Monday, 28 May 2007

'Lost' & Chekhov's gun

The playwright Anton Chekhov once offered a pithy literary principle for anyone pulling together a plot. Said Anton, If a gun appears on the wall in the First Act, then it should go off the in Third.

In good drama, in other words, nothing should be unintentional. If you're not to have an audience that feels cheated when they leave the show, then questions asked of the audience in the First Act should be resolved by the Curtain.

Based on this principle, novelist Ed Cline compares my own favourite TV series The Prisoner with the series Lost, which on the face of it has many parallels. However ...

[See Ed Cline's 'Lost' and Clueless for the full story. Note that Ed "would caution the reader... about plot spoilers to follow, but there is no plot to spoil." ]

A short film at lunchtime...

Protecting yourself from vandalism is good

A company endures sabotage, disruption and destruction of property and projects by a small group of goths and vandals.

The company pays a young numb nut to infiltrate the organisation and report on when protests and disruption were planned.

Who's in the right here? The vandals? Or those trying to protect themselves from destruction and disruption?

The Greens' Russel Norman is exactly wrong to be denouncing Solid Energy (the company) for infiltrating a spy into the Save Happy Valley environmental protest group (the vandals). Not just wrong, but downright hypocritical because as Trevor Loudon points out, Russel himself was weaned by Australia's Trotskyite DSP and its former incarnation the Socialist Workers Party, both "notorious in Australia for their relentless infiltration and manipulation of other organisations."

Read Trevor's lowdown on the tactics of the Trotskyites and Russel's involvement "for several years ... in an organisation that practised manipulation of other organisations as a matter of course": Is Russel Norman being hypocritical over "infiltration" allegation.

UPDATE 1: A surveillance state? Libertarianz spokesman Greg Balle makes the perfectly sensible point that this incident illustrates a key reason why State Owned Enterprises such as Solid Energy should all be privatised. Says Greg:
While Solid Energy remains an arm of the state, activities such as surveillance of citizens takes on a very sinister element, particularly as they have the might of the sate at their disposal to protect them against legal challenges to such dubious behaviour.

If the SOE's were private corporations they would not have the protection of Nanny State's skirts to hide behind and would be subject to the rigours of the free market of industrial espionage and information, as such they would be open to court action like any other private corportation. A Libertarianz government would privatise all SOE's, like Solid Energy, and return proceeds from the privatisation to taxpayers. Eliminating the rogue arms of the corpro-state indulging in spying, intimidation and monopolistic behaviour, would be a welcome benefit from the sale of these enterprises.
Makes perfect sense to me.

UPDATE 2: Trevor Loudon provides another instructive link indicating that The Greens' have more than just an emotional connection to this issue. Young Frances Mountier, who you've probably seen on your TV news leading the rabble opposing Solid Energy, is a graduate of Sue Bradford's Kotare School project (which has been mentioned here before). Explains Trevor:
The Kotare School is openly modelled on the Communist Party USA linked Highlander School in Tennessee, famous for training martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and many other prominent "civil rights" activists.

Kotare's Green Party trustees include MP Sue Bradford (Deputy Chair), Karen Davis (Treasurer) and Sue Berman. Gordon Jackman another trustee is the partner of Green party activist, Catherine Delahunty, who tutors at the school.

Several Kotare personnel, including Sue Bradford and Quentin Jukes have Workers Communist league backgrounds. The school teaches "social activism" based on the teachings of Brazilian Marxist, Paolo Friere. It has trained many prominent youth activists, including John Darroch from Auckland Radical Youth and Wellington Palestine Group activist Tali Williams.

According to Kotare's Spring 2006 newsletter

Kotare has a Youth Advisory group of people under 25 who have volunteered to give us feedback on how we are working generally and also specifically with younger people. We are meeting with them on November 11 and 12 to discuss our work. The advisory group members are Tali Williams from Wellington, Frances Mountier from Christchurch, John Darroch from South Auckland and Tui Armstrong from Whangarei. These young people have all participated in Kotare activities since the age of 15 and have active networks and great ideas!

So Frances Mountier has trained at a Green Party linked Marxist training school since the age of 15!

The phrase "brainwashed" comes to mind.

The real story here is that Solid Energy is fighting not just a bunch of irresponsible young protestors. It is also battling the Green Party, including several of its leaders and strategies learnt in Sue Bradford's Marxist training school.

One can hardly blame them for fighting back with a little bit of espionage.
No, one couldn't. I'd suggest that the Save Happy Valley Coalition are less interested in saving snails than they are in saving and promoting Marxism.

Warmists don't like disagreement

Alexander Cockburn continues counterpunching the warmists in The Nation. Warmists don't like disagreement. Spoils the "consensus."

I began this series of critiques of the greenhouse fearmongers with an evocation of the papal indulgences of the Middle Ages as precursors of the "carbon credits"-ready relief for carbon sinners, burdened, because all humans exhale carbon, with original sin. In the Middle Ages they burned heretics, and after reading through the hefty pile of abusive comments and supposed refutations of my initial article on global warming I'm fairly sure that the critics would be only to happy to cash in whatever carbon credits they have and torch me without further ado. The greenhouse fearmongers explode at the first critical word, and have contrived a series of primitive rhetorical pandybats which they flourish in retaliation.
"Pandybats." Good word => Pandybats were long leather-covered cane like instruments which Irish schoolmasters used as canes. Here's some of the disciplinary explosions conjured up by warmists:
  • Those who disagree with their claim that anthropogenic CO2 is the cause of the small, measured increase in the average earth's surface temperature, are stigmatized as "denialists"...
  • The greenhousers endlessly propose that the consensus of "scientists" on anthropogenic climate change is overwhelming. By scientists they actually mean computer modelers...
  • Peer review, heavily overworked in the rebuttals I have been reading, is actually a topic on which the greenhousers would do well to keep their mouths shut, since, as the University of Virginia's Pat Michaels has shown, the most notorious sentence in the IPCC's 1996 report ("The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate") was inserted at the last minute by a small faction on the IPCC panel after the scientific peer-review process was complete....
  • As for the alleged irrefutable evidence that people caused the last century's CO2 increase, the "smoking gun" invoked by one of my critics, Dr. Michael Mann, and his fellow fearmongers at, the claim is based on the idea that the normal ratio of heavy to light carbon-that is, the Carbon-13 isotope to the lighter Carbon-12 isotope, is roughly 1 to 90 in the atmosphere, but in plants there's a 2 percent lower C13/C12 ratio... once again, the greenhousers have got it ass-backward. The 100 ppm increase in CO2 can't be uniquely attributed to humans because at least as plausibly it could be the effect, not the cause, of the warming that started after the Little Ice Age denied by Dr. Michael "Hockey Stick" Mann.
Look for more in this series when Cockburn returns from flying over the Arctic to "make a direct review of the ice cap" to further annoy "committed greenhousers like George Monbiot" -- "honorary chairman of the King Canute Action Committee, committed to beating back non-existent anthropogenic global warming by tactics which would have zero impact anyway."

Here's Cockburn's complete series so far:
  1. Is Global Warming a Sin?
  2. Hot Air, Cold Cash: Who Are the Merchants of Fear?
  3. Explosion of the Fearmongers: The Greenhousers strike back and out.
UPDATE: Take the Global Warming Test: A quick quiz from 1997 that will test your grasp of global warming. It comes with a caution: "This section contains sound science, not media hype, and may therefore contain material not suitable for young people trying to get a good grade in political correctness."

Advice for Pink Tories from the Jackal author

He wrote The Day of the Jackal, Dogs of War and The Odessa File, and now Frederick Forsyth has advice for Britain's Labour-Lite David Cameron that advisers and enthusiasts of NZ's Labour-Lite John Key might want to take to heart before they get too excited about weekend poll numbers.
It may be that politics is the art of the possible but election-winning is about doing one’s sums: then persuading the maximum number in the maximum constituencies to vote for you. Turning them off, not to mention pee-ing them off, is bad arithmetic.

No one ever got to Downing Street save on the basis of two votes: their own party’s core vote (the loyalists, the traditionalists) and the floating vote – those who have no inbuilt allegiance but make up their minds near the election.

But David has a third category – the walkaway vote. Back in 1992 a staggering 14million voted Tory. Did they all love John Major? No, they knew nothing about him.

They just believed, wrongly, that he wore the mantle of Margaret Thatcher. Sixty months later they realised how wrong they had been and the Tory vote slumped by 4.5million.

Only half a million actually switched to Blair. One million when UK Independence Party/Referendum Party (now UKIP alone) and the other three million stayed at home. After four years of William Hague another 1.5 million stayed at home as the Tory vote slithered down to just over eight million. Thus, 4.5million ex-Tory voters are unaccounted for. Maybe a third have died or emigrated but that still leaves three million out there somewhere.

Dave Cameron needs at least a million of the walkaway vote to convert to the walkback vote. He needs another million of the UKIP vote (overwhelmingly former Conserv­atives) to become the switch-back vote. Then and only then does he need any Lib Dems who prefer him and his ideas to Ming Campbell to change sides.

What he absolutely does not need is to insult the UKIPers (which he has done), convince the walkaway vote to stay away (which appears to be his aim) let alone sneer at the loyalist bloc until they are so fed up they decide to leave as well. That way he will remain Leader of the Opposition for a very long time.

He is being told by the coterie of juveniles and EU fanatics with whom he surrounds himself that it doesn’t matter because offended, disgruntled and insulted Tory loyalists have nowhere else to go come polling day. Big mistake.

I know at least five Tory voters who have decided they simply cannot vote for him. Only the tip of a possible iceberg? Perhaps – but it was the tip of an iceberg that sank the Titanic.

Master David needs every damn vote he can get. Shedding them is not good mathematics.
John Boy supporters might want to think about just who John Boy's shit-eating is peeing off.

In 2002 only 425,000 voters voted National, the party's lowest vote since the invention of the steam wireless. Those voters might be regarded as the core vote, people who would vote National even if a donkey were in charge -- which is what those core National voters voted for that year. In 2005 the Nats more than doubled their vote to 890,000, sucking in an extra 465,000 voters (which included 110,000 voters from ACT, 80,000 or so from NZ First, and perhaps 200,000 or so people who'd stayed home in 2002). These would be your "floating voters."

Of these, anyone voting NZ First has to be regarded as too fickle to be considered reliable. I can't imagine that the 111,000 former ACT voters will sit still too long for policies that promise little more than muesli bars in schools and the retention of every measure that Labour ever introduced; and those voters who stayed home in 2002 can't be relied upon not to do so again. (After all, the same donkey they stayed home to avoid in 2002 will be back up there behind John Boy next year.)

And on top of that if the Nats really do want to govern on their own they'll need to pull an extra 300,000 or so in from somewhere, both new young voters (many of whom can no doubt be as easily seduced as John Boy seems to think we all are) and even some of the 935,00 who voted for Hard Labour last time. So if I were they, I wouldn't get too excited too soon about a popularity contest sans policies. Real elections need real policies more than they need honeymoon smiles.

They might reflect too on what the point would be of getting excited about a government trailing an opposition when there's barely any discernible policy difference between them. It makes no more practical sense than it does political sense.

UPDATE: The Herald's breakdown of the leading "pockets of support" for each party is instructive.
  • 54.4% of male voters prefer National, while just 29.3% of men prefer Labour.
  • Meanwhile, a whopping 50% of students (and their lecturers?) prefer Labour, that party's leading demographic indicator. Those student loan bribes last election are still paying off.
  • About a quarter of the unemployed prefer the Greens (no surprise, perhaps, for an openly anti-industrial party whose policies would see the number of unemployed explode), and 3.3% of the self-employed prefer ACT -- that party's largest "demographic."
And on that note, I suspect the demographic most strongly represented in the Libertarianz is those who like a drink. At least, that's my own experience. ;^)

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Filing by stuff that's lying around

I guess most music collectors amongst you will remember the scene in High Fidelity (book and film) when the character rearranges his record collection ... alphabetically? No ... chronologically? No .... by genre ? No... perhaps ranked according to mood? No. He's filing it autobiographically, based on when he bought it. The experience of music, says the character, is the experience of a lifetime lived. Geek heaven maybe, but possible.

So if that's true, how about the CDs, tapes and vinyl that -- no matter which way you organise the collection -- just end up regularly lying around the stereo, stuff that gets played so often it just never gets re-filed? If our autobiographical filing shows us the experience of a lifetime lived, wouldn't our regular playlist tell us more about our current selves? Or does it just tell us we should dust more often.

Anyway, judge for yourself. Here's some of what's hanging regularly around my stereo at the moment, most of which never gets back onto the shelves; the detritus of too much listening. Those of you with iPods can talk amongst yourselves for a while.
  1. Primitive Guitars - Phil Manzanera
  2. Eine Frau fur die Liebe - La Pat
  3. Benny Goodman Small Combos 1935-1941
  4. Trinity Sessions - Cowboy Junkies
  5. Lost in the Stars - Music of Kurt Weill
  6. Modern Times - Bob Dylan
  7. Wagner Choruses from Bayreuth - Wilhelm Pitz & the Bayreuth Festival Chorus & Orchestra
  8. I'm Your Fan - Songs of Leonard Cohen by ...
  9. The Time Has Come - Christy Mooore
  10. Struck By Lightning - Graham Parker
  11. Dream of Life - Patti Smith
  12. No Friend Around - John Lee Hooker
  13. Giants of Jazz: Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker
  14. Atomic Swing - Count Basie
  15. Louis Armstrong (home-made CD compilation)
  16. Sounds of the 20th Century: Django Reinhardt
  17. Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus (Vol. 5) - Serge Gainsbourg
  18. I Am the Blues - Willy Dixon
  19. Piano Sonatas 8, 14, 17, 21, 23 & 26 - Beethoven
  20. Death & the Maiden - Schubert
  21. And His Mother Called Him Bill - Duke Ellington
  22. Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington
  23. Asylum Years - Tom Waits
  24. Henry's Dream - Nick Cave
  25. Wagner Piano Transcriptions - Cyprien Katsaris
  26. Cole Porter Songbook (Vol. 1) - Ella Fitzgerald
  27. Loaded - Velvet Underground
  28. American Caesar - Iggy
  29. Coleman Hawkins - Ken Burns 'Jazz' compilation
  30. Fragments of a Rainy Season - John Cale
  31. 16 Classic Tracks - Hoagy Carmichael
  32. Della by Starlight - Della Reese
  33. Songs of the Auvergne (Canteloube)/Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 (Villa-Lobos)/Vocalise (Rachmaninoff) - Anna Moffo & Leopold Stokowski
  34. Callas & Di Stefano at La Scala
  35. Tom Verlaine - Tom Verlaine
  36. Dizzy Gillespie's Big 4 - Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Joe Pass, Mickey Roker
  37. Rolling Stone - Muddy Waters
  38. Pink Elephants - Mick Harvey
Yeah, it's a busy stereo, but when you work from home ...

Anyway, what does your stereo detritus say about you?

Blessed are the cheesemakers...

Cartoon by Nick Kim.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

A Saturday stroll through the stuff that life is made of

Another random Saturday morning stroll through items and sites of note. Grab your mouse, and let's have at them:
  • Let's start with a stiff drink. Fortunately, Windy City Girl has a list of rules to help with your bar room etiquette. Every drinker should have them tattoed somewhere you can find them in an emergency, since as Rule 86 says, "You will forget every one of these rules by your fifth drink." See Windy City Girl: Drinking Rules.

  • However, Nanny is at it again. There are moves afoot, if you haven't already noticed, to lower the legal blood-alcohol level when driving to zero. Zero! Taken strictly that would mean no drinks in a twenty-four hour period. But it's necessary, we are told. "Drink-driving prosecutions are up, we are told. The figures are alarming, we are told." Lindsay Mitchell, as always, has the facts:
    In 2005, there were 100 alcohol-related deaths. Apart from 2002, this is the lowest toll in the last twenty years. The following is an international comprison of road deaths per 100,000; Of the above countries, 10 have higher road deaths than NZ. Three of them have zero alcohol breath limits, 6 have 50mg limits and 1, like NZ, has an 80mg limit. The evidence is barely compelling.
    The evidence for a total ban is not compelling at all, but the evidence for a New Puritanism continues to pile up. Be afraid. Nanny is on the march.

  • As it happens, discussing the New Puritanism was on the agenda yesterday afternoon on Radio New Zealand, where I was asked to appear with The Panel to talk about anti-smoking ads. The results can be heard here, about 17:00 in. Wallace's point that Bomber Bradbury is himself one of the New Puritans was a good one: despite appearances to the contrary, there are few in contemporary NZ culture more of a conformist than Bradbury, a reactionary in thrall to every stale bromide and crackpot cliché that exists.

  • Rachel Carson: murderer. Tomorrow, if she were still alive, Rachel Carson would have been 100. Keith Lockitch 'celebrates' the centenary of her birth [See Rachel Carson's Genocide] by reminding her of what should gnaw at her soul if she were still alive.
    On May 27, environmentalists will celebrate what would have been the 100th birthday of Rachel Carson, the founding mother of their movement.But Carson's centenary is no cause for celebration. Her legacy includes more than a million deaths a year from the mosquito-borne disease malaria. Though nearly eradicated decades ago, malaria has resurged with a vengeance because DDT, the most effective agent of mosquito control, has been essentially discarded--discarded based not on scientific concerns about its safety, but on environmental dogma advanced by Carson.
    Carson is dead. So too are the millions killed by the abandonment of DDT. But dangerous environmental dogma lives on. See your daily headlines for the evidence.

  • If global warming was genuinely "all about the science" as I keep hearing, then why do scientific opponents of global warming keep seeing their finding, jobs and careers disappearing when they question the orthodoxy? The most recent example is Washington State Associate State Climatologist and climate scientist Mark Albright who [in Paul's account]
    was fired because he sent e-mails to other scientists containing the true scientific facts about the Cascade Mountain snow pack. These facts refuted the publications of his boss, State Climatologist Philip Mote and the speeches of Seattle’s Democrat Mayor Greg Nickels who claimed the Cascade Mountain snow pack declined 50% from 1950 to 2000 due to man-made global warming.

    Before the firing, University of Washington atmospheric scientist Dennis Hartmann tried to referee and resolve the dispute between Albright and Mote by doing an objective analysis of the data, but this failed when Hartmann found that Albright was right and Mote was wrong. This led to Mote trying to censor Albright’s e-mails. When Albright refused to allow this censorship, he was fired.

    The whole story will be published in the June 1 issue of “Environment & Climate News."
  • Speaking of global warming and persecution leads quite naturally to the makers of that fine film The Great Global Warming Swindle, who have had to endure their fair share of abuse based on the principle (or lack thereof) that if you can't attack the message then you take your boots to the messenger instead and deliver to him a fearful kicking. Enduring that kicking surprisingly well, Martin Durkin and the Swindle team now have a website for the film and related data and discussion.
    We had not intended to establish an ‘official’ web-site for the film [says Durkin]. But such is the demand for more information that we have no alternative. Over the coming days and weeks we will add more information, more links, more analysis, in the hope that the site may provide some focus for those who are still able to think independently and critically on this subject.
  • For those unable to think either independently or critically, there's always Al Bore and his political pixies like Nicholas Stern, John Key and his political hero David Cameron. Let's shackle industry by twenty-five percent says Stern; "No, I can do fifty!"says John Boy; "Hell, I can do sixty!" says Cameron. Bear in mind that these are grown men (well politicians, actually) bidding to shackle industry to stop the weather by 2050, ensuring that by that date there'll be no chance by 2050 of excessive flatulence anywhere but in the House of Representatives. "Such pronouncements can be made openly and repeatedly," notes George Reisman, "only because the immense majority of people do not take the trouble to understand their implications." As always Reisman is both right on the money, and prepared to put his calculator where his mouth is. Reisman spells out exactly what it will cost any country stupid enough to follow these flatulent Pied Pipers.
    In purely verbal terms, those implications are that environmentalism seeks the destruction of the energy base of the modern world, along with the elimination or radical reduction in the supply of all goods and services that depend on that energy base. It seeks this on the grounds that these goods and the energy on which they depend entail the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The goods and services in question are air conditioners, automobiles, airplane travel, housing, food, clothing, refrigerators, freezers, television sets, telephones, washers, dryers, books, computers—everything that depends on the production and use of oil, coal, or natural gas, which all release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in being burned. The destruction of the energy base and the production of goods and services is implied by the fact that in order to rollback the emission of carbon dioxide, it is necessary to rollback the production and use of energy in these forms. But rolling back the production and use of energy reduces the production of goods and services... the clear implication is economic devastation. It is devastation in the production and use of energy and devastation in the production of everything that depends on energy.
    Read Reisman's piece for his figures, and the full story of horror (and remember from Carson's example that the environmentalists do mean it): George Reisman: The Arithmmetic of Environmentalist Devastation.

  • Ethanol. John Stossel reminds readers of the market realities of ethanol.
    If ethanol's so good, why does it need government subsidies? Shouldn't producers be eager to make it, knowing that thrilled consumers will reward them with profits? But consumers won't reward them, because without subsidies, ethanol would cost much more than gasoline.The claim that using ethanol will save energy is another myth...
    See The Many Myths of Ethanol by John Stossel. Ethanol is not a "solution," it's a subsidy.

  • By the way, is calling Rachel Carson a murderer hate speech? Is calling Osama bin Laden a murdering arsehole "hate speech"? Ed Cline has another look at the nonsense that is "hate speech" in Wicked, Hurtful Words:
    Why is such speech called “hate speech”? What are the alternatives to that term? “Mildly resentful” speech? “Awfully irritated” speech? “A tad ticked off” speech? “Tepidly tactful” speech? The candidates are almost numberless. I will leave development of that kind of levity to Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, and Pat Condell.

    I imagine that Cohen and Comrades could just as well seethe with anger at someone who exercised his freedom of speech by reciting in person or in a video, for example, the Declaration of Independence. Surely, Jefferson’s language could be deemed “hate speech,” directed against George the Third and Parliament, intended to move men to take action against those who shared the king’s and his legislators’ most profound beliefs. And, remember, they were all Anglicans, members of a state church, so the Declaration could be said to indirectly slur their religious beliefs, as well. Doubtless, George and many Englishmen found that language to be insulting, denigrating, and patently offensive. Also, radical. Perhaps, fearfully incomprehensible. Certainly hurtful.

    After all, tyrants and dictators have feelings, too.
  • Is comedian Carlos Mencia's material "hate speech"? And so what if he is? Let Prodos introduce the guy:
    Here’s a short video of stand-up comedian, Carlos Mencia, doing a piece about dealing with the taunts of an anti-American Middle Eastern guy who supports terrorism - including the destruction of the World Trade Center. This is my first exposure to this comedian. Most interesting to me was the BIG positive audience response. What Carlos Mencia deals with in this clip is really about “attitude”. Instead of being “understanding” towards those who want to kill you, or apologetic for being American, Carlos fights fire with nukes. The crowd loves it. I love it.

    Click here to view this video. Or (to paraphrase a local blogger)if you don't like strong pro-American humour, then perhaps you'd better fuck off and hug a tree instead.

  • The Four 'R's: Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic and Art. Alexandra York has always had compelling arguments for integrating art and education [see The Fourth 'R' in Education]. Now, Nicholas Provenzo explains how art and education are integrated at the new Founders College [see Learning How to Think]. In fact, what he's explaining is "the principle that all knowledge is interrelated," the very principle on which Founders College stands upon.
    At Founders, this means that what you learn in one class will apply to what you learn in another and that this integration will have practical value. A good way to describe this principle in action is by sharing an experience I had with Professor Lee Sandstead, chair of Founders' Department of Art History.

    Professor Sandstead was giving a tour at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and was showing the gallery's room of Medieval-era paintings of the Madonna and Child. Like most Medieval paintings, Mary and Jesus were presented as cold, un-lifelike archetypes placed upon a gold background intended to symbolize an other-worldly heaven. The one statue in the room depicted an infant Jesus precariously placed upon on his misshapen mother; rather than show Jesus as a real, life-like infant, the artist elected to depict him as a miniature adult complete with male-pattern baldness. This was a room filled with art that most people today would choose to ignore—regardless of their religious or philosophic disposition.

    Professor Sandstead asked the group to identify, among all the paintings in the room, which painting was different; which painting was the reason that there would be a Leonardo, Michelangelo, the Declaration of Independence, iPods and Elvis. It took a moment for us to find it, but one painting, rather than present its figures lifelessly and with no mother-child bond, gave a subtle hint that the painter actually believed his subjects lived here on Earth and that it mattered to his audience. This painting showed the baby Jesus holding his mother's finger in the same way that any child would. After a gap of over 1,000 years, here was a painting that attempted to portray life in this world, rather than the next.

    "There are two basic ways to look at reality," said Professor Sandstead. "You can choose to focus up there" as he emphatically reached toward the heavens, "or you can choose to focus out here," as he reached to signify this world. He went on to explain how this one painting resented a sea-change in how men perceived reality and how this change would lead to the Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, America, and of course, iPods and Elvis Presley.

    As the lesson was reinforced by the rest of Professor Sandstead's tour, I was struck by how effortlessly he just explained a critical issue in philosophy and man's relationship with existence.
    See how revealing art history is?

  • So how 'bout them Democrats, huh? It's tough, isn't it, when rhetoric meets reality. As always, Cox and Forkum's cartoon makes the perfect commentary. Need I say more?

  • And on matters of defence, but on a personal scale, young Callum McPetrie explains why self-defence is so important.

  • And Liberty Scott offers an example in reverse of why some separation in powers ir required in government. What happens when political funder and the government department that is its primary fundee are merged? Scott looks at yesterday's announcement that the government wishes to merge Transit New Zealand (which is responsible for operating the state highway network) with Land Transport New Zealand (which allocates funding to Transit and all local authorities for land transport). His conclusion: it "will be a disaster." Read why: Liberty Scott: Removing accountability for highway funding.

  • Meawhile, while we're talking meddling by governments, lets take a brief and insightful look at inflation. We all need to know more about inflation: after all, it's still one the most devious taxes that government's inflict upon us, and we all need to know more about it -- especially Alan Bollard. Frank Shostak at the Mises Blog has two brilliant recent pieces that rip off the inflationary wound and show the raw scar beneath. A poor metaphor to introduce the brilliance of:
  • And The Australian has noticed Shostak's commentary. A recent piece noted:
    Dr Frank Shostak has a warning for investors. The [Australian] Reserve Bank's monetary policy is "out of control" and that means inflation is heading up, interest rates are set to rise and the share market is only being supported by excessive money supply.
    He believes the Reserve Bank uses incorrect definitions of inflation and even money itself. As a result, he says, the bank is actually causing inflation, rather than combating it. "The Reserve Bank claims that it does not print money, but merely accommodates demand, but printing money is exactly what it is doing."
    See RBA Policy Causing Inflation. The analysis is just the same for NZ's Reserve Bank. Remember, just because you don't see inflation directly, doesn't mean it isn't there.

  • The Pope. The defender of inquisitions is also a regular guy. Well, not really. But he is a funny guy. Notes Pharyngula:

    In an exercise that will tempt photoshoppers world wide, but makes alteration superfluous, an Italian magazine has run a photogallery of the Pope in various strange costumes. I rather liked cowboy Ratzi and the grim leprechaun, but my favorite has to be evil santa.

    When I get to be old and sunken-eyed, I promise…I will dress comfortably and tastefully, put away the frilled shirts and the puffy pantaloons, and avoid wearing garish velvet. It's a good suggestion for both pirates and popes.

  • A snippet from Christopher Hitchens' new book that appeared in Reason turns the tables on the conventional wisdom on religion in politics, and puts Ayn Rand in an unfamiliar position:
    The two leading public intellectuals of the American Right in the last two, three decades are Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss. Ayn Rand raised a huge number of free market concerns and was a libertarian, and Leo Strauss is well known to be the philosopher of what is now stupidly called neo-conservatism. Both had contempt for religion. Their attitudes toward it was the same as mine: that it's a silly man-made illusion.

    On the Democratic side, almost all their heroes are religious. Martin Luther King. The Kennedys. People like that. The left is saturated with the religious. A lot of my book is an attack on liberal religious illusions....

    You cannot prevent people from worshipping in their own way. But I think society could, through its education system and the examples of its politicians, gently suggest that reading Jefferson or Voltaire or Paine wouldn't be harmful to you.
  • Politics and religion. They don't mix. Politics and Islamic religion: now that's an explosive mixture. The father of modern Turkey Kemal Ataturk knew that for the truth, and as a recent article notes he wasn't a "moderate Islamist" at all: he was a complete rejector of the concept of an Islamic State. No surprise that Ataturk's Turkey is at once the most successful of all Islamic countries, and the most secular -- and the one in which most Islamists most fiercely reject any integration of religion and politics. But as a recent article at Front Page by Robert Spencer, Turkish secularism needs support. "Turkish secularism is gravely threatened, and millions of Turks are deeply concerned that their country could become an Islamic state."
    The only response that has ever gained traction in the Islamic world has been not just a de facto laying-aside of Islam's political and social character, but a self-conscious elimination of that character -- and Ataturk's Turkey has been the site of the greatest success of this approach. Ataturk realized that there would be a recrudescence and reassertion of political Islam whenever there was a revival of religious fervor. Thus Kemalism presented itself not as "moderate Islam," nor as an Islamic construct at all, but as an explicit rejection of political Islam in favor of secularism. That is, it was never presented as an Islamic construct or justified by Islamic teachings, but was an explicit rejection of certain traditional aspects of Islam.
  • Now there's plenty of reading there for all of you, so don't push at the back. But finally, here's something to bookmark and keep going back to as often as you can; simply marvellous news for anyone with a genuine interest in reason, philosophy, cultural analysis and history -- or anyone with a passion for truth who wants to hear a genius at work (and that's all of you, I know).

    All of you should dive right into a major collection of audio and video recordings of Ayn Rand just released from the archives and placed online at the Ayn Rand Institute. Included are more than 48 hours of audio and video taken from 54 of Ayn Rand's public appearances, interviews and lectures.
    We believe this is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in ideas to experience first-hand one of the 20th century's most influential and provocative thinkers [said ARI's executive director Yaron Brook]. We are offering a great deal of incisive, original material, much of which is not available in print. We expect it to stimulate a great deal of discussion and interest in Ayn Rand.
    Dive in right here, at the registered members page. [Registration is free.]

Friday, 25 May 2007

Beer O'Clock: Duchess!

Stu from Real Beer and SOBA gives you his Friday heads up on beer...

I love to promote great NZ beer. And, even more so, I love to promote easily accessible NZ beer. Today however is not one of those times.

Sometimes I’ve just got to follow my palate to an obscure beer that almost nobody will have heard about or be able to find at his or her local bottle store. This is one of those times.

Indeed, it's a time from for some nationalistic generalisations. The English are known for their perfect malt (and for their inveterate whinging); the Americans for their fantastically fruity hops (and their equine-filtered mainstream 'beers'); the Germans for their very clean, very perfect lagers (and their fascist brewing laws). Generalisations are fun, aren't they?

Now, the Belgians ... and remember we're talking beer here ... well, the Belgians are known for their esoteric styles: full of wild yeasts, bacteria and very unique flavours. And for their blending. Some people reckon Belgium is boring. I couldn’t think of anywhere less boring.

Ale blending is an age-old task that, unlike the tradition in whisky, has all but died out in most countries. Belgian blenders are at least as highly thought of as brewers. One blended ale that I’ve been eyeing recently, and have finally purchased, is the rare Duchesse de Bourgogne. Duchesse (pronounced: doo-shay, don’t ask me how to pronounce Bourgogne) is a Flemish "sour ale" that falls into a category of beers known as Flanders Reds. I'd been looking at the bottle on the shelves at Rumble's Wines in Wellington for quite a few months before I finally picked one up.

What a revelation!

Duchesse de Bourgogne is a 6.2% masterpiece. Bottled in a beautiful little 250ml bottle, it is an absolute bargain at $6.50. Pouring a ruddy dark garnet, with a lacy light tan head, it vents off a heady aroma of sour cherries, fruity balsamic vinegar, fruitcake crust and oak with a background lactic mustiness. Lots of fruity cherry-like fruit and malt sweetness are balanced extraordinarily well, in the mouth, with a lovely sour bite and a beautiful touch of oaky tannins. Duchesse is as complex, and as drinkable, as the very best wines, and a whole lot more affordable.

If just one person buys this beer based on this recommendation, then I will have performed my good deed for this month.

Now for the bad news: like almost all of the best Belgian beers (Liefman's, Cantillon, Rochefort, Rodenbach, De Dolle), Duchesse de Bourgogne is certainly not stocked in your local Belgian Beer Cafe. I've only ever seen this in Rumble's Wine Cellar, Wellington - not even at Regional Wines and Spirits. The Beer Emporium in Christchurch is a good chance, but other than that I’m drawing blanks. What I'm saying is that reports of sightings from around the country would be welcome here. If you've ever seen it anywhere else, then please let us all know.

For those that can’t find it, and are keen to try a blended beer, look out for Green King’s Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale in your local New World or good bottle store. It’s not close in style, nor is it a patch on the Duchesse, but it still has a little of the blended romance.

Slainte mhath Stu

LINKS: Belgian beers; Flanders Red technical; Fascist brewing laws; Society of Beer Advocates.

The many delights of Beaujolais

Some Friday fun. I figured most Not PC readers would enjoy this passage as much as I did, from the novel Clochemerle-Babylon. Try reading it over a lunchtime glass or three of wine.

It is traditional among the Beaujolais wine-growers to open their cellars to visitors, for they are proud of their wine and anxious to see it appreciated. It is a point of honour among them to make their visitors drunk.

The novice has no suspicion. Drawn directly from the wood and drunk at the temperature of the cellar, Beaujolais seems very smooth and safely light. Uncountable are those presumptuous ones who have been obliged to revise this judgement, and that when in postures hardly compatible with the dignity of an investigator.

For the wine of Clochemerle is at once exquisite and treacherous: it charms first the nose, then the palate, finally the entire man. Mark well that if it makes a man drunk it does not do so malignantly. It produces an enchanting light-heartedness, an intellectual sparkle which liberates the drinker from the constraints and conventions which bind him in his daily life. Thus, for example, it may happen that he, the drinker, is brought to declare that he does not give a damn for his wife and the account which he will have to render her of his behaviour; that he does not give a damn for the boss, either, nor for the police, the tax collector, bills, appointments, or, in general, for anyone or anything which might prevent a free citizen from conducting him self in such manner a shall seem to him good and pleasant and
contributing to his touchy, drunkard’s dignity. And such declarations of independence are much enjoyed by the Clochemerlins.

Tourists, caught in this trap, often left the town two or three days late. (For one goes from cellar to cellar to compare the several crus, and in this subterranean life all idea of time is falsified.) The record was established by three unknowns who, having demanded to be served quickly at Torbayon's hotel, remained in Clochemerle ten whole days, in a condition of obstinate felicity. They sent off telegrams in all directions (drafted for them) and that they were delayed by business of the highest importance. The business in question consisted of studying Clochemerle vintages over a period of twenty years; they wanted to be able to identify them with their eyes closed.

New warmist report out today; strong headlines forecast for the weekend

You will recall that the UN/IPCC released in March their latest Summary for Policymakers -- the summary of the science, written under the guidance of bureaucrats and politicians, that was released to headlines everywhere, but without the science behind it being released until May.

It's now May. Today in Wellington the actual scientific report is released to we poor mortals, and tomorrow the forecast is fro frightening headlines for some time to come. Or at least until the election. Dr Vincent Gray appears in the report, but he won't be there at the release; he'll be at home playing his saxophone. He has however provided readers this (lightly edited) summary in advance of the release.

Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis, by Dr Vincent Gray

The IPCC have, at last, issued all of the Climate Change 2007 (AR4), on their website, and they have, indeed, been generous. Not only are all the three reports (Physical Science Basis, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability and Mitigation of Climate Change) available in full, plus supplementary material, but you can also have all three volumes of the previous report Climate Change 2001 in full. There are also several supplementary reports. The only disappointment is the Special Report of Emissions Scenarios which you are supposed to buy from the publishers, but does not get you there when you click.

They are just in time for the meeting in Wellington today when the reports will be launched on an audience which could not possibly have read the reports.

The Physical Science report is most impressive and beautifully crafted. The Technical Summary is, apparently, yet to be "approved in detail", but apart from that, it seems to be final.

I have now seen four previous versions, and I have merely glanced at this final one, but I would like to give some initial impressions.

The original Co-Chair of Working Group I which prepared this report, Yasui Ding, who was an editor of Climate Change 2001, has now been replaced by Qin Dahe, who is actually Ding's boss. This is perhaps a repercussion from my invitation as a Visiting Scholar to the Beijing Climate Center last year where I delivered three lectures. I was given a paper of which Ding was one of the authors that showed that there has been no warming in China attributable to greenhouse gases for the past 100 years. This paper has been suppressed by the IPCC and their "Asia" temperature record reverts to their orthodoxy.

They have included a special additional Chapter, right after the Technical Report consisting of a collection of "Frequently Asked Questions," which were previously only to be found in the various Chapters.

These "Frequently Asked Questions" are by way of an Apostle's Creed of the Climate Change Religion, and their continued inclusion in the appropriate Chapters is a guarantee that there will be no deviation from the official dogma.

In order to quote anything, you are supposed to give a long list of the authors and editors. They actually give an alphabetical list of the 620 authors and 618 reviewers. There is much duplication.

Of the 16 New Zealand Reviewers, 9 work for NIWA.

I only found one other known active climate sceptic besides myself (Richard Courtney)*. Even Fred Singer and Richard Lindzen are absent.

There is actually an index -- something I have been asking for from the beginning. There is a long list of acronyms (LLA)which does not even include the latest form of the SOI (Southrn Oscillation Index), or ENSO (El Nino/Southern Oscillation), which is, apparently SAM (Southern Annular Mode).

I have said what I think of them already in my published paper Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis [pdf]. You might like to have my latest on Temperature Variability [Word Doc] which explains why the actual data do not support the IPCC.

I also cannot resist just one of their diagrams, (see post below) which shows their poor record in their seventeen-year history in predicting even the unreliable surface record.
* * * * *
* Fortuitously, Andrew Bolt publishes a list in Sydney's Herald Sun of climate sceptics that the IPCC could have included, and certainly used to include -- back before they became sceptics. You'll have to scroll down past his delightful description of how ABC 'journalists' are going to feel when their station airs The Great Global Warming Swindle:
THE ABC's staff is in uproar. There's talk of mutiny, over furiously steaming mugs of herbal infusion. The hotter-headed have even occupied the studios (what's new?) and now man hastily-erected barricades built entirely of sandals...
Oh, the humanity!

UPDATE 1: The report is released as parts of the Southern Hemisphere are experiencing record temperatures. Record cold temperatures. Or as Tim Blair puts it, "A Gore-like effect is observed across South Africa."

The weird thing is, known chill-maker Al Gore was nowhere near the place. He was instead visiting, ahem, Chile. Meanwhile, despite annual hysteria over the threat to Australian skiing posed by gloybill wooming ...

"The whole place has gone completely white. It’s fully covered the whole resort,” said Mr Grant, [Perisher Blue Ski Resort’s] marketing manager... The official season kicks off on June 9.
Oh, and further north: for the US Memorial Day weekend, Snow advisories have been issued in Colorado, where they're expecting up to eight inches of snow.

UPDATE 1a: Some of the comments at Tim Blair's post above are hilarious:
  • Damn, but the Gorebot’s good!
    He doesn’t even have to be on the same continent to “bless” countries with his “special” effect.
    I’m a believer.... :-D
  • Maybe the earth is already becoming saturated with AlGore Effect and is beginning to try to ballance itself by drawing warmth from where he aint so that where he is isn’t so hurtful?
  • function GAIA::Temperature(Temp, Normal)
    If Temp < Normal
    Then << “Climate Change”
    Else << “Global Warming”
    End If
  • From Victor Davis Hanson:
    ...Maybe it was inevitable that the old practice of paid absolution would appeal to elite baby boomers — a class and generation that always seems to want it both ways by compartmentalizing their lives. The only difference is that the new sinners are not so worried about God’s wrath as they are about their reputation among their judgmental liberal gods."

    Full article here.
  • Luckily for us the performers at the upcoming Aussie Live Earth concert have decided to come clean on the whole “carbon neutral” bullshit...
UPDATE 2: What does it mean to have a "consensus" from scientists on the subject of global warming? 'Earth and Sky' asked geophysicists, biologists, entomologists, conservationists, meteorologists and some sceptical climate scientists just what "consensus" means in science. The responses are instructive, particularly those from Christy and Lindzen.

UPDATE 3: "Global Warming is nothing but fear-mongering with no concrete evidence," says biologist Josef Reichholf.

UPDATE 4: I've received this clarification below from Dr Gray:
There was a slight error. I misunderstood their signals. Only the full Working Group 1 report has been issued (WGI: Physical Science Basis) . The Summaries for Policymakers of Working Group 2 (WGII:Impacts) and Working Group 3 (WGIII: Mitigation) have been issued, but the full reports of each [on which those summaries are supposed to be based] have yet to come. Also the Synthesis Report which is supposed to summarise all three is currently out for review, but how I can do this adequately when two of the reports have not appeared, I don't know.

How good is the weather forecast to 2100?

The UN's climate change wonks, the IPCC, have over their nineteen-year life released three scaremongering reports (the fourth is released today) that have included various predictions of the future -- predictions that have varied with each report -- predictions that purport to know the weather forecast right up to 2100 -- predictions on the basis of which politicians are champing at the bit to "take action" to stop private action.

Now, since their long range weather forecast is so important, you would think that for after nearly twenty years of forecasts you would think that we might be able to review these predictions for accuracy, and it turns out we can. In the latest report there's a simple graph, pictured below, that measures the IPCC's three previous predictions against a "trend line" (in black) drawn between 'spots' that show the "global average surface temperature" for each year (with all the attendant reservations about that record).

Have a good look, and then perhaps you might care to answer these three questions:
  1. Which of the three predictions do you think has been the most accurate? 1990, (shown in blue with a 'best estimate' and a suggested range)? 1996, in brown, or 2001, in blue-green (by which time they'd given up on a 'best estimate' and instead had just fired a shotgun at a whole range of predictions).
  2. What does the level of accuracy for this period of time -- or lack thereof -- suggest for the IPCC's predictions over a whole century.
  3. Given that none of us know the future, and this is all warmists have to go on, then how seriously should we take these predictions?
To put it simply, are these the sort of predictions that you'd put money on? Because you're being made to.

Massaro House - Frank Lloyd Wrght

I pulled my ArchiCAD upgrade out of the box and found to my great delight that Frank Lloyd Wright's Massaro House, recently finished, is being used to promote the new version of my CAD software, ArchiCAD 11.

I've written before about the house (here and here) and pointed to a wee film on the controversial posthumous project.

Now, to add to that, ArchiCAD's makers have added a few more films to show how ArchiCAD was used to document this house, and could be used to document yours.

I look forward to going through them all over the weekend...

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Two heroes; one prize.

Over at SOLO, Lindsay Perigo has news of two heroes. The second gets to win some money. The first is "a quite extraordinary fellow" that appeared on television the other night (no, I didn't see him, though I wish I had):
He once went tramping and got lost. For several nights he froze his posterior off. Whilst freezing he realised he and the outdoors fraternity generally needed better clothing for eventualities like this. He found his way back to town and started a business making some. Today that business is a multi-million dollar enterprise earning him a fortune, providing work for hundreds of locals, exporting all over the world.

But it doesn't end there with this fellow. He was interviewed under the gaze of a huge grizzly bear, mounted but still menacing of countenance, that was mere yards away when he shot it. He has tangled with the scariest and deadliest and lived to tell the tale— and, in many instances, eat the meat: he loves meat! He is Steve Irwin with a gun. When asked what gave him the right to shoot these animals, he laughed dismissively. When told he was not very PC, he laughed even more dismissively. His incredulous, PC interviewer quoted him as saying that commercialising animals is the best way to guarantee their survival, not their extinction. I was incredulous too, though for reasons that differed from the interviewer's!

The guy is an old-fashioned hero, a rugged individualist, an archetype of whom one sighs wistfully, "They just don't make 'em like that any more."

Or do they? This fellow's real, isn't he?

He's real—and he's rare.

Single-minded, high-minded dedication to rational values is as unusual as it is admirable.

Time was when most youngsters started out that way; nowadays even the young are steeped in cynicism and conformity. All that matters is getting along—with others whose heads are equally empty for fear of not getting along. The idea of standing up to be counted in any way whatsoever is as alien as the idea of melody in music. Yet—

"Yet ..." How rare are such people? That word and that question brings me to news of the second hero. That hero, my friends, may well be reading this now, because that hero could be you: and Perigo wants to make you 10,000 dollars richer! He explains:

[Donor Murray Lees and I are] inaugurating what I'm proud to say he's calling "The Perigo Prize" of $10,000 for a deserving New Zealand freedom-fighter. He has charged me with finding a worthy recipient. As of now, the search is on. The winning deed or deeds may not yet have been done—all New Zealanders are cordially invited to see these words as a challenge!
Nominate yourself or someone deserving at Lindsay's SOLO blog:
Calling All Heroes! Announcing the Perigo Prize

UPDATE: Ah, here's your man, and a video link to the TV interview:
He looks like a some sort of Scottish Viking, striding through mountainous terrain with his long blond hair and his kilt. But Davey Hughes is from Wainuiomata and he is a Kiwi bloke, through and through...
See the video online here at the TV3 site: 'The Wild Man From Levin.' Oh, and an extra point for any Americans reading this who can pronounce Wainuiomata correctly.

Six degrees of sacrifice

When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream in shout. 'Advice' from Robert Heinlein. Advice that's been taken to heart by warmists, who counsel that in their confusion we should all do likewise. "Au contraire!" is the eloquent response from Josie Appleton at Spiked, in reviewing a new warmist tome, pictured right.

Ayn Rand once counselled that rather than examine a folly we would do better to ask what it achieves; in a wide-ranging review examining another earnest warmist tome to hit the marketplace of non-ideas, Appleton suggests something similar: rather than just examining all the scientific and pseudo-scientific heavy breathing, she suggests instead that we do better to look to the cultural follies that generated today's widely disseminated politico-scientific lap dance. Today's global warming headlines, she argues, "owe more to the anxious zeitgeist than scientific findings."
One way of answering [the warmists] would be to examine their science – and perhaps ... we would find rival articles ... that would question whether CO2 emissions would increase temperature as much as predicted, or which highlight feedback cycles that remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Then it would be a case of one set of citations against another. This is how the global warming debate generally progresses, with the two sides invoking ‘the science’ rather like divisions of Christians invoking the Bible.
All familiar enough from exchanges here and elsewhere. "But," suggests Appleton, "there is another way to approach this question, which is to look at the political circumstances in which climatic science is produced, a process that also has its own laws and patterns."
It is strange, at a time when the social construction of science is an established idea (Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which he describes science’s progress through ‘paradigms’, is on every undergraduate’s reading list) that nobody thinks to look at the social construction of global warming theories. Global warming science is being produced in highly febrile times; and history tells us that the more the political temperature rises, the more science’s view of nature is distorted.
Now, Kuhn did nothing if not sever science from reality, making it the servant of group subjectivism -- highly suggestive of today's scientific group hug -- so in following this suggested approach herself, she reaches some fascinating conclusions. I'm not going to tell you what they all are: read them all yourself, all of them packed into one superb review of what seems to be a very silly book by a loyal apostle of today's worthiness (a chap by the name of Mark Lynas). But I will give you a taster.

There was a time, she says, when climate was assumed to be relatively stable, "that it would adjust to absorb imbalances" (rather like the stability of markets before governments and central banks took over). Then for some cultural reasons that view changed, and in changing the science itself took a more apocalyptic turn -- but, she argues, all the 'end of days' rhetoric is more reflective of the cultural shift than it is of real science.

Fast forward to the early twenty-first century, when scientists decided that the climate system was fragile and subject to dramatic and irreversible shifts... The phrase everybody started to use was ‘tipping point’, meaning the point where the Earth’s system would reach its ‘limit’ and tip over into an irreversible change. (This was particularly the case after the 2004 Hollywood hit, The Day After Tomorrow, which envisaged the onset of a global freeze in a matter of hours.) The question many scientists started asking of nature was ‘what is its tipping point?’. At what point would the Arctic and Antarctic go into irreversible meltdown? At what point would the carbon cycle go into reverse? At what point would this or that ecosystem collapse? When would extreme weather events start to increase?

Scientists started to carry out impact studies, and they started to look at feedback cycles. These are loaded concepts: impact – showing the damaging effect of temperature rise on ecosystems – and feedback – the inbuilt instabilities that could lead to ‘runaway’ change. Nature was viewed as fragile, interconnected, and liable to spin away dramatically beyond our control...

You don’t have to be Thomas Kuhn to read the (mixed) metaphors here. We’re hitting the ‘ecological buffers’ ... ‘fiddling with the earth’s thermostat’. Once feedback starts, ‘the accelerator will be jammed, and there will be nothing we can do to cut the speed of climate change’. ‘[N]o one can say for sure where this tipping point might lie, but it stands to reason that the harder we push the climate, the closer we are likely to get to the edge of this particular cliff.’ Just as in the 1980s asteroid theories felt ‘right’ because of the images scientists carried in their consciousnesses, so now, too, the political climate colours models of nature. We can see how social anxieties – a fear of change, a sense of the fragility of things – guide the questions that scientists ask, and the kinds of theories that ring true...

The scope for climatology to slip into fantasy is heightened by the fact that it is a relatively open and uncertain field... Today’s preoccupation with fragility and collapse means that models take a one-sided view of nature.
In other words, and to summarise, the prevailing cultural and philosophical outlook will frame the questions that the scientists (and the politicians) ask -- and, too, the answers that we hear. We've heard Al Bore preaching that this "crisis" is not about science (and it certainly isn't for him), that it's all about "morality." Now on that score, he's certainly correct. It's a battle between those who favour man's right to live on this earth against those who don't -- those who say that individuals have the right to live for their own sake, and those who say we must all bow our heads in sacrifice to the great goddess Gaia. Like many of today's environmentalists, the author Appleton is reviewing is firmly in the latter camp:
According to Lynas, the battle against global warming will allow us to cure the problem of human hubris, which has been the defining feature of what he calls the ‘Anthropocene’. In the low-carbon society, human beings’ restless desire to improve themselves will be gone. We will live locally, we will be thankful, we will make do. Children would be able to play in the street again; airports would be converted back into forests...
... and one to two billion people will die from a lack of the energy, industry, medicine, food and shelter that are necessary to modern life-- and the rest of us will be boiling up stones to make soup, if, that is, we're even allowed to burn trees to make fire.

Hyperbole? Nope. There are people who would like that to happen: Environmentalists like Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson -- "We need to radically and intelligently reduce human populations to fewer than one billion" he opined a few weeks back to little if any outrage -- or David Graber or Earth First's David Foreman ... or even Prince Philip [see here for the views of all these gentle men]. But I'm convinced that not all environmentalists do want it to happen, but too few of them yet realise the road down which their anti-industrialism and political appeasement is inexorably pushing us. But they need to. And so do we.

"Life beyond consumerism would be a fine thing, but this is life without a pulse," notes Appleton, and she couldn't be more right. This is a life welcomed by the likes of Greenpeace, who reacted to the fairly obvious point made by NZ's Genesis Energy yesterday that if we can't burn coal then our city's lights are going out by saying, essentially, "We don't believe you." But it's true. It's inexorable.No power, no lights, no industry, no airports, no pulse ... and children playing on the motorways, if they don't die in childbirth. Unless that 's the future you're aiming for then "renewables" just ain't gonna cut it -- and they certainly can't cut it today, which is when they're needed if our current energy productions is retarded.

It's been clear enough for a long time that the anti-industrial global warming jihad has been about more than just the science: indeed, as Nicholas Sterns's and Al Bore's almost complete disregard for genuine science has shown, it's barely about the science at all. It truly is about morality. Says the Right Reverend Gore:
'The climate crisis also offers us the chance to experience what very few generations in history have had the privilege of knowing: a generational mission; the exhilaration of a compelling moral purpose; a shared and unifying cause; the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict that so often stifle the restless human need for transcendence; the opportunity to rise.

When we do rise, it will fill our spirits and bind us together. Those who are now suffocating in cynicism and despair will be able to breathe freely. Those who are now suffering from a loss of meaning in their lives will find hope.’
Those are the Bore's emphases, by the way, not mine -- all hail the great Bore! -- and the mission on which he calls us is one just as beloved of political and religious leaders since time immemorial as it has been also of hucksters everywhere. This is not science, it is charlatanism. You don't find "meaning" in a weather forecast or in carefully cropped photos of polar bears. The roots of this view do not lie in science, they lie in religion, specifically in an epistemology of faith, and in the ethic of sacrifice made all-too popular by religion.

"Renounce, renounce, renounce" is the cry ... and if you do unto you much will be given: and to be specific that's penury, sackcloth and ashes for you, and the White House and two presidential terms for Al. (As Ayn Rand also counselled, whenever there's someone demanding sacrifice, there's always someone around who's waiting to pick up the sacrifices: "It stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there's someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.")

As Appleton concludes (and I've still barely scratched the surface of what she has to say):
Lynas’ books [and Al Bore's rhetoric] suggest the attraction of the global warming issue has little to do with environmental problems. Instead, global warming appears to provide answers to life’s big questions, offering a new kind of historic mission and a new structure for personal morality.

Only global warming doesn’t really answer any of these big questions - it shuts them down, solving the problem of meaning by abolishing meaning itself. As we look forward to 2050, we could hope to find some more profound answers to the riddle of existence than that measured in the rise and fall of carbon atoms. We could also hope to find some more sensible (but, possibly, less dramatic) solutions to any environmental challenges we face.
Solutions that are outside politics, the morality of sacrifice, and the forced diminution of the population would be welcome.
  • You can find Josie Appleton's superb review here, at Spiked!: Measuring the Political Temperature.
  • And for those who insist on sacrificing their had-earned dollars, the book reviewed is Mark Lynas' Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. Look for it in an urn near you.

The victims of Communism

A superb tribute to the many victims of communism has been posted at David Farrar's blog: A five-minute video commemorating the twenty million* killed by communists in the blackest century in human history: a century in which more people were killed by their own governments than in all the wars in human history. Twenty million killed in order to squeeze living, breathing, thinking human beings into the Procrustean bed of a totalitarian ideology.

Lest we forget.

[One warning: unless you like Donovan, turn the sound down.]
_ _ _ _ _
* Twenty million? The Democide Information Service suggests that figure barely scratches the surface:

In Death by Government R.J. Rummel estimated that more than 169 million people were murdered by governments in the 20th century, over 138 million in totalitarian states, 28 million by authoritarian regimes, and 2 million in democracies (mostly due to the aerial bombing of enemy cities during wartime). He recently increased this figure to 262 million due to further research into deaths in China and Africa. The reason for this century's high death toll is due to the increased population and the industrialization of mass murder, notably by the Chinese and Russian communists and Nazi Germany.

Rummel's research into state violence (Power Kills: Democracy as a Method of Nonviolence, 1997) found that there is a solution to war and democide. It is to foster democratic freedom and democratize coercive power and force. He found that mass killing and mass murder carried out by government is a result of the indiscriminate, irresponsible use of centralized power. The more unaccountable power at the center, the more killing. His research revealed a clear continuum - the less democratic and liberal a nation, the greater the incidence of war and democide.

'The Apple Cider Press' - Thomas Shields Clark, 1894

A monument to one man's industry...

Photographs by Lee Sandstead and David Gardner. [Hat tip C. A. Chicoine]

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Falwell fallout continues

Falwell fallout continues, with this post from the Amused Muse outlining what happened when she told Richard Dawkins that Jerry Falwell had died. [Hat tip Pharyngula] And the cause of Falwell's death? Says the Muse: "He had an attack where his heart should have been.”

Asphalt rebels without a cause

Here's a song for petrolheads and those rebels without a cause -- those failures of contemporary education -- who are every headline's business this week; some lyrics that are old enough to be be their grandfather (imagine a slow beat, a gentle piano and a crying male voice):
Tonight, tonight the strip's just right
I wanna blow `em off in my first heat
Summer's here and the time is right
For goin' racin' in the street

We take all the action we can meet
And we cover all the northeast state
When the strip shuts down we run `em in the street
From the fire roads to the interstate
Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up
And go racin' in the street

Tonight, tonight the strip's just right
I wanna blow `em all out of their seats
Calling out around the world, we're going racin' in the street...
Anybody else remember that one? Anybody who's now old enough to be writing the headlines?

Who makes us rich?

Matt Robson demonstrates that a lifetime in and around politics bestows no wisdom as to where wealth comes from.

"The Left" he argues in a column at Scoop, "is about wealth creation," whereas "The Right," well, they're "primarily interested in protecting their own privileges." How does he argue the case? Because, he insists, "The Left" has pulled down more of the pie than "The Right," those nasty people "fearful of change" who won't let their share of the pie be shared around.

If you identify the figure who's missing in this playground level of analysis, then you'll see just how foolish the reasoning is. Politicians (of either right or left) are not wealth-creators, they are wealth destroyers. What's missing altogether from Robson's vision is The Producer. The Entrepreneur. The actual Wealth Creators: The ones who actually bake the pie that he and his colleagues think they're entitled to fight over.

Robson isn't the only one who thinks this way, and certainly not the only politician, right or left! As Dave Barry quips, "See, when the Government spends money, it creates jobs; whereas when the money is left in the hands of Taxpayers, God only knows what they do with it. Bake it into pies, probably. Anything to avoid creating jobs."

The truth is that it hasn't been politicians or union leaders who have created the wealth too many of them take for granted, or the jobs that all of us need. It hasn't been them who have made us all rich; they just steal the wealth from those who do. No, it's been those who produced that wealth in the first place. People like James Watt, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, Frank Lloyd Wright, Bill Gates and others like them.

One thousand years ago the whole world was dirt poor; now (at least in those countries which still value wealth creation), the poorest citizen live better than did most kings at the turn of the first millennium. It was neither "The Left" nor "The Right" who were and are responsible for that happy state of affairs: it was producers, traders, inventors and entrepreneurs: people who saw the way the world was, who understood how to make it better, and who set out to do it. In Ayn Rand's memorable phrase, it is the "men of the mind" who are the Atlases who hold up the world, not the pygmies like Robson and his colleagues, whichever side of the aisle they're on.

Frederic Hamber explains the reason: it is our minds, not our muscles that are the real source of wealth and progress:
Contrary to the Marxist premise that wealth is created by laborers and "exploited" by those at the top of the pyramid of ability, it is those at the top, the best and the brightest, who increase the value of the labor of those at the bottom. Under capitalism, even a man who has nothing to trade but physical labor gains a huge advantage by leveraging the fruits of minds more creative than his. The labor of a construction worker, for example, is made more productive and valuable by the inventors of the jackhammer and the steam shovel, and by the farsighted entrepreneurs who market and sell such tools to his employer. The work of an office clerk, as another example, is made more efficient by the men who invented copiers and fax machines. By applying human ingenuity to serve men's needs, the result is that physical labor is made less laborious and more productive.
It was not politicians who invented or produced the steam shovel or the jack hammer or the silicon chip. It wasn't a union leader who identified the harmony of interests enjoyed by free people that allows all of us to benefit from those who did: it was Ayn Rand, and she called it the Pyramid-of-Ability Principle -- a principle recognising and explaining the enormous contribution made by the more able to the less able:
As George Reisman puts it, the law of comparative advantage explains the "contribution of the cleaning lady to [inventors like Thomas] Edison"; by contrast, the Pyramid-of-Ability Principle explains the "contribution of Edison to the cleaning lady." What Edison makes possible for the cleaning lady is much, much more than she could have achieved under her own steam. "The men with the greatest minds and talents confer on others much more value than they ever receive in return, no matter how much wealth they acquire, [while] the least able receive much more value than they create."
They do so by virtue of the harmony of interests of free men, and the enormous productive ability of entrepreneurs and inventors. If you doubt the truth of all that, if you really and truly think Robson is right and that it's politicians of the left who have made us wealthy, then ask yourself this question: who would you rather be stranded with on a desert island: Matt Robson, Matt McCarten and Keith Locke? Or Sam Morgan, Doug Myers and Ralph Norris?