Saturday, 4 August 2007

Weekend Ramble, #23

Another ramble through sights and sounds and snippets that caught my eye over the week. . .
  • As the Nats meet in Auckland's Langham Hotel to gird their loins for next year's election, they might give some thought to the political fortunes of UK Conservative leader David Cameron, on whom John Boy Key has adopted his all-things-to-all-men weasel-wording politics. Notes the Express this week (hardly the voice of Tory discontent), the weasel-words and bullshit are wearing thin:
    DAVID Cameron faces a summer of discontent from his own supporters, it emerged last night. Several major backers [this one for example] were said to have given the Tory leader notice that he has two months to sharpen up his act or face trouble at the party’s conference ...
    One senior Conservative said last night: “The leader’s got roughly 60 days to make us look like a party that could win an election, let alone form a Government. If he can’t do that, then hard questions will have to be asked.” New policy proposals have ... failed to capture the public’s attention, while one prominent donor has demanded that Mr Cameron do some “rethinking”. A poll yesterday put Labour on 41 per cent against 32 per cent for the Conservatives.

    Much more damaging for Mr Cameron, however, was the finding that just 27 per cent of voters now say they believe he is a good leader, compared to 43 per cent in February.
    Cameron's spin-without-substance act is wearing thin, just as it deserves to. Something for John Boy's boys to think about.

  • Entrepreneurs are what moves the world. What are the top ten signs that you're made to be an entrepreneur? [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

  • A few books are a few of my favourite things. Books of early NZ history are high on my list of favourite books, but they're always either expensive or difficult to get hold of. Until now. I just finished reading John Logan Campbell's entertaining Poenamo, and searched on the web to check a few names and place names, and discovered not just that Poenamo itself is online, but literally dozens of early NZ classic are also online in their entirety courtesy of the Auckland University Library. What a magic resource.

  • Another lesson from history from the recent Sudanese diaspora, what Stephen Browne calls the Haight-Ashbury Lesson: "Any society that renounces violence, even in self-defense, becomes a magnet for those willing to use violence to get what they want." Find out more at this post on lessons from history, including two related lessons, the John Wesley Hardin Lesson, and the Dian Fossey Lesson.

  • More confessions from a former warmist. Says David Evans, "I used to work for the Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO), and I used to believe that carbon emissions probably caused global warming." Now he doesn't. Read why, and about the machinations at the AGO in this extended piece here [pdf], of which the similar piece appearing in The Free Radical was an edited version: My Life with the Australian Greenhouse Office, and Other Reflections - David Evans.

  • Steve McIntyre continues to investigate the temperature record of the world's carparks, which it seems is what the surface temperature record mostly seems to be measuring. His latest investigation is a rural station, one which is considered by The Team to be a quality station because its night time footprint shows few lights, what The Team refers to as Lights=0. As McIntyre say, Lights might be zero, but air conditioners are about 22.

  • Many people trying to wrap their heads around the stumblings of the Reserve Bank's Alan Bollard -- stumblings which to many of us are mired in the failure of the economic theory on which the bank is based -- find it difficult to think like an economist. ("Who would want to?," I hear someone say.) Let's face it, economic thinking is difficult, even (perhaps especially) for trained economists. Says Andrew Cassell,
    I finally understand why economics is so hard for many people to grasp.

    It's not because of complexity. The rules of supply and demand aren't inherently more difficult to fathom than those that apply to, say, politics, or cooking, or sports. [Although that all important principle of comparative advantage seems to leave many non-economists slack-jawed.]

    Yet while most people have no trouble wrapping their brains around these subjects - indeed, millions will be eagerly absorbing their finer points this weekend - (What are you watching: Meet the Press, celebrity chefs or college football?) - few have a similar appetite for economics.

    And now I know why, thanks to Alan Fiske ..., a professor of anthropology at UCLA.
    Stripped of jargon, Fiske points out that the concept of market pricing is both conceptually difficult and a relative late-comer in human affairs, and consequently difficult for those "a step or two [down] the evolutionary ladder" to grasp. I guess that's a point equallly applicable to the equally advanced concept of individual rights -- a concept that sadly seems to escape most people; one might even say especially economists.

  • Speaking of economic concepts that are difficult to understand, "trade deficits" is another. Spend more on imports than is earned in exports, and morons will be heard mouthing nonsense about the "problems" with the trade deficit. Alex Robson at the CIS is the latest to put the morons down: Trade Deficit's Poor Image - Alex Robson. Send a copy to Winston Peters.

  • Walter Williams points out another thing about free markets too easily forgotten by those so eager to disparage them: markets are simply the sum of voluntary decisions taken by free people.
    Tyrants are against the free market because it implies voluntary exchange. Tyrants do not trust that people acting voluntarily will do what the tyrant thinks they ought to do. Therefore, they want to replace the market with economic planning, or as [politicians] call it — industrial policy. Economic planning is nothing more than the forcible superseding of other people's plans by the powerful elite.
  • Seguing quickly from economics to sex, David Friedman has some thoughts on mating and money. It reminds Samizdata's Jonathan of this post from Harry Hutton: How to Win with Women. Obvious advice, really.

  • Speaking of women, here's mathematical proof that girls are evil. Didn't we know that all along?

  • Power napping. Having a nap at work is about as popular with the boss as being caught having sex on the boardroom table (how's that for a nifty segue?). Yet as this Personnel type says:
    Several research studies demonstrate the benefits of napping in the middle of the day. According to Newsday, in an article discussing this topic, those who take a nap several times a week have improved cognition and response time and a 37% lower risk of death from heart disease.
    Should we perhaps review our views on sleeping at work? Or in parliament? What would Peter Dunne, for example, be like with "improved cognition"? How would we know?
  • Women at war: When new British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith gave a speech about the dangers of terrorism, she took it as an opportunity to flash some cleavage. Some were upset at talking terrorism with one's d├ęcolletage on display, but not Marcus Bachler who cuts straight to the point with this comment: "I have to admit that flaunting one's cleavage at Muslim terrorists who would like to see all women wearing the Burqa is quite appropriate."

  • Where do you find God in America? It seems to Times columnist Daniel Finkenstein that "the Bible Belt, which was traditionally seen as stretching from Texas, across states like Tennessee and Alabama, to Virginia – has been flipped up, through “tornado alley” and into Northern states like the Dakotas." See the map at left (redder is more faith-ridden; click to enlarge), and compare it to the electoral map for the Bush-Kerry election to draw some conclusions about the almighty in American politics.

  • While we're doing maps and related stuff, here's a neat World Clock with all sorts of nifty information. For instance it tells me in the time it's taken to wrote this post that 204 people have been born and 148 have died, there's been 96 abortions and 24 incidences of cancer, 100,000 barrels of oil produced and 157 cars. Very cool.

  • One of my favourite lecturers in intellectual history is John Ridpath. The man is erudite, assure and emotional when it matters, and the Ayn Rand Bookstore now has his audio lectures at bargain prices, up to fifty percent discounts on some titles. What a deal. Two to start with are The Greatness of the 18th Century Enlightenment, and Ideas and Revolution: Locke and America; Rousseau and France. And if you haven't already heard the debate Capitalism V Socialism: Which is the Moral System, then you're in for a treat.
    PS: IF you want to sample Ridpath first, here's three online lectures courtesy of the Ayn Rand Institute (requires free registration):
  • As far as contemporary intellectual history goes, we're not at the end of history yet, but buy we are in an era of post-post-modernism, says Stephen Hicks in this superb aesthetic commentary, written as an introduction to artist Michael Newberry's artistic manifesto: Post-Postmodern Art - Stephen Hicks.

  • Hicks points too to this thoughtful piece From Cynicism to Postmodernism, which argues that "Contrarianism has a proud intellectual heritage, but in its postmodern flowering it merely became juvenile, complacently smashing up the entire interlocking crossword puzzle of human knowledge." The "crisis" of postmodernism is a crisis of intellectual adolescence.

  • You might have seen Captain Hops' Beer Haikus that have been featuring at Real Beer Fridays. Sample: Sometimes - by Captain Hops
    Sometimes just a sip
    Can restore my faith in man
    and sometimes it can’t.
    There's another chap who does what he calls Netflix Haikus. Great idea. Sample, about the classic film noir 'Pick Up on South Street':
    Richard Widmark sneers.
    Thelma Ritter finks, sells ties.
    Audience nods off.
    Perhaps the idea is better than the execution. Maybe I'll try one myself. A political haiku. Who do you think this describes:
    Without a clue he leads
    From behind, in a fog made
    Opaque by appeasement.

  • 'Bayesian Judo' from Eliezer Yudkowksy:

    I was once at a dinner party, trying to explain to a man what I did for a living, when he said: "I don't believe Artificial Intelligence is possible because only God can make a soul." At this point I must have been divinely inspired, because I instantly responded: "You mean if I can make an Artificial Intelligence, it proves your religion is false?" He said, "What?"

    The conversation continues here.

  • The NZ visit of the vile Saddamite George Galloway seems to have gone by remarkably quietly. I must confess I wasn't entirely unhappy being away from Auckland the weekend he was here oozing filth. Any reports from anyone they'd like to share about what he got up to?

  • Speaking of vile bedfellows, Trevor Loudon has begun a series explaining How Socialist Extremists Took Over the NZ Labour Party. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 here, neither of which take us up to the present mob, or even the post-Soviet era. I assume it's going to be a long series.

  • I'm disappointed that Idiot/Savant, normally forthright in defence of free speech, has chosen to go all mealy mouthed over the government's proposed Electoral Finance Bill. If it doesn't violate our our pathetic and toothless Bill of Rights Act, he seems to argue, it seems to be fine with him for the government to ration dissent, and to limit democracy. Where are free speech's defenders when the chips are down?

  • Speaking of politics, let me remind you that while other parties might like to pretend that 'policies' is a dirty word, Libertarianz is in the process of rolling out the transitional policies discussed at last week's Wellington conference.
    ** Phil Howison outlines the process whereby school and state may be painlessly and urgently separated in this speech posted at his Pacific Empire blog: Free the Schools.
    **And I attempted to outline the reasoning behind offering transitional policies in my own speech, Revolution & Environmental Judo, a 40 minute speech which you can hear by clicking the link.
    **And a few people have asked me to post all the audio from the afternoon's global warming forum, so here it is:
    1. Leader Bernard Darnton's contribition (3 min.) - "if socialism and central planning don't work at seventeen degrees, then why would they work at nineteen?"
    2. President Craig Milmine (4 min.)
    3. Luke Howison (4 min.)
    4. And after those pithy contributions, then there's me blathering on for 19 minutes, which includes some discussion of Libz' proposed Seven-Point Transitional Plan for Environmental Deregulation, which includes a Carbon Tax, a Fishy Story, a Plan to Make Maoris Rich, and our own Kyoto Treaty. That might encourage you to listen in. ;^)
  • A reminder of the insanity of the Kyoto Treaty's aim to cut carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 comes with the release by David Benson-Pope's former ministry of what they say is NZ's carbon emission trends for the past two decades. I suggest you looks at the graph that comes with the report, realise that NZ industry is largely carbon-based, and contemplate the extent to which industry would need to be destroyed in order for the Treaty promise to be carried out. Sobering, no?

  • Why the War on Drugs needs to end: Craig D points out the obvious, that the drug related harms we see cited so often are mostly a result of the War on Drugs itself, not of drugs themselves.

  • Iraq. Everybody has an opinion, and John Lewis among others has pointed out the many lessons that WWII has for Iraq, and for the war with Islamic Totalitarianism. Tony Blankley points out another lesson from June 25, 1942, when WWII looked to be lost and Churchill looked to be on his way out . . . See The Hinge of Fate in Iraq - Tony Blankley.

  • Paul Potts might still be all the rage with people who've never before realised the power of opera, even when sung as poorly as it is by Potts. For those who do want to hear opera as it should be sung, here's two legendary singers singing the legendary Wagner duet, from Tristan and Isolde -- Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior at YouTube singing the 'coitus interruptus' duet from Act II. And here's the gorgeous Anna Moffo singing 'Sempre Libera' from Verdi's La Traviata. Says Daniel, "Note how ridiculously fast she takes her trills while still perfectly landing every note, and note also how high she goes while still keeping support and emotion in her voice. That's a high E-flat she hits at the end, only two half-steps below the highest note in Der Holle Rache [from Mozart's Magic Flute]. "

  • Wagner fans have been sorely mistreated over the years by what has come to be called 'Eurotrash' directors, who've used Wagner's genius only as a stage on which to pour their own misbegotten egos. But Eurotrash is everywhere, a fashionable form of vice from which few theatrical geniuses are free. Heather McDonald describes the nasty trend in The Abduction of Opera.

    Mozart’s lighthearted opera The Abduction from the Seraglio does not call for a prostitute’s nipples to be sliced off and presented to the lead soprano. Nor does it include masturbation, urination as foreplay, or forced oral sex. Europe’s new breed of opera directors, however, know better than Mozart what an opera should contain. So not only does the Abduction at Berlin’s Komische Oper feature the aforementioned activities; it also replaces Mozart’s graceful ending with a Quentin Tarantino–esque bloodbath and the promise of future perversion.

    Welcome to Regietheater (German for “director’s theater”), the style of opera direction now prevalent in Europe.
    The Onion satirises the trend: Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play In Time and Place Shakespeare Intended.

  • And finally (yes, there is an end), if you think your inbox looks cluttered, just imagine how cluttered God's must be. After all, as Tom Waits says, he's everywhere isn't he, always looking at the big picture, yet he's always there to help you out of those little jams. Have a look at this screenshot of God's Inbox. Amusing.


  1. The URL you gave for the principle of comparative advantage ( ) seems to be broken.

  2. I'm also disappointed that I/S is carrying meal in his mouth over the proposed Electoral Finance Bill. And his silence on the gulags of North Korea really betrays him. Here is a search of his site for "North Korea gulags". It turns up post after post on the US's "secret global gulag of 'black prisons'". But these are a holiday at a Centre Parc lodge compared to the North Korean holocaust. I find his silence on North Korea astonishing.

  3. If drugs were made legal, would their use escalate, remain the same, or decline ?

  4. Brian Gaynor and myself are also disappointed at PC's silence on finance coys -in particular Bridgecorp. We warned various people under pseudonym 2 years ago that finance coys were going to blow, including Mr Cresswell.

    He was also advised of others a couple of weeks ago. He has warned nobody.


    I suppose it depends if you are interested in the "ordinary NZer" or just blowing dinner party platitudes.


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