Thursday, 30 June 2005

Are the Labour Party getting rattled?

After crusing along in Government for the last few years, PM Hillin Cluck's Labour Party suddenly seem to be edging towards panic mode...

With recent polls putting National about equal, or even slightly ahead of Labour, they now seem a little concerned that a third term might not be a shoe-in, and are refusing to announce an election date until the last possibly minute.

Late last month, Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen rushed out a Press Release ahead of National's annual conference, entitled Tax policy announcement from National on Sunday?. In the release, Dr Cullen called on Dr Brash to reveal his tax policy during the conference...

“National Party delegates are surely entitled to expect that Don Brash will announce this weekend the tax platform National will take into the election,” Finance Minister Michael Cullen said.

It seems Labour are anxiously hanging out for National's taxation policy, so they have time to try and come up with some legitimate sounding reasons about why they can't do it. (Despite the fact they just suddenly found an extra 1/2 a billion dollars, which they promptly committed to "transport"... and apparently $500 million translates to less than "the proverbial packet of chewing gum" for taxpayers, according to Dr Cullen's unique math!)

PM Clark's also getting rattled. She was upset that one of her bezza mates, Speaker of the House Margaret Wilson, kicked her out of the House recently for butting in while Nick Smith was speaking. She said the incident was "frankly, a little ridiculous". Apparently the rules of Parliament should apply only to everybody else.

She then called a Media conference to announce the 'apology' to Israel at 3pm on the Sunday afternoon of National's annual conference, forcing journalists to fly from Auckland to Wellington to catch the afternoon apology.

The reason for the unusually timed weekend media conference was (according to Ms Clark) because it was being "synchronised with the Government of Israel"... despite the notion that politicians in Tel Aviv were rising at 6am on a Sunday morning especially for a cabinet meeting to hear a statement from the New Zealand Prime Minister seemed highly unlikely. (That was apparently confirmed shortly after, with Israel saying the apology had been approved by their PM two months earlier!)

Finally, David Benson-Pope's happily back at work for the Labour Government, and seems unlikely to face charges following 'Bullygate'. Speaker Margaret Wilson ruled earlier this month, there's no question of privilege against Benson-Pope.

Apparently telling the House that you "didn't stuff tennis balls in students mouths, didn't tie students hands together, and didn't whack a student on the back of the head so his nose bled", doesn't constitute "lying in Parliament". Huh? Am I living in North Korea?!

Even some of Benson-Pope's supporters have said "well he might have done it, but lots of others probably did similar things back then... it's just how things were in schools". That's as may be. But any other teachers who did similar acts aren't now Associate Ministers of Education launching anti-bullying campaigns...
[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Gavin DeGraw - Chariot
^ Bodies Without Organs - Open Door ]

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Saturday, 4 June 2005

Quick bite of the Big Apple

Just about finishing my quick stint in New York - it's the shortest time I've spent in Manhattan in the six years I've been here!

I spent the bulk of the time doing Broadway shows... saw Monty Python's new Spamalot musical, which features most of the well known routines from Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail movie.

Waited around with crowds of others after the show to try and get autographs - got Hank Azaria's (Huff, Simpsons) and David Hyde Pierce (Frasier), plus a few others. (Unfortunately, Tim Curry didn't come out for a signing session with the others, but Hank Azaria was the best of the bunch anyway - he did the French Taunter part brilliantly, plus Lancelot and Knight of Ni... however he leaves just after this weekend's Tony Awards to shoot the new season of his TV series, Huff).

Yesterday, I hopped on a bus and went back to my old summer-camp-day-off-stomping-ground, the Palisades Center Mall in Middletown... had to make the essential trip to pick up some new gear from Abercrombie & Fitch/Aeropostale/American Eagle/Steve and Barry's!) In the evening, I went to see the musical Wicked - saw it last year as well, but this time had a front row seats, and the cast was largely changed.

Today I nipped down to CNN to do a tour of the place there - pretty cool setup and studios, altho unfortunately there were no live shows going on while I was there. The rest of the day was spent doing a double header of shows - Altar Boyz at the new Dodger Stages in the afternoon (very cool setup - five small-mid size theatres in one converted cinema multiplex)... and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in the evening (great book/script - very funny - but the music was a bit crap unfortunatley).

Have an early morning start tomorrow to fly from New York back to LA to catch up with the Pheloung gang... we've got dinner at the Medieval Times theme restaurant/show at night, which should be fun, then Disneyland/Universal Studios for the next few days before I have to come back home, and back to reality again ;-)

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ My brand new Apple iPod Photo 30GB! ]

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Thursday, 2 June 2005

Leaving Old Blighty

I've finished my stint in England, and have just come off a long series of flights which ended up in New York.

I met up with Janine, Ted, and Vince Pheloung, plus Stuart Walker (all Operatic peoples) in London (Victoria) on Friday, to see a few shows and do a bit of sightseeing.

We all went to the new Mary Poppins on Saturday afternoon, meeting up with DrWeeSean at the theatre. WeeSean used to live in Dunedin, and I also used to board with when I lived in Luton. The rest of the gang went to The Producers in the evening (I'd seen it in New York previously), while Sean and I went to see the movie The Kingdom of Heaven in Leicester Square, which wasn't flash - started off pretty slow and was kinda confusing for a long while.

On Sunday, Stuart went with me to do the London Eye (massive slow-mo ferris wheel type thing)... It went up for the Millennium, and altho I did the Millennium Dome while I was living over there, I'd never actually done the Eye.

Also checked out an IMAX 3D film, Aliens of the Deep... great screen, as big as 5 double decker buses!

In the evening I caught up with some rellies in London - Uncle Paul and Rebecca, and my only two cousins on Mum's side, William and Max. It was good to catch up - the annual exchange of news from both sides of the family, as the rest of the kiwi bunch will never make it to London ;-)

On Monday, Vince and I headed down to Buckingham Palace to see Liz and the Lads, and to see the Changing of the Guards.

Got a fairly good spot, altho it started to rain heavily just as they came by us, so everyone taking photos had to contend with the moron tourists in the front row who stuck their huge brolleys up in the air.

After that, the boys all went to an English pub for a traditional meal of bangers and mash before seeing Guys and Dolls in the evening, starring Ewan McGregor and Jane Krakowski (Elaine from Ally McBeal apparently).

The UK leg finished with a tour of the the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday, and seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber's newest show, the Woman in White in the evening. I was seeing it for the second time, after catching it in previews last year. I enjoyed it, altho the guy playing Count Fosco (Michael Crawford's old character) was absolutely shite. Very cool projection video-motion sets, and not a bad score from Sir Andrew.

The rest of the crew are now in Las Vegas, but I wanted to nip up to NYC instead. Had a strange and long-winded series of flights, which included a bit of backtracking. The leg from London to the States had a plane load of Indians on their way to Delhi, who seemed to be taking the entire contents of their homes with them, by the amount of big cases they were trying to squeeze into the bins as "carry on luggage"... However, for the internal flight from LA to NYC I had a seat with extra legroom, and noone beside me :-)

Unfortunately, I also had an envelope of american cash disappear from my suitcase, while it was in transit, somewhere between LA. I got some cash out in LA, but in the US they make you leave your baggage unlocked, so I had to take the padlock off before I checked it in. When I picked it up at the other end, the whole case was in a shambles, and my money bag had been opened, with only random coins scattered throughout the case.

Unfortunately, it seems my travel insurance doesn't cover it, and the Transportation Security Administration claim procedure (they do all the security bag searches) seems pretty complicated and unlikely to produce a result for the small value. Oh well, lesson learnt... I've now bought myself a brand new "TSA-approved" padlock, which means you can lock your luggage, but they can open it if they need to check inside with a special release key. At least it would stop any baggage handlers along the way being able to get into it?...

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