Wednesday, 28 February 2007

More power to "illegal" bookmakers

According to NZ Press Association , a woman who has just been caught and convicted of "illegal bookmaking" "has evoked a seedy part of the New Zealand pub scene of years gone by."

What nonsense. The writer might just as well have said the story evoked the freer, more sunlit experience overseas in which punters are free to choose from the more competitive odds offered by bookies both on-course and off, free to stroll from one to the other and enjoy the many characters, all of them competing for the punter's business. They could have said that, because that would be much closer to the truth.

Such a delightful experience is not allowed, however, in this pathetic authoritarian backwater in which we live, where all betting that isn't nationalised is prohibited, and where anyone who is not the TAB who offers punters a flutter can attract "a fine not exceeding $20,000, or up to a year's imprisonment."

Internal affairs jobsworth Mr Mike Hill -- who revels in the title of "director of gambling compliance" -- said: "Bookmaking effectively diverts money from the community and from the racing industry." That would be the reason the racing industry worldwide is doing do poorly then. Perhaps they should all follow our example then and nationalise their betting, just as Nanny has done here?

Meanwhile Sue Bradford, who can barely let a whole day go past without calling for a ban, now wants a new online betting site banned because it has gone to the trouble of registering offshore to get around the pathetic nannying rules that are this country's gambling laws. The freshly launched Race-O New Zealand site is registered in Costa Rica and its betting licence has been secured from the autonomous Indian territory of Kahnawake in Canada, sending a very solid "Fuck you" to Ms Bradford, to Nanny's "director of gambling compliance" Mr Hill, and to the law that Nanny's director of compliance so assiduously polices.

You can place a bet with Race-O here. Think of Sue Bradford when you do.

RELATED: Privatisation, NZ Politics

Loss of service

Unfortunately blogging seems to be temporarily impossible due to a problem with Blogger. This message has been sent as an email post.

UPDATE: Oddly, it seems as if the problem might only be present on one computer, and only when posting or commenting at Not PC. Very odd.

De Post

I had a great time last evening meeting up in a MT Eden Belgian bar with some effervescent Auckland SOLOists and readers of this blog, some of whom I haven't seen for far too long, and many of whom I haven't met before except on line.

Good beer, good food and excellent company and conversation --you can't beat it --and most enjoyable meeting up with friends both old and new. Salut!

Stem cell research blocked

When "not enough is known" about an important -- possibly life-changing -- subject, you might be forgiven for thinking that would be an invitation to know more, and an incentive for further research. Not so in recent NZ decision, in which an important medical trial has been cancelled because "not enough is known" about the subject being researched.

In a decision that is at once a blow to science, to medicine, and (potentially) to those suffering with spinal disfunction, a recent spinal injury study involving stem cells has been blocked, not by scientists, but by a "Ministry of Health ethics committee."
Cynthia Darlington, from the ethics committee, says not enough is known about stem cells for such a trial to be carried out safely. Ms Darlington says the Society might have given people false hope.
It is unclear from the brief report whether the decision is more about safety, or more about a concern that the research "might have given people false hope." According to the Spinal Cord Society, the study using stem cells from the nose was intended to replicate a procedure developed by Dr Carlos Lima in Portugal (about which more here, and here). The procedure has been performed on fifty patients, some of whom have reported regaining some sensation and function. But the ethics committee here says "not enough is known about stem cells" for permission to be given to carry out this local trial.

But surely the point of a trial is that not enough is known -- the very point is to learn more, isn't it? To know more? To push back uncertainty?

It's unclear from reports whether the audit of Dr Lima's cases has been carried out, or if the trial has been cancelled before this has been done, but the brief report gives no indication of any specific concerns with the safety of Dr Lima's procedures. Rather, it appears to be simply a decision from on high to stop what should have been potentially ground-breaking medical research, and given the reported opposition of a research competitor at the Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch, possibly an anti-competitive one.

Writing about the rise of ethics committees such as those making this decision, scientist Stuart Derbyshire calls it "regulation by another name," and its difficult to see it any other way. Rather than studying the actual ethics of a procedure or a study, ethics committees, he says, simply pay hand-wringing obeisance to uncertainty, and all too frequently stand in the way of researchers acquiring real certainty, and in achieving real medical breakthroughs.

Such committees, are often stacked with people unfamiliar with science or medicine, with the result that "too often priority [is given] to the sensitivities and feelings of non-specialists over the expertise of specialists"; they are, he says, "the product of an increasing suspicion regarding the nefarious aims of scientists" -- they represent "the capitulation of scientific authority," with not even the saving grace of efficacy in their stated aims:

Although the aim [of the committees and their procedures] is to prevent harm to subjects and patients, there is no evidence that the application forms, review procedures and consent materials actually do this...
Derbyshire concludes that as a consequence of the rise of regulation by ethics committe, research questions increasingly tend be restricted to conventional, safe and popular areas, with inquiry characterised by deference rather than the challenging of established wisdom, and with what amounts to censorship supplanting academic freedom.

A strong claim, but given the controversy over stem cell research -- with the dissent coming largely from the religious and, locally, from the tangata whenua quarter - one with which I have a lot of sympathy.

Stem cell researchers Thilo Spahl and Thomas Deichmann point out that stem cell research has huge promise for as yet unknown treatments. It "promises the possibility of treatments and cures for a host of different serious medical conditions" -- "it is research that is daily pushing back the boundaries of scientific knowledge." Or it would be, if such research was allowed, "even if the research involves the questioning of contemporary taboos." Such taboos must be challenged, they say, in order to free up scientific research, "which is the very condition upon which scientific discoveries and breakthroughs are made." They conclude:
Developing a morality that is grounded in the attempt to better the human condition is an important task for those of us who wish to live in a society in which we can take full benefit of the advantages which current science offers us.
Hear, hear! As philsopher Craig Biddle said in a similar context, "it's good to play God."

NB: The comments on ethics committees and stem cell research come from an excellent analysis called Science vs. Superstition: The case for a new scientific enlightenment. It can be found in PDF form at the Policy Exchange site.

LINKS: Stem cell trial blocked - Newswire
Stem cell trial blocked by ministry - Radio NZ
Stem cells from the nose - Spinal Cord Society of NZ
Clinical trials - Spinal Cord Society of NZ
Home page - Spinal Cord Society of NZ
Olfactory tissue transplantation for spinal research (Part 1) - Laurance Johnston, Alternative & Innovative Therapies for Physical Disability
Olfactory tissue transplantation for spinal research (Part 2) - Laurance Johnston, Alternative & Innovative Therapies for Physical Disability
Science vs. Superstition: The case for a new scientific enlightenment - Policy Exchange
Of mice and men - Craig Biddle, The Objective Standard

RELATED POSTS ON: Health, Science, Ethics, Politics-NZ

Reitz Residence - Arthur Dyson

The Reitz Residence by Arthur Dyson, in Owatonna, Mississippi. More pictures here at Arthur Dyson's website.

LINKS: Arthur Dyson, Architect

RELATED POSTS ON: Architecture

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

A major scientific discovery

A major scientific discovery:
A major research institution (MRI) has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element has been named "Governmentium," extracted from samples of the mineral Bureaucratite.

Governmentium has 1 neutron, 12 deputy neutrons, 75 assistant neutrons, and 224 deputy assistant neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no protons or electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, because it impedes every action with which it comes into contact. A reaction which would normally take less than a second to complete takes 4 days to complete after contact with just a minute amount of Governmentium -- reactions which would normally take weeks, will take months.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 3 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time since each organisation will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass."

When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.
Many thanks to the UK Independence Party for this. In case you're wondering, that's the same UK Independence Party that may be shut down by the UK's campaign contribution rules -- under similar rules as are proposed here in NZ (and for similar reasons).

That's what happens when any element meets its anti-matter equivalent: annihilation.

LINKS: Political cartoons from a Eurorealist perspective - UK Independence Party, West Bournemouth Branch
UKIP faces ruin over donations - Telegraph
Bureaucratite - Wikipedia

RELATED POSTS ON: British Politics, Free Speech, Humour

Who's Oscar?

Oscars. I don't know who got them. I don't care who got them. I never do. But the good thing about the division of labour is that I know people who do.

The good folk at Samizdata for example.

"...and the nominees in the category of Best Fashionable Issue in a Guilt-Supporting Role are....(pause)...World Poverty (applause)...AIDS (applause)...the Iraq War (bigger applause)...Africa (applause)...and Saving the Planet (huge applause).

And the winner is.....(rustle, rustle, rustle)...
Tune in to Samizdata to find out -- I just know you're on the edge of your seat. And tune to Hit and Run for all the other big winners and losers.

LINKS: Foxtrot Oscars - Samizdata
Oscar roundup '07: Al Gore starts to look like Alec Baldwin - Hit and Run


Good news for warmists

The world is a simple place for warmists. For a warmist, consequences don't matter -- doing the right thing does. Even if our actions to save the planet have no effect, says the warmist, we should do them anyway just so we're doing the right thing.

China is opening a new coal-fired power station every five days until at least 2012? Within two years, China will emit more CO2 than the US? No worries. We should all do what we can anyway, just so we're doing the right thing.

And if the US were to shut down its entire economy, and growth in emissions from fast-emerging new polluters such as China, India, Indonesia, Russia, and Brazil were to replace the US emissions within the next quarter of a century -- as they're predicted to do? No worries. The US should do what it can anyway, just so it's doing the right thing.

And even if a country the size of Britain were to shut down and cease using energy or cars altogether, and the growth in carbon emissions in China would more than make up for that sacrifice long before the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012? No worries. Britain should do what it can anyway, just so it's doing the right thing.

And little old NZ? Even if NZ were to shut up shop altogether, having no discernible net effect on the climate whatsoever, we should go "carbon neutral anyway" just so we're doing the right thing. No carbon, no worries.

For the warmist, the world is a simple place. Even if your actions have no discernible effect, says the warmist, you should do them anyway just so you're doing the right thing. Do the right thing, and you have no worries.

If you do everything you can to offset your carbon footprint, you can sleep easy at night. So here's some good news for warmists: a company selling carbon credits for folks that want to offset their cat’s flatulence. At eight dollars a go, that's got to be a bargain.

And even more good news: They’ll do the same for your grandmother, too.

LINKS: Global warming alarmists can offset their cat's flatulence - Newsbusters

RELATED POSTS ON: Global Warming, Nonsense.

House prices and the business cycle: What goes up...

Sense in the Herald on house prices and the business cycle from one Christopher Niesche, who makes two important points about rising house prices and those who argue they'll keep rising for ever. The business cycle hasn't been repealed yet, says Niesche,
So when people start saying this property cycle is different from the last time and there may no longer even be a property cycle, then that's probably a cue to have a close look at the property market.
And when you do have a closer look, you realise that there is something that makes this cycle significantly different: it's more vulnerable than before. There are more rental investors in the market than ever before, "for the first time in living memory - it's investors and not owner-occupiers who are setting prices and have been doing so since 2003," and these investors are not going to put up for ever with the lowest yields in 35 years.
This means that one way or another rental yields will eventually have to rise back to their more usual levels of between 5 and 6 per cent to justify holding housing as an investment.

The question for investors and home owners is how will this happen? Rents will have to rise sharply or house prices will have to fall. And there's nothing to suggest that rents will rise sharply.
Much though people might wish otherwise, the business cycle still hasn't been repealed.

LINKS: Christopher Niesche: Investment looks safe as houses - and dotcom stocks - NZ Herald [hat tip AB]
Austrian business cycle theory: A brief explanation - Dan Mahoney, Mises Daily
Business cycle primer - Lew Rockwell, Mises Daily
The Austrian theory of the trade cycle - Richard Ebeling, ed., Mises Institute

Housing, Economics

Winston v The Media, Round 156

'Foreign Minister' Winston Peters is spewing, and when Winston spews, "the media" usually gets the whole bucketful. "The media," says Winston, is trying to "undermine" him.

So what's new?

How is "the media" doing it this time? Apparently, says Winston, by asking him questions about NZ's policy on Iraq -- something you would have thought our media is required to do of the Foreign Minister.

"No!" protests the Foreign Minister. By asking both he and Helen about NZ's Iraq policy, the media is trying to make out there's a difference between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister?

No, Minister. I expect they're trying to discover whether there is a difference between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister?

Turns out that there is a difference. A significant difference.

The Foreign Minister says (angrily) that in asking him -- the Foreign Minister -- about Iraq, the media is being "an absolute pest and nuisance, and trying to undermine NZ's foreign policy."

No, Winston, I expect they're trying to establish whether the Clark Government has a coherent foreign policy.

Turns out that there isn't one. Certainly not anything that could be called coherent. Not with this Foreign Minister. Not with the pathetic farce that he is a Minister, but is not part of the Government.

No wonder Winston is spewing. Because as Foreign Minister in the Clark Government, on the issues that matter his opinion doesn't matter. Helen makes the policy, while he picks up the baubles. This is the Foreign Minister you have when you don't really have a Foreign Minister.

The irony is that on the substantive issue, he's substantially correct. If coalition troops were to leave Iraq, it undoubtedly would slide into chaos. But not for the first time, his petulance undermines his point -- and not for the first time, you realise why he was named after a concrete block.

RELATED POSTS ON: NZ Politics, World Politics, War, The Winston First Party

Monday, 26 February 2007

The rates problem

The Rates Inquiry presently travelling the country is intended to address "the rates problem."

"The rates problem" is at least two problems, but both are related. For most ratepayers, the problem is that rates are too bloody high -- they want lower rates. For councils, the problem appears is insufficient revenue to do all the things they want to do, and to pay for the ballooning wage bill that every upstanding expanding council faces -- what they currently lever out of ratepayers' pockets isn't enough for them; these thieving bastards want the legal power to tap into new forms of theft: bed taxes, poll taxes, visitor taxes and the like.

Libertarianz predicted this very problem
when Sandra Lee's Local Government Act was introduced five years ago -- the Let-Councils-Do-Whatever-They-Fucking-Like Act -- the result of all that new fucking around by councils was obvious enough even when first mooted: councils would run out of revenue, and would need to hit ratepayers up for more.

For me, the solution to the rates problem is obvious enough, and it comes down quite simply to what councils do. You might call it the Stop-Doing-So-Fucking-Much solution to "rates problem. If councils stop doing so fucking much then they won't need "new revenue streams," and neither will they need to charge so fucking much either.

So much for the "rates problem."

LINKS: Mayor hopes for new solutions in rates inquiry - Radio NZ
"No!" to more council powers - Peter Cresswell, Libertarianz, Scoop (2001)


They're making houses unaffordable over there too

Housing unaffordability isn't just an issue here in NZ, it's a problem worldwide -- or at least in those cities worldwide in which planners have locked up land, regulated its use, and forced people to live in the way that planners have decreed they live. A British think tank has now published a major study into the effects of the planning system on the UK economy:
The Best Laid Plans: How planning prevents economic growth.
In three previous publications the report's authors, Alan W. Evans and Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich, have shown that most of the problems with the housing market - low supply, high prices, overcrowding - can be attributed to the planning system. They conclude in this report that the main objective of planning has been to limit the spatial extent of cities and that this artificial reduction of land supply has severe consequences for society, the environment and the economy.
You can download the report here [PDF].

LINKS: The Best Laid Plans: How planning prevents economic growth - Policy Exchange [52-page PDF]
Message to planners: "Don't fence me in!" - Not PC
'Sustainable' cities are unaffordable cities - Not PC

RELATED POSTS ON: Sprawl, Housing, Urban Design, Politics-UK, Sustainability

Our "fateful wish for price stability"

The Reserve Bank's inflation-fighting is keeping interest rates high and our dollar high, nailing producers, exporters and home-buyers to a cross of price stability that is itself a mirage. This "fateful wish for price stability" is analysed by Thorstein Pollett at the Mises Economics Blog:
The Austrians' great concern is that a government-dominated money-supply regime would ultimately lead to economic and therefore political disaster; the objective of price stability would not alter such a dismal prediction. Even if a central bank succeeds in stabilizing a targeted price index, it would — by an ideologically motivated increase in credit and money supply — generously increase credit and money supply. It thereby distorts the economy's price mechanism, promotes malinvestment and initiates subsequent economic downturns...
In other words: removing real price signals from the market (or trying to) plays havoc with your markets.

Full article here. Comments here.

LINKS: The fateful wish for price stability - Professor Thorstein Pollett
Denying prosperity by misunderstanding inflation - Not PC (Dec, 2005)
More myths about inflation - Not PC (Sept, 2006)

Economics, Politics-NZ

Bigots ban book

Previously only allowed to be sold in Australian shops in a plain brown wrapper, Australian authorities have now slapped a ban on The Peaceful Pill Handbook for voluntary euthanasia, launched here in New Zealand by Lindsay Perigo a couple of weeks ago.

Bernard Darnton has the news at his Section 14 blog, and this comment:
So there you have it. In Australia (and stay alert in New Zealand), free speech is less important that the idea that citizens should surrender control of their lives to their political masters and the loss of free speech is regarded as the acceptable collateral damage from the war on drugs.
Perigo's advice at the launch now has even more currency after the Australian ban:
Grab the book while you can, because governments both here and in Australia are making moves to have it banned. Irony of ironies. Not only do the religious bigots ban you ending your own life, or having help to do so, they also want the political bigots to ban you reading about being able to end your own life.
LINKS: Peaceful Pill book banned in Australia - Bernard Darnton, Section 14
Perigo launches voluntary euthanasia handbook - Not PC

RELATED POSTS ON:Politics-Australia, Health, Libertarianism, Religion, Free Speech

Maori Party still in the stone age

There are people who my have forgotten that the Maori Party is a racist party. It's useful to be reminded:
The Maori Party is calling for limits on immigration from Western countries, accusing the Government of trying to stop the "browning of New Zealand". [Stuff, NZ]
A call as absurd as it is racist.
UPDATE from around the blogs:
  • Idiot/Savant: "Turia's comments are in short a nasty, racist little blurt."
  • Liberty Scott: "Tariana Turia is racist and does not believe in democracy... She's called for restrictions on immigration because of what it means for Maori political representation - presumably, she doesn't like the fact that a cornerstone of liberal democracy is one adult one vote."
  • Blogging It Real: "But, Mrs Turia seeks to reassure us, "we aren't playing the race card, because we are not talking about Asian immigration." Right, so it's not racist to try and shut the door to white folks, only yellow ones? Sorry, brown ones. Anyone else care to join me in a hearty "fuck you"?"
  • Bryce Edwards notes: "Unfortunately Maori nationalists have for a long time been anti-immigration. In the past Maori radicals have called for a complete halt to immigration (and especially pacific island immigration) until Treaty grievances are resolved."
  • Falloon: "For absurdity, Turia's comments are right up there with Maori Party Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidate Atareta Poananga's statements- "Racism cannot be exercised by Maori" & "Racism is about having personal prejudice and the power to enforce it. So Maori can not be racist.

RELATED POSTS ON: NZ Politics, Maori Party, Racism, Immigration

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Persuasion versus Force

Rather than post the usual Saturday fare of a collection or rambling readings, todayI've got something different for you. Just one thing on which to ponder: Mark Skousen's classic article, Persuasion versus Force. Read it, savour it, digest it. And when you have, perhaps you will have been sufficiently persuaded to pass it on to others who have need of persuasion in this vein. This is essential reading for every adult who wishes to impose his or her views on other people.

Yes, you know who you are.

You who feel so strongly about whatever you feel strongly about that (you feel) everyone should be bent to your will. You who never understand the difference between persuading someone to do your bidding, and coercing them. It is a crucial difference. One appeals to the human mind, to human reason. The other treats people as a subject, as a serf, as a mindless chattel.

The use of persuasion rather than coercion is the recognition that human beings are sovereign individuals, with the right to make their own choices, and to commit their own mistakes.

The truth is this: That just because you feel strongly about something that gives you no right to impose your feelings upon others who may in no wise agree with you. Talking about bringing in a ban is not persuasion, it is not a "national debate we should be having." A new law is not persuasion. No matter how many other MPs you can persuade, the effect of that law is the assembling of the vast might of legislative, judicial and police powers to enforce this thing about which you feel so strongly. That's force. That's coercion.

If smacking is bad because it uses force against children, as some people have argued, then why isn't force bad when it's used against adults (who -- unlike children -- do have the full power of reason). If date rape is bad because it takes away a woman's right to refuse consent, and so it does, then so too is every form of coercion in that it too takes away the power of consent.

What's wrong with persuading people, rather than using force? Isn't that -- or shouldn't that be -- the mark of a truly civilised society? If you look for symbolism, you might think of it as reason against brute force, or the mind versus the gun.

Why isn't it wrong for politicians to impose their will on parents, or for planners to impose their views on home-owners? Why isn't it wrong for busybodies to impose their own values on party pill users and gun owners, on Easter holiday shoppers and fireworks users, or on people who smoke in bars, or people who don't save enough, or who spend too much, or borrow too much, or who work too hard or too much -- or too little -- or who drive the wrong car, or use the wrong lightbulbs, or upon anyone and everyone who just might be doing something the busybody might just disagree with?

Why do we so easily countenance using coercion when we wish to impose our values upon others? Why is individual liberty so thoughtlessly and so easily sacrificed for some feel-good wowser's fix. What's wrong with persuasion? What's wrong with freedom with responsibility? Isn't that -- or shouldn't it be -- the mark of a truly civilised society?

As Skousen points out, the measure of a civilised society is the extent to which persuasion is the pre-eminent coin of the realm, rather than coercion. This is what it means, he says, to have freedom with responsibility.

But persuasion is tiresome you say, and coercion is so much easier? On that, all of the dictators of history rise up in agreement with you -- as too do the corpses of their victims, who rise up in silent protest.

But people will make mistakes, you say, if we who know better aren't there to save them from themselves. But do you know better? How do you know it's not you who is making the mistake; how do you know you're protecting fools from folly, rather than falling into folly yourself? Are you really sure that you aren't the fool? Do you really know better for everyone? And if you're really convinced yourself that you do know better, then why not genuinely convince others that you do before trying to simply herd them into your chosen coercive scheme?

In the end isn't it true, as Sir James Russell Lowell said, that even if people are left free to make their own mistakes -- and do -- that "the ultimate result of protecting fools from their folly is to fill the planet full of fools."

As the man says, if it makes sense, then they wouldn't have to force you. And that makes sense, doesn't it.

Skousen argues that there is one sure mark of a civilized society.
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, 'Taxation is the price we pay for civilization.' But isn't the opposite really the case? Taxation is the price we pay for failing to build a civilized society... The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society.
Skousen, of course, is right. Surely, he says, this is a fundamental principle to which most citizens, no matter where they fit on the political spectrum, can agree.

Do you?

Persuasion versus Force - Mark Skousen

RELATED POSTS ON: Libertarianism, Politics

"Thank you very much for your kind donations."

A big thank you to recent donors here at Not PC. To paraphrase Robert Parker's detective Spenser, I pocketed the money and I sprang into action: I headed for the nearest book store.

Here's what I pulled down:

Once again: Thank you. :-)

Friday, 23 February 2007

Beer O'Clock: Green bottled beer

More Friday afternoon beer advice from Real Beer's Stu.

A couple of months ago I found myself with a brewer friend sampling the two most widely available green-bottled beers in New Zealand, Heineken and Stella Artois. Both are beers I'd not normally drink. Neither are beers I would refuse, if offered one, but they are certainly beers I avoid buying in all but the most desperate of situations. During this 'taste-off' we both surprised ourselves with a sneaky appreciation for Stella Artois. Not enough to go out and buy it but enough, at least, to agree that it actually is "beer."

We concurred that Stella Artois, from a glass, displayed a nice hop aroma (with lemony herbal hints that you would expect from a classic European lager) and a pleasing balance of subtle malt sweetness and a subdued, cleansing hop bitterness. It was well made, fresh, clean and crisp. Stella certainly outshone it's more heavily promoted cousin by a long margin.

Fast forward now to a couple of weeks ago, and Stella slipped into my beery world again. I attended a wedding where the beer options were Tui, Lion Brown or Stella Artois. With the recent pleasant memory still in mind, I contemplated the reasonable quality wine list, perused my memory again, and found myself asking for the green bottle (and a glass, of course). On this occasion I also picked up, within the aforementioned subtleties, a slight tropical fruit hop note that I'm sure you'd not pick up in a European-brewed version of the same drink. I sipped through a couple of bottles and teetered on a balance point between wishing there was something better, and being glad that at least I wasn't drinking Tui. (Beer? Yeah right.)

That same week I mentioned my enjoyment of Stella (or "Nelson Mandela", as my brother calls it) to some other beer lovers. One response was "I would rather drink a classic New Zealand draught, than a 'Premium Lager' pretending to be something it's not. At least Lion Brown, down at the RSA, is honest about what it is." This had me thinking about why I choose the beers I do. Do I look for honesty or integrity in the beers that I drink?

I thought a little about this and decided that I choose my beers on what the beer actually smells and tastes like, not what the marketing department or anyone else tells me it is (or isn't). I choose without any bias towards beers that are perceived as girly, dumb, over-priced or pretending to be something they are not. I truly enjoy every style of beer that I've tried, as long as it is a well-made and well-cared for product that is in fact a beer. I try everything I can get my hands on but I only ever go back to the best (or I retry ones where I think I may have got an ill-treated sample). Sometimes you've just got to drink the best beer you can get your hands on, and in some of those occasions Stella Artois will be that beer. It's unlikely that Otahuhu-brewed Heineken, with it's signature DB 'banana' note, will fit that bill for me.

It's unlikely that you'll find me in the supermarket line with a box of Stella Artois [reports can be sent to me here at Not PC Towers - Ed.] but you may well find me drinking it, from time to time, just so long as it continues to meet its current high standards. I won't toe the company line, however, in saying that the beer "epitomises European style and sophistication and is the beer of choice for successful consumers that are in the know." I'll leave that sort of talk for those in the know.

I just know that it's good enough to drink. When you have to.

LINKS: Stella Artois: Beer drinking stereotypes
Beer for all the right reasons: SOBA

Beer & Elsewhere

They're reading Not PC where?

Top ten cities in which Not PC is being read this week.
  1. Auckland
  2. Wellington
  3. Sydney
  4. Christchurch
  5. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  6. Canberra
  7. Noumea, New Caledonia
  8. New York
  9. Cairo
  10. London
I love it -- although I must confess I'm a bit worried about the Canberra connection. Nobody there but bureaucrats and politicians. ;^) And no surprise about the most popular posts at present:
  1. Smacking is not beating
  2. Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City
  3. Today's Bible reading: Divorce & Castration
  4. Smacking? You have to laugh!
  5. Beer O’Clock – Heineken Mini-Keg
  6. Death threats?
  7. It's about more than just smacking
  8. Libertarianz - Fighting for your right to party!
  9. NZ's Political Spectrum
  10. Aliens cause global warming?
No surprise about the popular searches either:
  1. cyfswatch mirror
  2. broadacre city
  3. "not pc" spontaneous order
  4. blog one tree point one tree point
  5. evening, fall of day
  6. cyfswatch
  7. "fabric of reality" freedomist
  8. pc sex
  9. knock school down
  10. nz herald 100 must see places nz

No Britney here.

Just in case you're looking, let me just tell you that I won't be saying anything at all about Britney Spears, or Anna Nicole Smith. The reason is simple. I don't care.

Why either of them make the news is beyond me. Make of that whatever you want to.

Cue Card Libertarianism: LIBERTARIANISM

Each 'Cue Card Libertarianism' entry forms part of a series intended to introduce newbies to the terms used (or as used) by New Zealand libertarians. The series so far can be found archived here, and the Introduction here.

LIBERTARIANISM: Libertarianism as a political idea is four-square for freedom. At the basis of libertarianism is the principle that all adult human interaction should be voluntary, or to put it another way, that capitalist acts between consenting adults should be legal.

There are many ways to put the point. In a political context, freedom has only one specific meaning -- freedom from the initiation of force by other men. US libertarian Murray Rothbard puts it this way:
"The Libertarian creed rests on one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the non-aggression axiom. Aggression is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else."
This point has been well enough rehearsed under other Cue Card entries, but it should be noted at this juncture that many advocates of the Non-Aggression Principle, including myself, do not regard it as an axiom.

An axiom is a fundamental, self-evident truth; it does not require “grounding’.” The Non-Aggression Pinciple is fundamental, but far from self-evident; it does need grounding. The question for libertarians is how it is grounded.  Rothbard boasts that not insisting on such a foundation has enabled the Libertarian movement to be "eclectic." As the US Libertarian movement demonstrates, this has not been an unequivocal virtue, the "eclecticism" encompassing a "broad church" of adherents from all manner of philosophic (or non-philosophic) positions, including emotivism, hedonism, Kantian a priorism, Nozickism, neo-conservatism, pacifism and many others. Few of these positions are defensible. Most of them are represented in US Libertarianism.

 Objectivists in particular regard it as positively dangerous to treat the Non-Aggression Principle as axiomatic, and insist on the need for an ethical/epistemological foundation. Objectivist Peter Schwartz, for instance, says that without the correct philosophic base, "liberty means nothing…"
“Ultimately [however], liberty is justified because it is a necessary condition of human survival; force is unjustified because it is an attack on man’s means of cognition. Only philosophy can identify so fundamental a connection.” 
 Mr Schwartz goes on to attack (correctly) the more bizarre subjectivist elements of the American libertarian movement. As Shwartz points out, and this article explains, this principle of the non-initiation of force was formulated and popularised by Ayn Rand, and her advocacy of individual rights and limited government in her novels and speeches was largely instrumental in the rebirth of libertarianism in the 1960s. Sad that so many US libertarians fail to give her her due.

Her thought is still a major influence in the general libertarian movement, but Rand herself thought the differences so great that she rejected the label "libertarian," and called libertarian luminaries such as Rothbard (accurately) "Hippies of the Right." She preferred to be known as a "radical for capitalism." In the American context, I sympathise with that view.

In the New Zealand context, however, where any talk of freedom is foreign and libertarianism is still nascent, Not PC supports the position of both Schwartz and Rand but recognises that the perfect should not be made the enemy of the good.. For example, I would regard a Christian who endorses the non-initiation of force principle – however untenable the means by which he or she arrives at it – as less likely to threaten freedom in his actions than one who doesn’t, and as someone who can be persuaded to do better. Mr Schwartz, however, eschews such attempts. Such is his right.

Just to be clear, at this blog I use the term libertarian to denote, supportively, the Non-Aggression Principle; I believe in grounding this principle in sound antecedent principles; however for the most part I maintain (or try to maintain) cordial relations with those who regard the Non-Aggression Principle not as a principle, but as a self-sufficient, self-evident axiom, or with those whose antecedent principles we regard as unsound.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand libertarians, based on the series originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.

RELATED POSTS ON: Cue Card Libertarianism, Libertarianism, Politics-World, Objectivism, Philosophy


Spotted this in this morning's Dominion, apparently snaffled from The Times:
Kiwi songbird drives animals crazy
She may possess 'the voice of an angel' but to some of our four-legged
friends Hayley Westenra is a pain in the ear. According to her record
company, the 19-year-old New Zealand soprano can sing beyond the range of human hearing, hitting notes that can be heard only by animals. But, unlike the people
who have bought millions of her albums, the animals appear less than impressed.
A border terrier called Iggy Pup was the first to react when Westenra went
into her English studio to make her latest album and began to explore how high
she could sing.

Yep. I know just how Iggy feels. "A pain in the ear" is pretty much how I'd describe hearing Hayley. But why is this considered news? Answer here, at the story's conclusion: "Westenra's third album, Treasure, is out on Monday." Ah, there you go. "Iggy Pup will probably give it a miss," the story concludes. Me too. That probably means the houses of a few friends wil be out of bounds for a while. Uuugh!


Cue Card Libertarianism: NATIONALISM

Each 'Cue Card Libertarianism' entry forms part of a series intended to introduce newbies to the terms used (or as used) by libertarians. The series so far can be found archived here, and the Introduction here.

NATIONALISM: A specie of the genus collectivism, in one of its most toxic forms. Collectivism takes many form: in one form (Marxism) the individual is made subordinate to one's class; in another form (racism) to one's ethnicity; in yet another (Islamofascism), to one's religion. In its nationalist strain, the collective to which the individual is subordinated is – the nation. The nation, right or wrong. The nation, over and above other nations. The nation: to sacrifice for if called on.

It shouldn't be necessary to point out that nationalism -- like all forms of collectivism -- is at odds with the libertarian philosophy of individualism; or that it places an accident of birth over individual rights. Nor should it be necessary to point out the natural political expression of overt nationalism: “The man of fascism," said Mussolini, "is an individual who is nation and fatherland.”

Nationalism is a refuge of despots. It is the means by which they gull their subjects into making sacrifices for the nation, and into fighting foreigners imbued with the same poison about their nation. It is the lifeblood of both war and statism.

Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism – with love of one’s country when it is right, and when it upholds rights. Such a country is worth loving – and worth fighting for if threatened. It would not conscript its citizens to do so – and nor would it need to.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.

RELATED POSTS ON: War, Cue Card Libertarianism, Libertarianism, Politics-World,

Norris House - Claude Megson

Claude Megson's Norris House, a 'two-zoned' house that was one of his own favourites. Plans below (upper floor at top, followed by lower ground, then main ground floor), an axonometric drawing at bottom -- for some goddamned reason Claude was an enthusiast for axonometrics -- and lots more pictures here of both exteriors and interiors.

The house won a National Award in 1978.

LINKS: Norris House - The Claude Megson Blog

RELATED: Architecture

Thursday, 22 February 2007

A historic ceremony for Saturday's Six Nations game in Dublin

News just in from RTE Ireland about an historic joint ceremony to be held before Ireland's crunch Six Nations game against England in Croke Park on Saturday. The Croke Park venue -- normally a Hurling and Gaelic Football (GAA) venue -- is being used since Lansdowne Rd is under renovation, but as history minded readers will be aware, the ground has some history that first needs to be laid to rest:
The significance of the game is not lost on GAA followers and republicans who remember the infamous shooting of 14 players and supporters by the British Army on the 21st November 1921.
However according to GAA spokesman Ulick Magee a plan being devised by the GAA and the Northern Ireland office, will attempt to draw a line under the incident.

"We've spoken to the British government and they understand the significance of the event back in 1921. Back then 14 people were killed by British forces so in the spirit of the peace process and friendship we're proposing that we shoot 14 of their lot before the match. Then maybe have fireworks afterwards or something."

The plan has had a mixed reaction from Downing Street. Prime Minister Tony Blair thinks the idea has merit but said that it needs to be done properly and with dignity. "Frankly I think its a small price to pay for progression in Anglo-Irish affairs, but I think the idea of getting Ray Houghton to do the shooting would be too much for many English fans to take particularly after his goal against us back in 1988. And he's Scottish which is worse."
Candidates for the shooting include "moaney-hole singer James Blunt, foul mouth idiot Jade Goody, Trinny & Suzannah, Man Utd donkey Rio Ferdinand, cream cake expert Vanessa Feltz, "comedian" Russell Brand and any of the blokes who do outside broadcasts for Sky News.
But discussions took an ironic twist when both sides agreed on shooting Belfast singer Brian Kennedy, but neither side agreed on what nationality he was.
News that Bono was to offer himself up for martyrdom as a gesture of inter-nation amity were, unfortunately, denied by band manager Paul McGuiness.

British & Irish Governments plan ceremony in Croke Park: Controversial game will be started with compromise gesture - Indymedia Ireland

RELATED: Humour, Sport

Smacking? You have to laugh!

I've been sent some much-needed humour on the main subject of the day.

UPDATE: And if you can't smack 'em? Baroness von KLake has some advice you can try.

Death threats?

Yes, it's all over the news that an anonymous poster posted a threat -- not "death threats" (plural), just a threat (singular) -- against anti-smacking Bill author Sue Bradford on the CYFSWatch. Most of you here know my views on anonymous posters, that most of the them post in a cowardly fashion, but since the news is not exactly reporting the full context of the threat (no surprise there) I'm posting a link to it here*. Decide for yourself.

I'll simply note that the anonymous poster is drawing attention to the distinction I was making yesterday: the one between smacking and beating. Here to me is the crux:
Sue sees no difference between a parent smacking their children, and the awful assaults that have been perpetuated on children that are now dead.

Since Sue cannot tell the difference, I would like the opportunity to [hit her in a very thorough fashion]. I would then give her a light smack on her substantial arse, and ask her "Now Sue, is the difference a little more clearer to you?".
A pity that a good point was somewhat overshadowed (and left unreported) due to the rather unnecessary threat.

UPDATE 1: Should the post or the entire CYFSWatch blog be banned? Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton tackles the question on his Free Speech blog, Section 14 :
The question is: does this post constitute something close enough to an act of force that it should be banned?

And the answer is no.
You can read his reasoning here. Here's a Tory who disagrees. And so does the otherwise pro-free speech Idiot/Savant.

* UPDATE 2: Oops. The post is gone. And so is the whole CYFSWatch blog. That didn't take long. There'll be a story here, for sure.

UPDATE 3: CYFSWatch say that Google have shut the site down, following pressure from ... whom? Several mirror sites have been set up -- including this one at WordPress -- but so far without the offending post. The authors of CFYSWatch themselves say they ain't going away: "One bullet does not win a battle."

LINKS: Death threats over NZ 'anti-smack bill' - The Australian
Smacking is not beating - Not PC
CYFSWatch Mirror site at Wordpress

NZ Politics, Greens, Law

It's about more than just smacking

I've been sent a very good letter which was sent to the Herald yesterday, which they unfortunately declined to publish:
Could somebody please tell me what banning smacking has to do with environmentalism?
Green Party MP Sue Bradford is about as 'green' as a red pepper. The reality is that the Green Party has been systematically hijacked in order to promote Marxist ideology in a softer, more marketable light.

Amidst a measured piece on the anti smacking Bill (voted through to its first reading last night by 70 to 51), Liberty Scott reminds us that Sue Bradford and her fellow travellers do have a wider agenda here,
and you see it in Childrens’ Commissioner Cindy Kiro – it is the state having a greater and greater role as parent – in funding children, regulating children, regulating and funding their health and education, media, housing.
As I said yesterday, she is intent on removing parents' hands from their own children; and equally intent on the state getting their hands on them. Let me remind you of Kiro's enthusiastic plans for "our chooldren," which is lessening the influence of parents as parents, and increasing the role of the state as parent -- yes, that's literally the Nanny State. Scott describes as "Orwellian" her
proposal that the state monitor every child from birth religiously to make sure that parents are being good. She has given it a long vapid name (Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki: Weaving Pathways to Wellbeing) to make it sound so nice and inclusive, instead of "State monitoring of parents and children" which is what it bloody well is. What is even more disturbing is that Sue Bradford is reverting to her communist past in supporting it. Greens liberal? Hardly.
Cindy Kiro brought this up before and now she is excited about what is an absolutely terrifying proposal:
"Individual plans, owned by the child and held by the family, will be developed in partnership with children and families and each child would have a named primary professional responsible...
Bob McCoskrie National Director of Family First makes the quite correct point:
Who gets to decide what is best for children? This report is clear; it’s Dr Kiro and the morass of bureaucracy that is going to surround this initiative. It is a licence for ‘professionals’ to interfere in families’ lives when there is no crime and no abuse,” “This would fundamentally alter the relationship between the family and the state
It's a simple message leave good parents alone and stop subsidising bad ones.
And on that last point, Scott has very good policy advice for those honestly opposed to assaults on children: remove future victims and welfare privileges for all those so convicted.
[R]emove those who brutalise and destroy childrens’ lives from being able to receive money [and other benefits] from the state, and from having access to children in the future... Once you have brutally violated another person, you have no right to expect any of the privileges of state, except to be left alone with those who choose to be with you – children don’t count in that.
More details on that line of argument here.

LINKS: Smacking ban - Liberty Scott
Big Sister Cindy 'Stalin' Kiro supported by Stalinist Sue - Liberty Scott (Oct, 2006)

RELATED POSTS ON: NZ Politics, Greens, Law, Smacking


Earthquakes in Auckland? I confess, I didn't feel a thing. My glass never shook at all.

Aliens cause global warming?

"Aliens cause global warming." That's not as unlikely as it might sound. Michael Crichton makes the case here in the typically dramatic way you'd expect of a best-selling author. I guarantee you'll find food for thought. Roger Dewhurst of NZ's Climate Science Coalition suggests:
After reading this anyone would have to agree that he speaks more sense and conveys more wisdom than so many of the world famous scientific authorities on this matter - even including Al Gore and Leonardo De Capricio. This is the best history of the debasement of public science I have read. You might not think there could be any connection between Aliens in Outer Space and Climate Change – but there is and it is strong and Crichton lays out the pathway with devastating clarity. I too lived through the times he describes and never thought to make the connections.
And further recent food for thought on the most state-intrusive threat facing the world today -- ie., political action to face the 'global warming' threat -- has been compiled by Roger Dewhurst, with what he calls "a useful list of URLs" If you've been keeping up, you'll have seen many of them here before.
To this list of essential reading, I would simply add these four gems:
The last two between then are a damned useful resource, particularly for teachers who are required to screen Al Bore's film to their captive children, and who would like a rational alternative to further discussion.

Enjoy. And don't say I don't keep you up with your reading material. Oh, and by the way, Pharyngula has a useful plot point suggestion for Michael Crichton, all about what to do "if you're ever stranded in the Great White North, short of ammo for your shotgun." ;^)

RELATED POSTS ON: Global Warming, Science, Politics-World.

Megson House - Claude Megson

Here's architect Claude Megon's own house, above Dingle Dell in Auckland' St Heliers. A simple looking exterior concealing an awful lot of living within.

Writing about Claude's house a few years ago, John Dickson said of it, "It is impossible without the process of Megson's imagination to connect the cluster of small, confined rooms of the house as it was (right) to the expansive, multi-levelled, vertical-fissured, spatial-phantasm that it has become."

And English architectural critic Professor Geoffrey Broadbent, writing after a 1992 tour of Claude's Auckland houses had this to say:
"This," I said to myself, "is work of a very high international standard indeed." ...One is constantly struck by the surprise around the corner, the bright shaft of light penetrating from above into the softer glow of the main living spaces -- especially in Megson' own house -- that give his work such very special qualities...

There is an essential "rightness" about Megson's spaces, for pleasant occupation by ordinary, normal human beings. Such things, says Dickson, have gone out of fashion with today's students. Well, so much the worse for the students [and their clients!]. Perhaps it hasn't occurred to them that if they design real spaces for human comfort and pleasure, then even those anguished souls overwhelmed by post-Heideggerian "problematics" about the nature of their existence might, given spaces like Megson's to contemplate that nature of their "Being," come to more positive conclusions! Because that's the point about Megson's spaces; they are life-enhancing.
Broadbent, for once, is exactly right.

LINKS: The Claude Megson Blog

Model of Megson house used to promote NZ architecture exhibition - The Claude Megson Blog

RELATED POSTS ON Architecture.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Thought for tonight

News that Sue Bradford's egregious Bill empowering police intrusion into NZ homes has passed on first reading by 70-51 suggests this thought for the night, from Victor Hugo's Cromwell:
...when a yoke bends Liberty's bold brow
A tyrant is less burdensome when small.
Yet another small example of Hannah Arendt's great lesson of the Twentieth Century -- of the banality of evil.

Hat tip Return to Reason.

New JFK clip online

Kennedy assassination buffs can check out a new film showing JFK and Jackie just before he was killed.
This newly-discovered home movie ... filmed President and Mrs. Kennedy on Main Street at Lamar in downtown Dallas less than 90 seconds before the assassination. Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, assigned to protect Jackie Kennedy, can be seen riding on the left rear bumper.
You can see the entire film at the Sixth Floor Museum site.

Australia wakes up to a clean sweep

How the Australian press handles a thrashing:
Perhaps the lesson for Australians is that your team is only as good as your last game. For the New Zealand team, that's a very positive lesson indeed.

RELATED: Sport, New Zealand