Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Two weeks holiday

Time once again to pull out our Mark Twain and meditate on the joyful fortnight ahead of us: "No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session."

Which means that with junkets, jaunts and assorted revels overseas on offer, NZ's parliamentarians are leaving in droves to make the most of their two weeks away from the House -- which means that for two weeks we'll be relatively free of their moronic intrusions into our life.

Thank goodness.

It would be worth paying their salaries and expenses just to keep them away for much longer.


"Offensive"? Far from it.

Christchurch Casino needs to get a life.

Columbia Uni president grows a pair in introducing Ahmedinejad

All but publicly lynched, deservedly, for inviting Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to speak at Columbia University, president Lee Bollinger found a pair when it came time to introduce a man accurately described by The Anti-Idiotarian as "a psychotic, clinically insane murderer who is the head of the top state sponsor of terrorism, a sick, anti-Semitic megalomaniac."

This is a man, said Bollinger in his introduction, who exhibits "all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator."

After several minutes excoriating the man sitting just feet from him, he concluded “Today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for,” Mr. Bollinger told Mr. Ahmadinejad. “I only wish I could do better.”

'Kate' at Columbia was live-blogging the affair. Scroll down past Ahmadinejad's self-praise and avoidance of direct questions to see what Bollinger had to say to him. The Associated Press summary of the affair is here.

UPDATE 1: Taking advantage of the free speech at Columbia he prohibits at home, Ahmedinejad slithered around and through questions about state murder, state-sponsored terrorism, and his out-and-out lying on everything from the existence of homosexuals in Iran (who he is doing his best to eliminate) to the existence of the Holocaust. Liberty Scott sums up the slithering well.

UPDATE 2: Oops, looks like Kate was posting the New York Times' live blog of the event. No matter.

UPDATE 3: CNN have edited video of Bollinger's opening speech: 'Not a Warm Welcome.' It follows the car ad.

UPDATE 4: You Tube have a more complete video account. Here's Part 1 and Part 2 of Bollinger's verbal flogging of the dictator. [Hat tip Daniel W.]

Local voting

People have now got their council voting papers, and people around the place are telling everyone which way and for whom they're voting.

Here's what I did with mine when I got them: I binned them.

I binned them for the same reason I think it's pointless having libertarians standing for council: because (putting it simply) the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act have between them unleashed councils to to become the bloated out-of-control rates monsters they've become, and because between them they make it impossible to slay the bloated monsters they've created -- and because any decent person who does try is embarking on a misbegotten quixotic quest on which their energies are all too quickly sapped.

Sandra Lee's Local Government Act handed power on a plate to councils, giving them complete freedom to charge around like a spotty boy in a sweet shop and to give you the bill for their profligacy, but that particular dragon has to be slayed all at once in Helengrad, not piecemeal around the provinces.

The Resource Management Act imposes duties on councils and community boards that will have even the most rational liberty-minded councillor or community board member tearing out their remaining hair within weeks, and that dragon too needs to be slayed in its place of birth.

The best you can hope for in your area are bumbling time-servers who aren't as psychopathically incompetent as the average -- and there are few ways of knowing that in advance.

So, don't vote. It only encourages them.

I salute the emotions behind good people who do want to 'think globally and slay the beast locally,' people such as Blair, who says in response to this post at IP's, "It seems like every damned decision and bureaucratic Gordian knot devised is for the sole benefit of those who like a decent view while drinking their coffee. Meanwhile, lives are ruined and carefully made investments are flushed down the toilet on account of ... latte-sipping chardonnay socialists and their NIMBY supporters."

Sound sentiments, but the dragon needs slaying wholesale, not retail. Taking on the local government dragon at local level is not a labour for Hercules; it's a labour for Sispyphus.

Galerie des Machines - Contamin & Dutert

Built for the 1889 World Exposition of Paris, Contamin & Dutert's Galerie des Machines was an early and influential architectural expression of capitalism and industrial power: twenty-three winged iron arches resting on small joints, creating (in Christian Norber-Schulz's words) "a revolutionary effect of dynamic lightness" and a space measuring all of 420 by 115 metres -- a huge space for the day. [Click the pic to enlarge.]

Monday, 24 September 2007

A million a month?

Muriel Newman's latest newsletter boasts her NZCPR website "is now getting almost a million hits a month." Now Muriel often has good content, but as I filed her newsletter and read that number again I thought, "That's a lot of hits. I wonder if she's right."

Lindsay Mitchell thought the same thing, but she did something about it. She asked blogger David Farrar. With just over 170,000 visitors a month his Kiwiblog site is probably the most visited NZ political blog, and certainly the only prominent one for whom reliable site stats are made public. Explains Dave, "hits" isn't a measure of visitors, it's a function instead of how many files there are on your site's front page. Who knew? He suggested that for a meaningful measure of a site's success, Lindsay check out Alexa traffic rankings, which she did. When I checked today, Alexa was ranking some prominent NZ political sites as follows (numbers reflect Alexa's ranking of the site in world terms):

Scoop, 41,667
David Farrar's Kiwiblog 60,424
Russell Brown's Public Address 179,932
Lindsay Perigo's SOLO 218,369
The Greens' Frog Blog 232,026
ScoopIt 253,291
Not PC 326,803
No Right Turn 497,535
Whale Oil 727,950
Jordan Carter's Just Left 989,176
Muriel Newman's NZCPR 1,299,144
Ian Wishhard's Briefing Room 1,352,239

So Muriel ranks better than Wishhard (which is gratifying) but not as well as some others, this blog included. And at 326,803rd in the world, I can assure you that while Not PC's statcounter ticks over quite nicely, thank you, with about ten to fifteen percent of David's lordly total, I don't get anywhere near one million hits a month.

But that's not for want of trying.

UPDATE: Just rechecking those figures now for a later post, 29 December 2007, most of those figures are much the same, but Whale Oil in particular has rocketed up the rankings, and Wish-hard and No-Comment-At-No-Right-Turn have taken a plunge. Here's today's rankings, with a few newbies thrown in for comparison ...

Scoop, 44,617
David Farrar's Kiwiblog 73,703
Russell Brown's Public Address 184,037
Whale Oil 184,185
The Greens' Frog Blog 224,151
ScoopIt 252,433
Lindsay Perigo's SOLO 254,748
Not PC 345,207
Indymedia 388,857
SubStandard 533,395
Kiwibogbog 654,832
No Right Turn 930,659
Jordan Carter's Just Left 1,167,893
Muriel Newman's NZCPR 1,178,343
Ian Wishhard's Briefing Room 2,316,121
Anarchia 4,139,662

A curriculum without content delivers students without knowledge.

How bad is the state's new education curriculum, soon to be enforced in all schools public and private right across the country? When even the teacher unions know that things "have gone too far" with the state-enforced education curriculum, then it might just be possible that things really have gone too far.

It is quite literally the curriculum you have when you don't have a curriculum: it is explicitly a curriculum without content. The new curriculum "will teach pupils how to hold a conversation or ask for help rather than remember facts, historic dates or periodic tables."
The new curriculum, to be released in November and introduced in 2009, focuses on the process of learning, rather than content.

For example, social science students will be marked for taking action to make their community a better place to live, rather than remembering facts about a society on the other side of the world. Science students might be tested on whether they know how to design an experiment, rather than whether they remember what the result should be.

Mary Chamberlain, overseeing the project for the Education Ministry, says that although people are "rattled" by the changes, "there's no use (students) being little knowledge banks walking around on legs. We've got computers, we don't need people walking around with them in their heads... People just have to get used to that."

Mary Chamberlain is an example of the educational model she proposes: someone who has nothing at all in her head. Miseducating a whole new generation in her image is not the answer; removing her and her ilk from the miseducation of NZ children is clearly urgent.

Even the teachers union, the PPTA, called this "a paradigm shift that has gone too far." Roger Moses, principal of Wellington College, explains why: with its focus on "skills" rather than knowledge, this will he says see New Zealand children growing up ignorant.

But none of this is new: the process has been going on for years -- this latest promise of miseducation simply continues a process that has been under way for years. Writing in 'Free Radical #76,' George Reisman summed up the Chamberlain view: "With little exaggeration, the whole of contemporary education can be described as a process of encumbering the student’s mind with as little knowledge as possible."

Nonsense like Chamberlain's does not emerge fully grown. In the following excerpts from his article, Reisman explains where this nonsense comes from, and what has already been the result. Settle back and read his incisive dissection of modern miseducation. It's good:
It is sometimes observed that most of today’s high school and college graduates have very little education in science and mathematics and thus do not understand and cannot properly appreciate modern technology. There is considerable merit in these observations, but the problem goes much deeper. Namely, from the earliest grades, the prevailing methodology of contemporary education systematically encourages irrational skepticism ...

To explain how this is the case, I must briefly digress into the history of philosophy.

At the end of the eighteenth century, Immanuel Kant foisted on the intellectual world a distorted version of what reason is, namely, a faculty divorced from knowledge of the real world and limited to awareness of a world of mere appearances created by the human mind itself. ...
For many years now it has been Kant's distorted 'Romantic' version of reason that has been foisted upon students worldwide. Ms Chamberlain and her comrades now wish to make that explicit. Reisman explains how the undercutting of education is explicitly based upon the undercutting of knowledge espoused by 'Romantic' era philosophers.
Romanticism ... follows on the direct foundation of Kantianism... In its essentials, the philosophy of Romanticism is the guiding principle of contemporary education. Exactly like Romanticism, contemporary education holds that the valuable portion of our mental life has no essential connection with our ability to reason and with the deliberate, controlled use of our conscious mind—that we possess this portion of our mental life if not in our sleep, then nevertheless as small children. This doctrine is clearly present in the avowed conviction of contemporary education that creativity is a phenomenon that is separate from and independent of such conscious mental processes as memorization and the use of logic...

Now, properly, education is a process by means of which students internalize knowledge: they mentally absorb it through observation and proof, and repeated application. Memorization, deduction, and problem solving must constantly be involved. The purpose is to develop the student’s mind—to provide him with an instantaneously available storehouse of knowledge and thus an increasingly powerful mental apparatus that he will be able to use and further expand throughout his life. Such education, of course, requires hard work from the student. Seen from a physiological perspective, it may be that what the process of education requires of the student through his exercises is an actual imprinting of his brain.

Yet, under the influence of the philosophy of Romanticism, contemporary education is fundamentally opposed to these essentials of education. It draws a distinction between “problem solving,” which it views as “creative” and claims to favor, and “memorization,” which it appears to regard as an imposition on the students, whose valuable, executive-level time, it claims, can be better spent in “problem solving.” Contemporary education thus proceeds on the assumption that the ability to solve problems is innate, or at least fully developed before the child begins school. It perceives its job as allowing the student to exercise his native problem-solving abilities, while imposing on him as little as possible of the allegedly unnecessary and distracting task of memorization.

In the elementary grades, this approach is expressed in such attitudes as that it is not really necessary for students to go to the trouble of memorizing the multiplication tables if the availability of pocket calculators can be taken for granted which they know how to use; or go to the trouble of memorizing facts of history and geography, if the ready availability of books and atlases containing the facts can be taken for granted, which facts the students know how to look up when the need arises. In college and graduate courses, this approach is expressed in the phenomenon of the “open-book examination,” in which satisfactory performance is supposedly demonstrated by the ability to use a book as a source of information, proving once again that the student knows how to find the information when he needs it.

With little exaggeration, the whole of contemporary education can be described as a process of encumbering the student’s mind with as little knowledge as possible. The place for knowledge, it seems to believe, is in external sources—books and libraries—which the student knows how to use when necessary. Its job, its proponents believe, is not to teach the students knowledge but “how to acquire knowledge”—not to teach them facts and principles, which it holds quickly become “obsolete,” but to teach them “how to learn.” Its job, its proponents openly declare, is not to teach geography, history, mathematics, science, or any other subject, including reading and writing, but to teach “Johnny”—to teach Johnny how he can allegedly go about learning the facts and principles it declares are not important enough to teach and which it thus gives no incentive to learn and provides the student with no means of learning.

The results of this type of education are visible in the hordes of students who, despite years of schooling, have learned virtually nothing, and who are least of all capable of thinking critically and solving problems. When such students read a newspaper, for example, they cannot read it in the light of a knowledge of history or economics— they do not know history or economics; history and economics are out there in the history and economics books, which, they were taught, they can “look up, if they need to.” They cannot even read it in the light of elementary arithmetic, for they have little or no internally automated habits of doing arithmetic. Having little or no knowledge of the elementary facts of history and geography, they have no way even of relating one event to another in terms of time and place.

Such students, and, of course, the adults such students become, are chronically in the position in which to be able to use the knowledge they need to use, they would first have to go out and acquire it. Not only would they have to look up relevant facts, which they already should know, and now may have no way even of knowing they need to know, but they would first have to read and understand books dealing with abstract principles, and to understand those books, they would first have to read other such books, and so on. In short, they would first have to acquire the education they already should have had.

Properly, by the time a student has completed a college education, his brain should hold the essential content of well over a hundred major books on mathematics, science, history, literature, and philosophy, and do so in a form that is well organized and integrated, so that he can apply this internalized body of knowledge to his perception of everything in the world around him. He should be in a position to enlarge his knowledge of any subject and to express his thoughts on any subject clearly and logically, both verbally and in writing. Yet, as the result of the miseducation provided today, it is now much more often the case that college graduates fulfill the Romantic ideal of being “simple, uneducated men.”
Such a process of miseducation is so far advanced that few now really see it, particularly not those already miseducated. Ms Chamberlain and the other writers of this proposed 'curriculum without content' are banking on the miseducation of earlier generations to blind everyone to what's happening right in front of their nose. Continues Reisman:
Contemporary education is responsible for the growing prevalence of irrational skepticism. The students subjected to it do not acquire actual knowledge. They have no firm foundation in a base of memorized facts and they have not acquired any solid knowledge of principles because their education has avoided as far as possible the painstaking processes of logical proof and repeated application of principles, which latter constitutes a vital and totally legitimate form of memorization. Such students go through school “by the seat of their pants.” They are forever “winging it.” And that is how they go through life as adults. It is impossible for them to have genuine understanding of anything that is beyond the realm of their daily experience, and even of that, only on a superficial level. To such people, almost everything must appear as an arbitrary assertion, taken on faith. For their education has made them unfit to understand how things are actually known. Their failure to memorize such things as the multiplication tables in their childhood, makes it impossible for them to understand whatever directly depends on such knowledge, which, in turn, makes it impossible for them to acquire the further knowledge that depends on that knowledge, and soon. With each passing year of their education, they fall further behind.

Ironically, their failure to memorize what it is appropriate to memorize ends up putting them in a position in which to pass examinations, they have no other means than out-of-context memorization—that is, memorization lacking any foundation in logical connection and proof. Because they have never memorized fundamental facts, and thus have no basis for developing genuine understanding of all that depends on those facts, they are placed in the position in which to pass examinations they must attempt to memorize out-of-context conclusions. It is because of this that a growing proportion of what they learn as the years pass has the status in their minds of arbitrary assertions. They are chronically in the mental state of having no good reason for most or almost all of what they believe. Thus, in their context of actual ignorance masked by pretended knowledge, they are prime targets for irrational skepticism. To them, in their mental state, doubt of everything can only seem perfectly natural.

Such students, such adults, are easy targets for a doctrine such as “environmentalism.” They are totally unprepared intellectually to resist any irrational trend and more than willing to leap on the bandwagon of one that caters to their uncertainties and fears. Environmentalism does this by blaming the stresses of their life on the existence of an industrial society and holding out the prospect of an intellectually undemanding and thus seemingly stress-free pastoral existence, one which is allegedly “in harmony with nature.”

The destructive work of contemporary education carried on against the development of students’ conceptual abilities from the earliest grades on is compounded, as their education advances to the higher grades, by the teaching of a whole collection of irrationalist doctrines that constitute the philosophical substance of contemporary liberal arts education... These doctrines constitute a systematic attack on reason and its role in human life...
If one wishes to use the expression “intellectual main stream,” and borrow for a moment the environmentalists’ alleged concern with the cleanliness of streams and such, these doctrines may justifiably be viewed as intellectual raw sewage comparable to what can be seen bobbing up and down in a dirty river. They and the methodology of contemporary education have totally fouled the “intellectual mainstream.” The kind of education I have described—-if it can still be called education, consisting as it does of an unremitting assault on the rational faculty and every rational value—-is responsible for the hordes of graduates turned out over the last decades who have had no conception of the meaning and value of the Constitution and history of the United States, of the meaning and value of Western civilization itself, or indeed of the meaning and value of membership in the human race. It has been responsible for the decline in the quality of government in the United States, as, unavoidably, many such mis-educated graduates have found their way into the halls of Congress and the state legislatures, and into major offices in all the other branches of government, and, of course, into all the various branches of the news media and publishing...

Thus, in what may prove to be the greatest tragedy in all of human existence, we see at the end of more than two centuries of man’s most dazzling success, the proliferation of heirs who as adults possess less than the mentalities of children. We see a culture of reason and science being transformed before our eyes into one which more and more resembles a culture of primitive men.
Such a transformation is not inevitable, but as long as the fundamental tenets of the miseducators remain largely unchallenged, it will continue.

Some questions after another great sporting weekend

Are all the Northern Hemisphere rugby teams just reluctant to show their moves before the Quarter Finals? Or are they just plain crap?

Wouldn't it be revolutionary if a team ran out with a plain single-coloured jersey with a simple white collar? There are plenty in the crowd that teams could borrow.

Wouldn't it be great if we had three locks, instead of just two.

Has Isaia Toeava been teaching Sitiveni Sivivatu how to catch?

How long since the All Blacks had a decent opponent? With the business end of the last four years now just a fortnight away, would you really call them match-fit?

On the other hand, is Doug Howlett back to his best?

Who else wants to see Nick Evans at full back and Mils at centre?

How good were Tonga! Exactly how deep is South African rugby strength?

How disappointing were Samoa. (But how good seeing Loki Crichton outkick Jonny Wilkinson.)

Here's a trifecta for next weekend: Fiji to beat Wales, Tonga to beat England, Argentina to beat Ireland and just two Six Nations teams to make it to the Quarter Finals. :-)

If that joyous state of affairs were to come true, then who exactly should be classified as "minnows"?

Is there anyone outside those Six Nations nations who won't be cheering for Tonga or Fiji or Argentina?

If Geelong beat North Melbourne by 106 points two weeks ago in that AFL Qualifying Final, and Port Adelaide beats North by 87 in Saturday's Preliminary Final, is that a guide to next weekend's Geelong-Port Final result? Or is the Catss one-point loss to Port in Round 21 last month a better guide?

Or do we just know this is going to be a damned good AFL Final?

Go the Cats!

Marcel Marceau

Best comment seen on the death of Marcel Marceau:
A moment of silence, please.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Sunday readings: Faith is the destroyer of knowledge

Four readings this morning musing on the relationship between religion and knowledge .

First Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits) in his medieval best-seller 'Spiritual Exercises' [hat tip Thrutch]:
To arrive at the truth in all things, we ought always to be ready to believe that what seems to us white is black, if the hierarchical Church so defines it.
And Tertullian, another prominent theologian back in the early days when people were making up the Gospels, who wote of religion and the resurrection myth that
it is believable because it is so foolish. . . it is certain because it is impossible.
You just can't make this stuff up. In the same tradition is this line from a pre-modern destroyer of knowledge, German nutcase Immanuel Kant, who declared that
I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.
As Christopher Hitchens has been heard to say, religion poisons everything. Observed Ayn Rand:
The alleged shortcut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit, destroying the mind.
Worth thinking about.

UPDATE 1: If you want to see how a prominent contemporary theologians arguing that white is black, have a browse through some of the pseudo-scientific sounding drivel spouted by the so-called 'Intelligent Design' school, or the word games of Alvin Plantinga -- an 'analysis' here for example of the "Free Will Defence" that puts the 'sophist' back into sophisticated.

UPDATE 2: Commenter Matt F. has provided many word games in the comments section here in an attempt to defend what I would characterise as the indefensible. There are more word games at his blog fromMatt, who seems to take Mr Plantinga as one of his models. Matt is himself a contemporary theologian, albeit not yet well known or prominent, but this is what he does professionally. It might be cruel to Matt to attribute to him views which aren't his, but that means however that if he takes his Loyola seriously, his job is "to believe that what seems to us white is black, if the hierarchical Church so defines it."

One has that sense when debating him.

Now Matt has repeatedly accused many of us here of erecting strawmen with which to attack religion -- which is an interesting wriggle considering I was quoting some of the church's own founders and defenders -- so I was interested to see the account he has over at his own blog about the exchanges here, since what he's erected over there is a whole field of stunted little strawmen.

Given that Matt is, as I said, a professional theologian, I'm frankly disappointed that what I would call his basic standards of debate are so low, and his thickets of misdirection so tangled.

It is instructive, however, because it indicates how difficult a discussion is when one participant hears only what he wants to hear, just how disappointingly low are a professional theologian's standards of evidence, and how of necessity they need to be in order to believe the "foolish" and the "impossible."

Here's just a few of Matt's strawmen in the most recent posts on his blog which, since the substantive responses should be obvious enough, I'll mostly just point out rather than answer (yes, some grammar has been corrected to make the comments as understandable as I can make them):
  • Says Matt: "In recent correspondence with non-believers I have repeatedly met with the following argument. This is usually touted as a kind of self-evident mantra. [1] There is no proof that God exists [2] It's irrational to believe something unless you have proof. Therefore: [3] Belief in the existence of God is irrational."

    Now he may or may not have been referring to exchanges here at Not PC, but if he is then proposition 2 is misstated. What I've said here is that a proposition without proof is flatly arbitrary, and the arbitrary is out. Arbitrary statements don't even get to be called irrational; they don't even get to the table. Matt then goes on to base a whole post on this misstatement.

  • Matt begins another post: "Not PC has a blog on "How Faith destroys Knowledge". The basic line of argument appears to be as follows: three famous thinkers appear to hold that faith and reason are at odds and that faith is the preferable stance."

    First, as all assiduous listeners of Monty Python are aware, "an argument is a connected series of propositions intended to establish a conclusion." What I posted above was not an argument. It was one post with four quotes, one point and an invitation to think about it; some thoughts for a Sunday on how faith undercuts reason. It was not an argument, however I'm happy for Matt to keep providing evidence for it as a proposition, since it seems to me that his methodology provides abundant evidence for the point.
    Second, the "thinkers" quoted (whose "fame" if at all is irrelevant, and whose thinking is at the very least highly suspect) wrote in a time when clarity was valued. They did not "appear to hold" those views. In fact they did hold them. Specifically they held the view that faith is antagonistic to knowledge and reason, a divorce which those thinkers approved.
    Third, Matt seems to ascribes to me in his tangled way the idea that faith is the preferable stance. As any reader of this blog will know, that is the opposite of the case.

  • Matt again: "PC also makes some fairly dubious clams. He cites Tertullian as a Fidest and states that the Gospels were written around in the third century AD."

    No, irrelevant as it might seem, in fact I make no such claims. I do not "cite" Tertullian as "a Fideist." I simply quoted what he said. And what I call him is "another prominent theologian back in the early days when people were making up the Gospels."
    You'll notice too that I do not "state" that the Gospels were written "around the third century AD." Tertullian's dates were 155-230 (ie., the second to third centuries). The earliest surviving copies of the Gospels were dated from the fourth century, and were probably written somewhere in the second or third (arguments about for the age of their composition still rage). However, quite apart from being irrelevant to any current argument here, from the distance of the twenty-first century what I said is more than accurate enough. And it wasn't "stated" as a "claim."

  • He carries on in this manner, ascribing to me all sorts of things I haven't said and positions I haven't taken, eg,"First, [PC] provides some counter examples to anti-evidentialism..." and "Second, he offers some criticisms of the Kalam Cosmological Argument...". In other words, he faults me for insufficiently countering in the comments section two very specific theological sallies, when my response was simply to two fairly general and poorly argued points.

  • There is more of this, as you'd expect, but what he's working up to is this, right at the conclusion of his substantive post: "I suspect however that PC has not read Christian thinkers he has read Ayn Rand and various libertarian caricatures of Christian thinkers. On the basis of these caricatures he denigrates Christians as irrational and politically dangerous."

    Now Matt is entitled to suspect what he likes, and he may think what he likes about who and what I've read, but it's frankly surprising to see such firm conclusions drawn on the basis of one post containing only four quotes, one point and an invitation to think about it. And this from a professional theologian.

    And this is the reason I've taken the time with these trivialities here, since the rigour with which we demand evidence for our views is the measure of our commitment to the reality of those views.

    One would be sorely tempted to point out that Matt's apparent disdain for standards of evidence is hardly surprising, since christians are used to making up their minds based on scanty or non-existent evidence -- which was the partial point of my the original post, if you'll recall, and also of many comments -- and fortunately for us Matt himself provides us with an tip that is like a signpost for those of us curious about christian epistemological standards. Says Matt: "you can rationally believe certain things, in certain situations, without evidence."

    You really couldn't make that up.
UPDATE 3: Matt has another go. Make of it what you will.

UPDATE 4: Links fixed. Matt's professional description amended.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Capitalism is cleaner

Paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson, "countries whose property rights are best are those who pollute the least." That's the 'conclusion in reverse' one is invited to draw from this cross-country pollution survey, which finds of the all the dirtiest countries in the world, those with weak or non-existent property rights are the very dirtiest. [Hat tip Commons Blog]

Of the Dirty Thirty, not one western industrial economy even makes the list.

Capitalism pollutes the environment, you say? What nonsense. Time to check your premises.

UPDATE: Oops, forgot to give you the link. Fixed now.

Cap-and-trade: No warming; no climate effect; no sense.

Lunacy of the week is the "ludicrous" cap-and-trade scheme announced this week by David Parker with the fatuous one-liner that "four cents extra a litre to save the planet is a good deal."

The man is a moron. You could turn off NZ permanently and no emission counter would even notice the loss. Hell, even if a country the size of Britain were to shut down for good, as Christopher Monckton points out the growth in carbon emissions in China would more than make up for the sacrifice long before the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012.

Far from "doing our bit" with this nonsensical sale of indulgences, all we're doing by raising power and fuel prices and shackling local industry is raising power and fuel prices and shackling local industry. That's the only result of the "deal" to which Clark, Key, Parker and Smith are all fatuously fawning over.

And it's not like there's even anything to fix. As the graphs above clearly show, it isn't even warming in NZ anyway. [Click image to enlarge]

Friday, 21 September 2007

Beer O'Clock: Talking when drunk

Some thing to keep in mind should you be out and about tonight, (or else at home watching Geelong thump Collingwood in the first preliminary final, 9:30pm on Sky Sport 2, like I will be). [UPDATE: A close win, but a win. Phew! But Cats not premiers yet. ]

  1. Innovative
  2. Preliminary
  3. Proliferation
  4. Cinnamon
  1. Specificity
  2. Anti-constitutionalistically
  3. Passive-aggressive disorder
  4. Transubstantiate
  5. Antidisestablishmentarianism
  1. Thanks, but I don't want to have sex.
  2. Thanks, but I don't want another drink.
  3. Sorry, but you're not really my type.
  4. Kebab? No thanks, I'm not hungry.
  5. Good evening, officer. Isn't it lovely out tonight?
  6. Oh, I couldn't! No one wants to hear me sing karaoke.
  7. I'm not interested in fighting you.
  8. Thank you, but I won't try to dance, I have no coordination. I'd hate to look like a fool!
  9. Where is the nearest bathroom? I refuse to pee in this parking lot or on the side of the road.
  10. I really must be going home now, as I have to work in the morning.

Oops! NASA has lost Wellington

With their global temperature record coming under increasing scrutiny, a study of NASA's datasets reveals that according to their records, Wellington disappeared in 1988 -- but that hasn't stopped NASA's James Hansen going right on ahead and adjusting the unrecorded data anyway.

Naturally, he's adjusted the non-existent figures upwards, which is surprising given that NIWA's actual figures for the period adjusted are downwards. Story here at Climate Audit. Graph of temperature record above.

Just for the record, this is the same James Hansen who helped kick off the whole warmist farrago back in the early nineties; the same James Hansen who's on record as saying that warmists need to sex up their data; and the same James Hansen who had to concede recently that his organisation's data collection methods were flawed, requiring a readjustment of figures that saw 1934 pronounced the warmest year on record.

So losing Wellington is not out of character.

Nonetheless, maybe you can help James, and perhaps help Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts who are on the trail of James and his gaggle of government temperature collectors. Perhaps you could drive out to Wellington airport, find and photograph the temperature collection station, and post it at Climate Audit to pass on to Hansen and his colleagues. Tell them Wellington hasn't yet succumbed to either cyclones or earthquakes, and despite the local effect of too much hot air, it's getting colder not warmer.

Christopher Monckton: Clark/Key cap-and-trade scheme "ludicrous"

He appeared in recent issues of 'The Free Radical' incinerating in turn Al Gore, Nicholas Stern and the IPCC, and, in ten minutes on Leighton Smith's radio show this morning, Christopher Monckton did more to incinerate the lunatic cross-party cap-and-trade scam and the whole emperor's new clothes warmist nonsense than anyone else anywhere in almost any amount of time.

Listen in here [audio] and realise why Al Gore steadfastly refuses to debate Monckton. Great radio.

[NB: Monckton interview starts about seventeen minutes in. Expect to see a file with just the Monckton interview here at this page shortly.]

Central bankers agree: We don't need a central bank

Two comments from two central bankers give the lie to the need for central banks to control financial markets.

Defending the Reserve Bank's performance in setting interest rates over the last thirty years, RBNZ governor Alan Bollard told the finance and expenditure select committee: "It is quite conceivable - if there was such a thing as a free market setting all that - that we might have rates pretty much where they are." [Hat tip Nevil Gibson]

There is an obvious response to Bollard: if that's the best the central bankers can do, then why don't we have the free market setting "all that." If the very best the central bank can do is emulate the free market, then why not let the free market do what it does best, and without the cost of the Reserve Bank's galloping expansion of credit over recent years?

If your answer is that we need sharp-eyed central bankers to keep an eye on potential shocks, then former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan put paid to that thinking earlier this week when, in response to questions about "whether he was to blame for the sub-prime mortgage crisis by making credit too easy," he conceded on CBS' '60 Minutes' show that "he was aware at the time that questionable mortgage credit was being extended by banks, but he admitted he was unaware how pervasive it was or how impactful on the economy. He just didn't see the problem as it was developing."

The Galileo Blogger points out what Greenspan is conceding:
That is his argument against the Fed, whether he realizes it or not. No central banker, no matter how good, can possibly hold in his mind all relevant information to centrally manage the money supply and credit of an economy. Such is the fallacy of central planning. It doesn't work in banking, just as it has never worked in any other area of an economy. The collapse of Communism is proof of that... Greenspan is smart, but no single man or woman is smart enough to be a central planner.
So tell me again why we need a central bank? Remember if you will that it was all those sharp-eyed central bankers who delivered the Great Depression of the thirties, as current Fed chairman Ben Berbanke conceded a few years back.

I'll leave my final comment here to Larry Sechrest, who in a recent 'Free Radical' draws the obvious conclusion from all the evidence:
Mark this well. Central banks are the source of both inflation and business cycles. Tragically, many people seem to believe that both inflation and boom-bust cycles are somehow an intrinsic part of a market economy. They thus turn to the central bank to solve the problems that the central bank itself created. I might add that the very existence of a central bank introduces into all markets pervasive “regulatory risk” that would not otherwise exist. That is, market participants expend real resources in an attempt to forecast---and then cope with---the manipulations of money, credit, prices, and interest rates undertaken by the central bank. It all sounds frighteningly familiar.
That's the long-term solution then: Remove the Reserve Bank's monopoly powers, let the market set interest rates, and cut the govt's apron strings from the currency.

Awakening in Anbar follows ejection of Al Qaeda

Independent reporter Michael Totten writes from the former Al Qaeda 'capital' in Iraq that peace is now breaking out there:
In early 2007 Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, was one of the most violent war-torn cities on Earth. By late spring it was the safest major city in Iraq outside Kurdistan... Combat operations are finished in Ramadi. The American military now acts as a peacekeeping force to protect the city from those who recently lost it and wish to return... “Al Qaeda lost their capital,” Major Lee Peters said, “and the one city that was called the worst in the world. It was their Stalingrad...

“All the tribes agreed to fight al Qaeda until the last child in Anbar,” the Sheikh’s brother Ahmed told a Reuters reporter. Whether Anbar Province is freshly christened pro-American ground or whether the newly founded Iraqi-American alliance is merely temporary and tactical is hard to say. Whatever the case, the region is no longer a breeding ground for violent anti-American and anti-Iraqi forces...

Violence has declined so sharply in Ramadi that few journalists bother to visit these days. It’s “boring,” most say, and it’s hard to get a story out there – especially for daily news reporters who need fresh scoops every day" ...
Says Totten:
I was greeted by friendly Iraqis in the streets of Baghdad every day, but the atmosphere in Ramadi was different. I am not exaggerating in the least when I describe their attitude toward Americans as euphoric. Grown Iraqi men hugged American Soldiers and Marines...

“Old school methods defeat insurgencies,” Captain McGee said, “not brute force or technology. The key is to kill existing terrorists and prevent additional recruitment. Al Qaeda must have a safe haven or they will barely be able to operate.”

That doesn’t mean they can’t operate at all, but it does mean they can’t control territory, work out in the open, or oppress others from above. They are hunted now and must spend an enormous amount of energy avoiding detection instead of stirring up trouble. The former would-be “liberators” [of Al Qaeda] have become hated fiends who lurk in the shadows and lash out in rage at the society that has rejected them. Victory for them, in this place, is all but impossible now.

“Having the Arabic press note that AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] is rejected by Sunni Arab Iraqis is better than any message we could ever put out,” Major Lee Peters said.

"Anbar Awakens: Hell is Over," says Totten. [Hat tip Lindsay Perigo]

Great news, you would have thought. Something worth celebrating. Sadly not. It's awakenings like this that, for some reason, cut and run advocates would like to call a halt to. Go figure.

"Whatever the situation when we went in, international terrorists have chosen to make this the place for a showdown battle. We can win or lose that battle but we cannot unilaterally end the war. It is the terrorists’ war, regardless of where it is fought."

UPDATE: Thomas Sowell states the obvious for cut-and-runners:
"Whatever the situation when we went in, international terrorists have chosen to make this the place for a showdown battle. We can win or lose that battle but we cannot unilaterally end the war.

It is the terrorists’ war, regardless of where it is fought."
And Gus van Horn points out some things even Sowell has missed.

Time for the grand coalition

Given the cross-party political love-fest over yesterday's plans to shackle industry and raise fuel and power prices in order to make political obeisances to Gaia (a cap-and-trade plan that will have absolutely no effect on climate but a big effect on the cost of doing business and of staying alive, and about which I commented yesterday) it's clear that only the thickness of a spin doctor's smile now separates Labour and Labour-Lite, and nothing now stands in the way of a grand coalition but ego.

Lance Davey hails the prospect of the imminent amalgamation of the two main parties "as a clarifying move that [is] logically inevitable."
It was a matter of recognising the obvious, really," National's John Key told journalists. "National has long accepted that the Welfare State is ingrained in the Kiwi psyche; Labour has learned that it cannot strangle the goose that lays golden eggs; we both believe in squeezing hard...

Clark said, "We're especially thrilled that the new party's name so accurately captures the essence of the old parties."
Head to Lance's press release to see the new name. It's obvious really.

Life as a blogger

Here's an oldie but goodie from the good blokes at Cox and Forkum.

Jean-Léon Gérôme - The Pipelighter

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Medlyn in Turandot

I can't wait to see Margaret Medlyn in 'Turandot this weekend. If she's even half as good as she was in Wellington two weekends ago, and in 'Parsifal' last year, then this performance of Puccini's great opera is going to be a cracker.

I can't wait.

[Margaret's website is here. To book, go here.]

'This is John Galt Speaking...'

This is a stunning presentation:

The centrepiece of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged -- which is currently rocketing up Amazon's ranks after the New York Times declared it "one of the most influential business books ever written" -- is the tour de force that is Galt's Speech. It took Rand two years to write the Speech (the effort of writing it, she once said, gave her at least ten more IQ points) and you can now see a four-minute video introduction to this incisive and powerful piece of writing here on YouTube.

Don't waste your lunch hour reading about the new taxes imposed upon you for the sin of offending Gaia; spend four minutes instead watching this YouTube presentation, and hearing words that cut through and explain all the crap:
"You have heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis... Through centuries of scourges and disasters, brought about by your code of morality, you have cried that your code had been broken, that the scourges were punishment for breaking it, that men were too weak and too selfish...

Yes, this is an age of moral crisis. Yes, you are bearing punishment for your evil. But it is not man who is now on trial and it is not human nature that will take the blame. It is your moral code that's through, this time. Your moral code has reached its climax, the blind alley at the end of its course. And if you wish to go on living, what you now need is not to return to morality–you who have never known any–but to discover it."
Discover morality? What could that mean? The answer is here in this short article on 'Galt's morality' in New Statesman: Objectivism. A philosophy for living? - the first of a four part series by Onkar Ghate.
Part 2 is here: The Selfish Life.
Part 3 is The Roots of Objectivism.
Part 4: Objectivism's Appeal and Demands.
[Hat tip Noodle Food]

Do yourself a favour. Watch and read today. Do it not because it's your duty, but because it's selfishly important to you.

What would 'Party X' do about the environment? - CONCLUSION: A Kyoto plan with a difference

Concluding this serialisation based on my 'Free Radical' article 'Environmental Judo' - seven environmental policies that a genuine opposition party could adopt if they were serious about spontaneously shrinking the state, without any new coercion along the way.

Today, the conclusion: a Kyoto Plan that makes the whole thing plain:

7. The Kyoto Plan for Tax and Regulation
Here’s one last suggestion that sums up the aim of all seven policy planks. Here’s a plan to explicitly clean up the human environment, using the language of those who seek to shackle it in the name of the natural environment.

If you recall, the Kyoto Protocol which Simon Upton signed us up to requires carbon emissions to be cut to 1990 levels by 2010 in a bid to save earth’s environment from man-made, climate-changing pollution.

Whether or not you accept either the science or the politics behind that notion, what I propose quite seriously is a similar protocol to limit a far more serious and provably destructive pollution: one that restricts taxes and the emission of regulations to 1990 levels by 2010.

While the jury is still out on the possible destructive consequences of emissions of carbon dioxide, there is no doubt at all of the destructive consequences of the emission of new taxes and ever more intrusive regulations.

Time to put a stop to the explosive growth in these emissions. 2010 works for me. Now would be better.
* * * * *

INTRO: 'What Would Party X Do?'
PART 1: 'Eco Un-taxes
PART 2: 'A Nuisance and a BOR.'
PART 3: 'Small Consents Tribunals: Beating Back the RMA'
PART 4: 'Privatisation: Iwi then Kiwi'
PART 5: 'A Very Special Carbon Tax'
PART 6: 'A Fishy Story: How to Privatise the Oceans'

'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'

On not giving up

Another reason why Sidney Poitier is one of my favourite actors:
After his first audition, Sidney Poitier was told by the casting director, "Why don't you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?" It was at that moment, recalls Poitier, that he decided to devote his life to acting.
I like the attitude. [Another Great Moment in Never Giving Up from the Lifehacks Blog. Hat tip Gus Van Horn.]

When Brian and Gordon got married, where was God?

Gordon Copeland announced this morning that the cross-sect Christian party announced by Density's Brian Tamaki earlier this week will not be going ahead as announced, and certainly not with Density's Richard Lewis as co-leader.

The communication breakdown is just too severe, said Copeland.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it.

You have to presume that all parties involved would have been talking to their God about their decision, so you have to wonder why God wasn't passing on their messages.

Can't you feel that omnipotence.

* * * * *
**Earlier posts on this topic: Destiny: You Have to Laugh.

Clark's cap-and-trade indulgences

Today we've got the Clark Government's announcement of their cap and trade system to be imposed upon local producers, a system whereby a bureaucrat decides who can emit satanic gases and how much they can emit 'as of right,' after which producers must buy carbon indulgences from a supposedly developing market of such indulgences.

Catholics will recognise the system as being similar to the sale of indulgences as a church fund-raiser back in the days before Luther nailed his theses to the cathedral door at Wittenberg.

And it is, to put it mildly, somewhat premature, since as Brian Leyland of the Climate Science Coalition points out the sin of emitting carbon is still not provably Satanic.
Suddenly the debate is all about emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and not about whether or not dangerous man-made warming is happening, or likely to happen in New Zealand or anywhere else.

Temperature records for New Zealand and for the world show that there has been no warming in this country since the El Nino peak of 1998, in spite of continuing rises in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The New Zealand experience is conclusive: in this country, the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is not causing warming.

That being so, why is the country being saddled with disruption of our economy and increased costs for energy and fuel?
I think the answer, as if we didn't know, is 'politics.'

In their wisdom, the Clark Government figures they need a flagship policy on which to hang their 'sustainable nation' claptrap, meaning (it would appear) they intend to go into next year's election on a policy of shackling industry and raising food, fuel and power prices.

Sounds like a winner.

As I've said before, if you're going to shackle industry in the name of better weather, then a carbon tax that at least offers some certainty to producers is better than a system whereby production is capped by bureaucratic fiat-- and a carbon tax whose rate is linked to actual global temperatures and that is a substitute for another tax is even better.

Writing in the New York Times yesterday, economist Greg Mankiw argues that cap-and-trade systems are inherently flawed, not least because of the international dimension of the carbon indulgence market -- which Sp!ked's Brendan O'Neil characterises as a form of third world eco-enslavement -- and particularly once one factors in the emerging economies of China and India which will keep on emitting regardless, and which are going to be almost impossible to integrate with any system devised by NZ's bureaucrats.

Even if it were true that the highly priced indulgence market could change the weather in the way desired, the carbon indulgences paid for by long-suffering NZ consumers here and now may be entirely worthless once some other international system develops, and once the science on the subject is finally in.

But this doesn't bother a government in election mode who are blind to anything but electoral advantage -- even if that perceived advantage is based on nothing more sophisticated than rising prices, a shackled industry and a pipe dream.

And you can be damn sure it won't bother John Boy Walton and his Labour-Lite friends either, who if elected wouldn't lift a finger to change a thing.

Coming to the Call - Frederick Remington

(Click to enlarge.)

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Welcome home - but just one thing first

There's just one thing Ahmed Zaoui needs to do before we all sing "Welcome Home," says SOLO spokesman Sandra Ashworth, and that's this:
To publicly condemn terrorism and renounce terrorist activities, by publicly showing that he has given to the Security Intelligence Service a full and frank disclosure of all terrorist groups he has been involved with, including people, funding, locations and plans, says SOLO spokesman Sandra Ashworth. "Any declaration from Ahmed Zaoui must be made with direct reference that he has not used the Islamic deception of Taqiyya, a precedent which enables Muslims to deceive for the betterment of Islam. The SIS will be able to confirm that he has cooperated fully and completely.

"Only then can Ahmed Zaoui be rightly called a refugee and entitled to protection here in New Zealand, where any Kiwi should be proud to protect and defend someone who fights terrorism.
Sounds simple. Who could possibly object?

What would 'Party X' do about the environment? - PART 6: A fishy story

Continuing this serialisation based on my 'Free Radical' article 'Environmental Judo' - seven environmental policies that a genuine opposition party could adopt if they were serious about spontaneously shrinking the state, without any new coercion along the way.

Today, de-politicising the oceans:

6. A Fishy Story
NZ’s fisheries are at present what’s known as a “managed commons,” a system in which the tragedy of the commons is limited only by bureaucratic management of property effectively held in common by all those who own quotas. The quota system is simply a system of rationing by bureaucrat, with no incentive for the bureaucrats who set the level of rationing to get it right, nor for quota holders to maintain the resource.

The result has been politicisation of the fisheries, short term thinking from fishermen (rational in the circumstances), and pressure for even more government control of local fisheries.

I suggest we need a rethink. The best way to protect fish stocks and to protect the legitimate interests of fishermen is not through rationing but through property rights.

We know that when property is secure that property owners tend to look to their longer term interests: no reasonable property owner wants to destroy the goose that lays his golden eggs. When property rights are insecure however the situation is reversed: the greatest incentive with the short-term horizons created by insecure property rights is to grab what you can while the going is good.

Such has been the recent experience in NZ’s fishing industry where property rights are rationed by bureaucratic fiat, and we see claims of increasing bottom trawling and bycatch, and scary reports of decreasing fish stocks and a decimated fishery.

The answer is not more politicisation, but less.

Think about it for a moment. There are extinct native birds; there are decreasing fish stocks; but there is no immediate likelihood of dairy or beef cows becoming extinct. There’s a crucial difference here isn’t there: the difference is that farmers’ property in their cattle is protected. That’s the whole difference.

Farmers have historically protected their property in their stock with methods such as barbed wire, brands and enclosed paddocks. Obviously, none of these methods of protecting farmer’s property in their stock works with fish at present (except perhaps with shellfish, for which water rights and seabed rights are necessary), but giving fishermen the opportunity to show reason WHY their ownership in a fishery should be recognised should be seriously considered.

We can use the power of good law to promote the technological means by which law good law can be brought to bear on the problem. Think about the development of property rights in cattle, and how technology helped:

The use of cattle brands was the first simple method enabling cattlemen to define ownership of their stock, which it was the law’s job to protect, allowing them to plan and to grow their herds ‘sustainably’ in the full knowledge that their investment in the herd was protected. The better the legal protection, the longer term the investment and the planning that could be done. This is the reason that cattle rustling was treated so severely in the days when cattle still roamed the plains, and before barbed wire was invented.

The invention of barbed wire revolutionised farming, allowing farmers to protect and define both their stock and their land across huge areas, allowing them to plan ahead and to protect both their herd and their land ‘sustainably’ in the full knowledge that their investment in herd and land was protected.

Both inventions enabled the legal technology of property rights to be brought to bear to protect first the resource (by means of identifiable brands) and then the environment (by means of barbed wire).

What’s needed now is the same thing to happen with the fisheries. If fishermen’s own interests in fisheries and fish stocks are safeguarded, then every incentive exists for them to take the long term view.

What’s needed with the fisheries is the maritime equivalent of brands and barbed wire so that fish stocks and fisheries are protected by those who have the most interest in protecting them: the fishermen themselves. What’s needed is technology.

Political parties don’t invent technology. They can’t. But what they can do is offer the protection of property rights to those who do.

I suggest the best way to obtain what we want here is to invite the fishermen themselves over, say, a three year period to present methods either technological or otherwise by which their own interests in fish and fisheries may be objectively recognised and protected in law, and then commit to enact that protection.

I predict an explosion in fish stocks, the depoliticisation of the fisheries, and a big export market in the technology produced.
[Tomorrow, Part 7: A Kyoto Plan with a difference]
* * * * *

INTRO: 'What Would Party X Do?'
PART 1: 'Eco Un-taxes
Part 2: 'A Nuisance and a BOR.'
Part 3: 'Small Consents Tribunals'
Part 4: 'Privatisation: Iwi then Kiwi'
PART 5: 'A Very Special Carbon Tax'

'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'

EFB: Put some chains on them

I've noticed that even the most virulent opponents of the Electoral Finance Bill still allow that caps on election spending are necessary. David Farrar quotes approvingly the unhinged Bomber Bradbury on this point this morning saying he's " all in favour of curbing the excesses of money influence in democracy, a plutocracy is a real fear and is a direct outcome from unrestricted electoral financing rules..."

It's true that when politicians and legislators have almost unlimited power to tax and spend and legislate everything that isn't nailed down, then allowing any special interest group access to the levers of political power that allow them to tax and spend and legislate with such gay abandon is inherently dangerous.

But isn't that an even greater argument that the levers of power should pull so much less weight? That there should be constitutional restrictions not on how much we can spend on our favoured party so it can gain power, but instead on how much parties can do once they have power. Isn't that infinitely more important, and far more supportive of genuine free speech?

As PJ O'Rourke says,
When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.
Isn't that the point in a nutshell? Restrict the range of areas in which legislators can meddle, and you immediately lessen the interest in buying political power.

Destiny: You have to laugh

The demise of the Destiny Party and the stumbling launch of a new Christian coalition has Paul at The Fundy Post rolling on the floor with mirth. Here's some of what's making him laugh so hard:
It seems only yesterday that Brian Tamaki, then but a lowly Pastor, was promising that his party would be ruling New Zealand within a few years.

1. And it came to pass that he was utterly wrong...

3. So Brian went forth and spoke with men of many flavours of Christianity, even with Anglicans. They spoke of forming a new party. And, although the Christians were followers of a man who, it is written, was born out of wedlock (and just out of Bethlehem) and whose earthly father was cuckolded by his real father, who was also Himself and some other guy called the Holy Ghost, and whose mother was conceived in Heaven, the party would be based on Family Values...

So we have a new Party, its Co-Leaders being one, Gordon Copeland, who clearly thinks the other, Richard Lewis, is an idiot. He is, of course, right...

It all makes about as much sense as the Trinity.
If the library of His Grace the Bishop of Mt Wellington contains anything other than colouring-in books, then one might speculate that he's been studying his Tertullian in preparation for this 'launch.' “I believe it because it is absurd,” theologian Tertullian was supposed to have said. "It is certain because it is impossible." One can hear the "Amen"s all the way from South Auckland.

Read all of Paul's post: 'One Door Closes, Another One Shuts.'

UPDATE: Stuff blogger Colin Espiner nails two chief problems for the new party:
  1. "Most of the mainstream churches maintain strictly apolitical stances, and many New Zealanders have long believed religion and politics shouldn’t mix."
  2. "Too many egos, not enough party."

Greenspan on war and oil

One sentence from Alan Greenspan's forthcoming book has the chatterati all aflutter: ""I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." He clarified what he meant by that in a Saturday interview with Bob Woodward:
In the interview, he clarified that sentence in his 531-page book, saying that while securing global oil supplies was "not the administration's motive," he had presented the White House with the case for why removing Hussein was important for the global economy.

"I was not saying that that's the administration's motive," Greenspan said in an interview Saturday, "I'm just saying that if somebody asked me, 'Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?' I would say it was essential."

He said that in his discussions with President Bush and Vice President Cheney, "I have never heard them basically say, 'We've got to protect the oil supplies of the world,' but that would have been my motive." Greenspan said that he made his economic argument to White House officials and that one lower-level official, whom he declined to identify, told him, "Well, unfortunately, we can't talk about oil." Asked if he had made his point to Cheney specifically, Greenspan said yes, then added, "I talked to everybody about that."

Greenspan said he had backed Hussein's ouster, either through war or covert action. "I wasn't arguing for war per se," he said. But "to take [Hussein] out, in my judgment, it was something important for the West to do and essential, but I never saw Plan B" -- an alternative to war.
As Bill Visconti points out at SOLO, if Greenspan's motive was to protect the oil supplies of the world, it's a pity that in all his eighteen years as chairmen of the Fed he didn't once attack the environmental and taxation restrictions on American oil production. Given that, as George Reisman points out, "Middle Eastern terrorism rests on a foundation of financial support in the form of revenues derived from the sale of oil by the members of the OPEC cartel," then if he hadn't gone to Washington and "gone native," then freeing up domestic production should have been a serious security issue about which Greenspan might have been expected to raise some concerns. As Reisman explains, the issue is central to the security issue, and one about which some environmentalists might want to do some hard thinking:
Every barrel of oil that the environmentalists have succeeded in getting the U.S. government not to allow to be produced, every ton of coal that they have prevented from being mined, every atomic power plant whose construction they have stopped, has served to make oil scarcer and more expensive and subsequently to enrich OPEC and increase the funds available for the support of terrorism...

Today, after thousands of needless deaths and major destruction of property of symbolic as well as economic value, the supporters of environmentalism are among those who must make a choice. Which do they value more: indulging their exaggerated fear of oil spills on beaches and their boundless desire for nature untouched by man, or the lives and property of innocent victims of terrorism and, as now seems likely, the lives of hundreds and possibly thousands of young servicemen and women and the potentially enormous economic costs of a war?

True enough, decades of policies serving to enrich the supporters of terrorism have made it impossible for a policy of freedom for energy production in the United States all by itself to now strip the terrorists of financial support. But it would certainly very substantially help in reducing such support. And it would show up in lives and property saved. The environmentalists must choose.
UPDATE: Greenspan talks to 60 Minutes about his life story, and about the importance of taking out Saddam. [Hat tip Julian D.]

Just a clown. Still no climate refugees.

Tim Blair proposes a new title. Warmist isn't enough. For people like this, only "climate clown" will do. Who?

Jane McAdam - senior lecturer and director of international law at the University of New South Wales, director of the Climate Changes ‘Refugees’ and International Law Project, associate rapporteur of the Convention Refugee Status and Subsidiary Protection Working Party for the International Association of Refugee Law Judges, member of the Executive Committee of the International Law Association (Australian Branch), author of Complementary Protection in International Refugee Law (Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007), former general editor of the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal and a former member of the editorial board of the Sydney Law Review – is also a climate clown. [Says McAdam] :

On Christmas Eve last year, the first inhabited island disappeared underwater as a result of global warming. The residents of Lohachara island in the Bay of Bengal had already fled to a nearby island …

Wrong. 'The Independent' reported on Christmas Eve that global warming had claimed Lohachara (in a piece apparently removed from the paper’s archives), but omitted any actual submersion date. That’s because the island went under some 20 years ago, for reasons apparently not related to warming [probably because the Indian Tectonic Plate is pushing up against the Eurasian Plate, causing the Bay of Bengal to slowly sink].

So despite her glowing credentials, McAdam is either offering evidence for why her family name is derived from a utilitarian roading material, or she's lying to deceive -- as US Congressman Dan Rohrabacher describes her ilk,
part of a movement that feels they have a right to lie and they have a right to frighten people, because they have a higher calling; their higher calling is to save the environment."
Place your bets on which one it is.

Fallingwater movie

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater was probably the residential masterpiece of the twentieth century (which is why it's been posted and talked about here before). It's a house that makes hard-bitten critics feeling like singing, and the pulse of people like Stephen Hicks pounding.

Most of us aren't able to visit is as regularly as we'd like, but we can enjoy professionally done computer-graphic videos like these.


UPDATE: More short movies here of 'Usonia,' Frank Lloyd Wright's vision for America, from the good people at Columbia University's Digital Design Lab -- including a flight around Wright's Mile High Tower!
The term Usonia was often invoked by Frank Lloyd Wright to describe his vision for the American landscape. A 1958 drawing by Wright, entitled "The Living City", gave the world an enticing glimpse of this vision. As an alternative to America's urban ills, Wright proposed a balanced synthesis of architecture and landscape that would stretch from coast to coast. Now, forty years after the death of Frank Lloyd Wright, you are invited to explore USONIA. This short computer animation presents the new landscape in an engaging three-dimensional format. Travel among the 'taxi-copters' and 'road-machines' as your journey highlights several of Wright's unrealized projects, including the Rogers Lacy Hotel, Pittsburgh Civic Center, and the Point Park Bridge. The animation concludes with an ascent to the top of 'The Illinois', Wright's eminent design for a Mile High Skyscraper.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Punishing success: It's not un-European

Some people see lots of other people buying stuff in large quantities and they think, "Hmm, people must want that." The Europeans see a company churning out products that people have been queuing up to buy and ask, "How can we put a stop to that?"

Microsoft is getting another spanking for the crime of producing products that people want, this time in the European courts who fantasise that "consumers are suffering at the hands of Microsoft." The Europeans are pig ignorant buffoons who are ensuring that consumers will suffer, just as they always do with every antitrust decision.

"Once again," as Onkar Ghate pointed out last time Microsoft was given the finger by the courts,
Microsoft is being attacked for its success: in reality it has no monopoly power just brilliant management.... Microsoft is today's prime example of what Ayn Rand called 'America's Persecuted Minority.' Like an increasing number of big businesses, Microsoft is being punished for being successful, for making products that people want to purchase.
Microsoft has no monopoly power? It's true. Microsoft has no political power to force to consumers to buy its products, only the economic power to offer them products worth buying. In fact, as George Reisman explains, it is Microsoft's competitors who are after the monopoly:

What underlies such an incredible outcome is the utterly mistaken belief that overwhelming competitive success, to the point that one man or one company dominates an entire industry, constitutes monopoly. This, of course, is the kind of success that Gates and Microsoft have enjoyed.

The fact is that such an outcome of free competition is not monopoly. But it is monopoly when those capable of bringing about such an outcome are forcibly excluded from an industry, or any part of an industry. The accompanying forcible reservation of an industry or part of an industry even to a mass of less capable producers is the real monopoly, as much as if the industry had been forcibly reserved to the possession of one man or one company. The essential element in monopoly is forcible exclusion and forcible reservation, not the number of producers.

So the Europeans fantasise that "consumers are suffering at the hands of Microsoft." Mark Hubbard looks at the European decision and confesses to "a fantasy" of his own, a "daydream, that Bill Gates will hold a press conference and announce the demise of Microsoft forthwith: no new products, no support for existing ones, they are simply going to disappear: and then see what the world looks like."

It's an interesting thought, isn't it. Who would suffer then, I wonder. Who needs whom more?

EFB: Drown it.

I'm told Libz just got quite a long mention in Newstalk ZB's 9 O'Clock News about their Electoral Finance Bill submission with Colin Cross quoted saying the bill doesn't need watering down - it needs drowning.

The perfect one-liner.

UPDATE: David Farrar says, "I am hearing whispers from Parliament that Labour is 100% determined to get the Electoral Finance Bill passed into law."

It's becoming increasingly clear why they're so determined: at the next election the Labour Party intends to use the taxpayer as their personal cash machine, and the departments of state as their personal publicity departments -- meanwhile using the Electoral Finance Bill to ban criticism, and to muzzle anyone else doing very much electioneering at all. This, for instance:
Leaked draft documents reveal the extent to which Labour plans to campaign on the public purse. This campaign includes a script for call-takers at an 0800 phone line who will sing the praises of Labour's health policies.
It's hard to overstate how disgustingly cynical this is, more cynical even than introducing retrospective 'Get Out of Jail Free' legislation last year to head off Bernard Darnton's legal action over the pledge card outrage.

Even the normally state-worshipping Human Rights Commission told the Select Committee is against this outrageous assault on democracy,
the Bill will infringe certain human rights - most obviously freedom of expression but also the right of all citizens to participate in the election process. ...It is difficult to conceive of a greater limitation on freedom of speech than this.
You didn't think the HRC had the balls, did you.

Nanny can't drive

Oswald and Lindsay Mitchell together bust the rapidly developing myth that teenagers' driving is out of control, is getting worse, and urgently requires restrictions.

Trouble is, while there's been an increase in headlines that suggest teenagers' driving is getting progressively worse, and there's been a concomitant increase in hysteria over teenagers' driving, the statistics show a completely different story about teenage driving itself. As Lindsay points out, if safe driving is your criteria then the statistics on young drivers are actually getting better, not worse.
The performance of 15-19 year-old drivers has improved significantly. Twenty years ago they accounted for 16.9 percent of accidents involving fatalities. Last year they made up 11.7 percent. An even bigger drop applies to 20-24 year-olds from 22.2 to 11.9% percent. Perhaps some attention should be paid to older age groups.
So despite the headlines, the driving of teenagers is actually getting better -- a disturbing sign for those who look for a bit of spirit in the next generation.

However, if it's bad driving you want, then Oswald points out where attention should really be paid: to the group making the most noise about imposing restrictions on other people's driving. That's right, it turns out that as a group the country's worst drivers are those driving politicians' self drive cars. And the biggest irony? Annette King, leading the charge against bad young drivers today is also responsible for "the most serious smash" in this 2001 report:
her car was in a head-on accident in December 2000 and was written off. The driver of the other car was in intensive care for six days.
So perhaps the minister should be looking closer to both home and House before casting stones further afield at young drivers who (unlike King's family and parliamentary colleagues) are becoming increasingly responsible.