Saturday, November 10, 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.

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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.

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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!

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Friday, November 09, 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

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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.

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"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.

Oops!

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.

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"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."

PROTESTORS OUTSIDE THE LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE LAST WEEKEND: "Helen Clark." "Terrorist!" [Repeat ad nauseum]
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..."

SIGNS HELD BY PROTESTORS OUTSIDE COURTS AROUND THE COUNTRY: "Terrorists - yeah right."

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

What
"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.

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'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.

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Thursday, November 08, 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?

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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!"

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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.

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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.

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"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.

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Another global warming hoax

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

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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.

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First Heat


'First Heat,' by Brian Larsen. One of the few great works of art celebrating industry. A pour of steel is called a 'heat' -- this "first heat" is the first pour of the protagonist's new steel, from the mind's eye to steel ladle in the white heat of industry.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What children think about marriage

What do children think about marriage? Let's ask them:
  • “Marriage is when you get to keep your girl and don't have to give her back to her parents”
    Eric, age 6
  • “When somebody's been dating for a while, the boy might propose to the girl. He says to her, 'I'll take you for a whole life, or at least until we have kids and get divorced, but you got to do one particular thing for me.' Then she says yes, but she's wondering what the thing is and whether it's naughty or not. She can't wait to find out.”
    Anita, age 9
How did mum and dad meet?
  • “They were at a dance party at a friend's house. Then they went for a drive, but their car broke down. It was a good thing, because it gave them a chance to find out about their values.”
    Lottie, age 9
  • “My father was doing some strange chores for my mother. They won't tell me what kind.”
    Jeremy, age 8
Much more of this here. [Hat tip Noodle Food]

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Te Taari Takee

I'm looking forward to heading down to Christchurch this afternoon -- not just to avoid Auckland's rain, but to attend the film première of hero Dave Henderson's victory over the IRD thugs, 'We're Here to Help.' The title is taken from Ronald Reagan's warning about the nine most terrifying words in the English language; the story is taken from Dave's book, 'Be Very Afraid: One Man's Battle Against the IRD.'

Great story, great result ... I have every expectation of it being a great film, and I look forward to meeting up with a few of you.

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Killing history

I've argued in the post below that the Labour Party's electoral corruption is founded in post-structuralist pomo-wank -- in a phrase, bad philosophy justifying the left's pet cause: staying in power.

Pomo-wank pollutes everything it touches. As historian Scott Powell summarises, for example, it's killed the study of history. The Enlightenment originally promised to bring scientific certitutude to the study of the humanities.
If natural science could find laws and a natural order in the physical world, could a social science not achieve the same for civilization (and thus derive the proper foundation of social systems)? Unfortunately, in their quest to give history a Newtonian clarity, historians found no worthy ally among philosophers.
What they got instead was the godfather of pomo-wank, Immanuel Kant. In the historic duel between men of action and those who despise them -- a battle Powell characterises as a duel between Columbus and Kant -- "that is, between men animated by rational ideas toward action and the proponents of a philosophy that says all man's ideas are inherently suspect simply because they come from man" -- Kant has won.

Ed Cline summarises the battle, and today's cashing in:
So rather than serving as a tool for understanding how man's ideas shape his actions, history becomes a tool for distortion and for propagandizing someone's pet cause.
As you see, we're back to where we started.

Scott Powell's four-part article on how philosophy killed history can found here: Part one, two, three and four.

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"Acceptable corruption"

Helen Clark has conceded that the Labour Party won't be using a Pledge Card at the next election -- a concession not to the Auditor General, who found that the Pledge Card was an illegal use of taxpayer's money, but an acceptance that the Auditor General's report and Bernard Darnton's case against Clark for illegal use of public money have between them soiled the Card irreparably.

It's also an easy concession to make, given that Helen Clark (in her role as leader of the Clark Government) is organising the full weight of taxpaid resources and state power to be brought to bear to re-elect Helen Clark (in her role as leader of the Labour Party), and to silence her opponents.

Who needs pledge cards when you've issued a policy requiring departmental bureaucrats to issue advertising extolling your programmes?

Who needs pledge cards when you're enacting legislation under urgency to "throw open the gates" to unlimited parliamentary spending on your behalf so that the taxpayer pays for your campaign, you don't have to, and it doesn't count as election advertising?

Who needs pledge cards when you're enacting further legislation without proper consultation that effectively shuts down your opponents for the entire year of an election campaign? That will shut down political speech for one-third of our lives?

Who needs to worry about being called corrupt when you can just change the law to make your corruption legal?

Between them the Electoral Finance Bill the continuation of the so called Temporary Appropriation Bill deals the Clark Government all the cards in seeking re-election -- and just to make sure it ensures all the cards are marked.

No wonder "Miss Clark indicated yesterday that Labour was unlikely to fund the pledge card through the parliamentary leaders fund, if at all." Who needs it when you've got what Chris Trotter calls (approvingly) "acceptable corruption" on your side.

Where an honest or principled person might be appalled at contemplating, let alone carrying out or defending such corruption, Clark and Trotter have no problem. Both have been thoroughly immersed in post-modernist neo-Marxist structuralism, a mouthful of bullshit that stands for whole reams of freedom-threatening bollocks.

According to the pomo-wanking structuralist, we are all part of a subliminal power struggle of all against all, a struggle between collectives characterised by the battle to control the "inherent power structures" at work in society. As an example of the application of this view, according to the pomo-wanker, no matter how outrageous the behaviour it's not possible for a "minority" racist to be a racist, no matter how overt. In the words of the pomowankers who now write Herald editorials for example,
Nor may Maori activists or their supporters sensibly be called racists. Racism has nothing to do with skin colour, and everything to do with power. Anyone who argues that those arrested in Tuhoe and elsewhere last month are more powerful than the state authority unleashed on them is deluded. Or trying to win votes by any means necessary.
As an intelligent commenter says at Kiwiblog, this is not a redefinition of racism:
This has been the standard definition of racism in NZ universities since at least the early 1980’s. It has been hammered relentlessly into almost three decades-worth of students by lecturers and activitists in the humanities and social sciences divisions.

It’s no surprise at all to me to see it emerging in the editorial page of the Herald in 2007 by those former students. That was exactly the intention of those professors all those years ago.
The commenter, Tom Hunter, explains how this pomo-wank allows the left to countenance corruption without a qualm:
while the notion has been cleverly broadened far beyond racism the real impact has come from its being welded to the thinking of the modern political left. After all, they represent all the powerless and oppressed of this world do they not?

It enables any Left-wing movement to justify almost action to gain the power of the state and hold on to it, for even after holding such power for years or even decades they can still claim that they are powerless, at the mercy of mysterious, hidden forces in society that can be countered in no other way.

For all his harking back to a golden time of traditional working-class Labour action it was actually this post-modern notion of enternal powerlessness that lay at the heart of Chris Trotter’s observation that Labour’s 2005 victory represented “acceptable corruption”.

Hate is Love. War is Peace. Pah, crude! Power is Powerlessness is infinitely more subtle and brilliant.
Such is the power of poor philosophy to blind and corrupt. As long as you position yourself to "speak for the speechless," then anything at all goes including violence, naked corruption and an unconcealed grab at permanent political power. In other words, all the cards you can grab are yours for the taking.

Who the hell needs pledge cards when you've made sure that all the powers of the state are already at your disposal for your re-election campaign?

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Some October stats

Some stats for October: 45,870 page views; 34,498 unique visits. Top ten posts made in October:
  1. A few jokes from the World Cup
  2. Not so peaceful pacifists - a reaction to the early news of the month's big arrests
  3. Another named - further reaction
  4. Setting race relations back one-hundred years? - and again ...
  5. Atlas Month in Wellington
  6. Biofuel boondoggle exposes green snake oil
  7. Education: Buying less with more
  8. Saturday morning ramble, #23
  9. Is Turkish action justified?
  10. Of Pulp Fiction & Peace Prizes
It seems clear what the big issue of the month has been. Top six searches landing here:
  1. not pc
  2. wikiriwhi
  3. "nanny state has gone berserk"
  4. marae speaking
  5. broadacre city
  6. rwc jokes
Top six referrals:
  1. Kiwiblog (David Farrar), 1802 visits
  2. Science Blogs, 1065 visits
  3. Libertarianz, 498 visits
  4. SOLO, 334 visits
  5. Tumeke!, 308 visits
  6. NZ Conservative and Cactus Kate, 265 posts each
And the top ten cities where they're reading Not PC:
  1. Auckland
  2. Wellington
  3. Christchurch
  4. London
  5. Sydney
  6. Palmerston North
  7. Hamilton
  8. Melbourne
  9. New York
  10. Santiago, Chile

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Prometheus - Jan Cossiers

Prometheus, the divine rebel who in myth brought fire down to man, and was punished for it by being chained to a rock with his liver pecked by a raven -- a sort of metaphor for the morning after the right night.

In my favourite myth, a sort of sequel written by Wagner, man uses fire to stand up straight; to burn the gods out of house and home, redeeming Prometheus and freeing earth from the mystic busybodies. If only the secular nannies could be so easily routed.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Frightening food

Just in time for lunch: The World's Six Most Terrifying Foods.

Bad films, bad art ... and empty theatres

On the left hand (ie., Robert Fisk praising the film 'Rendition' in the not-s0-'Independent')...
So is truth stranger than fiction? Or is Hollywood waking up – after 'Syriana' and 'Munich' – to the gross injustices of the Middle East and the shameless and illegal policies of the US in the region?
And on the other hand (ie., Christian Toto in 'The Washington Times') ...
It doesn't matter how many Oscar winners are in front of or behind the camera — audiences are proving to be conscientious objectors when it comes to this fall's surge of antiwar and anti-Bush films.

Both 'In the Valley of Elah' and, more recently, 'Rendition' drew minuscule crowds upon their release, which doesn't bode well for the ongoing stream of films critical of the Iraq war and the Bush administration's wider war on terror....
Perhaps it's what happens when didactic propaganda overtakes art and entertainment: bad films, bad art and empty theatres. As Ayn Rand says about art (to which at least some films still aspire),
since every art work has a theme, it will necessarily convey some conclusion, some "message," to its audience. But that influence and that "message" are only secondary consequences. Art is not the means to any didactic end. This is the difference between a work of art and a morality play or a propaganda poster. The greater a work of art, the more profoundly universal its theme. Art is not the means of literal transcription. This is the difference between a work of art and a news story or a photograph.
UPDATE: Novelist Ed Cline blogs on Hollywood's Jihad Against America.

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Justice seen to be done

It's unfortunate that our courts seem to have forgotten the crucial principle that underpins their work: that justice must not only be done must must be seen to be done. When justice is kept under wraps, all sorts of nonsense appears in the vacuum.

In the case of the 'Urewera 16' we're naturally all as hungry as hell to find out if what we've heard only by rumour and innuendo has any element of truth, or if any of the criticism is justified. It all comes down to the evidence. Sadly however in allowing defendants' lawyers to have names, facts and evidence suppressed, the courts have ensured the vacuum will be exploited by the defenders of violence -- and if anyone can exploit a vacuum the likes of John Minto and Annette Sykes and Keith Locke can -- and all sorts of fatuous nonsense has been able to take root, some of the most fatuous being from the defendants' lawyers themselves. The weekend's Minto mob outside Labour's conference ("Helen Clark." "Terrorist." Repeat x 24) and the hand-wringing opportunism of Peter Williams QC are simply the most recent examples of the sort of sick nonsense that's proliferating in the vacuum where everyone's trying to claim the high ground in the benefit-of-the-doubt stakes.

It's clear enough from my own visits to the court last week just why the defendants want several years' worth of surveillance evidence to be kept from public view since almost every line is damning. So why do the courts consider us so immature that we can't handle hearing the evidence for ourselves in media repors, instead of hearing only the nonsense that its absence has generated?

UPDATE: He doesn't cover the suppression of evidence by the courts, but Graeme Edgeler tells you everything you need to know about bail, which is what last week's hearings were about.

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Tax cuts, and soon

Helen Clark promised personal tax cuts as a Labour policy to be announced next year, and even if she announced it through gritted teeth, she still failed to have heart palpitations at the anathema of allowing some of us to be stolen from a little less. See, Helen, it's not so hard, is it.

Her challenge to the Labour-Lite party is a good one, saying that while Labour will deliver tax cuts without cutting "social spending" and that Labour's move will expose National as a "one-trick pony." Given the Nats' 'me-too' policy predilection, there's a some truth there, isn't there.

Given the challenge, perhaps the Nats should grasp the nettle of opportunity and announce the common sense position that every housewife and house-husband already knows: that serious cuts in tax can only take place with serious cuts in spending.

Given the negative results achieved in the government's ten-year spending binge with your money, cutting government spending can only have benefits. And given the enormous list of useless ministries, departments, agencies and quangoes that contrive to suck up your money on logos, lying and long lunch hours, there's plenty of slashing and/or selling to be done.

It's time now for the Tories to have the courage of some sort of conviction, and soon.

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Bonfire, reason, the lot

We had a great bonfire night on Saturday here at Not PC HQ. Despite the best efforts of the wowsers to limit or even ban the sale of fireworks -- and especially of any that make noises any more vigorous than an effeminate 'poof,' we managed to find more than a few that exploded with a loud 'bang,' which pretty much describes how the evening went off.

And unlike the "organised" efforts, ours went off without either mishap or injury. The only serious injuries were to a few sore heads in the morning, and to our Graham Henry guy which was burnt to a cinder. A great night.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,

The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot...

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Hands off our gonads

Blogger Idiot/Savant says what needs to be said about demographers and fertility: 'Let Us Alone!'
Demographers at Waikato University's Population Studies Centre say that unless New Zealanders start breeding more, New Zealand's fertility rate will slip below replacement level. And? I don't actually see why this would be a Bad Thing. Or why a growing population would be a Good Thing. Or indeed, why this should be any concern of government (or indeed anyone) at all.

Our fertility rate is an aggregate of people's individual reproductive choices. And those choices are fundamentally personal and the sole domain of the individuals concerned. It is no business of government how many kids I or anyone else has. It is no business of government whether any of us breed or not. Government simply has no legitimate interest in what goes on in our bedrooms, or in whether those activities result in children or not. It is simply None of Their Fucking Business.
All true. All correct. And so, let's take it further: Since a market is simply an aggregate of people's individual choices about production and consumption, and those choices are fundamentally personal and the sole domain of the individuals concerned, it is no business of government what I choose to consume and produce. Government simply has no legitimate interest in what goes on in our boardrooms, or in what those activities result in. It is simply None of Their Fucking Business. Let us Alone!

I invite Mr Savant and his readers to think about that.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

20/20's Stossell enters AGW debate

We're all going to die. We're all going to drown -- it must be true, say kids, because Al Gore says so. It must be true, say big kids, because "the debate is over." Everybody knows. ("Everybody knows the fight is fixed.")

John Stossell doesn't know. He challenges the "errors" of Big Al and the warmist machine in this eight-minute presentation for ABC's 20/20.

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Home & safe

Oh, for those who've been following the story, Rick Giles is home and safe.

Just thought you'd like to know.