Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Ideas vs People

There are a disturbing number of people who don't understand the difference between ideas and those who hold them. Perhaps the clearest example yesterday was a commenter on Kiwiblog's 'Anti-Islam Speech' thread in this exchange:
RW: "Islam is not any individual muslim, it is a socio-political ideology with religious dressings, and it is a mortal enemy of the infidel."
ERR: "Oh, now that's just sophism. What is a religion? It is an idea shared by a collection of people. If all the individual people vanish, so does the entire idea. Therefore the individuals making up Islam are a subset of the entirity of the religion."

Far from being 'sophism,' understanding the difference between destroying an idea and destroying a person is surely fundamental to the exchange of ideas. Conflating ideas and people is, well, either sophism or just plain silly.

Calling for the death of an idea does not entail calling for the death of a person. If for instance I say "I look forward to the death of the idea that flared trousers are fashionable," then I'm advocating that people no longer wear flares; I'm maybe suggesting that flared-trouser-wearers be shunned socially; what I'm not doing is advocating killing those who wear them or sell them. On the other hand, Eric Pianka in the post below is calling for people to die, or is at least saying he'll be happy when mass-dying happens. You see the difference? [Sheesh, you'd hardly think this was necessary to point out, would you?]

Equally, if I advocate the death of an idea or a religion I am not advocating genocide -- I'm calling for the death of an idea; the death of the religion, not the deaths of the religion's adherents. (Not, that is, unless those adherents have taken the next step of becoming murderers themselves.)

So what lack of logic equates one with the other? The other day I quoted Eleanor Roosevelt saying, "Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, small minds talk about people." What sort of mind confuses one with another?

There are some ideas that are so toxic they deserve to lose support. They deserve to be shunned. They deserve to die out. Just because some ideas are held very strongly -- indeed religiously -- does not mean they can't be criticised, pilloried, satirised or laughed at. As Thomas Sowell reminds us, "Cultures are not museum pieces, they are the working machinery of everyday life." We need to judge cultures and religious beliefs and practices by the same standards as we judge "working machinery": that is, by how well they work for adherents and those affected by cultural and religious practices. The standard by which that judgement is made is life, human life. By that standard, modern Islam ranks very poorly.

The West too had its own Dark Ages before reason and individualism brought us into the sunlight of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Sadly, as the West embraced reason and went from Dark Age to Golden Age, Islamic philosophers did the reverse, rejecting reason and this earth and setting off Islam's own slide into darkness, where it has remained ever since. Without their own rebirth of reason, Islamic cultures are likely to stay there.

Whatever you can say about Golden Age Islam and its great advances, sharia, subjugation of women, suicide bombing, virulent irrationalism and worldwide terrorism say an awful lot about modern Islam and it's current anti-life outlook. Said the Islamic philosopher who first rejected reason and this earth on behalf of his brothers, "If it's in the Koran we don't want it; if it's not in the Koran we don't need it. Said Osama bin Laden after 9/11, "We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the difference between us two... in the [Muslim] nation there are thousands of young men who are as keen on death as Americans are keen on life." The events of the last five years in particular show these statements should be taken seriously, and judged accordingly.

Like I said, there are some ideas so toxic that they deserve to die out. Irrational, anti-life religion is one of them. "Death to the anti-life," say I.

NOTE: For your interest, I've added links to two related pieces I wrote for Scoop back in 2001: 'The Heart of the West' and a response to critics of that piece, posted down the page from 'Who Kills the Innocents?'

UPDATE: I'm adding a link to an excellent piece by Amit Ghate on 'The Islamist Threat to Civilization' which concretises exactly that, showing exactly what is at stake and why. It's not Islamism versus Chistianity, its Islamism versus every civilising value that the West stands for.

LINKS: Anti-Islam speech - Kiwiblog
The Heart of the West - Peter Cresswell, Scoop
Who kills the innocents? - Peter Cresswell, Scoop
The Islamist threat to civilization - Amit Ghate, Capitalist Magazine

War, Multiculturalism, Religion, Philosophy, Ethics

When scientists go genocidal

Religous zealots aren't the only ones preaching destruction. One award-winning American academic beats even Islamic mullahs for sheer genocidal chutzpah.

Dr Eric Pianka, an environmental ecologist from the University of Texas (pictured left with an apparently adoring audience member) wants ninety percent of the human race exterminated so we can "save the earth." His preferred method? Ebola virus: "HIV is too slow. It's no good... You know, the bird flu's good, too. We need to sterilize everybody on the Earth.”

Pianka delivered his delighted obituary to the human race at a Texas Academy of Sciences award function at which he received both a plaque as the 2006 Distinuished Texas Scientist, and a standing ovation for declaring that "We're no better than bacteria," (speak for yourself, Buddy), "spoke glowingly of the police state in China that enforces their one-child policy," and said:
His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world's population is airborne Ebola ( Ebola Reston ), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years. However, [as scientist and audience member Forrest M. Mims III reports] Professor Pianka did not mention that Ebola victims die a slow and torturous death as the virus initiates a cascade of biological calamities inside the victim that eventually liquefy the internal organs...
When Pianka finished his remarks, the audience applauded. It wasn't merely a smattering of polite clapping that audiences diplomatically reserve for poor or boring speakers. It was a loud, vigorous and enthusiastic applause.
"Bad philosophy, tenure, and your tax dollars at work," says Stephen Hicks, drastically understating the case. Life-hating philosophy, anti-human environmentalism and jobs-for-life tenure have allowed academics to seriously give this toxic stuff house-room. Post-modern nihilism, deep ecology, and vicious anti-humanism give it legs. Why don't they start their project on themselves?

  • If you're wondering if this was a hoax, then rest assured the American media were too. No longer. Keep an eye on the MSM as this story develops, and as Pianka and his supporters spin. A transcript of Pianka's speech is not yet available, but Cathy Young has a transcript of an earlier speech by Pianka, and a brief summary of the state of play with the spin and counter-spin.
  • If you're wondering how people can seriously sit still for this stuff, then rest assured there are those who do, and indeed environmentalists who have been saying this stuff for some time -- I quote many of them in a comment on this post here. Sample: "We are not interested in the utility of a particular species, or free-flowing river, or ecosystem to mankind. They have... more value - to me - than another human body, or a billion of them... Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along." - David M. Graber, US National Park Service biologist.
  • Time to repost or at least link to my earlier post calling for a new environmentalism that puts humans first.
UPDATE: Page with Piankas's earlier speech moved, and link updated.

LINKS: Meeting Doctor Doom - The Citizen Scientist
Pianka's speech - The Y Files
Pianka: Smear victim, eco-fanatic, or neither? - The Y Files
Anti-human environmentalism quotes, included in Comments on 'Eaten by Absurdity' - Peter Cresswell
A new environmentalism: Putting humans first - Peter Cresswell

TAGS: Conservation, Philosophy, Environmentalism, Politics_US

Eames House - Charles & Raye Eames

The 1940s Eames House showed that with the right amount of ability and careful design, 'off-the-shelf' steel componentry could produce a delightful and thoroughly liveable Californian house.

The picture at right is a 3d rendering of the famous Shulman photograph at left above.

LINKS: Charles Eames - Great Buildings Online
Eames Foundation website
Eames House - Shulman collection

TAGS: Architecture

Monday, 10 April 2006

Nicholas - abused

Louise Nicholas has been used, abused and then discarded by people in positions of power who have used those positions to exploit her shamelessly for their own ends

I'm talking here of journalists, militant feminists and editorial writers.

In the wake of a journalist resurrecting the Rickards/Shipton/Schollum story from twenty years ago, where Nicholas herself had been content to let it lie, a tide of sensationalism and intrusion into Nicholas's life and intensely private affairs has swept the media and the country. Whatever private life she once had has now vanished in the glare of a thousand close-up photographs, the breathless revelations of too-much titillating journalism, and the man-hating agendas of militant feminism.

Enough. Leave her be. For pity's sake, just leave her be.

LINKS: Suppressing information. A challenge to free speech? - Not PCRickards v Nicholas - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism - Feminism - Not PC

TAGS: New_Zealand

A reminder that we're still at war with barbarism

Death to Marxism! Death to Fascism! Death to Islam! Death to all forms of tyranny over the minds of men! And shame on those who would appease or apologise for the evils these disgusting and barbarous ideas represent.

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for cowards to appease it - and Islam is the locus of evil in the contemporary world." If that statement from The Free Radical's Lindsay Perigo is not true, then the death and destruction of September 11 did not happen; then Theo van Gogh was not murdered; then the Danish cartoonists are not in hiding in fear of their lives; then hordes of stone-age barbarians did not take to the streets in reaction against those cartoons to say "Europe, you will have your own Holocaust soon," "Behead those who would insult Islam" and "God Bless Hitler"; then Bali, Madrid and London were not bombed by maggots who show those threats need to be taken very seriously indeed.

It's still not clear to some people that war was declared in the name of Islam some five years ago by representatives from the dark ages who hate the West for its wealth, for its happiness and for its material success. This post is yet another reminder for those people. Since that time and in the name of Islam, murderous morons have reaped destruction across the globe -- and make no mistake, they mean to continue until another curtain of darkness has been brought down over the West. THEY MEAN IT! If you still don't understand that, then either you have a mind incapable of learning from events happening right in front of your eyes, or perhaps it's time you did some serious reflection. Let me help you in that task by reminding you that these barbarians want you enslaved and destroyed, and the world of the West returned to the darkness from which it once came. THEY DO MEAN IT!

Said the scum who murdered Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh at his trial for the killing, he "acted out of religious conviction and would do it again if given the chance." He really does mean it.
I don't feel your pain," he told Van Gogh's mother, Anneke. "I don't have any sympathy for you. I can't feel for you because I think you're a nonbeliever... I did what I did purely out of my beliefs. I want you to know that I acted out of conviction... If I ever get free I would do it again.
Said Abu Musab A- Zarqawi, Al-Qaeda frontman in Iraq and perpetrator there of bombings, butchering and beheadings, "Islam permits the killing of "infidel" civilians.":

In Islam, making the difference is not based on civilians and military, but on the basis of Muslims and infidels," said the voice attributed to the fugitive leader who has a 25-million-dollar price on his head.

"The Muslim's blood cannot be spilled whatever his work or place, while spilling the blood of the infidel, whatever his work or place, is authorized if he is not trustworthy.
Make no mistake, these are voices from the dark ages; representatives of ideas as intolerant and cruel as they are unfortunately widespread. The barbaric ideas these men represent are as evil as the murders committed in their name. The stone-age representatives of those ideas are not going away-- indeed, if left unopposed they plant to bring sharia and dhimmitude and death to all those unbelievers and infidels they can reach. THAT MEANS YOU! If that's something some of you still don't understand, then perhaps you should refrain from criticising those who do. For until you do you're like a child in an adults' world, and your brainless chattering just distracts adults when they're talking.

Fortunately, there are adults who do understand. As Tony Blair said just days ago, "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'." As Dr Wafa Sultan bravely said on Al-Jazeera television just one month ago:
The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete...
And as Lindsay Perigo said in that Free Radical editorial criticised as "reminiscent of the rhetoric which led to the Holocaust" by an infantile fool who smears Perigo as a Nazi (and who is linked to by a hand-wringing David Farrar) :

Human beings worthy of the title must rise up and shout in irresistible unison: “Enough of this primordial primitivism! We who are civilised are revolted by it and shall rebuff it at every turn!” Muslims must discover rationality and decency; Westerners must rediscover them, and, as a matter of urgency, speak up for them!

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for cowards to appease it—and Islam is the locus of evil in the contemporary world.

There’s been far too much appeasement of it...

It cannot be defended—indeed, it can only be betrayed—by apologetic weasel-worders appeasing militant, murderous morons whose savage pseudo-sensibilities have been stirred, not by sticks and stones, but by words.

May men of righteous rationality reignite the flame of reason and fight an unapologetic philosophical jihad in its holy name, that it may illumine the globe and save the world from another Dark Ages.

Bravo! Death to Marxism! Death to Nazism! Death to the barbarities of the Dark Ages! And as Perigo concludes himself, "Death to Islam -- and all forms of tyranny over the minds of men!"

UPDATE: I'm adding a link to an excellent piece by Amit Ghate on 'The Islamist Threat to Civilization' which concretises exactly that, showing exactly what is at stake and why. It's not Islamism versus Chistianity, its Islamism versus every civilising value that the West stands for.

LINKS: Death to Islam - Lindsay Perigo
Muslim radical confesses to Van Gogh killing in court tirade - Times Online
Intolerance in the Quran - Skeptics Annotated Quran
Cruelty in the Quran - Skeptics Annotated Quran
Death to hate speech - Ruth - Chaos Theory
Anti-Islam speech - David Farrar, Kiwiblog
"A battle of values..." - Not PC
'Clash of civilisations' rubbished by Arab-American woman - Not PC
The Islamist threat to civilization - Amit Ghate, Capitalist Magazine

War, Multiculturalism, Religion

Saturday, 8 April 2006

Still No Power

Since power and the imminent lack thereof are sadly and increasingly topical again, I'll re-quote myself from July last year re-quoting myself during Auckland's then power crisis, when I warned about the future energy implications of the 'Anti-Industrial Dream Team' of Kyoto and the RMA. We are now reaping the consequences of what wasn't done then:
Future restrictions on industry arising from ‘The Green Dream Team’ will dwarf [Auckland's] current problems, according to the Libertarianz Party. The Dream Team’s two players are the Resource Management Act and the Kyoto Protocol: The RMA we know about by now; the Protocol, signed by Simon Upton earlier this year... extracts promises that governments of wealthy, industrial nations will ‘work towards the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions’ - the inescapable by-product of the burning of fossil fuels. Stripped of its worthy glow this means nothing less than a promise for the reduction of industry!

“The greens’ anti-development crusade reached its climax in this country with the RMA, an act making the future construction of necessary infrastructure (like power stations and hydro dams) virtually impossible. The anti-energy crusade has reached its climax with the Kyoto Protocol, promising measures to strangle our existing infrastructure (like power stations and industrial plants). [Auckland's 1998] power crisis offers a precursor of what life will be like as a result of these measures - together, these bureaucratic monsters will act like a calicivirus on industry, and on all who depend on industry for their survival; which means all of us," said Libertarianz Environment Spokesman Peter Cresswell today...
As I said during Auckland's power crisis, “The environmentalists’ false claims for disasters that ‘might’ occur will be dwarfed by the disasters that will occur if we continue to blindly accept their rantings. You think that the loss of power to our industrial capital for nine weeks is bad news? Just wait until the Dream Team kicks in - you ain’t seen nothing yet!”I do hate saying 'I told you so,' but don't say I never warned you.
Power is the lifeblood of industry, of technology, of everything that keeps us alive. With the combined 'Anti-Industrial Green Dream Team' of Kyoto and the RMA, we are in danger of unilaterally cutting off our own blood supply.

Warned Alan Jenkins from the Electricity Networks Association last year, after the decision to minmise Genesis's water right to the Whanganui river to proetct the 'mauri' of the river:
The principal objective of having enough power to meet demand is steadily being eroded. "It's very hard to invest in coal [because of Kyoto], nuclear's a sort of four letter word...hydro is suddenly becoming too hard... [oil is becoming too expensive] what's left?...we can't do everything on windpower," says Jenkins. And if there's no power, there's no industry -- and industry is our real lifeblood. So this decision demands that our own real lives are being sacrificed for the mystical life force of Ken Mair's river. Such is the RMA.
Such is the current state-endorsed religion of environmentalism. But there are some environmentalists who are prepared to consider going nuclear, as I posted last year. How about it then?

LINKS: No power - Peter Cresswell
Religionists for nuclear - Not PC
Taxing profits stifles oil production - Greenspan - Not PC

TAGS: Energy, Environment, Religion, Global_Warming


The best gigs stay with you for years -- the best ones make all the other lesser ones worthwhile, and all the ignominy worth it. And since I've been making musical lists on recent weekends, here's a list of my top ten most memorable gigs from my own pre-history that still stick with me. Dates are approximate (I'm not a damned encyclopaedia here):
  1. Manic Street Preachers, London Astoria, 1993. Richey's last show (pun sadly intentional). Rock experiences don't come better than this.
  2. Green Day's first London gig, 1995 (where spitball volleyball got played between crowd and band) - also at London's Astoria. These guys thought they could take on the word and win. I think they did.
  3. Velvet Underground, Forum, London. 1993. It was over before we realised what we'd all just seen...
  4. The Members, at Auckland's Mainstreet, November 5, 1978. The first time one of those nasty English punk bands -- the real thing! -- came to li'l old NZ. So naturally a friendly, local skinhead had to try and set fire to the place. Well, it was bonfire night. And the place was already on fire.
  5. Toy Love, Albert Park. 1979. An afternoon show just as The Enemy came to Auckland and changed their name; back when they were at their savage, snarling, dangerous best.
  6. Wilko Johnson, somewhere in Wellington, 1986, with a tight band and a machine-gun guitar sound. What a show.
  7. Christy Moore, Hammersmith Odeon, 1991. A man at the top of his powers, who could hold an audience of thousands in the palm of his hand with just his own voice and the sound of a bodhran. Pure genius.
  8. The Ramones, Logan Concrete Centre, 1978. Newspapers next day had headlines declaring 'Ramones Rock Riot.' It was that good.
  9. John Cale, Gluepot, 1983. Camouflage-era Cale showing he always did have the necessaries.
  10. Bob Dylan, Perth, 1985. I went to see Tom Petty. Realised pretty quickly that on his night, Bob was the real thing. And this was Bob's night.
I could add performances of Parsifal and by Wynton Marsalis to the list, but I might save those for a different list at another time. :-) So how about you? What were your ten best? (Careful now: Anyone suggesting Robbie Williams gets banned for a month - and that means you, Sus.)

TAGS: Music, Events

Investigate's most wanted

As a service to readers (specifically to readers of Clare Swinney and Investigate magazine), I post here a picture of the man responsible for too many of the worlds most fantastic crimes and alien encounters. Be on the look out for Cyril the Centaur (and note that Cyril and Al Gore have never been seen together in the same room!):

TAGS: Nonsense, Humour

Friday, 7 April 2006

Beer O'Clock: Macs Reserve

At the recommendation of Neil from Real Beer, tonight I'll be sampling moderate quantities of Mac's Reserve.

I don't have good memories of it from previous sessions, but I'll let you know in the morning how it rates this time.

Enjoy your evening.

LINKS: Macs Reserve - Lion Nathan
Real Beer

TAGS: Beer_&_Elsewhere

Best blogs

Congratulations to Public Address, winner of Netguide's People's Choice Best NZ Blog award, and to the other two finalists Kiwiblog and Idolblog. (Full results here.) Hope the champagne was flowing for you all last night. For my part, I guess I'll go and open that loser's bottle of whiskey in the cupboard...

LINK: 2006 Netguide People's Choice Web Awards - Netguide
Websites point to interactive future - NZ Herald

TAGS: Blog, New Zealand

More conspiracies

Conspiracy theories generally tend to attract people who think there's something going on in the world just beyond their reach -- if only someone could lift the curtain for them to show what's really going on and who's doing it. They want to feel they have a handle on the world but as abstract ideas are generally beyond them they stick with concretes and personalities instead. The true conspiracy theorist will know all the minutiae there is to know about a subject, but have no perspective on it all to ever enable them to see the whole truth instead of the partial glimpse of it that they're sticking with. Like someone using a filing cabinet without any files or any order they'll never have a chance to get their thinking in order, so find it difficult to separate wheat from chaff.

Which side of the grassy knoll did those puffs of smoke come from? -- what does that shadow really mean on that bit of grainy film -- which head of security is who's second cousin once removed? -- what was that white plane doing? -- was it paid for by oil interests? -- the CIA? what's that dust seen on that photo? ... all sorts of tedious speculations are 'adduced' to make a an awful lot of stew from one very small onion while the bigger picture is overlooked, and a whole world of context is dropped. As Mark Twain once said about amateur science, "One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."

The latest conspiracy theory to do the rounds is that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were between them responsible for the fatal attacks of September 11; that no large planes hit the Pentagon; that controlled explosions and missiles were responsible for most of the Ground Zero destruction and death; that all the death, destruction and disaster was planned for ana organised not by Osama bin Laden but by America's President and Vice President. 'Obscene' is the kindest word for this sort of thing. 'Unhinged' might be another. 'Insane' could easily be another. No surprise then to find one of Ian Wishart's journalists, one Clare Swinney, is all over an online newsgroup peddling this rubbish. Dive in and see, if you can bear it.

For a succinct debunking of this nonsense before it gets to your inbox from some of your more over-heated friends (yes, you can stop sending me that stuff now, please), head to Popular Mechanics who've fisked most of the claims so you don 't have to waste your time on it.

And let me leave you with one of the few things said by Eleanor Rooosevelt that ever made any sense: "Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, small minds talk about people." As they say in term papers, discuss.

LINKS: Debunking the 9/11 myths - Popular Mechanics
CNN poll indicates worm turning - Thread: NZ Politics

TAGS: Nonsense, Politics-US

Fusing the computer and the brain.

As computers get faster and faster, what's the biggest 'choke point' -- the biggest barrier in getting information between the processor in your head and the processor in your computer? Your keyboard, right? You sit there pecking away with one finger while your brain buzzes and your computer whirs, and by the time you've finished your sentence you've forgotten what the next one was going to be.

If only it were posssible to fuse neurons and silicon chips. Well, have a look at that picture on the right; apparently it is, and as with all new discoveries the possibilities opened up are almost limitless:
The achievement could one day enable the creation of sophisticated neural prostheses to treat neurological disorders, or the development of organic computers that crunch numbers using living neurons.
Great! The bad news: "Those applications are potentially decades away..." Bugger.

LINKS: Brain cells fused with computer chips - MSN News
Creating interface between mammalian neurons and silicon chips - Medical News Today

TAGS: Science, Geek Stuff

Jihad against free speech

'Don't judge a book by its cover' is usually an exhortation to remember that lurid artwork on the wrapper may well conceal better material within.

Well, if this review at 'Noodle Food' of The New Individualist is correct, here we have something else: a cover (right) that's way, way better than what's on offer inside. And that sure is a great cover -- a cover with balls -- arguably the first American magazine to feature the Danish cartoons on their cover -- but not the first magazine cover available in America to go for the Islamo-fascist jugular. Issue 70 of The Free Radical (cover below) wears that accolade. Subscribe here.

So what about that content then? Noodle Food's reviewer found in the title essay of The New Individualist "only a tepid mess where there could and should have been a strong presentation and defense of the values at stake -- an answer to why such a bold and provocative cover must exist." For the opposite of a tepid mess, and a pithy summation of the issues at stake, you might like to compare it to the much shorter, much punchier title essay of The Free Radical, Lindsay Perigo's 'Death to Islam.'

Fortunately, both articles are online, so you can judge for yourself which is pithier and which makes its case better (and also whether or not the characterisation of Hudgin's title article is indeed a "train wreck," as described):
LINKS: Judging things by their cover - Noodle Food
That Muhammad cartoon: because SOMEBODY had to print it - The Bidinotto Blog
Free Radical Issue 70 - SOLO Passion
The jihad against free speech' - Ed Hudgins,
The New Individualist
Death to Islam - Lindsay Perigo,
The Free Radical

TAGS: Multiculturalism, Religion, War, Objectivism

Slap that slump

How do you get yourself out of an emotional, career, or romantic slump? Jason Roth at Save the Humans has forty ways to leave your lover slump behind. My favourites:
4. Organize your pile of empty liquor bottles by the category of emotional distress that led to each one's consumption.
10. Write, sing, paint, or make a movie about your misery, boredom, or anxiety. (Don't worry if you can't sell it. "Starving artist" status is more respected and easier to maintain.)
18. Bring a gun to work. Keep it in a drawer next to a bottle of whisky and an escape plan.
22. Maybe you're getting bored with your daily routine. Try something new, like smoking.
24. Take Anthony Robbins' advice about the power of decision. Make the decision to get out of your slump first thing tomorrow.
Read on, Grasshopper.

LINK: 40 ways to get out of a slump - Jason Roth, Save the Humans

TAGS: Humour

Top ten searches. Sigh.

Here's the list of top ten searches landing at this blog at the moment. Can you see any common denominator? Do you think they've read this? Or this? Or worked out why publishing what they're publishing they'll hurt their own cause before they help it?

suppressed information in rickards rape trial
reverse waffle slab
nz rape trial rickards
nz louise nicholas rape
willie jackson eye to eye maori
neutra, desert house
clint rickards suppressed evidence
medalla milagrosa candela
louise nicholas rape trial nz
frank lloyd wright broadacre city

LINKS: Suppressing information. A challenge to free speech? - Peter Cresswell
Another blog breaks the law - Kiwiblog

TAGS: Free_Speech, Law, Politics-NZ

Chalk Cliffs on Rugen - Caspar David Friedrich

Caspar David Friedrich, Chalk Cliffs on Rugen, 1818-19.

TAG: Art

Thursday, 6 April 2006

Welfare: Some questions for you

Here's three questions for you policy wonks to answer:
  1. Which welfare programme was introduced in 1973 with an estimated cost of $250,000 per year ($4 millon in today's money), and now attracts an annual taxpayer spend of $2.713 billion -- fifteen percent of the welfare budget?
  2. Why does it cost so damn much?
  3. Why did anybody believe it wouldn't?
  4. Which political party was responsible for preparing the introduction of this programme?
Answers to questions 1 & 4 on Lindsay Mitchell's blog today (which by itself is a clue, really), along with evidence (including pictures!) and more info. The answer to question 2 is obvious if you understand what happens when you understand black holes, the exigencies of buying votes, and what happens when you feed one unspeyed stray cat. And the answer to question 3 just beats the hell out of pretty much everyone, especially me. Answers to that one on a postcard please.

LINKS: Famous last words - Lindsay Mitchell
Crown accounts analysis - Statistics New Zealand

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics, Politics-National, Budget & Taxation

Closing the borders

Immigration is on the whiteboard both here in New Zealand and in the US, and many people in both NZ and the US seem to have forgotten that it was and is immigrants who built both countries. In New Zealand:  
The Government is looking at tough new immigration rules that will make it harder to get into New Zealand and easier to kick people out. [Source, NZ Herald]
 In the States, George W. Bush seeks to pass legislation that includes a temporary worker program but avoids amnesty for an estimated 11 million illegal migrants... [An earlier bill passed through the House in December] has sparked nationwide protests by Hispanic groups and their supporters. It defines illegal presence in the country as a felony, instead of a civil offense, and calls for the construction of a fence along the U.S. border with Mexico. [Source, Reuters]

What a slap in the face to the people who built both countries. Just over a century ago Emma Lazarus's famous poem was engraved on a plaque and fixed to the Statue of Liberty's pedestal:

Cue Card Libertarianism - Morality

It's become clear in recent days that there is more confusion over libertarianism than I'd thought. Recent comments suggest that readers are taking libertarian politics as a guide to morality - that 'do what you wilt' is thought to be 'the whole of the law,' at least when it comes to ethics.

This would be a mistake, since libertarian politics is essentially silent on morality. Morality pertains to the field of ethics, not of politics. You don't look to the field of politics to determine your moral choices, you look to the science of ethics. Naturally, in libertarian politics, the two are linked: You must be free in order to be moral. Without freedom no morality is possible, since without freedom no free choice is possible. As Ayn Rand points out, "morality ends where the gun begins." You must be free from coercion in order to make your own moral choices as to how you live.

Men's survival and flourishing demands that they be free to pursue their own paths in their own way, with the moral space needed to do so (provided of course they don't initiate force against another.) That moral space is yours to fill. The way you choose to fill it helps to determine your success or your failure; your happiness or lack thereof; your wealth, or your impecuniosity. Good choices tend to bring reward and happiness; bad choices not. Your choices are your responsibility -- responsibility being the flipside of freedom.

To be free means to be free to make choices: you are free to succeed -- you are also free to fail. Saying you should be free to do something is not an endorsement of that something -- it's an endorsement only that you should be free to do it. It's your right to make your own choices. It's my right to judge those choices.

It is with choice that morality is concerned. It is with your freedom to make those choices that libertarian politics is concerned.

So qua libertarian, I will defend your right to believe in nonsense; I will maintain your right to have appalling musical taste; I will argue for you right to be self-destructive; I will fight in your corner for your right to dispose of your money as you wish. But in my capacity as a human being, which is to say as an ethicist (which, like it or not, we all are) I wll judge you foolish for believing in nonsense, tasteless for listening to bland muck, mistaken for being self-destructive, and misguided for giving your money away.

Acting ethically is not simply recognising what is and isn't the government's business, or what you have a right to do. It is recognising what is in your own best interests -- what you should do -- and then going right out and doing it.

UPDATE: Link to related PDF article by Tibor Machan added.

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 - Altruism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism - Introduction - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism -- Freedom (Liberty) - Not PC
Philosophy vis-a-vis the free society [PDF] - Tibor Machan, Mises Institute

TAGS: Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Ethics, Politics, Libertarianism, Objectivism, Philosophy

It's concrete, Jim, but not as we know it.

Progress is unpredictable. Great ideas and advances in one field can impact unpredictably in others. And some of the best ideas are often obvious once they're done. Exhibit A: light-transmitting concrete.

Just add optical glass glass-fibres to concrete and, hey presto, light-transmitting concrete. I can't wait to use it. :-)

LINKS: LiTraCon website [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

TAGS: Architecture, Science

Wednesday, 5 April 2006

'Not PC' is one year old today

Oh, I've just noticed that this blog is one year old today. For one year now I've been putting togther my thoughts every day, and many of you have been tuning in every day to get annoyed by them -- for which I'd like to thank each and every one of you. This time last year I was pontificating to a friend about how easyit looked to run a blog, about how much I could say, and about all the readers I could reach ... if only I had a blog. If only.

My friend called my bluff. He emailed me and told me he'd already set up a blog for me (thank you, Richard) and I could now either put up or shut up. Shit or get off the pot. I did shit myself, but I began blogging nonetheless with this post on what the Herald knows about rights. And this is what the first week of my new blog looked like.

I like to think that nothing has changed here since, except for 'Not PC' getting better by the day. Hopefully the 157,183 visitors since this time last year agree. I've enjoyed it. I hope you have too. Thanks for coming, every one of you -- it would have been awfully lonely here without you. :-)

LINKS: What does the Herald know about rights? - Not PC
First week of Not PC


Why Gareth Morgan is wrong to give his money away

Gareth Morgan is wrong to give his money away. Here's why.

There are some people who are so productive they almost can't help creating wealth. These aren't just wealth creators, they're walking machines of production, able to turn a dollar into ten, into a hundred, into a thousand, into seven hundred million... purely on the basis of a good idea, a lot of hard work, and an understanding of the way the world works.

Sam Morgan is such a man - his zero to seven-hundred million in just five years attests to that. Steve Jobs is such a person, as are TJ Rodgers, Mary Kay Ash, Doug Myers, Richard & Christopher Chandler, Stephen Tindall, Graeme Hart, Fred Smith, Tom Watson, Warren Buffett, Ted Turner, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Sam Walton. There's clearly more to wealth creation than the few traits I describe above; if it was that easy we'd all be rolling in our own cash -- author Edwin Locke outlines some of the traits needed in his book 'Prime Movers' -- but there's clearly a great benefit to us in letting them be free to create wealth: with every new innovation, new product, and cheaper line, we're all better off for the jobs they've created, and the new choice their creation and production has made available to us.

In fact, if the great wealth creators really do wish to 'help others', then the best thing they can do is not to give their money away, but to keep right on producing more. The more of it they have, the more they have to produce with; when we're talking about some of these walking engines of productivity, that's very productive indeed.

But isn't it better to give rather than receive? "No," says philosopher David Kelley in an interview with ABC's John Stossel, "it's better to create."
Kelley: Why do we think that giving away money is better than making money? Giving away money is a lot easier than building a new business or a new industry, where you've created something that didn't exist before. I have a lot more respect for Ted Turner for building CNN, at a time when no one thought it was possible, than I have for any possible good he could do as a philanthropist.

Stossel: It's kinder to give money away.

Kelley: Is it kinder to give money away than to create something that enriches all of us? To create new jobs? If you create a job, you are giving someone the means to support himself. If you give money away, you're not helping him to be self-supporting.

Stossel: Who did more for the world? Michael Milken or Mother Teresa?

Kelley: Michael Milken. No question. . . . Now, people look at the two and they say, "That's absurd. Mother Teresa was a moral hero and he was a criminal." Because they're looking at motives. Michael Milken didn't suffer. He didn't go into the slums. She went into the slums and she suffered. But I say: What's so good about suffering? I look at the value that people create.

Gareth Morgan is not in the league of these other wealth creators -- although he's certainly no slouch -- and it's clearly his own money to do with what he wishes -- but if he really does want to help others the most, he'd keep it and invest it just as wisely and as well as he's done so in the past, and use it to create even more value. But that's his choice.

CLARIFICATION: As I said, it's his money, and his choice. He doesn't owe anybody even one minute of his productive ability if he doesn't wish to make it available. My point is that is if he does wish to help others, then producing new wealth is the way to do it.

UPDATE: Link added to David Kelly's excellent article 'Is it nobler to give than to create?', discussing the merits of Ted Turner giving away his money. Kelly concludes:
If Ted Turner wants to give his money away, that's fine. It's his money. If he wants to raise money for the causes he believes in, that's fine, too. But giving away his money is easy compared with the heroic effort it took to make it. And nothing his philanthropy will accomplish will compare with the value he has created as a media entrepreneur.

Perhaps it is nobler to give than to receive. But in my book it's nobler still to create.

LINKS: NZ man to donate website windfall - BBC News
Rich rotter Gareth Morgan [Profile by Michelle Hewitson] - NZ Herald
'Prime movers': Traits of the great wealth creators, by Edwin Locke - EdwinLocke.Com
Greed - ABC 20/20 Special with John Stossell - excerpts - The Objectivist Center
Greed - ABC 20/20 Special with John Stossell - full transcript
When is greed good? - John Stossel, ABC News

Good side of greed - Video - John Stossel, ABC News
The John Stossel web page - ABC
Is it nobler to give than to create? - David Kelly, Objectivist Center

Economics, Ethics, New Zealand

French students rioting for the right to be ignorant and poor

When it comes to rioting in the streets, who does it better, more often, and so regularly for the wrong reasons than the French?

The present riots are protesting laws planned to make it easier to sack employees aged under twenty-six; and the present protests, in my submission, are dumb -- even on the terms of those protesting.

Let's just review some of the low points of French employment law: Compulsory thirty-five hour 'working' weeks; five weeks mandatory holidays; a minimum wage law set at eighty-six percent of the average salary; labour laws that mean every sacking is likely to end up before a labour court.

Little wonder that France is stagnating, that unemployment is at ten percent, and that the unemployment rate for under-twenty-sixes stands at twenty-three percent. Employers are too scared to take risks in giving unproven and inexperienced employees a try because they can't get rid of them if they aren't any good, and they're often too expensive even if they are.

Hence the introduction of this law. Even the French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin realises the idiocy of present employment laws and the damage done to those seeking to get on the employment ladder. Idiocy, however, is the only way to describe the reaction to the law's announcement from unions, protestors and students: chanting, marching, blockading, car burning, rock-throwing.

The dumbest of the rioters has to be the students - in some ways a gratifying sign that it's not only New Zealand students who are dumb. It is these students who will soon be trying to get a foot on the employment ladder who the present laws harm more than most, yet it is these very students who are protesting more than most. They're not just dumb, they're almost too dumb to survive, as Thomas Sowell explains:

Why are students at the Sorbonne and other distinguished institutions out trashing the streets and attacking the police?

Because they want privileges in the name of rights, and are too ignorant of economics to realize that those privileges cost them jobs...

The fact that many students can think only in terms of "rights," but not in terms of consequences, shows a major deficiency in their education. The right to a job is obviously not the same thing as a job. Otherwise there would not be a 23 percent unemployment rate among young French workers...

It is elementary economics that adding to the costs, including risks, of hiring workers tends to reduce the number of workers hired. It should not be news to anyone, whether or not they have gone to a university, that raising costs usually results in fewer transactions.

The fact that such profound ignorance of basic economics and such self-indulgent emotionalism should be prevalent at elite institutions of higher education is one of the many deep-seated failures of universities on both sides of the Atlantic.

So how dumb are those students? And what does their being so dumb say about what they're being taught?

LINKS: Rioting for ineptitude in France - Capitalism Magazine
French student riots - Thomas Sowell

TAGS: Politics-Europe, Minimum-Wage, Education, Economics

Suppressing information. A challenge to free speech?

The use of suppression orders in recent trials has come in for much debate, not least in two trials involving and alleging gang rape, the latest being the suppression orders from the Louise Nicholas/Clint Rickards (et al) trials just finished, and currently being informally challenged. A commenter here asked for my opinion on the various breaches of the suppression order in the recent rape trial: "PC," said Yalnikim, "I'm looking forward to your thoughts on "free speech versus information suppression." So here they are.

I can sympathise with those handing out leaflets assaying facts about both this case and a previous case -- just part of the information denied to the media by the courts' various orders suppressing media reports of names and of evidence given in the trials. On the face of it, the suppression appears to deny both the right to free speech and the principle that justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done.

It doesn't.

There are two very good reasons for the use of suppression orders in trials. Here's the first: As you'll probably recall, there is an important legal principle that protects all of us saying that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty --- and that means innocent of the particular crime for which they are being charged. For the most part, the law still follows this principle -- and so it should. The reason for courts having the power to suppress evidence and trial reports is to protect the innocent until or unless their guilt has been proven.

Which leads to the second very good reason, in some ways a corollary of the first. If you'll recall the 'Propositions on Free Speech' I posted here a few weeks ago (which it might be worth re-reading at this point), one of those important propositions sets out the limits to free speech: "My freedom ends where your nose begins. My free speech ends where your rights begin." The reason for suppression orders is to protect those before the courts whose guilt is being judged, and who are therefore innocent before the law. Your free speech ends where their noses begin.

So in my submission then, even though it's increasingly difficult to put them into effect, suppression orders in trials do provide an important legal protection upholding the rights of the innocent. It's sometimes appropriate to argue about the appropriateness of particular suppression orders, as it's often possible to disgree with particular trial verdicts, but in doing do it's important not to throw out the legal baby with your emotional bathwater.

LINKS: Pack rape four found guilty - Scoop (5 July, 2005)
No more Nicholas fliers - for now - Stuff
Some propositions on free speech - Peter Cresswell

TAGS: Free_Speech, Law, Politics-NZ

Girl with a Pearl Earring - Jan Vermeer

Jan Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665-1666. Deservedly famous.

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