Monday, 23 July 2007

Galt's Gulch

For fans of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, here's the place that inspired Galt's Gulch: a place called Ouray, Colorado that Rand fell in love with on a brief visit, pictured here courtesy of Gus van Horn. You can almost picture the electronic screen just above the trees, can't you . . . ?

Jay Ambrose at the Scripps Howard News Service reviews the Objectivist conference recently held up the road from here in Telluride. It sounds like he had a ball.

Airport sale: Business versus xenophobia

The sale of Auckland's airport to the same company whose purchase of US ports was spurned earlier this year values the airport at $5.6 billion, and will put the airport in the hands of an international business in which our own 'window on the world' will be an integrated part, particularly of Dubai's Emirate's Airways.

That's a great thing for NZ, and that figure of $5.6 billion (and the wealth it represents) is an enormous vote of confidence in New Zealand, and a tribute to the decision made just a few years ago to privatise the airport.

Naturally any boon like this has an equal and opposite political reaction, and no surprise that the two noisiest reactions are from the leaders of the two most xenophobic parties in parliament. Both the Greens and NZ First leapt immediately to decry the prospect of dirty foreigners getting their hands on "our" assets -- as if the asset was about to be shipped offshore.

In being opposed to "profits going offshore" and at the same time to the money coming in to buy the airport, Winston Peters demonstrates both that he's impossible to please (whichever way the money is going he's unhappy), that he's ignorant of the benefits of trade, and that as long as a business is in hands other than the government, it's largely irrelevant who owns it. The benefits accrue whoever owns it.

In saying that he can't see how New Zealanders will benefit from the purchase, Russel Norman joins Winston Peters as a politician in serious need of remedial economics . That's like saying he doesn't understand how wealth is produced through trade ... which when you think about it is true. He doesn't.

He also says it's wrong for control of Auckland's only airport to go offshore, ignoring first that no one is going to pay a couple of billion dollars just to make a pig's ear of the place, and that Russel's Greens have declared themselves as expressly opposed to a second Auckland airport that might provide this one with some competition, and that the Greens are strong supporters of the RMA, an egregious piece of legislation that makes construction of a second airport inordinately difficult, if not completely impossible.

So in short then, a great result for all of us, especially for the owners and Auckland Airport shares.

Swindle director asks: Why react so aggressively?

After last week's airing of Martin Durkin's Great Global Warming Swindle on Australia's ABC TV (which was followed on ABC by a panel who eviscerated the programme, or tried to) Durkin writes in The Australian about the experience of being Up Against the Warming Zealots.
WHEN I agreed to make The Great Global Warming Swindle, I was warned a middle-class fatwa would be placed on my head.

Martin Durkin says his documentary has survived last week's roasting by the ABC

So I wasn't shocked that the film was attacked on the same night it was broadcast on ABC television last week, although I was impressed at the vehemence of the attack. I was more surprised, and delighted, by the response of the Australian public.

The ABC studio assault, led by Tony Jones, was so vitriolic it appears to have backfired. We have been inundated with messages of support, and the ABC, I am told, has been flooded with complaints. I have been trying to understand why.

First, the ferocity of the attack, I think, revealed the intolerance and defensiveness of the global warming camp. Why were Jones and co expending such energy and resources attacking one documentary? We are told the global warming theory is robust. They say you'd have to be off your chump to disagree. We have been assured for years, in countless news broadcasts and column inches, that it's definitely true. So why bother to stamp so aggressively on the one foolish documentary-maker - who clearly must be as mad as a snake - who steps out of line?
Read on here. The reaction there and elsewhere to those questioning the global warming mantra is revealing, isn't it? If they're as confident as they claim, then why all the vitriol? [Hat tip Orson]

UPDATE: The effects of global warming are already upon us. I don't mean the floods in England -- these are 1 in 100 year floods, not 1 in 1500 year floods -- what I mean is the effect of all the political meddling enacted in the wake of global warming theory, even as that theory looks increasingly at odds with the reality. On both reality and the effect of meddling, Christopher Brooker has news of of both in Britain's Telegraph,
The cool wet summer of 2007 may be looked back on as the moment when global warming finally got serious: in two respects. First, we are beginning to see the scarcely credible costs of the legislation our politicians are dishing out, supposedly to change the world's climate.

At the same time, the latest climate data themselves begin to raise some rather serious question marks over the scientific basis for that legislation.

There has been no more vivid example of the mounting costs of our politicians' "climate change" policy than BP's announcement of a £200 million plant in Hull to turn a million tons of wheat a year into "biofuel". This is to help meet the EU's new diktat that within 13 years "CO2 neutral" biofuels must supply 10 per cent of all our transport needs...

Yet just when all this tidal wave of new costs is approaching, the latest scientific data, as I reported last week, are beginning to raise the largest question marks so far over the entire global warming thesis on which they are based.

A graph of satellite data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that, over the past eight years, average global temperatures have flattened out well below their peak in 1998. The 2007 figures to June show a dip to a level first reached in 1983, 24 years ago.

During this same period, however, the graph of CO2 levels from the Mauna Loa Observatory has continued a consistent rise. If rising CO2 inexorably means rising temperatures, what happened to those temperatures?

More importantly, what happened to the brains of all those panicking politicians who are now heaping on us an Everest of costs without bothering to check whether the simple little equation on which they are based actually corresponds with reality?
Brains? Politicians? Anyway, see A Lunatic Crop of Laws for Global Warming - Daily Telegraph.

Piri Weepu hard done by?


He's played poorly, taken his place for granted, and been replaced by a guy who's hungry for the spot. He needed to go.

But there is one gap in the squad: If Richie's not there to steal the ball, then who is?

Sunday, 22 July 2007

'Bishop Blougram's Apology' (excerpt) - Robert Browning

Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things.
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
The superstitious atheist, demirep
That loves and saves her soul in new French books--
We watch while these in equilibrium keep
The giddy line midway: one step aside,
They're classed and done with. I, then, keep the line
Before your sages--just the men to shrink
From the gross weights, coarse scales and labels broad
You offer their refinement. Fool or knave?
Why needs a bishop be a fool or knave
When there's a thousand diamond weights between?
So, I enlist them. Your picked twelve, you'll find,
Profess themselves indignant, scandalized
At thus being held unable to explain
How a superior man who disbelieves
May not believe as well: that's Schelling's way!
It's through my coming in the tail of time,
Nicking the minute with a happy tact.
Had I been born three hundred years ago
They'd say, "What's strange? Blougram of course believes;"
And, seventy years since, "disbelieves of course."
But now, "He may believe; and yet, and yet
How can he?" All eyes turn with interest.
Whereas, step off the line on either side--
You, for example, clever to a fault,
The rough and ready man who write apace,
Read somewhat seldomer, think perhaps even less--
You disbelieve! Who wonders and who cares?
Lord So-and-so--his coat bedropped with wax,
All Peter's chains about his waist, his back
Brave with the needlework of Noodledom--
Believes! Again, who wonders and who cares?
But I, the man of sense and learning too,
The able to think yet act, the this, the that,
I, to believe at this late time of day!
Enough; you see, I need not fear contempt.

-Robert Browning, excerpt from 'Bishop Blougram's Apology.'

Friday, 20 July 2007

Beer O’Clock: The Best Day of the Year

Your Beer O'Clock comes to you this week from the SOBA Neil Miller of Real Beer and beyond. . .

July 21 is the best day of the year. No question. That sacred date is the national day of Belgium - the 176th anniversary of the coronation of Belgium’s first monarch, King Leopold I.

Personally, I celebrate Nationale Feestdag many, many times with some of the finest ales known to humanity accompanied by lashing of tasty beer cuisine because Belgium is undoubtedly the world’s most interesting beer nation. That in a nutshell is why this is the best day of the year.

While some struggle to associate the concept of “interesting” with the country which writer Tim Webb called “the historically fascinating and endearingly daft little kingdom at the heart of Europe,” the simple fact is that Belgium has the largest range of beer styles in the world and its products are highly and deservedly revered.

When the Belgians call their nation of 10 million people “the paradise of beers” it is not marketing hyperbole. Their 120 breweries use traditional craft techniques to produce beers of exceptional quality from centuries-old brewing recipes.

For this Beer O’Clock I recommend every reader try a real Belgian beer (no Virginia, Stella doesn’t count), preferably one you have never been brave enough to try before. The Belgian Beer Cafes are a great place to start.

Belgian cuisine is also renowned for cooking with beer and for their extensive use of fresh seafood and quality game. The consummate food accompaniment for beer in Belgium is mussels, fries and mayonnaise (moules frites). I’d recommend mussels steamed in either lobster broth or wheat beer, but if the mussels are fresh then it's all good.

If the sheer quality of their beer is not enough for you to raise a glass to the endearing and enduring Kingdom of Belgium, this alone is reason enough: Charles de Gaulle once said that “Belgium is a country invented by the British to annoy the French.”

Op uw gezonheid!


Al Qaeda's Iraq leader nabbed

From the Announcements-you-won't-hear-from-Helen-Clark file, (and let's face it, you're unlikely to hear it from what passes for a news department at either TVNZ or TV3):
BAGHDAD, July 18, 2007: The U.S. command said Wednesday the highest ranking Iraqi in the leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq has been arrested, adding that information from him indicates the group's foreign-based leadership wields considerable influence over the Iraqi chapter. [Hat tip Jameson]
News? Why do you think this should be news?

How to take the high ball

It sure took long enough, but it looks like All Blacks co-coach Wayne Smith (that's him under the padding) has finally realised that if he wants his rugby players to take a contested ball over their head successfully, they need to adopt the style used by AFL players [hat tip AB].

Mils Muliana (left) and Gary Ablett (right) show how it's done. Let's hope it works for the ABs tomorrow night.

Best pub

Last night I visited New Zealand's best pub for a drink. That's not just my opinion - it's the decision of the judges in the NZ Bar Awards, who awarded Galbraith's in Mt Eden Rd the award of "country's best pub." I felt obliged to pour a libation or three in their honour.

"Best Bar Team" was declared to be Clooney's, in Auckland, another opinion I'd wholeheartedly endorse: those bartenders make the best genuine cocktails I've had the pleasure to sample. Given the judges' clearly superior opinions then, I'm looking forward to visiting the "Best Bar," the Matterhorn in Cuba St, Wellington, when I'm down there for the Libertarianz conference - if that is we can tear ourselves away from the Mac's Brewhouse where the conference is being held.

Read the complete list of Bar Awards winners here.

The Geographer

Vermeer, The Geographer. A man of the mind, portrayed with light-filled clarity.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Scum ahoy

There are few human beings more vile than apologists for evil. One such is about to visit New Zealand: Saddamite George Galloway, the "honourable member for Baghdad Central," a recipient for many years of Saddam's money and of Soviet money; a man for whom the demise of the Soviet Union was, he said, "the biggest catastrophe of my life," and who is on record as saluting Saddam's "courage" "strength" and "indefatigability"; a man happy to hang out with with the murderer, rapist and torturer Uday Hussein; a man who, as you would expect with these credentials, has attracted the Green Party's Keith Locke in vigorous support. [ref: Liberty Scott]

No surprises there. Keith has no shame. As you might recall, back in April 1975 he was a supporter of Pol Pot. And After September 11, as many of you will also recall Keith Locke hosted Annette Sykes in a series of meetings around the country, in one of which while Keith sat there smiling and nodding his head in agreement, Sykes told the audience (as transcribed by a member of that audience):
When I first saw the planes fly into the towers I jumped for joy, I was so happy that at long last capitalism was under attack. Until, it suddenly dawned on me, what about all those poor pizza delivery boys, those poor firemen, those poor policemen, those poor lift-operators, all those poor cleaners, all those other poor workers who are forced to work for and were trying to save those greedy and horrible capitalists!? My heart and head was so confused - happy that some capitalists had been killed and very, very sad for all those who had died while working for them.
Keith neither challenged nor questioned Sykes’s rant; instead he sat there and smiled and nodded and then led the applause when she finished. Nice chap. I expect him to smile and nod his head all the way through Galloway's apologia for totalitarian evil. If you're judged by the company you keep, both Locke and Galloway are guilty.

What will it take for RMA anger to result in REAL change?

NBR: Rural dissatisfaction with the RMA widespread.
Federated Farmers is calling for fundamental changes to the Resource Management Act based on the findings of an independent survey of 900 farmers.

The survey results, released at the federation's national conference, showed that only 3 percent of farmers who had had some experience of the RMA were happy with it.

More than 70 percent want changes to the Act and how local councils apply it.
Sheesh, more than fifteen years since the damned thing was introduced and millions of dollars squandered on and by the damned thing, and case after case of destruction of property rights and enterprise caused directly by the damned thing, and still all they're after is "CHANGES" to the bloody thing! Unbelievable.

"Changes"? Just what does it take to get productive people sufficiently incensed to call for a stake through the heart of the bloody thing [pdf] ?!

As the saying goes, when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know that your culture is doomed. This is a "culture" made all-too stultifying law by the RMA. It's not time for "change", it's time for the RMA to be consigned to the flames and common law protection of property rights implemented in its stead.

Cullen changing "price stability" target may be all talk, but may not be all bad

I'm bemused to see suggestions from finance minister Michael Cullen that he is considering amending the Reserve Bank Act so that the focus is on something (anything) other than "price stability." On the face of it removing the focus on "price stability" would be a good thing for a number of reasons (most of which I've canvassed here before), but since no change proposed will result in removing the politicisation of the currency (which it should), whether it is a good move at all depends fundamentally on what the target changes to, and whether or not this is simply another attempt to talk down the currency.

Something certainly has to be done, and urgently -- as US economist Steve Hanke says, "by having a free, floating exchange rate combined with inflation targeting" "the New Zealand economy is on a death spiral" -- and removing the Reserve Bank's legislatively constrained myopic focus on "price stability" would be prime amongst things that should be done, but given the circling of monetary cranks around the rotting corpse of the Reserve Bank Stabilisation Act, I have little confidence in where such a change might end up.

The fact that Bill English is opposed (and solely it seems for the reason that, to paraphrase him in this morning's Herald, "this is how we've always done things") is perhaps good reason however to give it serious consideration, since Billy Boy is almost a beacon for the wrong side of every issue.

Let me just explain briefly why I've placed the words "price stability" in inverted commas above, and my answer to that will help explain why, on the face of it at least, removing this as a target for the Reserve Bank governor would be a good thing. As Frank Shostak explains, "the policy of "price stability" always leads to more instability." That may seem incongruous, but only if you fail to see how prices (plural) are formed. It's true that monetary inflation (that is, the Reserve Bank printing too much money) is the primary cause of inflation of prices, but it's not true that every change in prices is due to such monetary legerdemain; when prices need to fall or to rise for reasons other than monetary reasons -- when say a technological change makes a product line cheaper, or when supply and demand factors make a line of goods or services more expensive -- then mandating price stability puts an artificial constraint on markets, constraints that will and do lead to malinvestments and severe dislocations, just as we're seeing, and with our small currency it leads too to serious foreign exchange problems.

An article in the latest Free Radical explains this apparent paradox of how "price stability" leads instead to instability; 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. But cutting it loose should not be used to politicise the currency in another way. That would be a remedy worse than the malady from which we're presently suffering.

There's trouble at Vector

I confess that with all the vituperation, defamation and jail time for defamation flying around on the issue of Michael Stiassny and his time at the helm of the troubled Vector, I haven't really got to grips with what it's all about, and why exactly Vince Siemer deserves jail time for defamation by website.

Garth George seems to give the beginnings of some background in this morning's Herald on Stiassny's role in the increasingly dysfunctional Vector Energy, but if anyone can throw some light on this (succinctly) I'd be grateful. If you post any info in the comments section that looks reasonable I'll post it here as an update.

Great Wave - Hokusai

Probably the most well known Japanese woodblock print. The balanced asymmetry and simplicity of the composition was to have a profound effect on western art.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007


The problems of adolescence litter the headlines. Many of these issues stem from early childhood. What can you do now to help your children become self-motivated, independent, and inspired with a lifelong love of learning?

These are questions asked and answered by educators who follow in the inspirational footsteps of Dr Maria Montessori, and a leading Montessori educator will be in Auckland this week speaking on 'The Path to Independence' on behalf of the Maria Montessori Education Foundation (NZ).

The Maria Montessori Education Foundation sprang from Sydney’s International
Montessori Congress
two years ago when 1200 Montessorians gathered under the Congress's theme: to 'Champion the Cause of All Children,' igniting a spark for a group of local Montessorians, resulting in their formation of the Maria Montessori Education Foundation (MMEF), a charitable trust, to establish quality AMI Montessori training in New

Their first AMI teacher-training course begins in February and the trainer for that course is Cheryl Ferreira, a leading Montessori trainer from London's Maria Montessori Institute, who will be speaking in Auckland Wednesday night and Warkworth Monday night on ‘The Path to Independence.’

You're all invited.

Says MMEF trustee Carol Potts, ”This public address is for all those who genuinely believe in the enormous potential of the young child. The Montessori philosophy of education - now celebrating its centenary year - offers much more than a philosophy of education: It is an essential aid to life. Come along and be inspired!”

  • The Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Silver Street, Epsom, 7pm, Wednesday 18th July. Only $20 with a complimentary glass of wine, tea or coffee. Call 623 8111 to book.
  • Warkworth Primary School Hall, Hill Street, Warkworth, 7:30pm, Monday 23rd July.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about the internationally recognised AMI 3-6 Diploma course in New Zealand visit www.MMEF.Co.NZ, and
FOR MORE INFORMATION about Cheryl's visit, or to book an interview, please email, or ring Carol Potts on 021 111 4133.

Two mayors for two cities

Blair promotes two mayoral candidates for two of the world's great cities, both of whom piss all over their incumbents:
  • For the Auckland mayoralty he's a fan of Steve Crow, and at fourteen percent Crow's in with a chance, (which with a "transmogrified" John Banks at fifty-five percent is more than you can say for Mother Hubbard). If I deigned to vote in such things then the pornographer (who told the Herald a while back that he's a libertarian,)would be my pick ahead of the two puritans.
  • And in London, plummy-voiced nincompoop Boris Johnson is running for the job of mayor of Greater London against Ken Livingston. Says Liberty Scott of the loopy Tory toff, "I have no idea what Boris would bring, other than a healthy dose of skepticism about Nanny State... I want a few things from a Johnson mayoralty, but what it boils down to is less government, less spending and more accountability." A Johnson mayoralty would be good for both London and the House of Commons: he can't be a worse mayor than Red Ken (Hugo Chavez wouldn't be any worse), and removing Johson from the vicinity of any nukes would make the world a safer place.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Celibacy begins at Rome ... or not.

Sings Lou Reed on his New York album: "You can't depend on any churches, unless there's real estate that you want to buy..." Lou was wrong. There's one other thing it seems you can depend on the churches for. Read: Los Angeles Roman Catholic Diocese Settles Huge Sex Abuse Case.

Don't expect to see much about this news on conservative blogs.

Meanwhile, here's Robert Ingersoll:
There was a time in Europe when the Catholic Church had power, and I want it distinctly understood with this jury, that while I am opposed to Catholicism I am not opposed to Catholics -- while I am opposed to Presbyterianism I am not opposed to Presbyterians. I do not fight people -- I fight ideas, I fight principles, and I never go into personalities. As I said, I do not hate Presbyterians, but Presbyterianism -- that is, I am opposed to their doctrine. I do not hate a man that has the rheumatism -- I hate the rheumatism when it has a man. So I attack certain principles because I think they are wrong, but I always want it understood that I have nothing against persons -- nothing against victims.

Bastards beaten back ... temporarily

A small victory for common sense in the defeat for the Therapeutic Products & Medicines Bill, with Annette King admitting this morning that she just hasn't got the numbers to have this passed. It looks too like a victory for MMP: showing just how difficult it is for any government to pass anything through an all-but-hung parliament. A point perhaps in MMP's favour.

Sadly however, the political opposition to the bill hasn't been based on the stupidity of regulating what doesn't need regulation -- the vitamins and supplements whose use 2.5 million New Zealanders enjoy -- but instead on a xenophobic opposition to an Australian regulatory body. Consequently, the time looks ripe for many of those opponents to sign up to a Bill setting up a local regulatory body with the same overbearing powers as those proposed in the defeated bill.

So as far as small manufacturers are concerned then, this isn't a victory so much as a temporary beating back of the bastards.

UPDATE: Russell Brown mentions Pippa Mackay arguing that this is bad news, especially for "what this means for the approval of all new medicines: longer delays as Medsafe, which had been anticipating the joint trans-Tasman regulator, struggles to keep up, higher costs, and fewer new medicines approved."

'Terror' title a tactical failure

Readers interested in Ayn Rand and Objectivism will find good reading in the Jerusalem Post: two articles on Ayn Rand and on the Ayn Rand Institute's head Yaron Brook.

See The Nexus, and You Don't Fight a Tactic, from which comes this excerpt:
Brook has lectured at numerous US college campuses, often under tight security, appeared numerous times on Fox and CNBC, and is emerging as one of the most outspoken voices when it comes to the "War on Terror," a title, Brook says, that already dooms the West to failure.

"You don't fight a tactic," he said in his talk. "Terrorism is a tactic, and I believe we have to look at the ideological source of terrorism in order to identify the true enemy." He defines this source as Islamic totalitarianism, which he describes as an expansionist philosophy that seeks to spread Islam by the sword, but he thinks that the enemy's identity has been blurred or ignored by government leaders and the intelligentsia.

"We don't have the guts, the courage, the self-esteem to even identify who the enemy is. We couch it in terms of terrorists who happen to be Muslims who are 'hijacking a great religion.' We're afraid to say 'Islamic anything': Islamic fascism, totalitarianism, whatever you want to call it." The fear stems, he said, from the academic trend of multiculturalism, in which all cultures are morally equal, and moral relativism, in which "anything goes" in human behavior.
But this isn't the most destructive idea to the cause of the West, he says. Read on to find out what receives that approbation.

UPDATE: Writing for Victoria University's Salient magazine, Lindsay Perigo focusses on the real enemy: 'Death to Islamofascism.'

"Get born, keep warm...": Global warming with Bob.

[Pinched from Jameson] Rolling Stone magazine's 40th Anniversary edition is by all accounts a sentimental tribute to the hippy, full of interviews with icons from the era. Appropriate then that they sat down with the top two on their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list: Bob Dylan, who came second only to the Beatles on their list, and Paul McCartney.

Bob’s influence on the magazine’s founder was not inconsiderable: Jann Wenner began his career as a music critic under the pseudonym Mr. Jones (taken from Dylan’s song 'Ballad of a Thin Man'), and named his magazine after Dylan’s 'Like a Rolling Stone', the song Rolling Stone ranked #1 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. So Wenner took the honour of interviewing Dylan himself and did his best to get him into the swing of the auspicious anniversary by asking him the no-brainer question about global warming … but things didn’t quite go according to plan ...

Wenner: What do you think of the historical moment we’re in today? We seem to be hell-bent on destruction. Do you worry about global warming?
Dylan: In what sense do you mean.
Wenner: Bob, come on.
Dylan: No, you come on. In what sense do you mean that?
Wenner: We seem to be hell-bent on destruction. Do you worry about global warming?
Dylan: Where’s the global warming? It’s freezing here.
Wenner: It seems a pretty frightening outlook.
Dylan: I think what you’re driving at, though, is we expect politicians to solve all our problems. I don’t expect politicians to solve anybody’s problems.
Wenner: Who is going to solve them?
Dylan: Our own selves. We’ve got to take the world by the horns and solve our own problems. The world owes us nothing, each and every one of us, the world owes us not one single thing. Politicians or whoever.

By contrast, Paul McArtney was just as wet as you'd expect.

RightWingBob has more on 'libertarian Bob', including an amusing note that Gore referenced Bob in his own Rolling Stone interview (just as wrongly as Wenner as it turns out), and the suggestion from John Berlau that growing celebrity scepticism might be a signal that "global warming hysteria has jumped the shark."
Dylan’s latest statement may signal that in the global warming debate, the times are changing. Even independent-minded celebrities are now questioning the establishment media orthodoxy that the debate over global warming and its effects are all but over. In a phrase familiar to those who study pop culture, it appears that the global warming scare may have “jumped the shark.”

'The Wanderer' (excerpt), by John Masefield

. . . Therefore, go forth, companion: when you find
No highway more, no track, all being blind,
The way to go shall glimmer in the mind.
  Though you have conquered Earth and Charted Sea
And planned the courses of all Stars that be,
Adventure on, more wonders are in Thee.
  Adventure on, for from the littlest clue
Has come whatever worth man ever knew;
The next to lighten all men may be you . . .

Monday, 16 July 2007

Another tool without a purpose

ICQ, AIM, Chat-this, Text-the-other, MySpace and now Facebook. Phew. One hundred different ways to get together online and ... what? Just what does one do with all these ways for strangers to get in touch with each other and waste your time? On this, Gonzo talks sense.
Facebook is an improvement on prior networking, in that people are more honest now than previously. All we have to do now is work out out what to do with it. From what I gather, social networking sites are great for teenagers to discuss angst, trade Vogon poetry and news of the latest Glassons sale. For the rest of us, it's a tool without purpose.
I'm inclined to agree.

Bastards Hone meets all the time

Calling John Howard a "racist bastard" was "an unfortunate diversion" says Lindsay Mitchell. If Hone Harawira had called John Howard "a statist bastard" instead, then "we might have had the real debate which is about how heavy-handed should a government be in tackling problems that exist throughout society but disproportionately among indigenous, poor communities."

It's a good point. As she says, "calling John Howard a racist was a complete waste of time and a unfortunate diversion from the harder question..."

Moral Paralysis, Appeasement, and the Causes of War

Arguments continue over the expulsion of Objectivist history professor John Lewis from Ashland University (described in the Chronicle of Higher Education). Further details have now emerged about the expulsion at the FIRE website in 'Ashland University: Objectivists Need Not Appy,' saying "increasing restrictions on academic freedom could be the product of Ashland’s turn toward evangelicalism." Meanwhile Nick Provenzo suggests that with Lewis' sacking the "university has relegated itself to being little more than a Bible college for politically correct Republicans."

You might be curious about Lewis himself, a historian who in recent weeks has managed to get both religious neoconservatives and Islamic totalitarians in a lather. If so, the second of three excerpts from Lewis' forthcoming book "dealing with military history and its lessons for the modern day" which has appeared in the latest issue of the Objective Standard might be worth a peek: The Balm for a Guilty Conscience”: Moral Paralysis, Appeasement, and the Causes of World War II. Unfortunately, a peek is all you get because only the first few paragraphs available to you non-subscribers.

However, his first article “No Substitute for Victory” The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism is free to non-subscribers, is well worth reading (or re-reading) and it was summarised here in an earlier version delivered at a Boston presentation.

Rational radio over breakfast

The wasteland of breakfast radio will be transformed from tomorrow by the departure of John Banks to fight a mayoral election and his replacement on Radio Pacific (for a month at least) by one Lindsay Perigo. It's not quite the rebirth of Radio Liberty, but there is at least one month of rational breakfast radio to look forward to.

You can check out Pacific's frequencies or listen online here.

Conrad Black goes down

Conrad Black, the former proprietor of the Daily Telegraph and the head of a media empire whose pension funds and shareholders' money he used like a personal cash machine has been convicted in an American court for fraud and the obstruction of justice: in other words, for being the neoconservative equivalent of Robert Maxwell. Report here from his former flagship newspaper. With sentencing coming soon he faces years in jail.

Black (right) has committed other crimes for which he will unfortunately receive no jail time. One of these is the writing of a mammoth biography of Franklin Roosevelt in which he champions this virtual dictator and corrupter of capitalism as a Champion of Freedom. Such a crime deserves all the condemnation honest men can muster.

Roosevelt is a reliable litmus test of statism: as an unreconstructed apostle of big government, exuberant interventionism, voodoo economics, and state welfare used as an electoral club, anyone who calls himself an admirer can be seen immediately as a statist of the first water. "Lord" Black and his 1134-page apologia is no exception. Readers of The Free Radical can enjoy my own review of this monumental piece of trash in the current issue. As I say in the review,
This is a book that had to be written after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Not because it relies on any new documentation released from Soviet vaults after that great event – in fact most of the documentation from that source simply confirms the depth of Soviet penetration of the Roosevelt administration -- but because one of the author’s major claims for bestowing the accolade of ‘Champion of Freedom’ upon one of the least likely historical candidates is that Franklin Roosevelt’s “skill and diplomacy” paved the way for that great event to happen.

That, dear readers, tells you as much about this hagiography as you really need to know. It is only one of many fatuous claims made in its gushing 1134 pages...
Why fatuous? Because as the review summarises, "Far from being a ‘champion of freedom,’ Roosevelt very nearly helped throttle it.":

  • Far from “solving the depression” as Black and countless others claim, the truth is that in 1932 when first elected there were 11,586,000 unemployed. In 1939, when Germany and Soviet Russia invaded Poland, there were 11,369,000. As Leonard Peikoff notes, “The [unemployment] problem was not solved until the excess manpower was sent to die on foreign battlefields.” And as Gene Smiley notes, the depression itself was not solved until after the war when private savings had built up sufficiently to finance a genuine recovery.
  • Roosevelt was indeed the “masterful” political operator that Black claims, but Black ignores the half of it: buying elections with Federal money; throwing registered Republicans off the relief rolls and out of the explosively-expanding bureaucracy; ensuring that the millions on unemployment relief voted FDR or not at all. He did help get rid of the corrupt political machines he found when first elected, it’s true, but only by flooding the country with a new, much vaster, and much more self-serving form of electoral corruption.
  • Roosevelt was the first American president to find and exploit the holes in the constitution in order to vastly expand both the power and the flatulent of big government with a menagerie of “alphabet agencies,” all but killing freedom in the process.
  • During Roosevelt’s occupation of the White House, the American government openly swarmed with known communists; Soviet documents released in 1995 confirm 329 Soviet agents were active in the Roosevelt administration, and at the very highest levels. As John T. Flynn points out, “Roosevelt not only permitted but actively encouraged the activities of the Communist conspiracy in the US. The gentlest comment one can make on this is that the man simply did not know what he was doing—a curious defence for one hailed as a master mind.”
  • He entered the war while promising to keep out of it, with the transparent ruse of actively inviting either a German or Japanese attack that would so outrage American public opinion that they would demand to be in it -- a strategy that on the “day of infamy” in Pearl Harbor worked all too successfully, and all too tragically.
  • He fought the war in the name of the ‘Four Freedoms’ – after which he delivered half of Europe into slavery.
  • He ‘won the war’ at a cost of over 418,000 American dead and a deficit of $280 billion, (which you can multiply by about 30 times to find the sum in today’s money). That you do need to multiply it is in part Roosevelt’s doing – most of that sum was financed through the printing press and too years of subsequent inflation to pay off. As John T. Flynn noted in 1955, “the interest alone on the public debt [created by the Roosevelt and Truman Administrations] is now over twice the total cost of government when Roosevelt denounced Hoover for extravagance” in that 1932 election.
  • Through his wartime alliance with Stalin – who began the war as Hitler’s ally, and who was the century’s undisputed “greatest” mass-murderer – and during which he sent the Soviets billions of dollars of military equipment and money, Roosevelt helped deliver 170,000,000 people into communism (to which figure you can add the 600,000,000 delivered into Chinese communism s an indirect result of Roosevelt’s bungling), and with the victims of Yalta helped send several millions of those directly to their deaths.
There is nothing about the Great Manipulator to admire, and Black's wholehearted admiration for this immoral cripple makes all too clear his own lack of moral compass.

The overwhelming sense when reading of Roosevelt is precisely this: one realizes in a crucial sense that he never ever was a “man of the world.” As Walter Lippmann observed so tellingly of Roosevelt after their first meeting, “He is a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be President." That really is all that this soft-shelled cripple amounts to.

"[Seventy] years ago Europe's 'diplomacy' with Hitler encouraged him to start World War II.” Sixty years ago Roosevelt’s diplomacy with Stalin -- who Roosevelt pathetically thought he could charm -- delivered half of Europe into communism and began a Cold War that lasted forty-five years and nearly destroyed the world. Such is the creature that Lord Black of Crossharbour calls, non-ironically, a ‘champion of freedom’ for precisely those “achievements.” That perhaps says more about the biographer than anything else possibly could.

Readers of The Free Radical will already be enjoying the complete review of this disgraceful tome. You can subscribe to the print edition or buy a digital copy here.

UPDATE: Paul at Fundy Post wonders about something: "Black could go to jail for fifteen years for crimes in which he received 1.7 million Pounds. Is it just me or is Lord Black incredibly stupid? He already had millions, lots of them, but he squandered his businesses and his liberty for less than two million quid." The Independent has the answer: "He and Barbara Amiel were millionaires who wanted to live like billionaires."

And Derek de Cloet at Toronto's Globe and Mail points out something that Richard Nixon found out: "Sometimes it's not the crime that gets you, but the cover-up..."
Conrad Black and his associates spent years skimming money for themselves out of deals made by Hollinger International, once the world's third-largest newspaper empire. And of the crimes of which he was found guilty in Chicago yesterday, which one is most likely to put him in prison for the rest of his life? Obstruction of justice."
It seems that's easier to prove than the dishonesty itself. Meanwhile The Scotsman reports: "Friday, he was kicked out of the Conservative Party because of his conviction," stripped of the privilege of sitting in the House of Lords, and "Now his status as a lord could be in jeopardy."

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Let nature take its course?

Around 300 homes are reported to still await the reconnection of power after last week's storm ( a reminder to those who oppose every new power station project that generating power is a good thing), and no doubt discussion on storm damage will continue, as will argument over Helen Clark's craven suggestion that towns relocate. Owen McShane from the Climate Science Coalition offers an intelligent response to the storm and to Clark's politically motivated stupidity:
"Before we rush to forcibly relocate whole communities – especially if they are to be relocated against their will – we should take some time to consider alternative responses; especially ones which are less reminiscent of Louis XIV's extravagant exercises at Versailles" says McShane. He listed some suggested alternatives as follows:

First: Many of the knee jerk responses assume these storms and floods are due to man-made climate change and that they will get worse and more frequent. We should examine the evidence. Certainly the idea that rising sea levels will make matters worse is simply not proven, nor even likely, for most of New Zealand. While our planners look anxiously towards the sea the floods come down from the hills and rivers behind them.
Second: Maybe we should consider re-establishing the Drainage Boards in some way. Prior to the passing of the RMA these boards operated throughout rural New Zealand with only one objective – the proper management of catchment areas. They made sure the stop-banks were in place and the drains and waterways were kept clear. There is no longer anyone in local government with that single focus.
Third: Don't assume that we should always "allow nature to take its course." Many older councillors complain that when they raise the old drainage board issues about maintaining stop-banks and drainage channels the staff come back with reports saying "nature must take its course." Such a philosophy would not be well received in the Netherlands. If they were to let nature take its course the whole country would have to relocate to higher ground – and they simply haven't got any.
Fourth: People, communities and councils should be encouraged to regard this as an insurance issue. People at risk should be encouraged to negotiate directly with their insurers to see what steps they can take to reduce their risk of damage. For example it will normally prove cheaper to raise a house a few feet than to relocate either the whole dwelling or the resident family.
Fifth: Explore the technologies available for new dwellings. The Dutch are increasing their "habitable" areas dramatically by developing "floating houses" which rise and fall with flood water. The cellular concrete floors are buoyant and fixed in place by bronze rings over driven piles. Flexible connections to sewage etc allow the whole structure to "rise with the tide" and settle down as the floods drain away. New Orleans is looking into the many systems available. Read about these floating homes by clicking here. Rather than "letting nature take its course" the Dutch have decided "To go with the flow".Maybe we should too.
Sixth: People have always opted to live in flood plains or under volcanoes and most are able to make up their own minds regarding the costs and benefits and the risks. If someone wants to live in a hazardous area they should be allowed to contract with the council, and anyone else involved, to absolve all other parties of any liability which might arise from their decision. It's their risk and their choice. However, we should have no patience with those who build in such areas contrary to advise and then claim aid and charity when their house is destroyed. And we should not allow foolish siting to put other structures at risk.

Only God can make a banana

"Behold, the atheists' nightmare": the banana - so perfectly made it tells us there must be a creator. "The whole of creation testifies to the genius of God's creation! It absolutely does!" says a surprisingly persuasive (to some) Ray Comfort. See Comfort and colleague present the arguments here at You Tube.

Behold the rebuttal, also at You Tube. Turns out the domestication of the banana plays a part. A large part. Other myths are also debunked. Einstein would approve.

Here's another cartoon from the fine chaps at Russell's Teapot [click to enlarge]:

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Weekend ramble, #15

Join me on another ramble through the more rational parts of the internet.
  • Why do some countries drip health, wealth and happiness, and other places just suck. That's the very question PJ O'Rourke set out to answer in Eat the Rich, and Tim Harford continues to hunt out the answers. Here's Harford's report from "the armpit of Africa," a place with not shortage of either entrepreneurial spirit or investment or government, but desperately short of both wealth and what makes wealth possible: institutions that give long term time horizons to allow entrepreneurs and even governments to plan ahead. See Why Poor Countries are Poor - Tim Harford.

    UPDATE to this: Watching a film at Auckland's film festival yesterday, an ebullient entrepreneurial cinema impresario in Burkina Faso, one of the world's poorest countries, confided that the dream of he and his go-ahead colleagues was to be able to OWN their own cinema, giving them the necessary security to plan ahead. There's a saying in Africa, he said: "If you sleep on your own mat, then no one can take it away." In that saying is the importance of property rights explained, and in that story (and the lack of secure long-term time horizons) is the lack of wealth in Africa explained.

  • And we all know that the mainstream media is awash with ignorance and hostility to capitalism, don't we? Notes Jeffrey Tucker, capitalism gets the blame even when all the capitalists have been murdered.
    Ever think that the anti-capitalism of the press is exaggerated or non-existent? Check out this incredible story at MSNBC/Newsweek. You would never know, never even guess, that China was the home to a murderous tyrant only a few decades ago (est. 40 million dead), and you would certainly never guess that China has gone from vast impoverishment to vast economic growth in record time, and certainly the relationship of this to capitalism is completely lost on the reporter. So here we go with the full-scale hysteria blaming the market for all of China's woes...
    Read Tucker's China Abandoned Communism and Deadly Chaos is the Result!

  • Speaking of anti-capitalism, have you seen 'Sicko' yet, Michael Moore's latest encomium to a dictator? Says Ryan Balis, 'Sicko' Presents a False View of the Cuban Health Care Industry. Who would have thought, Michael Moore to presenting a "false view" to make a point -- you have to ask yourself, would he ever really have a point if he told the truth?

  • Ever wanted to mail all the questions to which you wanted answers to a wise old philosopher? You're in luck. Dr Leonard Peikoff is in, and he's asking and answering questions at his website. Aristotelian sagacity at the click of the mouse.

  • It might be mid-winter, but if your cat smells like last week's dishrag it's time to give him or her a wash. Bud Herron has some hilarious tips on how to go about the job without losing an arm.

  • Everyone and his feminist great-aunt finds "phallic symbols" everywhere. But what about vagina symbols and those of us on the lookout for these? Why should vaginas miss out on all the action? The Sex or Not blog picks out a few examples and asks, "Vag, or not vag?"

  • While we're talking art (or very nearly), those of you who've been following artist Michael Newberry's art mini-tutorials and aesthetic commentary linked here might find it useful to see all the commentary linked on one page here, and the mini-tutorials here.

  • Stephen Hicks adds to the debate on good education (or the worldwide lack thereof) by asking about the divide between the humanities and the sciences and pointing out, "You can’t be an educated person without knowing some literature [or history], but when will we stop thinking of the scientifically illiterate as educated too? And what about the politically and economically illiterate? Bryan Caplan’s new book probes the issue of whether democracy is self-defeating."

  • And here's Stephen being interviewed about post-modernism, what Nietzsche gave to the Nazis, and the joys and otherwise of being a philosophy professor. On postmodernism (on which his book Explaining Postmodernism is still the most pellucid) Hicks argues that the failure of Enlightenment philosophers to produce a viable theory of knowledge is what made post-modernism possible, and although "we are still living in the after-glow of modernist confidence and reason," this failure leaves reason and scientific enterprise philosophically undefended, and the field wide open for the cynical skepticism of the post-moderns. See The Post-modern Assault on Reason - Interview with Stephen Hicks.

  • What should a rich man do with all his money if he really wants to "help others"? If he's Bill Gates, "the (second) richest man in the world who helped create a revolutionary computer software company, and earlier this month collected an honorary degree from Harvard University" you might wonder whether he really understands "the vital role wealth creation plays in society" if he thinks giving is money away is the best way to help. "By any reasonable calculation," says Robert Barro in the Wall Street Journal, "Microsoft
    has been a boon for society and the value of its software greatly exceeds the likely
    value of Mr. Gates's philanthropic efforts." True. With a walking engine of production like Bill, the most productive thing Bill could do for all of us is to keep using his money to produce more. See Bill Gates' Charitable Vistas - Robert Barro, Wall Street Journal.

  • The reason for Islamic terrorism is not western foreign policy. Who says? A former member of the British Jihadi network. Says Hassan Butt,
    By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the ‘Blair’s bombs’ line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology. "
    Ed Hussain concurs, saying in a Telegraph article on the rise of middle class Islamic terrorism,
    [Blaming western foreign policy] is just an excuse. They reject Western culture full stop, not just 'slags in night clubs'. They would have supported the bombing of Muslims attending the cinema in Cairo in the 1950s. They do not want Muslims to enjoy social freedoms. If it was not Iraq they would cite Chechnya. Or Palestine. These are angry men. Accommodation is not an option. It has to be containment or annihilation.
    And says Tanveer Ahmed in Australia:
    What we now call extremism was virtually the norm in the community I grew up in. It was completely normal to view Jews as evil and responsible for the ills of the world. It was normal to see the liberal society around us as morally corrupt, its stains to be avoided at all costs. It was normal to see white girls as cheap and easy and to see the ideal of femininity as its antithesis. These views have been pushed to more private, personal spheres amid the present scrutiny of Muslim communities.
    Hat tip to Tim Blair and to Perry de Havilland at Samizdata, who points out to anyone who's still averting their eyes from the danger, "That is what makes these people so different from the IRA or ETA or any of the West's entirely indigenous terrorists: there can be no possible meeting of the minds or compromise or middle ground to be found with the current crop of Wahhabi inspired mass murderers. It really is them or us." As Brian Doherty summarises, "we are all self-indulgent libertine scum who deserve to die."

  • Despite the models showing the atmosphere as the place where warming happens, the surface temperature record is what everyone points to in discussing global warming. Roger Pielke and Anthony Watts continue to research the actual quality of the reputed "high quality" surface temperature stations on which the surface temperature record relies. Here's the surface temperature station that was recording temperature in Fort Morgan, Colorado (a place for which no "urban heat island" effect will have been factored into any temperature adjustments) complete with a red brick building (great for storing and re-radiating the sun's warmth), silos full of fermenting sugar beets (with the heat products thereof), four air conditioners in close proximity, and as the man says, "in keeping with current observed trends, any weather station with air conditioning also needs close-by parking."

    The UK, Europe and NZ are seriously talking about reducing carbon emissions by fifty percent to stop "runaway global warming." Al Bore wants ninety percent. Comforting to know that it's stations such as this that produce the temperature record on whose basis the shackling and shut down of western industry is being contemplated.

  • Is there a difference between the forecasts of the opinions of experts and scientific forecasting? "Yes!" say forecasting experts Scott Armstrong and Kesten Green, and the climate forecasts produced by the IPCC for the next hundred years fall into the former camp. "The forecasts in the [latest IPCC] Report were not the outcome of scientific procedures. In effect, they present the opinions of scientists transformed by mathematics and obscured by complex writing... We have been unable to identify any scientific forecasts to support global warming. Claims that the Earth will get warmer have no more credence than saying that it will get colder." Read the article on these two here : Chorus Does Not Justify Climate Prophecies - Sydney Morning Herald.
    And their own paper of the IPCC's forecast here: Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists Versus Scientific Forecasts? - Armstrong and Green [pdf] [Hat tip Climate Audit]

  • And have you found out your own "carbon footprint" using the Live Earth footprint calculator? My own is an embarrassingly small 0.75 tonnes of carbon per year, only ten percent of the average American, barely one percent of Al Bore's, and just 0.001 percent of the carbon produced by Al Bore's Live Earth.

  • More on the morons of Live Earth here from the Sp!ked team. Says Rob Lyons, "The problem with the concerts was not Madge's massive footprint and other rock-star hypocrisy. It was the apocalyptic message of the sermons." Too true. With the magnitude of the problem the warmists claim we're facing -- global apocalypse; worldwide destruction; millions of climate refugees; extinction of species; running out of toilet paper -- it's remarkable just how wet was the pledge the warmists wanted the audience to make. It's almost like they don't really believe in their own apocalypse.

  • By contrast the almost-always rational Czech president Vaclav Klaus points out that even by their own standards the "apocalypse that isn't" requires not enormous state intervention but intelligent adaptation, and in that the state can only get in the way. Human adaptation is not the province of either the state or of climatologists; it's carried out by individuals with the freedom to act, and can best be measured and assessed by economists. This question, he says, is "not the cup of tea of economists and representatives of other social sciences. These people ask very different questions (which is why they shouldn't be blamed for not being weather or climate experts). They are asking to what extent a particular phenomenon such as warming will be a problem, what its consequences will be, what will be the costs of adaptation, and perhaps what would be the costs of eliminating the phenomenon altogether. This is not a domain of natural sciences."
    Richard Posner... [suggested] ... it was necessary to do something about the climate because higher temperatures would lead to higher sea levels, by about two feet in 100 years (even though it is 0.5 - 1.3 feet according to the latest IPCC report) and that this would require a forced transfer of tens of millions of people. At first glance, this looks horrible. It is like moving several Czech Republics from one place to another.

    However, if we think for a while and consider these issues in their proper context, we realize that what we talk about is about 0.5 percent of the world population. We should immediately see that every year, much more than 0.5 percent of the world population is moving. But this relocation should occur not within one year but within one century: only one hundredth of the number cited above would be moving every year: five thousandths of a percent of the people of the world! This is a completely negligible number - but we could only see this fact by considering the context. [...]

    What should we choose? Should we believe the market (and its ethics) or ethics of the prophets of global warming? I would prefer to believe the free market (and its interest rate) more than the elitists from the rich and developed world ...

    The debate about this issue must continue. But this debate is unrelated to measurements of temperatures and it is only marginally related to the causes of these changes.
    Read Klaus in translation at Lubos' Reference Frame: Vaclav Klaus: Climatologists & Economists.

  • Speaking of fashionable nonsense, local contrarian and property investor Bob Jones has slammed the Green Building fad as "a fashionable inanity," saying the movement is an over-reaction by "conservative dullards."

    The movement - which looks at and rates the environmental impact of a building and the activity that surrounds it - is gaining popularity, but Sir Robert said he doubted it would last. "I'm picking this to last about four years with the private sector and a decade with the government," he said.

    See Property Tycoon Jones Slams Green Inanity.

  • And the fashionable nonsense continues with the contradictorily name "Smart Growth," a movement started in Portland Oregon that severely restricts growth and is definitely not smart (but neither is it "green"), but which has nonetheless infested the western world and raised house prices in every city in which planners have been allowed to introduce it. As PM of NZ says sagaciously, Portland Oregon itself is now "a world class example of how not to plan." He backs this up with a Cato Institute report Debunking Portland: The City That Doesn't Work.

  • In the face of the Green Juggernaut, Nick Provenzo suggests it's time to resurrect the Capitalism Center's Campaign in Defence of Industry and Technology. Any takers?

  • Two tales of freedom are compared by Juliusz Jablecki: JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.
    Both Rand and Tolkien passionately tell their tales about freedom ... but they resort to completely different aesthetics, and, in consequence, paint two entirely different pictures of the world, with different heroes and different challenges. Are those differences important? How do they affect the "moral" of the respective tales? Given that it is of utmost importance just what kind of story one tells, it is perhaps worthwhile to reflect upon the different world images depicted in Atlas Shrugged and The Lord of the Rings, comparing the characters of both narratives along with the predicaments they face.
    Personally, I'd prefer to see Wagner's Ring and Atlas Shrugged compared, but as yet that study has barely begun. In the meantime, see Tales of Titans & Hobbits - Juliusz Jablecki.

  • Speaking of tales of freedom, I saw the deservedly award-winning film Lives of Others the other night, a tale of late-Communist East Berlin when one-third of East Germany was spying on the other two-thirds, and on each other. Magnificent drama, for which John Podhoretz has an equally magnificent review (warning, contains spoilers). For myself, I was struck by the character of Wiesel [sp?], the repressed Stasi spy in this last-days-of-Ccommunism drama, and I contrasted him with the character of Andrei Taganov in Ayn Rand's We the Living, a novel describing the first bloody outpourings of Bolshevik takeover.

    Together We the Living and Lives of Others act as bookends to the Communist era, and the characters of Taganov and Weisel act like a graph measuring the fate and character of the communist system's own best and brightest over the seventy years of Communist hegemony. Taganov was the best the revolution could produce in the early days, and he died of it. Here's a discussion between Bolshevik Taganov, and the individualist heroine, Kira We the Living that presages those seventy years and the world produced by Taganov's revolution.
    [Andrei:] "I know what you're going to say. You're going to say, as so many of our enemies do, that you admire our ideals, but loathe our methods."
    [Kira:] "I loathe your ideals."
    "For one reason, mainly, chiefly, and eternally, no matter how much your Party promises to accomplish, no matter what paradise it plans to bring mankind. Whatever your other claims may be, there's one you can't avoid, one that will turn your paradise into the most unspeakable hell: your claim that man must live for the state."
    "What better purpose can he live for?"
    "Don't you know," her voice trembled suddenly in a passionate plea she could not hide," don't you know that there are things, in the best of us, which no outside hand should dare touch? Things sacred because, and only because, one can say: 'This is mine'? Don't you know that we live only for ourselves, the best of us do, those who are worthy of it? Don't you know that there is something in us which must not be touched by any state, by any collective, by any number of millions?"
    He answered: "No."
    "Comrade Taganov," she whispered, "how much you have to learn!" More here.
    Weisel was what became of good men under the system seventy years later in the crumbling end days of that revolution. Small, repressed, poisonous, but still within him the honesty that made him capable of an act that transformed lives, and presaged the fall of The Wall. I highly recommend the film, with Rand's novel (or the sometimes muddled, sometimes magnificent film of the book) as a necessary bookend.
  • And finally, it's Bastille Day, so here's some Django Reinhardt at You Tube. Balm for the soul. And here's the Marseillaise, one of the world's great anthems, sung as an act of resistance in the great anti-Nazi scene from Casablanca. Allez les Bleu!

Friday, 13 July 2007

Beer O'Clock: Emerson's Pilsner

Your Beer O'Clock thirst is quenched this week by the ever-SOBA Stu from Real Beer.

Not enough gets said about Emerson's Pilsner. She's that great friend who seems to have been around for ever; she's always there when you need her, but you might just find yourself on occasion taking her a little for granted. "The pride of the plains" they call her, an obvious play on her runty older "Gold Medal" cousin. This woman is perfect by virtue of her own her own flavour and aroma, and there's no hard road of "manly" adverts to negotiate to be seduced.

Emerson's Pilsner is probably the flagship beer in Richard Emerson's excellent and varied range of ales and lagers (the fact the beers are almost all made with the same yeast doesn't hamper naming rights). It's certainly the beer that has garnered the attention of the world's beer geek community (and don't underestimate how big this community is, folks - "trainspotting" is passe, "beerhunting" is hot).

In the best traditions of Kiwi loquacity, the labels of Emerson's beers are terse and honest. While the Oatmeal Stout states "Chocolatey Silky Smooth", the Pilsner sums it all up with a simple "Crisp." That might be selling itself short, or just being cheekily southern. Either way, it is certainly crisp and it sure takes some beating in this department. Visitors to the brewery's website will find more, including claims that the beer "begs comparison with Marlborough's world-beating Sauvignon Blancs" and "oozes citrus and passionfruit aromas and flavours", while also showing a "hint of early malt sweetness". Richard has a reputation of surrounding himself with the best people and it seems their wordsmith is another. I needn't say more.

Don't just take my word for it. The knowledgable folk at RateBeer and Beer Advocate have spoken. Emerson's Pilsner is in the world's top 10 Pilsners at both sites - and is streets ahead of the next widely rated pilsner at RateBeer. Michael Jackson (the beer and whisky expert, not the dancer) has it as one of the few pilsners in The World's 500 Best Beers, as does Australian beer-writer Willie Simpson's in his Beer Bible. It's too easy to take for granted when it's in most good supermarkets and bottle stores down the road.

Emerson's have recently made a well-publicised brewery move - along with a huge upgrade to help keep us thirsty folk happy. Along with this physical move, they have been undertaking a shift from imported European malts to predominantly New Zealand grown and malted barley. The jury is still out for me; it's early days and I do miss the grainy juiciness last year's model, but I'll be interested to see how the beer develops and the beer geek community responds. It could well be could be a ground-breaking move for New Zealand's tiny barley growing industry, as well as for Emerson's themselves.

Try Emerson's nice website too. It's as nicely crafted as their beers, it just doesn't taste the same. Don't get too excited about their seasonal Belgian-style Tripel while you're visiting, as it sold out in two days! Stay posted for the next release.

If you already love Emerson's Pilsner and would like to try something similar - try Invercargill Brewery's "Biman". As crisp, and just as staunchly southern.

Slainte mhath, Stu

Democrats vote for cut and run

A Democrat-dominated Congress has voted to cut and run from Iraq, passing "legislation requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops to begin within 120 days, and to be completed by April 1, 2008." Just what the killers ordered: a timetable for the serious butchery to commence, just as it did when the US pulled out of Saigon.

As always there are lessons both to avoid and to emulate from history, and a lesson too from this capitulation:
  • Subduing and modifying Japan and putting it on a path to peace and prosperity after WWII: Six years and the destruction of Shintoism as an ethical code.
  • Reconstructing Germany and setting it on a path to peace and prosperity after WWII: Seven years, and the destruction of Nazism as an ideology.
  • Reconstructing Iraq (including hunting down and killing the killers and those who supply them) and setting Iraq on a path to peace and prosperity: Too difficult.
Setting both Germany and Japan on the path to peace and prosperity -- making havens of peace and prosperity at the heart of Europe and at the door to Asia, and putting down the twin bacilli of Shinto nationalism and German national socialism -- this was selfishly important to anyone who valued a peaceful world ravaged by decades of strife and war, and was done by people who knew what they were doing. Just as selfishly important now would be a haven of secular peace in the ravaged Middle East.

Now I grant you that the knowledge of how to set up a country from the rubble has clearly been lost (just another symptom of the modern-day philosophical collapse), and German and Japanese reconstruction did not have sworn enemies in the country next door supplying arms, money and training to brainwashed killers (that this continues so brazenly is another symptom of the timidity brought to the war against Islamic totalitarianism), but surely there should be recognition that setting up a post-war country ravaged by tribal and religious conflict takes years, not months, and that making a haven in the Middle East for peace and prosperity is of selfish importance to everyone in the west.

But apparently giving your enemies a timetable so they know when to really lay into the killing is more important to Democrats.