Tuesday, March 27, 2007

5 years in the USA today.

This is my 5 year anniversary of arriving in the good old USA.... TIME FLYS.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sean Penn mouths off again....

According to the San Francisco Chronicle: Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn has voiced his opinion again and was supposidly the star attraction at a town hall meeting today in Oakland, where hundreds of people gathered to denounce the war in Iraq and call for an immediate withdrawal of American troops.

I once again challenge Mr Penn to run for public office in 2008 so as he can actually put his money and time on the line where his mouth is.

Neither Penn nor Rep. Barbara Lee, the Oakland Democrat who has opposed the war since before it began four years ago, offered much in the way of specifics for ending the conflict, and they were largely preaching to the choir. The enthusiastic and occasionally boisterous crowd of 800 or so crammed into the Grand Lake Theatre wildly cheered as Penn excoriated President Bush. I would guess that they were preaching to the converted.

"You and your smarmy pundits -- and the smarmy pundits you have in your pocket -- can take your war and shove it," Penn said. "Let's unite not only in stopping this war, but in holding this administration accountable."

I am sure that if Mr Penn used more polite language he may well get more credibility in this and any subject he chooses to target. Can't imagine him getting a meeting with the President to outline his principals if he is so curt.

The town hall meeting came six days after peace marches were held nationwide to mark the fourth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and one day after the House of Representatives voted 218-212 to withdraw combat troops by Sept. 1, 2008.

While that is a good target, I think that if the time comes and there is still work to be done that that date will be just a dot in the sand.

Penn reiterated a point often made by opponents of the war when he said he supports the troops but opposes the war.

It is very very important to support the troops as it is their lives on the line. This tug of war over a pull out date is not going to help win the war, all it is going to do is give the insurgents a time line to plan their take over of Iraq upon pullout. Mr Penn needs to come up with something better than just demanding withdrawal.

"Let's make this crystal clear: We do support our troops, but not the exploitation of them and their families," he said. "The money that's spent on this war would be better spent on building levees in New Orleans and health care in Africa and (care for our veterans, which I agree with him on). Iraq is not our toilet. It's a country of human beings whose lives that were once oppressed by Saddam are now in Dante's Inferno."

Lee was among the California Democrats who voted Friday against the $124 billion war spending measure that President Bush has promised to veto. Lee is a member of the "Out of Iraq Caucus" that includes Democrats Lynn Woolsey of Petaluma and Maxine Waters of Los Angeles.

"We can't afford to spend one more dime or lose one more American or Iraqi life on this illegal and un-winnable war," Lee told the crowd, which offered several rousing standing ovations.

Lee introduced Penn to the crowd as movie star and temporary journalist for The Chronicle, referring to his dispatches published in the newspaper when he visited Iran in 2005. Penn also has visited New Orleans as part of the post-Hurricane Katrina rescue effort.

Outside the theater, protesters carried signs saying "Impeach Bush." Among those who attended today's rally were members of Grandmothers Against the War.

At the rally, which was organized by a coalition of Oakland community groups, folk singers led the crowd in song and a rapper rapped about violence in the streets. There were calls for impeachment of the president and for troops to be brought home and pleas for federal dollars to be spent on schools rather than on the war.

What good is Sean Penn really doing? We all want out troops back safe and sound and we'd all like to see and end to the war. He has a few reasonable points, but he seems to just be a trouble maker that never gets anything done other than a couple of write ups in the paper. Modify your attitude Mr Penn and put your balls on the line and run for public office in 2008....DO IT.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Helen Clark and George Bush. A picture I like.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark (Labour) and US President George W Bush (R)

It is nice to see that Helen made the effort to come the the US to visit with the President and Secretary of State. It is important that NZ has good relations with USA and visa versa.

A US free trade agreement for NZ would be a brilliant outcome from this meeting, but I am not holding my breath. A order for 10 or 15 F16 or F18's for the NZ Air force would have been nice too, but we'll have to probably wait for National and ACT to get in power for that. Maybe Helen invited George to NZ after the APEC in Sydney this year? Will he go to NZ? Time will tell.

I notice Helen is wearing slacks again..... It's not like Bill is still President, why does she not dress up a bit more?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Airbus A380 lands at LAX

This morning, the man commonly known as the Triple Johnson and myself ventured to the end of runway 24 R (I think) at LAX by the world famous In " N " Out burger to watch the Airbus A380 land for the first time in USA.

The plane is rather large and is about 8 stories high. It is capable of carrying over 500 people in it's double decker layout, and is due to hit service sometime this year with Singapore Airlines first.

The landing was interesting. It certainly has a presence mid air and was quieter than the UA 747-400 which landed shortly before the A380's arrival. The actual landing was a bit ruff, as it landed somewhat sideways reminisent of what I have seen at the old Hong Kong airport.

There was a couple of hundred people waiting for teh arrival, and it was interesting to see the LA bomb squad cruise by with sirens blaring. Just what you want to see out of your window as you land at an airport.

These are the photo's I took............

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Borat a human rights victum?

According toReuters - Fictional Kazakh TV reporter Borat has made an unexpected cameo appearance as a victim of censorship in a heavyweight annual human rights report issued by the US State Department.

The 2006 report, released in Washington on Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, criticized the real Kazakhstan, a vast oil-producing Central Asian state, for increased restrictions on freedom of speech and other abuses.

The State Department, which says Kazakhstan has no independent judiciary, also listed the murder last year of Kazakh opposition politician Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly, his bodyguard and driver as "unlawful deprivation of life."

The report cited Borat's loss of his Kazakh webpage www.borat.kz in late 2005 alongside court cases and limits on free speech faced by the few domestic media critical of Kazakhstan's long-serving President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

"The government deemed as offensive the content of a satirical site controlled by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and revoked the .kz domain," the report said.

Baron Cohen, who subsequently moved the site to www.borat.tv, has been something of a thorn in the side of Kazakhstan's government, which initially reacted angrily to his portrayal of the country as home to misogynists and racists.

Shortly before the Web site closure, a Kazakh Foreign Ministry official threatened "legal measures" against him. Cohen, who is Jewish, responded in character as Borat saying:

"I ... fully support my government's position to sue this Jew."

There was no lawsuit and officials adopted a more measured stance on Borat, whose movie grossed $248 million last year, with Nazarbayev later saying that he got the joke during a news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In its remarks on Sarsenbaiuly's death, the State Department criticized a Kazakh court for failing "to follow up and investigate signs that other parties and high-level government officials may have been involved in instigating the killings."

The report also listed military hazing, torture by police, unhealthy prison conditions, arbitrary arrests, restrictions on freedom of assembly, domestic violence against women, people trafficking and "severe limits on citizens' rights to change their government" as areas of concern.

Ummm Borat must have been right about his beloved country.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

NZ Govt to pay beneficiaries to get a job.

According to the NZ Herald, beneficiaries in New Zealand will be paid a bonus subsidy of up to $1500 for getting a job under a Government scheme starting next month.

The new "transition to work" subsidy will be available to all beneficiaries, as well as low-income earners facing short gaps in employment and students once they have a job. Question is how long do they have to keep the job to get the subsidy and can they apply for it more than once if the first job doesn't work out? This could open the door for shafters who take advantage of the system?

It will cover costs such as transport, clothing and bridging finance until their first pay, says information from the Ministry of Social Development.

To receive the payment, beneficiaries would need to provide proof they had a job, show a record of the costs incurred in getting the job, as well as passing a cash, asset and income test.

The payment is one of several moves being introduced over the next few months to help long-term beneficiaries and a record number of sickness beneficiaries. Other schemes beginning from next month include new subsidies of up to $380 a week for employers who give beneficiaries work and grants to cover costs incurred for training and work experience.

The initiatives are the first time those on the domestic purpose benefit (DPB), sickness and invalid benefits have been offered assistance to get into the workforce.

The beneficiaries should be informed that once they are off the benefit they are expected to keep their job for at least a year and no more benefits will be available to them during that time.

Legislation is also being developed that will put obligations on these beneficiaries by making them provide plans to Work and Income on how they will get a job. The benefit should only be available for terms not exceeding 6 months, that will get people thinking about how to make a living.

Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope said feedback from beneficiaries showed one in five wanted to work and would appreciate help. One in five.... That means 4 out of 5 of these beneficiaries (provided they are not ill) who provided feedback are lazy. That also tells me that they are getting paid too much to want to work... Time for change.

The idea is interesting to motivate people off their arse, but I am still weary of it. What are your thoughts?