Sunday, 30 April 2006

None must sleep!

The rousing 'Nessun Dorma' is perhaps the most widely-known and loved operatic aria. The soccer World Cup and Lucianno Pavarotti made it famous. Now, Lindsay Perigo reveals a spine-tingling new rendition, and explains a little of what the spirited singing is all about. None must sleep!

LINKS: Mario Lanza's secret, 'Nessun Dorma' - Lindsay Perigo, SOLO Passion

TAGS: Music, Art

How to see as an artist sees

Artist Michael Newberry has begun offering Mini-Tutorials on one of his many sites into some of the fundamentals of art, or as he puts it how to look at art through an artist's eyes.

His first two Mini-Tuts cover the triangulation of light and dark, and rhythm. Matchless tutoring.

And there at right is one of his major works, Denouement. Click on it to see a larger version.

LINKS: Mini tutorials: Innovation and fundamentals in art - Michael Newberry
Newberry Archive

TAGS: Art, Objectivism

Personnel pillocks

Insolent Prick insolently and deservedly attacks people who work in Personnel, or 'HR' as they pretentiously call it these days. The late Helen Tippett, who knew a thing or two about management herself, used to remind we students that 'people are not a resource, they're an asset.' But I digress:
There may be, in some dark corner of Mogadishu, an errant HR person who is not following the rules, and has somehow understood their true purpose in life: to serve the organisation and people that they work for. I just haven't met such a person.
Me either (well, maybe one). Good weekend reading.

LINKS: The truth about cats and dogs and HR people - Insolent Prick

TAGS: Nonsense

Beer O'Clock: Emerson's 1812

Unfortunately, in heading off to see a couple of projects around the place I left Auckland too early on Friday to post the usual Friday afternoon Beer O'Clock suggestion. But fear not: Sunday is also a drinking day, thank the Lord, so here courtesy of guest blogger Neil Miller from the much-esteemed Real Beer blog comes this week's beer-centric advice:

It is too nice an autumn day in Wellington to be cracking into the dark winter beers just yet. For this week's Beer O'Clock I thought I would profile one of New Zealand's most highly decorated beers - Emerson's 1812.

Michael Jackson (the beer authority - not the dodgy singing one) rated this beer as one of the top 500 beers in the entire world which is high praise indeed. Jackson rightly noted that brewer Richard Emerson (pictured here some years ago - Google is marvellous) "makes some of New Zealand's best beers."

Emerson's beers were once rarely seen north of Christchurch. Now thanks to a bigger brewery and a better distribution system these beers can be readily found right round the country. My nearest stockist for example is 37.4 metres away. Hooray!

Anyway, the 1812 is an light copper India Pale Ale with a solid fluffy head. It throws a robust nose of orange, citrus and spice and backs that up with a juicy malt body bursting with orange, chocolate and honey notes. There is a strong yet smooth bitter finish from the characteristic generous use of hops (including dry hopping). Enjoy.

LINKS: Real Beer

TAGS: Beer & Elsewhere

Friday, 28 April 2006

New Auckland car tax voted for 'closer look'

Auckland City Council voted last night "for more research into charging motorists to use congested roads, but said it could not accept such a system without a greater regional share of fuel taxes." See the Herald's report for the full story of who was for and who against the proposed new car tax . Some strange bedfellows in some unusual positions.

If you want a one-sentence sumary of why Auckland's transport system isn't one, try this:
Transport committee chair Richard Simpson said the number of cars "eating" Auckland was insane.
"Insane" may be the very word to describe Mr Simpson. May I recommend Andrew Galambos to Mr Simpson:
A traffic jam is a collision between free enterprise and socialism. Free enterprise produces automobiles faster than socialism can build roads and road capacity.
LINKS: Council votes for closer look at tolling - NZ Herald
Charging cars to enter Auckland: A bad idea
- Not PC

TAGS: Auckland, Economics

The club with no beer

I hear a South Island rugby club has banned beer from the clubrooms. Drinking beer with your team-mates after a game is considered by the Club Captain 'inappropriate' and unhelpful to family life. Sigh. To paraphrase the famous song, ' It's no place for a dog round a club with no beer. '

Might I recommend to club members and visitors The Beerbelly -- no, not that beer belly; I mean The Beerbelly, a 'removable spare tyre' that you wear over your stomach, conceal under your clothes and take to events and functions at which self-supply is frowned on, and then use to dispense cool beer through a convenient hose all afternoon long.

Sounding good? If you're interested, then don't forget the tips and tricks, especially those essential excuses you might need getting past security. I'd show you a picture, but, ah, you know, blokes with guts, fake or not, aren't really a good look are they?

LINKS: The Beerbelly [Hat tips Whale Oil &]
The pub with no beer - Lyrics

TAGS: Beer_&_Elsewhere, Humour, Sport

'That's inappropriate!' 'I'm offended.' Tough luck.

"That's inappropriate behaviour." How often do you hear that these days: "That's not appropriate," always with the follow-up, intended as instant dismissal: "I'm offended!" Dear me. Poor thing. This is different to saying "That's wrong" and arguing why -- that would imply some sort of judgement, some sort of thought, neither of which is of course 'appropriate' in these days where flaccid inoffensiveness, unthinking acceptance, pre-digested opinions and instant umbrage-taking are de rigeur tout le monde.

These days, "that's inappropriate" and "I'm offended" are considered knockout blows in so-called intellectual debate -- debate, that is, often untouched by active human minds. Author Philip Roth skewers many of these "contemporary political pieties" in The Human Stain, a novel not unlike David Mamet's play Oleanna. Here for example is Roth's protagonist reflecting on contemporary campus pieties:

"Appropriate. The current code word for reining in most any deviation from the wholesome guidelines and thereby making everybody "comfortable." Doing not what he was judged to be doing but doing instead, he thought, what was deemed suitable by God only knows which of our moral philosophers. Barbara Walters? Joyce Brothers? William Bennett? Dateline NBC? If he were around this place as a professor he could teach 'Appropriate Behavior in Classical Greek Drama,' a course that would be over before it began."

How about the solipsism of the terminally shallow in search of 'self-esteem' -- a self-esteem so fragile that 'inappropriate' behaviour so easily offends:
She was talking to everybody. She's part of that dopey culture. Yap, yap, yap. Part of this generation that is proud of its shallowness. The sincere performance is everything. Sincere and empty, totally empty. The sincerity that goes in all directions. The sincerity that is worse than falseness, and the innocence that is worse than corruption. All the rapacity hidden under the sincerity. And under the lingo. This wonderful language they have -- that they appear to believe -- about their `lack of self-worth,' all the while what they actually believe is that they're entitled to everything. Their shamelessness they call lovingness, and the ruthlessness is camouflaged as lost `self-esteem'.
Dopey, huh? You bet.
Their whole language is a summation of the stupidity of the last forty years. Closure. There's one. My students cannot stay in that place where thinking must occur. Closure! They fix on the conventionalized narrative, with its beginning, middle, and end -- every experience, no matter how ambiguous, no matter how knotty or mysterious must lend itself to this normalizing, conventionalizing, anchorman cliché. Any kid who says `closure' I flunk. They want closure, there's their closure.
TAGS: Political_Correctness, Nonsense, Postmodernism, Books

Living it up in the DPRK

Good satire. "Light relief for the weekend." That's how Owen McShane describes this fun-filled travelogue of North Korea from three wide-eyed young humourists entering this delightful workers' paradise from the 'outside world.' The scene is set beautifully:
Upon arriving at Pyongyang airport you realise exactly where you are. The proud, smiling face of the former ‘Great Leader’ Kim Il Sung’s portrait hangs above the only, relatively small and calm terminal. On each side of the airport runway, peasant farmers tend to dry fields which have only recently defrosted after a long, freezing winter...
Delightful. Ah for Pyongyang now that spring is here! Owen is quite sure it's intended as ironic humour. It is, isn't it?

LINKS: Six Days with three Kiwi Students in the DPRK - Nick Healy, Scoop

TAGS: Socialism, Humour

'Ex Nihilo' - Frederick Hart

'Ex Nihilo' by Frederick Hart (1982), part of a larger work at the National Cathedral of Washington, DC -- "a sensuous tableau of human figures emerging from a void."

Yes, that does say 1982. Seen here is a detail of the right side of the work (left), and a 'fragment,' Figure 8 (right).

LINKS: The Frederick Hart collection -Jean Stephens Galleries
Lux ex Nihilo - David Adams,
Free Radical

TAGS: Art, Sculpture

Thursday, 27 April 2006

New libertarian blogger: The Tomahawk Kid

I've just added a new NZ libertarian blogger to the 'Libz & Elsewhere' part of my blogroll. Welcome aboard Graham Clark, AKA The Tomahawk Kid, who will already be well-known to readers the Bay of Plenty Times's letters page as a regular and provocative contributor, to readers of The Free Radical as the man responsible for the magazine's graphics, and to followers of his band Brilleaux as a songwriter, singer, guitarist, harmonica legend and Theremin stalwart.

Welcome aboard, Graham. And while writing about and adding to that part of my blogroll, good to see Julian taking up the cudgels on behalf of Greed and against Direct Democracy, James taking them up on the subject of Europe's Cultural Decay, Duncan on Biased Reporting and Kaiwai (briefly) on behalf of Fun; also good to see Susan the Libertarian back from holiday and back in action, and Richard at Benzylpiperazine just back in action.

TAGS: Blog, Libertarianism, Libz

Read, write and win money

Are you a Uni student? Can you read and write (let's not make too many optimistic assumptions)? Need cash? (What student doesn't?) Does "US$13,000 in prizes, including a considerable first prize of US$5,000" sound like a useful reward for a 1,000 word essay?

Then the 2006 ARI Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest is right up your alley. Details here. [Hat tip Act on Campus] Note that agreement is not necessary. As the rules say, "Essays will be judged on both style and content. Judges will look for writing that is clear, articulate and logically organized." If that sounds within your talents, then go ahead and give it a go.

LINKS: Atlas Shrugged essay contest - Ayn Rand Institute
Essay competition - Act on Campus

TAGS: Books, Education, Objectivism

Blogging. Where's it going?

The blogging phenomenon still fascinates both main stream media and participants in the phenomenon alike. The Economist is amongst the latest to investigate in a series of thoughtful articles available on their site on what they call a Media Revolution as big in its way as that brought about by Gutenberg in 1448, but brought about this time not just by Moveable Type but also by 'always-on' internet, broadband, blogging, wikis, podcasts and whatever else is still to be dreamed up.

It is they say, the age of participation, which "has profound implications for traditional business models in the media industry, which are based on aggregating large passive audiences and holding them captive during advertising interruptions."
In the new-media era, audiences will occasionally be large, but often small, and usually tiny. Instead of a few large capital-rich media giants competing with one another for these audiences, it will be small firms and individuals competing or, more often, collaborating. Some will be making money from the content they create; others will not and will not mind, because they have other motives. “People creating stuff to build their own reputations” are at one end of this spectrum, says Philip Evans at Boston Consulting Group, and one-man superbrands such as Steven Spielberg at the other.
One end of this spectrum is blogger Glenn Greenwald, who has taken advantage of the power of the blogosphere to leap to number one on the Amazon Top Sellers List with a book that he calls "a pure blogosphere book": one commisioned by a blog reader, based purely on blog postings and on arguments developed and researched with blog readers, and bought (initially at least) by the readers of his blog. Now there's the power of the blogosphere in one.

"The power of the blogosphere," suggests a grateful Greenwald, is not just that bloggers are new faces in the 'conversation,' but that so many of the ideas, the arguments "and the underlying approach to political change which characterize the blogosphere is just different in nature" to what we've seen before. "The blogosphere," he says, "is characterized by an independence and autonomy which is glaringly absent in the conventional national media venues."
As Jane Hamsher eloquently observed the other day, there has to be some significant motivation for someone to go to their computer every day and do the work to maintain a blog, just as something has to motivate people to spend time at their computers every day reading and participating in intense, detailed political discussions. Bloggers, their readers and commenters are mostly just citizens who are highly dissatisfied with the conventional media outlets and dominant political institutions, all of which have failed in so many ways. What is most significant about the blogosphere, in my view, is that it enables direct and immediate communication -- and coordination -- among huge numbers of dissatisfied citizens who want to force new ideas and arguments into what was previously a closed and highly controlled media and political dialogue. And, gradually and incrementally, it's working. I think we are at the very beginning of that process and the impact on our country's political processes will only grow, vastly.
LINKS: Among the audience - The Economist [note the vast array of 'Related Items' to the right of the page which constitute the New Media Survey]
The power of the blogosphere - Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald

TAGS: Blog, Geek_Stuff

Charging cars to enter Auckland: A bad idea

NZ HERALD: Large toll rings enveloping the Auckland isthmus could knock traffic congestion harder than other road-charging schemes, but officials admit they may be too complex to win ready public support...

I want to talk this morning about this notion of charging cars to enter Auckland, raised as a trila ballon recently to see if it can be gotten away with. But first, let me introduce you to the Law of Unintended Consequences. It is one of the chief reasons that Newmarket is a thriving shopping centre while Queen St is now full of fast-food outlets and two dollar shops, and one of the primary reasons most company's head offices now ring the city in greenfield sites rather than huddling together in downtown Auckland.

One reason for both of those phenomena is of course the natural 'centrifugal force' that many cities develop after a while, spinning off successful and cheaper satellites that surround the central city. An additional reason in Auckland's case however was the desire of Auckland City's planners to get rid of People in Cars, and sustitute for them People on Public Transport. Many measures were enacted some years ago to effect this change , mostly involving making fewer parking places in the city -- including for a while mandating maximum numbers of car parks allowed in new apartment buildings, thus at a stroke increasing parking demand while decreasing supply -- but rather than have the desired effect of increasing patronage on trains and buses, the Law of Unintended Consequences kicked in instead.

What happened when the parking problems began was that shoppers simpy left Auckland for Newmarket, St Lukes and Shore City where parking was easy. Companies began leaving Auckland for sites with plenty of parking (and, incidentally, reliable power). And People in Cars stayed in their cars, and People on Public Transport stayed on public transport, and Queen St became a minor shopping precinct instead of the county's premier shopping district as it once was.

You see, the planners didn't realise that people have free will. The Law of Unintended Consequences does. The actions of politicians and planners will always have consequences, but very rarely those imagined by either of them, and most often the very opposite of those they intend. People will exercise their choice to get around the rules and make their lives easier, even if it means as in this case that over time those choices mean that Queen St and downtown loses more patronage and even more of its lustre.

The proposal now to chargeAucklanders for driving around and through the Auckland isthmus will only exacerbate that process.

In a 'New World' city like Auckland that was built and grew up organically around the car, using anything other than a car to get around is -- except for some very few routes -- just not practical. Auckland did not grow up around an underground system like London. It does not have the densities of Manhattan that allow a few well-patronised routes to service most of the island. Getting around in the manner that can be done in cities such as these just cannot easily be done.

Like Los Angeles, Auckland grew up in the first years of the twentieth-century just as the car was growing up, and the form of both cities is now organically linked with the car, and without the car neither city will function. Trying to force the form of another city on this already-established form won't work, and will have consequences that the planners and politicians will not even be contemplating, and we can't even predict. And trying to force people to get around this city in a way that makes getting around more difficult will not work either. People have free will, and if they can avoid being bullied they will.

The planners think they can bully people out of the cars and on to public transport. The politicians think they will receive a new and steady income stream to build on bigger and brighter white elephants. What they will achieve instead is the further fleecing of the already hard-done-by taxpayer, and the lessening of Auckland City as a desirable place in which to live and do business.

In short they will help to kill the city.

Three things at least are damn sure: if any of these measures are enacted the consequences for downtown Auckland are dim; the consequences for those who still have to travel within the ring are expensive ones; and the chances of existing taxes being lowered to account for this new impost are so small as to be not worth contemplating.

As Jonathan Pearce says at Samizdata, "The law of unintended consequences in work again. I have come to the conclusion that this law should be taught in school, like Newton's laws of gravity." Do you think planners even understand gravity?

LINKS: Unintended consequences - The Concise Encyclopaedia of Economics
Toll rings best for beating congestion - NZ Herald
Auckland road tolls clear first hurdle - NZ Herald
Cross and you pay: how cordons could work - Herald Graphic
$6-a-day charge possibility for motorway drivers - NZ Herald

TAGS: Auckland, Economics, Urban Design

Whig to Tory

I've heard from a few people recently suggesting I join the National Party. Phil Sage for instance suggests I "would achieve far more politically advancing [my] ideas from within the National tent."

I answered that when Phil first suggested it by decrying the party of conservatism and compromise, the party of the DPB and the RMA and Contaminated Blood and the Waitangi Gravy Train-- the party that gave a home to Douglas Montrose Graham and Robert Muldoon and Simon Upton, and which currently still offers a home to the likes of the repellent Brat Pack. No thanks. I said too that for all the possible good that might ever be achieved under that particular tent (about which I'm more than dubious) I can be much more effective staying outside pissing in than I could ever be inside the tent pissing out:
No, in my estimation the decision-makers' ears [of National] are more open to me as an outsider than they could ever possibly be as someone working through party channels as you advocate I should, or as someone muzzled by the party hierarchy [as I surely would be].
There's much, much more discussion on that in the comments here and here. And there is also perhaps a lesson in the sad story of one young man who claims to value freedom and liberty -- 'Live Free or Die' is his blog's credo -- who recently resigned his position helping Rodney Hide hold Epsom order to devote his political hopes and dreams to getting Lockwood Smith re-elected in Rodney, and getting the National Socialist's various spokescretins elected as Ministers.

"National is a better vehicle for my principles and my beliefs," says the young man this month, who with his careful choice of electorate in which to join National is eschewing Rodney's re-election, who at least makes noises in the direction of freedom and property rights even if his party's policies don't fully reflect those noises, to working deliberately (and one can only assume excitedly) for Lockwood Smith -- Lockwood Smith! -- the man who when Minister of Education capitulated so completely, so utterly, so spinelessly to Teacher Unions and Ministry flunkies in dumbing down the state's education system that both NCEA and hundreds of thousands of dumbed-down morons across the country still stand as tribute to that man's legacy to New Zealand.

So complete was the victory of pragmatism over the few principles that Minister Smith claimed to stand for that his tenure in the position still stands as perhaps the most abjectly craven surrender to the forces for dumbness than any other Education Minister in recent years -- and there's been quite some competition for that accolade. Now, in the name of that same sort of 'pragmatism' as Blockwood displayed, our young man has now coldly, calculatingly and consciously chosen to place his 'principles' at Blockwood's disposal, and turn from Whig to Tory.

So much for 'pragmatism.' And so much, it seems, for principles. Live free or die? Well, maybe not this weekend, eh?

But, protests the young man ever-so breathlessly, "I am interested in putting my principles into practice IN GOVERNMENT." Well, if Blockwood is the man he's chosen to support to put those principles into practice then all the more revealing for those principles, I say. As Tim Selwyn offered so simply when this was announced. "My condolences to you."

(Or does the young man and his friends have more immediate plans for Lockwood? Should we take being "IN GOVERNMENT" more literally? Was it intended more personally? More directly? I think perhaps we should be told.)

LINKS: ACT, The Whig, Loudon, Falloon, Bhatnagar, Not PC & infighting among Libertarian fellow travellers - Phil Sage (Jan, 2006)
On infighting and 'fellow travellers' - Peter Cresswell
Nats should have given Frat Pack an unlisted number - Peter Cresswell
Running the rule over the Nats - Peter Cresswell
The Whig is now a mainstream New Zealander - The Whig
It's official - The Whig
Whig - Wikipedia

TAGS: Politics-National, Politics-ACT, Politics-NZ, Blog

Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Harmeet Singh returned to Iraq

TO THE POINT NEWS: Anti-war hostages dropped back into Iraq
The British military announced today that they had air-dropped former hostages Norman Kembler, James Loony, and Harmeet Singh Sooden into the Iraqi desert, just a week after their rescue from a house west of Baghdad. The men had been held by insurgents for four months.

Since their release, the three men, all from a Christian Peacemaker team, have spoken with deep admiration and respect for their captors, while not offering any degree of gratitude to the British commandos who risked their lives to save them.

"We realize now that we made a huge mistake," said Captain Ian Coates of the British Army, "and it was time to return these men to the people they love and respect..."
Read on here for the full story. You really need to. Oh, and it must be true, because I found it on the internet.

TAGS: Humour, Politics-World

War. What is it good for?

Yesterday's Anzac commemorations brought many reflections on the nature of war. Here very briefly, is mine.

War is immensely brutal, intensely destructive, utterly brutal and heart-breakingly tragic for all involved. War is horrific. Wars very rarely have winners, only those who have lost the least. War, as The Age said yesterday, "is a dangerous and terrible thing, which should only ever be seen as a last resort."

In short, war is the second-worst thing on earth. But wars are not acts of nature. They are not acts of God. Wars are acts of man, and in that they are the second-worst thing that human beings can inflict on one another. Second-worst only because the very worst is tyranny, an act of war by governments against those they are supposed to protect. It is tyrannical governments and movements intent on inflicting tyranny and oppression against others that begin wars of conquest and campaigns of terror. It is the existence of such entities that make wars of self-defence necessary.

When such tyrannies exist and are allowed to exist, then peace without justice is not true peace. Peace without justice rewards the tyrranical and is an injustice to those they enslave and kill. As long as some human beings choose to deal with other human beings with the whip, the chain and the gun -- with stonings, fatwahs and holocausts -- with the torture chamber, the dungeon and the gulag -- as long as some men continue to enslave and attempt to enslave others, then wars will continue to happen, and we will continue to need to be ready to defend ourselves.

If we have things worth living for, which we do, then for that much at least we all have things worth defending. As Thomas Jefferson observed over two-hundred years ago, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Two-hundred years later, nothing has changed.

LINKS: Lest we forget, Anzac day is for those who know what war is - The Age
The news is out: Governments kill - Not PC (Nov, 2005)

War, History, History-Twentieth_Century, Socialism, Politics-World

Withdrawn thread

PUBLIC NOTICE: I've just withdrawn the 'Mild Storms' thread to give participants a much-needed time out.

TAGS: Blog

Civil Unions a 'waste of time'?

THE PRESS: The much-lauded civil union legislation has been labelled a "waste of time" by critics, with only about 460 couples choosing civil unions since they became law a year ago.
Political opponents of the legislation say the poor showing – which compares 458 civil unions to about 20,000 marriages – proves the move was "political symbolism". Figures released by the Department of Internal Affairs yesterday show of the civil unions, 178 were male-male unions, 199 were female-female unions and 81 were heterosexual unions.

Was the enactment of civil unions a waste of time? A lot of sound and fury signifying nothing? Well, certainly the sound and fury and scaremongering from the Tamaki wing has come to nothing -- 458 couples now living peacefully together and God hasn't yet sent down lightning bolts of retribution on the country, and nor is he (sorry, 'He') ever likely to.

But, say people like Whale Oil: "Civil Unions 458. Marriage 20,000. Not even close , it begs the question why Labour even bothered." Well, perhaps because 458 couples were able to exercise a choice that wasn't previously available to them, and by which they consider themselves better off (and at nobody else's expense). And perhaps because 377 homosexual couples are able to have formal recognition of their relationship that they weren't previously able to (and their relationship is nobody else's business but theirs).

So it's only 20,000 vs 458. So what? It's not a popularity contest. 458 couples are better off for Civil Unions. And none of those Civil Unions is anybody's business but those who entered them. Get over it.

UPDATE: Uh oh, looks like Rodney and I have agreed twice now in a week. Says Rodney: "The way I figure it that’s 20,000 couples pleased to be able to get married. And 468 couples pleased to be able to have a civil union. I don’t see how anyone getting married could be upset by others opting for a civil union. Those who had a civil union previously didn’t have that option so there must be a net gain in happiness. There’s now more choice, that must be a good thing."

LINK: Civil unions 'waste of time' - The Press
Civil unions not a winner - Whale Oil Beef Hooked
Marriage survives - RodneyHide.Com

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour


Thanks for your various responses to the questions I posted here last Thursday. I'll give you my own answers now:

1. What in your opinion is the single biggest issue facing the world over the next ten years?
The rise of and the threat from Islamo-fascism. I'd like to be wrong, but the recent chest-beating from bin Laden and the bombing in Egypt just underscore that this threat isn't going away.

2. Facing the West?
The failure to understand and defend the Enlightenment values that underpin the West, and the related and continuing assault on reason from 'post-modern' academics and conservative theologians.

3. Facing New Zealand?
The ongoing destruction of New Zealanders' property rights.

In fact, when reflecting on this over the weekend, if I had my druthers I'd be putting my energies into putting together an organisation that promotes, explains and defends property rights in New Zealand, one that suggests common law- and property rights-based solutions to contemporary environmental and other issues (such as may be found here and here)-- one that highlights and argues for a sensible, common law-based framework as an alternative to the RMA.

A website for this would be a good start, as would be a title for both organisation and site. Any suggestions? Institute for Property Rights sounds far too stuffy, doesn't it? And perhaps Environment Probe just a little too worthy -- and it has already been taken.

LINKS: Osama's latest - The Qando blog
Triple blasts rock Egypt resort - BBC News
America vs death worship et al - Ayn Rand Institute
Stephen Hicks on Post-Modernism - The Objectivist Center
Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism & Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Stephen Hicks - Amazon
Religion vs America et al - Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand Institute
Property Rights articles at Not PC
Common Law articles at Not PC
Environment Probe website

TAGS: War, Multiculturalism, Religion, Philosophy, Postmodernism, Property Rights, Common_Law

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 -

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 Walküre, 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