Tuesday, 16 January 2007

The Real Dream of Martin Luther King Day

[Reposted from Not PC, 20/01/06] What's the message of Martin Luther King Day, celebrated today in the U.S.? It's a message that should resonate just as loudly here in New Zealand too. Edwin Locke reminds us of 'The Dream':
What should we remember on Martin Luther King Day? In his "I Have a Dream" speech Dr. King said: "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"...

On Martin Luther King Day--and every day--we should focus on the proper antidote to racism and the proper alternative to racial thinking: individualism. We need to teach our children and all our citizens to look beyond the superficialities of skin color and to judge people on what really matters, namely, "the content of their character."
Character is all. Skin colour is just something you're born with. Recognition of that fact is what King called his Dream.

How about making that Dream a reality here in Enzed?

LINKS: What We Should Remember on Martin Luther King Day: Judge People by Their Character, Not Skin Color - Edwin Locke, Capitalism Magazine
"I Have a Dream" - Martin Luther King, LearnOutLoud [audio]


Cleaning your monitor

I spent much of yesterday trying to work out why my main computer wasn't working. Fortunately, I eventually got it sorted: a small amount of dust had settled on the bastarding video card, making the whole machine disfunctional. Grrrr.

Fortunately, the solution was easier (and quicker) than the diagnosis, and while I was cleaning the inside of my computer, I took the opportunity to also clean the inside of my monitor. I'm glad I did. Download your own screen cleaner here. As the man says, men only (or women who can appreciate a good thing). Enjoy. NSFW.


It's becoming a common theme here at Not PC ... bagging the gross National product of John Key. But not today -- at least, not directly.

Here instead is an interview with British Tory leader David Cameron, whom Key has been aping. (What's hilarious is that Cameron's 'strategy' is to simply me-too Tony Blair, so with Key we get a cheap knock-off of Cameron, who is little more than a poor knock-off of Blair but without the conviction; and the policies of both Key and Cameron -- what few are discernible through the mush -- are nothing more than Labour-lite. To a conservative, is known as "strategy.")

Anyway, back to the interview [a hat tip for which goes to Andrew Falloon], in which Cameron lays out his stall for the next political year. At least, he's invited to lay out his stall -- and if you relax and turn your brain off he does sounds very good -- but when you watch with full focus and then try and summarise once he's finished where exactly he stands on anything, you're left with nothing more than froth and a handful of air. Hot air.

Comedian Peter Sellers once famously delivered a five-minute Party Political Broadcast with a semantic content of exactly zero. Cameron can do the same for twenty minutes -- and you would swear he could keep going in the same vein for ever. If you want to watch twenty minutes of a polished politician saying nothing while sounding like he's saying a lot, a foretaste of things to come in New Zealand, then click here and then watch and learn. The Cameron emptiness starts around 37:30.

LINKS: Sunday AM - BBC News
Key on crack - Andrew Falloon

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

Warmists, lies, and 3000 deaths per day from malaria.

Stop this obsession with global warming says the Neo-Jacobin, an obsession he says that "threatens to marginalize and overlook more pressing problems for humanity in the here and now – like, for example, the fight against malaria in Africa, and other Third World countries."
Environmentalists constantly bang on and on about forcing the most powerful leaders of the Western world to do this, that or the other, in order to ‘save us all from global warming’, but meanwhile in the real world, the body count for malaria in Africa alone is a million per year, and rising. What makes me really angry is that these deaths need not have occurred. In fact, all those death lead right back to earlier environmentalists political obsessions – the banning of pesticides [and in particular of DDT].
But, say the warmists, global warming is itself exacerbating malaria! Isn't it? Well, says malaria scientist Paul Reiter in yesterday's International Herald Tribune, no it isn't. Not only is the self-claimed warmist consensus a "mirage," but the idea that warming is causing the disease to spread is what Reiter calls an "unsubstantiated claim." That's scientist-speak for "the bastards are lying."

The claim in the Blair Government's Stern Report, for example, "released with much fanfare in late October, predicted increases in temperature will produce up to 80 million new cases of malaria."
This claim relies on a single article that described a simplistic mathematical model that blithely ignored the most obvious reality: Most Africans already live in hot places where they get as many as 300 infective bites every year, though just one is enough. The glass is already full.
Or the claim made by Al Bore in his movie An Inconvenient Truth, "which claims that Nairobi was established in a healthy place "above the mosquito line" but is now infested with mosquitoes — naturally, because of global warming." Notes Reiser:
Gore's claim is deceitful on four counts. Nairobi was dangerously infested when it was founded; it was founded for a railway, not for health reasons; it is now fairly clear of malaria; and it has not become warmer.
In other words, it's a lie, just like all the other warmist's lies. Says Reiter, "We have done the studies and challenged the alarmists, but they continue to ignore the facts."

Ignoring the facts while ignoring real issues. That's so like a warmist, isn't it.

LINKS: Climate change in Africa? Fight malaria instead - A neo-Jacobin
Malaria is alive and well and killing more than 3000 African children every day - World Health Organisation
Dangers of disinformation - Paul Reiter, International Herald Tribune
Global warmist - Urban Dictionary

RELATED: Global Warming, Science, Health, Environment, Politics

Monday, 15 January 2007

Touch not these unhot lips

This is what's known as a strong argument for drinking to excess:

Public Service ads. Scaring the public into behaving otherwise since 1925.

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere, Cartoons

Missing the meddling?

Cactus Kate asks a question you should all have been asking by now:
9. Doesn't New Zealand run smoothly when all the MP's are on holiday?
I suggest you give that one some serious thought. And here's another urgent question:
10. Craig McMillan. Scored any runs yet?
Is he ever likely to?

LINKS: Random impertinent questions - Cactus Kate


Russel's State of Sanctimony speech

The Greens's Russel Norman has issued his state of the planet speech -- sorry, that's his State of the Planet Speech: Russel (with one 'l') of course has delusions of adequacy -- in which according to Stuff he gets sanctimonious about global warming, and according to David Farrar he unsurprisingly ranks his own party as the one with the best policies to counter said warming. That this is considered newsworthy is hopefully a sign we're still in the silly season, not that our media are utterly unable to think critically.

You can read Stuff's summary of Russel's warmism if you must, if you really want to hear all the nonsense he's found fit to recycle, but Zen Tiger's republication of Russel's original speech notes is far more entertaining.

LINK: Russel Norman: The war on climate change - Zen Tiger, Sir Humphrey's
Shock horror - a political party ranks itself highest - Kiwiblog (David Farrar)

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-Greens, Humour

John Boy Key = Gross National Product

Several sun-filled weeks spent away from politics have left me just as disgusted with the latest scum vomited up by NZ's party-political system as I was before I hit the beach. I refer of course to the gross National product of John Boy Key. Phil Sage does his best to defend the indefensible, and in so doing inadvertently puts his finger on my greatest concern over John Boy, greater even than his inability to stand for anything. (As they say, a man who stands for everything really stands for nothing. Such an observation could almost have had John Boy in mind when it was first made.)

Here's Phil's mercifully brief apologia for John Boy. Key, argues Sage, "has succeeded in the biggest genuine open market of all - currency trading. Sound ideology does not count [in such a market]. What works counts. " At this stage you can almost here the word "therefore" being polished up for use, even if the effect is only the following non sequitur: "I think he will bring that [same] approach to bear on NZ politics... The same things apply to making money long term in currency markets as applies to running a successful economy, spotting and getting ahead of global trends."

Now, all credit to John Boy for his success as a currency trader, but only a moron could equate trading currencies successfully with "running a successful economy," the goal as such a trader being very much narrower, and requiring no "ideology" beyond the necessary commitment to making money rather than losing it. It's a truism a six-year-old would understand to say that "ideology does not count" in such a market.

Anyone however suggesting that the same things apply to making money in currency markets as applies to attempting to run an economy from the Beehive can only be considered dim, if not totally braindead.

Indeed, after several centuries of failure at the job, only a moron or a National Socialist (or Jim Anderton) would look to or expect a politician to "pick winners" or to "run an economy," let alone expect any success from such a venture -- even Tony Blair and Michael Cullen seem to understand this much, however dimly. As the industrial Legendre answered when asked by Louis XIV's economic dictator Jean-Baptiste Colbert what he could best do to help him and his fellow industrialists, "Laissez-nous faire!" -- leave us alone!

"What works" in currency trading is clearcut: ie., ensuring you advance your trading positions. "What works" in politics however is very different, and very far from clear cut -- and politicians "picking winners" let alone "running a successful economy" is emphatically not something that works. Never has. "What works" with an economy is not tinkering (or worse), it is leaving entrepreneurs and industrialists alone to either back or become their own winners.

Many politicians have tried to fake reality, have tried themselves to "run" a successful economy. Stalin. Roosevelt. Stafford Cripps. Robert David Muldoon.

All tried. All failed.

To venture such a thing, for whatever motive, is to totally misunderstand the difference between political power and economic power, or (in the case of Stalin) to rely upon that misunderstanding in others. As Harry Binswanger points out so memorably, the symbol of political power is the gun, whereas the symbol of economic power is the dollar. There is a distinct difference between the two.
The only power a business has to induce customers to give it money is the value of its products. If a business started to produce an inferior product, it would eventually lose its customers. By contrast, the only power that the government has to offer is a threat: "We'll dictate what businessmen can and cannot do—and businessmen better toe the line or we'll throw them in jail."
Muldoon was a man who never understood the distinction, but who enjoyed the effect of making such threats. I once heard a radio interview with Muldoon in his prime. Running an economy, he said, was rather like driving a car. He had no idea, he boasted, what pushing the pedals and playing with the car's knobs actually did 'under the bonnet', and nor did he need to (in other words, he had no interest in what actual effect his threats had on those he bullied) -- all he needed to know was the effect of the levers being pulled and the pedals pushed -- that is, the effect of his threats as far as his latest prescription for economic rescue was concerned.

As many of us will still recall, the long term effect of more than a decade of Muldoonist intervention was not something that could be described by the word "works," let alone "successful." The result instead was the creation of a minor economic dictator, of businessmen and journalists like scared rabbits, and of an economy like a Polish shipyard. The worry is that John Boy sees himself in the same mould. Not necessarily as an economic dictator in the completely Muldoonist mould, but certainly as a meddler. A tinkerer. One able and willing to try and pick winners and to run the economy from the Ninth Floor of the Beehive.

Not even Alan Greenspan with all the many levers at his command would ever have countenanced such a thing.

Muldoon didn't fail at economic management because he was no good at economic management; he failed because economic management and economic planning by government must always fail -- because only individuals acting in their own interests have the knowledge and the 'asymmetric information' to entrepreneurially plan their own lives and their own efforts ... and because only individuals have the right to do so. As Friedrich Hayek observed:
The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess. The economic problem of society is thus not merely a problem of how to allocate "given" resources—if "given" is taken to mean given to a single mind which deliberately solves the problem set by these "data." It is rather a problem of how to secure the best use of resources known to any of the members of society, for ends whose relative importance only these individuals know. Or, to put it briefly, it is a problem of the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality.
In other word, it is not given to anyone to know all that would be necessary to run an economy, no matter how good a currency trader he or she once was or how vicious the threats he or she os prepared to make. As Ludwig von Mises points out in Planning for Freedom, it is not the government that runs the semi-capitalistic economy we enjoy and from which we all benefit, but the sum of voluntary choices made by individual actors, ie., the market.
It [is the market that] directs each individual's activities into those channels in which he best serves the wants of his fellow-men. The market alone puts the whole social system of private ownership of the means of production and free enterprise in order and provides it with sense and meaning... All that good government can do to improve the material well-being of the masses is to establish and to preserve an institutional setting in which there are no obstacles to the progressive accumulation of new capital and its utilization for the improvement of technical methods of production.
Who runs the economy? Not politicians, they just get in the way. Who really runs the economy? You do. You run your part of the economy every time you make an economic choice, every time you save or invest, or produce or consume a good or a service. The sum total of the spontaneous order created by such choices is what creates an economy, not the ignorant meddling of politicians -- which invariably serves only to get in the way of such freely-made choices.

In short then, it is not "economic management" that is wanted from government, or from those who would aspire to be in government: It is the institutionalisation of the rule of law, offering legal protection for the economic choices we make, and then getting the hell out of the way.

Recognising and implementing such a thing is what is known as taking a principled stand. If nothing else, Don Brash understood if not fully endorsed such a role for government, and to that principled stand New Zealanders responded -- to such an extent that he doubled National's vote at the last election from that achieved by its current deputy leaderette at the previous election.

"I do not expect Peter Cresswell to endorse John Key any time soon," observes Sage. He got that much right.

LINKS: The use of knowledge in society - FA Hayek, Library of Economics and Liberty
Planning for Freedom - Ludwig von Mises, Mises Institute [book]
Cue Card Libertarianism: Power - Not PC

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National, Hollow_Men

Sunday, 14 January 2007

What I did on my holidays...

This picture perfectly sums up my holiday.

In a phrase, "Relax, and assume the position..." [Picture credit, Peter Smale] Thanks to the many friends who joined me, and who helped make it the superb holiday that it was.

Schrodinger's Cat novelist dies

I've just seen the news, courtesy of blogger Benzylpiperazine, that novelist Robert Anton Wilson has died.

Wilson's best fiction inhabited the many wrinkles and fertile wormholes of surrealism, quantum physics and the speculations therefrom, and were never less than entertaining -- and provided perhaps the best and only decent use of the ultra-speculative physics of alternative universes. You might call him a gonzo Douglas Adams.

My own favourite, his Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy, is brilliantly imaginative science fiction. Wilson's own review of a novel within the novel -- in which the world is saved from nuclear destruction by the far-sighted actions of a presidential intern -- gives you the flavour:
The whole novel was rather didactic, Simon decided. It was written only to prove a point: Never underestimate the importance of a blow job.
Always good advice. In any universe.

LINKS: Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007) - Erowid Character Vaults
Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy (excerpts) - Robert Anton Wilson website
Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy - Amazon.Com

RELATED: Books, Obituary, Science

Your regular Sunday Bible nonsense

Now that Not PC is back up and running, here's another reading from the 'Word of God' that you're unlikely to hear preached by your local shaman:
And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also.
Genesis 38:7-10
As this chap comments, "Not only do you have to carry the body out, but you have to mop the floor too."

UPDATE 1: By the way, if you're wondering just how many people the Bible describes as slain by the loving God (often for reasons as risible as that above), Steve at 'Dwindling in Unbelief' has the figure for you: 2,270,365+. The number for Satan? Just ten.

And God is supposed to be the good guy?

UPDATE 2: But which is more violent, the Bible or the Quran? Glad you asked. Turns out they're both dripping in blood. "The Bible has more cruel or violent passages than the Quran. But the Bible is a much bigger book. How do they compare when size is taken into account? [Find out here.]" Fact is, as Steve at 'Dwindling in Unbelief' concludes,
A good argument could be made that either book is the most violent and cruel book ever written. The award would go to one or the other, for neither has any close competitors. It is frightening to think that more than half of the world's population believes in one or the other.
Isn't it just. And not just believe, but use them as the basis for a system of ethics, yet! Sheesh.

LINKS: Ten verses never preached on - Church Hopping
Genesis 38 - Skeptics Annotated Bible
Satan vs God: Past & future killings - Dwindling in Unbelief
Which is more violent, the Bible or the Quran? - Dwindling in Unbelief

RELATED: Religion, Nonsense

Friday, 12 January 2007

Resolved. Not.

The Tomahawk Kid (with whom I very much enjoyed catching up recently) has posted as his New Year's Resolutions the late Harry Browne's list of resolutions, made I think when he was running as Libertarian Party candidate for US president.

I don't think they're resolutions I'll be able to follow myself...
2. I resolve to keep from being drawn into arguments or debates. My purpose is
to inspire people to want liberty -- not to prove that they're wrong.

4. I resolve to identify myself, when appropriate, with the social goals
someone may seek -- a cleaner environment, more help for the poor, a less
divisive society -- and try to show him that those goals can never be achieved
by government, but will be well served in a free society.
See what I mean? It's fair to say that Harry, good man that he was -- and laudable though his goals might seem -- definitely comes from the softcock end of intellectual activism. Not every adversary is as genuine and honest as Harry, and others, might like to think they are. Think John Key. Or David Benson-Pope. Or that warmist you were arguing with over New Year.

And knowing the Tomahawk Kid, I'd give him until the end of January until he's broken at least half-a-dozen of Harry's resolutions. In fact, I'm sure he broke most of them the other night when we emptied a bottle of Tullamore Dew together...

LINKS: A libertarian's New Year's resloutions - Tomahawk Kid

RELATED: Libertarianism, Blog

Don't play it again, Sam.

Q: Can Sam Neill act?

Answers on a postcard, please. With evidence. Highlights from appearances at previous Labour Party conferences will not be accepted. [Hat tip G-Man Inc.]

Questions for the modern world

Shawn Klein has a coterie of questions that desperately need answers. Or not. Sample:
10. Is there another word for synonym?

11. Where do forest rangers go to "get away from it all?"

12. What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?
And my favourite:
6. I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.
[Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Happy Birthday, Montessori!

In this, the centenary year of Dr Maria Montessori setting up her first school in the slums of Rome on January 6, 1907, the influential Washington Post has a piece celebrating 'Montessori going mainstream.' [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

A healthy sign -- that even the Washington Post finds themselves able to praise Dr Montessori -- but try not to trip over all the political correctness in their article.

Keep an eye out for lots of Montessori centenary activity this year -- more details about the centenary here, and if you're in NZ, more details of local activities here.

LINKS: Montessori, now 100, goes mainstream - Washington Post
Centenary of the Montessori movement - MontessoriCentenary.Org
100 years of Montessori - Montessori Association of New Zealand

RELATED: Education, Politics-US


I'm just back from a very happy and relaxing holiday. Normal transmission will resume around here very shortly -- right after I download and address my inbox!

Did you miss me? And each other? ;^)

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

A Happy (bit damn cold) New Year

I trust you're all having a happy and relaxing holiday, even if a much colder one than you were hoping for -- that's right, if you were thinking it's been bloody cold down onthe beach where you are, then you're right.
New Zealand has had the lowest December temperatures in more than 50 years... MetService figures show the average December temperature in the five main centres has been 2 to 3 degrees lower than usual.
Just when you were hoping for some of that global warming to make your summer better ...

LINKS: Cold, wet December for most - TVNZ

RELATED: Global Warming, New Zealand

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Man, the enlightened being. A Christmas message from 1953.

As the offices here at Not PC Towers shut down for the holidays, and as I won't be here to post this on Christmas Eve, I really do want to re-post Frank Lloyd Wright’s poetic 1953 Christmas message on “man the enlightened being”: “The herd disappears and reappears," says Frank, "but the sovereignty of the individual persists.”

The spirit and overwhelming benevolence of his words make them appropriate to post here on this Christmas Eve as this blog closes down for the festive season.
Literature tells about man. Architecture presents him. The Architecture that our man of Democracy needs and prophecies is bound to be different from that of the common or conditioned man of any other socialized system of belief. As never before, this new Free-Man’s Architecture will present him by being true to his own nature in all such expressions. This aim becomes natural to him in his Art as it once was in his Religion.

With renewed vision, the modern man will use the new tools Science lavishes upon him (even before he is ready for them) to enlarge his field of action by reducing his fetters to exterior controls, especially those of organized Authority, publicity, or political expediency. He will use his new tools to develop his own Art and Religion as the means to keep him free, as himself. Therefore this democratic man’s environment, like his mind, will never be style-ized. When and wherever he builds he will not consent to be boxed. He will himself have his style...
Read on here: Man, the Enlightened Being - Frank Lloyd Wright


Yep, like many another blogger I'm off for a couple of weeks to find summer -- if indeed it still exists down here in the mid latitudes of the South Pacific.

I won't be promising to to update this blog while I'm away -- but I won't be promising that I won't.

There is no excuse for not posting, none at all ... except for the very good reason that I'm really, really, really looking forward to a holiday.

So until then, my very best Christmas wishes to all of you many fine people who deserve it, and may the fleas of a thousand camels infest the armpits of all the rest of you.

And do feel free to rummage through my archives until Not PC re-opens for business, or perhaps to check out Robert Tracinski's pick of the top five stories of 2006.

1. No Leadership this year
The top story of 2006 is the failure of President Bush's leadership in the war, and its consequences: the painful Republican loss in the mid-term congressional elections, and the return to the offensive of the "Islamist Axis" led by Iran, which is now attacking on all fronts, from Somalia to Afghanistan.
2. The Weapon of Democracy
The second most important story of the year is the chaos in Iraq, in Lebanon, and in the Palestinian territories—and the ideological factor that is driving it. America has made the promotion of "democracy" into the centerpiece of its foreign policy in the Middle East, but the Iranians and their allies are taking advantage of the contradictions in the modern concept of "democracy" and are using it as a weapon against us. (This issue was also covered in much greater depth in the print edition of The Intellectual Activist.)
3. The Cartoon Jihad
The #3 top story of the year is the improbably named "cartoon jihad," which made clear to the West the nature of our enemy's goal in the War on Terrorism: not any specific demand or goal, but an all-encompassing Western submission to Muslim rule. This is covered in the first three news links below, and in the first feature article (a longer version of which appeared in our print magazine).
4. "Small-government" conservatives think too small
We continue our countdown of the top stories of the year with #4: the short-lived rebellion of the "small-government conservatives" in Congress. The departure of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, first from the Republican leadership, then from Congress, followed by the loss of Republican House majority, set off a series of leadership battles in which "small-government conservatives" attempted to unseat the existing Republican establishment.
5. The second fall of Communism
A story that is enormously important for the future of the world, but which is happening slowly, in the background: the collapse of Communism in China, and the loosening of the regime's political control. That is the story covered in the first six items below, which are just a sampling of the extensive coverage we have given to this story over the year.

The flip side of this story, however, is Russia's continued slide back to dictatorship, as Putin's "Stalin Lite" regime goes heavier on the Stalin. That story—which has gained a higher profile recently with the assassination of a Kremlin critic in London...

(The full links are in the TIA Daily emails, but the Winston Smith blog has the raw text.)

See you next year!

An end-of-year, Saturday, pre-Christmas ramble

This is my last ramble for the year -- my bags and books are almost packed, and sun rain-drenched beaches beckon, and for one last time for this year I'll ramble through my clippings file for the week, those items I've marked up to write about but just haven't had the time.
  • First on the list is LearnOutLoud's free -- free! -- audio collection of Great Speeches in History. Download to to whatever MP3 player you have, and you can have Pericles, Martin Luther King, Napoleon Bonaparte, Jesus H. Nazareth, Abraham Lincoln and others right there on the beach with you.
    Great Speeches in History - LearnOutLoud

  • Artist Michael Newberry shares with Amazon browsers his list of Desert Island recordings. Good stuff. Great presents.

  • Where did Angelina take Brad for his birthday? Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. How 'bout that!

  • Christmas for the Kelo family is a sad one this year. Susette Kelo it was whose home was taken by the US Supreme Court and given to a private developer to build condominiums. Susette is still exactly as pissed off as she should be, and she has sent to all concerned this lovely Christmas card: "Susette Kelo's holiday cards feature a snowy image of her pink house and a message that reads, in part, "Your houses, your homes, your family, your friends. May they live in misery that never ends. I curse you all. May you rot in hell. To each of you I send this spell." Rotting in hell is the least the thieving, constitutionally-challenged bastards deserve. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]
    In Eminent Domain Case: Bah, Humbug: Xmas Jeers From Woman Who Lost - Hartford Courant

  • Idiot/Savant has a frankly shocking summary of just how many people have been, and still are, imprisoned without trial in these Shaky Isles. "If these people are still being detained - and we just don't know - then this would mean that as of today, all had been imprisoned for more than a year, two for more than two years, and the longest-serving detainee is now coming up for their third anniversary in prison. All of this, remember, without any charge or any trial." Ahmed Zaoui and Thomas Yadgery are just the very top of the iceberg, it seems.
    Not Just Thomas Yadgery - No Right Turn

  • Sprawl. Where some see sprawl, even if they're unable to clearly define what the hell they mean by it, William T. Bogart sees metropolitan regions as dynamic systems -- which is of course what they are. Reason magazine has a fascinating interview with Bogart. Sample:

    reason: If we shouldn't call it sprawl, what should we call it?

    Bogart: "Trading places." It's a more accurate description of how metropolitan areas are structured today: Parts interact with each other by trading goods and services, which includes people moving from place to place and consuming and producing goods and services.

    It's also an explicitly dynamic term. Over the course of a day the populations of different parts of metropolitan areas change, and over the course of time the populations of metropolitan areas change. Too much of the discussion about metropolitan structure has been too narrowly focused, in both space and time -- it looks at a very small part of a metropolitan area at only one point in time.
    Read it all here:
    Trading Places: William T. Bogart on Dynamic Cities and Unnacountable Planners
    - Reason.Com

  • Now, here's an article on 'the war that won't go away' that comes highly recommended by the folks at Jihad Watch: "A tremendous address by John Lewis, an assistant professor of history at Ashland University and contributing editor of The Objective Standard, where you can read that address now." A tiny sample:
    [American] military capacities are not in doubt today. It is [American] moral self-confidence that is in question. What was it that stopped us from confronting Iran in 1979, except a lack of confidence in our own rightness, and an unwillingness to defend ourselves for our own sakes? Had we removed the Iranian regime in 1979, thousands of Americans would have been saved, and children across the world would not have grown up with sword verses rising in their minds as they give their lives to jihad. Consider the Japanese—and ask whether it would have been in our interest to have left the regime of 1945 in power, to continue preaching religious militarism and training kamikaze. The best thing Americans did for themselves (and, incidentally, the kindest thing for the Japanese) was to burn that regime to the ground. So it is today. The Islamic State—Totalitarian Islam—must go. And it is the moral responsibility of every American to demand it.

    As Jihad Watch recommends, "Don't fail to read it all." (And maybe take a look too at Lewis's Open Letter to Republicans explaining in terms that even Republicans can understand just why exactly they lost the mid-term elections. John Key apologists might also benefit from reading it.)
    No Substitute for Victory: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitiarianism - John Lewis, The Objective Standard

  • An article that appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal on the Iraq War and the report of the Iraq Study Group has been creating quite a stir. Robert Tracinscki calls the report of the Iraq Study Group the work of Captain Obvious. That is not intended as a compliment. As he says, "There you have it: a series of recommendations based on conditions that 'very well might not' happen... The whole ISG report is a spectacular punt. It contains a few broad, vague goals for our policy--and a whole range of specific recommendations for actions that are not in the power of the American government to take."
    Captain Obvious to the Rescue: The Problem with the Iraq Study Group - Robert Tracinscki, Wall Street Journal

  • And here's a related article on the website of the George Mason University (and if I haven't noted the author's name it's because I confess I've forgotten it):
    The Very Messy Way In versus A Very Neat Way Out of Iraq - George Mason Uni

  • On to another war: Grant McCracken has an insightful look at the culture wars and the phenomenon of moral panic -- from both left and right.
    Ending the Culture Wars (or, Ecumenical Me) - This Blog
  • For all the talk about physics here recently, some of you may be in need of a brush-up in your own knowledge of all the complicated concepts and observations that physicists seek to explain. If you want it all de-mystified, then Carl Wiemann's Interactive Physics Simulations are just the thing. Superbly explanatory Java applets that you really do need to play with.
    Interactive Physics Simulations - Physics Education Technology
    Physics 2000, "an interactive journey through modern physics!" - Carl Wiemann, Colorado Uni.

  • Here's a request: I've just noticed that the Jul/August issue of Architecture New Zealand magazine had a fourteen-page special on Claude Megson, 'Degrees of Freedom,' written by one Giles Reid. I'd love to have a look at the article (and if I don't record it here I'll forget all about it by the New Year), and I'd love to know too just who Giles Reid is. Anyone have any info?
  • Item 1 – Plant a Tree and Save the Planet? As Owen McShane notes, "Not in New Zealand it now seems."
    Can planting trees stop the sea level from rising, the ice caps from melting and the whole planet being Gored to death? A new study says that it depends on where the trees are planted. In fact it cautions that new forests in mid-to high-latitude locations could actually create a net warming. New Zealand is a mid to high lattitude country.My wife and I have planted over 85,000 trees and plants on our property so are we doomed to global warming jail? Sadly, it seems our Government has got it wrong again. But that is what happens when you are convinced "The Science is Settled" when most of it is actually unexplored territory.
    Read the whole shocking story at:
    Plant a Tree and Save the Earth? - Earth Observatory.

  • The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. The volunteer vigilante for this Christmas break -- that time when governments are prone to drop their shittier news in the expectation that no-one will notice -- is once again the G-Man, and he's already found a shit drop from the Ministry of the Environment.
    The Great Christmas Shit Drop - G-Man Inc.

  • And Cactus, of course, has the perfect advice for all of you considering holiday presents for employees. Forget the alcohol, free hams or i-pods -- give 'em CASH!
    Corporate Wowsers - Cactus Kate

Friday, 22 December 2006

Beer O'Clock: The horror that is the Beer List

Some horror stories from Neil at Real Beer. The following stories are both true. Names have been withheld to protect the guilty.

It doesn’t happen very often, but I was dining recently at one of Wellington’s most up-market eateries. It was going perfectly - the decor was impressive, the staff attentive, everything on the menu looked delicious and someone else was paying. Life, in short, was sweet.

At which point my attentive wait-person asked if I would like a drink, to which I quite naturally replied, "I would love a beer," (this does happen quite often) and, "could I possibly see the beer list."

Apparently not. This fine establishment did not produce such an obscure document but (and I swear I am not making this up) “if I wanted to tell them what beer I would like, they would tell me if they had it.”

I was at a loss for words (and this most certainly does not happen very often). Playing guessing games with my wait-person had not been on my list of things-to-do at one of Wellington's finest eateries.

As it turned out they had just six beers on offer – which is bad enough in itself - but I tried to imagine such a posh restaurant asking diners to guess a wine they light like to go with their entrées, and then letting them know later whether they had it. I couldn't do it.

Another story. I dined recently at a restaurant which did have a beer list. That was the good news. Below a list of six brands it read (and I almost wish I was making this up) “light beer,” “dark beer,” and -- wait for it -- “imported beer.” I don’t think a wine list would ever be printed with “foreign wine” as a category.

These are just two personal examples of quality eating establishments treating beer as a second-rate beverage. It is based on the implicit assumption that all beers are really the same, so why have a list, or even a decent range.

Those assumptions are simply not true. There is a huge variety of domestic and international beers available, and as every Beer O'Clock reader knows, there is a world of difference between a hoppy lager, a chocolate stout, a spicy wheat beer and a sour Lambic. Beer goes well with food, and the art of beer and food matching is becoming more widely understood with the charge led in this country by the Monteith’s Wild Food Challenge and Lion Nathan’s Beer Ambassador program.

I don’t expect every place to have 100 beers on offer (like the Malthouse) or a wide range of speciality Belgian (like Leuven), but when establishments won’t let you bring your own beer to dinner, I believe there should be some expectation they will provide a reasonable selection of beers -- and to put that reasonable selection down on a damn list so you know what's on offer.

If your favourite eatery doesn’t give beer drinkers fair treatment, then let the buggers know. Consumer pressure is the best way to bring about change, and to push back against the forces of wine snobbery.

Yours in beer, and best wishes for 2007,
Neil Miller
Real Beer.

In defence of Scrooge

Scrooge has a bum rap. Scrooge was a good guy -- at least by 'modern' standards. Argues Steven Landsburg (tongue somewhat in cheek):
In this whole world, there is nobody more generous than the miser—the man who could deplete the world's resources but chooses not to.
Ebenezer Scrooge. Hero to both John Key and Al Gore. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Responsible holiday drinking

Responsible holiday drinking? The Onion has just the tips you need. [Hat tip Samizdata]

More writing tips

Nine tips on writing better blog posts come to you courtesy of Alan -- a more polite version of my own writing tips I posted the other day.

The aim of good writing is to say as much as you can with as little as you can get away with. You might want to consider Harry Binswanger's proposed new unit of measurement: a MicroRand (named after author Ayn Rand). The MicroRand is defined as the unit of writing in which one statist premise is blown one mile high in one sentence.

That is not an invitation to write longer sentences.

Annan UN disgrace

Kofi Annan has now gone from the top UN job, a post he held for ten years. Does anyone know anything he's achieved in all that time.

Amongst the genocide, corruption and hand-wringing ineffectiveness of the world's biggest bureaucracy, can anyone list any one, single achievement of Annan's rule? Anything? Srebrenica, Rwanda, Bosnia, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Kosovo, Darfur ...
Isn't it true that genocide, corruption and hand-wringing ineffectiveness are simply endemic to the United Nations -- on whose board have sat some of the most corrupt dictatorships known to man, and whose actions often amount to little more than standing aside while aggressors kill people, while feeding the dictators and stopping any action against their aggression that could perhaps prove effective.

“To judge by what is happening in Darfur, our performance has not improved much since the disasters of Bosnia and Rwanda,” Annan said as he pissed off. He sure got that right.

"Is there blood on his hands?" asks the Sunday Times? There's blood all across the whole damned UN. Screw the whole corrupt, bloody organisation, I say.

Ding, dong, another dictator is dead.

Ding, dong, another dictator is dead. The former head Stalinist of Turkmenistan has kicked the bucket just in time to give Turkmenistanis a Christmas present, and (perhaps) a chance at some sort of freedom. Liberty Scott has a bio of the thug, and a list of just some of the bizarre features of his authoritarian rule.

LINKS: Merry Christmas Turkmenistan - Liberty Scott

RELATED: Obituary

Prohibition: Learning from history

As always, The Onion makes learning from history easy by making the lesson itself so blindingly obvious.
The Onion - 18th Amendment

Obvious enough that even Jacqui Dean and Jim Neanderton might get it, do you think? The message:

Never has.

RELATED: Victimless Crimes, Politics-NZ

Thursday, 21 December 2006

A gift for gangs at Christmas?

PJ O'Rourke once observed that every time the US Drug Czar announces a major drug seizure, Colombian drug lords celebrate.

Now, PJ assumes the reader understand basic economics, something Jim Anderton and Jacqui Dean obviously don't -- but the leaders of NZ's illegal drug trade certainly do. If Colombian drug lords throw a party every time there's a seizure of cocaine in the US (because, of course, the price of drugs goes up) then what the hell do Anderton and Whacky Jacky think our own local gang leaders will be doing if party pills are banned here in NZ?

As Lindsay Mitchell observes, with the gift of the ban that Progressive Jim is considering and National Socialist Jacqui is demanding, Christmas could be coming right on time for local gangsters.

LINKS: Keep up to date with the story at Stash.Co.NZ

RELATED: Victimless Crimes, Politics-NZ

The Ten Least Successful Christmas TV Specials of All Time

As you prepare to settle back for the Christmas season, and perhaps to prepare for a Salacious Saturnalia, you might be looking forward to one of the modern Christmas traditions: the TV Christmas Special. Here, for your edification, is the list of the ten least successful Christmas TV Specials of all time.

They include Orson Welles's seminal The Assasination of St Nicholas; the much-discussed 'lost' Star Trek Christmas episode, Christmas: A most Illogical Holiday' Noam Chomsky's Deconstructing Christmas -- despite the concession of Chomsky to wear a seasonal hat for a younger demographic appeal, still unaccountably the least requested Christmas special ever made; and of course, Ayn Rand's 1951 classic, A Selfish Christmas.

Check them all out here.

LINK: The ten least successful holiday specials of all time - Whatever

RELATED: Christmas, Humour

Thank the producers

Imagine doing without without entrepreneurship and the many benefits it brings. As Lew Rockwell notes at today's Mises Daily, the word entrepreneur "refers to those who make speculative judgments in a capitalistic economy, risking their own resources to bring us goods, services, and techniques that we have never known before."
It is the entrepreneur's intuition and imagination that make economic progress possible.
As year on year and generation on generation our lives are blessed with the material benefits brought into the world by those especially imbued with the entrepreneurial spirit, it's worth it just occasionally to pause and say thank you, and to wonder why and who would want to put a stop to their life-enhancing efforts. As Rockwell notes:
Unfortunately, some would. They oppose the free-market process that makes improvement possible. They seize on some innovation that they don't like, and instead of declining to buy, seek to deny that opportunity to others by passing laws against free exchange and economic progress.

Such people seem to be everywhere these days. The environmentalist movement is replete with them; indeed, the ideology pretty much defines the ideological Left. They preach that we buy too much, sell too much, and compete too much, while calling on the government to stop us.

This hectoring must carry some persuasive power, given how many people have been taken in by it. The mistake is in thinking that economic progress is driven by some strange force outside our control. In fact, material progress represents the social ratification of the ideas and actions of dreamers in a capitalistic marketplace, people seeking to bring us better ways of living, and using peaceful means to do so.

...People have been led to believe that shutting down entrepreneurship and the marketplace will improve the world. Actually, that way lies barbarism, and a system unfit for human beings.
A good and timely message. When Brad Thompson declares that "capitalism works because it's moral and just," this is what he means: that freedom, which is what capitalism represents, leaves free all those dreamers -- leaving them free to rise, and able to take us with them.

What a great thought to contemplate at Christmas.

LINK: Entrepreneurship and social progress - Mises Daily
The morality of capitalism - Not PC

Politics, Ethics, Economics

"She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli..."

Where would writers be without metaphors and analogies. They're as useful as an enormously useful thing. When you run out of one yourself, there's always this list to choose from, a collection of analogies compiled by U.S. high school teachers from their students' essays. Sample:
  • Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.
  • Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
  • The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
  • The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  • She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
  • She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
[Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Danaë - Gustav Klimt

The Danaë. Impregnated by Zeus sometime back in pre-history. Painted by Gustav Klimt in 1907.


Wednesday, 20 December 2006

A smoking hot cash crop

Speaking of the sticks and carrots of outrageous governments, and how those slings and arrows actually affect activity in the real world, did you notice recent news on the most valuable cash crop in the US?

Not soybeans, which attract generous growing subsidies.

Not corn, which attracts generous growing subsidies.

And not carrots either.

Answer: cannabis. As a cash crop cannabis earns as much as the other two major players put together, despite all the many sticks aimed at growers. (I'm sure we all have our suspicions, too, about the part it plays in some of NZ's regional economies.)

It just goes to how how well government incentives work, eh -- and just what happens when you ban something?

LINKS: America's cannabis crops hit all-time earnings high - NZ Herald

Victimless Crimes, Economics, Politics-US

The morality of capitalism

Brad Thompson, whose series on the failure of modern American conservatism I ran here recently, has just launched his Institute for the Study of Capitalism, to be domiciled at Clemson University.

The news has brought a generally praise-worthy article from the New York Sun and a whole quarrel of philosophers out to impart their view on the morality of capitalism, otherwise known as the system that keeps them fed and watered. Their comments say more about them than they do about capitalism. For example:
  • Princeton University professor, Cornel West, said Adam Smith was "anti-imperialist," which he said was something that those "on the right" generally "don't want to appropriate."
  • "Capitalism is thoroughly immoral and has no moral foundation," said Kirkpatrick Sale, the director of the Middlebury Institute, a think tank that studies "separatism" and "self-determination." "In fact, it celebrates all of what we know of as the seven deadly sins except for sloth."
Less irrelevant were the comments of the director of Manhattan Institute's Center for the American University, James Pierson:
Perhaps the most promising development on campus in recent years has been the creation of various centers and programs dedicated to the study of political liberty and the history of free institutions — for example, the James Madison Program on American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton, the Gerst Program at Duke, the Salvatori Center at Claremont McKenna College, the Political Theory Project at Brown, and the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization at Colgate.
Professor Thompson himself deserves the final word:
Capitalism is made possible by a limited government that has as its primary purpose the protection of individual rights, which in turn takes the sovereignty of the individual as a moral absolute... Most conservative intellectuals argue that capitalism is good because it works. We think capitalism works because it's moral and just.
Too true. And too easily forgotten.

LINKS: Clemson University Establishes a Think Tank Devoted to Studying the Moral Basis of Capitalism - New York Sun [Hat tip Noodle Food]
CONSERVATISM: A NEW OBITUARY, Part 6 - The consequences of conservatism - Not PC

RELATED: Education, Politics-US, Objectivism, Ethics, Politics

New lib blog

New blog added to the blogroll: A Neo-Jacobin, a "London-born, free Englishman. Free to say anything and free to go anywhere. A libertarian, arguing for a world that's fit for us humans to live in."

Hat tip ... well, she always gets coy when she's mentioned on the front page.

Carrots and sticks

"A mixture of carrots and sticks." That was how Aunty Helen described the method whereby her Government intends to take us into the promised land of "carbon neutrality" (All Hail the Great God Gore!).

The first step on their yellow brick road of "sustainability" is to encourage land-owners to plant new trees by the time-honoured method of hitting around the head with a stick those who've already planted trees, making anyone with even half-a-mind to do so utterly disinclined to invest in new planting.

So what about those carrots, eh?

Just another lesson from the file full of stories about how when you make governments big enough to give you everything you want, they're also big enough to take it all away again -- and quite inclined to want to do so.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Environment, Global Warming

Ten tips to survive the party season

As Stephen Hicks notes, it's high time to study those ten survival tips again on how to survive December's liver-crushing load of Christmas parties, starting with Scenario 1: What to do if you can't remember the name of the co-worker you are making out with in the supply cabinet.

By the way, how's your liver holding up?

Christmas Advice from Lord Byron

I would to heaven that I were so much clay,
As I am blood, bone, marrow, passion, feeling--
Because at least the past were passed away--
And for the future--(but I write this reeling,
Having got drunk exceedingly today,
So that I seem to stand upon the ceiling)
I say--the future is a serious matter--
And so--for God's sake--hock and soda-water!
(Fragment on the back of the Poet's MS. of Don Juan, Canto 1)


Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Last week's top headlines

Some of last week's top headlines, courtesy Lyndon Hood at Scoop [hat tip, Kiwi Herald]

Helen Clark Agitated After Fijian PM Overthrown Over Corruption Allegations, Foreshore Legislation

Release Of 2050 Energy Strategy Leads To Parliamentary Hot-Air Trading

Draft Energy Efficiency Strategy: Save Power By Reducing Drafts

Telecom Unbundling Bill Solves Every Problem In Country

Parliament Stops Sitting; Politicians Keep Lying

Public Servants To Work Even Less Over Christmas Season

...and my favourite :

Nats To Contest 2008 Election On Global Warming, Maori Issues
- Labour To Propose Tax Cuts

And here, courtesy of David Slack (who was sent it by six disgruntled Gnats) is an advance draft for National's forthcoming, all-new, all-focus-grouped, billboard campaign:

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Humour, Cartoons, Hollow Men

Bans? There's a whole, long list of the bastards!

Ban, ban, ban, where will it all end. The boys at Pacific Empire ask the question we're all asking, and they list the most recent knee-jerk responses to stop people getting on with what they want to.

If I may pull a Mencken quote out of the comments section for a moment, so much of the over-developed banning reflex in politicians comes back to Mencken's observation on the motivation behind puritanism: "...the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might just be having a good time."

LINK: Ban, ban, ban ... where will it all end - Pacific Empire

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics, Quotes, Victimless Crimes

A lot of yap.

Another reflection on 2006: just what the hell have I been posting on all year? Here's the list of top-dozen topics appearing here at Not PC, according to my archives - the number indicates how many posts on each topic, and if you click on each link you can read every post!
Not far from 1,000 posts on politics in this funny little country. Phew. I think it's definitely time for a holiday.


Victory in three

Those Australians. They sure know how to win.
And they really know how to celebrate victory. Roll on 5-0 -- would you bet against it?


Is Christmas too commercial?

Isn't it great seeing people enjoying themselves at this time of year? Getting together with workmates, friends and loved ones to be happy together, to celebrate the year, to give gifts and share pleasure with people you value, and whose friendship you want to enjoy. Boats full of happy work-groups cruise the harbour, enjoying the spectacle and each other's company; laughing diners fill restaurants; shops overflow with people buying gifts to make people happy who make them happy.

This is what we work for, right? To be happy and full of good cheer like this?

So why the constant claims that Christmas too commercial? Says philosopher Leonard Peikoff, to make that claim is to miss the very point of Christmas.
Christmas ... is an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life. Yet all of these are castigated as "materialistic"; the real meaning of the holiday, we are told, is assorted Nativity tales and altruist injunctions (e.g., love thy neighbor) that no one takes seriously...

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....

All the best customs of Christmas, from carols to trees to spectacular decorations, have their root in pagan ideas and practices. These customs were greatly amplified by [Western] culture, as the product of reason, science, business, worldliness, and egoism, i.e., the pursuit of happiness...

Life requires reason, selfishness, capitalism; that is what Christmas should celebrate -- and really, underneath all the pretense, that is what it does celebrate. It is time to take the Christ out of Christmas, and turn the holiday into a guiltlessly egoistic, pro-reason, this-worldly, commercial celebration.
And so say all of us.

LINK: Christmas should be more commercial - Leonard Peikoff, Capitalism Magazine

Christmas Drinks: The Perfect Martini

T'was the week before Christmas and all through the house, all the creatures were stirring .... and tension did mount.

Stress? Tension? Reasons to kick back and to savour life? Time then for a Martini or two (for the perfect Martini usually has a Second Act). Mencken declared the Martini to be "the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet." Mencken was perfectly right.

There is dissension as to the perfect Martini. The perfection of Martinis shows the contextual nature of value judgements, you see. This man prefers a gin martini. This woman a vodka. James Bond, naturally, prefers his shaken, not stirred -- and he prefers his Martinis the same way. Everyone has their own view of perfection, but unlike other forms of Holy writ, these scriptures are not kept secret -- such pleasant fruits of hours of indulgence are freely shouted forth to the winds.

Owen prefers a gin Martini, and has the perfect description.

Personally, I prefer a vodka Martini, and I have the perfect recipe.

Tom likes a gin martini, but he prefers to drink out in search of perfection. If you're in Wellington, you can take advantage of his spadework in the pursuit of the perfect gin Martini. [Deadtree format here]

Shaken or stirred? Advice on that here.

The perfect Martini needs the perfect accompaniment. Good friends, good stories, and good friends telling their own Martini stories are always acceptable. If some of the stories are true, that's okay as well -- after the second Martini.

The ideal serving accompaniments for mine are at least one friend (or nearly sane person), and the Benny Goodman Small Groups CD on your player. The Breakfast at Tiffany's soundtrack or something by Nina Rota provides a very acceptable alternative.

Enjoy! (And in case you're wondering, the perfect present for a Martini-drinking friend (if they're not already in possession of the Goodman, that is) is a set of small Martini glasses -- small because the perfect Martini needs to be filled to the brim, and because you really want that first one to start the party, not to kill it.)

LINKS: The Martini gospel according to McShane - Straight Thinking (Owen McShane)
The perfect Martini does exist - Not PC
Wellingtini - Well Urban (Tom Beard)

Beer & Elsewhere