Saturday, May 07, 2005

Toucan Table in Tennessee

Artist and friend Michael Newberry has an exhibition of recent work opening tonight New Zealand time in Chattanooga, Tennessee. To celebrate, he's putting many of the works on the net here, with prices. My own favourite is the colourful 'Toucan Table,' pictured below.

You can read here an interview I did with Michael early last year.

Pizza with that Identity Card, sir?

Here's a highly amusing short from the ACLU on the dangers of Identity Cards. Would you like pizza with that?

The Tamaki top ten

Apparently Brian Tamaki told last week's 'Listener' about his favourite songs. Now, I didn't see what Bishop Brian says he has programmed on his iPod when he's happy-clapping for Jesus... but I can guess. So I have.

In fact, while writing I felt a great spirit move me; I truly felt I was receiving divine inspiration from the good Bishop himself ... it's almost as if these are his words I was putting down:

10. '(Sometimes) Pleasureheads Must Burn' by The Birthday Party. I won't just abide unadulterated pleasure-seeking. Said Brian.

9. 'Religion I' and 'Religion II,' by Public Image Limited. So nice to have good serious religious material in our popular music.

8. 'Big Daddy on Fire,' by Jesus Chrysler Supercar. A toss up between this and Jerry Lee Lewis's 'Great Balls of Fire' as a tribute to our beloved Father.

7. 'I Need,' by the Buzzcocks. And I do need a great deal. Hence the tithe. (All together now: "I used to want but now, I NEED (I need)!")

6. 'Purple Haze,' Jimi Hendrix. I especially love that classic line, "Excuse me while I kiss this guy." Don't even have to play the record backwards or nothing, it's right there.

5. 'Walking on the Water,' by Richard Hell. Great for all my aerobic workouts.

4. 'Burning Hell', by R.E.M.
What those sodomites will get if they don't keep their bottoms holy.

3. 'Beers, Steers and Queers,' by the Revolting Cocks - the 'Drop your Britches' mix is my personal fave.

2. 'Demagogue', Urban Dance Squad
Always a pleasure seeing the mokopuna and the black shirts out on the floor. Nice to have them singing about me, too.

And my very personal favourite:
1. 'Jesus Built My Hotrod' by those nice Texan boys Ministry. Nice name for them. And a lucrative choice of career for me. I wonder if they have a song about a Harley?

Freedom Tower's post-modernist architect sacked

The design for the so-called Freedom Tower at the Word Trade Center site has thankfully been scrapped. Donald Trump at least is happy: "It was an egghead design, designed by an egghead," he said, and for once on a question of aesthetics The Donald is right.

When Islamic terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center it was clear the attack was not just an attack on those proud soaring buildings and the people within, but as Ehud Barak said at the time it was an attack on civilisation itself. I said so too at the time.

What was needed as an architectural response was the swift design and construction of another proud and soaring thing, a building demonstrating defiance to the savagery that made such a replacement necessary, and a celebration of the values under attack. Something like Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Mile High Center' perhaps. What we got instead was dawdling, hand-wringing and eventually the decision to build a post-modern lemon designed by a fashionable idiot. Fortunately that decision has now been rescinded.

As TIADaily explains, "The awful design for the "Freedom Tower" at the World Trade Center site has been scrapped because of 'security concerns'—and if you believe that, you also believed that Dan Rather retired because he wanted to work on his golf swing. The column [here] speculates on the real reason for the change, but doesn't quite get to what I think is most important: everyone wanted to jettison postmodern architect Daniel Libeskind."

And thank God they now have. May we now get a real Freedom Tower worthy of the name.

Not PC celebrates a Labour victory

Christopher Hitchens says he's waited forty years to "vote Labour on a point of principle," but the recent UK election has made that possible. Read Hitchen's extended comments here. For myself, I have to say I did once enjoy a Labour victory - 1987's Labour win is still a milestone in NZ's political history - but I little thought such a time would come again. It has.

Blair's principled stand on the liberation of Iraq has however made it possible to actually enjoy his election victory, for where his political opponents and spineless other European 'statesmen' vacillated and wavered (Bonjour Monsieur Chirac, Herr Schroeder and the miserable Michael Howard) Tony Blair has been absolutely solid on the necessity for the Iraq invasion. And he was right to be so.

This was really what the British call a khaki election, one in which Blair's stand in Iraq was put to the people of Britain. Thankfully the side of right has won. Just.

"Arguing about the war in Britain is quite different, in point of tone and alignment, from debating it in the United States," says Hitchens. Very different to debating it here as well. Unlike here and in the US, Britain seems to allow a rather more nuanced view on the necessity for regime change than the reflexive bile always so evident elsewhere when the words 'Bush' and 'Iraq' are mentioned in the same sentence.

Everywhere that is except, it seems, in the Tory party (Hitchens suggests "Anti-Americanism in Britain has long been a conservative rather than a radical trope, and dislike for George Bush is very common among the aristocratic remnant") or electorates such as Bethnal Green and Bow in which unreconstructed Stalinist and paid-up Saddamite apologist George Galloway - expelled from the Labour Party for calling for jihad on British soldiers - managed to disgrace his own election victory with a taste of the bitterness his campaign of hate engendered. (See some of that bitterness here in his interview with Jeremy Paxman.) Much of that hatred was deservedly directed at Galloway himself; as Hitchens comments, "How satisfying that those who support the Iraqi 'insurgency' from a safe distance have now received a taste of its real character."

So in the end, as TIADaily.com says,"Tony Blair has won a historic third term as prime minister--but he has little to be happy about, since he did it with only 37 percent of the vote as his party lost dozens of seats in Parliament. The only reason he won was the incredible weakness of the opposition, especially Conservative leader Michael Howard, who went through an embarrassing series of flip-flops on the Iraq war (and who now plans to resign).

Tony Blair is an odd combination of Peter Keating and Gail Wynand. (OK, that's a stretch, but bear with me.) Like Keating (and Clinton), Blair sought to be all things to all people, pursuing a compromising "Third Way" policy. Like Wynand, however, what brought him down was his one semi-principled act: his support for the Iraq War, an act that could not be made consistent with his overall character and history."

[UPDATE: I just came across this BBC account of the Oona King-George Galloway brawl in Tower Hamlets. Said Oona of George, "What makes me sick is that when I come across someone who is guilty of genocide I do not get on a plane and go to Baghdad and grovel at his feet," referring to Mr Galloway's controversial meeting with Saddam Hussein 11 years ago. Almost makes me wish I could have voted for her myself.]

Friday, May 06, 2005

Great moments in human history, 1: The invention of beer

As the UK election and the week both get wrapped up (the latter from a New Zealand perspective at least) it is now definitely time for a drink.

Time too to reflect on what built civilisation. I can give you the answer in one word: Beer. It's true - let me explain.

What was it that primitive man was fighting for, yearning for, struggling towards all those millenia ago? Why, for the same thing we all do on a Friday afternoon. A rest. Time off. A beer.

When wildebeest and wild beasts roamed the plains thousands of years ago, early man roamed with them ... and often provided them with a good meal when he was doing too much yearning, and too little watching.

Life for early man for most of those thousands of years was as Thomas Hobbes described it : nasty, brutish and short. Hunting and gathering -- and the threat of imminent starvation – were all that drove men forwards. Their battle for survival was a daily challenge. Man’s mind was of little use in such a primitive struggle: native cunning and primitive tool-making were highly valued; long-range thinking was not.

A successful hunt was all such creatures had to celebrate: the high point in such an existence would be roasting a wild beast over an open fire. For a brief moment in their short and brutal lives their bellies were full, their bodies warm, and their thoughts could (at last!) roam to higher things. They had bought themselves time to think.

On such nights, and over the course of those thousands of year of struggle, there was one thought, one goal, that drove these men forwards: the idea of beer!

That’s right. Beer. The first step away from the caves and that precarious existence of the hunter-gather came with the cultivation in Mesopotamia of grains and cereals. With this important step man had begun thinking long-range; he had begun to plan his life a season … then a year … then several years in advance. Rather than roaming far and wide he could settle down, build a house, raise a family, start a cilvilisation. The planting and harvesting of grains and cereals represented the arrival of man the-rational-animal; for the first time it could be clearly seen that man’s mind was his chief tool of survival. Man had put his mind to work, and for the first time flourishing replaced survival.

And what was all that grain and all those cereals for? Why, for beer of course! And bread. If bread was the staff of life, beer was its inspiration. With bread came sustenance; with beer came civilisation. If the mark of that first phase of primitive human development was a wild beast gnawing on the roasted limb of another wild beast, then the mark of the next was several pitchers of beer, and happy people consuming them.

Beer was the first example of men expending precious time and effort producing something not just for survival, but for their own pleasure!

And with the time bought by cultivation, men could now devise stories to entertain themselves while drinking beer. Curiously, many of these stories involved the pleasures of imbibition... (Read more here.)

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Rodney Hide opposes prohibition. But.

There are many ways to argue for an end to the War on Drugs.

Libertarians generally begin by pointing out that its your body, and your right to choose what to put into it - providing of course that you take responsibility for your choices. Historians like to point out that prohibition has never worked, and that organised crime only achieved 'take-off'in the US when alcohol was prohibited in the twenties. The former head of Scotland Yard's Drug Squad, Eddie Ellison, likes to point out that legalising drugs dramatically reduces police corruption, overhwelmingly reduces crime both petty and felonious, effectively nearly doubles police numbers and halves prison populations, and removes profits from criminals and reduces their control over the quality and consequent danger of drugs.

There are many ways to argue for the legalisation of drugs. Unfortunately Rodney Hide has just chosen the worst, specifically to "legalise and tax hard to keep the price where it is now" so that the government could effectively levy huge windfall taxes on drug-users. This would somehow remove drugs from the black-market, thinks Rodney.

Will de Cleene, Trevor Loudon and 'dogsbody' are already accurately pointing out the problems with Rodney's position on his own blog as we speak, but what is at least positive about Rodney's announcement is that this is the first time an ACT MP - let alone ACT's leader - has even floated the idea of legalising drugs, or at least the idea that prohibition is a bad thing. Which is a good thing. A shame then that it is only to endorse extortionate taxation "for something useful."

Maybe if he's truly serious about opposing prohibition and supporting an increase in personal freedom he could get Will de Cleene to advise him on what credible arguments for legalisation would look like. This for example. Or this.

[UPDATE 1: Rodney could also visit one of NORML's J-Day celebrations tomorrow and get a few better arguments against probition. I feel sure Chris Fowlie from The Hempstore can give him something compelling.]

[UPDATE 2: I've been pointed to a piece Rodney wrote in 2003 opposing prohibition. Here it is. Great piece, but sadly it doesn't come to any conclusive position on ending the criminilisation and imprisonment of drug users. He did however come out completely in support of legalisation on a Ralston Group episode some years back before being told by then-leader Richard Prebble to settle down and shut up; and Mild Greens' Blair Anderson reports herethat Rodney was staunchly in support of Clifford Thornton's legalisation arguments in 2004. So there you go. I await with eager interest this support turning into a policy in support of personal freedom. Until then I can only agree with NORML's summary of ACT here, 'Pathetic and No Policy.']

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UK Election exit polls show up earlier polls

Exit polls are suggesting Tony Blair's Labour Party is heading for success in the UK elections, though not the level of success predicted by pollsters. And even exit polls are an imperfect guesstimate, but even now they're suggesting earlier polls were less than useful.

For example, just two days ago the Times-Populus poll was predicting Labour 41, Tory 27, Lib-Dems 23; and the Mori-FT poll Labour 39, Tory 29, Lib-Dem 22. Exit polls now predict Labour 37%, Conservatives 33% and Lib Dems 22%, meaning some 63% of voters have voted against Blair's Labour.

Why polls are taken as seriously as they are has always been a mystery to me. One of the most amusing elections I've seen was the 1992 UK election, in which a Welsh windbag was well-beaten by a grey man who ran away from the circus to join a bank.

Pollsters in 1992 were predicting disaster for the grey man (John Major - Tory) and overwhelming success for the windbag (Neil Kinnock - Labour) - so much so that Labour put together a pre-election 'victory rally' in Sheffield broadcast live to the nation. Highly amusing in retrospect.

Neil Kinnock was sacked as leader following his failure, but strangely the pollsters' abject failure didn't lead to any loss of their unwelcome influence.

Of the 1992 election 'The Grauniad' summarises in part,
...when polling day came around, it still felt as though Labour could win, and if the polls were right, that Labour would win narrowly - or at least that there would be a hung parliament.

Even the exit polls on April 9 suggested a hung parliament, with Labour and the Tories each projected to take 305 seats, a result that would have produced a Labour minority government. Most newspapers wrote that it was neck and neck.

A final poll of polls, published on April 9, suggested a Labour lead of 0.9%. "Time for a change" was the Daily Mirror's election day headline. But the Sun, with far more flair and ruthlessness, splashed memorably with: "If Kinnock wins today, will the last person out of Britain please turn out the lights?" It was illustrated with the Labour leader's head in a light bulb.

As soon as the results began to come in, it was clear that the 1992 election was to be the pollsters' Waterloo. In the event, the Tories won by 7.6%, an 8.5% error and the worst ever showing by the polls. The national shares of the vote were Conservative 42% (no change from 1987), Labour 34% (up 3%), Lib Dems 18% (down 5%) and others 6% (up 2%). The Tories took 336 seats (down 40 from 1987), Labour 271 (up 42), the Lib Dems 20 (down 2) and others 24 (up 1). Overall, John Major had a majority of 21.
So why you would rely on any pollsters after that abject defeat, I couldn't tell you. It might have been the pollsters' Waterloo, but none showed any sign of embarrassment. Within the week they were being quoted as if they knew what they were talking about.

Thuggery at Northland school

At midday today the Ministry of Education will be attempting to evict the parents and children from Orauta School. I've reported previously on this case, in which parents at this Moerewa school in Northland wish simply to educate their children away from the clutches of the state. Northern Advocate gives some background here.

As Peter Osborne from Libertarianz says this morning, it's not that the government is even interested in the premises - "the buildings will probably be left to rot at the taxpayers' expense" - "what the Government is most concerned about is the community wish to educate their own children without government interference." Libertarianz oppose the eviction, and Libz Julian Pistorius and Helen Hughes will be at the school today to offer the trustees their support.

The person charged with organising the eviction is Sharron M. Berry at Opus Consulting, ie., the former Ministry of Works. You can tell her what you think about the orders she is following at (07) 834 1873. And you can tell the gentleman who issued those orders what you think of them as well: Brian Mitchell, Property Implementation Manager (now there's a catchy title) at the Ministry on 04-463 8285 or brian.mitchell@minedu.govt.nz. Tell them I sent you. You might also like to ask the Maori Party's Hone Harawira why he isn't "walking the talk" on this issue as he should be.

And if you're near Moerewa and want to help, then please call in and talk to trustees chairman Ken Brown.

Army quizzed over Berryman bridge

With the Butcher Report suppression now lifted The Herald has given its own summary of the Report here, and points out the Army's credibility gap over the report. Meanwhile, the Institute of Professional Engineers (IPENZ) has likened the collapse of the Berryman bridge to that of the Cave Creek platform that killed fourteen people when it collapsed. The Herald report on IPENZ's comments is here.
IPENZ didn't say it, but they might have pointed out that, like the Cave Creek platform, this bridge was built by government employees who clearly didn't know what they were doing, and who looked to shirk responsibility for the subsequent disaster.

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Top ten searches this week

Top ten search terms for my blog as it heads into its fifth week are (all searches are Google unless noted otherwise):
1. marsden cove (not on front page);
2. peter cresswell epsom blog (1st, unsurprisingly);
3. site poll cresswell epsom (also 1st, also unsurprising);
4. libz on campus (2nd);
5. cave creek tragedy (not on front page);
6. rob moodie (4th);
7. keith berryman (1st);
8. email addresses of building construction companies in saudi 2005 (bizarrely enough, I score 15th on this Yahoo search);
9. turia and sharples (not on front page);
10. seashore and seabed new zealand law brash (10th)

And a big welcome to the 16,466th person to hit this site. I don't think I've even met anyone from Bremen, but here they are nonetheless. Welcome, mein Herr or Fraulein.

Mussolini or Mandela?

'The Times' have an online political quiz as part of their election coverage. Are you a Mussolini or Mandela it asks. Well, are you?

It's actually a longer and more watered down version of the World's Smallest Political Quiz, found here and on my sidebar, making it perhaps the world's second smallest, and amusingly it shows Blair's Labour Party on the edge of Authoritarianism. Not just amusing then, but also accurate.

Try both quizzes and see if the results agree. If you like, tell me your results and the party you presently support and I'll add them to the chart I'm compiling and will be posting shortly showing where NZ political parties and their supporters are placed. In the meantime, would you care to guess which is our most authoritarian parliamentary party? Our most libertarian?

For myself, I get 100% Personal Freedom/100% Economic Freedom with the World's Smallest Political Quiz, but only 60-70 on the Times quiz. There you go. [Hat-tip to David Bertelsen at SOLO.]

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Houses by Fred Stevens and by Peter Cresswell at Lake Tarawera

Houses by Fred Stevens and by Peter Cresswell at Lake Tarawera


Testing Labour's tax pledge

In 1999 Helen Clark's Labour Party went to the country with a 'pledge card' promising among other things no new taxes to the 95 per cent of people who earned less than $60,000 per annum.

Have you seen what's happened since: Jimmy Jangles lists here twenty-three news taxes from the fork-tongued filth from Helengrad, the most recently announced yet another increase in taxes on petrol - 4c/litre plus Government Slavery Tax - to pay for the foolish Kyoto promises.

As the joke goes, how do you know when a politician is lying? Their lips are moving.

Pylons v property rights

As Daryl Kerrigan from the film 'The Castle' used to muse, power lines are a reminder of man's ability to generate electricity. In the Waikato, they are a reminder that the government's big stick may still be used to force pylons and powerlines across unwilling farmers' property.

There's a lot of ill-feeling in the Waikato over Transpower's proposed power pylons - understandably so when you consider that Waikato farmers will likely be forced to play host to the these 70m monoliths without even being asked nicely by Transpower.

What's wrong with asking nicely? Why use the government's stick to force property owners against their will? When railroading was at its peak in 19th century America, railroads used to purchase 'options' from land-owners along their three or four preferred routes - options that would only be picked up once one of the routes became 'live' by having purchased 100% of the necessary options along that route. The Kapuni gasline that went through some years ago made use of similar undertakings.

There is no reason at all that the state-owned Transpower cannot make use of a similar voluntary mechanism to gain their transmission route, no reason at all except that as a government department they can't be bothered. To resort as they have done to wielding the bullying big stick of government is a disgrace. The present delay called by Trevor Mallard is, as Piako MP Lindsay Tisch observes, gutless and aimed simply at pushing the issue beyond the election. "All this does is leave in limbo the farmers across whose land the pylons could be going," he says. I agree with him.

I suspect Daryl Kerrigan would too.

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Great landscape - great architects

You know, one of the real joys of being an architect in this country is the gorgeous landscape our architecture inhabits. I'm travelling back up to Auckland today while stopping to check out sites and projects - it really is a huge pleasure. (I'll post some pictures tonight of one or two for your viewing pleasure.)

And while talking architecture, you might enjoy this particular architectural website, which hosts 3-dimensional virtual models of great buildings that you can walk through online. It's not the real thing, but it's better than a few lousy photographs of your favourites. You have to download a viewer first, but that's the work of a moment.

You may also like to visit here, where I give links to my own favourite architects.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Tauranga & Tarawera

I've spent the last two days driving around Tauranga looking at sites, and I'm now enjoying respite at a colleague's wonderfully relaxing house at Lake Tarawera. Normal blog service will resume shortly.

Butcher Report suppression lifted

Court suppression of the Butcher Report - the once-secret army report into the fatal collapse of a bridge built for King Country couple Keith and Margaret Berryman - has now been lifted.

Story here and here.

Wellington High Court judge Justice Wild said "it would be futile to stop publication of the report now it is in the public domain." Good on everyone reading this who helped to put it there.

News too this morning that in 1986 Keith Berryman signed a document taking full responsibility for the army-built bridge. Says David McLoughlin's 'Dominion' article:
The Berrymans' lawyer, Rob Moodie, said yesterday that he knew of the document but believed the army could not enforce it, because Mr Berryman was a layman, not an engineer... Dr Moodie said the agreement Mr Berryman signed did not absolve the army of liability for the major construction defect that led to the collapse.

Though Mr Berryman "certainly had liability" for maintaining the bridge, he had signed the agreement as a layman and not an engineer.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

May Day 2005: A day of remembrance

I know it's a bit late to remember May Day (and fortunately this year few New Zealanders did), but it's never too late to remind ourselves just how appalling communism is.

Catallarchy is doing just that here. As we say at Anzac Day, Lest We Forget.

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Butcher Report back in parliament this afternoon

Xenophobic he might be, and election year it surely is, but Winston is still pursuing the Berryman case when no other parliamentarian cares to.

Question 9 in parliament this afternoon, from Winston, asks, "To the Prime Minister: Has she received a copy of the report by former army engineer, George Butcher; if so, does she have any concerns with its findings?" I look foward to hearing the answer, and those to subsequent questions.

Does anyone have any news on Rob Moodie's Law Society censure hearing last week?

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Classical sex


Okay, confess. You came in here and first thing was you had a good look at the young ladies above, didn’t you? Go on, confess.

Lovely ladies. But do you buy their records? And is classical music really about sex? Well, as the Daily Telegraph notes here, you probably will, and yes it is. But there is an irony in the marketing of Vanessa Mae and Bond that might have been lost on the marketing departments:
...one way or another, the idea has taken root that classical music in itself is completely sexless, and needs an urgent transfusion of this life-giving elixir from the marketing department.
Which is really a travesty of the truth, because classical music is mostly full of sex, or to put it better, eroticism - it's just that it's hidden, buried in music's grammar.
Every time you hear a dissonance (a tense-sounding interval or chord) melt into a consonant one, you're hearing the basic erotic pattern of arousal and relief. That's true even in the chaste polyphony of Renaissance church music (which is why some of it doesn't sound half as chaste as it ought to).
But where that pattern is spiced up with really grinding dissonances, or where it's repeated in ascending sequences, each repetition more intense that the last, then the sexual connotation becomes blindingly clear.
So there. The music really is full of sex. Intensely, blindingly so. So are the young ladies above. But are they full of music? You’ll have to buy their music to find out for yourself, but personally, I wouldn’t recommend it. Ironically, when it comes to sex in music, dusty old Richard Wagner and Wilhelm Furtwangler do it way better.

Some hot theremin players here though …

(Hat-tip to Irfan Khawaja for the link.)

Central Planning pushing new boundaries

I bet many of you thought central planning died out with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, didn't you. It didn't.

The ethos is still alive and well, and is nurtured in the hearts of New Zealand's planning profession. They've been emboldened by how the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act have given them broad powers while tying up the rest of us, so excited and emboldened in fact that they've just finished a conference called 'Pushing the Boundaries' about which they say:
This conference is about ‘pushing the boundaries’. The role and scope of planning in New Zealand is expanding. We can now be concerned with assisting communities to plan for a better society, not just a better environment, using mechanisms such as the Local Government Act (LGA), strategic and social planning economic development planning and other statutory and non statutory processes to give effect to community values.

We need to take these new opportunities by the scruff of the neck and look at what planning is, what it can be, and how it can provide New Zealand with the best possible future for its diverse people. The conference is about improving and moving past established resource management practices – looking at how we can further push the boundaries, both within and outside the RMA.
Does anyone really want the role of planners expanding? As one observer says: "The Local Government Act has released the planners from their chains and they are now able to plan every aspect of our lives."

I'd like to say about the LGA and the RMA 'I told you so,' and I can, here and here. Perhaps you'd like to tell the Planning Institute what you think of their members 'pushing the boundaries.' Email the Executive Director here, nzpi@ihug.co.nz, and tell him.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Treaty Principles

Treaty Principles

Nick Kim cartoon, courtesy of The Free Radical magazine.

Rangatiratanga - at whose expense?

Tariana Turia’s Maori Party wants to end Maori dependence on welfare, she says in this week’s Listener. Great. So do I.

“We’re saying these are the groups of people [whanau, extended whanau, hapu, iwi] that have to start taking back responsibility and obligation. Don’t rely on the state because the state makes mistakes.” Marvellous stuff!

The party has been careful to promise nothing, Turia tells the Listener. “Instead it is telling people they have to stop allowing the state to take over their lives.” Just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it.

And it does: “Labour has always believed the state will provide,” continues Turia. “Labour has kept our people trapped in dependence. This so-called welfare state has not done us any favours. We didn’t want welfare. We wanted independence.”

Wow! A libertarian reading this should probably be standing and applauding right now – the rhetoric almost echoes that of great libertarians like Isabel Paterson who warned half-a-century-ago in her God of the Machine that a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.

If only Tariana truly understood that. If only that was what she was really saying.

Sadly, she’s not. Her idea of ‘independence’ is one that is funded by taxpayers. She still wants Maori to suck off the state tit, she just thinks the manner of the suckling needs to change: "[W]e believe we have a right to rangatiratanga, as guaranteed under Article Two.” What exactly does she mean by that? “It’s our firm belief that money being spent on Maori needs to be unbundled. It is being spent on them, on behalf of them, but not effectively. It’s a waste of public money… We’re just tired of it. We also think there is a more effective way of spending that money.”

Well, she’s partly right. It is a waste. As Charles Murray pointed out in 1984, from the late sixties to the early eighties the so-called War on Poverty in the US spent almost the equivalent of the country’s entire Gross National Product on ‘relieving poverty’ and it didn’t. “That’s $3,800,000,000,000 – enough to give every poor person in America $117,000 [in 1984 dollars] to start his own war on poverty.” It didn’t. A similar calculation here would I’m sure show a similar result. Said PJ O’Rourke of the lesson learnt: “You can’t get rid of poverty by giving people money.”

And you can’t pretend it’s not welfare just by calling it rangatiratanga. Whatever 'unbundling' might mean it's clear she's not calling for welfare spending on Maori to end.

So the Maori Party is in favour of race-based funding, then? “For sure. Unabashed, upfront,” says her co-leader Pita Sharples. So it's clear what the Maori Party wants is independence and ‘rangatiratanga’, and they want someone else to pay for it. So much for independence. Rongo Wetere has recently given a master-class in what this kind of independence means. So what's new?

And why do the views of Turia and Sharples even matter? At just 2% or so in general polling they’re not even getting traction in the general electorate, despite all their publicity. Naturally however, it’s not the general electorate they’re targeting. A recent and much discussed Marae-Digipoll of just over 100 voters in each of the seven Maori seats gave them a real sniff of success in five of them. These are seats of course that are firmly based on an apartheid gerrymander – a by-product of colonial paternalism that a true claimant of rangatiratanga would firmly reject.

But not this lot. Because when it comes to standing on their own two feet, they really want someone else to do it for them.

God defend NZ from politicians' false promises

As Rodney Hide points out, Labour's promise to spend $3billion extra on defence over ten years is just empty nonsense. It's apparent they do see such a promise as being something the electorate will like - which is a good thing - but they figure the electorate and the press gallery can't count, which is bad - and sadly true.

The truth is that the Air Force will still need to run a cake stall just to keep its Orions in the air, and shouldn't even think about having enough to get its strike force back.

Basically, Labour's promises are the typically empty blatherings of politicians lapped up by headline-writing journalists short of a critical faculty. And the country still only has an National Anthem to defend us.

Personally, I believe that this country is worth defending, and that doing so is a legitimate task of government. Oddly enough, so do the Libertarianz, and they're quite specific as to what is needed - more specific even than is our present Government. Other opposition parties do at least realise something must be done: Check out what they're promising - National, ACT, and Winston First. Note that conscription has thankfully disappeared from Winston's policy proposal - expect it to reappear however if his poll rise reverses.

Polls raise balance of power problems again

This morning's Herald poll differs a little from the weekend's Sunday Star-Times-BRC poll, but both show Winston First clearly above the 5% threshold. I'm not a Winston fan, but this is surely due reward for being a proper opposition party leader - the only one for instance who's been supporting the Berrymans in parliament instead of making irrelevant hay over a silly interview. I commented on the lack of real opposition here a few weeks ago - looks like more than a few voters feel the same way.

Winston's not talking coalitions this election, whatever the polls say. At least, not yet. Asked if he believed his party could again hold the balance of power, he said: "We don’t use that phrase. We’ve moved on from there." And well he might, he's been burned before - and so have we. And so have the major parties; both are likely to look somewhat askance at doing a deal with parliament's devil.

And in any case, every coalition party in the MMP era has either been burnt by being too close to power (think Alliance), or is simply irrelevant (think Progressive). Which raises the question: How exactly should a minor party act when confronted by holding the balance of power? If they're principled and in favour of more freedom and less government, then they have no problem: they can simply say "We will support every measure that advances freedom without introducing any new coercion." And then they would do so. Such support would be reliable (as long as freedom is advanced) and consistent. Such a policy is that followed by the Costa Rican libertarian party Movimiento Libertario, who hold 5 of Costa Rica's 57 Congressional seats, and it's worked fine for them.

I explain here how the studious application of this principle would suggest that killing the entire front bench of Government in their beds would be unprincipled; and here (scroll down to 'We'll get our fair share of abuse') how this principle would rule out support for a flat tax, for educational vouchers, and for state welfare being a 'hand-up and not a hand-out.'

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Saturn and two moons, from the Cassini spacecraft

Saturn and two moons, from the Cassini spacecraft

Space: still the final frontier

I've just got in from a fascinating lecture by Bob Mitchell of NASA. Bob Mitchell is the "Programme Manager for the highly successful Cassini Space Project, whose spacecraft arrived at Saturn near the end of last year, and is still there, sending back a multitude of beautiful and interesting images of Saturn, its rings and moons." Those images are highly detailed, and of subjects for which we previously had no more than very blurry images if at all.

The knowledge gained is immense; in the case of Titan it now seems it is knowledge of an Earthlike planet which has been 'deep-frozen' for several billion years - studying Titan is like studying Earth before life developed. And the engineering prowess involved in putting such a successful mission together is simply mind-blowing - just think for example of the mathematics needed to calculate the trajectory of a 7m by 11m object in order for it to orbit the sun twice, meeting with Venus each time, and then have it 'slingshot' off Venus out to Saturn - meeting Jupiter on the way for another 'slingshot' off its gravity - and then knowing just precisely how much 'burn' is required to brake that object so that it stays in Saturn's orbit. An account of this process is here. Such a calculation, or series of calculations, is but meat and drink to minds such as those of Mr Mitchell and his team.

The website for the mission where mission info, raw data and unprocessed pictures can be seen is here. Processed pictures from all NASA's missions, including many composite pictures, are here. The mission has upwards of three-and-a-half years still to run, so images and data are still flooding in.

Mission costs are expected to run to US$3.3billion, something a libertarian would be expect to take an interest in. Here's two gentlemen who have, and two ladies:
Robert Garmong discusses free-market space exploration here; Ronald Pisaturo discusses here how property rights in space might transform space exploration; Anita Campbell talks here about the entrepreneurisation of space; and Ayn Rand pays tribute to the Apollo 11 mission here.

DPF's April NZ blog stats

Woh, looks like I need a life. See here for details.

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Vietnam, thirty years on

Thirty years ago Saigon fell to advancing communist Vietcong troops, and the Vietnam War was over. America, and the South Vietnamese, had lost.

Unlike the situation in Lebanon and Iraq today, the South Vietnamese were neither free to succeed nor to make their own mistakes - the mistakes were forced upon them by their own regime. The 'liberation' of Vietnam was to leave a trail of corpses and the stultification of life for those remaining alive. As a piece in a recent LA Times explains,
The first postwar decade was marked by a continuation of the wartime subsidy system, the regimentation of daily living and the same hard-line ideology that had reigned during the war. In the South, people were imprisoned, property was seized, intellectuals were purged. Careers — and lives — were ended. This period was also marked by military conflict on the western border with Cambodia and on the northern border with China. Our newly achieved national independence turned into international isolation and transformed our recently unified country into a territory riddled with poverty, backwardness and repression.
That situation is only now beginning to lift, explains the Vietnamese author:
Thirty years after the war, all of our foundational cultural values have lost their validity, and the noblest ideas of communist ideology have become a joke. No space has emerged for basic Western democratic values or for the positive dimensions of modern globalization. Instead, we face corruption, violation of the rule of law, perversion of morality and dignity, the collapse of our medical and educational systems, dizzyingly rapid increases in social inequality, the time bomb of ethnic and religious conflict, a destroyed and polluted environment, the impoverishment of spiritual life, a crisis of belief and of hope. Vietnam's totalitarian system long ago showed that it does not have the authority to solve these problems.
Thirty years of catastrophe are the price of Ho Chi Minh's victory. Are those clouds now beginning to lift?

Free to make their own mistakes

"Every country has the right to liberate a slave pen," Ayn Rand argued. A right, but not a duty. Naturally, there is no guarantee of success when a slave pen is liberated, and the act of liberating one slave pen may in fact encourage by example the removal of similar shackles elsewhere.

Such is the case with the liberation of Iraq. There is no guarantee of success in the difficult task of building a stable, peaceful democracy in Iraq, nor is there in its newly liberated near-neighbour Lebanon. But there is much cause for hope.

The citizens of both Iraq and Lebanon are now free to succeeed in this endeavour or to fail. As this article on Beirut's immediate future says of the Lebanese, they are now free make their own mistakes.