Tuesday, 4 April 2006

Degrees by decree

As Michael Cullen moves to 'de-voucherise' the tertiary sector in a bid to 'de-Wananga' both the headlines and his in-tray, isn't it time to reflect on the mess governments have made of tertiary education, and are about to make again. As long as state and school remain unseparated, we may continue to expect the various dogs' breakfasts that we keep being served up.

More young people have npw gone to more tertiary institutions than perhaps at any time in this country's short history, yet fewer and fewer of them are educated. This is not an accident. Like Soviet production of tractors, there are lots of figures showing an awful lot of production, but none of the tractors work. Meanwhile the number of people who can actually think on their feet -- actually do things -- must surely be at an all-time low.

Cullen proposes nothing that will change this. His Government will no longer fund on a bums-on-seats basis as per the present de facto 'voucher' system; they will instead
...direct the Government's $2 billion annual funding of the sector towards areas important to New Zealand's economic and social development... The new funding systems, which will be given to the sector for consultation, are likely to see a divide created between universities and polytechnics, private providers, wananga and colleges of education. The Government wants to establish different funding streams for the different pathways through the tertiary sector. The proposals are part of its tertiary strategy, which puts quality teaching, learning and research at the top of the priority list. But it is also likely to signal potential winners and losers in the battle for a share of the annual funding pot.
In other words, the institutes will lobby the Government's bureaucrats as to where the money will go, and those bureaucrats will decide what 'quality' looks like -- and you can be sure anything socio-economically and politically correct will give you plenty of ticks in the old 'quality' box. Thus, we'll go from oversupplying morons as we have been doing to politicising delivery as we will be doing -- both problems that are intrinsic to government provision of education. Where are the cries for academic freedom now? And where 'quality' when judged by a bureaucracy? If we had our daily bread supplied this way there's be an abundance of 'delivery systems,' an effusion of red tape -- but very little bread. And just think how much more important are the minds of young New Zealand students than is your slice of toast in the morning. As the Spitting Llama summarises:
When they began bulk-funding for the number of students they moved away from the principle of performance. Call it excellence, if you will, which Universities have always been about. Instead they taxed and applied bulk-funding in a Socialist universal solvent which makes no distinction in skill, ability or suitability but simply decrees degree. And now? When they have a chance to fix their fuck up? They're giving it to the industry for consultation. That's a bit like asking the prisoners when they should be paroled.
The Spitting Llama isn't the only one appalled that they're still sticking with a taxpayer-paid system that "decrees degrees" and results in too few real thinkers and an oversupply of undereducated earnestness -- earnestness, as PJ O'Rourke suggested, just being stupidity sent to college. You should hear what he says about the sort of stupidity that gets sent to Parliament, so much of it in evidence here.

LINKS: Aint got no edukashun - Spitting Llama
Wananga, waste, and voucher failure - Peter Cresswell
Separation of state and school - Not PC

TAGS: Education, Politics_NZ

NZ's water problems cured by property rights?

Water has become an issue here in Godzone - dirty lakes in Rotorua; falling lake levels in South Island hydro lakes; rising demand for limited river water for agricultural irrigation.

All of these problems have been caused either largely or in part by a lack of sufficiently clear property rights in water -- a Tragedy of the Commons problem recognised even by the Clark Government who has spent the last three years putting together a scheme for tradeable water rights, and by Rotorua Maori who are just beginning to talk about property rights as a means of protecting water quality in local lakes.

It's easy to get too excited about this. The general manager of Rotorua's Ngati Whakaue Tribal Lands Trust is not yet ready, it seems, to call for clear property rights as a means by which lake water can be protected in common law. And the cabinet paper on tradeable rights was prepared by David Benson-Pope and Jim Anderton, hardly friends of the market, and whatever emerges from their deliberations will not unfortunately be full full property rights: Benson-Pope has been insistent that water is a "public good" and that any rights will not be treated as rights in perpetuity -- "I think there's going to be discussions about trading regimes, about charging and so on," he says -- so it is just another government-driven halfway house.

It is, as they say, a start. Just a start.

The reason it's a good start is that secure property rights gives people the ability to cure these various Tragedy of the Commons problems, giving owners incentive and legal standing to protect, conserve and to maintain what is theirs.

As the Canadian Environment Probe organisation has said for a long time, a system of clear property rights and common law protections of property rights offers the best long-term security for water and those who rely on it. Craig Milmine has a dissertation from 2000 discussing the theory in detail, and showing how a water rights regime could function in the South Island's Kakanui district.

 LINKS: Cabinet moves to trade water - Dominion Post
Tragedy of the Commons - Garrett Hardin, Concise Encyclopedia of Economics
Rotorua lakes face long battle for health - Stuff
How can we save our lakes? - Daily Post
 The role of property rights in protecting water quality - Environment Probe
Sustainable water programme of action - Ministry of the Environment
 Water & wastewater publications - Environment Probe
Kakanui water study - Craig Milmine Hat tip Stephen Hicks

TAGS: Property_Rights, Environment, Common-Law, Tragedy_of_the_Commons

Libz exposed

Whoops. Looks like Libertarianz has been infiltrated and exposed! And we're not the only ones to be the butt of Uncyclopedia's team of Investigatrix. Be afraid.

LINKS: Libertarianz - Uncyclopedia
Helen Clark - Uncycyclopedia
New Zealand - Uncyclopedia

TAGS: Humour, New_Zealand

Site visit

Some images from a site visit last Friday.


Palpable progress.

TAGS: Architecture

Monday, 3 April 2006

Where the bloody hell are you?

Clint Heine has found a pisstake of Australia's current tourist campaign. They've got the ethnics off the beach...

LINKS: Where the bloody hell are you? - YouTube

TAGS: Humour, Politics-Australian

Appeasing anti-free speech mullahs

Appeasement is alive and well and living at New York University. An Objectivist student group planning to show those Danish cartoons at a colloqium on free speech were told by NYU to not show them, and invited guests were told by NYU to push off.

The reason? Moral cowardice. The Ayn Rand Institute explains:
"Why did NYU trample the rights of the Objectivist student group? Because it chose appeasement; it chose, out of fear, to avoid the consequences of taking a principled stand to protect every student's freedom of speech on campus. And so next time, the mobs will know that to get whatever they want, they need only scream and threaten more stridently."
LibertyScott summarises here.

LINKS: New York University appeases Muslim bullies - LibertyScott
NYU caves in to muslims' pressure - Ayn Rand Institute
NYU cowardice - Noodle Food

TAGS: Free_Speech, Objectivism

Rickards v Nicholas

With the verdict out on the trial of Clint Rickards et al and Louise Richards (and make no mistake, she was on trial here too) it should be possible now to comment on the case and on the verdict.

On the face of it, not guilty on all counts seems the correct legal verdict. The moral verdict however looks a whole lot different. Rickard and co may not be guilty of rape, but they do seem guilty of being unpleasant and swinish human beings. Pigs. Not somebody you would want knocking at your door asking for a favour when you're home alone. Not someone you want as Police Commissioner.

However. Our problem as observers and commentators is that too much of the evidence could not make the media (by order of the judge), and in any case we don't have the advantage the jury has of seeing all the witnesses, all the evidence and the entire case of both prosecution and defence. What was not heard? How bad was it? Against whom was it directed? With that significant caveat, from what could be seen it does at least suggest the jury got it right. It's now our own job to make our own moral judgement, and the job of someone else to decide on Rickards's future in the police force.

Does the jury's not guilty verdict mean that Rickard should get his job back? He's been found not guilty of rape, but shown horribly guilty of poor judgement, awful behaviour, thuggish ignorance. Is that the sort of man you want as Police Commissioner? As the head of the only organisation in the country legally allowed to use force? And if Rickard became Commissioner, would you like to be one the police investigators who helped put together the prosecution's case against him?

TAGS: Law, New_Zealand

Cue Card Libertarianism - Feminism

Like most intellectual movements, feminism is a movement of many strands, some valid, some toxic.

The rebellion against the notion of women as reproductive animals devoid of intellect, incapable of logical thought, destined by their biology passively to serve the needs of men – a notion brilliantly catalogued and analysed by Betty Friedan in her ground-breaking 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique – was long overdue. Unfortunately, it also became misdirected through such vehicles as Wimmin’s Lib and Wimmin's Studies and the idea that all wimmin are 'sisters,' that all men are rapists, and that wooly Feminazis are good looking.
The essential wrong of the barnyard animal view of women was that it was collectivist. It said, in effect, that woman qua woman had an inescapable, predetermined role in life from which no individual deviation was possible, let alone permissible. This is clearly nonsense.
The Feminazis, however, went on to preach their own version of collectivism with a vengeance - instead of equality they simply wished to reverse whatever 'gender thinking' then existed, and to replace the perceived positions on the totem pole. By their view, women were not only not inferior to men, they were superior; they not only had the right to pursue a career, they had a right to take jobs from men through such political means as affirmative action programmes, quota systems and sisterly solidarity; not only were they not sex objects, but all men were rapists; not only were they not breeding machines, but motherhood itself was immoral; not only had there been oppression of women, but all of Western civilisation, particularly capitalism, was an edifice of patriarchal hegemony; not only were men and women not completely different, there were no differences between them at all; etc, etc.
Fortunately, enlightened feminists such as Camille Paglia have emerged to counter such lunacies and encourage women to think of themselves as individuals, first and foremost. Libertarianism intersects with this strand of feminism. Strictly speaking, the term feminism, as a legitimate assertion of individuality and rebellion against collectivism, is a redundancy; individualism is sufficient. See Individualism!

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.
LINKS: Cue Card Libertarianism - Individualism - Not PC

TAGS: Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Libertarianism, Politics, Ethics


Are there any readers of this blog who don't know the difference betwen a tip jar and a begging bowl? Is there anyone who gets offended by being offered the opportunity to tip when they've had good service, or received good value?

Just wondering, is all, because apparently at least one reader of this blog thinks asking for tips here at Not PC is 'greedy.' Imagine. Greedy. Me! :-)

Sunday, 2 April 2006

Overrated NZ Music

In the spirit of last weekend's 'ten most overrated albums' post, here's the ten most overrated New Zealand pop bands and pop musicians. Discuss:

Goldenhorse - soporific bland nothings to accompany your dinner party.
Jordan Luck/Dance Exponents - the word 'musician' may be innacurately used here.
Tim Finn/Split Enz - one bright moment in a career of mediocrity (guess what that moment was).
Dave Dobbyn - should have hung up the guitar after 'Slice of Heaven.'
Mutton Birds - Don McGlashan seriously needs a 'could do better' report card.'
Wayne Mason - wrote the best New Zealand song ever written? Really!?
Salmonella Dub - less infectious than they sound.
Hayley Westenblah - less inspiring than her sales.
Black Seeds - simply less than inspiring.
Elemeno P - less than music.

LINKS: Ten most overrated albums - Not PC

TAGS: Music, New_Zealand

Getting no (musical) satisfaction

Reading a puff-piece the other day about the Rolling Stones' impending tour to these islands, a piece of research was quoted that suggested our 'cultural choices' (or some such phrase) are all made between the ages of fifteen to thirty, following which we all apparently seek to recapture and reprise the thrill first felt in the first flush of adulthood.

This, said the journalist about the research, explains such phenomena as the constant repackaging and re-selling of CDs and albums of arthritic rockers, the $umpteen squillion Jimi Hendrix Rock'n'Roll Museum in Seattle (paid for with Paul Allen's Microsoft winnings), and the bland dreck played on expensive sound equipment emanating from the car windows of too many highly-paid middle-aged middle executives - 'life in the fast lane' - 'I can't get no satisfaction' - 'let's all do the crocodile rock' - bleecch.

This, however and quite frankly, is the sort of 'research' that confuses statistics for explanation. As Ludwig von Mises used to say, "mathematics is silent on causality" -- and without causality you don't have meaningful 'research,' you just have description, just the very beginnings of research.

It's true that many people do seem to make their choices-for-life about things artistic in those early years of adulthood when they are seeking to find their place in the world, and to find art and music that seems to describe the way they themselves see the world. Art and music offer both the mature and the immature brain a necessary 'shortcut to philosophy' that is particularly evident and absolutely necessary in those teenage and post-teenage years when the 'searching ' for that shortcut begins; the offerings of popular culture however are peculiarly ill-suited to offer the significant art and music that really would offer the mature, thinking, brain a lifetime of interest.

The sad thing is that too many are unable to keep their taste maturing and their brains alive as they mature, even as their taste refuses to; rather than seeking out the great artistic heights that could truly touch their mature souls they choose to settle instead for the immature art and music they experience in their early years - the 'shake rattle and roll,' the 'raw power' of their youth -- and sadly, they miss out on art and music that could truly touch those places that 'raw power' alone can never reach. And then they end up listening to the bland nothings of Goldenhorse at dinner parties and find themselves huddled in corporate boxes at Rolling Stones' concerts -- and they find they have souls to match.

Its likely the 'research' thrown up by statistics about people's artistic and musical tastes is correct, but only because too many people chose not to explore any further than those early artistic and musical gropings, when their first questions about the world and their place in it are answered for them by the facile voices they first hear. The loss in their lack of further exploration is all theirs.

[Want more? If you haven't already, try one of my earlier articles on the same subject, but in greater depth: Something Better than Rage, Pain, Anger and Hurt.]

LINKS: Something Better than Rage, Pain, Anger and Hurt - Peter Cresswell

TAGS: Music, Philosophy, Ethics

Welfare for Working Families

Welfare for Working Families started yesterday.

Two thirds of NZ families are now the mooch. And the rest think they can vote themselves rich next time.

New Zealand -- paying no-hopers to breed since I can't remember when.

Saturday, 1 April 2006

'V for Vendetta.' 'G' for Good?

I've heard conflicting reports about the film 'V for Vendetta.' Here's the latest, sent to me by a friend:
I urge you to go and see this film. I have just come back from watching its opening night... The hairs on my neck rose when 'V' paraphrased that wonderful quote from Thomas Jefferson about people fearing the government and vice-versa. The soundtrack was written by Tchaikovsky. The central figure is a courageous hero in the mould of John Galt. The film was absolutely riveting and the message revolutionary. Helen Clark would hate it. Need I say more??
Well, maybe. Helen Clark also hates Ian Wishart, but that doesn't make him worthy of praise. But on the other hand, you dont' see many movies running with a tagline from Thomas Jefferson. However, there's plenty of less ecstatic reviews, this one for example, from TechCentralStation (warning, contains spoilers):
It's darkly gorgeous, it's effortlessly slick, and at all times, it's three beers away from comedy gold.
Not entirely positive then. Or this one from BlogCritics:
If V for Vendetta is a call for revolution it is a passive call indeed.
But then there's this one, from Free Market News, with its ten helpful questions for movie-goers - for example, "'V' states that 'ideas are bulletproof.' How would you interpret the meaning of this statement?":
A few freedom lovers have proclaimed it the most important movie they've ever seen. Some critics, on the other hand, are outraged, calling it a "defense of terrorism." A lot of moviegoers are simply baffled. "I don't get it," is heard a lot from people streaming out of theaters...

We recommend that you see it. If you've already seen it, go again; you might find something new and deeper in it. This is also a ~great~ opportunity to help your half-awake friends and relatives see more of freedom's light.
So how 'bout you? Have you seen it? Is it a defence of terrorism? A celebration of liberty? Or juat another multiplex megamovie?

LINKS: Try on the Mask - TechCentralStation V for Vendetta - some questions to consider - Free Market News V for Vendetta - BlogCritics

Films, Libertarianism

New standards on lift etiquette

As a public serveice, I feel compelled to bring you this important announcement:


MEDIA RELEASE: New NZ Standard on Lift Etiquette

Standards New Zealand has initiated a new Standard to govern the way in which people behave in and around lifts. The Standard will specify appropriate queuing behaviour, right-of-way rules for those exiting and entering lifts, and - most importantly - define appropriate behaviour when actually travelling in lifts.

"Standards NZ has become aware of concerns amongst the general public about an increasing tendency for rudeness that seems to be triggered by close proximity to lifts," says Rob Steele, Chief Executive at Standards NZ.

"New Zealanders seem to become downright unfriendly when entering lifts. For some reason, Kiwis do not generally converse with others in lifts. And they seem to be almost paranoid about maintaining equal spacing between themselves and all other lift occupants."

Lift occupants also typically face the door of the lift rather than look at each other, he says. These problems are said to be worse in larger New Zealand cities.

The new Standard will require those queuing for lifts to actively engage in conversation and to maintain that conversation when travelling in the lift. To facilitate this interaction, people will be required to stand in a circle facing the middle of the lift. Although the committee responsible for developing the Standard was considering requiring those leaving a lift to say 'have a nice day', they concluded this may have been a bit over-the-top.

The 'personal space' experts on the committee drew extensively from their knowledge of urinal etiquette when developing the Lifts Standard. "Many of the basic psychological drivers of behaviour are the same," says Professor IP Freely, from the committee.

"Polite conversation or sharing a joke are now considered normal or even expected behaviour at the urinal. The most interesting difference is the effect of alcohol on urinal etiquette, willingness to converse seems to be directly related to blood alcohol levels."

Professor Freely says the committee is considering developing a urinal etiquette Standard once the lift Standard is complete and will draw on much of the content of the lift Standard. "Obviously, there will be some discrepancies. For example standing in a circle to increase conversation will not be practical."

The lift etiquette project was initiated by Standards NZ on April 1, 2006.

Another silly quiz?

Ha. To quote Lou Reed, "I wish I was a Warrior King in any language that I speak, Lord over all that I survey, and all that I see I keep..." Turns out:

You Are a Warrior Soul

You're a strong person and sometimes seen as intimidating. You don't give up. You're committed and brave. Truly adventuresome, you are not afraid of going to battle.
Extremely protective of loved ones, you root for the underdog. You are picky about details and rigorous in your methods. You also value honesty and fairness a great deal. You can be outspoken, intimidating, headstrong, and demanding. You're a hardliner who demands the best from themselves and others.

Souls you are most compatible with: Old Soul and Peacemaker Soul

TAGS: Quizzes. [Hat tip Chaos Theory.]

Friday, 31 March 2006


I'm out of the office and out of town all today. Try and enjoy yourselves while I've gone. :-)

A Woman Drinking with Two Men, and a Serving Woman - Pieter de Hooch

A Woman Drinking with Two Men, and a Serving Woman - Pieter de Hooch
c. 1658
, Netherlands

(That's pronounced Der Hoook, by the way, not the way you were about to.) A wonderfully crisp, clear and light-filled interior. A beautiful use of light and geometry and a wonderfully radiant style -- just lacking perhaps a spark of interest in the subject chosen.

Thursday, 30 March 2006

Give it all away? To whom?

Here's the sort of view you hear quite frequently in egalitarian circles: “On pain of living a life that's seriously immoral, a typical well-off person, like you and me, must give away most of her financially valuable assets, and much of her income, directing the funds to lessen efficiently the serious suffering of others.”

How do you feel about that egalitarian notion? Think about that, then read Tibor Machan's view here. His conclusion:

What egalitarians are effectively insisting on ... is not equal distribution of resources, since that’s flat out impossible. They are insisting on doing all the wealth redistribution themselves, not those who own the resources.

So like it or not, egalitarianism is not about equal distribution but about who is to do the highly selective distribution that goes on all the time.
So egalitarianism comes down he argues, not to whether or not we should use resources according to our own judgement, but who gets to decide what happens to our resources -- with the egalitarian naturally in the way of setting him or herself up to do the deciding. As Ayn Rand used to say, when you hear someone talking about sacrifice, you can be damn sure they're expecting to be the ones picking up the sacrifices.

So then, how do you feel about those egalitarians now ?

LINKS: Impossible egalitarianism - Tibor Machan, SOLO Passion

TAGS: Politics, Ethics

Morphed maps

A picture or a good map can be worth a thousand words -- with one look you can pick up the message, and greater study gives you even more information. No words are needed to tell the story of these maps of the world with portions either enhanced or minimised to reflect the figures used. [Hat tip Julian] This one on the left for instance showing Tourist Destinations explains why Western Europe is so packed with people over Summer, and why they say Ireland sinks six inches over Christmas. More useful maps here.

Another useful 'map' which I'm sure you've seen before and which these reminded me of if the composite picture of Earth's lights from space which perhaps tells more clearly than any other single image the difference between wealth and prosperity, and the lack of it. Make sure you click on the picture to enlarge on the bright lights of those countries embracing western values, and the many black holes elsewhere.

And other memory stirred of another similarly morphed picture in which a person's body parts are morphed to reflect the amount of the brain's space dedicated to controlling that part of the body. Here, at right, is The Sensory and Motor Homunculus:

LINKS: Worldmapper.Org - Social and Spatial Inequalities Research Group, University of Sheffield
Earthlights - Not PC
The Sensory and Motor Homunculus - Center for Nonverbal Studies

TAGS: Science, Economics, Multiculturalism


Today brings a total solar eclipse to some parts of the world -- see the 'path of totaslity' at right.

Fortunately for those not in the path of the eclipse, live and archived coverage of the total solar eclipse is online here.

Be quick.

LINKS: Total solar eclipse - live from Turkey - NASA/Exploratorium
Eclipse offers 3 minutes of astronomical wonder - NY Times

TAGS: Science

Frank Lloyd Wright's St Mark's Apartment Tower Project

Frank Lloyd Wright's St Mark's Apartment Tower Project for the Bouwerie in Manhattan, 1928. Never built.

TAGS: Architecture

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Lessons from Harmeet Sooden

NBR's Nevil Gibson has a number of lessons this morning from the Hardeen Sooden affair - lessons for and from TNZ, TV3, the Dominion Post, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and even Keith Locke.

Good reading.

LINKS: 'Hostage to the news,' 'The Israeili connection,' & 'Ralston scores one back' - Editor's Insight, NBR

TAGS: Politics-World, Politics-NZ

Coming to the west

I was discussing over the weekend the idea of western civilisation with someone who maintained the politically correct view that Western civilisation is just a white man's institution, and in any case western civilisation is no better, and even inferior, to the various tribal societies that still pockmark the globe.

As you might expect I demurred at this description, suggesting that greater prosperity, longer life expectancy and an ability to put a man on the moon suggested that in any meaningful comparison between primitive tribalism and Western civilisation that the latter was infinitely superior, and that if longer life and greater happiness are your standards then it's in every way preferred. I pointed out that to say this is not to be racist, but simply to recognise the truth. (If you really insist on some ecumenical racism, then just try this.)

And I reflected back to a debate on the same subject last year in which the same points were made, and in which I made George Reisman's point that because it arose in the west does not make Western civilisation racist. As he says, Western civilisation is not a product of race.
Once one recalls what Western civilization is, the most important thing to realize about it is that it is open to everyone... The truth is that just as one does not have to be from France to like French- fried potatoes or from New York to like a New York steak, one does not have to have been born in Western Europe or be of West European descent to admire Western civilization, or, indeed, even to help build it. Western civilization is not a product of geography. Indeed, important elements of "Western" civilization did not even originate in the West."Western civilization is not a product of geography. It is a body of knowledge and values. Any individual, any society, is potentially capable of adopting it and thereby becoming Westernized."
An eloquent example of what that meant came immediately after last year's debate when after debating the superiority of western culture over tribal culture I headed off to a performance of Russian classical music performed at the Auckland Town Hall which was conducted by a Peruvian, with a young Chinese soloist on piano and played by an orchestra containing people hailing from at least a dozen different countries. It was a marvellous night, and an eloquent example of what is meant by West is Best, and by Reisman's point that the great strength of Western civilisation is that it is open to everybody. Anybody can 'come to the west' simply by accepting the west's body of knowledge and values, and, fortunately, many people continue quietly and happily to do just that.

LINKS: The racial slur database
Education & the racist road to barbarism - George Reisman

TAGS: Multiculturalism, Racism, Political_Correctness, Objectivism

El Pueblo Rivera - Rudolph Schindler

Rudolph Schindler's El Pueblo Rivera from, wait for it, 1923. Just been re-sold.

LINKS: El Pueblo Rivera - architectureforsale.com

TAGS: Architecture

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

"A battle about values..."

NZ HERALD: British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrives in Auckland late this afternoon from Australia where he told a joint sitting of the Parliament that the war against terrorists was as much a battle about values as it was about arms. Mr Blair said the struggle facing the world today was not just about security. It was also "a struggle about values and modernity, whether to be at ease with it or enraged at it."

It certainly is. Remarkable to hear that from a politician.

LINKS: War against terrorists a moral battle, says Blair - NZ Herald

TAGS: War, Multiculturalism, Religion

Games medals question

Does anyone know how many medals each of the Australian states won?

And did New Zealand beat any of them in medals won? Even Tasmania?

TAGS: Sport, New_Zealand

Distinguishing ad hominem from all the other stuff

There are people who have trouble distinguishing ad hominem arguments from those that are genuine. What these objections frequently amount to is often little more than an unwillingness to make firm judgements, a willingness to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and a visceral objection to name-calling. But what if the label and the estimation of someone is accurate? Is it then okay to call them, for argument's sake, 'a creep'? Is that ad hominem?

Let's have a look. To cite one dictionary of logical fallacies, ad hominem arguments are those in which "the person presenting an argument is attacked instead of the argument itself."

Note the use of the word "instead." An ad hominem argument is one in which "the person presenting an argument is attacked instead of the argument itself." [Emphasis mine.] This means that is if one just baldy calls someone else an idiot without any valid argument for that judgement, then one is guilty of ad hominem. On the other hand, if one were to call Stalin, for example, a blood-soaked murdering swine then one would not be guilty of ad hominem -- one would simply be doing justice to the evidence and to Stalin's victims. Not to do so would be unjust, if not downright evasive.

The difference lies in whether or not an argument is proffered. Attacking a person instead of providing an argument takes out the man instead of the ball, which as any student of logic can tell you leaves the ball, ie., the argument, still in play. However, attacking a person on the basis of sound reasons to do so tackles both man and ball, something every good mid-field tackler these days aspires to do.

Whining that one has been attacked in such a fashion, or whining that one's friends have been attacked that way, is not an appeal to logic but nothing more than humbug. There is nothing wrong with judging someone -- in fact, speaking ethically, reality demands that we constantly judge others. As Ayn Rand explains, "Judge not that ye be not judged" may be the wet Cristian mantra on the subject; "judge, and be prepared to be judged" is a much sounder basis for evaluation of those one deals with:
"Judge not, that ye be not judged"... is an abdication of moral responsibility: it is a moral blank check one gives to others in exchange for a moral blank check one expects for oneself. There is no escape from the fact that men have to make choices; so long as men have to make choices, there is no escape from moral values; so long as moral values are at stake, no moral neutrality is possible. To abstain from condemning a torturer, is to become an accesory to the torture and murder of his victims. The moral principle to adopt... is: "Judge, and be prepared to be judged."
LINKS: Attacking the Person (argumentum ad hominem) - Stephen's guide to the logical fallacies

TAGS: Philosophy, Objectivism

Global warming wants to convict

George Reisman lays the global warming issue on the line. Here is an economist who has no trouble comng to a conclusion:
In a manner reminiscent of witch doctors urging primitive people to sacrifice their sheep and goats in order to mollify the wrath of the gods, today’s environmentalists and their shills in the media and academe repeatedly urge the people of the United States and the rest of the modern world to sacrifice their use of energy and their standard of living in order to avoid the wrath of the Earth and its atmosphere.

On the basis of poor science and highly speculative conclusions -- "reached on the basis of combining various bits and pieces of actual scientific knowledge with various arbitrary assumptions" -- the 'witch doctors,' says Reisman, want us to "convict and condemn to death... the Industrial Revolution and Industrial Civilization. That is what is meant by such statements as, “`we will have to commit soon to a major effort to stop most emissions of carbon to the atmosphere,’” i.e., to stop the consumption of most or all oil, coal, and natural gas, and thus throw the world back to the pre-Industrial ages...

Industrial Civilization is not a disembodied concept. It is the foundation of the material well-being and of the very lives of the great majority of the 6 billion or more people now living. It’s destruction would mean the collapse of the production of food and medicine and literally result in worldwide famines and plagues.
Read on here.

LINKS: The Environmentalists Are Trying to Frighten the Natives - George Reisman

TAGS: Global_Warming, Economics, Politics-World

Wolfe House - Rudolph Schindler

Rudolph M. Schindler, Summer House for Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Wolfe, Avalon, Catalina Island, CA (1928-1931), [demolished 2002].

TAGS: Architecture

Monday, 27 March 2006

Harmeet Sooden story - 'We have a right to know.' Do we?

There is reported to be "growing disquiet" over the deal struck between Harmeet Sooden and TV One News. One commentator over the weekend, Jim Tully, was whining that this sort of "cheque-book journalism" denies other media "access to people in the news," and interferes with "our right to know."

This gentleman is as academic, so you can perhaps forgive him not knowing what he's talking about. However, those signing up to join the complaining chorus now include the other media who have been "denied access," Helen Clark, and -- almost predictably -- National's broadcasting spokesman. Selling the story "raises important issues about truth and honesty" says Georgina te Heuheu in as flaccid a statement as a National spokesman has made for some time.

One thing Clark and Co seem to have overlooked: we have no "right to know." Media organisations have no 'right to access' to people in the news. In fact, the rights go all the other way. The story is not ours, it is Harmeet's and his family's to sell, and they have a right to sell it for whatever they can get, or to keep their mouths shut and their story to themselves if they wish. It's their story, not yours. The fact that they can sell the story shows that lots of people do want to know, but wanting to know gives you no right to know.

You have a right to know? No, you don't.

UPDATE: I should just say that if the amount being paidby TVNZ is $30,000, as is speculated, and the UK government decided to charge Harmeet $30,000 for his rescue, I wouldn't have a problem with that. Would you?

LINKS: News boss defends deal - Newstalk ZB
TVNZ deal annoys others - NZ City
Nats attack TVNZ over Sooden story - Stuff

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-World

Quality Assurance

This picture from ChCh-Changes caught my eye when it appeared at Kiwiblog, and reminded me of my time as project coordinator on London Underground Projects. (Although I'm a little disturbed to see no one in the picture wearing safety hats. What are they thinking!)

Anyway, the company I was with was installing new fire protection systems to London's underground stations as a response to the disastrous King's Cross fire. (Being a political football, the response had naturally taken several years to happen.) And being a political organisation, all contracts were let with all sorts of expensive requirements, including a then-new example of time- and money-wasting called Quality Assurance. QA.

With a brand new QA system in place it soon became apparent that in one night of work, one door could be replaced by one team of workers. One door. Replacing that one door took one chippy, two labourers, a site manager, a station manager (to sign off the station), an LUL projects manager (to sign off the door), a man with a platform permit (to secure the platform), etc., etc., etc. For an important door, you might also have a 'package manager,' a project coordinator, etc., etc., etc.

The workers could hardly move for people with a tie and a clipboard. And one door would eventually be replaced. You can see why it took so long for the work to be completed. And you can imagine how many truck loads full of paper were produced.

It reminded me of the old Ministry of Works (MoW). Which reminds me of an old MoW joke: The boys showed up to an MoW job back in the good old days, and after a morning drinking tea they eventually headed out to the job, only to discover that there were no shovels to do any digging. After a time spent scratching his nuts, the foremen eventually rang the depot to find out what to do. "No shovels here," he said, "but we have got a few brooms." "Okay," came the response. "We'll have a truck out there shortly. Just lean on the brooms until they get there."

The good old days. Coming back to you courtesy of QA.

LINKS: Are you Herbert? - ChCh-Changes
Herbert - Kiwiblog

TAGS: Nonsense, Economics

Sketch - Organon Architecture

A sketch of something in its early stages that's on the boards here at Organon Architecture.

TAGS: Architecture

Sunday, 26 March 2006

Two questions for you

Two questions for you: If you could change one thing in New Zealand's present law, what would it be?

And if you have a sneaking admiration for some area of government activity, what is it?

I'll post my own answers later if there's sufficient interest in the questions.

TAGS: Politics, Politics-NZ

Understanding production and consumption - the bases of all economics

Following on from posting his seminal 1964 essay 'Production and Consumption' -- if you haven't read it before then a rainy Sunday like this is just the time; amongst many other things it's a superb exploder of the Keynesian veneration of the consumer over the producer, and of the zero-sum myth in economics, and with it all a marvellous vindication of Say's Law -- George Reisman has made a major upgrade to his Pepperdine University website to support study of the issues he raised in the essay. Explains Reisman:
I’ve begun with material directly related to my recent Daily Article/Blog “Production Versus Consumption.” So, if anyone is interested in a look at the Productionist and Consumptionist aggregate demand curves, please go to the site, come down in the left hand frame until you get to the link “477_Supplement_2.” When you click on it the pdf file that comes up will have hyperlinks of its own, indicated either by a thin blue box or a blue underline, depending on the version of the Adobe Reader that you have. Clicking on the first link will take you to the Productionist aggregate demand curve and the surrounding discussion in [my book] 'Capitalism,' clicking on the second one will take you to the Consumptionist aggregate demand curve and surrounding discussion. There are five additional links in the supplement, which go to figures and tables in 'Capitalism' illustrating Say’s Law.
For a historical background to Reisman's thinking on this most basic of topics in economics Reisman has also posted on line the valuable if sadly little-known paper by James Mill (John Stuart's father) 'On the overproduction and underconsumption fallacies.'

And note too that Reisman's Perpperdine website makes available ALL his macro and micro syllabi, which includes much of the material incorporated into his Program of Self-Education in the Economic Theory and Political Philosophy of Capitalism. This really is as good as gold.

LINKS: 'Production versus consumption' - George Reisman, Mises Institute
George Reisman's Pepperdine University website
'On the overproduction and underconsumption fallacies' - James Mill [PDF download]
George Reisman's blog
'I want to be a consumer, sir' - Not PC
Jean-Baptiste Say: Negelected champion of Laissez-Faire - Larry Sechrest, Mises Institute

TAGS: Economics, Education

Useful idiots and religious barbarians

Given some of the recent comments here, this week-old Cox and Forkum cartoon caught my eye: the comparison and explication of the complicit pact between the useful idiots of moral relativism on the one hand, and uncompromising barbarian religionists on the other struck me as both chilling and very insightful, and perhaps just a little close to home.

LINKS: Worse - Cox and Forkum

TAGS: War, Multiculturalism, Religion, Cartoons

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