Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Addio Kira

Allida Valli, the actress who played Ayn Rand's heroine Kira Argounova in the 1942 film 'We the Living' (pictured right)has died aged 84. [Hat tip Marnee]

LINKS: 'The Third Man' actress Alida Valli, 84 - Washington Post
'We the Living' movie site - wethelivingmovie.com

Films, Books, Objectivism, Obituary

The myth of 'holdout,' & the nonsense of eminent domain

You know the alleged problem. The gummint wants to build a road/erect a dam/string some power lines over some farms, and some recalcitrant property-owner up and says, "Not on my land sunshine!" At this stage statist economists, planners and journalists start talking about market failure and "the holdout problem," and the government -- if it's American -- whips out its powers of Eminent Domain and a small sum and confiscates. (If it's a New Zealand government is simply cites the Public Works Act and gives the owner a small cheque and his marching orders.)

Aside from being a complete and utter abuse of the property rights governments are supposed to protect, the economists, planners and journalists are however wrong. There is not 'market failure.' There is no 'holdout problem.' In fact, says Bruce L. Benson in a lengthy anaylsis, the problem is generally one of government failure. Remove the system of compulsory purchase and government control of infrastructure, and and the holdout problem goes away -- just as I argued here some time ago.

If you like lengthy and learned analyses of problems such as these (Scott, are you there?), then this is a reading for you: 'The Mythology of Holdout as a Justification for Eminent Domain and Public Provision of Roads,' by Bruce L. Benson.

LINKS: The mythology of holdout as a justification for eminent domain and public provision of roads -- Bruce L. Benson, Independent Review [30 pages in PDF]
Government bullying over pylons - Peter Cresswell, Not PC

TAGS: Property Rights, Economics, Urban Design, Cartoons

Drink! Life's worth it.

Glee Magazine has a short summary of the health benefits of beer (make sure you read both pages). Beer is good for everything from your heart to your breasts to your joy in life, so head to to the fridge now and get yourself a cold health tonic.

Newsflash: (pun intended) Beer is also good for menopause! Do the wonders of beer never end? Say the experts at Real Beer:
Experts in the Czech Republic are working on a beer specifically brewed for women experiencing hot flashes, troubling sleeping and other woes during this phase.
LINK: Drink to your health - glee MAGAZINE
Scientists working on beer for menopause - Real Beer

TAGS: Beer & Elsewhere, Health

Lest We Forget.

Souda Bay Allied Cemetery, Crete, in which 447 New Zealand servicemen are buried who died in the defence of Crete from Nazi invasion.

TAGS: New_Zealand, History-Twentieth_Century

Monday, 24 April 2006

Former Rotorua policeman on sex charges

NZ HERALD: A former police officer extradited from Australia on historic rape and sexual abuse charges was today sent for trial in the High Court. The man, whose name is suppressed, faces allegations from two girls, then aged between 12 and 16, comprising four counts of indecent assault and one of rape, all in Rotorua in 1980...

Perhaps those who were trying to release suppressed information about the Rickards/Schollum/Shipton trial might now begin to have some notion of why what they were doing in releasing information might have been counter-productive to the very cause they espouse?

LINKS: Trial for former policeman on sex charges - NZ Herald

TAGS: New_Zealand, Law

'More power!' says India. 'No power,' says NZ.

Reading the latest National Geographic over the weekend -- the 'nuclear issue' -- tagline: It's controversial. It's scary. It might just save the Earth. -- I was particularly struck by a comment from one Baldev Raj, director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research.

Talking about the crucial need for power generation in India, a nation of 1.1 billion people just undergoing an Industrial Revolution, Raj outlines his country's energy policy:
Our energy policy is simple. If you have a way to make electricity, then we say, make as much as you can.
Wonderful! I'm not sure I'd want to thoroughly endorse that, particularly in the largely state-run morass of Indian power generation, but what a refreshing contrast to New Zealand's antediluvian energy policy which is very soon going to kick us right in the nuts.

LINKS: Nuclear power making a comeback - National Geographic
The polluting state - Jayant Bhandari, Mises Institute
No Power - Not PC (July, 2005)
Religionists for nuclear - Not PC (April, 2005)

Energy, Politics-World

The Upham medals are Upham's medals, not yours

Are New Zealanders the only ones to get so all out sanctimonious over things that are none of their business? I haven't commented on this yet since it seemed so clear that comment wasn't necessary. Sadly, it is. Talk still continues that the government should either use taxpayers' money to stump up the huge sums the medals are worth, ban them from leaving these shores, or simply confiscate the medals in 'the public good' -- in other words either rob 'Peter' to pay 'Paul,' or just simply rob 'Paul.' Either would be equally wrong.

Charles Upham's medals belonged to Charles Upham. He earned them. Twenty years ago Charles Upham was offered US$1 million up front for his complete set including the Victoria Cross & Bar, Greek Medal of Honour and African Star if he left them to the buyer in his will, an offer which he turned down, leaving them to his family instead with the full knowledge that they themselves could earn such a sum if they wished.

So the medals are the property of his family, and now they've been offered something substantially more, why the hell shouldn't they take it if they wish to? The medals are not your property; they are not 'common property'; they are Upham property, and as Amanda Upham told the Sunday Star, they want to sell.
Her logic for selling the medals, which have been on loan to the military museum at Waiouru since her father's death in 1994, is simple. "I see little point in having a valuable asset when we don't even get to see it. If they were worth a dollar, we would not be selling them, but as they are worth a lot more than a dollar it seems a very stupid person who wouldn't sell them."
If you own something valuable and you choose to sell it that's your business, so what makes the Upham's business your business? Is this just another example of the great mass of New Zealanders wanting something for nothing? Of everyone wanting to mind everyone else's business?

Leave Amanda Upham and her sister alone. Mind your own business.

LINKS: Charles Upham's daughters should spurn cash - Rosemary McLeod, Sunday Star
Daughter explains desire to sell medals - Sunday Star

TAGS: New_Zealand, Heroes

Wagner: I don't want maidens in paradise...'

From The Guardian comes this interesting preview of Wagner's Ring Cycle, currently playing at Covent Garden, that points out the contemporaneity of the drama. Says the reviewer:
The third time I went to see Die Walk├╝re, it was the performance at the Royal Opera House on July 8 2005, the day after the London tube bombings. London's streets seemed empty but the opera house was packed. At that moment, it was particularly wonderful to be engrossed in this tale of a man who says: I don't want maidens in paradise - I want love here on earth, and a woman who responds by saying: I won't carry out the orders of the god my father - I will go over to the side of the human.
Wonderful! As the previewer says, "If we allow him to, Wagner truly has the power to surprise us." [Read here of the 16-hour non-stop Wagner marathon embarked on by one enthusiast in front of her radio.]

LINKS: Wagner's women - Guardian
'Make the nasty music go away' - Guardian

TAGS: Music, Religion

Burj Al Arab Hotel - WS Atkins

The posting tonight is of the iconic 'seven-star' Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai by Atkins Design, a building probably already well-known throughout the world. Expains architect Tom Wills-Wright, the hotel was designed deliberately to be iconic, to test which he devised a simple 'litmus test,' as he explains here:
The brief was to create a building that would become an icon for Dubai rather like Sydney has its Opera House and Egypt has the pyramids. The brief was given by Jumierah International who wanted something novel, different, which can be symbol of Dubai.

The litmus test we used to assess if we had fulfilled the brief was to see if we could draw the building in five seconds pictionary style and ask everybody to name it.
He probably succeeded, don't you think? Not great architecture, but certainly exciting, and undoubtedly a modern icon -- and wouldn't you just love to play tennis up there with Andrei and Roger? :-)

LINKS: Atkins Design website
Burj Al Arab hotel website
Burj Al Arab - Galinsky.Com

TAGS: Architecture

Sunday, 23 April 2006

Sustaining the assault on private property

Dancing off Rodney Hide's site comes a suprisingly good piece on the nonsense of 'sustainability' and the implementation by the Nats' Simon Upton of the notion in the RMA -- the act "that totally usurps private property rights in favour of the political management of natural resources for “sustainable use.” And so it does. As Rodney says, 'sustainablility' is "an empty phrase but those who get to define it, get to control all resource use." And so they have.

I look forward to hearing Rodney adopt the repeal of the RMA as party policy-- but then I've been looking forward to that for ten years now...

LINK: Sustainability - Rodney Hide
The unsustainability of 'sustainability' - EnviroSpin Watch

TAGS: Politics-ACT, RMA, Property_Rights, Environment, Politics-National

Getting out the smoking gun

Hone Harawira wants to stop other people smoking. "Tobacco has to go," he says -- and he wants the Government to pass laws criminalising tobacco producers to do it. In Hone's world, when you want other people to do something, it's time to get the government to pass a law to make them do what you want. To Hone and others like him, there is an automatic jump from "you should do this" to "I'm going to make you do this." Reason, moral persuasion, the recognition of people's right to choose for themselves ... all abandoned in favour of getting out the government's gun to make threats on his behalf.

Whatever the merits of his arguments about tobacco, in simple terms and like every other busybody in the country, he wants to get the gun out to impose his own choices on others.

Hone's approach to political life is not unlike that of too many others. If you have a view that you consider should be widely adopted you can either try and persuade others of the merits of your arguments so that they can choose to adopt (or not) your favourite hobby horse; or, you can lobby the government to get the gun out to force people to do what you wish them to. There are no other ways. It's either persuasion and choice, or force and threats -- and once the regime of threats and coercion is in place, they are then ready to be used for the next round of bullying, and the next, and the next...

Such is the pattern of modern government: each lobbyist attempting to grab the government's gun in order to impose their own view of the world on others. "I feel strongly that other people should do X," says the lobbyist (for X fill in whatever you wish), "and I intend to make them do it."

In such an environment, the righteousness or otherwise of your cause can never justify the force you wish to impose to bring it about. There is no cause that justifies institutionalised threats, bullying and coercion and the legalised removal of people's ability to choose for themselves. Just remember, if you can persuade others of the merits of your cause, you won't need to force them. And if you can't persuade them, what the hell gives you the right to force them?

I can almost hear the criticism already. "What about libertarian government? Don't you want to impose your libertarian values on others?" The answer is "No." Libertarian government is about removing coercion from human affairs so that people are free to make their own choices; restricting government only to the outlawing of the initiation of force. In such an environment, there is no coercive government gun to threaten with -- the government has been tied up constitutionally to protect, rather than to coerce.

The problem with using government force to impose your values on others is that you remove people's choice and limit their freedom. The danger with it is that each time you use the government's gun for such things, you legitimise and expand the government's coercive power -- something more dangerous than all the harms of tobacco, of prostitution, of whatever cause to which you are opposed. As Lindsay Perigo said yesterday in his debate with our Hone, the real danger here is not tobacco; it's dictatorial government. Asked for his solution Perigo said, put a tattoo on all politician's foreheads saying, "Health warning - dictatorship is bad for you."

Not a bad idea at all, methinks.

NOTE: 1. Those who missed yesterday's rambunctious televised debate on 'Eye to Eye' can catch it again on Tuesday night on TV One at 11:05pm. Overseas readers can watch it through this link.
2. And note too that if you're quick you can catch Perigo in his new slot at Radio Live from
12-4pm this afternoon. Listen online here. [UPDATE: Apparently you can't catch Lindsay on Radio Live - Willie Jackson's on instead with Hone Harawira!]

LINKS: Radio Live
Hone vs Perigo - Lindsay Mitchell
Tobacco has to go, says MP - Wanganui Chronicle

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-Maori_Party, Libertarianism, Politics

Saturday, 22 April 2006

Worst songs ever written

In the tradition of previous weekends and similar posts here both this year and last, I was putting together a list of the worst songs ever written when I saw this, an invitation to put together a list of the most embarrassing songs in my collection. [Hat tip a presently embarrassing blog.] Perhaps I'll embarrass myself next week. :-) In the meantime, here's a list of the most annoying, most insidious, just downright worst songs ever written -- songs that have not only stood the test of time, but are so bad if they're played in your company you just have to get the hell out. Quickly. Here they are, the top ten songs that really bring up the bile (note the disproportionate number of hippies in the list):
  1. Train in Vain - The Clash
  2. Rhinestone Cowboy - Glenn Campbell
  3. Yellow Submarine - Beatles
  4. Sailing - Rod Stewart
  5. I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston
  6. I Just Called to Say I Love You - Stevie Wonder
  7. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel
  8. Teach Your Children - Crosby, Stills and Nash
  9. Candle in the Wind - Elton John
  10. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother - The Hollies
Bubbling under: Achy Breaky Heart; Ten Guitars; Shout - Tears for Fears; We Will Rock You; YMCA; Funkytown; Mandy; Bohemian Rhapsody; Green Door; Kumbaya; Lady in Red; O-Bla-Di, O-Bla-Da; Girl from Ipanema; How Deep is Your Love; Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head; Puppet on a String; Tie a Yellow Ribbon; Puppy Love; Both Sides Now; Summer Breeze; Morning Town Ride; ABC; From a Distance. Anything execrable I've missed?

And note, if I've now given you Stuck Tune Syndrome, Maim That Tune helps you detune your head by sticking an even worse tune in your head. Give it a try. It's rather like having someone standing on your left foot so you forget about the pain in the right.

ADDED: Maxwell's Silver Hammer - Beatles; Blowing in the Wind; It's Raining Men; Money for Nothing - Dire Straits; The Gambler; I Will Survive; What's New Pussycat?; Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady.
LINKS: Bad song survey - Not PC
Here are some of the worst songs of all time - Dave Barry, Pop Culture Madness
Nagging bloody music - Not PC
Shame Game - Moody Mama
Maim That Tune

TAGS: Music

How much is Honiara mission worth?

NEWSTALK ZB: A further 53 New Zealand soldiers are being sent to the Solomons. They will leave on Sunday, joining the 25 army officers and 30 police who left yesterday. Prime Minister Helen Clark says it is in response to a request from the Regional Assistance Mission that more troops are needed to help restore law and order. This latest deployment will bring the number of New Zealand personnel in the Solomons to 192...

I'm wondering how you lot feel about that many of NZ's military being put in harm's way in Honiara? I've got my own view, but I want to hear yours. How do you feel about it, and will that view change if there are casualties, if young New Zealanders die trying to bring order in Honiara? If one New Zealand soldier dies? If six die? Will you still feel the same way then? Put bluntly, just how much is order in Honiara worth to you?

LINKS: More NZ soldiers for Solomons - Newstalk ZB
More troops to be sent to Solomons - Clark - Dominion Post

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-World, War

Role reversal in ACT

The best blog comment on recent stories from the ACT camp about the doings and prospective doings respectively of Heather Roy and Rodney Hide comes from Phil at Oh, Crikey!:
Kinda emblematic of just how sex-role reversed NZ is. The ACT Party: one man, one woman. The woman's off to become GI Jane while the man wants to be a prima ballerina on Dancing with the Stars.
LINK: That's our girl - Oh, Crikey!
MP signs up for boot camp - Dominion Post
A dancing bear - Muglets [Hat tip ?]

TAGS: Politics-ACT

Good sense from a surprising source

Okay, which blog said this yesterday on the subject of Iran:

If you read nothing else today, read the New Republic's backgrounder on the murderous fanaticism of the Iranian president. Read how, during the Iraq war, Iran's clerics sent

Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines. There, they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies.
What words exist to describe the depravity of human beings toward each other? Seize the apocalyptic destruction of lives and then just contemplate these monsters getting hold of a nuclear weapon.

And ask yourself why it is that we haven't spent so much more rage on the prospect of these monster raving loonies getting a bomb. And ask yourself how it is that so much more time and effort is spent abusing the living bejesus out of the US, and not these ghastly theocratic nightmares. How anyone could compare even the worst democratically elected government with these deeds is incomprehensible.

Well said. And this on Tuesday about Chris Carter and Japanese whaling:

"Mr Carter said anti-whaling nations struggled to comprehend Japan's rationale for continuing whaling." Chris Carter is a clown. The man is actually an idiot. This is a kneejerk comment. But that's typical. Carter is always the first to be pompous and high-handed. Does it occur to Mr Carter that maybe Japan could just as obtusely state it doesn't understand the rationale for continuing to oppose whaling?

Let ['X' Blog] clear up the mystery: Japan hunts whales because some Japanese like to eat them. There, understand now?

Yes, I do. So who do you think 'X' Blog is? Hint: It's one written on behalf of a seniour Cabinet Minister in the Clark-led Government. Surprised? I sure was. Whoever the new author of 'X' Blog is, he/she is in danger of making too much sense for their own good.

LINKS: Sickening - 'X' Blog
Whaling - 'X' Blog

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-World, War, Environment, Conservation

TWA Terminal -Eero Saarinen, 1962

Talking of airline terminals, as I was earlier today, made me think about posting some pictures of Eero Saarinen's beautifully expressionistic 1962 TWA Terminal, designed to express the new age of jet travel back when that age was in its very infancy, and and which has been long outgrown by developments since. As architect Stephanie Stubbs said about the building when renovations began being planned a few years back:
Saarinen's TWA Terminal—the great, swooping concrete bird—captured the essence of flight poised on the threshold of the Jet Age. It is fitting that all efforts be made to preserve its beauty for us, and for future generations. However, it is apparent that the building just cannot function as an airline terminal anymore.
The proposals shown here with the original terminal building at its center give just a small idea of how much jet travel has changed in forty-odd years, and how flexible and easily-altered the modern airline building needs to be. And just see what else has changed, based on present requirements:
...the Port Authority [the present owner] does not feel the whole building can be a modern terminal with "no room for curbside check-in, no way to move baggage efficiently through the building and no place to put security equipment like bulky explosive-detecting devices...the gently arched tubular bridges do not meet modern requirements for people with disabilities." But PA does say it could become an airport centerpiece, pending the future AirTain system, as well as a place for the aiport's employees.
Sadly, Saarinen's terminal seemed to express and to fit the new age of jet travel so well that when jet travel moved onwards and upwards, the building couldn't. Even by the early seventies as bureaucracy took over the traveller, surveys suggested that Saarinen's terminal was often cited as the one that causing frequent flyers the most dissatisfaction. The reason? The building itself gave such a magnificent feeling of being up-up-and-away to the traveller who was faced instead with delays and paperwork on the ground -- all the hassles and problems associated with modern jet travel - that the contrast proved too much for too many, and too frustrating for most.

LINKS: Saarinen's TWA Terminal and the moment of truth - AIArchitect (Sept, 2001)
Saarinen's beloved TWA Terminal and air travel for the future: can this marriage be saved? - AIArchitect - AIArchitect (Sept, 2001)
Saarinen's TWA Terminal to reopen? - The Gothamist (Oct, 2003)
3d Visuals - JonSeagull.Com

TAGS: Architecture, History-Twentieth_Century

Friday, 21 April 2006

Perigo Live

For those looking for something to run past your brain cells over your cornflakes tomorrow morning (Saturday), then turn off Kim Hill (permanently!) and turn on your TV to watch Lindsay Perigo debating Hone Hariwira on TV One's 'Eye to Eye' on the subject of Hone's stupid proposal to try and ban smoking. Should be some fireworks there. That's 'Eye to Eye, TV One, 9:30am Saturday NZT (and again on Tuesday evening).

And if you want to tell him how he went or to tell him where he went wrong, you can catch Perigo again in his regular Sunday afternoon slot on Radio Live from 12-4pm NZT.

UPDATE: Lindsay Mitchell has posted a report on the 'Eye to Eye performance so I don't have to. Ta Lindsay.

LINKS: Radio Live
Hone vs Perigo - Lindsay Mitchell

TAGS: New_Zealand

Beer O'Clock: Limburg Budvar taste-off

I plan a taste-off tonight between the classic Czech favourite Budvar, and the new local boy making good, the Limburg Czechmate.

It's going to be an awful night. :-)

LINKS: This evening: Budvar - Not PC
Beer O'Clock: Limburg Czechmate Pilsener - Not PC

TAGS: Beer & Elsewhere

Talking to genius

Once again Stephen Hicks unearths a nugget: this time a 49-minute interview with the late Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, a certified genius, rollicking raconteur, and a man who self-admittedly did much of his best work while sitting at a booth at a strip club. True story. As Stephen says, "If you haven’t read Feynman’s hilarious and inspiring “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” (Adventures of a Curious Character), put it on your short list. Right now." Also true.

LINKS: The pleasure of finding things out - RP Feynman
'Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!' (Adventures of a Curious Character) - Amazon

TAGS: Science, Books, Heroes

Greens' co-leader candidates jostle non-aggressively for position

Looks like we'll know in a few days who's on the list of possible Green Party co-leader-persons because, as DPF puts it, "nominations close today for the role of Green co-leader with a Y chromosome." Both DPF and Vernon Small have a summary of the Y-chromosomed front-runners, which -- demonstrating that the Greens aren't always as insane as they're painted -- doesn't include Keith Locke.

Like DPF, I too am fascinated by what might be in Nandor's main pitch for the position, his paper posted on the party's members-only forum "Green solutions, not old Left solutions," explaining "why the Greens are not a left-wing party."

Fascinating. Do you think the phrase property rights appears in there at all? The legal recognition and protection of property rights is after all the pre-eminent way of preserving and protecting both the natural environment and the human environment. Do you think Nandor's finally cottoned on?

LINKS: Co-throne succession like folk-dancing on the head of a pin - Dominion Post
And the nominees are... - David Farrar,

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-Green, Property_Rights

Googling 'Not PC'

Top Google searches landing here at present, with links to where I think the searchers were looking. Looks like interest in recently suppressed matters has calmed down. For the moment. And kooks like a lot of people are interested in good architecture -- and why wouldn't they be? :-)

broadacre city (5th on Yahoo)
briar dravitski image (4th on Yahoo)
chris tame (5th)
classic sex (1st on Yahoo)
pruitt-igoe scheme (1st)
broadacre wright
broadacre city of frank lloyd wright (3rd on Yahoo)
clare swinney (2nd)
la iglesia de la milagrosa candela (1st)
pc sex
frank lloyd wright mile high illinois tower nuclear elevator (5th)
winebox enquiry 2006 (5th on Yahoo)
klingsor castle ruins (not on front page)
organon (2nd on Google Blog Search)
chicago mile high tower
paul sandby rocky coast by moonlight (1st)
robert harvey oshatz (3rd)
3d model desert house neutra (10th)
claude megson (10th)

TAGS: Blog

Airport thoughts: What about Winston?

Passing through Auckland Aiport yesterday I meditated on a few things, a couple of which I'm going to share with you lot.

Every time I visit Auckland's privately-owned International Airport it's changed, and always for the better. Over a relatively short space of time the formerly drab, unattractive, government-owned and uninspiring airport has become in private hands an efficient, attractive and delightful gateway to the rest of the country and the rest of the world. And works will no doubt be continuing to keep the improvements continuing, the passengers flowing, and the share price rising. (Such a shame about the government-owned roads that regularly delay access to the airport.)

Things airport-wise in Auckland are in short going well. Very well. So what was the problem with selling the other airports?

Do you remember the fuss Winston Peters made when previously in coalition about selling off the Wellington airport? After having previously let the sale of Auckland Airport proceed unprotested -- in fact, as Treasurer he announced the sale of the Government's majority interest -- in a subsequent bid to bring down the Government and stage manage a point of difference for the forthcoming election, Winston if you recall staged a walk-out over the sale of Wellington airport.

What a plonker.

Now, you don't need to be an Army astrologer to predict that the headline-hunting plonker will walk again at some stange this Parliamentary term. But what do you think his next stage-managed walk-out will be over? And when? And how much will Helen crawl to try and keep him in line?

TAGS: Privatisation, Politics-NZ, Politics-Winston_First, Auckland

'Paolo and Francesca' - Ary Scheffer

'Paolo and Francesca' (detail) - Ary Scheffer, 1854. Dante's famous love story, not unlike the even more well-known story of 'Tristan and Isolde.


Thursday, 20 April 2006

What's important?

Here's three questions to get your brain cells ticking this morning, and my info about you lot updated. Feel free to think about them over the day and post your answers a bit later. I'll try and keep quiet about your answers and try and act just like a filing clerk here:
  • What in your opinion is the single biggest issue facing the world over the next ten years?
  • Facing the West?
  • Facing New Zealand?
TAGS: History-Modern

One-size-fits-all education doesn't fit dyslexics

As today's study today in the New Zealand Herald has perhaps reinforced, it’s not that dyslexics can’t read, it’s just that they read and learn differently to other students. There's only one real problem with that: in the inflexible state system dyslexic children are required to learn by the one-size fits-all system in which children will either fit, or fail.

So it’s not that so many young dyslexics fail in New Zealand schools, it’s that the state’s factory schools are failing them. The well-known motto of successful teachers of dyslexics is instructive: “If I don't learn the way you teach me, teach me the way I learn." That’s something a factory schooling system can never allow. Instead, high-achieving dyslexics of the past such as Leonardo da Vinci and Einstein would simply fall through the cracks, just as too many of them are now.

LINKS: Auckland research breakthrough throws light on dyslexiaNZ Herald

How to teach people with dyslexia – Bright solutions for dyslexia

TAGS: Education, Politics-NZ

UK Backlash against internet censorship

The Blair Government is trying to introduce legislation to strengthen the criminal law” with respect to “extreme pornographic material,” or, as protest website Backlash puts it, “The UK government is currently considering how best to imprison potentially many people for viewing content on the internet.”

“The internet,” continues Backlash, “is a convenient scapegoat for society's ills.” Isn’t it just.

Oddly, among the most sensible responses to this was given by a conservative, specifically UK Conservative leader David Cameron. Asked before the election whether he supported the proposals, Cameron replied:
“Exploitative pornography is clearly distasteful. I believe, however, that adults must be allowed to make decisions for themselves. Our attention should be focused on ensuring that effective action is taken to prevent child pornography and to reduce the chance of pornography falling into the hands of children.”
Oh for such a clear moral statement from a New Zealand politician. On anything! There are a lot worse things than so-called extreme pornography: Extremely intrusive government is one.

LINKS: Backlash website
Cue Card Libertarianism – Censorship – Not PC

TAGS: Free Speech, Sex, Politics-UK

Ten good reasons to call off the union

Where would General Motors be without the Union of Automibile Workers? Probably in clover, says George Reisman giving ten good reasons why they'd be thriving, instead of hovering close to extinction.

And where would General Motors' workers be without the Union of Automobile Workers? Probably in well-paid secure employment, suggests George Reisman. So who's ultimately to blame then for their present predicament, and for that of Ford and Chrysler as well? Can you guess?
Few things are more obvious than that the role of the UAW in relation to General Motors has been that of a swarm of bloodsucking leeches, a swarm that will not stop until its prey exists no more.

It is difficult to believe that people who have been neither lobotomized nor castrated would not rise up and demand that these leeches finally be pulled off!

Perhaps the American people do not rise up, because they have never seen General Motors, or any other major American business, rise up and dare to assert the philosophical principle of private property rights and individual freedom and proceed to pull the leeches off in the name of that principle...

One of the ugliest consequences of the loss of economic freedom and respect for property rights is that it makes such spinelessness and gutlessness on the part of businessmen—such amorality—a requirement of succeeding in business.
LINKS: Where would General Motors be without the United Automobile Workers Union? - George Reisman's Blog
Auto bailout seems unlikely - NY Times

TAGS: Politics-US, Politics, Economics

Craftsmanship still counts for something

As modern technology becomes increasingly complex even as it transforms our lives, there are some things it still can't do. It can't yet produce a Stradivarius, or even something approaching one; all it can do is help speculate on what makes them so good, and continue to try and emulate what is still the 'gold standard' for violin makers. How good are they? The US$2,032,000 paid for one in 2005 might tell you the story: exceptional.

Craftsmanship still counts for something, it seems, as does the all the knowledge needed to produce something of the Strad's quality:
Perhaps someday advanced technology will outstrip the Strad, producing violins widely regarded as superior [says TCS's Kenneth Silber]. If so, it still will have taken a considerably long time for high tech to outdo the work of a craftsman who lived before the industrial revolution.
LINK: A singular sensation: The Strad - TechCentralStation

TAGS: Science, Music, History

'The Vine' - Harriet Frismuth, 1923

'The Vine' - Harriet Frismuth, 1923. Story and print here.

TAGS: Art, Sculpture

Wednesday, 19 April 2006

Let's Roll

Get ye to 'United 93' says Daniel Prager about the film depicting the ordeal suffered by United 93 passengers on that morning on September 11, 2001, when they fought for thir lives with Islamic terrorists intent on their death, and with them the destruction of the US Capitol. As we now know, it was a fight the terrorists lost -- but it was a victory with a high price for those who fought it.

People completely unprepared for an airplane flight to become their last hour alive rise to the occasion and save fellow Americans from death and from the humiliation of having their nation's capitol building destroyed.

The only people likely to object to this film are those who don't want Americans to become aware of just how conscienceless, cruel and depraved our enemy is, or those who think that our enemies can always be negotiated with and therefore object to depicting Americans actually fighting back.

Teenage and older children in particular should see this film. If the younger teens have nightmares, comfort them. But young Americans need to know the nature of whom we are fighting...
And they aren't the only ones.

LINK: All Americans must see ‘United 93’ - Daniel Prager, Jewish World Review

TAGS: Films, War

Dealing with Iran

If there is an Axis of Evil, then the Locus of Evil must surely be Tehran. As The Times notes, "it's no coincidence" that the latest suicide bombing in Israel followed renewed Iranian threats to destroy Israel, and new threats to unleash an army of suicide bombers on the West.

Whatever the arguments about what the US should do about Iranian missile-rattling and whether a war against them be averted, Robert Tracinscki argues that the West is already at war with Tehran, "and that Iran is the central enemy we have to defeat if we are going to win the War on Terrorism."
If America's failure to act against the comparatively minor threat from Bin Laden in the 1990s resulted in the horrors of September 11, we can expect far worse if we fail to act against Iran... There can be no victory in the War on Terrorism until we confront—and defeat—the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the real war, and it's time we started fighting it.
Read his argument here. And notice that philosopher Leonard Peikoff has been saying this since 1997, back when Clinton was still in the White House.
Iran--not Iraq--is the primary threat to American interest in the Middle East and has been since it confiscated our oil fields in the 1950s. Iran is the major sponsor of international terrorism throughout the world and is the country most responsible for lethal attacks on American citizens. For these reasons, Iran fully deserves bloody retribution.
We live in dangerous times, the precise opposite of Helen Clark's "benign defence environment." In such times blinding oneself or wishing things were otherwise is not an option. You have to deal with what is, not what you would like it to be.

LINKS: It's no coincidence that blasts follow Iran's threats - Times Online
Time to fight the real war - The Intellectual Activist
Iraq: The wrong war - Leonard Peikoff, CapMag
Crasher - Cox and Forkum
Iran cartoons - Cox and Forkum
The frightening truth of why Iran wants a bomb - Amir Taheri,

TAGS: Politics-World, Politics-US, War

Baring Breasts

It takes a Canadian academic with time on her hands to study the reasons women flash their breasts when their team wins. (Academics: wasting their time so you don't have to.)

So why do girls do it? Oh, I don't know. But the research found that Calgary Flames' fans who bared their breasts after a Stanley Cup win two years ago were: "motivated by a complex set of factors, including a desire to celebrate the Flames victories, a desire to break the rules, feelings of stardom and a sense of history."

"The context was so important," said Mary Valentich, professor emeritus of social work [social work?!] at the University of Calgary. "You just wouldn't necessarily do this elsewhere. It had to be the right kind of setting."
So there you go. Context matters. Accordingly, here's another picture of some breasts. And here's some nude oil wrestling. [Hat tip FleshBot]. Meanwhile, Australian cheerleaders aren't even allowed to expose their navels anymore. Sheesh already.

LINKS: When Calgary Flames fans win we all win - PaulKatcher.Com
When women bare breasts, the context is everything - The Globe & Mail
Australian cheerleaders told to cover up midriffs - Sports Illustrated

TAGS: Humour, Sex

'The Sacrifice of Isaac' - Caravaggio.

'The Sacrifice of Isaac,' by Caravaggio. 1603.

And such a lovely story too: "Take thee thy son," says God to Abraham, "and offer him ... for a burnt offering." So there you are - your knife's out -- your son's heads on the block -- you're all ready to go, and comes the word from God: "Huh, I was just kidding."

 God, isn't he a scream, eh?

LINKS: Genesis 22:2-13 - Skeptics Annotated Bible TAGS: Art, Religion

Tuesday, 18 April 2006

The Berrymans still fighting

If you hadn't seen the story over the weekend, lawyer Rob Moodie has filed suit against the Army for $4.5 million on behalf of Keith and Margaret Berryman.
Keith and Margaret Berryman are suing the New Zealand army for about $4.5 million 12 years after a beekeeper died when his truck fell through an army-built bridge leading to their King Country farm...

Taumarunui coroner Tim Scott blamed the Berrymans for not maintaining the bridge.

But since Dr Moodie took over the case in 2004, it has emerged that the Defence Force kept information from the coroner that laid some of the blame with the army engineers who designed and built the bridge as a training exercise.

The Solicitor-General has declined four applications by the Berrymans for a new inquest.

Speaking this morning. "Mr Moodie says the Berrymans have taken the blame for too long and they deserve justice." Too right. And Keith Berryman himself argues that Helen Clark has abandoned them “She said the charges should never have been laid; now we don’t hear anything from her. She’s turned.” She certainly has. In 1998 in the midst of a hard-fought by-election Helen Clark declared, "Labour's by-election campaign has been about putting the heart back into the country, and giving hard-working people such as Keith and Margaret Berryman a fair go." In 2000 Helen Clark stood on the Berryman's bridge with Mark Burton and Harry Duynhoven and promised "when I become Prime Minister, I will ensure the Government will settle the Berrymans for this outrage."


Talk about politicians' empty promises. Eight years after her first promise the Berrymans have yet to receive even the steam off Helen Clark's piss. "The government has made an offer of compensation to the Berrymans and it's up to the Berrymans to consider that," said "a spokesman for the Prime Minister" over the weekend. What that spokesman didn't say is what I pointed out here last year,
that the $150,000 offered to the Berrymans by her Government in 'mediation' is a sick joke. It does not even cover their $450,000 legal bills, does not begin to compensate for the loss of their farm (which conservative estimates say might now be worth $2.5 million), and in no way compensates for the ten years of hell both Labour and National Governments have put this couple through.
Good on Rob Moodie for not giving up on this even when all around him are falling asunder. Perhaps it might spark a similar backdown as happened recently with the long-running Contaminated Blood Scandal.

LINKS: Berrymans seeking $4.5m damages from Army - NZ Herald
Couple suing army over bridge collapse -
Helen Clark: Berryman case highlights abandonment of rural NZ - Not PC
Berrymans say PM has abandoned them -
NZ Herald
$10m payout for victims of tainted transfusions - Sunday Star Times

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour, Berrymans

Separating State and Welfare

Lindsay Mitchell has posted a thought-provoking Jacob Hornberger piece on her blog. Money excerpt:
Federal welfare assistance to Americans has become such an ingrained part of our lives that most Americans hardly give it a second thought. While “waste, fraud, and abuse” have become a standard part of the welfare-state lexicon, the answer for many is simply, “The system needs reform.”

Yet when recommended reforms are instituted, “waste, fraud, and abuse” inevitably rear their ugly heads again, which then generates the call for new reforms, perpetuating an endless cycle of problems and reforms.

All this fiddling avoids the central issue: Why not separate charity and the state, in the same manner our ancestors separated church and state? Why not get government totally out of the charity business? I’m suggesting that we do much more than simply repeal all welfare-state programs. I’m suggesting that we go further and elevate our vision to the same level as that of our American ancestors when they separated church and state. I’m suggesting the following amendment to the Constitution: “The federal government shall not provide any subsidy, grant, welfare, aid, loan, or other special privilege to anyone.”
Go look at it all.

LINK: The separation of charity and state - Jacob Hornberger (via Lindsay Mitchell)

TAGS: Politics, Libertarianism

Moral equivalence?

Is there a term for those who berate Westerners for being 'offensive' to Islamic culture, but who turn a blind eye to a religion that was born in violent conquest and which today mandates and endorses genital mutilation, the subjugation of women, the stoning of gays, the beheading of those who satirise their stone-age beliefs, and the violent institution of sharia law and dhimmitude across the globe?

What sort of person would get more angry at those being offensive to such a barbaric culture than they would at the practioners of barbarity themselves? Frankly, if barbarity like that doesn't offend you, then you've failed as a human being.

As Allie says here in 'Hating Islam':
Yeah. I'm intolerant of Islam. But you can go on being tolerant. If evil does not repel you.
LINKS: Hating Islam - Allie
Discrimination of women and child abuse - Middle-East-Info.org

TAGS: Multiculturalism, Religion, War, Cartoons, Sexism

The Swinging Whig

This week's Whig Status Report shows The Whig swapping party affiliation back from Compulsion Touter to National Socialist, ie., from the party of scandal-mongering back to the party of weasel-worded nannying. Any bets as to how long this latest expression of undying loyalty will last? Anybody like to put together a Whig-o-meter showing where his week-by-week affililiation lies? Would a Whig-o-Meter showing The Whig's swinging allegiance be as as a useful a political barometer as the pendulum showing the allegiance of the swinging voter?

LINKS: The Whig is now a mainstream New Zealander - The Whig

TAGS: Politics_ACT, Politics_National, Nonsense

Learning from history

It's said that “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” It might also be said that those who are unable to learn from history -- or who don't even know their history -- cannot honestly expect to have their ill-formed and baseless opinions taken seriously. History has many lessons for those both alert enough to identify them and honest enough not to evade them:
  • From the Dark Ages comes the lesson that taken together faith, mysticism, an ethic of blind sacrifice and a focus on some non-existent other world leads to dirt-poor misery in this one. (The same lesson can be learned either from the thousand years of the Western Dark Ages, or from what looks to be at least a thousand years of Islamic Dark Ages.)
  • The Inquisition and Islamic jihad between them show the truth of Voltaire's dictum that those who believe absurdities tend to commit atrocities.
  • From the Enlightenment comes the lesson that between them reason and a focus on this world provide a way out of the darkness.
  • The Industrial Revolution shows that reason applied to production leads to an enormous increase in human welfare, (and from it also comes the further lesson that reason is man's unique means of survival).
  • That the Industrial Revolution happened first and most spectacularly in Britain shows that a legal environment protecting freedom and property rights is necessary for such a revolution to happen and to endure.
  • The relative success of the US Constitution shows that if you know what you're about that it's possible to tie up the government to protect freedom and property rights at least some of the time.
  • From two World Wars and a century of slaughter comes the lesson that totalitarian state worship is not the route to human happiness.
  • From the bloody failures of collectivism comes the lesson that 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need' is a recipe for human sacrifice and bloody slaughter.
  • From the rise of Nazism comes the lesson that appeasement rewards the aggressor; that all evil requires is for good men to do nothing.
  • From the Holocaust comes the lesson of the banality of evil, and the evil of blindly following orders.
  • From the spectular post-war economic successes of Germany and Japan comes the lesson that trade and capitalism are better than totalitarianism and bloody conquest.
  • From the rise of the Asian Tiger economies comes the lesson (again) that freedom and prosperity are directly and inextricably linked.
  • From the Fall of the Berlin Wall comes the lesson that non-freedom and poverty are also and inextricably linked.
  • The continuing fatwah on Salman Rushdie; the murders of Theo van Gogh, Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg and Paul Marshall Johnson; the deaths of September 11 and the bombings of Bali, Madrid and London -- between them the lesson is there that war has been declared between barbarity and civilisation.
All these lessons are there for those who choose to open their eyes and learn them. Taken together, the lesson from the events of history is that reason, individualism and capitalism are a recipe for health, wealth and happiness in this world, and their polar opposites a prescription only for death, misery and destruction.

UPDATE: Speaking of history, Stephen Hicks has just spent two hours he didn't have exploring this great timeline history of the universe (right). Ignore his warning at your peril.

LINK: Timeline history of the universe - JohnKyrk.Com

TAGS: History, Philosophy, Ethics, Politics, Objectivism

Sunday, 16 April 2006

Murdering tall poppies -- that's what Easter is about

Every religion has their own myths that go to the very heart of their beliefs. The Easter Myth is central to Christianity, and somewhat revealing. Watching a performance of Bach's 'St Mathew Passion' last week I was struck by Bach's dramatisation just how revealing the Easter Myth really is.

Just think, Christians revere Christ as their ideal, and indeed Bach had his chorus praise him, worship him, eulogise Him. And then they killed him.

That's the story. That, says Bach, is what Christians revere. The murder of their ideal.

According to the scriptures which Christ's contemporaries worshipped, this man was the one they sought, the one they were waiting for, the one who was their hero. And they killed him. They couldn't wait to kill him. In the name of their own mediocrity, he just had to go: his perfection was an affront to their own imperfection; his nobility an affront to their own ignobility. So, in that Easter week they denied him, killed him and disowned him, after which they bewailed his fate, and they bewailed what they had done. BUT THEY STILL DID IT! And they would do so again.

Such is the nature of the Easter Myth.

The clear insight that it seems Bach wants us to take about the myth of Easter is one of sacrifice, and the nature of that sacrifice: in that name of religion he shows us that the good (by Christian standards) are sacrificed to the rotten, the constant to the inconstant, the talented and inspirational to the lumpen dross. Why? Because the good are a constant affront to the mediocre, the talented to the untalented, the superhuman to the less-than-human. They can't be allowed to remain -- they're an affront to us all. In the name of God they just have to go! Only once they're dead are they safe to revere once again. After all, the dead can't talk back.

In other words, it struck me that the Easter Myth is not unlike Ayn Rand's Fountainhead, only without the happy ending, and with a bloody awful ethic to boot.

LINKS: The Fountainhead - Objectivism Reference Center

TAGS: Religion, Objectivism, Ethics, Music, Books