Monday, 15 October 2007

Speak softly and carry a 12-gauge

Just imagine how this story would get reported here in Outer-Roa. [Hat tip Suma]

When the wind doesn't blow

The Government's non-energy strategy -- banning the construction of fossil fuel power stations and insisting NZers rely instead on wind and other "renewables" for energy -- has inspired a reinterpretation of Raymond Briggs' cold-war story-telling...

UPDATE: Thank the gods that at least one person in the mainstream media has recognised that "placing the country’s energy security in jeopardy is foolhardy indeed." Press political reporter Colin Espiner declares "Labour’s new energy strategy barks like a dog. The strategy [is] two 100-page volumes filled with Pollyanna-ish claptrap..."

Stripping away the pages of numbers and formulae and meaningless hyperbole such as “New Zealand’s quest for sustainability” and talk of a “carbon neutral nation”, what the strategy does is put some flesh on the bones of Labour’s previous pledges to halve emissions from the transport sector by 2040 and to have 90 percent of electricity produced by renewable energy sources from 2025.
But when you strip them down you find these are bones without any muscle, any flesh, or any lifeblood for an industrial country like this one. Renewables are a pipe dream. When it comes to renewables, "wind farms suffer from the NIMBY syndrome" (and the need to provide reliable new power stations for baseload backup, and "major scale hydro projects are unlikely," which rather wildly understates the unlikelihood.
Demand for power is growing at 2% a year. The energy strategy states this will fall to 1.5%, which is an arguable point, but even accepting this, that means that over the 18 years before 2025 the country will require 27% more energy than it currently has available just to maintain the status quo. Add immigration, economic growth, and Kiwis’ seemingly insatiable desire for new electronic gadgetry into the equation, and it’s starting to look a little dodgy. Given that the security of our energy supply is already questionable (remember the cold showers and the brownouts every time there is a “dry year”?) and the Government’s decision to [ban the construction of new coal and gas power stations and] can the 500MW Rodney station has a whiff of political craziness about it.
It's more than just crazy, it's suicidal.

Bad taste TV ban

A TV station has been ordered off air for five hours for the crime of broadcasting viewers' texts that the Broadcasting Standards Authority considered violated "good taste and decency."

Alt TV, which one would hardly be watching in search of either good taste or decency, broadcast the text messages as part of its Waitangi Day 'Groove in the Park' programme, for which "crime" Stuff reports
the BSA has ordered Alt TV to refrain from broadcasting programmes between 12pm and 5pm this Labour Day and instead display a statement which summarises the Authority's decision and apologises to viewers. The BSA has also ordered Alt TV to pay the maximum award of costs to the Crown of $5,000.

Peaceful warmism?

The hook the Norwegian Nobel Committee used to give the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC and debate-dodging, media-shunning, unsafe-for-children ecodunce Al Gore is that climate change could lead to "increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states." As some wise person said, “I don’t know what’s so peaceful about global warming. As far as I can tell, every time someone brings it up a fight breaks out.”

In fact as far as "divisiveness" and "conflict" goes, the whole issue drives a deep wedge between developed countries and those who would like to develop, but who will be kept from becoming rich by the politicisation of the very technologies needed for their development. By making an international crime out of attempts to increase production and raise living standards, it sets up possible conflicts, even wars, between countries.

The arrogance and indifference of environmental campaigners towards the suffering in the third world is well known -- reducing greenhouse gases at the cost of trillions of dollars “is one of the least helpful ways of serving humanity or the environment” points out Bjorn Lomborg, and these are trillions "not available for addressing the problems bedeviling the Third World––disease, malnutrition, sanitation, and economic development, the real and pressing needs of current generations that we can solve so easily and cheaply before we try to tackle the long-term problem of climate change, which will be massively expensive and accomplish so little.”

Al Gore and the IPCC have turned the arrogance and indifference of well-fed environmentalists into public policy.

As Julian Morris explained on Al Jazeerah last week, in effectively demanding that developing countries reduce their use of fossil fuels, Gore, the IPCC and (by endorsing their calls) the Nobel committee are essentially "promoting global disharmony." Said Morris,
Around 1.5 million women and children currently die from the use of dirty fuels, such as wood and dung*. Replacing these fuels with electricity, even from coal-fired power stations, would substantially improve the lot of the very poorest people on the planet – but this is opposed by people who promote restrictions on fossil fuel use.
So a prize for "peace" is at least surprising. As John Beralu argues,
this choice, more than any other Nobel Committee selection, marks the end of a 105-year era. In direct contradiction of Alfred Nobel's last will and testament, the selection of Gore essentially means the Peace Prize can no longer be said to be an award for improving the condition of humankind.
UPDATE 1: Says Andrew Walden,
An “inconvenient” court ruling was not Gore's only hurdle. Gore had to beat back another last minute challenge -- this one posed by the protests of pro-democracy Buddhist monks facing murder and torture at the hands of Burma’s socialist dictatorship... The Nobel committee has reached a new low by honoring a pompous, self-enriching fraud whose work is aimed largely at keeping the third world in poverty by blocking industrialization. Any Burmese monks able to escape the slaughter should immediately demand a recount.
UPDATE 2: And the Wall Street Journal has a list of dozens -- indeed thousands -- of others who the Nobel Committee had to overlook in awarding the gong to Gore, "men and women [who] put their own lives and livelihoods at risk by working to rid the world of violence and oppression. Let us hope they survive the coming year so that the Nobel Prize Committee might consider them for the 2008 award."
*Acute Lower Respiratory Infections are among the leading causes of death for infants and women, and are predominantly caused by chronic inflammation resulting from the inhalation of toxic indoor air pollution, predominantly caused by burning wood and dung – e.g.: Majid Ezzati and Daniel M Kammen (2001) “Indoor air pollution from biomass combustion and acute respiratory infections in Kenya: an exposure-response study” 'Lancet' magazine, Vol 358, pp. 619 – 624.

Team Blue take Auckland. Ho hum.

John Banks and Team Blue now have a majority on Auckland's council, and Team Blue supporters are crowing that this and other Team Blue victories in local elections sends a message that should be heeded in next year's national elections.

I agree.

The message is, "Business as usual." I suggest to you that despite the anger over several years of rates rises and council meddling under a Hubbard mayoralty and a Red council, a John Banks mayoralty and a Blue council will do nothing to lessen either the rates bill or the meddling. Despite all the talk and all the crowing, by this time next year, both the meddling and the Auckland rates bill will be no less than they are now.

That's the real message these elections have for the national elections: that neither Team Red nor Team Blue represent any substantial alternative. In the words of the song, the message is, "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."

UPDATE: It's not so much that Banks won, but that Hubbard lost. Russell Brown points out that "John Banks has achieved his landslide win in the Auckland mayoralty election with almost exactly the same number of votes he attracted in his landslide loss three years ago: about 45,000... On a rough calculation, Banks won with about 40% of the vote, and the support of less than 15% of Auckland's registered voters." At the same time as Banks was receiving the same number of votes as last time, Dick Hubbard was receiving 27,000 fewer. Banks wasn't voted so much as the other bugger was voted out -- something that resonates with Aucklanders and with how mayoral candidates campaign:
  • Nine years ago, Christine Fletcher won with the single policy: I'm not Les Mills.
  • And six years ago, John Banks won with the single policy: I'm not Fluffhead Fletcher.
  • Dick Hubbard won three years ago with the single substantive policy: I'm not John Banks.
  • And now a "transmogrified" Banks wins again with the single substantive policy, I'm not Mother Hubbard.
We don't vote politicans in, we vote the buggers out. And what we find when we wake up again is that we've just voted another politician back in. "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."

Wealth, and why we don't have it

Wealth. What is it? Where does it come from? Why are some people in some places wealthier than others? And why does New Zealand have to borrow so damn much in pursuit of it?

These are the sorts of questions people have been asking for centuries, and since Adam Smith it's been something for which we have some pretty good answers.

We've all heard the commitments to get New Zealand back into the top half of the OECD, and many of us have seen those graphs that Rod Deane pulled out recently showing NZ's rise and decline in those rankings over the last century-and-a-half -- and we've realised that getting back into the top half of the OECD isn't as easy as politicians' promises would have you believe.

According to my dictionary, wealth is defined as "affluence, plenty and prosperity, a profusion, great plenty (of); prosperity." Clearly, wealth has something to do with productivity, with resources, with capital, and with what Julian Simon called the ultimate resource: the creative human mind applied to productivity. But how to explain and quantify the relationship?

Two years ago, the World Bank began examining questions such as these, and unusually for such an organisation, they came up with something worth studying. They found something that hadn't been accounted for in all their previous studies on the subject. Ronald Bailey explains:
Two years ago the World Bank's environmental economics department set out to assess the relative contributions of various kinds of capital to economic development. Its study, "Where is the Wealth of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century," began by defining natural capital as the sum of nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal and mineral resources), cropland, pasture land, forested areas and protected areas. Produced, or built, capital is what many of us think of when we think of capital: the sum of machinery, equipment, and structures (including infrastructure) and urban land.

But once the value of all these are added up, the economists found something big was still missing: the vast majority of world's wealth! If one simply adds up the current value of a country's natural resources and produced, or built, capital, there's no way that can account for that country's level of income.
What's missing in those traditional measures is what links the human mind with productivity: the rule of law. In a sentence, the creative human mind is more productive the more that the rule of law is recognised.

The explanation for that is simple. You see, when the protection of law is weak, then the mind is only able to plan short range. When property rights are weak, for example, people tend to build their furniture before they build their roofs -- and you can see the evidence of this in shanty towns all over the globe. When time horizons are short, this is rational behaviour. But shanty towns aren't the natural human environment, are they. Take a shanty town dweller out of the shanty and set him down in a place where the rule of law is better recognised, and immediately his time horizons become longer, his prospects much brighter, and his house and his wallet much richer.

Extent time horizons by setting in place the rule of law, and immediately you bring the distinctive attribute of the creative human mind -- the ability to think and to plan long range -- to bear on the question of productivity. That's the real link between wealth and law, and it's something politicians actually can do something about.

You see, this is what the World Bank's researchers realised in their study. What's more important in determining wealth than natural resources or real capital is what they eventually termed this "intangible capital" -- that is, "the wealth product that comes from securing people's rights through the rule of law," so called "intangible factors" such as "the trust among people in a society, an efficient judicial system, clear property rights and effective government."
All this intangible capital ... boosts the productivity of labor and results in higher total wealth. In fact, the World Bank finds, "Human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries."

Once one takes into account all of the world's natural resources and produced capital, 80% of the wealth of rich countries and 60% of the wealth of poor countries is of this intangible type. The bottom line: "Rich countries are largely rich because of the skills of their populations and the quality of the institutions supporting economic activity."
This "intangible capital" can be quantified, and what we find when that exercise is done is that "the natural wealth in rich countries like the U.S. is a tiny proportion of their overall wealth—typically 1 percent to 3 percent—yet they derive more value from what they have."
Cropland, pastures and forests are more valuable in rich countries because they can be combined with other capital like machinery and strong property rights to produce more value. Machinery, buildings, roads and so forth account for 17% of the rich countries' total wealth.

Overall, the average per capita wealth in the rich Organization for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) countries is $440,000, consisting of $10,000 in natural capital, $76,000 in produced capital, and a whopping $354,000 in intangible capital. (Switzerland has the highest per capita wealth, at $648,000. The U.S. is fourth at $513,000.)

By comparison, the World Bank study finds that total wealth for the low income countries averages $7,216 per person. That consists of $2,075 in natural capital, $1,150 in produced capital and $3,991 in intangible capital. The countries with the lowest per capita wealth are Ethiopia ($1,965), Nigeria ($2,748), and Burundi ($2,859).
So what does this mean for New Zealand, and any hope we have of getting rich, and getting back into the top half of the OECD?

Well, here's the bad news. In the rankings of "intangible capital," New Zealand comes a pitiful twenty-first with just $243,000 of "intangible capital" per head, behind Spain and Singapore at nineteenth and twentieth, and just ahead of Greece, Portugal, South Korea and Argentina.

That's a measure of how poor we are in the rule of law.

And just look at our performance as compared to Australia, often known as "the lucky country" because of its resource riches. But Australia's resource wealth only amounts to $25,000 per Australian, compared to our own resource wealth of $43,000 per head; the difference between the lucky country and us is that they're "luckier" in terms of the rule of law: in the "intangible capital" represented by that measure, Australians are half again as wealthy as we are, with $371,000 per head compared to our own $243,000 per head.

So the message is clear, and when you boil it all down it's not complicated. If wealth is your goal, and if ambitions to be in the top half of the OECD are genuine, then concentrate on the rule of law, and on the "intangible capital" of an efficient judicial system, of clear property rights and of effective government.


Friday, 12 October 2007

Beer O'Clock: Founder's Generation Ale

Another week on from BrewNZ, and our beer correspondent Stu from SOBA is still steering clear of the abundant supply of hoppy beers...

This week, after what we might call a pretty 'brown' week, I'm drinking Founder's Generation Ale, the only genuine commercially available brown ale in New Zealand that I'm aware of -- an English-style ale from a brewery that is far more well-known for their European-style lagers.

Generation Ale picked up a silver at BrewNZ, and in the hotly contested 'UK and European-style ales' section narrowly missed out in a tight battle for best in class. It pours a clear reddish-brown, a little short of what might be called chestnut, with an airy off-white foam. On the nose, as well as in the mouth, it's a delicious treat of toasty malt biscuits and a bowl of nuts (unsalted!). There's a reasonably firm but well-balanced bitterness, which means that unlike the All Blacks the beer doesn't fade in the second half.

Drink it a little warmer than your average beer to appreciate it's subtle nuances.

If you just can't hold yourself back from the old humulus lupus, or you're feeling a little hopless after a long week of mourning, then I suggest you pop down to your best local off-licence for a bottle of 2007-release Emerson's APA (see the 'Outlet' section at the brewery's great little website for locations). It's a very big pale ale chock full o' fresh hops, that is well backed up by the best malt character it's had in a couple of years.

Take a sip of either of these beers and remember: though we can't beat them in the big games, we still make better beer than our Gallic nemeses.

Slainte mhath, Stu

Breast Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an ideal opportunity to talk about ... well, about breasts, of course, those delightful endowments without which the world would be a much less attractive place.

The website Film Threat is helping to raise awareness by celebrating the best breasts to ever grace the cinema screen. Fine work, complete with added videos. [Hat tip Fleshbot]

There's no Bore like a wrong Bore

One of the best things about Justice Burton's decision to declare that at the widely celebrated movie of one Albert Gore contains "nine significant errors or omissions" made in "the context of alarmism and exaggeration" is that this now gives writers the extra boon of new adjectives for Al Bore every time we have to mention him.

For example, "proven liar Al Gore said ..." or "convicted fraudster Al Gore arrived in his private jet today ..." or "embarrassed recently by a British court decision declaring his film to be full of holes, presidential wannabe and environmental alarmist Al Gore has said ..."

You get the picture. What other adjectives can you think of for the peddler of alarmism and exaggeration?

UPDATE 1: You can download the entire decision here in PDF form, and spend the weekend picking out choice epithets and adjectives to quote and re-quote about this "one-sided" piece of propaganda. Let me know your own favourites.

UPDATE 2: Aussie Tim Blair shares a few favourite adjectives in reporting that debate-dodging, "media-shunning, unsafe-for-children ecodunce Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Not so much an energy strategy as an anti-industrialist's manifesto

[NB: This post is now the basis of an Op Ed, posted here...]

As you'll have heard, the Government has issued a blanket ban on the building of new fossil-fuel power stations -- which means a flat out ban on the production of reliable energy -- and declared it intends instead to place this country's energy and industrial future in the hands of systems of so called energy production which have yet to be proved, and in many cases are unlikely to be proved (and of the few that have been, wind energy for instance still requires the construction of reliable power stations as a baseload backup to any wind energy that is produced).

As I said yesterday, this is not so much an energy strategy but a strategy for less energy, which means it's a prescription for less industry. A sort of Think-Not-So-Big. A Think Small. The biofuels boondoggle has already shown that the promises made about alternative fuels and alternative "renewable" energies are as empty as the heads of those making the commitments to denude us of industrial power.

It's not so much an energy strategy as an anti-industrialist's manifesto.

For the most part, the "renewables" so heavily touted just aren't available. What distinguishes the "new energy" touted by the likes of Parker and Fitzsimplesimons from "old energy" is that while "old energy" is reliable and actually produces energy, so called "new energy" is still experimental, and mostly doesn't. It's the modern day equivalent of snake oil.

This is an energy strategy produced by people who think to bring into existence new science, new technology and a whole new industrial infrastructure based around that technology, it is sufficient only that they pass a law saying it has to happen.

It is the modern-day environmental equivalent of a cargo cult. Legislate for scientific wonders, and they'll just happen. How? Somehow.

As Major Electricity Users Group executive director Ralph Matthes said the market should be allowed to determine whether renewables were cheaper or not. "It's pretty draconian. Not so much a strategy as a green wish list."

One wonders how they think they can get away with it -- one wonders what their real secret is. One would wonder, but astute readers will be aware that that at root their secret is as empty as their promises, and amounts quite literally to that word used by Mr Matthes above. Ayn Rand describes it:
The secret of their esoteric philosophies, of all their dialectics and super-senses, of their evasive eyes and snarling words, the secret for which they destroy civilisation, language, industries and lives, the secret for which they pierce their own eyes and eardrums, grind out their senses, blank out their minds, the purpose for which they dissolve the absolutes of reason, logic, matter, existence, reality—is to erect upon that plastic fog a single holy absolute: their Wish.
It's a secret not confined only to today's anti-industrialists, is it.

UPDATE 1: A chocolate fish to the first person who sees Labour-Lite saying they'll overturn this manifesto for anti-industrial manifesto.

UPDATE 2: For anyone with a historical bent, you might like to compare yesterday's anti-industrial manifesto with the guts of the horrifyingly similar Morgenthau Plan that Franklin Roosevelt intended to impose on a conquered German after the war, a programme to strip German of its industry and turn it into a pastoral backwater -- a plan greeted with horror by everyone other than the Stalinist moles in the State Department who put the plan together.

Ludekens House - Jack Hillmer

Designed by architect Jack Hillmer (1918-2007), the Ludekens house is described by Hilllmer's colleague Barry Peterson as "one of the most important and influential modern San Francisco Bay Area houses."

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Crikey, it's cold outside

Lubos Motl reports that the global average temperature for "September 2007 was the 7th coldest month among 81 months since January 2001. It has made it to the 9% of the coolest months of the 21st century so far."
In the last month, the global temperature was just 0.12 Celsius degrees above the long-term average which means that it was 0.78 Celsius degrees cooler than the temperature in April 1998 when the anomaly was +0.9 Celsius degrees. The main reason is La Nina that is getting stronger and might continue to do so for a few months.
So it's cold all around the globe. And for us down here in the south?
The Southern hemisphere was 0.015 Celsius degrees cooler (!) than the long-term average, fifth coldest month since January 2001. Antarctica has cooled down by roughly 1 Fahrenheit degree in the last 50 years.
Brrrr! It's cold outside. Colder than a tax-taker's smile.

Biofuel boondoggle exposes Green snake oil

FOR YEARS, ENVIRONMENTALISTS HAVE been opposing new energy production and the use of fossil fuels. They've banged on instead about abstinence, about "renewable" energy systems, about biofuels, and for some reason they've been taken seriously. There's been an assumption they know what they're talking about, and that their solutions are viable and been thought through.

They haven't been.

As would-be power producers here in New Zealand have been refused permission under the RMA to construct power plant after power plant (or been granted permission with so many conditions attached as to make production imposssible), environmentalists like Jeanette Fitzsimplesimons have applauded the refusals, and hailed such decisions as the end of "old energy" and the beginning of "new energy." As each consent was opposed and each new power station was declined permission to produce, the cry has gone up from environmentalists: "Let's use renewables."

But "renewables" just aren't available. What distinguishes "new energy" from "old energy" it seems is that while "old energy" is reliable and actually produces energy, so called "new energy" is still experimental, and doesn't. It's the modern day equivalent of snake oil. While "old energy" fuels world industry, "new energy" still requires your money to prop it up, and barely scratches the surface of the sort of capacity required for a modern industrial nation. Said Australian PM John Howard recently, (and accurately):
Let's be realistic. You can only run power stations in a modern Western economy on fossil fuel, or, in time, nuclear power."
Alan Jenkins from NZ's Electricity Networks Association issued a similar warning two years ago which has still been widely undigested, saying
It's very hard to invest in coal [because of Kyoto], nuclear's a sort of four letter word... hydro is suddenly becoming too hard... what's left? ...we can't do everything on windpower.
BUT WE DON'T LEARN, do we. The anti-industrialists are still taken seriously.

Take the example of biofuels, for which environmentalists like Jeanette Fitzsimplesimons have also been clamouring for years, and here we are just one year away from having them imposed upon us in the name of "lowering carbon emissions," and it turns out that biofuels are not only going to send food prices through the roof (and are already causing food fights in Europe and elsewhere), are not only going to cause increased forest clearance and decreased biodiversity, but as Der Speigel magazine summarises Biofuels 'Emit More Greenhouse Gases than Fossil Fuels':
A team of researchers led by Nobel-prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen has found that growing and using biofuels emits up to 70 percent more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. They are warning that the cure could end up being worse than the disease.

Biofuels, once championed as the great hope for fighting climate change, could end up being more damaging to the environment than oil or gasoline. A new study has found that the growth and use of crops to make biofuels produces more damaging greenhouse gases than previously thought.
This is a classic example of "unintended consequences" from idiotic top-down technical-economic policies.

Does this bother the likes of Fitzsimplesimons? Do we hear themNot a whit! As my colleague Greg Balle says, the Greens and their fellow travellers should be taken severely to task for these atrocious policies and bad ideas that they wish to have imposed on transport, food and economic systems without even the virtue of decent research to back them up.

Instead, they get a free run in the media -- and now Fitzsimplesimons says it has become the fault of "gas-guzzling rich westerners" ahead of "the stomachs of the very poor."

The woman is mad. These Green idiot ideologues have been calling for biofuels for decades without having even the first clue as to the actual implications of such policies and at the first sign of a reality check they won't even take the blame for their crazy policies. This is Soviet era policy making on the hoof writ large once again, with fuzzy Lysenko-like Green "solutions" enforced by central governments globally.

WHY ARE THEY TAKEN seriously? Do they really know what they're talking about? Have they any clue at all about the full implications of wind, solar and other uneconomic technologies being made mandatory while reliable power production is slowly strangled? Why are they so ignorant about the powerful and positive effect of property rights on the environment? Why do they remain ignorant of the role of price signals in reducing scarcity? When will they stop meddling with the free market and let genuine solutions find their way through, as they have since time immemorial?

The easy certainties that many of them want enshrined in law would do less for the planet than just letting price signals, property rights and human ingenuity do the job they're supposed to: send information on resources and markets and avoid the destruction of environments, while leaving the productive free to invent new ways of doing thing.

And when will media commentators begin asking them serious questions to see if they have the first clue about the serious implications of their immature 'sky-is-falling' play-acting.

UPDATE 1: Bloggger 'Classically Liberal' asks Which National Leader really Hates the Poor? [hat tip Lindsay M]
What would you call a government that intentionally promoted a policy that increased world hunger and gave subsidies to the better off at the expense of the poorer members of their own society?
UPDATE 2: So the Government's Energy Strategy is released again today, just as it was in December. As I said of the December release, this is not a hard-headed energy strategy to produce more of the energy we desperately need -- instead, "Ministers would tell state owned generators there was no need for new baseload fossil fuel generation for the next ten years" -- but a feelgood fumbling to fight a fiction with more top-down foolishness: Hugs, cuddles, electric cars, warmer houses and a renewed focus on "renewables" -- and more statements making it plain that the production of real industrial-level energy will become more difficult.

Why are they allowed to get away with this?

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Not "actually true"

Blogger I/S reveals he sometimes says things even though he knows they're not true. Says he today, in relation to the Sensible Sentencing Trust:
In the past I've called them and their ilk the "hang 'em high" brigade, but I didn't think it was actually true.
So does this explain what he means when he argues the Electoral Finance Bill will bring "free, fair, and democratic" elections, when he must know it bears about the same relationship to "free, fair and democratic" as does the imprisonment of Tim Selwyn for sedition?

In other words, he just calls it "free, fair, and democratic," but he doesn't think it is actually true...

Men from the ministry in mass crèche close-down

"News that the Ministry of Education is shutting down crèches at places like gyms and swimming pools that do not meet the criteria for early childhood centres is an example of PC lunacy," says Joanne Black in the latest Listener. These child-care facilities are attached to leisure facilities, not to centres of learning -- as Black says "how much can a child learn while Mum does 30 laps of a pool" -- but according to the Men from the Ministry "the carers do not meet the criteria for childcare" and closed is what these centres must be. By order.

It's not about learning, you see, and it's certainly not about quality. It's about control.

Many of you will be aware of the gimlet-eyed seriousness with which successive governments have taken the issue of teacher "qualifications" and licensing -- using the phony issue of qualifications as a stick with which to herd out of the profession experienced (but not recently brainwashed) teachers, and to ensure that those who are allowed to stay are only those who are up to date and on-side with all the phony baloney now peddled at teachers' colleges. Obviously the gimlet eye is now turning further afield, to ensure that common sense has little chance of creeping into a child's surroundings wherever they may be, and for however short a period of time.

What's the next stage, asks the friend who sent me this snippet: children removed from homes because mother doesn't meet the criteria? Demands for parents to be licensed?

Or would that be giving the grey ones ideas they shouldn't be having?

China's birthday: "Freedom" is not enough

Today is the birthday of the Republic of China. Don't go baking any cakes.

The RoC was established in 1912 after the Qing Dynasty was overthrown in the Xinhai Revolution, ending over two thousand years of imperial rule in China, and moved to Taiwan in 1949 when Mao's goons took over on the mainland. Celebrations for that takeover happened earlier in the month.

So that's a ninety-fifth birthday then, but there's really nothing to celebrate, just as there was nothing to celebrate for all those decades after that 1912 revolution. What happened since the emperor was deposed demonstrates the importance of political philosophy in your political revolution. Instead of peace, prosperity and freedom, the overthrow of the emperor instead brought to China thirty-seven years of chaos, destruction and gangsterism before finally falling to Stalin's puppet, the murderous Mao, who set in place the most murderous, destructive regime in human history.

Something for all republicans and political philosophers to think about, huh? It's not enough simply to eject monarchies and remove regimes -- China's decades of chaos since they threw out the last emperor makes that clear. The most important thing to consider when removing monarchies and displacing regimes is not regime removal, but what you replace these regimes with. Replacing them with ignorance and superstition just won't do; China's twentieth-century history is just another lesson that if freedom is to be secured, then it takes more than slogans and wishful thinking

As Ayn Rand argued, "In the absence of political principles, the issue of government is an issue of seizing power and ruling by brute force." However well meaning one's politician might be,the absence of political principles leaves the door open for power to be grabbed by whichever brutal power luster can cobble together a big enough gang.

It is not true that political systems are simply a matter of subjective preference; it's not true that tyranny, gang rule and slaughter are as desirable as freedom and prosperity; it's not true that freedom is simply "the desire of every human heart" and that all it needs is the removal of dictators to achieve it. If it were that simple, the removal of Middle East dictators would lead to more freedom instead of more tyranny, gang rule and slaughter. As Ayn Rand explains*, "Wishing won't make it so -- neither for an individual nor for a nation. Political freedom requires much more than the people's wish [or desire]. It requires an enormously complex knowledge of political theory and of how to implement it in practice."
It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on majority rule [a lesson lost on today's "nation builders"] but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left at the mercy of his neighbours or his leaders: the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically designed to protect him from both.

This was the great American achievement [in their revolution] -- and if concern for the actual welfare of other nations were our present leaders' motive, this is what [America] should have been teaching the world.

Instead, we are deluding the ignorant and the semi-savage by telling them that no political knowledge is necessary -- that our system is only a matter of subjective preference -- that any [mystic] prehistorical form of tribal tyranny, gang rule and slaughter will do just as well, with out sanction and support.
In 1912, the Chinese were demanding "peace, freedom and equality," without the knowledge required to achieve it. What they got instead was Sun Yat Sen, warlords, murder and Mao. Continues Ayn Rand:
...In the same way, in 1917, the Russian peasants were demanding: "Land and Freedom!" But Lenin and Stalin was what they got.
...In 1933, the Germans were demanding: "Room to live!" But what they got was Hitler.
...In 1793, the French were shouting: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" What they got was Napoleon.
...In 1776, the Americans were proclaiming "The Rights of Man" -- and, led by political philosophers, they achieved it.
This, I'm afraid, is the real lesson from the history of revolution:
No revolution, no matter how justified, and no movement, no matter how popular, has ever succeeded without a political philosophy to guide it, to set its direction and goal.
Here endeth the lesson.
_ _ _ _ _
* Ayn Rand's comments come from her Los Angeles Times column of September 23, 1962: "Blind Chaos," collected in the book The Ayn Rand Column.

Winston can read?

Everyone's expressing surprise that Winston Peters never read the report sent to him by the Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG) on Air New Zealand's chartered flights carrying Australian troops.

But everyone knows that Winston doesn't read reports. All he can read is speeches, and everyone knows who was writing the speeches and the Budgets when Winston was sitting in the Treasurer's office with his name on the door. What Winston is missing in his current sinecure is someone like Bill Birch who is willing to help keep his bone idleness and general incompetence from public view. Clearly, Phil Goff, who is effectively the Foreign Minister de facto, is less willing than Birch was to cover for him.

NZers more rational on religion than Americans - poll

The results of a poll on religion, evolution and morality strongly suggests New Zealanders are more rational than Americans on the first two topics -- although there's still plenty of work to do -- but from the questions asked on "morality" it's clear that reason has yet to flush religion from the important field of ethics.

On religion:

  • 56% of New Zealanders believe God exists, compared to a whopping 86% of Americans who insist they have an imaginary friend.
  • On the other hand, 22% of New Zealanders are sure God doesn't exist, whereas only 6% of Americans admit to having thought this through properly.
  • Only 26% of New Zealanders believe the devil exists (answers insisting she resides on the Ninth Floor of a certain building in Wellington were ruled out of contention), compared to 70% of Americans who see him everywhere.
  • The majority of New Zealanders do not believe in either Heaven or Hell (just 48% and 30% respectively), whereas the overwhelming majority of Americans do still believe in these fictions, 81% and 69%.
On evolution:
  • Three-quarters of New Zealanders believe evolution is either "definitely true" or "probably true" (respectively 26% and 49%), whereas barely fifty-percent of Americans agree (respectively18% and 35%).
  • On the other hand, 26% of NZers polled are creationist nuts who insist "God created human beings in their present form exactly the way the Bible describes it," as are a frightening 50% of Americans!
With questions on abortion, homosexuality, extra-marital sex, and "out-of-wedlock births" dominating the "morality" section, it's clear that the field is still poisoned by centuries of religious praise of abstinence and renunciation, (rather than a more rational recognition that the task of morality is to discover and teach the principles that lead to life, achievement, happiness, success, and joy).
  • "New Zealanders were significantly more tolerant than Americans about having a baby outside of marriage, sex between an unmarried man and woman, abortion, divorce and homosexual relations."
  • "Americans were much keener on the death penalty, with 66 per cent saying it was morally acceptable compared to 42 per cent of New Zealanders."
  • "Respondents from the two nationalities were most closely aligned on questions around the use of human stem cells for medical research which was seen as acceptable by 65 per cent of Kiwis and 64 per cent of Americans; cloning humans (9 per cent, 11 per cent), polygamy (10 per cent, 8 per cent) and married men or women having an affair (9 per cent, 6 per cent). Most Americans thought gambling was acceptable, but less than half of Kiwi respondents agreed."
UPDATE: Oops. Forgot to leave you the link.

Deliverance of Saint Peter - Raphael, 1514

Raphael's revolutionary use of light, and the development of light in art, are discussed by artist Michael Newberry in his latest Innovations Series - Advancements in the Art of Painting: Light, Part 1.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Bore's baloney battered in British court

Most of you have probably already heard that a British High court found last week, to put it bluntly, that Al Gore's film is little more than political propaganda.

Responding to plaintiff Stewart Dimmock, who objected to the film's "serious scientific inaccuracies, political propaganda and sentimental mush" being shown in British schools, Justice Burton agreed that Al Gore's science fiction climate porn promotes "partisan political views" -- which under British law would normally make it unlawful to show in schools -- and decided that the film may only be shown if the government's guidance notes for the film are rewritten to make clear the film "promotes partisan political views" and contains "eleven serious inaccuracies." Notes the (UK) Daily Telegraph:
The surprise move [to require guidance notes to be rewritten] was a result of concerns voiced by the judge during the hearing that Gore's critically-acclaimed work contained statements about global warming for which there was currently insufficient scientific evidence. The judge also queried whether the film might appear to promote partisan views, rather than provide information about climate change, and thus make showing it in schools - without further efforts to counterbalance it - a breach of the 1996 Education Act [which forbids the showing of partisan political propaganda in schools].
The news and the "eleven serious inaccuracies" will be no surprise to readers of this blog, but it's worth being reminded of the level of deception:
  1. The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming. The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
  2. The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years. The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.
  3. The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.
  4. The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
  5. The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.
  6. The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age: the Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
  7. The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching. The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
  8. The film suggests that the Greenland ice covering could melt causing sea levels to rise dangerously. The evidence is that Greenland will not melt for millennia.
  9. The film suggests that the Antarctic ice covering is melting, the evidence was that it is in fact increasing.
  10. The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
  11. The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.
Notes Australian Andrew Bolt, "The new Guidance Notes, very grudgingly amended, are here. Would that even this small gesture was matched by Australian schools." And would it be mathced too by partisan Gore supporters worldwide, and by those New Zealand politicians whose "buttons" were "pushed" by Gore's seductive spin and who are now so enthusiastically selling us down the river.

Where are Nanny's "45 million uninsured"?

Since the mere mention of Marc Steyn's name last week was enough to cause a more than thousand-fold stampede through a mere twenty-eight word post, perhaps if I actually quote him this week it might prove even more diverting.

Steyn fisks the figures in Hillary Clinton's renewed call to nationalise American health care, and finds Hillary's figures are as ill as her 'cure.' Explains Robert Dean at 'Samizdata,'
The battlecry this time is that there are "45 million uninsured" (or whatever spurious number is trotted out).

My first response is "so what?" Anyone in America can get health care simply by walking into the nearest hospital, as all hospitals are required to give an exam and emergency treatment regardless of ability to pay.

But, as always, one should not let the factual assertions of the advocates of the Total State go unexamined. Mr. Steyn continues:

So, out of 45 million uninsured Americans, nine million aren't American, nine million are insured, 18 million are young and healthy. And the rest of these poor helpless waifs trapped in Uninsured Hell waiting for Hillary to rescue them are, in fact, wealthier than the general population. According to the Census Bureau's August 2006 report on "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage," 37% of those without health insurance — that's 17 million people — come from households earning more than $50,000. Nineteen percent — 8.7 million people — of those downtrodden paupers crushed by the brutal inequities of capitalism come from households earning more than $75,000.

In other words, if they fall off the roof, they can write a check. Indeed, the so-called "explosion" of the uninsured has been driven almost entirely by wealthy households opting out of health insurance. In the decade after 1995 — i.e., since the last round of coercive health reform — the proportion of the uninsured earning less than 25,000 has fallen by 20% and the proportion earning more than 75 grand has increased by 155%. The story of the last decade is that the poor are getting sucked into the maw of "coverage" and the rich are fleeing it.

At a conference on health law last week, I predicted (only half in jest) that Hillary would be signing the bill nationalizing health care at the beginning of her second term. The more I think about it, the more likely it seems. The tide of the Total State never sleeps.

It Couldn't Be Done - Edgar A. Guest

After a day of wailing and gnashing, here's both a balm for the soul and a pick-me-up. The pick-me-up is the poem below, but first, the balm: Jessye Norman's sublime rendition of Delilah's "aria of seduction" from the opera 'Samson and Delilah.' (Yes, it's French. A richly deserved tribute.)

And here's the poem, by Edgar A. Guest (with links from historian Scott Powell's site left in to illustrate the poem isn't just a story) :

It Couldn't Be Done
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
on his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

-Edgar A. Guest

Monday, 8 October 2007

RWC: A few jokes ...

A few jokes to keep you going.
  • Q: What's the difference between the All Blacks and a teabag?
    A: A teabag stays in the cup longer.

  • Q: What's the difference between Graham Henry and Viagra?
    A: At least Viagra can get you a semi.

  • I WAS SO DEPRESSED I rang Samaritans. I talked to a chap at a call centre in Pakistan, and told him I felt suicidal. He got excited, and asked if I could fly a plane...
Feel free to add a few more in the comments...

  • The NZRU have confirmed they're going to offer the All Black's coaching job to John Kirwan. Said a spokesman, "At least he knows how to handle depression."

  • Q: Why are the All Blacks and a pressure cooker similar?
    A: They both deflate under pressure.

  • Bendon just phoned the NZRU. They don't want Daniel Carter to model underwear, any more, but they think the ABs are perfect to sponsor bras ... lots of support but no cup...

  • KMart loser sale: "Buy an All Black jersey, and we'll throw in a Holden jacket free!"

  • Q: What's the difference between the All Blacks and an arsonist?
    A: An arsonist wouldn't waste five matches!!

  • Have you heard that all NZ's vulnerable children have just been placed in the custody of the All Blacks?
    They don't beat anybody!

  • Police found a man had hung himself wearing an All Blacks jersey. They took it off and dressed the man in women's underwear, so his family wouldn't be embarrassed.

  • Q: Where do you hide something from the All Blacks?
    A: Inside the Web-Ellis trophy!

  • Q: What do you call 15 guys sitting around the T.V watching the Rugby World Cup final? A: The All Blacks

  • Q: What do you call a Kiwi in the World Cup final?
    A: A Referee

  • Q: What do you call an Aussie in the World Cup Final?
    A: A linesman

  • France to meet England at the Stade de France. New Zealand to meet Australia at terminal two at Charles de Gaule.
[Thanks to Phil Sage for these last three]

Brains v braindead

Any decent coach is going to find ways to get inside the head of his opposition. A really good coach will be aware his opponents will expect it, yet he'll still find ways to fuck with their heads.

Every way Bernard Laporte devised to fuck with All Blacks' heads worked for him.

The bleating about doping several months ago. The reminders of the 1999 factor. The new black French jerseys (how dare they!). The kerfuffle over the playing strips (what colour are they going to wear?) The derision over the haka (seriously, what colour jerseys are they going to wear? Red? White? Blue?)

The players wearing silver and black stood there arrogantly poking their tongues out at players who were quietly self-confident because they knew their coach had already given them a chance, and a game plan that could win. (And seriously, as a couple of commenters here have suggested, isn't it time to give up the haka? There's brains over on one side thinking through what they have to do; and there's arrogant posturing on the other side chanting "Kill, kill, kill" and thinking it's going to be a walkover.)

And once the game started, Laporte's kicking game (which Laporte was careful to telegraph in advance) was answered not with intelligence and possession and pace, but with Leon bloody McDonald kicking the ball back like the braindead automaton he's always been. Did he notice we were winning our lineouts, and some of theirs, and could settle things down by kicking for territory? Did he realise that (him apart) we had a running back four who could return the ball with interest, and punish the game the French started with? Or that our forwards had dominance, and could rumble up and tire out French legs, as we should have done to start with? Did he think? Did anyone?

Did they notice in the second half, for example, that the French game plan changed in an instant (after NZ were given their half-time instructions and then switched their brains off again), or were they lulled by a first half kicking game and several days of having Laporte send telegraphs about how Les Bleus were going to play, and disarmed by a Frenchman who realised that Les All Blacks are easily needled and unable to think on their feet? When the French game breakers came on, did any All Black notice, turn his brain on and wonder if this presaged something different? A very different game, perhaps?

Did they hell -- All Black brains weren't switched on at all, just as Laporte knew they wouldn't be. This was a game in which the braindead were beaten by brains. Once the brain-fog of mourning subsides, you can only sit back and admire how it was done.


So how about that reconditioning, huh? Players were taken out of competition to get reconditioned for October, 2007, and come October they were dropping like flies with calf strains, hamstring strains, and all sorts of bloody niggles, despite the quarter final being the first real game of the tournament.

These were training injuries, not playing injuries.

These were players who, at the behest of the coaching staff, hadn't played a real game for six months (to the detriment of the Super 14 and Air New Zealand Cup), yet come that first real test -- the game which was supposed to be the culmination of four years worth of planning -- instead of seeing well-tuned gladiators snorting fire and thinking on their feet we had players in the stands with hamstring problems and shoulder problems and coming off the field in droves with calf strains and hamstring strains, and those left on the field looked bewildered at the swift change of French tactics in the second half, and seemed like they were several games short of coming together as a team.

Which they were.

Like any sport, the best way to get fit for your game is to play your game. Good natural players who are well coached and genuinely match-fit are always going to have the advantage over great natural players who have been kept away from genuine competition for six months.

We know that the nature of the World Cup is that we'll have no competition until the business end of the tournament. So why, oh why, can't we just pick players on form from our domestic competition, instead of keeping a squad in cotton wool for six months, and then watching them all drop before the finishing line with gym strains and bewilderment and a lack of match-fitness?


Is there anything wrong with mourning your team's loss? Hell, no!

We're going to hear all sorts of bullshit about "the national psyche" over the next few days, weeks, and (oh gawd) probably years.

And it will be bullshit, all of it.

Most people around most parts of the world support a team or two, but when those teams lose they don't start bleating about "the village psyche," "the city psyche," or "the province psyche." They mourn the team's loss without all that bullshit, and then they get on with getting up for next time.

For forty-four years including five finals appearance, the Victorian town of Geelong mourned its team's failure to bring home a premiership flag, but no-one talked about "the Geelong psyche being wounded" or called it "an extreme reaction." It just made victory this year all the sweeter for Geelong fans everywhere.

All Black fans are everywhere too, and if most New Zealanders have a team, then that team is the All Blacks. It means our mourning after our teams' loss has an unusual intensity because everyone's blubbing right across these two small islands, and there are too few other supporters around to take the piss out of us for losing, but when your team heads home after being kicked out at the quarter finals, the only thing to do is mourn.

Losing like that is a bastard. It makes you realise how much better it is to win.

That said, every cloud has a sliver lining. If The Samaritans were to invest in an 0900 number, it could be a useful opportunity to buy some shares.

UPDATE: Lance suggests we take Chopper's advice: "Harden the fuck up." Hilariously cathartic!

The ref

TV3 News last night quoted an online 'poll' in which people were asked to identify who was to blame for the All Blacks' loss. Fifty-five percent of those who chose to respond blamed the referee, with the remainder pointing the finger at (from memory) the team, the coaches, and "other."

(Curiously, no one in the poll mentioned the French, which may just have been a flaw in the poll, or it may point to a curious flaw in the NZ supporter -- the inability to give credit to a team who beat us fair and square.)

But can we really blame the ref?

This is rugby, remember, and one of its characteristic features is that it's planted thick with laws, man's laws, laws requiring the interpretation of one individual with a whistle who has the power to penalise.

Good players play to the referee. They recognise that, in a game like rugby, forward passes won't always be picked up (and they'll be happy to take the rub of the green when those missed calls go their way). They notice what the referee allows and disallows, and they play to that line. That's what good players do. What good players don't do, or shouldn't do, is put their own fate and that of their team's in the hands of the ref. When the ball was chipped over his head and he chose to step in front of the French chaser, right in front of his own posts, that's exactly what McAlister did. He gave the referee the power to decide his fate. To do that in a club game would be dumb. To do it in a World Cup quarter final ...

If anyone's to blame for McAlister being sin-binned, it was McAlister. If he thought the chip for the line was covered, then shepherding the runner was unnecessary and dumb. If he thought the line was undefended, then he was offering himself up to be sent off, and offering the French a penalty try on a plate. If, that is, he thought about it all -- and the evidence for McAlister having much to think with at all is comparatively scanty.

The referee wasn't to blame. To ask the referee to decide your fate like that -- and then to have your supporters blame the referee -- now that really is just dumb.

"That wasn't real, was it?"

You wake this morning, rub your eyes and scratch your balls (or whatever else you've got) and ask yourself: "That wasn't real, was it?"

Yes it was. We really are out of the World Cup.

Four more years, boys!

Feel free to vent. I will be.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

We're out

That's it. We're out.

As a team they were out-coached, out-refereed and horribly underdone -- and the players themselves looked far from match-fit, barely conditioned, and utterly clueless as to the demands of finals football.

And that's it. We're out.

Congratulations to the French, and especially to Bernard Laporte, who comprehensively out-thought the coaches formerly known as the Three Wise Men.

Quatre années supplémentaires. :-(

Saturday, 6 October 2007


Since David Farrar has posted the locations of his most frequent visitors for the last month, I thought I'd compare his list of visitors to mine, below. It's not just the numbers that are different...
Barclays Capital 250
Ernst & Young 199
Bell Gully 113
Cash Handling Systems 86
Auckland University 85
University Of Kansas 63
Ministry of Social Development 59
Christchurch College Of Education 58
Nelson Marlborough Institute 44
Trinity College Dublin 37
IBM New Zealand 37
International Monetary Fund 36
Massey University 28
Treasury 27
Landcare Research 26
Massachusetts General Hospital 21
Haagse Hogeschool, Amsterdam 20
(Note that this list won't include those of you who aren't using a company or work ISP.) Now, since I'm getting a kick out of seeing from which offices and universities people read this blog, let's see some of the other visitors as well, those six < visits < twenty:
Harvard University
Ministry of Economic Development
UNiversity of Oklahoma
ANZ Bank
auckland university of technology
Columbia University
NZ Trade Development Board
Pennsylvania State University
SUNY, Buffalo
University of Florida
Air New Zealand
Princeton University
Cornell University
NZ Ministry of Health
New Jersey Institute of Technology
The Boeing Company
university of california davis
university of chicago
university of toronto
university of wisconsin madison
yale university
auburn university
bank of america
contact energy limited
ministry of agriculture
morgan stanley group inc.
national aeronautics and space administration
general electric company
georgia department of education
television new zealand
texas a&m university
the university of melbourne
u.s. environmental protection agency
wilson & horton ltd
british broadcasting corporation
calgary board of education
colorado state university
danish network for research and education
University Of Washington, Seattle
University Of Illinois
Bentley College, Boston
Purdue University, Indiana
SUNY, Brooklyn
University Of Minnesota
Brigham Young University, Hawaii
Iowa State University
University Of Maryland
Duke University
New Zealand Trade Development Board
Algorithmica Research Ab, Stockholm
McCann-Erickson Inc, NY
Universita' Degli Studi Di Salerno
Chalmers University, Gothenburg
York College, Pennsylvania
Tennessee Board Of Regents, Nashville
St. Louis University, Connecticut
Indiana University
Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, San Francisco
United Nations World Food Programme
Dutch Organization For Applied Scientific Research
Morgans-independent-advisors, London
USDA Office Of Operations, Missouri
California State University Northridge
California College Of Arts And Crafts
Autodesk Inc
VUW, Wellington
Stanford University
North Dakota State University
Seoul National University
East Lothian Council
Pinacle Bank, Indiana
Tampere University Of Technology, Finland
United Technologies Research Center, Massachusetts
MIT, Massachusetts
The Economist, London
St. Francis Regional Medical Center, Tennessee
Universal Studios, California
Southern Illinois University
I really do get a kick out of seeing where my blog posts get to. Thank you all for visiting, wherever and whoever you are. :^)

Saturday morning ramble - #23

Another Saturday morning ramble through just some of the many attractions on offer around the internet...
  • "The nine most terrifying words in the English language," observed Ronald Reagan, are 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help'." When Christchurch businessman Dave Henderson was set upon by government, in the form of the IRD, he resolved to fight back. He not only fought back; with the help of Rodney Hide he fought and he won and he changed the thuggish, overbearing culture endemic to the Infernal Revenue System. And then he bought their building. The whole story is now on film, and ready for release in early November. The website for the film is here: 'Here to Help.' Check it out.

  • John Boy visits Porirua market. Nobody wants to talk to him. Poor John.

  • "It seems that every generation has its Shylock," says Yaron Brook -- "a despised financier blamed for the economic problems of his day. A couple of decades ago it was Michael Milken and his “junk” bonds. Today it is the mortgage bankers who, over the past few years, lent billions of dollars to home buyers." See The Morality of Money-Lending: A Short History to understand why the scapegoating of moneylenders is "is unjust but not new."

  • "Saving banks. Ruining money." Not just the recent reaction to the worldwide credit crunch, but a reaction most governments across history have made when they've been able to meddle with the currency. "The bank was saved but the money was ruined." So says William Gouge (1796-1863), one of the best political economists of the American 19th century. He is speaking of the panic of 1819, but his sentence could sum up the whole thesis of his marvelous book, A Short History of Money & Banking, now back in print, and reviewed here.
  • "Imagine an egalitarian world in which all food is organic and local, the air is free of industrial pollution, and vigorous physical exertion is guaranteed. Sound idyllic?"

    But hold on… Life expectancy is 30 at most; many children die at or soon after birth; life is constantly lived on the edge of starvation; there are no doctors or dentists or modern toilets. If it is egalitarian it is because everyone is dirt poor, and there is no industrial pollution because there are no factories. Food is organic because there are no pesticides or high technology farming methods. As a result, producing food means long hours of back-breaking physical work which may end up yielding little. There is – or at least was – such a place. It is called the past.
    Daniel Ben-Ami explains "why we must tackle the critics of economic growth, and finish off the war against scarcity." See: Towards an Age of Abundance - Sp!ked.

  • I bet you didn't know that Google Earth has a flight simulator. I didn't either until now, but it does, and it's great. Marco has all the necessary instructions.

  • Carbon trading is fatuous, unfortunate, and unfortunately almost upon us. Says Nicole Gelinas:
    Carbon trading, the increasingly accepted answer to global warming, will cost far more than we’re being told.
    See: An Inconvenient Solution - Nicole Gelinas.

  • How does your ethical philosophy compare to the efforts of the great (and not-so-great) thinkers? Find out here at The Ethical Philosophy Quiz.

  • Why would today's political activist want to read Brad Thompson's Antislavery Political Writings? Lin Zinser explains why you'd be foolish not to:
    If you want to understand how abolitionists brought slavery to the forefront of American thought in less than 10 years; if you want to study how a good, moral political movement changed the world in 30 years; if you want to get involved in political action today, but you want to do it in a principled, moral way -- this is the book to read, understand and study.
  • But what about the roads? How many times is that question asked of libertarian political activists! Qwertz takes on the question again for all of the so called 'natural monopolies' that theorists insist can only be taken care of by government. He insists that public safety requires that governments not be allowed anywhere near the controls of infrastructure at all. The Road to Ruin, he says, is paved with intervention.

  • Frustrated with postmodern nonsense? With pomo-wanking, with slippery "discourse" about the certainty of uncertainty, of militant agnosticism and armchair multiculturalism? Then check out Stephen Hicks' interview on The Postmodern Assault on Reason.

  • The most succinct explanation yet given by Frank Bainimarama for his coup is contained in his recent speech to the UN. Read it and decide for yourself whether his demonisation is deserved. As he says, "the international community needs to understand the full context of the Fiji situation." Crucial to understanding that context, about which you'll rarely if ever heard expressed in either Australian or NZ media, is that:
    Fiji started its journey as a young nation on a rather shaky foundation, with a race-based Constitution, one which rigidly compartmentalised our communities. The "democracy" that came to be practised in Fiji was marked by divisive, adversarial, inward-looking, raced-based politics. The legacy of leadership, at both community and national levels, was a fractured nation.
  • Read how one art show in 1913 changed the word for ever. Paul Soderbergh issues a "storm warning" to today's art world challenging the notions presented in that 1913 show.

  • More on 'Atlas Month' -- the fiftieth 'birthday of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged: The real significance of 'Atlas,' says Robert Tracinski, is that it is the only novel in all literature to come to grips with the most significant event of the last two-hundred years. "She was the first thinker and artist to fully grasp the meaning of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution and to give them expression both in literature and in philosophy." That artistic vision was so revolutionary, and so benevolent, most critics are still unable to understand it to this day. See: The Historic Significance of Atlas Shrugged - Robert Tracinski.

  • It seems if you bash businessmen, you'll always have the support of the morons in the press gallery, as this disgraceful puff piece in praise of Clayton Cosgrove demonstrates.
    He calls a spade a spade - and then uses it to pummel his opponents with it. I sat through a press conference with Cosgrove earlier this year as he trotted out line after line about how he was going to drag “land sharks” kicking and screaming into the spotlight and “drop the hammer” on them. Seriously. The media loved it. He has been equally tough against dodgy builders and developers...
    Never underestimate how much the media likes a thug.

  • NBR points out why the NZ dollar remains popular with the "carry trade." No amount of Reserve Bank wriggling is going to change that.

  • With the exception of a Boobs on Bikes post which still gets hits from people who have apparently never seen breasts before, the post with the highest reader-to-word ratio ever on Not PC debuted this week. With just twenty-eight words and readers totalling over 1100 and still counting that makes about four readers per word. Go figure. Who would have thought a debate about Cate Blanchett's waste products was so interesting.
  • I see that the former minister for rhyming slang John Banks has announced he is flatly opposed to multi-storey buildings on Auckland's future Tank Farm precinct, and that Banks supporters think this anti-development appeasement is a good thing.
    The tank farm precinct offers an ideal opportunity for an intensely urban harbour-side precinct unique in New Zealand. What we're more likely to see however is another bloody suburban tract infesting downtown, mandated by council's time-servers and by political appeasers like John Wanks.
    Just another reason to bin your voting form. Don't vote, it only encourages bastards like this.
    Or if you really do insist on voting, then you could follow the advice of a friend: just vote for those bastards who haven't already had their feet under the table.

  • Here's the essay by Robert Bidinotto that won him a 2007 Folio "Eddie" Gold Award for Editorial Excellence: entitled Up From Conservatism, it simply explains the intellectual chaos so characteristic of conservatives.

  • Not that socialists are immune to intellectual chaos either. If "income equality" is one of their primary goals, asks Pommygranate, "then why does Freedom (free trade, capitalism, deregulated markets) correlate so perfectly with Social and Income Equality?" Time for some people to check their premises, it seems.

  • Businessmen and entrepreneurs worldwide deliver the goods and services that keep us alive and flourishing.
    Intellectuals who study the free society have, in the fields of economics and politics, a good understanding of what makes this possible,
    says Stephen Hicks: individualism. It's time to turn this same spotlight on ethics, says Hicks, the head of Rockford College's Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship. For too long, he says, the conduct of business has been viewed by mainstream theorists as either amoral or immoral. Following Ayn Rand, Hicks makes a strong case for business activity as a moral act. See his essay 'Ayn Rand and Contemporary Business Ethics.' [26 pages, PDF]

  • Lisa Van Damme says about her school: "I have often been told that, when asked what was special about their VanDamme Academy education, graduates say, "We always understood why we were learning what we were learning." She explains how that process starts from the very first day in teaching history, and grammar, and literature.

  • Have a look at what passes for modern architecture in Britain: Landmark Houses by top British architects invited "to speculate on the architectural poetics and ecological considerations for the design of a 'landmark house'" within the context of a rural site in the Cotswolds.

  • It's worth noting that building on a rural site in Britain -- let alone building anything inventive -- is next to impossible, and has been for a very, very long time. I remember, for example, former Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice (and collaborator on his plans for Baghdad) Nezam Kazan telling me that it was pointless even trying to produce cretive architecture for the English countryside since the English countryside had long since been turned into a museum by planners. James Woudhuysen at Sp!ked argues that the worldwide housing affordability crisis means this presumption to urban containment and rural mediocrity should be urgently overturned.
    If New Labour is serious about making homes more affordable, then it should allow members of the public to buy land and build homes where they please,
    he argues -- a point that the writers of NZ's uber-restrictive District Plans need to take to heart as well. See: This Land is Our Land - Sp!ked.

  • Since Al Bore was offered the opportunity (in person) to facilitate serious debate on the underlying science of global climate change, 1 year, 9 months, 1 day, 21 hours, 52 minutes, and 37 seconds have elapsed. He's still dodging. In this YouTube mash-up, DemandDebate.Com shows why the Goracle might be so reluctant.

  • "What is it about climate change that attract's charlatans?" asks The Australian's Janet Albrechtsen, and why do the serious claims for catastrophe bear no relationship to the cuddly cures proposed by politicians? "They tell us breezily we can have it all, no worries. Where is the probing, sceptical media when these sorts of porkies are told?"

  • A fabulous resource you might want to bookmark as ammunition against the charlatans is The Anti "Man-Made" Global Warming Resource. The most comprehensive bunch o' links on this topic on the planet.

  • If you've had trouble keeping up with the ongoing investigation of the surface stations that are responsible for producing the temperature record, Anthony Watts slide show here is a great introduction to the standards adopted when the phrase "good enough for government work" is your guide.

  • Environmental hysteria is nothing new, of course. Amy Kaleita and Gregory Forbes hav produced a comprehensive guide of several centuries of hysteria, from how we're going to kill all the animals; how we're all going to freeze to death; how we're going to cook ourselves; how we're going to turn the planet into a starving wasteland; how we're all going to overcrowd the earth ... there's nothing new when it comes to hysteria. See Hysteria's History: Environmental Alarmism in Context. [30 pages, PDF]

  • You'll often hear it expressed that "environmentalism is a religion." Not so, corrects blogger Noumenal Self. "Environmentalism is NOT a Religion," he says.
    [Environmentalism] is a manifestly naturalistic philosophy, concerned with the status of the natural world (for better or for worse). This is my chief objection. Perhaps there are ways in which environmentalism is like religion. But it is not literally a religion, and this has important implications... Understanding why environmentalism is not a religion helps to understand why the threat it poses will be relatively short-term... Frankly, I think that the "environmentalism is a religion" charge originated among the religious, particularly those on the right, who saw environmentalism as a competitor.
  • More on the 'Religion in America' debate. Christopher Hitchens points out to those who refuse to take the point that America's founders were skeptics about religion. "It is quite astonishing," he says, "how irreligious the Founders actually were." He cites the founding fathers' famous constitutional 'wall of separation' between church and state, and concludes: In a time when the chief declared enemy of the American experiment is theocratic fanaticism, we should stand together and demand, "Mr Jefferson: Build Up That Wall!"

  • Hitchens fans will enjoy his one-hour talk at Google's headquarters on why God is not great, and how religion poisons everything. You Tube has the somewhat smug vid: Authors@Google: Christopher Hitchens.

  • An interesting aspect of the 'Religion in America' debate is pointed out by British newspaper The Daily Telegraph: God Takes Back Seat on Campaign Trail says the Telegraph. Facinating.

  • And finally, a question that's plagued anyone who's ever spent any time on the internet: just how much are those nice women paid to do all those delightful things that regularly appear in pictures set to my inbox? Kink.Com has the list of rates for all the diverse atrocities it's possible for consenting adults to be photographed doing. If you'd like to get rich by doing what you enjoy, then "training of female bondage slaves by male dom" looks to be the most lucrative.
That's about it for another weekend ramble. I'm off now to prepare for a weekend watching the departure of the northern hemisphere teams from the Rugby World Cup. Bring it on! [And if you haven't yet got TV3's schedules for all the games to come, here's their schedule of live games and of replays. Enjoy!]