Saturday, April 01, 2006

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

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

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

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

TAGS:
Films, Libertarianism

New standards on lift etiquette

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

EMBARGOED UNTIL: APRIL 1, 2006

MEDIA RELEASE: New NZ Standard on Lift Etiquette

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another silly quiz?

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

You Are a Warrior Soul



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

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


TAGS: Quizzes. [Hat tip Chaos Theory.]

Friday, March 31, 2006

Out

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

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


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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Give it all away? To whom?

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

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

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

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

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

LINKS: Impossible egalitarianism - Tibor Machan, SOLO Passion

TAGS: Politics, Ethics

Morphed maps

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

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

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

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

TAGS: Science, Economics, Multiculturalism

Eclipse

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

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

Be quick.

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

TAGS: Science

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

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

TAGS: Architecture

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lessons from Harmeet Sooden

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

Good reading.

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

TAGS: Politics-World, Politics-NZ

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Coming to the west

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

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

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

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

TAGS: Multiculturalism, Racism, Political_Correctness, Objectivism

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El Pueblo Rivera - Rudolph Schindler


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

LINKS: El Pueblo Rivera - architectureforsale.com

TAGS: Architecture

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"A battle about values..."

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

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

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

TAGS: War, Multiculturalism, Religion

Games medals question

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

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

TAGS: Sport, New_Zealand

Distinguishing ad hominem from all the other stuff

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

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

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

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

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

TAGS: Philosophy, Objectivism

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Global warming wants to convict

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

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

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

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

TAGS: Global_Warming, Economics, Politics-World

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Wolfe House - Rudolph Schindler


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

TAGS: Architecture

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Monday, March 27, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-World

Quality Assurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAGS: Nonsense, Economics

Sketch - Organon Architecture

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

TAGS: Architecture

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Two questions for you

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

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

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

TAGS: Politics, Politics-NZ

Understanding production and consumption - the bases of all economics

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

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

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

TAGS: Economics, Education

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Useful idiots and religious barbarians

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

LINKS: Worse - Cox and Forkum

TAGS: War, Multiculturalism, Religion, Cartoons