the medical system of New Zealand has to deal with as it would with any other person who has a similar illness.

According to the Department of Corrections, while prisoners receive primary health care through the Department, they’re considered for secondary and tertiary health care under the same eligibility criteria as all members of the public.

Refusing treatment would amount to a death sentence, a penalty that doesn’t exist in law. The murderer’s offending has been dealt with by the courts. It seems to me that if the sentence isn’t severe enough, that’s a matter for the politicians to change in the future.

Deliberately withholding life-saving treatment from anyone seems immoral to me and the equivalent of executing the person. A society is judged, among other things, by the quality of its mercy. Given that murderers can’t be executed, if we sit back and let the murderer die, wouldn’t that then be a kind of murder, too?

What do you think? Should a convicted murderer get life-saving medical treatment?

Saturday, July 07, 2007


So today’s supposed to be lucky. If you believe in that sort of thing, the convergence of three sevens is supposed to mean good luck. I read somewhere that there were expected to be more weddings today than on any other single date in history. Or maybe that’s just hype.

Nigel and I decided to go see Transformers today. On the way, a car rear-ended us. As it happens, it appears the guy who hit us got the worst of the damage—his bonnet was bowed, but we seem to have not had much damage. We’ll have it checked out next week, but it looks like, despite being hit, we may have been lucky.

The movie was okay. It was entertaining in a mass-culture movie kind of way, with only a few truly naff moments. This is good.

On the way home, we stopped at a supermarket to pick up a bottle of wine to take to dinner at the sister-in-law’s house. EFTPOS didn’t work at the checkout, so I had to go to another checkout. It didn’t work there, either. I left without any wine. Not so lucky.
When we got home I had a look and found a bottle.

So, our car was hit (unlucky), but seems to be relatively unscathed (lucky). The supermarket couldn’t sell me anything (unlucky), but I had a bottle of wine at home (lucky).

So, you tell me: Was
07-07-07 lucky or unlucky?

08/07/07: I changed this post slightly, partly to add links. Stories about 07/07/07 weddings in New Zealand are here and here.

Friday, July 06, 2007

AmeriNZ #23 – Get Thru

Episode 23 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.

Today I talk about preparedness for an emergency, which is important in a geologically active country like New Zealand. This was prompted by a mailer from the government we received the other day. The “Get Ready, Get Thru” campaign is designed to help people prepare for natural disaster. I talk about some of what that means for ordinary New Zealanders. As it happens, some unusual tornadoes struck New Zealand this week. I also talk a bit about how it was for me, coming from the Midwest of America where tornadoes and winter storms were the main threat—apart from the New Madrid Fault. A theory about problems with uploading. Incidental music at the beginning is by Nick Murray from the Podsafe Music Network, and the closing song is by Spring Heeled Jacks Original Swinging Jass Band, also from the Podsafe Music Network. Leave a comment or send an email to ameriz[at}yahoo.com.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Not in Kansas

Parts of New Zealand have been hit with tornados over the past couple days. Many people think that, as an island nation, New Zealand doesn’t get tornadoes, but it does.
Ordinarily, the tornadoes aren’t very severe. Sometimes they’re even called “mini-tornadoes” or “micro-bursts” because they’re pretty weak. But on Wednesday, Taranaki was hit with a stronger one that caused an estimated $1.5 million in damage. By NZ standards, that’s a pretty big deal.
Yesterday they region was hit with more tornadoes of varying sizes, causing an array of damage. The storms also knocked out power to 7,000 households. This is more unusual.
Tornadoes of the sort seen in America’s Midwest don’t happen in New Zealand—yet. With climate change, however, New Zealand, like the rest of the world, is experiencing more frequent and more severe storms and weather events (like “weather bombs”).
Still, this sort of thing happening is still odd enough to both notice and comment on. I wonder how much longer that will be the case.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

AmeriNZ #22 - Commonwealth

Episode 22 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.
I begin today with a few short comments on Episode 21. Then, it’s on to an explanation of the Commonwealth of Nations, which New Zealand is part of. From there, it’s a discussion of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand, the country’s highest military decoration, which is being awarded for the first time since World War 2. I play a clip of DjDavidJ from Archerr’s show, then I make a couple comments about Canada, New Zealand and Australia—and where I fit into all that. Finally, a rant about Bush commuting Scooter Libby’s sentence. To close the show, “Death of Democracy” by 37Hz, from the Podsafe Music Network. Leave a comment or send an email to me at amerinz[at} yahoo.com.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Bush strikes again

The doofus-in-chief has again displayed his utter contempt for the rule of law by commuting the sentence of Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. This came as a total surprise, since everyone expected Bush to pardon Libby outright.

George Bush, the world-renowned legal expert, said in his statement:

I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend 30 months in prison.

Legal Eagle George says Libby is still being punished, yesiree:

My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting.

Fine? What fine? Fatcat Republican Party donors will pay that off with pocket change. Reputation damaged? Not with the right wing, who consider Libby’s falling on his sword to protect Cheney and the Administration to be a mark of high honour, one that will be rewarded with a lucrative job with some well-connected company or lobbying firm. Libby, in other words, is getting off

Bush’s action is all spin: Letting Libby off completely, without removing the actual conviction as a pardon would have done. He’s trying to have it both ways.

We will probably never know the full extent of the criminality in this case. Libby’s silence is bought and paid for, and the other guilty parties are hardly likely to confess. In an administration that thinks that sending official email via third-party email servers at the Republican National Committee so that no copies are kept is a sensible and legitimate thing to do, and with a Vice President who thinks he’s not part of the Executive Branch, and therefore above scrutiny, what likelihood is there that even the most diligent Special Prosecutor—or US House Judiciary Committee—will ever find the smoking gun?

Remind me again: How long is it until this crowd is gone? And, why again is it that they haven’t been impeached?

Monday, July 02, 2007

About puppies

Puppies are wonderful, but they’re also hard work. Until they’re housebroken, there are little messes to clean up, their food and water has to be checked and they need a lot of attention.

However, puppies spend most of their time doing one of two things: Sleeping or running around like a maniac. There isn’t much in between. Their cuteness makes up for any inconvenience, though, and the difficulties of the earlier times pass quickly, really.

The picture accompanying this post is of Jake on Friday night, posing with his favourite toy, one he gets to chew as well as chase. You can see the little bit of white fur on his chin and a bit of the white fur on his chest.

I’ll hope you’ll pardon the lack of a substantive post today, but I’m, well, dog-tired, and just can’t focus enough to deliver something meaningful.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Feeling grumpy

It must have been the weather.

A few things went wrong, but mostly it was the better part of a week with rain at least some of every day, followed by a weekend of rain, including today’s near-constant rainfall. It all made me a bit grumpy.

Then the clothes washer bit the dust (in mid-load, of course). It had been acting strange for awhile now. At around eight or nine years old, it was positively ancient by modern standards.

So we bought a new super-duper one (a front loader again, of course) which had pretty much the best water usage and energy efficiency ratings available. A new machine wasn’t on the agenda, but the truth is, this machine is better than the old one, so I’m not sorry we had to do buy one now. And, of course, I was able to complete that interrupted load of washing.

I was also still exasperated by the problems I had with my podcast. It wouldn’t download, so Saturday morning I uploaded it again, but when I re-posted the episode, it served up only half of the file (stopping in mid-story). So, I had to re-upload and re-post yet again. There, apparently, four downloads of the half-file. I was not amused.

Still, the chirpy, chipper puppy helped brighten an otherwise grey day today. He was happy to meet a couple of our friends who stopped by today. Well, actually, he was just plain happy.

So, all things considered, I really had nothing to be grumpy about. It must have been the weather.