Tuesday, 13 February 2007


A potentially far more important question than what Helen Clark is proposing in her Speech to the Throne this afternoon -- tax and tax, spend and spend; more spin, more 'sustainability' and less carbon seem to be the predictable order of the afternoon -- is what to do about Valentine's Day tomorrow.

Idle Vice's Mrs Smith has the answer for blokes.
"For at least the first Valentine's Day with someone, you have to front up with goods. If you don't, you look like a cheap, clueless bastard... It doesn’t have to be flowers, but if you don't give her something that will make her friends eyes pop out with envy, the relationship will be over within a fortnight.
Thoughts may at this moment run wild.

If it's not the first, however, then Mrs Smith says don't bother, "as the occasion is an American vulgarism that really should not be encouraged." And if you haven't already ordered the flowers, you're stuffed anyway, she says. In which case then, there's always beer.

Any advice for the ladies? Or from?

UPDATE 1: I love MikeE's comment below:
Personally I like Clark's suggestion of carbon neutral govt.
I'm assuming we achieve that by shutting the government down.
UPDATE 2: Cactus Kate has V-Day advice for, well, all of us. I won't be taking mine.

Seeing spiders

A friend called in yesterday who's just returned from a year living on Pitcairn Island.

It cost her a large part of her life savings to make the move, and sadly it didn't go too well for her. Among the many interesting stories she had to tell, the very worst thing about the place, she said, is the spiders. That's a 'small' one there on the right. Click on it to see it closer to full size -- unless of course you're arachnophobic. Like my friend.

These are the ones that Stephen Spielberg should have used in Arachnophobia, she reckons. They're everywhere, and they're enormous -- and unlike other spiders that run away when you move towards them, these ones move towards you.

Wafa Sultan: "Cracks in the Islamic prison"

Here is an interview with the always inspirational Wafa Sultan which is well worth the nine minutes it takes to view -- it is demonstrably better than any nine minutes seen on NZ television thus year. She makes several important points about the nature of Islam, and what it will take to change it:
  • "We Muslim people have been hostage to our own belief systems, for too many centuries. We have been hostages in our own prison."
  • Islam itself is a prison. Salvoes from outside, such as the publication of the Danish cartoons, are the only way to effect cracks in that prison.
  • Many people who are trapped in the prison of Islam welcomed the publication of the Danish cartoons; they live in hope that such things will eventually overturn the prison walls.
  • It is important to realise that Islam is not just a religion; it is a religious movement combined with a political movement -- a political movement based on violence. The two parts need to be severed, and the violence expunged.
  • Islam can't be reformed, it must be transformed.
It reminds me of two points made by black Americans. The first is the reminder by Thomas Sowell, that cultures are not museum pieces, they are the working machinery of everyday life, and we should judge them by how well they work for those within them.

The second is an argument that Malcolm X used to make: Too many American blacks, he said, still suffer from "the slave mentality; the slave mind." "Some of you," he said, "are still in prison. The prisons of your mind."

"You got to free your own mind," he demanded of them.

Wafa Sultan appears to be saying that the belief systems associated with Islamic culture are not working for those within Islam, however by the nature of that culture, Muslims will need "voices from outside" to help free themselves from the prison of their own belief systems.

Watch the interview here at You Tube, and if you want more there are many more excellent interviews with Dr Sultan linked from the same page. [Hat tip Jeremy LeRay]

LINK: "A crack in the wall" - Wafa Sultan on the Mohammed cartoons - You Tube

RELATED: Religion, Multiculturalism, Politics-World

The sprawling argument continues.

'Smart Growth' fan Tom Beard challenged my encomia to sprawl the other day. As I summarised at the end of last week, my argument was essentially that in lifestyles and the places where we live, we should be Pro-Choice:
  • Let people live where they will.
  • Restricting where and how people live is wrong, and reflects the use of force to impose the regulators' values on people who don't agree with those values.
  • The result of this imposition has been to make houses in the most regulated cities mostly unaffordable, and those in the least regulated cities most affordable.
Tom disagreed. I still intend to reply to his arguments, but I happily concede to Liberty Scott who makes several points today in response to both of us. Tom makes several claims about the effects of sprawl on transport and infrastructure; Scott, whose specialist area is transport and infrastructure, dismisses them.
  • Tom says, “More homes further away means more cars coming into the city, which means more space taken up by motorways, "bypasses" and carparks, thus impacting on the quality of life of those who've chosen to live close to the city.”
    Scott replies:
    Well hold on. If highways were privatised, these motorways wouldn’t be collectively funded by all motorists, but paid for by those using them.
  • Tom objected to the claim that ""the key factor that affects driving habits isn't population density, public transit availability, gasoline taxes or even different attitudes. It's wealth." In response, he claimed: "In Wellington, the well off use public transport as much as or more than those on lower incomes."
    Scott replies:
    He is correct and there is a very good reason for that. The higher income jobs are concentrated in downtown Wellington and the public transport system was designed so that state servants and council employees could easily get to work. Lower income jobs are in the Hutt, Porirua and the suburbs. It is far more difficult to get to these jobs by public transport, so public transport subsidies in Wellington are about subsidising the middle class and high income earners to get to work in downtown Wellington from their homes in Karori, Khandallah and Kapiti. [And I note that in Auckland, decentralisation of employment means that the final destination for the vast majority of commutes is not the central city, even though roads and public transport require most commuters to go through the city.]
Scott gives a number of examples of how "changing the pricing of transport would, in my view, make an enormous difference to how cities function and grow," and concludes, "Tom is right to suggest that there is plenty of potential for different forms of housing, including higher density to be attractive." Here we all agree. "The fundamental point is whether the market should be skewed by planning restrictions to coerce development to being in that direction... Some people want to live downtown in apartments - good for them - but if you want a house on a quarter-acre section, why is it anyone else's business as long as you pay for it, and for the associated infrastructure?"

That's it in a nutshell: Internalise costs, and let Pro-Choice principles rule.

You can read Scott's substantial response here. I highly recommend you do.

LINKS: Sorting out sprawl - Liberty Scott
A sprawling argument - Tom Beard, Well Urban
More sprawling arguments - Peter Cresswell, Not PC
Envy is making housing unaffordable - Peter Cresswell, Not PC
Sustainable cities are unaffordable cities - Peter Cresswell, Not PC

RELATED: Sprawl,
Urban Design, Politics-NZ, Housing

NZ's 101 Must-Do's

The AA have released the results of their '101 Best Places in NZ to Visit' survey which are listed below, and like DPF, I've emboldened my own conquests -- which just to clarify means visiting Mt Cook and Mt Ruapehu rather than climbing them.

1.Mitre Peak and Milford Sound
2.Doubtful Sound
3.Bay of Islands
4.Fiordland National Park
5.Abel Tasman National Park
6.Aoraki Mt Cook
7.Coastal Kaikoura
8.Hanmer Springs
10.Tutukaka/The Poor Knights
11.Marlborough Sounds
12.Fox and Franz Josef glaciers
13.Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro
14.Waitomo Caves
15.Travelling the Southern Scenic Route
16.Otago Rail Experience
17.White Island (marine volcano)
18.Stewart Island
19.Arthurs Pass National Park
20.Tongariro Crossing
21.The Blue Pools of Haast Pass
22.South Westland
23.Waipoua Forest
24.Mt Taranaki
25.Lake Tekapo Observatory and Church of the Good Shepherd
26. Ulva Island (Stewart Is bird sanctuary)
27. Otago Peninsula
28. Canterbury Plains
29. Punakaiki (Pancake rocks)
30. Cape Reinga
31. Auckland Gulf Islands - Waiheke, Great Barrier, Rangitoto and Tiritiri Matangi
32. Kicking the autumn leaves (walking Outlet Track along the Clutha River, Wanaka)
33. Akaroa and Banks Peninsula
34. Glenorchy and Dart River
35. Farewell Spit
36. Queenstown (adventures)
37. Hokianga (Northland’s west coast)
38. Whanganui National Park
39. Cape Kidnappers
40. Lake Waikaremoana, Te Urewera National Park
41. Fine wines and fabulous foods
42. The Queen Charlotte Track
43. Lake Matheson (Fox Glacier)
44. Arrowtown
45. Orakei Korako (geothermal attraction, near Taupo)
46. TSS Earnslaw (vintage steamship)
47. Rotorua
48. Night skiing and riding at Coronet Peak
49. Dunedin City (architecture)
50. Mt Maunganui
51. Karangahake Gorge
52. Eastland SH35 (scenic coastal road journey)
53. Getting up close and personal with marine and wildlife
54. Hollyford Valley (and the Hollyford Track, Fiordland)
55. Hot Water Beach
56. Auckland’s west coast
57. Rotorua Luge, Skyrides, Skyswing
58. Kapiti Island
59. Marlborough wine trail
60. New Chums Beach, Coromandel
61. Christchurch City (beat that Auckland & Wellington!)
62. Mt Tarawera
63. Te Papa Tongarewa museum
64. The Bridge to Nowhere (Whanganui National Park)
65. Coromandel Township
66. Lake Taupo’s water attractions and Tongariro River
67. The Pinnacles
68. Te Mata Peak (Hawkes Bay)
69. Rotorua rafting
70. The Forgotten World Highway (between Taumarunui and Stratford)
71. Lake Wanaka maze
72. Moeraki Boulders
73. New Plymouth’s coastal walkway
74. Seafood City
75. Castlepoint (old seaside town)
76. Wainui Beach (Gisborne)
77. Ahipara and Shipwreck Bay
78. Buller Gorge
79. Taranaki Gardens
80. Cape Palliser (southernmost tip of the North Island)
81. Auckland War Memorial Museum
82. Raglan
83. Takaka Hill: Rameka Track Mountain (Abel Tasman National Park)
84. Whakarewarewa traditional Maori village, Rotorua
85. Waitangi Treaty Grounds
86. Rere Rock Slide, Gisborne
87. Spa and well-being (Nelson)
88. Auckland’s Sky Tower and Skyjump (not the jump)
89. Devonport and North Head
90. The Interislander
91. Auckland volcanoes
92. Central Otago
93. Port Waikato
94. Golf in an Alpine Amphitheatre (Queenstown Golf Club)
95. Hundertwasser toilet (Far North)
96. Wellington Writers’ Walk
97. Cross-country skiing (Lake Wanaka)
98. Stonehenge Aotearoa (marking the winter solstice Downunder)
99. Rugby Museum (Palmerston North)
100. Beehive and Parliament buildings
101=. Attend a Must-Do Event, North Island
101=. Attend a Must-Do Event, South Island

What a great bloody country this is. Personally, I'm a little concerned about the Karangahake Gorge (left) ranking so highly -- I'd quietly hoped that one was a closely guarded secret. Damn.

And I'm frankly appalled to see Te Papa ranking at all. In a country with so many special places, what kind of person votes for that hotbed of mediocrity as a must-do unless they're marketing the place!

LINK: 101 Must-Do's for Kiwis - Automobile Association

RELATED: New Zealand

Vienna's Ringstrasse

Some two-hundred years after the Ottomans abandoned their unsuccessful Siege of Vienna (and incidentally leaving behind a sackful of coffee, which started the west's fortunate love affair with caffeine) Western Europe's eastern outpost against the Moslem hordes tore down its protecting wall, and developed an integrating 'ring road' called the Ringstraße. This was not intended to be a 'working' thoroughfare, it was intended primarily for show -- and what a show.

The Ringstraße style is often what is thought of when people talk about European style cities: it is the very model of elegance and urbanity. It was a delightful dividend both of Austria-Hungary's new power -- making the encircling defensive wall obsolete -- and of the new 'Spring' of Romanticism in art that made even the most banal of buildings many times more delightful than their contemporary equivalents.

The Ringstraße itself integrated the city (see picture at left), protecting the delightfully high density city inside, and beyond it the city, well, it sprawled out into the countryside like all good cities should.

LINKS: Making the Genius Quicker: Part Two of 'A Complete Hiftory of Man According to Hif Divers Delightf' - Peter Cresswell, SOLO
e - Wien Tourisme

RELATED: Architecture, Urban Design, History

Monday, 12 February 2007

State funding of political parties...

...or, as Tim Worstall calls it: The Incumbency Protection Act.

Electoral corruption from the British Labour Party has brought the same response in the UK as electoral corruption here from the NZ Labour Party: the proposal for an Incumbency Protection Act. There's just no other name for taxpayer-funding of political parties.

LINKS: State funding of political parties - Tim Worstall
£28m-a-year plan for state party funding - Times Online

RELATED: Politics-UK, Politics-NZ, Darnton V Clark, Politics-Labour

Perigo launches voluntary euthanasia book

As I was playing losing tennis yesterday out at Patumahoe, libertarian Lindsay Perigo was in Grey Lynn launching what is hoped to be a winning campaign by Dr Philip Nitschke to help people who through age or illness are no longer able to live without pain, and who are unable even to help themselves to end their lives with dignity.

Dr Nitschke's new project is a new book, The Peaceful Pill, and it was launched yesterday in NZ at a meeting in Grey Lynn that included a workshop on techniques of voluntary euthanasia. NZ customs added to the launch by going over Nitschke and fellow campaigner Dr Fiona Stewart on their way into the country on Friday.

Here's a link to the raw audio of the launch, which features a controversial speech by Lindsay, recounting the chief adversaries of the view that your life is your own. Religious bigots feature highly. In a delicious example of the uselessness of the traditional political spectrum, he is introduced by Jack Jones, an old Marxist adversary of Perigo's but with a similar passion for free speech.

As Perigo says in the speech, grab the book while you can, because governments both here and in Australia are already making moves both here and in there to have it banned. Irony of ironies. Not only do the religious bigots ban you taking your own life, or having help to do so, they also want the political bigots to ban you reading about being able to take your own life.

Listen to the launch while you can.

[NB: If there are any volunteers to transcribe Lindsay's speech for the next issue of 'The Free Radical,' I'd be enormously grateful. Email me at organon at ihug.co.nz .]

LINKS: Nitschke launches 'death' book in NZ - The Age
Speeches to launch the 'Peaceful Pill' handbook - Lindsay Perigo et al [5.5MB mp3]

RELATED: Health, Libertarianism, Religion, Free Speech

The internet and philosophy don't always mix

A recent, highly vituperative and still ongoing debate among Objectivists over the recent mid-term elections, and a related and more substantial disagreement over the role of philosophy in history has brought out much heat, but very little light -- but it has highlighted one serious shortcoming with internet debates, and unguided internet learning.

Nicholas Provenzo's contribution
to the debate is a relevant reminder that for all the internet's many virtues, its one flaw is perhaps that too many expect too much from it. The rise, for example, of what might be called 'internet Objectivists' is just one example -- people who 'know' their Objectivism only from what they've gleaned from blogs and forums like this one, wherein (by the nature of these blogs and forums) only short and pithy tasters for the main course can really be offered. Without the main course, they're really lost without a guide. As Provenzo points out,
the Internet is great for meeting similar-interested people, sharing camaraderie, and exchanging the occasional deep thought or two, but an Internet bull session is absolutely no substitute for formal instruction in any field. The Internet must not be viewed as the poor man's way to learn philosophy--it's simply too ad hoc and there is too much noise to signal for it to serve as a good substitute for formal learning.
To true. And just for the record, for those who want an introduction to the issues being debated around both serious and unserious Objectivism at present:
And if you are a newcomer to Objectivism then I can highly recommend this reading list to help you in your own study. This would be considered a 'minumum curriculum' for graduation from 'internet Objectivist' to a student of Objectivism.

RELATED: Philosophy, Objectivism, History

Skeptics series

I've noticed that many have already linked to a recent series on global warming skeptics in Canada’s National Post. If you haven't already seen it, here are links to the whole series.

Statistics needed — The Deniers Part I
Warming is real — and has benefits — The Deniers Part II
The hurricane expert who stood up to UN junk science — The Deniers Part III
Polar scientists on thin ice — The Deniers Part IV
The original denier: into the cold — The Deniers Part V
The sun moves climate change — The Deniers Part VI
Will the sun cool us? — The Deniers Part VII
The limits of predictability — The Deniers Part VIII
Look to Mars for the truth on global warming — The Deniers Part IX
Limited role for C02 — the Deniers Part X

John at Steve McIntyre's blog suggests:
The first one is particularly interesting as it describes Edward Wegman and his independent investigation into the Hockey Stick and mentions Wegman’s vindication of Steve [McIntyre's] and Ross [McKitrick’s] work. The series name “The Deniers” is a disgraceful perjorative and insulting label given by people who have no shame. I have protested to Solomon about this use of the term to no avail.
RELATED: Politics, Science, Global Warming

Skeptical about politicisation of scientists

A letter in the Washington Times from Cafe Hayek's Don Boudreaux is worth reprinting here.
Cool reception
Let's grant (if just for the sake of argument) that environmental scientists have proved that Earth's ideal average temperature was reached about a century ago and that the temperature is rising because of human activity ("Just the facts," Op-Ed, yesterday).

The truth remains that these scientists have no expertise to judge whether government can be trusted with the power and resources to "combat" global warming. Nor can these scientists tell us how a free market likely would deal with global warming's consequences.

Contrary to widespread belief, environmental scientists can legitimately say nothing about whether, or how, to respond to global warming.

Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
More discussion of his point about specialisation at Cafe Hayek: Let's Have Less Hot Air About Global Warming.

Politics, Science, Global Warming

More stalking

This blogger template doesn't really allow me to stop particular commenters commenting, and my own preference anyway is to simply ask people who have disgraced themselves not to bother coming back I prefer to rely on their own integrity. So far, I've only had to ask two people to please stay away; one of them has, and one of them hasn't. One of them has integrity, and one woman has shown she hasn't. Here's a recent post from Ruth here at Not PC, variations of which she also posted all round the internet.
The Libertarian Party and admirers of Ayn Rand keep having to expel racist and violent yahoos from their midst. As an example I have [deleted] and [deleted]- [deleted]; [deleted], and others who spew bigoted filth about drowning Muslims in swimming pools and murdering their political opponents all over the internet. Libz are constantly being infiltrated by neo-Nazis, and many of their spinoff groups are riddled throughout with extremists and racists.This is nothing new - I remember Nazis threatening you on an email list years ago.
This is simply insane. Apart from the lies and the out and out stupidity -- "murdering their political opponents all over the internet"! -- this post can't even tell the difference between being threatened by someone and being associated with someone. It's insane. Feel free to visit her own blog and tell her that everything else she writes here will be deleted.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

The story of one control after another, and how the "mortage levy" fits in.

The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.
- Thomas Jefferson

They say one bad apple spoils the barrel; one rotten apple will quickly affect a whole bunch. The same is true of government controls. One control is introduced to 'correct' something that's making some legislator unhappy, following which economic imbalances occur; new controls are pretty quickly called for to try to correct them, following which more are introduced to correct the dislocations that occurred from those controls, and so on. Control follows control, as dislocation follows imbalance.

The history of government controls is like the story of the Emperor's New Clothes in reverse: New controls are added all the time in order to fix the problems caused by previous controls, but no one is listening to the little boy who is saying, "Why not just take off the controls altogether, and then you won't need to make up new ones."

The New Zealand history is no different to elsewhere. On Friday, and on the recommendation of the Reserve Bank, finance minister Michael Cullen floated the idea of an "adjustable mortgage levy" -- a tax, in other words -- on home-owners' mortgages. This new idea was made up by Reserve Banker Alan Bollard.

The reason? Large increases in house prices and construction costs are affecting the Bank's inflation figures -- in order to control inflation, the Bank needs to control house prices. If they keep house prices down, then they don't need to put interest rates up. If they don't put interest rates up, then foreign investors won't find our currency so attractive, and if they don't find our currency so attractive, NZ exporters won't find it so difficult selling on the world stage with a currency that's so over-priced.

This proposed tax is supposed to fix this problem. In the words of Reserve Banker Alan Bollocks, it is "designed to force a wedge between the price paid for credit by mortgage borrowers and the returns available to the savers financing those loans (especially the interest-sensitive foreign savers)."

The interesting thing here -- and here I go back to the apple analogy I started with -- is that every link in this inflationary chain is the result wholly or in part of some government control.

The money supply is controlled by the The Reserve Bank, a central bank in the model of the US Federal Reserve, which as history and yesterday's post suggested generates statism, inflation, and business cycles. In an effort to tame this monster, governments created the Reserve Bank Act, which has for some time been strangling producers, exporters and economic growth in the name of "price stability." It hasn't worked. Growth is said to be "too fast." Property keeps "blowing out." And no matter how much Bollocks shakes his fist and stamps his feet, it just keeps right on "blowing out."

There are of course many reasons for his impotence, and for the blowout. But as recent research and recent posts here at Not PC have argued, a major factor in housing in NZ's major cities being rated severely unaffordable is the strangling by regulation of the land supply, and the enormous rise in construction costs brought on both by by huge spending on long-delayed infrastructure projects, and excessive regulation (which were themselves brought on to "fix" earlier government controls ).

So as control has followed control and as dislocation has followed imbalance, a new measure is now proposed to "fix" the problems created by all these earlier "fixes." Another tax. A "mortage levy." Another imposition on taxpayers. Another hurdle for home-owners.

It's always more of the same, isn't it. New controls are added all the time in order to fix the problems caused by previous controls, but no one is listening to the little boy who is saying, "Why not just take off the controls altogether, and then you won't need to make up new ones."

The Emperor is still naked. And he's getting fatter every day.

LINKS: What Reserve Banks do to our money - Not PC
Refugees from urban areas thanks to Smart Growth - Hugh Pavletich
3rd Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey (2006) - Demographia
Taming the inflation monster - Not PC
Denying prosperity by misunderstanding inflation - Not PC
Too-fast growth is bad, right? Wrong! - Not PC
Bollard shaking fist against buyers - again - NZ Herald
Not PC's posts on 'Housing'
High and higher regulation. High and higher house prices - Not PC
Cullen says mortgage levy has merit - NBR

RELATED: Housing, Economics, Politics-NZ, Politics, Libertarianism

Saturday, 10 February 2007

What Reserve Banks do to our money

Spotted by Tim Swanson at the Mises Blog:

Four years before he became chairman of the Federal Reserve, Benjamin Bernanke (then "merely" a Fed Governor), gave a speech commemorating the 90th birthday of Milton Friedman. Below is his concluding statement:

Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry. But thanks to you, we won't do it again.
This goes up on the mantel next to Greenspan's essay lauding the Gold Standard.
The Federal Reserve was responsible for the Great Depression, and for much more besides. New Zealand's own Reserve Bank is modelled in many ways on the US Federal Reserve Bank (about which more later today).

For a great history of the Federal Reserve and what it's done to the money supply, this Mises Institute video up at You Tube is just the thing. 42 minutes of good Saturday doco. Enjoy.

LINKS: Bend it like Bernanke - Mises Economics Blog
Money, banking and the Federal Reserve Bank - You Tube

Friday, 9 February 2007

Holy bar stools!

These ladies aren't getting none... Errr...

[Pic stolen from Real Beer. Ta, guys.]

Beer O'Clock: A Valentine's Day introduction.

Advice this week for your forthcoming Valentine's Day date from Stu at Real Beer. Send all complaints to him. ;^)

Women don't like beer. I know that's a generalisation but there is a good reason why generalisations occur and persist, and that reason is this: They're generally true.

Anyway, true or not, in my skewed sample (i.e. the six women I know) the majority of women don't really like beer. If it's not too fizzy and bloating for them, then it's too bitter, or it's too big a serving, or it's going to make them fat, or it takes up too much room in the fridge, or the advertisements are degrading, or ...

Women are not the only ones to have turned their backs on beer, I know plenty of middle-aged men that became sick of brown soda pop and are now supping chardonnay or sauvignon blanc at the barbeque, and many, many metrosexuals who drink Heineken or Corona and who think they're drinking beer.

Poor fools.

I think it's time to reintegrate (or integrate) these women and men into the beer drinking domain. They need to be introduced to real beer. Beer with flavour and body and delight. This job must be undertaken by us, the beer advocates, and can't be left to the breweries. If it were left to the breweries they would introduce a sugary fizzy drink with berry, peach or citrus flavourings (oh, they already tried that - anyone remember DB's 'limited edition' "Hopper" range?), or a range of summer beers with lime and and spice in it (come in DB's Radlers et al), or they'd market a flavourless beer with a lime in it just so you could think you looked cool (you don't).

There’s so much exposure to this rubbish that people are scared of trying the micro-brewery’s beers.

Big breweries have shot themselves in the foot, time and time again, by persisting with bland products, marketing over substance, blatant sexism, and a type of male bravado that puts off many men as well as women. [That, by the way, is a Tui Girl at left, just so you have an example of the sort of outrageous goings-on the man is talking about - Ed.] By these goings-on, they've cut off a large chunk of their potential market (and a high-income market it is too) by focussing so much on the young and impressionable Neil Millers of this world. Give that man a DB or a Tui couch and he'll drink your product to the fizzy end. But ask a more refined type to partake, and you'll find s/he's left the building altogether.

All is not lost however. A new breed of breweries has emerged, producing distinctive, great quality beers of various colours and flavours. There’s also an excellent range of imports (beyond the pseudo-imports Stella and Heineken) beginning to join them on the shelves. And there are ways to get around the most ardently held excuses for enjoying good beer; here are some example:
"Beer is too fizzy." It doesn't need to be. Pour it into a glass to help release the carbonation (and also the beer's wonderful aromatics). A wine glass, or special beer glass, may add to the visual appeal.
"Beer is too bitter." If that's your problem, then maybepick a mildly hopped beer such as a strong Belgian ale, a wheat beer, a fruit or spiced beer, or a lambic.
"There's just too much volume!" Share a glass -- or share a bottle between two glasses, so nobody suffers from 'portion anxiety.'
"Beer makes you fat." The beer belly is a myth. It should actually be renamed more accurately the "chips, nuts, pies and kebabs belly" -- if it had a ring to it. A stubbie of beer is no more fattening than a glass of wine. It's the appetite the beer gives you that causes the belly. So watch that.
"Beer has degrading ads." Okay, this is true. But those sorts of beers are crap anyway, so don't bother with them. Drink something decent instead.
So there you have it. No reason not to enjoy a decent drop. This Valentines Day, why not introduce the women (or man) in your life to a decent beer. Even better, introduce her (or him) to a wide array of beers with a small sample of each. S ometimes it only takes a sip to arouse one's interest...

You could try any of these widely available beers to get a rise: Emerson's Weiss Bier, Belle-Vue Kriek, Duvel, Mac's Hop Rocker, Leffe Brune, Founder's Long Black or Greene King Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale. For those more inclined to a bitter drop then, being adventurous, try out a Cock & Bull Monk's Habit, Emerson's 1812, Tuatara Pilsner or either of Limburg's Hopsmacker or Czechmate. All of these can be found reviewed in the Beer and Elsewhere archives of this site.

And while you are contemplating what to try, sign the SOBA petition against the ridiculous banning of glasses at Blenheim’s Blues Brews and BBQ’s. Links to petition and background information here.

LINKS: Become a beer advocate with SOBA, the Society for Beer Advocates
More on women and beer
Real beer and real women
Real women.

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

Message to planners: "Don't fence me in!"

Most of the planners in New Zealand's major cities have imposed what's called a Metropolitan Urban Limit around the cities. This is sometimes called an 'urban fence,' inside which development proceeds (in theory) according to the planners' whims, and (in reality) to the extent that developers and builders can get around these whims and get something done.

Outside the urban fence, development only proceeds to the extent that land-owners outside the fence can dodge the planners' desire to make a rural museum of the area surrounding the cities, and to the extent that developers who have built up land banks around the city can encourage their chums on council to relax the zoning, or to release the urban fence just a little. You might call this a sort of 'informal' public-private partnership. (Ask around, for instance, about how the car yards of Henderson were re-zoned from rural and who benefited most from the re-zoning; and -- more recently -- ask yourself who the major beneficiaries were of the recent relaxation of controls around Botany, Flat Bush and Albany.)

In Auckland, the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) rigorously police this fence, even to the extent of taking other councils to court for attempting to overturn it. As I noted a few months ago, even Auckland's mayors have now realised this urban fence might have some role to play in limiting the supply of houses, and this helping to make houses more unaffordable in NZ cities than in less constrained cities elsewhere. Said the mayors in a joint press release:
Mayors of Manukau and Waitakere say the region's master plan for growth is throttling economic opportunities in their cities and needs an urgent overhaul. When it was introduced in 1999, the Auckland Regional Council's regional growth strategy [which set in place the present Metropolitan Urban Limits] was hailed as the answer to managing the effects of growth such as in urban sprawl...
... The shortage of land for housing was pushing prices sky-high and making it difficult for young people to get homes.
Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey said he also wanted a review of the strategy to be completed as soon as possible.
He was impatient about the lack of progress in having potential new development areas at Westgate, Whenuapai and Hobsonville brought inside the metropolitan urban limit and made available.
"Anyone that is in local government is frustrated by long delays, procrastination and the inability to see the big picture - not by this council but by regulatory officialdom that stifles growth and prosperity."
Let me remind you, this is Bob Harvey -- Bob Harvey! -- and his fellow mayors talking about relaxing the urban limits, and talking about "growth and prosperity" being stifled by "regulatory officialdom."

Things have to be pretty bloody obvious for people like Bob Harvey to notice them, and to come out in favour of "growth and prosperity" over "regulatory officialdom."

Not so fast however, replied ARC chairman Mike Lee a few weeks back. Over the past five years, says Lee, "Auckland councils have released 1000ha of land for development." Ten-thousand hectares! Gee thanks, Mike. At 500 square metres per unit (which applies on average through much of Auckland's metropolitan area), this represents land for just 4,000 new houses per year (and this figure ignores the roads, parks, shopping areas, service centres and workplaces that will be built to accompany these new houses). This land has been "released" by councils by the simple expedient of relaxing the urban fence in areas deemed appropriate by planners, which simply means rezoning land which is otherwise idle -- land which individuals own who are restricted by these regulations as to what they can do on their own land.

Four thousand new houses doesn't go far when as the ARC's own website concedes, fifty people every day are moving to the region --that's "one person every 29 minutes" (or nearly 20,000 per year). And those new houses are built according to the planners' so-called 'smart growth' dogma: laid out in row-upon-row of regulated sameness, just as the planner ordered.

The sameness and the sprawl that many people object to in our present-day suburbia are in large part due to the regulatory measures that the anti-sprawlists themselves favour. Specifically, the "carpet sprawl" that would have few explicit defenders is created by the very 'Smart Growth' policies considered so progressive by so many planners. Owen McShane explained the process in a recent presentation (pdf), of which this the briefest of excerpts:
Smart Growth delivers Carpet-Sprawl because even the most rigorous Smart Growth city eventually has to extend its Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL) to provide more land for residential, commercial and industrial use.
In recent weeks the Mayors of both Waitakere City and Manukau City have pleaded for extensions to their MULs. Even Smart Growth planners acknowledge these “adjustments” will be necessary from time to time.
The sequence of events is as follows:
• The MUL is initially set to allow for the next period of growth to take place within the existing “urban form”.
• Eventually this enclosed area fills to the point where there is essentially no zoned land left for further growth or it has become so expensive that no one can afford to use it.
• In the meantime many activities have simply leap-frogged into territory outside the Smart Growth planners’ jurisdiction, which is why Northland Region is now growing so rapidly.
• Open space inside the MUL is sacrificed to high density carpet development to “save” open space outside the MUL.
• At some point the situation becomes intolerable and the people and their representatives demand an extension of the MUL to enclose some piece of surrounding rural land.
• Once this “bulge” is made legal then development and intensification begins again until the new “bulge” is also full of high density carpet development and some relief is allowed in some other part of the city.
Obviously, as this process is repeated the city expands into the rural area as medium or high density “carpet sprawl.” The only difference from the post-war sprawl is that there will be a greater variety of housing types because the market demand is more varied and regulations covering section sizes and housing types have been relaxed since the sixties, and the overall density will be higher.
I'd be interested in hearing from supporters of planning, zoning and so-called 'Smart Growth' how they feel about producing the very thing they say they oppose.

LINKS: Some Auckland mayors realise ring-fencing the city is 'unsustainable' - Not PC East Germany in East Auckland - Not PC
Alternatives to Smart Growth - Owen McShane [15-page PDF]

RELATED: Sustainability,
Housing, Urban Design, Politics-NZ, Auckland, RMA

A debate on taking property for the public good

The pylon battle in the Waikato and the taking of Suzette Kelo's Connecticut home so a developer can build a shopping mall have between them raised the issue of what the Americans call eminent domain, or what we might call taking private property for 'public' use.

Anyone who has ever seen the film The Castle will know what I'm talking about: taking someone's property, or a portion of their property, on the basis that you have the legal force to do so, and that compensation 'on just terms' is provided for the 'taking' of the property.

In The Castle, of course, the issue was what exactly those 'just terms' would be. For Daryl Kerrigan, the owner of the house being taken for development of the neighbouring airport by a private company, no terms could be considered just. "You can't buy what I've got," he wails. No value anyone else could offer would replace what he's already got.

In the American context, of course, the Constitution actually protects the taking of private property for public use - "nor shall private property be tken for public use without just compensation" says the so-called 'takings clause' of the Fifth Amendment -- but in the submission of some people (which list includes me) inclusion in that Constitution doen't make it right; and given the experience of history (which as I explain in this post, shows that routes for rail and pipelines and the like can and have been put together voluntarily, without any need for public theft) it's not true that it's even necessary.

However there are people who think that eminent domain is marvellous. Many of these people are developers. Many of them are politicians. One of them recently agreed to debate Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute on this issue. Yaron is not in favour of eminent domain. Not in any way whatsoever. His opponent is. His opponent is a leading advocate of taking private property for public use, and he used to head the department that some have called The Federal Bulldozer, a department that spent years throwing people out of their homes against their will in the name of 'urban renewal' (the slums his department built are now know as 'The Projects,' and are more like urban sinks than examples of renewal). This prick still thinks he was justified in everything his department did.

You can listen to the debate between Yaron Brook and this advocate for public theft here, at the Principles in Practice blog. Yaron is a lot more polite than I would have been in the circumstances.

Listen here. And come back and let me know whom you found the most convincing.

LINKS: Eminent domain: To preserve or abolish - Principles in Practice
ACT protecting property rights? - Not PC
Pylon pressure ignorant and unnecessary - Not PC
Political plundering of property owners - James Bovard, Freedom Daily

RELATED: Property_Rights, Objectivism

Returning the smear of the warmists

Everyone knows how nasty "McCarthyite" tactics are -- everyone knows because collectivists never tire of letting us know how evil it was for Joe McCarthy to launch witch-hunts and campaigns of intimidation against people on the basis simply of whom they associate with, smearing their character and credibility and insinuating a "guilt by association" that "infected" American politics for generations afterwards.

As Robert Bidinotto notes, those same tactics are now used regularly by the collectivists themselves. His example is the ad hominem assault on global warming skeptics; he recounts how professional scientists have had their credibility laid to waste by hatchet-jobs that barely merit the recounting -- except that these are hatchet-jobs that you'll see splashed across your news headlines every day.

"Exxon Mobil!" "A hired gun for the oil industry!" "Denier!" Leaving aside the basic logical error of the ad hominem attack - that in attacking the arguer the argument itself is left unchallenged -- Bidinotto instead cries havoc, and lets slip the McCarthyite attack dogs himself. "Okay, let's play the same game," he says, "and see if these attack dogs like it."
At the head of this pack we find the Union of Concerned Scientists, a pseudo-scientific advocacy group with a long pedigree of radical leftist activism, and whose own funders include virtually the entire funding apparatus of the agenda-driven American left. Joining them is that bastion of sober scientific research and thought, Greenpeace. We find a political hack, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who, in the Joe McCarthy tradition, launches a political-legal witch hunt and campaign of intimidation, suing oil companies "to disclose their dealings with climate change skeptics" -- and First Amendment be damned.

All of this coercion and smearing is clearly meant to frighten into silence any legitimate scientists who challenge Gang Green.

Question: If the scientific evidence supporting the Gang's claims about climate change were so overwhelming, irrefutable, and convincing, why these goon-squad tactics to shut down dissent? What are these people afraid of?
That's the question I find so interesting. If you do have the evidence, why wouldn't you simply rest on it?

LINK: The ad hominem assault on global warming critics - Robert Bidinotto

RELATED: Politics, Politics-US, Science, Global Warming

Uluru-Kata Tjuta cultural centre - Greg Burgess

Greg Burgess's Uluru-Kata Tjuta cultural centre, in Australia's Red Centre. The description comes from his site:
Located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, the building sits in a delicate environment both ecologically and politically. The building has been designed as an expression of Aboriginal culture, with integral display and interpretative themes. Opened in October 1995, this complex is visited daily by thousands of Australian and International tourists. Through its animated relationship with its powerful site, extensive use sustainable materials, low energy consumption and sympathetic responsiveness to people and the environment, the building celebrates the spirit of Anangu culture.

The complex was designed in collaboration with the Aboriginal community and is to be build in 3 stages. To date Classes 1, 2 and 3, Art and Craft rooms, special education rooms, library, kitchen and administration offices have been constructed. Natural materials have been used where possible in the construction with finishes.

Architecturally, the Centre provides users with some imaginative keys to strengthen relationships and understanding of the land, as well as practical spaces for learning and play.
LINKS: Uluru-Kata Tjuta cultural centre - Greg Burgess Architects
Organic architecture in Oceania - Architettura Organica


Thursday, 8 February 2007

The buzzword for this year is sustainability

NZ HERALD: Helen Clark will kick off the parliamentary year next Tuesday with the opening speech. She said it would outline the programme for the year based on the theme of sustainability.
See. Told you.

LINK: Clark regathers Labour's reins - NZ Herald
The buzzword for this morning is sustainability - Not PC (October, 2006)

RELATED: Sustainability, Politics-NZ

More sprawling arguments

Tom Beard has responded with panache to my arguments the other day on why envy is making houses unaffordable. As I summarised in a comment the other day, when it comes to sprawl, to housing and to regulations on housing, I'm Pro-Choice.

What that means, in short, is this:
  • Let people live where they will.
  • Restricting where and how people live is wrong, and reflects the use of force to impose the regulators' values on people who don't agree with those values.
  • The result of this imposition has been to make houses in the most regulated cities mostly unaffordable, and those in the least regulated cities most affordable.
Tom disagrees with all of this. Read why at his Well Urban blog. I'll respond more substantially at some stage (and feel free to jump in yourself), but in the meantime here's part of what he says with which I do agree:
Of course, choice is always going to play a vital role in where people live, but as I've said, the factors behind any individual's choice are varied and complex. That's part of the reason that WellUrban is what it is: by celebrating the richness of urban life, I hope to go some small way towards countering any anti-urban prejudices that linger on from the days when cities were rife with crime, cholera and pollution. By pointing out good examples of high-density housing, I try to counter the perception that the only alternative to suburbia is ugly concrete boxes. I don't (usually) rant on about the evils of suburbia, or tell people that they should live more closely just because it's good for their health or the environment: I want to show that compact cities are great places to live.
Yes, they can be, as many of his examples demonstrate beautifully. (But the "ugly concrete boxes of suburbia" are themselves the creation of planners, aren't they?)

In celebrating the richness of urban life and countering anti-urban prejudice I applaud Mr Beard. At that, he does a fine job, which is one reason I read him (another is his fabulous Martini posts). But my point here is that not everyone wants to live that way, and forcing people who would rather live otherwise into the planners' favourite cookie-cutter solutions removes any possibility of their planning their own future the way that they would like to; it removes their ability to make their own decisions based upon long-term considerations; and it's causing something no-one could really celebrate. And that's really the whole point, isn't it?

When it comes to housing, let's all be Pro-Choice.

UPDATE: In celebrating the richness of urban life as it could be and should be, let's not forget to also celebrate 'sprawl' as it could be and should be. The planners' favourite cookie-cutter solutions are not what low density has to look like -- as always, Frank Lloyd Wright had a much better notion. See Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City.

LINKS: A sprawling argument - Tom Beard, Well Urban
Envy is making housing unaffordable - (Peter Cresswell) Not PC
Sustainable cities are unaffordable cities - (Peter Cresswell) Not PC

Urban Design, Politics-NZ, Housing

The nuclear option

While the west wrings its hands about how to produce power without offending today's religionists, China's nuclear power industry is taking off. Notes China Daily, China's nuclear energy plants to power up.
China has become the third-biggest nuclear energy producer in Asia, after Japan and South Korea, according a 2006 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Nuclear power has become the third important method of electricity generation in China, following coal power and hydropower...

China Huaneng Group, the nation's largest power company, also launched the construction of its first nuclear power plant using high temperature gas-cooled reactors.
Notes Nuclear Engineering International, this will be just the third new-generation high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear power plant to come on stream around the world.

I love reading stuff like this, and knowing I've got shares in the company.

LINKS: China's nuclear energy plants to power up - China Daily
Very high temperature reactor - Wikipedia
China launches nuclear construction - Nuclear Engineering International
Religionists for nuclear - Not PC (April, 2005)

RELATED: Energy, Politics-World, Environment

Confiscation at Waitangi

I loved this comment from Blair:

The Definition of Irony: When the New Zealand Government wants to confiscate the land where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.

Yes, we've learned a lot in 167 years, haven't we?

Malthus meets the Greens

Greens' co-leader Russel Norman (left) has been reading Thomas Malthus (right). Who exactly is Thomas Mathus, I hear you ask?
Economist Thomas Robert Malthus, in his Principles of Population, forecast that with unchecked population growth, the demand for food would inevitably become greater than the food supply. “Population increases in a geometric ratio, while the means of subsistence increases in an arithmetic ratio” were his words. War, pestilence, vice and crime were the inevitable checks on population growth. It was a grim prediction of catastrophe for mankind.
Thomas Malthus was writing in 1798. But here's Russel writing yesterday afternoon on the Greens' blog, channeling Malthus and pointing out what he says are
obvious problems with exponential growth in a finite world and the problems that we humans seem to have understanding what it means.
Russel's problem is the same 'problem' identified by Malthus, ie., "“Population increases in a geometric ratio, while the means of subsistence increases in an arithmetic ratio,” or in Russel's words:
[If] we reached LabNats' nirvana of 4% GDP growth then the economy would be 16 times larger at the end of just one human lifetime, which just could have very significant resource implications!
Wow. What a deep thinker is Russel. Thomas Malthus can perhaps be forgiven for being so egregiously wrong -- he was after all writing before the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution that followed, which together proved conclusively that production is not a zero-sum game, and that, as everyone from Julian Simon to Bjorn Lomborg to George Reisman has pointed out, the ultimate resource is not what we dig out of the ground -- the ultimate resource is the human mind. But Russel has no such excuse. He's watched the progress from Stone Age to Silicon Age, with all the production along the way, and he's still at a loss to explain how we're all still here.

As they say, the reason for the end of the Stone Age was not because we ran out of stones, it was because someone produced better things to use than stones. It was the human mind applied to production that produced those better things; it isthe human mind applied to production that is the reason we're all still here.

The human mind applied to production has refuted Thomas Malthus, Stephen Schneider, Paul Erlich, The Club of Rome, Jared Diamond, the Four Horsemen of all the various enviro-Apocalypses all predicting disaster ... and unless Russel Norman and Al Bore and Nicholas Stern and their colleagues succeed in shackling producers as they're trying to, the human mind applied to production will have no trouble refuting Russel Norman.

Let me explain why.

The human mind when it's left free to produce is an astonishing thing. Understanding why Uncle Tom Cobley and all keep predicting catastrophe for mankind, and why they keep getting it so wrong, is because they lack the understanding of the capacity of the human mind to produce when left free and unfettered, and because they lack the understanding of how the dynamic system of capitalism works to make scarcity a thing of the past. As I've said before:
What they got wrong of course was not just their arithmetic, but their whole understanding of the role of price signals and entrepreneurialism -- indeed of the capitalist economy as a dynamic rather than a static engine of production. The capitalist engine of creation is a supple beast when left free and unshackled, allowing human minds to read price signals and opportunities, and to adapt their own resources to suit. The results are astonishing.

They are. True. Our world and everything that it provides is limited -- though as George Reisman points out, hardly as limited as you might think -- but the 'tragedy of the commons' argument strongly advocates private property in order to internalize the costs of using resources, and strongly advocates the system of capitalism to produce ever-new resources.

How do we "produce new resources"? Because, as Reisman explains, it is the human mind applied to resources that transforms what nature provides into "goods" for human use.
The goods-character of natural resources... is created by man, when he discovers the properties they possess that render them capable of satisfying human needs and when he gains command over them sufficient to direct them to the satisfaction of human needs...

Nature’s contribution to natural resources is much less than what is usually assumed. What nature has provided... is the material stuff and the physical properties of the deposits in these mines and wells, but it has not provided the goods-character of any of them. Indeed, there was a time when none of them were goods.
Indeed, there was a time when these things were just trees, rocks and mud puddles. Reisman explains how these things provided by nature acquire what he calls "goods-character":

If a thing is to become a good, or in other words, if it is to acquire goods-character, all four of the following prerequisites must be simultaneously present:

    1. A human need.
    2. Such properties as render the thing capable of being brought into a causal connection with the satisfaction of this need.
    3. Human knowledge of this causal connection.
    4. Command of the thing sufficient to direct it to the satisfaction of the need (p. 52).

The last two of these prerequisites, it must be stressed, are man made. Human knowledge of the causal connection between external material things and the satisfaction of human needs must be discovered by man. And command over external material things sufficient to direct them to the satisfaction of human needs must be established by man. For the most part, it is established by means of a process of capital accumulation and a rising productivity of labor.

All this has immediate bearing on the subject of natural resources. It implies that the resources provided by nature, such as iron, aluminum, coal, petroleum and so on, are by no means automatically goods. Their goods-character must be created by man, by discovering knowledge of their respective properties that enable them to satisfy human needs and then by establishing command over them sufficient to direct them to the satisfaction of human needs.

For example, iron, which has been present in the earth since the formation of the planet and throughout the entire presence of man on earth, did not become a good until well after the Stone Age had ended. Petroleum, which has been present in the ground for millions of years, did not become a good until the middle of the nineteenth century, when uses for it were discovered. Aluminum, radium, and uranium also became goods only within the last century or century and a half.

Summarises Benjamin Marks in 'The Malthusian Trap,' it's possible to take seriously Malthus's warning, but as Reisman and Ludwig von Mises point out, "it comes true only under socialism" -- only under a system in which private property has not been introduced and the tragedy of the commons is still in effect, and under a system of (non)production where the human mind is not able to read price signals and opportunities, and to adapt their own resources to suit.
Only can a society based on private ownership of the means of production harmonize the number of births with the limitations of the means of subsistence. The Malthusian problem is one that economics solves. No wonder the Malthusians want to get rid of economics. Their rule only applies in noneconomic "societies." And, even then, only in its abridged Misesian form. The environmental movement of today is aiming toward living in a non-economic "society" by showing why it would be unpleasant to live in. It is staggering how a movement like this could amass such a following.
LINKS: Exponential growth - Russel Norman, Frog Blog
Selling disaster: The four horsemen of the modern apocalypse - Not PC (Nov, 2006)
Environmentalism refuted - George Reisman, Mises Institute
The Malthusian trap - Benjamin Marks, Mises Institute
The doomslayer - Wired
Why are we so afraid of the future? - Reader's Digest

RELATED: Politics-Greens, Environment, Conservation, Economics, Politics, Tragedy of the Commons