Friday, 21 October 2005

Test Friends

Cripes, I'm either completely open and transparent, or you lot are reading my mail. Or could it be that the questions I asked are just so obvious that even people I don't know score well? Whatever or however, my Friends Test has shown me that some people who know me best I don't know at all, and some who I do know know more about me than I do! It's a worry. A real worry.

Top five scores are:
1. Peter 96
2. Mac 84
3. Andrew B. 82
4. Richard 78
5. andrew h 78

So just who the hell is Mac?

Some end-of-week business

I've been up to my eyes this week, so I haven't been able to respond to comments here and to other bloggers as I'd have liked to. Feel free to do so on my behalf.

# Here for instance is one from Richard that I was pleased to see, on the subject of Intrinsic Value.
I'm inclined [says Richard] to think that only sentient beings can have intrinsic value in the strong sense. We are the creators of value, so without us there simply would not be any value in the world. Nothing that happens in a consciousless (I would say 'material', but that's not quite right) universe matters at all, one way or another. Hence my skepticism about intrinsic environmental value.
I'm inclined to agree with him, and for the very reasons he gives. Not so however when he then goes on to say: "Nevertheless, I think that we ought to value many things - and perhaps the environment among them - intrinsically, for their own sake." If I was to criticise this latter statement, I would probably start by saying much of what's said here. Value only makes sense when it has a valuer: if we value something, then we're saying it's a value to us. That might make it many things -- either a subjective value or an objective one for instance -- but it doesn't make it an intrinsic value. Nothing does.

# Moving on: now this just cries out to be corrected: Ruth objects to ending the War on Drugs, not because -- as she's previously complained -- dirty druggies would take over town, but because instead of arresting them and sending them to jail, the State instead would be regulating and taxing them. "That sounds like a real increase in personal freedom doesn't it?" blusters Ruth. "Think of all the money it would save us! As a taxpayer I'd rather keep paying for the War on Drugs - it's the lesser evil by a long shot." Makes no sense. Feel free to tell her why.

# And Berend has asked me a few good questions over the last few days. One I must respond to is his question about Montessori: "You must like the freedom part, but it seems you studiously avoid giving an opinion on the philosophy behind it. But we're not afraid to hear it..." And I'm not afraid to give it. With only the very mildest of disagreements, I am enthusiastically and philosophically in agreement with the Montessori philosophy. It is conceptual, reality-based education that encourages independence, clear-thinking, and an ongoing love of learning -- and it does that by responding precisely to the way humans acquire, store and use knowledge. IMO there is no pedagogical system to touch it. (Hope that didn't frighten you. :-) )

# (And to the chap who's wondering why his comment was just deleted: this site doesn't host endorsements of professional racists. Think on that if you visit here again.)

Raglan success

I'm heading to Raglan tonight, so I'm damn glad this thing (right) was caught and killed, and not left to swim free. Herald story here.

And for what it's worth, a few surfers and some Hector's Dolphin might be equally pleased.
[Fisherman Warwick] Harris said the marine monster probably went a long way to explaining the fall in numbers of rare Hector dolphins - which had been blamed on commercial fishermen.

"Hector dolphins would be Mallow-puffs to something like that," he said.
Photo: NZ Herald

Stossel on guns & charity

Does Big Government discourage private charity? Sure does. Does gun control reduce crime? Betcha life it doesn't. ABC journalist John Stossel argues both cases, and pretty well.

In the first instance, Stossell talks about mutual aid societies and the like that flourished before state welfare did:
In the 1920s -- the last decade before the Roosevelt administration launched its campaign to federalize nearly everything -- 30 percent of American men belonged to mutual aid societies, groups of people with similar backgrounds who banded together to help members in trouble. They were especially common among minorities.

Mutual aid societies paid for doctors, built orphanages and cooked for the poor. Neighbors knew best what neighbors needed. They were better at making judgments about who needs a handout and who needed a kick in the rear. They helped the helpless, but administered tough love to the rest. They taught self-sufficiency.

Mutual aid didn't solve every problem, so government stepped in. But government didn't solve every problem either. Instead, it caused more problems by driving private charity out...
More here. And how about gun control? Surely guns are dnagerous. They are "But myths are dangerous, too," says Stossel. "Myths about guns are very dangerous, because they lead to bad laws. And bad laws kill people." Gun control is bad law says Stossel. Challenge yourself and see if you agree with him.

[Hat tip Stephen Hicks and Zen Tiger]

Montessori School Project -- Organon Architecture

Thursday, 20 October 2005

A Round Table

I just heard Radio Live's political reporter describe what she saw in the middle of the room when she went into the Beehive's Cabinet Room this afternoon for the first session. "It's a big round table," she said, "with a great big hole in the middle."

Not a bad way to describe the new Clark Administration really, is it?

New Game: How many can you abolish?

Here's a new game, proposed by Mike Heine at Act on Campus. He's come up with fifteen Ministers and their associated ministries, departments and real estate that coud face the chop without the world being any the poorer for their loss -- indeed, quite the reverse! -- and he's wondering if anyone might have a longer list.

Well Mike, I guess mine is bigger than yours...

MMP or not?

The MMP electoral system used in New Zealand and Germany is a mess. Sure, we can look forward every three years or so to several weeks of no government -- something for which we can at least be thankful -- but when the new Government is inevitably formed it frequently looks like a mongrel combination of both fish and fowl, and it frequently ends up spending even more than it would otherwise due to the need to buy off smaller parties (did someone say Families Commission, solar panels and Superannuation?).

Political paralysis is one of the features of the MMP system; while all the MMP-generated ducking and shoving does perhaps discourage significant reform, when the appetite for reform is mostly in the direction of more government rather than less, it seems to me that any paralyis is a good thing. When 'reform' means the imposition of more meddling, as it usually does in Helengrad, then a handbrake is what you need, not the promise of an open road. Frederic Sautet of the Austrian Economist has surveyed the landscape after the recent German and NZ elections however, and he disagrees:
Germany and New Zealand are in difficult situations: they both have similar electoral systems and they both have coalition governments. Whether Merkel will be able to implement social change à la Ludwig Erhard is difficult to say. While this is what Germany badly needs, my guess is that it won’t happen. As for Clark, she will be in the hands of her coalition partners and more backsliding is to be expected for the next three years in NZ.
In Clark's case, 'backsliding' is to be encouraged; imagine what she'd be doing if she really had her druthers.

A new school

I went to the lauch last night of a new secondary school in Parnell, the Montessori College of Auckland, part of a worldwide movement developing new Montessori secondary schools in response to overwhelming parent demand (read about one of the standard-bearers, David Kahn's Hershey Montessori Farm School in Ohio). Maria Montessori's first elementary school, the Casa dei Bambini, was set up by her in Rome's slums in 1907, and there are now literally thousands of elementary and primary schools around the world offering the Montessori philosophy of "freedom through a prepared environment."

New Zealand's first use of the Montessori Method was in 1912 at an elementary school in Wellington run by Suzanne Aubert. We now have just over eighty elementary Montessori Schools and twenty or so primary Montessori schools (some history here). The Montessori College of Auckland will be New Zealand's second Montessori secondary school -- the first, Athena College in Wellington's Willis St, was opened in 2002; Athena sees "the city as its campus," and offers students access to such resources as Te Papa, the Wellington Library and Victoria University's Science department. Students take their lessons around the city, each carrying a mobile phone to keep in touch, a concrete expression of Maria Montessori's educational philosophy of encouraging student's independence.

Parnell's Montessori College is being set up by some inspirational parents who want the very best for their own children, and who have worked for some years to set up this school so they can get it. I wish them well.

Secession Building, Vienna -- Josef Maria Olbrich

Built in 1897 to house and publicise exhibitions by the Vienna Secessionists, which included such characters as Gustav Klimt, Otto Wagner and (originally at any rate) Josef Hoffman.

Klimt's poster for the first exhibition is below.

Wednesday, 19 October 2005


Congratulations to TinCanMan -- he's a new Dad. Call in to his site and give him your best now before he's too sleep deprived to notice.

Top ten searches

Haven't done this for a while, so here's a look at what searches are landing up here. As usual there's some odd ones in the top ten or so searches for this last while (all rankings are for Google unless otherwise indicated):

plan halle-neustadt (16th)
fordham spire (not on front page)
differences chinese schools and australian schools (not on front page)
carl weiman (not on front page)
lesbian oppression (1st, Google Images)
last person out of britain please turn out the lights picture (1st)
serj tankian engaged to red-head australian (not on front page)
rothbard environmentalism (not on front page)
free hardcore lesbian porn (26th at
brian tamaki (not on front page)
troglodyte cartoon (not on front page)
nick kim cartoons (not on Google's front page -- check out the 'Cartoons' on the sidebar if you're looking for more of Nick's fine cartoons)
helengrad (26th)
ayn rand bogus rights (12th)

How well do you know PC?

How well do you really want to? If you have the misfortune to call me a friend, then you might like to see how well you really know me...

Have a go here at the FriendTest. [Hat tip Andrew Falloon]

Glasgow School of Art -- Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art of (designed 1906-7; completed 1909) was one of the twentieth Century's first true architectural masterpieces. Mackintosh designed it at the age of just twenty-eight.

That's a model (above) of the completed building, the Library (below, left and right) and the West facade (left)

A film showing some of Mackintosh's work is available at this site. And a 3d 'tour' of Mackintosh's beautiful light-filled Hill House Drawing Room is available at this site. It's amazing what you find on the old Interweb when you decide to really look.

Tuesday, 18 October 2005

Bad joke Foreign Minister for Kiwis

There's a somewhat common theme in many of the reports of this new Government from overseas centres. This is what is being read about this Government by those who are or would be thinking about investing in New Zealand:

Bad joke Foreign Minister for Kiwis
Australian, Australia
WINSTON Peters - an outspoken, anti-immigration protectionist who promotes racial profiling of Muslims - will become the public face of New Zealand on the world stage. [Cartoon right.]

Labour's Clark forms NZ coalition
BBC News, UK
New Zealand's Labour party has made a deal with smaller parties on leading a coalition government... The leader of the anti-immigration, nationalist New Zealand First Party has been named foreign affairs minister.

NZ's Labour Party ready to form new gov't
Japan Today, Japan
SYDNEY — New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Monday that her Labour Party has finalized arrangements with minor parties to enable it to form a new government with a majority in Parliament.

New Zealand's Clark forms govt
News24, South Africa
As part of the extensive deal-making, populist New Zealand First Party leader WinstonPeters - who once claimed New Zealand was being "colonised" by Asians - has been appointed foreign minister.

Protectionist Peters may get top NZ post
Manila Times, Phillipines
A REPORT by Ray Lilley of AP seems to bode ill for the growing number of Filipino migrants and contract workers in New Zealand. The leader of a small nationalist party is likely to receive three Cabinet posts in New Zealand’s new Labour-led government, including the key post of foreign minister...

NZ's Clark Will Form Government With Minor Parties (Update2)
Bloomberg - 15 hours ago
Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark will form a new government with support from three minor parties after offering ministerial positions to their leaders... ``Clark and Cullen have proven they are good at making governments work,'' said [the National Bank's Cameron] Bagrie. ``No one will be in a hurry to call an early election.''

Clark retains power in NZ
Sydney Morning Herald (subscription), Australia
Prime Minister Helen Clark has retained power in New Zealand with a deal clinched by making outspoken, anti-migrant populist Winston Peters her new foreign minister.

New Zealand Labour PM Clark wins historic third term
Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates
WELLINGTON - New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark wrote herself into the nation’s history books on Monday as she announced the formation of her third consecutive government...Clark is a steely social democrat with an austere image that critics label arrogance. Opponents have sometimes referred to Wellington, New Zealand’s capital and seat of parliament, as Helengrad - hinting that her tough control of the strings of power has a hint of the former Soviet Union about it.

Populist Peters in NZ power exchange
Brisbane Courier Mail, Australia
PRIME Minister Helen Clark has retained power in New Zealand by making outspoken, anti-migrant populist Winston Peters her new foreign minister...

NZ gets new Labour-led government, Qatar
Acting Prime Minister Helen Clark has announced a deal with minor parties to form a new Labour-led coalition government, naming an outspoken anti-immigration

Special Broadcasting Service, Australia - 11 hours ago
Prime Minister Helen Clark has retained power in New Zealand with a deal clinched by making outspoken, anti-migrant populist Winston Peters her new foreign minister.

Protectionist Peters may get top NZ post
Australian Financial Review, Australia

And isn't it interesting how even the Hard Labour bloggers have been rather unamused about their Government, the one that's been Frankensteined together with a wish, a prayer and a load of messy promises. Jordan Carter is representative: "The Third Term begins - in an arrangement marked by constitutional innovations and odd people in odd places." And Roy at About Town says " Oh great, I should have voted National"! Good solid support there for these unique constitutional innovations.

An angry shade of Green

DR at the Frogblog says all there is to be said about the Greens not being invited to the Ball. Whatever you were going to say about the deal the Greens have been handed, they're already saying it themselves. They've been screwed:

‘Spokeswoman for solar heating’ for goodness sake. Pathetic. ‘Spokesman for buy locally made’ … good grief. These are nonsense baubles, and will be full of burble.

No wonder the Green Party executive decided not to hold its promised SGM. There would’ve been blood on the floor. What an abysmal sellout, and no arguing about ‘this is the hand the voter dealt us’ excuses. We Greens [I am a financial, card carrying member] ran a poor campaign, chose generally poor candidates, have had six years in Parliament to build communications with media, business, farmers, and every other group with a name and chose not to, and have allowed image to remain a mishmash of badly thought out and poorly marketed policies. Frankly, we deserved to be done over. We have been, right royally.

Now, it’s time to change the leadership, the executive, the electorate structures and get some new blood in, people with cojones, who won’t slither away from confronting reality.

We’ve had 30 years to go from 5.3% of the popular vote in 1975 [as Values Party] to 5.3% in 2005. That is not progress my friends, that’s treading a pool of stagnant water.

And check out the vitriol on this thread from Green supporters. Nobody does in-fighting like the hard left. Meanwhile, on the soft left, Russell Brown spins the Green's baubles, just as he earlier defended Winston. Maybe he's after a job as Labour Party speechwriter?

Iraqi freedom?

Two views this morning on Iraq's vote for a new constitution, a vote that so many nay-sayers said would never happen. Stephen Schwartz at TechCentral Station is ecstatic:
We won again! For a second time, the Iraqi people proved the Western mainstream media, Islamist radicals, self-righteous and nihilistic war protestors, disaffected Democrats, and neo-isolationists wrong: the referendum on the new constitution was successful. The Sunni minority participated in the polling and those among them voting "no" were swamped by the positive outcome.

Iraq will have its new constitution. The transforming intervention led by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair will succeed. The global sweep of bourgeois revolution will continue, centering on Iraq's neighbors: monarchical Saudi Arabia, statist Syria, and theocratic Iran.
Putting the case against is Onkhar Gate at the ARI:

A constitution is valuable only if it strictly delimits the power of government to that of protecting each individual's rights. History demonstrates that government is, potentially, the worst violator of man's rights. A proper constitution declares off-limits any governmental action that would trespass on an individual's rights, no matter whether that action is proposed in the name of the king, the common good, God, or public morality.

The draft Iraqi constitution, however, grants virtually unlimited power to the state...

We in America had no reason to expect freedom from the drafters of Iraq's constitution. Like many of our own intellectuals on the left and the right (some of whom were advisers in Iraq), Iraqi intellectuals are either tribal or religious collectivists (or both). Whichever the case, they deny the individual and his rights. The tribalists deny material independence to the individual and seek to control his every economic step. The religionists, more numerous and powerful, deny spiritual independence to the individual and seek to dictate his every conviction and purpose in life. It is no accident that the draft constitution is both "keen to advance Iraqi tribes and clans" and eager to promote Islam. Freedom's intellectual preconditions do not exist in Iraq.
Much as I'd like to agree with Schwartz, I think Gate has read both the constitution and the situation rather better. (A PDF lnk to the constititution is here.)


Happy? This is what you lot voted for, and this is what you've got. Happy? Not one of you voted for this outcome, but the outcome of your votes is this mongrel mélange we wake up with this morning.

DPF has the summary of which party has been promised what. Not included are the details of who's going to be done over now the Government is ready to be formed, and which ambassadorship Winston will be after in three years time or less.

It's been a pleasant enough few weeks, hasn't it, these last four without a government. Time perhaps to quote Mark Twain again: "No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session."

The People are still singing

Les Mis has now been on stage at the Palace Theatre in London's West End for twenty years, and Mark Steyn has some thoughts on its longevity. I confess, I'm a fan. I saw it at least half-a-dozen times in London -- each time friends would visit and insist on seeing Cats (uugh!), I'd insist instead on seeing Les Mis. I began by being dismissive -- "how could those philistines take that great novel and turn it into a musical!" -- but I was convinced ten minutes into my first show at the Palace.

Why does this sprawling novel work as a musical? Steyn quotes producer Cameron Mackintosh, the one who took all the risks:
Les Mis works because Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg found the right subject and told it the right way. Whereas most musicals pick the wrong subjects and do them the same old way... Les Mis is the world's most popular musical because Victor Hugo's book is the great universal social novel: it strikes a chord wherever its story is told - Vienna, Osaka, Reykjavik. With canny timing, it snuck under the Iron Curtain just in time for communism's death-throes: in Budapest it was seen as a parable of the 1956 uprising; in Gdynia, Poland, the little urchin girl's tatty tricolour was replaced by the Solidarity flag. And in New York it sells a ton of merchandising.
Do you hear the people sing? You still can at the Palace Theatre, London WC2.

Andromeda - Gustav Dore

Monday, 17 October 2005


Newstalk ZB says to expect an announcement from Helen Clark at 5pm on the make-up of her next Government. Winston is picked to have Foreign Affairs; Dunce to have Revenue. It's been a good time without a government ... shame it couldn't last.

Helen Clark & Michael Cullen might like it!

Now here's irony for you. Rodney has blogged again on an 'Article that Helen Clark, Michael Cullen et al. should read,' this time with a 1946 article 'Roofs or Ceilings?'

Written by a very young Milton Friedman and George Stigler immediately after World War II and published by Leonard Read's Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), it points out the bad economics of price controls -- but as Ayn Rand pointed out at the time it would give politicians like Helen Clark and Michael Cullen much to crow about, as it asserts that the free market is just another form of rationing.

Those wondering why Rand fell out with the conservative movement can look to this very article for what represented the final straw for Rand.

Rand had great hopes for Read's FEE when it was set up (Henry Hazlitt outlines its beginnings here). Read had told Rand he "considered [her] one of the best and most strict authorities on the proper philosophy on our side, since he admired [her] ability to see when our cause had been given away by implication." Rand was equally laudatory of Read, considering him her "one last hope of a conservative who would act on the proper principles." Rand had allowed FEE to publish her 'Textbook of Americanism,' and agreed to act as the Foundation's 'ghost' to ensure that the cause wasn't 'given away by implication'; Read however never sent this piece to Rand to check, and as she said so vehememently when it came out, it does give the game away completely. "Collectivist propaganda," she called it. "The most pernicious thing ever issued by an avowedly conservative organization,” she continued.

She 'raised hell' with Read over the article. In a 1947 letter summarising why (there is a longer letter of September 1946 discussing it in much more detail), she said,
I raised hell with him for publishing that whole pamphlet (Roofs or Ceilings?) --- because it advocates collectivism in its premises and implications; because it hints that the nationalization of private homes might be the proper solution for the housing shortage; and because there is no excuse for anyone in his right mind to call the free-market, free-enterprise system a 'system of rationing'!
After much analysis of the blunders made by Friedman and Stigler that 'give the game away,' she concludes her longer letter by referring to the "disgraceful performance on page 10" (that's page 8 of the PDF by the way):
Without any of my analysis, the last paragraph on that page prove that the authors are Collectivists. The Editor's Note proves that the publishers [ie., Read and his colleagues at FEE] know it... If the publishers classify their own authors as "those who put equality above justice and liberty," this means -- in plain language -- an admission they are publishing the work of Collectivists.
As David R. Henderson points out, the older Friedman did get much better in his defence of capitalism -- Free to Choose was surely his high point -- but his manner of argument here in 'Roofs or Ceilings?' was surely a low, and it proved as she was often wont to say, that you can't divorce economcs and ethics as conservatives so frequently attempt to do.
* The text of that letter can be found in the book 'The Letters of Ayn Rand,' from where all the quotes above come.

Marsden B power appeal

The granting of the Marsden B resource consent was never the final story. The consent came with a record 160 conditions attached, and as I noted here at the time, an appeal was promised by all the usual anti-industry suspects, including Greenpeace and the Green Party. The promised appeal was announced by Greenpeace.
It argues that firing up the station is a move back to out dated, polluting energy sources. Greenpeace says it is a terrible blow for the environment, for the local community and for efforts to tackle the world's greatest threat - climate change.
Given that the last appeal for the last large power generator -- Genesis Energy's Whanganui River hydro project -- was effectively killed on appeal, there's no reason to hope that this apeal will be any better for the country's generating capacity, and for efforts to tackle one of New Zealand's greatest economic threats -- its inability to build new projects to keep industry powered up.

At the time of the Whanganui decision I quoted Alan Jenkins from the Electricity Networks Association, who warned that the principal objective of having enough power to meet demand is steadily being eroded. "It's very hard to invest in coal [because of Kyoto], nuclear's a sort of four letter word...hydro is suddenly becoming too hard...what's left?...we can't do everything on windpower," says Jenkins. If there's no power, there's no industry. And industry is our real lifeblood. Jenkins's warning is as relevant now as it was then.

Greenpeace's "campaign against coal has sent reverberations throughout the energy industry," boasts the Greenpeace website, as if that's a good thing. Think about Greenpeace next time there's a blackout.

Zarqawi's bloodbath sets fanatic against fanatic

Al-Qaeda may be losing the battle for hearts and minds, suggests Austin Bay at TechCentralStation, and the partial means for that defeat he suggests has been the "relentless, nihilistic bloodbath" orchestrated in Iraq by Al-Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. "In Iraq, [Zarqawi's] theo-fascists have been spilling Arab blood," and in doing so they have been losing Arab support. The promise of democracy and the destruction of Al-Qaeda's claim to "speak on behalf of Islam" have done further damage to their blood-soaked amibitions.
Arabs have also seen the Iraqi people's struggle and their emerging political alternative to despotism and feudal autocracy.

Zarqawi's murder spree has revealed fissures among Al-Qaida fanatics. Last week, the United States released a letter coalition intelligence believes Al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, sent to Zarqawi [noted here at 'Not PC' last week]. Zawahiri describes Iraq as "the greatest battle for Islam in our era." But Iraq has become a political and information battle that Zawahiri realizes Al-Qaida may be losing. According to
The New York Times, Zawahiri told Zarqawi to attack Americans rather than Iraqi civilians and to "refrain from the kind of gruesome beheadings and other executions that have been posted on Al-Qaida websites. Those executions have been condemned in parts of the Muslim world as violating tenets of the faith."

In February 2004, Zarqawi acknowledged a democratic Iraqi state would mean defeat for Al-Qaida in Iraq. To defeat democracy, he has pursued a strategy of relentless, nihilistic bloodbath. It's a brutal irony of war: In doing so, he is losing the war for the hearts and minds.
Let us hope so.

[UPDATE: Alan notes below that doubts about the letter have been raised, first by Al-Qaeda -- well, they would say that, wouldn't they -- and also by Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan. Cole, who has been much-quoted, says the letter "raises questions for me as to its authenticity."]

[UPDATE 2: Iraqi Bloggers Central have their own thoughts on Cole's "gut" which tells him "the letter is a forgery." An "outrage to logic" is what they call Cole's reasoning.]

Exploding globalisation myths

Swedish defender of globalisation and capitalism Johann Norberg has some myth-busters about globalisation. Globalisation promotes increasing inequality of wealth? Nope. Globalisation threatens democracy. Not a bit. Globalisation makes you impotent. Turns out it doesn't. Julian has a brief summary of the (genuine) globalisation myths that Norberg has blown sky high. Globalisation is good; Norberg demonstrates why.

While we're on the subject of myths, there are few eras in history so full of myths and so crying out for those myths to be exploded as The Great Depression. President Hoover's inaction brought on the depression? Hoover's meddling was in fact one of the proximate causes of the great collapse. Government programmes helped lower unemployment. Wrong again. They made things worse. Roosevelt's New Deal saved America from the failure of free-market capitalism. The New Deal not only extended the depression for more than a decade, it even created a depression within a depresssion -- Roosevelt's policies were a disaster. For a myth-busting article on The Great Depression, read Lawrence Reed's 'Great Myths of the Great Depression,' (sixteen-pages in PDF).

Unfortunately, Reed's myth-buster itself still peddles a myth: he fails to tell the real reason the Great Depression was finally ended. For that we have to turn to Mark Skousen's (rather more technical) 'Saving the Depression: A New Look at World War II' -- Skousen shows that it wasn't war or any government action that saved the US economy, it was the savings built up by private individuals over years with barely anything available on which to spend their money. (Skousen's article is another sixteen-page PDF).

All highly recommended.

Friday, 14 October 2005

Wisdom of sorts

Here you go: the perfect banner for this site, I'm told. And I'll be away for the weekend in Thames -- seeking further wisdom of course -- so it will remain as the banner for the weekend. Cheers. I've left plenty of reading for you.

And in tribute to one of the world's great drinkers, here's some thoughts on the subject from Samuel Johnson:
  • Boswell: "You must allow me, Sir, at least that it produces truth; in vino veritas, you know, Sir." Johnson: "That would be useless to a man who knew he was not a liar when he was sober."
  • "Exercise!! I never heard that he used any: he might, for aught I know, walk to the alehouse; but I believe he was always carried home again."
  • "In the bottle discontent seeks for comfort, cowardice for courage, and bashfulness for confidence."
  • Boswell: "I think, Sir, you once said to me, that not to drink wine was a great deduction from life." Johnson: "It is a diminution of pleasure, to be sure; but I do not say a diminution of happiness. There is more happiness in being rational."
  • "A man who exposes himself when he is intoxicated, has not the art of getting
  • "Claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy."
  • "There are, indeed, few who are able to drink brandy. That is a power rather to be wished for than attained."
  • "Melancholy, indeed, should be diverted by every means but drinking."
  • "This is one of the disadvantages of wine. It makes a man mistake words for thoughts."
  • "I must entreat you to be scrupulous in the use of strong liquors. One night's drunkenness may defeat the labours of forty days well employed."
  • "As soon as I enter the door of a tavern, I experience an oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude : when I am seated, I find the master courteous, and the servants obsequious to my call; anxious to know and ready to supply my wants : wine there exhilarates my spirits, and prompts me to free conversation and an interchange of discourse with those whom I most love : I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinion and sentiments I find delight."
  • "There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern. A tavern chair is the throne of human felicity."
  • "Life admits not of delays; when pleasure can be had, it is fit to catch it."

Some cultures deserved to die out

Not every culture is worth saving or preserving. There are some cultures that deserved to die out -- the Maya were just one, and on this as so much else Jared Diamond's book Collapse has it wrong again. As a tragic loss, they weren't, and Roger Sandall is right on the money. "I don’t care if the Maya civilization did collapse. I don’t think we should shed a single retrospective tear":
The ripples of Greek civilization spread globally, and deserved to. There were no ripples from the Maya. No enlightenment. Nothing. Just art and masonry [some of it above] and the dried blood of long-dead sacrificial victims. That is not nearly enough.
Inca culture was another blot on the landscape of history, and Tibor Machan is one who sheds no retrospective tears over its demise. Under the Inca for instance: "As many as 200 children used to be killed to please some god or another. And sometimes the sacrifice would involve cutting out the heart of a living individual." Nice culture that, the Incas. It brings to mind my favourite quote from Thomas Sowell:
Cultures are not museum pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives.
Too true. As Tibor concludes:
The only thing that can be done that will make a difference is to stop all this collective praise and blame and to recognize that justice requires looking at and judging all human beings individually, based on their own choices to act well or badly.

Some SaveTheHumans classics

SaveTheHumans has been too fucking unfunny for too long. It's a disgrace. So as good humour is the gift that keeps on giving -- even from a few years ago -- I'm posting some SaveTheHuman classics:

The 25 Most Inappropriate Things An Objectivist Can Say During Sex
Rational Marriage Vows for Men
Top 10 Rejected City Slogans (Part 2)
25 Reasons Why McDonald's is Better Than the Catholic Church
In Defense of Large Fake Breasts
Bleeding Heart Liberal Arts -- Excerpts from a Liberal Liberal Arts Course Catalog

When fridge meets philosopher

Brain Stab this morning has the following wisdom from Morthos :

Why Philosophers will Rule the World

We are the original problem-solving discipline. We care about problems and are not afraid to play with a variety of solutions, ranging from quick fixes to deep changes to the underlying structure of reality.

Why Philosophers won't actually end up Ruling the World

I was the only person in the [Philosophy] Department who could fix the fridge on level six.

Rodney the thinker

The parliamentary hiatus seems to have brought out the thinker in Rodney -- a good thing as it turns out as he's posted a few good pieces over the last few days (even if he has lost count):

Globalisation and Third World Poverty
Articles that Helen Clark, Michael Cullen et al. should read (I)
Articles that Helen Clark, Michael Cullen et al. should read (II)
Articles that Helen Clark, Michael Cullen et al. should read (II)
Articles that Helen Clark, Michael Cullen et al. should read (III)

Helen and Mike aren't the only ones who should read them.

Cale speaks

A friend sent me a recent '60 Second Interview' with John Cale that I enjoyed, and some of you might. (If you don't know by now who John Cale is, you probably won't care -- just to clarify, he never wrote a song called 'Cocaine.') The interview is short -- just sixty seconds -- but he does talk more about the Velvet Underground than he does normallly, and he reveals some 'interesting' recent listening whose influence has found its way onto his new album, blackAcetate:. Cale goes hip hop! Cale sings falsetto*!! Oh Lord!! "Hip hop is the new jazz," says Cale. Oh dear.

And which current bands "have the VU spirit?" Cale's picks: Beck, Elbow and the Strokes. Who would have thunk it.

You can sample his album blackAcetate: at Cale's site.
* And let's be fair, 'Mr Wilson' does have its falsetto moments.

New site poll: What will Winston do?

It's taken a while, but my previous site poll to see whether the Maori Party can support Labour appears to have finally and barely come up with the correct result (below): that they can't unless Labour repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act (as Ive argued they should). Last cab on the rank and it seems one destined for the crossbenches, which is probably where they should be.

So now there's a new site poll, reflecting the speculation that's emerging this morning that because the Maori Party can't go to bed with her, Helen's needs to sleep with Winston. Question is, will she put the tongue in?

UK Libertarian Conference

UK readers, of which I know there's a few, will be able to enjoy an upcoming conference. I'd love to join you.


Saturday 19 November - Sunday 20 November, 2005, at he National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place, London. Info can be found in here.



Mattias Bengston - "Statism: The Swedish Model and Its Lessons"
Prof. Gabriel Calzada - "The Privatisation of Defense"
Dr. Ben Cosin - "National Health Socialism: A Critique"
Prof. Frank Van Dunn - "Personal Freedom, Corporate Liberties: An Uneasy Mix"
Dr. Richard Ebeling - "Austrian School Economics and the Political Economy of Freedom"
Dr. Sean Gabb - "Cultural Revolution and Culture War"
Dr. Syed Kamall MEP - "The Dilemmas of a Free Trade Liberal in the European Parliament"
Sacha Kumaria - "Think Tanks and the Movement for Liberty"
Christian Michel - "Mafiosi and Oligarchs: The Making and the Unmaking of a Russian Legend"
Dr. Julian Morris - "Environmental Problems: Myths and Realities"
William Thomas - "Ayn Rand and the Values of Liberty"

More details here.

'Peter Rabbit: Tank Killer'

This 'children's' story is hilarious. 'Written' by both Beatrix Potter and Sven Hassell (now there's a writing team made in heaven) it comes with a hat tip to Sir Humph, who points out quite accurately that the tank has been misattributed. Fancy that. I fancy that the 'Panzerfaust' also looks more like a bazooka ... but only a pedant would point that out. It's not the only thing about it that's decidely odd.

Print it out and read it to your kids tonight. They'll thank you for it later.

Thursday, 13 October 2005

Visiting site with dry feet

Here's a boon for overworked architects: ArchiCam. Instead of visiting sites only to find the builder hasn't shown up again -- or having to field all those awkward questions that builders just can't avoid asking -- a New South Wales firm of architects have set up a webcam to allow them to keep up with progress. I bet the builders love it.
Story here, webcam here. [Hat tip butter paper]

Wounded Lion still bleats like a lamb

Sad old Brian O'Driscoll is still bleating about being blown out of a ruck in the first Lions-All Blacks test. He told The Times, “I have to accept there was no malice in it, but a bad tackle is a bad tackle. I have been on both sides of that situation and they have to be punished. That didn’t quite happen." Sure, his shoulder still hasn't recovered, but isn't it time to get over it? "Get over it, Brian!"

More interesting are his comments on why the Lions Tour failed to get off the ground, which will apparently be expanded in his book out soon, A Year in the Centre. I doubt that it will challenge Anton Oliver's sour book for genuine bad grace however, or Gavin Henson's.

Invade where?

Remember the expression: 'God invented war so that Americans can learn geography'? It appears God's plan is not working. See this video as partial evidence for the prosecution (3MB to download). [Hat tip TinCanMan]

Macro-who? Micro-what?

WTF is the difference between 'macroeconomics' and 'microeconomics'? The Austrians at Cafe Hayek have a helpful way of distinguishing between the two, (even if Austrian economists generally don't recognise the distinction as a valid one). In passing, they also throwsome light on why economic thinking is any damn use to anyone -- or at least 'micro' thinking.

The chaps end their discussion by recommending Menger's explanation of how money was not the creation of a conscious mind but, instead, evolved into use as an excellent if rather "elaborate macroeconomic insight." Using Menger as an example is somewhat ironic, because Menger's student Boehm-Bawerk declared "that Menger's system had spanned the chasm between microeconomics and macroeconomics, finally establishing economics as a true science." And Austrians might remind other economists that micro or macroeconomics without the entrepreneur is like trying to make beer without yeast.

Bottled stupidity

The things people do to avoid drinking water from their tap: $3.47 for a bottle of Italian water with bubbles in. $4.75 for a four-pack of bottled water you can safely be seen with around the streets of Parnell (right). How dumb do you have to be to buy this stuff?

Britons spend £700 million a year on it, and Americans pay a whopping $22 billion a year for this overpriced tap water -- yes, that' s right, America's two top selling brands, Dasani and Aquafina, are nothing more than reprocessed tap water, and the same process was used in the UK. Here at home, New Zealanders down 40 million litres a year, nearly two thirds of that from Te Waihou spring in Putaruru, which produces water from a source little better than what you use at home to clean your car. That is to say, just as good.

So why do people pay through the nose for what they could get out of the tap? Auckland tap water which mostly comes from dams in the Waitakeres and Hunuas is like having a meal, but it's by no means unpalatable, and what comes out of Auckland's taps is probably the worst of NZ's municipal samples. Even the world's great cities don't have a problem with their water, and in blind taste tests few people can tell bottled water from tap .

The water in Rome is fresh from the mountains; Spanish water is crystal clear and refreshing; even Parisian water is fine. Sure, Sydney water is like a three-course meal, but still drinkable once you get used to it; and London water used to taste as though someone died in it, and was so full of lime that shower heads, kettles and (probably) urinary tracts would regularly clog up -- it was said at one time that a glass of London water has already passed through at least five other people before it got to you -- but Thames Water and Southern Water have changed all that, and even at its worst chilled London tap water was still palatable. The water from Dublin's Liffey is reputed to be the reason Dublin's Guinness tastes so much better than Guinness made elsewhere (NZ water is just too damn clean to make good Guinness apparently) but Dubliners have no problems with what they get in their kitchen sink.

Now it's true that nearly a billion people worldwide don't have access to clean drinking water, more's the pity, and the water in places like Albania, Russia, Sudan and parts of Greece and India are surely to be avoided -- drink your Albanian cocktails without ice cubes just to be safe -- but paying more for bottled water here does nothing to help those who don't have access to clean water, and the horrors of Russian, Albanian and African water just reinforces how good is the tap water most of would enjoy if we didn't insist on paying through the nose for it from the supermarket.

As this chap points out, "do you suppose some water bottlers are having a laugh at their customers' gullibility? How many purchasers of Evian have noticed that this name spelled backwards is 'NAIVE'?"

And why drink bottled water when bottled beer is so much cheaper, and so much better for you? After all historically, bad water is the reason beer drinking caught on, and for most of human history humans consumed clean beer in preference to the dirty water -- why not, when for most of human history water was so contaminated that drinking it was like playing Russian Roulette with giardia. However, boil that water with barley, yeast and hops (a natural antiseptic), strain out the barley husks and let it all stand for a bit so the sugars ferment, and you have a tasty, nutritious, SAFE drink for all the family -- exactly as beer was for much of human history. (That this drink contained alcohol was of course a not unpleasant added bonus.) No wonder the invention of beer produced civilisation, as I might have mentioned once before.

Anyway, if you want to drink chilled bottled water, then just keep a bottle of tap water in the fridge like I do. And spend the money you save on something more worthwhile. Like me. :-)


I've just been changing around my Blogroll to tidy it up, to organise it a little better, and to make my blogroll better match my News Reader. Please let me know if you should be there but aren't, or if you are there and shouldn't be, or if you should be elsewhere than where you've been filed -- if for instance you consider yourself a Compulsion Touter instead of a National Socialist, or if your blog will become entirely apolitical now the election is (nearly) over.

And if I've inadvertently deleted you, then please let me know. Unless, that is, you've been looking forward to disappearing.

Travelling to Taliesin West...

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The desert gem Frank Lloyd Wright called home

With this year's Frank Lloyd Wright conference at Taliesin West nearly upon those lucky enough to be attending, the 'Trib' dropped in on Taliesin to see what's afooot...

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After zigzagging happily through the wildness of northern Arizona I dropped down into the Phoenix megalopolis... [where], eventually, I took a left over an aqueduct and followed a winding road through the Sonoran Desert. Within minutes I was holding a glass of chardonnay in the courtyard of the great architect's winter home...

The large, fit stones gave the walls a raw, earthy, almost jigsaw quality. [Arnold] Roy [Taliesin Fellowship member] said: "Somebody once asked, `What did Frank Lloyd Wright have on
the walls for decoration?' The walls were decoration."

"This is the last of a breed of building that tried to incorporate the wilderness of Arizona into the design," said ... fellowship member, Tony Puttnam, "His saying about `a view at the rim of the world'--what was he looking at? The whole complexity of things. It's more complicated than a native-based architecture...

Wright himself said that he designed not from ideas but from feelings. In an interview once, Mike Wallace called him an "intellectual" and Wright balked at the title. "I am not an intellectual," he argued. "I have my feet on the ground."

From the moment he saw it, he was attracted to the "vast battleground of titanic forces called Arizona." And, also, "the eternal and everlasting smile of the sun."

Anecdotes were trotted out: of the boy, living in a Wright-designed house, who wrote asking him to design a doghouse for his Labrador retriever. (Wright's design appears in the book "Barkitecture.") Of the nearby power lines, which so disturbed Wright that he wrote to President Truman requesting that they be placed underground. When Truman refused, saying it would create a precedent, Wright replied: "I have been creating precedents all my life."

[Article from the Chicago Tribune Travel section. Photos courtesy AvO and MvO]

Wednesday, 12 October 2005

Sack McCully

HERALD: National MPs want McCully dumped
McCully's influence worries some National MPs

Three electoral defeats in a row, and the Nats are only now starting to talk about sacking the chief strategist. Where on earth he derived this reputation he wields as some sort of strategic genius I can't begin to imagine -- if he'd been in the pay of the Labour Party he couldn't have done a better job on their behalf. Time for McCully to get the Archer.

Islamo-Fascists, "Australia is not for you"

Pakistan's Daily Times has the news that John Howard and his Ministers are telling Islamo-Fascists that if they want Sharia law and a theocratic State, then Australia is not the place for them.
“I’d be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that that is false. If you can’t agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country which practises it, perhaps, then, that’s a better option,” said Australia's Treasurer Peter Costello.

Still no Government

Heh heh heh. Still no Government, and as DPF notes "the job of forming a Government is proving more difficult that predicted." Heh heh heh. Does anyone really miss not having a Government meddling with things? Said Helen Clark a few weeks before the 1999 election, "I don't want a country where people have to wake up every morning and wonder what new thing their Government has done."* Best way to ensure that doesn't happen is to have no Government, eh?

Just reflect for a moment: Who really runs the country?** It should now be clear that it's not the Prime Minister, is it.
* That's from memory -- feel free to send me the exact quote.
** Who runs the country? You do, of course. Each of you runs your part of it.

Pakistan disaster

Looking for coverage of the disaster in Pakistan -- how many more disasters in just one year! -- I was pointed to Slate, which has a compilation of American coverage of the tragedy. Hat tip Irfan Khawaja, who has some thoughts about the seemingly odd priorities of the Pakistani government:
I'd wanted to refrain from criticizing the Pakistani government at a time like this, but the thought of children trapped in schools without means of rescue (quoted in the Slate roundup) prompts the following thought. We are told by the Pakistani government that there is no equipment to rescue these children. And yet Pakistan has atomic weapons. Is this not an odd inversion of priorities? Did the government of Pakistan think that they needed an "Islamic bomb" more desperately than they needed Chinook-type helicopters and heavy-moving equipment? Or that India (or Israel!) posed a greater threat to Pakistan than an earthquake of this kind?
The Times reports that help to affected areas is painfully slow to arrive, evan as military helicopters "clatter by" overhead. “Why are they not stopping to help us?” asks a man who buried more than 60 people yesterday. “We need help here or more of our children will die.” Fair question.

'Kill them all, let Allah sort them out' - Zarqawi

NEWS, AFP: Islam permits killing of 'infidel’ civilians: Zarqawi tape [Hat tip Cox and Forkum] DUBAI -- Al Qaeda frontman in Iraq Abu Musab Al Zarqawi has said Islam permits the killing of 'infidel' civilians... In Islam, making the difference is not based on civilians and military, but on the basis of Muslims and infidels."

The Muslim's blood cannot be spilled whatever his work or place, while spilling the blood of the infidel, whatever his work or place, is authorized if he is not trustworthy," said an audiotape broadcast on the Internet early Saturday.

That's just in case you were in any doubt. Now have a look again at the post from the other day...

Categories: ,

Risky business in storm country

Further to the pieces from Mark Steyn and others on the bizarre fantasies and rabid drivel of much of the Hurrican Katrina coverage -- the media were strangers to the truth in the week of Katrina,' said Steyn -- Forbes Magazine has a sober analyis of how government's and busineses see rick differently, and how they both coped with Katrina's destruction.

"Katrina is an especially poignant study in risk because the catastrophe was so widely foreseen,' observes Forbes. The weather event itself was not just foreseen, it had for some time been considered a 'once-in-200-years' event. Now, businesses view a 1-in-200-year event as having a1-in-3 likelihood of occuring in the average 77-year lifespan, and invested accordingly. Elected officials on the other hand saw a 1-in-200-year event as a1/50 chance of occurring in a four-year political term, and accordingly they failed to invest, with the consequences we all saw.

“This is a case where they did an exceptionally good job on the natural science and a really poor job on the social science,” says a commentator. But from the point of view of the elected officials, they were acting rationally. Read Forbes discusion on the risk management of disasters here. [Hat tip NBR blog]

And big ups to the Home Depot people: notes Forbes:
A day after the storm, all but ten of the company’s 33 stores in Katrina’s impact zone were open. Within a week, it was down to just four closed stores (of nine total) in metropolitan New Orleans. “We always take tremendous pride in being able to be among the first responders,” says Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli [in photo right with GWB].
Now there's a case study that some of those elected officials and their cronies could learn from.

More John Soane

Soane's warmly welcoming Breakfast Room at Pitshanger Manor (left) and his light-filled Bank of England interior (right).

Tuesday, 11 October 2005

What did Columbus bring to the New World?

Today is Columbus Day in the States -- today their time, that is -- the day the achievement of Christopher Columbus's discovery of the New World is commemorated. Of course, these days his memory is not so much commemorated as eviscerated. As Ed Hudgins notes in his own 'Weighing of the Columbus cargo' in today's Washington Times:
Many critics argue Christopher Columbus gave us a devil's bargain. In October 1492 that Italian explorer, working for Spain, opened America to his fellow Europeans. The result: We got a prosperous New World by impoverishing, enslaving and murdering the natives who were already here.
But this fails to distinguish between two types of exploitation, one over other humans and the other over nature. The former should be expunged from our moral codes and civilized society, the latter is the essence of morality and civilization.
Hudgins comes most unfashionably to praise Columbus rather than to pillory him. Good for him.

An interesting thirst

Cathy apparently needs a drink. Don't we all. She's confused my 'reasoning from' the case of wanting a beer now with a 'reasoning to' that same point. Rather than just 'rationalising a basic human action' as she thought I was doing, I was trying to see where that most basic of human actions -- an overwhelming 'attack of the nows' -- gets us. In this case, the fundamental desire of wanting jam today rather than waiting for jam tomorrow leads to the phenomenon of interest. Who would have thunk it. The idea appealed to me after a couple of beers, and was identical to the point already made by some genuinely learned blokes, one of whom (Mises) has made a whole science out of seeing where these "most basic of human actions" lead us when analysed with some good skull sweat.

Oh well, at least I can agree with her sentiment: "It leads me to the conclusion that I actually need a drink right now." Who could disagree with that (and who needs an excuse)? Who knows where thoughts might lead after a quiet couple?

Which Looney Tune are you?

Heh heh. I'm Wile E. Coyote. And apparently I have weaknesses! Who knew?

You scored 57 Aggression, 57 Sophistication, and 71 Optimism!

You are intelligent, sophisticated, and the physical personification of the can-do attitude. No matter how many times something blows up in your face (figuratively or literally) or prized project collapses around you, you will pick yourself up and try, try again. There is a good chance that you are very skilled in problem solving and would probably make a fine engineer.

Your main weaknesses (and this is likely obvious to everyone but yourself) are your overconfidence and complete lack of perspective. When you inevitably fail at a task (you can’t possibly achieve all of the lofty goals you set for yourself), you tend to take it personally. If you are not careful, you can become thoroughly obsessed with what is not really a very meaty goal. Try taking a step back from time to time and figure out for yourself if it is really worth it, or if your talents could be best put towards a more rewarding goal. Also, your desire for things to work out the way you’ve planned can make you a bit gullible.

So, which Looney Tune are you? Take the quiz here. [Hat tip Maria von Trapp]

Coldest place in the universe

I spent an evening with a Nobel Prize winner last night; me and about three hundred others, at Auckland University's Robb lecture given by physicist Carl Weiman.

Carl Weiman won his prize for producing a Bose-Einsten condensate, meaning that he and his team had managed to cool a collection of atoms down to just billionths of a degree greater than Absolute Zero, the temperature at which there is neither molecular nor atomic motion. Nothing in nature occurs at this temperature -- the background temperature of deep space is some three degrees higher -- so as Weiman pointed out, he can say with complete confidence that his lab in Colorado is the coldest place in the universe.

Production of a small piece of matter this cold does two things: First, it confirms a prediction made nearly eighty years ago by Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein; and second, it produces a bunch of atoms with some size that are in a single quantum state -- that picture above shows the representation of one of these 'superatoms' being formed; it is in the order of 0.1 mm across! Given that this 'superatom' can be produced on a table-top, instead of needing a cyclotron the size of a cricket oval or more, this is an enormous breakthrough, one offering tremendous opportunities for discovering more abut the quantum universe, and numerous potential technological spinoffs.

Weiman is also intensely interested in the methods of science education -- in his lectures he uses numerous ingenious java applets and other methods to demonstrate difficult scientific concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. Weiman's applets to support this lecture can be found here; his website chockfull of Interactive Physics Simulations is intended to help explain the fundamental concepts of physics, and it's also loads of fun.

The good news is that if this interests you and you missed last night's lecture, there are still two more to come. Details here.

Ig Noble Awards, 2005

An Ig Award is nothing to do with this chap, who will be playing The Big Day Out in the New Year. The Ig Noble Awards are designed to honour accomplishments that “first make people laugh, then make them think.”

Francis Till has a summary of the 2005 winners, which includes a fair smattering of expat New Zealanders. 'Smattering' might be an appopriate choice of word actually, since the winner of the Ig for Fluid Dynamics is a paper co-written by a kiwi "(“Pressures Produced When Penguins Pooh — Calculations on Avian Defacation”) using the basic principles of physics to calculate the pressure that builds up inside a penguin to produce the projectile faeces for which penguins are notorious."

You can see why the awards are so well sought after.

John Soane: Architect of the Enlightenment.

John Soane's Museum (left) and his own Breakfast Room (right), both in his preserved hom in Lincolns Inn Fields, show that while working in the Classical idiom he had a well-developed spatial awareness, and (despite all those pots which he acquired for reference) an eye for simplicity in his detailing.

Monday, 10 October 2005

A buzz about 'Serenity'

Libertarians everywhere are getting excited about a new movie by a chap called Joss Whedon, who some of you lot might know from TV series 'Firefly,' 'Buffy,' and 'Angel' -- I confess I don't.

Writer/director Whedon has said the hero of 'Serenity,' Mal, is "certainly a libertarian, he's certainly a less-government kinda guy." A little girl in the film, questioned why 'independents' would resist 'civilisation' imposed by centralised government answers: "We meddle...People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think, don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads, and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome."

Universal have a nine-minute trailer up on site so you can see in advance what you're going to get. And feel free to check out some of the enthusiastic reviews below. Keep an eye out for it.

[UPDATE, 1: Oops. What idiot forgot to put up the link for the trailer for 'Serenity.'
2. Mr Whedon's name corrected.]

--------------------What critics are saying----------------------
"Two thumbs up!" -- Ebert & Roeper
"More engaging and certainly better written and acted than any of Mr. Lucas's recent screen entertainments." -- New York Times
"A strongly acted, well-written story fortified by riveting action sequences — a rarity these days among studio releases — "Serenity" should delight Whedon novices as much as the already converted. " -- Los Angeles Times
"More fun than you had at any bigger-budget movie this past summer." -- New York Magazine
-------------------What libertarians are saying (about both Firefly and Serenity)------------------
After all, Serenity is based on the most consistently libertarian TV show I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing (Firefly).... By voting with our wallets, we as libertarians have the opportunity to show...that the market screams for more libertarian-themed and intelligently-crafted media! -- Seth Daniels,
"Perhaps the saddest loss of all was Firefly,...the best ever [science fiction] to appear on television. The military socialists here, quasi- and otherwise, are the bad guys, the heroes are libertarian — capitalists and smugglers all, and the characters' struggle for intelligent, coherent ethics is continuous." -- L. Neil Smith
"Serenity is not just a string of good chase scenes, but...a surprisingly profound meditation on what freedom means—both in politics and, perhaps more importantly, as a source of personal meaning." -- Julian Sanchez, Reason Magazine
Beyond its explicit libertarian theme, Firefly is simply well written and produced. -- J.E. Crosby,
Like the best of science fiction, Joss Whedon's Firefly is a tale of freedom and self-reliance. -- America's Future Foundation (conservative/libertarian leadership network)
The series has strong libertarian threads running through each episode. -- Daniel D'Amico, Mises Economic Blog
"Now if you're looking for something a libertarian can get behind, there's Firefly." -- Jay P. Hailey, "Filtering Entertainment," The Libertarian Enterprise

[Hat tip, Helen Tucker]