Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Non-neutrality **is** objective

What a fantastic cartoon in The Herald on the Clark Government's democracy rationing, following up yesterday's front page effort!

The Herald has drawn criticism for not being "neutral" in taking against Clark's democracy rationing.. But objective journalism does not mean neutrality. The premise here is that if you have a point of view, then you can't be objective. But as Paul Blair explains, "that's just plain false."
An objective report gives the audience all the information needed to draw a valid conclusion... But facts lead to conclusions. Just because one doesn't want to accept those conclusions doesn't make the facts wrong or the presentation nonobjective: rather, the person who resists the logical conclusion is the one who lacks objectivity... Being objective means recognizing that not everybody's point of view is equally valid or deserves equal respect.
Over to you, critics.

The return of THAT lounge ...

In case you haven't noticed, 'retro-modernism' is currently all the rage architecturally, and if you want to keep with the programme you'll have to keep up. Fortunately, I'm here to help.

Writing about the onslaught of modernism back when was it first fashionable in Manhattan -- that is, back before retro was 'retro' -- Tom Wolfe described being constantly inflicted with photos of THAT apartment. It was always the same one ..-
Every respected instrument or architectural opinion and cultivated taste, from Domus to House & Garden, told the urban dwellers of America that this was living. This was the good taste of today; this was modern, and soon the International style became known simply as modern architecture. Every Sunday, in its design section The New York Times Magazine ran a picture of the same sort of apartment. I began to think of it as THAT apartment. A glass and steel box in which "the walls were always pure white and free of mouldings, casings, baseboards and the rest... Somewhere near there was always a palm or a dracena fragrance or some other huge tropical plant, because [the apartment] and all the furniture was so lean and clean and bare and spare that without some prodigous piece of frondose Victoriana from the nursery the place looked absolutely empty. The photographer always managed to place the plant in the foreground so that the stark scene beyond was something one peered at through an arabesque of equatorial greenery. (And that apartment is still with us every Sunday.)
They went away for a while, but I have to tell you that apartment and the lounge that goes with it are back and flourishing in contemporary NZ architecture! And instead of the palms, rubber plants and prodigious pieces of frondose Victoriana used to transform the photographed starkness, these soulless contraptions rely on the stunning New Zealand landscape to breathe into them the life the architect failed to.

I kid you not. You see it in every issue of every NZ architecture magazine -- you see it so often you have to check the cover to make sure it's a new issue, and the caption to make sure it hasn't been designed a continent away and sixty years ago.

So I opened a recent book Architecture: Inspired by New Zealand with excitement. I should tell you that the book (and the architecture) has grand aspirations. It promises
another look at the New Zealand landscape through the eyes of NZ architects, photographers and writers. [Twenty-two] buildings have been juxtaposed alongside images of nature and are accompanied by ideas about the notion of site ... [and] collected together as examples of how each unique environment has inspired the architect to produce a different solution as to how a house can interact with the landscape as well as accommodate contemporary modes of living.
Inspire, by the way, means "to imbue or animate (with); to infue or instil (as emotion in or into)..."

Had I somehow missed a new breed of exciting New Zealand architects truly inspired by our breathtaking and ever-changing landscapes and integrating architecure and landscape? Were there perchance some overlooked gems that were a grace instead of disgrace to their beautiful local locations? Were there some New Zealand architects inside who were truly inspired by the almost God-given beauty of this country of ours? All too sadly I have to say that, with just a few very near exceptions (houses by Melling + Morse and Ron Sang and Felicity Wallace and even Pete Bossley contrive to break the mould somewhat), no, there weren't.

Instead, what appears to be the same house in all essentials is dropped into twenty different settings -- settings you would kill to design for -- and author Amanda Hyde de Krester (PhD) accompanies pictures of these places with telling phrases such as "the architect has designed a vantage point from which landscape is viewed as art," and "the site is an expectant reality, always awaiting the event of construction, through which its otherwise hidden attributes will appear," and" the architecture interacts with the landscape not in a deferential way, but by framing and contrasting it," and "the house has been designed to present the landscape to its occupants perfectly."

Closer inspection reveals that for the most part the landscape has been "presented to its occupants" by the simple expedient of framing up a box and then wrapping it in glass, and that while sometimes the house wears a different hat or a different shirt, once all all the candy floss and artifice is stripped away, at the very heart of these places is almost always that lounge. A picture window with a flat ceiling, downlights and a view. A gorgeous view. But of integration of architecture and view (let alone inspiration or animation) there is none, if any.

All the photos shown here bar one are from the award-winning houses in that book. And I assure you, they really are all different houses, not just the same one at different times of the day ...

Of the twenty-two houses inside, then, nearly twenty of them are substantially the same house -- glass boxes whose "dialogue" with the unique landscape in which they've been dropped consists of a bare "pardon me" as they push their way in and sit silent -- a series of glass boxes all too open to the heat and glare of the afternoon sun, with -- at their heart -- as their culmination -- a flat-ceilinged box with glass walls, expensive furniture and nowhere to put your drink. That lounge! At the very place in which you expect to find the very heart and soul of the house, that place in which the occupants can engage daily with each other and that unique landscape that's all around them, you find instead an antiseptic airless and soulless box where the sun is an enemy and "the view" has been treated as just so much wallpaper, and the occupants as so many props for a one-off magazine shoot.

I swear you can almost hear these places echo -- and most likely with the saddest sound of all: the sounds of what might have been...

Far from "different solutions" that have been "inspired" by the unique landscapes in which they're located, instead of buildings that grace instead of disgrace their locations, that connect the people within to the beauty without by means more artful than just window walls and a sliding door (and some curtains to keep out the inevitably overpowering afternoon sun), you would think by comparing them that the twenty architects were all reading the same magazines, and that those magazines were telling them how to suck the very life out of a site. And you might well be right.

The lesson is that it takes more than some grand talk, koru patterns and a glass box to "interact" with and be inspired by the New Zealand landscape.

Contrast this sterility with the approach of NZ architects like John Scott and Harry Turbott and Claude Megson -- or with the designer of the rugged beauty I spotted manfully riding the wild hills out at Bethell's Beach on Sunday -- who were able to almost artlessly drop a house in a setting and immediately bring the landscape outside alive, and even reflect it in the spaces inside (above and below).
Or contrast it with architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright with his Prairie houses and his Usonian houses and his Californian 'textile block' houses; his houses for deserts and waterfalls and clifftops; for the rolling hills of Wisconsin (above and below), the lakes of Tahoe and the earthquake-prone landscapes of Japan ... which are of the site instead of on it, their addition making the landscape sing and the occupants with them.

Or contrast it to the Japanese idea and techniques of Shakkei, of 'borrowing scenery' to bring the view inside and 'capture it alive,' instead of sitting there in your glass box with your blinds drawn or glass tinted and the view floating outside like a butterfly pinned to a cushion.

Or contrast it to what an honest New Zealand house anchored in the New Zealand landscape might be like: a truly New Zealand house using honest materials and honestly responding to the New Zealand experience and the New Zealand landscape, instead of simply recycling glass and steel knock-offs of something that didn't really work fifty years ago.

That lounge really has to go.


Tony Watkins posts an amusing juxtaposition of quotes:
"Only the cowboys need to be afraid of the new Building Regulations."
Clayton Cosgrove, Minister for Building Issues, 24 April 2006
"An investigation has been launched after twenty one health and safety experts had to be rescued when their office collapsed during a meeting."
Royal Institute of British Architects Legal e-bulletin no.137, 1 March 2006


Sincere condolences to Defence Minister Phil Goff, whose nephew Matthew Ferrara was killed in Afghanistan. News here and here.

Keep fresh the grass upon his grave,
O Rotha, with thy living wave!
Sing him thy best! for few or none
Hears thy voice right, now he is gone.
- Matthew Arnold

Amazing inventions

Every so often we need to sit back and praise someone who has brought about a great advance in human affairs. Take a bow Kent Hodgson, a young Auckland inventor who has produced a device he calls a Huski that turns your warm beer into a cold drink within seconds.

Sang Tom Waits: "Warm beer and cold women, I just don't fit it in." Obviously what Tom needs is a Huski.

Mr Hodgson is my hero.

"Thousands of scientists" supporting warmist mantra?

Two of the primary points that apparently persuade non-scientific warmists that the apocalyptic science of warming science is "settled" is both the increasingly shrill insistence that "the science is settled" (ignoring that if it was settled there wouldn't be so many of those pesky skeptics to whom it needs to be so shrillu insisted), and the related claim that in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Cimate Change (IPCC) we have an organisation with "thousands" of scientists of impeccable credibility who independently review the science and by some sort of consensus agree on the best evidence and the best science.

The IPCC’s website makes the point with this ad (using a fantastic Santiago Calatrava design to attract attention):

As Tony Gillard at Sp!ked Online says, "Who could possibly argue with such an array of international expertise all in agreement with one another?" Who indeed?

Even skeptics like Bjorn Lomborg have accepted the line. Writing in the Boston Globe in praise of the IPCC's Nobel Prize he said that the Nobel Peace Prize
‘justly rewards the thousands of scientists of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’ who are ‘engaged in excellent, painstaking work that establishes exactly what the world should expect from climate change.
So the claim is "thousands" of scientists? Is that really true?
Answer: No.

According to a study done by Melbourne scientist John McLean from NZ's Climate Science Coalition, there are not thousands of scientists, or even hundreds of scientists endorsing the warmist mantra. After
an extensive analysis of the recent report of Working Group 1 of the Fourth Assessment Report by the IPCC, he found in the critical Chapter 9 there were only five reviewers who explicitly endorsed the claim that humans have a significant influence on climate, none of whom had impeccable credibility.
Not thousands. Not hundreds. Just five. Says McLean in his full report [27-page pdf]
The review of the Working Group 1 report was far less intense than the IPCC has implied.
  • - 308 reviewers examined the chapters of the Second Order Revision (i.e. penultimate draft) of the Working Group 1 report, with the average number of reviewers per chapter being 67 (minimum 34, maximum 100).
  • - 214 reviewers (69%) commented on two chapters or less and 60 reviewers averaged fewer than 3 comments for all chapters they examined
  • - Only 5 reviewers, specifically 3 individual reviewers and 2 government reviewers, commented on all chapters and just 49 reviewers (16%) made more than 50 comments in total...
The critical chapter, that which attributed recent warming to human activity, was reviewed by 54
individual and 8 government representatives but almost 1/3rd of reviewers made just one
  • - 37 of the 54 had a vested interest in the report, as editors or having papers cited
  • - 26 authored or co-authored papers cited in the final draft
  • - 10 reviewers explicitly mentioned their own papers in their review
Just 7 reviewers of that chapter appear to be independent and impartial but 5 of those made just
one comment for the entire chapter.
Just 5 reviewers explicitly endorsed the chapter in which it was claimed that humans have a
significant influence on climate but not one of those 5 has impeccable credibility.
There is scant evidence of any support for the IPCC's contention that anthropogenic emissions of
carbon dioxide have caused warming...
As Tony Gillard at Sp!ked comments,
Such a tally does not itself demonstrate a faulty peer review process. However, McLean certainly seems to have a point when he draws attention to the gap between the perception the IPCC wishes to create of thousands of scientists in unity in one report, and the reality of a report comprised of many distinct parts, each contributed to and commented on by a far smaller number of scientists with knowledge of a specific field...

McLean argues that ‘simple corrections, requests for clarifications or refinements to the text which did not challenge the IPCC’s conclusions are generally treated favourably, but comments which dispute the IPCC’s claims or their certainty are treated with far less indulgence’. He concludes that ‘the notion of hundreds of experts diligently poring over all chapters of the report and providing extensive feedback by way of peer review to the editing teams is here demonstrated to be an illusion’.
UPDATE: Here's an opportunity that doesn't arise every day. If you're in Christchurch today you get to enjoy New Zealand Cup Day (and for the first time in forty-odd years there's going to be some rain -- due no doubt to global warming), but if you're in Wellington later this evening you can go to Te Papa and make fun of Al Bore's slide show, being presented by Australian "social researcher" Randall Pearce. Report here.

Pearce, who was hand-picked by the Bore to be a "messenger" of the warmist message, promises "a strong focus on New Zealand" in this version, which apparently includes a retraction of The Goracle's fatuous assertion that "climate refugees" are flooding into New Zealand.

If you're going along to heckle, then you've got the nine "errors" found by the British court to look for, the "thirty-five" inconvenient truths found by Christopher Monckton, or the 120 one-sided, misleading, exaggerated, speculative, or wrong assertions that Marlo Lewis points out in his 'Skeptics Guide to An Inconvenient Truth.'

Should be a good night. Who needs fireworks.

Bentleys at Le Mans - Terence Cuneo

A commenter last week recommended I take a look at the illustrations of Terence Cuneo as another artist who glorifies industry and man's achievement. Not bad.

Monday, 12 November 2007

"Nothing to hide"?

Tame Iti returns home to the plaudits of a fawning media and announces " I have nothing to hide."

Fine then, let's take him at his word -- except we can't. It would mean ignoring the efforts of his lawyers, his co-defendants and his supporters to shut down and suppress the evidence of what he was up to with his 100 trainees in those six camps with all those munitions.

If he truly has nothing to hide, then instead of patsy interviews with braindead interviewers eager for nothing more than a pat on the head and a signed photo with their hero -- the same sort of braindead fawning these same analysts did with David Bain -- let's see him instead agreeing to the release of all the evidence that's been compiled of his and his co-defendants' actions over the last two years.

Then we might be able to agree he has nothing to hide. Until then, then you know his word is worth as little as John Minto's.

UPDATE: Speaking of Iti's lawyers and milking the gullible, as I was, Annette Sykes, "the woman who clapped and cheered when the World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed is now running to an international body that treats North Korea, New Zealand, Syria, Sweden and Burma as moral equivalents." Notes Liberty Scott in 'The Immoral Plead to the Amoral,'
Sykes (who for some inexplicable reason can still command some respect in the media) is going to go to the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples. A body which has as its full time, Western taxpayer funded job, to criticise Western governments for treatment of Indigenous peoples, whilst treating the corrupt ridden tinpot quasi-democracies of Africa as being great models of decolonised empowerment. You know, the type of body that throws stones at New Zealand but ignores Zimbabwe, because (after all) Robert Mugabe is indigenous...
How do you spell 'opportunism'?

Musical mayhem

After a few friends and I demolished 'Satellite of Love' the other night, I've been sent a YouTube link showing me how the UK Ukelele Orchestra perform the tune. I think I need lessons.

It reminded of the now infamous Portsmouth Sinphonia, whose only criterion for membership was a complete unfamiliarity with one's instrument, and who once boasted Brian Eno as a member (listen here and you'll find them demolishing Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra) and the, er, 'enthusiastic' Florence Foster Jenkins (who destroys Mozart's once beautiful 'Queen of the Night' aria here) ... and (since Joy Division are once again fashionable) maybe this ...

Oh, and if you want to become a singer, here's some tutoring from the great Anna Russell.

The Clark Government's outright attack on democracy

The Herald has used its front page this morning (left) to launch a full frontal assault on the Clark Government's plans to rort elections and election financing permanently in their favour, including an editorial on the Electoral Finance Bill (which restricts political speech in election year) and its companion bill (which empowers govt departments to promote the incumbent) that you simply have to read: "When is the Government going to get this message," it begins, "democracy is not a device to keep the Labour Party in power."

Read it here at the Herald website, and pass it on. And then don't rest until you've exercised all the free speech you currently enjoy to knock this damn thing on the head, while you still have free speech.

UPDATE 1: National have finally confirmed that they will repeal the Electoral Finance Bill if elected. Looks like it took the Herald to finally get them over the line to make the commitment. A friend described Key's announcement as evidence he's a "fast fallower." Or as deservedly little known UK Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law was once heard to say, "I must follow them, I'm their leader."

UPDATE 2: Notes Whale Oil this evening after a day watching The Herald collecting responses to this morning's front page:

Public Opinion was never for the Electoral Finance Bill, but neither has it been against. that is until today when the campaign against the bill went mainstream.

The Herald has over 58 pages of opinion from outside Helen’s “beltway”. She won’t like the reading of those comments.

Readers contacting the Herald newsdesk have also been almost unanimously in support of a front page editorial today which said: “democracy is not a device to keep the Labour Party in power”.

The "subtle man"

I've been enjoying reading CP Snow's series of novels recently. Snow was a physicist, a novelist and he held several important positions in British government from 1940 t0 1966. It was he who added the phrase "the corridors of power" to the language of the day, and this is the milieu about which he writes.

A quote from 'The Affair' caught my eye, a description of a character representative of so called "subtle men" -- a description to me that is an eerily accurate portrait of a certain contemporary political figure. For convenience I've changed the character's name, though I could just as easily have called him Kevin ...
I was thinking that John, quite apart from his hidden violence, was a subtle character. He was fluid, quick-moving, full of manoeuvre, happy to play on other men. But, like other subtle characters, he was under the illusion that his manoeuvres were invisible. In fact, they were seen through, not only by people such as Brown and me, but by the simplest. And that was true of most subtle men. As they went round flattering, cajoling, misleading, and promising, the only persons who found their disguise totally convincing were themselves...

I was thinking that subtle men like him would be wiser not to play at politics.
Very apt, I think.

And Snow talks too about the nature of hypocrisy, identifying that hypocrites who see the naked truth and contrive nonetheless to act quite contrary -- such people as these he says are "romantic conceptions."
Those whom we call hypocrites simply have a gift for denying to themselves what the truth is.
And there are many of those about, aren't there.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Blog of the Week

I haven't seen it myself yet, but a friend tells me the Herald on Sunday, clearly a fine publication, picked as the 'Blog of the Week' my post reflecting on the Solicitor General's decision not to bring charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act: 'Law is the Loser.'

Just thought you'd like to know. :-)

The new atheism, and that old-time religion

Sunday is our regular religion day here at Not PC, and the award-winning Gus van Horn has an interesting take on religion and the so called 'New Atheists' (chaps such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris) "who have gotten so much press lately for their writings against religion," but who "fail as intellectuals," says Van Horn, "by dismissing wholesale everything normally associated with religion."
In doing so, the 'new atheists' make it easier to swallow such arguments as Theodore Dalrymple's that we must abdicate reason in order to hold lofty ideals or experience sublime emotions.
That would be a dangerous package deal to accept.

Dalrymple argues that western civilisation is and has been underpinned by the values of religion for so long and so essentially, and since human reason undercuts the faith of religion, then to rail against faith and against religion is to rail against civilisation. As Gus says, this is in essence
the common conservative notion (to which I do not subscribe) that one should avoid ideological consistency (or "extremism"); the notion that purpose necessarily comes from something "greater" than man; and the common idea that decency and something Dalrymple calls "gratitude" must necessarily come from religion.
The 'new atheists' make it easy for such arguments to be swallowed, argues Gus, because they reject what it is in religion that has had meaning.
Thus you have some very bad and some very good stuff here tied up into a huge knot, and for all Dalrymple's praise of the religious heritage of the West, it is within this knot that is the best of our religious heritage! (The fact that this is bound up in a knot is not a good thing!)
As long as it's accepted that it's necessarily faith that underpins values, (and the 'new atheists' leave that link untouched) then one is quite entitled to either dismiss reason as a basis for forming and defending human values (as the religionists do), or to open the door to nihilism and to dismiss values altogether. But this false dichotomy is only possible if "the ideas of another major atheist intellectual whom Dalrymple completely misses" are overlooked. That person is Ayn Rand,
who takes a completely different tone with respect to the higher ideals that receive short shrift by modern intellectuals, and who also, unlike the moderns, understands that religion, for its fundamental flaws (e.g., its basis in faith), is in fact an attempt to satisfy some of man's needs.
My favourite short example here was Rand's answer to Phil Donahue on his TV show, when he asked her if she would object to someone saying to her, "God Bless You." One can easily imagine Dawkins, Hitchens or Harris taking umbrage at such an expression -- or religionists imagining that every atheist would necessarily take umbrage -- but Rand's response shows her recognition of religion's secular meaning. Why would she object? she answered, since that person was wishing her what they thought of as the highest possible.

The point to reflect on is that it's as important to demolish error as it is to ensure you're not tearing down all values that allow humans to stand tall. Here's a further example of Rand's approach, answering a question about religion in a Playboy magazine interview in 1964:
PLAYBOY: Has no religion, in your estimation, ever offered anything of constructive value to human life?

RAND: Qua religion, no -- in the sense of blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason. Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man's life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very -- how should I say it? -- dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith.
And this is just one example of the thoughtful exploration of religion that Rand conducted over the course of her intellectual life. Here are just two others from the same page of The Ayn Rand Lexicon, which has just recently been published to the Internet:
Philosophy is the goal toward which religion was only a helplessly blind groping. The grandeur, the reverence, the exalted purity, the austere dedication to the pursuit of truth, which are commonly associated with religion, should properly belong to the field of philosophy. ("The Chickens' Homecoming," Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 46)

Since religion is a primitive form of philosophy -- an attempt to offer a comprehensive view of reality -- many of its myths are distorted, dramatized allegories based on some element of truth, some actual, if profoundly elusive, aspect of man's existence. ("Philosophy and Sense of Life," The Romantic Manifesto, 25.)
I will add, although it will seem repetitive to my regular readers, that Ayn Rand also extensively discusses the question of man's purpose in life. The answer, which she arrives at through reason, is both exalted and this-worldly, and it is within the grasp of any man.

And that is why it is a shame to leave Ayn Rand out of any discussion about atheism (or religion, for that matter). For Dalrymple, however imperfectly, is making some good points against the emptiness of modern philosophy here, but he never can quite break free of the faith-forged chains of ignorance, which are, by the way, one of the many negative aspects of the religious heritage of the West. He and others like him are doomed to consider reason, man's means of living a happy life on this earth, as impotent for that very task!
It's worth reading both Dalrymple's piece and the award winning Gus Van Horn's two reflections on it on it in full to properly reflect on the point:
And do make use of the extraordinary resource that's just been made available online, and from which most of Rand's quotes on religion used here have been sourced. The Online Ayn Rand Lexicon is an extraordinary resource that makes Rand's views on almost every topic imaginable easily available and swiftly sourced. As she quipped to the compiler of the hard copy version before she died, "People will be able to look up BREAKFAST and see that I did not advocate eating babies for breakfast." Add it to your bookmarks.

Current listening ...

More 'filing by lying around' -- here's what's currently lying around my stereo looking well-used from annoying the neighbours:
'Fear of Music' & 'Remain in Light' - Talking Heads. Damn, these are good!
The Valkyrie - Wagner performed by the ENO, in English!
Coleman Hawkins (Ken Burns' compilation)
'Trinity Revisited' - Cowboy Junkies (the 'twenty-years-since-the-original' show)
Samson & Delilah - Saint-Saens
Blanton-Webster Band - Duke Ellington
Bootleg Series (Rare & Unreleased, 1961-1991) - Bob Dylan (and this is the stuff he throws away!)
Oedipus Schmoedipus - Barry Adamson
Django Reinhardt compilation (just add martini)
Kreisler plays Kreisler - Fritz Kreisler
Rachmaninov Piano Concertos 2 & 3 - performed by Rach himself!
Amor ti Vieta - Enrico Caruso (that voice cleaned up and re-set over a modern orchestra. Just brilliant.)
Various Positions - Leonard Cohen (yes folks, Leonard in his 'Greek disco phase,' complete with the original version of 'Hallelujah')
Sailor Story - Hello Sailor (two CDs back out again for barbeque season)
Trout Quintet - Franz Schubert (the perfect early evening sedative)
Real Ambassadors - Dave Brubeck & Louis Armstrong
But One Day - Ute Lemper
Die Walkure - Wagner (the Nilsson, Vickers, Leinsdorf set. Brilliant.)
Beethoven String Quartets - Juillard Quartet
The Good Son - Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
League of Crafty Guitarists - Robert Fripp
Primitive Guitars - Phil Manzanera
American Caesar - Iggy Pop
Complete Blam Blam Blam (bloody shame 'Pensioner Lover' never made it the CD. Just wrong, in my humble opinion.)
Discipline - King Crimson (can you spot the Talking Heads connection?)
La Mer - Debussy
And another big pile contains all my old John Cale records, tapes and CDs, getting warmed up for this Friday's show at the Bruce Mason Theatre in Takapuna. Top of the pile this afternoon is:
Fragments of a Rainy Season
Words for the Dying (Dylan Thomas's words set to Cale; a shame the tape's wearing out from over use ...)
Live at the End of Lonely Street - Cale & Chris Spedding, live in 1975. (includes the riff from 'Guts' that Brazier borrowed and used so well in 'Blue Lady,' I'm sure of it)
Oh, and there's also a box of Chris Knox records lying near the door ready to take out and burn now the bastard's sold his soul so cheaply and so cheesily. Bastard.

So, what's lying around near your stereo, or near your door?

Saturday, 10 November 2007

"Very disturbing..."

The leak to TV3 of the transcripts of police surveillance of the 'Urewera 16' highlights again the problem of discussing a serious issue without the central facts of the matter, and of who exactly has been fighting to keep the facts from public view.

It also invites speculation about what motives might be for keeping the facts hidden.

Several commenters at Tumeke! have touched on this, on something that Minto's loose coalition of anti-colonial, anti-globalisation, anti-industry and anti-life protestors seem to have overlooked -- or it seems at least that they'd sure like it be overlooked -- and it's this: Despite repeated bleating about 'hidden trials' and 'suppressed evidence' and 'secret court hearings' and the like from these protestors and their Minto and Locke and Indymedia mouthpieces (it's worth noting that two-thirds of the editors of Indymedia are one-eighth of the 'Urewera 16') it's not the police or the prosecutors who want to keep everything under wraps, it's the defendants themselves.

Let's not forget that it was not the Crown prosecutors but the defendants' own lawyers who did their level best to ensure that the media couldn't report the evidence as it appeared in the just-completed bail hearings (The Crown itself took "the unprecedented stance of supporting the media's right to photograph and cover the entire hearing, with lawyer Ross Burns saying it had come under criticism for holding some earlier hearings in private. Because of 'the real and genuine interest' in the charges, it wanted all future hearings to be held in open." [Timaru Herald, 1 Nov])

And take note that it was the defendants' own lawyers who helped to stop TV3 using the leaked surveillance transcripts in their Friday night broadcast ("Lawyers for the accused discovered after '3 News' went to air that the files had been leaked. They contacted TV3 and threatened to seek an injunction" [Dominion])

And it was the protestors themselves who packed the courtroom for the bail hearings in what seemed to me a clear attempt to ensure that the public would find it difficult to ever hear just what was going down.

One commenter at Tumeke! argues,
if the allegations against [the defendants] are just a load of rubbish like the activists and their lawyers claim then why on earth are they so scared and trying so hard to suppress the intercepted messages?

Surely the public once they see all the Police evidence will see that it is just a load of rubbish won't they?

They claim they are completely innocent and that the Police raids were unjustified, so why not let the evidence the raids were based on out into the public domain so the public can see for themselves how unjustified the raids were?
Now, I don't for a moment join in the demand that the defendants must agree to wave their dirtier laundry around in public, but if they're going to claim the moral high ground in pretending that all was peaceful and nothing at all disturbing was going down, then they can't really have it both ways, can they.

Great bridges!

Wow. Here's 32 of the world's great bridges [hat tip Stephen Hicks, who has plenty of other great links]. It's a tough choice, but my pick of the bridges is Santiago Calatrava's Bridge in the Canary Islands, shown above next to his Tenerife Opera House. Magnificent.

The Wellington solution

Stephen Franks refers to the recent DomPost front page "on hospital cynicism and chaotic management" in Wellington Hospital and the Capital and Coast DHB -- he identifies a "general air of discouragement" within medical professionals. "It must be wearing," he says, "to work in a spiritless atmosphere - hating management but being cynical about all solutions." Giving a talk to the Auckland Medico-Legal Association, he was told afterwards that
hospital productivity had probably dropped 20% as many medical professionals had given up going the extra mile to cover for system deficiencies.
And all this while govt spending on the govt's die-while-you-wait health system has rocketed. The answer is clearly not more money, since all major health indicators have either held steady or declined as waiting lists have continued to climb, and new solutions to rearrange the deck chairs on the sinking ship are greeted with the cynicism they no doubt deserve.

It's time to sell the deck chairs and refloat the ship, says Libertarianz' Dr Richard McGrath, starting with the place where the rot is greatest. "Radical measures now need to be taken if Wellington Hospital is to be salvaged," says McGrath. "The loss of another specialist from Capital & Coast DHB is a further indication of the dysfunction and chaos that is inevitable under the Marxist paradigm of rationed health care," he added.
"The new health minister, the 'socialist who can count', may have done a tally of the current number of paediatric oncologists in Wellington Hospital - a big fat zero. In a free market capitalist system, the supply of oncologists would tend to match demand and there would be downward pressure on the price of services as the number of specialists in a given locality increased."

"Under the current pseudo-corporate public hospital structure, there is no relationship between demand and supply. Provision of services is crippled by the massive army of self-serving make-work bureaucrats both within our public hospitals and in the health ministry, most of whom would be redundant in the context of a free health care market."

"If Wellington Hospital is to be saved from total collapse, urgent measures are needed. Firstly, begin the privatization by telling the current board and chief executive to clear their desks, and appointing interim board members from the private sector who would in turn appoint a new temporary CEO."

"Secondly, distribute shares in Wellington Hospital to the people of the greater Wellington area, so that they can hold them as an investment, sell them on for cash, or pool them with others to form shareholder pressure groups."

"Thirdly, allow medical, nursing and other groups from the private sector to rent space in Wellington Hospital for provision of the care that is obviously needed."

"People are dying on public hospital waiting lists in our capital city, and children have to be flown across the country for cancer treatment - the situation is intolerable," McGrath said.
That's the solution to cure cynicism and to fix the dying system, one hospital at a time. It's enough to make you vote Libertarianz!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Beer O'Clock: Summer Ales

In this week's regular Beer O'Clock post, some summer ale stories from the ever-SOBA Stu.

This week I’ve been basking, cycling and working in some warm, and unseasonably calm, Wellington spring days. It’s given me a chance to think about some of the thirst quenching summer ales that will be on the shelves – and in my fridge – this coming summer.

Contrary to popular belief and what DB would really like us all to believe, Summer Ale (aka Golden Ale) is actually a beer style rather than a brand. It’s a style that grew out of the English ale that breweries need to compete with the growing consumer swing to mainstream international lagers. It blends the look and feel of mainstream lagers with the subtle fruit and spice complexities of ale, resulting in a real thirst-quenching drop.

The first summer ales date back to the late 1980’s but the growing trend towards producing these beers has grown exponentially over the last 10 years or so. Some of the English versions are now available all year around, giving beer drinkers a little ray of sunshine in the dreary depths of winter. Look for the same to happen in New Zealand soon.

Monteith's Summer Ale is easily written off as a bland lager with flavouring, but it's a a bland flavoured lager that really does work for a lot of people. Honey-tinged, sweet and slightly spicy – it crosses the line between beer and RTD. Rumour has it that the beer now accounts for more than half of Montieth's sales, with Radler the next biggest selling "beer." It’s not a drink that's likely to be found in my beer fridge, at any rate.

A beer that I would love to have in my fridge more regularly is Emerson's Pale Ryder, which is going to be the hardest summer ale to get a hold of. It’s been on tap around and about Dunedin and at Auckland’s Galbraith’s and Hallertau brewpubs, but I’m not sure where else and I’m even less sure how much of it is left.

A complex blend of four cereals (lager, rye and wheat malts plus oats),plus a spicy addition of juicy American hops and coriander results in a very smooth and highly quaffable summer drop from New Zealand’s most experimental brewery. It certainly would be in my fridge if I could find more of it!

Mac's Sun Dance Summer Ale is an excellent addition to the summer ale stable and should be widely available soon. It’s a beautifully balanced beer with a generous fruity note from the Riwaka hops (the hop formerly known as Saaz D). Lemongrass adds a little flavour and interest, blending well with the hops, and also ups the perceived bitterness a shade. I think this beer will be a big hit in the summer of 2007/08.

Three Boys Golden Ale, which featured in Beer O'Clock in March, is probably my pick of the bunch. It is simple, subtle and superb and is well summed up as New Zealand in a beer bottle – a great showcase of Canterbury-grown (and malted) barley and Nelson's unique Sauvin hop. It's malt character is a little weightier this year, and the jury is still out on that move, but it still packs a superb hop punch that begs another inspection. I’ll definitely be retesting this year’s vintage a fair few times before the summer is out.

Roll on summer!
Slainte mhath, Stu

Law is the loser on the day

No one comes out well from Solicitor General David Collins' decision not to prosecute the 'Urewera 16,' least of all the law and the lawmakers.

Several basic principles of British law that for centuries have acted as bulwarks of liberty have been exposed as damaged if not entirely absent from New Zealand justice: The presumption of innocence... the right to face your accuser ... the principle that justice must only be done, it must be seen to be done... in recent weeks all these fundamental legal principles have been more evident by their absence than their presence.

Starting with the last, in the absence of the evidence against the defendants being made public (which it now never will be), no one in the country outside the police the Solicitor General and the defendants know for sure just what the hell was going on. For public vindication, the police have to point to the only independent person to have seen all the evidence, the Solicitor General, and to his strongly worded vindication of their work, which stressed
that the police have successfully brought to an end what were very disturbing activities. That the police did so without a single shot being fired, injury or loss of life, is a tremendous reflection on the professionalism and integrity of the New Zealand police.
Let's just repeat that: The police have successfully brought to an end what the only independent person to review the evidence says were very disturbing activities. So we have a right to feel grateful, it seems, that the police were acting to prevent something very disturbing happening.

But just how disturbing were they?

Was the scale of the police operation justified?

Did they overreact?

Should we be scared?

Sadly, all these questions which have been hotly debated ever since this show began will never really be properly answered (and here into that vacuum will rush in much flatulent speculation, media moronry and a mah-jong of lawyers hungry for work) because the Act under which evidence was acquired and under which charges for the very disturbing activities would have been brought if they could be is so "incoherent,"as to make that impossible, according to Collins, meaning the evidence will never be made public and will probably have to be destroyed. The law is so bad that as Colin Espiner describes it:
For all the bragging from both major parties about the steps taken to protect us against terrorism, it now appears that Osama bin Laden himself could have been conducting operations from a cave in Ruatoki and the case against him would have been thrown out of court.
So we'll just never know, which is unfair to the police, to the defendants, and to us, the public. Justice cannot be seen to be done. It's reassuring that the independence of police and judiciary has been demonstrated (something some protestors might care to focus on), but less than comforting that without having seen the evidence for ourselves we're left instead to rely on the judgement of one man. David Collins.

We're back to the rule of men, not of law.

And this damages the defendants as well. They've been neither cleared by yesterday's ruling nor properly charged. Defendants properly have the right to face their accusers; the right to know what charges are being laid, and the right to answer those charges and (if they can) to clear their name. But because of an incoherent law, these defendants have lost that right, and we the public will never know whether they would have been able to clear their names or not.

The further tragedy is that they're entitled to the presumption of innocence instead of the whispering about them that will now take place to fill the vacuum, but because of that incoherent law we'll never know for sure whether they would be able to face the charge, and explain the evidence and to have their names cleared or not. They deserved that chance. And we deserved to know. Everybody loses because of bad law, because of an act that, in the words of the Solicitor General is
unnecessarily complex, incoherent and as a result almost impossible to apply to the domestic circumstances observed by the police in this case... A number of people could, on one view of it, [have] possibly come close to meeting the criteria under the act. If the legislation had been framed differently, it is possible that charges under the Terrorism Act may have been able to be brought.
That last sentence is hardly a ringing endorsement of innocence, is it; but the defendants will never be able to properly challenge the odour that it leaves.

So who's to blame for this "incoherent" legislation? It's partly due to the difficulty of drawing up law to stop an act of terror before it happens, rather than gathering evidence afterwards when the evidence can be counted in dead bodies. That said however, it's not beyond the wit of man to draw up such a law, and Winston Peters was commendably direct this morning in fronting up and saying who was fundamentally responsible. referring to himself and his parliamentary colleagues who were responsible for drawing up and voting for it he told Sean Plunket who asked him who's to blame, [audio here], "We are."

It's true.

It's essential that the error is fixed soon, but to be fair the same errors permeate far too much of New Zealand law, and not just this incoherent legislation: lack of clarity; lack of precision; law that is unpredictable in outcome; that ignores fundamental legal principles; or that ignores or explicitly overrides fundamental individual rights. These recent events show again the danger of law that is not objective-- ie., law that is clear, precise, predictable, contextual and rights-based. Harry Binswanger explains the importance of objective law:
Laws mean force; but "the rule of law" - objective law - means force limited, checked, supervised, tamed, so that it becomes the honest citizen's protector, not his nemesis. To achieve this goal, laws must be objective in both their derivation and their form. In regard to derivation, "objective" refers to that which is tied to reality by man's only method of knowing reality: reason. In regard to form, "objective" refers to that which is tied to reality by man's only method of knowing reality: reason. In regard to form, "objective" means that which has the character of an object in reality: a firm, stable, knowable identity. In both respects, legal objectivity stands opposed to the subjective, the arbitrary, the whim-based.
It is to the subjective, the arbitrary, and the whim-based to which New Zealand law under Geoffrey Palmer's influence has been explicitly directed for some time. Let us hope this case acts as a wake-up call to drafters of future legislation. The two problems drafters need to face with specifically the anti-terrorism legislation are these. First, in the words of a colleague:
The grounds, under NZ law, for 'terrorism' to exist are fairly narrow. To cut a long story short, the Crown would need to prove [for example] that Tuhoe was an 'ideology.' To give an analogy, if you are found in possession of flour, eggs, butter, milk, a bowl, a wooden spoon and an oven NZ law requires you to prove the person intended to bake a cake. Simple as that..a cake, nothing else. Their defence could be they intended to make pikelets or scones...and a Jury must take that possibility into account. It is a case of badly drafted law and insufficient debate in Parliament, in the heat of the World Trade Center bombings.
And second, in the words (again) of the Solicitor General:
The fundamental problem is that the legislation focuses upon an entity that carries out a terrorist act, and if individuals are actually developing towards ... carrying out a terrorist act, they aren't yet an entity that is carrying out a terrorist act, and so there is a tautology in the legislation which is extremely difficult to unravel.
It is essential that all such difficulties are unravelled swiftly, and before respect for the country's laws does.

"They are never going to stop."

With the gradual envelopment of early childhood centres by the nanny state (initially by the forced retraining of early childhood teachers and thereafter by the suffocation of curriculum control), successive governments have slowly killed off what was a successful and relatively free sector of the education market, and they've recently begun killing off daycare centres and crèches at swimming pools, gyms and shopping malls by the simple expedient of insisting that "carers do not meet the criteria for childcare" and closed is what these centres must be.

The creeping soft fascism of government control of the sector has left educators and libertarians shaking their head in frustration, joking that since schools and daycare centres only have children for a short space of time compared to parents, it's amazing how parents are allowed to raise their children without a licence.


A reader tells me the Government in the person of Chris 'I fucked up at Whangamata' Carter has just announced that "any place where 3 or more children are in the charge of a caregiver is to be classified as an early childhood establishment and should be subject to the same certification." As she says, the news item referred to Sunday Schools, BUT ...
God help those families with three or more children; they'll have to go into care while Mum does three years training to qualify as a parent.

They are never going to stop.
No. They're not. Not until nanny's opponents are sufficiently numerous and with balls able to beat the bitch back will she even contemplate beating a retreat. Until then she's just gonna keep right on coming.

"Branded as..." ?

According to the commentariat this morning the police should be harshly condemned for "branding" the "Urewera Sixteen" as terrorists. All sorts of commentators have declared that the police have "branded" them as terrorists, for which they now deserve compensation.
MAORI PARTY MP TE URUROA FLAVELL said the Ruatoki community had been traumatised by the raids, and "had been stuck with the terrorist label..."

LAWYER MOANA JACKSON: "The label of terrorist has`been bandied about..."

JOHN MINTO: ""They have been branded terrorists by the police and that's been bandied right across New Zealand through the media and that's absolutely unconscionable."

TUHOE ELDER PAKI NIKORA "We still can't understand why this brand of terrorism has been placed on him ... and is branded on us as an iwi."

Trouble is, this is a group of people who've been interviewing each other. It wasn't the police who "branded" these people -- no policeman has called anyone a terrorist, and I would challenge anyone to find one who has -- the only "branding" of the type of which these commentators have accused the police has been by the commentators themselves in their noisy insistence over the last few weeks that they've been so labelled:
NIKORA (17 Oct): ""We are being branded as terrorists."

FLAVELL (Oct 26): "I s'pose the main fear is that they're seen to be and will always be remembered as the Tuhoe the terrorists..."

LAWYER MOANA JACKSON (26 Oct): "Maori must not buy into the police tactic of branding their people as terrorists..."

MAORI ACTIVIST MIKE SMITH (25 Oct): "“If there was any terrorism in Tuhoe it was state sponsored..."


SCOOP PROFILES (13 October): "Scoop.co.nz is continuing to profile each of the so-called terrorists..."
The question is, "so called" by whom?

"police tactic" to "brand" people as terrorists?

If there was any branding done, it was a rush by the defendants' supporters to wrap themselves in the word and take a strong leap for the branding iron.

Protestors in particular were quick to object to the "label" of terrorism being used against those arrested, and very noisy in their own use of the word last weekend outside the Labour Party conference, but the fact is that the "label" was used mostly by them and their fellow travellers and the commentariat, NOT by the police.

Right from the very first day, for example, when the raids were carried out on October 15, Police Commissioner Howard Broad explained very carefully that the search warrants they actioned were issued
under the Summary Proceedings Act to search for evidence of the committing of offences against the Arms Act and possibly the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Police will be gathering and assessing all available evidence before making a decision as to the nature of the charges to be laid under the TSA.

We're aware that this is the first time that the Terrorism Suppression Act has been considered in terms of an operation. We are, therefore, proceeding with full care in talking to people and assessing information before we can determine whether there is sufficient evidence to seek the consent of the Attorney General through the Solicitor General to charge anyone under that Act. [video here of press conference Oct 15]
That was the only time the word was used by the Police Commissioner, and only (necessarily) in the context of those search warrants. As he explained this morning on Radio NZ [audio here], the word "terrorism" was only used by him in explaining the basis for the searches, and only every by the police force in that context. The fact is that no "branding" at all was done by police, either as a tactic, or a policy, or even by mistake. No "labels" were so applied. The police, as Broad said, were proceeding with full care in talking to people and assessing information before determining whether or not sufficient evidence existed to charge anyone under the Terrorism Suppression Act. They were entitled to some patience from the rest of us in doing that.

It was not the police who were hyperventilating -- it was the commentariat.

Perhaps instead of drop-of-the-hat hysteria commentators and politicians could instead learn to breathe through their nose on occasions, to wait for the evidence before judging, and maybe just adopt the level of maturity their age and positions and supposed acumen might lead us to expect they'd exhibit.

'The Fall' - detail, by Martine Vaugel

An image from 'The Fall' by Martine Vaugel.

Just one of many terrific artists whose work is in total opposition to present trends in this Age of Crap.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

No terrorism prosecutions

TV3: Solicitor General says no to terrorism prosecutions
People arrested during police raids over alleged training camps in Bay of Plenty will not face charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act. The Solicitor General, David Collins QC, said today he had advised the Commissioner of Police that he was ‘unable to authorise’ the prosecutions under the Terrorism Act... However, he said that he believed police did have sufficient and proper basis for investigating the activities in question.
So what was all the protesting about, before the evidence was even heard? Newsroom has more, including a useful clarification of the reason for Collins' decision:
He says the key reason he is not prepared to authorise prosecutions is that there is insufficient evidence to establish to the very high standard required that a group or entity was planning or preparing to commit a terrorism act, as the term is defined under the current legislation.

Mr Collins was severely critical of the legislation and said it was unnecessarily complex and incoherent, and as a result it was almost impossible to apply to the circumstances of this case...

“The Terrorism Suppression Act legislation is unnecessarily complex, incoherent and as a result almost impossible to apply to the domestic circumstances observed by the police in this case,” the Solicitor-General said.

“Some may try to interpret my decision as a criticism of the police. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

He said he believed the police had sufficient and proper basis for investigating the activities in question.

He said he had examined many hundreds of pages of intercepted communications and a large number of photographs taken by the police as well as video footage and that not all of the evidence would become public.

Sounds like it was a somewhat reluctant decision, doesn't it. And sounds like we'll never know how much fire there was in relation to all the smoke.

All sixteen still face firearms charges, but presumably since the extensive evidence derived from surveillance okayed under the Terrorism Suppression Act will not be available to be used in court, those charges might be difficult to prove.

And maybe it's time to reconsider this reputation Geoffrey Palmer has for being a master-drafter of legislation?

NZ tenor enjoys Covent Garden success

Congratulations to NZ tenor Simon O'Neill who in October stepped on to the stage at London's Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in the role of Siegmund for the first of three performances of Wagner's opera Die Walkure. A richly deserved success. The playbill is here. Reviews are here. The best is from Bloomberg's Warwick Thompson who says of the performance,
The singing varied from good to great. For my money, the star was Simon O'Neill as Siegmund. His tenor voice was heroic and burnished, and he looked young and virile. If he graduates to the role of Siegfried in the future, I hope I'm there to hear it.
Me too.

UPDATE: Singing Siegmund in the next three Covent Garden performances was Placido Domingo, whom Simon has been understudying in this role at The Met. So you can see what it's all about, here at YouTube is Placido and the stunning Waltraud Meier burning up the stage as Siegmund & Sieglinde (Wagner's 'Adam & Eve) in the 2005 Proms -- six minutes described by writer Chris Brodrick as "so hot I suggest you turn on your air conditioning or sit by the open fridge. Be careful you don't get blown out of your chair by the roar at the end. Absoutely stunning!"

Herald blogger answers questions on govt vote buying

As Whale Oil succinctly says, "Audrey Young explains how the Government is trying to implement Public Funding of Political Parties by stealth. She does a handy question and answer to expose the utter hypocrisy of this government. " Read it.

No property rights, we're National

Neither National nor Labour give a damn for property rights. That's not news -- what's news is that the bastards have reconfirmed that by voting against property rights inclusion in the Bill of Rights Act where it should be. MikeE gets it right:
Its nice knowing that both National and Labour are against including the right to property as a fundamental human right. I'd have expected it from Labour, after all they are dirty lefties .. but the National party's website explicitly mentions the importance of property rights. So the Nats are:

- against enshrining the importance of property rights in the BORA
- for sending you to jail for putting a substance less harmfull than booze into your body

Why should people support the Nats again?
Fair question.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting exchange between Copeland and Cullen on the proposed legislation back in October.

"Bought the building, made the movie ..."

I had a ball down in Christchurch the last couple of days, there to see some clients and to enjoy the premiere of the new movie about Dave Henderson's battle with and eventual victory over the bullies of the IRD.

I really enjoyed seeing the film, and meeting up with so many great people and Not PC blog readers at the after-match (many of whom were both, so a big "Hi!" to you all), and Christchurch gave us two beautiful days to enjoy. Lunching at Governor's Bay yesterday was just gorgeous -- what a bucolic part of the country.

I must confess I took special pleasure staying in Dave's stylish new Hotel So, especially delicious because it's built in what was the very IRD building in which a large part of the story's struggle takes place, bought by Dave after achieving his victory over the thugs. Due diligence, he said, consisted of checking to see that the owner had naming rights on the building (he did; it was renamed Henderson House), and that he could evict them as soon as possible and put something exciting and productive in there. He has.

If you're staying in Christchurch, I can highly recommend the friendly staff and funky facilities of Hotel So. And don't forget, 'We're Here to Help' opens tonight around the country. Feel free to post your review in the comments once you've seen it. As friend Julian says,
This film is essential viewing for everyone, not just to illustrate the nature of the system under which we live but also to show what is possible if one never gives up and also why it is important to stand up for the principle of liberty... A great film about a great man.
It was. The standing ovation at the end for Dave and Rodney Hide was richly deserved. (The only ones not joining in the ovation were a pregnant woman who seemed to have trouble standing, and a seething wanker next to us who we can only presume was related to one of the IRD pricks portrayed in the film.)

Anyway, you can see an interview here with David Henderson just before the premiere. Here is a preview of the film. The main actors in the film were interviewed here. And here's the film's official website. Head out and see it as soon as you can.

UPDATE: I liked it so much I'm watching it again 7:30 tonight at the Rialto in Newmarket. You can now watch it at almost any cinema in the country, but don't let me discourage you from joining me in Newmarket.

Another global warming hoax

There's another global warming hoax going around, this one aimed particularly at insufficiently skeptical skeptics...

Recipe for indoctrination

The new one-size-fits-all education curriculum to be enforced on New Zealand children has been released. It's a dog. Literacy, numeracy and the inculcation of knowledge are given low priority. Socialisation and "biculturalism" are given higher priority. Kerry Williamson at The Dom summarises:

The Treaty of Waitangi - dumped from a draft curriculum just months ago then reinstated after protest - is to become a guiding principle in the way New Zealand children are taught. It will join reading and writing as core subjects, along with issues such as ecological sustainability and climate change... "This curriculum represents a shift away from focusing on knowing facts and figures to knowing also how to use knowledge effectively and apply it outside the classroom," said Prime Minister Helen Clark...

This is not a curriculum for education, it's a prescription for indoctrination -- the teaching of "issues" before students are even aware of the facts which underpin them (if they're ever allowed to become aware of them) -- with the full power of the state put at the service of its enforcement in all schools across the country either private or public. A teacher friend of mine (whom I'm sure won't mind me posting this) provided his own summary, which I've edited only slightly:
The new school curriculum that arrived on my desk today, The idea that the Treaty of Waitangi is this country's founding document is now official [and wrong].

The treaty did not feature heavily in the original draft of the curriculum -- under pressure from the Maori Party and the Greens however, it is now full of it.

In particular the "vision" for young people includes:
Our vision is for young people who will work to create an Aotearoa New Zealand in which Maori and Pakeha recognise each other as full treaty partners, and in which all cultures are valued for the contributions they bring.
Under "Principles" there is this:
Treaty of Waitangi. The curriculum acknowledges the Principles of the Treaty of
Waitangi [sic] and the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand. All students have the opportunity to acquire knowledge of te reo maori me ona tikanga.
Under the old curriculum, I taught about the Treaty of Waitangi as a historical event and encouraged debate on the relevance of the treaty and its aftermath today. This curriculum however enforces a set vision that must be taught to students in which treaty partnership is the ideal for today. What is simply an opinion is instead to be taught as fact...

Overall - and this is the worst part -- there is a distinct lack of emphasis on reading, writing and numeracy in the new curriculum and far too much emphasis on expressing opinions before
you have developed them.

Fun times ahead. [Emphasis mine.]
Literacy and numeracy rates are already at an all time low. Any honest educator would be horrified at at that, and scrambling to reverse the situation. Instead, the government's ministry of educators instead intend to continue the process that delivered that across the board failure.

If you were ever unsure about the motivations of the government's 'educators,'
that tells you almost all you need to know.

UPDATE 1: It's argued that the object of this curriculum "is to pull back on the spoon feeding of information and focus more on creating students who can think for themselves." A laudable aim, if true, but I think there's a misunderstanding here: in order to think for oneself, you must have the tools to think with -- the facts and knowledge necessary to think about.

George Reisman points out in 'A Root Cause of the Failure of Contemporary Education' that a moderately educated student should emerge from their schooling with working knowledge of up to a hundred or so books, "and do so in a form that is well organized and integrated, so that he can apply this internalized body of knowledge to his perception of everything in the world around him. He should be in a position to enlarge his knowledge of any subject and to express his thoughts on any subject clearly and logically, both verbally and in writing." Modern educators however spurn that notion as "spoon feeding." They want students to be creative without content, producing simple, uneducated and (above all) compliant men and women, who emerge with very little ability to understand the world in which they live, and easy fodder for whichever authority figure is able to push their Pavlovian buttons.

The revolt against knowledge is worldwide. University of Kent sociology professor Frank Furedi writes about its capture of Britain and America in his book, Where Have all the Intellectuals Gone? Confronting 21st Century Philistinism. He recalls the reaction of a colleague to an article in which Furedi had bemoaned the fact that students didn’t (and couldn’t) read whole books any more:

He had no problem with the estrangement of undergraduates from the world of books; rather, he was angry about my arrogant assumption that books should have a privileged status in higher education. The tone of the article was to suggest you can dismiss as undemanding any programme in which students do not read whole books, he complained. As far as he was concerned, the book has become an optional extra resource for the present-day undergraduate.

A public which is continuously spoon-fed platitudes and soundbites is likely to become estranged from the world of political debate. This development is particularly striking on university campuses, where students continually insist that ‘politics is boring.’ The language used on campuses reflects an intense sense of cynicism towards causes and ideas, and a distinct lack of interest in holding strong views of any sort. New York Times journalist Michiko Kakutani’s reflection on the language used by American college students captures this mood of disengagement. That familiar interjection ‘whatever’ says a lot about the state of mind of college students today, notes Kakutani. … With such little importance attached to ideas, intellectual argument has acquired negative connotations. [Emphasis mine.]

American educator Lisa van Damme continues the point in her article 'The False Promise of Classical Education':
In Dumbing Down Our Kids, Charles Sykes tells a chilling story about a straight-A student in the eighth grade named Andrea, who was very eager to learn science. Unfortunately for Andrea, her school, like most today, stressed the importance of “creativity” over “dreary” facts, and of “hands-on,” “active” learning over “dull,” didactic instruction. This bright young girl with a thirst for scientific knowledge spent her time in science class picking up cereal with a tongue depressor (to simulate the way birds feed), hunting for paper moths on a wall, and drawing pictures of scientists. When Andrea wrote a letter complaining that she had gotten nothing out of the class, she was expelled for being rude and disrespectful.

You have probably read stories like these and been horrified both by how shamefully ignorant, inarticulate, and illiterate many ... students are, and, even worse, by what schools do to students like Andrea. I wish I could dismiss such stories as rare incidents circulated among cynical critics of [modern] schools to give poignancy to their arguments. Unfortunately, my experience interviewing and teaching students at my school has shown me otherwise.
Neither empty heads nor heads full of empty facts should be the aim of education: what's needed she argues is "reform more radical than harking back to a more traditional approach that mouths respect for facts, logic, and abstract thought," and too reform more radical than simply calling for more creativity, or a return to "classical education."
The proper goal of education [she argues] is to foster the conceptual development of the child—to instill in him the knowledge and cognitive powers needed for mature life. It involves taking the whole of human knowledge, selecting that which is essential to the child’s conceptual development, presenting it in a way that allows the student to clearly grasp both the material itself and its value to his life, and thereby supplying him with both crucial knowledge and the rational thinking skills that will enable him to acquire real knowledge ever after. This is a truly progressive education—and parents and students should settle for nothing less.
Just to summarise then, children have an enormous capacity to learn, but most modern educationalists steadfastly refuse to use that capacity; they fail to fill that enormous capacity for knowledge and and for learning, leaving these young students (even as they reach adulthood) adrift in a world they can barely understand and with brains that have never automatised the skill of actually thinking, but are masters at regurgitating what they think authority figures wish to hear.

UPDATE 2: Trevor Loudon posts "an excellent article by Australian Mark Lopez. It is," says Trevor, "very timely considering the extreme left bias of New Zealand's newly announced school curriculum." See 'How The Left Changes Society Through Education.'
From The Australian 30.10.07
PC Warriors Serve up a Slanted Education
In her address to her union's conference in 2005 the Australian Education Union president Pat Byrne openly acknowledged the ideological bias that dominates the school system. As she put it: "We have succeeded in influencing curriculum development in schools, education departments and universities. The conservatives have a lot of work to do to undo the progressive curriculum."
Apart from seriously disagreeing that "conservative" or classical education is the answer to the progressive mid-grab (on that particular false dichotomy Lisa van Damme's article 'The False Promise of Classical Education' says it best) it's worth reminding yourself again that for the progressive the primary purpose of the state education system is not education, it is the inculcation of the state's chosen values. Always has been.