Friday, 11 May 2007

Free Radical 75 hits the streets...

Now at 75 issues and still going strong, the latest Free Radical magazine has a bold new look, all-new content and it really hits the streets running.

The kick ass cover (and such a gorgeous ass too) fronts an issue where ass is very seriously kicked. You do not want to miss out!

DAVID KOPEL, LECH BELTOWSKI & PETER CRESSWELL between them dissect both Virginia Tech shooting, and the moronic idea that gun-free zones would disarm a killer. As the cover says, criminals prefer their victims unarmed -- gun-free zones are just what they ordered, really.

And what sort of vapid moron feels sorry for the killer? News of that inside too, and analysis of the philosophy behind the moron and of the vapid idea that wishing away violence will somehow not encourage more of it.

Affordable housing! It's on everyone's agenda, so why are houses becoming less and less affordable by the day -- "seriously unaffordable" according to recent studies! OWEN McSHANE, GREG BALLE & PETER CRESSWELL point out who Alan Bollard has to shoot, why he should get shot next, and for what crimes what should all be be shot -- including the crime of destroying a beach-side Kiwi tradition.

News inside too of the 'Peer Review Mafia' - those gatekeepers of science who in recent years have become something different. Scientists VINCENT GRAY & S. FRED SINGER explain what that 'something' is. It's not good, and the results have not been good for science.

And what has happened to British Tories since the days of Margaret Thatcher? The phenomenon of Pink Tories outflanking Labour on the left is not confined to New Zealand -- indeed the UK Tories' Labour-Lite blatherings are what the NZ Pink Tories are emulating. SPARTACUS explains why all is NOT hunky dory in the world of Tory Glory.

How about the coup in Fiji? Could it, might it, can it be justified? TIM WIKIRIWHI argues with America's Founding Fathers that we all hold a right of revolution against tyrannical
government, and why he sees Commodore Bainimarama as fighting in that tradition. This is the issue that saw Tim leave Libertarianz. Get your issue to find out why.

All that and more, including:
  • Pictures and protest from the anti-anti-smacking rally -- and LINDSAY PERIGO's outing of the REAL child abusers;
  • why NZ's Reserve Bank Governor should shoot the town planners (and how those planners are destroying a Kiwi tradition AND the human spirit);
  • all about creativity, and what a Hungarian psychologist, Maria Montessori and Eric Clapton have in common;
  • why globalisation is good;
  • why Maria Callas was The Geatest of Them All ...
And that's all without even mentioning the 'Lefty Lexicon'; the kick ass reviews of kick ass movies including '300,' and 'The Great Global Warming Swindle'; and (to continue a theme) JASON ROTH's investigation of when a woman's ass is not an ass ... all that and more -- much, much more.


Or Subscribe now, this minute, and begin your subscription to the best libertarian magazine in the world with this kick ass issue. (Or buy a digital copy online, and then subscribe!)

You know you want to!

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A week is a long time in politics

Australian election odds are changing following Peter Costello's tax-cutting budget. Tim Blair has the figures. Centrebet election prices at the start of last week:

Labor: $1.72
Coalition: $2.05

At week’s end:

Labor: $1.77
Coalition: $1.95

And now:

Labor: $1.87
Coalition: $1.90

Message to Finance Ministers: People like tax cuts.

As to the response from the other side of the aisle, Blair (Tim) puts up Labour leader Kevin Rudd's Budget Reply speech as a candidate for "emptiest speech yet made in Australia’s parliament." Not exactly full of beans, it does however propose "a nationwide plumbing initiative." And Dminor asks: “Why did the Budget Reply sound like it was written (and delivered) by Bindi Irwin?” Clearly neither of them have ever read any of John Key's speeches -- they make even a nationwide plumbing initiative sound substantive.

Muesli bar anyone?

UPDATE: Looks like a day is a long time in politics, if these odds from Lasseters hold water:

The Kevin Rudd led Labor Party have hit a major hurdle in the run to the
Federal Election, so much so that in the space of a little over a week,
Labor have gone from election favourites to clear outsiders with Lasseters

“This time last week, Kevin Rudd was 1.80 favourite” says Lasseters
head bookmaker Gerard Daffy, “ but now that price has blown out to 2.00,
with the Coalition now into 1.75”. In a week where there hasn’t been a
terrible lot of joy for the Opposition, Lasseters can report that there
has not been one single bet for a Labor win since the release of the
budget. “ The wind has been well and truly knocked out of Labor’s
sails” said Daffy, “and we are beginning to see an air of confidence
from punters on John Howard regaining power. Previous polls had Labor
ahead, but we were not seeing that in the betting ring. A positive poll
for Mr Howard on Monday will only see him shorten again” added Daffy.


1.75 Coalition
2.00 Labor

Log on to http// to view the latest odds.

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Reflecting this morning on Tony Blair's time in power, I realised I could simply post a tribute from the archives, beginning with this observation:
Tony Blair is an odd combination of Peter Keating and Gail Wynand [two characters from Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead. (OK, that's somewhat of a stretch, but bear with me.) Like Keating (and like Clinton), Blair sought to be all things to all people, pursuing a compromising "Third Way" policy. Like Wynand, however, what brought him down was his one semi-principled act: his support for the Iraq War, an act that could not be made consistent with his overall character and history.
Blair stole what once made the Tories worth anything at all, and it's clear they still don't want it back.
Blair is unashamedly willing to confront those who oppose him and argue out of principle.
"Mr Blair said the struggle facing the world today was not just about security. It was also "a struggle about values and modernity, whether to be at ease with it or enraged at it." It certainly is. Remarkable to hear that from a politician.
In the end, he reformed the British Labour Party, expelling (hopefully for good) the Trotskyites and Bolsheviks with which it was then infested, making it once again electable. For Britain, he largely preserved the results of the Thatcher Revolution -- something the Tories were not going to do. And as he said last night, he did as Prime Minister "what he thought was right" rather than just what was expedient -- something few politicians can say.

But after ten years in power? He first came to prominence as shadow Home Secretary with his promise to be "tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime." He wasn't. Instead he was tough on gun control (leading to an explosion of armed crime) and tough on Big Brother intrusions such as email invasion and the proposed introduction of ID cards. And he leaves power with the 'cash for honours' scandal still ringing in his ears, a scandal that mirrors in many respects Labour's pledge card scandal here at home.

So his legacy is mixed -- Gail Wynand and Paul Keating -- but that's still much better than most.

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Free Paris!

A colleague sent me this: For those of you looking for a break from the twilight struggle against the forces of evil, the "Free Paris Hilton" video is pretty funny. Sign here.


A necessary obsession with justice

I wasn't in New Zealand when the Bain family was killed or when David Bain was convicted, and I know too little of the details of the case to form an opinion myself on that verdict ... but with last night's decision from the Privy Council, it's a strong reminder that if you do want to get justice in New Zealand that you need to be as single-minded as a Joe Karam -- a single-mindedness that goes almost beyond reason and into an obsession -- an obsession that last night was triumphantly vindicated!

But is it a justice system worthy of the name when it takes such an obsession -- an obsession reportedly costing former All Black Joe Karam (right) in the order of $4-5 million to receive it on Bain's behalf -- the same sort of single-minded devotion that drove someone like Karam to be the outstanding All Black full back that he was? As Karam said this morning, his dozen years of single-minded devotion to justice is not something he'd recommend to others, but without others like Karam with obsessions like these, where and how and when do people like David Bain get a fair hearing?

And what does this decision from the Privy Councillors say about the Clark Government's decision to abandon our link with the Privy Council and introduce instead a local Supreme Court, a Court on which now sits two members of the Court of Appeal whose decision the Privy Council so derisorily dismissed. Speaking then I said,
the Privy Council isn't just a medieval relic leftover from the dusty days when common law still protected people's rights (though it is that) it also gives New Zealanders who are eager for justice access to some of the world's best legal minds. Further, having the Privy Council as our supreme court means there is a clear separation of powers between New Zealand's legislators and its supreme court - in this case 12,500km of ocean worth of separation!

... But surely, I hear you cry, [government]-appointed judges wouldn't just be tame poodles, rolling over whenever called to? Well, they don't have to. Despite being overrun with lawyers in shiny suits, the talent pool from which judges are chosen in New Zealand is remarkably small - everybody knows everybody else, and legislators and judiciary are often separated by no more than a restaurant table and a bottle of chardonnay.
It's not too late too reopen that debate.

UPDATE: Stephen Franks launches a salvo in that debate. "The Privy Council decision," he says, "is a catastrophic affirmation of the size of our loss when we abandoned our right to neutral international referees."
Joe Karam called this morning for the resignation of the two Supreme Court judges who refused an appeal while on the Court of Appeal. That kind of erosion of confidence in the quality of justice in New Zealand was inevitable from the moment the “indigenisers”, led by Hon Margaret Wilson, got their hands on the tiller...

The right of appeal to neutral outsiders was a priceless assurance of integrity for our otherwise unhealthily small hot house legal cabal...

Our legal profession thinks its privileges are justified by their championing of the the rule of law, of the rights of the citizen against the state. Some individual lawyers do that... [b]ut to me as an MP their advocacy as a ‘profession’ was marked by cowardly group think, often self interested, and suffusing political correctness.

This last Privy Council case is a sad measure of our exposure to that group think.
Read Franks' full piece here.

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"Who am I to judge?"

A shop girl is sacked for stealing from her employer ... and there's outrage and public support for the thief, and a call taken up by all quarters of the blogosphere to boycott the franchise they see as responsible. This morning the website leading the charge for the thief trumpets to loud applause that "the charges have been dropped, but Subway still need to he held to account for their actions." Sorry, Subway needs to held to account!? What about the goddamn thief?

This is just dumb, but it's a kind of dumb for which this example is just a trivial one. It gets worse, much worse -- with that clue, see if you can find a common thread here:
  • An Otara couple are convicted of beating the woman's three-year-old son to death "for continually soiling his pants" -- beating him to death with baseball bats, an oar handle and vacuum cleaner pipes ... and when the verdict is announced from the well of the court comes the supportive cry: "I love you, Sis!"

  • For a prank, for an afternoon's 'fun', an Otahuhu fourteen-year-old drops a concrete block on to a speeding car, killing the driver instantly... and people express sympathy for the killer. His friends call him "cool." When asked how he felt about the accident, the 'look-out' for the killer said, "Sad. Not for that man, but for [the killer]. He's my mate." Few point out what it means to have a mate who's a killer.

  • A drive-by gang shooting kills a two-year old, the gang refuses to give up the killer (and the police appear powerless) .... and an MP admits that "the killing of a child is appalling," but said it would be "wrong to blame gangs." "Just like I'm not prepared to say the police are all rapists,' said the MP, 'I am also not prepared to say that all gangs are criminals."

  • A young man drives his car at full speed through a crowd of packed party-goers, killing two ... and his cousin tells sympathetic television reporters that he is "a good man," and the mother of one young girl whom this fuckwit killed says she "feels sorry" for the killer. For the killer!

  • A student shoots and kills 32 of his 'fellow students' ... and a brainwashed dimwit says she feels "incensed" because the murderer isn't memorialised with his victims. "Who am I to judge who has value and who doesn't?" asks the moron. "I am not in that position. Are you?"

  • A "green think tank" says children are bad for the planet" and another environmentalist (one beloeved of many local environmentalists) declares mankind a 'virus' ... and instead of outrage, condemnation and denunciation, these statements are met with yawns. "Haven't we heard this before?" people say -- and of course they'd be right.

  • Islamofascists commit atrocity after atrocity, and outrage after outrage ... and the chattering classes condemn, not the fascists, not the bombers, not the killers, but those who have the temerity to express outrage at atrocity. Or anger at the killing. Or those who draw cartoons expressing derision at the culture in whose name the atrocities are committed.
Why am I listing these events in this way? Because I suggest there's a common thread to them all. Do you see it? Can you see what ties these events together? Specifically, what is the common factor in the reactions to each of these outrages?

Could it be, do you think, the inability to pass moral judgement? Rather than moral condemnation of a wrong-doer or sympathy for a victim who is wronged or killed, what is expressed in each is sympathy for the perpetrator.

Have people gone mad? Have some of us completely lost the ability to discriminate between good and bad? To make moral judgements? Are people no longer able to condemn anybody? Not thieves, not people who kill their kids, not even stone killers who show not an ounce of sympathy for those they killed or would have killed? What's gone wrong?

That first girl is a thief -- trivially perhaps, but a thief who is wholly undeserving of this collective outpouring of bloggish sympathy. She's a thief. The second two are killers. They're bad bastards. All of these killers or would-be killers are scum. Why can't people say that! They're evil. Can't we identify good as good, and bad as bad, and -- when it's so clearly bloody obvious -- wicked as wicked.

People wonder why few youngsters appear to have any sense of values; yet when their elders demonstrate their absolute refusal to state the obvious, to evade the moral responsibility of passing judgement when they need to ... well, it's little wonder, is it.

Like the characters in Frank Miller's '300', they hear King Xerxe's appeal -- Leonidas asks them to take a stand -- and they decide instead to kneel in supplication.

People continue to commit outrages such as these and people continue to excuse them with talk about "root causes" such as poverty, testosterone, mental illness, drugs and alcohol, sexual or physical or (Galt forbid, the only thing worse than murder these days) racial abuse .... as if any of these is an excuse to commit atrocity.

What about free will? What about choice? Lots of people are poor, or like a drink, or have been sexually or physically abused. Half the people in the world have testosterone. Yet despite that all-too obvious fact, very, very few of them steal, rape, or commit violent acts of murder.

Those people who do are bad bastards. We're entitled to say so. And so too are those who refuse to judge -- in the face of evil, evasion of moral judgement is nothing less than moral cowardice. As Lindsay Perigo says in the latest Free Radical, "Civility in the face of evil is no virtue; rage in the face of nihilism is no vice."

Feel free to judge me how you wish for saying so. Meanwhile, I'm off to Subway for lunch.

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Moore House - Alfredo de Vido

Moore House, Connecticut, by Alfredo de Vido. From the architect's website:
The main goal of the owners and architect was to merge this house into its natural environment. The site was selected so that the land would be minimally disturbed. The house was to face south toward a pond developed by the owners and was to fit within the landscape in a manner that provided no exposure to the north. Passive solar design controls the flow of energy through the building by natural means, utilizing energy conservation principles. Some of the materials used were found on the site itself. Mature red oak trees on the property were selectively cut to provide posts and beams for the house. This was done long enough before ground breaking to ensure that the lumber was aged. Old fieldstone walls on the property provided material for facing the concrete walls. The main building materials are concrete sandblasted in some areas, and faced with stone in others) and oak posts and beams. An important design consideration was the proportion of the walls with the glass areas. Natural light is brought into the rear of the house via a long row of skylights and even on an overcast day, one does not feel "underground" in any room. The rich colorings of the wood, stone, and other materials further distance any feeling of subterranean space.


Thursday, 10 May 2007

173,500 jobless people is "low unemployment"?

David Benson-Dope says, "High unemployment is a thing of the past. Low unemployment and high labour force participation are now standard features of the employment scene."

173,500 jobless people is "low unemployment"? Lindsay Mitchell has both figures and analysis. It makes Benson-Dope look like a word starting with 'l' that you can't use in parliament.

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"The Maori Party is angry that..."

"The Maori Party is angry that..." Now, any report that starts that way is generally going to have me plumping for whomever the Racist Party is angry about, and today's news report is no exception: Racist Party MP Hone Harawira says he is "appalled" that Transit allowed the European Union flag to fly on Auckland's Harbour bridge" when they had earlier flatly refused to fly the Maori Separatist flag.

"It's an insult to Maori," says Hone, "and an insult to the intelligence of all New Zealanders." Hone, here's something that really is insulting to the intelligence of New Zealanders: a race-based party elected on a race-based agenda in race-based seats who who claim that they're against racism.

And on the issue of the day that's got Hone appalled? For once, I agree with a government department. Keep the racist flag away from the Bridge. The EU may be the living embodiment of bloated bureaucracy ... but it ain't racist.

Suck that up, Hone.

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Management fads and business books

Nothing is so banal or so stupid that it can't be picked up and used as the basis for a 'management textbook.' The Economist blog thinks they know why:

How can we tell which CEO's are stars, and how much they really bring to the bottom line? In part it's so difficult to determine because management theory is so awful... no one has any coherent idea of how one identifies a good CEO, or what good management practices are, which is why the business bookshelves are crowded with banalities set in big type for the casual airplane reader.

(Nothing is so stupid that it cannot be made into a framework for analysing your business; when I tried to freelance a parody piece on business book titles, I was stymied by the fact that the most outlandish ideas I could come up with—"Management secrets of the Carmelite Nuns"—had already actually been made into books by some optimistic editor. The only idea which had not already made it into print in some very similar form was "How to make a killing in business: Strategic secrets of America's greatest serial killers". No doubt it is forthcoming from Harcourt Brace this year.)

This got local blogger Jim Donovan thinking about some Kiwi variants [hat tip DPF]:

  • The Jerry Collins Guide to Ambush Marketing
  • Building a Global Brand on a Limited Budget, by Nicole Begg (Hang on, she’s just done that)
And he's offered a prize for "the best Kiwi business book title in the genre of Management secrets of the Carmelite Nuns and How to make a killing in business: Strategic secrets of America’s greatest serial killers" -- well, a small prize. Some of the best so far, from both Jim's and DPF's:
  • Economics for Dummies, by Michael Cullen
  • The Buyers Guide to Elections (2007 Revevised Version), by Helen Clark
  • Bran Flake, by Dick Hubbard
  • Downsizing your Business, and Yourself, By Rodney Hide
  • Corporate Uniformity: Brand Enforcement, by the Mongrel Mob
  • The Rickards Way: Secrets of Team Building from the Team Policing Specialists, by Clint Rickards and Brad Shipton
  • Being a Team Player, by Ali Williams (as told to Bill Ralston)
  • Discipline in the Workplace, S. Bradford
  • Ganging Up On Your Competitors, T. Turia
  • Guaranteed Returns: A Guide to Property and Foreign Exchange Investment, by Dr A. Bollard
  • Kyoto…A beginners guide, by P. Hodgson
  • Negotiation: How to Give it All Away, by John Key
Any others?

UPDATE: All joking aside, and far be it for me to disagree with such an august periodical as The Economist, but while it's true that most management theory is awful, it's not true to say that it's impossible to identify a good CEO.

In fact, psychologist Edwin Locke -- internationally known for his research on goal setting (a recent survey found that Locke's goal setting theory was ranked #1 in importance among 73 management theories, none of them awful) -- has made a study of that very thing. His book, The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators does exactly what it says: it studies the great wealth creators to understand the traits needed to be a walking, talking, thinking engine of production. Introducing the book, banker John Allison says,
Dr. Locke is unequivocally clear that productive geniuses from Thomas Edison to Bill Gates are the Prime Movers of human progress. While these men amassed great fortunes, they raised the standard of living for all of us...

What characteristics enabled these men to make such a significant contribution? These great creators have the capacity to see the big picture trends others cannot foresee -- vision. They have active and independent minds with an undying commitment to action, the capacity to make rational decisions based on the facts, the ability to judge ability in others, and the willingness to reward superior contributions by others. These attributes produce a level of confidence and competence that leads to success.

Dr. Locke's view is radically different from the common belief that progress more or less happens automatically or is the result of some undefined collective effort. Dr. Locke sees a relatively small number of outstanding individuals who make a disproportionate contribution to human well-being...

If the characteristics that Dr. Locke discusses have contributed to these individuals' success, we should teach these attributes to our children. Clearly, the foundation attribute is an unwavering commitment to make independent, rational decisions based on the facts-which is the ultimate form of honesty.
For the full menu of traits Locke identifies, you'll need to read his book for yourself. Unlike most of the titles above, it really is worth it.

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Question for the Grinch

Young Callum McPetrie has a question for our Finance Minister, the Grinch who keeps stealing our money.

All across the terrestrial globe, nations are cutting their tax rates. From Estonia to Australia to (soon-to-be-cutting) France, nations are feeling the positive effects of lower taxes. In Estonia, my favourite nation, the tax rate is at a flat 22% [down to 20% in 2009]. The tax-cutting countries are enjoying higher growth, greater prosperity and more entrepreneurship than the small amount we have here. Yet we have a surplus of billions.

So why not, Michael? What's so evil about tax cuts? Or are you really against production and prosperity?

Fair question. What's wrong with keeping our own money and making ourselves rich?

Or do you think the Grinch prefers to keep our money to bribe us again next year? After all, it did work last time.

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The Hockey Stick & 'The Great Global Warming Swindle.'

Steve McIntyre has a complaint about the film 'The Great Global Warming Swindle.' His compaint: He thinks the film lets the 'Hockey Stick' temperature chart off the hook -- yeah, that Hockey Stick, the one pasted behind the IPCC's 'co-chair' Sir John Fucking Houghton on the stage at the release of the UN's Third Assessment Report (short summary: We're all going to die) -- the 'Hockey Stick' that McIntyre so soundly debunked with his colleague Ross McIttrick -- a debunking that the warmists have barely if ever acknowledged.

Yep, he thinks it lets the 'Stick' off the hook, and if director Martin Durkin refilms it, McIntyre has a proposed 'screenplay' for him that should help dig a hole for the fraudulent fluff, bury it, and then tramp down the dirt.


Copenhagen Opera House - Henning Larsen

The new Copenhagen Opera House. I confess, I know very little about it beyond a wee picture in the Wagner Society newsletter [pdf, page 4, and excerpted below] and a review of Wagner's 'Ring' cycle which was presented to launch the new opera house.

By all accounts both 'Ring' and house were superb! Oh, by the way, it's a privately funded opera house, paid for by Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, the founder of the Mærsk shipping company.
Mollers’s brief to the architect Henning Larsen was four-fold:
• to site the building exactly across the harbour from the Royal Palace of Amalienborg and the Marble Church
• to achieve the most ideal acoustics possible
• to create perfect sight lines
• to use state of the art quality materials and finishes.

The opera house sits on its own island, is clad in a polished, light silvery coloured limestone with a huge over-hanging roof, and with a floor-to-ceiling ribbed glass foyer facing west, with grand stand views, at several levels of the harbour, the city and the palace. The foyer is flooded with natural light, which is interrupted only by two elegant cross bridges at each level, linking the 3 balconies with the terraces which follow round the huge glass wall, and in the long twilights of the Danish summer, the foyer and the opera-goers are bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun. It is magical....

Inside the auditorium, with its wooden walls and floors, is like stepping inside the sound box of a huge stringed instrument... For Kaspar Bech Holten, head of Danish Royal Opera, the opening of the new opera house was a chance to show the world what his company could do. What better than Wagner’s 'Ring' Cycle! The precedent had been set in Bayreuth in 1876.

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Wednesday, 9 May 2007

"Affordable" housing at $400k a pop!

Hard on the heels of the economically illiterate housing minister insisting that developers be forced to supply "affordable" houses on land made unaffordable by the housing minister's regulations -- "How?" "Somehow!" -- there comes a lesson in what happens when "non-profit organisations" get involved in so-called affordable housing.

Unveiled yesterday was a grand scheme, in fact a competition-winning scheme prepared for the Auckland City Mission -- -- "an audacious plan" no less! -- designed, said the excited unveilers "to house 80 of the estimated 250 to 400 inner-city homeless in a 170-unit apartment development surrounding a new square next to the historic church of St Matthew-in-the-City."

The cost? A cool $70 million. That's over $400,000 per-unit. Those 80 heretofore homeless are to be audaciously housed indeed! Over $400,000 per-unit... Just the sort of thing you'd expect from a combination of "multi award winning innovative building designers" (well, that's what their award winning website calls them), a token Maori (Rewi Thompson), and a "not-for-profit" name charity. Everyone's a winner, except of course for those picking up the tab.

Oh, who is picking up the tab, you ask? The answer is right there in the article: Other "non-profit organisations ... which may include the three bodies which paid for the design competition - Housing New Zealand, the ASB Community Trust and the Auckland City Council." In other words: you are.

[Disclosure: I did not submit an entry into the competition, though I would have if I'd known -- though with no expectation of success: I would have been sorely tempted to try designing something that actually would be affordable. Foolish, I know.]

Oh, and in related news: In Ireland, house-builders are saying "Stuff you!" to their so-called "affordable housing scheme" requiring them to build "affordable housing" on land made unaffordable by over-regulation -- exactly the sort of scheme planned by Minister Carter.

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Cripple, cripple, cripple

What's more politically incorrect than attacking cripples? Answer, Penn & Teller, especially when it's them doing the attacking.

In their latest episode, Penn & Teller's 'Bullshit' show takes on all those government mandated cripple parks, cripple ramps and pro-cripple employment quotas which in the US all come under the rubric of the Americans With Disabilities Act. As they explain, the Act is yet another example of the unintended consequences of government action; as one disabled American against the Americans With Disabilities Act explains, far from making people more likely to help out those how need help, the effect has been the reverse -- it makes cripples walking lawsuits (or rolling lawsuits, if you will), an outreach arm of bigger government, and less well off than before:
Disability is not a civil rights issue .. nothing the government can do can make me equal to you in any way...

It teaches people they don't have to help others who need help...

Coercion never produces compassion...

This law they say will produce a more compassionate America -- I say it does exactly the opposite...
You can watch this hilarious and insightful episode in three parts on YouTube, here, here and here. [Hat tip Julian D.]

And check out too this clip of Penn and Teller on 'West Wing,' burning (or not) the American flag in the White House. If 'West Wing' was all this good, maybe I should have been watching it?

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"We are cutting tax for the fifth year. We believe in low taxes. It's a good thing."

"We are cutting tax for the fifth year. We believe in low taxes. It's a good thing." Sadly, that's not the New Zealand finance minister talking, it's his Australian counterpart.

With yesterday's budget announcement by Treasurer Peter Costello, Australians get to enjoy enjoying getting back $31.5 billion of their own money! On the NZ scale that represents a tax refund of over $6 billion!

How would you feel about that?

Sadly, there is little expectation of anything remotely similar happening here next week, despite even the IMF advising the Clark Government "to focus on tax cuts and curb spending to help the economy through a difficult period." There's just no hope that's going to happen, whichever major party is in power.

The best hope for New Zealanders having less taken out of our pockets is a trial balloon floated last week for a give-back-with-one-hand-take-with-the-other 'tax cut' that will be linked to a compulsory retirement savings scheme -- giving back with one hand, and taking back with the the other.

There is little hope that either major party here even realises whose money it is that forms the enormous surpluses piled up every financial year.

LINKS: Cut taxes, spending, says IMF - NZ Herald
Cullen says big surpluses no longer politically sustainable - NBR

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Philosophy of Global Warming

All the important questions of global warming can be asked on the basis of the four fundamental questions of philosophy: the questions of metaphysics (questions such as "Where are we?" and "What's it like?"), of epistemology ("How do we know?") and of ethics ("If that's all true, then what do we do now?").

Indeed, it seems to me that people's answers on global warming are determined more by philosophy than they are by science:
  • Metaphysics: Is warming happening? Is it catastrophic? What's the agent of change? Is it man-made?
  • Epistemology: How do we know? By faith? By the insistence of politicised science? Or by reason -- by investigating all the evidence, by insisting on evidence that is falsifiable, evidence that is integrated with the full context of all that we know? And how in reason are we able to reliably predict the future?
  • Ethics: What do we do now? Sacrifice? Or the self-interested pursuit of new technologies?
  • Politics: What is needed in politics? A New Authoritarianism to enforce a new ethic of sacrifice? Or more freedom to pursue and to create new technologies, and stronger property rights to protect against real pollution?
Like I say, it seems to me that the answers are more about philosophy than they are anything else, and most specifically about ethics.

For instance, warmists insist that man-made catastrophic global warming is happening; that they know enough to know it's happening because Al Gore and the UN's Summary for Policymakers told them that it's happening; that what is urgently needed not greater certainty or new technology, but sacrifice -- sacrifice NOW!! -- and lots of it -- sacrifices that can only be enforced by big and bigger government.

Conservatives on the other hand (Key, Cameron, Nick Smith) insist that it's irrelevant whether or not it's actually happening: that what's more important is political expediency; that compromise and getting along is the way to go; that we should go along with whatever Al Gore and the UN tell us; and we should therefore all agree to sacrifice and to lots of it -- sacrifices that will be enforced by big and bigger and ever bigger government, even world government (and naturally the conservative hopes to be that Government or at least in control of it).

As you can see, what unites most warmists philosophically is what Ayn Rand used to call the ideals of the mysticism-altruism-collectivism axis: arguments from authority, and sacrifice, and statism. What specifically unites conservatives and warmists is their common reverence for the ethic of sacrifice, and their craving for big government.

Big government for both is the solution, and "Give up, give up, give up" is the mantra -- give up power generation in favour of abstinence; give up comfort, wealth and our own standard of living in favour of Al Gore's; give up decent lighting in favour of inefficient mercury-filled fog; give up clothes driers and power lawn mowers; give up fresh hot water and central heating; give up SUVs and elevators, toilet paper and trash; microwaves, modern air travel and most of the modern world-- give up, give up, give up!

In short, give up industrial production and industrial civilisation and go 'carbon neutral' -- sacrifice today for no benefit in the future -- sacrifice now even if the sacrifice has no tangible effect on worldwide carbon dioxide levels at all! Sacrifice as an intrinsic good -- sacrifice as a way of life. Sacrifice as appeasement to the Earth God Gaia, and the Great Earth God Gore.

As you can see, the warmist axis is nuts.

And as you can also see, conservatives are a waste of space.

Genuine 'climate skeptics' however come in a variety of philosophical flavours, but few are in favour of sacrifice. Few deny that warming is happening -- at the the entirely uncatastrophic level of about 0.6 degrees celsius across the last century -- what they don't accept is that it's proven to be either man-made or that it will prove to be catastrophic -- or that even if it does prove catastrophic, that sacrifice and big government will be the necessary cure.

What unites most climate skeptics is an ethic that puts happiness, freedom and human life above any desire to appease the Earth's 'gods' or to make our grandchildren poor.

Some skeptics do accept that global warming is man-made and that there could be negative consequences (Bjorn Lomborg for example), but not as negative as the so-called 'solutions' proposed, and far less catastrophic and far, far less important than other genuine world-wide catastrophes that could be fixed more easily and more cheaply -- third world AIDS epidemics for example, or the urgent worldwide need for clean drinking water and for third world development.

And there are other skeptics who maintain that even if it does provoke a crisis, that neither sacrifice nor big government will be the necessary cure -- in fact, both sacrifice and big government will be to our detriment. For these skeptics, (such as George Reisman, for example) more self-interested pursuit of technology is needed -- urgently needed -- and what's needed to pursue that is more freedom and less big government.

Your position on the philosophical spectrum will determine your position on the warmist spectrum, and your position on ethics will determine your point of view on solutions.

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Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Free Radical 75:

The latest Free Radical magazine is about to hit the streets, and here's a sneak preview of the latest cover...

Subscribe NOW to make sure you don't miss out on YOUR copy!



Gus van Horn and a few others have between them a bunch of enviro-links that Not PC readers should be sharp enough to read and digest without any need for my commentary:
To which should be added: "Free Market Economist Warns of 'Toxicity of Environmentalism'."

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Celebrating Atlas: Still radical after all these years

You're unlikely to find such a thing on the front page of any NZ daily, but Sunday's Orange County Register in L.A. carried a richly deserved front-page piece celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Ayn Rands novel Atlas Shrugged, recently selected to join the list of Penguin Modern Classics.

Read Onkar Ghate's full celebration of Rand's world-changing magnum opus here. As he says,
With the 1957 publication of "Atlas Shrugged," Ayn Rand became the most remarkable of individuals: a moral revolutionary. For anyone interested in ideas, it's a book that deserves to be read and re-read.
Sure does.

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The failure of field trips

School field trips are a waste of time, says educator Lisa van Damme; most are no more than "in-school vacations."
Many educators stress the importance of field trips: opportunities to get students out of their desks and away from their books, and to give them direct, vivid, sensory experience with the world around them. Reflecting on my own education, these excursions off campus are indeed some of my most memorable moments—but not because of their educational merits, not because they brought alive the important knowledge I had gained in the classroom. I remember them either as days off- reprieves from my painfully dull schooling-or as painfully dull experiences in themselves.
The fault, says van Damme, is not in the field trips themselves, but in the educational experience itself.
Clearly, the need for these in-school vacations, these diversions entirely unrelated to the curriculum content, is the consequence of a much deeper problem: the work is not motivation in itself. Teachers and students alike view education as a painful chore to be dutifully endured-and occasionally rewarded with a "Pajama Day" a pizza party or a park trip.
Of course, factory school education is a chore. That much is true, but it doesn't have to be. The real problem is that field trips are simply one example of how the factory school curriculum is disintegrated and misintegrated -- above all it fails to present knowledge in the correct order, or to integrate the knowledge presented. The real failure, says Van Damme, is in the recognition that knowledge is hierarchical ("The hierarchy of knowledge is the most neglected issue in education," says Van Damme).
The problem inherent in field trips of this kind is that they try to cash in on a bankrupt account. Students are exposed to a cultural experience, whether a trip to Washington, a classic play, or an art museum, that they do not have the educational background to value. This error is one example of a problem prevalent in education: the violation of hierarchy, or the proper order of knowledge...

At VanDamme Academy, we believe that it is our sacred duty to identify that knowledge which is essential to the development of a child into an informed, thoughtful, mature adult (which means, no diversions), and to present that knowledge in a careful, hierarchical sequence that allows for the student's thorough, independent understanding (which means, no propaganda).

On our view, field trips should give students the opportunity to make observations or have experiences not available to them in the classroom, but directly related to the crucial knowledge being gained in the classroom.
Anything else is not education, it's a holiday from it.


All Black question

Q: So how well is the idea to leave out the All Blacks for the first part of the Super 14 working?

Q: Has leaving All Blacks out of competition prior to the World Cup ever worked?

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Perigo on Sarkozy

From Perigo's SOLO site:

In other good news, Sarkozy [has won] the French presidential election decisively against that stupid socialist female. He was taken to task for calling Islamo-fascist rioters "scum." (How abusive!!) His response: "I regret nothing. What sort of educators would we be if thugs cannot even be called thugs?"

Under the socialists the French "enjoy" a 35-hour working week. Sarkozy is promising to exempt any work over 35 hours from tax.

Let's hope this heralds a general turnaround in Europe.

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Ascension Night - Michael Newberry

An unusual and intensely dramatic pose -- extremely difficult to draw -- seen here in black and white. The finished colour version can be seen here, and an explanation of the means by which the pose was drawn can be found here in this Mini Tutorial: Newberry Workshop: Using Triangulation of Points of Light to Line up the Figure.


Monday, 7 May 2007

Under the cursor...

A neat animation here demonstrates how your computer's cursor works. It's a bit like the way a friend's father always insisted that cash machines work...

What a victory!

Something to celebrate for Geelong fans: one of the biggest victories in AFL history -- a record-breaking 157 point thrashing of Richmond.

In a remarkable blitz of sustained high scoring, the Cats booted 10 goals in the first quarter, 10 in the second, nine in the third and six in the last.

They won 35.12 (222) to 9.11 (65), the margin the equal 11th-highest in league history and their total the equal eighth-highest in 111 years.

Geelong's total fell just 17 points short of the highest score in league history, when the Cats of 1992 kicked 37.17 (239) against Brisbane.

You can see highlights here, and (if you fiddle with your browser) the marks of the round here: AFL Video: Best Marks Round 6 .

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Why gangs? Why shooters? The answer, my friend, is blowing through the schools.

After the events of the weekend -- youth violence, party mayhem, gang shootings -- people are asking questions: "Why do people join gangs?" "How do we put a stop to them?" "What makes someone drive through a crowd of young people with the intent to kill?" and "What the hell is happening to this country?"

The answer to the second question is simple enough: If you want to stop the rise and rise of gangs, then stop giving them an income stream. Stop giving them money. As any student of history can tell you, prohibition plays into the hands of gangsters. We've done the same thing here, and too few seem to want to recognise that.

Why do people join gangs? What makes someone drive through a crowd of young people with the intent to kill? I think the answer to both is the same, and to demonstrate the answer, let me tell you about young Katelynn Johnson (right), a student at Virginia Tech -- a 'Hokie' as they call themselves -- who had a rather enlightening reaction to a monument for the 32 dead 'Hokies' in the Virginia Tech shooting. This martyr to worthiness added a 33rd stone (to the monument, not to her weight). The 33rd stone, she explained, "was meant for the shooter."
When there was an outcry and someone removed the 33rd stone, this was Johnson's reaction:
"'To see this community turn on one of its own no matter what he did is heartbreaking to me,' Johnson said. 'If we're a community, we're a community. If we're a family, we're a family. You can't pick and choose your family.'

"'We lost 33 Hokies that day, not 32,' she wrote. 'Who am I to judge who has value and who doesn't? I am not in that position. Are you?'"
Well, I can say with certainty: "Yes, I am!" But Johnson, who is the very model of Progressive education, cannot. For her, as blogger Rob Tarr noted, her identification with the collective as a primary trumps everything; as does her complete inability and unwillingness to make any moral judgements whatsoever.

Johnson is a perfect product of modern Progressive education, in which moral relativism and socialisation -- ie., identification with the collective -- are taught almost from birth as values that trump everything. As Glenn Woiceshyn explained after the Jonesboro shooting, Progressive education is "Socializing Students for Anarchy":

According to the founder [of Progressive education], John Dewey, "The school is primarily a social institution," whose central purpose is not "science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography . . . but the child's own social activities." Our schools certainly embrace both parts of this doctrine: teachers now attend to the child's "social" needs as devoutly as they dismiss his intellectual ones. Why, then, is social conflict--rather than social harmony--escalating?

The answer is: precisely because of this doctrine.

The Progressive philosophy maintains that the cause of social strife is the unwillingness of an individual to sacrifice his convictions to the group. Dewey maintained that it is the insistence on distinctions such as "true versus false" and "right versus wrong" that generates social conflict. If only children did not hold strong ideas, disagreement and conflict would evaporate in the sunshine of social harmony. Truth, therefore, is socially fractious--while ignorance is bliss.

Hence, what the Progressives mean by "socialization" is the surrender of one's mind--of one's independent knowledge and judgment--to a "group consensus."

As you can see, moral relativism is only one part of modern failure, and Johnson isn't the only perfect product of modern Progressive education in the news. So too are school shooters, drive-through party killers, and gang members -- they're all part of the same coin. The overwhelming need to belong, the identification with a collective -- any collective -- is part of what explains the rise and rise of gangs; it is part of what makes them so attractive to members, and it is what Progressive education has succeeded in teaching these poor saps. That most gangs are tribal, and their members often Maori, is just a further aspect of that collectivism, a message of tribal socialization that would no doubt have resonated for young Maori.

For young hoods who shoot their fellow students or who mow down fellow party-goers with their cars, I think there's a similar thing going on: the collective and the need to belong trumps everything -- for these destructive bastards rejection by that collective is worse even than murder. At least murder gets them recognised.

As blogger Gus van Horn notes, to understand such an outlook, to get an inkling of how such an attitude is possible -- an attitude incubated in the Progressive education system delivered in the state's factory schools -- one need go no farther than this essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education that discusses US school shootings [emphasis has been added]:
[R]ampage school shootings are never spontaneous. Before they loaded a single weapon, [shooters] let fly with dozens of hints, ranging from vague comments like, "You'll see who lives or dies on Monday," to more-specific warnings to friends to "stay away from the school lobby." Those warnings started months before the shootings themselves. ...

Why do
school shooters broadcast their intentions? They are trying to attract the attention of kids whom they hope will embrace them as friends but who have typically denied them the social status they crave. Michael [Carneal, for example] desperately wanted the acceptance of the "goth" group in his high school, which barely tolerated his presence. He posed as a delinquent when he was actually quite intellectual, passing off CDs he owned as stolen property. He stole pistols from his home and brought them to school as gifts for the most charismatic of the goths. "Not good enough," was the response. "We want rifles." No matter how hard Michael tried to change the way his peers saw him, nothing worked until the day he started fantasizing out loud about taking over the school and shooting people. That did work. He began to get attention. And once he had announced his intention, he risked social failure if he declined to go through with it.

School shooters are problem solvers. They are trying to turn the reputations they live with as losers into something more glamorous, more notorious. Seung-Hui Cho, a student of creative writing, probably didn't get a lot of "street cred" for his artistic side. Young men reap more social benefits from being successful on the football field. When their daily social experience -- created by their own ineptness, and often by the rejection of their peers -- is one of disappointment and friction, they want to reverse their social identities. How do they go about it? Sadly, becoming violent, going out in a blaze of glory, and ending it all by taking other people with them is one script that plays out in popular culture and provides a road map for notoriety.

So the answer to that last question posed above should now be simple enough. What the hell is happening to this country? Answer: Progressive education.

Progressive education has been socializing students for anarchy now for at least half-a-century, so why should we be surprised that it is succeeding? It is exactly as Rob Tarr says, that for such misbegotten products of Progressive education, identification with the collective as a primary trumps everything else.

The antidote to this collective nihilism is course is the promotion of rational individualism, and an urgent change in the values taught that are taught every day in those factory schools -- or else, perhaps, the destruction of those schools.

And that's surely worth a thought?

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Establishment entertainers defend Clark "taking the bow

Following attacks on Helen Clark by musicians Neil Finn and Bruce Lynch -- "It sort of sickens me to see Helen Clark getting up at the music awards and taking the bows," said Finn -- "(Politicians) put lots of money in and pump themselves up and ... We just create another class of people dependent on welfare," said Lynch -- there has been says the Herald a "chorus of disapproval" from the likes of establishment entertainers Ray Columbus and Sir Horrid MaoriSong.

An emotional Sir MaoriSong contacted the Herald yesterday, saying: "I'm so bloody mad."

And Columbus weighed in, saying: "In my book she can take as much credit as she likes."

Little wonder that braindead establishment artists such as these fail to identify whose money it is that Arts Minister Clark has been dishing out over the last seven-and-a-half years, and just how much fawning reverence that's bought; little wonder either that New Zealand's "arts community" has been almost "united in reverence" of Clark (as one commentator said this morning): with the sort of money being pumped into establishing this arts establishment it's no wonder "reverence" is what they feel.

As I've said here before, there's more than one way to censor a country's artists:

The first and most straightforward method of censorship is for a government to ban speech that they don't like -- that's just what National and Labour want to do at elections, and I hope you lot feel disgusted enough about that to do something about it.

The second form of censorship is one that Ayn Rand called "the establishing of an establishment," and it is no less chilling:

Governmental repression is [not] the only way a government can destroy the intellectual life of a country... There is another way: governmental encouragement... Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true: it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood...

If you talk to a typical business executive or college dean or magazine editor [or spin doctor or opposition leader], you can observe his special, modern quality: a kind of flowing or skipping evasiveness that drips or bounces automatically off any fundamental issue, a gently non-committal blandness, an ingrained cautiousness toward everything, as if an inner tape recorder were whispering: "Play it safe, don't antagonize--whom?--anybody."
If you've ever wondered where this "special, modern quality" comes from, this is perhaps one answer -- through the intellectual mediocrity advanced by this less well-known form of censorship -- a censorship of encouragement. It's a much less obvious and much more insidious method of censorship, and no less chilling for that.

This is what Rand called "the welfare state of the intellect," and the result is as destructive as that other, more visible welfare state: the setting up of politicians, bureaucrats and their minions (the establishment) as arbiters of thinking and taste and ideology; the freezing of the status quo; a staleness and conformity, and an unwillingness to speak out; in short "the establishing of an establishment" to which new entrants in a field realise very quickly they are all but required to either conform or go under.
Clark will see the defensive laager thrown around her by the conformists of the "arts community" as a well-deserved payoff for her generosity with other people's money. These are people who stay bought -- and she knows it.

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Council victory

Crikey. Looks like I've just won a seat on East Cambridgeshire District Council for the Conservatives, for the ward of Chevely.

How 'bout that?

Sunday, 6 May 2007

The Key Compromise

I rarely read Michael Laws, but this caught my eye, and perfectly suits the picture above. This is Laws on the Key Compromise:
But now the question needs to be asked. What exactly does Key stand for?

Pragmatism isn't a principle - it's a modus operandi. Although a genuinely pragmatic pollie would never have let Clark plot her escape - they would have taken the defeat in the house and ridden the issue all the way until 2008...

We know Key does not want to follow Brash's philosophical lead - that he is softer on race relations, privatisation and downsizing the state. But then he's no metro liberal either - his instincts remain utterly conservative. Which is why his appeasement seems so difficult to fathom...the fact remains that Bradford's bill will still make smacking your kids a criminal offence. Whether a light tap on the bum or a ruler across the fingers.

That it has been left to the police to work out the prosecutorial guidelines is a parliamentary cop- out. It is a surrender of policy to the courts - unelected pooh-bahs at the best of times.

Which is why Bradford was grinning like a Cheshire cat on Wednesday morning. She had conceded nothing - and won, proving that the inflexible can have their way with Key and the new National party. That's a lesson lobby groups will always remember.
And so too should the electorate.

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Libertarians: they're everywhere

I was surprised to see two libertarians featured so glowingly in this morning's Sunday Star Times.

Author Mario Vargas Llosa was profiled -- in a piece picked up from The Guardian no less, and online here -- supporting free markets, Margaret Thatcher and the war in Iraq, and saying that subsequent to his 1977 novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter,
his politics had decisively shifted. He says: "In my generation, it was impossible when you were young not to be very close to the left - the left seemed the way of justice, equality, the best way to fight against imperialism, colonialism, and then many things happened. I went to Cuba many times in the 60s and I started to have doubts, I became a bit critical." Having been a disciple of Sartre he went back and "reread everything, and I discovered that Camus [a staunch anti-communist] was right, not Sartre. I reread the thinkers who defended and promoted the culture of freedom. Then I was in Britain during Mrs Thatcher's revolution and I became very enthusiastic with the branch of liberalism which is libertarian, so this is what I am." A photo of him with Thatcher sits on a bookshelf.
The second libertarian to appear in the Star was local musician Bruce Lynch, who is -- or at least was, I haven't checked recently -- a Libz member, and who appeared supporting Neil Finn's view on the Prime Minister and local music that made headlines earlier in the week, that she "has hit the wrong note by taking credit for local music industry success."
No pop star, despite a stint touring and recording with Cat Stevens, Lynch works behind the scenes. He spent four years making the music for the Power Rangers TV series and is currently working on string arrangements for a new Anika Moa album.

Lynch is sceptical about the value of government schemes.

"(Politicians) put lots of money in and pump themselves up and we really haven't made much of a dent. We just create another class of people dependent on welfare."

Lynch's comments echo those of Finn in this month's Real Groove magazine: "I think there is a tendency in New Zealand at the moment, because of NZ on Air dishing out large sums of money, for people to have unreal expectations for what New Zealand music can achieve overseas or is actually achieving," he said.

"There's a perception that is somewhat hype generated at the moment that all this music's going out and making a big splash, and it's really not."

Finn's views don't represent everyone in the industry, but they are far from rare.

Lynch said there was a danger in creating too much expectation. "We've got schools for popular music, schools for engineers - we've got all those people out there with skills that nobody wants."
Libertarians: they're everywhere, and they invariably make an awful lot of sense. :-)

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A Sunday morning invitation

Atheism is not another 'faith': it is not a primary; it is a conclusion -- a conclusion based on the absence of evidence for a supernatural world, and abundant evidence for this one.

There are many kinds of atheist and certainly many reasons for being one, but overall it consists in a refusal to accept the supernatural, an unwillingness to place faith above the evidence of one's own senses, a resolve to believing nothing without reasonable evidence, and above all a commitment to the existence of which we know and not to the super-existence of our imagination. Atheism is not primarily negative; it is not primarily anti-supernatural -- it is instead primarily pro-existence, pro-reason, pro-evidence.

That by the way is not faith -- it's simply accepting the fact of existence, and our means of knowing it: Existence exists. There it is. Existence itself is its own evidence. Fairies at the bottom of the garden do not exist, and there is no evidence that either they or imaginary friends do.

Existence itself requires no proof -- it is the very fact of existence upon which all proofs are based: Existence exists. There it is. That's where life and consciousness and all explanation begins.

Existence itself requires no explanation -- existence is a self-sufficient primary: it is not a product of a supernatural dimension or of a supernatural being or of anything else or anyone else. Existence is not a why, it's an is.

Existence itself is simply all that exists -- there is nothing prior to it; nothing antecedent to it; nothing apart from it -- and no alternative to it.

Existence exists -- and only existence exists -- and bOth its existence and its nature are irreducible and unalterable.

By contrast, "gods" as traditionally defined are a systematic contradiction of every form of evidence, and every form of valid logical reasoning -- all gods; all forms of supernatural superpower, from Thor to Wotan to Zeus to Io. No valid argument -- no reason -- will get you from existence to non-existence, or from existence to the supernatural, or from existence to a world contradicting existence. No valid method of inference will enable you to leap from existence to a "super-existence," and nor should it be necessary to try.

Faith -- the means by which one tries to reconcile reason and un-reason, existence and non-existence, evidence and the contradiction of evidence -- is not a means of knowledge, it is a method of rejecting knowledge; it is a means of acting against knowledge, against evidence, against existence.

Faith is not reason. "Faith" designates blind acceptance -- acceptance because it is blind; acceptance because it is unreasonable; acceptance induced in the absence of evidence or even (one might say especially) in contradiction to evidence, in opposition to existence -- acceptance induced by feeling in the absence of either evidence or proof.

Faith is not knowledge, it is an alleged short-cut to knowledge which is only a short-circuit destroying the mind.

As Thomas Jefferson affirmed, " Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."

That's my invitation to you this Sunday.
NB: I should say that in this short spiel I've paraphrased from a number of sources, including Bertrand Russell, Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff, particularly from Peikoff's book, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

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NZ Music: Top Five

For NZ Music Month, the Sunday Star is asking for readers' favourite five NZ albums "of any style, from any era." Here's mine. For regular readers, there'll be few surprises.

  • Inside Out - Graham Brazier
    Quite simply NZ's finest rock album, crowned with our finest 'rebel' song, 'Billy Bold' -- an anthem worthy of the name.

  • Plugged in and Blue - Hammond Gamble
    Great electric blues and originals from a highly underrated guitarist of great expressive genius, with that guitar showcased here much better that his otherwise superb solo album 'Every Whisper Shouts.'

  • Donald McIntyre's humane Hans Sachs from the classic Sydney performance of Wagner's Die Miestersinger von Nurnburg.
    Not specifically a "New Zealand album" I guess, but the performance of this world-class New Zealander here is so magnificent and so dominates the show that it demands inclusion.

  • AK79
    For a young teenager (me) who had to steal his way into town to try and hear these songs and this attitude, the record captures a moment in time that spelled promise for me and for the musos featured. 'It's Bigger Than Both of Us' was strong competition for this, but even as a double just not quite strong enough.

  • Kiri Te Kanawa singing Richard Strauss' 'Four Last Songs' might seem a world and a lifetime away from 'AK79' (and it is), but as bookends for a life of hope and promise fulfilled, and with these four songs (as the sleeve says) "sad, serene, suggest[ing] the completion of a journey, a journey from spring to winter, from morning to evening, from youth to old age," they seem to me the perfect complement.
So that's my five. What are your five faves from Outer-Roa?

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