Sunday, October 31, 2010

Endings and beginnings

Tonight midnight will be a little more momentous than usual. Not just the end of a day, or a month, it’s also the end of existence for eight local councils in the Auckland region. In their places, Auckland Council will come into being.

This is an historic change, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Well, it’s bigger than most people have ever seen, including all New Zealanders. The new Auckland will be huge and will dominate the country in ways it never did before. That’ll be a challenge for some to accept, or simply to get used to.

As it happens, today I bought a book on the history of North Shore, one of the councils that goes out of business tonight. I’ve long been fascinated by the history of the place I’ve lived most of my years in New Zealand. Now, of course, I’ll be learning about the history of a part of Auckland. Even for me, that’s kinda weird to think about.

Whatever any of us thought about the creation of this "super city", all of that's now irrelevant. We have to pull together to make the new city work because no one would benefit from failure. It'll probably take awhile before the people in the new Auckland start to think of themselves as truly part of the same city, but I think that will come in time.

But for now, it's time to say farewell to Auckland City, Manukau City, North Shore City, Waitakere City, Franklin District, Papakura Disrict, Rodney District and the Auckland Regional Council. Welcome, Auckland Council.

Now, let's get on with making our Auckland great.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

“I'm proud to come from a country that enables us to be who we are.” – Major Brendan Wood, speaking to Christchurch’s The Press about being openly gay in the New Zealand Army.

The rest of the article talks matter-of-factly about gay people in the New Zealand Defence Force and how it’s really no big deal. This is one of the areas in which New Zealand is far better than the United States.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Slap happy!

My buddy Mark’s Slap Upside the Head has won Best GLBT Blog in the 2010 Canadian Blog Awards! Again! For the third year in a row!!

I really happy he’s won (and I voted for him, of course). His site is a must-visit on the Internet.

Congratulations, Mark! And, um, FĂ©licitations! (that’s what my Mac translation tells me is the French term).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Good political ad

One of the best things about living outside of the US at election time is that we’re spared the incessant TV election ads. Even so, I’ve seen a fair few, either on YouTube or when shown on a US news programme. The ad above is one of those: I saw it today on the “CBS Evening News”.

In this ad, Democrat Jerry Brown takes an ad from Republican Meg Whitman and turns it on its head simply by pointing out that the good ol’ California she reminisces about and wants to return to had Jerry Brown as Governor!

The rest of the ad is positive messages about Jerry Brown’s campaign points, without slinging any mud. It's one of the best I've seen this year.

To be sure, both candidates have run negative ads, however, the worst, dirtiest negative attack ads have come from special interests—mostly right wing astroturf groups acting as fronts for the corporate elites—who have run terrible ads in California (as they have in other states).

This ad shows it’s possible to run a positive ad and still have a little fun—all without being nasty or negative. Kudos to the Brown campaign.

Full disclosure: If I were a Californian, I’d vote for Jerry Brown. I watched many of his other ads and many of Whitman’s. Some of hers were not negative, or not overly so, at least. But I know too much about Whitman and her background to even consider voting for her. If she had a good commercial, would I post it? Possibly, but only if it was as good as this one—so, no, not likely.

New Zealand is still least corrupt

According to Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, New Zealand is the least corrupt nation on earth—well, it’s actually tied with Denmark and Singapore, all three with a score of 9.3 (on a scale in which 10 is very clean and 0 is very corrupt). Finland and Sweden are next at 9.2.

According to its report, “Transparency International advocates stricter implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption, the only global initiative that provides a framework for putting an end to corruption.” A laudable enough goal. Their Index:

“…defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. This definition encompasses corrupt practices in both the public and private sectors. The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks countries according to perception of corruption in the public sector. The CPI is an aggregate indicator that combines different sources of information about corruption, making it possible to compare countries.”

The Index is also mostly about business:

“The 2010 CPI draws on different assessments and business opinion surveys carried out by independent and reputable institutions. It captures information about the administrative and political aspects of corruption. Broadly speaking, the surveys and assessments used to compile the index include questions relating to bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds, and questions that probe the strength and effectiveness of public sector anti-corruption efforts.”
“Perceptions are used because corruption—whether frequency or amount—is to a great extent a hidden activity that is difficult to measure. Over time, perceptions have proved to be a reliable estimate of corruption. Measuring scandals, investigations or prosecutions, while offering ‘non-perception’ data, reflect less on the prevalence of corruption in a country and more on other factors, such as freedom of the press or the efficiency of the judicial system. TI considers it of critical importance to measure both corruption and integrity, and to do so in the public and private sectors at global, national and local levels.”

Well, I suppose I “perceive” the same way their respondents do, too, because I just haven’t seen evidence of real corruption. But here’s the thing: New Zealand’s score is 9.3; as I so often say when looking at an index like this, we should celebrate how well-ranked we are in the world, but we should work to stamp out corruption.

I believe that a score—any score, good or bad—on an index like this is a snapshot of a moment in time. There’s always room to improve, and countries, like people, should always strive to do so. We may not be able to make things perfect, but at least on this index we might become a 10.

Among other countries I write about: Canada was at sixth place (8.9), Australia was eighth equal with Switzerland (8.7), the United Kingdom was twentieth (7.6). The United States was twenty-second (7.1) because, apparently, financial scandals and "the influence of money in politics" forced it out of the top 20.

Should Clint kill himself?

I read about the Facebook comments of a school board member in eastern Arkansas, and really people, all Christians should commit suicide. Being a Christian doesn't give him the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If he gets easily offended by being called a Christian, then he shouldn’t tell anyone he’s a Christian. He should keep that shit to himself. I don’t care how people decide to live their lives. They don’t bother me if they keep it to themselves. It pisses me off, though, that we make a special purple Christian day for them. I wish that Christians couldn’t procreate. I also hope that they often give each other AIDS and die.

Is that too extreme? Got a problem with that? Then take it up with the Clint McCance, a member of the Midland school board in Arkansas’ Independence County, who wrote on his Facebook page all of that about “fags”. I took what he said, corrected the spelling, fixed the grammar, changed “fag” to “Christian” and added a couple minor tweaks so it makes sense, all to make a point: Hate speech is hate speech, and it cannot be excused because he claims to be a Christian.

This started when Clint wrote on his Facebook page about the “Spirit Day” effort to get people to wear purple as part of an effort to bring attention to suicide among GLBT youths:

“Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way im [sic] wearin [sic] it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant [sic] believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves [sic] because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE.”

When a commenter wrote, “Because hatred is always right," McCance wrote what I rephrased above (except his had spelling and grammar errors, of course; follow the link to read the original, or go to Joe.My.God. to see the screen caps). He was further challenged, and responded:

“I would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian [sic] beliefs. See it infects everyone."

The point is not that Clint McCance is a raging homophobic bigot who spews hatred on Facebook. There are plenty of raging homophobic bigots spewing hatred all over the Internet. But this cretin is an official of a school district, responsible for young lives, and he’s telling some of those kids to go kill themselves. That makes him evil, not just stupid and wrong.

I highlight this particular hate-filled bigot for another reason, too: Mainstream, real Christians have got to understand the extent to which people like Clint are seen as representative of all Christians. The extremists are successfully framing their positions on issues, particularly in the Culture Wars, as being the only Christian viewpoint—and the newsmedia are buying it.

Real Christians who remain silent in the face of such evil not only condone it, they reinforce that growing image of Christianity as being hate-filled, bigoted and intolerant. Obviously I know that people like Clint are extremists and not representative of true Christianity, but I’m not the one who needs convincing.

So consider this not just a condemnation of bigotry, but also warning to my many Christian friends: People like Clint are walking billboards for atheism, driving thinking people away from Christianity. People like Clint are becoming the face of American Christianity. Whether that continues will depend not on secularists like me, but on people like you. I’ll continue to fight them in the halls of government, but only you can take them on within the church. Together, can we defeat them and their evil.

Update 28/10/10: The Associated Press reported that the Arkansas Department of Education is "dismayed" by Clint's remarks. I wonder if they're always so forceful in condemning raw hatred and bigotry?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Time for a diversion

Okay, time out from seriousness: A prank by some New Zealand university students against their flatmate, and how they did it. I hate to think what his revenge will be…

People should be the priority

The Internet has been abuzz with a report I first heard about on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”. Writing on tax.com, Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter David Cay Johnston described the extent to which economic policy in the United States has been a complete failure.

Looking at official Social Security Administration statistics, he lays out shocking facts: The 74 highest-paid Americans "made as much as the 19 million lowest-paid people in America, who constitute one in every eight workers.” You read that right: 74 people!!

The US economic policies since at least Reagan have been destroying the working and middle classes:

“This systematic destruction of the working class and middle class has come during an era notable for celebrating the super-rich just for being super-rich. From the Forbes 400 launch in 1982 and Robin Leach’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in 1984 to the faux reality of the multiplying Real Housewives shows, money voyeurism has grown in tandem with stagnant to falling incomes for the vast majority. There has also been huge income growth at the top and the economic children of income inequality: budget deficits and malign neglect of our commonwealth.”

There’s a sick logic to this strategy: If the middle and lower classes have their incomes falling—and in real terms (allowing for inflation), middle incomes have lost ground for decades—then they will become much more compliant, less willing to stand up for their rights, less willing to make waves, less willing to join a union, and more willing to do whatever they’re asked to do, even when the actions are destructive for a community. At the same time, they promote the myth that anyone can become rich, and the “wealth porn” mentioned in the above quote only reinforces that myth.

It’s pretty brilliant, really: They get the middle and lower classes to not only to accept their lot without question or challenge, but to actually fight for policies that will keep them oppressed while rewarding the oligarchs and corporate elites. Big business especially benefits by having to pay less and less attention to regulation (environmental, health and safety, etc.) while having a constant downward pressure on wages so they make more profits.

By official government data, poverty is growing rapidly in the United States, and the situation is far worse than politicians of either party talk about. The difference is simple and obvious: Democrats are rightly afraid the Republicans will hang this entirely around their necks and Republicans won’t bring it up because they want more of the same.

Republicans also drone on and on about cutting corporate taxes, knowing full well that many of the largest corporations in the United States pay no income taxes at all—ZERO—and in the Citizens United case the most conservative members of the US Supreme Court gave big corporations free reign to buy elections.

David Cay Johnston ably sums up the situation:

"What does this all mean? It is the latest, and in this case quite dramatic, evidence that our economic policies in Washington are undermining the nation as a whole. We have created a tax system that changes continually as politicians manipulate it to extract campaign donations. We have enabled ‘‘free trade’’ that is nothing of the sort, but rather tax-subsidized mechanisms that encourage American manufacturers to close their domestic factories, fire workers, and then use cheap labor in China for products they send right back to the United States. This has created enormous downward pressure on wages, and not just for factory workers."

"Combined with government policies that have reduced the share of private-sector workers in unions by more than two-thirds—while our competitors in Canada, Europe, and Japan continue to have highly unionized workforces—the net effect has been disastrous for the vast majority of American workers. And of course, less money earned from labor translates into less money to finance the United States of America."

So what all these official statistics and hidden agendas add up to is simple: Control of the United States by the ultra-rich and by corporations. Some Democrats have been complicit in this plan, knowingly or not, but one thing we know for sure: There’s absolutely no way at all that Republicans will fix this. Democrats aren’t saints, but right now they’re the best shot we have of getting America back.

Yes, I voted

There’s all this talk in the media about how Democrats—gay Democrats in particular—aren’t enthused about this election. Supposedly, we’re willing to let our adversaries win in order to “teach Democrats a lesson”. Personally, I think that’s bullshit, at least in part because early indications show stronger than predicted early voting by Democrats.

Today, I joined them and posted my ballot back to Chicago. The photo shows me about to drop it in the airmail box this afternoon.

I should say upfront that I’m very old-fashioned about voting: I consider voting to be the duty of every citizen, a non-negotiable obligation. Like so many other people, I have relatives who fought, and some who died, to preserve my right to vote. I could never—ever—let them down by not voting.

There have been times when I voted without much enthusiasm, or when I felt I was either voting against someone, rather than for another, or else I was choosing among the “lesser of two evils”. But the fact is, there’s always a choice, and no two candidates are ever truly equal, or equally bad, as the case may be.

I used to vote Republican exclusively. Now, I can’t remember the last time I voted for a Republican and I can’t see that changing. Even though I have complaints with the Democratic Party, there are two realities: First, no party will ever perfectly represent me or my priorities. Second, the Republican Party doesn’t represent me at all or any of my priorities—in fact, they’re the opposite of me on pretty much any issue I can think of.

As an American citizen living overseas indefinitely, I have the right to vote in federal elections (President and Congress) from the place I was last registered to vote in the US. In my case, that means the north side of Chicago.

So today I voted for Democrat Alexi Giannoulias for United States Senator from Illinois. Some of my fellow Illinoisans apparently have issues with him, though I can’t pretend to understand why. The level of “undecideds” in Illinois is still unbelievably high, so maybe voters don’t want either the Republican or the Democrat (one of whom will win).

It’s time for Democrats and Liberal/Progressive independents to come home.

Giannoulias is right on all the issues I care about—I mean really right. For example, he’s not one of these namby-pamby politicians who say they support separate-but-equal civil unions for gay people but not marriage; no, he supports full marriage equality. He’s been vocal about repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act as well as passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and immigration reform. That’s my kind of candidate.

His Republican opponent, by contrast, has a disgusting 38% correct voting record on GLBT issues in the 111th Congress. He’s moved to the extreme right in an attempt to become Senator because he formerly had an okay record, for a Republican, on GLBT issues. He’s made the calculation that being anti-gay is good politics, so I made the calculation that he’d be a bad Senator.

There was never any question about US Representative: Jan Schakowsky (D-9) is, as I said in February, among the best. She has a 100% correct voting record on GLBT issues in the 111th Congress (as she’s had for the past two Congresses, too). She also has been an outspoken opponent of private mercenary firms doing military work, and she spoke against them even in the dark years of the Cheney/Bush regime when Republicans still controlled the US House. I greatly admire her and am proud to have her represent me in the US House.

There is one criticism/complaint I have about this election, however: I had to vote for Alexi Giannoulias twice. This is because under Illinois law a person appointed to fill the unexpired term of a US Senator serves only until the next general election. Someone is then elected to fill out the remainder of the term—two months, in this case, until the new US Senate is sworn-in January 3—and someone is elected for the full six-year term. I think that’s stupid and a waste of taxpayer money.

When Barack Obama was elected president, he had two years left in his US Senate term. I think the appointee should’ve been able to fill out the remainder of that term, since the same election was choosing the permanent US Senator, anyway. I mean, we’re talking two months!

Whoever wins the election to fill the unexpired term will be sworn-in immediately for the “lame duck” session. It’s likely that the same person will also be elected to the full six-year term, but it’s not certain. That’s just weird.

Still, that’s quibbling over details. The important thing is electing the right people, and today I did my part to ensure that happens.

Monday, October 25, 2010

One week until the end

One week from today, Auckland City will be history. So, too, North Shore City, Waitakere City, Manukau City, Franklin District, Rodney District, Papakura District and Auckland Regional Council. One week from today, the new Auckland Council will be ruling over us all.

The elections delivered a slightly centre-left government, and this may prove significant, with their dedication to local control and local decision-making. They may very well un-do some of the initial structure.

Or, maybe not—it’s really hard to guess about something when we have no idea how the new structure will work, much less how it should work.

The photo top left is of the sign outside the Auckland City Council’s Civic Building, near the statue of Lord Auckland (and taken the same day as that photo). It was a temporary sign put in place while Aotea Square was being redeveloped. That sign would be irrelevant one week from today (and won’t be there).

The photo below is of me posting my vote in the elections on October 1. I voted, as I always do, and most of my preferred candidates won—especially some I very much wanted to win. But since I voted, I also have the right to complain if things don’t go as I’d like. Fortunately, I have a blog to help me with that… like I needed an excuse!

I voted in the elections for the New Auckland.

Laboury Day

Today is Labour Day in New Zealand. I joke that it's the holiday in which Kiwis kid themselves that it's summer, though stable summer weather is weeks away. True, but today was glorious: Sunny, warm (a little hot even), with mostly bright blue skies). In fact, the whole weekend was beautiful.

We did a little labour today: We worked on Jake’s annual big trim. He gets quite woolly by the end of the winter and his fur gets a bit matted in places. We always find ourselves anxiously waiting for the weather to remain warm enough to give Jake his summer coat. This waiting game means it takes us awhile to complete the job.

Today we put Jake up on the table outside and found, to our surprise, that he was quite comfortable with that, more than when he was sitting on the floor with us. It had the added welcome benefit that the fur trimmed off blew away.

So, that was our big job this weekend. A holiday weekend gives time for that. Mostly, it just gives time, and that’s always welcome.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Google Employees declare “It Gets Better”

So: If Google can embrace the It Gets Better Project, where are the other corporations? You want my money? Prove to me you deserve it: Do something.

President Obama: It Gets Better

Let’s get this straight: NEVER before has a President of the United States stood up for GLBT youth. Whatever some may think of this president and what he has or has not done for gay people, let us not lose sight of the fact that this is the first president in American history who has dared to tell GLBT youth that they’re a part of America and that, in fact, it gets better.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In George’s town

Today I went into the Auckland CBD. I hoped to take some photos of the newly reopened Aotea Square. Unfortunately, the weather was a little uneven today, so I decided to go back and shoot my photos and video on a reliably sunny day.

However, there’s one photo I wanted to share, anyway, mostly so I can also share some New Zealand history.

The photo at right is looking over the shoulder of the statue of George Eden, the first Earl of Auckland (aka Lord Auckland) and the patron of the first Governor of New Zealand, William Hobson.

Lord Auckland was First Lord of the Admiralty (a position later held by Winston Churchill), first under Prime Minister Charles Grey, Second Earl Grey (after whom the tea blend is named), and then William Lamb, Second Viscount Melbourne. It was in this capacity that Lord Auckland gave Hobson a commission in December 1834. Later, Lord Auckland went on to become British Governor of India (1836-42), where the statue originally came from.

Hobson named his new capital of the colony of New Zealand “Auckland” after his patron. Similarly, Mount Eden, Auckland’s highest volcanic cone at 196 metres (643 feet), and Eden Park (the home of rugby) are both named after Lord Auckland.

Hobson had a rough time as Governor, especially because of political opposition. He suffered a stroke on March 1, 1840, not even a month after overseeing the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. He recovered and was sworn in as Governor on May 3, 1841 (prior to that, he was Lieutenant-Governor under Governor George Gipps of the colony of New South Wales).

Hobson suffered a second stroke on September 10, 1842 and died, aged 49—after only some 16 months as Governor. He is buried in Auckland.

Lord Auckland died January 1, 1849, aged 64. He never married. The Earldom expired with Lord Auckland’s death, but the barony passed on to his younger brother, Robert.

This statue was one of several of Lord Auckland in India, and the Bengal Government donated this one for the city’s centennial in 1971. The unveiling was apparently at the centre of the centenary celebration. Why Auckland was technically founded in 1871—more than 30 years after Hobson founded it—is a story in itself, and one for another day.

In this shot, Lord Auckland is looking across Aotea Square. The kids in the background are skateboarding, and no, they’re not supposed to be doing that.

I’ll have more stories and photos of Auckland once the weather improves.

Unrelated: Today's date, since we write our dates from smallest to largest—day, month, year—is 20-10-2010. I still like dates with patterns in them, after all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

NZ still number 5

Last week, the Global Economic Forum released their “Global Gender Gap Report 2010”, the fifth such annual report. New Zealand again ranked fifth, as it has since 2007 (in 2006, New Zealand was ranked 7th).

The report looks at health outcomes between women and men, the gap on educational attainment, the gap on economic participation and the political empowerment gap. Countries receive a score based on the approximate percentage of the gender gap the country has closed. New Zealand had a score of 78.1%, down slightly from 78.8% in 2009.

Among countries I typically write about, Canada was at 20 (up from 25 in 2009), Australia was 23 (down from 20 in 2009), the United Kingdom was at 15 (same as 2009) and the United States finally entered the top 20, at 19 (up from 31 in 2009).

Not surprisingly, much of the American newsmedia’s attention was on the improvement of the US. For example, Salon.com headlined their story: “U.S. finally enters top gender equality ranking.”

Studies like this give countries—and interested people—a way to compare and contrast countries’ performance on certain key issues, things that can be improved. I’m pleased to see New Zealand continue to do well, though it still has room to improve, of course.

The main reason I’m posting about this, though, isn’t just that I posted about it last year, but also because with all my criticism of governments and politicians, it’s good to have something positive to say. So, well done to New Zealand for continuing to do well, and to the US for greatly improving their ranking. Now, get back to work!

Tip o' the Hat to Roger Green for the link to the Salon article.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It Will Get Better

I saw this Chris Salvatore video on Joe.My.God. (sometimes I think I should just list what I DON’T see there…). Yep, it moved me. I love the message of this video, and it demands to be seen by more people.

Fair warning: I’ll keep posting videos like this until the christofascists are defeated and we don’t have to fight to save the lives of GLBT youth from the so-called “Christians” who are hell-bent on killing them. Join me in the fight: Find a way to support the Trevor Project. Together, we CAN defeat hate!

Holier than thou

I should’ve mentioned this before, but Sunday seems the appropriate day: One of my favourite bloggers, Joe.My.God., has long chronicledThis Week in Holy Crimes in which he details the very real earthly crimes of ministers of one sort of religion or another. I highly endorse it.

There are some—on the right—who think this is an “attack on religion”, which rather proves the point that subtlety and irony are completely beyond the capacity of most rightwing religionists. The point is the hypocrisy of religious leaders daring to lecture the rest of us on “morality” when they’re not merely immoral themselves, but downright criminal.

So have a look around Joe’s posts, and ponder the central message: Religious leaders are human, prone to the same mistakes, sins, foibles and crimes as the rest of us. We should never pay them any more attention than we would anyone else around us. Holy, after all, is earned, not conferred by a mere title.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Voices of reason

This video is yet another in the “It Gets Better” series. This one is by an elected official, Joel Burns of Fort Worth, Texas. His pain is evident, but so is his determination to prevent another suicide by a GLBT youth.

I think it’s good for older folks to see these videos, too, to understand what GLBT youth are up against. The more people who then take a stand against the hatred, intolerance and bigotry of America’s rightwing, the religious extremists in particular, the more GLBT youth we can save.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I demand a refund

It’s a common enough feeling: I watched a TV programme that was so awful that my first thought was, “well, that’s 90 minutes of my life I’ll never get back”. TV3 owes me a refund.

Tonight TV3 presented a “special” called “Eruption,” a programme that was supposedly part of the “Get Thru” campaign this week. But it was so awful, so cringeworthy, so unbelievably bad that it would leave Aucklanders with the absolute certainty that there’s nothing to worry about.

I honestly don’t know where the blame lies—the terrible writing, bad direction, lame acting—but there’s absolutely nothing to redeem this dreck. Even the special effects were amateurish and silly. One of the reasons I watched to the end was that I thought that surely they’d at least have a good eruption sequence; I was wrong.

The makers packed—or is it padded?—their thin script with three separate melodramas, apparently to make us identify with “ordinary” people: Stereotypical Asians, stereotypical brown people, and a stereotypical eccentric scientist, Clive, who sees the looming disaster that his colleagues routinely dismiss even though Clive screams “there are lives at stake!”

Eventually Clive’s colleagues come to realise he’s right (of course), but no worries: Apparently Auckland has been evacuated, anyway. The only people who seem to die are two kids, a policeman, Clive, and an older Chinese lady. Also, apart from a few rocks crashing here there, there’s no damage (a late shot even shows a new, small volcano in the harbour with, apparently, the same boats that were in the pre-eruption shots). A shot with what we must assume is supposed to be a pyroclastic flow, apparently is relatively harmless, apart from causing four of the implied deaths: A video camera continues to record through and is just just fine after it’s hit, because it’s merely knocked over (um, but it killed Clive?!).

A good movie about an eruption in Auckland could certainly be made. New Zealand has plenty of stellar acting talent, special effects wizards, and craftspeople of every description. Why did this one fail so badly? It could be that the makers, the Gibson Group, who are better known for often low-brow reality TV, cheaped-out. Maybe they simply don’t care about story, acting—the usual sorts of things that kinda matter for TV drama.

I’m not including any links. The On Demand can’t be watched outside of New Zealand and I’d never dream of subjecting anyone to this shite. Aucklanders, do yourself a favour: If you’ve been lucky enough to miss this not-so-special, go to the Get Thru website instead. It’s a whole lot more entertaining.

P.S. TV3, if you give me a full refund of that wasted time, I’ll consider toning down this post.

Reality check: Paladino non-apology

I wouldn’t normally bother commenting on anything to do with Teapublican freak Carl Paladino: In a kinder, gentler time he’d be institutionalised to deal with his insanity. But there’s one point the mainstream media keeps missing, and it must be stressed.

In his non-apology to gay and lesbian New Yorkers, Paladino did NOT say he supports civil unions, as the mainstream media keeps suggesting. He said in his diatribe that if he was elected Governor of New York he would veto same sex marriage AND civil unions.

Paladino said in his “apology” that he supports "civil agreements". That means he thinks it's okay for gay couples to hire a lawyer, draw up contracts and hope like hell that in the event of tragedy they stand up to a legal challenge from homophobic family members. But he clearly doesn't think the state should extend ANY formal recognition to same-sex couples.

To put it as clearly as possible for the over-worked journalists in the mainstream media, Paladino is an anti-gay bigot who, among other things, opposes BOTH marriage equality AND separate-but-equal civil unions. In short, nothing has changed. I haven’t heard of a single GLBT person who accepts Paladino’s “apology’—nor should they.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Time to choose

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who do evil, and those who attempt to stop them. You have a choice. You’re either on the side of justice, fairness and equality, you either fight for simple justice for gay and lesbian people, or you’re on the side of evil.

I will NOT be silent. I will NOT accept the violence from those who dare to call themselves “Christian”. I will NOT be a second-class citizen.

So: Are you on the side of justice and fairness, are you on the side of humanity, are you on the right side of history, or are you on the side of evil? You have no choice but to choose. Are you on the side of evil? Are you my enemy? It’s your choice.

NB: This video is by Sean Chapin, one of my absolute favourites on YouTube.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I love when numbers are symmetrical or sequential or whatever. Today’s is kind of a jackpot among such numbers, because ten is everywhere.

Humans ordinarily have ten finger and ten toes, and maybe because of that we base our numbers on ten—it’s easy to count. Most world money is based on ten and so, for most of the world, are weights and measures.

There are ten years in a decade, ten decades in a century and ten centuries in a millennium. Clocks aren’t base ten, but we tend to pay attention to units of five and ten minutes.

In religion, there are the ten commandments (aka the Decalogue). Some people tithe—giving ten percent of their income to their church. Rosh Hashanah marks ten days of repentance for Jews, leading up to Yom Kippur.

In cricket, the winning side must capture ten wickets. In American football, there are ten yards to a first down. Baseball usually has ten players on the field. In many card games, the Jack, Queen and King are all worth ten points.

A scale of one to ten is often used to rank things, with “Perfect Ten” being the best. If we reduce by 1/10th, we decimate something (and I bet fewer than one in ten know that’s the correct usage of the word…).

Ten is the atomic number of neon. Ten is the smallest noncototient, a number that cannot be expressed as the difference between any integer and the total number of coprimes below it. (I have no idea what any of that means but it sounded impressive). The Roman numeral for ten is X.

Virginia was the tenth state admitted to the United States. The Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution is one of the most contentious in US politics, probably because it’s so poorly understood by the right wing. The tenth US Vice President was John Tyler who, ironically, also became the tenth US President on April 6, 1841 following the death of President William Henry Harrison, who died a month after taking office—the first US president to die in office. Tyler later sided with the Confederacy, winning election to the Confederate Congress, but he died before assuming office. Because of those circumstances, he’s sometimes said to be the only US President who did not die in the United States.

Clearly ten pops up all over the place, from the sacred to the profane and everywhere in between. I tend to especially notice times and dates with fives or tens in them, so I suppose I have some sort of affinity for them—especially when they have as neat a pattern as 101010.

And there you have my post for 101010—in ten paragraphs, of course. I guess that means it’s a 10-24 from me.

Pride 48 'It Gets Better'

Some of my fellow podcasters from the Pride 48 family made a collaborative video for the “It Gets Better Project”, a YouTube Channel devoted to affirming to GLBT youth that life does get better. The goal is to help dissuade youth from taking their lives.

The coordinator and editor for the Pride 48 video was Thom from teachingthomas.net. He doesn’t appear in the video, but he provides the opening and closing voiceover. I think they should all be very proud of themselves. What a great way to break in our brand-new Pride 48 Podcasters YouTube Channel!

Related: A recent AmeriNZ Podcast live episode (AmeriNZ 236) looked at what we as a community—as podcasters and listeners in particular—can do to offer support and encouragement to GLBT youth.

Why Americans must vote

Tip o’ the Hat to Joe.My.God.

Friday, October 08, 2010

For no reason

This video has been re-Tweeted constantly, and I’ve seen it on several different blogs. Who am I to bolt from the herd?

I’m actually posting it because 1. He’s adorable, 2. He’s really quite funny in his characterisations, and 3. He’s adorable. Does there need to be another reason?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Having a say on unfinished business

This morning I checked out the New Zealand Herald online, as I often do, and found a story about the twentieth anniversary of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. It’s indisputably a milestone in New Zealand history, not the least because unlike my homeland—then and now—it banned discrimination against GLBT people.

I read the article, interested, then hit the last sentence: “So the 20th anniversary of the act coming into effect is something of which we can rightly be proud.”


Sure, when it comes to recognising and protecting basic civil and human rights, New Zealand is light years ahead of so many countries—especially my homeland. But there’s SO much unfinished business: Gay and lesbian people still cannot marry in New Zealand. Gay and lesbian couples still cannot adopt—even when one parent is the blood parent. There’s too much work remaining to get all chuffed about what we have. Instead, we should rededicate ourselves to the unfinished business before us.

So, I fired off a comment (following on the comments of others) that the Herald published:
The Bill of Rights Act is quite good and actually goes beyond the US Constitution's "Bill of Rights" (the first ten amendments). For example, New Zealand, unlike the United States, protects the rights of gay and lesbian people.

However, the past three governments have deliberately permitted ignoring the Bill of Rights Act when it comes to gay and lesbian New Zealanders.

The previous National-led government exempted the government from having to obey the Bill of Rights Act with respect to things like the Marriage Act. The Labour-led Government that followed eventually enacted separate-but-sort-of-almost-equal civil unions.

The current National-led Government, like Labour before it, has refused to bring the Marriage Act in line with the Bill of Rights Act and National has refused to end discrimination in adoptions.

So, the Bill of Rights Act, good as it is, has a long, long way to go before it ensures that all New Zealanders are treated equally. We should be proud of the Act for what it is, but ever mindful of that which it has not yet become.
The story behind the nickname for the comment is a long one, but not interesting in the least. Still, you could always “Like” the comment anyway. Just sayin’.

You can also let me know what you think of it here. I, too, value feedback.

TV volume, part 2

On Friday, I wrote about how the US was getting ready to regulate the volume of TV commercials as the US is in the process of doing. I mentioned that I wrote to New Zealand’s Minister of Broadcasting, Dr Jonathan Coleman, to ask if New Zealand might follow the lead of the US.

Today I got a form email response from Dr Coleman’s Private Secretary saying, “The Minister will consider the issues you have raised and respond as soon as he is able.” Fair enough; I didn’t expect an immediate answer, after all.

New Zealanders who would like the volume of television commercials regulated can contact the Minister*. Be sure to include your real name, address and phone number so they know you’re really a New Zealander.

Obviously this isn’t an earth-shatteringly important issue, nor the most important I address on this blog—and definitely not as important as issues I’ll take on in the future. But it’s such a small, easily-fixed problem that a little “people power” might just win the day. What have we got to lose but a couple minutes writing an email? Well, that, and having to reach for the mute button every time a TV commercial comes on.

I’ll pass on what, if anything, the Minister ultimately says about this.

*I wanted to put a link to his email address, but Blogger stripped-out the "no spam" code and converts it to simple "mailtto" code, which spambots can easily harvest. So instead I've included a link to the page with his contact information.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Someone was lucky

Here’s the lede to an NZPA story published on Stuff:

“Nelson police believe they are lucky not to be dealing with a homicide after a man was bashed and left unconscious for seven hours in Nelson overnight.”

Police are lucky? Isn’t it the man who was lucky to have been found before it was too late? Or, could it be a lazy reporter wrote nonsense?

“The man's life-threatening injuries included several fractures, and it was lucky he had not died, [Nelson Police Sergeant Blair] Hall said.”

Sounds like the police certainly knew where the luck lay, and it wasn’t with them. Sadly, it didn’t lie with readers, either. The reporter should have done better.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Are you listening, Sky TV?

The title of this post is rhetorical, of course, because Sky Television won’t be listening: They’ve gone deaf from blaring their commercials as loudly as possible.

Mind you, Sky isn’t alone—all the channels broadcast commercials at a volume 20-50% louder than the programmes they interrupt, as the New Zealand Herald revealed more than two years ago. As I said at the time, broadcasters have steadfastly denied this is the case, suggesting that people are imagining things or they use technobabble to suggest people don’t know what they’re talking about.

The US Senate just unanimously passed a new regulation mandating that TV commercials in the US must be kept at the same volume as the programmes they interrupt. The US House passed a similar law, and the two versions will be reconciled after the US elections.

Since New Zealand broadcasters have flat-out refused to fix this aural assault, it’s time for the government to step in and do it for them. This is so common sense that it beggars belief that it hasn’t been done already. Still, I don’t seriously expect this government, with its avoidance of regulation, no matter how necessary and legitimate, to do anything. Still, I’ve written to the Broadcasting Minister to ask him, and I’ll pass on whatever I find out.

So, until a government finally does as other countries are doing and regulates audio levels, I’ll do as I’ve done for years: Hit mute when commercials play, especially the extra-loud Sky promos. It means I’ll miss all the commercials playing, even those at normal sound levels. Tough. If TV broadcasters won’t deal to this once and for all, then they can expect me to miss all the ads played during their programmes, which means that responsible advertisers aren’t getting what they’re paying for due to the broadcasters’ irresponsibility.

If broadcasters refuse to listen to viewers, and if government won’t act, then maybe it’s up to responsible advertisers to put pressure on broadcasters. Until someone acts, advertisers are wasting their money on me and countless others who won’t hear their messages at all.