Saturday, July 14, 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."
    "Why?"
    "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!

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Friday, July 13, 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

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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.

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Climate changes. Always has.

I've been called several times now a "climate change denier," and I'm not alone in being tarred with that brush. It's a common insult used by warmists, most of whom will otherwise evince some opposition to so called "hate speech," except that is when used by themselves or by fellow travellers.

As you're no doubt aware, the change of phrase from "global warming" to "climate change" betrays the loss of confidence in the mantra evinced by warmists since the failure of the climate to warm past its 1998 El Nino high. It's also intended to evoke the holocaust by equating non-warmists with Nazi apologists such as David Irving and his ramshackle brood of holocaust deniers (scum so soundly exposed in Deborah Lipstadt's fine book which almost single-handedly brought the deniers down).

Quite aside from the disgraceful affront to dignity and to the six million victims of genocide that warmists are happy to cheapen simply to make a rhetorical point, the idea that I or any other non-warmist denies that climate changes is just not true. No one, least of all me, denies that climate changes. Climate has always been changing. It's been changing for all of the 4,550 million years since the planet condensed from recycled stardust.

The irony to me is that its warmists who like to deny the evident fact of those 4,550 million years of change in which continents were pulled apart and stitched back together; 4,550 million years in which volcanoes and glaciers played tug of war with the earth's climate while sea levels, carbon dioxide levels, temperature levels and life on earth rose and fell and rose and fell to heights and depths much greater and much more extreme than anything seen in the last hundred years of relative stability. But warmists like to ignore all that history of change and to reify instead the last few decades as if they're climatically unique.

These are people who need to get out more.

Climate changes. That's what earth's climate does, and always has done. It's time warmists themselves began recognising that fact and learning some climate history instead of wringing their hands in global warming dismay every time a one-in-hundred-and fifty storm event happens in their neighbourhood. In his climatic history of the world, University of Melbourne professor of geology Ian Plimer takes you on that 4,550 million-year journey of the planet's history. It's the entire history of the world in just four pages, including pictures. Print it out and read it over lunch: The Past is the Key to the Present: Greenhouse and Icehouse over Time - Ian Plimer.

It's so succinct you'll still have time left over to discuss it over coffee.

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Ando Hiroshige Museum - Kengo Kuma


The images show Japanese architect Kengo Kuma's museum for Ando Hiroshige, the master of Japanese woodblock prints whose images have featured from time to time here at Not PC.

Kuma claims to be following Hiroshige's aesthetic, which he boiled down to state baldly that he "noticed how the artist used thin lines to portray the rain [in the print to the left] and carried this technique over into his design."

I must confess, hearing about the museum attracted me to exploring more about it, but beyond these few images I've found relatively little of the museum on the 'net, and the images I've found don't depict the building very clearly. I'm not clear, for example, just where the prints themselves get to be displayed...

Anyway, enjoy the prints. I'm sure the weather at least will be familiar.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Which All Back are you?

The Weet Bix website has a highly scientific method of determining which All Black you look most like. Apparently I could be confused with James Ryan (they must know about my rooted knee).
How 'bout you? With whom could you be confused?

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Arbitrary and out

There's a misconception afoot about what we know and what we don't know. If there's no evidence for something, then there's no reason that the something for which we're arguing should be taken seriously. Any claim for that "something" will be purely arbitrary, and the claim itself semantically null.

Clearly, into this boat fall all our religious myths and our fairy stories, all our wishes without evidence and our hypotheses without data.

Arbitrary claims don't require disproof, they're simply out by virtue of having nothing to back them up: to make a claim without evidence is no better than opening our mouths and letting the wind blow our tongues around; to reject such claims requires no more than a dismissal of such a claim as "arbitrary and out," and it certainly requires no alternative hypotheses to be formulated to explain away the arbitrary hypothesis put forward.

All fairly straightforward you would think, yet here's where the misconception grows legs for some people, and here's where I'll use an example to show what I mean. Many people figure there must be an answer to "how the universe was made" or "how humans were made," and every religion has had a crack at answering these questions -- many most entertainingly -- but none with any more evidence than I have for there being spiders on the far side of the planet Mars.

Religionists will frequently assume that if they can disprove, say, the big bang hypothesis or the theory of evolution, that their own crackpot theories will then have the field to themselves. But they wouldn't. If the evidence were to disprove either scientific argument, then the job would be to formulate another hypothesis that did fit the known evidence, not to abandon science and seek instead the skirts of religious myth. The default position of our knowledge is not myth; the default position is to say "I don't know. Yet."

And there's nothing wrong with saying "I don't know." It's not incumbent upon those who reject myth to advance an alternative. Sure, it's scary if you can't explain something (which explains why primitive men were so eager to make up stories to "explain" what they didn't know), but it's profoundly philosophical to accept that on some things the evidence is not yet in, and we really do not know. Reflecting recently on this topic, scientist Vincent Gray had this to say:
A senior scientist recently challenged me to provide a better tested hypothesis on what is happening to the planet than the hypothesis that it is due to increases in greenhouse gases. I replied that I do not have one, but that does not mean that the greenhouse gas hypothesis is right.

I then realised that I had said an awful thing. It would seem that humans are scared to death of anything they cannot explain. They are so scared that they are prepared to adopt the most ridiculous and irrational explanations rather than accept that maybe they did not have an explanation at all. The most widespread irrational explanations are the various forms of religion. This is even enshrined in our law. Anything for which a rational explanation is not forthcoming is called "An Act of God." The almost-atheist philosopher Baruch Spinoza put the matter succinctly when he said "God equals nature."

... In Darwin's time many of his associates who accepted evolution realised that Christianity was incompatible with it and found the need for an irrational explanation for anything not explained by evolution by adopting doctrines such as spiritualism. Even Alfred Russell Wallace, co-discoverer of Darwin's theory, embraced spiritualism. There are still spiritualists today, but they have had to withstand its fraudulent nature, so people are continually searching for alternative irrational beliefs which can provide an "explanation" for things that we currently do not understand.

One of these is the climate...

[Weather] forecasts today are also not always right, but they are essential to all our lives.

All practical forecasters know that even with all the current sophistication, weather forecasting gets more and more unreliable as you go ahead. Beyond a month or two is very dicey, although I have two friends who claim good results even then.

Given this firmly based experience it is remarkable that the world is currently in the grip of a doctrine which claims to forecast climate one hundred years ahead, It is based on a perfectly plausible scientific theory that increases in greenhouse gas emissions could cause climate change, but it is truly amazing that no evidence has been presented that this effect can be detected, or that it might be serious. Predictions that can be checked are never made.. "Climate Change" must therefore be seen as yet another substitute for religion amongst people who can no longer accept that heat waves, droughts, floods and hurricanes are "Acts of God"

It might be noted that people had so much trouble blaming recent British floods on "climate change" that God is making a comeback...
It's worth reading Dr Gray's complete piece here, at the Climate Science Coalition website. And for those of you asking, "where's his evidence to say there's no evidence?" Dr Gray recommends his many newsletters [which you can find linked from the bottom of his most recent], which he says, "have given copious reasons for the absence of evidence for a responsibility of greenhouse gas emissions for detectable climate change, but if you really want more, try my book or the Climate Science Coalition website."

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Nature 1, Man 0?

NZ HERALD: "New Zealand settlements being repeatedly hit by adverse weather conditions may have to consider moving, the Prime Minister has said... She said the problem was that many settlements had been established on the basis of old weather patterns, which had changed in the erratic world climate."
This is nonsense. It's not just inhuman (can you imagine the upheaval?); it's not just bad science (there's exactly zero evidence that recent woes are due to changes in the world's climate); it's not just bad history (most of the towns currently experiencing weather woes have experienced something similar or worse in their history); it's all of these and worse: it's bad philosophy.

There was a time when it was widely accepted that it was a good thing to adapt nature for our own ends. Indeed, that's the only way we humans can survive: left exposed and naked without the food, shelter and technology produced by the adaptation of nature, we'd all struggle for survival if we merely settled for adapting ourselves to nature's dragons. But adapt nature to ourselves -- make it more humane and set nature's processes and nature's bounty working for us rather than agin us-- this was the path of centuries of human civilisation and flourishing, starting all the way back in settlements around the Euphrates, the Tigris and the Nile where floods were tamed and used to produce abundant wealth.

Not so nowadays. The predominant view nowadays is that protecting ourselves from nature is wrong. That nature must take its course. That natural processes have rights, but human beings don't. If sand dunes move and the sea threatens, in a more rational time men built protection from dunes and from sea; nowadays instead the call is for people to move away from the coast. If rivers or drainage systems silt up or threaten, in a more rational time men built stop banks and better drainage systems -- and they cleared up the silt; nowadays instead the call is to let nature take its course, and we hear the Prime Minister call for towns to move simply move away from the hazard.

This is not a climate problem or an engineering problem. It's an attitude problem. It's an attitude borne of bad philosophy: of the ethics that says that Gaia comes first, and humans a far distant second.

It's not just a notion that's philosophically entrenched in present generations and in most government departments (central and local), it's also legally entrenched in the RMA (which gives rights to the "intrinsic value of ecosystems," but not to humans wishing to protect themselves from the often dangerous natural processes inflicted upon us by ecosystems).

Just imagine if the attitude of Helen Clark was predominant around the Nile in the times of the pharoahs; if instead of taming the Nile and its regular floods to produce abundant crops, invent hydraulic engineering and to build a civilisation the Egyptians ran away instead, then as a culture they'd now be deservedly lost to history.

That goes for any culture that opts out of the ongoing battle against the dragons of nature -- and it goes for us too.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Shelter from the storm

Wasn't last night's storm great. Dramatic as it was, and as violent as it was, the amount of destruction was relatively limited, allowing us (most of us) to enjoy it rather than fear it.

It offered another reminder that (unlike other animals) human survival demands more than just adjustment of ourselves to nature -- we sometimes need to protect ourselves from nature. That's what we humans do -- our unique means of survival is to adapt nature to ourselves; to mollify nature's dragons and make them more humane, and therein more enjoyable.

I was reminded of a passage in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, describing Francisco D’Anconia looking out Hank Rearden’s lounge window on a stormy Pennsylvania night. Rearden is hosting an elegant gathering while a wild storm rages just the other side of the glass:

Francisco looked silently out at the darkness. The fire of [Rearden’s steel] mills was dying down. There was only a faint tinge of red left on the edge of the earth, just enough to outline the scraps of clouds ripped by the tortured battle of the storm in the sky. Dim shapes kept sweeping through space and vanishing, shapes which were branches, but looked as if they were the fury of the wind made visible.

“It’s a terrible night for an animal caught unprotected on that plain,” said Francisco D’Anconia. “This is when one should appreciate the meaning of being a man.”

One side of the glass is turbulent, the other pacific. Inside is the man, Rearden, whose hospitality makes the refuge from the storm possible. Outside and on the horizon are Rearden’s steel mills that make the house both physically and financially possible, and that on this particular evening provide the reason for the gathering and celebration. The house itself provides the shelter from the storm -- a refuge from it if you like -- and also the prospect over it, and with it the luxury of time and safety for contemplation about the storm, the mills, the landscape, the celebration, and the relationship the occupants have with all three (an opportunity that Rand in this passage has Francisco seize for us).

This is what it means to be fully human.

“It’s a terrible night for an animal caught unprotected on that plain,” says Francisco, underscoring that it’s not at all terrible for the people enjoying an elegant gathering on his side of the glass – it’s delightful. It’s delightful to be a human being and to do what human beings do, and to laugh at the dangers and the dragons outside.

To paraphrase PJ O’Rourke, only God can make a storm, but only man can stand inside and laugh at it.

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Cue Card Libertarianism - Technology

TECHNOLOGY: The mechanical means of providing objects for human sustenance, health, knowledge, pleasure and progress. The practical application of theoretical science. A symbol of man’s glory – his mind – his power over nature. As such, the bane of ecologists and other back-to-nature 'sustainability' kooks, to whom a smokestack is a symbol of evil.

Technology is itself the answer to pollution and unemployment. Yes, the answer, not the cause! Each new advance in technology makes possible new and cleaner industries and more and cleaner jobs – more than are lost as old technologies are superseded.

Technology is man's means of staying alive, and enjoying the life that technology makes possible.

These lessons have still not been learned by modern-day Luddites even though they are as old as technology itself. In 1760, when there were 5,200 spinners and 2,700 weavers in England, Arkwright invented his cotton-spinning machinery, destroying the spinners’ and weavers’ jobs. The revolt (led by Ned Ludd, the original Luddite) had to be put down by force. Twenty-seven years later a Parliamentary enquiry showed that the number of people employed in the spinning and weaving of cotton – with the new machinery – had risen from 7,900 to 320,000 – an increase of 4,400 per cent!

An obvious equivalent in our own time is the computer and the internet, which between them have markedly lessened the need for people to labour at lesser jobs, and made all of us infinitely more productive, and much better off. Says Michael Walker in his Lexicon of Economic Thought:
Technology does not in total displace employment. Increasing productivity means that for the same cost more can be produced. It also means that the same goods can be sold at lower prices. To the extent that increased productivity is passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices, they will have more income to spend on things other than the commodities which are now being produced more efficiently.
Or as Earl O Shrieve points out, “In the mounting miracles of science, in the rapid advances of technology, lie the foundations for almost countless new industries and for far swifter social progress.”

Technology is the fruit of research and development; R&D is the fruit of profit-making (or the fruit of profit-stealing when the government sponsors it); those societies where profit-making has flourished have become the most technologically advanced. Technology is inseparable from capitalism and freedom.

Technology is man's means of staying alive. Human existence without technology is characterised by squalor, disease, plagues, starvation, drudgery, and helplessness in the face of natural disasters. This is the state to which the eco-freaks would return us.

When you look at the change in average life expectancy since Ned Ludd and his fellows first sacked the cotton mills -- from thirty-five years of age then to well over seventy now -- you might realise that everyone over the age of thirty-five owes their lives to technology, and to the Industrial Revolution that made it possible. When you realise the extent of the improvement in life and life expectancy brought about by technology, and the almost limitless hatred and ignorance directed towards it by assorted hippies and other human ballast, you might find yourself agreeing with Ayn Rand that all of us and especially "those hippies should get down on their knees and kiss the dirtiest, grimiest smokestack they can find."

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand's libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.

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Cue Card Libertarianism - Underground Economy

“If you destroy a free market," said Winston Churchill, "you create a black market.” This is one of the few economic truths on which Churchill was right. Other names for the underground economy are the “cash” economy, the “black” economy, the “unofficial” economy, the “hidden” economy. Some of us call it the real economy.

It is the voluntary trade that happens without the protection of government, and often despite government attempts to shut it down. It is pure trade -- trade that happens because both parties expect to gain by it. It is a means of self-defence for the productive: the realm in which they can voluntarily exchange goods, services and currency, and conceal these transactions from government thieves.

The underground economy grows in direct proportion to the size and oppressiveness of government, and proves in the process that governments are largely superfluous to economies when trust between traders exists -- that governments usually do best by doing least.

Ironically, the existence of an underground was one of the main reasons the moribund, state-dominated economies of the former communist countries didn’t collapse much sooner than they did, and why some socialist economies trundle on still. In New Zealand for instance, Roger Douglas claimed in Unfinished Business, his book that founded the ACT Party, that the cash economy grew enormously with the growth in government from the seventies to the nineties, especially “with the increase in weekend markets and tradespeople doing jobs for cash.” He does not say this approvingly, recommending “stiff penalties” for those “who deal in cash without following correct procedures.”

Every lover of liberty should thumb his nose at such effrontery (typical of politicians who've spent their lives with their snouts in the trough the underground economy refuses to pay for) and get on with the business of being productive – all the while protecting the fruits of his productiveness from government cannibals.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand's libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.

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He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, by WB Yeats

We hear the poems of William Butler Yeats and we hear lines we've heard before and somehow felt we've always known. 'Cloths of Heaven' contains the wonderfully evocative line, "Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet,
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams...

W.B. Yeats

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Housing costs? It's supply and demand, stupid

New research reminds us of what anyone without an axe to grind has already realised: that the number one reason for exploding house prices in Auckland is that demand is outstripping supply, and supply is severely restricted by the availability of land.

It's not that land is unavailable, of course, it's that restrictions on the land that is available are severely reducing supply: restrictions on the expansion of the city, and restrictions on intensification within the city's urban boundaries.

The Herald's Brian Fallow
catches up on a report that we talked about here back in April: New report comfirms runaway regulation feeding runaway housing costs - Not PC.

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Watch out, there are Scientologists about

Many mental conditions are the result of an organic condition, being the result, for example, of a "chemical imbalance" in the brain that can often be dealt with relatively painlessly with modern psychiatric drugs. That's a good thing. Scientologists however deny it's a good thing -- in fact scientologists deny the very legitimacy of psychiatry. PZ at Pharyngula links to news that this denial has consequences:
Now their insane denial of the legitimacy of modern psychiatry leads to an insane woman butchering her family. It's appalling: the parents were scientologists who refused to give anti-psychotic drugs to their daughter, and the end result is that they and another daughter are slaughtered.

This is where delusional, irrational, wishful thinking leads you — to a rejection of reality that has the potential to crash in on you in lethal ways.
Scientology is evil, says PZ. Evil, and coming to Grafton -- they've recently bought the former monastery overlooking the motorway currently occupied by Whitecliffe Art School. Keep an eye out for them.

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LOST: ACT's mojo?

Everyone from Roger Douglas to the Herald to Colin Espiner to David Farrar to Whale Oil suggests ACT has lost their mojo and doesn't know where to find it. (Others of us are unsure whether they ever had one.)

"I seem to remember," says Whale Oil, who thinks ACT's mojo can be found out where Pink Tories don't go, "all the ACToids screaming bloody murder when National created some room for ACT on the right even describing them as Labour-Lite and Smurf's, but then absolute silence about Rodney's master strategy of rebranding ACT, leapfrogging over National to jump in between them and Labour."

ACT vice president Trevor Loudon puts the case for ACT's softcock approach. It's a "long term" strategy, he says.

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No Live Earth in Camp 22.

Liberty Scott explains why the "international act of mutual onanism" that was Live Earth held no interest for him. There are worse things on earth, Horatio, than CO2 emissions, and Camp 22 is one of them. Read on here for more.

UPDATE 1: Didn't have much interest for Lubos either, it seems.
Hundreds of musicians have demonstrated that there is much stronger consensus about global warming among rock musicians than among scientists: all of them want to look like saviors of the world while all of them want to live in the most expensive hotels and mansions and to fly in private jets. All of them may be used as textbook examples of hypocrites.

They should better try to be saviors of modern music because saviors of the world usually cause a lot of troubles if they're morons at the same moment, and sometimes even if they're not.
Not much interest either from Martin Durkin:
I think [the concert is] a combination of hypocrisy and ignorance because the idea of Al Gore and Madonna telling us the world is consuming too much makes the mind boggle. But ignorance because so few people are prepared to actually look at the evidence and there is so much evidence now that flatly contradicts the notion of man-made global warming. I think this is political prejudice rather than science.
But we have learned something, notes Lubos.
We have ... learned from organizers of the concert in South Africa that the poor attendance in Johannesburg was caused by global warming, too, because extreme cold weather is always caused by global warming, much like normal weather in the other cities.
UPDATE 2: Jim Manzi (that's Manzi, Manzi, Global Warming Pansy to you) suggests conservatives have "sidelined" themselves in the global warming "debate" when they should instead "propose policies that are appropriately optimistic, science-based, and low-cost." Speaking on behalf of conservatives, Prodos responds with the respective policies:
My “Optimistic” = “Man made global warming is just Green Poppycock. Industry and Science are not destroying the planet. Enjoy life.”
My “Science-based” = “There is no evidence of destructive human induced global warming. If we find any we’ll let you know.”
My “Low-cost” = “We’re opening up the energy market. We’re closing down the Greenocracy. We’re removing Green funding and Green agencies.”
Sounds good to me. And positively optimistic.

UPDATE 3: George Reisman reminds us that Al Bore's bore-fest is in the name of calling for
"an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy Earth." [Italics are George's. Quote is Al's.]
Responds George:
The “global warming pollution” you talk about is the production of the energy that lights, heats, and air conditions our homes, powers our automobiles, trucks, trains, airplanes, and ships, runs our refrigerators, television sets, computers, and all other electrical appliances, and powers the machinery and equipment that produces all of the goods we buy. You want to cut this by a staggering percentage!

...You feel free to make your calls for unprecedented economic destruction from the comfort of a home that consumes more than 20 times the electricity of the average American home...

If you understood in personal terms what you are talking about, you would know that your supposedly glorious “spiritual challenge” is a call for Mrs. Gore to scrub your laundry (if you would still have any) against a rock on the bank of a river, the way women do in Third World countries. That’s the actual meaning and measure of your “spiritual challenge.” You want to turn our glorious economic system into a poverty-stricken hell-hole.

You need to calm down, Mr. Gore, and give yourself and the world a rest. Along the way, you should try to understand the extent and depth of the horrors you want to unleash.
UPDATE 4: If carbon offsetting is good enough from Al Bore, then it's good enough for fundraising. Martin Durkin's colleagues at Sp!ked have the perfect plan for "carbon offsetting," explained at their nifty online Hot Air Calculator:
More and more noxious fumes are being emitted into our political and cultural environment.
Did you know that every time a politician, quango leader or green spokesman opens his or her mouth to speak, hot air escapes and damages our surroundings? Their fossilised views—whether they’re demanding more austerity or tougher security measures that eat away at our liberties—are leaving behind an ugly manmade bootprint on our world.
Future generations are particularly at risk from this hot air—if today’s political pollution is left unchecked, our children’s children’s children will live in a drab world of low horizons, belt-tightening, eco-towns and No Flying.
But do not fear! We can do something about today’s doom-mongering before it reaches boiling point. You can offset the world’s hot air by donating to spiked.
For every pound, dollar, Euro or yen you give, we promise to challenge the miserabilist, miserly and curmudgeonly outlook of today’s illiberal powers-that-be.
It’s easy: simply tot up how much bullshit you have heard in the past month, and send us the corresponding amount of money to keep such bullshit in check.
All donations are gratefully received—and you have my word that your money will be well spent on cultivating virtual hectares of sensible comment to counter the spread of toxic ideas across society.
Brendan O’Neill, editor
Memo to the Libz executive: Perhaps Libz could offer a similarly sensible carbon offsetting system?

UPDATE 5: 'Live Earth's Gross Groupies,' from Junk Science, and 'Indulgences,' from Cox and Forkum:

UPDATE 6: Everyone's having a go at Borestock. This time it's Tim Blair's turn:
We don’t watch global warming TV shows, we don’t turn off our lights, we don’t read warmenist blogs, we don’t buy stupid hybrid cars, and we don’t watch climate change concerts...
Apparently it was more like global boring, with the concert falling flat apparently in Britain, Australia, South Africa and Brazil. And in the US, notes News.Com,
The main three hour American TV broadcast on NBC averaged a meagre 2.7 million viewers, ranking as the least-watched US program on Saturday night and falling below NBC’s summer prime-time Saturday average, Nielsen Media Research reported today.
"That’s one way of reducing global carbon output," says Tim: "Produce TV shows nobody wants to see."

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Hone's favourite word

Hone Hariawira labels Australian PM John Howard a "racist" for his emergency excursion into Northern Territory aboriginal communities in which child sex abuse is endemic, places where young children are being offered up for sex in return for petrol. It's telling that Hone fails to offer any serious solution of his own to this dire situation, one that's arisen say many commentators from what's been called "genocide by welfare."

What's equally telling is that as an epithet delivered by the Maori Party, "racist" is one that rather suffers from over-use. John Howard, frankly, has no need to feel singled out.

Just as the Greens tend to over-use the word "ban" (a search last year found the word ban appears 165 times on their site; doing the same search this morning shows the word only appearing 65 times using the Greens' search engine, and 1,140 times using Google's), the Maori Party -- a party explicitly founded on the basis of race -- tends to see the world in, and there's no other phrase for it, in black and white terms. Oppose anyone of darker hue, for whatever reason, and out like a knee jerk comes the 'R' word: "Racist" shows up on their site 41 times according to their own search engine, and 56 using Google's -- not as big a hit rate as the Greens' favourite word, that's true, but then the Greens have been around for longer, and they're more productive.

Examples abound, from "a bill [Te Ururoa Flavell] might have credited to a bigot, a redneck, a racist, or just a plain idiot," to "the recent racist roots of the world's nuclear powers" that continue our "oppression," to a "perception" that "the police institution is a racist institution," to a warning of "the very real danger of racist ideologies which threaten the security of Aotearoa for tangata whenua."

It must be tiring being so racially oppressed. Frankly, I think the Greens over-use of the word "ban" and the Maori Party's over-use of the epithet "racist" have a common cause. It says more about both of them than it does about us.

UPDATE: Whale Oil and Red Confectionery have comments worth reading.

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Rhinemaidens - Arthur Rackham

From the classic illustrations of Wagner's great Ring cycle -- fifteen hours of stirring, provocative opera giving the best creation myth you're likely to hear -- comes this depiction of the Rhinemaidens, imploring the Gods on their Rainbow Bridge above to return the Rheingold.

The rape of the Rheingold is where the trouble all begins . . .

NB: Have a wee look at this post for a hint as to the meaning of this particular creation myth.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Phew

I was hunkered down at Hikutaia for the weekend, so mercifully missed the weekend feel-good Gore-fest.

Thank goodness. Only Al Gore could organise an event highlighting CO2 "pollution" that produced 74,500 tons of carbon (featuring so many musicians you'd rather not hear) and still be taken seriously by the world's hand wringers.

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Jonah fronts electricity ad

If you haven't already heard it, Jonah Lomu is fronting an ad campaign that begins, "I used to rely on regular electricity in my home for my dialysis machine," and ends, "If your life depends on electricity, then pay your bill."

No, of course it doesn't. It ends: "If your life depends on electricity, then let your power company know."

At least the first ending would have the virtue of honesty.

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