Tuesday, 7 February 2006

When passive verbs attack

What's a passive verb? It's a way of writing that removes from what is written both writer and passion. Compare for example: 'You cannot do this' (active) with 'This cannot be done' (passive). Passive verbs are used to soften the sense of a phrase, and too often to camouflage an opinion as being the writer's own. It's a way of speaking for the speechless without appearing to.

Why does this matter? Well, how many times do you hear these phrases used like a stop sign:
It is considered that...
That is inappropriate...
This is offensive...
As at least one style guide points out, the use of the phrase "It is considered that" "may sound impressive, but it is meaningless." Considered by whom for goodness sake? This is just a way for bureacrats to hide beneath their rocks. You'll hear this phrase from town planners and other jerks weighing up what you might and might not be allowed to do with your own property; it litters their reports like dog turds on city pavements. For example: "It is considered that the tree in question is a fine example of Folius Somehingorotherus, and therefore that your application to remove it and build a house be rejected." Think how much more direct, and honest, it would be for the meddling arsehole to write: "I've decided I like that tree. Don't fucking touch it or else."

Think they'd get away with that? Not bloody likely. Ban the passive voice from bureaucrats' writing, and we might just be on to something. (Better yet, ban the bureaucrats. But we have to start somewhere.)

How about "that is inappropriate..."? Usually heard from prudes and blue-stockings who are easily shocked, but too timid to offer an opinion themselves that might just be unsupported by others. Far better instead to seek the comfort of other people's prudery, or at least to suggest others might share their's. "Your anger was inappropriate," says the prude, with one eye on her smelling salts and another on the censor's office. What they mean is "I didn't like what you said." Well, so what? If you don't like it, then either make your case or leave the room. Simply calling something 'inappropriate' is not a case for or against anything, and nor is it even the beginning of an argument -- it is instead just a substitute for one.

But now comes the kicker: When passive verb is coupled with aggression -- when, as in recent days, "that is offensive" becomes "behead those who offend me" -- then both a moral rule and a grammatical one have been broken. I remind you again of Stephen Fry's point about such passive-aggressive threats:
'It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that", as if that gives them certain rights. It's no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. "I'm offended by that." Well, so fucking what?'
When passive verbs attack, it's time to fight back.

REPOST: 'Mohammed's believe it or else!' - the comic book Mohammed

Reposted and updated from June 2005: An online Islamic comic book this morning, for your enlightenment, amusement and elucidation. Download it now at the Islamic Comic Book site while you still can. An html version can be found here. The main site now includes a particularly pithy ditty 'Islam's Not for Me' which downloads automatically, so if Islam is for you, expect to be offended.

Tag on the Islamic Comic Book site:

"Above all else, the Devil cannot stand to be mocked." — C. S. Lewis "I'll bet the Devil's really upset now." — Islam Comic Book Webmaster

Hear that Mohammad married a 6-year-old and had sex with her when she was nine years old; that he referred to black people as "raisin heads"; and that he was terrified of solar eclipses. Read that he thought Satan sleeps in people’s noses; find out that Allah won’t hear your prayers if you have bad breath or head lice; and thrill to the notion that the sun sets in a muddy pool at night. All these lessons from The Prophet and more are all there in full, graphic, living, blasphemous colour. [Hat tip, To the Point]

And of course, it must all be true because it's all in the Koran -- and as a sword-wielding mullah once said when justifying burning the great books of the west to a cinder, "If it's in the Koran we don't want it; if it's not in the Koran we don't need it." Such a peaceful religion.

But the Bible is just as absurd, you say? It certainly is ...

Links: Mohammed's Believe It or Else!
Cruelty in the Quran - The Skeptic's Annotated Quran
Cruelty in the Bible - The Skeptic's Annotated Bible

4 things meme

Pinched from Ruth at Chaos Theory:

4 jobs I've had
* Tofu maker
* Warehouse Manager
* Carpenter
* Project Manager

4 movies I can watch over and over
* The Castle
* Life of Brian
* Amadeus
* Malcom X

4 places I've liked
* John Soane's Museum, London
* East Berlin just after the wall came down
* O'Riordan's Public House, Brentford
* Guggenheim Museum, New York

4 places I've lived
* Wellington
* Sydney
* Perth
* London

4 TV shows I love
* Scrubs
* The Avengers
* The Prisoner
* Howard Goodall's Big Bangs

Four places I've vacationed
* Hersonissos, Crete
* Murmansk, Russia
* Dublin, Ireland
* Normandy, France

4 of my favourite dishes
* Falafels
* Spicy Sichuan Tofu
* Moules Frite
* Miso Soup

4 Places I would rather be right now
* O'Riordan's Public House, Brentford
* Verandah Bar, Raglan
* Taliesin East
* Taliesin West

4 sites I visit daily
* SOLOPassion
* TradeMe (I confess)
* Cox and Forkum
* CapMag

4 victims I'm tagging - whoever wants to martyr themselves.

Monday, 6 February 2006

Cartoons and death threats: Respecting the disreputable

Aren't those Islamofascists a bunch of intolerant pains in the neck (almost literally in the example on the left)? Offend, and your head's on the block. Sheesh.

In the interests of free speech and equality, Xavier at Kete Were is trying to leave no religionist unoffended, of whatever stripe -- he's found a Baby Jesus Butt Plug. If that doesn't do the job for X-ians -- Ouch! -- then perhaps nothing will. As Xavier says in a piece far more thoughtful than you would think from my introduction of it:
The whole situation [...] has illustrated two disturbing trends. Firstly, the absolutely vile, violent and visceral reaction of Islamists to any commentary that questions, satirises, mocks and...shock horror...offends their religion. Even more worrying is the handwringing of supposed liberals and the spineless concessions to a paradigm that is alien to all things liberalism holds dear: pluralism, tolerance and freedom.
Dammit, he's right you know. That's precisely the point of the Cox and Forkum cartoon below. Limp liberals, handwringing in the face of barbarism. A few frankly inoffensive cartoons on one side, and a bloody fatwah on the other. Wishy washy liberals like Chris Carter, MP, calling local publication of the Danish cartoons "undermining the nation's reputation of tolerance." For freedom's sake, has he seen the placards of those bloodthirsty bastards in London (above)? As Robert Bidinotto says of the Islamofascists:
Observe that these thugs claim for themselves complete freedom of expression with regard to their adversaries -- including threatening their enemies with death -- but simultaneously deny anyone else the freedom to express an opinion contrary to Islam (or Islam as they conceive it to be). They issue their death threats freely in a Western city, London...while in that same city, the newspapers are too frightened to reprint the cartoons that fomented the protests. Could the irony -- and the hypocrisy -- be more transparent?

It is one thing to oppose those adolescent mentalities who try deliberately to give offense to others: those who would simply provoke hostility by mocking what others revere deserve our contempt. [Ed: whoops, there goes the buttplug then.]

But it is quite another thing to allow fanatical thugs to dictate the "proper" boundaries of political discussion and intellectual expression here, in the West -- and to unilaterally arrogate to themselves the sole right to enforce their dogmatic edicts by murdering anyone who disagrees.

As Glenn Reynolds puts it, "This really is a case of civilization against the barbarians." To allow radical Islamists to declare their religion and its founder off-limits from criticism -- even depiction -- is to surrender our entire way of life to a backward, barbaric, and brutal cult. Volumes have been written about this threat.
And will probably continue to be for some time yet. "We must respect the other fellow's religion," said HL Mencken, "but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart." Respect works both ways, something the Islamofascists need to learn. Urgently. And here's something too that the liberal handwringers in the West need to learn urgently: when the bloody barbarians make threats, they mean it.

Links: Cartoons, Butt Plugs & Tolerance - Kete Were
Islam and Those "Offensive Cartoons
- Robert Bidinotto
A Right to Blasphemy - Cox and Forkum

More from the Archives: Religion, Multiculturalism

Jazz, Bues and Mr & Mrs Smith

I was forced to watch a movie last night 'starring' the couple-of-the-moment, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Vapid nonsense is the kindest thing I can say about Mr and Mrs Smith. It was, quite literally, the Pitts. In truth, it was so bad I couldn't watch it to the end; it would be unfair to criticise Jolie for her acting, since she so clearly wasn't; just as whoever was responsible for the script was clearly not a scriptwriter.

Which brings me to the Mission Bay Jazz & Blues Festival here in Auckland on Saturday night. A very enjoyable night, and kudos to all who put it together, but with rare exceptions there neither jazz nor blues musicians playing on the night: they were simply people who play jazz and blues music -- and very little of the former. There is a difference. All were enthusiasts and enthusiastic, but only a rare few were actually musicians.

Of those who were, the two in front of whom I spent most time were the Darcy Perry Blues Band, and Jan Preston, formerly of Coup D'Etat and Red Mole (who I still remember with excitement playing at the Mangere Metro when I was but a wee youngster). A great and very liquid night.

One country. One law. One constitution.

Another Waitangi Day and (no doubt) another set of protests and claims for more legal privilege. Another Waitangi Day in which the the usual parade of politicians and protestors confront and avoid each other, and the professional grievance industry discuss and issue their demands for the taxpayer to give even more -- (for those interested in such things, this year's fashionable demand seems to be for a separatist Maori General Assembly.)

Frankly, we don't need another taxpaid gravy train or another grievance industry or yet another charter for separatism or a forum in which to demand it; we simply need good law.

We don't need more nationalisation of land, seabed or foreshore; we simply need a (colourblind) legal system in which what we own is protected, and in which real injustices can be proven swiftly and without great expense, and justice can be done and be seen to be done.

'He iwi tahi tatou.' We are now one people. So said Governor Hobson to Maori chieftains as they signed the Treaty that is now the source of division. But are we really 'one people'? Not really. No more than our ancestors were then. But nor are we two, three or fifty-four peoples -- do you have a people? -- and nor does it matter. What Governor Hobson brought to New Zealand with the Treaty was Western Culture, which makes it possible to view one another not as 'peoples,' but as individuals.

Unfortunately, we still don't, do we?

What he brought was a hastily written document intended to forestall French attempts at dominion (and the Frank imposition of croissants and string bikinis), and which brought to New Zealand for the first time the concept and protection of property rights and of an objective rule of law. The Treaty signed one-hundred sixty-six years ago today was not intended as the charter for separatism and grievance and the welfare gravy train that it has become - it was intended no more and no less than to bring the protection of British law and the rights and privileges of British citizens to the residents of these islands -- residents of all colours. That was the context that three simple clauses were intended to enunciate. And one-hundred and sixty-six years ago, the rights and priviliges of British citizens actually meant something -- not a promise of unlimited tribally-based welfare, but a promise to protect individuals from each other, and to protect also what individuals owned and produced by their own efforts.

Life in New Zealand before this advent of the rule of law recognised neither right, nor privilege, nor even the concept of ownership. It was not the paradise of Rousseau's noble savage; force was the recognised rule du jour and the source of much barbarity (see for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand') -- indeed just a few short years before the Treaty was signed, savage intertribal warfare reigned and much of New Zealand was found to be unpopulated following the fleeing of tribes before the muskets and savagery of other tribes.

Property was not truly owned, it was just something that was grabbed and held by one tribe, until grabbed and held by another. Life to be blunt, was shit, just as it was in pre-Industrial Revolution Europe, and - let's face it -- it was largely due to the local culture. As Thomas Sowell reminds us: "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."

Let's be really blunt (and here I paraphrase from this article):

In the many years before the Treaty was signed, the scattered tribes occupying New Zealand lived in abject poverty, ignorance, and superstition -- not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included). The transfer of Western civilization to these islands was one of the great cultural gifts in recorded history, affording Maori almost effortless access to centuries of European accomplishments in philosophy, science, technology, and government. As a result, today's Maori enjoy a capacity for generating health, wealth, and happiness that their Stone Age ancestors could never have conceived.

Harsh, but true. And note those words before you hyperventilate: "not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included)." The boon of Western Civilisation was being offered for just a mess of pottage, and the right for Westerners to settle here too. As Sir Apirana Ngata stated, "if you think these things are wrong, then blame your ancestors when they gave away their rights when they were strong" - giving the clue that 'right' to Ngata's ancestors, equated to 'strong' more than it did to 'right.'

In any case, Maori didn't even own New Zealand. First of all, they had no concept of ownership, except that things taken by force might be held by force, if they could be (see again, for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand'). Second, even if they had begun to develop the rudiments of such a concept (the concept of ownership by right being relatively new even to 1840 Europeans) they didn't own all the country -- they only 'owned' what they owned: that is, the lands and fisheries that were being occupied, farmed, fished and used. But note that this did not encompass all of New Zealand, nor even most of New Zealand. The rest lay unclaimed by anyone.

Third, Maori did not even see themselves as 'one people'; the word 'Maori' simply meant 'normal,' as opposed to the somewhat abnormal outsiders who had now appeared with their crosses and swords and strange written incantations. The tangata whenua saw themselves not as a homogeneous whole, but as members of various tribes - there was no way a whole country could be ceded by those who had never yet laid claim to it.

So the British came, and saw, and hung about a bit. The truth is that some of the best places in the world in which to live are those where the British once came, and saw and then buggered off -- leaving behnd them their (once) magnificent legal system, and the rudiments of Western Culture. See for example, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and of course (as noted in this week's Obituary of former governor John Cowperthwaite) Hong Kong. We lucked out.

What the Treaty did do, for which we can all be thankful, was to bring British law to NZ at a time whan British law was actually intended to protect the rights of British citizens. But the Treaty itself was not a founding document. No, it wasn't. On its own, with just its three simple clauses there was just not enough there to make it a founding document. As a document it simply pointed to the superstructure of British law as it then was and said, 'let's have that down here on these islands in the South Pacific.'

The treaty's greatest promise was really its bringing to these islands those rights and privileges that British citizens enjoyed by virtue of their then superb legal system; the protection of Pax Britannia when those rights and that protection meant something, and British law saw protection of rights as its sworn duty. Sadly, it no longer does see its duty that way, which means the legal context in which the Treaty was signed has changed. Law, in Britain and in NZ, now places welfarism and privilege above individualism and rights.

The truly sad thing is that the Treaty relied on a context that no longer exists; that, in my view is the chief reason a new constitution is needed: to restore that legal context, and to improve upon it with a constitutions that protects and reinforces an Objective rule of law, as British law itself once did; and that makes clear what in the Treaty was only vague and barely put. And in doing so, of course, such a constitution would make the Treaty obsolete. Thank goodness.

Waitangi Day comes just two weeks after Martin Luther King Day. It might be worthwhile to remind ourselves of King's dream:

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"...
Perhaps we will one day celebrate the national day of New Zealand without the colour of a man's skin being more important than his character, and without what has become a charter for grievance continuing to poison discussion, and empower a gravy train of grievance.

Linked Articles: Unsure on foreshore: A Brash dismissal of Maori rights? - Not PC

Property Rights: A Gift to Maori New Zealand - Peter Cresswell
What is Objective Law? - Harry Binswanger
No Apology to Indians - Thomas Bowden

Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law" - Not PC

More from the Archives: Maoritanga, Racism, History, Law, Constitution

Sunday, 5 February 2006

Drink for yourself

STRESS: The condition created when the mind overrides the body's natural desire to choke the living shit out of some arsehole who desperately deserves it.

Stress. Anxiety. Boredom. Dealing with arseholes. Even days which are going great and you're 'in the zone' will still have their darker or lesser moments, and deliver idiots who do their best to get up our nose -- the more of a city dweller we are, sadly, the more such moments we're likely to experience. Just think for example how many times during the average day in the average city you have to override competely your natural desire to choke the living shit out of some arsehole who's just begging for it (or learn to repress such a thing for just a moment or two until you can safely get your hands around their throat unnoticed). Every day brings us these little (or large) repressions we need to exercise in order to get through the day productively, and intact.

The more such days we have, the more likely we are to get home, sit down and say, "Damn, I need a drink." And it's a damn good thing we do, because alcohol is good for us. Oh yes, there are studies galore showing the direct health benefits of red wine, and beer and so on, but alcohol has more than just health benefits: used properly, it helps us gently dissolve the essential 'shell' we build aounrd ourselves so we can get through each day with our soul and our emotions intact. Used properly and in the company of friends and the things that make life worth living, alcohol helps to enjoy life, and to truly savour our rewards for living: emotions.

Our emotional faculty is uniquely organised to give us our rewards for living well -- love, joy, passion, triumph -- and if enduring happiness is our aim then we have to ensure that faculty is not de-sensitised, and be able to fully enjoy and truly experience our emotions, no matter what sort of day we've just had and how many arseholes with which we've been confronted.

Alcohol helps us with that important work of shedding our outer skin, uncovering ourselves so we and our friends can get on and enjoy our real selves 'with the bark off.' If you want to see the unvarnished truth about someone, then get drunk with them. Works every time -- and it can be great fun.

Alcohol is one of the few things on which enormous effort and expertise is expended in order simply to produce something which gives pleasure. How 'bout that! And how much pleasure is there to be had in enjoying and savouring the hidden pleasures of each of these products of professional expertise. Fruity pinot noirs; peaty whiskeys; hoppy lagers; rich, dark stouts; crystal clear martinis ... beautifully crafted for the sole purpose of giving us pleasure.

But alcohol is dangerous, you say? Well, yes it is if you drink stuff that isn't well-made. Tui, for instance. Or Spumante. No, no, you say, doesn't alcohol make people violent, abusive and prone to getting off with people they shouldn't? Well, yes, it does with some people. Alcohol unveils the character of the person within; that person with all the bark off. If the person within is boorish, monstrous or criminally self-absorbed, then all will soon be revealed. Instant arsehole; just add alcohol. If that's you we're talking about, then leave alcohol to those who deserve it, and do something to sort yourself out.

Let the rest of us enjoy our drink in peace. And as it's almost noon, I'm just away to start mixing up a tall one. Cheers.

Links: Still flowing. Still in the zone. - Not PC

Rules of Engagement

Here's a helpful rule for those who might need it, and those who probably think they don't: Don't shit in your own kennel.

Simple rule really, one which over the years has worked very well. Here's three practical uses for the Rule:
  1. Don't do your flatmates.
  2. Don't do your partner's friends.
  3. Don't do your friend's partners.
Life is a whole lot easier if you keep that in mind. Break them if you must, but do it knowing there will be consequences -- prepare for someone to be hurt, possibly you, but certainly someone close to you. Here endeth the advice.

'An Awakening Mind' - Damon Denys

A scene about as far from Islamic repression as you can get. Says the artist's website:
The scene itself portrays a young woman, engaged in reading Aristotle’s Analytics in their original Greek language, who has had an epiphany of sorts and is now experiencing an elevation of mind and soul. Thus the name of the painting, 'An Awakening Mind.' It is no coincidence that the figure is a woman, as the artist intended the picture to possess pro-feminine content that is relevant to modern times. The landscape behind her is agricultural, symbolizing the fertility of her mind. The farmland progresses towards a mountain, which we can see is very high indeed due to the presence of snow on its slopes (another symbol of the purity of the woman’s mind). The mountain peaks just behind the woman herself, symbolizing again her reaching an elevated state of mind. Her golden sash indicates the integrity and truth of her achievement, while the vivid red drapery underscores her passion and determination.
Link: About 'An Wakening Mind' - Damon Denys

Saturday, 4 February 2006

Waiting for Waitangi

I'll post some thoughts sometime later on the reasons we're enjoying this NZ long weekend, probably while hungover tomorrow morning (if you're keen in the meantime you can dig through my archives and see what you can find for yourself). Even without a full moon, Waitangi always produces a lot of people intent on misunderstanding whatever anyone says, no matter how simple, and however straightforward -- there's always a whle lot of people doing a whole lot of talking past each other. I expect no less this year.

Until then, Julian has a few thoughts on the subject (try to read them without hyperventilating), a press release, and a promise that he will be at the Waitangi celebrations on Waitangi Day taking a stand against institutionalised racism, and he will be live blogging, and uploading photos. Should be good. And you might care to see Lindsay Perigo's views on the matter from just a few years back. I doubt they've changed very much since.

Links: Not PC Archives: Maoritanga
Libertarianz Will Be at Waitangi Again - Julian Pistorius
Treaty Out, Constitution In - Lindsay Perigo

Twelve Angry Books: Number xx, 'The Book of Tofu'

Part of a continuing series on books I grew up with, and that influenced me. Other books can be found here.

I know it can be disturbing when someone doesn't agree with you on everything. Here's some advice: get usied to it. And here's a warning for you: Never take 'Not PC' for granted. Political Correctness is simply taking pre-digested opinions as your own, without ever digesting them properly yourself. None of that stuff around here. I buy nobody's opinons by the yard; all my opinions are my very own.

One particular opinion here yesterday caused some of you to throw up your hands up in horror: 'I thought I clicked on Frogblog by mistake' said one horrified visitor. Another otherwise reasonable gentleman (if the words 'reasonable' and 'gentleman' can be applied about someone living in Kansas) called me "Michael Moore"! Fancy.

Well, all I can say is this: Check your premises; read what was said; and then think for yourself. "Why?" Because I said so, dammit! :-) And hearken too to this, one of the most useful books I've ever bought, The Book of Tofu.

Without this book, I couldn't have afforded to eat my way through university (all those years at architecture school are not cheap!), and I would have remained bored shitless by meat meals I never enjoyed. All those years at architecture school are not cheap! Back in my student days when money was as hard to come by as tofu suppliers, once a week I'd make a huge block of tofu (takes about an hour from start to finish), then at least twice a day I'd use one of the thousand recipes inside. Delicious, nutritious, imaginative and utterly inexpensive.

Many people, misunderstand tofu. They really do. But here's the thing: like all vegetarian cooking, tofu requires imagination -- and that's something too many carnivores just don't have. However, as with all good things, tofu really does reward superior imagination, and many of the most imaginative ways to prepare and serve tofu are in this book.

Where are those ex MPs now?

Good old Scoop has begun hunting down MPs sacked by the voters in the last election, and they've filed this preliminary report on where they're all at. They're a bloody sad lot, really. Unemployable, most of them.

Bernie (call me Doctor) Ogilvie is "enjoying living life at a more 'leisurely' place" -- ie., he's definitely unemployed, and he's stopped sending out CVs. Now all he's getting back is rejection slips.

"Currently [Leslie] Soper is working in Auckland as a consultant"-- ie., she's probably unemployed, and sending out CVs. "Most of [Leslie and her partner's] spare time is spent renovating a house in their hometown of Invercargill." Suitable punishment, perhaps.

Ken Shirley has "been surfing and playing a lot of golf" --- ie., he's waiting for a phone call for a job. It still hasn't come.

"Ex Green MP Mike Ward did not miss Parliament – at all." We understand the feeling around the country is mutual. He's now an unemployed artist.

Stephen Franks is back at Chapman Tripp. "While he enjoys the law Mr Franks informed Scoop that being an MP was what he really loved doing." Expect to see him offered a spot with National next time round as Justice Spokesman. Bye bye Vile Ryall.

Brent Catchpole -- "Brent who" you ask! -- declared that "being an MP in Wellington had been an 'exciting life.'" Sad bastard. "Mr Catchpole has occupied himself with setting up a consulting business with the aim of assisting those who wished to lobby either local or central government" says Scoop -- ie., he wants to beome what Ayn Rand called a 'pull peddler,' one who sells what little 'influence' he has with current MPs in order to get legislative favours for his clients.

"[Mark] Alexander is planning to teach children about crime in the future.... 'I don't think people understand what victimhood is really about,' he told Scoop." Hardly needs a comment, does it.

And last but not least, self-declared virgin Craig McNair has finally got the ride - he married in 2005. And United Future's Larry Baldcock told Scoop he "was itching," but we understand that has now been treated.

Linked Article: What Are Those Ex MPs Up To Now? - Kevin List, Scoop

Basement Tapes

I got a text this morning telling me to turn on the TV to see something called 'Desperate Man Blues,' a feelgood documentary about passionate record collector Joe Bussard (right). I'm damn glad I did: Joe is a legend himself, and the music he collects so enthusiastically is from the legendary blues era of American music.

Son House, Robert Johnson, Blind Willy McTell ... Bussard has all the original 78s from all of these, including at least one or two records that are the only ones still in existence -- and he's still looking for more. And he loves it so! His collection is enormous and well-used, and Joe himself is the sort of bloke that makes the world a better place. His enthusiasm is infectious, and as genuine as the music he loves. Says documentary maker Edward Gillan:
That's something unique about Joe, he's a complete evangelist. I mean, if you're the FedEx guy delivering a parcel to his house, you are quite likely to end up in the basement for a couple of days, listening to old 78s from the 1920s.
There's a story here about Joe Bussard and Gillan's documentary on him, and another here, and feel free to visit Joe Bussard's own website -- you can order CDs and tapes from his enormous collection. And do keep an eye out for the doco if it comes your way again. It's pretty infectious itself. :-)

Links: Film: Desperate Man Blues - NineMSN
Desperate Man Blues: Joe Bussard parties like it's 1929 - Eddie Dean
Joe Bussard's Vintage 78 website

The Blasphemy Debate - Reprise

With blasphemy and violent umbrage-taking in the air, I guess it's time I relink to my post on the Great Blasphemy Debate, wherein:
The well-read and witty Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens entertainingly debate blasphemy, religious freedom, multiculturalism and hate speech, and whether or why there should be limits on speech and offensive behaviour.
Is it now wrong to exercise free speech, or to enjoy good satire? Should offending religionists be against the law? Is it wrong to tell the truth, or to joke about it? Are some people all just too bloody ready to be offended? All these questions ans more debated -- well, discussed really -- wittingly, intelligently, entertainingly. As Stephen Fry says towards the end of the 'Blasphemy Debate':
'It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that", as if that gives them certain rights. It's no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. "I'm offended by that." Well, so fucking what?'
Links: The Blaphemy Debate - The Hay Festival (scroll down sl;ightly for the audio link)
I saw hate in a graveyard - Stephen Fry - The Observer

Friday, 3 February 2006

Time for a beer

It's Windhoek again for me this avo -- a German beer at un-German prices (and still a great deal from the Mt Eden Liquor Centre).


Left and right and that post-modern nonsense

I've tried telling you lot I'm neither left nor right (though you continue to put me on the 'Right' on your blogrolls). I've tried telling you that libertarians are neither Right nor Left, but 'North' (but I still hear people calling libertarians "extreme right"). And I've tried pointing out that your traditional Left-Right spectrum is simplistic and one-dimensional and blurs too many important distinctions to be worth a pinch of shite, as compared to the diamond-shaped 'Nolan' spectrum that has real depth, and great descriptive power. (See for example here, here and here, and that picture of NZ's political spectrum over there on the, ahem, right.)

I've told you and told you, but have you listened? Have you bollocks.

You bloody lefties, and you boring buggers trying to make the world safe for 'centre-right government' -- you just don't listen, do you? You just don't listen -- not even to each other. There's all sorts of pointless insults (and there's nothing so sad as an insult without a point), and all sorts of confusion as a result of simply not being able to accurately describe someone's political position accurately, and then getting hung up on how someone's been labelled rather than dealing with their actual political position.

Even good, honest people can get confused in this way. They end up arguing about angels on the heads of pins. People like Dr John Ray, who in an otherwise sound review of Stephen Hicks's superb book Explaining Postmodernism wonders why Hicks "uses the term 'Right' in a peculiar way -- no doubt through political expediency."
[Hicks] seems to think you can be of the political Right and also be a socialist! That enables him to avoid upsetting the applecart with regard to Hitler. He admits that Hitler was a socialist who differed only in detail from the Communists but still calls Hitler a Rightist! Calling Hitler a Leftist would in academe cause Prof. Hicks to be consigned to outer darkness, of course. The only sense I can make of Prof Hick's usage is that he is using "Right" to be synonymous with "Nationalist" but that is pretty sloppy when one considers that, at least from Napoleon on, there have been plenty of Leftist nationalists. Perhaps he just has not read Friedrich Engels, who was as fervid a German nationalist and racial supremacist as Hitler was. (See, for instance, here and here and here and here). And, yes, the Engels I am talking about is the co-worker of Karl Marx. Or were Marx & Engels not Leftists? I think in this matter I have to say that Prof. Hicks gets himself into absurdities as big as those he ennumerates among the postmodernists...

In most normal usage, Rightism would be identified with conservatism...
A tangle of confusion due to a confusion of terms, it would seem; a Gordian Knot that Stephen Hicks tries to untangle in his reply. " 'Right' and 'Left' are contextual terms," he says. In the contexts mentioned by Ray, "Right and Left are secondary variations on a primary collectivist theme."
You say that "In most normal usage, Rightism would be identified with conservatism". But then you have to ask: What are you conserving? What established traditions are you going to the mat for? And that is highly variable, depending on what your country's history is. The Rightists of the French Revolution were about conserving feudalism. The Rightists of the Republican party in America are about conserving America's mix of republican and democratic traditions. It would be a mistake then to identify the two "Rights".

Also I don't know that Rightism has always meant conservatism: Heidegger and Moeller, for example, saw themselves in part as wanting to conserve and rejuvenate German traditionalism, but they also saw themselves in part as revolutionaries wanting to overthrow what they took to be a regime that had sold out to capitalism, scientism, technology, and so on.
Much enlightening stuff on the way, but perhaps I could suggest to both gentlemen that they might slash through their terminological Gordian Knot by simply recognising that 'Right' and 'Left' are no way to accurately describe anyone. As Lindsay Perigo pointed out some time ago in The Free Radical, 'Right Plus Left = Wrong.'

Links: NZ's Political Spectrum - Not PC
Left Wing - Right Wing -
The World's Most Popular Political Quiz - Advocates for Self Government
Postmodernism Deconstructed - Dr John Ray
Reply to Dr John Ray - Stephen Hicks
Right Plus Left = Wrong - Lindsay Perigo

When political correctness kills - Uganda fights back

Uganda has announced it intends to go against the political correctness that has killed 55 million people and will shortly begin using DDT to eradicate malaria. The European Union (EU) and Bayer Crop Sciences are up in arms -- the EU because they're meddling, protectionist arseholes, and Bayer because they stand to lose out if the DDT ban is overturned. 'Fuck you,' was essentially the reaction of the EU's Ugandan Charge d'Affaires: "He warned that if Uganda used DDT to save lives, the EU would ban the import of any flowers, food, or other agricultural products grown in the sub-Saharan country." Story here.

"DDT has been proven, over and over again, to be the most effective and least expensive method of fighting malaria," responded an adamant Ugandan Health Minister Health Minister Muhwezi. He's right you know. But neither EU nor Bayer are interested in 'effective' or 'least expensive'; they're interested in using PC and governments to protect their markets, even if people have to die:

"We fully support [the EU's decision] to ban imports of agricultural products coming from countries using DDT," Bayer vector control manager Gerhard Hesse said in an email exchange with malaria scientists. He admitted "DDT use is for us a commercial threat."

Bayer Crop Sciences reported sales of more than $7 billion in 2004. In a potential conflict of interest, Hesse sits on the board of the World Health Organization's Roll Back Malaria (RBM) coalition. The group has overseen an increase in disease and death rates from malaria, due in part to policies that shun DDT. RBM has been characterized as "a failing public health program" by the 'British Medical Journal.'

Protectionism, political correctness and environmentalism are killing innocent Africans: "European Greens are killing innocent Africans" say anti-malaria/pro-DDT activists. "Do Europeans care about African lives? If they do, they must turn their backs on the politically correct rhetoric of environmental activist groups and allow DDT to start saving lives."

"DDT helped eradicate malaria from Europe and the United States in the 1950s, and was used to eradicate malaria in many other countries," Richard Tren, South African director of Africa Fighting Malaria, told the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on September 28.

Explained Tren in written remarks submitted to the committee, "DDT is safe for human use, and there has never been a peer-reviewed replicated study showing any human harm from the chemical, even though billions have been exposed to it (hundreds of millions in moderate to high doses).

Links: 'Uganda Fighting for Right to Eradicate Malaria' - African Fighting Malaria (AFM)
'55 million dead and still counting ...' - Not PC
No rerun in Presidential polls' - The New Vision, Uganda

A bureaucrat who was a hero - yes, it's true!

You'll have hear me say occasionally that the world will be a better place when the last politician is strangled with the guts of the last bureaucrat, which is of course indisputably true. However, today you're going to see a eulogy here for a very special dead bureaucrat. Tim Worstall at TechCentralStation explains just how special was Sir John Cowperthwaite (right), the man who was Hong Kong's Nightwatchman:
It's unusual for a bureaucrat to be praised by Milton Friedman. It's even more unusual for one to be mentioned by PJ O'Rourke without being verbally pummeled and insulted. Yet one man who died last week managed both, even to the point of actually being praised by the Peej and Uncle Miltie alike.

Sir John Cowperthwaite... was the one who managed this unlikely double feat. He was sent out from London just after WWII to take over part of the administration of Hong Kong and would usually have been expected to implement the same sorts of programs that were going on back home.... Upon arrival, however," said a Far Eastern Economic Review article about Cowperthwaite, "he found it recovering quite nicely without him."

Our hero then decided to violate the most basic rule of all bureaucracies and governmental types. If people were doing OK on their own then he'd let them carry on doing so rather than making things worse by interfering... As O'Rourke put it:

"Quite a bit of government effort is required to create a system in which government leaves people alone. Hong Kong's colonial administration provided courts, contract enforcement, laws that applied to everyone, some measure of national defense…, an effective police force (Hong Kong's crime rate is lower than Tokyo's), and bureaucracy that was efficient and uncorrupt but not so hideously uncorrupt that it would not turn a blind eye on an occasional palm-greasing illegal refugee or unlicensed street vendor."

Read the full TCS eulogy for Cowperthwaite here, and the comprehensive Daily Telegraph obituary here.

Links: Hong Kong's Nightwatchman - TechCentralStation
Sir John Cowperthwaite
- Daily Telegraph

Thursday, 2 February 2006

What shall we do with the Negro?

Message from Frederick Douglass to Pita Sharples, Tariana Turia and anyone else who wants to 'do something' for 'their people':
Everybody has asked the question . . . ‘What shall we do with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!
It's a message that is clear and unambiguous. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Thank the Lords for some religious sanity

Thank the Lords for comedians, a rush of sanity to the heads of some British MPs, and Tony Blair's decision to step outside the House. If he continues to attempt measures like the only-just-rejected Racial & Religious Hatred Bill, Blair should step outside and make sure it's for quite some time.

So why thank the Lords? LibertyScott explains:
Meanwhile, the House of Lords is earning its keep defending these freedoms. First it defeated the ID card bill, by insisting that it be explicitly voluntary. Now it has referred the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill back to the House of Commons, after removing the element that would have prohibited “insulting or abusive” speech against religions, and inserting “intent” as a critical part of offences under the Bill. What the Bill intends to do is to prohibit the spreading of hatred against religions, with the emphasis being to target Muslims and Christians who incite holy war against each other. In fact, a coalition of comedians, Christians, Muslims, libertarians, humanists and other atheists have been opposing the Bill.
So, good on the House of Lords. It almost makes one long for an intelligent Upper House in NZ with all-powerful rights of veto over whatever gets passed up the chain. (I can dream, can't I?)

Meanwhile, The Whig (bless him) has taken this opportunity to congratulate Rowan Atkinson on his successful campign to overturn the Bill by composing a wee song for him, and taken advantage of his newly re-established freedom to insult religions by, well, insulting a religion.

Bye y'all, I'm off to have a Danish or two to celebrate the British victory and the Danish demonstration of its importance (and have you heard the rumour that whole storm in a burqa was a setup by Danish muslims to have press censorship introduced? Slimy bastards.)

Links: Insulting Religions is a right - LibertyScott
The Black Adder Strikes Again! - The Whig
...In Which The Whig Attempts to Spark a Major International Diplomatic Incident - The Whig
Jihad agaisnt Danish Newspaper - Brussels Journal
Take Note Cardiff: We Are All Danes Now - Brussels Journal

Still hoping for 'LPG' government

Chris Trotter is still unhappy that we didn't get a real, red, died-in-the-red-wool socialist goverment last election -- Helen Clark's steely authoritarianism is still too limp for our Chris -- but he hasn't yet given't up hope:

A Labour-Progressive-Green-Maori Party coalition is what the 49.7% of New Zealanders who didn't vote for National, NZ First, United Future or ACT were expecting. Given the dangerous tensions in Labour's present support arrangement, it may end up being Clark's only alternative to calling an early general election.

To Trotter's way of thinking, a brown-tinged LPG government can still deliver the hard-edged socialism he's been hoping along that MMP would deliver; all it takes is either the Greens and Tariana to start working as a bloc, Clark and Tariana to kiss and make up.

Will that happen? Who knows? There are plenty who would like it to happen - not me, I'm a fan of keeping the buggers stelmated by numbers, as they almost are now -- but Chris doesn't, he's just trying the idea on for size.

Linked Column: 'Counting to 10' - Chris Trotter, Independent Business Weekly

Intelligence in Chch

Now here's an intelligent chap:
Finally got rid of that Greens logo - Libertarianz are for me :-) Sure, they maybe out on the fringes, but their ideology makes a whole lot more sense the current government decisions!
Onya, Kaiwai. I've just linked you. :-)

Linked Post: 'Icky, Yucky...' - Kaiwai's Blog

12 seats for Costa Rican Libertarians?

Costa Rican Libertarians are looking forward to elections this Sunday in which they hope to come third in the Presidential elections with candidate Otto Guevara, and to increase their seats in the 57 seat parliament to 12. As Guevara told Free Market News recently, "he wants to 'force the next government to negotiate with the Libertarian Movement Party its public policies for the next four years' and prepare the terrain for a presidential victory in 2010." Says FMN:
The significance of their efforts goes far beyond Costa Rica and shows three things.

First, it indicates that the classical liberal tradition has some potential for making a connection with the populace, because of its critique of established parties and traditional politicians—a stand very much in vogue in the developing world. The recent tendency has been for the old-fashioned populist left to seduce those vast segments of the population that feel cheated by the establishment--only to prove they represent exactly what they purport to combat.

Second, the Costa Rican experience shows principle is not necessarily a lost cause in politics. Few things have caused classical liberals more harm than muddling the message and obfuscating principle. If defenders of free markets support big spending, legally protected monopolies, crony privatization and courts that make a mockery of the principle of equality before the law, is it surprising that many people tend to associate classical liberalism with mercantilism, that is, the blurring of the line that ought to separate government and business?

Finally, Otto Guevara’s success poses a challenge to those who think politics is not a valid way to go about changing the prevailing culture, and that education needs to come before political action because until people’s minds are educated no political change is possible. The Costa Rican experience seems to contain a more complex truth: everything, including practical politics, can, in the right circumstances, become a catalyst for cultural change.
However, not every libertarian is so excited. A former Moviemento Libertario supporter has watched with disgust and disappointment what he calls "the transformation of the Movimiento Libertario from a Libertarian party to a run of the mill Liberal (in the European sense) party."
I made some predictions, and so far have been correct. I predicted they would accept state funds, they did. I predicted that many hard working people would leave the party, they did.

The most important prediction I made was with regard to the number of seats the party would win in the Asamblea. I said a maximum of seven seats. This prediction will be put to the test on Sunday...
By Monday we will know if selling out paid off.
All sorts of lessons for all sorts of libertarians.

Links: 'A Libertarian Dream Story' - Free Market News
'Costa Rica's Election' -
Sunni and the Conspirators Blog
Moviemento Libertario - Liberty Link

Fisking Baghdad Bob's new book

If you're thinking of buying and reading Robert Fisk's new book The Great War for Civilisation -- well, you shouldn't be reading this blog for a start; we like to deal with facts here -- but if you are intent on getting hold of it, then you might be interested in this recent review of Baghdad Bob's 1,300 pages of utter nonsense. Here's a taste:
First there is the problem of simple accuracy. It is difficult to turn a page of The Great War for Civilisation without encountering some basic error. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not, as Fisk has it, in Jerusalem... The deeper problem with Fisk’s work is not the sort of thing that can be fixed by acquiring a better research assistant or fact-checking apparatus. Facts must be placed in their proper context, after all, and this demands a degree of good faith that Fisk utterly lacks...

The precise angle of his tilt has been confirmed by Osama bin Laden himself, who, in a videotaped message on the eve of the 2004 presidential election in the U.S., commended Fisk by name for his incisive and “neutral” reporting. On Planet Fisk, there are bad guys and there are victims, and the victims—the Arabs—can do no wrong, at least none for which they are ultimately responsible. Thus, one comes away from his current book hardly realizing that Lebanon was under a repressive Syrian occupation for most of the 30 years that Fisk has made his home there.
Ouch. Read the full review here. Two more here, from The Herald.

Linked Reviews: 'Baghdad Bob' - Commentary magazine
'Mixed reviews for Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilisation' -

Myths that can kill: 1, Meat

There are some primitive myths that have survived into the modern world, and some of those myths can kill us.

Here's one: Many years ago, primitive man had a notion somewhat similar to animism; that if you could hunt down and kill the biggest, bravest, wildest animal you could find and eat some of its flesh, that you would somehow gain some part of that beast's energy and animal virility. In this spirit, beasts were sacrificed in pagan rituals and devoured in the hope of some part of that beast's life-force could be shared.

Primitive stuff, huh? Here's how that myth is played out in our modern world: A big red steak is good for you. Barbecues full of meat are good for you. A plate full of dead flesh is good for you. These are the things said by small boys and by those who don't think before they eat. Rrrrr!

Well, it's not good for you. A plate full of meat is a plateful of too much protein, too much fat, and -- if you live in North America or Europe and you don't eat organic -- too many hormones and growth promoters. All that has been known for some time. What's new today is the news that red meat really is a killer:
Eating large quantities of red meat can increase your risk of bowel cancer by producing substances in the gut that damage DNA, a study reveals today.

A comparison of cells from the lining of the colon shows that people who eat a diet high in high red meat have a "significant" increase in levels of DNA damage compared with vegetarians. This damage can increase the risk of developing cancer, say researchers at the Medical Research Council's (MRC) Dunn human nutrition unit in Cambridge...

The researchers found that when the red meat diet was compared with the vegetarian diet, there was a "consistent and significant" increase in DNA damage, while damage was intermediate with the red meat/high fibre diet...

Scientists welcomed the findings as 80% of bowel cancer is thought to be related to diet and therefore largely preventable. Each year 35,000 people in Britain are diagnosed with bowel cancer, and 16,000 of them die.

There it is. Going primitive can kill you. In the modern world there's no excuse for it.

Mankind began moved away from primitivism when we moved away from the short-term existence of hunting and gathering and began planting crops and planning long term, which is the characteristically human means of survival. The world's great civilisations were born out of this glorious transformation in human affairs, but primitivism like this still stayed with us. Today, with modern nutritional science as our guide, it's not only possible to eat well and to eat healthily with a diet that excludes red meat, it's possibly beneficial to do so -- for your health if for no other reason.

Put simply, vegetarianism is rational and life-affirming. Eating red meat is clearly not: it's primitive and health-destroying and antediluvian. If I may paraphrase from this particularly silly pronouncement:

Eating read meat clearly calls for the sacrifice of one’s actual values and happiness for an arbitrary standard. There is nothing noble or positive about sacrifice for any reason. It is literally mixing a little poison in with your food. Destroying a little of your life for no reason...

People should see the evil for what it is, and affirm their own lives as their moral standard. There should be no sympathy for those who destroy their most precious value - their own lives.

If you choose to keep eating red meat, you can't say you haven't been warned. You'll only have yourselves to blame.

Linked Article: 'DNA damage from eating red meat linked to cancer '- Guardian

Wednesday, 1 February 2006

'Catching Dew Drops,' by Damon-A. H. Denys

'Catching Dew Drops,' by Damon-A. H. Denys. (I'll let you guess the date.) Here is focus. Here is concentration -- on a task deemed important, and evidently delightful.

The character is reportedly Iris, from 'The Tempest': "She is Juno’s messenger, and an Oceanid: the offspring of an unending stream of water that encircles the earth."
It is an intimate figure study of the model with a loose thematic basis as a portrayal of the character Iris from William Shakespeare’s play, "The Tempest". In Shakespeare’s play Iris is a faerie, so while Catching Dewdrops may seem like a simple portrait at first, it can actually be considered a faerie painting.

The literary reference to the painting in "The Tempest" is the following line: "With thy saffron wings upon my flowers, Diffusest honey-drops, refreshing showers." The "honey-drops" that are mentioned in this quote from "The Tempest" are interpreted in the painting to be dewdrops, thus the name of the painting. Iris is "catching dewdrops" so that she can sprinkle them about the flowers in her faerie-like way.

Sledging: Best of.

Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell said he always thought "a mental weakness in an opponent was just like a weakness outside off stump, something to be exploited."

Sledging is one entertaining and highly effective way to exploit mental weakness.(I just wish they'd turn up the damn microphones so we could hear it all properly). Anyway, Michael Ellis has ten of the best sledges and comebacks from modern cricketing history. Enjoy.

One he's missed is an exchange between Zimbabwean Eddo Brandes and Glenn McGrath, with Brandes coming in to bat. Asked McGrath of Brandes, "Hey Eddo, why are you so fucking fat?", to which Brandes replied "Because every time I fuck your wife, she gives me a biscuit".

Brandes 1, McGrath, 0.

Link: 'The 10 best Cricket Sledges (and comebacks) in history' - Ellis in Wellyland

Weaker dollar?

Regarding recent arguments about fighting inflation by raising interest rates and inflating the currency, Whinging in New Zealand has the brilliant observation:
What is needed is not a weaker kiwi dollar, but a weaker kiwi government.

Orewa: The Sequel

Um, is there anyone who's genuinely excited by 'Don Brash: Orewa IV' (full text here). Anyone care to comment on last night's premiere?

Orewa I has been forgotten -- remember the idea of queing up at the Post Office to get your dole cheque? -- but Orewa II and III set the agenda for each respective political year and changed NZ's political landscape. It's bloody difficult to maintain that momentum, especially in a non-election year (as only blind optimism on Brash's part would suggest otherwise), but it seems like an awfully wasted opportunity to me. Even the usual suspects have so far failed to come out and try and talk it up. But do make sure you read it before you get the spin.

New links

I might need to re-organise my sidebar at some stage, and I'm open to suggestions as to how. (Does anyone ever use the 'Popular Posts' links at all?)

In the meantime, I've just added the hilarious Jimi Kumara, and the enormously useful RateBeer site (thanks Stu - any idea when Emerson's beers will be affordable?) And I've removed Hippolyte, who's scorched-earth his blog.

Google v China - not so bad?

Google's deal with the Chinese government that it will agree to censor some sites and terms has outraged many. Some people (DPF and Russell Brown for example) are rightly outraged at Google's willingness to bow to a dictatorhip in pursuit of market share, and to suppress "access to public information" with only a "some-Google-is-better-than-no-Google-at-all" defence. Vodka Pundit offers a different view. Dictatorships aren't just evil, they're inefficient (one of the points incidentally that makes Rand's dystopia in Anthem, pictured below, different to Orwell's in 1984):
So let's say it again: There is no such thing as an efficient dictatorship. Only, when you say it this time, think of Google and China. Yes, it's true that Google should take great shame in kowtowing to the Butchers of Beijing, but that's not the whole story... What will Google do for China? The answer is: Less than it's done for us.

In a high-tech economy, the free flow of information defines how competitive a people can be... China is trying to compete in the high-tech economy, while crippling the tools that make such competition possible.

I don't mean to say that you shouldn't be mad at Google. I am, and will be so long as they continue with such repugnant business practices. And don't get me wrong – having Google, even a restricted version, will in some small way prolong China's dictatorship. And the Chinese people will suffer, by losing what could have been a sharp weapon in their fight for freedom.
But it's not the end of the world, either.

Read VP's whole opinion here: 'The China Syndrome' - Vodka Pundit

Publisher replies to God: "Sorry, but..."

God gets a pink slip from his publishers for his manuscript. The publishers are less than impressed:
  • too much violence. "Also, it appears to be written mostly in ancient Hebrew."
  • too much talk of begatting and not enough "on the begatting process" -- "our readers like a bit of tit and cock."
  • a suggested appeal to the sci-fi market by the inclusion of a "a scene with lasers and a couple of androids."
  • abandoning the fantasy market for some 'chick lit.'
Read it all here. [Hat tip Mark D. Firestone]

Link: 'God versus the publishers' - Will Type For Food

Which WMDs?

Oh, you mean those WMDs -- the ones flown to Syria in the run-up to the war...
[Hat tip and stolen comment Vodka Pundit]

Anyway, if you're wondering how not to win in Iraq, at which some US strategists seem so intent, then there are lessons from the Malayan Emergency that need to be learned, and not the lessons falsely attributed to the British success by those dumbarse American strategists. Forget "hearts and minds" and other welfare-statist nonsense, says Paul at Samizdata fisking the nonsense. That wasn't how the Malayan conflict was won, and the idea that it was is not just bad history, it's plain daft:
One does not have to a libertarian to see the absurdity of this idea. The government can not (for example) make the lives of Compton in greater Los Angeles. "So good they will not want to fight" (after so many decades of welfare schemes and 'urban renewal' schemes) - so how is going to that in Iraq?

If the war is justified then fighting should continue (i.e. the enemy, especially the leadership, should be hunted down and killed or caputured), and if the war is not justified then the troops should come home. But there is no 'socio-economic road' to victory.

Linked Posts: 'Iraq's WMDs were flown to Syria' - BarcePundit
'Bush adopts British Colonial model for Iraq' - Daily Telegraph
'Ink blot madness... or how not to win in Iraq' - Samizdata

'Work Interrupted' - William Bougerau, 1891

Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Exponents give Auckland something to celebrate

Best news of the (Auckland) holiday weekend? The Exponents have played their last gig. Thank Bacchus for that!

Orewa IV. What's the guts?

Any picks on the topic for Don Brash's 'Orewa Speech' this avo? Immigration, says the Herald, who suggest the line will be: "Western ideals such as personal liberty and New Zealand's belief in the importance of a secular society could be compromised by immigration."

I sure hope not.

New face, still running in

The French woman who received revolutionary facial transplant surgery after having her own face mauled by a dog is out and about, and restarting her life.

[One] of her surgeons, Bernard Devauchelle, said: "Her facial expressiveness is slowly returning and she is talking quite clearly, but has some problems with the letters P and B, which require the lips. "She certainly does not look like the living dead. She's eating and drinking without dribbling."

I bet this link to her photo and story is the most popular link today... [Hat tip Daily Pundit]

Linked Article: My strange life with someone else's face - Sunday Times

Evil sells burgers

Some libertarian friends are debating the sign on the left. The question at issue: just how appropriate is it to use symbolism from a regime under which 30 million people were murdered and a whole world was under threat just in order to sell burgers? CR sees nothing wrong:
The hammer and sickle has hardly been a potent icon since 1989 so if it is deemed effective in marketing burgers......who cares? On the basis that freedom is indivisible what possible grounds do a group of freedom lovers have to question another party's sense of propriety?
If the marketing tool is effective in attracting patrons.......good luck to the business owners. If it ceases to work for them then the tool will be abandoned. Who knows the next ploy could be...."Saddam's Sausages" "Bush Burgers" (Whoops that cannot be appropriate). Years ago I knew a polio victim who ran a fish and chips shop, his own banner referred to "Cripple Cut Chips"......the pun did his cashflow
no end of good.
RT sees the funny side: "Imagine how utterly gutted the communists must be feeling seeing their beloved symbol smacked onto a capitalist burger shop." BKD objects, and puts the case against:

Using the hammer and sickle in a billboard reduces the iconography of evil into a marketing gimmick. While future evils can be prevented by ridiculing or trivializing them in the present, past evils can not, because to diminish them diminishes our historical memory of evil and its works. If we become familiar with a symbol in a happy context (and food is primal happiness), then how can that symbol shock us? And if the emblem of Stalin will not shock us, then for how long can Stalinists be stigmatized and isolated? A generation of children is growing up in a society where Che, Castro, a yellow star, and now a hammer and sickle are popular iconography: the stuff of tee-shirts and Happy Meals. Who will explain to these children just what these men did, just what was done under those banners? We are annihilating our historical memory by hiding it in plain view.

"The People Have Spoken" says the billboard. Which people? Natan Sharansky? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn? Does nobody remember what happened to these people when they spoke? And those two lived. The Burger Fuel marketing team may consider itself brave by courting controversy. But real bravery is acting against evil that can do you harm. To the thousands and more who risked – and those who lost – everything they loved on Earth by denouncing the Soviets, by denouncing the hammer and sickle, this billboard is a contemptuous insult. What you we were willing to risk your life to destroy, we will use to sell burgers.

So yeah, I can see something wrong with this billboard. And I'm fucked if I'm going to let it go unchallenged. Who's with me?

Would it be any different if it was a swastika instead of a hammer and sickle? Would you drink at the Lenin Bar if it was called 'Hitler'? Would you?

UPDATE: Here's a discussion between two characters, Bolshevik firebrand Andrei Taganov, and the individualist heroine, Kira, from Ayn Rand's early 'Soviet' novel We the Living:
[Andrei:] "I know what you're going to say. You're going to say, as so many of our enemies do, that you admire our ideals, but loathe our methods."
[Kira:] "I loathe your ideals."
"For one reason, mainly, chiefly, and eternally, no matter how much your Party promises to accomplish, no matter what paradise it plans to bring mankind. Whatever your other claims may be, there's one you can't avoid, one that will turn your paradise into the most unspeakable hell: your claim that man must live for t he state."
"What better purpose can he live for?"
"Don't you know," her voice trembled suddenly in a passionate plea she could not hide," don't you know that there are things, in the best of us, which no outside hand should dare touch? Things sacred because, and only because, one can say: 'This is mine'? Don't you know that we live only for ourselves, the best of us do, those who are worthy of it? Don't you know that there is something in us which must not be touched by any state, by any collective, by any number of millions?"
He answered: "No."
"Comrade Taganov," she whispered, "how much you have to learn!" More here.
Interestingly, the wartime Italian Fascists made a film of this 'Anti-Soviet' novel (from which the photo above of Kira and Andrei comes) that rated so well and about which Mussolini was so proud that it was shown to Joseph Goebbels. 'You fools,' Goebbels was reported to have said, 'it's not just anti-Soviet, it's anti-all-of-us!' Goebbels at least was under no illusions about what Communism and Nazism had in common. (Stories about the film here and here.)