Saturday, 26 May 2007

A Saturday stroll through the stuff that life is made of

Another random Saturday morning stroll through items and sites of note. Grab your mouse, and let's have at them:
  • Let's start with a stiff drink. Fortunately, Windy City Girl has a list of rules to help with your bar room etiquette. Every drinker should have them tattoed somewhere you can find them in an emergency, since as Rule 86 says, "You will forget every one of these rules by your fifth drink." See Windy City Girl: Drinking Rules.

  • However, Nanny is at it again. There are moves afoot, if you haven't already noticed, to lower the legal blood-alcohol level when driving to zero. Zero! Taken strictly that would mean no drinks in a twenty-four hour period. But it's necessary, we are told. "Drink-driving prosecutions are up, we are told. The figures are alarming, we are told." Lindsay Mitchell, as always, has the facts:
    In 2005, there were 100 alcohol-related deaths. Apart from 2002, this is the lowest toll in the last twenty years. The following is an international comprison of road deaths per 100,000; Of the above countries, 10 have higher road deaths than NZ. Three of them have zero alcohol breath limits, 6 have 50mg limits and 1, like NZ, has an 80mg limit. The evidence is barely compelling.
    The evidence for a total ban is not compelling at all, but the evidence for a New Puritanism continues to pile up. Be afraid. Nanny is on the march.

  • As it happens, discussing the New Puritanism was on the agenda yesterday afternoon on Radio New Zealand, where I was asked to appear with The Panel to talk about anti-smoking ads. The results can be heard here, about 17:00 in. Wallace's point that Bomber Bradbury is himself one of the New Puritans was a good one: despite appearances to the contrary, there are few in contemporary NZ culture more of a conformist than Bradbury, a reactionary in thrall to every stale bromide and crackpot cliché that exists.

  • Rachel Carson: murderer. Tomorrow, if she were still alive, Rachel Carson would have been 100. Keith Lockitch 'celebrates' the centenary of her birth [See Rachel Carson's Genocide] by reminding her of what should gnaw at her soul if she were still alive.
    On May 27, environmentalists will celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Rachel Carson, the founding mother of their movement.But Carson's centenary is no cause for celebration. Her legacy includes more than a million deaths a year from the mosquito-borne disease malaria. Though nearly eradicated decades ago, malaria has resurged with a vengeance because DDT, the most effective agent of mosquito control, has been essentially discarded--discarded based not on scientific concerns about its safety, but on environmental dogma advanced by Carson.
    Carson is dead. So too are the millions killed by the abandonment of DDT. But dangerous environmental dogma lives on. See your daily headlines for the evidence.

  • If global warming was genuinely "all about the science" as I keep hearing, then why do scientific opponents of global warming keep seeing their finding, jobs and careers disappearing when they question the orthodoxy? The most recent example is Washington State Associate State Climatologist and climate scientist Mark Albright who [in Paul's account]
    was fired because he sent e-mails to other scientists containing the true scientific facts about the Cascade Mountain snow pack. These facts refuted the publications of his boss, State Climatologist Philip Mote and the speeches of Seattle’s Democrat Mayor Greg Nickels who claimed the Cascade Mountain snow pack declined 50% from 1950 to 2000 due to man-made global warming.

    Before the firing, University of Washington atmospheric scientist Dennis Hartmann tried to referee and resolve the dispute between Albright and Mote by doing an objective analysis of the data, but this failed when Hartmann found that Albright was right and Mote was wrong. This led to Mote trying to censor Albright’s e-mails. When Albright refused to allow this censorship, he was fired.

    The whole story will be published in the June 1 issue of “Environment & Climate News."
  • Speaking of global warming and persecution leads quite naturally to the makers of that fine film The Great Global Warming Swindle, who have had to endure their fair share of abuse based on the principle (or lack thereof) that if you can't attack the message then you take your boots to the messenger instead and deliver to him a fearful kicking. Enduring that kicking surprisingly well, Martin Durkin and the Swindle team now have a website for the film and related data and discussion.
    We had not intended to establish an ‘official’ web-site for the film [says Durkin]. But such is the demand for more information that we have no alternative. Over the coming days and weeks we will add more information, more links, more analysis, in the hope that the site may provide some focus for those who are still able to think independently and critically on this subject.
  • For those unable to think either independently or critically, there's always Al Bore and his political pixies like Nicholas Stern, John Key and his political hero David Cameron. Let's shackle industry by twenty-five percent says Stern; "No, I can do fifty!"says John Boy; "Hell, I can do sixty!" says Cameron. Bear in mind that these are grown men (well politicians, actually) bidding to shackle industry to stop the weather by 2050, ensuring that by that date there'll be no chance by 2050 of excessive flatulence anywhere but in the House of Representatives. "Such pronouncements can be made openly and repeatedly," notes George Reisman, "only because the immense majority of people do not take the trouble to understand their implications." As always Reisman is both right on the money, and prepared to put his calculator where his mouth is. Reisman spells out exactly what it will cost any country stupid enough to follow these flatulent Pied Pipers.
    In purely verbal terms, those implications are that environmentalism seeks the destruction of the energy base of the modern world, along with the elimination or radical reduction in the supply of all goods and services that depend on that energy base. It seeks this on the grounds that these goods and the energy on which they depend entail the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The goods and services in question are air conditioners, automobiles, airplane travel, housing, food, clothing, refrigerators, freezers, television sets, telephones, washers, dryers, books, computers—everything that depends on the production and use of oil, coal, or natural gas, which all release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in being burned. The destruction of the energy base and the production of goods and services is implied by the fact that in order to rollback the emission of carbon dioxide, it is necessary to rollback the production and use of energy in these forms. But rolling back the production and use of energy reduces the production of goods and services... the clear implication is economic devastation. It is devastation in the production and use of energy and devastation in the production of everything that depends on energy.
    Read Reisman's piece for his figures, and the full story of horror (and remember from Carson's example that the environmentalists do mean it): George Reisman: The Arithmmetic of Environmentalist Devastation.

  • Ethanol. John Stossel reminds readers of the market realities of ethanol.
    If ethanol's so good, why does it need government subsidies? Shouldn't producers be eager to make it, knowing that thrilled consumers will reward them with profits? But consumers won't reward them, because without subsidies, ethanol would cost much more than gasoline.The claim that using ethanol will save energy is another myth...
    See The Many Myths of Ethanol by John Stossel. Ethanol is not a "solution," it's a subsidy.

  • By the way, is calling Rachel Carson a murderer hate speech? Is calling Osama bin Laden a murdering arsehole "hate speech"? Ed Cline has another look at the nonsense that is "hate speech" in Wicked, Hurtful Words:
    Why is such speech called “hate speech”? What are the alternatives to that term? “Mildly resentful” speech? “Awfully irritated” speech? “A tad ticked off” speech? “Tepidly tactful” speech? The candidates are almost numberless. I will leave development of that kind of levity to Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, and Pat Condell.

    I imagine that Cohen and Comrades could just as well seethe with anger at someone who exercised his freedom of speech by reciting in person or in a video, for example, the Declaration of Independence. Surely, Jefferson’s language could be deemed “hate speech,” directed against George the Third and Parliament, intended to move men to take action against those who shared the king’s and his legislators’ most profound beliefs. And, remember, they were all Anglicans, members of a state church, so the Declaration could be said to indirectly slur their religious beliefs, as well. Doubtless, George and many Englishmen found that language to be insulting, denigrating, and patently offensive. Also, radical. Perhaps, fearfully incomprehensible. Certainly hurtful.

    After all, tyrants and dictators have feelings, too.
  • Is comedian Carlos Mencia's material "hate speech"? And so what if he is? Let Prodos introduce the guy:
    Here’s a short video of stand-up comedian, Carlos Mencia, doing a piece about dealing with the taunts of an anti-American Middle Eastern guy who supports terrorism - including the destruction of the World Trade Center. This is my first exposure to this comedian. Most interesting to me was the BIG positive audience response. What Carlos Mencia deals with in this clip is really about “attitude”. Instead of being “understanding” towards those who want to kill you, or apologetic for being American, Carlos fights fire with nukes. The crowd loves it. I love it.

    Click here to view this video. Or (to paraphrase a local blogger)if you don't like strong pro-American humour, then perhaps you'd better fuck off and hug a tree instead.

  • The Four 'R's: Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic and Art. Alexandra York has always had compelling arguments for integrating art and education [see The Fourth 'R' in Education]. Now, Nicholas Provenzo explains how art and education are integrated at the new Founders College [see Learning How to Think]. In fact, what he's explaining is "the principle that all knowledge is interrelated," the very principle on which Founders College stands upon.
    At Founders, this means that what you learn in one class will apply to what you learn in another and that this integration will have practical value. A good way to describe this principle in action is by sharing an experience I had with Professor Lee Sandstead, chair of Founders' Department of Art History.

    Professor Sandstead was giving a tour at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and was showing the gallery's room of Medieval-era paintings of the Madonna and Child. Like most Medieval paintings, Mary and Jesus were presented as cold, un-lifelike archetypes placed upon a gold background intended to symbolize an other-worldly heaven. The one statue in the room depicted an infant Jesus precariously placed upon on his misshapen mother; rather than show Jesus as a real, life-like infant, the artist elected to depict him as a miniature adult complete with male-pattern baldness. This was a room filled with art that most people today would choose to ignore—regardless of their religious or philosophic disposition.

    Professor Sandstead asked the group to identify, among all the paintings in the room, which painting was different; which painting was the reason that there would be a Leonardo, Michelangelo, the Declaration of Independence, iPods and Elvis. It took a moment for us to find it, but one painting, rather than present its figures lifelessly and with no mother-child bond, gave a subtle hint that the painter actually believed his subjects lived here on Earth and that it mattered to his audience. This painting showed the baby Jesus holding his mother's finger in the same way that any child would. After a gap of over 1,000 years, here was a painting that attempted to portray life in this world, rather than the next.

    "There are two basic ways to look at reality," said Professor Sandstead. "You can choose to focus up there" as he emphatically reached toward the heavens, "or you can choose to focus out here," as he reached to signify this world. He went on to explain how this one painting resented a sea-change in how men perceived reality and how this change would lead to the Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, America, and of course, iPods and Elvis Presley.

    As the lesson was reinforced by the rest of Professor Sandstead's tour, I was struck by how effortlessly he just explained a critical issue in philosophy and man's relationship with existence.
    See how revealing art history is?

  • So how 'bout them Democrats, huh? It's tough, isn't it, when rhetoric meets reality. As always, Cox and Forkum's cartoon makes the perfect commentary. Need I say more?

  • And on matters of defence, but on a personal scale, young Callum McPetrie explains why self-defence is so important.

  • And Liberty Scott offers an example in reverse of why some separation in powers ir required in government. What happens when political funder and the government department that is its primary fundee are merged? Scott looks at yesterday's announcement that the government wishes to merge Transit New Zealand (which is responsible for operating the state highway network) with Land Transport New Zealand (which allocates funding to Transit and all local authorities for land transport). His conclusion: it "will be a disaster." Read why: Liberty Scott: Removing accountability for highway funding.

  • Meawhile, while we're talking meddling by governments, lets take a brief and insightful look at inflation. We all need to know more about inflation: after all, it's still one the most devious taxes that government's inflict upon us, and we all need to know more about it -- especially Alan Bollard. Frank Shostak at the Mises Blog has two brilliant recent pieces that rip off the inflationary wound and show the raw scar beneath. A poor metaphor to introduce the brilliance of:
  • And The Australian has noticed Shostak's commentary. A recent piece noted:
    Dr Frank Shostak has a warning for investors. The [Australian] Reserve Bank's monetary policy is "out of control" and that means inflation is heading up, interest rates are set to rise and the share market is only being supported by excessive money supply.
    He believes the Reserve Bank uses incorrect definitions of inflation and even money itself. As a result, he says, the bank is actually causing inflation, rather than combating it. "The Reserve Bank claims that it does not print money, but merely accommodates demand, but printing money is exactly what it is doing."
    See RBA Policy Causing Inflation. The analysis is just the same for NZ's Reserve Bank. Remember, just because you don't see inflation directly, doesn't mean it isn't there.

  • The Pope. The defender of inquisitions is also a regular guy. Well, not really. But he is a funny guy. Notes Pharyngula:

    In an exercise that will tempt photoshoppers world wide, but makes alteration superfluous, an Italian magazine has run a photogallery of the Pope in various strange costumes. I rather liked cowboy Ratzi and the grim leprechaun, but my favorite has to be evil santa.

    When I get to be old and sunken-eyed, I promise…I will dress comfortably and tastefully, put away the frilled shirts and the puffy pantaloons, and avoid wearing garish velvet. It's a good suggestion for both pirates and popes.

  • A snippet from Christopher Hitchens' new book that appeared in Reason turns the tables on the conventional wisdom on religion in politics, and puts Ayn Rand in an unfamiliar position:
    The two leading public intellectuals of the American Right in the last two, three decades are Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss. Ayn Rand raised a huge number of free market concerns and was a libertarian, and Leo Strauss is well known to be the philosopher of what is now stupidly called neo-conservatism. Both had contempt for religion. Their attitudes toward it was the same as mine: that it's a silly man-made illusion.

    On the Democratic side, almost all their heroes are religious. Martin Luther King. The Kennedys. People like that. The left is saturated with the religious. A lot of my book is an attack on liberal religious illusions....

    You cannot prevent people from worshipping in their own way. But I think society could, through its education system and the examples of its politicians, gently suggest that reading Jefferson or Voltaire or Paine wouldn't be harmful to you.
  • Politics and religion. They don't mix. Politics and Islamic religion: now that's an explosive mixture. The father of modern Turkey Kemal Ataturk knew that for the truth, and as a recent article notes he wasn't a "moderate Islamist" at all: he was a complete rejector of the concept of an Islamic State. No surprise that Ataturk's Turkey is at once the most successful of all Islamic countries, and the most secular -- and the one in which most Islamists most fiercely reject any integration of religion and politics. But as a recent article at Front Page by Robert Spencer, Turkish secularism needs support. "Turkish secularism is gravely threatened, and millions of Turks are deeply concerned that their country could become an Islamic state."
    The only response that has ever gained traction in the Islamic world has been not just a de facto laying-aside of Islam's political and social character, but a self-conscious elimination of that character -- and Ataturk's Turkey has been the site of the greatest success of this approach. Ataturk realized that there would be a recrudescence and reassertion of political Islam whenever there was a revival of religious fervor. Thus Kemalism presented itself not as "moderate Islam," nor as an Islamic construct at all, but as an explicit rejection of political Islam in favor of secularism. That is, it was never presented as an Islamic construct or justified by Islamic teachings, but was an explicit rejection of certain traditional aspects of Islam.
  • Now there's plenty of reading there for all of you, so don't push at the back. But finally, here's something to bookmark and keep going back to as often as you can; simply marvellous news for anyone with a genuine interest in reason, philosophy, cultural analysis and history -- or anyone with a passion for truth who wants to hear a genius at work (and that's all of you, I know).

    All of you should dive right into a major collection of audio and video recordings of Ayn Rand just released from the archives and placed online at the Ayn Rand Institute. Included are more than 48 hours of audio and video taken from 54 of Ayn Rand's public appearances, interviews and lectures.
    We believe this is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in ideas to experience first-hand one of the 20th century's most influential and provocative thinkers [said ARI's executive director Yaron Brook]. We are offering a great deal of incisive, original material, much of which is not available in print. We expect it to stimulate a great deal of discussion and interest in Ayn Rand.
    Dive in right here, at the registered members page. [Registration is free.]


  1. Thanks Peter, The ARI Multimedia Library has now been bookmarked. And good on the ARI.


  2. Isn't Christopher Hitchens a Trotskyite loon on his off days?

  3. Greg,

    He was. But is a reconditioned Bushite these days. He'll also agree that it is Christians that understand best the threat of Radical Islam, and are the ones who will lay their bodies on the line to counter it.



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