Saturday 13 July 2024

Rock journalism ...


"Most rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read."
~ Frank Zappa from a 1977 interview

Friday 12 July 2024

"Neither climate nor climate change cause, fuel, or influence weather. Yes, you read that right"

"It is now a ubiquitous cultural ritual to blame any and every weather event on climate change. Those hot days? Climate change. That hurricane? Climate change. The flood somewhere that I saw on social media? Climate change.
    "With today’s post, the first in a series, I go beyond the cartoonish media caricatures of climate change, which I expect are here to stay, and explore the actual science of extreme events — how they may or may not be changing, and how we think we know what we know, and what we simply cannot know. ...
    "Let’s correct one pervasive and pathological misunderstanding endemic across the media and in policy, and sometimes spotted seeping into peer-reviewed scientific research:
Neither climate nor climate change cause, fuel, or influence weather.
"Yes, you read that right.
    "Climate change is a change in the statistics of weather — It is an outcome, not a cause.
    "I often use hitting in baseball as an analogy. A hitter’s batting average does not cause hits. Instead, a batter’s hits result in their overall batting average. Lots of things can change a batter’s hitting performance, but batting average change is not one of them.

"As the Google NGrams figure above indicates, the idea that climate change is a causal agent has become increasingly common in recent decades, departing dramatically from its use in the IPCC and much of the scientific community. I am sure you can point to examples that you encounter every day. ...
    "Weather can be characterised statistically, but weather does not occur as a result of simple statistical processes. Weather is the the integrated result of at least: dynamical, thermodynamical, chaotic, societal, biospheric, cryospheric, lithospheric, oceanic, vulcanological, solar, and, yes, stochastic processes."
~ Roger Pielke Jr. from his post 'Climate-Fuelled Extreme Weather.' [Emphasis in the original. Hat tip Kip Hansen]


Thursday 11 July 2024

Labelling everything "far-right" normalises the real far-right

"Progressive devotees have expanded the scope of who and what is 'far-right' ... [But] if milquetoast conservatives get into government as ‘far-right’ and govern in a way with no perceptible difference to the liberal consensus ... then it normalises the idea of far-right government. ...
    "If mothers growing their own food are far-right, the pro-life church lady is far-right, the radical feminist who isn’t keen on transvestites is far-right, the liberal who gets fired for not using progressive speech codes at his corporate job is far-right, then no one is going to bat an eye at the real far-right – whoever they may be and wherever they may lurk. When the progressive says, ‘But he’s far-right!’ about someone with genuinely reactionary political aims and the means to achieve them, no one will recoil in horror.
    "Instead they will think, ‘Ah, so he is just like me.'
    "The funeral pyre of progress has been constructed by the hands of its faithful devotees and awaits only the match that will set it ablaze."
~ Dieuwe de Boer from, his post 'The Funeral Pyre of Progress'


Wednesday 10 July 2024

So maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't give central bankers the keys to the whole monetary system.

"To repeat one of my consistent lines, human beings are fallible, they make mistakes. Central banks – here and abroad – are made up of humans, so they make mistakes. Really serious ones, of the sort seen in the last few years, shouldn’t happen but they do. One might even offer perspectives in mitigation: the pandemic was something quite extraordinary, and many people (here and abroad) misread the macroeconomics of it for too long. But those responsible need to take responsibility for the mistakes that were made."
~ Michael Reddell from his post 'Still avoiding responsibility'

Don't worry, the central banks will control inflation.


[Hat tip Rudy Havenstein]

Tuesday 9 July 2024

"The suggestion is that the loss of Newshub and associated jobs is tantamount to the Last Trumpet. It is not."

"[Playwright] Eugene O’Neill said that by using the title 'Mourning Becomes Electra,' he sought to convey 'that mourning befits Electra; it becomes Electra to mourn; it is her fate; black is becoming to her and it is the colour that becomes her destiny.'
    "Newshub went off the air on Friday 5 July 2024. This was reckoned to be a sad day. Sad because a mainstream media platform was no longer being supported by its owners. Particularly sad for those who lost their jobs. In fact the outpouring of grief on that front has been repetitive to the point of banality. ...
    "I have always wondered at the media’s fascination with itself. It is, as [one commentator] suggests, 'an unedifying orgy of self-aggrandisement as Newshub journalists and broadcasters very publicly and ostentatiously mourn the imminent loss of their jobs…..
    "The suggestion is that the loss of Newshub and associated jobs is tantamount to the Last Trumpet. It is not. The Newshub closure represents a certain inevitability that those who worked for it have failed to recognise or understand. [Ironic for an organisation allegedly reporting the news.]
    "The communications landscape has changed utterly. ... Their self-absorbed narrative [has not.] ...[L]ike Elektra’s, [it remains] one of grief."

~ David Harvey from his post 'Mourning Becomes the Media'

"However much it offended the sensibilities of design snobs and planners, we were there because our shoebox apartment was better than the alternative."

"[I]n 2005, Auckland city was ... dotted with cranes, many standing up so-called 'shoebox apartments.'
   "The phrase was not meant as a compliment. They were derided as 'future slums' ... [which] ultimately led to a rule change ... making the minimum size of a two-bedroom apartment 70 square metres. ... [T]he change had a profound and lasting impact on apartment construction. ...

Chart by Apracitis Economics, from The Spinoff

"In 2005, I was only dimly aware of the furore, of the disgust shoebox apartments aroused. In 2005, I was living in one. ... In retrospect that apartment was where I started to get my shit together, started to have a sense that I could be something more than a fuckup....
    "The apartments were objectively ugly, though not so bad as they were made out at the time.
    "But the upside overwhelmed all that. I was right there in the city. ... It was what I needed at that time, however much it offended the sensibilities of design snobs and planners. I feel confident in saying many other residents, transient as we often were, felt the same way. We were there because it was better than the alternative. ...
    "Another characteristic of the inner city when I lived there was that homelessness barely existed. I remember vividly an extraordinary double-page feature in the 'NZ Herald' which looked at life among the unhoused then. It mapped specific characters, and if you spent a lot of time in the inner city, it seemed a near-complete survey.
    "The idea that you could now map the scale of human misery that a lack of housing has brought to Auckland is unimaginable. As the ’00s wore on, the GFC hit and the next decade began, the city acquired its current reality, with hundreds of people making lives on the streets of downtown and its fringes. It’s now a countrywide phenomenon.
    "That’s the backdrop of the reforms announced last week by housing minister Chris Bishop. I travelled into the city to see him deliver a speech about housing last week ... He spent long periods wading through the thickets of regulation, through the acronym soup of the MDRS and the NPS-UD, and paid compliments to Auckland’s groundbreaking 2016 unitary plan, which started the process of unshackling land for development and finally saw us surpass the heady mid-00s for construction of multi-units.
    "But the part which leapt out for me was not technical, it was moral. He announced an override of the minimum dwelling size standards – a return to plausibility for the kind of place I lived in 20 years ago. In front of a room full of people involved in construction and leasing, with tables for Colliers and CBRE and Crockers, he made a simple case. 'You know what is smaller than a shoebox apartment? A car or an emergency housing motel room.' That’s our current plan for dealing with people who don’t have a house, and it’s indefensible.
    "The rest of the reforms he announced are big. They are a continuation of an enormous body of work which started with Auckland’s unitary plan, was driven forward by Phil Twyford’s revolutionary NPS-UD which created a huge potential for urban density, and now reaches a powerful climax with Bishop’s 'Going for Housing Growth' package.
    "It’s not beyond criticism ... But to me those issues are less material, and likely to be less impactful, due to the return of the maligned shoebox."

"Socialism has never and nowhere been at first a working-class movement.... " [updated]

"Socialism has never and nowhere been at first a working-class movement. It is by no means an obvious remedy for the obvious evil which the interests of that class will necessarily demand. It is a construction of theorists, deriving from certain tendencies of abstract thought with which for a long time only the intellectuals were familiar; and it required long efforts by the intellectuals before the working classes could be persuaded to adopt it as their programme."
~ Friedrich Hayek, from his 1949 article 'The Intellectuals and Socialism'
"Socialism is not a movement of the people. It is a movement of the intellectuals, originated, led and controlled by the intellectuals, carried by them out of their stuffy ivory towers into those bloody fields of practice where they unite with their allies and executors: the thugs."
~ Ayn Rand, from, her 1962 essay 'The Monument Builders,' excerpted in the Ayn Rand Lexicon entry on 'Socialism'

Monday 8 July 2024

'Sudden housing intensification' is simply a by-product of past mistakes

"If we'd had super liberal residential zoning since 1925, the market would have naturally led to 'incremental intensification.' 
    "In other words, 'sudden intensification' is a by-product of past mistakes with strict zoning. We should fix those mistakes ASAP."

“What is it about the study of modern philosophy that tends to make brilliant minds stupid?"

“What is it about the study of [modern] philosophy that tends to make brilliant minds stupid when it comes down to what are known as actual cases? Consider Martin Heidegger, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ludwig Wittgenstein ... four great names in twentieth-century philosophy: the first was a Nazi, the second died certain that America was responsible for all the world’s evil, the third was a Stalinist long after any justification for being so could be adduced, and the fourth lived on the borders of madness most of his life. Contemplation of the lives of philosophers is enough to drive one to the study of sociology.”
~ Joseph Epstein from his Essays in Biography [hat tip Stephen Hicks]


Sunday 7 July 2024

After the UK election, what is the future of British conservatism?

Conservative Party MP (and Austrian economics enthusiast) Steve Baker lost his High Wycombe seat in the UK election. He was asked about the future of the Conservative Party, about which he has himself been severely critical even when in government, and if "small c" conservative policies were the cause of Britain's problems. [Starts at 9:16]

“GB NEWS INTERVIEWER: What is the future of British conservatism?”

“Whatever problems Britain has got, they weren't caused by government being limited, by taxes being too low, by budgets being balanced, or by debt being too low — or even by money being too tight with high interest rates, because we haven't had those. …
    “The problem is that we've had big government. High spending. Lots of debt, QE and cheap credit. That is not conservative economic policy. And the problem is we've really — and I've said this in all the interviews I've done for 50 years — the [whole] Western world has been living systematically beyond its means and using cheap credit and now QE to cover the gap. And you can't do that without manufacturing Mass Injustice. This is why people can't afford houses — young people particularly. If you pump lots of cheap credit into houses don't be surprised if the price soars, particularly when planning law constrains the supply of land.
    “These are disastrous policies. But in the end, they arise because the state spends too much. So the future of conservatism actually is to face the real world as it is which is that you can't spend more than you're earning in the long run. And your viewers know that.”

 Meanwhile, Razi Ginsberg and Morgan Carter at the Ayn Rand Centre UK observe that things can only get worse ...

Saturday 6 July 2024

Why music is getting worse


Musician/music producer/music commentator Rick Beato explains the real reason much of music is getting worse.

Is this "old man yelling at clouds"?

Well, not really.

It's a man who's been around and seen a lot — a man who knows music — explaining why music is getting worse.

And the real reason is reasonably straightforward.

Friday 5 July 2024

"Yes, Labour has won a landslide, but it’s not quite Starmer-geddon."

Britain's 'leaders' mourn the death of the Uniparty

"Yes, [UK] Labour has won a landslide [in the British election overnight], but it’s not quite Starmer-geddon. According to the exit poll, his landslide, predicted to be the largest since 1832 in one eve-of-election poll, is in fact smaller than Tony Blair’s in 1997, although not by much (170 v 179). 
    "More encouraging, if the exit poll is to be believed, is that Labour only managed a vote share of 36%, significantly lower than in 2017 under Jeremy Corbyn (40%). 
    "By contrast, the Tories and Reform won a combined share of 43%. [Labour leader] Keir Starmer has won a landslide but not a mandate – his own majority is down by 16,000 – although I doubt he’ll be constrained by that.
    "The Left of the Labour Party will point to the fact that Starmer polled fewer votes than Corbyn – we don’t know that for sure yet, but it looks likely – and dispute that Labour only won this election by tacking to the centre, just as the Right of the Conservative Party will argue the Party didn’t lose by abandoning the centre ground (which is the prevailing orthodoxy among ‘One Nation’ Tories, believe it or not). And they’d both be right, in my view. In spite of Starmer’s victory, technocratic managerialism – or 'stakeholder capitalism,' as Klaus Schwab calls it – hasn’t exactly triumphed in this election. 
    "The Uniparty – that is, the Conservative Party under Sunak and the Labour Party under Starmer – got a bloody nose in the sense that the two main parties received an even lower share of the vote – 62% – than they did in 2010 (66%). That’s a lower share than in 1983 at the height of the SDP‘s popularity (70%) and worse than in either of the 1974 elections. Indeed, lower than in 1923, when the two main parties won 68.7%. You have to go all the way back to 1918, when the Liberal Party hadn’t yet collapsed, to find find Labour and the Conservatives collectively polling a lower vote share (59.2%).

"The superficial take on the result is that the U.K. is bucking the anti-technocratic trend sweeping the rest of the globe, particularly France where we may be witnessing the death throes of the Fifth Republic. But look beyond Labour’s landslide and the real story of the last six weeks is the rise of Reform and the lack of enthusiasm for the two centrist parties. 
    "Indeed, if we had PR in the U.K., as they do in the EU, we might now be looking at a Right-of-centre coalition with a populist leader at the helm and a move away from the Uniparty’s position on immigration and Net Zero, as well as its uncritical embrace of sectarian identity politics. We may have to wait another five years before that happens, but it seems unlikely, to put it mildly, that Starmer’s premiership will breathe new life into this calcified ideology. Much more likely is that a succession of policy failures, leading to a financial crisis, civil unrest and rolling black-outs, will be the death knell of technocratic managerialism. 
    "In 2029, the British electoral may finally vote for real change."
~ Toby Young from his post 'End of the Uniparty'

"The success of our civilisation rests on the pillars of Enlightenment thought—not on belief in the supernatural or in any specific set of ancient myths"

"Many liberals are strangely eager to concede that liberal societies are morally and spiritually bankrupt without religion to give life meaning. ... liberalism [they say] has proven incapable of filling the 'hole in people’s souls.' ... Liberalism 'nurtures the gentle bourgeois virtues like kindness and decency,' but not the 'loftier virtues, like bravery, loyalty, piety and self-sacrificial love.' Although he considers himself a liberal, [the NY Times's David] Brooks thinks liberal societies are lonely, atomised, and even selfish.
    "Brooks joins a growing list of public intellectuals who maintain that the principles and institutions of liberalism—democracy, freedom of speech and conscience, individual rights, and the rule of law—aren’t sufficient for societies to flourish. They believe society needs an anchor that goes deeper than liberalism—what Brooks describes as 'faith, family, soil and flag.
    "There are different expressions of this belief. In an article for the 'Spectator,' journalist Ed West discusses a phenomenon he describes as 'New Theism'—an intellectual movement pushing back against the rising secularism in Western liberal societies. In a recent essay for 'Quillette,' the historian and author Adam Wakeling describes this phenomenon as 'political Christianity,' which he defines as the belief that 'Western civilisation has Christian foundations, and returning to those Christian roots can help protect Western values today.' Wakeling challenges both of these beliefs and argues that the 'success of our civilisation rests on the pillars of Enlightenment thought: constitutional government, secularism, science, the rule of law, and human rights—not on belief in the supernatural or in any specific set of ancient myths' ...
    "Liberalism has lasted for centuries because it is the only set of principles and practices that enables diverse societies to thrive. But liberalism is under threat today. From the emergence of an illiberal and zero-sum form of identity politics on the Left to the resurrection of blood-and-soil nationalism on the Right, the consensus on liberalism in many Western democracies is breaking down. ... Many liberals are strangely eager to concede that liberal societies are morally and spiritually bankrupt without religion or some other 'comprehensive doctrine' to give life meaning. ...
    "The idea that we’re responsible for making our own meaning can be daunting. While religious believers have established doctrines, traditions, and communities, millions of their fellow citizens must find their way to lives of purpose without this scaffolding. Those who call for a religious revival in the West never explain what this looks like in practice. Does it merely mean refilling pews? Or some version of integralism, in which the state and religion are fused? What about the millions of people who simply can’t believe? Thomas Jefferson opens the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom by observing that the 'opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds.' There’s a large and growing population of people in liberal societies who have followed the evidence away from religious faith, and they don’t need a surrogate faith to replace it.
    "The citizens of liberal democracies are fortunate to live in societies that afford them the luxury to have crises of meaning. In many other societies, and at many points in history, people faced more immediate crises: a king or a dictator who would kill them for believing the wrong thing; rival clans that would regularly raid their villages and destroy their homes; life at the mercy of nature, disease, poverty, and starvation. Liberal ideas and institutions like the rule of law, property rights and contract enforcement, and freedom of expression and conscience deserve much of the credit for the health, prosperity, and autonomy we enjoy today. The one thing liberalism can’t provide, however, is a sense of meaning and purpose—that’s up to us, and the responsibility of making our own meaning is a small price to pay. For many, it isn’t a price at all."

~ Matt Johnson from his article 'Liberalism and the West’s ‘Crisis of Meaning’'

Thursday 4 July 2024

UK Election: Choosing "the spam sandwich over the bowl of cold sick"

"I write this entry less than a week before the country ‘goes to the polls’. On July 4th, the British electorate will vote, and it will pick – as it always does – the best option before it. This will mean electing a Labour Government. ...
    "I wish that the people had better options to choose from. But that is not the way democracy works. The voters have to eat what is in front of them on the dinner table, not the Michelin-starred feast they could be having if only they had Michel Roux in the kitchen. And they will, naturally, choose the bland over the actively distasteful – the spam sandwich over the bowl of cold sick. ...
    "People don’t vote on the basis of wanting to 'punish' the Government or because 'they don’t know what they’re voting for.' In aggregate they vote on the basis of a rational choice. And the Tory Party has simply presented the U.K. electorate in 2024 with only one such choice: not to elect it into Government."

~ David McGrogan from his column 'Why the Labour Party Will Win'
"Sunak is a walking, talking reminder that technocracy is a con – that the politicians and institutions most keen to fetishise ‘competence’ and ‘delivery’, over the messy business of ideology and democratic politics, are often rank incompetents who would struggle to deliver a pizza. 
    "Indeed, it is precisely Sunak’s deference to the blob – to the prevailing orthodoxies of the state and the quangocracy – that made him being the man to finally fix Britain’s deep-seated problems such an unlikely prospect. His coronation as PM – all without the say-so of Tory members, let alone the country at large – was premised on the claim he would ‘calm the markets’ after the mini-budget meltdown and that he would defer to the wisdom of the Treasury mandarins, the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility, who were all so outrageously defied by Truss and Kwarteng. 
    "In practice, this meant deferring to the very ‘experts’ who have for decades been presiding over Britain’s economic decay. ...
    "If there’s a lesson to be learned from the Rishi Sunak era, it’s this: politicians who believe in nothing, quite often end up achieving nothing. Nothing good, anyway."
~ Tom Slater from his op-ed 'Rishi Sunak and the folly of managerialism'

" 'The Government is taking immediate action to support New Zealand’s media and content production sector.' This is both an unprincipled and a stupid decision."

"'The Government is taking immediate action to support New Zealand’s media and content production sectors, while it develops a long-term reform programme, Media and Communications Minister Paul Goldsmith says.' ...
    "This is both an unprincipled and a stupid decision. I can handle principled stupid decisions and even unprincipled smart decisions but this is neither.
    "It is unprincipled because it is forcing successful companies in one industry (social networks and search engines) to fund failing companies in another industry (media). The only rationale for this is that Google and Meta have money and Stuff doesn’t. Will we see Netflix levied money to fund home video rental stores? Will we see Foodstuffs levied money to find Whitcoulls?
    "It is also a very stupid decision. ... The Government is going to pass a law to fund a media that will oppose almost everything that supporters of the Government believe in.
    "Even worse, it will set up a structural incentive for the media to become even more left leaning. ... [to] insist the levy be doubled ... [to] create an institutional bias in favour of the parties that will benefit media the most."
~ David Farrar from his post 'Stupid Government backing Willie’s bill'

Can you be a leftist, and still find enjoyment?

“Leftist libertarians see enjoyment as an emancipatory power: every oppressive power has to rely on libidinal repression, and the first act of liberation is to set the libido free.
    "Puritan Leftists are, on the contrary, inherently suspicious of enjoyment: for them, it is a source of corruption and decadence, an instrument used by those in power to maintain their hold over us, so the first act of liberation is to break its spell.
    "The third position is that taken by [Alain] Badiou: jouissance is the nameless ‘infinite,’ a neutral substance which can be instrumentalised in a number of ways.”
~ Slavoj Žižek, from his book Living in the End Times. Hat tip Stephen Hicks, who reckons an interesting exercise would be to think of the leftists one knows or knows about, and to discover into which category they fit.


Wednesday 3 July 2024

WELFARE: "National will persist with the tinkering..."

"Right now, benefit statistics are worse than at the time of last year's election. There are 380,169 main beneficiaries — a rise of 5 percent. The number on a Jobseeker benefit is up 7.5 percent. ...
    "[I]t is long-term single parent dependence which drives inter-generational malaise - the most serious social problem the country faces. Inter-generational dependence drives under-achievement, domestic dysfunction, ill-health and crime.
    "So what is National doing?
    "The same thing it does every time it returns to power. It gets a bit tougher about oversight of beneficiaries ... They set some soft targets ... but make no mention of sole parents (who are also not required to 'check-in').
    "The last big National [Party] welfare reforms (2013) comprised ... changing benefit names.
    "The percentage of working-age people dependent on welfare is higher now than then. [Much higher]
    "There is an inertia about the numbers which is going to take some radical actions to disrupt them. But National lacks the necessary reforming zeal.
    "National will persist with the tinkering that deflects attention and mollifies their voters while the country's historic heavy and unhealthy over-reliance on the welfare system continues."
~ Lindsay Mitchell, from her post 'Welfare - no good news'

Tuesday 2 July 2024

Fiscal responsibility be damned. The trough is now wide open.

"When it has been filled with a swill funded by taxpayers and invitations have been issued to various organisations to come and slurp, it’s fair to suppose it is a trough. This likelihood is increased significantly when we learn the invitation to come and slurp is issued by Shane Jones.
    "As Minister of Regional Development, Jones has invited councils, iwi, businesses and community organisations with infrastructure projects that support regional priorities to apply for funding from the Regional Infrastructure Fund, which opened [yesterday]. ... Jones’s invitation to apply for a place around the trough was among the latest press statements and speeches posted on the government’s official website."
~ Buzz from the Beehive, from their post 'Roll up, oinkers – Shane Jones is calling hogs to a new trough, not as rich as the PGF, true, but a $1.2bn swill must be tempting'

But it's *not* just 'back-office' jobs that are going, is it.


Folk are "astonished" that the culling of "back office" jobs is resulting in the loss of jobs that "should have ben recognised as a basic duty. ... And that we're gradually going to discover that a lot of 'non front-line' jobs that got cut were actually important."

Why on earth is this astonishing? It is entirely predictable. At times like this you might have asked yourself:"What would Sir Humphrey do?" And your answer would be that, when ordered to "cut jobs," it wouldn't be back-office jobs he'd be cutting. 

So don't go acting surprised. 'Cos I told you all this back in April:

Monday 1 July 2024

"On present form, Luxon is looking like a watered down version of John Key, and Willis a watered down version of Bill English."

"The Prime Minister was elected on the basis that his previous career as CEO meant he had a much greater business acumen than Labour's leaders. ... However, yesterday it was revealed .... that the builder of the now cancelled new ferries ... has put in a claim stemming from the terminated $551 million contract ... [and] KiwRail don't know what will be the size of the claim that the NZ taxpayer will ultimately end up paying. ... [I]t's not up to Kiwi Rail's lawyers to decide what is "fair" - it depends on what HMD's lawyers also believe what is fair - and should the two not agree, it ultimately must be decided in court. Furthermore, the government cannot tell anyone what will be the cost of smaller, scaled-down ferries.
    "The crux of the matter is ... the question ... how could PM Luxon & Finance Minister Willis pull out of a billion dollar deal with no idea of the legal consequences?
    "With no idea of the costs of the claims that will arise?
    "With no idea of the price of a replacement deal?
    "PM Luxon talks a big game but has he ever done a three-billion dollar deal before? No. Has he ever pulled out of a billion dollar deal before? No. Elon Musk tried pulling out of a multi-billion dollar deal to buy Twitter. It was a nightmare - so costly that he ended up going ahead with it.
    "If Luxon and Willis don't smarten up and prove they know how to do deals ... show they know [for example] how to do a quality-enhancing health-care reform (rather than pretending abolishing the Māori Health Authority is a reform plan) then we will know in quick order that both are not the real deal.
    "On present form, Luxon is looking like a watered down version of John Key, and Willis a watered down version of Bill English. Labour were so bad that anything is an improvement. But these two are so far looking like not much of one."

~ Robert MacCulloch from his post 'Who, with an ounce of business sense, pulls out of a deal with no idea of what legal claims will arise, and with no idea of the price of a replacement deal? PM Luxon and Finance Minister Willis.'

For readers

"Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated."
~ C.S. Lewis from his 1961 book An Experiment in Criticism

Saturday 29 June 2024

"This election is the perfect expression of the state of the union today."

"When I look at this election — which is terrible; I mean, you have two mentally deficient, 80-year-old men running for office, and a 70-year-old alternative who has never held office, riding on conspiracy theories and a family name — you know you’ve reached the end of the line. ... By 'end of the line,' I mean that the two major parties and many institutions are effectively dead or dying. That's not a bad thing."
~ Nick Gillespie on Twitter


Wednesday 26 June 2024

50 or so from 'The Devil's Dictionary'

Ambrose Bierce's famous Devil's Dictionary (aka the Cynic's Dictionary) emerged out of his column for the San Francisco Examiner written from 1881 to 1888, emerging as a best-selling book sixteen years later. Usually cutting, always funny, these were some of the best entries. Few are spared...
Abdication, n. An act whereby a sovereign attests his sense of the high temperature of the throne.

Absent, adj. Peculiarly exposed to the tooth of detraction; vilified; hopelessly in the wrong; superseded in the consideration and affection of another.

Admiration, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.

Advice, n. The smallest current coin.

Air, n. A nutritious substance supplied by a bountiful Providence for the fattening of the poor.

Alliance, n. In international politics, the union of two thieves who have their hands so deeply inserted in each other’s pocket that they cannot separately plunder a third.

Applause, n. The echo of a platitude.

Archbishopn. An ecclesiastical dignitary one point holier than a bishop.
Armor, n. The kind of clothing worn by a man whose tailor is a blacksmith.
Babe or Baby, n. A misshapen creature of no particular age, sex, or condition, chiefly remarkable for the violence of the sympathies and antipathies it excites in others, itself without sentiment or emotion.

Back, n. That part of your friend which it is your privilege to contemplate in your adversity.

Boundary, n. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other. 
Brandy, n. A cordial composed of one part thunder-and-lightning, one part remorse, two parts bloody murder, one part death-hell-and-the-grave and four parts clarified Satan. Dose, a headful all the time. 
Brute, n. See Husband.

Cabbage, n. A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head.
Cabinet, n. The principal persons charged with the mismanagement of a government, the charge being commonly well founded.
Calamity, n. A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering. Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

Cannon, n. An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries.

Capital, n. The seat of misgovernment.

Cat, n. A soft, indestructible automaton provided by nature to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle.

Cemetery, n. An isolated suburban spot where mourners match lies, poets write at a target, and stone-cutters spell for a wager.

Cerberus, n. The watch-dog of Hades, whose duty it was to guard the entrance—against whom or what does not clearly appear; everybody, sooner or later, had to go there, and nobody wanted to carry off the entrance.

Childhood, n. The period of human life intermediate between the idiocy of infancy and the folly of youth—two removes from the sin of manhood and three from the remorse of age. 
Christian, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbour. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin. 

Clergyman, n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method of bettering his temporal ones. 

Club, n. An association of men for purposes of drunkenness, gluttony, unholy hilarity, murder, sacrilege and the slandering of mothers, wives and sisters.

Conversation, n. A fair for the display of minor mental commodities, each exhibitor being too intent upon the arrangement of his own wares to observe those of this neighbour.

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamoured of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others. 
Consul, n. In American politics, a person who having failed to secure an office from the people is given one by the Administration on condition that he leave the country. 
Curse, v.t. Energetically to belabour with a verbal slap-stick. This is an operation which in literature, particularly in the drama, is commonly fatal to the victim.

Cynic, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic’s eyes to improve his vision.

Deputy, n. A male relative of an office-holder, or of his bondsman. The deputy is commonly a beautiful young man, with a red necktie and an intricate system of cobwebs extending from his nose to his desk. When accidentally struck by the janitor’s broom, he gives off a cloud of dust.

Diagnosis, n. A physician's forecast of disease by the patient's pulse and purse.

Diary, n. A daily record of that part of one's life, which he can relate to himself without blushing.

Die, n. The singular of “dice.” We seldom hear the word, because there is a prohibitory proverb, “Never say die.”  

Divorce, n. A bugle blast that separates the combatants and makes them fight at long range.

Dog, n. A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world’s worship. This Divine Being in some of his smaller and silkier incarnations, takes, in the affection of Woman, the place to which there is no human male aspirant. The Dog is a survival—an anachronism. He toils not, neither does he spin, yet Solomon in all his glory never lay upon a door-mat all day long, sun-soaked and fly-fed and fat, while his master worked for the means wherewith to purchase an idle wag of the Solomonic tail, seasoned with a look of tolerant recognition.

Education, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

Elegy, n. A composition in verse, in which without employing any of the methods of humour, the writer aims to produce in the reader’s mind the dampest kind of dejection.

Envelope, n. The coffin of a document; the scabbard of a bill; the husk of a remittance; the bed-gown of a love-letter.

Exhort, v.t. In religious affairs, to put the conscience of another upon the spit and roast it to a nut-brown discomfort.

Exile, n. One who serves his country by residing abroad, yet is not an ambassador.

Fork, n. An instrument used chiefly for the purpose of putting dead animals into the mouth. Formerly the knife was used for this purpose, and by many worthy persons is still thought to have many advantages.

Frog, n. A reptile with edible legs. 

Gallows, n. A stage for the performance of miracle plays, in which the leading actor is translated to heaven. In this country the gallows is chiefly remarkable for the number of persons who escape it. 
Government, n. A modern Chronos who devours his own children. The priesthood are charged with the duty of preparing them for his tooth. 
Handkerchief, n. A small square of silk or linen, used in various ignoble offices about the face and especially serviceable at funerals to conceal the lack of tears.

Harangue, n. A speech by an opponent, who is known as an harangue-outang.

Hearse, n. Death’s baby-carriage.

Historian, n. A broad-gauge gossip.

History, n. An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.

Homicide, n. The slaying of one human being by another. There are four kinds of homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable and praiseworthy.

Hostility, n. A peculiarly sharp and specially applied sense of the earth’s overpopulation.

Husband, n. One who, having dined, is charged with the care of the plate.

Idleness, n. A model farm where the devil experiments with seeds of new sins and promotes the growth of staple vices. 
Incompossible, adj. Unable to exist if something else exists. Two things are incompossible when the world of being has scope enough for one of them, but not enough for both—as Walt Whitman's poetry and God's mercy to man. 
Interpreter, n. One who enables two persons of different languages to understand each other by repeating to each what it would have been to the interpreter’s advantage for the other to have said. 
Intoxication, n. A spiritual condition that goeth before the next morning. 
Introduction, n. A social ceremony invented by the devil for the gratification of his servants and the plaguing of his enemies. 
Irreligion, n. The principal one of the great faiths of the world. 

Judge, n. A person who is always interfering in disputes in which he has no personal interest.

Jurisprudence, n. The kind of prudence that keeps one inside the law.

Jury, n. A number of persons appointed by a court to assist the attorneys in preventing law from degenerating into justice.

Justice, n. A commodity which in a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.

Kilt, n. A costume sometimes worn by Scotsmen in America and Americans in Scotland.
Lawful, adj. Compatible with the will of a judge having jurisdiction.
Lawyer, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.
Liar, n. A lawyer with a roving commission.

Libertarian, n. One who is compelled by the evidence to believe in free-will, and whose will is therefore free to reject that doctrine.
Libertine, n. Literally a freedman; hence, one who is in bondage to his passions.

Logic, n. The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding. The basis of logic is the syllogism, consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion—thus:
Major Premise: Sixty men can do a piece of work sixty times as quickly as one man.
Minor Premise: One man can dig a post-hole in sixty seconds; therefore—
Conclusion: Sixty men can dig a post-hole in one second.
This may be called the syllogism arithmetical, in which, by combining logic and mathematics, we obtain a double certainty and are twice blessed.

Man, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be.
Legislator, n. A person who goes to the capital of his country to increase his own; one who makes laws and money.
Litigation, n. A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.

Love, n., A temporary insanity curable by marriage.
Male, n. A member of the unconsidered, or negligible sex. The male of the human race is commonly known (to the female) as Mere Man. The genus has two varieties: good providers and bad providers.
Medicine, n. A stone flung down the Bowery to kill a dog in Broadway.

Misdemeanour, n. An infraction of the law having less dignity than a felony and constituting no claim to admittance into the best criminal society.

Miss, n. A title with which we brand unmarried women to indicate that they are in the market. Miss, Missis (Mrs.) and Mister (Mr.) are the three most distinctly disagreeable words in the language, in sound and sense. Two are corruptions of Mistress, the other of Master. In the general abolition of social titles in this our country they miraculously escaped to plague us.

Mythology, n. The body of a primitive people's beliefs concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later. 

Nose, n. The extreme outpost of the face. From the circumstance that great conquerors have great noses, Getius, whose writings antedate the age of humour, calls the nose the organ of quell. It has been observed that one’s nose is never so happy as when thrust into the affairs of another, from which some physiologists have drawn the inference that the nose is devoid of the sense of smell. 

Notoriety, n. The fame of one’s competitor for public honours. The kind of renown most accessible and acceptable to mediocrity. A Jacob’s-ladder leading to the vaudeville stage, with angels ascending and descending.

Novel, n. A short story padded.

Piano, n. A parlour utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor. It is operated by depressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience.

Piracy, n. Commerce without its folly-swaddles, just as God made it.
Polite, adj. Skilled in the art and practice of dissimulation.
Politician, n. An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.

Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

Prejudice, n. A vagrant opinion without visible means of support.

Presidency, n. The greased pig in the field game of American politics.

President, n. The leading figure in a small group of men of whom—and of whom only—it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.

Public, n. The negligible factor in problems of legislation.

Quiver, n. A portable sheath in which the ancient statesman and the aboriginal lawyer carried their lighter arguments.

Rear, n. In American military matters, that exposed part of the army that is nearest to Congress.

Recruit, n. A person distinguishable from a civilian by his uniform and from a soldier by his gait.
Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
Sycophant, n. One who approaches Greatness on his belly so that he may not be commanded to turn and be kicked.

Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.

Tenacity, n. A certain quality of the human hand in its relation to the coin of the realm.

Un-American, adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish.

Virtues, Certain abstentions.
Vote, n. The instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.
Wedding, n. A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one, one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become supportable. 
Wheat, n. A cereal from which a tolerably good whisky can with some difficulty be made. Also used for bread. 
Woman, n. An animal usually living in the vicinity of Man, and having a rudimentary susceptibility to domestication. It is credited by many of the elder zoölogists with a certain vestigial docility acquired in a former state of seclusion, but naturalists of the postsusananthony period, having no knowledge of the seclusion, deny the virtue and declare that such as creation's dawn beheld, it roareth now. The species is the most widely distributed of all beasts of prey.
Year, n. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments.
Zeal n. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and inexperienced. A passion that goeth before a sprawl.

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