Friday, October 27, 2006

Beer O'Clock: Tsingtao

This week's recommendation from Neil at Real Beer.

Beer Fact: Tsingtao is the only Chinese beer to appear in the Beer Hunter Michael Jackson's list of the world’s top 500 beers.

Beer Opinion: Tsingtao is definitely my favorite Chinese beer.

Granted, it's the only Chinese beer I've ever tried - but I really do like it.

It's also surprisingly easy to find - in Wellington it pops up at a number of fine Chinese and Malaysian restaurants and at reputable bottle stores like Regional Wines and Spirits.

I had a couple of bottles for lunch at the excellent Long Bar just to confirm its ready availability for skeptical readers.

A word of warning though - be careful with your pronunciation otherwise you may end up with the inferior Thai Singha! The official Tsingtao website suggests “Ching-dow”.

The brewery was founded by Germans in the port of Tsingtao in the early 1900s. At that time, the city was a German port as part of the concessions after the Boxer Rebellion. The Germans were eventually kicked out by the Imperial Japanese Army, who moved in and stayed until they were defeated in the Second Sino-Japanese war. Tsingtao Brewery is now 100% Chinese owned and is the largest in China. Many breweries around the world were established by German settlers including Samoa Breweries, and the producers of the excellent Namibian Windhoek.

Geopolitics aside, the beer pours a lovely straw colour with a wispy white head. It has a slightly astringent and crisp nose. Nicely carbonated, it has short, sweetish body with a crisp, dry finish. It’s quite smooth and refreshing and is indeed a perfect match for spicy food.

This is one of the few beers to use a small proportion of rice properly giving it a light colour and clean finish. It is not overly complicated - but everything balances and everything works.

Marvellous.

LINKS: Michael Jackson, beer hunter
Tsingtao Brewery

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

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Smart Growth is not Green

'Smart Growth' -- the platitudinous urban design imposition that herds people inside arbitrary city boundaries -- is NOT a green theory. In fact, it's not even 'sustainable.'

Wendell Cox of Demographia points out that organic farmers in the US are waking up to this. Owen McShane summarises:
Smart Growth and other regulations prevent all processing of food in rural zones. These new farmers want to raise their beef, chickens and pigs on site and slaughter them on site - open to the gaze of their buying public. As they say "transparency is the best form of regulation". But these regulations are seriously restraining the development of "local miles" food producers and markets while favouring the massive centralised industrial operations. So the "slow food" and "fresh food" people, and organic farmers should be joining in the campaign against the Auckland Regional Council's Policy Change 6, and similar moves around the country. Again, Smart Growth is not Green.
'Smart Growth' policies ring-fence cities with the aim of "reducing ugly sprawl" and "preserving food-producing land" -- they have the result instead of locking people out of rural areas, and pushing up prices for housing and for land in urban areas. Auckland Regional Council's Metropolitan Urban Limit provides an example. As Cox explains, "anti-sprawl policies ration land inordinately increase the price of housing, destroying wealth creation, while intensifying traffic congestion and air pollution."

And as he points out, when you take the "footprint calculations" of the sustainability-worshippers themselves you realise that even if you could suspend disbelief over the unfortunate economic impact of restricting development, the Smart Growth credo is just wrong on its face:
The new World Watch 'Living Planet Report' provides strong evidence that the space required by urban areas is only a small part of what is required to support human habitation --- that the land required for agriculture, energy production and other factors is far greater --- 90 times greater. The World Watch data thus provides evidence that the urban form --- whether dense or sparse ("compact" or "sprawl") --- is irrelevant with respect to sustainability. [Let me repeat that: it is irrelevant.] If the World Watch prescription is reliable, then strategies to combat "urban sprawl" would yield virtually no progress toward improving sustainability (even at the theoretical level).
Full commentary here.

LINKS: World Watch, sustainability and the politics of sprawl - Wendell Cox, From the Heartland
Man's footprint on Earth too heavy to be sustained - Times Online

RELATED: Urban Design, Politics, Environment, Auckland

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University faculties not all that diverse - survey

Author Stephen Hicks, himself a professor at Rockford College Illinois, has found "a fascinating recent survey of [American] university faculty political beliefs." Here's some 'highlights' from the summary:
  • "Faculty at colleges and universities of all kinds in America are overwhelmingly liberal in their political ideology, creating a strong campus political culture. Categorized according to both self-identification and voting patterns, faculty are heavily weighted towards the Left."
  • "The majority of faculty are liberal and Democratic, and thereforethe full spectrum of beliefs and political behavior of the American public is underrepresented on campus."
  • Faculty hold a certain number of beliefs that are pervasive, but not monolithic. They include:
    • Criticism of many American foreign and domestic policies.
    • Propensity to blame America for world problems.
    • A tendency to strongly support international institutions such as the United Nations.
    • Strong opposition to American unilateralism.
    • Criticism of big business.
    • Skepticism about capitalism’s ability to help address poverty in developing nations.
  • "Recruitment, hiring, and tenure review processes have either failed to adequately prevent this political imbalance within disciplines or have actively perpetuated and deepened political unity."
  • "Social science and humanities faculty are the most liberal and Democratic, and least diverse in their political culture. Fully 54% of the social science and humanities faculty identify as Democratic and 60% as liberal, and only 11% as Republican and 12% as conservative, a 5-to-1 ratio. [Which begs the question of what the remaining 17-23% see themselves as?] Of social science faculty who voted in 2004, they were more than four times as likely to have chosen Kerry (81%) over Bush (18%) while humanities faculty were more than five times as likely (81% for Kerry, 15% for Bush)."
  • "Business faculty are the most diverse in their political beliefs and behavior. Still, only 30% of business faculty de-fine themselves as Republicans and 35% as conservatives..."
  • "Significant percentages of faculty acknowledge that not only students but also other faculty may feel restricted in their expression..."
LINK: A Profile of American College Faculty. Volume I: Political Beliefs & Behavior - Institute for Jewish & Community Research

RELATED:
Politics-US, Education, Philosophy

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Drinkers fingerprinted. Landlords threatened.

I hesitate to post this for fear it may give a local bureaucrat ideas. From Metro UK:

Drinkers could be asked to leave their fingerprints at the bar every time they buy a pint in a pub or club. They may also need to show a passport or a driving licence and their details will be held on a database available to police...

Some landlords were reluctant to sign up until they were told they faced having their licences revoked...

Guy Herbert, of privacy campaign group No2ID, said : 'People are having to post bail in the form of their fingerprints merely to have a drink.' Liberty's Doug Jewell added: 'The money for these schemes could be better spent on police services.'

Meanwhile, Tony Blair insisted there should be 'no limits' on expansion of a national police DNA database, saying it was vital for catching criminals.

Big Brother, bullying and threats to small businessmen. Just another day in the UK then.

LINKS: Drinkers to leave prints for pints - Metro UK

RELATED:
Politics-UK, Beer & Elsewhere

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UK Tories even wetter

Sojourning in the UK, Liberty Scott has a good look at the UK Tories, and finds them even more vapid than the NZ variety. Hard to believe.

LINK: Yawning with the Tories - Liberty Scott
Bluegreen: The new symbol of wetness - Not PC ( , 2006)
Dripping wet - Not PC ( , 2006)
Leadership? Not here. - Not PC ( , 2006)

RELATED: Politics-UK, Politics-NZ, Politics-National

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Auckland Architecture Awards

Every year the local Architecture Awards are announced for local Institute members, and every year ... well, there is no Auckland winner this year (there is no one "winner" you understand, "this is all about taking part" says judge Paul Clarke), but here below are small pics of four "singled out" for special mention so you can judge yourself.

From the official announcement (where you can find pictures of all the forty "winners,") convenor of judging Paul Clarke said "a number of projects deserved special praise, including the Auckland Domain Winter Gardens Restoration."
He also singled out two other Community & Cultural projects [pictured below]. The Manurewa Aquatic and Leisure Centre (JASMAX Ltd) was “a really simple building, effective yet inspiring; an asset that the local community can use and enjoy at no cost”. And the Auckland Central City Library Redevelopment (GHD Ltd) was “a fantastic facility for the city; a building that invites people in with open arms”.

Mr Clarke also made special mention of two Residential winners [also pictured below]. He said Dunn House in Remuera (Fearon Hay Architects Ltd) was a “simply beautiful house… I defy anyone viewing it not to succumb to the desire to live there.” And the McNaughton Thornton House in Grey Lynn (Malcolm Walker Architects) was “totally refreshing, a one-off house that is very well executed”.

Manurewa Aquatic Centre - JASMAX Architects


Dunn House remodelling- Fearon Hay Architects
What was once a very attractive concrete house is now ...

NcNaughton Thornton House - Malcolm Walker Architects


Auckland Library Cafe extension - Auckland City Architects
A fairly uninformative photograph of a useful extension.

Your comments welcome. What do you think of the four buildings "singled out" for special mention.

LINK: New Zealand Institute of Architects Resene Awards - Auckland local award winners - NZIA

RELATED: Architecture, Auckland

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Free Speech with Bernard Darnton

Q: What's Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton doing now that his case against the Clark Government's misappropriation of money has been unilaterally terminated under the Clark Government's retrospective Get-Out-of-Jail-Free legislation?

A: He's been initiating a new project, one exposing the free speech attacks of the Clark Government.

He explains all at his old Darnton V Clark site, and invites you all to bookmark his new site, FreeSpeech.Org.NZ:
With this court case abruptly terminated [explains Bernard], I have begun work on a new project - FreeSpeech.org.nz.

The site will become a central resource for information on the freedom of expression in New Zealand. The site has been kicked off with a blog called Section 14.

Later will come background information on freedom of speech and its necessity, longer magazine-style articles on various topics relevant to free speech in New Zealand, information on how and when to annoy your Parliamentarians, and a range of other useful tools.

This is a soft launch. There will be a more formal announcement in a few weeks when there's a bit more information on the site and to coincide with issue 73 of the Free Radical, which will also contain a number of free speech themed articles.

If you have ideas about free speech topics that are relevant to New Zealand, let me know and I'll include them in my plans. Currently I'm looking at restrictions on election advertising (no prizes for guessing what kicked this off), restrictions on liquor, pharmaceuticals, and fast food advertising, sedition, blasphemy, hate speech, self-censorship in the face of Islam, self-censorship in the face of environmentalists, how name and evidence suppression works and what trade-offs are really required.

Contributions are welcome.
Bookmark the site and blog now, and keep yourself up to date with his progress.

LINK: FreeSpeech.Org.NZ - Bernard Darnton's new website
Section 14 - Bernard Darnton's new Free Speech blog

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Free Speech, Darnton V Clark

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Some spending chains

There's nothing that makes me feel better about some new rules on Parliamentary spending than seeing a politician bleating about the rules making it hard to spend money.

And when the politician doing the bleating is supposed to be an advocate of small government, my irony-meter really starts to twitch.

LINK: Pre-approval for MPs' spending - Rodney Hide

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Darnton V Clark, Politics-ACT

The new browser wars

Having a few problems with the new Firefox 2.0 (which to be fair is still Beta) makes me look with renewed interest at the new Internet Explorer 7. Unlike Robin's less than laudatory review of IE7 the other day, Hamish at Polemic has reviewed both and is impressed enough by what Microsoft have done with IE7 that he's almost ready to go back to Bill Gates for his browser -- but note his comments here on security.

LINKS: Deathmatch: Firefox 2 versus Internet Explorer 7 - Polemic
IE7 tip: networks and shortcuts - Polemic
IE7 is coming this month ... are you ready?- RobiNZ CAD Blog

RELATED: Geek Stuff

US Elections: A House divided?

One of the beauties of the American system of government is the check on power created by enabling the executive and both houses of the legislature to be controlled by different parties. Which lovers of small government, for example, cannot recall with a smile the shut-down of government due that happened under a Clinton Administration and a Republican House?

This is just a prelude really to saying that all things being equal I prefer to see power divided, rather than having all elected arms of government in the hands of the same party, and so just on that basis alone would not be unhappy to see the Democrats take control of either the Senate or the House of Representatives. On top of that, and given the disgraceful statism in recent years of the conservative side of the aisle (examined in some detail in this series here), it's hard to see that the Democrats could do a worse job.

Objectivists are divided on the question of whom to vote for in the forthcoming mid-term elections. Given the theocratic thrust of so much of recent Republicanism, philosopher Leonard Peikoff argues that not to vote Democrat for both Houses is immoral:
How you cast your vote in the coming election is important, even if the two parties are both rotten. In essence, the Democrats stand for socialism, or at least some ambling steps in its direction; the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power.

Socialism—a fad of the last few centuries—has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades... Religion, by contrast—the destroyer of man since time immemorial—is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.

Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because “both are bad.”

[...] What does determine the survival of this country is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy. And in this area the only real threat to the country now, the only political evil comparable to or even greater than the threat once posed by Soviet Communism, is religion and the Party which is its home and sponsor.

The most urgent political task now is to topple the Republicans from power, if possible in the House and the Senate. This entails voting consistently Democratic, even if the opponent is a “good” Republican.
Writer Robert Tracinski disagrees. Unsatisfied as he is (and I am) with the Republican Congress, he still suggest the best result is a "humiliating defeat" for the Democrats. "The best thing we can do in this election is to crush the left," he says, "because the Democratic Party adds nothing of value to the American political debate." All the important debates are now happening on the right, he argues, and so "the more the left fades from the scene, the more the national political debate will be a debate within the right."

It sounds a little Pollyann-ish to me. He does however allow:
In the American system, of course, we don't vote for parties but for individual candidates. So if your local congressional candidate has championed a particularly evil political agenda, is under indictment, or is named "Katherine Harris," then by all means vote for the other guy.
Good advice in any election.

UPDATE: Even as I was writing this Mike Mazza was writing an almost identical post with even the same linked articles over at SOLO, where a healthy debate has ensued: Election '06 - SOLO

LINKS: Peikoff on the coming election - Leonard Peikoff, Capitalism Magazine
The Democratic Party adds nothing to the national debate - Robert Tracinski, Real Clear Politics
CONSERVATISM - A NEW OBITUARY: Part 5: The Neocons in practice - Not PC
Cartoons by Cox and Forkum

RELATED:
Politics-US, Objectivism

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Too many hoops, not too many overstayers

The problem with the scheme drawn up by David Cunliffe to allow up to five-thousand temporary seasonal workers is not the danger of too many overstayers -- and what way is that to talk about other human beings simply looking for a better life -- the problem is too many hoops to jump through.

Reports the Herald:
Click here to read more ... >>

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Well done those Black Caps

Black caps.

Beating Pakistan by 51 runs.

Semifinals.

Great stuff.

RELATED: Sports, New Zealand

The Fall - Martine Vaugel

A piece by contemporary sculptor Martine Vaugel. Full image above, detail below. Her site is here. Her biography here.

RELATED: Art, Sculpture

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New skeptic's blog

New blog just added to the blogroll is Dwindling in Unbelief, hosted by the editor of the excellent online Skeptic's Annotated Bible/Quran/Book of Mormon.

A sample of what to expect comes in a recent post comparing the number of people killed by God in the Bible (2,270,365) with those killed by Satan (10). And this is in the book written by God's own chosen press agents. Do you think they're trying to tell you something?

LINK: Who has killed more, God or Satan? - Dwindling in Unbelief
Skeptics' Annotated Bible/Quran/Book of Mormon.

RELATED: Religion, Humour

Historian gives MSM twenty years

I was invited last night as a guest of the Centre for Independent Studies to hear historian Arthur Herman deliver this year's John Bonython lecture: "History as the Story of Liberty: A Globalised Western Civilisation." I'll review the fascinating lecture later today, but I'll just note here a point made by Herman in the question period that should interest the blogosphere.

The mainstream media, suggested Herman, has lost the crucial virtue of immediacy to the blogosphere, and with that the days of the MSM are numbered.

News in the US print media for example is all simply recycled reports from the NY Times and wire services, which is then picked up and rewritten and re-analysed and re-splashed across the country's papers, but even that initial report on which everyone is relying is probably written by someone at some distance from the story, someone who's perhaps talked over the phone to someone who talked to someone who saw the story being reported. Or so they said.*

As anyone involved in anything that is ultimately reported in the press would know, the stories as they actually happened bear only a passing resemblance to what finally appears in print. Now, in courts around the world reports collected in this way would be ruled out as hearsay, yet important decisions are made on the basis of these rudimentary reports, and over time people are going to demand better -- and blogs, says Herman, are perfectly placed to be that better thing.

He gives it twenty years for the mainstream print media to wither and die, and for blogs to take over as the main source of news.

Invest now.
-----

* The Vegemite story is an example of this. The "horrifying" story about a "Vegemite ban in the US" (Google links here) was first written up by an Australian newspaper and was then picked up by other "news" sources and rewritten for their own pages -- often with added hysteria -- but who had actually paused to determine whether the story was true or a puff-piece from Vegemite manufacturer Kraft? "Expatriates" who were reported as being stopped at airports after the "ban" was put in place turned out to be one reporter from the Geelong Advertiser who wrote as an yet unauthenticated report claiming a ban, and people subsequently reporting a Vegemite shortage in US supermarkets (perhaps as a result of the 'guerrilla advertising' so compliantly peddled by the press?)

Meanwhile, "Vegemite ban may be urban legend," suggests OverLawyered.Com. And "there is no ban on Vegemite," confirms US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman Mike Herndon. A pity no-one clarified that before the MSM disseminated the scare story.

As I say, this is only a trivial example, but too many of these debacles and over time the mainstream media loses whatever reputation it still retains for the veracity of its reports when it comes to things of more importance.

RELATED: Blog

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The dance of the long black veil

Your house, your rules. That would be the easy way for Britons to resolve their present debate about the wearing of the niqab by a Muslim woman. He (or she) who owns the property sets the rules, and she (or he) who visits said property can either abide by those rules or go elsewhere.

So if I go to a mosque, I might be expected to follow the rules of the house, and if you come to my house or my office or my school you might be expected to follow mine.

We don't need to necessarily respect the rules, just to follow them if we wish to enjoy the hospitality of the host.

The problem in the case that has generated the British debate is that the woman who wishes to wear a niqab that completely covers her face in the manner pictured above wants to work in a government school as a teacher, which means that since there's no private property argument to which to repair, the debate as framed is unresolvable. Literally unresolvable.

Many parents with children at the school object to their children being taught by a woman whose face is concealed. But she has the right to wear what she wants, doesn't she? The principle to be followed here is that no one should be forced to pay for beliefs which they oppose -- but of course that belief is violated every day in very government-owned school across the western hemisphere. As long as schools are unowned (or government 'owned'), then who gets to make the rules about what you wear in class, what food children are allowed in their lunchbox, and what religious observances are practiced is left at the mercy of whoever grabs the levers of power.

What happens without clear private property rights is that a women who does wish to wear the veil to teach in a secular classroom has to endure a national debate. That's pathetic. No such problem would (or should) exist if the secular school wasn't a place to which children are forced go, and parents are forced to pay for. If the school was private and parents had the choice about their children attending then the problem would just disappear. Don't like the rules or the dress-code of the teacher? Then don't send your kids there. Their school, their rules, right? Choice and private property resolving the apparently unresolvable.

But there is another point to be made.

There is something barbaric about wanting to veil yourself, or being forced by religion to veil yourself. The Western value of freedom of expression rightly protects the freedom of someone to choose how they dress (when their property is their own or someone who accedes to the dress code), but there is an element here amongst British Muslims that they must confront of wanting to eat their Western cake and to have it too. And there is something too for non-Muslim Britons to learn. Says the Ayn Rand Institute's Alex Epstein on these last points:

Britons are absolutely right to criticize the niqab. It is a demeaning, barbaric article of clothing that inculcates shame in women, depriving them of individuality and femininity. But to criticize niqabs will not go very far in making Britain a more integrated, less balkanized nation. Britons' most powerful tool of assimilation is to understand and proudly and convincingly proclaim Western ideals.

“They must understand that what made the West great is individualism, reason, the pursuit of happiness--and that this is objectively superior to the tribalism, superstition, and earthly deprivation that many Muslims seek to live out and bring to Europe. Britons must reject the insidious idea of multiculturalism, which holds that all cultures are of equal value. Cultures are not of equal value: prosperity is superior to poverty, happiness is superior to misery, freedom is superior to slavery, and a visible face is superior to a slit revealing two anonymous eyes."
And that's the truth.

UPDATE: I just completed this and then noted that Liberty Scott has made almost the exact same points as I have: 'Niqab, Islam and Civilisation.' Great minds, etc.

LINK: How Britain should promote assimilation - Alex Epstein, Ayn Rand Institute
Schools told: Ban the veil - Daily Express

RELATED: Politics-UK, Multiculturalism, Education, Religion, Political Correctness

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Firefox faux pas

I've installed the new Firefox 2.0 and it's functioning fine, but the damn Session Saver ain't working, so when I re-opened my browser this morning all the sites I'd left open last night and was hoping to write about today are closed.

Blasted updates. The large print giveth, and the small print always taketh away.

LINK: Mozilla Development Center

RELATED: Blog, Geek Stuff

Nationalisation on the West Coast

Imagine if eighty-percent of your property were to be taken away overnight to make a park. That's what West Coast farmers are facing with a "land grab" by the Clark Government in which large swathes of their land is to be taken out of their control and placed under the control of government by virtue of being declared "Significant Natural Areas" (SNA's).

This will affect up to one in three West Coast farms, in an area in which, says this report, "87% of land on the West Coast [is] already protected one way or another." One farmer, who faces having eighty percent of his farm taken (that's part of it pictured at right), says,
the property has been in his family for 100 years and the government cannot tell him what to do with it. "It's absolutely stupid, it's bureaucrats gone mad." Barrett's farm is sphagnum moss country, but like lot of farmers on the West Coast he may switch to dairying. His fear is that if the SNA becomes a reality, he will not be able to.

"Lot of decisions made and no-one thinks of the cost on humans. Terrible stressful for people to have to go through this sort of thing."
Of course he's right that this is absolutely stupid, but rather than "bureaucrats gone mad" this is just more of the madness that happens when any respect for property rights has disappeared, and property owners have given up the fight for property rights.

Both Federated Farmers and the Greymouth mayor oppose the process -- the mayor accurately calling it a "Mugabe-style land grab to try and take people's private land off them" -- but both still accept the principle that government may nationalise land whenever it can rationalise the process:
  • "I'll be going to the council next month," says the mayor , "and I'll be asking them to stop the process until the Minister David Benson-Pope comes up with legitimate reasons why we should progress with this SNA identification" -- in other words if the rationalisation is sufficient, we'll roll over on this.
  • Meanwhile, while making the usual noises, Federated Farmers have already rolled over; they're actually "taking part in the process" of SNA identification -- but only, they say, "to ensure farmers were not further disadvantaged."
Oh please. Neither of them are prepared to just say "No!" You can just hear the forelocks being tugged, can't you.

When, oh when, will this process of land nationalisation and extinction of property rights begun under the Resource Management Act be reversed? The answer, dear reader, is only when you do stand up and cry "Enough!" Have you had enough yet? Or do you need even more Mugabe-style land grab before you get the point that property rights are important, and the RMA is destructive of them.

It's high time that a stake was driven through the heart of the RMA. If not now, when?

LINKS: Access fears for private land - Stuff
Coasters fight land grab - TVNZ (article, with link to video news report)
It's time to drive a stake through the heart of the RMA - Peter Cresswell, Free Radical [4-page PDF]

RELATED:
Politics-NZ, Property Rights, RMA

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Pauson House - Frank Lloyd Wright


Rose Pauson's house by Frank Lloyd Wright (1939) was architecture for a desert climate in the days before air-conditioning changed the game.

Designed for the northern extremity of the Sonoma desert, the composition of desert stone and battered timber and deep shadow survived only three short years before being destroyed by fire.

The stone that remained made a delightful ruin (right).

LINK: Photo set at Flickr

RELATED:
Architecture

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's not Firefly

Noodle Food also spotted this ten-minute Firefly spoof on You Tube called Mosquito, which you fans of the original might enjoy.

LINK: Films, Humour

Instant Middle East history lesson

Who's controlled the Middle East over the last five-thousand years?

Answer: pretty much everyone. Check out this cool animated map to watch the history of who controlled whom unfold before your eyes.

As Noodle Food says it's like seeing 5000 years of history in 90 seconds.

LINK: Imperial history of the Middle East - Maps of War

RELATED: History, War

How to be a racist: Sowell

Rational discussion on race is no longer possible -- and ain't that the truth -- but, argues Thomas Sowell, that's no excuse for US Republicans to be as racist as Democrats. See what he means here at Capitalism Magazine: Frivolous Politics: How to Become a "Racist."

RELATED: Politics-US, Racism

Saving isn't hoarding

There's a common economic myth that drives a lot of economic policy. Spending is what drives the economy, says this myth, whereas saving is 'hoarding' -- removing money from circulation.

But saving is not hoarding. Saving is simply putting off your own present consumption until some time in the future, and rather than disappearing down a hole in the ground your money is transferred from consumption into production. By foregoing consumption today we make today's production possible, and the goods and services for tomorrow's consumption even greater. And in fact, the only way to increase savings is to increase production...

But don't just believe me: George Reisman makes the point far better than I could here.

LINK: Saving versus hoarding - George Reisman's Blog

RELATED: Economics

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Jump!

Bungy King AJ Hackett is back in New Zealand and doing interviews. In a brief excerpt from one this morning, he talked about making his start in business by hanging off the bridges of New Zealand:
AJ: This was all before the Resource Management Act of course.
INTERVIEWER: Would you get off the ground now?
AJ: It would be very, very difficult.
And that's without even mentioning what OSH and our safety-obsessed 'cotton-wool culture' would have done to the fledgling business that has since conquered the world.

There has to be a lesson there, doesn't there?

RELATED: New Zealand, RMA, Bureaucracy

New Zealand news and propaganda from the War on Drugs™

New site is Stash.Co.NZ -- which looks awfully similar to Stuff.Co.NZ -- with the difference that the former site features New Zealand news and propaganda from the War on Drugs™, whereas the latter.... Anyway, go take a look.

Curious headline at the moment: "George Michael says cannabis keeps him sane," to which all I can say is, "!"

LINK: New Zealand news and propaganda from the War on Drugs™ - Stash

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Victimless_Crimes

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It's that 'nightclub in Napier' joke again

Satire in The Listener. Jon Bridges tries to make the most of one joke.

LINK: Zed-letter day: Conversation at the birth of the Libertarianz - Listener

RELATED: Libz, Humour

"I want to be an icon."

I've just seen the two finalists in NZ Idol on Breakfast TV. The bigger of the two said he wants to win because he has a long-held ambition to be an icon -- to be someone people look up to.

Is that healthy?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Current reading

What are you reading this long weekend? Here's what I have scattered around:

Author! Author! - David Lodge
Somewhat disappointing this compared to Lodge's other rather more colourful and witty novels (which I've been reading with increasing interest), the subject this time is turn-of-the-century author Henry James's ultimately unsuccessful foray into writing for the theatre, and his difficulty in reconciling the commercial failure of his own tendentious writing for both theatre and novel with the outstanding trans-Atlantic success of a friends's pot-boiler about love and lust in bohemian Paris. It does encourages further reading of those rather stodgy but linguistically interesting psychological novels of James's, but not with any expectation of serious enjoyment.

A History of Western Philosophy: The Twentieth Century to Quine and Derrida - W.T. Jones
Inspired sufficiently by Lodge's efforts on behalf of Henry James, and made curious by the brief references to his brother William to reacquaint myself with his own work, I've been reading again Jones's masterful summary of the failure of twentieth-century philosophy (a failure well summed up in the title, to my mind) in order to refresh myself with what William James had to say about psychology and certainty (or lack thereof).. Wikipedia however ultimately proved more fruitful in that task:
James defined true beliefs as those that prove useful to the believer...
Nothing like using a 'razor' to remove a whole swathe of human knowledge, is there?
James' assertion that the value of a truth depends upon its use to the individual who holds it is known as pragmatism. Additional tenets of James' pragmatism include the view that the world is a mosaic of diverse experiences that can only be properly understood through an application of "radical empiricism." Radical empiricism, distinct from everyday scientific empiricism, presumes that nature and experience can never be frozen for absolutely objective analysis, that, at the very least, the mind of the observer will affect the outcome of any empirical approach to truth since, empirically, the mind and nature are inseparable.
Etc. "Never," by the way, is said with the certainty which James himself says is not possible, but as with many of the twentieth-century's sorry excuses for philosophers, such a conundrum never seemed to bother him. It's obviously "true" since he wanted it to be so, and by virtue of asserting it to be true he fashioned a career, which undoubtedly proved useful to him (if not to his students). So much, anyway, for pragmatism as a guide to "truth."

Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics - Frederic Spotts
Some years ago when a television mini-series featured the relationship between Hitler and his architect Albert Speer, a friend commented that he was pleasantly surprised at the thing. "I'd thought it would be about as useful as a film about Hitler's milkman," said my friend, "but it proved to have remarkable insight." So it did. This book is the same. Too little historical account is taken of the fact that Hitler was and saw himself as an artist -- not a very good one, however, but it was an artist he began his work. Says Spotts, "His aesthetic nature, his conviction that the ultimate objective of political effort should be artistic achievement and his dream of creating the greatest culture state since ancient time, or perhaps of all time," this is what the book has as its focus.

It's truly revealing, including as it does an account not just of Hitler's self-serving view of art's relationship to the State, but also of how Hitler's own grandiloquent but barren aesthetics infected a whole generation of German artists, architects, musicians and artistic expression, and how ultimately it was as an "artist of destruction" he will be remembered. An insightful look into a much-neglected aspect of evil.

Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language - Don Watson
Quite the opposite of what you might expect after the preceding title, Watson bemoaons the effect that bureaucracy and rampant illiteracy has had and is having on language. From the flyleaf:
When was the last time you heard a politician use words that rang with truth and meaning? Do your eyes glaze over when you read a letter from you bank? When your employer tells you to make a commitment going forwards, or speaks of enhancing the bottom line, does your mind shut down?

Buzzwords, jargon, bullet-points instead of argument, the 'verb famine and 'noun pile-ups' and the inflation of cliche, drivel and weasel-words to regular occurrence. "Every day we are confronted with a debased, depleted sludge." Watson's book sets out to combat this all-encompassing irrationalism, and while not quite as witty as it should be, and not quite as useful as Richard Mitchell's similar but more meaty Less Than Words Could Say, it is nonetheless in the right spirit. Henry James would have approved, except perhaps for it having just a mite too much colour for that genteel old gentleman.

[NB: All links above are to US editions available on Amazon. Covers and some titles may differ slightly.]

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SUMMARY: "No Substitute for Victory: Military Offense and the Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism"

I'm envious of my colleague Julian who is presently attending the Boston Objectivist Conference (OCON in Boston), and posting updates to SOLO. From his latest update comes this (lightly edited) summary of an insightful lecture by John Lewis, assistant professor of history at Ashland University, with the subject, "No Substitute for Victory": Military Offense and the Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism. [Dr. Lewis] began by assessing the differences in response by the US administration to the attacks on the USA by the Japanese in WW2, and the approach taken following the September 11 attacks. In the former case, there was an unrestrained response, which culminated in the A bombs. There was no warning, no threats, just a stated recognition that the blame for any suffering lay at the feet of the militarists who had initiated the war, not at the feet of the US. The goal was to bring the enemy to its knees, and the US was forthright and did not attempt to hide the truth in what it was trying to achieve (see telegram below). And the Japanese empire fell and now Japan is a peaceful prosperous nation. The attacks of September 11, by contrast, have been met with restrained responses which have been considered both moral and practical. The results have been a complete contrast to the success of the war against Japan. The USA has been shown to be weak which gives the enemy hope, and encourages continued resistance, and even more bloodshed. Furthermore, and unlike the successful strategy of McArthur's in Japan, the US military of today has not broken the link between Islam and the state (see Iraq, for example, where Islamism is written into the very constitution introduced by the US). Dr Lewis distributed a copy of a telegram from the State Department to to the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Japan which stated:
Shintoism, insofar as it is a religion of individual Japanese is not to be interfered with. Shintoism, however, insofar as it is directed by the Japanese government, and is a measure enforced from the government is to be done away with... The Japanese government will be required to cease financial and other support of Shinto establishments.
Dr Lewis then asked us to substitute Iran for Japan and Islam for Shintoism. Iran is a country which is actively seeking to destroy Israel and the USA and is seeking to obtain nuclear weapons. They support terrorist organisations and this regime must be eliminated. And not one American soldier needs to set foot in Iran. We must not seek legitimacy for action outside of our right to self-defence. We must break the political power of Islam, the clerics must be stripped of power. Once Iran is dealt with the message is clear to all other regimes that Islamic States will not be permitted. And most importantly, state clearly what you are going to achieve. Be forthright and don't hide the truth of what you are doing. This was an outstanding lecture. LINK: The jihad against the west: The real threat and the right response - Objectivist Conferences (OCON) OCON Boston now free for students - SOLO RELATED: Objectivism, Politics-World

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ship the UN off to Venezuela

Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute giving his view of the United Nations [roughly transcibed from the Q & A at the recent Boston Objectivist Conference ]:
The UN is an evil organization which should never have existed. It was set up with five permanent members on the security council, and at that time four of those members sitting at the table represented regimes which had killed millions of people. It should be shipped off to Venezuela.
LINK: The jihad against the west: The real threat and the right response - Objectivist Conferences

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Today's Bible reading

Open the Bible at random, we're told, and you will find therein words of wisdom to guide your actions. Let's see:
Ye shall keep the sabbath ... every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death.--Exodus 31:14
Hmm. Maybe not.

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