Saturday, 14 April 2007

Weekend ramble, April 14

Another weekend ramble through sites and sounds worthy of a weekend's worth of exploration.
  • As Marcus says, some good news from the (UK) Daily Telegraph -- there's one British Tory who's not all pink:
    David Cameron has embraced the environmental agenda with greater ardour than any other political leader, even inviting Al Gore to address the shadow cabinet recently, after publicly lauding his film, An Inconvenient Truth.
    But one outspoken Tory, MEP Roger Helmer, is eager to distinguish himself from the rest.
    Helmer has organised a "counter-consensual climate conference" in
    Brussels next week, which will see former chancellor Lord Lawson head a line-up of sceptics, including the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming.
    "Many climatologists reject the alarmist scenario, and there have been disgraceful efforts by the establishment to silence the dissenters," Helmer
    tells Spy. "I've decided to organise the conference to give a platform to the
    other side of the issue. David Cameron wants us to put an extra focus on the
    environment and I'm delighted to help in that process."
    And Gore's Oscar-winning documentary certainly won't be showing. "The event will be followed by a screening of the recent Channel 4 film, The Great Global Warming Swindle."
  • "This year marks the 100th anniversary of science fiction writer Robert Heinlein's birth. His hometown of Kansas City is marking the occasion with special events." reports End of the Universe. "Even though he's been dead for nearly two decades, he continues to cast a long shadow on the science fiction field. Which Heinlein book are you going to read to celebrate the centennial?"

  • And on Lord Bore of Nashville's forthcoming 24-hour smugfest, Rob Lyons says, don't do it! Live Earth: Change the Record.
    If you weren’t feeling patronised enough by Live 8, the freebie gig in 2005 that called on G8 politicians to cancel Third World debt (which they were planning to do anyway), Live Earth might really tip you over the edge.
  • Tyler Cowen records something to remember about the Chinese economic miracle:
    ...of the 3,220 Chinese citizens with a personal wealth of 100 million yuan ($13
    million) or more, 2,932 are children of high-level cadres. Of the key positions
    in the five industrial sectors - finance, foreign trade, land dev
    large-scale engineering and securities - 85% to 90% are held by children of
    high-level cadres.
    As Samizdata comments, "These filial links between the commanding heights of China's supposedly private sector and its government betray the fact that China Inc. is [still] the unholy alliance of a dictatorial regime and the application of corrupted 'free' market ideals." At some stage the tension between the two will out, but with what consequences?

  • For those who find it hard to keep up with how to avoid offending the easily offended and the politically correct (but I repeat myself), here's a how-to guide to either offend or to avoid offending: A Politically Correct Lexicon.

  • Let's sing the praises of the internal combustion engine. In fact, says Dwight Lee,
    All environmentalists should be singing the praises of the internal combustion engine (ICE) instead of damning it for polluting the environment. The environmental advantages of the internal combustion engine have been obvious for a long time.
    Join him in his praise at TechCentralStation's Our Green ICE Age.
  • Architects Christopher Wren and Frank Lloyd Wright both liked to play jokes on clients, and it turns out they even played similar jokes, this one by Wren on the Windsor councillors. Can anyone tell us on which Wright building he played a similar joke with his client?

  • Better Living Through Lefty Activism. Well that's the title of this short video at any rate ...

  • The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism promises "to give [anti-capitalists] an in-your-face economics education that they won't forget — ever." Buy a copy for an anti-capitalist friend today.

  • Tom Beard has news about developer Terry Serepisos' plans for the tallest building in Wellington. Says Tom
    At least you can't accuse him of developing boring buildings. While the later stages of the Century City development on Tory St and the "explosion in a bling factory" planned for Dixon and Victoria streets may be the visual equivalent of a hyperactive kid force-fed with food colouring and party pills, at least they're not the grey envelope-filling cuboids currently being extruded all over Taranaki St like so many rectilinear turds.
    And he throws down a gauntlet: "In fact, and I hope none of my architect friends take offence at this, I can't really think of any New Zealand architects that I could imagine designing a truly exciting 40-50 storey skyscraper..." Any offence taken?

  • For those like me with a taste for hard-core Objectivism, the news that the archives of Stephen Boydstun's Objectivity magazine is now all online is something to sing and shout about. There is some seriously good stuff in here on science and mathematics, value and metaphysics, Aristotelianism and Newtonian physics, and from everyone from Stephen Hicks to Tibor Machan to Ronald Merrill to Michael Huemer. A great resource -- noe making it worth buying another ink cartridge for your printer.

  • Thomas Jefferson’s birthday was earlier this week. Historian David Mayer remembers Thomas Jefferson. Here are the official White House biography, the website for Jefferson’s home at Monticello, and Genevieve LaGreca’s toast to Jefferson’s achievements. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

  • What’s Wrong With Contemporary Philosophy. Answer: Lots.

  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali always gives good interview. Here she is again in good combative style in Guernica magazine.

    Guernica: It seems when you talk about Islam, it's not your style to say things in a gentle way...
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali: I'm the gentlest of them all, honestly. (laughing)

    Oh yeah, she does irony very well too. :-)

  • Roger Kerr writes on 'The Lever of Riches,' and how we NZers aren't really getting any of it.
    Productivity, described by American economist Joel Mokyr as the “lever of riches”, is a hot topic these days, and rightly so: it's the single most important contributor to reducing poverty, increasing leisure time and meeting health, education, environmental and cultural needs.

    That's why New Zealanders should react with alarm to the news last week that the rate of growth in labour productivity (that's the amount of goods and services produced from each hour of a worker's time) was the lowest on record.
    Read on here to find out what's been going wrong.

  • We may not be as productive as we should be, but boy do we have plenty of commissioners to nanny us. Zen Tiger has some slightly tongue in cheek news of new plans to protect our commissioners in Leaving No Commissioner Behind. After all, when you have Children's Commissioner and would-be uber-Nanny Cindy Kiro as a model, then almost everything is possible.

  • Speaking of children and of nanny, Tessa Mayes reports here on how the British government is recruiting children to spy on and ‘re-educate’ the adult population. Kiro et al will no doubt be taking notes. What's Worse Than Big Brother? Little Brother.

  • The ever prolific Tibor Machan explains how to become more prolific yourself: Don't procrastinate. Tibor has tips too on how to overcome your own procrastination, in Remedying Procrastination. Watching Tibor duck out of a conversation a few years ago to use a friend's computer to produce an article on an idea produced in that conversation made me realise just how simple it is to become prolific: it can be as simple as ignoring the calls to Manana. If it worked for Tibor, it can work for you too.

  • Here's an oldie on old Ken Ring's moon madness, a three-parter by Bill Keir from the Auckland Astronomical Society. Good reading.

  • As should have been obvious, Iran's capture and subsequent release of British seamen and marines was a trial balloon that told them much about British and American resolve in the face of piracy. There isn't any. Says Charles Krauthammer,
    Iran has pulled off a tidy little success with its seizure and subsequent release of those 15 British sailors and marines: a pointed humiliation of Britain, with a bonus demonstration of Iran's intention to push back against coalition challenges to its assets in Iraq. All with total impunity. Further, it exposed the utter futility of all those transnational institutions -- most prominently the European Union and the U.N. -- that pretend to maintain international order. You would think maintaining international order means, at a minimum, challenging acts of piracy. No challenge here. Instead, a quiet capitulation.
    See Krauthammer's Britain's Humiliation - and Europe's.

  • Spiked editor Brendan O'Neill has a similar comment: "What is Britain’s role in the world today? Judging from the Iranian captives saga, it is to play the victim." See A Lean, Mean Victim-Making Machine.

  • Based on her reading of Charles Freeman's The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason, Diana Hsieh reflects on how christianity demands one substitute blind obedience for clear-headed moral responsibility.
    Toward the end of the chapter on "The Ascetic Odyssey," Freeman observes that "one can never know whether one is truly saved" in Christianity because "there is no way to judge objectively just how guilty one is in the eyes of God." Consequently, "the only true way to secure a rest from tension on earth is to escape completely from the exercise of moral responsibility; here the 'virtue' of obedience becomes crucial."
    Just another reason to abjure religionists from the field of morality, I'd suggest.

  • On that issue, and relevant to the recent discussions here on christianity and the Dark Ages, Andrew Bernstein has a brilliant full-length review of Rodney Stark's book The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. Says Bernstein,
    This book, and others like it—along with their admiring treatment by the mainstream liberal press—are signs of the resurgence of Christianity in America. This is all the more frightening because the arguments are being delivered and embraced at an intellectual, not merely a grassroots, level. If such arguments were sound, their growing acceptance among contemporary intellectuals would present no problem; but, as will be shown, this pro-religion thesis, although convincing to some, is egregiously and provably mistaken.
    Bernstein then proceeds to masterfully prove the mistakes in Stark's thesis. As always with articles at The Objective Standard, the full article is available only to subscribers (but as I've said before subscription really is worth every penny) -- you can get the flavour of Bernstein's full review in the opening paragraphs, and also in his reply to two letters on his article in a subsequent issue. See The Tragedy of Theology: How Religion Caused and Extended the Dark Ages, and Letters to the Editor, Spring Edition.
    Why, you ask, did medieval Europeans embrace Aristotle and the Greeks? More broadly, why is Western culture, despite all its flaws, more committed to reason than is any other culture?
    Read on to discover his answer.

  • "America is the Nation of the Enlightenment." Philosopher David Kelly explains what that statement means, and points out who the philosophical enemies are.

  • "Why so gloomy about global warming?" asks scientist Richard Lindzen. "A warmer climate could prove to be more beneficial than the one we have now." See Lindzen in Newsweek: 'Why So Gloomy? Learning to Live With Global Warming.'

  • Far from being a libertarian hero as Tim Wikiriwhi has claimed, Frank Bainimarama is driving a truck through Fiji's constitution. Idiot/Savant considers its prospects for restitution in Fiji: Demolishing the Constitution.

  • And finally, what does Nairobi's plastic bag problem tell us about property rights, and the lack thereof? Says Greg Rehmke, an awful lot. "Sometime symptoms are confused with the disease that causes them. Litter is one such symptom often confused with an economic disease." See Nairobi's Plastic Bags Are Barking.

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Friday, 13 April 2007

Beer O'Clock: Martini (again)

No Beer O'Clock posts from our resident experts this evening, so I'll update an earlier post with my own drink of choice for tonight...

After lengthy research, and many repetitions of that research, I have much pleasure in announcing that I can now reveal the recipe for the perfect martini. It exists, it is real, it can be yours!

The perfect martini (recognising of course that the way to make the perfect martini is hotly disputed) is made with vodka, not gin -- gin is for the English -- and is made with the best vodka you can either buy or bludge, or cadge from someone who has just come through Duty Free . Absolut and Stolichnaya are good choices. Smirnoff is adequate. And yes, the martini must be shaken, not stirred (can I hear some mumbling at the back from the purists?)

Now take your shaker and fill it with crushed ice. Let it sit for a second as you prepare three glasses (you just can't drink a martini alone); into each put an olive, a cocktail onion and about a teaspoon of brine from either olive or onion. Toothpicks are good, and give you some sport while drinking (and you can always judge a drinker by how they dispose of their toothpick).

Now, accuracy is important at this point: pour over the ice in the shaker nine measures of frozen vodka straight from the freezer and two measures of extra dry vermouth. Shake vigorously, pour into the glassware and enjoy its clear oiliness as it fills the glass.

The ideal serving accompaniments are at least one friend, and the Benny Goodman Small Groups CD on your player. The Breakfast at Tiffany's soundtrack is an acceptable alternative. Serge Gainsborough if you must.

I'll leave you with this brief thought, from writer Dorothy Parker:
I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most,
After three I'm under the table,
After four I'm under the host!
Cheers, PC


So Kurt goes

Kurt Vonnegut is dead. The author of Player Piano and Harrison Bergeron and Slaughterhouse Five is dead. Mark for one is not mourning his passing:
Gee, everyone is all boohooing about Vonnegut's death. I guess I might as well be the one to piss in their cornflakes.

Vonnegut was a brilliant author. I read practically everything he wrote. He was fucking brilliant. Then he went and pulled this crap out of his ass lauding suicide bombers ["I regard them as very brave people," said Kurt]

Don't let the door to Hell hit you in the ass on the way in, Kurt.

So it goes.

Riding crop woman, in her own words

As I've said here before, those unable to distnguish between smacking and beating should be abjured from comment on the question, and should certainly not be seeking to pass laws limiting those who do know the difference.

Case in point: the woman who used a riding crop on her son -- the woman pilloried by Lynne Pillay, Sue Bradford, Helen Clark and numerous other people who should have known better as a "child beater" -- explains the difference herself, in her own words, in her own case, and points out that none of the many commenters who have used her case for political effect can lie straight in bed; and she points out too that three years later (in a foreshadowing of what is to come should Bradford's Bill ever be successful) CYFS are still holding her son hostage.

Three years! Even the Iranians let their hostages out sooner than that. You can see the YouTube video here, at the Family Integrity site.

UPDATE: The woman and her partner appeared in court today on two charges of assault and intent to injure, in relation to an incident involving another son. Stuff has a court report here. I have to say that I can only agree with Russell:
What kind of denial do you have to be in, when you make a video statement like
this and have it released on the same day as a court appearance where you know
there will be an account given that you and your husband punched, slapped,
kicked in the kidneys and hogtied your teenage son, who was prevented from
calling his birth father for help and escaped only by running in front of a
passing car?
But does this son's alleged beating change the basic point above?


TVNZ cuts staff -- standards already cut to the bone

Hands up all those who still get their main news from the 6 O'Clock News? And hands up all those who've been involved in something that's been reported on TV news, and found it an accurate portrayal of events? Hmm, not many hands in the air, are there.

So why all the crocodile tears then at the shedding by TVNZ of so many of their 'news' team? These people don't deliver news. They haven't been delivering news for so long, I suspect they've forgotten what it looks like.

At best they deliver reports that are a toothy once-over-lightly with occasional cuts to out-of-context (and often unexplained) images; at worst we are delivered the sort of braindead crud we saw at the height of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, when what looked like the winner of a Weet Bix competition found herself thrust in front of a camera in Tel Aviv without any discernible knowledge of why or how either she or Hezbollah's rockets were there; or the Fijian coup, when instead of real analysis -- or even decent accounts of what was happening to allow some real analyisis to take place --we saw moving pictures each night LIVE FROM FIJI of highly paid morons doing little more than interviewing each other about how many drinks they'd had at their hotel bar, and how many trucks they'd seen driving past while drinking them.

As in-depth journalism, this just isn't worth the name. Their loss is no loss.

The Sunday programme for example, which loses five people, has been tabloid so long it ranks more as infotainment than news; the Breakfast 'News' is more valuable for overnight overseas reports than it is for the sports reporter and weather girl who are being stood down - fewer staff standing around in a small studio will only improve things; most live cuts to on-the-spot journalists in the 'news' hour see viewers greeted not with real news but usually with the smiling inanity of a braindead recent broadcasting school journalist, to whom the finer points of how the world works (to say nothing of the English language) are clearly a complete mystery. News, it ain't.

Fifty-nine jobs are being cut across TVNZ's news and current affairs department? I'll wager the result will be barely noticeable, and certainly no less dire than before. How can you have a drop in standards when they are already so appallingly low.


Religion rejects the values of the west

Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute gives about as brief a review of the Pope's forthcoming book as it deserves. Since it's germane to a current discussion here, I'll post the review in its entirety:

In his forthcoming book, the Pope claims that the West, in its pursuit of earthly prosperity, has "plundered and sacked" Africa and other poor regions. "We see how our lifestyle, the history that involved us, has stripped them naked and continues to strip them naked," he writes.

"Contrary to the Pope's statements, the Third World is not impoverished because of Western 'exploitation,'" said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand
Institute. "It is impoverished precisely because it has failed to embrace Western ideals--the very ideals rejected by Christianity.

"The root of the West's prosperity is its distinctive values of reason, science, and capitalism. Rational minds, free to pursue material prosperity, have produced an
explosion of wealth and technology--from electricity to automobiles, from medicines to personal computers--that has improved our lives and extended our lifespan.

"It is obvious that the third world has failed to embrace these values, and has instead remained mired in mysticism and tribalism. But Christianity rejects them as well; it teaches us to scorn science and earthly success in favor of prayer and religious asceticism. As Jesus counseled his followers, 'Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.' It is bizarre to suggest that the solution to the third world's rampant poverty is a philosophy that idealizes poverty.

"In rejecting the preconditions and goal of prosperity, the Pope makes it clear that his aim is not to see the Third World advance--it is to condemn the West for its commitment to improving and enjoying life on this earth.

"Those who desire better lives for themselves and their families should reject the Pope's immoral message and embrace the values of reason and freedom."

Beth Sholom Synagogue - Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright's Beth Sholom Synagogue, one of three Wright buildings recently declared national historic landmarks by the U.S. Department of the Interior. (The other two are LA's Hollyhock House, and the Bartlesville Tower in Oklahoma, Wright's only built skyscraper -- what he called "the tree that escaped the crowded forest.") Says J.H Delmar's Wright site of the 1954 synagogue, designed some fifty years after Wright's first temple,

Wright described the building as a "luminous Mount Sinai", and the structural and decorative elements of the building were designed to reinforce its relationship to Jewish ceremony and events of the Jewish faith. It is said that the sanctuary of Beth Sholom Synagogue demonstrates Wright's "unmatched capacity to translate ritual into space and experience."

RELATED: Architecture

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Thursday, 12 April 2007

"The one great principle of law is to make business for itself."

I read Cactus' over-enthusiastic encomium to headbanger Paul Grimshaw (a lawyer of the old school finding fortune in a new one, and lauded for it by another lawyer of a stripe sometimes less sinister) and my thoughts turned immediately to the case in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, and to Charles Dickens' telling descriptions in Bleak House of the ongoing enervation of that interminable case, of the lawyers who peck away at their clients in Jarndyce -- Grimshaw himself seems to me a 'Vholes,' a lawyer whom Dickens describes "always looking at the client as if he were making a lingering meal of him with his eyes as well as his professional appetite" -- and of English law itelf. The most telling is this:
The one great principle of English law is to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.
Spot on. Mencken would have approved. Selling the bones of people like this to a mah-jong factory would almost be too good for them.

RELATED: Law, Quotes


What about the rhyme scheme?

Black New York city councillor wants to ban the 'N' word, wants to take it out of use permanently.

Two comedians visit him to take the piss. Hilarity ensues. City councillor doesn't seem to notice; stick too far up his arse. Video here at You Tube.


Al Bore infects opera!

Oh crikey ... Al Bore is now infecting opera, and my beloved Wagner to boot! Ed Hudgins has the dastardly news.

UPDATE: A challenge has been offered, a gauntlet thrown down, and a petition has been started. As reported here previously, Christopher Monckton (whom Free Radical and Not PC readers will recognise) has challenged Lord Bore of Nashville to a debate, and a petition (below) has now been started to bring the Bore to the table.

Add your signature now!
To: Al Gore

Mr. Gore,

Numerous scientists claim that the global warming experienced in the 20th century has nothing to do with man-made carbon dioxide, as you claim. Their arguments are compelling, and a debate would allow you to address these issues and prove that your arguments are based on science, rather than politics.

On March 14, 2007 Lord Monckton of Brenchley challenged you to debate your position on global warming, but your refusal only strengthens their position. We urge you to debate Lord Monckton of Brenchley, or otherwise admit that the causal link between man and global warming is spurious.

The Undersigned


A christian nation?

What's the basis of western civilization? A commenter here at Not PC suggested that religion, specifically christian religion is the foundation for western civilisation.

Now that's a widespread view to be sure, and one that is totally wrong.

As I said in response on that thread, "I suspect the Classical Greeks might raise some objections to the proposition, as might several historians of both the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment" -- and I do intend to follow up those points sometime very soon. I'll just say briefly now that if the basis of western civilisation can be described as a focus on reason, individualism and happiness on this earth -- ideas that were a product not of theologians but of Classical Greeks, ideas which were fortunately rediscovered for the west in the Renaissance -- then far from being any sort of foundation for these ideas, christian religion is at odds with all of them. More below.

Now, my commenter suggested that as partial proof of his thesis the praiseworthy observation that the US,
a heavily Christian country ... produced 173,771 patents in 2006. Check all Islamic countries since 1700 and you might get 1000.
While this certainly reveals something, I'm afraid it doesn't prove anything like what my interlocutor would like it to prove. It's certainly true that theocracy -- any theocracy -- is bad for free-wheeling scientific research, and it's equally true that religion -- any religion -- is a hindrance rather than a help to scientific research. (Faith and mysticism are not handmaidens to truth, but they are the twin handmaidens of religion, so-called shortcuts to knowledge that are nothing but short-circuits destroying the mind, and destroying science if we would let them.)

The reason for the disparity in those quoted figures is not because there are different religions in the US and in Islamic countries, it is because the influence of religion is far less and far less all-pervasive in the US than it is in the Islamic theocracies. The separation of religion and state was well done by America's Founders.

It might be argued here that in fact the US was founded as a christian country. Well, it wasn't. The Founding Fathers never intended that. John Adams himself declared,
The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.
You can't get too much more of a blunt declaration than that. America's revolution was founded upon a declaration of human freedom, a declaration of rights, and as Thomas Jefferson explained (and he would know)"
Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than on our opinions in physics and geometry....
So declared Thomas Jefferson. The US was not a nation founded on religion, it was a Nation of the Enlightenment, that proud era in human affairs that represented an overthrow of religion and a renaissance of reason. [More quotes in this vein here, courtesy of the Ayn Rand Institute] If religion is anything to America, argues philosopher Leonard Peikoff, it is a threat, not a foundation.

What did religion bring to history? Founding Father James Madison has the summary:
Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise....During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.
Ignorance, superstition, bigotry and persecution. They do not describe western civilisation, but they do describe the Dark Ages to a 'T', those centuries over which the christian church so dolefully presided -- and they describe too the present-day Islamic theocracies -- but of western civilisation those words are at odds; the leitmotifs of western civilisation are not ignorance, superstition, bigotry and persecution, but their polar opposites: reason, freedom and individualism.

We got these beneficient ideas from the Greeks. But we had to shake off centuries of religion to rediscover them.

LINKS: Murdering tall poppies - that's what Easter is all about - Not PC
The Founding Fathers on religion - Ayn Rand Institute
Religion vs. America - Leonard Peikoff

RELATED: Religion, Ethics, History


Popular PC

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  3. Frank Lloyd Wright - Broadacre City
  4. Bob Carter Dangerous Climate
  5. More pics from Wellington's anti-anti-smacking rally
  6. There's nothing sadder
  7. Debating Al Bore
  8. New Zealand? Or Fiji?
  9. Stephen Speicher, 1939-2007
  10. Nature unveiling herself - Louis Barrias
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  7. pc blog cresswell
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  10. evening: fall of day

1, Auckland; 2, Sydney; 3, Wellington; 4, Christchurch; 5, Palmerston North; 6, Ithaca, New York; 7, New York; 8, Zurich; 9, Hong Kong; 10, Calgary, Alberta.

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Zarathustra - Peter Schipperheyn

Sculptor Peter Schipperheyn began with the image of the open hand and the clenched fist, and twenty years later that image became this monumental sculpture for a Melbourne sculpture garden of Nietzsche's hero, Zarathustra. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks] Says the sculptor:
The concept of dualism, of the eternal struggle between the forces of light and dark between good and evil, "He was wise enough to recognize that all the motives of human beings are based on action and reaction" I thought that is it I have found the spiritual significance of the clenched fist and the open hand gesture that I had dreamed all those years ago, it meshed entirely in my mind with what I was trying to express.
RELATED: Art, Sculpture

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Darnton slams democracy rationing, and challenges other party leaders

Libertarianz leader and former pledge card litigant Bernard Darnton today criticised Labour's political party funding plans, calling them an attempt to ration democracy, and slammed the proposal to limit free speech during elections...
Darnton confirmed that Libertarianz would turn down any money offered under the scheme, and urged the leaders of other parties to do the same. "This scheme is intended to entrench Labour's theft of the last election. Others would do well to think hard before stooping to their level.
"Worse than the plans to put political parties on welfare are Labour's plans to limit free speech during elections," Darnton claimed.

"The plans to curtail third party spending, with an exemption designed for the unions, combined with the attempts to shut down National's main funding sources, and recent threats to charities who get involved in politics all look like steps down the road to a one-party state.

"Labour is simply trying to ration democracy, reserving the biggest share for itself, and Libertarianz wants nothing to do with it."
Excellent. I look forward to equally clear statements from other party leaders that they won't be taking money under this frontal attack on democracy, and from National (if they come to power) that they will repeal this outrageous assault if passed. Story here at Newswire.


Code Blogger

A code of conduct for bloggers? The recent Kathy Sierra case has kicked off a move by Tim O'Reilly and Jimmy Wales to propose a Bloggers' Code of Conduct, and a thoughtful review of the move (and the Code) from Russell Brown. I generally agree in the end with Russell's own conclusions on implementing such a code on his own site, that is on not applying such an explicit code.
I reserve the right to intervene, to delete or censor posts, or strike off user accounts. Without apology. It's my site and I know what kind of environment I want it to be. I'm just not sure I need to sign up to a highly procedural "code of conduct" to assert that right.
As I've said here before, I'm all in favour of passionate debate and acerbic commentary, just as long as it's backed up with reason -- which rule I like to think I follow myself. When comments fail that basic test, then deleting deranged nonsense from the comments section is not censorship -- freedom of speech does not require that one provide the unhinged with a microphone -- it is simply asking the deranged to move along. Equally, implementing a 'Code' should hardly be necessary to let people know in advance what is and isn't likely to be considered deranged. Or should it?

"Hey mum, I'm an atheist."

A hilarious short You Tube video is posted at Richard Dawkins' site: A son tells his Catholic mother he's an atheist, and records it. "You cannot become an atheist OVERNIGHT," screams the mother. Really? Surely all it takes is an ounce of thought.

RELATED: Religion

New Zealand, or Fiji?

Is this New Zealand? Or perhaps Fiji? Notes the Herald's Audrey Young this morning on the Clark Government's plans for democracy rationing:
Labour wants to allow police to raid political party offices to gather evidence of breaches of its planned election spending laws.
As Lucyna says, "You can almost hear the jack-boots already."

The Herald's own editorial draws a lesson for the Clark Government that it "has not learned very much from its public lashing last year over election spending." Highly ironic then that a raid on Heather Simpson's office just days before the last election would have revealed her own run around the election spending laws on behalf of the Clark Government.

Where, oh where, are the left liberals who still truly value democracy?

LINKS: Police could raid political offices in election spending plan - Audrey Young, Herald
Pass the hat, and reject the handout - Herald editorial

RELATED: NZ Politics, Labour, Free Speech, Darnton V Clark

Bob Carter: A dangerous climate

The (UK) Sunday Telegraph has another fine piece from Professor Bob Carter on the latest scare report to surf the media waves.
The latest IPCC report, published on Friday [and issued yesterday in NZ], is the most alarming yet: not for its claims of human-caused global warming, writes leading environmental scientist Bob Carter, but for its lack of scientific rigour.
Graph shows the satellite record for the 1979-2006 period, "the very period that human carbon dioxide emissions have been increasing rapidly. "
We do not read about natural climate change in the everyday news. Instead, newspapers, radio and television stations bludgeon us with a merciless stream of human-caused global-warming alarmism, egged on by a self-interested gaggle of journalists, environmental lobbyists, scientific and business groups, church leaders and politicians, all of whom preach that we must "stop climate change" by reducing human CO2 emissions.

The body from which most of these groups get their information is the [UN's] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is also the organisation that advises national governments. The IPCC has issued three substantial statements, the First (1990), Second (1995) and Third (2001) Assessment Reports, each of which incorporates the research and opinions of many hundreds of qualified scientists. Its 20-chapter, 1,572-page Fourth Assessment Report was released on Friday. The full reports are detailed and compendious, and each is therefore accompanied by a short chapter termed a Summary for Policymakers (SPM) that is designed for political application.

Many distinguished scientists refuse to participate in the IPCC process, and others have resigned from it, because in the end the advice that the panel provides to governments is political and not scientific. Although at least -$50 billion has been spent on climate research, the science arguments for a dangerous human influence on global warming have, if anything, become weaker since the establishment of the IPCC in 1988.

Yet the rhetoric of IPCC alarm has been successively ramped up, from "the observed [20th-century temperature] increase could be largely due to\u2026 natural variability" (1990); to "the balance of the evidence suggests a discernible human influence on climate" (1995): to "there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities" (2001); to it is "90 per cent probable" that the recent warming is "due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations" (2007). What can the evidence be for these increasingly dramatic warnings?
What can the evidence be? Carter runs his rule over the three main lines of argument in The Dangerous Climate, and finds them all wanting.

UPDATE: You can hear Bob Carter "hosing down the doomsdayers" on John Laws' radio show last Friday. Audio here.

RELATED: Global Warming, World Politics

Nature Unveiling Herself - Louis Barrias

Nature Unveiling Herself - Louis Barrias

RELATED: Art, Sculpture

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

IPCC's second bite at the warmist cherry

The Commons Blog has posted its own short assessment of the Second IPCC/UN Working Group's Summary for Policymakers, released in Europe over the weekend and in NZ this morning.
Although the Summary for Policymakers has some useful and apt things to say about the need for adaptation, it is flawed by the fact that it:
  • Overstates negative impacts and understates positive impacts of climate change
  • Overstates the level of confidence that should be attached to the impacts on both human systems as well as "natural" systems (because the latter are also affected by human actions)
  • Fails to examine the impacts of climate change in the wider context of other stresses affecting humanity and the rest of nature
  • Fails to examine the relationship between climate change and sustainable economic development more fully, which could mislead policymakers into opting for policies that would divert resources from dealing with today's urgent problems in favor of policies to pursue longer term, and more uncertain, problems.

Among the several problems regarding the SPM are the following . . .

Download the whole Word document here to see what those "several problems" are.

UPDATE 1: Owen McShane talks sense to Leighton Smith on the new report. Bannning people living and building and enjoying living on the coastline -- and taking any risks involved on their own shoulders -- is not just another sign of the rampant new puritanism, it's just plain dumb. You can hear the first part of the audio here, starting about twelve minutes in, continuing here with part two. [Audio courtesy Newstalk ZB.]

UPDATE 2: The Climate Science Coalition press release calls this latest IPCC Report "dangerous nonsense." Says Dr Vincent Gray on behalf of the coalition,
“Global temperatures have not been rising for eight years. New Zealand temperatures in the last 50 years have gone down with volcanoes and up with El Niños but have no signs of ‘warming’. Christchurch has not warmed since 1917. The sea level in Auckland has been much the same since 1960.

“The claims of the IPCC are dangerous unscientific nonsense,” says Dr Gray

UPDATE 3: Lubos Motl at the Reference Frame blog summarises the political pressure on each of the three UN/IPCC Working Groups, and points out:

  1. "Their pre-determined task is to "prove" that most of the recent climate change is man-made, despite any scientific evidence that shows the opposite."
  2. Working Group 1 [WG1], is the group that studies the so-called science behind the claims of man-made climate change. "It is necessary for WG1 to prove what they're asked to prove, otherwise it would become clear that the very existence of the groups WG2, WG3 is a gigantic fraud - much like the existence of a large WG1, after all."
  3. The latest report, issued in New Zealand on Monday, is not in fact a scientific report -- the science behind the full report has still not been released. "WG2 doesn't even pretend to be based on natural science. Just like WG1 that provided us with a demo (summary for policymakers) although many people apparently think that WG1 has already released a report, WG2 only offers us the table of contents, press conferences, and their IPCC WG2 summary for policymakers... Even though the full document is rumored to have 1572 pages (what else it can be than just a worthless conglomerate of myths that hundreds of random people add to it?), we must rely on the summary and press conferences as reported by the media e.g. Bloomberg."
    In other words, what has been released is not the science but the summaries, and without real opportunity for examination of the science.
Is this really science at all? No, it's just politics as usual. Regarding the chief claims of the WG2 report itself, at least as far as those claims have been reported, Lubos is equally scathing:
  • "The working group is informing us that species will go extinct even though it is pretty much known that higher temperatures have been historically increasing the diversity of species, especially mammals."
  • "They are telling us that there will be many more storms even though rudimentary atmospheric physics implies that storminess should decrease because it is driven by the temperature difference between the equator and the poles and this difference is predicted to shrink because the polar warming should be faster."
  • "They are telling us that the poor people may be the hardest hit ones. That's almost certainly the case but what they're not saying is that 99+ percent of their ability to cope not only with a hypothetical climate change but also with the status quo depends on their future wealth and on their access to technology - something that these comrades want to prevent."
"To summarize," says Lubos, "what WG2 is saying is mostly a shameful piece of crap but it is a politically correct piece of crap, and that's what really matters these days."

UPDATE 4: In reply to a question in his comments section, Lubos, who would have lived through Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution as a youngster, sees grounds for optimism:
I don't think that the analysis why the GW orthodoxy doesn't hold water is too difficult. It will be understood by too many people by the end of 2008 - because it is discussed at all possible levels - and the virago may likely collapse within a few years.

In 1989, I couldn't imagine how communism could ever collapse because they were in charge of everything and there seemed to be almost no opposing voices except for a tiny minority of 1,000 or so dissidents. It collapsed trivially and within weeks.

The GW orthodoxy is based on too many obvious lies and if there is any flow of information, it is impossible to keep all these secrets hidden from all impartial people.
LINK: Accentuating the negatives: The IPCC Working Group II Summary for Policymakers (SPM) - Commons Blog
IPCC Working Group II report - Lubos Molt, Reference Frame

RELATED: Environment, Global Warming

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CHUTZPAH: Using $800,000 of taxpayers' money to buy yourself an election.

CARELESSNESS: Being caught.

EFFRONTERY: Using the resulting furore to propose that taxpayers fund you next time to the tune of $1.14 million.

PRICELESS: Knowing that you still haven't paid back the original $800,000.

For basic raids on NZ's electoral system, there's the Clark Government. For everything else, including picking up the tab, there's the taxpayer.
* * * * *

UPDATE: Insolent Prick says it how I feel it: Fuck YOU you thieving bastards

The prophet is cold

In the midst of a current cold snap across the US, Harvard physicist and climate skeptic Lubos Motl notes for your amusement:
The city of the Holy Prophet in Nashville, Tennessee has seen its coldest April day in recorded history and the coldest Easter in recorded history: 24 degrees F from 1940 wasn't cold enough (by 1 deg F).

Other parts of Tennessee have only tied the records from 1982 on Sunday morning. The slightly exceptional reading in Nashville can thus be attributed to the Gore effect.
RELATED: Environment, Global Warming

Darkness on the edge of town

Here's a good letter published in this morning's USA Today:
The darkness that enveloped Sydney during a recent one-hour, citywide blackout is an appropriate symbol of the philosophical meaning of environmentalism and a harbinger of the dark future we'll face if we don't reject this anti-human ideology ("Is Earth near its 'tipping points' from global warming?" Cover story, Life, Wednesday).

Environmentalism is anti-human because it places the "preservation" of nature above human survival and prosperity. Human life in our modern, industrial civilization requires the generation of enormous amounts of energy. Yet, environmentalists are ideologically opposed to all practical forms of energy production because they constitute a massive remaking of nature for the exclusive benefit of man.

Even if it were true that cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and reducing energy use would have a significant effect on the Earth's climate, that would be no excuse for the environmentalists' anti-industrial agenda.

It took humanity thousands of years of struggling to escape the misery of pre-industrial life.

If we value our lives, we must refuse to turn off the lights that illuminate our cities and our lives.
RELATED: Environment, Global Warming

Monday, 9 April 2007

On speech rationing

I'm happy to say that between them Rodney Hide and Cactus have the Clark Government's plans for electoral speech rationing nailed. First Cactus:
This is totally disgraceful. But a useful reminder of what Labour has become.

"It also plans to attack an important source of money for National by limiting anonymous donations from anybody, including trusts, to $5000.

National received $1.8 million in 2005, all but $140,000 of it from six trusts.

People can maintain their anonymity by donating to trusts, which then pass the money on to the party".
And look after their own:
* Exempt from the new third-party rules groups such as unions or companies when they are communicating directly with their members...
Talk about hypocritical -- and Cactus does. At length. And then Rodney delivers the principled one-two:

There’s a huge reluctance in New Zealand politics to talk principles. . . Our electoral spending laws are an affront to free speech. People should be free to say what they want. They should be free to spend their own money promoting whatever cause they choose. Period.

We now have Labour proposing to clamp down further on freedom of expression through our electoral law. Through this debate there is never any mention of any principle. I would have thought freedom of speech and political expression were things worth talking about ... and trying to defend.


LINKS: What's wrong with free speech? - Rodney Hide's blog
A matter of trust for Labour - Cactus Kate

RELATED: Free Speech, NZ Politics

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Murdering tall poppies -- that's what Easter is about

Every religion has their own myths that go to the very heart of their beliefs. The Easter Myth is central to christianity, and intensely revealing. Bach's 'St Mathew Passion,' which musically dramatises Bach's dramatisation just how revealing the Easter Myth really is.

Just think, christians revere Christ as their ideal, and indeed Bach had his chorus praise him, worship him, and eulogise Him. This was their hero, the man that god sent to earth, and that same god went and had him killed.

That's the story. This, says Bach, is what christians revere: The murder of their ideal.

Such is the nature of the Easter Myth.

The clear insight that it seems Bach wants us to take about the myth of Easter is one of suffering and one of sacrifice, and in particular the very nature of that sacrifice: in the name of religion he shows us that the good (by christian standards) is sacrificed to the rotten; the constant to the inconstant; the talented and inspirational to the lumpen dross. The ideal to the worthless. In the name of God, then, the' good' just has to go!

Easter, for christians it seems, is a time to revere sacrifice. Oh yes, there's a 'rebirth' of sorts, but not one in this earthly realm, and not before a celebration of intense pain and suffering that supposedly bought redemption and virtue for those who possessed neither.

In other words, it struck me that the Easter Myth is not unlike Ayn Rand's Fountainhead, only in reverse. Unlike the heroes of Bach's Passion, Rand's heroes shun sacrifice. The ethic of The Fountainhead, one for which each of the leading characters fights for in their own way, is one in which genius has the right to live for its own sake. Contrast that with the Easter Story, in which The Good is revered for the act of suffering and dying for the expiation of others.

In my book, that's not really an ethic worthy of reverence.

LINKS: The Fountainhead - Objectivism Reference Center

TAGS: Religion, Objectivism, Ethics, Music, Books

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Climate skeptics on air

Why do climate change skeptics disagree with the supposed consensus over global warming? Radio NZ's Insight programme asked members of NZ's Climate Science Coalition that question.

The result is here [audio], a half-hour broadcast that includes interviews with Chris de Freitas, Augie Auer, Vincent Gray and Owen McShane, and and clips from Richard Lindzen, Steve McIntyre, Philip Stott and others. Highly recommended listening.

UPDATE: Audio repaired.

Joy! by Llew Summers

Joi de Vivre, by Christchurch sculptor Llew Summers, in a setting that's just made for such unabashed exuberance.

Beryl Cook would undoubtedly approve.

RELATED: Art, Sculpture