Tuesday, 21 February 2006

Locking up holocaust denial

An Austrian court has jailed historian David Irving for three years for the crime of holocaust denial. Now, Irving deserves many things for his views, including contempt, but jail is not one of them. No one deserves jail just for their views As No Right Turn said yesterday when offering both background to this latest trial and some examples of Irving's odiousness:
[Irving's] statements can only be described as poisonous, anti-semitic lies, but Irving shouldn't be facing court or prison for them, any more than Turks should be for facing charges of "insulting Turkishness" for talking about the Armenian genocide, or Danish cartoonists should be for insulting (and in some cases, villifying) Muslims. If freedom of expression extends only to speech the majority agree with or find inoffensive, then it is no freedom at all.
Exactly right. In the words of a commenter at No Right Turn, "Thought crime is worse than Holocaust denial." Some years ago when David Irving was banned from appearing in New Zealand I sent out a press release from Bernard Darnton saying much the same thing:
The issue brings to mind the words of Mark Twain, who advised that it was better to stay quiet and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. In this respect, says Darnton, "when charlatans such as Irving receive the oxygen of publicity for their views - as he did in the libel action that bankrupted him three years ago - they become exposed for the fools they are. Such is the power of free speech."
You can lock up a person, but you can't lock up an idea however much you try. Locking up odious ideas with bans on free speech leaves them underground, there to fester and grow in the dark. Far better to let out in to the open and be exposed to the ridicule the deserve. Darnton again:
Banning the expression of opinions, no matter how vulgar those opinions are, costs us part of our civilization, part of our humanity. Bad ideas must be fought with good ideas. Ideas are products of our minds and our minds must be reasoned with and educated, not coerced.
In the current environment of confusion over the issue it's worth pointing out that we do not have the right to avoid having odious ideas espoused if the proponent can acquire a platform from which to espouse them. The demands of free speech however do not require that anyone provide the proponents of bad ideas with a microphone or a platform. Neither do they allow us to lock up people with whom we disagree.

Bankrupt, disgraced and now jailed: Irving sinks to new low - Times Online
Irving on trial - No Right Turn
Free Expression: How Free Should Speech Be? - Bernard Darnton
Tony Ellis an Embarrassment to Liberty - Libertarianz

What Christianity has bequeathed the West

What Christianity has bequeathed the West is evident in the reaction of governments around the world to the challenge of Islamic violence, says Onkhar Ghate. "To fathom [the US] government's contemptible treatment of a handful of unbowed journalists," says Ghate, "you must see the roots of that treatment in the moral ideal Christianity bequeathed the West." Read on here.

LINK: Love thy enemy: The twilight of freedom of speech - Onkhar Ghate

Touchscreen to the future

Wow! Just think what this touch-screen 'graphical user interface' thingy (picture right) will do for, well, just about everything you could wish to do on a computer. I can't wait to see CAD drawing programmes use this technology instead of all the mouse-wriggling and keyboard-jockeying we currently have to endure.

I urge you to go and visit the site, and to make sure you stay around to watch all of the demo video. When you consider how ubiquitous are the awfully awkward keyboard and mouse, you just know there's the smell of the future about it.

Just more prooof that when it comes to computers that it's really early days yet. We've only just begun! Wow!

LINK: Multi-touch interaction research - NYU [Hat tip 'syfy guy' in this thread at DPF's]


I've learned something about you lot over the last couple of days. On Saturday I posted one piece on vaginal reconstruction, and immediately above it another on love. Guess which piece rated highest (and is still in the Top Five)? That's right, it wasn't the one in which Cupid was the hero.

Now there's a lesson in that, if I just knew how to find it...

LINKS: The chemistry of love - Not PC
Getting your vag done darling? - Not PC

Word cloud

Here's a 'Word Cloud' of my blog. Clearly there's been far too many sheep jokes of late around here.
Go here to create your own Word Cloud. [Hat tip Richard Chapple]

UPDATE 1: Just by way of contrast, here's what a Cloud of my Categories looks like, on the right-hand-side of my Del.Icio.Us links page.

UPDATE 2: I should point out that the Word Cloud generator seems to need Explorer to work successfully, so Firefox users who are trying to produce their own Cloud will need to right click and use the 'View this Page in IE' link.

LINK: Create your own Word Cloud - Snapshirts.Com
Not PC's Del.Icio.Us Tags

Two Davids

The chief artistic difference between the Renaissance period and the Baroque period that followed it was the difference between learning and applying. The Renaissance masters rediscovered classical technique and produced art that glorified this earth rather than some other dimension for the first time in centuries. The Baroque masters stood on the shoulders of those making this rediscovery, and made the most of the lessons learned to do something quite new in artistic history.

For the first time in art we see dramatic movement, great power, intense emotion; the expression of each of these became possible to the artists in the Baroque period because of the lessons learned by the masters of the Renaissance.

The two great statues of David that are separated by just over a century give the lesson. In his depiction of the great Biblical hero, Michelangelo fuses classicism with Florentine humanism. Selecting the psychologically-charged moment of calm -- the centre of the storm just before battle -- he shows the moment of decision, the act of mind that won the battle.Bernini however shows something quite different. For his piece he chooses the moment of action; the instant in which the battle is joined.

Where Michelango's David of 1501-04 is static, suggesting the later movement rather than showing it, Bernini's of i623-24 is all motion, all power, and displays the inner emotional intensity of the shepherd-warrior.

Motion and purpose, fused with emotion - all the very real essentials of life; this fusion was the leitmotif of the very best of Baroque expression.

Monday, 20 February 2006

Is blogging really over?

According to blogger Hog on Ice blogging is "over" -- it's over, do you hear! According to the Hog the Internet has become so congested it is "no longer a meritocracy."
In a market where not much is available, merit matters, because everyone is aware of the products that exist. People can compare the products and make choices based on quality. In a congested market, that doesn't work. You need help to get your product noticed. People end up choosing products that are well-known. Quality, by itself, is worthless.
I have to say respectfully that Hog on Ice is wrong. What he describes as signs of its end is simply bewailing change as the situation matures; what he cites as cyanosis are just indications that the blog 'market' is maturing, and as with all maturing markets eventually a few big blocs will likely come to prominence for many different reasons, and as do they such things as clearing houses for information, groups of like-minded bloggers andmarks of quality will become important.

When too much information abounds in the real world, the mature market provides clearing houses of information to filter it for us. As the Hog says, you need help to get your product noticed, but so too do consumers need help to choose their purchase. When there's demand, there is eventually a supply. In the mature market of the real world we have the Michelin Guide, the Conde Nast Guide, the Good Eating Guide, the Let's Go and Lonely Planet Guides, and consumer magazines and organisations of all stripes offering advice and guidance on what to buy, where to eat, where to go, and what you should do when you get there. These consumer guides themselves must of course pass muster in the market, and around the successful guides 'blocs' or groups of businesses form that rely heavily on the traffic created by their rating in in the guide.

As in the real world, so eventually I would suggest in the blogosphere. One successful blogging 'bloc' here in NZ is obviously the political blogs that refer daily to Blog Central, David Farrar's Kiwiblog, and in turn are referred to by it. It's a very loose informal grouping generated largely by daily use, and at present it's a highly successful one for all involved. If a reader wants to get a heads up on daily politics in NZ, Kiwiblog is generally a good place to start every day.

An example of an unsuccessful 'bloc' has apparently just folded, or is in the process of going belly up, and Hog on Ice cites it as evidence of the overripe blogosphere. Pajamas Media (PJM) was a formal collection of blogs with a $7 million startup fund that intended to revolutionise blogging, and set up those who joined the PJM bloc as part of an advertising and news-reporting behemoth. Reported the New York Sun in May last:

The venture will be called Pajamas Media, a not-so-subtle reference to the September remarks of a CNN executive, Jonathan Klein, who said a typical blogger has "no checks and balances" and is just "a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas."

...The idea of Pajamas Media is to use an extensive network of globally affiliated blogs to provide first-person, in-depth coverage of most major news events, including both camera and video footage...

Iowahawk had a pithier view at its initiation of the venture whose time has come and now almost gone. A PJM 'death pool' blog is now taking bets on when PJM will collapse completely. Hog on Ice is right that PJM was "a bad idea." As one who was approached to join the "extensive network of globally affiliated blogs" but who read the proposal and turned it down, it was clear that PJM was based on a bad business model. But to declare that because PJM is dead or dying then therefore "blogging is dead" or that such blog aggregations are not likely to be sucessful in the future is trying to make much too much stew from one bad onion.

The challenge in any mature market is to meet the market as it matures. By year's end the shape and substance of the blogosphere may well have changed beyond recognition -- maybe -- but to say that blogging is "over" is just insupportable on the evidence. The lesson for bloggers: Grow up.

Should You Stay or Should You Go? - Hog on Ice [Hat tip, somebody who'd rather not be linked]
Three political blogs make a run for the mainstream - New York Sun
The blockbuster OSM deal: what you need to know - Iowahawk
PJM Death Pool blog

Dear Ishmael...

Susan the Libertarian tells a talkback caller this morning about Free Speech :
So your caller Ishmael took you to task for not treating his prophet Mohammed with respect. Ishmael misses the material point with regard to freedom. Free speech is just that: free speech. It means we must allow others the right to say things we might dislike, or with which we disagree.

George Orwell said it well: 'If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear'.

Also Adlai Stevenson: 'My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular'.

The irony is that here in the west, Ishmael is allowed to state his viewpoint. I very much doubt that the courtesy would be reciprocated, should I try to do the same in the Islamist world.
LINK: More on Mohammed - Sus's Sound Bites

Keep prostitution legal

Dr Neil Benson's conversion of his doctor's surgery into a brothel has brought puritan opposition to legalisation of prostitution back out of the closet, and allowed them wheel out all their archived arguments from their campaign against legalisation in opposition to poor old Dr Benson and his prospective employees.

At a recent 'Stop-the-Brothel' meeting for example (described here by Julian Pistorius), Maxim's Scott McMurray "implied that Doubtless Bay will turn into the sex-capital of Northland ... [and] tried to prove that prostitution was always harmful, and that this harm should be 'prevented' by stopping prostitution altogether." But as Julian points out, "laws are not there to protect people from their own bad choices, but only to protect the individual's rights from being violated by others."

The puritan, of course, ignores that point. The puritan has a view of what people should be doing, and insists on imposing that view on others. The puritan, said HL Mencken, is one who lives in constant fear that someone, somewhere, is having a good time ... and they just want to put a stop to it. Puritans appear when you least expect them -- perhaps we all have our inner prude? -- but the responsible puritan knows when prudery is appropriate, and when to tuck it up safely at home.

You might point out to the puritan that prostitution is simply about sex and about money, and ask them which it is they object to, and what gives them the right to interfere in other people's business? Or you might point out that it is their interference in other people's business that it is the real problem here.

Sadly, there are too many people about who will always wish to make your business their business. Not content merely with their own prudery, they wish to impose their straight-laced wowserism on those it repels, and to legislate moral standards for those who already have their own -- never mind whose business it is; never mind the wrong of letting the government intrude into our bedrooms; and never mind that any such intrusion never stops the behaviour they say they are trying to stop -- it simply drives it underground, removing the law's protection from practitioners.

Point out to the puritan the problems attendant on their rampant prudery and their attempted imposition of it upon sundry others, and they stamp their feet, hold their breath and count from zero to infinity until they're apoplectic. They refuse to listen, but the error of their position doesn't disappear so convieniently. Perhaps these puritans could take a leaf from Ayn Rand's book, specifically the recently released 'Best of her Q & A'). Asked whether society's so-called vices such as "dope peddling, bootlegging gambling and prostitution" should be forbidden by law:
In answer to your ... question: No, [such vices] should not be forbidden. Some of these practices are improper. Prostitution is evil by almost any standard of morality. So long as it itsn't forced on anyone however -- so long as a woman chooses to engage in that kind of activity (one shouldn't call it a profession) and some men take advantage of it -- that is between them and not the business of society. It is their moral degradation; but it should not be a legal crime -- society has no right to forbid it. The same applies to selling drugs.
'But,' cry some prudes in an attempt to disguise their busybody motives, 'the issue of prostitution isn't one of legislating morals. It's one of "safety." It's one of "harm reduction".' Well, all I can say in reply to such claims is: "Nonsense." "Safety" here is a proxy argument for puritanism. "Harm reduction" is a smokescreen for poking their nose into other people's business.

These people don't really give a shit about the women they claim to want to protect from harm. The "harm reduction" they call for would create serious and very real harms for the very women they claim criminalisation would somehow protect, just as it did before prostitution was successfully legalised -- harm to the women (and men) employed in the industry, who are put beyond the law's protection by being put outside the law by puritanism and ignorance.

If the puritans are successful once again in from criminalising the practice of prostitution, they will cause harm both to those employed in the activity and also to those from whom the choice is removed. Here's why: Women who choose to be gainfully employed in prostitution have made a choice. They make the choice because to them -- to them -- however unattractive the work, the choice to do it is better than all the other alternatives they might have.

What gives the puritan the authority to deny the right of these women to choose for themselves a better life in their eyes?

Indeed, if the puritans are right in what they say -- if prostitution is really and truly as bad as all their charts, stats and Powerpoint shows say it is -- then the alternatives open to the women who choose it are clearly few and far between, and worse even than what they do choose. If the puritans are right about how bad it is, then just how bad are the other choices open to the women who choose it for themselves, and how bad would it be to remove that choice? The puritan wishes to deny them the right to make what (to them) is a better choice than anything else they can be doing.

How much worse does the puritan make it for those women who do still choose to undertake that path for themselves? If the puritans really had their way and they do manage to recriminalise prostitution (because as I'm sure you know, making it illegal won't make it stop), they are quite prepared to see people either forced into those other, less preferable alternatives (to them), or foreced out beyond protection of the law.

The puritan seeks to ensure that no one, anywhere, is having more fun than they are, or is having their fun in a way that offends them. They should learn to keep their nose out of other people's busines, and perhaps to get on with sorting out their own sorry lives.

LINKS: Dr Neil Benson's Brothel - Julian Pistorius
Summary position on the Prostitution Reform Bill - Maxim Institute
Ayn Rand answers: The best of her Q & A' - Robert Mayhew

'Bloody Mary'

I should probably be saying something about South Park's 'Bloody Mary' episode set to screen here shortly, which as you no doubt know has some Catholics somewhat annoyed, and Bishops calling for a boycott (I was about to use the metaphor "up in arms" to describe the reaction, but as that describes the Muslim anti-cartoon reaction somewhat too literally, I avoided that one.)

I probably should say something since it is a 'free speech' issue and there appear to be comments everywhere on the subject. I should say something but I won't because a) I expect you already know what I would say about the right of CanWest to broadcast what they wish, and the equal right of catholic bishops to drum up advertising for the show boycott CanWest programmes; and b) South Park is unwatchable rubbish anyway, so this episode is unlikely to be any different.

'Alone' - Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

'Alone,' by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. One of many rapid and evocative figure studies made by Lautrec. Observe how little he needs to tell the story, and how powerfully the spare presentation works.

Sunday, 19 February 2006

Characters from literature. Who are you?

Another gosh-darned stupid quiz diappoints me, this time by declaring me Tom Joad instad of Howard Roark. I guess my hair must be the wrong colour.

You are Tom Joad

You're Tom Joad. You've had to scratch out a living with your own sweat. All your life you've loved the simple things like home, family, and freedom. When these things are threatened, you stick to your principles and fight honorably to right wrongs. This noble behavior, however, can lead to being a bit of a martyr.

Letter: The West has been tested

A great letter to the editor here by libertarian Richard Wiig. Its subject should be self-explanatory.

The West has been tested, and it seems New Zealand passed with flying colors - freedom of speech is ripe for the plucking, and Islam is out to pluck it.
The cowardly calls for sensitivity and understanding that followed, in the wake of cartoon rage, amounts to little more than a call to give up free-thought and expression, and replace the vibrancy of the market-place of ideas with a guarded stultification, lest we offend Islam. Well, if you will allow me this expression in your paper - stuff that! Islam can get knotted.
With the advent of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, the West rose from the Dark Ages to surpass anything that had gone before. It made great strides in technology, the Arts, the Sciences all because of the freeing of the human mind from the constraints of oppressive religious dogma. Islam is out to shackle it again.
The editor of the Danish paper was asked if he regretted publishing the cartoons. He replied, "That is like asking a rape victim whether she regretted wearing a short skirt."
Make no apologies; do not give a single inch. It is for Islam to rise to us, not for us to stoop to Islam.


Top-Five best first songs on first albums

Top-Five best first songs on first albums, an idea shamelessly stolen from Hi Fidelity. The first song on a first album should come out of the blocks with something never heard before; it should surprise, stun, start well and promise more. The promise is as important as the song.

Gloria, Patti Smith, Horses
Sunday Morning, Velvet Underground, Velvet Underground
Suspect Device, Stiff Little Fingers, Inflammable Material
Gutter Black, Hello Sailor, Hello Sailor
Slash n' Burn, Manic Street Preachers, Generation Terrorist

Highly commended:
Love Comes in Spurts, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Blank Generation
Blinded by the Light, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
Twenty-First Century Schizoid Man, King Crimson, In the Court of the Crimson King
Ol' 55, Tom Waits, Closing Time
Holidays in the Sun, Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
You Got to Lose, George Thorogood & the Delaware Destroyers, George Thorogood & the Destroyers

Top-Five best last songs on last albums. Important criteria here is that they must be memorable, their mood must linger, and with the end of the band or the death of the artist, they must have a certain poignancy or magnitude -- or even a feeling of 'clairvoyance'.

Voodoo Chile (slight return), Jimi Hendrix experience, Electric Ladyland
Who Are You, The Who, Who Are You
Side 2, The Beatles, Abbey Road
Oh Sweet Nuthin!, Velvet Underground, Loaded
Redemption Song,
Bob Marley, Uprising

I expect debate.

Category: Music

Saturday, 18 February 2006

Hello Sailor's summer gig

Here's where I'll be later this avo: At Hello Sailor's Summer Concert in the Park at Mt Eden's Tahaki Reserve (cnr Clive, Normanby and Mt Eden Roads, just North of theMountain itself). These guys are world class, and this regular summer gig is a perfect (free) Auckland evening out. Join me. :-)

Gig starts at 6pm, Sailor on at 7:50pm. Bring picnic stuff, BBQ gear (if you're early) beer and wine, and enjoy a great summer afternoon and evening lying in the park. (It pays to get there early and spread your blanket in a good spot.)

And in other Sailor news... Ben King (Goldenhorse) and Alan Janssen (OMC) are mixing Hello Sailor's new album ready for release in a few months. Great news. Perhaps for the first time we might have an album that sounds like Sailor live?

UPDATE: A great evening, except for three things. 1) Graham was more than usually drunk. I don't think his harmonica had been stolen so much as it had, ah, misplaced itself. 2) It's high time to get rid of substitute bass player Paul Woolwright in place of one who understands how good bass playing should propel the music foward, not weigh it down. He made the bouncy GMT sound as if all the clocks had stopped. 3) And whoever was on the mixing desk should be shot -- he seemed to take Spinal Tap seriously and had everything turned up to eleven. Even the bloody piano was distorted. Sheesh!

Labour propaganda that never was

Gen XY has a list of the Top Ten Taxpayer-Funded Labour Propaganda That Never Was. My favourites:
10.Pledge cards with discount coupons redeemable at The Mad Butcher, The Warehouse, KFC and Hubbard’s cereals.
8.Fridge magnets from George Hawkins informing victims of crime to scream in order to get a quick Police response.
Personally, I thought the idea of Labour MPs "fanning out across the country ... in a 'charm offensive'" was pretty offensive. I guess we did pay all their travel expenses, right? And weren't Judith et al simply charming?

LINKS: Top Ten Taxpayer-Funded Labout Propaganda That Never Was - Generation XY
Labour's harm offensive -
Not PC

A Valentine's Week Special: The chemistry of love

"Love and obsessive-compulsive disorder could have a similar chemical profile," says professor of psychiaty Donatella Marazitti, who studies "the biochemistry of lovesickness." Now there's a topic to ignite the passions, one explored in this month's National Geographic magazine.

The key apparently is two chemicals:serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin -- "perhaps our star neuro-transmitter" -- the one that is altered by drugs like Prozac -- is what quite literally gives our passions real feeling. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder apparently have an imbalance of serotonin; so too do people in the grip of love.
Translation: love and obsessive-compulsive disorder could have a similar chemical profile. Translation: love and mental illness may be difficult to tell apart. Translation [says the National Geographic]: Don't be a fool. Stay away.
If you take advice like that last you're probably dead already. And if you take the science of the idea, you can see that our emotions are very real things. "Sex is emotion in motion," declared Mae West -- those emotions really do have us in thrall. We're wired for love and the obsession that goes with it. Don't deny it, celebrate it. When anthropologist Helen Fisher used an MRI machine to investigate those who do celebrate it , "what Fisher saw fascinated her":
When each subject looked at his or her loved one, the parts of the brain linked to reward and pleasure -- the ventral tegmental area and the caudate nucleus -- lit up... Love lights up the caudate nucleus because it is home to a dense spread of receptors for a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which Fisher came to think of as part of our own endogenous love potion.

In the right proportions, dopamine creates intense energy, exhilaration, focused attention, and motivation to win rewards. It is why, when you are newly in love, you can stay up all night, watch the sun rise, run a race, ski fast down a slope ordinarily too steep for your skill. Love makes you bold, makes you bright, makes you run real risks, which you sometimes survive, and sometimes you don't...
Dopamine, says British psychologist Dr John Marsden "has similar effects on the body and mind as cocaine or speed. 'Attraction and lust really is like a drug. It leaves you wanting more'." Sounding familiar, anyone? "My love is chemical." "Love is the drug." "Love Sick." Turns out the songwriters were right all along. "What's your drug of choice then?" Love. Romantic Love.

It's our nature to fall in love, to be obsessed with love, to lose ourselves in love. "To fly in love on many splendoured wing/ Towards what hot sun may/ Roast my own illusions/ And melt my very soul." So said the poet, Amen.

Now, as I suggested last when giving my $2 on the nature-nurture debate, we're not entirely slaves to our nature, even on the subject of love. "If that was all we had -- if nature and nurture were the whole of the debate -- then that would be it, and we would be ruled only by our animal functions." There is still the large matter of our free will, of choice, which involves in part who we fall in love with, and what we allow ourselves to do about our passions. More on that another day. Until then keep up your obsessions, and enjoy the weekend.

LINKS: So what, really, is this thing called love - National Geographic [introduction only]
Video: That thing called love - National Geographic
Love is the drug, scientists say -- BBC News

Nature v Nurture - character is all - Peter Cresswell

Getting your vag done darling?

Vaginal rejuvenation? It's not for everyone apparently, just for those who want a 40-year-old virgin - or who want to be one.

LINK: You too can be a forty-year-old virgin - CNN's Anderson-Cooper Blog

Bernini: Pluto & Persephone

Bernini: 'Pluto & Persephone,' 1622. (By request)

You don't need to be an art critic to see what's going on here. Bernini's sculpture was raw, powerful, muscular and erotic -- and executed with the hand of a master. Imagine seeing this for the first time without benefit of all the visual ephemera of today's eyes, and yet fully acquainted with the expressive potential of the human form.

Friday, 17 February 2006

Beer O'Clock: Limburg Czechmate PiIsener

On the recommendation of some of you lot and the chaps at RealBeer.Co.NZ, I'm just about to crack one of these. I had my first last night, and it's gorgeous. Not really a beer to drink all night -- and you'd need an uncle who owned a bank to be able to in any case; a small bank to be fair -- but it's just perfect for two or three on a summer's afternoon in the garden. Hoppy, with a full flavour and a very dry, bitter finish. (See, you can tell I've been reading those beer websites.) Definitely worth a try.

For some reason, it's a beer that seems to demand some Morricone on the system.

LINKS: Limburg's next move - RealBeer.Co.NZ
Limburg Czechmate Pilsener - Ratebeer.Com


"Ban ads." I t's been a refrain for the last few days in this pathetic authoritarian backwater, hasn't it. "Ban ones about sugar." "Ban them if they're too violent." "Ban them! It's for the chooldren." "Ban them on one channel so we can fall asleep in front of the telly."

Ban, ban, ban. You'd think we'd never seen a good ad in our lives. (Crikey, the worst ad is better than the best episode of Close to Bloody Home ever was. Always was.) Luckily, The Goodness has singled out three examples from the ad world that are not just good, they're so sharp you'll cut yourself. Imagine for example how you might make a poster ad for haemorrhoid cream ... and then go take a look and see how a professional does it. Sharp, very sharp. (Ouch.)

LINK: Nice new ads - The Goodness

Heard the one about the doctor, the hooker and the libertarian?

Heard the one about the doctor who's opening a brothel 'cos he's sick of the health bureacracy pushing him around?

A certain Dr McGrath spoke up for the doctor a week or so ago, and last night at a packed public meeting in Mangonui Julian Pistorius put in a word or two for the hookers -- or at least the erstwhile Dr Benson's freedom to hire them. (Apparently Sue Bradford, a strong promoter of the Prostitution Reform Act was "very sympathetic," but alas apparently washing her hair last night and unable to attend).

Here's just some of Julian's words:
Dr Benson should enjoy the right to do with his private property what he wants, as long as he does not violate the equal rights of his neighbours...

The issue at stake is a crucial one. It is one of morality as opposed to law. Maxim Institute busybody Scott McMurray] has already admitted that one can't change human nature by force. Assume, however, that you are forced to behave in a certain way by restrictive laws, laws that dictate morality. Firstly, who decides what's moral? The majority? The minority that claims to be most offended? Everybody is offended by certain things they consider immoral.

Secondly, if due to morality laws, you are not free to choose between a moral action and an immoral action, then can you really be moral? Only a free choice, can be a moral choice. Immoral choices have negative consequences, but you can only learn what is moral by looking at other people's examples, and by learning from your own mistakes.

So the only way for you to change society for the better, is not to ban things you don't approve of, but to live morally, set a good example, and to let people be free to make their own mistakes, to learn from the consequences of their own actions.

A free society has to be a tolerant society.
I can't argue with him. You might disagree with what Dr Neil Benson is doing with his business, but the crucial phrase in this sentence is just two words: "His business." Not yours.

And now it's surely time for some gratuitous pictures of prostitutes.

LINKS: Switch to brothel gains GP notoriety -NZ Doctor
Libz Back Benson's Beach Bordello - Dr Richard McGrath
Dr Neil Benson's Brothel - Julian Pistorius

Which WMD?

Which WMD? Oh, you mean those weapons? The ones talked about by Saddam and his henchmen on these tapes? Watch the ABC TV story here.

LINK: The secret tapes -- inside Saddam's Palace - ABC News [Hat tip Adolf F]
Secret tapes news story (Video link) - ABC News

Don't get hooptedoodle mixed up with your story

Novelist Elmore Leonard gives valuable writing advice. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Top two tips for mine:
  • Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip. You know, the hooptedoodle.
  • If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.
Bad advice for a blogger:
  • Being a good author is a disappearing act.
A good novelist shold be invisible. True. Unless you're Truman Capote. For a columnist or a blogger however, being invisible is career poison -- if indeed there were such a thing as a blogging career path. Be visible. That's my own advice to writers of blogs: Let us hear your voice. And avoid passive verbs like the plague.

LINKS: Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing - The Official Elmore Leonard Website
When Passive Verbs Attack - Peter Cresswell

Helping Chinese censors

Cox and Forkum (cartoon right) have updates on yesterday's Congressional hearing in which Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Cisco Systems explained why they've been helping China to suppress dissent.

Republican Rep. Jim Leach suggested that Google had apparently acted "as a functionary of the Chinese government."

"This is astonishing," Leach said.

Meanwhile, our favourite cartoon site also links to a NY Times story that suggests "perhaps the tide is turning against censorship in China: Beijing Censors Taken to Task in Party Circles ."

LINK: Reined In - Cox and Forkum
Beijing Censors Taken to Task in Party Circles - New York Times
And yesterday at Not PC: Bill Gates is a lot less evil than Google

NASA's Top Ten

Not a piece of art this evening, but a wonderfully inspiring image of the Mars emerging from behind the Moon, one of the People's Choice Top Ten Images from NASA.

This one, Mars Over Moon, came in first. You can download a high-res image at this page. Beautiful, just beautiful. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Thursday, 16 February 2006

Chris Cairns retires

You'll notice that I haven't posted a tribute to Chris Cairns.

While we're talking about rehabilitation for prisoners...

Okay, we weren't exactly talking about rehabilitation for prisoners, not here anyway, and not yet -- but the subject always comes up when prisons, punishment and prison overcrowding are discussed, often in this manner: "Aren't prisons cruel." Why yes, they are -- please refer to our IYCDTT, TDCTC* policy. "But aren't they universities of learning for budding criminals?" Well, yes they are -- what do you suggest: solitary confinement? "No! We should rehabilitate prisoners rather than punish them."

I have three responses to that. 1) Good luck. 2) It's the state's job to protect the rest us from genuine criminals, not to give them therapy (although to be fair, afternoons with a psychologist might be considered a sort of punishment). 3) Good luck getting it to work. In evidence, I refer you to Corrections Department CEO Barry Matthews, who admitted this week that "some flagship rehabilitation programmes are not working."

Mr Matthews was responding to claims by New Zealand First MP Ron Mark that figures show inmates who participate in certain rehab programmes are MORE likely to re-offend.

He concedes that is true, and says there is a slight negative variance which indicates cause for concern.

A "slight negative variance" is bureaucrat-speak for 'we sucked a kumara, and I have no idea why.' (No doubt 'more resources' will cure the problem, or at least mollify the Department -- it's always been the traditional government reward for catastrophic failure). Anyway, so much for rehabilitation -- seems the government does just as well with that as it does with everything else. [Hat tip Lindsay Mitchell]

UPDATE: If you want an alternative view, argued enthusiastically, then Fighting Talk's Lyndon Hood is your man. "In fact," says he, "the biggest problem with the intensive, in-prison rehabilitation programmes is that there aren't enough of them... You can't say rehabilitation is a failed experiment if it hasn't been tried."
* If You Can't Do the Time, then Don't Commit the Crime.

LINKS: Prison rehab programmes failing - Newstalk ZB News

Bill Gates is "a lot less evil than Google"

As Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google and Cisco Systems appear before a Congressional hearing to defend their compliance with Chinese government censorship rules in order to gain a foothold there, John Ray finds that Bill Gates' MSN Search is "a lot less evil than Google." He's found yet more stuff that Google doesn't like, but Bill Gates' search engine does, and "it's not just Chinese material they censor but also stuff appearing on their own Western blogspot blogs."

He has both a theory, and a conclusion. "Isn't competition great? So scrap your Google toolbar and get a MSN toolbar," he says. That might be just a little hasty.

LINK: Google and Yahoo face their Congressional critics - TimesOnLine
Google is really sick -
Dissecting Leftism

Those dirty Americans

YAHOO NEWS: BATTLE CREEK, Michigan, USA - A man who pleaded no contest to a sodomy charge involving a sheep says he should not have to register as a sex offender...
[Hat tip for the news, Paula at Ultrablog]

Hah! Time for some sheep jokes about Americans, the dirty buggers.
  • A Canadian bloke was walking down the street in Michigan when he saw a farmer going hammers and tongs on a sheep. The Canack yelled out, "Hey mate, in Canada we shear our sheep." The Seppo* turned around and said, "Piss off mate, I'm sharing none of this."
  • Q: What do you call safe sex in Michigan?
    A:Marking an 'X' on the sheep that kick.
  • 'A Michigan Nursery Rhyme'
    Mary had a little sheep
    With the sheep she went to sleep
    The sheep turned out to be a ram...
    Mary Had A Little Lamb.
  • A Canadian farmer and a Man From Michigan were walking out in the field one day and they spotted a sheep tangled in the wire fence.. "Wow!" said the Canack. "I wish that was a woman all tangled up in that there fence." Said the Man From Michigan, "I just wish it was dark!"
  • An American walks into his bedroom with a sheep under his arm and says: "Darling, this is the pig I have sex with when you have a headache." His girlfriend is lying in bed and replies, "I think you'll find that's a sheep, you idiot." The man says, "I think you'll find that I wasn't talking to you."
And in honour of the Pub-owner in Brigend, Co. Donegal, Ireland, who was convicted some years ago of running a brothel after he installed some sheep in a house behind his pub for the pleasure of his patrons:
  • Q: What do you call four sheep tied to a lampost in Donegal
    A: An Irish leisure centre
  • Q: What do you call an Irishman with a sheep under his arm?
    A: A pimp.
  • Q: What do you call an Irishman with sheep under one arm, and a goat under the other? A: A bisexual.
Now finally, just to finish off (so to speak), there's a message to sheep-shaggers at this link.

*Seppo: rhyming slang. 'Seppo' = septic tank = Yank

Questions about NZ's culinary disgrace

WTF is it with Watties Tomato Sauce, and how come it's considered the height of culinary excellence by Kiwis? A world full of flavours, and we have to have this muck as our own contribution? (Is this the culinary equivalent of 'Shortland Street,' or 'Close to Home' -- vile, insipid, characterless and utterly without imagination?)

How can you do that to fresh tomatoes, and how do you get something so vile from food so fresh and delightful?

Why do we have to have a bottle of this inedible muck contaminating our fridge just so guests can smear their food with it -- food full of flavour, lovingly prepared, only to have this red daub smothering all subtle flavours. And they demand it, don't they! I've been with friends at restaurants, who even insist on getting a bottle of this muck at the table. Why, for heaven's sake? Don't they want to taste the food they've ordered and paid for? Wouldn't they just be better with a bowl full of Filboid Studge, eaten at home in the dark?

And it's not even an attractive bottle, is it? Is it specifically designed to dribble, and to cake up around the top? Is that part of its 'charm'? And why does the contents last forever? We've got a bottle at the back of the fridge dating back to the pleistocene age, and it still delights visitors. Just what exactly does Watties put in that bottle to preserve things, and can anti-aging scientists learn from them?

All in all, if this is NZ's great culinary secret, maybe we can contrive to keep it that way, huh?

Whinging in NZ has his own rant on the subject here. Blame him for starting me off.

LINK: "the taste that Kiwi's know and love" - Whinging in New Zealand

Still trying to get rights right

I began this blog with a post in April last year on the nature of rights, and how to get rights wrong. A lot of posts have passed under the overpass since then, many on the same subject, but the wrong still needs righting. I said then, "I had always thought one of the most difficult concepts of which we have to convince people is that rights cannot be multiplied beyond necessity," and pointed to an earlier piece of mine arguing that when rights are multiplied beyond necessity -- when bogus rights are invented and an attempt made for them to fly -- then real, legitimate rights are made to suffer.

That introduction is by way of saying that Walter Williams is the most recent to take up the subject. He asks:
Do people have a right to medical treatment whether or not they can pay? What about a right to food or decent housing? Would a U.S. Supreme Court justice hold that these are rights just like those enumerated in our Bill of Rights? In order to have any hope of coherently answering these questions, we have to decide what is a right. The way our Constitution's framers used the term, a right is something that exists simultaneously among people and imposes no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech, or freedom to travel, is something we all simultaneously possess. My right to free speech or freedom to travel imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference. In other words, my exercising my right to speech or travel requires absolutely nothing from you and in no way diminishes any of your rights.
Read on to hear Williams's argument on a subject that, if sufficiently understood, from which all else politically would follow.

The key point is this: if rights are granted beyond those that are legitimate, if for example rights to health, clothing, education and wide-screen TVs are granted, then those who provide those goods and services are faced with a duty to pony up. About that proposition, Ayn Rand pointed out: "No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as the right to enslave." Right on.

LINKS: What does the Herald know about rights? - Not PC (April 3, 2005)
Rights & Goods - Peter Cresswell
Bogus rights - Walter Williams

More from Not PC on Rights

'Call to Arms' - Rodin

Designed in 1879 for a competition to commemorate the French dead in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, but not chosen , it was finally erected in 1916 as a memorial to the fallen of Verdun. The idea to post it came to me after just watching Stanly Kubrick's breakthrough film 'Paths of Glory'; "the film is magnificent," say one very good review, paraphrasing a WWI French general, "but it certainly is not war."
Kubrick might have ... produced something of great value--a film of the stature of Breaker Morant or To Kill A Mockingbird.But he didn't. Instead, he spent all his time sending his message, and a fine opportunity was largely wasted. What might have been a tour de force of the human heart became, instead, a rather pointless, contrived tale of petty ambition.
The French army deserved much better than it got. So did the actors. So did the public.
LINKS: What price propaganda? - Robert Barr Smith
Breaker Morant - review by PC

Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Lock 'em up. Free the others.

TVNZ NEWS: The government is looking at open prisons and community based sentencing as a way to reduce inmate numbers in New Zealand's crowded prisons. Fresh from observing European systems, the Minister of Corrections Damien O'Connor says he will consider more "creative" ways of reducing prisoner numbers, including open prisons and work based sentences... The plan would mean up to 30% of prisoners being able to leave prison during the day to work...

Well, here's two suggestions to reduced prison overcrowding:
1) Criminals could stop committing crimes. If you can't do the time, then don't commit the crime.
2) Government might grant an overdue amnesty to those guilty only of victimless crimes.
To paraphrase what I've said before on the issue of overcrowding:

The reason people are locked up is to protect the rest of us from people who are a real, proven threat; specifically, to protect us people who have committed crimes in which it has been proved they are a threat. [That's the primary job of government, for goodness' sake.] With just one caveat, those prisoners deserve to be in there, not given 'open prison' favours and allowed out to commit other crimes.

Here’s the caveat, and therein the solution: if we really do care about injustice and about overcrowding then we could immediately cut prison numbers by about a third by freeing people who have committed any so-called crime in which there is no victim. Victimless ‘crimes’ such as our drug laws and laws against cutting down our own trees should be expunged from the books as the injustice they are, and as a practical solution that effectively doubles police numbers and reduces the prison population by at least a third.

I say keep the dungeons for those who’ve committed real crimes, and free the others.
UPDATE: "One third?" asks Mark V. "Hmmm. Maybe not," says PC.

LINKS: Open prisons under consideration - TVNZ News
Prison overcrowding - Not PC

Saddam not eating

TIMES ONLINE: Saddam Hussein today claimed that he and three of his seven co-defendants were on hunger strike...

Great. I hope he dies of it. As Elan Journo argued a week or so back, "By granting Hussein a trial, justice is perverted."

While you're waiting for him to starve himself to death, perhaps you might like to make fun of the murdering arsehole by playing 'Rock, Paper, Saddam' again -- now, with a sequel, 'The Picture'!

Reading 'Interior Decorating for Dictators'

Times Online has these thoughts:
THE trial of Saddam Hussein has become a farce. If its faults are not quickly cured, it should be removed from Iraq and held somewhere else. The best thing that can be said about it is that it has avoided the worst faults of the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav President, which is now entering its fifth (and probably final) year. Yet the Milosevic trial is still the better model. It can at least be defended as fair. Saddam’s claim that he is being tried unfairly looks more justified by the day. Of course, there is an argument that trials of dictators should not be held at all... But the alternatives are to free these people — or shoot them immediately.
LINKS: Saddam 'hunger strike' claim - Times Online
The injustice of Saddam's trial - CapMag
'Rock, Paper, Saddam' with sequel: 'The Painting'
- Jib Jab

Greens - reading the bans

A commenter on yesterday's bottled water post took issue with my claim "that the Greens always want to ban things. Perhaps you could list all the things that you think the Greens want to ban," he/she challenges.

Well, I have to tell you that my commenter was right. The Greens don't want to ban everything, just this lot:
  • Californian grape imports
  • alcohol ads
  • ferrets
  • TV ads for kids
  • ads on TVNZ
  • growth hormones
  • native wood chip exports
  • native logging
  • pig swill
  • xenotransplantion trials
  • smacking
  • GE
  • field trials for GE
  • chemical trespass
  • property rights from the Bill of Rights
  • quick-fire logging
  • logging
  • fishing for toothfish
  • whaling
  • 'toxic timber'
  • set-netting
  • bottom trawling
  • feeding animal remains to farm animals
  • battery cages
  • CCA-treated timber in playgrounds
  • direct to consumer advertising of drugs
  • "the screening of programmes which sensationalise violence or use violence"
  • "the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy animals"
  • GE maize
  • commercial releases of genetically engineered crops
  • "nuclear shipments from New Zealand?s exclusive economic zone"
  • sow crates
  • the dry sow stall
  • "weapons of mass destruction"
  • nuclear powered vessels in our waters
  • beef imports from Britain to other European countries
  • "Japanese fishing boats from New Zealand waters"
  • "the importation of all timber and timber products not certified as sustainable"
  • open cast mining
  • gold mining
  • mining
  • human cloning
  • food irradiation
  • spray drift
  • all ships carrying nuclear weapons, wastes and fuel from the EEZ
  • "backyard burning of rubbish such as plastics and treated timber"
  • "smoking in all workplaces including bars, restaurants and offices"
  • "new uses of coal for energy"
  • "factory farming"
  • "project-based approvals for the development of GE organisms"
  • "all further building of prisons"
  • free trade with China
  • junk food advertising to children
  • "the sale and long-term lease of New Zealand property to foreign investors"
  • "the sale of toy tobacco products to under 18s"
  • GM wheat
  • "environmentally destructive fishing methods"
  • "uranium shipments"
  • "the use of the antibiotic avoparcin in animal feed"
  • "imports of cars older than 7 years"
  • amalgam use in dentistry
  • the incineration of unsorted waste
  • "risky anti-depressants"
  • "import of tissue for sheep cloning"
  • 'trade in hazardous wastes"
  • "'super baby' selection"
  • shopping bags
  • live sheep exports
  • dihydrogen monoxide
So, you're right. Apart from those very few things the Greens are pretty much live-and-let-live, and I was very unfair to say otherwise. Very harsh.

My commenter continues that the Greens don't wish to have things banned. Instead: "I think we will find that ... the Greens want only to discourage their use [sic], say through additional taxes or education campaigns, or minimum standards or suchlike."

Well, let's do a rough check on the Greens's website. It's a fairly unscientific study (which is too be fair like much of the Greens's own literature), but a quick check shows that the word 'ban' appears 165 times -- in fact, that's how I made up my list above -- the phrase 'additional taxes' appears not at all, but 'eco taxes' shows up 16 times; 'minimum standards' 7; and 'educational campaigns' brings up the rear with only 6 appearances.

So it looks like my commenter was absolutely right, for which I guess I can only apologise.

UPDATE: I've added to the list, 'Ads on TVNZ,' since Sue B. Kedgley has come out this morning against these. It's just so hard to keep up with her Ban List!

LINKS: Green Party website: Search for 'ban'
Green Party website: Search for 'eco taxes'
Green Party website: Search for 'minimum standards'
Green Party website: Search for 'education campaigns'

Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Rodin's 'Eternal Spring'

Auguste Rodin's 'Eternal Spring,' from 1903. This particular piece is a small bronze casting, just 40cm high.

Cartoons: What the outrage achieves

Ayn Rand always suggested that one should never bother to examine an absurdity, ask yourself only what it achieves. Melanie Phillips does the job as she recaps on those cartoons and related events. As Susan the Libertarian said when she sent me the link "Whoops, what a giveway! It's got very little to do with cartoons!"
  • Denmark will soon assume the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council, and at the very time that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wil be referring Iran to the Security Council for its reactor programme.
  • Twelve cartoons were published in September 2005 in Denmark. No death threats.
  • They were republished on the front page of the Egyptian newspaper al Fagr back in October. No death threats. No boycotts. No outrage.
  • In November, Danish Imams including Ahman Abu Laban pass fifteen cartoons to Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi -- three of which were added by the Imams themselves.
  • Iran sees an opening: "to portray Denmark as ‘an enemy of Islam’ and mobilize Muslim sympathy against the Security Council" just as it considers their nuclear programme and their threats to "wipe Israel off the map."
  • Syria sees an opening: the dossier on the Syrian assassination of Lebanese Premier Rafiq al-Hariri lands on the same Security Council desk, with Denamrk in the chair. "To portray Denmark as ‘an enemy of the Prophet’ would not be such a bad thing when the council, as expected, points the finger at Assad and his regime as responsible for a series of political murders, including that of Hariri."
  • The Imams see an opening: the opportunity for street shows in favour of so-called 'hate speech laws' and for laws banning religious satire, such as that recently and only narrowly defeated in the UK.
"What to do?" cry the appeasers and the hand-wringers in the face of vile calumny, nuclar missile-rattling and attempts to club countries into censoring speech about Islam. "Give up at once," is the catchcry from Guardian wet blanket Polly Toynbee, as Scott Burgess acerbically reports. Not so fast, says John O'Sullivan in National Review Online:
Vile though it is, this trickery by radical Islamists at least demonstrates the uselessness of appeasing their demands for censorship. I f they are granted, our concessions will merely be the springboard for a further attack on Western liberty. And if we disobligingly refuse to furnish them with a pretext, the Islamists will manufacture one as Hitler used to manufacture border incidents in order to justify his planned aggressions. So we might as well fight in the first ditch rather than the last.
Who's up for it? More intellectual ammunition here.

LINKS: The cartoon jihad (3) - Melanie Phillips
Boycott Egypt! - Rantings of a Sand Monkey
If you weren't aware - this Muslim is to blame - Big News
A plea for understanding - The Daily Ablution
Thank the Lords for some religious sanity - Not PC
Not PC on those cartoons

A library of classics

Have you ever wanted to track down all those books that appear in other books? You know, books like Panther Without Eyelashes by Adeodato Lampustri, which appears in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum; or Clinton York's classic A History of Nebraska from the Richard Brautigan novel Abortion: An Historical Romance; or how about the seminal reference work On the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus which appears in one of the later Sherlock Holmes adventure stories?

Well, you can't track them down of course, as they're all imaginary books: they exist only in the works of fiction in which they appear. But you can do the next best thing -- you can browse the catalogue of the Imaginary Library.
The Invisible Library is a collection of books that only appear in other books. Within the library's catalog you will find imaginary books, pseudobiblia, artifictions, fabled tomes, libris phantastica, and all manner of books unwritten, unread, unpublished, and unfound.
Enter the portals here. [Hat tip Berlin Bear]

LINK: The Invisible Library