Friday, June 29, 2007

AmeriNZ #21 – In the News

Episode 21 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.
This episode is a bit longer than I’d planned, but it’s been a busy week in our household, with a new puppy and new heating system. And, I haven’t recorded “live” in a week and a half, so there are a lot of comments to get through. They give me the chance to tell a few stories from my past, including a sordid one from my only trip to Atlanta.
In the main news, apparently the White House is “seriously considering” a stopover in New Zealand for George Bush at the conclusion of the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum in
Sydney in September. I have mixed feelings about it. An online poll of 1,977 people (at the time I visited) who chose to participate at the New Zealand Herald website had 71% of respondents against a visit, and only 29% for it. The poll is totally unscientific, as the Herald admits, since it includes only people who choose to participate. Nevertheless, it’s a huge spread between the two.
A special shout-out to a listener and MySpace friend. I’m also on Facebook, among other things. Friend me if you want.

Update 30/6/07: There was some sort of problem with this episode, so I deleted it and re-uploaded it. It seems fine now.

Update 2: I had to upload the file and re-post the episode a second time because the first time it was serving up only half the file.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A new arrival

Arthur and Nigel are pleased to announce the arrival of a new baby boy, named Jake.

Jake is what’s called a cavoodle in this part of the world, a cavapoo in
America. The breed is a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a poodle. These “hybrids” have the best of both breeds, but without the genetic defects of a purebred of either contributing breed. He's around ten weeks old.

I’ve never seen a puppy so seemingly happy to be in a new home. He doesn’t cower or shrink, doesn’t seem fearful of surroundings or family members. Instead, he already seems happy to be with us—and spends most of his time happily sleeping in our laps. Maybe his late “sister” had a quiet word in his ear telling him what good daddies we are.

In any case, we’re glad he’s with us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mrs. hits it

Elizabeth Edwards, who is the wife of US presidential candidate, the former Democratic Senator John Edwards, supports gay marriage (via Joe.My.God). She told reporters:

I don't know why someone else's marriage has anything to do with me. I'm completely comfortable with gay marriage.

While Mrs. Edwards gets it, Senator Edwards has previously said he’s “conflicted” on the issue, but that he supports civil unions (as do all the main Democratic presidential candidates). As far as I know, none of the Republican candidates do, many favouring a constitutional amendment to outlaw all same-sex marriages. The Democratic candidates oppose such an amendment. In fact, the Democrats are mostly taking the traditional stance of the Republican Party, namely, that the question ought to be left up to the states.

However lukewarm the Democratic candidates are on the issue, they’re clearly better than the Republicans and— at the very least—none of them would do the harm done by the current gruesome twosome running the country.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

AmeriNZ #20 – Cabbages and Kings

Episode 20 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.
Work is being done at the house today, so I can’t record a regular episode. Instead, I’m posting a chat I had with my friend Jason (his blog is here). We’ve been friends for many years. Is such a long-term friendship as rare as it seems to us? We also talk about moving beyond high school, which is related to us still being friends after all these years. Jason also talks a bit about his travels, especially his trip to New Zealand last year.
Leave a comment, or send an email to me at amerinz[at]yahoo.com. Feel free to comment at Jason's blog, too.

The title for this post is by Lewis Carroll (from Through the Looking-Glass): “The time has come,” the Walrus said / “To talk of many things: / Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax-- / Of cabbages--and kings-- / And why the sea is boiling hot-- / And whether pigs have wings.”

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Howard's Endgame

It would be tempting to say that John Howard, Australia’s Prime Minister, has truly lost the plot, or that he’s decided to show his fascist side. I think it’s more likely that he’s simply displaying the cunning killer political instinct that has kept him in power even when it looked certain voters were about to kick him out.

Howard, who famously described
Australia under his rule as being the “deputy sheriff” to George Bush’s regime, is a neo-conservative who’s not afraid to go too far. I criticised Howard for his boneheaded attacks on the US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama here and here. At home, Howard was willing to promote an incident involving illegal immigrants that was revealed to have been faked, allegedly with his full knowledge. There have plenty of other cunning tactics, too.

Now he’s at it again. A report came out describing widespread physical and sexual abuse of children in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, fuelled by alcohol and drugs. Howard responded by, essentially, taking over the Northern Territory (because it’s not a state, where he’d have no authority). He’s banned alcohol and pornography from Aboriginal land, taken away Aborigines’ rights to control access to their own lands, issued an order requiring all Aboriginal children under 16 to have mandatory health examinations and he’s restricting 50 percent of aborigines’ welfare payments to pay for housing and food, supposedly to make sure it’s not spent on drugs or alcohol, and making it all dependent on the children attending school. He also plans to use the Australian army to help with “law and order”.

The report detailed nothing that was new. The thing is, Howard did nothing about these well-known problems in the eleven years he’s ruled
Australia, but now, suddenly, it’s an “emergency” and he claims he needs to exercise dictatorial powers over Aborigines. There’s something much more going on here.

Howard and his coalition government have been polling badly in recent months. He told his party to expect a massacre at the polls, a tactic designed to rile up his base, of course. While that was standard politics, Howard’s antics now are upping the ante considerably. He plans to use the same tactics against beneficiaries throughout
Australia, regardless of race. It’s another in his long line of now classic attacks on the vulnerable and politically scary (to ordinary Australians), including immigrants, gays, and now a two-for-one: Aborigines and beneficiaries.

Technically, this is called “dog whistle politics”. He’s saying things that his many opponents hear and condemn, but they can’t hear his real message, which is that he’ll deal to those drunken, lazy good-for-nothing abbos and welfare bums. Music to the ears of his red-meat base and, sadly, a good many otherwise decent Australians—there are plenty of people in
Australia who are loudly cheering him. He, as usual, makes no apologies:

It is a hardline approach in the sense that we are moving in, we are going to take control. I will be slammed for taking away people's rights and so forth. Frankly, I don't care about that because I do know that the greatest responsibility I and others have got is the protection of the vulnerable in our community—and nobody is more vulnerable than a little child.

It’s a statement any fascist would be proud to have made. Is Howard a fascist? Personally, I have no idea what he is, except for one thing: His political cunning is matched in the Western world only by George Bush’s kingmaker, Karl Rove.

At the very least, his new policies are incredibly paternalistic and smacking of “white man’s burden”. Moreover, Howard is certainly insincere. He pledges to spend “millions” on his jackboot tactics, but has absolutely no plans to deal with the problems he’ll create: Nothing to help people get off of drug or alcohol addiction safely, no counselling to help children who have been abused or families that are torn apart, no additional medical resources, despite the fact that the medical establishment has said they don’t have the people to screen every Aboriginal child, and certainly not to deal with the huge follow-up that will be necessary. There aren’t enough police, either.

There’s plenty of one thing, however: Headlines. In the end, that’s all that Howard wants in order to rile up people so they’ll vote for him. He doesn’t really care about the problems among Aborigines; he just wants to use them for his political gain. If he cared, he wouldn’t have ignored their problems the entire time he’s been ruling
Australia, nor would he have used his time in office to disenfranchise Aborigines and cut them of from the democratic process.

But this will all play out very well in
Australia. I knew he’d pull something in the run up to their fast-approaching national election, something divisive and right wing. As much as I dislike Howard, I almost have to admire his cunning and the way he’s able to cynically play Australian voters like a violin.

Unless something dramatic happens between now and the election, I’d bet on another term for Howard and his right wing coalition government. And once he does, the Aborigines’ very real problems will be forgotten again.

Friday, June 22, 2007

AmeriNZ #19 – A Special Guest

Episode 19 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.

Joining me today is my very special guest—my partner Nigel! Mike Hipp of podcastsoup.net wins the imaginary prize for guessing correctly.
We begin by talking about Nigel’s childhood in small-town New Zealand and what it was like. What was the first thing Nigel bought with his own money? And what was the first record he bought? He then explains some of how New Zealand has changed, sometimes radically, in his lifetime.
What’s it like for Nigel being Maori in modern New Zealand? Is there racism? What about friction between Maori and other Polynesians?
Nigel also shares his impressions of the US, a place he loves to visit. What were some of the things he noticed? What American thing would he like to have in New Zealand?
Then we talk about some silly stuff, including shout outs to Tom the Ramble Redhead, Kalvin of Hello Waffles, whom Nigel doesn’t even know, and another podcaster. Of course Nigel was just kidding about Nik in Paris’ comment on Episode 18.
Leave a comment, or send an email to me at amerinz[at]yahoo.com. You can send an email to Nigel there, too, and I’ll forward it. Probably.
Update: I'm also on a podcaster's special Friday Group Chat (the episode is no longer available).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wintry blast

The shortest day of the year is upon us in the Southern Hemisphere. Auckland will have only 9 hours 38 minutes of daylight, but Invercargill—the world’s southernmost city—will receive only 8 hours 35 minutes of daylight.

Many people consider this the start of winter, but these days that’s generally considered to be June 1. As it happens, we’re about to get a wintry blast, courtesy of a storm system that recently lashed Australia’s New South Wales coast. The
South Island will get the worst of it:

A cold and squally southwesterly wind flow from the polar ice-shelf is expected to shift on to the South Island today, bringing snow to mountains.

Here in generally milder
Auckland, we’ve been told that later today we’ll have winds blasting us at 90 kph (roughly 56 mph), pushing already lower temperatures even lower. The wind chill is expected to be below freezing. Nice. The air temperature will be warmer than that, of course, but the heavy rain that’s also expected will probably make it feel cold and damp.

The worst weather is expected to hit
Auckland tomorrow and Saturday. As luck would have it, those two days are also when we’re having the new heating/cooling system installed, so I’m hoping that we don’t have to disconnect the old system until they’re done. As luck would further have it, we’re waiting for a delivery of new gas bottles, since we’re about to run out of gas (it’s supposed to be delivered today).

Will be we be without heat tomorrow night? Will the weather be as bad as expected? Will
South Island farmers get snowed in for two weeks again, like last year? And, what about Naomi? (that last one is an obscure American cultural reference; extra points to anyone who can tell me the source).

Send warm thoughts!

Update: The installation has been postponed (as they so often are) to Tuesday, so we'll definitely have heat.

Update 2 (23 June 2007): Well, if this is a wintry blast, I can cope. There was a little wind, but the temperatures were generally pretty mild in Auckland. We did, however, get more rain than usual. However, Otago in the South Island got hit hard; apparently they got the entire country's share of the winter weather. At any rate, Jason wins the extra points for getting the obscure cultural reference.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The lights go out

Last night, the power went out in North Shore City, where we live, knocking out power to around 30,000 homes, according to the New Zealand Herald. Apparently a circuit blew up (literally) at a substation that serves this entire area.

In the eleven and a half years I’ve been here, it’s only the second major outage I can recall (the previous one was at the same substation, maybe 8 to 10 years ago). There have been others affecting smaller areas, usually because someone crashed into a power pole, or because a transformer failed, but a blackout on this scale is very unusual.

We knew where our torches (“flashlights” in Americanese) and candles were, so we had light pretty quickly. However, without power we had no heat (nothing to drive the fan in the central heater). Fortunately, the power was only off about an hour, maybe less.

It was reminder of how dependent we are on electricity, which powers pretty much everything in the house. My computer is on a UPS battery backup, which provides just enough time to shut down before it, too, has no power left. That wasn’t enough time, however, to finish editing or posting yesterday’s podcast, meaning that this local power cut had an affect beyond its limited geographic area.

Most interesting to me was the number of people who commented on how brilliant the stars looked without the lights. So I went out and looked, and they were brilliant, but nothing particularly unusual—the stars are often brilliant where we live. So, I’m wondering if maybe these people just don’t normally look at the stars. If so, the power cut accomplished at least one positive thing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

AmeriNZ #18 – Tuesday Ketchup

A power failure tonight delayed this podcast. Very rare, but it happens.
Episode 18 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.
This episode has nothing to do with ketchup (or catsup, or tomato sauce, as it’s called in New Zealand). It’s a miscellaneous show. I talk about how local governments are elected, and about what Kiwis mean when they talk about a city like Auckland or whatever. Lots of comments, including some I missed from the Podomatic site. A few odds and ends at the end of the podcast. Did I mention that I have a very special guest on my Friday podcast?
Read the article about White House emails I mentioned here.

The list of New Zealanders’ favourite and most hated films can be seen here (forgot the link last time).

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Monday, June 18, 2007

First photo of me

I’ve had a fair amount of flak over the lack of a photo of me on this blog. As I said before, when I started this blog the fact that I didn’t include a photo wasn’t deliberate. However, like a lot of people, I don’t usually like photos of me, and that’s the reason I haven’t posted one since.

None of which has stopped the demands from time to time, so today is the day I finally post a photo of me. The photo with this post is, quite literally, the first photo of me—it was taken when I was one day old.

Yes, I’ll post more recent photos (although I found one of me at age three I quite like…), but not until there’s one I like, so more patience is required. Still, now that I’ve broken through the “no photo” barrier, it’s more likely that I’ll post an at least relatively recent photo of me. Actually, I think it shouldn’t be too hard to find a photo that’s “relatively” more recent than when I was one day old.

In the meantime, no one can say that I’ve never posted a photo of me, so mission accomplished (and we all know how that phrase doesn’t mean what it appears to say).

Weekend away

We went down country for a family birthday party this weekend, which is why I didn’t post over the weekend. It was a fun time at the birthday boy’s house, though it was quite cold. There were lots of family members there, karaoke, a great potluck dinner and, just maybe, a wee bit to much alcohol for some (though not for me—I wasn’t even tipsy). The party was over by around 11.30—did I mention it was a 50th birthday?—so we weren’t even really tired the next day.

And now, on with it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

AmeriNZ #17 - Happy Birthday Magna Carta

Episode 17 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 is the 792nd birthday of Magna Carta. On this day in 1215, King John signed Magna Carta, which went on to become one of the influences for constitutions throughout the English-speaking world, including the US. The version we usually think of is the version from John’s son Henry III who reissued it in 1225. His son, Edward I, had his Parliament reissue it again in 1297.
Magna Carta established the right to habeas corpus and the right to due process. Most of the rest dealt with feudal issues relating specifically to the Middle Ages. George Bush has pushed
America back toward the Middle Ages with his assault on both habeas corpus and due process.
From there, it’s on to an overview of
New Zealand’s government as I get ready to start talking about how Parliament is elected. What are Kiwis’ most popular movies of all time? The worst? Check out the lists at flicks.co.nz. Comments are followed by my take on personal responsibility as the flipside of personal freedom. Should drugs be legalised? Finally, I have an announcement about an upcoming episode.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

“A glorious victory”

By a vote of 151-45, Massachusetts legislators rejected a proposal to put an amendment to the state’s constitution on the November 2008 ballot. The amendment would have outlawed same-sex marriage in that state, the only US state where it’s legal.

In 2004, a
Massachusetts court ordered legalised same-sex marriage, and religious opponents have been trying ever since to outlaw it. This defeat was far closer than it should have been (they needed only 50 votes to progress the amendment), but it means it’s increasingly improbable that the hatemongers will be able to peddle the amendment again. Increasing majorities of voters back the law as it is, seeing that after three years and some 8500 same-sex marriages, neither the world nor the state has ended.

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (who supported gay rights and abortion rights until he decided to run for president and then changed his positions to court far-right christianist Republican voters), said that it was a “regrettable setback” and said there needed to be an amendment to the US Constitution to enshrine hate (in this case, to ban same-sex marriage nationwide, even through that’s strictly a state matter). Add it to the long list of reasons why this opportunistic creep should never be president.

The reason opponents keep pushing for a vote, as I noted back in January when a public vote seemed more probable, is this:

They only want a “vote” because they’re sure they can lie, manipulate and cheat their way to victory. Again.

And commenting on a possible ballot measure in
Massachusetts, I added:

No state has yet rejected such a constitutional amendment, though in 2006 Arizona voters rejected a narrower ballot measure. Considering the unlimited millions of dollars that the far right has to throw at Massachusetts, along with their proven campaigns sowing hate and fear, it’s by no means certain that marriage justice will survive in Massachusetts. Ending the only legal same-sex marriage in the US would have to be at the top of their agenda.

That hasn’t changed and the far right will continue to push this issue using whatever means they can in order to promote their agenda, raise money and elect candidates. Sadly, it will be years before victory is complete.

Still, in a post titled “A glorious victory,” David wrote at the Blue Mass Group, “We have a system; the system worked.” Indeed it did. Three cheers for the sensible people of
Massachusetts who have helped repel the forces of hate and intolerance. Let’s just pause and savour this rare victory.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Equal time

In US politics, I’m a Democrat. I’ve never voted for a Republican for president, but some years it would be fair to say I’ve merely voted against the Republican. That’s because I’m not a knee-jerk party loyalist. I’m about to prove that again.

I received an email newsletter from Democrats Abroad, which is a fine organisation. They try to find American citizens who are Democrats living outside the
United States, register them to vote, then help them to do so. Up until this president took power, they were also active in lobbying on behalf of the interests of Americans living overseas. Now, they’re far too busy to focus on much besides electing Democrats.

So I think they’re some of the “good guys”. But that doesn’t excuse this nonsense in their newsletter:

As predicted, our majorities in Congress were too slim to override President Bush’s veto and set a firm timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. But the war appropriations bill that was passed is not what Bush wanted: it holds him accountable for meeting milestones there—and aims to get us out. Yes, it is frustrating not to be bringing our troops home today, but Bush’s putting his name on a document that does not grant him imperial powers is, sadly enough, a real step forward. We have made this much progress only because you voted and spoke out. Please don't stop. Tell your senators and congressperson where you stand on ending the war in Iraq; they need to know. [emphasis added]

Are they serious? Bush got exactly what he wanted and, contrary to this propaganda, it does not hold him accountable for anything or to anyone. There are no real milestones, since they’re totally optional. “Aims to get us out?” How, exactly, do they figure that when Bush got everything he wanted and the American people—who elected Democrats to change things—got nothing?

To say that the war appropriations bill “does not grant [Bush] imperial powers” would be a hilarious joke if it weren’t so deadly serious—and wrong. Bush has, and continues to exercise, all the imperial powers he wants and, so far, the Democrats haven’t been able to stop him.

I’ve heard it argued that the Democrats are holding back as some sort of plan to take back the White House in the 2008 elections. Can someone please tell me why electing Democrats who say one thing then do another is better than electing Republicans who at least tell you upfront they’ll screw you and the country? I mean, really: Do we need a “Republican Lite” party?

I want a Democratic Party that stands for something and means it. I want a party that isn’t afraid to stand on principle, that has convictions, first of all, and then has the courage to hold to them even in the face of the lies and distortions coming from the right. I want a party I can believe in for a change.

Just because I support the Democrats, they can’t expect to get a free ride from me. I criticise the Republican Party because I believe they’re wrong in almost every conceivable way. So if the Democratic Party insists on being only a kinder, gentler version of the Republicans, they can expect criticism from me, too.

The fact is, there’s no way I’ll vote for a Republican for president in 2008 because I can’t stand any of their candidates. But what I want is to be able to vote for the Democrat, not just against the Republican. Is that asking too much?

I do agree with them about on thing, though: The importance of US citizens telling their Members of Congress to end the war. Tell them, especially if they're Democrats. Apparently, they need the reminder.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

AmeriNZ #16 – Feedback Interaction

Episode 16 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 mostly about feedback, both by email and the comments from Episode 15.

First, though, I clarify a couple things about the “No Nukes” topic, inspired in part by the summary on podcastsoup.net

An expat American emailed me with some confusion over the extent of poverty in
New Zealand. There isn’t homelessness in New Zealand as Americans understand the word, but there are poor people. I explain how the request for donations addresses that (or doesn’t). Overall, the poverty in New Zealand is different than in America, but in New Zealand cities it may be similar to American cities of a similar size.

After that, there’s an extended discussion of the comments from Episode 15, one of which is quite long. These provide me with the opportunity to go into more detail about the topics discussed.

What about personal responsibility? Do people who bring harm onto themselves through bad deeds still deserve the full support of society?

New people on my Frappr! I also give a little more info about what’s coming in future podcasts.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Kiwi nincompoop

This may come as a surprise, but I don’t think that the Bush Administration has the corner on incompetence in government. Many other countries have incompetent officials, too. In fact, we have one in New Zealand who veers awfully close to deserving that description.

His name is Alan Bollard and he’s Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, which is responsible for monetary policy. Its mission is to keep inflation within a 1 to 3 percent target. And therein lies the problem.

The only weapon Bollard has at his disposal is raising the official cash rate (OCR), which affects the percentage rates charged on all loans in New Zealand. So far this year, he’s raised interest rates three times so now New Zealand has the highest OCR in the developed world.

His goal is to cool the hot housing market by driving up mortgage rates, but most mortgages in New Zealand are fixed for between two and five years. So, it won’t affect the majority of people for quite some time. When it does, it’ll put the brakes on consumer spending as people face higher mortgage payments when their fixed-term rate expires.

That’s in a perfect world. In the real world, investors continue to buy investment properties because house values keep rising and so do rents. But the real effect is that foreign investors are attracted to New Zealand because of the high interest rate, and our exchange rate against the US dollar goes up. That makes imported goods cheaper, so people buy more stuff, often on credit—all of which is the opposite of what Bollard wants to have happen. Clearly, constantly raising interest rates isn’t the best idea.

The Kiwi dollar has reached its highest levels since it was floated two decades ago. So last night, Bollard used taxpayer money to buy US dollars, which drove down the value of the NZ dollar by about two percent—back to what it was last week. This was a colossally stupid move as it has now interested currency speculators in the NZ dollar, which has already started rising again.

Bollard intervened to sell Kiwi dollars—the first time in 22 years it’s been done—because, he said:
We regard current levels of the exchange rate as exceptional and unjustified in terms of the economic fundamentals.
He’s wrong. Prices for agriculture commodities are at 33-year highs, the US dollar continues to be weak and we have the highest interest rates in the developed world. The Holy Free Market they all seem to worship so much has raised the value of the NZ dollar exactly as could be expected—exactly as Bollard should have expected.

Experts say Bollard is playing a game of high stakes poker with taxpayer money, that he’s sending mixed messages on monetary policy, and that he’s raised a red flag to currency speculators—gamblers who have nearly destroyed currencies in the past. All of which is true.

Even though there clearly need to be tools to control inflation other than raising interest rates, I don’t believe Bollard’s the right man for the job. The people who lose out in this gamble are ordinary Kiwis, and twice: First, as they are forced to pay higher mortgage payments, and again as Kiwi jobs pack up and move overseas as several large manufacturers have recently announced because the Kiwi dollar has been high for quite awhile.

Today, one bank in New Zealand was offering mortgages fixed for 21 months at a whopping 9.25%, or 8.99% fixed for 33 months. The current floating rate is around 10.25%. The Kiwi dollar, meanwhile is now expected to be above 70 US cents for around two years and to hit or exceed 80 US cents before it peaks.

Where will this end? When the real estate market crashes and mortgagee sales are common? When there are no manufacturing jobs left in New Zealand? Will Bollard be happy once his policies cause a recession? I don’t know, but I don’t see how it can end well.

The worst thing is that we ordinary folk have no way to get rid of Bollard because the Reserve Bank is independent. It doesn’t matter who we elect to Parliament, Bollard will continue. I hope politicians can come up with more creative ways to kerb inflation without sticking it to ordinary folk.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Albania loves Bush

ABC (US) News’ World News Tonight reported that George Bush received “a rock star welcome” when he visited Albania. Apparently, they don’t get many visitors there, because the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said through a translator:

Among us, this is the greatest and most distinguished guest we have ever had in all times.

They love Bush and his
Iraq war in Albania. They’ve even put his face on a postage stamp. He’s said to be so popular with ordinary Albanians that they expect a rash of babies named “George”.

So: Any chance we could send George to
Albania permanently? Now? Please? And would he mind terribly taking Joe “Attack Iran” Lieberman with him?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Interesting discussions

I’ve been involved with some fascinating discussions arising from some podcasts I’ve listened to lately (part of which you can see in the comments section for the shownotes on episode 15 of my podcast). I love the free exchange of ideas, and it’s part of why I started blogging, then podcasting.

I’m still trying to get it all arranged in my head—since much of it is linked—and when I do I post about it all.

In the meantime, today has been a cool winter day with gray, sometimes rainy skies. A good day to stay indoors. But I’ve been thinking about some of the things I want to say here in this blog, as well as on my podcast. There will be more photos, too.

But to help these interesting discussions along, I want to sort of open up things a bit. If there’s something you’ve been wondering about me, or my opinion on something, or if I said something that wasn’t clear, now’s your chance to put the question to me. Leave a comment to this post, or send an email to me at amerinz[at]yahoo.com (I don’t reveal emails publicly unless you tell me I can). Ask away!

Friday, June 08, 2007

AmeriNZ #15 - No Nukes

Episode 15 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.
Twenty years ago today New Zealand became the first country in the world to go nuclear-free. Had the US acted differently, this may not have lasted. The French government used blackmail to change New Zealand policy, the US could have done that, too. There’s a weird audio glitch about half way through—I didn’t edit it to make it weird.
I was on two other podcasts this week: ArcherRadio and There Are Some Who Call Me Tim.

I also go over comments from the past two episodes, adding a bit more. Then I give a strong endorsement: If you’re Liberal or progressive, you must give a listen to Callbox 7. Please check out my friend
Jason’s blog at jasonsviewfromdc.blogspot.com. The Bloomberg debate is at The Occasional Fag (or, for part one go here, for part two go here).

The column in the New Zealand Herald by John Armstrong is here.

Another podcast on Tuesday of next week.

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The world rejoices

I woke up this morning to the glorious news that Paris Hilton has been freed from jail after three long days due to undisclosed “medical reasons”. Anonymous sources report that Hilton required emergency treatment for a chipped fingernail.

As news spread, spontaneous celebrations began throughout the world. Like everyone else, I was relieved to finally have something important to focus on.

I mean, the news that the US prevented the G8 from setting climate deadlines is obviously just fluff, deserving no more than the five seconds before the TV news goes to commercial. And the new milestone of 3500 dead Americans in
Iraq? Please! That goes right after a story about a dog on a skateboard or a pet fish that waves at its owner while humming God Bless America.

When is the news media going to get it? When are they going to understand that we only want real news? We want a PHN (Paris Hilton News), not that stupid CNN! We don’t need their statistics or information about the criminals in the Bush Administration—we want Paris Hilton! We want Lindsay Lohan! We want exposés comparing celebrity mugshots, we want to know about spectacular meltdowns and celebrities who suddenly shave their heads. We want to know about Bradjolina!

Well, until the media understands that they have a role to play in helping us to keep away from all the unpleasantness in the world, at least we can be glad that this one time they got it right. They finally had a sense of perspective about what’s the most important story in the world.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

More of me

Okay, so I got all confused about the days of the week (Go ahead, feel free to have another chuckle over that. I’ll wait).

Well, I may have missed recording my own show this past Tuesday, but I’m on more shows than usual already this week. Yesterday I mentioned being on ArcherRadio, and today there’s another.

I recorded a show with Tim Corrimal for his personal podcast, There Are Some Who Call Me Tim, which has now been posted (it’s Episode 28, and is available here).

We basically just catch-up and chat about all sorts of things, including one way in which our childhoods were similar. Tim’s a great guy and was very supportive when I started podcasting. Give his show a listen, as well as his other podcast, Go Rainbow Radio.

You may get the idea from these “guest spots”, and the fact that my own guests so far have been podcasters, that we podcasters are all great pals. Well, many of us are friends—or, at least, friendly. A lot of “guest spot” podcasts are basically friends getting together for a chat that we record and share with the world.

You can do that, too, by creating your own podcast. Tim has begun producing a series of videos on how he podcasts (they’re all on his site, There Are Some Who Call Me Tim). They’re a great way to peek behind the curtain to see how Tim puts a podcast together.

Meanwhile, I’ll be uploading my next podcast tomorrow afternoon (NZ time)—I promise!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My good excuse

I love public holidays. There’s nothing quite like a three-day weekend every now and then to allow for fun and frivolity—and that vaguely naughty feeling that comes from playing when you’d normally be at work or school.

It’s great—except for one thing: Holidays really mess with your mind. Nigel took Friday off, too, so we had a four-day weekend. Starting on Sunday, I thought it was a day earlier than it actually was.

Which brings me to today.

Sure, I knew it was Wednesday, but I felt it was Tuesday, and that’s podcast day. So I was trying to work out when I should pause in my work to record, which I didn’t really have the time to do, and then it hit me: I was already a day late, and only two days away from my main episode on Friday.

I agonised over what to do and, in the end, I decided to just forget about doing the early week podcast and wait for the end of week episode. Naturally, I felt guilty about that.

However, like salve to a burn, I have the consolation that another podcaster recorded a catch-up show with me. We just chat and giggle and talk about serious things and not so serious things. It was a real catch-up conversation, the first time we’ve spoken via Skype since he was on my podcast.

He has now posted the show so, if you want to hear me before Friday, you can get the episode, where you can download or listen free online.

Okay, so getting mixed up about days isn’t a great excuse for missing recording my Tuesday podcast, but at least I didn’t leave my listeners totally high and dry. One good thing is that this will probably help put off my having to worry about running out of bandwidth for another month.

At any rate, things are bound to settle down soon and I can get my regular schedule back on track. You have been warned.

Another Bush mistake

What is it with Bush sending unqualified ideologues to do the jobs that professionals should be doing?

This time it’s his nomination of an anti-gay ideologue, James W. Holsinger, to be
US Surgeon General, a position responsible, among other things, for public health. In that capacity he could very easily have a negative impact on the lives of GLBT people.

Holsinger founded a church in
Kentucky with an “ex-gay” ministry, and has spoken out against equality for gay and lesbian people. He apparently believes in and supports the scientifically discredited and condemned “conversion therapy” designed to “turn” GLBT people in heterosexuals. His church considers homosexuality a “lifestyle” and not an orientation.

Blasting the nomination, Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen said,

Holsinger is an ideologue whose medical views on gay and lesbian people resemble sorcery more than sound science. The last thing America needed was another deplorable nominee who isn’t up to the job, but this is exactly what Bush delivered.

I couldn’t agree more. In general, TWO (an organisation dedicated to countering the “ex gay” ministry scam), was far more forceful in its condemnation of Holsinger than the Human Rights Campaign. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force hasn’t yet posted a statement as I write this.

In a poorly-edited statement, HRC’s President Joe Solmones is quoted as saying:

Dr. Holsinger has a record that is unworthy of America’s doctor. His writings suggest a scientific view rooted in anti-gay beliefs that are incompatible with the job of serving the medical health of all Americans. It is essential that America’s top doctor value sound science over anti-gay ideology.

I agree with that, too, but only TWO added this:

Holsinger’s nomination will go before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) Presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) sit on this committee.

TWO’s statement quotes Besen adding,

It is clear that James Holsinger is to medicine what Alberto Gonzales is to justice. It will be interesting to see where the presidential candidates stand on this troubling nomination.

Indeed it will be interesting. All three of those Democratic presidential candidates have spotty positions on GLBT issues. This is their chance to prove they’re real Democrats, and not “Demopublicans” by working to ensure that Holsinger’s nomination is rejected.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Paris and reason

If you want to know what’s wrong with America, two words: Paris Hilton.

The American media has been covering her and her going to jail as if it’s real news. She’s famous for being famous and nothing else—well, also for having a name that sounds like somewhere you might sleep (I mean like a hotel, for goodness sake!), yet she’s news and not what the current US Administration—or anyone else in the world—is really doing.

But is that the fault of the media or the people? Do Americans prefer voting in American Idol rather than real elections because they’re shallow, or has the American news media made them that way? I honestly have no idea, but I’m betting on the latter because time was people actually cared about real things and real issues. Can we ever get back to that point again?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Queen’s Birthday

Today is Queen’s Birthday, a pubic holiday marking the official birthday of New Zealand’s reigning monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. Her actual birthday is in April. Without this holiday, there’d be nothing between Easter Weekend and Labour Weekend at the end of October.

As with so many other Public Holidays, this has become a mass frenzy of people who’ve suddenly decided their one mission for the day is to shop. This is aided, of course, by the stores that run sales and special no-interest credit deals to entice people to spend up large on things they probably don’t need and may not even want. It is, in other words, capitalism triumphant.

Naturally, we were among the “sheeple” out shopping today, though in our defence I need to add that we were looking for things we would have been searching for on a Saturday or Sunday. We took advantage of the sales to get a new iron for half off and new oven-proof glass casserole for 20% off. All up, we saved $46 off normal prices, which is nice, but the sale price for the iron was lower than the everyday price at the super-duper cheap appliance store we also visited. That sort of smug satisfaction only adds to the thrill of a successful hunt.

Oh yeah, some people were recognised for their work in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Clearly some people don’t place quite the same emphasis on shopping.


I’ll admit it: I’m suspicious of pretty much everything the Bushies do. These days, I doubt their sincerity and question their competence along with their motives. They’ve given me plenty of reason to be suspicious.

So it should come as no surprise that when the news of the alleged plot at
New York’s JFK airport broke, I had a sceptical eyebrow raised. Didn’t it all seem just a little too good to be true, from the Bushies’ perspective?

In announcing the foiled alleged plot, the nearly hysterical US Attorney painted a picture of a plot with shadowy foreigners and a naturalised American citizen committing a spectacular mass-murder terrorist attack affecting thousands of people. It also revealed a new, more local and previously unknown threat.

How much of it is real?

Experts have already pointed out that the scale of the threat wasn’t as big as the
US government made it sound, and that’s something us ordinary people could work out, too: Set off a bomb along a pipeline and the whole thing doesn’t blow up, just the part where the bomb was. Heck, we see that on TV and in the movies all the time.

This new terrorist group has never shown any interest in anything beyond
Trinidad, but now we are to believe they were plotting a huge attack in New York. Early mainstream media reports speculated that the plotters were motivated by anti-American rhetoric coming from Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez (Trinidad is near Venezuela). Chavez has been outspoken in his criticism of Bush and his administration, but that’s not the same thing as being “anti-American” generally. Moreover, Fidel Castro has been saying anti-American things for nearly fifty years why would the folks in Trinidad suddenly get interested in listening to a foreign head of state’s “anti-American” rhetoric, and take it as motivation for attacking innocent Americans?

As it happens, Chavez is probably the foreigner the Bushies hate more than any other except, maybe, for the president of
Iran. They have a clear interest in trying to paint him as a direct threat to the US. The fact that the alleged plot involved a naturalised US citizen also bolsters their campaign against immigrants and for the national identity card they want to introduce by making immigrants look like a threat.

Most of their information came from an informant who was a convicted drug dealer looking to avoid prison. There have been countless times in which such informants have been found to be unreliable or worse.

And isn’t it all a little convenient coming, as it does, amid Bush’s plummeting approval ratings, an ongoing unpopular war, an attorney general who may yet be found to have broken the law, the continuing disaster of Hurricane Katrina, and numerous other failings? This reminds me so much of the Bushies’ constant references to “9/11” in an attempt to squash opposition or win an election or both.

A few years ago, say in the weeks after September 11, it’s unlikely I would’ve had such doubts. But because of this administration’s behaviour, I do have doubts, and I wish the mainstream media weren’t quite so quick to swallow the story without question. But who knows? Maybe the MSM will investigate and find that this is all for real. Until someone independent looks into it, though, it all sounds like more “Bushit” to me.

Friday, June 01, 2007

AmeriNZ #14 - Every Queen's Birthday

Episode 14 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 recorded this episode early so that I could post it on Friday. I’ll talk about comments on Episode 13 and this episode next time.
Monday is Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday in
New Zealand, even though her real birthday is April 21. It’s the only public holiday between Easter Weekend and Labour Day at the end of October.
Queen Elizabeth, as Queen of New Zealand, is Head of State. She’s the only person in the world who is monarch of more than one independent nation. Parliament actually runs the country, which is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is represented in New Zealand by the Governor General, who is appointed by Parliament.
It’s probably inevitable that
New Zealand will become a republic, but the new head of state is unlikely to be a US-style president. There’s no urgency to any change however, which is probably many years away.
Queen’s Birthday was a kind of gay holiday, a kind of second birthday for everyday queens. That’s probably less common than it used to be. But it’s still a day off for everyone.

Matt Blender’s AIDS Marathon donation page.

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