Saturday, 9 April 2005

Get rid of your keyboard, and prepare to be amazed

As computer processing gets more powerful and bandwidths gets bigger, the limiting factor in getting our ideas out there is becoming our interface with our computer, our friends the keyboard and the monitor.

But perhaps not for long! Says the latest New Scientist magazine, "a patent on a device for transmitting sensory data directly into the human brain - granted to none other than the entertainment giant Sony."

The technique says the article is like a 'real-life Matrix' and is
entirely non-invasive. It describes a device that fires pulses of ultrasound at the head to modify firing patterns in targeted parts of the brain, creating "sensory experiences" ranging from moving images to tastes and sounds.
The patent at present is for a device going from computer direct to brain, but if that bit of science fiction can be accomplished then perhaps we thumb-fingered typists can at least be optimistic of eventually being rescued from the grind of typing.

And just imagine what a real artist could accomplish with such a device! Author Ayn Rand argued that "in order to develop a new form of art, man would have to acquire a new sense organ." If the 'sensory experience' is a virtual one, is that akin to what she was asking for?

Where's Jim Peron?

Come on, you know you've been curious. Why has he been so quiet recently?
He's here, co-organising the next ISIL conference in Cologne. The conference is in July.

The coming of Romanticism

Thanks so much Tim for the information about Delacroix's glorious 'Liberty Storming Helengrad.' It's a wonderfully evocative call to arms, isn't it. And a cri de couer for both Romantic art, and political activism.

It gives the feeling that life's battles are important and serious, and should be engaged with absolute passion. You help to explain some of the reasons it works, and of course part of the reason it works is that in reality is immense - taking up an entire wall of the Louvre - and that it plays with Classical 'rules' of painting and then breaks them intentionally.

For instance, the pyramidal compostion structure is there, but Liberty's burden extends above this pyramid giving real power to the gesture. Gericault's 'Raft of the Medusa' (well known to Pogues fans, and 'borrowed' by Goldie for his Coming of the Maori shown above) uses a similar technique, and of course Delacroix himself was both student and model to Gericault.

My good friend Michael Newberry discusses how we find values in paintings in more detail here - and if you're vigilant you will notice there some of the other images I've been posting here over recent days. :-)

Blogging flogging?

Following further best wishes for my new blog from Russell Brown, Alastair Thompson from Scoop and more good folk at SOLOHQ, I'm even more impressed with the benevolence of bloggers than I was on Thursday. (And people are thundering through this site: as I type this, the 1230th visitor has just logged on here in the three days it's been running. Thanks everyone. [bows])

Icehawk concurs that NZ bloggers are very collegial, but he worries that means there a lack of real engagement between them. Is he right that there is no real exchange of ideas betwen bloggers? Perhaps. Idiot-Savant says he's had good exchanges with other bloggers, but he points the finger at time being the problem limiting such forays.

Are bloggers just too busy keeping their blogs fresh to really engage each other? Or (as Icehawk suggests) do they fear losing the goodwill of their colleagues, and fear being flogged in an argument?

A Bill with Property Rights?

Can anyone tell anyone else three things that United Future are good for (answers on a postcard please to Dr M. Cullen c/- Parliament, Helengrad). To quote our fearless leader, they’ve been about as much use as tits on a bull, haven’t they? Except of course as a doormat for our fearless leader.

However, I may need to review my opinion of them, or at least of Gordon Copeland.

Just drawn from the parliamentary ballot is Copeland’s private member’s bill proposing that property rights be put into the Bill of Rights where it belongs, and should have been long ago. He argues “the rights to own private property dated back to the Magna Carta in 1215, and extended through New Zealand's common law tradition,” and of course, he’s right, they did, until those rights were buried under the Resource Management Act. I’ve argued elsewhere that the act is a disaster, and that the only solution is a stake through its heart.

Anyway, the RMA’s burial of property rights would not have been possible with a Bill of Rights that 1) had real teeth, and 2) included property rights amongst those protected. Copeland can’t do much about the former, but he is trying on the latter and I applaud him. (FYI, here's how a real Bill of Rights might look. And here, a Bill of No Rights.)

Kudos too for Stephen Franks, who supports the measure saying "some historians and scholars make a strong case for property rights being more essential than democracy to establishing freedom and more valuable in preserving it." They certainly do. Here’s one of them here. Buy his book - if you want your property rights protected, it's essential intellectual self-defence.

[Edited: Links fixed, 2:20pm, Sat 9 April] problems

Sir Humphrey explains the current problems with here. Hopefully it will soon be fixed and we can get back on the horse again.

Friday, 8 April 2005


Just the sort of image for this time of a Friday. (Just before thoughts turn to things of a more, ah, liquid kind.)

A Brash dismissal of Maori rights?

No Right Turn points out this morning that Don Brash denies that pre-European Maori possessed property rights.

He’s right, he does. Is that racism? No it isn’t. Is it an accurate view? I give my own view on that here. What’s really interesting is that once again the question comes down to an understanding of property rights, and in this case of how one acquires rights in property.

What’s curious is that Don Brash fails to understand this question himself. That is, on the question of who should own the Foreshore and Seabed he is just dead wrong, and he’s wrong because his thinking on this reflects a collectivist false dichotomy, ie., that 'The Foreshore and Seabed' should either be owned by Maori, or 'The Foreshore and Seabed' should be owned by “all New Zealanders.”

But this is just dead wrong - as some good friends of mine argue in detail here. New Zealanders – individual NZers, not all NZers – should own the rights in property over which they can rightfully make a claim that the property is theirs. (That is a basic common law right - or at least is was until buried by stature and forgotten about by lawyers. See prescription, doctrine of in any book of torts.)

Many of those people who can claim such rights in property are of course Maori, and the Land Court process that Mistress Helen spiked was a good example of how that process should be effected. That process is of course colour-blind, or at least it should be. The same common law process is (or should be) available to those claiming easement rights through or to beaches or seashore, and sorting out such rights is (or should be) one of the prime jobs of any government. That both this Government and the National opposition favour nationalisation instead of common law recognition of property rights is an unfortunate irony, and an unjust one.

So on this issue The Don is part right, and part wrong. To paraphrase the National Party’s infamous Dancing Cossacks ad from 1972, “New Zealand’s foreshore and seabed owned by all New Zealanders? You know what that’s called!” [Enter Cossacks, stage left.]


The benevolence of bloggers

I have to say that I'm enormously impressed by the benevolence of fellow bloggers. In my own foray into this marketplace of ideas, fellow bloggers have wished me nothing but success, and for that I can only thank them all and return the favour.

So a big thank you to beNZylpiperazine, No Right Turn, Sir Humphrey's, Freudian Slippers, Aaron Bhatnagar, Duncan Bayne, Greg Stephens at NZ Political Comments, the good folk at SOLOHQ and, last but by no means least, DPF.

Thank you all. [bows] And now, back to the battle of ideas [and bring on those whips and chains!].

Thursday, 7 April 2005

Liberty storming Helengrad

Liberty storming Helengrad. :-)

Bring on the Dancing Cossacks

Remember the "Dancing Cossacks"?

Don Brash doesn't. Bill English didn't. However, many New Zealanders do still remember the Dancing Cossacks from that infamous 1972 National Party election ad, in which the Labour Party's compulsory superannuation scheme was excoriated as "a joke," "a dangerous idea," and - with those Cossacks - a communist takeover by stealth.

That was National in 1975.

Today, we have a Labour Party superannuation scheme (the so-called Cullen Fund) different only in detail to that lambasted by National in 1975, and deservedly so.

When first proposed, then National leader Billy-Boy English said that he had "no problem in principle," with the Cullen scheme. So much for what half-a-century has done to National's principles. To his credit, new National leader Don Brash said at first that he would scrap the scheme; it was "fundamentally flawed," he said, correctly. To his great dis-credit, he later resiled from this 'commitment.'

So, in 2005, with the Government banking a $7 billion surplus and taxpayers reeling under the load, where are those Cossacks now? Where are they when a busybody 'research institute' proclaims that we must be "forced" (their word) to save money, and not a single person is heard to say "you'll not force me to do anything, thank you very much!" Not one. Michael Cullen welcomes the report, but says only that such a scheme is "too expensive." We can only thank goodness he deems a $7 billion surplus to be sufficient!

So I just have to asks: Does anyone remember a certain referendum a few years ago? Does anyone still remember those Dancing Cossacks? Where are today's cossacks? There are none it seems in this National caucus. And none it seems, elsewhere!

[Edited with date correction, Sat 9 April, 1pm]

Gerry Adams Recants

"I dreamed Ian Paisley was saying the rosary
And Mother Theresa was taking the pill ..."

Christy Moore dreamed of many things, but I'll wager he never, ever, ever dreamed that Gerry Adams would call for an end to the IRA's 'armed struggle.'

But he has. He has. "Give up the gun," he says.

The mouthpiece for a generation of thugs has now called for an end to thuggery and terrorism. He's now realised, it seems, that violence achieves nothing but destruction and hatred. Would that others now follow his example.

To Pseud, or Not to Pseud

Barbara Branden raises the question here of whether posting anonymously or with a pseudonym is a good thing. "I've been annoyed by some people hiding their identities while most of us are open and honest about who we are and what we think."

So is "taking authorial responsibility for your post... a basic courtesy" as she maintains? As blogs take over the world, such courtesies will undoubtedly become more an more important things to define.

Feel free to discuss here (where discussion rages), or of course here. :-)

For my part I agree with Barbara, and with Robert Bidinotto who argues here, "What have they got to hide?" What indeed?

Nannying in Norway

More nannying on the way? There will be if they read about this in Helengrad:
Norway will shut companies that refuse to recruit at least 40 per cent women to their boards by 2007 under an unprecedented equality drive, a cabinet minister said today.
"Companies have been dragging their feet. They really have to recruit more women," Children and Family Affairs Minister Laila Daavoey told Reuters. "In the very worst case, they will face closure."
Norway's parliament told firms in 2002 to ensure at least 40 per cent of each sex in boardrooms by mid-2005 to force corporate leadership to match Nordic traditions of sex equality elsewhere in society.

And you thought this Nanny Government was bossy!

"In 2007, laggards would face liquidation by court order if they refuse to comply after a formal, final warning," says Ministeress of Busybodying Laila Daavoey, showing that the tradition of Norwegian quisling-dom is not dead.

I confess to being a little concerned at the christian name of the Ministeress; has Laila Harre emigrated? And more importantly: if so, is she coming back?


Lessons from Another School

Hard on the heels of the news of Orauta School refusing to close comes news of another school refusing to close its doors, this one in Hawkes Bay.

The Education Ministry is prosecuting the parents [of Raupunga School] after repeatedly warning them they have been breaking the law since January 26 by sending their children to an unregistered, unauthorised Maori-language school set up at Te Huki Marae.
Once again, the Minstry of Mis-Education is telling parents that their children are "not necessarily getting proper schooling," and once again parents are standing up and saying 'we'll make our own judgement on that, thanks very much.'

Good for them. It's well past time that state and school were separated, and parents left free to make their own choices regarding their own children.

Might I suggest to parents at both Raupunga and Orauta school however that they should reflect on two old and wise sayings: first, that 'he who has the gold makes the rules.' As long as you're taking money from the government (who are of course taking it from the taxpayer) then you can expect the government to boss you around. That's the deal.

And the second thought on which to ponder: A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have. So be very careful what you ask for.

It's a lesson many people have still to learn.

Frank Lloyd Wright on eBay

If you have a spare USD10 million and you're looking for a development,you might consider bidding on a mouldering Frank Lloyd Wright hotel in Mason City Iowa. If you're interested, you can view it here on eBay. (Although you can't bid for it there, as this story explains.)

And while on the subject of Frank, you may have heard about the bureacracy who looks after Fallingwater, his finest work, who screamed a couple of years ago that their own poor maintenance over the years had made the place ready to collapse and consequently urgently needed repairs, and taxpayer money to do so (well, they may not have mentioned their poor maintenance).

Anyway, those repairs are now finished, and despite the money thay've banked over the years from visitors to the site, they're now screaming about the garden taking over.

Anyone got some pruning shears they can lend them?


When is a Recording Device not a Recording Device?

When is a recording device not a recording device? According to John Tamihere, when it looks like a phone.

What was on that table at Selak's Winery, a dictaphone or a mobile phone? Mr Conspiracy Ian Wishart will be on Leighton Smith's show later this morning to show off the device he claims to have used for the Tamihere interview. Unfortunately, the power of radio won't allow you to see what it is he is holding, but you can listen in here if you missed the show and his answers to listeners' questions.

If you want to judge for yourself the quality of the recording device and to hear JT's comments in the raw, Mr Conspiracy has put an MP3 excerpt up on his site.

UPDATE: If you're visiting Newstalk ZB's site to listen to Leighton Smith's interview with Mr Conspiracy, the relevant time period is roughly from 10:10am to 11:30am.

The Parliament is Closed . . . for Dinner

People are bleating that Parliament was shut down last night. Richard Prebble was in a lather; Rodney Hide in a fit of self-importance called it a "dangerous precedent that a government would shut down our Parliament for its own convenience. It shows how arrogant Helen Clark and Michael Cullen have got."

Mark Twain would disagree that this is a bad thing. Given his view that “no one’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session,” I can only agree with him and suggest that closing this Parliament for almost any reason is A Good Thing. In fact, snarling up its functioning is A Good Thing. By this standard, Margaret Wilson's appallingly inept performance as Speaker is also A Good Thing.

I wish liquid lunches and longer dinners for MPs happened more often. I vote for lazier MPs, and shorter sitting sessions. Until such time as they start shredding legislation, it's one of the few ways to protect the few liberties that this Nanny Government has left us.


Wednesday, 6 April 2005

Take These Two Fingers, Mr Mallard

What do you do when the Minister of Education closes down your school? If you're like most New Zealanders, you roll over and beg for more. But that's not the way with Orauta School near Moerewa in Northland.

Parents at Orauta face prosecution because they've thumbed their noses at the Ministry's announcement of the school's closure, and at what the Ministry calls 'quality.' Instead, they've demanded that they be permitted to make the choice over the education of their own children themselves.

As you might expect, this has made the Ministry of Mis-Education apoplectic, and school spokesman Ken Brown no less so; he charged that the Ministry "was using 'financial terrorism' to scare parents into sending their children to another school."

Them's fighting words, and it seems the parents of Orauta are prepared to fight. Stand firm!, say the Libertarianz, and it seems the parents intend to:
[The School's spokesman] welcomed the threat of legal action as the school community believed it had a "strong case" for proving that Maori had a right to govern themselves and therefore the right to run a school.

I would suggest that all New Zealanders have the right to govern themselves, and rather than issue hasty warning letters, the best thing the Ministry could do is simply give back the school to those who are using it, and rescind any prosecutions that have been issued.

We hear too often that parents take too little interest in their child's education. Now we see why: when they do they walk into trouble.

Salutations to the Pope

It seems everyone has an opinion on the Pope's death. Except me.

On this topic, I don't have an opinion, or at least I don't have a strong one. I admire what he did to help encourage the fall of communism ... and to some extent at least for bringing the church up to date in science ... but that is as far as my enthusiasm extends.

Lindsay Perigo has a different and surprising view :
Waiting for the Pope to die has been a salutary experience. We Objectivists, and secularists generally, tend to think of the Catholic Church, wishfully, as being in as terminal a condition as its "Holy Father" over the past few years—the domain of fetid old moral despots and contemptible child-molesters. The events surrounding the death of John Paul II have given this Objectivist, at least, a rude reawakening.

Nostalgia? Toy Love?

Q: When is nostalgia not nostalgia?
A: When a record was destroyed by its producer, was available only on vinyl and only briefly, and is finally re-released in listenable form twenty-five years later, on CD.

That's the case with the long, long, looong-delayed release on CD of the seminal 'Toy Love' album featuring Chris Knox. "This ain't nostalgia, this is right now," says Chris Knox, and who can blame him. Not me. He's never heard his songs sounding this good either!

Those, like me, who have bought and replaced and bought and replaced and bought and replaced our old vinyl copies of this album can now get their hands on a reliable copy on CD, and for the first time we will be able to hear the songs as we hear them in our heads because most of the production balls-ups have been fixed. Apparently.

Great stuff! But there's more! No, not steak knives, but a whole second disc with demos - some of them from the Harlequin sessions that found their way on to AK79 - and a bold new cover, the title of which according to today's Russell Brown/Chris Knox interview originally had one letter more than it does now ...

It was said by Brian Eno of the first Velvet Underground album that only a thousand people bought it at the time, but they all went out and formed a band. This 'Toy Love' album is New Zealand's equivalent.

For anyone who ever liked Toy Love, this release is great news - wherever your tastes might have wandered since. For those who were once fans of Toy Love, probably no explanation of what made them great is possible; for those who don't know them, I suspect that no explanation of the enthusiasm of their fans is possible.

UPDATE: Russell Brown has put up a link archiving his interview with Chris Knox here. It's 10MB, so you have to be patient.

Flicking Helen With a Water Pistol

The "utterly and totally useless" press gallery have compiled a list of Tamihere-isms with the corresponding response from Helen Clark.

Apparently poor Helen feels like she's "been flicked at with a water pistol." (Sob.)

Lucky for her she wasn't 'mauled by a dead sheep', as Denis Healy once said of an attack by the utterly wet Geoffrey Howe. Still, even dead sheep can bite occasionally: that particular dead sheep mauled Margaret Thatcher so badly he brought down her government.

Will the pistoliero do so in this case? We can only wait. And hope.

It's ideas, stupid!

You know the world's a better place when liberals are whining. But here's a liberal with a good point: that the political battle that counts is the one for people's minds. And the conservatives are winning, apparently.

That's right folks. Apparently while the liberals were tripping over their sandals in the sixties, waving placards and falling into their wind chimes, other people were apparently engaged in a battle of ideas.

And the idea-mongers are winning. How 'bout that?

It's not an idea that was lost on John Adams. He knew that the revolution that was needed in America over two centuries ago was one inside people's heads. It wasn't lost on Thomas Paine, who said of such a battle:
An army of principle will penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot; it will succeed where diplomatic management would fail; it is neither the Rhine, the Channel, nor the ocean that can arrest its progress; it will march on the horizon of the world ... and it will conquer!
It's not an idea that is lost on me either, but sometimes libertarians need to be reminded that the revolution we are trying to foment is inside people's heads.

It's about ideas, stupid.

If you don't fight, you lose! Posted by Hello

The confessions of Tamihere

Lots of time has been spent guessing the John Tamihere Ten - those Labour MPs that he says will follow him to ... well, wherever it is he is leading them.

The guesses differ marginally, but at this stage any such guesswork is surely academic; none of either the Tamihere Ten nor the Flaky Fifteen are likely to want to follow him into political oblivion.

Or is that really where's he's heading? Is there a future for that most endangered of species: a politician who tells the truth.
Q: How can you tell when a poltician is lying?
A: When their lips are moving.

One of the unanswered questions that reflects severely on the judgement of JT is this: if you're going to tell the truth, why on earth would you tell it to a conspiracy nutter second in paranoia only to Nicky Hagar.

Anyway, one unalloyed good that comes of Tamihere's confessions: no-one is talking about last weekend's Labour Party conference ...

Free Trade Trumps Brute Force

Turns out that Neanderthals were made extinct by Homo Economicus, that is, in the great game of natural selection monkey-man was beaten by us, and our discovery of trade.

That's right, the Law of Comparative Advantage trumps brute force. Although it's too late to tell Stalin, perhaps someone could pass the word to Rod Donald and Sue Kedgeley.


The Cost of a New Government

As the Iraqi assembly begins to resemble a government, offering hopes that it could be the start of a peaceful power-sharing arrangement between Sunnis, Kurds and Shiite factions, the first Congessional Medal of Honour for the Iraq liberation has been awarded - posthumously:
Outnumbered and exposed, Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith stayed
at his machine gun, beating back an advancing Iraqi force until a
bullet took his life. Smith is credited with protecting the lives of
scores of lightly armed American soldiers who were beyond his
position in the battle, on April 4, 2003, near the gates of Baghdad
International Airport. On Monday, exactly two years after Smith's
death, President Bush awarded him the Medal of Honor, the nation's
highest honor for valor.

Tuesday, 5 April 2005

What Does the Herald Know About Rights?

I have to say I'm stunned. The Herald this morning made me fall off my chair.

I had always thought one of the most difficult concepts of which we have to convince people is that rights cannot be multiplied beyond necessity.

I tried to make the point myself in a 1997 article, but this morning I find a Herald editorial making the point for me:
Human rights are typically rights that everyone can enjoy equally at no cost to others. Society can recognise and uphold certain rights and freedoms because they can be applied equally to everyone; they do not require some people to be awarded rights at the expense of others. Social rights are quite the opposite. They can be awarded only at the expense of others.
So I 'm stunned. I'd always thought that when it comes to fighting for a constitution that the most difficult job will be to fight for the exclusion of certain so-called 'rights.' Now I'm not so sure. After all, if the Herald understands the point...