Tuesday, 26 June 2007

"Death to Rushdie!" says religion of peace.

Just in case you were in any doub about this after Salman Rushdie's knighthood, Islamic totalitarians have confirmed that they still want him dead. Speaking on behalf of the "religion of peace,"
A high-level Iranian cleric said Friday that the religious edict calling for the killing of Salman Rushdie cannot be revoked, and he warned Britain was defying the Islamic world by granting the author knighthood.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami reminded worshippers of the 1989 fatwa during a sermon at Tehran University, aired live on state radio. Thousands of worshippers chanted "Death to the English."
Death to all those who offend the religion of peace! Nick Provenzo says it better than I can:
The continued existence of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie is more than just a threat against one man and his publisher; it is a threat against a fundamental tenant our civilization, which is that each individual is free to express himself and his ideas without fear of threats or physical coercion. That Iran's clerics continue to attack the very cornerstone of our civilization reveals yet again that Iran itself continues to be uncivilized. No one had the right to coercively edit Salman Rushdie or any citizen of the West. No government cleric had the right to call for any free man's murder...

Rather than continue to sit idly by while Iran's clerics boast of their savage edict, it's high time that the West respond in kind.
UPDATE: Watch Christopher Hitchens on BBC's Question Time programme, magnificent once again in defending -- defending? nay, praising to the skies -- the decision to knight Rushdie. And the inimitable Cox and Forkum have their say below... [Hat tip Jameson for the link, and the cartoon]

Totalitarianism isn't cool . . .

. . . no matter how many bubble-headed Hollywood celebrities think it is.


The picture above shows Cameron Diaz* swanning through Peru, a country that was ripped apart by communist terrorists, wearing a fucking Chairman Mao bag round her scrawny damn neck! The picture at right shows her laughing. One would hope the two things are not connected, since as Peruvian human rights activist Pablo Rojas explains:
[the bag] alludes to a concept that did so much damage to Peru, that brought about so many victims. I don't think she should have used that bag where the followers of that ideology did so much damage.
Says the Independent on Sunday, this is like "wandering up to the Wailing Wall with a swastika printed on your handbag." Would you do that, Cameron? You'd say "what was she thinking," except thinking is the last thing anyone's doing when they wander anywhere with a totalitarian talisman hanging around their neck. Dimwit Diaz, by the way, is "one of the eco-friendly stars offering advice on how to live responsibly in a new publication called The Green Book, out in the US this week." [Hat tip Jameson]

Message to dumb blondes and dimwits who think commy chic and totalitarian tat is cool -- who think hanging out in the Lenin Bar with your Che T-shirts and your Mao bags is hip: You're not "cool." You're just glorifying totalitarians and making yourself look as stupid as you are. You wouldn't wear a Hitler shirt, would you?

_ _ _ _ _
* She's an actress, apparently. That is to say, she's famous for appearing in films.

Censored. Not!

Oops!
Online Dating

Apparently I get the "No one under 17 admitted rating" because there's too much fucking going on around here (5x too much) some dominatrix action (2x) and even the occasional stab (1x). No worries; I always do say that libertarianism is for consenting adults. :-)

Find out your blog rating if the Censor's Office was watching, and see how you'd be censored. [Hat tip Lucyna].

FREE RADICAL #75 - The Right of Revolution: In Praise of Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

With Free Radical #76 in the works and Fiji still in the news -- and real questions now beginning to be asked about just what's going on -- it seems appropriate to post the article from Free Radical #75 over which Tim Wikiriwhi left the Libertarianz. It becomes more prescient by the day -- and as you can see, when he's not waving his Bible about Tim become much more sane. (And you can check out all this blog's coverage of Fiji here.)

The Right of Revolution: In Praise of Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
by Tim Wikiriwhi



The latest coup in Fiji by Commodore Frank Bainimarama has highlighted for me the corruption of so-called “indigenous rights,” a recipe for division which is pedalled around the globe by the corrupt socialists of the UN. Four coups in twenty years is hardly a good look, but the instability is itself a product of racist laws that makes instability inevitable.



Bainimarama’s coup is the complete opposite of the previous three coups, each of which attempted to establish absolutely the UN’s apartheid agenda for indigenous rights. Whereas Rabuka and Speight were acting to cement the racist laws that raised indigenous Fijians over other Fijians, Bainimarama is a defender of the principle of equality.


Bainimarama said he was compelled to act against the government because corruption had flourished under Qarase, whom he himself appointed after the 2000 coup, and because of proposed laws that would grant pardons to plotters in a 2000 coup and hand lucrative land rights to indigenous Fijians at the expense of the large ethnic Indian minority.

"Qarase betrayed our trust when he went back to team up with the very people who caused the political instability of 2000," Bainimarama said. The new electoral system he pledged to implement would ensure that all votes cast were equal, and the present race-based election system abolished. This requires indigenous Fijians to vote for Fijian candidates, ethnic Indians for Indian candidates, and others for a third group of candidates. “We want to rid the constitution of provisions that facilitate and exacerbate the politics of race”, Bainimarama confirmed at the outset.



In seeking to put a permanent end to the racist Fijian electoral system and to permanently abolish laws that grant favouritism to indigenous racists, he is in my estimation worthy of praise and support reserved for the greatest benefactors of mankind.



Apathy and submission to injustice via political delusions

A basic principle of justice is that all law should be colour-blind; that everyone, regardless of race, should be equal before the law. We here in New Zealand have however grown soft on inequality. That this is true can not only be shown by the complete lack of protest against the blatant apartheid of the Waitangi Tribunal, of the many, many race-based policies still on the books in New Zealand.



This is an indictment against ourselves and our country, and a measure of our complacency and foolishness. So many people in so many places around the globe have been deceived into thinking that “the rule of democracy” is synonymous with “the rule of law”; that democracy is a safeguard of freedom. It is nothing of the sort.



Democracy is simply a counting of heads regardless of content. True liberty exists only when the inalienable rights of all individuals, regardless of race or colour, are put beyond the vote. Belief in the ‘democracy fallacy’ is so prevalent however that when a democracy is overthrown, even a racist democracy such as Fiji’s undeniably was, many immediately say that the perpetrators are dangerous criminals!



The reality is that democracy can be as unjust as an absolute monarchy, and it is just as immoral for a parliament to grant legal favouritism upon the grounds of race as it is for a king to do so, no matter how many people might vote for it!



The rule of law means the rule of principles of justice especially of the principle of equality before the law – equality for all, regardless of race! The democratic “mandate of the majority” is a valid way of choosing who should be in government, but not a valid way of justifying how they govern, or what laws they pass, nor an automatic justification of any law proposed by a democratic Parliament! Democracy is not synonymous with freedom.



Totalitarian democrats dread the spread of Bainimarama’s ideals

What the Clark regime are scared of is this: the simple realisation that a racist democracy not unlike the one they themselves are running has been overthrown, and overthrown in the name of overturning that entrenched and legalised racism. They can do nothing else but condemn Bainimarama!



The right of revolution

Let me state the fact that the principle of equality is no light or transient cause. What motivates me to support Bainimarama is exactly the same principle as motivated the American Declaration of Independence.



We must all be aware of the maxim of Edmund Burke: “All it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.” If you are in a position of power to stop a great injustice, but do not exercise that power, does your inaction not amount to complicity? Any man of virtue in Bainimarama’s position would be obliged to make the same choice: That is either do nothing and allow the evil of apartheid injustice to go unchecked, or to act and put an end to it!



According to Lockeian principles, it is not unjust to overthrow a tyrant. Any good man has the right to stop the enemies of mankind by the law of nature, just as they have the right to kill any savage beast. We have the natural right to defend our lives and property. It is not a crime but a righteous necessity to overthrow a corrupt government.



The limits of political power and the supremacy of justice

While many people understand that the principle of equality before the law means you cannot have one law for blacks or browns and another for whites, few people appreciate the fullness of its limiting power over government whatsoever its form. This same principle guarantees absolute equal freedom for all: It means a president, a king, or an indigenous native has no more rights than the lowliest citizen or the most recent immigrant.



Equality before the law means you cannot have a state religion. It means you cannot have an official culture. It means you cannot have one law for the rich and another for the poor. It means you cannot grant any favouritism whatsoever!



The tyranny of the mob under demagogues

How many people really want true equality? Not many! Most would rather have some say over their neighbour’s rights and liberties than enjoy their own – they would rather have an absolute, unlimited democracy – one in which nothing has been put beyond the vote – if it allows them to somehow bully their neighbour, or to gain preference for their own. There are plenty of demagogues willing to crush minorities and to ride the waves of bigotry into power, and plenty of people around the world ready to applaud the bigots.



The proper constitutional context of the conventions of democracy

The power of voting is more critical when the government has tyrannical powers.

When government is kept in check by a just libertarian constitution – when the government has been limited to protecting the rights of the individual, and the elected government is barred from totalitarianism or unlimited majority rule – then the power to vote away the rights and liberties of minorities is of much less consequence (and remember that the smallest minority is the individual, whose rights a just government is sworn to uphold).



In such a system, what the US Founding Fathers described as a constitutional republic, no matter what religion or culture is in the majority or who is voted into office, the government cannot pass discriminatory laws nor usurp greater powers at the expense of the rights and liberties of the population.


The fact that nations like Fiji and New Zealand don’t have such constitutional restraints means that the right to vote is itself looked upon as the primary safeguard against corruption, and the notion of taking away an elected government by force sends dread trough the Mobocracy -- yet that liberation will be met with jubilation by the liberated minorities who have borne the brunt of democratic injustice.



The limits of representative government and the power of consent

It must be remembered that the right to vote is not a license to create a tyranny of the mob. The right to vote in a representative government is subordinate to the principles of justice. The mandate of the majority can never legitimately override the principle of equality before the Law. The principle of the consent of the governed is itself subordinate to the principle of equality before the law.



The principle of equality is the only condition of justice whereby everyone can be justly expected to grant consent, so this principle becomes an absolute justification for any form of government that is constitutionally founded upon it. Those who refuse to consent to equality and instead desire an unjust form of rule, whether they represent either a majority or minority, can rightfully be ignored and even suppressed (meaning: they halted from unjust revolution):

  • It is just to impose equality upon an unwilling/barbarous population by force to keep their prejudice in check.
  • It is just to crush socialist uprisings.
  • It is just to overthrow racist democracies.
  • It is just to hunt down religious terror groups who seek religious tyranny.
  • It is just to go to war to liberate a slave pen, and to occupy foreign lands wherein the threat of ideological evil dwells.

The justice of all these things hinges on the principle of equality. Equality before the law is the standard by which to judge the validity of all law and government.



This ultimate truth is founded upon our God-given equal rights, rights that exist as inalienable absolutes irrespective of laws and governments. Fiji is technically in a state of civil war, and has been since it instituted racist government long ago, at which point it went to war against those citizens whose rights it overthrew. In overturning a racist government and in suppressing racist mob uprisings, I submit that Bainimarama is acting under this principle of justice. He must take care how he goes about this difficult task.



The current confrontation with the Great Council of Chiefs was inevitable, since it was this corrupt political body that was behind the Rabuka and Speight coups, and behind the apartheid system of favouritism for indigenous Fijians. He must divest these tribal chiefs of their corrupt powers that perverted the democracy of Fiji into an apartheid system. The best thing the chiefs can do is support a new constitution in which all Fijians, regardless of race, are recognised as being equal before the law.



The responsibility for government rests with the people

“Power corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” This is the great fear of any nation, and no doubt is a reason many fear the power of Bainimarama. I wonder why these same fearful souls are not leading a revolution against Helen Clark and Her Own Absolute Democracy!



How much evil will these frightened souls suffer before they rise up against her? Even in Western civilisations, millions are dying each year as a direct result of socialism, yet no one acts against it because democracy has turned them into spineless slaves. Ultimately absolute tyrants everywhere prosper because the population is too scared to overthrow them. They prefer the safety of slavery to the risk of dying for freedom. Mugabe will continue to tyrannise Zimbabweans until the people say enough is enough. Putin will continue to suppress Russian protest until the people say enough is enough. Their tyranny will continue until those sufficiently brave and staunch enough for freedom run into the seat of power and oust these tyrants!



The limits of tyrants are set by the resistance of their citizens. All would-be tyrants must fear the wrath of freedom-loving people! Dictatorships can only stand where the people choose submission over revolution.
The price of liberty is indeed eternal vigilance.



Who ought to engage in such revolution? Every enlightened individual who refuses to submit to tyranny. New Zealanders need to sort out their own apartheid systems of state before they tell Commodore Bainimarama to surrender to the racists of Fiji!



Tim Wikiriwhi is a Hamilton engineer, and a self-described Independent Libertarian.

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Eve - Cody Swanson, 2006

The winner of last year's Art Renewal Center's "purchase prize," this is Eve by sculptor Cody Swanson.

You can just tell what this lady is thinking about . . .

Entries for this year's scholarship awards close soon just closed. Sorry.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Blatant Clark-worship front and centre on the Herald website

Spot the blatant Clark-worship front and centre on the Herald website:

Kiwisaver and 'growth'

Kiwisaver has been sold as being good for savers (on which the jury is still out, and likely to be so for some time), and it's also been sold as being (somehow) good for the economy. People like the Herald's John Boy Armstrong, whose economic acumen is clearly as lacking as his political, leaped into print earlier this month suggesting this whole farrago will be good for the New Zealand economy.
KiwiSaver should reinforce Labour's economic management credentials [says Armstrong, stretching his own]. The boost in household savings and the surge in investment capital should drive the kind of growth needed to substantially lift personal incomes – and, in the process, lift New Zealand up those dismal OECD rankings with which National currently flays Labour.
The best one-word response to this drivel comes from Roger Kerr: "Really?" Wherefrom this newfound "surge" in investment capital of which Armstrong speaks, and Cullen presumably expects? As Roger Kerr points out in 'Will KiwiSaver Boost Economic Growth?', "Mr Armstrong is clearly thinking of a link between domestic savings, investment and growth," but New Zealand already has access to a whole "vast international pool of capital for investment at a price that is set in world markets."
KiwiSaver cannot stimulate investment by reducing the world cost of capital. If it increased domestic savings, firms would simply use less foreign savings.

Moreover, much of any additional saving would not be invested in New Zealand. In the interests of prudent diversification, fund managers are likely to place more than 50 percent of the inflows offshore, as the New Zealand Superannuation Fund does. Domestically, they will have to put most of their equity funds into listed companies. The diversion of savings from other vehicles into KiwiSaver might reduce local funding for sectors like small business and farming. These are amongst the most innovative and productive in the economy....

Even if the funds going into KiwiSaver translated fully into additional investment and were manna from heaven, the impact on GDP would be small... The contribution of KiwiSaver to GDP is thus looking very small at best, and could easily be negative, having regard to deadweight losses and distortionary effects on savings and investment decisions. Its contribution is clearly negative compared with equivalent tax reductions.

So not for the first time, both Cullen and Armstrong emerge looking less than credible. And again, and not for the first time, it's necessary to make the point that all the government programmes in the world can't boost productivity -- the only thing they can do help is to get the hell out of the way.

And on the issue of encouraging savings, the basic point to make is this: if you truly want NZers to save, then stop taking so much of their hard-earned money.

We already have a capital gains tax, you pillocks.

Tax Houdini Cactus Kate points out something overlooked by politicians, political and business journalists, and even Reserve Bank wonks. These know-nothings "don't know what they are bloody talking about," she says, "as New Zealand does not need a special housing capital gains tax. The legislation already provides for one." She's right, you know. On all points.

No Nanny please, say pro-Nanny ninnies

Invented by the late Bernard Levin and arguably introduced to New Zealand by Lindsay Perigo, Nanny State the term and Nanny State the embodiment of "soft fascism" are both flourishing. "Nanny State: Beat the Bitch Back" said Lindsay Perigo recently in a piece on Muriel Newman's site that was sent to all the papers as an Op Ed. In an ever-so spooky coincidence, the Sunday Star Slime -- the tabloid that only looks like a broadsheet-- decides to publish instead their own wussy apologia for Nanny: 'It's Time to Scrap the Term Nanny State,' they simper [hat tip Zen Tiger].

Frankly, my dears, I do give a damn: At a time when Nanny State has Gone Berserk, it's time to bury her, not to sing her praises.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Dark beer taste-off: And the winner is . . .

With two of the most important recent sporting contests happening late last night, the question was how best to spend the time before they both kicked off. The obvious answer in our house was to add a third contest by performing a dark beer taste test in front of a classic film noir -- a fine pastime on a winter's evening.

Set before my favourite taste tester -- me -- were a champion line up derived from the local Glengarry's, most of which were included in the recent Consumer magazine taste test: Monteith's Black, Speight's Dark, Guinness (from the can), Moa Noir, Speight's Porter, Emerson's Organic Oatmeal Stout, Mac's Black, Cooper's Best Extra Stout, and of course a pen and a piece of notepaper for writing about them all that you could now wring out and use to sedate a small animal.

I won't keep you in suspense for too long: from last to first, the list above reflects the order in which our expert ranked them.

Monteith's Black beer poured a good crisp brown in the glass with a very neat head, and a lightish nose - maybe too light for a dark beer. It's taste is pleasant but overly fizzed, and overall it just lacks gumption in the glass.

I've found the Dark a good session beer on many an occasion, but compared to the others it looked like 'pop' in the glass, with a head that quickly disappeared and a nose that was barely a nose at all. Its fairly full and faintly biscuity flavour leaves a slightly clinical aftertaste, and a slight odour of cleaning products (it has the effect as if a table has just been wiped down after a hefty session.)

Drinking Guinness in New Zealand labours under the problem that Guinness tastes best from the tap, and that the Guinness brewed under license in New Zealand for pouring out of those taps isn't a patch on the British or Irish-brewed drop. The problem is said to be that New Zealand's water is too clean, or at least too lime-free, making the local liquid bitterer than its more favourable forbear, and giving it for some reason just a hint of a metallic taste. The second problem is that the liquid in Irish-brewed cans just doesn't travel well. It looks good in the glass (though without that classic 'Jerry Collins' look), has a great nose, but compared to the top-ranking drops in this test (and to rosy memories of drops consumed long ago and far away) it just seems a little thin and disappointing. Kilkenny or Murphy's are really the two to drink locally for your Celtic cred.

The Moa was a disappointment. Great packaging and a high price, but while pleasant the beer inside the package just doesn't merit the expense. Presents well, good nose, good taste, smooth velvety finish, but while everything's "good" with the Moa it's just not "great." "Could do better" is what I've got written on my beer-stained bit of paper among many other things which are now illegible.

So that leaves the Porter, Emerson's Oatmeal, the Black Mac, and the Coopers Best Extra Stout. The latter two were head and shoulders above all the others and were difficult to separate -- indeed the separation was only possible after extensive sampling, a job for which your indefatigable taste tester was prepared to sacrifice himself -- whereas the Porter and the Emerson's were clearly better than all others but these two.

The Porter is like the Moa in that it has everything it needs to have, but just not in the same quantities or in quite the same degree of delight that both the Black Mac and the Coopers have. The Emerson's is a superb winter beer with a clean finish and definite hint of good morning porridge; a few points were lost for a head that looked good but didn't last, and a flavour that wasn't full enough to stand up to the other combinations. (I suspect that the subtleties of both the Moa and the Emerson's Oatmeal would be better enjoyed on their own, without the stronger flavours of competitors to overpower them).

So to our two close finishers. Both Macs and Coopers look superb in the glass: big head, beautiful deep mahogany colours, huge malty nose (with a slight hint of molasses in the Coopers); it took much serious tasting to establish the winner, and (let's be serious about this) the tasting was all pleasure. Rich, full, smoky tastes, and in both cases an aftertaste that said things like "pick me" and "open another" and "who cares how many metres ahead that dumb Swiss boat is" -- these subliminal messages in fact became more pronounced as evening became morning and as our yacht began looking like it was going backwards.

In the end it was the Coopers Best Extra Stout by a nose from the Mac's. Everything about the Australian was just a shade better than the local boy. The price ratio is a fair measure of the superiority: $16.20 for a six-pack of the Coopers as against $13 for the Mac.

(And I have to report too that very late in the evening a bottle of Founders Long Black was also put to the test, but beyond something on my beerstained bit of paper saying something like "f97&wq#@rhqvc" and the distinct memory of it rating somewhere in the night's top five, I can I'm afraid report no more.)

A decent taste test then, leaving our expert ideally focussed to enjoy the two sporting spectacles on which so much was riding. Sport, dark beer, Rodney So'oialo and Glengarry's bank manager were definitely the winners on the night.

Oh, and what of the film noir I hear you ask? I'm happy to report that it too was a winner: a classic French heist movie, Rififi, from which Quentin Tarantino stole much to make Reservoir Dogs. Don't let that association put you off: Rififi was as artful and crisp as Dogs wasn't. A superbly dark accompaniment to an evening of dark beer and all black sport.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Beer O’Clock – Black Mac

The ever SOBA Neil from Real Beer takes free speech too far in this week's Beer O'Clock post...

While issues such as global warming and property rights can easily be addressed on the pages of 'Not PC' by simply quoting the appropriate passages from Rand [if only she'd written on global warming - Ed], the far more vexed issue of Black Mac beer caused some extended debate this last fortnight.

After quickly establishing that Black Mac really was a dark lager, the question was whether it should have been placed so highly in the Consumer beer survey.

Well, as luck would have it, I presented Black Mac at a beer and food dinner for the Wellington Young Accountants Group (YAG) last week, the perfect chance to reacquaint myself with this occasionally maligned beer.

I have to start by saying that I do not drink a lot of dark lagers. My preference is for lighter, hop-dominated brews so in the Mac’s range I tend to sup Hop Rocker.

However, I appreciate that Black Mac is a fine black lager. Though the recipe has been tweaked many times over the years, it is one of the more established Mac’s beers .

It pours near-black with an espresso head. The dominant flavours and aromas are of chocolate, coffee and toast but the finish is nicely bitter due to the use of Fuggles hops.

Smooth, creamy and pleasant, Mac's Black is at the heavier hopped end of the dark lager scale but there is nothing in there to scare your average beer drinker.

It is not the biggest seller in the range but in my opinion it has some of the most fiercely loyal drinkers in the country. People who drink Black Mac rarely have time for other beers. I believe Oswald Bastable has expressed a fondness for it before, so you know it can’t be politically correct.

Last night I matched it with blue cheese, crackers, ginger nuts, chocolate apricots and walnuts, and I have to say it was marvellous. Any number of preconceptions about beer and food matching got knocked out the window there.

Lay in a slab for the weekend's sporting action. Go you good things.

Cheers, Neil

PS: If you want to make it a real sporting weekend, why not lay in a slab of Consumer's overall winner Speight's Porter as well, and test your taste buds over both winners.

Global warming: Truth or propaganda?

On that question in the heading above, Czech president Vaclav Klaus argued vigorously for the latter in last week's Financial Times. "Ambitious environmentalism," he said, "is the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity... What is at risk is not the climate, but freedom."

Naturally, that forthright position attracted some response. In today's Financial Times Klaus anwers those responses -- and damn, he's good.

"Price stability" isn't working

After at least two "interventions" in the foreign exchange market in as many weeks, NBR reports Kiwi at 22 year high against US dollar. So that worked, didn't it.

Bollard says the "fundamentals" show the dollar shouldn't be soaring so; but the fundamental fact is that Bollard himself has set it soaring with interest rates high enough (he thinks) to dampen housing prices that have been made high by over-regulation -- interest rates high enough to send manufacturers offshore. Fundamentally, Bollard has lost it, and repeated calls for legislative quick fixes show that.

We don't need mortgage levies, capital gain's taxes or a tax grab on rental property owners. What's needed is an immediate lessening of regulation on land supply and construction, an immediate removal of the planners' stifling ring-fences around NZ's major cities, and immediate rejection of this absurd and destructive obsession with "price stability."

As Frank Shostak explains, "the policy of price stability always leads to more instability." I think Alan Bollard is slowly being taught that lesson, don't you? An article in the forthcoming Free Radical explains this apparent paradox; says M.A. Abrams, it comes about through a complete misunderstanding of the nature of monetary inflation:
In an economically progressive community (that is, one where the real costs
of production per unit are falling and output per head is increasing), any
additions to the supply of money in order to prevent falling prices will be
hidden inflation; and in a retrogressive community, (that is, one where output
per head is diminishing and real costs of production are rising), any
contraction of the supply of money in order to prevent rising prices will be
hidden deflation. Inflation and deflation can occur just as well behind a stable
price level as when the price level is rising and falling
...

Thus, in the case where [economic progress] due to increased saving is
corrected by additional money for consumers, the result is to prevent any
[increase in the efficiency] of production; and where a fall in prices due to
improved knowledge is corrected by additional money, the result is to force a
transition to less [efficient] methods. In both cases the fruits of
progress are rejected because of a determination to keep prices stable
.
Moreover, in both cases the correction of the attempted advances has involved
the abandonment of some of the higher stages of production where certainly some
of the factors used are highly specialized and these will therefore become
unemployed as a result of the transition.
It's time to cut the Reserve Bank Stabilisation Act loose. That's one thing that could be done immediately.

Justice seen to be done

Excellent decision to retry David Bain. Justice to those five people who were brutally murdered would not be served in any other way.

And I support the idea of showing the trial on live TV so we at least have the opportunity of seeing justice done, even if most of us won't be able to watch every minute as it happens -- with TV On Demand, if we're of a mind to, we'll be able to catch up on the internet with whatever we missed .

Which suggests something: Given one of the important principles of justice is that it should not only be be done but be seen to be done, why not put all trials on the net, leaving each session archived for perhaps a week or more?

That would help open up the justice system, wouldn't it?

Bradford's would-be young voters

Polls have shown that under-twenties for the most part support the Greens. The Green's Sue Bradford suggests sixteen-year-olds should get the vote. Well, why wouldn't she? It's exactly the same reason Rod Donald promoted MMP, isn't it.

There's a simple reason many youngsters support the Greens. As a Libertarianz colleague says,
You could say adolescents support adolescent policies and adults support adult
policies.
Sue Bradford is stuck in her teenage years; some day she may grow
up, but in the mean time immature policies and politicians seem good at winning
votes.

So are sixteen year-olds mature enough to vote? Crikey, I know plenty of thirty-six year-olds who aren't mature enough to vote. Should sixteen year-olds be given the vote? Well, if they pay taxes, then perhaps they should. Anybody who pays for the whole farce that is government should be entitled to vote.

In fact -- and here's my view in toto -- anybody who pays tax should have the vote, and only those who pay tax should be able to vote. And perhaps anyone who receives taxpayer largesse should be made unable to vote, on the basis that they shouldn't be delivered the opportunity to try and vote themselves rich by making the rest of us poor.

UPDATE: I liked this comment from Don Christie over at David Slack's:
16 year olds voting I don't mind. Governments controlling the education of the majority of them at the time, I do.

You can't save the planet without sacrifice

As Michael Crichton said, it's questions like these that his friends worry about as they board their private jets . . .

[Hat tip Melissa]

REPRISE: 'Conversion of St Paul' - Caravaggio


'The Conversion of St Paul' - Caravaggio, 1601. Caravaggio has undeniable depth and power; his subjects have all three dimensions; they springout of the canvas with real strength and drama -- something just a little hard to convey in an electronic reproduction unfortunately. Seen 'live,' the best Caravaggio canvasses are like seeing a brightly lit hologram. His aesthetic was almost antithetical to the prevailing mannerism of the period, a fresh and honest approach that helped destroy the fussiness of the mannerists; he focussed on the essentials of the composition, paring it down to the reality of objects in space.

TAGS: Art

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Jolie shrugs off Atlas

Atlas Shrugged the film is off again [hat tip James Valliant]. Says Angelina Jolie, on whom (for reasons that still escape me) the whole project rests, says,
"the thing with Atlas is just, we all feel that it's one of those projects where if you can't do it right, you really can't touch it."
She sure got that right.
"So we have not had all the pieces come together. There's not been a director that's right to come on, or all of those elements. So until it does, you know, I certainly don't want to be a part of something that's just put together to hit 'this date."

People of the 20th century: Admire, or not admire?

Gallup reports these eighteen people below as Americans' most admired of the twentieth century. [Hat tip David Slack]. Not by me for the most part -- but at least the Dalai fucking Lama isn't there. Here's Gallup's question: “
Now I'm going to read you a list of people who have lived this century. For each one, please tell me if you consider that person to be one of the people you admire most from this century; a person you admire, but not the most; a person you somewhat admire; or someone you do not admire at all...
Here's Gallup's list along with my ratings, using their four-point system:

1. Mother Theresa - NOT
FOR: Nothing
AGAINST: An Albanian witch obsessed with suffering, and making the suffering suffer more.
READ: 'How to Help the Poor,' 'The Diabolical Works of Mother Teresa,' 'Paris Hilton or Mother Teresa' and 'Christopher Hitchens on Mother Teresa.'
WATCH: Penn & Teller on the Albanian Witch - You Tube; and Penn & Teller on the Friends of the Albanian Witch. "I would describe mother Teresa as a fraud, a fanatic and a fundamentalist ... Everything everybody thinks they know about her is false. Not just most of the things ... all the things." - Hitchens.

2. Martin Luther King Jr.- ADMIRE
AGAINST: Religionist. Big government advocate. Opened the door to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
FOR: "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character..." Magnificent!

3. John F. Kennedy - SOMEWHAT
FOR: Faced down Kruschev and won.
AGAINST: Big government state worshipper (e.g, "...ask what you can do for your country" ... bleech!); enmired the US in the Vietnam War.
LISTEN TO: Ayn Rand on Kennedy's 'Fascist New Frontier.'

4. Albert Einstein - ADMIRE MOST
AGAINST: Minor quibbles. Move along now, nothing to see here.
FOR: Genius!

5. Helen Keller - NOT
AGAINST: Dripping wet, but hardly the worst.
FOR: Inspired Annie Sullivan to become a tremendous teacher; inspired a tremendous film, 'The Miracle Worker.'

6. Franklin D. Roosevelt - NOT. AT. ALL.
FOR: Winning WWII. Dying in time so Truman could face down Stalin at Potsdam.
AGAINST: Getting into WWII by dishonesty; losing the Cold War before it began; delivering 170 million people into communist slavery; extending the Depression for a decade; permanently fucking American money; ushering in the era of bloated government; inventing the United fucking Nations. Eleanor.

7. Billy Graham - NOT
AGAINST: Fake, fraud, phoney, religionist.

8. Pope John Paul II - SOMEWHAT
AGAINST: He's a goddamned Pope!
FOR: Helped inspire resistance to end the Cold War.

9. Eleanor Roosevelt - NOT
FOR: No redeeming features. Not one.
AGAINST: A complete oxygen thief.

10. Winston Churchill - SOMEWHAT
AGAINST: Tonypandy; Antwerp; Gallipoli; Yalta; Great Depression.
FOR: Oratory; resistance to Hitler's appeasement; pugnacity; inspiring Britons in their darkest hour; Chartwell.

11. Dwight Eisenhower - ADMIRE MOST
AGAINST: Let Soviets take Berlin, ensuring fifty years of German communist enslavement; as president, did nothing to arrest growth of big government.
FOR: D-Day; liberating Western Europe; being a 'do-nothing' president.

12. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - NOT
FOR: ?
AGAINST: Stole Aristotle Onassis from Maria Callas, who died of it.

13. Mahatma Gandhi - NOT
FOR: ?
AGAINST: Retarded Indian industry for nearly forty years.

14. Nelson Mandela - ADMIRE
AGAINST: Wet liberal. Racial quotas. Collapse of law and order. Winnie.
FOR: Demonstrates that looking forward with optimism achieves more than looking back with hatred. Unlike nearly every black African leader who took power in similar circumstances, didn't turn into Robert Mugabe or Idi Amin.

15. Ronald Reagan - ADMIRE MOST
AGAINST: Failed to arrest growth of big government; Reagan Doctrine helped activate Al Qaeda. Nancy.
FOR: Revived spirit of freedom in America, and spirit of optimism around the world; straight talker; infuriated socialists; Reagan Doctrine dismantled the Soviet Empire and won the Cold War.

16. Henry Ford - ADMIRE
AGAINST: Hitler sympathiser
FOR: Model A; productive genius.

17. Bill Clinton - SOMEWHAT
AGAINST: Spent too little time with his pants down, and too much on big government programmes. Hilary.
FOR: Less big government than he seemed. Rolled back welfare. Helped defeat Al Gore.

18. Margaret Thatcher - ADMIRE MOST
AGAINST: Poll tax; handing back Hong Kong (turned out better than anyone hoped, though); supported Pinochet, apartheid South Africa, and John Major; didn't notice that Nigel Lawson's rocket fuel was fucking the British economy.
FOR: Revived spirit of freedom in Britain; broke the unions' stranglehold, and rolled back Britain's suffocating state socialism; resisted big government Europeans; infuriated nearly everyone; straight talker; famously resolute; helped win the Cold War, and Gulf War I.
* * * * *
UPDATE 1: So who do you vote for? My own top five?
  • Ayn Rand - the twentieth century's greatest and most passionate advocate of reason, individualism and capitalism.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright - produced architecture that put man in possession of the earth, while all around him for much of the century seemed intent instead on tearing it all apart.
  • Duke Ellington - the twentieth century's finest composer.
  • Ludwig Von Mises - no finer thinker in economics has existed in any century.
  • Thatcher - picture the pit of despair into which Britain and the world had sunk in 1979 - "No Future" sang the Sex Pistols just three years earlier -- and then remember the state of Britain and the world when she left office eleven years later, and contemplate the fact that Thatcher did more to turn around the latter quarter of the century for the better than anyone else.

UPDATE 2: Let's add more heroes as you list them, for which we can all give our assessments:
  • Lech Walesa
  • "Don't forget young Jan Palach, he burnt a torch against the Warsaw Pact."
  • Vaclav Havel
  • Kemal Ataturk. George makes the case: "Beat the crap out of the Anzacs, Poms, French, Greeks, and Russians. Was in full possesion of his troops and gunline at hostilities end. Survived death sentences by reactionary government and the attentions of mad mullahs. Defeated same. United Turkey after civil war. Gave universal franchise, outlawed islamic political influence, educated his people. Gave the imans compulsory foxtrot dance lessons to get them to loosen up, or else. Kept Turkey out of future wars, gave them 90 years [and counting] of progress and improved prosperity."

M

Beautiful women and guns. Women in uniform. There, now that I have your attention, you might remember a popular post here at Not PC a couple of years ago -- it still gets several hits a day all this time later -- linking to a site full of photos of gorgeous women in uniform. (You can head there now, but due to its outrageous popularity it's always overdoing its bandwidth. Those internet gods giveth, you see, and then the gods taketh away again.)

But never fear! Maxim magazine is taking up the slack with a profile of The Girls of the Israeli Defense Force -- somewhat out of uniform, bless 'em. They're so excited at Gawker, they're nearly tongue-tied:
  • Piece in the Mid-East!
  • Jew See The Cans On That Chick?
  • She Can Occupy My Territories Any Time!
  • Hear, O Israel, This Chick Has a Bod
  • Di-Ass-Pora
  • Ariel Sha-BONE
  • I'd like to invade her Gaza strip!

  • Okay, that's enough of that. But there's always someone wanting to piss on such a glorious parade, isn't there.
    But prominent Israeli women say using sex to market the Land of Milk and Honey is "an outrage." Former Consul-General Colette Avital, a member of the Israeli parliament, yesterday demanded an urgent meeting with the Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik to get an explanation of what she called the "pornographic campaign," the newspaper Yediot Achronoth reported.
    Enjoy Maxims' pics while you can. And here's some more Israeli women in uniform. And here a reason to visit the Holy Land -- and not for the soccer. [Hat tip Fleshbot]

    Man lynched in Texas

    It looks like the lynch mentality still exists in the American South:
    MYFOX, AUSTIN, TEXAS: Man beaten to death after car he was riding in hits girl
    40-year-old David Rivas Morales was was beaten to death in his apartment parking lot just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday...

    Police say Morales was a passenger in a car that hit a small child. Witnesses told police that several black males then started to assault the driver. They told police the crowd then started beating Morales when he got out of the car to try to stop the fight. The driver was able to get away. The child hit by the car was not seriously hurt

    Morales' sister Margaret says she found her brother laying on a speed bump with blood coming from his head. Morales was taken to the hospital where he later died.
    What can you say?

    REPRISE: 'Cupid and Psyche' - Antonio Canova

    Antonio Canova's 'Cupid and Psyche.' 1796.

    Portrayed is the moment when the messsenger of love, Cupid himself, flies down and wakes his own love from eternal slumber -- doing so, naturally, with a kiss.

    What else would possibly do?

    TAGS: Art, Sculpture

    Wednesday, 20 June 2007

    Parents face police

    DOMINION POST (Helengrad): Regular Smackers May Face Charges
    Parents who regularly smack their children despite warnings face prosecution and referral to Child, Youth and Family under police guidelines on the controversial law banning physical punishment.

    Even parents found to have used "minor, trivial or inconsequential" force and not charged will have their details recorded by police family violence coordinators, under the guidelines sent to officers yesterday...
    Can anyone remember the name of that gutless plonker who helped to pass this into law on the basis that the "guidelines" wouldn't criminalise good parents?

    UPDATE: Here on the police website are the all-important guidelines, and unsurprisingly they're hardly pellucid in their clarity. Sample:

    No definitions are offered about what constitutes reasonable force. In using force parents must act in good faith and have a reasonable belief in a state of facts which will justify the use of force. The use of force must be both subjectively and objectively reasonable. Any force used must not be for the purposes of correction or punishment; it may only be for the purposes of restraint (s 59(1)(a) to (c)) or, by way of example, to ensure compliance (s 59(1)(d))...

    Paragraph 19 of the Police Family Violence Policy states:"Given sufficient evidence, offenders who are responsible for family violence offences shall, except in exceptional circumstances, be arrested.

    In rare cases where action other than arrest is contemplated, the member's supervisor must be consulted."Force used on children that is not permissible under section 59 is covered by the Family Violence Policy.It is considered good practice that assault investigations involving children be referred to Child Abuse Investigators, and investigated in conjunction with Child, Youth and Family.

    Where an assault on a child is witnessed by Police or where a report of an assault needs to be dealt with promptly, Police Officers will need to determine whether section 59 provides a good defence and if it does not, arrest the alleged offender unless there are exceptional circumstances...

    If you're a parent, best you print it out, keep it in a drawer somewhere, and refer to it regularly. And whatever you do, don't let the kids read it: any self-respecting youngster will quickly realise how much control they now have over you.

    Radio ratings

    I got a phone call last night from the folks doing the radio ratings survey, wanting to know my listening habits in each of their time slots. Here's what I told them I listen to when I don't have my home-office stereo going:

    6-9: Either Breakfast TV (which used to give a good heads up of the overnight news, but is now increasingly full of Paul Henry's blather), or Moaning Report (if I want the Public Service Announcements for the day), or Radio Sport (for the really important news of the day). No Newstalk ZB in our house over breakfast? No. Paul Holmes delivers only the second part of the Newstalk formula, leaving too little time for the first. For real news, what delivers it better these days than the internet?

    9-12
    : Leighton Smith on NewstalkZB. The best pro-capitalist host regularly on radio (the only ~ ?) . He gets turned off damned quickly though when he gets all religious.

    12-3: Either bFM's Wire, which frequently throws up good stuff, or Radio Live's lunchtime news hour with James Coleman, and then Willy and J.T. for the occasional entertainment value*. The really important thing in the afternoon is to turn off Newstalk ZB before the afternoon wanker comes on (this afternoon before I turned him off he was railing against there being too many "foreign doctors." What a wanker.) Mostly in the afternoons I make my phone calls and listen to music. I've got plenty of it.

    3-6: About 4 o'clock in the afternoon I'll turn on Larry Williams on Newstalk ZB and catch up on anything I've missed, if I remember. It's usually a good summary.

    And then about 6:30 I'll start looking at the martini shaker -- but apparently the survey form had no slot for that.

    So what's your listening day look like?

    * * * * *
    * Just turned off Willy Jackson, who this afternoon is busy bagging Michael Fay and David Richwhite for the crime of being successful, and Team New Zealand for the crime of winning. So this afternoon we've got the choice of either xenophobia on one 'newstalk' station, or envy on the other. The face of too much of New Zealand.

    Background to Green's Fijian expulsion

    Take it for what it's worth since it appeared on Ian Wishart's website [hat tip Whale Oil], but with all the mainstream media wringing their hands in unison on Michael Greens' expulsion from Fiji, this offers some of the background to the expulsion that the MSM's pathetic coverage has completely failed to provide: a letter from one Thakur Ranjit Singh, Fiji human rights campaigner, Fiji Sun columnist and a former general manager of Fiji's Daily Post.
    If NZ Government claims that the expulsion of Michael Green came as a surprise then it is a white lie. This is because the NZ government was warned about Michael Green's behaviour some four months earlier by members of Fiji community in Auckland...

    [A public] meeting was told about Michael Green's behaviour towards the military regime as well as people of Fiji seeking services from NZ High Commission. It was reported that Michael Green was very close to Qarase regime and could not fathom the fact that he would no longer be in the cocktail circuit after Qarase's removal in December last year...

    He failed to appreciate the reality of the situation and has now paid a heavy price for it.

    The other Michael also came into prominence. The supposedly expert in Pacific affairs, Michael Field was detained at Nadi on the eve of marching orders to Michael Green and deported the following morning to New Zealand.

    On 20th December, some two weeks after the removal of Qarase regime, Coalition for Democracy in Fiji held a panel discussion on Fiji affairs in Auckland. Apart from Suliana Siwatibau and NZ MP Keith Locke, I was also one of the speakers. Michael Field also attended this forum. In my presentation which was reported in Fiji as well as NZ papers, I revealed the ills of Qarase regime. The theme of my presentation was that: democracies that are devoid of or lacking in granting freedom, rights and equality to all its citizens and those without social justice are not worth defending. Qarase's regime that Bainimarama removed was an epitome of such a democracy. Michael Field did not report any part of my presentation. I am not cross that he did not report me but he displayed acute case of dereliction of media ethics in not telling Kiwis what they deserved to know...

    If Michael Field was indeed the veteran journalist then he should not have abused his position and status in keeping Kiwis ignorant about what was really happening in Fiji. My experience shows that like NZ Labour Party, New Zealanders generally are still ignorant about Fiji and this had to do with a journalist like Michael Field who while occupying an influential position indulge in news selling reporting rather than informative reporting...

    And it is so important for New Zealand mainstream media to have Pacific or Fijian journalists reporting on Fiji issues and informing the ignorant Kiwis on local politics, so that they get the correct picture.

    But unfortunately, the mainstream media in New Zealand is in no hurry to use Fiji journalist who have migrated to New Zealand, and will depend on jaundiced views from parachute journalists from New Zealand. Unfortunately, such views appear to get copied as New Zealand's foreign policy in the Pacific.

    For the full letter, see Thakur Ranjit Singh: Fiji Problem.

    Singh has been critical for some time of the performance of NZ media and their "parachute journalists" in covering events in Fiji (as have some bloggers, such as this one). Speaking in December, for example, Singh told a public forum
    that "NZ media was ignorant about Fiji affairs and naive about the post-coup reality."
    "They shoot their mouths off through parachute journalists who relish in rubbishing things happening in NZ's neighbours without first appreciating the fact that Fiji is not a model of democracy," he said.

    Singh said military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama had saved Fiji from becoming "another Zimbabwe" with serious abuses of human rights and social justice.

    He said New Zealand's government and media had lost sight of the basic balance of "democracy and justice".
    I think he's right. Not for the first time, the failures of the Fourth Estate assist and inform the failures of the First Three. What Helen Clark has seen in Bainimarama is simply another scapegoat to draw attention away from her Government's failures, one allowing her to strut imperiously on a world stage -- and the media's pathetic coverage has allowed her to get away with it.

    UPDATE: Here's the sort of analysis I would have expected from local journalists, but which (if it has appeared) I haven't seen: Elizabeth Keenan writing in January's Time magazine:

    When military commander Frank Bainimarama seized power in Suva on Dec. 5, he was instantly denounced by Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., the E.U., the U.N. and the Commonwealth. Exiled Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase continues to vent outrage by phone from his island village, but his countrymen don't seem to be rallying. Soldiers at checkpoints receive abuse, but also smiles, handshakes, food and flowers. Some staunch democrats who condemned George Speight's botched coup in 2000 find themselves endorsing the aims of this takeover, if not the assault rifles that made it possible. The Methodist Church and the Great Council of Chiefs, bastions of indigenous society, have urged Fijians—including Qarase—to support the multiracial interim government "for the betterment of the nation." Writing in the Fiji Times, Catholic Archbishop Peter Mataca called Australia and New Zealand's shunning of the Bainimarama administration "regrettable and shallow." Some Fijians, he wrote, believe democracy and the rule of law "were abused and circumvented long before the military ousted the Qarase government."

    In Fiji, it seems, not all coups are equally offensive...

    Qarase's elected government was seen as caring most about the happiness of indigenous Fijians. Bainimarama's force-backed government aims to make Fijians of all races happy. If—and it's a huge if—he can implement his idealistic program, he might just have pulled off the coup to end all Fiji coups.
    And here's an article and and photo essay from March's Time magazine (both of which have been blogged here before) drawing attention to the tragic existence of Fiji's squatters -- mostly dispossessed Indo-Fijians who racist law has barred from owning land, and who previous governments have left at the mercy of shifting racial, economic and political tides.

    Vote '72 Virgins'

    It's lame, it's unfunny, but if the Danish cartoons were enough to get Jihadists irate, then what will National Lampoon's film 72 Virgins do? Hat tip for news of the film to Liz who concedes "the film is not very good but the potty humor will do a decent job of mockery towards Islam and the sympathy of their sympathizers. Plus a good Animal House pissing on religion in general." PRECIS:
    National Lampoon's 72 Virgins
    Two idiot college students unwittingly join an Al Qaeda cell in order to get the 72 virgins promised to terrorists when they die...
    Vote now at National Lampoon for 72 Virgins to be made. And consider Robin Williams' point about the Jihadists' promise:

    ‘Have you heard they believe they will receive 72 virgins in heaven?

    Those of us who have been with virgins are thinking…hmmm…no thanks.’

    Dalai Blander

    Now that the Dalai Lama has left, can anyone tell me anything he said that was any more profound than something you'd find in the Women's Weekly?

    Be nice to each other.
    We're all brothers and sisters.
    Share your toys.
    World peace would be nice.

    Now we know who writes the platitudes you find in fortune cookies, greeting cards and Bono's lyrics.

    UPDATE: Julian points out that Penn & Teller are onto Mr Lama.
    See Bullshit: Dalai Lama - YouTube. Summary:
    Penn & Teller expose the Dali Lama's reasons for freeing Tibet. CIA funding was stopped, so he seeks financial assistance from Hollywood shills like Steven Seagal and Richard Gere...

    Calling rational students

    There is an antidote available for uni students sick of nonsense and eager for the rational ideas they're unlikely to find in university philosophy departments. The Ayn Rand Institute's Objectivist Academic Centre (OAC) has online courses and on online academic programme of distance learning which for some years now has been offered as a supplement to a standard college education, and for which you can earn credits which can be applied to your own university course. Says Debi Ghate at the OAC:
    The undergraduate program helps students develop a basic understanding of philosophy, of Objectivism as a philosophical system, and of the art of clear, objective thinking and writing.

    As a benefit to students who would like to receive college credit for their OAC coursework, ARI has partnered with Chapman University to offer two OAC courses, "Introduction to Philosophy" and "Introduction to Writing," through Chapman's distance learning program. Students are able to take the classes for credit, transfer the credits to their own university, and apply them toward their college degree.

    Most full-time students receive tuition waivers, as well as other generous scholarships to help defray the costs of participating in the OAC. Additionally, ARI offers a wide array of support for OAC students, including grants, scholarships, and mentoring.

    The application deadline for the 2007-08 academic year is July 30.

    Details at the Objectivist Academic Centre website. If you're at uni now, then you're going to kick yourself if you don't find out more. I really wish this had been available back when I was a student.

    Nanny State: "Who is she, this hybrid of gargoyle and dominatrix?"

    Nanny is everywhere, increasingly so. Lindsay Perigo lays into Nanny:

    I can't be sure, but it may well have been me who introduced the term "Nanny State" into the New Zealand vernacular, on my Politically Incorrect Show on Radio Pacific. Certainly I used it regularly there, and observed it creep into common usage thereafter, as did the related term, "Helengrad." In any event, the expression is well and truly out there now, and that's as good a thing as its referent is bad. Nanny State is vicious, anti-human … and, as we speak, relentlessly advancing.

    Who is she, this hybrid of gargoyle and dominatrix? She is the strident, scolding, snooping socialist, the control-freak who seeks to regulate every aspect of our existence. She forbids our kids to eat pies and chips at school; she tells us how not to discipline them; she forbids us to read magazines like Cigar Aficionado, and closes down cigar bars; she jails us for smoking marijuana; she confiscates our money at every turn and refuses to give any of it back even when she's awash in it...
    Read on: Lindsay Perigo - Nanny State.

    REPRISE: Artemis - Michel Newberry

    Artist Michael Newberry has just completed a piece he's been working on for five years.

    Artemis was begun in Greece under a Mediterranean sky and completed in a Manhattan loft. Artemis herself, explains Newberry, "was the Goddess of the moon, birthing, and the hunt..." Read the complete artist's statement here, including an explanation of how the painting came about.

    UPDATE: I'm reposting Artemis because artist Michael Newberry has made available a "time lapse" video showing Artemis literally coming to life before your eyes!

    Click here for Windows Media, and here to see it on YouTube.

    Tuesday, 19 June 2007

    Opera Guy

    I keep getting sent a video of Opera Guy, a guy on some UK Idol show who purports to be a shy opera singer just waiting for his big break who wows the judges with 'Nessun Dorma,' gets a standing ovation, and is presumably set for his life to be changed forever. "Thrilling!" said one person who sent me the link. "This is what it's all about!" said another. I have three points here:
    1. The good: Not being a viewer of such programmes I can only imagine the dross that usually appears on them. So when something as genuinely thrilling as 'Nessun Dorma' is performed, it's no wonder a thrill goes down the spine of everyone in the room! It's like a ray of light has appeared highlighting the morass of mediocrity that characterises most of the musical slop they're familiar with.
    2. The bad: It was a set up. This isn't just some shy carphone salesman who sings in the shower who the judges would not have heard before. This is a guy in his thirties who's already appeared before the judges to get this far; and he's already plied his trade and been found wanting: He's sung for Bath Opera, for the Royal Philharmonic and as a soloist on an Italian tour -- and yes, part of his tour reportoire was 'Nessun Dorma.'
    3. The ugly: First ugly point, he can't sing. The tin ears of those judges (and most of the audience) has probably been destroyed by too much exposure to garbage, but with all that training and all that performance experience this guy can't sing. (See Lindsay Perigo's analysis of his voice if you want details.) Second, everyone who's just been touched by what they perceive as a magic musical moment, a moment when the thrill of real music has appeared in and touched their lives will now head home with bland muck like Dire Sraits or Andrea Bloody Bocelli on their stereo. Thrills such as this music delivers when delivered properly are too much for most people. Mediocrity is far more comforting.
    To get a genuine thrill, to hear what thrilling singing truly sounds like, listen to the best version of 'Nessun Dorma' I know: listen to how Mario Lanza sings Nessun Dorma [hat tip Lindsay P.] -- and don't imagine the recording was any more processed than Opera Guy's, this was a first take. Prepare to be genuinely thrilled!

    For more where that came from, if you really, genuinely have been touched by the thrill of real singing, the BBC have just released a one-hour Lanza documentary that's on Google Video in six parts. Here's the first. And if you think (despite your ears) that Lanza's a flake compared to real opera singers, then perhaps my own review and comparison of him to those other great singers -- to Domingo, Pavarotti, De Stefano - might persuade you to lose your inhibitions: Italian Idol.

    UPDATE: Several comments on this over at Tim Blair's. My favourites were comments about Opera Guy's choices of Puccini's 'Nessun Dorma.' 'Kiwinews' says, "someone around him is smart enough to get him in the spotlight here singing Puccini whose soaring harmonies thrill audiences while covering multiple sins of vocal technique in a way unforgiving Mozart or even Belcanto won’t - let’s hope he’s smart enough to grab the advantage."

    And Mitch follows up: "He looked like he was going to piss his pants, but seemed to know what he was doing. I have to agree with kiwinews, though. Puccini makes panties fall off – most notoriously, those of the singer for whom he inserted Musette’s Waltz into la Boheme – but Mozart requires the performer to make everything look easy. That’s much harder. Hell, if Chris Martin can accomplish the same trick as Puccini, how difficult can it be?

    "A pianist I met said that Chopin made him sweat when he played it, but Mozart made him sweat when he thought about it."

    When Saddam's nuclear programme was destroyed

    Thrutch reminds us of another anniversary in June : on this month in 1981 Israeli jets destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Baghdad, and with it Saddam's nuclear programme -- and ten years later when Saddam invaded Kuwait, the residents of Tel Aviv were very, very glad they did.

    Wikipedia has background. Google Video hosts a forty-minute documentary on the raid. Thrutch has relevant comment: "It's a reminder of how much we owe to the courageous actions of the Israelis and an example of the benefits of assertively engaging in self-defense." [And here's a previous commemoration at Not PC of the happy event.]

    Sometimes, you see, you do have to give war a chance, if only to avoid greater destruction from those less encumbered by your scruples. Something to think about when a country sworn to "wipe Isreal off the map" is working feverishly on their own nuclear programme...

    Bring on your captions

    John Cox (one half of the brilliant Cox and Forkum) offers up a speech balloon with which to have your wicked way.

    Waddya got?

    Teaching the four 'R's

    On a related point to yesterday's post on what's missing in mainstream education, Alexandra York -- one of my favourite writers on art and aesthetics -- makes a strong case for what she calls "the fourth 'R' in education," for the integration of art in education; to substitute for the trivium "the Four 'R's of Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic and Art." [See Alexandra York: The Fourth 'R' in Education].

    Art is essential in educating you to see the world, she argues; it gives keys to understanding the world and one's own place in it. An excerpt which I think helps illustrate her point talks about the importance of music education in the development of emotional maturity in teenage boys:

    Like life, musical passages contain highs and lows, fast and slows … musical vocabulary includes dissonance and resolution, tumult and sublimity, all emboldening a student in the process of making music to feel to his heart’s content within the security of a confined experience... By learning to orchestrate emotional content through so rigorous a structure, the student must learn to merge reason and emotions; otherwise, the resulting music will be cold and sterile, math without the poetry. Classical music is too mentally commanding to permit the flailing and screaming incited by rock n' roll, thus it forces young people to control their emotional output, offering them the experience of cathexis rather than catharsis. Also, because music deals with broad abstractions - triumph, defeat, love, loss - it allows a young person to personalize universals of the human condition, to feel on a grand scale both the hope and the hurt that necessarily accompany an individual life fully lived. For teenagers, in particular, it unlocks gateways to mature excursions into the ecstasy and the vulnerability of love, the headiness and the hazards of risk. Often, once young people begin to understand the value of classical music, they turn to it in moments of emotional need to help them experience deep stirrings that may not make it to the surface of consciousness by themselves. Repressed boys, especially, can benefit immensely from music study.
    As another musician said, "Self-knowledge is a dangerous thing; the freedom of who you are." Read York's whole argument here.