Monday, March 31, 2008

Free trade with not free China

New Zealand is about to become the first Western nation to conclude a free trade agreement (FTA) with China. I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about it.

In general, I’m not a big fan of FTAs, since they’re usually little more than a mechanism for mega-corporations to take over more of the world, while trampling everything from workers’ rights to consumer protection along the way, as they gradually erode value from the victim country.

Admittedly, this attitude has come about from watching the USA conclude FTAs that always advantage the US and disadvantage the supposed “partner”.

And yet, it’s not really that simple.

New Zealand already has about the most open, least regulated economy among OECD nations. Despite their constant bleating about the burdens they face, businesses in New Zealand have it far better than most of their counterparts in the rest of the OECD.

New Zealand also has a very light tariff regime, meaning they don’t put up much of a barrier to trade as it is. Most Chinese trade with New Zealand wouldn’t be affected by an FTA because basically there already are no barriers. Put another way, there won’t be a huge surge in Chinese-made goods.

What New Zealand hopes to gain is greater access to China for agricultural products, still the mainstay of the NZ economy. But Prime Minister Helen Clark has also rightly pointed out that the way forward is to produce high-value products and commodities, rather than trying to compete with China for low cost, low value goods—a battle we’d lose, with or without an FTA.

An FTA with China, then, poses little real risk, and potentially a good benefit—exactly the opposite of an FTA with the US. But the timing couldn’t possibly be worse.

With China cracking down on dissidents of all kinds, using brutal repression in Tibet and even reportedly harassing gay people in cities with Olympics events, China is reminding the world that it’s still an authoritarian dictatorship. The argument has always been that greater economic integration with China will encourage and hasten the arrival of freedom and democracy in China, but lately they’ve been reminding the world of how far away that goal is.

China will become the dominant power in this region with a decade or two. Among world economies, its rivals will be the US and the European Union—and it’s not certain what order they’ll all be ranked. So it makes sense for a small, isolated nation dependent on world trade to do what it can to keep and expand its access to world markets. And maybe New Zealand’s independent, multilateralist nature in world affairs will mean it has a great voice with China than the size of the trade relationship might predict.

So, while I realise that this FTA could prove to be a good thing, I’m still uneasy about it. China’s behaviour in recent weeks certainly hasn’t done anything to ease my concerns. I hope the FTA can help begin the process of change leading to freedom and democracy in China. That outcome is something no pundit—or blogger—can even begin to predict.

AmeriNZ Podcast in NZ

Amid all the normal excitement lately, I forgot to mention my own bit of excitement: My AmeriNZ Podcast finally made it to the “Featured” page of the Personal Journal podcasts on the New Zealand iTunes Music Store.

This means that any Kiwi browsing that page will see my podcast and may, just maybe, investigate a little further. When I took the screenshot above, my podcast was also number 11 among today’s podcasts (it’s been in the top 5 in the past; it's also been far lower). My podcast is in a similar spot on the featured page of USA iTunes Music Store, but it’s seldom in the top 100 podcasts there.

In New Zealand, I have zero reviews, while in America I have twenty-eight 5-star reviews. New Zealand is a much smaller market, obviously, for iTunes generally and podcasts in particular. So, I don’t know what it is that ranks me so highly here—maybe it’s my USA reviews helping, or maybe a lot of local searches for my podcast, I don’t know.

This may not last long (though my place on the American featured page has continued for two months, far longer than I’d ever have guessed). Mainly, I just hope that some more Kiwis stumble across my podcast and give it a listen, because I’d love to have more listeners in New Zealand—and everywhere else, of course.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Eyes wide cut

Yesterday, I went in to be evaluated for CustomLASIK eye surgery. The advantages are obvious: No more contact lenses, solutions or the hassles with either. Possibly no glasses for ordinary vision, either.

So over two hours my eyes were checked in more ways than I would’ve thought possible: The usual visual test (“which is better, number one or number 2? How about now?”), along with extensive measurements of my cornea. Finally, an examination of my retina and pressure tests were done.

It turns out that the cornea must be a certain thickness for the surgery to be possible. Mine are apparently somewhat thicker than normal (this is good). Also, as one gets older, the cornea becomes more rigid and easier to adjust, so by around age 50, the procedure is more successful than it is with someone who’s, say, 20. This is, I was told, an advantage of getting older. I knew there had to be one.

The doctor was somewhat concerned about the condition of my eyes, after some 27 years of contact lens wearing, but the tests showed them to be in good condition. Apparently, my obsessively correct handling of my lenses over all those years paid off. For example, unlike so many other contact lens wearers I’ve known, I’ve never had an eye infection or anything else wrong with my eyes.

So in a few weeks I’ll go to have the procedure done. I’ll spare the details, though you can go here if you want to know more. It’s a fairly quick procedure, but not entirely without risk, of course. However, the real-world risks are minimal.

After the surgery is done and my vision stablilises (the latter apparently takes about a month), I should have normal or nearly normal vision. However, because of normal age-related vision deterioration (presbyopia, if you really want to know), I’ll probably need reading glasses. Around age 60, I may need glasses for middle distance (like computer screens).

I always vowed that I would never wear bifocals, owing to bad memories of my father’s bifocal wearing. This procedure will mean I won’t have to, so if I have to wear reading glasses I can certainly deal with that.

Be that as it may, I’m a big chicken and this whole thing scares the hell out of me. Apparently they offer a mild sedative tablet the day of surgery. I wonder if they serve doubles….

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Podcast troubleshooting

As regular listeners of my podcast know, I’ve been having more and more trouble with the host site for my podcast, Podomatic. Problems include episodes being unavailable, downloads taking forever and episodes ending up being only partial.

I’m working on a permanent solution, but in the meantime, there are some steps you can take, and these may help you with other podcasts you’re having trouble accessing:

1) If you subscribe to a podcast through iTunes and you get a partial download, delete the partial download. Then, go to the iTunes Store and search for the podcast in the “Search iTunes Store” window (in my case, enter “AmeriNZ Podcast”). When you get to the podcast and the list of all the available episodes, click on “Get Episode” for the partial one. And it will start downloading. Sometimes, you may need to repeat this procedure, as I did with my Episode 81, where it took three tries to get the complete episode.

2) If you get the exclamation mark error (!) on iTunes, wait awhile and hit “Refresh” (lower right hand corner of iTunes window). Sometimes there’s just a problem with the host servers and they need time to correct. Wait hours or a day, but if the problem doesn’t clear, you may need to try a manual download as outlined above.

3) Almost all podcasts offer a manual download option. If the host site can’t communicate with iTunes, you may still be able to download it manually. In my case, the shownotes here always have a “right click” option, and you can go to my Podomatic site for direct access, too. That’s true for other podcast sites as well.

These suggestions may help you access my podcast or others you’re having trouble with. But I hope to get mine sorted out pretty soon that no one will have to mess with any of this. Details to follow.

Friday, March 28, 2008

AmeriNZ 81 – First Podoversary

Episode 81 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.

It’s my first anniversary as a podcaster—my podoversary. As I begin my second year, I continue pretty much as I did in my first year. First, I share some of what’s been going on, before congratulatory messages allow me to comment further on my podcast and related topics. It’s an easy-going episode this week, and next week it’s back to normal. Thanks to everyone who’s listened to me over the past year—I appreciate everyone. This episode was run through Levelator because of all the phone messages, so if the sound is different, that’s why. Thank you all!

Leave a comment. Or, you can ring my US listener line on 206-339-8413. Email me (won’t be read on the podcast) at arthur{at)amerinz.com. You can also still use my other address, amerinz[at) yahoo.com.

Running time: 30:30

Links for this episode

Blue Savannah by Erasure iTunes USA Store or iTunes NZ Store. You can also buy Blue Savannah through Amazon.com.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Book Talk: "The End of America"

End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot
By Naomi Wolf

The premise of this book is that it’s a long letter to a friend (the “young patriot” of the subtitle). The motivator is what Wolf sees as the commonalities between the behaviours of the Bush-Cheney regime and all dictatorships of the past century as they moved from open to closed societies.

It’s a chilling collection of examples to reinforce what Wolf identifies as the ten classic steps that dictators take in this process. There’s not a lot that’s actually new, but seeing it all laid out and matched up to those ten steps shows just how far the Bush-Cheney regime has gone toward creating a closed society ruled by imperial fiat under a veneer of democracy.

Wolf talks of this process as a “fascist shift” to point out that the process is gradual and need not end with a military takeover, as in Italy in the 1920s or Germany in the 1930s. She correctly points out that the German Nazis came to power through democractic means, suggesting that fascists can do this anywhere, including the United States—through the application of the ten steps.

I thought Wolf sometimes soft-pedalled the threat from the Bush-Cheney regime, perhaps as if she was trying to sell the larger concept to a sceptical readership. As a critic of this regime from its very beginning, I felt she was pulling punches.

Also, the first part of the book reads like a self-help book, the type in which far too many pages are spent saying what the book will say, rather than, well, just saying it. For a book so short, it sometimes seemed to lack focus, as if elements were added to pad it out.

All of which, however, are mere quibbles because the documented subject matter speaks for itself. I suspect that Wolf’s approach is good for reaching readers who are somewhat less critical of the Bush-Cheney regime than I am, but who nevertheless have concerns about it. It’s a fast-paced read with well-documented material to quote later, including plenty of the facts we all wish we could summon when talking about the current regime.

This is not a dour listing of the current regime’s crimes against the US Constitution, however. Instead, it’s also a sort of call to action for American patriots to take back their country from the regime that’s worked to destroy it.

When real patriots work together to reclaim their freedom and liberty, Wolf writes, “there is no power that can hold these patriots back. I hope this emboldens you.” So do I.

What I read: End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot by Naomi Wolf. 176 pages, including notes, bibliography, index and end notes. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont. ISBN 978-1-933392-79-0.

Amazon.com’s page for End of America.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Roosting chickens?

The US Supreme Court used technical reasons to avoid ruling on a case concerning a right wing group’s would-be “Swift Boat” propaganda smear campaign. Instead, the Court kicked the case back to lower courts.

At issue in this case was an anti-Hillary Clinton film produced by the right wing group (the group is also working on a propaganda film on Obama). The group wanted to advertise its film on television in order to influence the elections. However, they felt they should be immune from campaign finance laws, arguing that their film was similar to a real documentary.

The District Court rejected that argument, and ruled that the right wing group was bound by campaign finance laws, meaning they’d have to clearly indicate who was promoting the ad and all donors would have to be publicly identified. Given the group’s stated goal of influencing the election, this was clearly the correct decision.

By returning the case to the District Court, the Supreme Court correctly decided that the right wing group’s case should not have a fast remedy. That doesn’t necessarily meant that the case won’t end up before the Supreme Court later, after all appeals have been exhausted.

The law the right wing group wants to avoid obeying is the McCain-Feingold law from 2002. Should the group ultimately prevail, John McCain would ultimately benefit, which would be ironic. However, we’ll see if McCain’s self-interest trumps principle. If principle matters, McCain will surely disavow all “swift boat” style smear campaigns. Otherwise, he really is just like all the other politicians for whom power matters more than anything.

Tip of the hat to blogging buddy (and fellow American expat) Dawn who pointed this story out to me. Actually, Dawn also recently had some very nice things to say about this blog. Thanks!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Three bunnies plus two

Ever since we adopted Jake, he had a lavender soft toy bunny. The original version is at left in the photo above. Over the months, he slowly worked on chewing it up. The carrot went first, then he chewed an arm open, and the stuffing went everywhere.

By this time, the rabbit was filthy and I needed to wash it, so I bought two bunnies identical to his original one in case his toy didn’t survive the wash.

But the rabbit survived and afterward I re-stuffed the empty arm and stitched it up (as Jake watched me), then I gave the rabbit back him. Within an hour, he’d chewed the arm open again, and the stuffing was out. I gave up on repairs.

A few weeks later, Jake chewed open the bum and the stuffing oozed out, and we realised it was time for old bunny to retire. What’s left of it is at the right hand side of the photo above. The funeral will be private.

It was a couple days before we gave Jake his next bunny and when we did he was very, very happy. Who’d have thought he’d miss his bunny?

The middle bunny is his current one and the photo shows the state it’s in, with a badly frayed paw and damaged carrot leaf. More damage to follow. At least we have the next replacement ready to go.

Jake’s bunnies have nothing to do with Easter, so this is where the “plus two” bunnies come in: Nigel and I each have a Lindt chocolate Easter bunny. They both have a neck ribbon with a jungle bell. Nigel’s bunny is white chocolate and mine is dark chocolate and both are intact for now. But photos of Jake and his bunnies are far more interesting than product shots, so instead of a photo of the Easter candy I’m including one I took today of Jake and his current bunny.

All of which goes to show that not everything with me is serious all the time.

Wright, wrong and hypocrisy

I haven’t commented on the “controversy” over the former senior pastor at Barack Obama’s church, partly because I didn’t have the same reactions as some other people claimed. But the main reason I haven’t commented is that I didn’t want to do anything to reward the efforts of those who are trying to exploit the situation for political gain.

The clips of Wright on YouTube are there to promote a political agenda. Comments by the many posters include “Wake Up America! Obama belongs to a Cult”; “quick video with clips from his sermons. (personally i think he should not be called an american )”; “Spiritual Advisor to Barack Hussein Obama (black supremacist?)”; “the pastor, who often gives racist and anti-american speeches”. Similar (and much worse) can be found in the comments to the various clips. The theme in these caricatures of Wright is that he’s some sort of monster.

Sound familiar? Back in 1988, Bush the First used Willie Horton as the big scary black man to tap into the latent racism of white American voters. This year, neither Hillary Clinton nor John McCain can get away with portraying Obama as the scary black man, so instead the campaigns are using Wright and Farrakhan. Those men say things that are racist and scary to white folks and so, the detractors imply, Obama must be the same. It’d be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic.

Barack Obama is being held to a standard that no other candidate is facing, and no matter what he says or does he can never denounce Wright (or Farrakhan) enough to satisfy his detractors. Worse, no one else is required to do the same as Obama.

John McCain once had an open feud with Jerry Falwell over Falwell’s extremist hate speech, but made up with him to run for president. McCain has never been asked to disavow Falwell’s hate speech (including that 9/11 happened because of legal abortion and gay people in the US). Or what about John Hagee, who endorsed McCain and whom McCain calls a spiritual adviser? This man said that god destroyed New Orleans because of the “homosexuals”. McCain has never distanced himself from such hate speech, he’s never disavowed Hagee’s views—he’s never even been asked to.

Why the double standard? Why is the right so angry with Wright, but McCain’s extremist preachers get a free pass? Why do Hillary Clinton’s supporters promote the right wing agenda by going after Obama’s connection with Wright?

Fortunately, they haven’t been successful. A CBS News poll found:

Sixty-nine percent of voters who have heard or read about Obama’s speech say he did a good job addressing the issue of race relations, and 63 percent of voters following the events say they agree with Obama's views on race relations. Seventy-one percent say he did a good job explaining his relationship with Wright.

Despite the best efforts of the McCain and Clinton supporters, seventy-one percent of Americans are happy with Obama’s explanation of his connections with Wright. Maybe ordinary Americans can see through the politically-motivated attacks on Obama over this issue.

Of course, extremist rhetoric on the part of any preacher of any race or ideology is always wrong. A candidate of any party who is supported by such preachers has an obligation to denounce the rhetoric. Obama did that, McCain has not and hasn’t been asked to distance himself even a little.

Something is seriously wrong with this picture, and it’s not that the former pastor of Obama’s church said stupid things. It’s that McCain and Clinton supporters see nothing wrong with playing a racist game because they think it will help their candidate.

We deserve better. Apparently, a clear majority of Americans thinks so, too.

Grumpy chocolates

The New Zealand Herald adores presenting the views of what I call the Grumpy Brigade, people who are perpetually angry with the government, local or national, when that government isn’t being run by right wingers like themselves. It’s tempting to call such people “right whingers”, but I’ll stick with Grumpy Brigade.

The usual tactic is to use overly emotive language, blatant appeals to sentimentality and the abandonment of reason by suggesting the absence of it among the Brigader’s target. Their irrationality is laughable to reasonable people, but to fence-sitters their words can resonate, especially when repeated over and over again.

An example: The Herald’s Thursday “Sideswipe” column contained an item about a promotion by Cadbury in which three sales reps dressed in costume were planning on passing out free chocolates in Auckland’s Aotea Square up to a week earlier. Before they could begin, apparently, they were supposedly approached by a “security guard” who told them, according to the column, that “they had to leave, as handing out free items without a permit incurs an instant fine.”

The Grumpy Brigader wrote, “they were not handing out anything promotional, nor had anything with the Cadbury logo; they simply had eggs for passing punters.” Oh really? So they took the Cadbury chocolates out of the wrappers and placed them in plane wrappers, did they? And the chocolates all had the Cadbury logo rubbed out, did they?

No company does something like that without expecting a return, even if it’s just goodwill from the public, and they would never do it without some way for the public to know who was behind it. So, there had to be logos somewhere—such as on the wrappers, on the chocolates themselves.

But the issue here is—if the story is true as told—how lame and stupid was it for Cadbury to attempt the stunt without first checking the rules? A simple phone call to Auckland City Council would’ve told them the rules they needed to comply with. They don’t get a free pass just because they were passing out free Cadbury chocolates nor just because Easter was approaching perhaps ten days later (the item is vague about when it happened). So when the Grumpy Brigader asked, “Is this the Easter spirit of Auckland?” the answer is, Easter had nothing to do with it.

I have no problem with Cadbury passing out free chocolates. However, just like every other business they have an obligation to follow the rules. The problem I have is with people who try and tear down a city or government because they don’t like a particular result, people who feel the rules shouldn’t apply to them or their pet project. And, I have a real problem with a newspaper that seems to think that promoting the gripes of the Grumpy Brigade without context or refutation is okay. It never is.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

AmeriNZ 80 – Holiday Weekened

Episode 80 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can get it here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it through the player on the right hand side of my blog, or on my MySpace page. You can also download the file directly by right-clicking here.

Four hours it took me to upload this episode…

A kamikaze phone message starts today’s episode. It’s the autumnal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere today, though we say Autumn began on March 1. We’re coming up on a four-day holiday weekend, the Easter Weekend. Two days have total trading bans.

I tell you more than I usually do about what’s going on with us, then it’s on to a topic: Bad coffee (company). I have many comments to go over today, including another phone comment.

I give you a reason to support whoever the Democratic nominee is, and for defeating John McSame. Two words: Supreme Court. McSame would appoint more extremists to the Court and we’d all suffer from that.

My one year anniversary of podcasting is the end of the month, so you still have time to send me a message. Ring my US listener line or email an MP3 to amerinz@podOmatic.com.

Leave a comment. Or, you can ring my US listener line on 206-339-8413. Email me (won’t be read on the podcast) at arthur{at)amerinz.com. You can also still use my other address, amerinz[at) yahoo.com.

Links for this episode

Roger Green’s post
Fairy Princess Holly’s donation page

Blue Savannah by Erasure iTunes USA Store or iTunes NZ Store. You can also buy Blue Savannah through Amazon.com.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

The end of the ACT Party?

The right wing, neo-conservative ACT Party in New Zealand may just have committed political suicide. The party’s founder, Sir Roger Douglas, has announced plans to run for Parliament as an ACT Party candidate. He said he expects to be a cabinet member in a National Party-led government.

Roger Douglas was part of the Labour Party government in the 1980s, during which neo-conservatives captured the Labour Party because there was no way to take over their natural home, the National Party, while Robert Muldoon was leader. The economic changes caused massive upheavals in New Zealand. While many were changes necessary, many went too fast for ordinary Kiwis to adjust to.

As a result, the entire regime of radical and rapid economic change took on his name—“Rogernomics”. It’s safe to say that there’s no political figure in New Zealand who is more hated by ordinary Kiwis that Roger Douglas.

The ACT Party is already polling at only 1%, which means that unless they win an electorate seat, they’ll be out of Parliament. With Roger Douglas part of their slate, it’ll be even harder for them to return to Parliament.

For it’s part, the conservative National Party has been uncertain what to do. Deputy Leader Bill English who these days is, at best, a bit of a weasel, unable to take a position on anything, refused to rule out a cabinet seat for Douglas. Finally, after a week of waffle, the leader of the National Party, John Key, ruled out a cabinet post for Douglas, referring to him, accurately, as hard right. Key has worked hard to pull the National Party, against the wishes of it’s leaders and main supporters, to being just right of centre, rather than far right, as it was under Don Brash.

The possibility of Douglas returning to Parliament is definitely a worst-case scenario, and enough to make me more committed than ever to returning Labour to government. We cannot risk the hard-right neo-conservatives gaining access to power, or the 1980s will look like a Sunday picnic.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Don’t read blogs

The current US presidential election campaign has already gone through dozens of weird diversions and distractions. Some of these have been driven by the news media, the right wing media in particular, but a lot of it has been driven by blogs and the ill-informed, overly emotive and deliberately confrontational rhetoric of the blog owner or readers leaving comments.

The latest storm has been stirred up over remarks made by the former pastor of Barack Obama’s church. Many people were apparently offended—even though many have only heard about them second-hand, especially through partisan blogs. Now these same people are opining on Obama’s speech on race, even though, at best, many have read or seen only excerpts.

I won’t interpret Obama’s speech, though I think it was a good one. People reading this blog are intelligent enough to read the speech for themselves (there’s also a video of the speech). So take the initiative and don’t let any blogger—including me—tell you what something means. Go to the source and decide that on your own.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gloria's empty cup

I don't support businesses that run against my principles, nor ones that actively work against me. Fortunately, I don’t often have to put this into action, but I do now.

The coffee chain Gloria Jean's International (which operates all stores outside of the US and Puerto Rico) is a corporate sponsor of a fundamentalist christianist organisation called Mercy Ministries. The group claims to help young women with things such as eating disorders, unplanned pregnancy, self-harm, addictions, depression, etc. However, the Sydney Morning Herald recently published a story claiming that in Australia the ministry "has been deceiving troubled young women into signing over months of their lives to a program that offers scant medical or psychiatric care, instead using Bible studies and exorcisms to treat mental illness."

The US parent organisation has actively steered lesbians into "ex-gay" programmes. While there is as yet no evidence that they've done that in Australia or New Zealand, the US organisation—which the Australasian Mercy Ministry is based on—is certainly both anti-abortion and anti-gay, so it’s probable that the local version is at least sympathetic to that viewpoint. Certainly abortion is never an option for clients.

The Australasian version of Mercy Ministry was started by a leader of Hillsong Church, part of the Australian branch of the pentacostal Assembly of God. The chairman of Gloria Jean's International is Nabi Saleh, who's also involved with Hillsong. Peter Irvine, until recently the managing director of Gloria Jean's, is also a director of Mercy Ministries. He, too, is part of Hillsong. There are plenty of intertwining linkages between and among Mercy Ministry, Hillsong and Gloria Jean’s.

In a statement (available as a PDF), Gloria Jeans said that it was “deeply concerned with the recent media coverage related to our sponsorship of Mercy Ministries and association with the Hillsong Church.” They go on to assert: “We are not religiously affiliated, or affiliated to any other beliefs or preferences. We are non-discriminatory and accept staff, franchise partners and guests from all walks of life.” Well of course they do: In New Zealand, for example, discrimination on the basis of religion or sexual orientation would be illegal. So what?

Gloria Jeans goes on, “We have been in direct discussion with Mercy Ministries and we will be working with them to understand what elements of their program could have given rise to these very concerning claims.” Put another way, they want to know how to soft sell the fundamentalism. They urge readers to visit Mercy Ministry’s website, but that group’s media statement doesn’t directly counter any of the charges levelled against it, including that it’s anti-gay. Instead they call themselves “Christian based” and a “faith based organisation”.

Gloria Jeans states “We have no relationship with the Hillsong Church. Gloria Jean’s Coffees is an Australian-owned private company and there are no financial or legal ties between Gloria Jean’s Coffees and Hillsong Church. This remains unchanged.” Legal ties? Maybe not. Financial ties? Depends on what you mean. The two founding executives are part of Hillsong Church, and Gloria Jeans is the top corporate sponsor of Mercy Ministries (which describes Gloria Jean’s International as “Our Major Corporate Partner”), and that group also has ties to Hillsong. There clearly is a financial relationship, however unofficial it may be.

They are most disingenuous when they say, “The religious affiliation of our management, staff, Franchise Partners, charity partners has absolutely no relevance to how we operate our company.” It has every relevance because people may not want to do business with people with extreme religious views. In the US, Domino’s Pizza was under boycott for many years because it’s founder, Tom Monaghan, contributed millions to anti-abortion, anti-gay and other far-right religious causes. The boycott ended only when Monaghan was no longer involved in the company. In New Zealand, the far right religious group Exclusive Brethren funnelled around two million dollars in money from their business activities into a smear campaign against the Labour and Green Parties in an attempt to get the National Party elected.

I’ve seen no evidence that the Australasian version of Mercy Ministries is engaged in anti-gay activity, even if its US parent is. But I don’t want any of my money going to support far-right christianist programmes that run a political agenda counter to my values. So, I won’t be patronising Gloria Jeans anymore, and I’ll tell my friends that fact and why.

If Gloria Jeans is really “deeply concerned”, they might want to reassess their financial support for a group whose activities run counter the beliefs of many of their customers. Until they do, they won’t get any of my money so that Mercy Ministries and Hillsong Church don’t, either.

The Gloria Jeans stores in the USA and Puerto Rico are separate.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I REALLY am liberal

I was over at Dag Central and saw a link to a site called Electoral Compass that rates you on an ideology scale based on your answers to statements about issues ranging from marriage equality to taxes, gun control, the environment, military spending and so on. I did a different test about a year ago.

As the picture above shows (I’m where the pencil-like thing is pointing), I’m pretty well and truly on the progressive side of things, where the far top left corner is the most Liberal/Progressive, and the bottom far right is the right wing/conservative. This is actually the second time I did the quiz; the first was a little more centrist (had time to reflect).

The result is more or less true for me, at least in terms of American elections. Things are different here in New Zealand, where being liberal or progressive is just another part of the mainstream (except to the far right knuckle-walkers, which we have a few of, too).

Anyway, this site allows you to compare your positions with those of the candidates. It told me that I’m ideologically closest to Barack Obama and farthest from John McCain. Well, who’d have guessed that?

Peace breaking out?

I saw an encouraging article today reporting that the Obama and Clinton campaigns, or their surrogates, are toning down their rhetoric against each other. That’s great news.

I’ve been dismayed at the level of Democrat-destroying bile being flung around by both sides. The problem for me hasn’t been the candidates themselves or their high-level supporters, but rather, the ordinary supporters of the campaigns.

However, it’s worth remembering that Republicans are posting comments on Democratic forums and blogs in order to encourage fighting and division among Democrats. So I always focus on reminding people of our common goal: Defeating John McSame and the Republicans, and I won’t get drawn into fights about which candidate is better.

As I’ve said many, many times now, I will vote for whoever becomes the Democratic nominee. I think all Democrats should make that same public pledge.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The end of things

All technology ends sooner or later, whether through replacement or evolution. We don’t ride horses through the street anymore and we don’t crank up the Victrola. Or the Model T.

Today Nigel and I were in an electronics store. An older couple (mid-60s or so) were walking around and the man says to the woman, “How much were those VHS recorders?” He was talking about another store because the store we were in doesn’t sell VCRs anymore, unless you count the one model of DVD recorder/VCR combo machine: It’s nothing but HDD recorders and DVD recorders now.

The night before, I went to the iTunes store and downloaded an album I wanted (which I’d “requested”, btw). I realised that I can’t remember the last time I bought an actual CD; now, I mostly buy songs or complete albums on iTunes.

I’m one of those people who loves change, and technological change in particular. So for me, this is all good. But sometimes I think about the people who are left behind, the ones who are frightened by change, let alone technology. I wonder if there’s more that can be done to bring them along.

But right now, I gotta go cruise iTunes.

Addendum: I didn't buy anything on iTunes. I just browsed a bit. And that older couple I mentioned? When we left the store they were looking at DVD recorders and comparing various models.

Friday, March 14, 2008

AmeriNZ 79 – Another Friday

Episode 79 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.

Tuesday was cloudy, today is rainy. I’m recording a short episode today—I realised that I have trouble keeping up with short episodes of other podcasts, so maybe I should try and keep my episodes short, too. We’re coming up on a four day weekend in New Zealand, and I have some extra time at the part-time job, so my podcasting schedule is adjusted. Beards are causing all sorts of trouble in Papakura, NZ. A gay Iranian refugee may or may not be deported to his execution by Britain. Stay tuned—WILL be following this.

Comments give me the chance to say I couldn’t care less who McCain chooses for VP because there’s no way I’ll vote for him/them. NZ is way better on prostitution than the US.

My one year anniversary of podcasting is the end of the month, so you still have time to send me a message. Ring my US listener line or email an MP3 to amerinz@podOmatic.com.

Leave a comment. Or, you can email a comment to comment(at]amerinz.com, or send a personal email to me (won’t be read on the podcast) to arthur{at)amerinz.com. You can also still use my other address, amerinz[at) yahoo.com or ring my US listener line on 206-339-8413.

Links for this episode

Blue Savannah by Erasure iTunes USA Store or iTunes NZ Store. You can also buy Blue Savannah through Amazon.com.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Papakura beards attack!

Everywhere you look these days there are things to get angry about, causes to rally round and stupidity to challenge. This blog has done all that. Today there’s a perfect example.

Facial hair.

Okay, it’s not facial hair as such, but the boneheaded thinking of Papakura High School. The South Auckland school has threatened to discipline a 16-year-old student for—gasp!—wearing facial hair.

In New Zealand, a 16-year-old is legally old enough to drive, get a tattoo and have sex, but, according to Papakura High School, cannot make decisions about their whiskers. By itself, that would just mean the school was being misguided by insisting on treating young people as mere children rather than preparing them for life in the real world, which, at 16, many of them are about to embark on.

But Papakura High School was more than just silly: It was insulting. According to the New Zealand Herald, the school’s principal, Angela Appleby, said it’s “a school rule that students be clean shaven, as the seniors were considered role models for younger children, and were required to set a good example.” (emphasis added).

Appleby is saying, then, that every person with a beard is setting a bad example. That includes famous people of the past, such as Edmund Hillary (before he was “Sir”) on his way down from conquering Mt. Everest. It includes virtually every 19th Century New Zealand Prime Minister—heck, it even includes the husband of the current Prime Minister. And, it includes me.

Understandably, I get a little tetchy when someone suggests I’m a bad role model simply because of something irrelevant, like that I have a beard. Next thing you know, someone will say it’s because I’m gay.

But back to Ms Appleby. Too many high school students, especially Maori and Polynesian students, leave school far too early and part of the reason is that it has no relevance to them. When people like Ms Appleby insist on imposing a worldview that died in the 1960s, treating soon-to-be ex-students like little children, can she really be surprised if some of them hasten their departure? And can we be surprised when they leave school and find themselves ill-prepared for life in the real world?

The irony is that if Ms Appleby had said that it was school policy that all students must be clean shaven, with none of that nonsense about role models and good examples, I would’ve thought that Ms Appleby and Papakura High School were simply stupid and misguided. But by promoting an antique view of the world, she’s crossed the line.

Obviously, Papakura High School needs to change its policies. It needs to start treating older students—many of whom will not complete their secondary education—as adults. They need to begin preparing students for life in the real world. And Ms Appleby either needs to move into the current century or move aside. It sounds, though, as if she’d have trouble functioning in the real world.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Britain: Gay refugees are human rubbish

Unless something changes in the next few weeks, Britain may declare, in effect, that gay refugees from persecution are no more than human rubbish.

Madhi Kazemi, a gay 19-year-old Iranian, applied for asylum in Britain after, he says, he learned that his boyfriend had been arrested for sodomy by Iranian police and executed. He said the Iranian authorities were looking for him.

The British Home Office turned down his application, and rather than risk deportation to Iran, the young man fled to the continent in an attempt to get to Canada. He was caught and sent to a detention centre in The Netherlands. That country also turned down his application and are preparing to send him back to Britain.

According to CNN, the British Home Office said “even though homosexuality is illegal in Iran and homosexuals do experience discrimination, it does not believe that homosexuals are routinely persecuted purely on the basis of their sexuality.”

What planet are those people on? Brutality directed against Iranian gay people has been well documented, as has the execution of people for being gay. Britain, CNN reported, says that gay people can survive in Iran if they’re “discreet”. They’re either deluded or they’re the most stupid people on the planet.

It wasn’t long ago that the Iranian head told New York audiences that Iran didn’t have gay people. What he meant is that they’re trying to execute them all.

Here’s the thing: It’s very difficult to verify the young man’s story, as CNN reported. So what? If there’s the slightest chance that he might be right, and that deportation would be the equivalent of a death sentence, shouldn’t Britain err on the side of caution at least until—and unless—it can verify that the young man isn’t telling the truth? Is Britain really ready to gamble with this man’s life?

This has become common lately. Canada has also been refusing asylum requests from gay people, often saying they don’t believe the person is really gay. It would seem that to many nations of the world gay people aren’t worthy of the same protection as other endangered people.

Under increasing political pressure, the British Home Office now says it will review the case when the young man is returned to Britain. No promises, mind you, but if the pressure on Britain increases then they may rule correctly and allow the young man to stay in Britain. It’s clearly the civilised thing to do.

I’m glad to say that New Zealand, at least, has a precedent for granting asylum to a gay Iranian refugee because our government recognised that deporting him to Iran would mean he’d face near certain death. If New Zealand can get it right, why is it so hard for countries like Britain and Canada?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

AmeriNZ 78 – Cloudy Tuesday

Episode 78 is now available, and it's free no matter where you get it from. You can listen to it or download it through the player at the bottom of the post here, or subscribe for free through iTunes here (you must have the free iTunes player installed). You can also listen to it for free through the player on my MySpace page.

It’s a cloudy Tuesday in Auckland, the perfect day for a chat. Today I’ll update you on some things that have been going on with me lately. Then, I talk about a few things in the news: The British are talking about kids pledging allegiance to the Queen, and I tell you what I think that’s about. Then, the Seven Deadly Sins, which Kiwis don’t believe in or, if they do, it’s Lust that gets 'em. A report on fast food shows Kiwis eat a lot of flesh. Christian fanatics in my old area of Illinois are trying to get a book banned. Comments give me the chance to add my bit.

Be sure to donate to Holly’s Walk for the Animals for the Animal Humane Society!

My one year anniversary of podcasting is the end of the month, so you still have time to send me a message. Ring my US listener line or email an MP3 to amerinz@podOmatic.com.

Leave a comment. Or, you can email a comment to comment(at]amerinz.com, or send a personal email to me (won’t be read on the podcast) to arthur{at)amerinz.com. You can also still use my other address, amerinz[at) yahoo.com or ring my US listener line on 206-339-8413.

Links for this episode

Blue Savannah by Erasure iTunes USA Store or iTunes NZ Store. You can also buy Blue Savannah through Amazon.com.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

McCain and torture

Today I’m finishing up my three-day look at Bush’s recent veto of a bill that would forbid the CIA from using torture. On Sunday, I talked about the importance of overriding the veto. Yesterday, I talked about why torture is a bad idea, as well as why the Bush-Cheney regime is so staunch in its defence. In both posts, I talked about John McCain, and how he should be at the forefront of urging that Congress override the veto. Today, I’m talking specifically about that aspect.

Everyone knows that John McCain was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, and that during that time he was tortured. So when in 2005 he planned to introduce an amendment banning the use of torture, he had the complete moral authority to take on the Bush-Cheney regime. It didn’t turn out that way.

As soon as McCain made his move, the White House moved to block him. Dick Cheney personally lobbied Congress, and instructed the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate at the time, Bill Frist (because Republicans controlled Congress), to ensure that no bill came before the Senate that McCain could attach his amendment to. This ploy worked for months, and most media attention was distracted by the disaster of hurricane Katrina.

But the need to pass a military spending bill meant there could be no more delays, and McCain introduced his amendment. The White House announced its opposition, and declared that Bush would use his first-ever veto on the bill if the amendment was attached. The Senate voted 90-9 in favour of McCain’s amendment.

The battle moved to the US House, where Republicans maintained tight control over the process. The version of the bill they passed didn’t contain the McCain amendment. As the two houses worked to resolve the different versions, Cheney personally lobbied them to drop the McCain Amendment or, at least, to exempt the CIA. This would have had the effect of making torture by the CIA legal for the first time ever. McCain himself said it would be better to have no bill at all than to legalise torture by the CIA.

Then, things started to change. The media revealed the existence of the “Extraordinary Rendition” programme in which the CIA would ship people they deemed suspects to third countries to be tortured, in part because the Bush-Cheney regime believed that it was legal for them to use torture as long as it wasn’t on US soil. Citizens of America’s European allies were in an uproar to learn that their countries were staging points (or worse) for these secret CIA operations, which were illegal under both international and local law, as well as US law.

Amid growing opposition to the Bush-Cheney regime’s pro-torture positions, the US House voted 308 to 122 in favour of the torture ban. The margins in both houses were so huge that it was clear that they could override the threatened Bush veto.

So Bush instead announced he would sign the amended bill, and invited McCain and Sen. John Warner to the White House for photos. He tried to make it sound as if he’d always agreed with McCain. So the battle seemed won.

Then, on Friday December 30, 2005, the White House announced Bush had signed the bill. It got little notice. Getting no notice at all was another statement that Bush had issued a “signing statement” claiming that he didn’t have to obey the law.

McCain and Warner issued a statement that they would exercise “strict oversight” to monitor what the Bush-Cheney regime did. However, in the Congress controlled by Republicans loyal to Bush-Cheney, this didn’t happen. As far as I can determine, McCain never said one word about this in the years since.

Which brings us to today. If Bush had signed the current bill, he would’ve issued a signing statement again claiming he was immune from obeying the law. He vetoed it because he’s sure that Congress won’t override it. Which means that if Congress does override, it will for the first time place legal constraints on the Bush-Cheney regime, and open up the members of it, or the CIA, to prosecution if they defy the law.

All of which makes John McCain’s silence so deafening. When he introduced his amendment, Democrats and Republicans alike backed him—strongly. When the Bush-Cheney regime claimed the right to defy the law, McCain did nothing. Now he has the chance to not only make things right, he has the chance to finally outlaw torture in a way that not even the Bush-Cheney regime can defy.

The silence seems to suggest that John is not only McSame as Bush, but the same as every other opportunistic politician devoid of principal. If the one politician in this country who has the greatest moral stature to oppose Bush-Cheney on torture refuses to do so, then we know that he doesn’t have the moral stature to be president. It’s good we know that now, while there’s still plenty of time to reject him.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bush tortures more than people

Yesterday, I wrote how Congress must override Bush’s veto of a bill that would have prohibited the use of torture by the CIA. Today, I’ll elaborate on why.

I said in yesterday’s post that the army bans the torture techniques the Bush-Cheney regime promotes because “they know that such techniques are not only unreliable, they’re also counterproductive”. The military knows where the techniques come from.

Apart from waterboarding, which is a very old torture technique, the torture programme promoted by Bush-Cheney was developed during the Korean War by the Chinese and North Koreans to induce false confessions from captured American soldiers in order to create propaganda.

So, what do you suppose the Bush-Cheney torture programme got? False confessions. This has been fully documented, as has at least one case in which the torture victim was mentally ill to start out with. He provided confession after confession, then the Bush-Cheney regime leaked the confessions to the media to scare the public. They also had Colin Powell use information from a false confession as part of their ad campaign at the United Nations.

Torturing innocent people, who are eventually released, means that news that America tortures prisoners will get back to the real bad people. It provides them with a great propaganda tool and an incentive to torture Americans they capture. All without the US gaining useful information.

So, with torture being such a stupid policy (and illegal, but that’s another subject) what’s really going on here?

The Bush-Cheney regime believes that the president is omnipotent and cannot be forced to obey any law, treaty or act of Congress. When opposition to torture was at the forefront of the public mind, Congress passed John McCain’s bill outlawing waterboading. Bush signed it—and promptly issued a signing statement claiming he didn’t have to obey the law, a tactic that Bush has frequently used. John McCain remained silent about Bush’s betrayal.

What this all means is that Bush doesn’t just torture prisoners: He tortures the US Constitution and the rule of law. This is why Congress must override his veto. The issue isn’t just ending torture, important as that is. The core issue is restoration of Constitutional democracy.

One final point. John McCain has justifiably obtained a lot of sympathy from American voters because of his having been tortured. If he doesn’t stand up to Bush-Cheney and support an override of this veto—especially this veto—then he really is John McSame, and we don’t need that.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Stand up to Bush and torture

Over the weekend, George Bush vetoed a bill that would have banned the use of torture by the CIA. He claimed that use of torture had prevented terrorist attacks, and that presidents should have torture as an option. Congress must override that veto.

The Bush-Cheney regime has major credibility problems on this issue. They’ve long claimed that the US doesn’t use torture, but that denial is based on their legal team having re-defined the word in a way that would give the Bush-Cheney regime legal cover in the event any of them were prosecuted for authorising torture—in direct violation of US law and international treaties. The record shows that they’ve authorised torture in the past, and probably still do; they just don’t call it that.

The army bans the same torture techniques that the Bush-Cheney regime wants the CIA to use because they know that such techniques are not only unreliable, they’re also counterproductive. Very often, tortured prisoners will say whatever the torturers want him to, or what he thinks the torturer wants to hear. Common knowledge about the US using torture also makes it more likely for captured Americans to face torture as well, even if only out of retaliation.

The media has been reporting that because the margin of passage was so small, it’s unlikely that Congress will be able to override Bush’s veto. Nevertheless, Congress must try because torture must be outlawed to remove this stain from America’s good name.

But if Congress can’t override, it’ll be handing a campaign advantage to the Democrats. Let members of Congress defend their support for torture, let the Republican Party explain why they think that torture is a good idea, let George Bush defend torture while he’s standing on the same stage with Jon McCain, a victim of “harsh interrogation techniques”, and let McCain defend his party’s enthusiasm for the use of torture. They can’t because torture isn’t just illegal, it’s also wrong.

So is Bush, so are the Republicans in Congress and so is John McCain if he doesn’t repudiate Bush on this issue. It’s time that Congress stood up to Bush, and stood up for what’s right. They must override.

Friday, March 07, 2008

AmeriNZ 77 - Campaign continues

Episode 77 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 has been a very big week in American politics: The Republican campaign ended, and the Democratic one didn’t. Today Holly from We’re Mean Because You’re Stupid Podcast joins me for a wide-ranging, and unashamedly biased, political discussion.

Who could be John McCain’s running mate? One name mentioned is the governor of Holly’s state. So, what’s he like? We’ve never heard of many of the other people being mentioned.

We don’t have much patience with Democrats who say it’s their candidate or nothing. We think it’s childish. Both Clinton and Obama are better than McCain. I think that Democrats have to be smarter in presenting their campaign and stop trying to argue a liberal or progressive position on conservative issues. We think the Dems have to avoid being “swift boated” again.

My one year anniversary of podcasting is the end of the month, so you still have time to send me a message. Ring my US listener line or email an MP3 to amerinz@podOmatic.com.

Leave a comment. Or, you can email a comment to comment(at]amerinz.com, or send a personal email to me (won’t be read on the podcast) to arthur{at)amerinz.com. You can also still use my other address, amerinz[at) yahoo.com or ring my US listener line on 206-339-8413.

Links for this episode

Blue Savannah by Erasure iTunes USA Store or iTunes NZ Store. You can also buy Blue Savannah through Amazon.com.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

McSame as Bush

Saw this over at Towleroad, and it’s what I’ve been saying for months: Electing McCain in November would mean four more years of Bush-Cheney policies—plus 100 years in Iraq. We can do better. We can have real change, not a rerun, by voting for whoever the Democratic nominee is.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

AmeriNZ 76 – Bits and Pieces

Episode 76 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 didn’t mean to go a week between podcasts. I start out telling you why that was. Then, I talk Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, along with Air New Zealand’s “Pink Flight” between San Francisco and Sydney. Some American gay men need to get over themselves.

A new lesbian MP was sworn into Parliament yesterday. I talk a bit about that, and a little more about New Zealand’s structure. I’ll talk more about that more after the US primaries are over.

There’s a little meta talk about running out of storage on Podomatic and what I might do about it. That pops again in the comments. Do Kiwis have sex more often than Americans?

My one year anniversary of podcasting is the end of the month, so you still have time to send me a message. Ring my US listener line or email an MP3 to amerinz@podOmatic.com.

Leave a comment. Or, you can email a comment to comment(at]amerinz.com, or send a personal email to me (won’t be read on the podcast) to arthur{at)amerinz.com. You can also still use my other address, amerinz[at) yahoo.com or ring my US listener line on 206-339-8413.

Links for this episode

Hello Waffles
That Blue Jeans Guy

Blue Savannah by Erasure iTunes USA Store or iTunes NZ Store. You can also buy Blue Savannah through Amazon.com.

Get AmeriNZ Podcast for free on iTunes

Labour is right on the airport

Recently, the Labour-led Government introduced a move to make it harder for strategic assets to be sold to foreign owners. Predictably, the Opposition was beside itself—only this time, it was because it had split personalities unable to convey a coherent version of whether or not it would sell-off Auckland International Airport.

The National Party has long been an advocate of selling off state assets, or, as some put it, selling off everything that’s not nailed down. Already, as I wrote last October, they’ve announced plans to have private landlords own school buildings and lease them back to schools at market rates. They haven’t yet promised to keep Kiwibank, so we can assume they’ll sell that, too.

But there are compelling reasons to keep Auckland International Airport in New Zealand ownership. It is the main point of entry to New Zealand for people and air freight alike, something of huge importance to an island nation far from world markets.

The owners of the airport decide the costs for using the airport and so what airlines and freight companies land there. They decide whether to invest in the physical infrastructure of the airport, like passenger terminals. Get this wrong, and overseas visits to New Zealand will decine—and so will revenue from tourists. If the foreign owner goes bankrupt, it could make things even worse.

Foreign ownership of Auckland International Airport would be like buying a house, but giving the keys to the (foreign-owned) bank. The bank would tell you when you could enter or leave your house, and with whom, it could charge whatever it wanted for the service and give you no say in any of it.

The supreme irony is that the right has been backing the sale of the airport to foreigners only since Canadians have emerged as the potential buyer. When Dubai wanted to buy the airport, they were practically run out of town. Apparently, to the right some foreigners—like brown ones—aren’t welcome.

Some state-owned assets are too important to be left to the whims of foreign corporations. Labour was right to make selling such strategic assets to foreigners harder. State-owned assets are the property of all New Zealanders, and National has an obligation to tell them which of their assets it will sell off if the party ever becomes government.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

What Disney princess?

My blogging buddy Lost in France took the Disney Princess Test to determine the sort pf princess he is. Naturally, I had to do the same. It turns out, I’m, Cinderella:

You are Cinderella. You are hard-working and never complain, however, your trust is sometimes misplaced and people sometimes take advantage of you. Still, you are beautiful inside and out, and one day you will realize it and find true love.

So: What are you?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Another reason for change

After seven years of lies, deception and cover-ups, revelation of more misdeeds by the Bush-Cheney regime now raise little more than a yawn. So numerous are their high crimes and misdemeanors that run-of-the-mill episodes of favouritism toward big business barely get a mention anymore.

Nevertheless, the pattern of using the bureaucracy of the executive branch to help big business at the expense of the American people ought to be getting attention, no matter how many examples there are.

The Los Angeles Times has reported that the Bush-Cheney Environmental Protection Agency dismissed an award-winning toxicologist, Deborah Rice, who was the chair of an EPA panel looking at the safety of a flame retardant chemical because the chemical industry objected to her.

In attempting to justify its move, the Bush-Cheney EPA said that Rice was dismissed because of "the perception of a potential conflict of interest." She’d testified before the Maine state legislature urging that the chemical in question be banned because her studies had shown that even low doses were toxic to animals. However, the Bush-Cheney EPA routinely uses scientists with clear pro-industry bias on its review panels.

The LA Times article reported, “The Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, reviewed seven EPA panels created last year and found 17 panelists who were employed or funded by the chemical industry or had made public statements that the chemicals they were reviewing were safe.”

For the Bush-Cheney regime, the only interest that doesn’t seem to matter is the public interest. America needs a president who will put the people ahead of corporations. Add this incident to the obscenely long list of why January 20, 2009 cannot come quickly enough.