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.

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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.

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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?

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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...

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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]

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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.

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"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.

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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. :-(

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