Saturday, June 24, 2006

Horrifying global warming news!

Shocking news from around the world about the impending global warming catastrophe.
Polar bears are "dropping like flies" from heat exhaustion say hunters, who find it too unsporting to track and kill these behemoths "when they're already suffering."

Global warming is making the planet more of an asteroid target "due to expansion of the atmosphere outward into space making the Earth a bigger 'target'."

Dolphins have been discovered fleeing north -- due north! these guys ain't stupid -- in search of cooler waters as their tropical home warms up.

A pristine Alaskan glacier has been turned into a tropical wasteland.

And "in a bold move long anticipated by industry insiders, The Weather Channel is launching a new channel devoted entirely to the coverage of natural disasters called 'The Disaster Channel'." Long overdue in my opinion.
Shocking, frightful, stunning, earth-shattering and entertaining stuff respectively, and all this and more -- including the news that Jeb Bush's Texas National Guard jets might have helped set off Hurricane Katrina -- all brought to you by the good people at the Eco Enquirer, who refuse to settle for the truth when the next best thing is really all you need.

UPDATE: I'm disappointed to see that some of you don't recognise satire when you see it. Shame on you. I blame the parents.

LINKS: The eco enquirer: Where mankind meets mother nature

TAGS: Environment, Global_Warming, Humour

Worst and cheesiest album covers ever

The CD revolution has been almost complete, threatened only by the iPOd revolution it helped make possible. For those of use who still collect vinyl, the digital revoution that iPods and CDs represent hasnt been all bad -- and that's not just the sheer amount of stuff available that wan't previously -- it's also meant that second-hand vinyl offloaded by the more digitally-fixated has been out there and able to be snapped up at bargain prices, filling the collections of turntable-owners with legal music that has never been so cheap.

One major advantage that LPs retain over CDs is their size -- where CD covers are too often merely utilitarian, the size of record covers meant they were all too often astonishing. And by 'astonishing' I don't mean they were always good.

Some were just horrible. And here, for those of you with Powerpoint, is a collection of the very worst. The Worst Album Covers Ever. Guaranteed. [Those without Powerpoint can seek them here, though you do miss the full effect.] For those of you who like cheese, here's some of the cheesiest.

I'd like to show you some of the best. Maybe later, eh?

LINKS: The worst album covers yet - Powerpoint file
Dana Countryman's virtual museum of unusual LP cover art - Dan Countryman

TAGS: Music, Art

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'Surfside' - Ron Sanders


'Surfside,' by Ron Sanders. Ron Sanders is a working artist who asks for your help. Says the Quent Cordair Gallery, who sells his work:
Ron Sanders has recently suffered unforeseen financial setbacks due to health issues, and he has three young children to support. He has asked us to consider any reasonable offers on his available work, in order to raise additional income as soon as possible. For the present, all reasonable offers will be considered on ALL RON SANDERS PAINTINGS. Thanks for your consideration during this difficult situation. While it may seem awkward to purchase at lower prices under these circumstances, please know that the artist will be very appreciative if you can do so. You’ll be receiving his marvellous art at an excellent price, in return for much needed financial assistance this month. `Thanks in advance for any purchases which can be made at this time. `Please contact the gallery to discuss possible offers.
LINK: Ron Sanders work at Quent Cordair Gallery

TAG: Art

Friday, June 23, 2006

Beer O’Clock – 3 Monts

Too chilly for chilled beer? Never. The colder it is, the easier it is to chill your beer. For the chilly weather, the Beer O'Clock team recommend a good beer and a good fire - just leave your bottle outside for a minute or two until it's ready to consume. You can pick it up when you go out to get your firewood. The good beer recommended this week comes courtesy of Neil at Real Beer, and doesn't it look gorgeous.

After a brief foray into the bus stop with my last Beer O’Clock where I covered Skol Super [to little acclaim, Ed.], it is time get to classy again. After all, I am a classy kind of guy.

This week I have been thinking a lot about France. Now, I am not well known as a big fan of the French, but I must say I am tremendously proud of their soccer team. Mainly this is because I bet on Switzerland to finish top of that World Cup group.

At odds of $4.50 to 1 that looks like it might happen, and I will need something with which to celebrate. I don’t know much about football but when someone said that the World Cup “was like a war” I knew France’s over whelming favouritism in the group was suspect. Yay for stereotypes!

Anyway, this week’s beer is 3 Monts (pronounced “Tray Mons”) which is my absolute favourite French beer.

Regular and observant readers of my work ["hello Mum"] will know that when I use that phrasing it usually means I’ve only tried one beer from the country in question (see for instance: Tsingtao, my favourite Chinese beer).

However, in this case I have tried about half a dozen French beers, and it is my considered opinion 3 Monts is the best. I consider 3 Monts regularly (when available). It can be a little hard to find.

This is a bottle-conditioned ale in the old farm style (biere de garde) in a corked bottle. It pours a pleasant cloudy gold with a strong, finely bubbled head. It has a pungent, astringent nose followed by a full, fruity and yeasty flavour and lingering bitterness which never seems to surrender.

It is complex, strong and funky - a fine and interesting drop. Perhaps it is so good because it is heavily influenced by the brewing traditions nearby Belgium rather than influenced by French Euro-Lager Juggernaut (see: Kronenbourg, it’s French for terrible beer).

The name 3 Monts literally translates as “three mountains.” This is apparently French humour -- the area where it is made is notoriously flat. The three mountains are apparently three hillocks. This is only the second recorded French joke. The first one was letting Britain into the EU and then making them pay for everything.

Bon drinking!

LINKS: 3 Monts - St Sylvestre Brewery
What People think of Tres Monts - Rate Beer

TAGS: Beer_&_elsewhere

Destruction of GE crops is not a victimless crime

New Zealand has been mercifully free of crop vandalism since Nandor Tanczos's Wild Greens broke into Lincoln Univerity's GE crop research lab and destroyed about a million or so dollars of scientific research, despite the boasts of the "sandalled vandals" of 'Green Gloves' in the wake of the Royal Commission Report on GE going against their hopes and wishes.

Not so in Europe however, and Dr. Ferdinand Schmitz of the Federated Association of German Plant Breeders is saying enough is enough. "Field destruction is not a victimless crime," says Dr Schmitz in a recent press release (in German unfortunately -- translation below). "The losses to breeders and farmers cost millions."
   
The destruction of field trials of genetically modified plants by militant opponents of green biotechnology is creating great distress among scientists and plant breeders. After careful scientific and official assessment of ecological and agronomic variables, the field trials take place outdoors where their protection from criminal trespass is scarcely possible. . .

    The damage caused by the destruction of the field trials is considerable. Uprooted and destroyed plants do not represent the loss of ordinary crops, but rather the loss of valuable breeding material which contributes to the development of new varieties and new technologies. The immediate physical damages inflicted by the destruction of outdoor field trials amounts to EU250,000 to EU300,000. The value of the research imperiled by destruction of any individual field trial runs into the millions.
Things are little different for seed certification tests. . .
    Before a new plant variety -- whether developed through biotechnology or traditional methods -- is released to the market, it is evaluated over several years under agricultural conditions. . .
    If an evaluation for the certification of a new variety is lost, damages ranging into the millions result for the seed developer and with it, an entire year of market opportunity.
Still greater is the loss to agriculture in general. For example, the development of new corn [maize] varieties annually increases productivity by 1.5 decitonnes per hectare. If farmers were to go without this amount of progress for one year, that damage alone is considerable.
    Civil courage required "We cannot test our innovations in secured, isolated areas. We work in and with nature and that leaves us vulnerable to attacks," Schmitz said of the problem. A broad support of the state for the optimum protection of field trial integrity alone is not enough, in the opinion the BDP. "We appeal to attentive citizens who understand injustice, and who share our rejection of the use of force against persons and property to press a political argument. We are very grateful for the civil courage of vigilant residents near the location of the recent raid in Baden-Wuerttemberg, who reported the destruction to police. With support of the public, hopefully expressed by the press, television and politicians, it will become clear to the opponents that this form of argumentation will be ineffective."
Anti-GE activists say they object to GE crops being 'released' before they're researched, about which nobody disagrees. But then the same activists defend vandalism against the research they say needs to be carried out.

Not for the first time, and just like the small children their actions so often resemble, the vandals want it every way, just so long as its their way.  

LINKS: NZ and Korean activists take direct action against GE crops - Organic Consumers Association (March 16, 1999)
Libz declares war on activists - Libertarianz, Scoop
Eco-Terrorism - Editorial, The Press (Jan 14, 2002)
Field destruction is not a victimless crime (in German) - BDP Lebensbasis Planze

TAGS:
Environment, Politics-Europe, GE, Libz, Politics-Greens

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Minimum wage increase killed by US Senate

WASHINGTON POST -- GOP-run senate kills minimum wage increase
The Republican-controlled Senate smothered a proposed election-year increase in the minimum wage Wednesday, rejecting Democratic claims that it was past time to boost the $5.15 hourly pay floor that has been in effect for nearly a decade. . . "Americans believe that no one who works hard for a living should have to live in poverty. A job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. He said a worker paid $5.15 an hour would earn $10,700 a year, "almost $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three."

Unsurprisingly, not everybody agrees with Senator Edward Kennedy -- who in the course his interminable career has been on the wrong side of just about every issue in American politics. What Kennedy ignores here is that raising the minimum wage by law above what the market will bear makes it virtually impossible for hard workers who are worth less than that minimum to earn a toe-hold in the job market they're trying so hard to enter. And he ignores too that agreements freely made between employers and employees are none of his damn business. David Holberg at the ARI sums it up:
The Senate did well to vote against an increase in the minimum wage--and would have done even better if it had repealed it altogether.

The minimum wage constitutes government coercion against both employers and employees. By mandating a certain level of wages, the government violates the rights of both employers and employees to reach a voluntary agreement based on their own independent judgment of what is in their best interest.

Those who provide jobs have a right to set the wages they are willing to pay. And those who are willing and eager to work for relatively low wages--either because they are unskilled, inexperienced or would rather have a low-paying job than no job--have a right to do so.

In a capitalist system, the price of labor (i.e., wages) is determined in the same way as all other prices and as it should be: by the individual judgments and voluntary decisions of buyers and sellers.
LINKS: GOP-run Senate kills minimum wage increase - Washington Post
Minimum wage should be razed, not raised - David Holcberg, Ayn Rand Institute

TAGS: Politics-US, Economics, Minimum_Wage

Examining conspiracy theories

We've all got our favourite conspiracy theories -- ask nicely and I'll even tell you mine -- the question is whether such interest is rational, and whether beliefs are evidence-based and integrated with all existing knowledge. A new philosophical blog intends to examine Conspiracy Theories as part of a PhD dissertation. "The author," explains a colleague, "is working on a research project on whether belief in conspiracy theories is warranted, and he plans to throw a lot of the raw meat of the project on to the number one home of Conspiracy Theories, the Internet." From the blog's Pithy Introduction to the un-pithily named 'All Embracing but Underwhelming':
Fact: conspiracies have occurred, are occurring and will occur again in the future.

The question is whether it is rational to believe in them.
LINK: Pithy introduction - All Embracing but Underwhelming [Hat tip Brain Stab]

TAGS: Nonsense, Science, Philosophy

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Envy -- socialism's fuel

There are two ways to make people equal, Ayn Rand pointed out. Either raise everyone to the mountain tops, or you can raze the mountain tops altogether. The envious would rather do the latter -- better no one be richer, better off or more talented than have some stand out above the common herd. The word that describes such an emotional state is 'envy.'

Envy is an ugly thing. Envy is socialism's fuel. Envy is the subject of a study by Andrew Oswald and Daniel Zizzo at Oxford University which found that subjects will give up a lot themselves in order to either hurt those who are better off, or to maintain their own place in the pecking order. It seems subjects would rather make themselves poor, rather than allow another person to be rich. Bizarre, but true. As Reason magazine summarises:
Socialists often claim that capitalism is based on humanity's worst impulses, greed and selfishness, despite the fact that people who live in societies that participate in markets tend to be more generous and cooperative than those who don't. Oswald and Zizzo's research suggests that socialists who believe that their ideology appeals to humanity's better instincts have it backwards. Envy is behind the leveling spirit of socialism. A truly generous and rational soul would wish others well, especially if they have done no one any harm.
Read the whole piece here. [Hat tip Julian Pistorius]

LINK: Burn the rich: A new study suggests envy comes naturally - Reason Online

TAGS: Socialism, Ethics, Politics, Science

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Looking for a Democratic golden age

Maia has an interesting post (and subsequent discussion) inquiring essentially why today's left liberal should give a monkey's for the US Democrats.
I'm going to start by looking at a myth I find quite common among any discussion of the Democrats - the myth of the good old days. Apparently there was some time in the past where Democrats were better than they are today, where they stood for something. I just don't buy it, and so I'm going to have a quick jaunt through the history of recent recent Democrat US Presidents in an effort to find out when this golden age could have occured.
Oddly, she only goes back as far as the duplicitous FDR in her investigation of a political history that today's left liberal could be proud of -- I guess she does say "recent Democrat US Presidents" - but at least she gives the old dissembler a richly deserved slagging, before concluding that there's nothing in recent Democratic history for a left liberal to enthuse over.

That's an odd approach to take. There's nothing much in recent US Presidents of either persuasion for a libertarian to enthuse over, but you might have thought FDR's NRA, New Deal and enormous expansion of both government and government waste would have been enough to sway Maia's left liberal enthusiasm. Nope. Maybe he didn't grow government enough for her? Her summary of the man who would be king: "It's not just the many things he didn't do that make Roosevelt a bad president. He was the man who ordered that Japanese-Americans be rounded up and put into camps." And of course he did do that, amongst very many other things -- like for example delivering half of post-war Europe and much of post-war Asia into communism. Not something I think for which even Maia would venerate somebody.

But if you're looking for a Democratic golden age, why not go further back. Look perhaps at Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat who took America into the First World War "to make the world safe for democracy" after promising American voters he wouldn't (a feat repeated by FDR in World War II) and whose treaty-mongering at the subsequent Peace Conference did much to bring on the next World War; or at old Andy Jackson, whose opposition to central baning and Indian-killing exploits are maybe considered just a little outré even by today's Democrats; or James Buchanan, who won in 1856 by opposing measures that would have stopped the extension of slave-holding to border states, and was elected only by the majority afforced him by Democrat-voting pro-slavery states.

Ah, those were the days. The good old golden days of the Democrats.

But there were at least two god Democrats, to my mind. One of the good guys was Grover Cleveland, a committed classical liberal who opposed the dispensing of political favours, who stood against protective tariffs and entangling alliances, and who once told a group of importuning Texan farmers after welfare from the Federal treasury to "Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character..." There's a Democrat after whom the party could model itself.

Or of course there is the 'original Democrat' to whom both JFK and FDR paid lip service, and after whom the most recent Democratic President William Jefferson Clinton was named. If today's Democrats could find inspiration from Thomas Jefferson, president from 1800 to 1808 under the Democrat-Republican ticket (as the Democratic party was then called), the US and the world would be a better place. That really was a golden age for politics. Jefferson's presidential platform on which he ran in 1800, as summed up in a letter to a friend, went like this:
I shall make to you a profession of my political faith; in confidence that you will consider every future imputation on me of a contrary complexion, as bearing on its front the mark of falsehood and calumny.

I do then, with sincere zeal, wish an inviolable preservation of our present federal constitution, according to the true sense in which it was adopted by the States, that in which it was advocated by its friends, and not that which its enemies apprehended, who therefore became its enemies; and I am opposed to the monarchising its features by the forms of its administration, with a view to conciliate a first transition to a President and Senate for life, and from that to a hereditary tenure of these offices, and thus to worm out the elective principle.

I am for preserving to the States the powers not yielded by them to the Union, and to the legislature of the Union its constitutional share in the division of powers. And I am not for transferring all the powers of the States to the general government, nor all those of that government to the Executive branch.

I am for a government rigorously frugal and simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplication of officers and salaries merely to make partisans, and for increasing, by every device, the public debt, on the principle of it's being a public blessing.

I am for relying, for internal defence, on our militia solely, till actual invasion, and for such a naval force only as may protect our coasts and harbors from such depredations as we have experienced; and not for a standing army in time of peace, which may overawe the public sentiment; nor for a navy, which, by its own expenses and the eternal wars in which it will implicate us, grind us with public burthens, and sink us under them.

I am for free commerce with all nations, political connection with none, and little or no diplomatic establishment. And I am not for linking ourselves by new treaties with the quarrels of Europe; entering that field of slaughter to preserve their balance, or joining in the confederacy of kings to war against the principles of liberty.

I am for freedom of religion,
and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another: for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.
If Maia's looking for Democratic inspiration, then she should look past the political pygmies of this century and the one just past to giants such as this. That's a political platform for any age. The shame of it is that both Democrat and Republican presidents have done their best to undermine almost every part of such a platform. As a libertarian, that's just one reason I generally hold both those parties in contempt.


LINKS: I don't understand why anyone cares about the Democrats - Capitalism Bad, Tree Pretty
Thomas Jefferson: Letter to Elbridge Gerry - Positive Atheism

TAGS: Politics-US, History

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Still life with apples and oranges - Cezanne


Not just a stunning painting, this Cezanne still life features in another of painter Michael Newberry's Mini Tutorials. This latest minu-tutorial is on composition, and here Newberry shares something he's discovered in all great painters from Rembrandt to Picasso. Find out what it is here. Read and digest all Newberry's mini-tutorials, and you'll never see a painting the same way again.

LINK: Mini-tutorial: Composition in one easy lesson - Michael Newberry

TAGS: Art

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Moenui's unemployed dog figures plummet

Good satire on the microchipping of dogs from the Kiwi Herald. I look forward to getting to know seasoned Moenui commentators Melodie-Ann Lewis and Frank Lush on future visits -- :
KIWI HERALD: Dogs look for work
The number of dogs seeking work has risen sharply following the passing legislation which makes micro-chipping of dogs compulsory except in cases where they are working. ...
Read on here.

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Humour

Bin those bootlegs!

Kaiwai has "gone legit." He's thrown out $20,000 of bootleg software he was running, and his iPod has been reduced from 5GB of bootleg music to 500MB of purchased music ... and he's very happy about it.
I know it sounds cheesy, but I know that the music and software I am running, I actually paid for; I feel like I'm doing the moral thing by purchasing the music and software rather than downloading it, I don't have to constantly back up my music collection, I already have masters, I'm not worried as to the reliability of the software, as I have the software direction from the company rather than praying that the provider hasn't hacked and added in a virus or Trojan to one of the cd images.

Ultimately, I think it also comes to do good old fashioned decency; if you were a software company or a music artist, how would you feel if your livelihood was cut short because people decided that you were 'too rich' and thus, justified the bootlegging of IP along those lines? Sure, Adobe and Microsoft have massive boat loads of money, but what about the small companies who provide software, such as Panic Software, who aren't multi-billion, let alone multi-million dollar companies.

There are a number of companies out there, like Panic, who provide top notch software at a reasonable price to the public, and yet are done over by those who wish to destroy the very providers of the software they use; complaining on one hand that there aren't enough software titles out there, and on the other hand [they're] pirating rather than purchasing, thus making software development unsustainable.

For me, the choice was simple, get legit, get on the right side of the law, and live happily ever after . . .
Good for him. As he says, "Ultimately I think as people we need to realise is that yes, intellectual property does matter." Yes. It does.

LINK: I'm going legit! - Kaiwai's Blog

TAGS: Property_Rights, Geek_Stuff

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Economics for kids

Here's an economics book for kids, as recommended (and sold) by the Mises Institute, who describe it thus:
For years, people have approached the Mises Institute about publishing a book on economics for kids. But why reinvent the wheel?

Richard Maybury's wonderful little book, Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?, is a fast, fascinating, and easy-to-understand introduction to economic topics like inflation, prices, trade, and business. It comes with a helpful study guide that is just right for a classroom setting.

The author put this book together under the influence of Murray Rothbard and Henry Hazlitt. He sought to make their insights understandable to junior high kids. The book is now in its fifth edition, and the author has responded well to many comments from teachers and parents along the way.

If you have read Rothbard's What Has Government Done to Our Money? or any of the larger treatises in the Austrian library, this book is not for you. However, if you know a young person who needs a kick start to economic thinking, or if you want to set someone straight who carries around crazy illusions about fundamentals, this book can do a world of good.

It's true that economic theory is a subject for adults — you don't want to assign Human Action to an 11-year old — but kids can be taught plenty too. They don't need details about epistemology or exchange rates. But by enticing them into the subject matter of money and how it gains and loses value, you plant important seeds for future study.

That is precisely what Maybury's book does. He has a knack for clean expression and simple word choices. He helps people think through what causes prices to rise, the trials that businesses face, the motive force behind entrepreneurship, where wealth comes from, what prosperity and poverty mean, and what kinds of intervention harm business.

He also covers some of the most exciting if financially devastating periods of economic history from the German hyperinflation of the 1920s to the Great Depression to the 1970s inflation in the United States.

The study guide, by Jane Williams, is also an essential tool for students. We made it part of the package since this book is best used in a home school or private school setting.

Sounds worth investigating for those young 'uns, right?

LINKS: Whatever happened to Penny Candy? - Mises Institute

TAGS: Economics, Books

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Islamocapitalism?

Many of us have expressed the hope that Islam can refom itself, that it can effect its own Renaissance from within. One important ingredient of such a renaissance would be the ebracing of economic liberalism, in other words: capitalism. Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol asks if such a thing is possible -- could Islamic culture really embrace capitalism? It's sorely in need of capitalism's results, but could it support the values that capitalism needs to flourish?

Akyol's answer is a guarded yes.
Most Islamists would reply to this question with a resounding "no!" Since they perceive Islam as an all-encompassing socio-political system, they regard capitalism as a rival and an enemy. The struggle against both communism and capitalism has been one of the standard themes in Islamist literature. Sayyid Qutb, the prominent ideologue of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, wrote a book titled Ma'arakat al-Islam wa'l-Ra's Maliyya (The Battle Between Islam and Capitalism) in 1951. At an Islamic conference held in the Spanish city of Granada on July 2003, attended by about 2,000 Muslims, a call was made to "bring about the end of the capitalist system."

However such radical rejections of the capitalist economy don't seem well-suited to the theological attitude and the historical experience of Islam towards business and profit-making. As a religion founded by a businessman -- Prophet Muhammad was a successful merchant for the greater part of his life -- and one that has cherished trade from its very beginning, Islam can in fact be very compatible with a capitalist economy . . .
Read the whole piece here. [Hat tip Joe Duarte]

LINK: Islamocapitalism - TechCentralStation

TAGS: Religion, Multiculturalism

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Schminke House - Hans Scharoun

The Schminke House, by German organic architect Hans Scharoun. 1933. You can view a 3d CAD tour of the house here. TAGS: Architecture

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

GP's fees: Politburo gets its way

The latest tussle between GPs and government about the fees GPs may charge has ended with abject defeat for the GPs, and spin from everyone. Southern Gent cuts through all the spin:
Chairman of the NZMA Ross Boswell claims they have “protected the rights of GP’s to set and charge a fee.” NZMA's GP Council, chairman Dr Peter Foley says that the fees “will not be approved but will be reviewed.”

Well call me naive, but if your fees are “subject to review” then they are not “YOUR fees.” So the Politburo has got their way and a GP’s private practice has lost another bastion of privacy.
That's pretty much the whole story right there, isn't it.

LINKS: GPs bend over for hollow victory - Southern Gent
Some GPs unhappy at fees deal - The Press

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Health

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Zoning and 'Smart Growth': The New Segregation?

Is zoning and urban planning racist? Are environmentalists guilty of racial injustice? Are planners the new segregationists? Randal O'Toole of the Thoreau Institute has this to say:
In 2002 the National Center for Public Policy Research put out a report calling smart growth (the current urban planning fad) "The New Segregation." The report, written by Portland economist Randall Pozdena, estimated that if all U.S. cities had Portland-style planning, more than a million families would not have been able to purchase their first homes in the last decade. [That report is presently being downloaded at the rate of four-hundred per week.]

In 1999, an Oregon planning group called Coalition for a Livable Future (closely associated with 1000 Friends of Oregon) did a study documenting how high housing prices had caused the dispersal of Portland's African-American population from the historically black neighborhoods of North and Northeast Portland to the suburbs. The report indicated this was a bad thing (more integration is bad?) but failed to acknowledge that the same land-use policies that the group
was supporting was causing housing prices to go up. The report, "Displacement: The Dismantling of a Community," is no longer available on line [but can be purchased here].

What is really happening, of course, is that poor black families are displaced from rental housing (often single-family homes) into section 8 housing (usually apartments built in response to subsidies for "New Urban" high-density housing) elsewhere in the region. The families may lose easy access to churches, community centers, and other support services, although I haven't seen this documented.

Nationally, nearly three out of four white families own their own homes while less than half of black and Hispanic families do. (You can download state-by-state and metro-area-by-metro-area figures from here.) Since 95 percent of the country is rural open space, it seems like people who regard themselves as "progressive" should be more interested in boosting minority homeownership rates than saving open space.
"Is is fair to blame these attitudes on environmentalists?" asks O'Toole. "I blame them,' he concludes, "on urban planners." Urban planners whose policies are strangling land use, and as a result are making housing even more unaffordable for first-home buyers than it would otherwise need to be.

LINKS: The New Segregation - US National Center for Public Policy Research, [PDF report, 2002]
How Smart Growth makes housing unaffordable - American Dream Coalition [PDF download]

TAGS: Racism, Urban_Design

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Microchipping Nanny

In recent times, politicians have either legislated or shown interest in intruding in all these personal matters:
  • 'marrying' people who've lived together for more than two years;
  • where -- and whether -- you smoke;
  • what you put in school lunchboxes and you find in food-vending machines;
  • what you can and can't plant or cut down in your own garden;
  • who gets to renovate your house, and how;
  • who gets to walk across your farm;
And now, today, they're considering:
  • how to keep track of your dog.
First they entered the bedroom; then they came for your lunchboxes and your simple pleasures; then they came for your land; now they're coming for your pets.

Do Nanny's interests extend into everything? Where will it end? Those will of course remain rhetorical questions just as long as you lot continue to allow that lot to meddle in your affairs. As long as you remain compliant, then they'll just keep right on coming.

Maybe it's time to tell them to rack off. One place you might begin telling them is on the issue currently before the house: microchipping your dogs. It needs barely half-a-dozen MPs to change their mind for this legislation to fall. Why not email every one of the 120 MPs today to tell them to throw out the microchipping for dogs legislation. Here are their contact details. Tell them enough is enough. Tell them that Government is intended to be chained up to be our servants, not the other way around. Tell them to throw it out, and tell them today.

First they came for the dogs . . .

UPDATE: A small victory tonight -- perhaps better called a successful rearguard action:
NZPA: Farm dogs exempt from microchipping

Tonight Parliament voted, by the slimmest of margins, to exempt working farm dogs.

The bid had been expected to fail but in a surprise move tonight four of the Green Party's six MPs voted to exempt farm dogs.

The four MPs were Keith Locke, Sue Kedgley, Sue Bradford and Nandor Tanczos.

If any of you contacted any of those four, you may have had more effect than you know.

UPDATE: I've been sent some responses that some of you have received from the pollies. Here's one opf interest. Jim Anderton concedes that the purpose of this legislation is NOT to stop dogs biting people -- how could it? "As I understand it," he says, "the purpose of this initiative is to build a database which will enable the better management and control of the dog population in New Zealand, not to stop dogs from biting." So there you go.

LINKS: Parliament breaks without dog vote - TVNZ
Microchips look a doggone cert - Dominion Post

TAGS:
Politics-NZ

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Would you like a smile with that JAFA?

HERALD: Small businesses in Auckland have come out tops in a global survey of politeness. The Reader's Digest global courtesy survey of 35 cities around the world showed a 100 per cent strike rate in a selection of small shops in Auckland that thanked customers for making their purchase. The global average was 75 per cent.

By jillikers, we Aucklanders are polite -- or at least our small businessmen are. Big surprise here, I would have thought, was the city that came first in the "overall courtesy category": New York. Not exactly a city known worldwide for courtesy. Even Newsday was surprised.
In a city with a reputation for being rough 'n ready _ and, frankly, my dear, in-your-face residents seem to be expressing themselves with a new one-finger salute: a raised pinkie.
And the least courteous? The Asian continent apparently, with Mumbai, India, dead last. Anyway, perhaps the key words here are really "admittedly unscientific." File under 'interesting' and 'anecotal.'

LINK: Auckland stars in survey of politeness - NZ Herald
New Yorkers politest people in the world? Yes, says magazine - Newsday

TAGS: Auckland

333 Wacker Drive - Kohn, Pedersen & Fox


333 Wacker Drive, Chicago, the building that in 1983 inspired amost on its own an urban renewal around inner Chicago -- and it wasnt so bad for the career of Eugene Kohh, William Pedersen and Sheldon Fox either. Twenty-three years later the building has been so widely emulated that it might be difficult to see it with fresh eyes, but in its day this building was a word-beater in the way it integrated its site context, and wrapped it up so elegantly.

To some eyes, mine for instance, it still is.

LINKS: Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects

TAGS: Architecture

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cutting off your nose to ...

Let's talk nose jobs. As you might expect from my photo over there on the left, I find that -- just occasionally -- people try and offer a new nose joke, one that perhaps that Edmond Rostand's character Cyrano (on the right) might have missed. They always fail. Apparently David Slack gets the same jokes, but he's about to go under the knife to remove the world of some much-needed humour. You have only two more days to take the piss out of his nose:
Unless you are planning to get yourself smacked in the face with a piece of four by two this Thursday, I predict that I will be waking up on Friday morning feeling less comfortable than you. Elective surgery; upon the nose.

I have broken it twice, but being broken is only half the story. Huge, it is. In all but the fiercest storm, a small family could huddle safely in its shelter.

... From time to time I would come across an article about rhinoplasty and wonder if it might be for me. I would say to friends : I've been thinking about getting my nose done. And without exception they would say in the polite way people do: no, no, it's fine, you don't need to do that, and I would say No, really. I want them to make it bigger. That would pierce their diplomatic guard; they couldn't help themselves. Embarrassed laughter.

But I would never act on it.
He is now. He's giving up. Thursday morning, he goes under the knife. Not me. If I did, I'd have to abandon my favourite way of explaining libertarianism (one, ironically enough, I pinched from Jim McLay, another chap with a decent hooter). When asked about limits to freedom under libertarianism, I usually reply that under libertarianism, my freedom ends where your nose begins ... which means that some people get more freedom than others.

David Slack has just chosen less freedom for himself. Poor chap. I hope it really hurts. ;^)

LINKS: Twenty ways to insult a nose, Cyrano de Bergerac - Edmond Rostand, via Rice University
Think of the children - David Slack

TAGS: Blog, Humour

Censorship by stealth

Today’s guest commentary comes from an investment banker who must remain anonymous lest he jeopardise his firm’s position and, consequently, his career.

From the NBR: Air NZ slapped with $600,000 fine

Air New Zealand has been ordered to pay $600,000 in fines and nearly $65,000 in costs by the Comm[unist] Commission. The airline was prosecuted for misleading customers about the real price of its airfares. The Commission says the penalty is one of the highest ever imposed under the Fair Trading Act for misleading advertising and follows Air New Zealand's conviction on a total of 112 charges brought by the Commission.
Oh but they are full of themselves.

What they don’t say, however, is that Air NZ did tell consumers the full cost of their airfares (you could hardly book a ticket without having to consent to government charges being booked against your credit card). What’s more, it's only proper for Air NZ to compete on prices which they could control – and other airlines were doing the same.

So why else would the government’s bully boys go after Air NZ, and why Air NZ first?

One explanation is that in advertising their fares and govt levies separately, Air NZ exposed just how cheap airfares could be if we didn't have to pay unnecessary govt taxes along with them. But that’s not all that’s worrying in this news article.

In an agreement with the Commission, the airline has undertaken to move to using all-inclusive prices for both its international and domestic airfares.

In her book The God of The Machine, Isabel Paterson pointed out that a state education system would necessarily have to be supportive of the current government structure under which it operated because the bureaucrats in charge would not tolerate dissent from the teachers they controlled.

That same principle applies here. As an 80% govt owned company, Air NZ are hardly likely to stand up for their right to free speech to show how wasteful government is, are they? I scarcely think the largest shareholder would be happy for Air NZ to lambast a department for whom a fellow minister is responsible.

So if this case is now used as a precedent to prosecute other companies (as this other article suggests), we will have one government department able to prosecute private companies based on a precedent contested by what amounts to, well, a prosecution against another government department. And thus we will have seen another pernicious example of what happens when government owns businesses they shouldn't.

Update: And they're already at it: ComCom on the warpath

Kathmandu and Etop accused of false advertising

Kathmandu and Auckland Parallel importer Etop are the latest companies caught up in the Commerce Commission's blitz on false advertising.

I went to the Communist Commission's website to find out what they advertise themselves as doing. Here's what:

The Commerce Commission enforces legislation that promotes competition in New Zealand markets and prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct by traders. The Commission also enforces a number of pieces of legislation specific to the telecommunications, dairy and electricity industries. In ensuring compliance with the legislation it enforces, the Commission undertakes investigation and where appropriate takes court action; considers applications for authorisation in relation to anti-competitive behaviour and mergers; and makes regulatory decisions relating to access to telecommunications networks and assessing compliance with performance thresholds by electricity lines businesses.

We should prosecute them for false advertising:

  • They fail to break up government monopolies or call for their divestiture (where they would face the same capital costs as their competitors);
  • They fail to recommend the abolition of legislation that prevents small companies being able to compete with big companies (the RMA, the OSHA, corporate taxes);
  • In telecommunications and other industries, they penalise the most competitive company and keep less competitive companies alive (and their vocal - or, more accurately, nasal – CEOs in employment) through advocating corporate pork policies;
  • They delay mergers from which operational synergies can be gained, thereby raising costs, lowering wages and profits and thus capital accumulation and wages again; and
  • They raise investment uncertainty and thus capital costs and investment hurdle rates, such that new services that might benefit consumers are still born, never to see the light of day.

Quite simply, they are the legislative manifestation of the tall-poppy-syndrome - they attack any big private business and do nothing meaningful to the protected positions of bloated, wasteful, bullying government organisations.

TAGS: Economics, Politics-NZ

New Urban Design Commissar for Auckland

It's not often you meet a real-life 'Jeremy.' Here's one here, a pom called Ludo Campbell-Reid (picture below) who's just landed in Auckland to take up the new position of 'Group Manager Urban Design' at Auckland City Council.

Yes, Virginia, he's a bureaucrat. An Urban Design Commissar. The head of Auckland City Council's Official Taste Panel.

As he proudly told the Herald, he's here to tell us all what we can and can't build in Auckland city. People don't ask to run their design ideas past people like Ludo, they're forced to if they want any chance of seeing them built. I posted a while back one architect's account of what dealing with the Jeremys and Ludos of the world is like. And I posted when this new job was announced what I thought about it, and I asked if there was any way this building might ever get past the Taste Panel that Ludo is here to head up.

He and Jackie Wilkinson should get on like a house on fire.

Ludo and his colleagues might like to read Thomas Sowell's Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as the Basis for Social Policy. I expect he'll recognise himself and his colleagues within Sowell's pages. Some excerpts:
Everyone is for a beneficial outcome; they simply define it in radically different terms. Everyone is a "progressive" by his own lights. That the anointed believe that this label differentiates themselves from other people is one of a number of symptoms of their naive narcissism...

In their haste to be wiser and nobler than others, the anointed have misconceived two basic issues. They seem to assume (1) that they have more knowledge than the average member of the benighted and (2) that this is the relevant comparison. The real comparison, however, is not between the knowledge possessed by the average member of the educated elite versus the average member of the general public, but rather the total direct knowledge brought to bear though social processes (the competition of the marketplace, social sorting, etc.), involving millions of people, versus the secondhand knowledge of generalities possessed by a smaller elite group...

The presumed irrationality of the public is a pattern running through many, if not most or all, of the great crusades of the anointed in the twentieth century--regardless of the subject matter of the crusade or the field in which it arises. Whether the issue has been 'overpopulation,' Keynesian economics, criminal justice, or natural resource exhaustion, a key assumption has been that the public is so irrational that the superior wisdom of the anointed must be imposed, in order to avert disaster. The anointed do not simply happen to have a disdain for the public. Such disdain is an integral part of their vision, for the central feature of that vision is preemption of the decisions of others...

In their zeal for particular kinds of decisions to be made, those with the vision of the anointed seldom consider the nature of the process by which decisions are made. Often what they propose amounts to third-party decision making by people who pay no cost for being wrong--surely one of the least promising ways of reaching decisions satisfactory to those who must live with the consequences...
LINKS: Englishman with designs on city - NZ Herald
Architect vs bureaucrats - Not PC
Mediocrity and medding announced by Mother Hubbard - Not PC
Ms A. Presley gets community service - Not PC
Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim - Not PC

TAGS: Auckland, Urban Design, Politics, Bureaucracy, Cartoons

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The Bridge at Courbevoie - Georges Seurat


Georges Seurat. The Bridge at Courbevoie. 1886-87.

A world of depth and three dimension created just with points of colour. Click on the enlargement to see just how subtle is the illusion, and how skilful the craft.

TAGS: Art

Monday, June 19, 2006

An Objectivist tiger in a vegetarian cafe

Talking once about the likelihood of a successful entrepreneur continuing to produce under new regulation that shackled him, Ayn Rand said he'd be "like a tiger in a vegetarian cafe." As you might guess, this was not intended as a positive metaphor. Rand was not a vegetarian, and was dismissive of those who were.

Her loss.

But it turns out there are increasing numbers of Ayn Rand enthusiasts who are vegetarian, so where better to open "a vegetarian refuge for Ayn Rand fans" than in New York, the city with everything. Story here about what might seem the ultimate in niche markets.
The slogan over the café door: EAT OBJECTIVELY, LIVE RICH. Brandon serves juice (“The Howard Roark” is carrot and ginger) and “Full of Thought” salads and will offer free Wi-Fi and a full collection of Rand’s works. He’s also going to stencil Rand quotes on the walls.

Brandon says, “This really is a fountainhead for me,” from which his other projects (including a plan to “revolutionize real estate”) will flow.
LINK: The Soda Fountainhead - NY Metro

TAGS: Objectivism

It's privatisation, Jim, but not as we'd like it

Why have State-Owned Enterprises been given the green light to "privatise new ventures"? As Write Ups asks, why are SOE's even thinking about expanding by privatisation when they should themselves be sold off as a matter of priority?

Good question.

LINK: Privatising new SOE enterprises - Write Ups

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Privatisation

Turning kiwis into entrepreneurial tigers

Prosperity comes from capital, freedom and the inventive and creative use of the human mind. At the intersection of all three is the concept of entrepreneurship, as Frederic Sautet and Israel Kirzner explain in a new paper:
Entrepreneurship fundamentally is not about business start-ups. It derives from the creative power of the human mind and consists of the discovery of profitable ideas that enable market actors to exploit new, socially beneficial gains from trade. As such, entrepreneurship is the driving force of the market, and it makes progress and sustained prosperity possible.

Israel Kirzner and I explain that entrepreneurship matters more to individual wellbeing than resources. As long as entrepreneurial activity is free to operate, economic systems are very resilient; they can adjust to all sorts of problems. However, when entrepreneurial discovery is stifled, resilience disappears and poverty increases.
Unlike Austrian economics, conventional economics downgrades and often ignores the role of entrepreneurs in wealth creation. And as Frederic Sautet points out, New Zealand has too often done the same. In a report prepared for the Business Roundtable, Sautet answers the question Why Have Kiwis Not Become Tigers?: Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Economic Performance in New Zealand. NZBR have the full report as a PDF download here. Sautet summarises for the Herald here. He concludes:
The West became rich not because of geographical advantages or natural resources but because of the quality of its institutions which enabled people to become entrepreneurs by betting on their ideas.
Modest growth [in New Zealand] is not the result of an overdose of economic reforms or bad cultural attitudes. New Zealand has not become a growth dynamo because the reforms did not go beyond standard OECD practice, and have not been carried forward in a stable, predictable way.
As Martin Wolf put it in the
'Financial Times' in November 2004: "It is simply wrong to describe [New Zealand's] reforms as delivering a laissez-faire paradise. The end point is, rather, a reasonably deregulated, competitive market economy, with prudent monetary and fiscal policies and a better-run government."
A "reasonably deregulated competitive market economy" however, is not enough to generate a high rate of growth in income per capita. The only way to achieve better performance is to improve the institutional environment in which entrepreneurial activity takes place.
If Kiwis are to become tigers, a rollback of recent trends towards bigger government and greater regulation, and the resumption of a programme of market-oriented reforms to encourage and reward entrepreneurial success, are required.
LINKS: The Nature and role of entrepreneurship in markets: Implications for policy - Israel Kirzner and Frederic Sautet, Mercatus Policy Center
Why Have Kiwis Not Become Tigers?: Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Economic Performance in New Zealand - Frederic Sautet, NZ Business Roundtable
Kiwis into tigers - hardly likely - Frederic Sautet, NZ Herald
Why have kiwis not become tigers? - Frederic Sautet, The Austrian Economist

TAGS: Economics, New_Zealand, Politics-NZ

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Open immigration, Si! Open borders, No!

Open immigration, Si! Open borders, No!

Sixth Column makes the argument for the difference here.
Click here to read more ... >>

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Lindsay Perigo: Wankers, wowsers, waiting lists and Islamofascists

Today's Radio Live editorial from Lindsay Perigo, on air now until 4pm (NZ time). Join Lindsay either by listening at your local frequency (check here), or by listening online.

Ronald Reagan used to tell the story, though not to Mikhail Gorbachev, of the fellow in the late unlamented Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, who bought a car. He was told by a clerk behind a desk that delivery would be seven years three months and five days away. “Morning or afternoon?” asked the buyer. “Morning or afternoon?” echoed the clerk … what difference does it make when it’s seven years three months and five days away?” “Well,” said the buyer, “it has to be the afternoon. The plumber’s coming in the morning.”

That’s about what it’s like now in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Aotearoa. No, you don’t have to wait for a plumber. You don’t have to queue for bread. There’s no toilet paper shortage. You can buy a CD of your choice—or computer, or book, or mobile phone, or TV, or car, or pair of shoes—pretty well straight away, because these things are produced and supplied by private enterprise, for a profit. In the old USSR they were produced, if at all, by Nanny State, supposedly for service—and service was surly or non-existent. Here in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Aotearoa, Nanny State runs the electricity system. Nanny State’s Transpower operates the national grid, overseen by Nanny State’s Electricity Commission and Nanny State’s Commerce Commission. What do they give us? Blackouts. Blackouts without back-ups. This supposedly First World country’s biggest city was without power for a day because supply was literally hanging by a thread, which snapped. Nanny State’s Resource Management ACT is one of the reasons our grid is on a par with Chernobyl. The Beehive Commissars are promising reports, reviews and revamps. Be very afraid.

Here in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Aotearoa, Nanny State runs the health system. What does she give us? Waiting lists. How does she reduce the waiting lists? By tearing them up! You don’t get your surgery but you’re no longer on a waiting list because Nanny says you’re not. She’s sent you back to your GP. Now isn’t that reassuring when you’ve got skin cancer. Fat lot of use your GP is there, but Nanny is saying you have to wait till your tumour is really big, by which time it’s more difficult to remove and will probably have metastasised. Nanny’s die-while-you-wait health system is also currently serving up chronic staff shortages and, of course, strikes. Be very … healthy.

Did someone say RMA? Here in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Aotearoa, property developer Dave Henderson, the man who beat the IRD, was told he couldn’t keep the sign, “fivemile.co.nz” he had had mown into a paddock on his Frankton Flats land. He didn’t have resource consent, and could be jailed for two years or fined $200,000. He had mown the sign into the grass because he’d become sick of waiting for Nanny State’s Transit New Zealand and her local bossyboots CivicCorp to decide how big a conventional sign he could erect. Now, the Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive has magnanimously declined to seek Mr Henderson’s imprisonment and agreed to let the sign stay until it grows over naturally. For Mr Henderson to have a permanent sign he would have had to seek the community’s agreement. We’re waiting for the Queenstown Lakes District Council to take over all the land in its jurisdiction outright, and bring back the glory days of Stalin’s collectives, here in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Aotearoa. Be very fat.

Or might that be … the Islamic Republic of Aotearoa? Abu Bakar Bashir, the cockroach cleric who inspired the Bali bombings, had a message for Australian Prime Minister John Howard when he came out of jail this week: become a Muslim or burn in hell. This to a crowd of thousands of fellow Islamo-fascists screaming and flailing and generally doing what they do so well—behave like crazed monsters. Yes, that was Indonesia, and he was taunting Australia’s Prime Minister, not ours. But let us not forget that the Islamo-fascists over the ditch have demanded Sharia Law be implemented there, and our lone Muslim MP has said it would be proper to stone homosexuals to death. How long before the deeply stupid but vicious and insistent voice of Islamo-fascism is raised concertedly here? Islam is the locus of totalitarian evil in the modern world—and the price of liberty is eternal paranoia. Our Soviet Socialist Republic at least allows a significant degree of free speech still, such as mine right now. An Islamic Republic would allow none, and I and many of you would be beheaded by these super-superstitious savages. Be very alert.

Lindsay Perigo on Radio Live—0800 723 465.

TAGS: Religion, Free_Speech, War, RMA, Politics-NZ, Health

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