Tuesday, 20 February 2007


McMillan stars as New Zealand chase 347

McMillan! Who in hell knew he could do that!? Add that to a ten wicket victory on Friday. A huge run chase on Saturday. An enormous run chase tonight. Three out of three! A series win!
Against Australia!

They might not have Lee, Ponting or Gilchrist ... or Symonds, but this is still Australia, and no Australian team likes to lose. No Australian team lies down. They have to be made to lie down.

They have been. A clean sweep.
Wow! Just, wow.

Foreshore repeal Bill should go to select committee

Good sense on the Foreshore and Seabed Act in yesterday's Herald from former law professor Jock Brookfield, much of which it's impossible to disagree with. He lays out bluntly the rational basis for sending to select committee the Maori Party's present Bill for repeal of the Act:
In the Marlborough Sounds case in June 2003, the Court of Appeal held that Maori customary communal title in areas of sea land (of foreshore and seabed) could exist at common law. Recently the Herald referred to that decision as "astounding" and many readers will infer that the decision was a judicial aberration. The inference would be wrong.

As Michael Cullen has acknowledged in his 2005 Michael King Memorial Lecture (and elsewhere), that decision was correct... Maori claims to sea land are not based on the Treaty of Waitangi but on the common law that colonisation brought... [C]ustomary title is a species of legal property and should not be taken by Parliament without full compensation determined by an independent authority.
In my estimation, property should not be taken at all -- full stop -- and on that I part company with the good professor; but on his point that the claims were made on a common law basis he is entirely correct.

The purpose of the Foreshore and Seabed Act was to remove the opportunity to prove ownership of unowned tracts under a common law process. This is a right should not have been taken away. The Act essentially nationalised whatever property rights existed in foreshore and seabed, extinguishing forever the possibility of title to any part of them being recognised.

Turia's Bill would do us all a favour, and return that same common law right -- to prove ownership on a common law basis -- to all of us.

Brookfield expresses surprise that "it is conservative members of the National Party caucus who are reportedly against allowing Turia's Bill to go to a select committee," suggesting that "property rights usually have the strong support of conservatives."
There is material here, surely, that could properly be considered by a select committee. Radicals, liberals, and the conservative defenders of property rights alike should agree on that.
He must be thinking of some other conservatives. He seems to forget it was this lot who introduced the Resource Management Act.

UPDATE: Questioned on this editorial in Parliament today, Cullen argued that despite the Foreshore and Seabed Act, anyone has right to go to High Court, and the Court says so the Crown must enter into "negotiations." Even if correct, it shouldn't need me to point out you the difference between this arrangement, and secure property rights.

LINKS: Time for a rethink on customary title - Emeritus Professor Jock Brookfield, NZ Herald
A debate on taking property for the public good - Not PC

RELATED: Property Rights, Politics-NZ, Common Law, Politics-Maori Party

Over 50. Hot or not?

The French, it's said, are more likely to celebrate "real women" than they are vapid teenage bimbettes.
The French have long been far less likely than their UK counterparts to run in disgust from a woman old enough to be, well, their first wife... Over there, actresses in their 50s and 60s (Charlotte Rampling (right), Jane Birkin, Catherine Deneuve (left)) still attract love-interest roles as a matter of course; over here they'd be lucky to land the role of "put-upon mum" in a gravy advert.

Likewise, the French applauded when presidential candidate Segolene Royal, 53, was snapped in a bikini on a beach - none of the childish barfing of our press when poor Cherie B is pictured in a one-piece or when even Jerry Hall was teased for her cellulite. Then there was the Paris Match photo spread of Arielle Dombasle, 53, wife of philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, featuring the singer-actress on all fours wearing a silver thong, at one point studiously adjusting her nipples.

Anyone see anything wrong with that?

The guns of Brixton & elsewhere: A thought experiment

Three solutions to gun crime in the UK. Would you like to rank them from most ineffectual (but headline grabbing) up to most effective?

Blair announces new gun-crime measures after fourth murder
Monsters and Critics.com - 18 hours ago
London - Following the deaths by shooting of four young men in London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced harsher penalties for possessing firearms.

In an alternate universe, suggests Pacific Empire:

Following the deaths by shooting of four young men in London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced harsher penalties for shooting people.

And in another universe, in which the UK followed the advice of Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance:
We believe the best action would be to relegalise guns and let ordinary people fight back with lethal force against the violent criminals who presently rule the streets of our cities...
To help you in your decision, Dr Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance points out on behalf of beleaguered Britons: "We have the most restrictive laws in Europe on gun ownership. These have plainly not worked. In 1968, in 1988, and twice in 1997, we were promised a safer country if only we gave up our guns. We were cheated. In fact, the only people who have no guns are the respectable."

So which is it? Which solution would be the most effective? And which the least?

LINKS: Crime and punishment - Pacific Empire
Relegalise guns: Power to the People! - Dr Sean Gabb, Libertarian Alliance, UK

RELATED: Politics-UK, Self-Defence

Modern architecture in Wellington

Modern architecture comes to Wellington in the form of a travelling exhibition of modern classics from Frank Lloyd Wright and JJP Oud, and also work from the likes of Le Corbusier, Mies can der Rohe, Walter Gropius and other early twentieth-century architectural luminaries.
It is based on an exhibition in Stuttgart from 1927 which toured then through 17 European cities. German curator Prof. Karin Kirsch selected buildings and architects whose approach seem to be pointing to the future even more today than they did back then.
The exhibition hits Wellington on Wednesday 21 February with a 6 pm opening at the School of Architecture & Design in Vivian St.

Details of the Wellington dates here. More details of the travelling exhibition itself here and here.

RELATED: Wellington, Architecture

Monday, 19 February 2007

Stadium still to cost us $200m

Sense at last?
Govt confirms downgraded Eden Pk for Cup
The Government has confirmed the upgrade of Eden Park will involve a new South Stand and temporary seating.
The bloody thing is still costing us $190 million and counting. What's wrong with just the temporary seating for goodness's sake? That could be paid for out of the proceeds of the damn Cup!

UPDATE: To help put the costs in perspective, here's a comparison of stadium costs I posted previously, based on estimates announced in the press:
  1. Eden Park -- temporary stands only (about $45-100m)
  2. Jade Stadium -- additions to a seating capacity of 60,000 ($80m)
  3. North Harbour -- additions to a seating capacity of 60,000 ($226m)
  4. Carlaw Park -- new stadium and Domain renovations (say $750m, minus Eden Park's sale)
  5. Wiri - new stadium and rail lines (say $750m, minus Eden Park's sale)
  6. Telstra Stadium, Sydney -- (you could buy ownership for just A$200m -- Stadium New Zealand in Sydney!)
  7. Waka Stadium -- what cost?
  8. Eden Park -- gold-plated option ($385m plus)
  9. Bedpan -- new stadium, plus new facility for Ports ($1 billion plus)
It's also worth remembering that the Eden Park Trust Board helped bring this whole farce about when they saw their chance at piles of government money coming their way, and they went from what was a proposal for essentially temporary stands (agreed to by the IRB when the World Cup hosting rights were won) to the bout of grandomania over the last few months that will apparently deliver them a tax-paid South Stand.

RELATED: Stadium, Politics-NZ

Auckland: David Henderson on the politics of climate change

When Al Gore lectured in Lecture Theatre 439 of Auckland's Engineering School a few months ago (picture left -- Al is the one on the right)), the room was packed with journalists, politicians and "decision-makers" -- "a cross-section of infuential New Zealanders" -- all of them hand-picked -- all of them applauding their hero; a spill-over audience outside and in other lecture theatres around the campus cheered Al to a standstill both coming and going; and John Boy Key emerged confessing all his buttons had been pushed after having undergone a Damascene conversion at the feet of Al Gore's slides.

This was not the scene at today's lecture on the politics of climate change delivered by David Henderson (right), the former head of economics and statistics for the OECD.

Henderson is in many ways a bureaucrat's bureaucrat, and today's was a far more sober affair. There were no journalists and politicians in high-profile attendance; no flash bulbs went off; no glossy slides to show; no films to sell; no Presidential campaigns to leverage - and there was time at the end for questions. It was a different affair entirely.

The reason for the lower key event was not just the sobriety of the speaker. Henderson the former bureaucrat has taken a very unbureaucratic and extremely unpopular line: he refuses to buy what he sees as the manufactured political consensus around global warming. This does not go down well in the mainstream.

Henderson has co-authored a major critique of the Stern Report, which he summarised for the audience. [You can find a link to the critique here -- it's well worth your time to download and read]. What he is specifically critical of is the handling by governments of the complex scientific and political issues around the science of global warming -- far ahead of the science establishing any reliable evidence for anthropogenic (ie, man-made) global warming -- of the "links with global salvationism" that have fuelled the alarmist 'consensus'; and the "race to regulate" that governments are stampeding towards, not least our own government in NZ.

He maintains that the IPCC process is significantly flawed, and that the world's governments are wrong to take their advice solely from this body. The "IPCC milieu," he says, "is characterised by a clear bias towards alarmism."

On the specific issue of the Clark Government's stated pursuit of a "carbon neutral economy," Henderson had this advice for Clark and other similarly disposed political leaders:
Rather than pursuing costly and meddlesome CO2 interventions, they should take steps instead to be more fully and objectively advised, especially before making [or trying to make] an economy "carbon neutral."
He finished with a warning, over and above the problems he sees with the science, of the intrusiveness of political action proposed in the wake of the alarmist reports, for example the enthusiasm of UK Environment Secretary David Milliband for the issuing of "personal ration books" for our "allowed" carbon consumption. As Neo-Jacobin noted at the time this enthusiasm was expressed, it is an imposition at once egregious and absurd that in an era of plenty this man is openly advocating imposing harsh austerity.

Such intrusiveness is made all the more acceptable by the uncritical acceptance of some very uncertain science.

With regard to this whole debate, Henderson concluded with a point that motivates many so-called skeptics. "There is a lot at stake in terms of who runs our lives," he said.

Ever the bureaucrat, even that conclusion is severely understated.

LINKS: Answering the Stern Gang on global warming - Not PC (Jan, 2007)
Britain deserves better - Daily Telegraph
Carbon rationing? Thanks ... but no thanks - A Neo-Jacobinn

RELATED: Global Warming, Politics-World, Politics-NZ, Economics

REMINDER: Climate Change Presentation in Auckland today

A reminder for Auckland readers who can take an hour off this afternoon to listen to a climate commentator who is not a warmist:
Climate Change Presentation

Professor David Henderson is the former head of economics and statistics for the OECD. He is a member of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, has written a major critique of the Stern Report and will be giving presentations in both Auckland and Wellington.
You can find a brief review of this presentation here.

Supreme crap for Supreme Court

Look at this piece of expensive crap: the proposed design for NZ's new Supreme Court. The bill will be sent to you, to Mr and Mrs Taxpayer. The architects, Warren and Mahoney, are if you recall the same Warren and Mahoney that helped peddle the urban design disaster that was the Mallard Stadium.

That one was just a bigger Cake Tin plonked down between Auckland's downtown and its harbour. This one is little more than an oversized glass box with some pseudo-Maori candyfloss to pass it off as "bicultural."

What a piece of crap. As Judi Keith-Brown says in this morning's Dom, "There is no need for the Supreme Court to be very big or to cover what is now a park in that slab building. It is completely nuts. It is a court for five judges."

The building is as bad as the notion of the Supreme Court itself. Better to keep the park, I'd say -- or (if a new building is really needed, which I doubt) perhaps to hold an open competition to see if something of more substance can be produced.

UPDATE: More photos added, from Tom Beard's blog. More here at Skyscraper City.

LINK: Architects in uproar over Supreme Court Building - Stuff

RELATED: Architecture, Wellington, Politics-NZ

Spin, substance, standards and what bloggers might owe their readers

Span and Idiot/Savant are meditating on spin, substance, standards and what bloggers might owe their readers. I'm with I/S here when he argues,
none of us have to read the crap if we don't want to - and I generally don't. Likewise simply because blogging as an institution has no standards doesn't mean that we all have to wallow in the sewer. The freedom to adopt whatever standards we choose means we can also choose to have some rather than none.

Unlike Span, I am trying to use my blog to push a political barrow. As I've said before, democracy is "participate or perish", and if you want your views to be taken into account, you have to speak up for them. That's what I'm doing here. I am also, in a small way, trying to change minds and influence opinion. The difference between this and some other blogs is that I choose to maintain some basic intellectual standards in doing so.

I like to think I'm doing the same here, albeit with a rather different barrow. Feel free to comment below on either my barrow or my standards.

Smarm doesn't sell, it seems

Political pundits (and John Armstrong) argue that Don Brash frightened the horses far too much, and that in order to attract more support "from the centre," John Boy Key needs to outflank Helen on the left in order to attract more support from those outflanked -- to which I've pointed out that at 49% under Don Brash in the last TVNZ poll before he was ousted, National already had plenty of support, and for policies that weren't just warm and squishy and insubstantial. (Samples from John Boy: "I believe in the welfare state and I will never turn my back on it" ... )

How's John Boy's team doing in the latest TVNZ poll then? After a serious media honeymoon, a summer full of smarm ("An empty stomach, and an empty lunchbox, sets kids up [pause and voice waver] for an empty life"), lots more people who say they "like" John Boy, and a Government who stole an election and now have a a programme for the year that doesn't go much beyond buying Skodas to replace government limos ... the National Socialists are now at 46%.

46% under John Boy, compared to 49% under Don. That would be a downward trend, then.

So how about them pundits, eh?

[PS: Thanks to Teenage Pundit for the Key quote].

LINKS: Labour gains support but trailing Nats - Stuff

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Where's Al when the blizzard hits?

From Phil Brennan at NewsMax: Al Gore Ducks Northeast Blizzard:
As a blizzard of snow and ice pummels the Northeast after trouncing the Midwest, and waves of Arctic cold fronts drop much of America below sub freezing weather, the $64,000 question is, Where is Al Gore?
And in a report at Drudge:
SAVE IT FOR A SUNNY DAY: Maryville Univ. in St. Louis area cancelling screening of Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’ because of a snowstorm.
Amused? I am. If you're not, then maybe this is more your thing:

Today's Bible reading: Divorce & Castration

Important advice this morning from the Bible on divorce and castration.
Matthew 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
19:10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
19:11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
19:12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
What the fuck is he talking about? Quite simply, according to many people's favourite ethicist:
  1. It is not good to marry.
  2. If you do marry, it is not good to divorce (except if it be for fornication).
  3. It is better, all things considered, to make yourself a eunuch "for the kingdom of heaven's sake."
Sheesh. Do let me know how you get on with that.

UPDATE: Lucyna at Sir Hump's responds here (and in the comments below), but misinterprets my rhetorical question above. Ah well.

LINKS: Matthew 19 - Skeptics Annotated Bible
On marriage and castration - The Brick Testament

RELATED: Religion, Nonsense

Waitoa St, Parnell - Organon Architecture

Imagine my surprise to find an ad for this "Handsome California Bungalow" in my letterbox yesterday.
Why surprise? Because I renovated the house nearly ten years ago, before which it was a somewhat tired and doudy hip-roofed house with a splendid garden to which the house was a stranger, and with an unfortunate pop-up extension upstairs with a 'Pizza Hut' roof that did nothing at all for either neighbourhood or house -- as you might perhaps see from some of the "before" pictures below.
The renovation is, I think, a small testament to what can be achieved by opening up a house to light and air and sun, and with a few carefully thought out windows, gables and roof-lines.

Many more "after" pictures can be found at the estate agent's website (scroll down to the foot of the page) -- and if you want to buy it, you'll find details there too. Oh, and by the way, this was the sketch that persuaded owner and neighbours to agree to the changes...

RELATED: Architecture

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Queen Mary 2's dramatic dawn entrance into Auckland

The Herald has pictures of the Queen Mary 2's dramatic dawn entrance into Auckland harbour this morning.

Another weekend ramble: Slavery, warming, cooling, quantum and lust!

A ramble this morning through a few things that caught my eye this week, and saved up for you for the weekend.

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, 16 February 2007

Beer O’Clock – Coopers Pale Ale

Sense on real beer in this week's Beer O'Clock post from Neil at Real Beer.

When I was last in Sydney I totally fell for Coopers Pale Ale. I’m not good with hot weather and so the frequent stops in cool, shady pubs were purely medicinal. Many of the pubs served only the cold, over-fizzed mainstream 'beers' like Toohey’s or Castlemaine (and interestingly, none sold Foster’s in the distinctive blue can…)

However, an encouraging number of places stocked Coopers Pale Ale on tap. This was a most wondrous and revitalising tonic.

I was delighted when it made an appearance on our shelves a couple of years ago but, like the winners of New Zealand Idol -- in which cases their disappearance was a blessing -- the sightings of Coopers quickly faded out of sight. Far from a blessing, and much unlike those “winners,” this beer was sorely missed.

Happily it has now returned, and in even greater numbers, and seemingly with much greater security of supply -- even if at this stage it is only available in bottled form. Thank your god for small blessings.

Coopers is the only privately owned and family controlled large brewery in Australia (despite a rather determined effort from Lion last year). It was founded by Thomas Cooper, a Methodist Preacher from Yorkshire, who made his first beer from an old family recipe to cure his wife’s illness in the 1850s. The beer become so popular locally that he established the brewer in the new colony of South Australia in 1862.

The irony is that Thomas Cooper the preacher frowned on dancing, card games and pubs even as he made thousands of litres of beer.

Coopers specialise in natural ales and stouts fermented with no preservatives or additives. Many are bottle conditioned with the yeast still in the bottle and the Pale Ale does have a light cloudiness as a result.

There is a story that you do not get a hangover from bottle conditioned beer because of the Vitamin B in the yeast. Sadly, this is not true. Not true at all. Goodness knows how such a story got about.

This Pale Ale pours an attractive slightly cloudy gold in the glass. It has a firm nose of orange and green apple which the body is robust and fresh with plenty of citrus and just a touch of vanilla. It has a delightfully crisp and bitter finish.

It’s a lovely drop, and now you don’t have to cross the Tasman to enjoy it.

Cheers, Neil

LINKS: Coopers Brewery
Society for Beer Advocates
The Real Beer Blog

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

New blog: Quatsch

New blog here for you to bookmark, by someone called 'Aunty Q':
Quatsch* A sometimes pernickity and curmudgeonly assessment of modern New Zealand under the (shop) stewardship of Gewerkschaftler Clark and the Arbeiterbewegung.
Let me know what you think.

I'm going to school tomorrow.

It's true. I'm going to school tomorrow: Montessori School.

It's now one-hundred years since Dr Maria Montessori (left) established her first school, a Casa dei Bambini, in the slums of Rome, and from there it spread right around the world. The Montessori Centenary website celebrates the achievement.

Right around the world this year the centenary of that happy event is being celebrated. New Zealand Montessori schools around the country celebrate tomorrow by opening their doors -- why not join them?

You can find what your local Montessori school is doing, along with more information about Montessori education, at the Montessori Association (NZ) press release on the centenary events.

As for me, I'll be in Torbay joining in at the Titoki Montessori School celebration. Why not join me?

LINKS: National open day as Montessori celebrates - Montessori Association of New Zealand, Scoop
100 years of Montessori - Montessori Association of New Zealand
Centenary of the Montessori movement - Association Montessori Internationale

Education, History-Twentieth Century

Quantum computing kicks into life

Brian S. emailed me to with the news that "the world's first commercial quantum computer has been demonstrated." Quantum computers use the quantum nature of matter to exponentially expand the computing power presently possible in a machine, even with today's super-computers. News here, at the Daily Tech site.
The demonstration of the technology was held at the Computer History Museum [in Mountain View, California], but the actual hardware remained in Burnaby, British Columbia where it was being chilled down to 5 millikelvin, or minus 273.145 degrees Celsius (colder than interstellar space), with liquid helium.
If true, this is massive news. This "breakthrough in quantum technology represents a substantial step forward in solving commercial and scientific problems which, until now, were considered intractable," says the CEO of the company whose computer this is.

LINKS: World's first quantum computer demonstrated - Daily Tech


US global warming hearing cancelled after "ice storm"

A note from the US House of Representatives for those who enjoy irony:
Tue Feb 13 2007 19:31:25 ET
The Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality hearing scheduled for Wednesday, February 14, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in room 2123 Rayburn House Office Building has been postponed due to inclement weather. The hearing is entitled ³Climate Change: Are Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Human Activities Contributing to a Warming of the Planet?²
The hearing will be rescheduled to a date and time to be announced later.
Wednesday: Freezing rain in the morning. Total ice accumulation between one half to three quarters of an inch. Brisk with highs in the mid 30s. North winds 10 to 15 mph...increasing to northwest 20 to 25 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent.
I figured some of you might enjoy that. I certainly did.

RELATED: Global Warming

Greens pay up

From our PayItBack Watch:
The Green Party yesterday presented a cheque for $87,082 to cover the amount identified in the Auditor General's report as being outside his interpretation of the rules... "The Green MPs and Co-Leader Russel Norman each paid their share of the amount from their own pocket while the party itself also contributed a large amount."We are incredibly grateful to our members and supporters who rallied around and helped to raise about half of the total amount.
Who's next? Anyone?

UPDATE: Still $1,054,325 of your money to be paid back (and, you might argue, a stolen election to return), and only 136 days until the "end of the financial year"when Helen has promised to pay back her lump -- whenever exactly "end of the financial year" is for the Clark Government.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Darnton V Clark

"The invisible hand of the market doesn't deliver a sustainable nation." True or false?

"The invisible hand of the market doesn't deliver a sustainable nation." So said Prime Minister Helen Clark on Tuesday in her Statement to Parliament setting out her priorities for the year ahead.

IS THAT TRUE? If we assume here that "sustainable" means something like, "good for the environment," is it really true to say that the invisible hand of the market doesn't deliver a good environment?

Well, no it's not. In fact, quite the reverse. As Czech president Vaclav Klaus pointed out earlier this week:
We know that there exists a huge correlation between the care we give to the environment on one side, and wealth and technological prowess on the other side. It's clear that the poorer the society is, the more brutally it behaves with respect to Nature, and vice versa. It's also true that there exist social systems that damage Nature - by eliminating private ownership and similar things - much more than the freer societies.
It's indisputably true that the wealthier the country and the better its respect for property rights, the better its environment. Think about the environmental basket-cases that were Soviet Eastern Europe -- those places where the market's invisible and benevolent hand had been absent for nearly a century when the Berlin Wall fell in 1990, and compare that to how Western Europe looked.

Message to Helen then from Vaclav Klaus: It is the invisible hand of the market that delivers wealth: The wealthier a country, the cleaner its environment. Nevil Gibson continues the lesson in the NBR:
The government’s commitment to sustainable energy policies pales by comparison with what is already being achieved in the [US, the] nation Labour’s supporters most like to hate. And it was done before Helen Clark embraced the green cause...
The answer is the opposite to Helen Clark’s claim that the market cannot deliver. In the US it clearly has, through the adoption of cleaner technologies and a vast amount of investment.
Gibson points out that while Helen Clark blathers, the US is already doing better than both talk-is-cheap NZ and regulation-happy Europe in Kyoto emissions growth, in using more efficient and cleaner fuels, and in "the actual achievements" of the US and its partners in the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which is made of up countries that account for about half of the world’s population, economic output and energy use.
The partnership is based on market principles and has embarked on 100 projects that will deliver reduced greenhouse gases, cleaner air and less poverty in the industrialised areas of Asia.

In [bureaucrat Kurt] Volker’s words, ‘…the only way for these [developing] countries to minimise the increase in greenhouse gas emissions as their energy demand soars with economic growth is through the market application of cleaner technologies. We need to develop these technologies and bring them to the marketplaces of the developing world.’
Message to Helen, courtesy of Nevil Gibson: "[The invisible hand of the market offers] a far better and more realistic solution than believing a government’s ‘visible hand’ will best deliver a sustainable nation." Too right.

LET ME OFFER Helen two further examples from unlikely places. The first is from Sand County, Wisconsin (above), the home of the father of Deep Ecology, Aldo Leopold, and the base from which he wrote the founding text of Deep Ecology, his Sand County Almanac. The area around Leopold's estate are now run not by a government department, but by a private foundation. This is intentional. Leopold’s belief was that conservation had to be a voluntary proposition, that no other arrangement can work (and DoC's many conservation failures are testament to that too, aren't they).

As this article and interview notes, the Sand County Foundation "has become a world leader in free-market environmentalism, setting an example of sound science and voluntary private action well worth emulating." According to the Foundation, in this they are simply following Leopold's principles, when he said:
Conservation is a state of harmony between man and land. When both become poorer by reason of their coexistence, we don’t have conservation. When both are richer, we have conservation.
So contra Clark, Leopold himself seemed to believe that the visible hand of the state is not the way for serious conservationists to proceed, and that perhaps the invisible hand of the market provides better environmental outcomes. As the Leopold Foundation's president Brent Haglund affirms, in a further lesson for Helen:
Good habitat management doesn’t cost, it pays. Good habitat management that takes advantage of science can be a cost-effective means for improving wildlife and wildflower populations and communities.
THAT SAME LESSON has just been learned in Niger, Africa. As The Commons Blog points out, even the traditionally pro-bigger-government journalists at The New York Times have noticed "how property rights to trees growing on farmers' land have contributed to both economic growth, agricultural productivity and conservation in Niger at virtually no cost."
In this dust-choked region, long seen as an increasingly barren wasteland decaying into desert, millions of trees are flourishing, thanks in part to poor farmers whose simple methods cost little or nothing at all...
[D]etailed satellite images and on-the-ground inventories of trees, have found that Niger, a place of persistent hunger and deprivation, has recently added millions of new trees and is now far greener than it was 30 years ago.
These gains, moreover, have come at a time when the population of Niger has exploded, confounding the conventional wisdom that population growth leads to the loss of trees and accelerates land degradation, scientists studying Niger say...
What contributed to the success? Apparently greater rainfall and property rights! As the article elaborates:
Another change was the way trees were regarded by law. From colonial times, all trees in Niger had been regarded as the property of the state, which gave farmers little incentive to protect them. Trees were chopped for firewood or construction without regard to the environmental costs. Government foresters were supposed to make sure the trees were properly managed, but there were not enough of them to police a country nearly twice the size of Texas. But over time, farmers began to regard the trees in their fields as their property, and in recent years the government has recognized the benefits of that outlook by allowing individuals to own trees. Farmers make money from the trees by selling branches, pods, fruit and bark. Because those sales are more lucrative over time than simply chopping down the tree for firewood, the farmers preserve them.
As Sean Corrigan summarises at the Mises Blog, "no expensive and ill-used Western aid, no high tech inputs, no government planning, no Malthusian doom" -- indeed, beyond the protection of property rights, the visible hand of the State is entirely absent. And the result: "just a simple tale of human ingenuity, incentivised by the small matter of better property rights, overcoming an ecological disaster."

SO THE LESSON for Helen Clark from around the world is the same:
  • More market equals better environmental outcomes.
  • More secure property rights equals better environmental outcomes.
  • "The invisible hand of the market doesn't deliver a sustainable nation"? Don't believe a bloody word of it. The truth is entirely the reverse.
It shouldn't really be a surprise. After all, the science of economics is often defined as "the analysis of how finite resources are used to meet infinite wants"; you would think then that if sustainability really means anything, it must surely be the case that the science of economics has something to say about it.

Do you think there's a lesson here that Helen really wants to learn? Or that you might want to? Or even one that John Boy Key might care about? What do you think, customers?

LINKS: Vaclav Klaus: A great politician - Not PC
Who is the greenest of them all? - Nevil Gibson, NBR
Good habitat management doesn't cost, it pays: an exclusive interview with Brent Haglund, president of the Sand County Foundation - Heartland Institute
How property rights have greened the Sahel in Niger - Commons Blog
Human action in Niger - Mises Economics Blog
In Niger, Trees and Crops Turn Back the Desert - New York Times
John Key's tactics - Rodney Hide

RELATED ARTICLES: Conservation, Environment, Property Rights, Economics, Sustainability, Politics-World

Is Nanny State uncool?

Has Nanny State become uncool? Lindsay Perigo spotted former MP Mark Peck on Mark Sainsbury's show the other night bemoaning the fact that "he doesn’t expect the push from his Smokefree Coalition for a tobacco tax hike to be successful," poor dear. The chief reason for his pessimism, he says,
is the “Nanny State” argument, which he said is “huge” and was the cause of Finance Minister Michael Cullen calling the proposal “political suicide.”
Get that? The “Nanny State” argument, and this is according to a whiny, lemon-sucking life-hating, professional puritan of the genre, is “huge.” Huge!

Does this mean we're winning? Has the soft fascism of Nanny State really become "uncool"? has it? How about we celebrate anyway with some Nanny ridicule, courtesy of the readers of B3TA.Com [hat tip Jameson]?

LINK: Nanny State is uncool - Lindsay Perigo, SOLO

RELATED: Libertarianism, Politics-NZ, Libz

'Rainy Season in the Tropics' - Frederick Church, 1866


Thursday, 15 February 2007

My God is bigger than your God

Wanna see five-thousand years of religious history in ninety seconds? Wanna see where and when the big 'my-God's-bigger-than-your-God' battles took place? Then the 'History of Religion' at Maps of War.Com is just the place.

Five-thousand years of history in just ninety seconds. Even readers with the very shortest span of attention can manage that.

RELATED: History, Religion

What's sauce for the goose...

Hope from the Kiwi Herald:
Large numbers of MPs were today sent home with a note to their electorate committees saying that they could not return to the House until public money owed for the last election campaign is paid. The move from Speaker Margaret Wilson comes just a few days after Fielding Principal Roger Menzies barred students who owed it money from the school.
You can always hope for consistency.

LINKS: MPs sent home until they pay up - Kiwi Herald

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Darnton V Clark

Children's wellbeing: New UN report

Not everything that's important can be measured; and not everything that's measurable is important. And of course, not everything the UN does is worth a damn. (Or indeed, is anything the UN does worth a damn? Discuss that one in the comments section if you like.)

Those opening remarks are made in the context of a UN report on 'children's well-being' released overnight and splashed all over this morning's news. It begins with this highly questionable assertion: "The true measure of a nation's standing is how well it attends to its children." You can discuss that one in the comments section too, if you like.

Already the usual suspects have emerged to make hay from the survey. Director of the Public Health Association Gay Keating, for instance (the text is from a literal transcription of her radio interview this morning):
We really devalue our chooldren... We've forgotten that chooldren are important.. We really aren't looking after our kuds... Too many of our chooldren don't get to adulthood. We kool them off!
What's the "we," white man? I didn't kill those kids. Did you?

But what about the report? There are certainly elements here that are important:
  • "Only 82 per cent of Kiwi infants are now immunised against polio by the age of 2, compared with the OECD average of 94 per cent."
  • NZ is at "absolute bottom on the proportion of young people who were still in fulltime or part-time education aged 15 to 19 in 2003 - only 67 per cent against 82.1 per cent in Australia and an OECD average of 82.5. Far more young people continued in education in this age group in central and northern Europe - 89 per cent in Germany, 90 in the Czech Republic and 94 per cent in top-ranking Belgium."
  • "New Zealand's teenage birth rate has now passed Britain's, moving us up from third to second-highest among developed countries."
But not everything that's important can be measured, so in all such surveys, proxies are used as substitutes for the real thing. Take for example what the report titles "Relationships." NZ children are badly off in this respect, says the report. Why?
Asked "how often do your parents eat the main meal with you around a table?", only 64.4 per cent of Kiwi 15-year-olds answered "several times a week", compared with an OECD average of 79.4 per cent. Only Finnish youngsters eat with their parents less often.
Not everything that's measurable is important. This is not important.

And how about this?
New Zealand scores even worse - worst in the developed world - on the number of children under 19 killed in accidents and injuries, including violence, murder and suicide.
Now that doesn't sound good, does it. Are you sure? Without the report in front of me it's not possible to see how the accidents/injuries/violence/murder/suicide ratio is made up, but I suspect many of these could be considered 'adventure' deaths -- part of the 'cost' associated with living in an outdoors-loving country. New Zealand children are more active than, say, the English; probably spend more time having adventures outdoors than, say, the Dutch or the Beligians; and despite the best efforts of many government agencies, NZ children aren't yet completely wrapped up in a nannying, cotton-wool culture as they are in, say, England, or the States, where warnings and worry about every damn thing abound.

And what the survey wouldn't measure, for example, is the number of children turning themselves braindead by sitting inside fiddling with their Playstation -- which is bound to be higher in places like, say, the States. Or places where you can't go outside all winter, like Canada, or Scandinavia.

And how accurate is the report anyway? Says welfare researcher Lindsay Mitchell, not very.
First, some of the figures are hopelessly out of date, and second, some are quite dubious.
So if Mitchell can be believed -- and I believe her -- it's not very accurate at all. As an example, Mitchell takes issue with this assertion:
On average, 95 per cent of the children in developed countries live in homes where at least one parent is in paid work. New Zealand fell slightly below the average when these figures were gathered in 2000, with only 93 per cent of children living with a parent in paid work. Only six countries, including Australia and Britain, scored lower.
Get that? "Only 93 per cent of [New Zealand] children living with a parent in paid work." But these figures were produced using estimates, notes Mitchell, and using census figures -- and UN reports calling for more government meddling are just the sort of thing census advocates advocate such figures should be used for -- she suggests that the figure could just as easily be 79 percent. Or even 71 percent.

And does this report really call for more government meddling then? You don't think the conclusion is a coincidence?
The Netherlands topped the report issued by UNICEF, followed by other European countries with strong social welfare systems - Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
So despite some interesting reading, perhaps this report should be filed with the failed report on the cost of building materials released yesterday by Councillor Richard Northey -- which neglected to take into account the different exchange rates for different currencies [Duh!] -- and with most stuff produced by the NZ Qualifications Authority -- whose latest confession is that they might have neglected to mark some of last years exams.

Just file them all under "Not Achieved," I say.

UPDATE: Everyone loves bad news. Looks like the glass is half-full in British and American newspapers as well. See:
Is Britain the worst place to grow up? - The Scotsman
British kids bottom of UN welfare league table - Daily Record (Scotland)
British children unhappiest in the Western world - The Times
UNICEF: US, British children worst off - Miami Herald (AP)

LINKS: A great place for kids. Oh really? -- NZ Herald
Dubious UNICEF statistics - Lindsay Mitchell
Annan UN disgrace - Not PC (Dec, 2006)
What's with the 'we'? - Not PC
Excusing the bash - Not PC (July, 2006)
Bad maths put house contrast way out - NZ Herald
Non-marking of NCEA papers seen as one-off incident by NZQA - Radio NZ

RELATED: New Zealand, Politics-NZ, Health, Education, Building, Housing

Two Renovations - Organon Architecture

Two renovation projects currently on the boards at Organon Architecture -- one in Mt Eden, and one further south.

RELATED POSTS: Architecture