Friday, 31 March 2006

Out

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

Eclipse

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

Over-rated

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

Tags:
Nonsense

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

Skyline


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

Helengrad

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