Saturday, October 20, 2007

Line of the Day: Greg O'Connor

Line of the day yesterday goes to Greg O'Connor from the Police Association, talking to Bill Ralston on Radio Live about all the knee-jerk "Maori are being attacked" crap spewing forth from people like Willie Jackson and Pita Sharples, who are essentially professional Maoris who see racism under every pin cushion, while the mote in their own eye blinds them to their own. Said Greg:
Being Maori isn't an occupation, it's a race.
Perfectly put.

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Popular music

Despite popular thinking, so called "popular music" tells you nothing about what's actually popular. What you hear pouring out of shops and bars and cafes is less popular than you might think.

As recent digital forays by Amazon and the BBC demonstrates, however, it turns out charts that tell you what CDs sell most in a week -- on which the playlists of so many radio stations and restaurants and drinking halls are made up -- don't actually provide a reliable guide to popular taste.

When the BBC made nine Beethoven symphonies available online in 2005, it turned into the most successful online download of all time, beating out crap by the likes of Coldplay, James Blunt and U2.
Final figures from the BBC show that the complete Beethoven symphonies on its website were downloaded 1.4m times, with individual works downloaded between 89,000 and 220,000 times... According to Matthew Cosgrove, director of Warner Classics, it would take a commercial CD recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies "upwards of five years" to sell as many downloads as were shifted from the BBC website in two weeks.
That was 2005. Now at the end of 2007, news is in from Amazon who have just begun selling online digital music downloads -- and who do you think was the most popular artist at the beginning of October? The Beach Boys? Rolling Stones? Pink Floyd? Someone called Kanye West? Well, they're all in the top ten, true, but beating out al that dross for number one spot is a chap by the name of Richard Wagner! How about that! Nearly one-hundred and sixty years after he began writing it, his four-opera fifteen-hour extravaganza known as the 'The Ring Cycle' is back on top.

See MP3 Maniacs Go Wild for Wagner (As in Vahg-ner) - Doree Shafrir, NY Observer.

So much for CD sales figures as a measure of popularity. I look forward to hearing more genuinely popular music next time I head to the bar.

Here's just a few YouTube excerpts so you can understand why the old boy is still so extraordinarily popular -- there's really no other music like his:

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Beer O’Clock – Oktoberfest!

Neil Miller from RealBeer discusses the global phenomena which is Oktoberfest...

For many beer drinkers round the world, October can only mean Oktoberfest. Actually, October means Oktoberfest is half over as Oktoberfest itself starts in September. This year, for example, it ran from 22 September to 7 October.

The first Oktoberfest took place on October 12th 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. It was so popular with the locals that the tradition has endured, and today around a fifth of the guests are from outside Germany.

And I can assure you they aren't there to celebrate a wedding.

Since its beginnings, the Oktoberfest has been cancelled just 24 times. Reasons for cancellation include the Napoleonic war, the Austro-Prussian war, the Franco-German war, the First and Second World Wars, two cholera epidemics and the divorce of King Ludwig I and Queen Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen due to dipsomania. (One of these is not completely true.)

Last year, the “world’s largest fair” attracted 6 million guests who drank a surprisingly restrained six million liters of beer, consumed a staggering one million sausages, and left an unrecorded number of drunken text messages.

Only beer from the local Munich breweries are served in the massive beer tents which can each hold thousands of drinkers. Brewed specifically to be available at festival time, Hofbrau Oktoberfest (5.7%) is a sandy, smooth, subtle beer with a peppery finish.

This beer finds its way to New Zealand most years, is well worth a try and is best drunk out of big stein accompanied by a plate of roast ox. The ox is best eaten whole.

Interestingly, the Hofbrau brewery is owned by the Bavarian Government.

Finally – a German drinking toast:

Das Leben ist bezaubernd, man muss es nur durch die richtige Brille sehen.

Life is wonderful,
you just need to see it through the right glasses.

Prost! Neil

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Who are you supporting in the big rugby final?

There's a big game of rugby coming up this weekend, a big final! Now that my team isn't in it, it's hard to know who to support.

Do I support the team from the southern parts, who have pace and power all over the park, or the team from further north who've undergone something of a revival.

Hard choice, but on reflection I'm supporting Wellington. 'Bout time they won it again.

How 'bout you? ;^)

UK's anti-fag anti-liberty law

If Reg said this on the British Footy Show, he'd shortly be locked up in jail for up to seven years. This explains why. [Hat tip Lindsay Perigo]

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Bhutto bombed

When I heard news that Benazir Bhutto was returning to Pakistan, I'm sure I wasn't the only one whose mind went back to Benigno Aquino's ill-fated return to the Philippines. The circumstances were too similar. News that Bhutto's convoy was bombed on its way into Karachi from the airport has sadly confirmed that concern -- fortunately she herself hasn't been killed, but news reports suggest dozens have been.

Very, very sad.

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'Not PC' backs the government!

I'm in the unusual position of wanting to praise four statements from four different government ministers*.

Pita Sharples told everyone yesterday that Monday's police action -- sorry, "Monday's military style police raids" (nothing like a dose of hyperbole to help your chance of a headline) -- was all about race. Parekura Horomia explains exactly what card Sharples is playing here: "the race card." Parekura would know, of course, since he's played that same card himself several times, but on this he's exactly right, and I'm damn sure Sharples knows it.

Meanwhile, Nania Mahuta firmly put Sharples' claptrap in context:
This isn't a Maori issue, this is an issue of public safety.
And so it is. Weapons have been seized (yes, weapons, Pita) from people of all colours from light brown to unwashed off-white; it should be obvious enough to everyone except the fellow travellers of the arrested and those with a pre-prepared axe to grind that this is not about race.

We've also heard any amount of hand wringing about the police -- sorry the "military style police raids" -- "traumatising a whole community" down there in Ruatoki, and scaring children on school buses. (Poor kids. They're surrounded by Iti and his comrades waving guns around, but the first sight of the police is enough to have them hyperventilating.) Now, I don't think for a minute that anyone believes that the "community" of Ruatoki is traumatised; as we're all aware, this is what is known as playing the "victim card." But Steve Maharey laid one of the myths about the "Ninja Army" to bed yesterday by pointing out that there is no evidence that the police were even on any school buses in Ruatoki. Does anyone have any that contradicts him? Even those making the claim have chosen to side-step the question, choosing instead to carry on with the hand wringing and the misinformation.

It is truly a time for cool heads.

Because we've heard all sorts of conspiratorial crap, haven't we, about how for example this whole operation has been concocted by the Labour Government for all sorts of reasons, including to help them push through the amendments to the anti-terrorism legislation. Since the police raids are more likely to hinder rather than help the amendments, this sort of conspiratorial rubbish is so dumb even Ian Wishart would steer clear of it -- as I believe he has.

It's often necessary to explain to the likes of African dictators that in the Westminster system the police, the executive and the legislature are at least nominally independent. It should hardly be necessary to explain this to commentators whose ignorance is exceeded only by their conspiratorial mien.

It's true that the independence of the police has been brought into question in recent years with their failure to properly bring the force of law to bear against Labour MPs for offences ranging from speeding through Ashburton to putting their hand into the taxpayers' pocket to steal the last election, but these compromises of police independence were only on issues in which the Labour Government held a venal interest, (which is all that really gets them excited these days) - but the police's nominal independence would at least make it difficult to coordinate such a conspiracy, and the Labour Government have hardly shown themselves capable of the sort of competence necessary to leap the few barriers of independence that do remain.

Meaning, in summary, that I'm quite prepared to believe the Government and the opposition wer briefed only when they said they were, something John Key corroborated this morning. To my mind, Annette King's first response to the press gallery on all this was still right on the money. As Newstalk ZB reported on Monday:
Mrs King [said] suggestions the arrests were politically motivated are untrue, as the Government only found out about the camps late last week. She says it was the Police Commissioner's decision to make the arrests, based on the risk to the public.

Mrs King says police have to make decisions on the evidence they have. She says if anything had happened, people would have been asking "why the useless cops hadn't done anything about it".
It's true, isn't it. And there's something else of which people should be reminded. It's the job of the police to bring evidence and lay charges. It's not the job of the media or of Keith Locke or Pita Sharples to hear that evidence, it's the job of the courts. I'd suggest those who want to 'jump the gun' to instead try and follow Horomia's advice:
Many of us find it hard to believe that the behaviour of these characters might amount to terrorist activity. But the police wouldn't have raised this potential lightly, so let's wait and see.
Yes. Let's.

UPDATE 1: Police Association president Greg O'Connor backs up Maharey, and derides the self-serving claims about police storming kids' buses:
Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell will take part in a hikoi being held through the streets of Whakatane today to protest about police tactics used during the terror raids at the foot of the Urewera Ranges... President of the Police Association Greg O'Connor is [however] denying claims armed police stormed the school bus. "The only time a school bus every got searched up there was four years ago when a Kohanga Reo bus was stopped and two gang members were on it. They were trying to escape through a checkpoint following a shooting and homicide."

Mr O'Connor says critics of the tactics police used should hold back until all the evidence is available.
Frankly, the critics don't want to wait. They want to make up stuff while keeping their axe ground. If anyone has any evidence that a school bus was stormed, then let's hear it. Otherwise, the hikoi be damned.

UPDATE 2: Backing for these things those ministers said doesn't of course mean that they won't go on being morons as Horomia already has: Horomia says Iti no terrorist. FFS! As David Farrar points out, "Ministers of the Crowns should know better than to speculate. They have a constitutional position other MPs do not... Ministers should and generally are saying nothing, as to do so would undermine the judicial process." In fact as Horomia said earlier from a different side of his mouth, the police wouldn't have raised this matter lightly, so let's wait and see what evidence they can present in court, and what the courts decide, huh?

UPDATE 3: If I'm going to back government ministers, then why not go the whole hog and back Bomber. When you get sense from the normally senseless, that's all you can do. Here's Bomber Bradbury making sense (and I never thought I would type those words):
...it’s a matter of principle. Symbolically damage things, absolutely, take up arms against my fellow countrymen, never, that ain’t my bag baby. Yes I’m angry our friends have been arrested, yes I’m angry at the way they have been treated, yes they are not terrorists, but anyone attempting to justify social justice through violence is the most backwards step I’ve ever seen, the activist community have got to demand our civil rights while renouncing any use of guns to force social change. In a functioning democracy, we fight with words and ideas, not grenade launchers.
Bravo.

UPDATE 4: I would have thought that far worse for Ruatoki children being made to fake trauma over police raids on buses that didn't happen would be to be forced into being used as political pawns. "As many as a thousand people joined a march in Whakatane to complain about children being caught up in the police operation," says the Herald.

Was there not one person there to complain about them being used as political pawns by racist morons?

* UPDATE 5: That first sentence above should now read "... four statements from three government ministers, and one who's just quit." Yes, that's right, the man who's "lived a life of blameless excellence" is quitting to take up a sinecure at Massey University. Massey's loss is the taxpayer's gain.

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BOOK REVIEW: 'Mao: The Unknown Story'

The word politics is derived from 'poly' meaning many, and 'ticks' meaning small blood sucking objects.

Mao Tse Tung breaks that mould. Mao's blood lust was never small. If you're interested at all in the history of mass murder and in the politics of large world-destroying blood sucking bastards, then you have to read Jung Chang's and John Halliday's book 'Mao: The Unknown Story.' It will make you sick.

I've read several accounts before of Mao and his crimes, and I realised he was a complete bastard. 'Mao: The Unknown Story' reveals that he was without doubt history's biggest bastard -- a mass murder utterly without virtue or any redeeming personal qualities whatsoever. To read his story as Halliday and Chang lay it out certainly made me feel ill with revulsion.

Mao was perfectly prepared to try and wipe out his country's history and to destroy his country's culture, and perfectly happy to murder millions in the attempt. Sacrifice was endemic to him, combined with the relentless pursuit of power -- he sacrificed millions of Chinese in pursuit of power and the protection of his power -- sacrificing them sometimes as an afterthought, and sometimes to assuage his blood lust. He began the technique right from his earliest days, when he sacrificed whole armies and whole cities purely in order to position himself better in the struggle for control of the Chinese Communist Party. When his life and his career was finished, his country lay in ruins, seventy million people were dead, and those left alive were terrified, and they were starving.

The communist ideology provided the justification for the sacrifices Mao demanded; for Mao it meshed perfectly with his desire for power. The Chinese were disarmed by that ideology, and they died of it in their millions. Seventy million! Seventy million people who died of starvation, of torture, as the result of Mao's blatant power lust.

IT'S SOMETIMES THOUGHT THAT to master the profession of blood-sucking dictator, one needs to maintain a gimlet-eyed focus on reality. Mao puts paid to that idea. For him reality was something to evade, with the Chinese people paying the price for his evasion: his insistence in the pursuit of super power status for his feudally impoverished county, for example -- in utter disregard of what might be necessary to become one -- resulted only in further impoverishing China (and leaving it that way for decades) and starving more than forty million human beings -- starved for no other reason than Mao's refusal to accept that "super power status" or even any kind of prosperity was beyond a country in which freedom was so viciously expunged.

His grip on the country was complete, and remained so for a quarter-century by the simple expedient of terror within, and deception without. If he did have a talent, it was for understanding how terror could be used to pacify opposition, and how willingly western leaders would be to participate in his deception.

He really had no interest at all either in the ideology of communism or the welfare of anyone other than himself -- he never showed any interest in the peasants and "the people" in whose name the "People's Liberation Army" supposedly carried out their terror. He was interested in communism only because it gave him the perfect platform on which to seize and maintain power, and to partake of his favourite pleasure: sloth. His chosen ideology was and remains the perfect ideology for the professional thug: as long as the notion exists that individuals are sacrificial fodder for the collective, then there will always be thugs prepared to pick up that sacrifice -- the wider the acceptance of that evil notion, the power the thugs will have; and the less squeamish they are, the more heads they're be able to bust.

THIS BLOOD SUCKER WAS the perfect embodiment of evil --yet it's said that evil is impotent. How to reconcile that paradox when we see him all powerful for so long? Chang and Halliday make plain that Mao himself only survived through the complicity of others -- through good men either doing nothing, or lesser men allowing themselves to deliver a country into his evil.

Without a world full of useful idiots, Mao would have been just another lowlife power luster. Without power being handed to him on a plate by an utterly outwitted American post-war foreign policy team entirely unaware of the scum with whom they were dealing, maintained for him by a Soviet Union eager to expand their own dictatorial power, and paid for by a country which he quite literally cannibalised, he would have been nothing. Without others to deliver him what he could not, he had no power himself by which to carry out his destruction, and to protect his power. At manipulating these useful idiots he did prove himself a master. At using them to destroy a country simply to hang on to power, he proved himself history's finest.

IT'S SAID TOO THAT as long as statism exists, then war will exist. Mao's career offers further evidence. "Wars," said Ayn Rand, "are the second greatest evil that human societies can perpetrate. The first is dictatorship, the enslavement of their own citizens." This, she points out, is the real cause of wars.
If men want to oppose war, it is statism they must oppose. So long as they hold the tribal notion that the individual is sacrificial fodder for the collective, that some men have the right to rule others by force, and that some alleged "good" can justify it -- there can be no peace within a nation and no peace among nations.
Mao's career once again provides the evidence. He proved himself perfectly prepared to plunge the world into war simply to gain some (often illusory) political advantage for himself - threatening Taiwan and invading Korea and India simply in order to gain technology from Russia -- technology China was in no position to use. He sponsored conflicts in Indochina, for no reason other than to acquire further influence and more technology he couldn't use, that left millions dead across Vietnam and Laos and the killing fields of Cambodia , and scars that still exist to this day across every country involved.

And once the Russians finally rejected Mao as a lunatic, too dangerous even for them, in order to continue the technological parasitism his survival demanded he then proposed to that grinning moron Nixon (supposedly the then defender of the free world) that the free world join China in a nuclear umbrella against the Soviets -- a proposal that would have left the west at the mercy of whatever border conflict the lunatic Mao wanted to manufacture for his own ends -- a proposal only offered so Mao could steal the west's military technology -- a proposal all too eagerly lapped up by by the braindead Kissinger and Nixon. As Chang and Halliday show, these two had rings run around them by Mao and Chou En Lai. They went to China in pursuit of peace, and left with the danger increased.

The proposal that the west risk joining hands with Mao in a mutually assured nuclear holocaust was ended only by Nixon's Watergate resignation. Thank small mercies for Deep Throat!

IT'S WORTH REFLECTING AGAIN on Ayn Rand's point on peace -- a point that was never even contemplated by the grinning moron and his mate, and the many other morons whose willingness to grant evil bastards absolution allows their evil to flourish. The nuclear danger only makes the point all the more important.
If nuclear weapons are a dreadful threat and mankind cannot afford war any longer, then mankind cannot afford statism any longer. Let no man of good will take it upon his conscience to advocate the rule of force -- outside or inside his own country. Let all those who are actually concerned with peace -- those who do love man and do care about his survival -- realise that if war is ever to be outlawed, it is the use of force that has to be outlawed.
Is that lesson so difficult to understand*?

Mao's evil was allowed to flourish by morally disarmed morons who were either ideologically prepared not to understand, or pathologically unwilling to contemplate the point; prepared and able to deliver to Mao what he wanted, and to give him and his destruction either the ideological benefit of the doubt (he might be a murdering fucking bastard, but at least he's our murdering fucking bastard) or -- worse -- to worship at his shrine, as many braindead Maoist morons did and still do. His methods of ideological intrigue can still be seen at work around the world in all those Maoists who still infest the world's parliaments and political platforms with their poison.

It's time that Mao and Maoism and the murder and poverty brought about by communism and communists was treated with the same popular revulsion as the likes of the Nazis and the KKK. Don't give any of these bastards the benefit of any doubt.

This book helps to make clear they don't deserve it.
* * * * *

*To make the lesson more topical for you: Let those in NZ who are actively concerned with peace reflect that Tame Iti received his own indoctrination in Maoism early on, including a visit to Peking in 1973, a year before Nixon and right at the start of his activist career. As all the evidence makes clear he is still following what he learned there.

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'Jazz'

If you haven't seen Ken Burns' ten-part series on 'Jazz' yet, then you owe it to yourself to track it down and watch. There are are excerpts all over YouTube, of course, but see if you can get hold if on DVD and watch it through your stereo.

In the meantime, here's the riveting intro to the whole thing that I love playing for friends, including Wynton Marsalis' electrifying summary of what jazz is about: "Jazz celebrates life, human life..."

If you've ever wondered what it takes to get the jazz bug to bite, then this is it. Click the pic to go to YouTube and watch and enjoy.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's bullshit, stupid

It's election season in most of the free-ish world, and this video from 'The Onion' shows the number one issue for voters -- or at least, the issue on which most media report. As Gus Van Horn says, "it very aptly sums up the brilliant level of today's political discourse."
xx

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Irish dating ads

Actual ads from the Lonely Hearts pages of 'Ireland's Own':

Heavy drinker, 35, Cork area. Seeks gorgeous sex addict interested in a man who loves his pints, cigarettes, Glasgow Celtic Football Club and has been known to start fights on Patrick Street at three o'clock in the morning.
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Donegal man, 50, in desperate need of a ride. Anything considered.
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Grossly overweight Louth turf-cutter, 42 years old, Gemini, seeks nimble sex-pot, preferably South American, for tango sessions, candlelit dinners and humid nights of screaming passion. Must have own car and be willing to travel.
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Limerick man, 27, medium build, brown hair, blue eyes, seeks alibi for the night of February 27 between 8 PM and 11:30 PM.
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Artistic Clare woman, 53, petite, loves rainy walks on the
beach, poetry, unusual sea-shells and interesting brown rice dishes, seeks mystic dreamer for companionship, back rubs and more as we bounce along like little tumbling clouds on life's beautiful crazy journey. Strong stomach essential.
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Ginger haired Galway man, a troublemaker, gets slit-eyed and shitty after a few scoops, seeks attractive, wealthy lady for bail purposes, maybe more.
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Bad tempered, foul-mouthed old bastard, living in a damp cottage in the arse end of Roscommon, seeks attractive 21 year old blonde lady with a lovely chest.
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Optimistic Mayo man, 35, seeks a blonde 20 year old double-jointed super model, who owns her own brewery and has an open-minded twin sister.
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Following a sad recent loss, teetotal Tipperary man, 53, seeks replacement mammy. Must like biscuits and answer to the name Minnie. Thurles area.
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Bitter, disillusioned Dublin man, lately rejected by longtime fiancée, seeks decent, honest, reliable woman, if such a thing still exists in this cruel world of hatchet-faced bitches.

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Setting race relations back one-hundred years?

Pita Sharples has declared that Monday's "police raids" have "set race relations in New Zealand back one-hundred years."

He says that like it's a bad thing.

Let's be honest: setting race relations "back" to where they were one-hundred years ago would be a step backwards only in time -- in many ways it would be a step forward in every other way.

One-hundred years ago race relations were in many ways superior to what they are now, and Maoridom had leaders of the likes of Apirana Ngata and Peter Buck and Maui Pomare-- true Renaissance Men who, in being respectful of the advantages of western culture and fully aware of the boons it brought, were head and shoulders above today's irrational worshippers of stone age culture and tribalism.

Unlike today's anti-colonial apologists for hatred and violence, Pomare, Buck and Ngata and their his colleagues in the Young Maori Party (which flourished in the early years of last century) advocated embracing the best of western technology, education and culture, which they saw as no threat to Maori cultural identity. According to Michael King, both Buck and Pomare believed "that the Pakeha and Western culture were to be permanent features of New Zealand life, and that the most promising future for the Maori lay in progressive adoption of Western practices, institutions and technology ... They also called for a strong degree of individualism in Maori life and the adoption of [a western] work ethic."

In his annual report for 1906, Buck argued that the time for tribalism was over: "The [Maori] communism of the past meant industry, training in arms, good physique, the sharing of the tribal burden, and the preservation of life. It was a factor in the evolution of the race. The communism of today means indolence, sloth, decay of racial vigour, the crushing of individual effort, the spreading of introduced infectious diseases and the many evils that are petrifying the Maori and preventing his advance."

Apirana Ngata too counselled Maori away from communalism towards individual responsibility; like Buck he promoted the value of western culture and education, and he warned that "welfare would be the downfall" of his people. “Look to the sun," he told Maori, "and the shadows will [be] behind you.” Writing a tribute to his old school Te Aute College, which had been instrumental in the formation of the Young Maori Party, Peter Buck observed, "We no longer have the fear of a dying race, but the great increase in the Maori race raises new problems that have to be met by sane leadership."

He was to be disappointed. Maori leadership instead became diverted by a century of Marxism and of Maoist posturing; a culture in permanent grievance mode, forever looking backward to yesterday and never towards the sunrise of a new day. Instead of sane leadership we see "professional Maoris" of the likes of Sharples and Iti and Turia and Annette Sykes for whom their race is a meal ticket and who virtually live in the shadows of the past, preferring to ride their grievance gravy train and take it and Maoridom with them to a misbegotten stone age.

If the recent raids do anything to destroy the credibility of the likes of Maori activists such as these, to show the true nature of the likes of Iti and Sykes and their fellow comrades and empower some modern-day Renaissance Men of the likes Maoridom enjoyed one-hundred years ago, then that would be a very good thing.

UPDATE: Sharples also joins his c0-leader Tariana Turia in rewriting history. Turia was rightly excoriated a few years back for talking about a non-existent "holocaust" in Taranaki, and Sharples now invokes equally fictional "atrocities committed at Parihaka -- "atrocities" which are no less mythical than the the idea that Iti is a man anything like Te Whiti. The fact is, as I'm sure Sharples knows, there were no atrocities, no killing, no Taranaki "holocaust" -- these exist only in the fevered rhetoric of these shadow dwellers.

Ironically, the other figure Sharples invokes is Te Kooti: while Sharples' claims of atrocity at Parihaka are made up from whole cloth, in declaring his admiration for Te Kooti he shows his reverence for a man who really did carry out atrocities -- hardly helping claims for Iti's peaceful intent.

In fact, it's instructive that while Ngata, Pomare and Buck are considered sell outs by today's Maori leaders, vicious murderers like Te Kooti are still revered, and stories of "atrocity" against Maori are still so calmly manufactured. It is indeed a measure of the distance we've travelled since the days of those three Renaissance Men.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Not bashing the bishop

Former Density Party leader Richard Lewis is now Family Party co-leader, a job he shares with master-faster Paul Adams. Report here from TV3. Satire here from Lou Reed:
In the name of family values we must say "Whose family?"
Asked this morning if leadership would be a threesome with Bishop Brian, Lewis indicated he has "the full support of Bishop Brian Tamaki of the Destiny Church although he will not be speaking publicly on behalf of the Family Party." Good luck with that.

God has so far refused all comment.

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Of Pulp Fiction and Peace Prizes - Ed Cline

Novelist Ed Cline has produced the definitive evisceration of Al Bore's film, his claim to the Nobel Peace Prize, and any pretension the failed politician might have to being anything other than a fraud and a liar. The comprehensive links alone are worth the price of the visit; his analysis is spot on.
In establishing the conditions for awarding this Prize, Alfred Nobel stipulated in his will that it go to the individual who had done "the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace conferences."

The problem is that neither Nobel nor any of his succession of executors of the Peace Prize has ever had any fundamental knowledge of the requirements of "peace" ...

By awarding Gore the Peace Prize, which he will share with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Nobel Committee revealed itself as being on the same intellectual level - a very, very low and clueless one - as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which earlier this year awarded an Oscar to Gore's propaganda film, An Inconvenient Truth.
He concludes,
It is interesting to note that it was Hollywood that made Gore's movie possible, and not any special marketing savvy of the former vice-president's... Leave it to West Coast, anti-American lefties to help a failed politician perpetrate a fraud, a big lie... From one perspective, one cannot help but view Gore's An Inconvenient Truth as his vengeance for having lost the 2000 election to George W. Bush... From a more fundamental perspective, however, environmentalism, which has become a no-questions-permissible secular religion (and the last graspable straw of the left wing), is Gore's Allah, to which he is urging everyone to bow - or else.
Read Gore's Pulp Fiction - Ed Cline, The Rule of Reason.

UPDATE: One of Eddie's favourite bloggers, physicist Lubos Motl, has a round-up of reactions to The Goracle's award.

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Peaceful protest?

Three words strike me as characterising so many of the reactions to Monday's arrest of anti-colonial, anti-industry, anti-globalisation and so-called peace protesters under firearms legislation: humbug, denial, and misinformation.
  • People in Ruatoki are bleating that the police were unnecessarily harsh on Monday, and (worse apparently) gave them "no warning" about the raids and the arrests.

    Are these people stupid? They've been prepared for years to countenance the organised thuggery and the exclusion of visitors and the training camps and the "Tuhoe Nation" crap carried out and espoused by Iti and his idiot comrades in their name -- and they've done nothing at all about it. If you're carrying out a raid then you don't warn supporters or friends of those being raided; that really would be stupid. These people aren't stupid enough not to know that - they think we are. To complain they weren't warned is just humbug, and it evades that far more basic issue of what they're prepared to allow in their own community and in their own name. If they're prepared to countenance violence in the name of the "Tuhoe Nation" or whatever other idiocy Iti's comrades dream up, then they deserve everything they get.
  • Protest groups have been issuing "messages of support" to those arrested and organising protests against the arrests, meaning we've been obliged to witness the spectacle of "peace activists" apparently in denial about the firearms that have been confiscated and the bombs and the weapon training that's been undertaken down outside Ruatoki. We've seen them make accusations of "police brutality," and admissions that no one at all has been brutalised. And we watched the likes of Francis Mountier from the Save Happy Valley Coalition get all evasive when a tame TV journalist asked her to repudiate violence and to deny all knowledge of what's been alleged about these training camps. Evasion and denial.
  • We've seen talk of terrorism appear in the press. The protest groups have been quick to object to the "label" of terrorism being used against those arrested, but so far the fact is that the "label" has been used mostly in the denial of it. But the anti-terrorism Act, raised as a bogey by the likes of protestors and commentators associated with the protestors, has not been used against any of the idiots so far arrested. Police Commissioner Howard Broad explained very carefully that the search warrants were issued under the Firearms Act, and charges so far have only been laid under the Firearms Act. Sure, the searches themselves were carried out with the intention of obtaining evidence under the anti-terrorism Act, but protestors need to get their heads around the fact that charges have only been laid so far under the Firearms Act. Their heroes were in possession of weapons that their views would say they shouldn't be.

    And like everyone else I look forward to seeing if charges are justified under the anti-terrorism Act.
  • Two of those who've raised the conspiratorial bogey that the arrests were carried out to provide backing for the forthcoming amendment to the anti-terrorism Act are John Minto and David Small, both of whom have been used by media outlets as so-called independent commentators on the whole affair. Both are in denial about the nature of the charges so far -- that these seventeen people had the means and were undertaking the training whereby to carry out something pretty nasty -- but the media who have invited them on as commentators are either in denial themselves, or else they think we're stupid. The fact is, as Trevor Loudon points out, both Minto and Small are associated with the groups from whom those arrested have been drawn. Minto is an organiser of the ironically named Global Peace and Justice, and umbrella group for at least one of those arrested; and Small is a (former?) Maoist with links to several of the "anti-everything" groups from whom protest has come. [See for example 'Socialist Academic Profile: David Small,' and 'John Minto, Communist Columnist,' and 'Who is Radical Youth?' ]

    That these two are presented as "independent commentators" tells you something about the independence of our media, doesn't it? Doesn't it?
Let me make two final reflections, one on the nature of protest, and other on the nature of force. The right to peaceful protest is important, and in a free society that right is protected. While that right is being threatened by the Electoral Finance Bill, it is not under threat either from these arrests, or from the amendments to the anti-terrorism Act. I'd like to invite those who suggest they do to turn their metaphorical guns on the real means by which protest will be squelched for one third of our lives: the Electoral Finance Bill. Opposition to that Bill is a litmus test for genuine opposition to the banning of peaceful protest.

Now to reflect on force. The right to exercise retaliatory force in one's defence is paramount -- if one's right to life is to mean anything under law, then the right to retaliate against force initiated against us or our loved ones must be protected. That said, a primary leitmotif of a civilised society is that retaliatory force is brought under objective control. That job is the job of the police and the law courts, who -- when they're acting properly -- are acting in our name to protect peaceful individuals from those who would initiate force against us. As several recent events have shown us, Our police force is imperfect, but they're the only police force we have. With the arrests this week and what we've heard on the suspects' charge sheets in court, our trust so far in what's left of our legal system is justified. Let's hope we see justice done, and thugs removed from having the opportunity to do us harm.

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Al-Qaeda In Iraq "Crippled"

Look for this good news to be reported on tonight's edition of Campbell's 'Socialism at Seven': Al-Qaeda In Iraq Reported Crippled - Washington Post
The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group, which the Bush administration has long described as the most lethal U.S. adversary in Iraq...

There is widespread agreement that AQI has suffered major blows over the past three months. Among the indicators cited is a sharp drop in suicide bombings, the group's signature attack, from more than 60 in January to around 30 a month since July. Captures and interrogations of AQI leaders over the summer had what a senior military intelligence official called a "cascade effect," leading to other killings and captures. The flow of foreign fighters through Syria into Iraq has also diminished...

The deployment of more U.S. and Iraqi forces into AQI strongholds in Anbar province and the Baghdad area, as well as the recruitment of Sunni tribal fighters to combat AQI operatives in those locations, has helped to deprive the militants of a secure base of operations, U.S. military officials said.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New blog: Free Hamilton

Lifelong libertarian and Hamiltonian Steve Hoefsloot (yes, I have extensive evidence that the two are not mutually exclusive) has a new blog: Free Hamilton. Welcome to the blogosphere, Steve,

Urban housing, and why NZ doesn't really have it

Here's a post for Architecture Week: a reflection on the poor choices New Zealanders face with our urban housing, and why NZ's planners want to keep it that way.

Here's just some examples of a few urban housing types that are enormously popular overseas,
  • Linked home units (e.g. 'sausage' blocks)
  • Semi-detached housing units
  • Four-storey walk-up apartments
  • Multi-storey apartments with elevators
  • Community housing, with shared courtyards, shared kitchen areas and the like
  • Two, three, and four-storey terrace housing
  • Courtyard housing, and courtyard clusters
  • Mews housing
  • Mixed-use four storey walk-ups
  • innovative medium-density housing (such as Rotterdam's 'pole houses,' Frank Lloyd Wright's Suntop Homes and Crystal Heights apartments, San Francisco's Fulton Grove 'alley housing,' and Moshe Safdie's Habitat)
  • Single family home on an eighth-of-an-acre section
Now, with all these types of urban housing available, most of them enormously popular overseas (and some of them once very popular here), ask yourself how many of them a land-owner would be allowed to build on his typical bit of land in a typical NZ city...

If you guessed "not many," you'd be dead right.

The answer (with rare exceptions) is that for most bits of land in most NZ suburbs, all of the housing types listed that make the least use of scarce urban land are allowed, and all those that help increase the number of housing units that can comfortably work in a city -- and that are enormously popular overseas -- almost all of these urban housing types are disallowed.

Is this smart, do you think? People who complain about the number of single family homes that are built on eighth-of-an-acre sections right across NZ cities (which is mostly what NZ District Plans are written to protect) should direct their ire at those who ensure this is the only thing people are allowed to build: at the planners and the Resource Management Act that gives the planners their power.

District Plans drawn up by planners place enormous restrictions on what one can do one one's own land, restricting choice and trampling over property rights -- but it's been going on for so long and with so little protest that most of these restrictions and the "right" of planners to impose them are simply taken for granted.

Planners have placed restrictions on the height of what you can build, on the setbacks of new buildings from the street and from boundaries, and most importantly restrictions are place on the density of new building -- on the number of housing units one may build on one's own land.

It is the restrictions on density that exert the biggest stranglehold on our cities. At a density similar to some of the better parts of London for example, with which many NZers are familiar, the population of Auckland could be easily fitted on the ishthmus, with plenty of land left over for parks, and plenty of land left over outside the isthmus for decreased densities if people so wish.

Instead, the planners have ensured the city spreads slowly out into the country-side one relaxation of the ring-fence after another, creating the "carpet sprawl" that supporters of the Resource Management Act claim they dislike, and removing the chance of genuine country living for those who so desire it.

In some parts of some NZ cities, further restrictions have been placed on land, protecting the cold and archaic early twentieth-century housing that still disgraces so much of the early urban landscape.

Planners have restricted the supply of urban land, making it even scarcer than it needs to be, and restricted the housing choices that New Zealanders are allowed to make to a one-size-fits-all bland-and-blander straitjacket, making urban space duller and even scarcer still.

What's wrong with choice? Why do we give these people such power? We let them ring-fence the city and stop people heading out and building away from the city when they want to -- "sprawl!" is the all-too hysterical cry -- and then we let them stop other people building higher density urban housing when they want to. Instead of leaving people free to choose, we have these boring "halfway houses" that some people like, but that many simply accept because that's all that's available, and they don't know any better.

When there's just so much available from which to choose, it just doesn't make any sense.

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Not so peaceful pacifists

The arrest of seventeen anti-colonial, anti-industrial and anti-globalisation activists around the country on firearms offences leaves most of us in the dark about what the hell is going on, reliant on reports from the courts about the firearms charges under which the seventeen are being held, and on what is already known about the people arrested and those like Annette Sykes who are defending them - who if you'll remember "jumped for joy" when Al Qaeda's hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Centre killing 3,000 people.

Media bans on court reports don't help with the first, and name suppression doesn't help us with the second, so we're left to speculate with the thin gruel of information left to us, and the commonality of those arrested.

We do know that the people arrested are not friends of freedom. We do know that "military style training camps" are alleged in Tame Iti's neighbourhood. Sykes calls these "Wananga" on "Maori sovereignty," and Iti's partner insisted they were "bush camps" held "to help develop the identities of young people"-- "bush camps" and wananga that apparently involved a bomb being detonated.

We know that Auckland "peace" activists were raided for a Sig assault rifle, a BB rifle with a laser sight and a machete; that Wellington peace" activists were raided on similar grounds; that Tame Iti was raided and found in possession of firearms, napalm and molotov cocktails; that one man was arrested in Palmerston North; one woman in Hamilton; that Christchurch environmental activists were targeted, (but not raided as the police had no search warrant); and that these search warrants have been issued and weapons seized after a year-long investigation of "a core group of about 20 people but with 40 more potentially involved," with a view to laying charges under anti-terrorism laws. Notes Scoop:
With one exception each charge laid in Wellington alleges that a relatively large group of people – a number of other people have been arrested in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty & Palmerston North – were “unlawfully in possession of a firearm except for some lawful purpose” in Rotorua on each of six occasions.Charge sheets filed in Wellington alleges offending occurred on:
16th-19th November 2006 (with a semi-automatic rifle)
10th to 14th January 2007 (a rifle)
26th to 29th April 2007 (firearm)
21st to 25th June 2007 (rifle)
16th to 19th August 2007 (shotgun & rifle)
13th to 16th September 2007 (Molotov cocktails & military semi-auto rifle)
Names mentioned so far as being either arrested or targeted include Tame Iti, "peace" activist Sam Buchanan, Radical Youth organiser and Students for Justice in Palestine head Omar Hamed, Save Happy Valley Coalition organiser Francis Mountier, and Jamie Lockett, and members of organisations like Radical Youth (which explains why John Minto was out and about last night defending those arrested) , the Wildcat Anarchist Collective, and A Space Inside (aka Necropolis) . Blogger Trevor Loudon, who likes to keep an eye on those with indelicate designs on the country has run profiles on all of these characters in recent months, which he's already re-posting. Keep an eye out.

Reaction to the arrests so far has been mixed, with most people waiting for information before commenting. However, Indymedia is already running comments like this:
This is a vicious, violent cowards attack and demands a measured response. I propose that monies be raised in cyberspace and anyplace in order to predict when exactly the police minister and PM will be permanently retired... Fuck the democratic-socialist scum that always turn to fascism - we will bury you. You want the fucking dark ages back you better be careful what youse wish for.
And Martin "I'm a fat poseur" Bradbury insists he has inside information that "when it comes out what they were planning Middle NZ is going to go fucking nuts" -- which could mean whatever you want it to mean, really -- the Maori Party claim this is a move against Maori

Meanwhile, Lindsay Perigo offers this observation:
The arrest of members of pseudo-Mordi Sovereignty cells, green groups and "peace" activists for their participation in terrorist training camps in isolated areas of New Zealand's Bay of Plenty should surprise no one, says SOLO (Sense of Life) Principal Lindsay Perigo. "Especially when Annette 'I jumped for joy after 9/11' Sykes comes out in their defence. We've long known these types had the destruction of western freedoms in their sights. "The police are to be congratulated on doing their job for once, instead of persecuting marijuana smokers and those who defend themselves from murderous crims.
With so little information so far, it's impossible to judge whether actions so far are justified, but we do know already from their past histories that the people arrested are not friends of freedom, and from the weapons seized that "peace" activists shouldn't always be taken at their word. I would hope that if the charges are justified that justice will be allowed to be done and that we can see it being done -- and that we won't see a gutless backdown and the release of people full of hate with new grievances to nurse.

UPDATE 1: Media reaction around the world is less pacific than the apologetics of local media.
UPDATE 2: NZ HERALD:
It is understood the people under investigation had been attending military-style training camps in the Ureweras for months. Police are believed to have suspected that some of the instructors at the remote camps had Army or police backgrounds and were experienced in handling weapons.Police investigations indicate some members of the Tuhoe tribe, who point out their ancestors never signed the Treaty of Waitangi, have been involved...

Sources have suggested the training camps were intended to prepare a terrorist group that planned assassinations for causes such as declaring the Tuhoe region in the Bay of Plenty an autonomous state.Two other sources told the Herald they had attended military-style guerrilla training in the Ureweras.

UPDATE 3: Lockett has been released on bail. "Judge Josephine Bouchier said that on the evidence before her at the moment, Lockett could not be considered to pose such a significant danger to the public that he should be in custody." Summarising, says Stuff:

The Crown said police had intercepted communications in which statements like the following had been uttered:

  • "I'm training up to be a vicious, dangerous commando"; #para
  • "White men are going to die in this country"; #para
  • "I'm at war. I'm declaring war on this country very soon". #para It described Lockett as someone who was an active participant in a group that had the potential to make a violent impact on New Zealand society.
  • Nope. Nothing in statements like that and the possession of weaponry with which to do it to indicate he'd be a danger to the public.

    UPDATE 4: From Russell Brown:
    This is the Trade Me feedback page for one of the men arrested, who traded as hunt4life. He bought a hell of a lot of stuff -- ammunition, combat gear, at least one semi-automatic rifle (of a type that could plausibly used for hunting) -- and sold very little. Whatever else might be discovered about hunt4life, his Trade Me rep was first-class.

    I didn't see cyber-hori's feedback, but Scoop's photograph of the search warrant for the Wellington house suggests a similar haul.

    Would these people really do what is alleged? I don't know, but this blog, which seems connected to some of those arrested, seems to countenance armed resistance in theory. On Indymedia, one looney (who also wanted to come to the New Year "freedom fighters" gathering that seems of interest to the police) is calling for an end to peaceful protest and to "rise and strike down those who have inflicted their pain into the Name of Freedom."
    UPDATE 5: A commenter asks me, " shouldn't there be a libertarian right-to-bear-arms defence in this case?" And is answered by another intelligent commenter:
    In itself, I don't see a problem with having firearms training.

    The important factor is the intention: training with firearms for sport or personal reasons - ok. Training with firearms for committing crimes - not ok.

    Judging by the number of firearms charges, it's likely that the use of firearms hasn't exactly been legit. Then again, "except for some lawful purpose" is dubious - self defence isn't even considered a lawful purpose in NZ.
    So there's the point in a nutshell: Training with firearms to commit crimes is not okay, and anyone doing so should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The problem is that self-defence isn't properly recognised in NZ law, and we've learned that those who administer NZ law can't exactly be taken on trust. In other words, we won't know for sure whether "a libertarian right-to-bear-arms defence" exists until or unless the full case is presented before a court.

    UPDATE 6: Says Lance Davey at SOLO:
    Whatever Tame Iti and his ilk were planning and training for was not peaceful protest. The nature of the groups involved—communist, eco-terrorist, brown supremacist, Islamo-fascist—and the reported weapons seizures puts paid to any idea of lawful protest. Groups such as those are fighting for one freedom only, the freedom to oppress others at the point of a gun. These self-described “freedom fighters” are fighters of freedom, not for it. They are enemies of individual liberty. But the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. This is still Nanny State that we are dealing with here, and she is still, for the most part, an evil old bitch.
    He points out that because "the state has arrested the 'bad guys' does not instantly make them the 'good guys'."
    We must not lose our heads, and we must not allow agenda-driven MPs to manipulate the masses into supporting anti-freedom legislation.New Zealand First MP Ron Mark [for example] has already raised the idea of abolishing the right to freedom of association. More calls for more state oppression of individual liberty will follow. People should not allow fear to cloud their judgment.

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    Silveira Beach House - Helena Karpouzas


    A simple timber and glass Brazilian bach, which I pinched from this blog here, where blogger Nick reckons at its latitude in Brazil, it will have just the right amount of overhang to block out the midday sun, yet let in all the light in winter.

    That might be a trifle optimistic, but I'd like to think he's right.

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    Monday, October 15, 2007

    Speak softly and carry a 12-gauge

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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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."

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    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.

    Simple.

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