Saturday, 25 March 2006


Here is a list of the most over-rated albums in recorded music. Note that to be overrated the album must first have been rated; it can't just suck (like Dire Straits, Guns n' Roses, Hayley Westenra, rap, techno and country and western do), it must have lots of suckers who think it doesn't. Note too that by 'suckers' I don't mean people; I generally mean critics or hippies or folk who like country and western:
  1. The Wall - Pink Floyd.
    This album has some really deep and impressive analysis of the systems by which we're all oppressed. If you're stoned. And a hippy.
  2. Thriller - Michael Jackson.
    It wasn't. It still isn't.
  3. X & Y - Coldplay.
    Yawn. File under 'vapid.'
  4. Sergeant Peppers - Beatles.
    Not even their best.
  5. The Marshall Mathers LP - Eminem.
    Faux outrage; faux music.
  6. Pet Sounds - Beach Boys.
    Wouldn't it be nice? No, it wouldn't.
  7. Exile on Main Street - Rolling Stones.
    The boys review their own album: 'Turd on the Run.'
  8. Joshua Tree - U2.
    If Brian Eno knew then what we know now, he would have stayed home from the studio that week.
  9. Any album - Robbie Williams.
    The supreme victory of ambition over talent.
  10. The Queen is Dead - Smiths
    The Smiths are dead - The Queen. Thank goodness she's correct.
And here's the most over-rated pieces of non-pop:
  1. Four Seasons - Vivaldi
  2. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik - Mozart
  3. Bolero - Ravel
  4. Star Wars Theme - John Williams
  5. Bitch's Brew - Miles Davis
  6. Köln Concert - Keith Jarrett
  7. Brandenburg Concert - Bach
  8. Salome - Richard Strauss
  9. Wozzek - Berg
  10. Amazing Grace
Feel free to disagree -- even though you know I'm right. And see if you can make any headway on a list of the all-time ten most overrated songs. John Lennon's 'Imagine' would surely have to head the list.

TAGS: Music

1947 Palm Springs House - Richard Neutra

A much loved Palm Springs, California, house by Richard Neutra, from 1947.

To earn a point, see if you can be the first to post the connection between this house, and Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.

And for a bonus point, post the connection between the house and Ayn Rand. There is only one degree of separation in each case.

TAGS: Architecture

Friday, 24 March 2006

A Friday game

A Friday night game for you which comes courtesy of the Spitting Lama, so you know it must be good. The wee picture gives you a clue.

LINK: Boob bubbles - Spitting Lama.

TAGS: Games, Sex

The brakes are on

REUTERS: WELLINGTON, March 24 (Reuters) - New Zealand's economy contracted 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to official data on Friday...

Recession, Definition: A recession is defined to be a period of two quarters of negative GDP growth.

So we're not there yet. But hasn't Alan Bollard done well.

LINK: TABLE-NZ Q4 gross domestic product falls 0.1 pct - Reuters Business
Questions, rhetorical & otherwise, about Reserve Bank meddling - Not PC

TAGS: Economics, Politics-NZ

Sooden saved

I don't need to say anything about the release of 'Christian Peacekeeper' Harmeet Sooden since DPF has already said almost as much as I would have, and Michelle Malkin wraps it up [Hat tip Whig]. I guess it would have been too optimistic to expect 'Pacifist Thanks SAS Rescuers Shock' headlines, or for Sooden and friends to renounce their pacifism as a result of his rescue by UK Special Forces -- who put their own lives at risk because of Sooden's unwordliness -- but it might at least be courteous for them to stop blaming the US and UK for his kidnapping instead of the kidnappers themselves. 'Ungrateful sod' seems too kind a description.

There, I've now said more than I intended to. Go and read DPF's comments, and Michelle's links and see if you agree.

LINK: Harmeet Sooden - DPF, Kiwiblog
Talk about ungrateful - Michelle Malkin

TAGS: War, Politics-World

Wishart "a creep"

Helen Clark has called Ian Wishart a "scandal monger" and a "creep." She once called John Campbell, deservedly in my view, a "little creep," so presumably Wishart is less vertically challenged. "Miss Clark went on to say that if you want to meet the Wishart test of public life you had better be one of the vestal virgins."

Is Wishart a scandal monger? No doubt of that. A fundamentalist nutbar? For sure. Conspiracy peddler. Big tick. Creationist and anti-evolutionist? Sure is. Intellectual dwarf? Clearly. A creep? Well, I wouldn't drink with him.

Hard working and energetic for sure, and in New Zealand's lack-lustre (read near non-existent) world of investigative journalism he stands out for both uncovering evidence and, in what I've read, assuming it -- his brain and his magazine remain the toxic dumping ground for everything dreamed up by anyone who ever wore a layer of tin-foil inside their hats. Like many other journalists he is never one to give the whole story when a partial one will sound better, he is Winston Peters with a magazine; Nicky Hager with subscriptions; Dan Brown without the sales; John Grisham with cliches. (This last is irony by the way.) Of Wishart, NBR's Nevil Gibson once said, ""Not one to use a telling phrase where a cliche will do; Mr Wishart's purple prose detracts from an otherwise fascinating account ... a conspiratorial tale of greed and excess ... created in the milieu of the X Files ... "

To call his work yellow journalism would be too kind. The overwhelming majority of what I've read of Wishart's work and of what appears in his magazine takes a breathless join-the-dots approach to a story, but with too few dots to make a full picture -- suggesting what isn't known, and taking denials by protagonists as evidence that they're hiding something. The sad thing is that this muck sells. You lot buy it.

Among some of his gems, if you remember, were the claims that George W Bush was secretly planning to abolish income tax (I wish!); that soy milk causes homosexuality; that condoms don't work and the 'safe-sex' campaign promoting their use is intended only to spread AIDS and increase the power of the "gay lobby"; that Bill Clinton was a cocaine smuggler "in an operation that was turning over billions of dollars a year"; that "ruins" have been found on the moon, "artifacts" on Mars and "lost cities" in Antarctic lakes (and the US Government has presumably been covering up ever since); that the Kyoto Treaty was all the work of "the boys from Enron"; that abortion causes breast cancer; that NZ defence researchers are "helping perfect" US missile systems, nuclear submarines "and even space warfare craft"; that China is about to launch a surprise biological attack on the US...

As proof for most of the stories I've read there is little more than conjecture, imagination, supposition, denials (as proof of veracity) and a demand that you, the reader, prove they're not true. This may be one occasion where I have to agree with the Prime Minister, as I did on her assessment of John Campbell and his 'analysis by ambush. ' Feel free to post below more examples of Wishart's cliche-ridden conspiracy claims over the years.

UPDATE: I'll post more of Investigate's amusing claims over the years as people send them in. These include: African famines caused by "a biotech industry plan to control world food supply"; exposés of "Al Qa'ida's pacific hideaway"; constitutional crises aplenty, including "an income tax revolt by ordinary taxpayers" already under way "with the potential to bring down the current system of government," and a claim that "New Zealand's future as a democracy is in the balance this summer" due to the "uncovering" of a "missing link" Treaty of Waitangi (there's a missing link here allright, but not where Wishart thinks); that the death penalty for treason was dropped so a cabal of political conspirators could "deliberately steal sovereignty from the public"; that people were living in Auckland more than 30,000 years ago...

More to come, I'm sure.

LINKS: PM calls Investigate editor "a creep" - Newstalk ZB
Investigate the editorship - Simon Pound
When partly true is untrue - Not PC


Cue Card Libertarianism: Political Spectrum

Political Spectrum, n. ie., that on which libertarians are not!

Because of the abysmally low capacity for intellectual abstraction among philosophically illiterate politicians, journalists and political science graduates, however, it is seemingly impossible to shake off the label “right wing” even when irrefutable evidence is offered that the label is wrong. Therefore, it becomes necessary to point out periodically that “libertarians are neither left nor right wing.”

Leaving aside its historical origins, the spectrum as commonly understood nowadays is a one-dimensional line that places communism on the extreme left (out to the west), fascism on the extreme right (out to the east), with gradations of democratic versions of each in between. Libertarians maintain that all philosophies on this spectrum sanction coercion; that the differences are merely of degree not of principle; that it matters not whether coercion is initiated by a majority or by a dictator – it is still coercion, to which we are opposed in whatever guise it is practised. In short, the traditional one-dimensional spectrum fails because it excludes the full spectrum of political freedom from discussion.

To lump libertarians in with the extreme right – fascists, religious bigots etc – is just as ignorant as it is to call us communists. Another division of ideologies sometimes suggested is to place the total state on the left – communism and fascism – and the total absence of the state – anarchy, on the right, with gradations of statism in between. Thus: Communism/fascism democratic socialism/welfare state/mixed economy capitalism/limited constitutional government/individual freedom anarchy. But even this division is artificial, since anarchy also permits coercion without legal restraint and must inevitably lead to some institutionalised form of it.

If you really must simplify everything in this fashion, then a more meaningful arrangement is to make the traditional spectrum two-dimensional rather then one-dimensional by placing another line across the existing one facing north-south, with freedom and libertarianism to the north and authoritarianism at the opposite pole to the south. At the four points of the compass then you would have Lenin, Mussolini and Winston Peters to the south; left-liberals like Gandhi, Ralph Nader and Nandor Tanczos to the west; conservatives such as Margaret Thatcher, Rush Limbaugh and Ian Wishart to the east. Libertarians of course join Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and P.J. O'Rourke at the top of the world.

However and all in all, to paraphrase W.C. Fields, libertarians would rather be in Philadelphia. In 1776. And since the view of the state-citizen relationship expressed in the US Declaration of Independence doesn’t seem to have a comfortable place anywhere on the conventional Left-Right spectrum, it behoves us to leave those on it to quibble over who is to coerce whom, to what extent and why, while we get on with the business of promoting freedom – accepting with reluctance that in the meantime we shall undoubtedly have to put up with ignoramuses calling us “right wing.”

By their ignorance may ye know them.

LINKS: Left? Right? A plague on you both - Peter Cresswell
NZ's political spectrum - Peter Cresswell
Just how solid is that center? - Washington Post
Nolan Chart - Wikipedia
Cue Card Libertarianism - Introduction - Not PC

TAGS: Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Politics, Libertarianism, History


Not a bad old skyline when all's said and done. I can think of one or two useful additions. [Image taken from this site.] How many of the city's non-residents or those who've never lived there can pick where it is, I wonder?

TAGS: Architecture

Thursday, 23 March 2006

George Carlin gives 2006 a kick

A bit late, but I've finally stumbled upon George Carlin's rules for 2006. Robert Winefield has posted them, which saves me the problem of violating copyright. My favourites:
  • New Rule: Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone. Here's how much men care about your eyebrows: do you have two of them? Okay, we're done.
  • New Rule: The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the asshole. If you walk into a Starbucks and order a "decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n'-Low and one NutraSweet," ooh, you're a huge asshole.
  • New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to "beef with broccoli." The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high.
  • New Rule: When I ask how old your toddler is, I don't need to know in months. "27 Months." "He's two," will do just fine. He's not a cheese. And I didn't really care in the first place.
CORRECTION: Robert has clarified that these ain't George Carlin's rules at all, but Bill Maher's from the HBO programme 'Real Time.' Never trust a scientist, especially one living in Kansas. A clue that it wasn't Carlin's should have been that nowhere in the entire piece is there any use of the word 'fuck.'

LINK: George Carlin's Bill Maher's Rules for 2006 - Robert Winefield's SOLO Blog

TAGS: Humour


Good to hear from Crog's Blog that after enjoying several days of beautiful weather in Helengrad, now that I've left you Wellingtonians have had 43.8mm of rain in a 24-hour period. Waiting until I've gone; now that's what I call hospitality.

And fear not, I will be posting a review of 'Parsifal' very soon, and it will contain many words such as 'thrilling,' 'overwhelming,' 'electric,' and 'stunning,' and phrases such as 'a landmark in New Zealand's musical history.'

LINKS: Wiki! - Crog's Blog
Off to Helengrad - Not PC

TAGS: Music, Wellington, Events

Greenspan not as good as gold

Alan Greenspan's performance and his legacy as Head of the Fed is reviewed by Richard Salsman. Of his legacy, says Salsman:

Greenspan left no “legacy” that could be defined, other than this: he established as a norm the vicious pattern whereby the Fed chairman is deemed worthy of speaking on every topic under the sun, of monitoring every possible variable (hence none) and of doing whatever he wishes, free of oversight. There was no “Greenspan Standard” – and this was the great failure of his reign. Given his knowledge, Greenspan knew better than to leave the U.S. dollar in a standard-less state.

There’s only one reason a central planner does whatever he wishes, willfully obfuscates his aims, deliberately deceives questioners and operates unaccountably: because he’s a power-luster.
And of his performance:
Greenspan’s track record (August 1987-January 2006) looks favorable only compared to the pathetic performance of his immediate predecessors...

In a recent study, my firm compared these distinct, 18½-year eras: 1) the Greenspan-led Fed (1987-2006), 2) the non-Greenspan Fed (1969-1987) and 3) the gold-based Fed (1950-1969). Whether measuring the U.S. economic growth rate, inflation, interest rates, commodity prices, real wages, productivity, unemployment or equities, we found that U.S. economic-financial performance under the Greenspan Fed was less-bad than it was under the non-Greenspan Fed, but performance was spectacular and superior under the gold-based Fed compared to each of the others.
As Salsman points out, Greenspan was a strong advocate of a Gold Standard before becoming the US's top Central Banker, but not thereafter, and as an alternative to the Gold Standard as guardian of the dollar's purchasing power he was, well, lacklustre:
This was the man universally acclaimed for his astute knowledge of the data. Yet during his tenure the U.S. Consumer Price Index rose from 114 to 198. The reciprocals of these numbers provide a rough measure of the dollar’s power to purchase a representative basket of goods. Fact: the dollar’s purchasing power declined 43% on Greenspan’s watch. No such thing ever happened under the gold standard. Why did he never mention this? No central banker – least of all Alan Greenspan – has ever served as the “guardian” of the purchasing power of the currency he issues. He’s the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.
As Salsman pooints out: "Forget the collapse of the U.S.S.R. – allegiance to central planning lives on in academia, the Fed and Wall Street." It lives on too at No 1, The Terrace.

LINK: Alan Greenspan's Record as FED Chairman: Better Than Predecessors, Not As Good as Gold - Richard Salsman, Capitalism Magazine

TAGS: Economics, Politics, Politics-US

Punishing Apple, punishing success

Apple's highly successful iPod is to be punished by the anti-competitive French for being too successful, and therefore anti-competitive. This astounding lack of logic matches an equal lack of logic in American Antitrust actions, and from our own local Communist Commerce Commission, which punishes the successful simply for being successful.

The thinking behind the government penalising success is sumarised in the historic decision that broke up ALCOA some years ago:
It was not inevitable that it should always anticipate increases in the demand for ingot and be prepared to supply them. Nothing compelled it to keep doubling and redoubling its capacity before others entered the field. It insists that it never excluded competitors; but we can think of no more effective exclusion than progressively to embrace each new opportunity as it opened, and to face every new- comer with new capacity already geared into a great organization, having the advantage of experience, trade connections and the elite of personnel. [ Taken from Alan Greenspan's article, 'Antitrust' published in Ayn Rand's book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal]
Nothing could better summarise the underlying anti-success motif of Antitrust laws and the motives of the meddling arseholes who infest our own local Communist Commerce Commission (who most recently announced they would be 'reviewing' Fairfax's purchase of TradeMe with a view to throwing a spanner into it). More on this in the book The Abolition of Antitrust (reviewed here) and the Antitrust is Anti-competitive page of Capitalism.Org. Scott has more on the latest decision by the French.

LINK: France approves bill challenging iTunes - Sydney Morning Herald
Free competition at gunpoint - Not PC
Antitrust is anti-competitive - Capitalism.Org
French socialists punish ipod and itunes for success - LibertyScott

TradeMe block a tipping point? - Not PC

TAGS: Politics-European, Economics

Good news: Midwife cleared.

'Court wrong place for midwife case' is the headline, and as a summary of the the decision to prosecute midwife Jennifer Crawshaw for manslaughter, that's an accurate assessment.
Health leaders say that while death cases involving clearly criminal behaviour should be prosecuted in the courts, those involving questions of adherence to professional standards should go to bodies such as the Health and Disability Commissioner's office. "That's a much better avenue for a case like this," said Professor Alan Merry, Auckland University's head of anaesthesiology.
I'm inclined to agree. And perhaps the decision by Jennifer Crawshaw's clients to back her by using her for their second child tells you all you need to know about the justice of the decision.

LINK: Court wrong place for midwife case - NZ Herald

TAGS: Law, New_Zealand

Basque ETA terror campaign halted

The Basque ETA terrorist organisation has called it a day. Their announcement has been greeted with "cautious optimism."
Like the IRA, with which it shared an ideology and occasionally swapped weapons, the group's terrorist tactics have been defeated by increasingly efficient security forces and an increasingly hostile public.
The March 11 Madrid bombing seems to have been a watershed - as with the IRA the more destructive event seems to have brought both a realisation that random violence and killing of the innocent doesn't work, and that when civilisation is under threat from barbarism, joining in with the destruction of the barbarians is a bad thing. A number of recent arrests also seems to have helped.

LINKS: End of a bloody era - Times Online
ETA ends armed campaign - Times Online

TAGS: Politics-Europe, War

Ugly as sin

Just to dispel any misbegotten notions any of you might have from earlier posts that all architecture is always good, let me assure you that's emphatically not the case. Here for example, is someone's idea of a Church -- specifically the Rektorat Church near Vienna, which even the world's greatest barbarian could tell you is too ugly to live. A gun emplacement would be an improvement -- in fact, if you believe the story, a gun emplacement was the inspiration.

LINKS: De form follows dysfunction - Catholic World News

TAGS: Architecture

Wednesday, 22 March 2006

Sticks and stones and dirt

Russell Brown's piece on David Parker contains a couple of dubious references to how throwing stones might not be in the interests of some particular glasshouse residents, comments that uncomfortably echo Michael Cullen's less-than-veiled threats last week to release his 'dirt file'. Says Russell:
But I hope that all National and Act members, especially those who aspire to be Cabinet ministers one day, have their own papers in perfect order... And as he proclaims from the moral high ground, Rodney Hide might do well to remember his own links, and those of his Act colleague Owen Jennings with dubious financial schemes - which did members of the public a lot more injury than Parker ever did.
Now as you know I hardly carry a brief for the ACT party, but Russell's comments made me reflect back to that particular story about Owen Jennings, and how easy it is to make something from nothing. What Owen had done in lending out his office to a constituent to sell what appeared to be a complicated pyramid scheme was perhaps foolish, but was very likely no more than an attempt to be helpful. I say that because Owen lent out his office just as readily (without asking details) to help out Adrian Chisholm and I when we were down in Wellington putting together Adrian's 'Sludgegate' case, a generous gesture that was much appreciated, even though neither of us could have been called either constituents or ACT supporters.

The point being that lending out his office would not necessarily have implied any endorsement or even knowledge of what was being done there. Foolish it might have been, but intended only to be helpful -- and hardly a crime. And further, and perhaps this is worth reflecting on, does all this dirt flying across the net actually take everyone's eyes off the main game in which New Zealanders continue to be done over by meddling arseholes in government clothing?

Having said that however, this line towards the end of Russell's piece on Jennings also caught my eye:
With all this excitement, it's been easy to forget that the Government's own moral compass has also been spinning like a Mickey Mouse watch on acid...
I must confess, I did have to check the date of his piece in order to ascertain exactly which Government Russell was talking about. Can you guess? Can you tell?

LINKS: Nats pull back as Labour digs dirt - Dominion Post
Gone by lunchtime - Russell Brown, Hard News
Good day mediaphiles... Russell Brown, Hard News, 2 May 1998
Bureaucratic excrement - Free Radical

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-ACT

UK libertarian Chris Tame passes away

News just in that Dr. Chris Tame, founder and president of of the UK Libertarian Alliance, has passed away. He was 55. Tributes have been posted at the links below, and in the comments to each of the posts.

LINKS: Chris Tame, RIP - Chris Sciabarra, Liberty & Power Blog
Dr Chris R Tame RIP - Founder and President of the Libertarian Alliance passes away - SOLO Passion
Chris Tame, founder of the Libertarian Alliance, has died - Tory Diary
Chris Tame, RIP - Hit and Run
Freedom dies a little. - Classically Liberal
In memoriam - Dissecting Leftism
Chris Tame R.I.P. - Samizdata
Voluntary World 2: You're on your own - Brian Micklethwait
In memoriam: The death of a great British defender of free speech - Tongue Tied

TAGS: Obituary, Libertarianism, Politics-UK

Parker politics

Q: What's the definition of a good lawyer?
A: One who doesn't get caught.

Q: What do you call an honest lawyer?
A: An oxymoron.

Q: What's the definition of an honest lawyer?
A: One who resigns when he gets found out.

Jokes aside, what David Parker is alleged to have done looks pretty bloody trivial, doesn't it? Where was the damage, and to whom?

UPDATE: Attempts to answer the substantive question, "Where was the damage, and to whom?" have been made at DPF's 'Kiwiblog,' and Russell Brown's 'Hard News.'

LINKS: Parker withdraws from other posts - NBR
Where was the damage? - DPF, Kiwiblog
Gone by lunchtime - Russell Brown, Hard News

TAGS: Politics-NZ

Peoples Republic of Aotearoa athletes lacking medal lustre

Congratulations to the sixteen NZ medal winners. To the rest of you, may I have my money back please?

If they were handing out medals for coming fourth -- or just for participation, as they do in some New Zealand schools -- we'd be stars. But they don't. And we're not. The People's Republic of Aotearoa currently lies ninth in the medal table behind Malaysia, Jamaica and Scotland, and equal with Nigeria, Kenya and Wales (Wales!).

With $30 million of taxpayers' money spent on making NZ atheletes beneficiaries -- that's $1.875 million per medal -- does it even begin to look like it was in any way money "well spent"? And have we got a right to complain about atheletes' performances when we've been forced to pay for them, and the money appears to have been pissed up against a wall?

Do graduates from the Soviet-modelled Australian Institute of Sport do so well because the AIS is so good, or because Australians generally know how to win? $30 million for 16 medals versus $110 million for 121 medals (and counting) suggests there's something other than just throwing-money-at-the-problem going on in Oz -- perhaps a difference in attitude? And as Greg Barns asks, is there anything particularly noble in 'Going for Gold via the Eastern Bloc' anyway?

SPARC chief executive Nick Hill suggested a "dream forecast" of 58 medals for athletes from the People's Republic of Aotearoa, and a "realistic target" of 46. A Stuff website poll suggested two-thirds of respondents expected fewer than 10 medals, and one-third fewer than five. So who had the more realistic expectation? And who was just bloody dreaming?

Does forced funding of sportsmen work? And even if it did work, should the government take money from you to keep sportsmen and women in the manner to which they've now become accustomed?

The problem with NZ sportsmen is not lack of funding. As Chris Lewis explained some years ago, the problem is lack of will to win. Stolen taxpayer money is not the solution, it is part of the problem he says:
Whether it's a gap-closing, egalitarian, envy-motivated tax regime that punishes ambition and success - while rewarding sloth and failure - or a state education system that encourages mediocrity and participation - while discouraging excellence and competition - the insidious effect is the same: it sends an implicit message that to stand out from the masses by rising above them, or earning more than them, or doing better than them, is bad, but to remain as part of an anonymous throng is good.

It is why the best New Zealanders are leaving the country in droves, and why our best and most talented athletes, with few exceptions, have had the passion to excel knocked out of them since they were children. It is not only what's wrong with New Zealand sport, but also what's wrong with New Zealand.
Read on here. There is an alternative, says Chris Lewis, to the all-pervasive, envy-ridden, egalitarian, anti-achievement, anti-success mentality so prevalent in New Zealand -- what he calls the 'crab bucket mentality.' Find out his answer to the 'crab bucket mentality' here.

LINK: Forced funding vs freedom - Chris Lewis, The Free Radical
The crab bucket mentality and The Fountainhead - Chris Lewis, The Free Radical
Going for gold via the Eastern Bloc - Greg Barns, On Line Opinion
Full medal table - NZ Herald
Cartoon by Nick Kim from The Free Radical

TAGS: Sports, New_Zealand, Political_Correctness

Torre-Collserola Telecommunication Tower - Norman Foster

Torre-Collserola Telecommunication Tower outside Barcelona.

Norman Foster, Architect.

TAGS: Architecture

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

Whangamata veto shows NZ's banana republic status

After spending approximately $100,000 per year for the last fourteen years shepherding their marina application through the approvals process laid down by the Resource Management Act (RMA) -- only to have it overturned at the eleventh hour by Minister Chris Carter's high-handed veto of the project -- the Whangamata Marina Society has confirmed it is heading to court for judicial review of the veto, a not inexpensive decision but one about which they have little choice.

Ironically, the advice on which they based the decision to challenge the veto was given by Chen and Palmer -- the 'Palmer' that accompanies the Chen is of course the same Geoffrey Palmer who wrote the RMA, now making good money from his creation out of those whose lives that law has made a misery. And their decision comes amid speculation as to the reasons for Carter's deux ex machina veto, and whether for example Bob Harvey's last-minute e-mail submissions from fellow surfers to Carter may have affected the decision.

That we can only speculate indicates that at least one principle of good law has been overturned here: we've almost given up expecting that justice be done, but we like to give voice to the idea that at least it be seen to be done. It hasn't been.

The absence of natural justice is one of the claims upon which the Marina Society will base their arguments. Says the society's president Mick Kelly, "Ordinary New Zealanders can have no security or certainty if the deliberations of the courts can be set aside by a single Minister wrongly trying to 'rehear' the matter, as happened in this case." He's quite right in what he says of course, but as Geoffrey Palmer himself is undoubtedly aware, the RMA is not based on any good principles of natural justice and nor is it good and objective law.

Good and objective law, as Harry Binswanger explains here, has five criteria, all of which the RMA violates.
Laws mean force; but "the rule of law" - objective law - means force limited, checked, supervised, tamed, so that it becomes the honest citizen's protector, not his nemesis.

To achieve this goal, laws must be objective in both their derivation and their form. In regard to derivation, "objective" refers to that which is tied to reality by man's only method of knowing reality: reason. In regard to form, "objective" refers to that which is tied to reality by man's only method of knowing reality: reason. In regard to form, "objective" means that which has the charcter of an object in reality: a firm, stable, knowable identity. In both respects, legal objectivity stands opposed to the subjective, the arbitrary, the whim-based.

The Resource Management Act is bad law because in every important way it violates the criteria by which objective law is judged. By that I mean that it is not just destructive of property rights, it is not just imprecise and unpredictable, it is not just vague and subjective -- in the end it is all of these things and more. Carter's veto amply demonstrates that the much-needed de-politicisation of law is in this country just a sad joke. We do not have the rule of law, what we have is the rule of men -- very small men with a very large power complex.

Carter's veto and the RMA that allows it shows that the essential separation between the state and the judiciary is in this country non-existent, and leaves all decisions open to the claim that they have been politically driven rather than judicially-based.

On this matter, a friend pointed out that author Alvarez Vargas Llosa regards this very thing as what makes his continent a wall-to-wall collection of banana republics. According to Llosa what continues to bring down Latin America again and again -- the number one thing that must be fixed if liberty and prosperity are ever to flourish on that continent -- is the lack of any separation between executive and judiciary, and the consequent politicisation of justice and law.
Individual freedom has never existed in Latin America... Vargas Llosa blames the Latin American tragedy on the oppression of State corporatism and mercantilism, the redistribution of wealth and politicized laws. In Latin America, there is no real system of justice. What we have is a political system, and the courts support whatever the politicians require.
We are not quite there yet, but Carter has shown just how close we are to banana republic status here in New Zealand. It is not just Carter that should be reviled. It is the law itself, and all those who made it that way.

UPDATE: By the way, if you like the idea of Chris Carter in a shark cage, as I do, then Generation XY may well have made your day with this: CRUEL ANIMAL EXPERIMENTS #2: Chris Carter vs. The Great White Shark.

LINKS: Whangamata Marina Society heads to court - NBR
Email turns up heat on Carter - NZ Herald
What is objective law? - Harry Binswanger -
The Intellectual Activist
Putting People First: A radical prescription for curing Latin America's ills - Newsweek
Why doesn't Latin America take off? - Carlos Ball - TCS
Liberty for Latin America: How to end 500 years of state oppression - Alvaro Vargas Llosa

TAGS: RMA, Law, Property_Rights, Politics-World, Politics-NZ, Books

"I'm going to Bonnie Doon."

Well, I'm not going to Bonnie Doon, but title to Bonnie Doon is coming to some lucky punter. Darryl Kerrigan's holiday home is up for sale. That's right, Daz from The Castle. This time, you can buy what he's got, should you wish to. You can almost feel the serenity already.

LINK: Bonnie Doon - Homes For Sale - The Age [Hat tip One Red Paper Clip]

TAGS: Humour, Films

Villa Ruffolo, Amalfi coast

The Moorish Villa Ruffolo on Italy's Amalfi coast, on which Wagner based Klingsor's castle and the magic garden of Parsifal. Enterprising readers might like to draw a link with a certain Village...

LINKS: The magic flowers of Klingsor's garden - Monsalvat

TAGS: Architecture, Music

Monday, 20 March 2006

DBP wants to tag your kids

Speaking of absurdities (as I was in the post below this one), the Dom's front page had a doozy this morning:
The Government is examining a proposal to have children tagged and numbered in a central database to stem abuse and failure at school.

Personal details of every New Zealand child, including welfare and health concerns, would be entered into the database, to be shared by schools, social agencies and health authorities... Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro, who travelled to Britain last year to study the programme, welcomed the move to consider her proposal. "It's not just about kids who are falling through the gaps, though obviously they will be a key concern and a major beneficiary, but it's about every child and making sure they are doing better."
Frankly, I don't want the Government "making sure children do better." The standards by which I and parents and bureaucrats judge "better" are not the same, and I for one am firmly opposed to the state imposing their own standards on children and their parents, for which this is simply a pre-cursor. To say that all children need to be numbered because some children have been beaten by their parents is not just disingenuous, it's downright insulting to the vast majority of New Zealand parents.

As if to concretise the problem with the proposal, David Benson-Dope declares as Minister in charge of floating the proposal: "I am interested in ensuring that ... that our monitoring of young people is as coordinated as possible." Frankly, I'm interested in ensuring that the state's "monitoring" of families and their children is as non-existent as possible, and if it does exist that it's as un-coordinated as possible.

Cindy Kiro, meddler-in-charge of this particular trial balloon, was kind enough to opine airily that," though there were legitimate concerns about privacy, these could be overcome." It would seem to me that this is a failry fundamental concern, and given that lack of privacy is inherent in any such monitoring programme, one "overcome" only by opposition to its introduction.

Those who do still advocate a state-supplied safety net might wish to reflect however that this kind of programme is the inevitable flip-side of cradle-to-grave welfare... Microchips in your children in ten years time? With no opposition to proposals such as these, don't bet against it.

LINKS: Plan to give kids ID numbers - Dominion-Post

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Bureaucracy

People who believe absurdities...

After three days of near-total immersion in Wagner's 'Parsifal' -- about which more later -- as a commentator on current affairs I'm about as useful as a one-legged man at an arse-kicking contest. Except to say 1) that the real Brian Lara seems to have stayed home; 2) that it's surely no surprise that the judicial arm of Government is not taking the present Executive to court over the election victory bought with stolen money; and 3) that Sparc should have let us keep our own money and spend it on the sportsmen and women of our own choice(s), on anything else I'm less than fully informed.

One thing that did strike me however upon my re-emergence into the rest of the world were a few comments made by bloggers on the subject of religion -- a subject on which 'Parsifal itself has more than a bit to say.

Richard Dawkins's UK TV programme 'Religion: The Root of all Evil' has got lots of tongues wagging, including Julian's. He quotes from the programme "physicist and Nobel prizewinner Stephen Weinberg [who] describes religion as an insult to human dignity." Which of course it is. Religion demands a sacrifice of this world to some indeterminate supernatural realm; an elevation of faith above reason; and a substitution of duty for real morality. "It is more moral, " says Dawkins, "to do good for its own sake than out of fear." And so it is. Read on here and follow some of Julian's links to see what else Dawkins has to say in this controversial and enlightening programme.

As if to show that absurdity is not confined to the Christian religion, Julian also links to an interview with the heroic Dr Wafa Sultan, whom I featured here on my blog last week. Sultan describes a close reading of the Koran as "the turning point of her life." As she read, she says, she gradually came "to the conclusion that the violence and oppression of most Muslim governments and some of those fighting against them stemmed directly from the teachings of Islam":
"I began to question every single teaching," she says. She noticed that "there are too many verses in the Koran which say you must kill those who are non-Muslim; you must kill those who don't believe in Allah and his messenger. I started to ask: is this right? Is this human? All our problems in the Islamic world, I strongly believe, are the natural outcome of these teachings. Go open any book in any class in any school in any Islamic country and read it. You will see what kind of teachings we have: Islam tells its followers that every non-Muslim is your enemy."
A line that Julian quotes from Dawkins's programme clarifies the point:
Without [religion]... you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.
Damn right it does. People who believe absurdities and are encouraged by the elevation of faith to do so do have fewer compunctions about commiting atrocities, as Voltaire was wont to remind his own generation. There are things that can be learnt from religion, but neither morality nor epistemology are among them. Meanwhile, speaking of absurdities and religion , and how they affect our own era, Ruth spotted this one: 'God's scientist receives supreme award.' The 'supreme award comes not from the scientist's imaginary best friend, as the headline might lead you to expect, but instead from the overburdened taxpayer. Talk about absurd:
Cambridge University cosmologist and mathematician John Barrow was awarded $1.6-million yesterday to do research into whether God is sitting at the control panel behind the Theory of Everything about the universe...
You just could not make that sort of nonsense up.

LINKS: Religion: Root of all evil? - Julian Pistorius
Women at war with the mullahs - Times Online
God's scientist receives supreme award - Globe and Mail
'Clash of civilisations' rubbished by Arab-American woman - Not PC

TAGS: Religion, Philosophy, Nonsense

Friday, 17 March 2006

Topless test for tolerant Holland

"Let peaceful people pass freely," is in sum the libertarian position on immigration and border controls.

 And after the murder of Theo van Gogh by Islamofascists and other similar and related incidents, the Dutch position is now to be one of "let tolerant people pass freely."

In a measure just announced, potential Dutch immigrants are required to purchase and view a video tape that includes pictures of two gay men kissing in a park, and a woman emerging topless from the sea.

Thursday, 16 March 2006

Arthur Rackham - illustration from Wagner's Ring: Brunnhilde

Illustrator Arthur Rackham produced an entire folio of beautiful illustrations to accompany Wagner's 'Ring.' This scene comes from the last scene of the final night of the four-night 'Ring Cycle,' in which Bruunnhilde leaps into the flames, and in that act she brings about the downfall of the Gods and a new world swept clean. Wonderful stuff.

TAGS: Music, Art

Off to Helengrad

I'm off to Helengrad early tomorrow to see 'Parsifal' and catch up with friends, so blogging may either be intermittent or non-existent until at least Monday. Try and cope without me.

"What's Parsifal?" I hear you ask, "and why is it on St Patrick's night?" To the second question I can only assume someone stuffed up, but a St Pad's Parsifal does give a good excuse to slip a few cans of Guiness into the auditorium.

To the first question: it's an opera by Wagner -- which means a long one -- described by Nietzsche as a “sell-out” to the Christian faith, by Tchaikovsky as a long, boring experience, and by Debussy as “the greatest monument in sound ever raised to the glory of music.” Of the all New Zealand cast featuring Donald McIntyre, Simon O'Neill and Margaret Medlyn, Bayreuth producer Keith Warner declared "you wouldn't expect to get a better cast in most opera houses in Europe."

So I'm looking forward to a great night or two.

If you want to know more (and to see the source of those quotes), this link has details of a talk on 'Parsifal' by the always illuminating Heath Lees tonight on Concert FM; this site has all the lietmotifs you need to know, and this site has almost everythelse a Parsifal-goer might need.

LINKS: Parsifal in Perspective - Heath Lees - Concert FM
Simon O'Neill's website
Parsifal - RichardWagner.Net
Parsifal - Derrick Everett's Monsalvat site

TAGS: Music, Wellington, Events

What academic freedom isn't

You may have heard about the case of the 16-year-old American high-school student who recorded his school teacher's rant comparing George W Bush to Hitler, which saw the teacher suspended and then reinstated after his lawyer claimed for him a 'First Amendment' right to what he calls 'free speech' and his 'academic freedom.'

Thomas Sowell points out that "there is much confusion over free speech and academic freedom" -- and ain't that the truth -- and the the teacher is mistaken on both points. On the first:
The teacher's lawyer talks about First Amendment rights to free speech but free speech has never meant speech free of consequences. Even aside from laws against libel or extortion, you can insult your boss or your spouse only at your own risk.
True enough. And on the second point:

Academic freedom is the freedom to do academic things -- teach chemistry or accounting the way you think chemistry or accounting should be taught. It is also freedom to engage in the political activities of other citizens -- on their own time, outside the classroom -- without being fired.

Nowhere else do people think that it is OK to engage in politics instead of doing the job for which they are being paid. When you hire a plumber to fix a leak, you don't want to find your home being flooded while he whiles away the hours talking about Congressional elections or foreign policy. It doesn't matter whether his political opinions are good, bad, or indifferent if he is being paid to do a different job.

Only among "educators" is there such confusion that merely exposing what they are doing behind the backs of parents and taxpayers is regarded as a violation of their rights.
Perfectly clear, and perfectly true. Academic freedom is not the freedom to rant about issues irrelevant to the subject at hand; it does not grant teachers the freedom "to use a captive audience to vent their politics when they are supposed to be teaching geography or math or other subjects."

LINK: Academic Freedom and classroom brainwashing - Thomas Sowell - Capitalism Magazine

TAGS: Education, Politics-US

Who do you look like?

Once again, DPF has come up with a time-waster: a face recognition site that allows you to upload a photo and find out which celebrities you and your friends look like. Oddly, with two photos of myself there was no overlap of names, indicating perhaps that the face recognititon software still needs some work. Anyway, here's what it came up with for me:

The good/interesting:
Vicente Fox (67%)
Patrick Stewart (62%)
Ariel Sharon (62%)
Pedro Almodovar (61%)
Mel Gibson (60%)

The very good:
Andre Breton (71%)
Kevin Spacey (62%)
Ricky Ponting (61%)

The 'You've Got to Be Kidding!':
Boris Trajkovski (68%)
Lyndon B. Johnson (66%)
John Travolta (64%)
Ben Frigging Affleck (62%)
Martin Fucking Sheen (61%)

I'm burning with jealousy that Rodney Hide got Michael Collins, and DPF got Hemingway.

LINK: Face recognition site (requires free registration) [Hat tip DPF]

TAGS: Geek stuff, Quizzes

Linking Slob

LibertyScott is excited. Slate has linked his piece castigating the late Slob Milosevic. If you think being linked on DPF's blog sends your stats skywards, he says, you should see what happens when you're quoted on Slate!

And he's got his first death threat too -- "a Chetnik wanting me to burn in hell because Milosevic saved his family." Looks like his blog is about to take off.

LINKS: Slobodan Milosevic - nationalist thug - LibertyScott
Milosevich's End - Torie Bosch - Slate
And out comes the fascist - LibertyScott

TAGS: Politics-World, Obituary

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Rebuilding Auckland's Tank Farm

Auckland's 'Tank Farm' on Wynyard Point is Auckland latest political football, and looks likely to be so for the next thirty or so years. As oil company leases expire there (on land co-owned in the main by Ports of Auckland Ltd, and on the margins by Viaduct Harbour Holdings Ltd, and Americas Cup Village Ltd) forces are gathering to re-develop the area. As always in New Zealand, there are forces opposed to development, forces opposed to competition, and forces opposed to anything beyond the bland and mediocre.

'When in doubt, plant a tree' seems to be all too common a theme. Demands for parks, for open space, to ban "shops, offices and apartments" -- and presumably profits -- from the area are just so much nonsense." The new development should be democratic, not just the for the elite," says ARC councillor Sandra Coney, making the point for most of those opposed to mostly everything that makes any sense. "The Tank Farm will become a playground for the rich with the poor emptying the bins," says Heart of the City's Alex Swney, summoning up working-class envy on behalf of Queen St retailers opposed to competition to the west. Swney it is who has set up the dripping wet WeOnlyGetOneChance.Com in an effort to mobilise forces against business competition (you've probably heard his sneering radio ads). What an idiot.

Many of the comments from most of the usual suspects ignore the reality of the the proposed (and much-needed) second harbour crossing, for which Wynyard Point is an obvious and already mooted candidate. And too many ignore the excitement a hard-edged urban landscape generates when done well.

For once in Auckland, on a site representing such an enormous opportunity, it would be good if the bland and the mediocre and the suburban were overlooked, and a real hard-edged, working, urban waterfront could result. Don't think Quay St East (in fact, avoid Quay St East altogether). Think downtown Manhattan and Battery Park, or downtown Sydney and the Rocks. Or even London's Docklands and Greenwich. Think things that haven't yet been seen in this funny little city.

Oddly, unexpected sense and a portion of good thoghts have been rolled out by Port's Design Team, whose concept (right and below) is simple but surprisingly strong despite some occasionally bland illustrations, a still somewhat suburban scale (particularly at the point's tip), and three grave errors: 1) not taking account of the second harbour crossing, 2) assuming there are enough people in Auckland to fill even more bars and restaurants, and 3) ignoring almost totally, it seems. the needs of the existing marine industry located in the area.

Personally, I was unhappy when the fishing boats and fishing industry were thrown out of the Viaduct (with Simunovich the solo exception). If the new developments send industry even further away I'll be very unhappy, and so will they. But despite that oversight, which can be remedied now, the Viaduct works. It's was the first time the urbanity of this great harbour city really met the water properly. And as the Herald's John Roughan argues (and I agree), it has lessons for development on Wynyard Point:

But the success of the Viaduct is not due simply to the human scale of the place. It owes at least as much to the way commercial activity is combined with public areas there. That is the formula to follow.

It does not necessarily mean more apartments, restaurants and bars but if there is a demand for them, let it happen. More likely the commercial activity would change as you proceed west from the Viaduct. The high life would give way to marine industries much as it does now.

Possibly the best thing the designers could do would be to find ways that the fish markets, boatyards and every sort of marine servicing depot could continue to operate there with more generous public access to the same waterfront.

I'm sure this would present more of a problem to planners than it would to people working or walking on the waterfront. Planners abhor chaos, but left alone people would quickly resolve so-called issues of conflicting use.

Quite right. One thing all parties seem to agree upon is that the area needs a landmark building -- an iconic building to do for Auckland's harbour what the Opera House does for Sydney's. Even Councillor Coney agrees, albeit rather wetly: "A number of people say this area needs an iconic building or structure - art galleries and museums have been mentioned. Whatever is chosen should meet a number of criteria - and be of interest to the city's diverse communities... The concept of an Arrival Museum could well fit the bill..." Good grief.

For mine, John Roughan sums it up well:

All week we've been reading of ideas for the redevelopment of the waterfront from the Viaduct to Westhaven, including the removal of the tank farm and using that commanding site for a building of Sydney Opera House significance.

I haven't heard a more exciting subject for a long time. Auckland could erect something there that would define the place, dominate the harbour and swell the hearts of its citizens forever. Sydney has done that so well that anything we do might look imitative, but give us time.

The iconic building is literally the last thing we should do. That is to say, we should do it, but not until somebody comes up with the idea that is so good, so right and natural for that location that we'll all wonder why we didn't think of it.

We'll know it when it happens ...

Maybe no other construction could match the tower for grandeur but that tank farm site will inspire something exceptional. But no matter how grand the design let's not consign it to a cultural purpose as Sydney did. Let's come up with something that will have commercial life. That's where people go.

As you can imagine I agree almost completely, except to say that I see both the last few paragraphs and that piece of land beside the Harbour Bridge as a challenge. ( "No other construction could match the tower for grandeur." You surely have to be kidding!) Landmark buildings are sadly not something Auckland has thick on the ground -- iconic and distinctively New Zealand tall buildings even less so. But on that, more soon.

In the meantime, tell Auckland City Council what you think about their proposed District Plan Change to make any of this possible, and tell Alex Swney's anti-development coalition to go to hell.

LINKS: Three days to have say on city-changing project - NZ Herald (with related links)
Tank Farm proposals sweet and sour for industries - NZ Herald
Western Reclamation - Design Concepts - Ports of Auckland
Wynyard Point - Auckland City Council
An alternative - WeOnlyGetOneChance.Com
We have time to get creative - Sandra Coney
Timely re-jig for harbour- John Roughan

Jostling contenders good argument for supreme arbiter - Brian Rudman

TAGS: Auckland, Architecture, Urban Design

Playing the music of compulsion

"New Zealand music achieves record airplay!" trumpets an excited group including the Herald, Little Steve Maharey, NZ on Air, and the fairies at the bottom of my garden.
Airplay of New Zealand music has doubled [to 21%] since March 2002 when the government and the Radio Broadcasters Association launched a Code of Practice for New Zealand music content, agreeing to a target of 20% of local music by the year 2006. "This is a fantastic result for the music industry, and it demonstrates what we've known all along – that New Zealanders want to tune into more of their own music," [a breathless] Steve Maharey said.
Isn't that great! Isn't that fantastic! Haven't they done well!? Well, no they haven't -- or at least, this 'result' leaves us in no position to know, since as Lindsay Mitchell notes the figure achieved is the direct result of compulsion. "Back in 2001 the radio industry was told to lift their quota of NZ product or else," she reminds us. Aunty Marian Hobbs told radio stations then she expected them to "comply voluntarily... or else there is always the big stick." So as Lindsay says, "the logic is very mangey. Because radio stations did what they were told under threat of complusion the argument has been twisted to, NZers must have wanted it after all."

Expecting logic from politicians is the only thing she's got wrong here. Expect to see the 'voluntary quota' lifted on the back of this -- or else. As someone once said, if its good then they don't have to force you.

LINKS: New Zealand music achieves record level of local airplay - NZ Herald
Do it or we will make you - Lindsay Mitchell

TAGS: New Zealand, Music, Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour

Undercutting reality in the name of science

A few of you have emailed me about the 'Philosophic Corruption of Physics' course some friends and I are running every second Saturday, asking (generally) how can philosophy dare 'diss' physics. Shouldn't the former precede the latter? Well, not exactly -- done properly, they both prove each other. But bad philosophy will soon infect the physics, as it has ever since the start of the twentieth-century.

Travis Norsen lays out the argument in a four-parter at the Objective Science site (although in a somewhat less entertaining fashion than our own course): The "post-modern philosophy of emptiness is the source of the superficiality found in so many areas of art and science today... Even the hard-nosed science of physics has not been immune to the influence of contemporary philosophy. In physics, this modern superficiality takes the form of mathematical formalism divorced from any reference to causal mechanisms, i.e., equations whose referents in the physical world are unknown and not sought."
...the problem with contemporary physics is not simply that we have equations without yet knowing the causal mechanisms behind them. That is the current state of affairs, but it is a normal, intermediate stage in the growth of knowledge. Rather, the problem is that physicists have abandoned the attempt to discover causal mechanisms. Such explanations of the equations are regarded as unimportant or impossible.

This attitude, which I call the Primacy of Mathematics, takes causal explanations to be either irrelevant to the progress of physics or inaccessible by the methods of physics. In either case, such explanations are no longer sought. This obviously stunts the growth of knowledge, since it makes physicists think they are finished understanding a given phenomenon when in fact they have only begun to describe it. Deep questions, the kind that lead to identification of underlying causes, simply no longer get asked...

What then is left of theoretical physics? Equations - along with the motto: "Calculate, calculate, calculate." Or in other words: "The equations are here; let's use them. What do they mean? Blank out."
When philosophy tells you that we can never know true reality -- that all we can know are so-called 'appearances' -- then its no wonder that mathematical formalism and appearances becomed more valued than are causality and identity. And its no wonder either that in fields from physics to politics to art to ethics that fundamental thinking and complex integrations are out. Read on here.

LINKS: Mathematics vs. matter: The philosophic roots of the rejection of physical causation in 20th century physics - Travis Norsen, Objective Science
Rugby, Physics, Philosophy & Beer - update - Not PC
Quantum Aristotle - Peter Cresswell

TAGS: Science, Philosophy, Objectivism