Wednesday, July 30, 2008

AmeriNZ 104 is now available

Episode 104 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.

Complete shownotes and descriptions are available at the new site.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

The victims of victims

Yesterday, I wrote about the church shootings in Knoxville, Tennessee. I talked about how the reactions to the shootings—and possibly the crime itself—were the logical consequences of the polarisation of American society. But today I’ve also become convinced that the far right in America, and its rhetoric of hate and intolerance, is at least as much a cause.

According to Knoxnews.com, “Inside the [killer’s] house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by [far right and rabidly homophobic] radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by [Fox News] talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by [Fox News] television talk show host Bill O'Reilly” (Clarifications in brackets added). Quoting police, they also say the killer’s letter stated his "hatred of the liberal movement… Liberals in general, as well as gays." They go on to quote the police as saying that the killer’s “stated hatred of the liberal movement was not necessarily connected to any hostility toward Christianity or religion per say [sic], but rather the political advocacy of the church.” The church had received publicity for, among other things, hosting meetings of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and had a “Gays Welcome” sign out front.

Nevertheless, wingnut extremists are declaring this to be all about them, with utter nonsense like “Unbelievers don't see the difference between Bible-based churches and non-Bible-based churches. They hate them all… the anti-Christian fervor that's building in this country and being fanned daily by the MSM, could easily have played a role.”

Even the Knoxnews comments section wasn’t spared: “Stories like these always bring out the nutty, left-wing liberal contingent to bash religion. Even if, like, in this case, the shooter apparently didn't like Christians or religion.” Despite being moderated, most of the comments I read were arguments over religion. Many other comments were respectful and reasonable, but to me they seemed vastly outnumbered by the point scorers.

The facts so far are: The killer hated liberals, and gays in particular. He does not appear to have been anti-religion or anti-Christian, but instead picked this church specifically for its liberal beliefs and advocacy. Let’s be clear about this: Christians were not the killer’s intended victims; liberals and gays were.

The right—especially the religious far right—had an opportunity for self-reflection, to think about how their rhetoric encourages this sort of violent hatred. Instead, they chose to claim to be the victims and to point their fingers at “left-wing liberals” and gays, baldly suggesting that the real victims somehow brought it on themselves.

This incident, and especially the reactions to it, make me pessimistic that reason can ever be restored to America’s discussion of religion and politics. There are too many points to be scored, too many sacred cows to be gored. I wonder if it’s even possible to turn down the volume anymore, much less talk reasonably.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Logical consequences

When I heard about the shootings at a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, I was pretty sure it was a hate crime. The church, a Unitarian-Universalist congregation, is an island of liberalism in a sea of fundamentalism. It seemed unlikely that it could be anything but a targeted attack.

It turns out, it was a hate crime: The shooter left a 4-page letter in his car in which he railed against “the liberal movement”, whom he blamed for his inability to find steady work, among other things. A loner apparently without family, several years ago the killer had threatened violence against his ex-wife and had a protection order against him. Nevertheless, he was described by one neighbour as “just a really, really nice guy.” Aren’t they nearly always?

The Associated Press stories carried by various newspaper websites (like this one) had the basic facts, but CBS News went farther. It quoted a woman who told a local newspaper that she’d told the killer her daughter had completed schooling at a bible college and, once she explained she was a Christian, the killer “almost turned angry. He seemed to get angry at that. He said that everything in the Bible contradicts itself if you read it." This is what CBS chose to use a as a pull quote, thereby making “Christians” into the victims when clearly they were not the object of the man’s attack.

This same angle was the focus of stories on right-wing websites in America. One mentioned the letter, but apparently decided it didn’t reveal the “true” motive, despite also linking to the AP story on MSNBC which headlined its story, “Police: Killer targeted church for liberal views”.

In America, it’s common for fundamentalist Christians to portray themselves as victims, though they seldom are. So it’s not surprising that the right-wing media took this angle, but it is surprising that CBS gave it so much emphasis.

CBS News also censored comments on the story that used the word “gay”, forcing commentors to use convoluted spellings like “g-a-y”, usually to verbally bash gay people (though some chose the spectacularly peculiar word “homosexualist” in their attacks). Many of the comments I saw at CBS dismissed the faith of the attacked church, as fundamentalists so often do, while others blamed christianist fundamentalism as the root cause of the attacks.

The whole thing, it seems to me, is the logical consequence of an American society that has become so polarised—especially on the topics of religion and politics—that it’s simply impossible to have a rational public discussion on these subject areas without it descending into a slanging match between opponents who seem to despise one another. Apparently, sometimes it turns deadly.

Certainly Fox Noise and talkback radio can be credited with making homophobic hatred socially acceptable in political discourse: Blaming “liberals” and “homosexuals” for everything is standard procedure for them. So, it should come as no surprise when the right-wing’s objects of hatred shout back in kind.

But democracy demands a more reasoned and rational debate, one that cannot happen without reason and rationality. Because the right-wing media won’t stop their endless attacks, it’s up to the folks in the centre—the majority, in other words—to demand something different. I’m not optimistic that they’ll get it. In fact, I suspect more of this sort of violence will be the result of the current culture of incivility.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Media’s frenzy

This past Sunday, Radio New Zealand National’s “Mediawatch” (Mediawatch for 27 July 2008) documented how New Zealand newspapers and their related websites report on violence and crime far more frequently than many other major newspapers in the world. Although it was an admittedly unscientific content analysis, the picture that emerged was of New Zealand media over-sensationalising the stories and usually providing no context.

This was driven home yesterday when the websites started reporting on a “drive-by shooting,” something that’s since been picked up by TVNZ’s “One News”. However, it was almost certainly not a “drive-by shooting”.

The victim was shot after an argument elsewhere in the town. A fire set later in the town was allegedly set in retaliation. All of which means that there were personal connections between the victim and the assailant. The phrase “drive-by shooting” implies a level of randomness that appears to be missing.

I mention all this because it seems to me that the news media in New Zealand are exaggerating the nature of the crime, which appears to be simply a murder that involved the assailant being in a car, and that doesn’t make it a “drive-by shooting”. Sensationalised coverage of crime and violence leads ordinary people, who are completely unlikely to be a victim of violent crime to begin fearing something that will probably never happen to them.

The issue isn’t the news media reporting on crime. The issue, and problem, is reporting on crime out of proportion to reality (exaggerating and sensationalising), and then failing to provide context. The news media can, and should, do better.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Big dud

We’re relieved: The predicted big storm largely avoided us. In fact, where we live, it seemed as if the storm didn’t even happen. However, others did experience problems: Some 60,000 people were without power, high seas broke boats from their moorings, a dolphin was stranded on a beach and a man was swept overboard from an outrigger canoe, and is presumed drowned.

Nevertheless, despite the New Zealand Herald’s typical overstatement (such as declaring that the storm “…left a trail of destruction across the North Island…”), “one of the worst storms to hit New Zealand in 10 years” appears to have spared the region the major damage that had been feared.

One day, a major storm will hit New Zealand or Auckland specifically. It may even be deadly. Fortunately, this time a major storm didn’t quite reach that level of nastiness. But it’s probably only matter of time until one does.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Big Storm

Storm warnings come and go, but by New Zealand standards our current one is pretty big. Actually, it’s big by many countries' standards.

A sub-tropical depression (a "weather bomb") is lashing northern New Zealand at the moment, with “hurricane force winds” reported in the far north. The worst of the storm has yet to hit us in Auckland, but already the winds are pretty strong and that makes the rain seem worse than it is. However, the intensity of the storm is building.

The eye of the storm is due to pass over or very near Auckland, which will mean a dramatic drop in pressure, similar to a low-level hurricane. That means a risk of storm surges. There's also a risk of fast-rising floods in streams, so there could be flood damage.

We're not at risk of flood damage where our house is, and we don’t have any big trees near the house anymore. So, we’re unlikely to have storm damage like that from last year’s weather bomb—we hope. However, neighbours have loose things that could take flight, so we’re keeping a watchful eye.

I took the photo above about an hour ago out the car windscreen as I waited while Nigel ran an errand. The windscreen wipers had been turned off only a minute or so earlier, and the wind was driving the water in several directions. And this was while the storm was still pretty mild.

The photo below is of the window above my desk, taken about an hour earlier. Not as dramatic, but I just liked it. Right now, the window looks more like the windscreen photo above as the winds pick up speed and force.

This could be a wild night.

AmeriNZ 103 is now available

Episode 103 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.

Complete shownotes and descriptions are available at the new site.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rodney? This is earth calling.

Rodney Hide, leader of the neo-conservative ACT Party in New Zealand, is supposedly upset with National Party leader John Key, according to NewstalkZB. Key has been saying that if he were prime minister and questions about contributions to the New Zealand First Party weren’t satisfied to his liking, he’d sack the party’s leader, Winston Peters, from cabinet. However, instructively, Key refuses to rule out forming a coalition with Peters and New Zealand First after the election.

Hide is miffed that Key won’t rule out Peters or NZ First, but has stated emphatically that ACT Party parliamentary candidate Roger Douglas would have no place in a National-led government, should he make it into Parliament. Because of that, Hide questioned Key’s integrity.

The party that forms the next government will almost certainly do so in coalition with another party (despite what some opinion polls purport to show at the moment). National, which has few natural allies, can’t afford to rule out any party.

Roger Douglas is widely despised throughout New Zealand. As the architect of the economic reforms of the 1980s—some of which are now seen by many as extreme and unwarranted—most Kiwis hold him responsible for years of suffering that they endured. In that time, Douglas and his buddies sold off nearly everything that wasn’t nailed down (as ACT still wants to do and National claims it won’t officially do in a first term). So if Key did anything other than rule out a Douglas appointment to cabinet, he would wipe out much of the advantage National currently enjoys.

Obviously Hide, too, is just playing politics. He’s afraid that his rightwing cohorts will abandon ACT and vote National, thereby eliminating ACT from Parliament. So, Hide has to try and position his party as the purer conservative party. National probably wouldn’t want a formal coalition with ACT unless it was desperate, and for the same reason they don’t want Douglas in cabinet: The appearance that National will veer far right, back to the discredited neoconservative ideology that ACT represents.

Hide probably knows all this. Politics is a dancehall game, and no one wants to be the only guest left without a dance partner. Chances are good that if ACT is even invited to the new Parliamentary dancehall, it’ll be sitting on the benches looking glum. The real question is, as always, who will be dancing with whom, and whose tune will they dance to?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Zealand Affordability

The 2008 Mercer Cost of Living study for various cities in the world has been released. Contrary to constant propaganda, New Zealand cities are far more affordable than Australian cities.

Auckland was at 78 and Wellington was 93rd most expensive. Sydney, however, was 15th most expensive, Melbourne 36th, Perth 53rd and Brisbane was 57th.

In an excellent cover story in the July issue of Metro magazine, Jan Corbett details “The Great Aussie Con: Why you’re better off in Auckland”. Turns out, there are plenty of reasons.

The myth that things are better in Australia is constantly promoted by the New Zealand National Party, which has political reasons for making New Zealanders think the country is in the toilet and only the Nats can save them. Yeah, well, surveys like Mercer’s and the article in Metro show that’s not necessarily so.

Shooting the messenger

A poll conducted by a Wellington company called Research New Zealand appears to have found that half of New Zealanders favour the police carrying guns.

Or does it?

The survey claims a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent (with a confidence level of 95 percent). That margin of error is higher than I like to see, even though the pollsters claim it’s an accurate representation of the general New Zealand population.

What bothers me about it, though, is the question they asked: “How much do you approve or disapprove of the Police carrying guns?” The question is far too open-ended to draw the conclusion they claimed. Police carrying guns, when? Under what circumstances? Sometimes or all the time? These variables all matter because they’d produce different results.

To say that half of New Zealanders support police carrying guns at least sometimes under some undetermined circumstances is fair enough, but to claim that “half of New Zealanders think Police should carry guns” as the pollsters do is simply not supported by their poll results.

The telephone poll was also conducted 25 June to 9 July, right around the time there were some serious crimes in South Auckland. This, too, would have skewed the results.

Add it all up, and I have a zero confidence level in this poll. If Research New Zealand is going to ask questions about such hot topics, they have an obligation to ask specific, quantifiable questions that are then interpreted correctly and fairly. In the meantime, give this poll a mere shrug of the shoulders.

A tip o' the hat to Dawn for pointing this poll out to me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Another Bush political game

As if we haven’t already seen enough arrogant stupidity from the Bush-Cheney regime, the Washington Post is reporting that:

Political appointees at the Department of Labor are moving with unusual speed to push through in the final months of the Bush administration a rule making it tougher to regulate workers' on-the-job exposure to chemicals and toxins.

The article reports that the Bush-Cheney regime has tried to keep the move secret by not disclosing the proposal, as required. As a result, no one yet knows what the exact wording is, but sources told the Post, which saw an earlier draft, the plan will make it harder to classify any chemical as potentially toxic to workers, and will add another layer of appeal that businesses can make if they don’t like a chemical’s classification.

Put another way, the Bush-Cheney regime is rewarding businesses and making life potentially far more dangerous for workers.

The Bush-Cheney regime has been working on this for quite awhile, but decided to rush it through so it will take effect before Bush is out of office. However, this sort of political meddling is nothing new. In addition to workplace safety, the regime has used political considerations as a primary (and sometimes only) consideration in most areas of regulatory policy.

There are now only 180 days until this madness ends—unless John McSame wins the November election, of course.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

AmeriNZ 102 is now available

Episode 102 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.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Monday, July 21, 2008

Christianity’s fruitcake

It takes a special kind of person to lead an extremist christianist group. To boldy champion things that the vast majority of people oppose—and to attack people for having the temerity to disagree with you—takes a special kind of arrogance that most normal people simply cannot achieve, no matter how hard they might try.

James Dobson is one such arrogant champion. Leader of the far, far right christianst group Focus on Hate, er, the Family, Dobson is renowned for his extremist views—including of his own importance.

When John McCain became the presumptive Republican nominee, Dobson famously huffed and puffed and declared that he couldn’t vote for McCain because of McCain's support for embryonic stem cell research and opposition to an amendment to the US Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. Apparently, Dobson was also fretting about McCain’s temper and use of naughty words.

Well now—surprise!—Dobson has decided that he “may” endorse McCain after all. He said, "Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family and what is best for the nation,” which gives me even more reason to support Obama.

Last month, Dobson condemned Obama for a speech he gave two years ago. Dobson said, "I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology." That confused me because it’s actually what Dobson himself has always done, so I wasn’t sure who he was talking about.

Dobson also accused Obama of having “a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution." Again, Dobson was describing his own views, in which the Constitution he wants has no room for the rights of women or gay people.

When Dobson made that attack to try and get attention for himself, shrill Republican “strategist” Bay Buchanan said on Fox Noise that Obama “should never have picked a fight with Dobson”—until the usually frothing Hannity reminded her that, in fact, Dobson started the fight. Not even extremist Republicans could get any traction out of Dobson’s weird tirade.

But Dobson has frequently used lies, smears and the rhetoric of hate to not only defame gay and lesbian Americans and deny their humanity, but also to deny their citizenship. So, it’s not surprising that he used a two-year-old speech to attack Obama, since it helped set-up his move to endorse McCain, something he’s sure to do soon.

Dobson is one of the people who brings all of Christianity into disrepute. Real Christians need to reclaim their faith from the radicals who have branded Christianity with the far right political agenda of people like Dobson. Failing to do that could mean that one day Dobson’s “fruitcake” vision for America could become reality.

More numbers games

Last year, I wrote about opinion polling in New Zealand. Among other things, I said that neither the polls nor trends really tell us very much that’s useful.

However, a new poll released yesterday by TVNZ did have one thing of interest: Labour went up in the poll, and National went down after months of the opposite. What’s interesting about that is that Labour’s fortunes improved right after the National Party started releasing some policies—usually after being forced into it kicking and screaming.

We’ve recently seen that National plans to privatise ACC, and giving us an accident insurance regime more like America’s or Australia’s isn’t a popular option for the majority of New Zealanders. As they’re forced to admit the extent of their plans to sell-off state-owned assets, their popularity will continue to drop.

So far, most of National’s popularity is based simply on the fact that it’s not Labour. New Zealanders have an almost perverse need to kick a party out of government after a few years, just because it’s been a few years. National has been positioning itself as a kind of “Labour-Lite” so as to capitalise on people who are sick of Labour, but like its policies.

As National is forced into releasing more of its policies, New Zealand voters will see its true agenda, and then the game will be on. So far, polling is showing that National’s continued addiction to neo-conservative nonsense isn’t winning them any friends. We’ll know soon enough if that trend continues.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Church properly

A wealthy resident of Lake Bluff, Illinois declared his $3 million mansion overlooking Lake Michigan to be a church and received an $80,000 property tax break from the state of Illinois. In Illinois, properties owned by churches are exempt from property taxes, which are similar to rates in New Zealand.

In this case, the Village of Lake Bluff doubted the “conversion” was real, and officials notified the man that if he really is running a church, he'll need to pay more than $115,000 in fines for failing to get the village's permission to violate zoning.

The man obtained an online ordination and used that to form his church. He claims he did the conversion to a church so his disabled wife and daughter could attend services, and his lawyer (you knew there had to be one somewhere) said the man “believes he has a constitutional right to practice his faith, that he violated no zoning codes and that he properly received a property tax exemption for his church.”

Of course they have a human right—not just a Constitutional right—to practice their faith, but there’s no constitutional issue here: A property tax break is not a necessary requirement for religious services.

Which, actually, is one of the reasons I’ve always opposed exempting churches from paying property taxes. Beyond that, states and churches ought to be separate, not deeply intertwined as this arrangement mandates. States ought not be in the business of determining what’s a “real” church and what isn’t, and churches shouldn’t be seeking official sanction from government. Mostly, I never could understand why churches should get property tax exemptions not available to non-religious groups working for the betterment of the community.

As a preacher’s kid, I personally benefitted from this situation, especially since we lived for free in church-owned houses (a practice that many churches have abandoned so their ministers can own their own houses and build equity for the future). The property tax exemption my dad’s churches got freed up money for the church to spend elsewhere, and not necessarily on the betterment of the community.

The system needs to be changed to make it fair for everyone, religious and not. This story illustrates why.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Auckland winter

There’s one simple fact about Auckland winters: For me, they practically don’t exist.

I should back up a little. I spent 36 years living in a land that froze over for several months each year. While I have many happy childhood winter memories of playing in the snow, my later memories are of icy piles of snow turned gray-brown by the road grime, or yellow by countless dogs. I remember watching the snow melt each year, revealing a hidden brown layer left by the dogs.

And as if that wasn’t enough, there was also the biting cold—including the inevitable periods with “dangerously low wind chill”. Several layers of shirts, sweaters, coats and mittens on top of gloves still couldn’t keep that kind of cold away, especially in those draughty old Chicago apartments that never seemed to warm up enough to avoid me seeing my breath inside. All of this is why I hate cold and snowy winters.

So I moved to New Zealand, a place where “cold” means maybe low teens in the day (50s in US temperature), and a really cold night might reach about 4 (around 40 in US temperature). To me, this was positively balmy.

Except for New Zealand houses.

Until relatively recently, New Zealand houses didn’t have to be insulated, and many older houses still aren’t. Also, most NZ houses have no central heating, like I was used to. As a result, my first winter in Auckland I was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life (a common complaint among American expats in New Zealand, it seems).

Fortunately for me, the house we live in now was built relatively recently and has more insulation than is required (or even normal). We also have central heating/cooling—a ducted inverter heat pump system. So, we have it better than many people, and once again I can think of Auckland winters as being mild.

I took the photo at the top of this post last week, on the coldest morning of the winter so far. There was a frost on the park near our house, which was unusual, especially because it was heavy enough to kill tender plants in some places. None of which you can tell from this photo—I just liked the light and shade and misty mysteriousness of it.

Sometimes a nice photo is enough.

Update: Apparently, New Zealand winters really are cold: A column in the July 12-18 issue of the New Zealand Listener magazine (available online after August 2) said "Winter mortality rates were about 18% higher than expected in other seasons," and that the seasonal variance in mortality (aka, "death") is higher than in other developed countries. The blame is placed on cold houses and poor heating, but the column points out little research has been done on what really is a proper interior temperature. Maybe those cold expats aren't crazy after all.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dole’s spelled DOLT

If you’re offended by naughty words, stop reading now. There will be plenty of them in this post.

Elizabeth Dole, unfortunately a US Senator, has done the biggest bit of Republican ass-licking, and issued the biggest “fuck you”, of anyone in the United States Senate: She’s moved to rename a bill to appropriate funds to fight HIV/AIDS and other diseases in Africa after Jesse Helms!

You’ll know doubt remember that I was delighted to hear that Helms had finally died. This is because more than any other person Helms was responsible for the deaths of people from AIDS in America. He was an evil, contemptible sack of shit and for Dole to now seek to honour him means she must be no better.

Think it’s an exaggeration? Consider these choice Helms quotes from an excellent post entitled “Elizabeth Dole Says ‘Fuck You’ To Americans Who Died From AIDS” by Joe.My.God.:

Jesse Helms, the man who in 1987 described AIDS prevention literature as "so obscene, so revolting, I may throw up."

Jesse Helms, the man who in 1988 vigorously opposed the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS research bill, saying, "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy."

Jesse Helms, the man who in 1995 said (in opposition to refunding the Ryan White Act) that the government should spend less on people with AIDS because they got sick due to their "deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct."

Jesse Helms, the man who in 2002 announced that he'd changed his mind about AIDS funding for Africa, but not for American gays, because homosexuality "is the primary cause of the doubling and redoubling of AIDS cases in the United States."

Many people hold Ronald Reagan responsible for adding to the early AIDS death toll by his inaction on the pandemic, but it was Helms' actions in thwarting early research that inarguably hastened the demise of many thousands of Americans. How many of my friends, of your friends, would be alive today if the life-saving medications had arrived just one fucking year earlier?

Fuck YOU, Senator Dole. Fuck you with something hard and sandpapery.

I couldn’t possibly agree more.

Update 17/07/08: Turns out Liddy Dole is up for re-election this year. Well, I think we should all send here a nice jolly present to thank her for her service: US Citizens and Permanent Residents may make financial donations to Dole’s Democratic opponent, Kay Hagan. I'm sure it would be nice for North Carolina to have a real Senator in that seat for a change.

First asset privatisation?

The New Zealand National Party has continued its programme of releasing policy slowly, quietly and by stealth (so as to not frighten voters). Today they quietly released a statement confirming its worst-kept secret, that it plans to privatise ACC (accident insurance).

National says "Incentives for employers to improve safety practices are poor in a scheme in which similar premiums are charged regardless of an employer's workplace accident record.” That’s certainly true, but that doesn’t mean the solution is to wreck what we already have.

The problem with National’s plan is that private insurance companies are interested in making profits, as any good private company should be. Accident victims, on the other hand, need good, complete and thorough care. The American healthcare experience has clearly demonstrated that these two goals are incompatible. In order to maximise profits, private insurance companies will inevitably cut benefits and delay payments.

ACC works by spreading the risk among a large pool of people paying into it. Reduce the size of the financial pool and ACC will not be able to compete on price without also cutting services and benefits. Meanwhile, all the profits from the private companies will be sent overseas.

Add it all up and privatising government services like ACC doesn’t work out in the taxpayer’s advantage, not when reforms haven’t been tried.

One thing National said I do agree with: “New Zealanders are entitled to feel secure that the entitlements guaranteed by law will be delivered efficiently and reliably.” I just don’t believe that National’s beloved privatisation is capable of delivering that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

AmeriNZ 101 is now available

Episode 101 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.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Bush’s oily lies

In a regime known for lies and deception, it should come as no surprise that George Bush is continuing his deceitful ways as his time in office finally nears its end. In a move aimed solely at helping Republicans in November, Bush has overturned an executive order put in place by his father, Bush the First, banning offshore drilling for oil. New drilling cannot be done, however, without Congress changing the law.

And here’s where the lies begin. He told the media, "The only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress… Now the ball is squarely in Congress' court." Except, of course, he’s not telling the truth.

Under existing law, oil companies can explore and drill in vast areas of the coasts but they haven’t done so, for a variety of reasons. Despite Bush’s claims of “vast oil resources”, that’s still only a guess and, even it there are large reserves, it’s unknown what kind of oil is there. That detail is every bit as important as how much is there because if there’s a lot of the wrong type of oil it won’t translate into gas at the pump for American motorists.

But Bush wanted to make sure that Americans blame Democrats, adding, "For years, my administration has been calling on Congress to expand domestic oil production. Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal. And now Americans are paying at the pump."

That, of course, is bullshit of the most odoriferous kind. There are many reasons for the high prices at the pumps, and to the extent that Congress can be blamed, it falls on both parties, primarily for refusing to make finding new alternative fuels and power sources a national priority. But Bush’s beloved oil companies must share some responsibility, as must a market system that rewards greed and gambling.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it correctly when she said, "Once again, the oilman in the White House is echoing the demands of Big Oil. The Bush plan is a hoax. It will neither reduce gas prices nor increase energy independence. It just gives millions more acres to the same companies that are sitting on nearly 68 million acres of public lands and coastal areas."

So, as usual, George Bush and the Republicans are lying to the American people about both the reality of the energy situation and how to get out of it. We simply cannot drill our way out of this, and they know damn well that’s the case. The sooner we’re rid of this cabal, the better.

At the moment, there are 189 days until that man is finally gone—unless John McSame begins the third Bush term that day.

North Shore divider

Yesterday I criticised North Shore City’s mayor, Andrew Williams, for using an irrelevant issue to trash the idea of a “super city” for Auckland. Today, he used similar tactics again.

Speaking to NewstalkZB, Williams was commenting on the abduction of a 5-and-a-half year old Chinese girl from Albany in North Shore City. Rather than just limit himself to the topic, Williams declared “This sort of thing just doesn’t happen in Albany,” when, in fact, this sort of thing doesn’t happen anywhere in New Zealand—which is precisely why it’s news.

As mayor, part of Williams job is to promote North Shore City, to be its chief booster. Tearing down other places doesn’t accomplish that, but instead makes North Shore seem petty and parochial. One doesn’t have to be negative about other places to promote one’s own, as Southland’s Tim Shadboldt has good-naturedly and tirelessly demonstrated.

If Williams keeps up this nonsense, he’ll drive me firmly toward the “one city for Auckland” side, if only so we can get rid of such narrow-minded, parochial local politicians.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Grog around the clock

The New Zealand Police have proposed ending 24-hour alcohol licenses for bars and clubs in Auckland City’s CBD (Central Business District). They cite alcohol-related problems, including violence, which the police blame on 24-hour licences.

The proposal is unlikely to get a favourable consideration by Auckland City Councillors. As Auckland Mayor John Banks pointed out, all world-class cities have a vibrant nightlife. With the 2011 Rugby World Cup coming to New Zealand, and plans to try and win hosting rights for a Commonwealth Games sometime thereafter, rolling up the footpaths in the evening is probably not going to happen.

But across the bridge in North Shore City, Mayor Andrew Williams said he doesn’t share Banks’ view. "I do not agree with Mayor Banks that it is desirable to have 24 hour licensing of bars and that in some way this supposedly makes for a ‘world class city,’” he said. Okay, he’s entitled to his opinion. But then he added: “Drunken youths coupled with violence and lawlessness on the streets of the Auckland City CBD at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning are not my idea of creating a world class destination.”

That’s a bit rich coming from him. North Shore City has a national reputation for out-of-control teenage parties with violent, drunken youths. In recent years that problem has eased somewhat, thanks to moves like party hosts hiring security guards. The point is that violent, drunken youths can be a problem with or without 24-hour bars, and North Shore City’s experience proves that.

The crux of the issue, it seems to me, actually has nothing to do with alcohol or rampaging drunken youths. As so often happens in politics, it’s all about power.

There’s currently a Royal Commission on Auckland Governance looking into how the Auckland Region should be organised. One suggestion, backed by Auckland City, is for a super city. North Shore City, on the other hand, favours several separate cities, though fewer than now.

"This also raises real concerns for many North Shore residents when confronted with suggestions of a super-city,” Williams said. To make sure that people got the connection, he added, “We certainly want to play an increased lead role in developing the Auckland Region… but we do not want a ‘bar’ of the standards being set by Auckland City in relation to all night unruliness. People being intoxicated, fighting, vomiting, and urinating on our streets in the wee hours near dawn are not world class in anyone's book."

There are problems with alcohol abuse by teenagers and young adults. But the problem will not be solved by turning Auckland’s CBD into Takapuna. If Williams has a problem with 24-hour bars, that’s his right. We know he opposes a super city. Linking the two together is just plain silly and has a wee whiff of desperation about it.

I don’t think that ending all 24-hour bars will fix the problems that the police and Williams complained about. Also, I have an open mind about how Auckland should be governed, unlike Williams. What I don’t have patience for is politicians trying to make linkages where none exist.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My fellow whiners

I never liked Phil Gramm. In fact, I always thought he was arrogant, often deluded and just plain grumpy. All of that was shown in force last week when he said America was "a nation of whiners" and that the recession that America is entering is a "mental recession." Put another way, mega-rich Gramm thinks the common people are crazy.

The incident showed two things. First, Gramm is an absolute moron when it comes to politics. John McSame, who admits he knows nothing about economics, turned to Gramm, who supposedly does, as an economic adviser. Then Gramm grossly insults average Americans and, by extension, suggested that McSame is out of touch with what real people are experiencing.

The other thing this shows is how intellectually bankrupt the old neo-conservative ideology is. They keep going on about how “the fundamentals are sound”, and yet joblessness is starting to grow, mortgage foreclosures are increasing, and costs of food and petrol are soaring. Ordinary people are experiencing real pain caused by factors outside of their control. The economic models that dinosaurs like Gramm desperately cling to just don’t work anymore. Seems to me that clinging to a failed ideology makes Gramm the one with mental problems, not the American people.

And if John McSame—or John Key here in New Zealand—continue to embrace the failed neo-conservative ideology, ordinary voters ought to reject them. It would be crazy not to.

Friday, July 11, 2008

AmeriNZ 100 is now available

Episode 100 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, where you'll find complete shownotes, 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.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cultural exploitation or celebration?

A new Hollywood feel-good movie with high school rugby as its focus is to be released in a few months. Based on true events, “Forever Strong” tells the story of an American youth going off the rails until he’s sent to the Highland Rugby programme at a high school in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The real-life coach of the team, Larry Gelwix, says his first rugby coach at university was from New Zealand and brought the haka, which he taught to the players. Now Gelwix teaches it to his team, and they perform it before certain matches. The cast performs the haka on the splash screen for the movie’s site.

To his credit, Gelwix apparently understands the nature and importance of the haka. In the film’s media kit, he’s quoted as saying, “The Haka is specifically a New Zealand, Maori tradition… What people have to understand is that it’s not just a cute dance. We don’t do it for the sake of entertainment. There is a message associated with the Haka, I believe in the message of the Haka and our players believe in the message of the Haka.”

After doing a pretty good job of explaining the cultural significance of the haka, the press kit quotes him as saying that they only perform it before certain matches, important ones: “We do that out of respect, so it does not become commonplace. We hold it sacred and it’s deeply meaningful to the boys.” The press kit also includes the words of the best-known haka, “Ka Mate”.

This is the sort of respectful use of the haka by non-Maori (and non-New Zealanders) that most, though certainly not all, Maori accept. Contrast this with some other US high schools that perform it with no understanding of the meaning or significance, and also with the US media who consistently and somewhat dismissively refer to it as a mere “war dance”.

What concerns me, though, is how the haka is used in the film, and whether all that cultural significance and respect can survive the Hollywood touch. The film credits include everything you’d expect, plus a “Rugby Technical Adviser”—but no “Maori Cultural Adviser” or similar as would have been appropriate when moving the haka from a respectful use by one high school to a Hollywood film. Will it still be used respectfully and its cultural significance explained, or will it merely be a colourful curiosity to popcorn munching movie watchers who’ve never seen it before?

As an American-born New Zealander of European ancestry, what I care about is how New Zealand is portrayed overseas because this is my home now. I also care if the cultural toanga of the tangata whenua are stolen or misused, because they’re the first people of this land where I live. And I also care whether my homeland appropriates things from other cultures without giving due respect because the stereotype is that we do that all the time.

I have no idea whether this film will be released in New Zealand, but with a story centring on rugby, it probably will be. I just hope that Kiwi audiences won’t be disappointed in what they see.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Campaign positions

The presumptive nominees of the two main US parties are beginning to position themselves for the November elections, and that’s opened them up to criticism from both ends of the spectrum.

This won’t be news to anyone who’s listened to my political podcasts with Jason, but Democrats must run to the left in the primaries, Republicans must run to the right, then afterward both must move back to the centre because—news flash for both extremes—that’s where the voters are. This is actually neither new nor news.

I’ve predicted many times that the Republicans will launch into the use of wedge issues as they did in 2004 and 2006 in their desperation to win in November. Specifically, Republicans will vilify gay and lesbian Americans as they attempt to rally their far right base. I expected this to come from the party, not McSame, who kept calling himself a different kind of Republican.

However, speaking recently on Fox Noise, Republican commentator Fred Barnes, editor of the right wing Weekly Standard, said John McSame, just like Bush-Cheney, should use gay people as political targets. Specifically, he said McSame should use “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and marriage equality as wedge issues.

While those issues have lost much of their appeal to almost everyone except christianist extremists, McSame seems to be listening: He’s already announced his full support for outlawing same-sex marriage at the state level, and has left the door open for an Amendment to the US Constitution to do the same nationally. He also supports DADT. It’s a short step from there to adopting the Bush-Cheney anti-gay wedge issue strategy.

This is unusual because normally at this point you’d expect McSame to be moving back toward the centre, but instead he seems to be trying to placate the far right base of the Republican Party. Perhaps it’s an indication of how weak his position is in his own party.

Meanwhile, leftwing bloggers have gone apoplectic over what they think is Barack Obama’s move to the right. Writing on the Huffington Post, Andy Borowitz mocked the bloggers:

The liberal blogosphere was aflame today with new accusations that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) is trying to win the 2008 presidential election… Suspicions about Sen. Obama's true motives have been building over the past few weeks, but not until today have the bloggers called him out for betraying the Democratic Party's losing tradition.

The fact that Obama is expressing his position in more centrist terms isn’t newsworthy. The fact that McSame has continued—and expanded on—his right wing rhetoric is news, since he would be expected to be moving to the centre by now.

In any case, there will never be a “perfect” candidate who will tick every box for the left or the right; such a candidate couldn’t win the general election. Actually, I’ve never been 100% happy with any candidate I’ve ever voted for in any race in any election. So what? Personally, I think that’s impossible unless I run as a candidate myself, and even then I’d probably be suspicious.

So, as a big-picture political pragmatist, I can say that I probably won’t be 100% happy with Barak Obama, but I know for certain that I’d be nearly 100% unhappy with John McSame. So I think my friends on the left need to chill-out and remember that in the overall scheme of things, a centrist Obama is far better than a rightist McSame for many, many reasons. And just for once, maybe the left should stop and think about how important it would be to win something rather than loose everything.

This time, the Democrats must win—for a change.

Free Speech in America

The poster of the video said: "On orders from Senator John McCain's security detail, Denver police escorted a 61-year-old woman away who was waiting in line to attend a so-called town hall meeting with McCain that was billed as open to the public."

This kind of thing goes on all the time, quite often carried out by overzealous lower-level people acting without any specific orders. But every time we allow them to get away with it, freedom of speech is eroded a bit more.

And thanks to a moron posing as a judge, if you dare to watch this YouTube video, that fact could be revealed to Viacom.

Freedom of speech? Yeah, right

Shoot the First Amendment, too?

A gun advocacy group has demanded that a local Illinois official apologise for remarks he made following the Supreme Court’s recent reprehensible ruling on handguns in the District of Columbia.

According to the Chicago Tribune, on June 27 Oak Park Village Manager Tom Barwin told National Public Radio, "It's just completely befuddling that our Supreme Court would be in alliance with the gangbangers." This prompted the leader of a gun group in Washington state to demand an apology, whining, "We find it a bit appalling and, quite frankly, that kind of rhetoric is insulting."

Aw, poor baby! I’m sorry, but considering all the inflammatory rhetoric that the right wing gun nuts have flung at advocates of gun control, I have no sympathy if they now have hurt feelings.

For his part, Barwin, a former cop, said that his comments were "just a shorthand way to explain my experience." He went on, "The greater proliferation of guns results in more accidental shootings, more guns stolen and ending up in the hands of drug dealers and gangbangers, and more costs to the taxpayer." Those all are facts that the ruling will promote, and they are, quite frankly, far more insulting to society in general than the mock hurt feelings some gun nuts may claim to have.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

AmeriNZ 99 - Just Me

Episode 99 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’s episode is just me: I tell you about something I got in the mail, something about the new home of my podcast (amerinzpodcast.com), then it’s on to the comments I haven’t had time for lately.

Today’s episode starts with another country’s national anthem; what country is it? This will be my feature for July. And speaking of July features, today I also continue a shorter episode on Tuesday.

Please leave a comment at http://amerinzpodcast.com/, send an email to arthur{at]amerinzpodcast.com, or ring my US listener line on 206-339-8413.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Note to blog readers: This is the last time I'll post complete shownotes here. From now on, complete shownotes will only be posted to the new site, with a short announcement here.

Update 09 July 2008: My Podomatic account has reached its bandwidth limit and won't re-set until 15 July. If you want to receive episodes between now and then, you'll need to get them through the new feed. To subscribe to the new feed, just click the iTunes badge above, or click on the badge at the top of this post to go the new home of the AmeriNZ Podcast to download this episode manually.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Special interest attacks begin

Well, that didn’t take long. Already Republican special interest groups have begun running ads to help John McSame’s election campaign. The groups, called “527 Groups” because of the section of Internal Revenue code they operate under, are always conservative and clearly back Republicans, even if, by law, they are “officially” independent of a party or campaign.

In 2004, the infamous Republican group “Swift Vote Veterans for Truth” used lies, smears and innuendo to defame John Kerry in order to help elect Bush-Cheney. This year, a group calling itself “Vets for Freedom” is trying to help John McSame by defending the Bush-Cheney-McCain Iraq War.

According to the Washington Post, the group has targeted Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, all of which are battleground states in the November election. Nevertheless, the Post reported that the group’s leader said “the states were chosen… not because they are crucial swing states for McCain, but rather because the heightened interest in those states will give it a larger audience.” Right—and I suppose they have a bridge they want to sell me, too.

The group claims to have supported the occasional Democrat in the past, but admits that its ad line is almost identical to the standard rhetoric of John McSame. The group also claims, according to the Post, that McSame “has been the ‘strongest advocate’ for the veterans of the two wars.” It’s pretty clear who this “independent group” is backing.

This is the first special interest group to start running ads for McSame, but it won’t be the last. Other groups will probably use lies, smears and innuendo to try and help McSame, but this time there are plenty of people who will call them on it.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Where it began

Some of my earliest memories are political. That’ll come as a huge surprise, I know, but there it is.

My first term of Kindergarten was in a presidential election year, so the teacher decided to hold a mock presidential election. She set up a “voting booth”, separated from the room by a blanket or sheet or something. Trouble was, we couldn’t yet read or write, so the teacher stood inside the booth and we told her the person we wanted to “vote” for.

Even at five years old, I was intensely suspicious of this—how could we be sure the teacher really marked down our choices correctly? It’s fair to say that my suspicion of people in authority, and demand for integrity of the democratic process, began then.

The year before, my mother briefly took me to a pre-school programme run out of the local YWCA. She’d drop me off and she’d have a swim, all of which seemed like a good idea to her, but I apparently wasn’t as keen. My mother said I told her, “Let’s go late so I don’t have to say the damned ‘pledge to the legions.’” She thought it was cute.

I’m old enough—barely—to remember a time when prayer was part of the public school curriculum. As I recall, each day began with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer read by the teacher. The banal old “God is Great” prayer was required before snack time. Prayer in public schools ended before we made it to a year in which snacks were no longer served, but it’s probably where I learned to dislike prayers offered in official settings.

Years later, in high school, where we were forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before school assemblies, I’d routinely add or delete words or phrases to match my beliefs, like deleting “under god”, for example. Apparently my dislike for the pledge began in pre-school and my dislike for overt religiosity in primary school.

And yet despite all that, I remained a committed Christian Republican right into my University years. How and why this changed is a topic for another day, but it was born in my childhood and youth—my growing suspicion of those in authority and of the integrity of the democratic process, as well as my disdain for overt religiosity, especially in a political context, all started then.

Apparently, at a very early age I learned to defy at least some definitions and labels and, obviously, I learned to evolve. Learning to defy labels and to evolve aren’t bad lessons to get from childhood. I wonder how many still get them.

Why it’s called inevitable

When some event is called “inevitable”, it’s usually because, well, it is. That means, of course, it’s true if the word is used accurately, and not as hyperbole.

Back in January, my AmeriNZ Podcast made the featured Personal Journals podcast page on iTunes USA. I knew that it inevitably would fall off, but I had no idea how long that would take.

On July Fourth, not quite six months later, it dropped off the featured page (just) and onto the regular page one.

There are two reasons for this. First, Oprah has a “podcast” that’s inappropriately categorised as a “personal journal” when it’s anything but. The other reason is my recent feed change, which I knew would cause all kinds of havoc. I was right.

However, my new podcast feed (by “Arthur the AmeriNZ”) is on page two, and is now in the main “New and Notable” section, so my album art is still visible to anyone who gets to that section (it’s also on the main “New and Notable” section for the parent “Society & Culture” category).

All of that's happened because of people subscribing to my new feed, and because so far 11 new 5-star reviews have been left for me. To help anyone who wants to do either—and both help me greatly—I’ve included the link below.

Will I get back on the featured page of iTunes USA? I have no idea. But I’ll be recording this coming week. That much is inevitable.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Saturday, July 05, 2008

AmeriNZ 98 - Presidential Sweepstakes

Episode 98 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.

Jason joins me today as we resume our political discussions. The primaries are over, and the focus has shifted to the November elections. So today we kind of re-set the stage for what we’ll be talking about in future episodes.

We begin with a chat about campaign finance, then on to talk about vice presidential choices. Should the candidates have to condemn every single supporter who says something stupid? We talk about the recent Supreme Court gun ruling, and whether it will affect the election. Will the anti-gay ballot measures hurt Democrats this year, too?

Our next political chat will be in about three weeks, tentatively the last week of the month. In the meantime, please leave a comment at amerinzpodcast.com, send an email to arthur{at]amerinzpodcast.com, or ring my US listener line on 206-339-8413.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Helms is dead!

It’s always considered bad form to rejoice in another person’s death, but not today: Jesse Helms, the most evil, despicable person ever to pollute the United States Senate, is dead at 86. This is fantastic news and arriving, as it does, on the Fourth of July in the US—Independence Day—it’s a cause for celebration.

There’s not one single “nice” thing I can say about that man. He was racist, sexist and—probably more than anything else—rabidly homophobic. No, that word is far too nice, because he had no equal in his hatred and contempt for gay and lesbian Americans. Sure, TV preacher Jerry Falwell—whose death I also celebrated—promoted hatred, but Jesse put hate into action.

I was an activist on Congressional issues when Jesse was still powerful. A huge amount of my time, energy and my organisation’s resources were spent trying to stop the latest hate-filled legislative amendment or manoeuvre from Jesse. We often failed. Jesse was expert at using Senate rules to delay, defer or bury positive moves, often effectively killing them not through a democratic vote, but through tactics done to ensure that the democratic process could never reach a conclusion he knew he’d lose.

But it was on HIV/AIDS that he was especially evil. He did everything in his power to prevent any federal help either for people affected by it or for research into it. To him, gay men who became infected with HIV deserved it. More than any other US politician, he had deaths on his hands. Perhaps he regretted that fact just a little, because very late in his life he expressed a weak, tiny bit of pseudo-remorse for his actions and kind of, sort of, supported greater efforts against AIDS—in Africa—a little bit. But he was damn happy if AIDS killed fags.

So not only am I not the least bit sorry he’s dead, I’m delighted. It is a very happy Independence Day, indeed.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Bush’s Onion Tour of America

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

The Onion crew are probably America’s leading satirists, a speciality that means their humour is above the heads of a certain sizeable segment of American society. But those who do get it will see the many levels of humour in this vid, and we can all use a laugh in these difficult times.

I saw this over at ArcherRadio and had to include it here.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Nats’ new clothes?

The conservative NZ National Party has been riding high in the polls based largely one fact: It’s not the NZ Labour Party, currently the party leading Government. Historically, New Zealand voters get sick of a party—any party—once it’s led government for three terms.

That’s easy in a country like New Zealand in which the two main parties aren’t polar opposites, but different flavours of the same more or less centrist ideology. The centre, after all, is where most voters are. New Zealand’s political climate is based on some near-universal beliefs, chief among them that central government has the primary role in providing education and healthcare. Poll after poll after poll has shown that ordinary people would rather have more money spent on those two things than get tax cuts.

The National Party has played a coy strategy of not revealing any policy, so as to avoid frightening voters. What we’ve heard so far is worrying: They plan to raise the fees that ordinary people pay to doctors and they want school buildings owned by the private sector, with schools paying market rents to occupy them.

The party has pledged that it will not sell off state-owned assets—Kiwibank, KiwiRail, Air New Zealand, etc.—during it’s first term. However, it was reported previously that they were looking at increasing the shares sold publicly, which would dilute the people’s shareholding. That’s selling off taxpayer-owned assets by stealth, in other words.

Yesterday it was revealed that they plan on privatising ACC, which provides accident insurance for all New Zealanders, including workplace injury insurance and rehabilitation. An overseas investment company advised its clients to buy shares in Australian insurance companies because a National-led government will allow them to take over ACC business. National had to admit that, well, yes, despite the “no asset sale” pledge, they were effectively doing exactly that by allowing other companies to offer ACC’s services.

It was revealed in Parliament yesterday that when the National Party sold off New Zealand Rail in a sweetheart deal to an investment firm with deep ties to both National and neoconservatives generally, John Key, current leader of the National Party, was in the thick of the financial arrangements. Then in 2003, when the government bought back the rail network from Toll Holdings, John Key voted against it. Labour alleges that Key and his family owned some 30,000 shares in Toll Holdings at the time, a fact he didn’t reveal.

Key denies he or his family had an undisclosed financial interest in the matter he was voting on. If he’s telling the truth, that’s the end of the matter. But if he’s not telling the truth, or not telling the complete truth, then Labour will present the proof. But the larger issue here is that Key has long been in the thick of the sort of wheeling and dealing in which New Zealand assets were stripped and sold off, sending all the profits overseas.

So far, the policies National has revealed—sometimes kicking and screaming—have been bad for New Zealand, showing an enduring affection and allegiance to the economic policies of the 1980s. Those days are over. If National isn’t prepared to move into the 21st Century, and especially if it isn’t prepared to keep to the letter of its promises, it cannot be trusted to run the country.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

AmeriNZ 97 - We're Number One

Episode 97 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.

July 1 is Canada Day, the country’s birthday, so first I salute my fellow Commonwealth Citizens.

Then, I tell you how New Zealand is number one in something unusual. The NZ political party that’s currently polling in first place was revealed to be using a shady PR agency. And I also tell you how the AmeriNZ Podcast was Number One.

Leave a comment at amerinzpodcast.com, or ring my US listener line on (206) 339-8413. You can also email me at arthur{at]amerinzpodcast.com (or the old address at amerinz(at]yahoo.com).

P.S. This is my 700th post on this blog!

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

One brief shining moment

This past Sunday, my AmeriNZ Podcast was the Number One personal journal podcast on the iTunes New Zealand Store. It’s been in the top 10 before, and it’s often been in the top 30, but never Number One.

This all happened because of all the people re-subscribing to my new feed, so it’s only a temporary thing. In fact, today it had dropped back to number 2, and it’ll continue to fall.

But I just enjoyed being Number One, for the first time in my life, I think. I also liked having both the new and old podcast visible on the Personal Journals main page in the iTunes New Zealand Store (the new one is by “Arthur the AmeriNZ”).

Mind you, you can help me have a high ranking simply by subscribing to my AmeriNZ Podcast by clicking the button below. And while you’re there, why not leave a 5-star review to help keep my podcast on the featured page?

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes