Tuesday, 8 August 2006

Israeli military at forefront of architectural theory

From that little-known conjunction of deconstructionist architectural theory and military strategy comes this revealing paper: Israeli Military Using Post-Structuralism as 'Operational Theory.'

Says Eyal Weizman in the paper, delivered at a recent conference ‘Beyond Bio-politics’ at City University, New York:
The Israeli Defence Forces have been heavily influenced by contemporary philosophy, highlighting the fact that there is considerable overlap among theoretical texts deemed essential by military academies and architectural schools.

The attack conducted by units of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on the city of Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi, as ‘inverse geometry’, which he explained as ‘the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of micro-tactical actions’...

I asked Naveh [a retired Brigadier-General, directs the Operational Theory Research Institute] why [French post-structuralists] Deleuze and Guattari were so popular with the Israeli military. He replied that ‘several of the concepts in A Thousand Plateaux became instrumental for us […] allowing us to explain contemporary situations in a way that we could not have otherwise. It problematized our own paradigms. Most important was the distinction they have pointed out between the concepts of “smooth” and “striated” space [which accordingly reflect] the organizational concepts of the “war machine” and the “state apparatus”. In the IDF we now often use the term “to smooth out space” when we want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders.
I'm pretty sure this is satire, but then how would you know? Most 'post-structuralist architectural theory' sounds like bullshit anyway.

LINK: Israeli Military Using Post-Structuralism as 'Operational Theory' - Infoshop News

TAGS: Architecture, Philosophy, Postmodernism, Nonsense, Humour

Wipe out the RotoVegas crims?

I haven't commented on this so far, but I really can't believe this is still causing such debate in the Commentariat. I'm referring to the question of whether or not to ban repeat criminals from the Rotorua town centre.

Isn't the flavour of this similar to other questions that have people tangled up in knots? Should we ban smoking in bars? Should club members be allowed to blackball new members? Should employers be forced to adopt racial quotas? Should we be allowed to separate Muslim from non-Muslim bathers on Italian beaches?

The answer to all these questions is the same: "Who's this 'we,' white man?"

That is: "Who owns the bar?" "Who owns the club?" "Whose place of business is this?" "Who owns the beach?" That's right, the way to cut this Gordian knot is with property rights. If this was a Rotorua shop we were talking about, or a Rotorua shopping mall, 'we' would (or should) have no say in whom the shop- or mall-owner wishes to ban from his property. It's the same with beach and bar and business and bordello: He who has the property makes the rules.

The reason you and I are still discussing this is that downtown RotoVegas is owned by the 'public,' ie., by nobody, so that rules on behaviour downtown can only be those implemented by the council and enforced by the police and objected to by 'snivel libertarians' with the cry of "Big Brother!" (To which I can only say, "Oh, Brother!")

Enact or recognise property rights in the RotoVegas CBD however -- for example, by granting shop-owners property rights in the 'public' areas of the town, just as they might have as part of a body corporate in a mall -- and you'll see that as those with a legitimate property right they can make whatever rules or policies they like consistent with their need to make a dollar.

Just another example of how private property de-politicises so called thorny issues.

Of course, another way of solving the problem is to actually lock up real repeat criminals (instead of people like Tim Selwyn), but I'm no more optimistic on that score than I am on this one.

LINK: 5 women, 111 convictions - Sunday Star-Times
Sun, sea and sharia on women-only Italian beach - Guardian [Hat tip Relative Humility]

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Property Rights

Unbuilt Piha Project - Organon Architecture, 1996

Just another unbuilt project from the files of Organon Architecture, this one for a spectacularly wild setting above Piha Beach.

Sketch above. Sketch plans at left.

TAGS: Architecture, Auckland

Monday, 7 August 2006

Trusting media reports of carnage

Every asymmetric war is fought through the media, and the Israel-Hezbollah conflict is no exception. You would think journalists themselves would know that, and be careful not be used. You would think too that reports of tragedy and carnage would be treated as carefully as absolutely possible.

It appears they're not so careful.

Jihad Watch has been playing spot the difference with the Reuters photos below. Which one do you think is real? Why has Reuters been tinkering with their photos, and what does it say for their claims of objectivity? Jihad Watch asks and answers the questions.

And speaking of journalistic objectivity and being used, EU Referendum fisks the famous photo of the Qana tragedy. Make up your own mind who's using whom. And be careful what you read.

LINKS: Reuters admits doctoring photo, kills doctored version - Jihad Watch
Reuters doctoring photos to make Israel look bad? - Jihad Watch (Sun Aug 6)
Qana - the director's cut - EU Referendum

RELATED: Israel, Politics-World

Hottest on record?

Man it's hot in the Northern Hemisphere. Heatwaves all across Europe and the US. I bet you'd have no problem picking when the hottest summer on record in the US was, right?

Yes, that's right. 1930.

Seventy-six years ago. Long before the words "man-made," "global" and "warming" got glued together and began scaring Al Gore. In fact, just a decade before heavy industrialisation really kicked in and temperatures began their long decline to 1975. Story here.

And the hottest recorded days on the planet ever? When do you think they were?

Anybody saying either 1913 or 1922 gets a prize. July, 1913 in Death Valley, California, and September, 1922 in Aziziyah, Libya. Story here. Man, global warming back then sure was a dreadful thing.

LINKS: A bit of history for global warmers: Look at 1930 - CNSNews
Science question of the week - Goddard Space Flight Center
Hat tip:
Bidinotto Blog

Global Warming, Environment

Pledge Card spending under Auditor-General's scrutiny

You've probably already seen the Sunday Star story that has all parliamentary parties in a spin:
Election ad spending was illegal, report finds

Political parties could be forced to pay back thousands of taxpayer dollars after a confidential legal report found the money was illegally spent on advertising during the election campaign.

The finding seems highly likely to have repercussions for Labour's controversial $446,000 "pledge card" and brochure spend, which triggered a complaint to police.

Prime Minister Helen Clark's adviser Heather Simpson narrowly escaped prosecution over the pledge cards when police found prima facie evidence that a case could be made against her. However, they decided it would be unfair to single her out because other parties also used parliamentary funds for advertising.

The pledge cards, paid for out of parliamentary services money, would have taken Labour over its spending limit had they had been included as election expenses...

It's no surprise that all parliamentary parties are bleating about this report, since all those parties have been found to have used taxpayers' money to help buy their way back into parliament. Money allocated by Parliamentary Services to run their offices was used instead to run for office. That money should be paid back. It wasn't theirs to spend on chasing votes.

That all parliamentary parties did the same thing shows the total disregard right across the spectrum for the people who pay their wages, and is no excuse for misappropriating public monies -- and as Irene Chapple is surely aware, that was not the reason police decided not to prosecute Heather Simpson. David Farrar outlines in 'The Free Radical' what the reasons were, all of which I'm sure Chapple is aware of.

And I'm sure she's also aware of Bernard Darnton's impending court action against Helen Clark for her overspending on the Pledge Card, so why she chose not to include that in this story is another mystery.

Yes, the Pledge Cards would have taken Labour over its spending limit had they been included as election expenses. As David Farrar's Election Spending Archives make clear, Labour knew that before the election that they should have been included in their election spending because the Electoral Commission confirmed that in writing to the Labour Party. In fact the Electoral Commission only backed off just before the election when the Labour Party promised the Electoral Commission they would be included, only resiling on this cynical promise after the election.

Unlike her lawyers in the related case of Darnton v Clark, Helen Clark has responded to the report -- which she claims nonetheless not to have read -- by saying that the Auditor-General is changing the rules of the game after the final whistle has been blown.

That is a lie.

Labour knew the rules of the game all the way through. The Electoral Commission told them the Pledge Card spending must be included. They responded by lying about their intentions. And they're lying now to try and avert the mess their original lying has brought them.

I look foward to those lies being exposed in court sometime not too far away. Keep watching DarntonVsClark for progress.

UPDATE: Pledge Card litigant Bernard Darnton has issued a press release on the AG's report:
Lower Hutt businessman and Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton today accused Helen Clark of lying to the public over her comments on the Auditor-General's report on election advertising.
Read it all at Scoop: Clark's Pledge Card Lies

LINKS: DarntonVsClark website
Election Spending Archives - Kiwiblog (David Farrar), temporarily offline
Free Radical 71: The Stolen Election

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Darnton_V_Clark

PIC CREDIT: Labour's real seven-point pledge card - Dave Gee

Sunday, 6 August 2006

Hezbollah? Who are they?

Who exactly is Hezbollah?

Who is this paramilitary extra-governmental terror organisation that has occupied Southern Lebanon for the last six years in preparation for this war without the Lebanese military or the Southern Lebanese or Robert Fisk taking any action against them?

Just who in hell are they, this organisation funded from Iran and supplied from Syria not to build civilisation but to attack Israel and other western targets (yet seemingly exempt from analysis or criticism themselves)?

In answer to that primary question 'The Objective Standard' points to an excellent Daniel Byrman piece from Foreign Affairs in 2003 'Should Hezbollah Be Next?' Here's the briefest of excerpts:
In the U.S. demonology of terrorism, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are relative newcomers. For most of the past two decades, Hezbollah has claimed pride of place as the top concern of U.S. counterterrorism officials. It was Hezbollah that pioneered the use of suicide bombing, and its record of attacks on the United States and its allies would make even bin Laden proud: the bombing of the U.S. marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and the U.S. embassy there in 1983 and 1984; the hijacking of TWA flight 847 and the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem in 1985; a series of lethal attacks on Israeli targets in Lebanon; the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1992 and of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center in 1994.

More recently, Hezbollah operatives have plotted to blow up the Israeli embassy in Thailand, and a Lebanese member of Hezbollah was indicted for helping to design the truck bomb that flattened the Khobar Towers U.S. military base in Saudi Arabia in 1996. As CIA director George Tenet testified earlier this year, "Hezbollah, as an organization with capability and worldwide presence, is [al Qaeda's] equal, if not a far more capable organization. I actually think they're a notch above in many respects.
"And here is a paragraph on Iran's profound support of Hezbollah..." Read on for more.

LINKS: Hezbollah analyzed - 'Principles in Practice,' the blog of 'The Objective Standard.'
Should Hezbollah be next? - Daniel Byrman, 'Foreign Affairs'

RELATED: War, Israel, Politics-World, History-Modern

Picture Credits: Cartoon from 'Hellblazer.' 2003 Hezbollah swearing-in ceremony from 'Aussie News & Views'

Who invented Christianity?

The discussion at SOLO following Mel Gibson's drunken "I hate Jews" tirade has morphed into something much more interesting than simply a discussion on anti-semitism: a discussion on the origins of Christianity.

This is no idle conversation*. James Valliant, who kicked off the conversation with a provocative essay that touched on the beginnings of Christianity is currently writing a book on the origins and nature of the New Testament to be titled 'Behind the Cross.'

Valliant's thesis is that Christianity as it is known has little to do with Jesus -- indeed as Valliant says, "if any scholar can make a convincing case for having found the authentic words of Jesus, he has himself performed a miracle greater than walking on water" -- and more to do with First- Century Middle-Eastern geopolitics. The Romans, he suggests, wanted to pacify a recalcitrant Jewish province, and the method chosen for that was to promote a pacified, Pro-Roman variant of existing Jewish and Mosaic teachings (something that's been suggest with present-day Islam).

According to this theory, which builds on previous research suggesting the New Testament and Christian thought itself is largely the work of Paul rather than Jesus (whoever he may be), Paul was not just an early and lucky convert to the faith, but perhaps even a Roman agent provocateur in the disciples' midst, the man who would eventually adapt and sell the pacific message to the Mediteranean world.

If true, the result however was far from what the Romans could have ever intended. To paraphrase 'The Life of Brian, "So what have the Romans ever done for us?" "Well, they did take the ramblings of some itinerant spiritualist and turn them into a creed extolling mysticism, duty, altruism and collectivism that eventually cause the collapse of Rome and a millennia of crosses and graves." "Oh yeah, but apart from that ..."

Go check out the discussions. What else are you going to do on a rainy Sunday?
* A point to anyone who gets the pun.

LINKS: No, really, some of his best friends are Jews - James Valliant, SOLO
The passion of the Gibson -
Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

- The Brick Testament - Biblical stories in Lego [check out the Instructions on Marriage!Hat tip Diana.
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- Ken's guide to the Bible - Amazon.Com

BOOKS RECOMMENDED BY JAMES VALLIANT ("until [his] own book is published...":
- James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity - Amazon.Com
- Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus - Amazon.Com
- Jesus Was Caesar: On the Julian Origin of Christianity: An Investigative Report (Paperback) - Amazon.Com

RELATED: Religion, History, Philosophy, Ethics, Books

Staring hatred in the eye

One of the fine chaps who took part in the counter-protest against Saturday's pro-Hezbollah rally sent in this (lightly-edited) missive saying how they got on.

We had a very interesting counter-protest in downtown Auckland. Lots of police, lots of cameras, and lots of people who hadn't washed for a few weeks -- a lot of whom 'didn't appreciate' our signs, one of which accurately declared "Hezbollah are terrorists."

It was clear this was a "We hate Israel and America" march ... Lebanon is just the latest excuse for the antediluvians to scratch their usual itches! These were commies and anti-capitalists insighting anti-western hatred. "Down with Israel, oh yeah! Down with the West, fuck yeah!"

We got interviewed and made precisely one half-second on TV3's 6 o'clock news … not our interview sadly, but us standing and talking while the mob chanted and marched … near the end of the clip ... dont blink!

We got both congratulated and castigated! We had pictures of mutilated babies put in our face.
We stood our ground and said those babies were killed because Hezbollah hide behind them when they fire their rockets. It was good to get out of there after a brave protest that bummed them out! (How few defenders of rationality are need to puncture their self-righteous anger.)

We didn't let their intimidation stop us from speaking our mind! Duncan has a few photos (which we might see later) and I hope he will give his own account later. He was giving the opposition a hard time with his well-studied facts and figures which I was glad someone took the trouble of correlating!

Tim W.
LINK: Auckland counter-protest tomorrow, Saturday - Not PC (Friday 4 August)

RELATED: Israel, Events, Auckland

Saturday, 5 August 2006

Farewell Elisabeth

Soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf has died, aged ninety. The Times has an obituary.
James Inverne, editor of Gramophone, the music magazine, said: “Elisabeth was the diva’s diva. She had the kind of glamour that was associated with stars of the silver screen, and a voice that most people interpreted as having that old- fashioned aristocratic touch.” Inverne pointed to her singing of the Marschallin, in Der Rosenkavalier, as a classic. “She had one of the most sheerly beautiful voices any soprano could be blessed with.”
I'll be playing my own two favourite Schwarzkopf recordings later today: Richard Strauss's 'Four Last Songs,' which she sings beautifully, and a delightful recording of 'Operetta Arias.' The 'Nun's Chorus' on this last is just astonishing.

Farewell Elisabeth.

TAGS: Music, Obituary

Anyone for tennis?

Like tennis? Want advice? Then Chris Lewis's new site Expert Tennis Tips is the place to go. "At this site," says Chris, "we are passionately dedicated to bringing you the most informative, up-to-date advice, articles and reviews on a wide range of always interesting - and sometimes controversial - tennis topics that wait just for you."
Whether you're a beginner looking for advice on which racquet to buy, a parent seeking guidance on the best competitive pathway for your child, or an advanced player looking for shoulder strengthening exercises to improve your serving power, there's something here for every level of player...including high quality tennis instruction, coaching advice and helpful tennis tips on all facets of the game. And all of it's designed with you in mind.
Give it a visit.

LINK: Expert Tennis Tips - Chris Lewis

TAGS: Sport

The world's shortest novel

According to Umberto Eco, who's the sort of chap who knows this sort of thing, this, by Augusto Monterroso, is the world's shortest novel: El Dinosaurio ('The Dinosaur'). Here it is, the whole thing:
Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí.
("When he awoke, the dinosaur was still there.")
Think about it. Comments on the plot and theme will be entertained below.

TAGS: Books

The Iranian solution

Oh, this is useful. Into the vacuum in which sit all the truly concrete things being done outside Israel to permanently and securely end the fighting in Lebanon leaps the financier of Hezbollah and the greatest beneficiery of this conflict, the deranged President Ahmedinejad of Iran -- and what do you know, he has the solution to this whole thing.

His solution? Simple. Destroy Israel. Wipe it off the map and the problem goes away.

You might call it a Final Solution. And he does mean it.

However, he does say he'll be happy with a cease-fire first. No time like the present to have those nice peaceful Hezbollah chaps stock up on rockets for another onslaught, I guess. Cox and Forkum have the cartoon and the links.

LINK: Changement de rhythme - Cox and Forkum
Ahmadinejad's Mideast Solution: Destroy Israel - Fox News

Israel, War, Politics-World

Friday, 4 August 2006

Auckland counter-protest tomorrow, Saturday

Join Duncan and friends counter-protesting the pro-Hezbollah rally in Auckland tomorrow. If you are interested in participating, please email Duncan at dhgbayne@gmail.com for details.

The aim of the counter-protest will be to make the following points:

  • Israel is fighting a legitimate, moral war of self-defense.
  • Hezbollah is an anti-semitic terrorist organisation.
  • Having started a war of aggression, Hezbollah is morally culpable for the civilian deaths on both sides.
  • The legitimate Lebanese security forces are in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 that requires them to disarm Hezbollah.
  • Any anti-Israel protest is ipso facto pro-Hezbollah
If you have one of Duncan's 'Infidel' shirts, now would be a good time to break it out. I know Duncan will be.

LINKS: Pro-Hezbollah rally - BloggingBeirut.Com
Counter-protesting the Islamo-fascists - Duncan Bayne, SOLO

RELATED: Israel, Events, Auckland

Beer O'Clock: Viking!

A Beer O'Clock rejoinder today from the Real Beer boys to someone who sometimes prefers to remain nameless.

In one of the rare comments to the mighty 'Beer O’Clock' articles, we were accused by a valued reader’s teenagers of only talking about “old people’s beer”.

This presumably meant that Stu and I tended to drink and write about beers which are not advertised on television and actually taste of something. If so, guilty as charged.

However, we do care about our readers - particularly those that leave comments – so I put on the dark glasses and went for a walk on the dodgy side to review Viking Draught (which of course comes in cans).

Ah – the mighty Viking! Truly a staple of 'The Mill' liquor stores, and a true friend to all who won’t pay more than a tenner for a dozen beers.

Even the can looks sick. The message thereon challenges consumers to “conquer the taste.” I failed manfully to conquer an immediate sense of foreboding on reading this.

The feeling proved to be fully justified. Viking from the can pours a surprisingly warm brown with no evident head. There is a touch of malt in the nose which is not completely unpleasant. The beer itself offers up the standard syrupy sweet malt flavours with some burnt notes and a suggestion of cardboard.

It may meet the price challenge, but it doesn’t come close on the taste challenge. A real Viking would cut you in half if you served him this at a banquet.

At least craft beers give you some flavours to write about!


EDITORS NOTE: If you want to challenge Neil and Stu to walk on the less-than-dark side by reviewing your favourite beer, drop a note in the comments box and I'll see if their arms can be twisted. As for mine, in the absence of a recommendation it looks like it's the perfect martini for me tonight.

TAGS: Beer & Elsewhere

Muslims: No Fun

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's biggest theme park has called off the country's first "National Muslim Fun Day" because of lack of interest, the park said on Wednesday.

You can't make this stuff up...

A present for Fidel

Cartoonists Cox and Forkum have a present for Fidel. Go see.

LINKS: Castroectomy

TAGS: Cartoons, Politics-World, Obituary

A complete list of things caused by global warming

Global warming to date is a difficult if not confusing figure to put your finger on, as Junk Science's ''Global Warming' at a glance' page shows. But just look at the damage it's already caused: Numberwatch UK has "a complete list of things caused by global warming." My favourites from a huge list: cold spells, Earth spinning out of control, expansion of university climate groups, Everest shrinking,human fertility reduced,lawyers' income increased (surprise surprise!), and finally, white Christmas dream ends.

Find your own favourite disaster stories here. Don't panic. There's plenty for everyone.

LINK: A complete list of things caused by global warming - Numberwatch UK
'Global Warming' at a glance - Junk Science

RELATED: Global Warming, Science, Environmental

It's Damascus, stupid.

What to do about the ongoing Israeli-Hezbollah conflict? Middle East authority Daniel Pipes has an answer: "Hold Damascus responsible." This approach will work, he says, "because Hezbollah's stature, strength, and skills depend on Syrian support, both direct and indirect."

Given that Syrian territory is the only route by which Iranian aid reaches Hezbollah, focusing on Damascus has the major side benefit of restricting Iranian influence in the Levant.

This plan has its drawbacks and complications – the recent Syrian-Iranian mutual defense treaty, or its giving Hezbollah the option to drag Syria into war – but it has a better chance of success, I believe, than any alternative.

Read on for more.

LINK: Hold Damascus responsible - Daniel Pipes, New York Sun

RELATED: Israel, War, Politics-World

Siegmund O'Neill

'The Met' in New York and London's Covent Garden are two of the world's leading operatic stages, and New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill (last here in March to sing Parsifal) is scaling the heights of both.

Already booked to sing the role of Siegmund in the Covent Garden performance of Wagner's Die Walküre in 2007, in which role he has understudied Placido Domingo at 'The Met' for the last two years, he has just received confirmation that this leading role at The Met is also to be his. You heard it here first.

When Domingo reminisced for TVNZ in 2005 about the time he covered Franco Corelli (and ended up making his own Met debut), he concluded by speaking "glowingly" of O’Neill: “Now it’s his turn,” he said. And now it is.

Currently singing in Mozart's Magic Flute in Salzburg, O'Neill is naturally delighted at this exciting news, as I'm sure are all New Zealand Wagnerians will be when they hear.

Congratulations, Simon.

LINKS: Simon O'Neill - official website

TAGS: Music, New Zealand

Libz on the NRA news

The news of the man who literally brought a knife to a gun fight has reached the US.

"Auckland gun dealer Greg Carvell should be applauded for his actions in defending himself from a machete wielding aggressor in his shop yesterday," said Libertarianz Firearms Spokesman Peter Linton on the 27th of July. Yesterday he was invited to discuss the case on the NRA News - that's the National Rifle Association News -- in Washington DC.

It's often surprising where press releases end up.

You can hear the interview here at Julian's place.

LINKS: Libz gun spokesman on NRA News - Julian Pistorius
Ordinary Kiwis Defenseless Against Armed Criminals - Peter Linton, Libertarianz
Auckland Gun Dealer Should be Applauded for Self Defense- Peter Linton, Libertarianz

RELATED: Self-Defence, Politics-NZ, Libz

Burgher - Rodin

One of the magnificent 'Burghers of Calais' group, by Auguste Rodin, that I used to love spending time with in a park just south of Westminster.

TAGS: Art, Sculpture

Thursday, 3 August 2006

A bunch of atheists

Speaking of religion and making judgements, as I was earlier, here's a page with a bunch of quotes about atheism. Sample:
  • "There once was a time when all people believed in God and the church ruled. This time was called the Dark Ages." - Richard Lederer
  • "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" - Epicurus
  • "It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand." -Mark Twain
  • "So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence." - Bertrand Russell
  • " I do not believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear." - Woody Allen
  • "We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart." - HL Mencken
  • " Why should I allow that same God to tell me how to raise my kids, who had to drown His own?" Robert Green Ingersoll
  • "Blasphemy is a victimless crime." - Anonymous
More here.

LINK: Quotes - Chris Beach RELATED: Quotes, Religion

Make your judgements

We're often told we're wrong to make judgements about other people, or that we're wrong to make judgements about a culture, or wrong to 'take sides' in an argument. "It's wrong to judge," admonish teachers, ministers, and journalists. Yet at the same time all around us are cries that we need 'a just society.' Yet how on earth do you get one without the other?

"It's wrong to judge"? Well, says philosopher Tara Smith (left), no it isn't. Anyone who says that is wrong. Moral judgement is good:
Adopting a policy of being non-judgmental--" who am I to judge?"--or fence-sitting as an agnostic is incompatible with the demands of justice... That policy would be dishonest insofar as it ignores the reality that individuals are different from one another and that those differences matter to your life.

...to retreat into a "judge not" posture "is an abdication of moral responsibility; it is a moral blank check one gives to others in exchange for a moral blank check one expects for oneself." ....The fact is, we need to be discriminating. We need to judge others objectively, to be sure, but emphatically: we need to judge...

Failing to condemn those who deserve it is counterfeiting insofar as it pretends that these people are better than they are, that they offer value--just as a person passing out counterfeit currency pretends that it has value. Correlatively, to withhold admiration from men's virtues is embezzlement. It is taking something for nothing, without paying: you benefit from their virtues, but you offer nothing in exchange--not even your acknowledgment of their virtue. That is what a moocher does--a sponge, a freeloader; not a trader, who gives value for value.

The reason I think it's useful to see the issue in these stark terms is that, when a person is tempted to that neutral posture, he doesn't normally think that what he's considering is anything like counterfeiting or embezzling; these are felonies, after all! The person simply thinks, "This guy isn't really so impressive, he's not so hot"; or: "I'm just being lenient, I'm cutting somebody a little slack." Yet in fact, this is what's going on. When you don't judge and treat others objectively, you are engaging in a fraud.
Who wants to make the first judgement call on that?

RELATED: Ethics, Philosophy, Objectivism, Books, Political Correctness

The Passion of the Gibson

Mel Gibson's late-night, drunken anti-Jewish rant has given us an object lesson in what crawling apologies look like. Meanwhile, James Valliant takes it as an opportunity to re-evaluate Gibson, Gibson's film 'Passion of the Christ, and how exactly the Bible itself has contributed -- even caused -- anti-Semitism.


LINK: No, really, some of his best friends are Jews - James Valliant, SOLO

TAGS: Films, Religion, History, Racism

Top ten cities

Here's the top ten cities from which people are reading 'Not PC' at the moment:
  1. Auckland
  2. Wellington
  3. London
  4. Christchurch
  5. Sydney
  6. San Francisco
  7. New York
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Toronto
  10. Huntsville, Texas
Huntsville, Texas?

TAGS: Blog

The Martyrdom of St Matthew - Caravaggio

'The Martyrdom of St Matthew,' by the 'Italian Rembrandt Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1671-1610) -- a suitably cathartic image perhaps to reflect present events.

  TAGS: Art

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

What's wrong with designer babies?

Otago University Researchers have been very quick to affirm that the start to government funding* for genetic screening of human embryos for birth defects will not mean designer babies.

But why shouldn't it? What's wrong with choosing characteristics of your offspring if that's scientifically possible? Why limit parents to selecting for sex only on compassionate grounds? It's very good news that a complete handbrake on this life-affirming work hasn't been applied, but why has any been applied at all?

"We shouldn't play God," say religionists motivated by religious dogma -- who say it's wrong to end the suffering "chosen by God," and wrong even to stop suffering beginning -- who say that screening for genetic defects "cheapens human life," when in fact it does exactly the opposite.

This isn't playing God -- it's being precisely and heroically human.

"We shouldn't meddle with nature," say commentators, without perhaps realising that meddling with nature is exactly how we human beings stay alive: from morning to night, from birth to a hopefully far-off death, our lives and longevity are made possible precisely because we do meddle with nature.

Staying alive because of advanced medical technology is not 'natural' -- if Nature had her way we'd all be dead at thirty or less once our teeth decay and our bodies start failing -- in fact staying alive at all is unnatural. If we didn't meddle with nature to produce food, we wouldn't even be alive. 'Meddling' with nature keeps us alive.

Constructing and living in buildings 'meddles with nature' -- if Nature had her way we'd still be in caves; planting crops, breeding animals, building dams and abattoirs and factories and oil rigs and hospitals and cyclotrons ... all examples of how we 'meddle with nature.' They are the very means by which we human beings stay alive.

You see, unlike other animals, man, the rational animal, cannot live as nature delivered us into the world -- naked, unarmed, without the claws, the fur, the sharp teeth of other animals. Without our brains and the science and the industry and the food and the shelter and the clothing we produce by applying our brains to nature, we'd die. The first man who hunted down and killed and ate another animal was meddling with nature, as he was when he began making the weapon to do it with. Man as a species has to discover and produce for himself all the values needed for survival and flourishing. Everything we do 'meddles with nature' -- we investigate, we rearrange, we tinker, we plan, and by so doing we work to make human life much better, much longer, and more abundant.

That's a good thing.

Trish Grant from the IHC, on the other hand, who says that this research "devalues the lives of those children who are living with a disability" is just talking errant nonsense. What hatred of human beings she must have to demand that other human beings live with crippling dieases just so her charges (she says) can feel better about themselves. She would condemn new human beings by her choice to live with Downes Syndrome, with achondroplasia, with Marfan syndrome, with Tay-Sachs disease, with cystic fibrosis, with haemophilia, with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, with all the other possible genetic birth defects when it's completely and utterly unnecessary. Meddling with nature to avoid this is good. Not meddling with so as to ensure such suffering is criminal.

Technology such as this truly values human life -- the real enemies of human life are those who stand in its way.
* Yes, the taxpayer is being forced to pay for this. No, you shouldn't have to. Yes, when governments pay for such things, some of those required to pay for it actively object to what their money is paying for, yet their views are just overridden. And yes, that is wrong.

As Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute said recently when commenting on Bush's disgraceful stem-cell veto,
It is only because science today is so dominantly funded by the government that restrictions on [state] funding can wreak the devastation they have--severely hindering a promising area of potentially life-saving medical research.

"If science were left free, as it should be, funded solely by private sources, a scientist would not have to plead the merits of his work before a majority of politicians, however ignorant or prejudiced by religious or other dogmas they might be."
LINK: Embryo report calls for changes - TVNZ
Government versus science - Yaron Brook, Ayn Rand Institute
RELATED: Ethics, Science, Politics-NZ, Heroes, Health

Castro: Get those obituaries ready

Fidel Castro is in hospital. He's ill.

Nothing trivial, I hope. The ghosts of the 70,000 people he helped murder will be looking for him, and those imprisoned in the Cuban Gulag might look with some hope to the future.

[Pic at right from RealCuba.Com. Caption: "When I die, Raul will be Queen."]

LINK: The unfree world: Cuba (with links)- Mark Humphreys.Com
Castro's Gulag - TheRealCuba.Com

Obituary, Politics-World

Zionist meeting: Israel-Hezbollah, a backgrounder

Approximately 320 people attended an Auckland meeting the other night hosted by the Zionist Federation of NZ -- a friend who attended sent me this [slightly edited] account.

I was most impressed with the calibre of both speakers -- Professor Dov Bing (left) (Dept of Political Science & Public Policy, University of Waikato), and Jeremy Jones (right with Pope John Paul) (Order of Australia and current Director of International & Community Affairs at AIJAC) -- together with the questions at the end from members of the audience.

The tone of the meeting was rational, measured and pleasantly free of emotive rhetoric.


• Israel is surrounded by 22 Arab states, ALL of which are dictatorships.
• Those Arab states lack real investment and 'national development'; their money is poured instead into military & secret services.
• Partly as a result, all those Arab economies are ‘calcified’ in comparison with their western counterparts, and with Israel.
• There is virtually no transfer of knowledge from western to Arab states.

• It is essential to understand the serious and bitter rivalry, and the power struggle between Arab Shi-ites and Sunnis.
• Iran is predominantly Shi-ite; Iraq is 67% Shi-ite; Lebanon 40% Shi-ite.
• Egypt, Jordan, West Bank & Gaza predominantly Sunni.
• Jordan & Egypt both have peace treaties with Israel.
• Al Qaeda is predominantly Sunni, sepcifically Wahhabi Sunni (but anti-US at the same time).
• In Israeli opinion however, Shi-ites are the most dangerous sect: following Ayatollah Khomenei's Shi'ite Islamic Revolution, Iran is dominant in this movement, it uses Syria & Lebanon.
• The Sunni states initially denounced Hezbollah, (see for example the editorial in Kuwait’s ‘Arab Times’, 23 July, posted here at Not PC.)

• Iran's sabre rattling, and the present aggression by Hezbollah are part of a power struggle to assert Shi'ite dominance in the Arab World and enter an era of ‘Ascendancy of Shi-ites’, despite being a minority in the Islamic world. That is what is the motivation for the present conflict.

Current Situation:

• Israel has been accused of inflicting ‘disproportional’ casualties despite being enormously outnumbered.
• Hezbollah's policy is to attack civilians. The Israeli modus operandi by contrast is to attack military targets, which results in civilian casualties. There is a difference.
• Hezbollah's policy of shooting at civilians makes it morally difficult for one’s enemy to respond.
• Western journalists are generally anti-Israel. Bing and Jones accuse most of ‘intellectual laziness’ in terms of there being historically ignorant … ‘not doing their homework.’
• There is a supreme irony they say in western left-wingers supporting Hezbollah, who are a fascist, imperial, genocidal, racist movement.
• The reality of what Israel faces in this conflict is this statement by Shi-ite Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Oct 2002: "If all the Jews gathered in Israel, it’ll save us the job of going after them worldwide."
• 22 August is a big date on Islamic calendar: the anniversary of 'Mohammed’s ascension to Heaven.' Iran has promised to "light up Israeli skies" (whatever the hell that might mean).
• UN peace initiative? Southern Lebanon has been under the eyes of UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) since 1978 – and yet it’s the most densely armed spot on the planet!
• The Lebanese government contains members of Hezbollah, 14 seats out of 128. In addition, an Amal-Hezbollah alliance won all 23 seats in Southern Lebanon.

• A good place to start for reading the history of the area is the book 'A Peace to End All Peace' about the dissolution of the old Ottoman Empire that produced the present map of the Middle East, and effectively sold present-day Israel twice: once to Jews and once to Palestinians.
• Ceasefires in the Middle East do not work; they simply give aggressors time to re-arm.
• Wars only end when one side gives up its aims. The aim of Arab aggressors since 1948 has been to drive Israel and Israelis into the sea. Iran's President Ahmedinejad's promise to wipe Israel off the map is only a contemporary re-wording of the long-standing aim, and the long-standing refusal to recognise any right for Israel right to exist.

• Democracies never fight democracies; as Dr Wafa Sultan explained so eloquently in this TV interview, true ‘civilisations’ don’t clash – they compete
• Hezbollah is a multi-billion dollar enterprise currently funded by Iran. It is not being funded out of altruism.
• Hezbollah also extorts money from Christian Lebanese who are forced to pay ‘huge amounts’ every day not to be terrorised. In Chicago and New Jersey, they call this 'protection money.'
• The Russian situation is interesting: on the one hand they have their own problems with Moslem Chechnya, whilst they are simultaneously arming both Iran and Syria.

Both Professor Bing and Jeremy Jones (an Australian) discussed the difficulty in getting their pro-Israel viewpoints across in the western media (see Bing's May opinion piece in the Herald for example). Bing estimates he has one letter in every three submissions printed. He urged the audience to use the print media to best effect. Jones writes for the AIJAC Review -- here is an example of his writing: 'Leading Lies: Holocaust and Hate.'

UPDATE: Here's another useful link from the good people at the History News Network: What Is the Difference Between Sunni and Shiite Muslims--and Why Does It Matter?

LINKS: Zionist Federation of New Zealand website
Arab Times: 'This war was inevitable...' - Not PC
'A Peace to End All Peace' - Amazon.Com
'Clash of civilizations' rubbished by Arab-American woman
- Not PC
Fermenting of a dangerous brew - Dov Bing, NZ Herald
Leading lies: Holocaust and hate - Jeremy Jones, AIJAC Review
What Is the Difference Between Sunni and Shiite Muslims--and Why Does It Matter? - History News Networks

Israel, History-Modern, War, Politics-World

Recording with the Duke

I'm sure you all have an idea of what today's recording studios look like, and pretty much how they work.

Cables everywhere, lights flashing, computer screens, huge mixing desk with more nobs than a New Zealand First party conference...

Not at all how it was seventy years ago -- and how much technology has progressed since then!

Have a wee look at this video at You Tube to see what early electrical recording was like -- and this was an advance on the bellowing into a tube that was happening only ten years before -- and you can also get a glimpse of the great Duke Ellington and his band in the studio with singer Ivie Anderson.

It's amazing that anything from 1937 was recorded at all, and delightful that it was and we can still enjoy it today.

LINK: Record making with Duke Ellington - 1937


What my sleeping position says

Heh heh.

What Your Sleeping Position Says

You are calm and rational.
You are also giving and kind - a great friend.
You are easy going and trusting.
However, you are too sensible to fall for mind games.

So there.

TAGS: Quiz

Up and Away - Michael Newberry, 2006

Up and Away (left), is one of six recently 'signed off' Newberry works produced since his move to New York.

"The energy of New York," he says, "is influencing my art in dramatic ways; I am exploring color, light, and composition possibilities."

About this piece he says, "My favorite part of the set up for this still-life was the brightness of the white silk against the brilliant yellow linen...

"I think it turned out to be a pleasing yet dynamic composition. I also painted this in a technique of working from light to dark. I started with sketching in the oil the silk and then moved progressively on to the darker colors; this technique facilitated a very luminous quality."

Read more here.

LINKS: Recent Additions to Romantic Realism - Newberry Art
Up and Away - Michael Newberry
Newberry Workshop


Tuesday, 1 August 2006

'Team players' & process servers

"There's no 'I' in team," says the Team Player. "And if you say that again," says the Rational Boss there'll be no 'U' in it either."

Oswald Bastable has some observations on "those who wank on about the virtues of being a 'team player'." And talking of people you really do want to avoid, David Slack remembers his time working as a process server, and therein some tips for avoiding such a person.

LINKS: 'Workers' to be wary of - Oswald Bastable
Ngaio in winter - David Slack

Mis-Education Commissariat's new Five-Year Plan

SCOOP: Secondary Education A Straitjacket For Students
The Libertarianz Party questions the need for the new draft curriculum for schools, released today by the Ministry of Education...

Read on here to see what Libz says about the Mis-Education Commissariat's new Five-Year Plan.

RELATED: Education, Libz

Dream of home ownership is just that

THE PRESS: Home ownership in New Zealand has plummeted in the face of rising property prices
Nationwide home ownership fell 12 per cent in the year to March 2006, although ownership in the South Island fell less than in the North Island, statistics released today show.

NZ HERALD: Home ownership falls dramatically
Home-owner numbers are sinking as property prices rise, and Auckland is more than twice as badly affected as the rest of New Zealand. In the year to March, the number of people who owned their own homes fell 12 per cent throughout New Zealand - and 26 per cent in Auckland... Previously, half the population aged over 15 owned or lived in their own houses. Now, it is 44 per cent, the survey showed.

What's going on?

As studies of the world's cities have shown and as I've argued and pointed out here before [see posts on Housing and on Urban Design], cities around the world that strangle the supply of land are less affordable to live in.

New Zealand cities are amongst the most strangled by the fashionable nostrums dreamed up by town planners, and measured as a proportion of income they are among the most unaffordable cities in the world in which to buy a house -- more unaffordable even as compared to income than cities like Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, Quebec, Ottawa and even New York.

The chickens are coming home to roost. If Chris Carter really wanted to do something to actually and permanently help first home-owners (and I believe he's genuine in wanting to) he should demand that councils remove immediately their 'smart growth' policies, their 'metropolitan urban limits' and all the other restrictions on land supply imposed under the Resource Management Act.

Wherever such strategies are imposed, wherever policies are imposed that ration and restrict the supply of land, then house prices rise and home ownership falls.

This applies as much to Portland, San Francisco, Sydney, London, San Diego, Dublin, or Vancouver as it does to Auckland.

UPDATE: It's pleasing to note that both Nats John Key and Phil Heatley have at least picked up on the connection between the Resource Management Act, the restriction in the supply of building land, and the unaffordability of NZ housing, if not yet drawing the necessary conclusion from it: that "reform" of the RMA is just not enough.

Asked Phil Heatley in yesterday's Q&A, which received the standard brush-off from Steve Maharey and no follow up from Heatley or any other National MPs:
Does he think that taxpayers got value for money from the $1.8 million Welcome Home Loans marketing budget, pouring in over $1,000 of promo money per applicant, yet attracting a measly 3 percent of those eligible, or would he do better to address crippling land and section prices through Resource Management Act reform?
And on Monday, John Key correctly noted in a press release:
A significant driver of the cost of housing in New Zealand cities is because of the lack of land for new developments – something that is driven by the expensive hoops developers have to jump through under the Resource Management Act..
LINKS: NZ Housing affordability "in crisis," says report - Not PC (Peter Cresswell) [Jan, 2006]
Sustainable cities are unaffordable cities - Not PC (Peter Cresswell) [July, 2006]
2nd Annual Demographia INternational Housing Affordability Survey (2006) - Demographia
Housing Affordability Crisis in New Zealand - Hugh Pavletich [Jan, 206]
RELATED: Auckland, New Zealand, Housing, Urban Design

Russel Norman, Jared Diamond & Easter Island: "Bunk."

On his election to the Green Party co-leadership back in June, Russel Norman delivered an impassioned speech imploring humanity to halt our path to self-destruction, citing as his chief example of our fate the destruction of their own habitat by the people of Easter Island.

"The story of Easter Island is the story of one potential future of the planet writ small," said the senior Green outside Parliament. [You can read my analysis of Norman's speech here, and Liberty Scott's here]

Problem is, New Scientist magazine says that the story of Easter Island told by Russel and others is bunk.

Not just wrong in the sense as I'd said before in trying to equate societies with property rights to a society that didn't, but wrong in the sense that, as New Scientist says, "At the very least, there is painfully little archaeological evidence for the fundamental claims that underpin the self-destruction theory." That's scientist-talk for: this hypothesis is bunk.
"Much of what has been written about Easter Island is little more than speculation," says Terry Hunt of the University of Hawaii. "When you start to search for the actual evidence for some of these claims, often it just isn't there."
Alas, poor Russel. Alas too for his thesis, and for the myth on which he and author Jared Diamond relied.
There are ... problems with almost all aspects of [the much-cited 'Collapse'] story, say Hunt and his colleague Carl Lipo of California State University in Long Beach. Take the idea that the population was once much larger than the low estimates made by early visitors. "People say, 'Look at all these statues, there must have been armies of people to do this,'" says Lipo. Many conclude that by Roggeveen's time the society had already collapsed. "But that is just absolute speculation," Lipo says.
The soil itself was never any good either, which is perhaps why the palm forest was removed.
"Thegn Ladefoged of the University of Auckland in New Zealand is analysing samples of soil from locations across the island. In general, the soils are poor, he reported at the meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in May. Nevertheless, he adds, there is no clear evidence of extreme soil degradation across the island. "I think people have extrapolated from one area which does show extreme degradation, Poike, to the whole island. I just don't see it," says Ladefoged."

"Lipo and Hunt suggest that, given Easter Island's poor soils and relatively low rainfall - which struggles to top 1500 millimetres a year - it actually made sense to get rid of the forest to make way for [rock] gardens [with a 'lithic mulch], and to extend agriculture across a greater range of soils and levels of rainfall."
So the story that Russel and Jared spun just falls apart, doesn't it.
"In 2002, Paul Rainbird of the University of Wales, Lampeter, investigated the idea of eco-disaster on Rapa Nui and concluded that there is no compelling archaeological evidence for any of the key claims of societal dissolution and breakdown before the 18th century."
Russel thinks we should find in Easter Island a lesson for ourselves "writ small." On that I do agree with him. There is something to be learned, and it is this: scaremongering claims for eco-collapse and eco-destruction produced without evidence should be ignored.

Are you listening, Russel?
LINKS: Easter Island - A monumental collapse - New Scientist [with podcast]
Learning from Easter Island: Something for Russel Norman and his Greens to think about - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Collapsed: Jared Diamond's arguments - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

RELATED: Science, History, Economics, Environment, Politics-Greens, Books