Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Canadian publisher standing up for free speech

levant_main1Until this morning when several readers drew my attention to his battle before the Alberta Human Wrongs Commissariat in Canada, I had no idea who Ezra Levant is.  Pictured right, Ezra Levant is a hero.  Like The Free Radical and several of NZ's newspapers and TV channels, Ezra Levant's magazine The Western S tandard republished the Danish cartoons that outraged Islamofascists around the world (that's one below), but unlike local magazine editors like myself the Standard's editor was hauled before the state for his temerity in expressing this particular political opinion.  Levant himself summarises the case here.

I would hope I would be both as brave and his eloquent if I were to be placed in his shoes.  We've all learned a lot about free speech and its many enemies in the last few years; it seems Levant has learned every lesson, and on his blog and in the many YouTube videos of his ninety-minute interrogation by Alberta's Human Wrongs Commissariat, he gives an object lesson in free speech, and in facing down the scum to whom the words 'free speech' are as unwelcome as pesticide is to a room full of cockroaches.

DanishCartoon06 These are confrontations the defenders of western culture cannot afford to lose. The right to freedom of speech is a precious one that must be defended.  As Lindsay Perigo said in publishing the cartoons in The Free Radical, free speech cannot be defended, and will only be betrayed, "by apologetic weasel-worders appeasing militant, murderous morons whose savage pseudo-sensibilities have been stirred, not by sticks and stones, but by words. May men of righteous rationality reignite the flame of reason and fight an unapologetic philosophical jihad in its holy name, that it may illumine the globe and save the world from another Dark Ages."

It is brave men such as Levant who carry that flame.  As he says in introducing his Opening Statement, "This is what an interrogation in 2008 looks like. It's not in a dungeon, or even a secure government facility. It's not done by paramilitaries in uniforms. It looks banal -- in a meeting room at a law office, with a bored bureaucrat. It's what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil"."

As I've said here before, when they come for you it won't be with a gun but with a clipboard.  Watch Levant in action and see what it takes to resist.

It's exclusive

Sir Ed's funeral would be better off as a humble private function rather the all-exclusive "state funeral" planned, says Annie Fox.

I thought the idea of a state funeral is that members of the public could attend, if not actually in the building, then out on the lawn. But the lawn outside the Church in Parnell is small and at a guess could hold one thousand people - maybe two thousand - well even at a wild guess five thousand. Hardly the solution for the tens of thousands of people that would like to attend.
So it appears that the funeral is really just for friends and family plus the ruling elite - is this what they mean by state funeral?

Simple answer: Yes.

Moore constitution, fewer bananas

Once again former Prime Minister Mike Moore is successful in provoking Herald readers towards a better New Zealand, this time towards rejecting the monarchy and creating a constitutional republic.  New Zealand's implicit constitutional arrangements have been broken, he says -- broken by the Clark Government -- and it's essential to get the explicit chains of a written constitution around the bastards before it's too late.  We're living in a banana republic, writes Moore (echoing Darnton), but without even the benefit of bananas:

"I once opposed having a constitution because of our European traditions and enlightenment values, which we reject at our peril."  He's right there, but now he's now all for change because these age-old principles and values are being eroded before our eyes.  The electoral system has been changed to the Mickey Mouse Politics of MMP -- and we never got the promised referendum on MMP's future.  Rights to appeal to the Privy Council have been peremptorily removed.  Retrospective legislation was passed to give Clark and her cronies a Get Out of Jail card after stealing your money to steal the last election.  New laws have been passed to help them steal this one, abandoning the 'gentleman's agreement that such changes are only brought about by multi-party consensus.

"The present direction is visionless, dangerously ad hoc, short term and confusing," he says.  Accurately. "Democracy is about who runs the country. A constitution is about the limits of government."  So it is.  When a governments acts as it should, it's like a guard dog that protects your individual rights.  But when they're not properly chained up, we can be badly savaged and our rights abused -- more than we would have been without the dog, or the government.  The means of tying up a government is a proper written constitution that puts such chains on governments, confining them only to their proper role -- that is, to the protection of individual rights.

A proper written constitution is our check on our government. [See the Cue Card on this.]

The very best historical example of such a constitution is the US example, which helped to tie the bastards up for nearly a hundred-and-fifty years before they chewed off the  lead and got away again.  Written back in 1998, Libertarianz' Constitution for New Freeland is explicitly intended to fix the flaws that allowed the bastards to escape their chains.  I commend it to your attention.

The Great Minto Lawn Squat

Since John Minto doesn't appreciate the property rights he's blessed with, The Whig suggests we go squat on 'his' lawn in Ethel St, Balmoral in order that he might begin to understand the blessings of secure property rights he seems so eager to spurn.  Seems fair enough to me. After all, it's only a stone's thrown from the streets in which he and his goons used to block traffic in 1981.

"Remember, it's not John's lawn, it's the people's lawn!" says The Whig, At least it is according to John.  Let's give him an enlightening educational experience about the usefulness of the secure property rights he's so eager to disparage.

Sign up for the experience at The Whig's weblog.

Helengrad is here

Since a talkback caller first used the word 'Helengrad' in a call to Lindsay Perigo's radio show just weeks after Helen Clark's ascension to power in 1999, after which Perigo picked it up and ran with it far and wide,  the term has entered popular parlance as a means of describing Clark's Wellington "in an attempt to mirror cities in the former Soviet Union named after rulers - Leningrad and Stalingrad."  Its usage is so widespread it has now been added as an entry in the Macquarie DictionaryDom Post story here [hat tip DPF]. 

Little wonder it's had such penetration, since in combining Leaderene's name with the Soviet-style suffix meaning 'town' the word so accurately describes the Clark regime set up in NZ's capital city.

TFR41-Hooey

TFR41 cover I wrote about the word's origins back in 2005, and as far as I'm aware it was my own cover story in the May/June 2000 edition of the Free Radical describing Clark's and Margaret Wilson's parliamentary hui on constitutional reform that first used the term in print.  (That's the story in its original habitat above right -- click to enlarge.)

On the day that particular Free Radical arrived in parliament with the words 'Helengrad Hui' and a condom-clad Statue of Liberty on parliament's steps pictured on the cover (above), Headmistress Shipley rose in Parliament accusing Clark of being "an interfering Minister of Everything and running a 'Helengrad' regime." The chamber fell about, and the name stuck - as unfortunately has the regime.

I believe the Herald's Fran O'Sullivan and then the rest of the world took it up about then -- it hit Australian shores later the same year in an article in The Australian called 'The Siege of Helengrad' -- and now Google boasts some 12,500 hits for 'Helengrad.' As Mrs Marsh used to say, "It does get in."

Monday, 14 January 2008

"None of the above"

Gus van Horn explains why using a political quiz to choose your presidential candidate is nonsensical, and concludes it's the same reason the choice of candidates is always so poor:

The philosophical ideas that presently have the greatest currency in our culture wrongly circumscribe the terms of the political debate and consistently produce unacceptable candidates for public office.
You can't vote your way out of such a mess. You have to work so that the public will eventually make it possible to begin digging itself out -- by spreading better philosophical ideas. This means working to understand these ideas, arguing for them, and supporting those who do.

I couldn't agree more.  The change Van Horn and I know is necessary is not the sort of "change" Obama and Clinton wield as "exuberant but insubstantial" campaign platitudes; it's the sort of change that leaves a revolution inside people's heads.

The "long march through the culture," and the need to attack Trevor

Several blogs including The Hive, Quest for Security and Poneke have been all a-giggle about old Trevor Loudon and his predilection, they say, for seeing "communist fronts" everywhere, even in places as unlikely as the NZ-China Friendship Society.

Taking on established bloggers is par for the course for newer blogs like these bidding for attention, but the Hive and Poneke have enough integrity not to get their facts wrong  when they start a blog war, and they're good enough not to have to resort to blog wars to attract readers.  It's sad that they think they have to.

Gigglers like the 'Quest' bloggers are just useful idiots who know no better, but Hive and Poneke are intelligent enough, I would have thought, to know that the use of front organisations has been a pre-eminent strategy by communists for at least the last ninety years in injecting the foul bacillus of communism into the culture, and to know that if that wasn't the case it wouldn't be necessary to have people like Trevor eager to lift up the rocks of these front organisations to see what's crawling around behind the shiny public faces.

The "long march through the culture" that communism has enjoyed over the last ninety years, despite its bloody history over all of those years, was largely the result of 1)the 'moral disarmament' caused by the suffusion of religious morality and its extolling of sacrifice as a moral virtue -- a political blank cheque the communists have been ready, willing and better placed than the religionists to pick up -- and 2)the strategic thinking of (first) Leon Trotsky, and thence of one Antonio Gramsci, the co-founder of the Italian Communist Party, a talented theoretician who, as Lindsay Perigo explains,

put a distinctively modern, relativist stamp on traditional, dogmatist Marxism. He is Marx laced with Machiavelli (a Gramsci pin-up). Marx had implied the existence of truths independent of human perception; Gramsci cleansed Marx of any taint of objectivity and proclaimed that truth was entirely "pragmatic," "praxis"-driven, determined by the interests of the revolution. Marx had preached the historical inevitability of the triumph of socialism, independent of man's will; Gramsci taught that only the wilful, conscious but clandestine subversion of capitalist culture at every level—a "long march through the culture" as he put it—could effect revolution. He was frustrated that the proletariat had not only failed to rise up against capitalism but had seemingly grown enamoured of it! This infernal reactionary ourage he attributed to the bourgeoisie's "cultural hegemony," their domination of churches, schools, the media, the unions, the arts, etc. The bourgeoisie therefore had to be beaten at their own game, their institutions infiltrated by intellectual moles ... and, by a long, silent, subtle process, brought down.

The moles' agenda was not to be "revolution" explicitly, but something unexceptionable on its face, couched in weasel words with which we're all too familiar: "consensus," "mandate," "justice," "pluralism," "community," "democracy," "global [insert marshmallow noun here]," and so on. (Note the names of two of the groups associated with New Zealand's recent "terrorist camp" raids: “Global Peace and Justice Auckland,” spearheaded by communist John Minto, and “Peace Action Wellington”!)

Ever wondered why the church is riddled with atheist priests?
Think Gramsci!
Where "Liberation Theology" (Marxism set to Catholicism) came from?
Think Gramsci!
Why our schools and universities place social consensus above genuine learning and deal in the currency of Marxism disguised as mush?
Think Gramsci!
Why our newspapers and TV networks, now full of graduates from the schools and universities, do the same?
Think Gramsci!
Why "corporates" are universally despised as evil, even by the corporates themselves?
Think Gramsci!
Why the United States, the last semi-repository of bourgeois values, is "The Great Satan" to Muslim and non-Muslim alike all over the globe?
Think Gramsci!
Where the editor of Salient gets this sort of stuff from, "rebutting" my column on Global Warming:
"Go about your business now, keep consuming. The mindless corporations are protecting your interests— believe it—only lefty politicians subvert real science. Rest assured, greed is a good thing."

[For all of these manifestations of nonsense], Think Gramsci! Via Chomsky in this last instance—but remember where Chomsky got it from!

Other contemporary luminaries influenced by Gramsci include the pomowanker Foucault; and unsurprisingly, and, chillingly, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who just couldn't wait to bring his troops home from Iraq. Brown the weasel-worder, who has forbidden public servants to use the words "Muslim" and "terrorist" next to each other!

There's no question that the Left has taken its "long march through the culture" with devastating success. We are assailed by their bromides at every turn, and the Right has been mortally corrupted by them (as well as its own contradictions). Their "long march," with Gramsci at the helm, has dragged the world to the abyss of totalitarian Hell.

Thank goodness then for the likes of Trevor Loudon, who are happy to keep track of the "long march," however surreptitious the marchers, and for the likes of Lindsay Perigo, who unlike so many others knows that it's going to be a long haul back from the pomowankers and the nihilists, and via a very different path.

"We lovers of reason and freedom have to do a Gramsci of our own," says Perigo, but in favour of reason and freedom and capitalism.  This is a long march on which our culture is in desperate need. 

Who's with us?

A Theory of Alcohol (TM)

A Russian friend who was here for the weekend reckons I once gave him the advice to only drink when you're happy.  Sounds like good advice, whoever gave it to him.  Being a mathematician, he put the theory into a convenient graphical form, along with a slight variation on The Theory:

05 Drinking Theory

The conclusion should be obvious enough, no?

Heroine, heroine, on my wall

                                                  

Why would you have a large picture of Che Bloody Guevara on your wall when you can have a true heroine up there instead to inspire you.  Friend Graham just mounted this large picture of Ayn Rand in pride of place in his new house, cunningly arranged so a couple of the panels can be changed to easily swap the quotes over.  Quotes currently printed are:

You can choose to evade reality, but you can not avoid the consequences of evading reality.

And:

To deal with men by force is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion.

And:

Reality is what it is regardless of your thoughts or wishes

Each panel of the poster is 660 x 510, mounted on polystyrene sheet.  If you talk nicely to him, you might persuade him to sort out a few panels for you.  Money might help.  :-)

Sunday, 13 January 2008

If God is dead ... rejoice (updated)

Elizabeth Anderson’s “If God is Dead” essay is one of the best indictments of the Bible that I have ever read, says novelist Ed Cline.

Posing the conundrum of why God (or Allah, or whomever) is considered to be the be-all and end-all of morality – originating morality and rewarding it and punishing its delinquency – she writes:

“Consider first God’s moral character, as revealed in the Bible. He routinely punishes people for the sins of others. He punishes all mothers by condemning them to painful childbirth, for Eve’s sin. He punishes all human beings by condemning them to labor, for Adam’s sin (Gen. 3:16-18). He regrets his creation, and in a fit of pique, commits genocide and ecocide by flooding the earth (Gen. 6:7). He hardens Pharaoh’s heart against freeing the Israelites (Ex. 7:3), so as to provide the occasion for visiting plagues upon the Egyptians, who, as helpless subjects of a tyrant, had no part in Pharaoh’s decision. (So much for respecting free will, the standard justification for the existence of evil in the world.)”

So even if you believed the existence of this fiction, why would you grant him authority over morality?

UPDATE: Fact is, even Christians don't take their morality from the Bible, a point made perfectly clearly by Mr Dawkins:

                                 
But that doesn't mean that the source of morality is somehow "innate," which is where Team Dawkins gets it wrong.   The source of morality is not God or Helen Clark, it's neither our neighbours nor our feelings.  No, the source of morality is reality.

It should be obvious enough why this matters, but to those who eschew thinking about ethics and who prefer instead to bloviate solely about politics, there's a political connection here too, as Peter Schwarz points out:

Does morality depend upon religion? Most people believe it does, which is a major reason behind the appeal of the religious right. People believe that without faith in a supernatural authority, we can have no moral values--no moral absolutes, no black-and-white distinctions, no firm demarcation between good and evil--in life or in politics. This is the assumption underlying Justice Antonin Scalia's recent assertion that "government derives its authority from God," since only religious faith can supposedly provide moral constraints on human action.

And what draws people to this bizarre premise--the premise that there is no rational basis for refraining from murder, rape or anarchism? The left's persistent assault on moral values.

That is, liberals characteristically renounce moral absolutes in favor of moral grayness.

BUT MORALITY ISN'T GREY.  It is absolute.  It's absolute because the source of morality is reality, which is impossible for anyone to evade, even the most hard-bitten religionist.  Fact is, there are serious problems with the approaches taken by both the religionists (who insist on intrinsic rules, yet insist again on cherrypicking which ones are really and truly the ones to live by), and by their subjectivist opponents (who insist there are no absolutes, except the rule that there are no absolutes).

But to dismiss these objections is not to answer our question here, which is: “Can you then have morality without God? Whence comes moral structure if the Law-Giver in Chief is dead?”. The answer, to say it once again, is reality, and the constraints it places up on us.  The source and locus of all our values is reality. Where else could they come from?  All facts, to us, are potentially value-laden.  The world is fashioned in a particular way, and to derive happiness and flourishing in such a world we need to act in such and such a way.

In response to this all too obvious point, those trained in university philosophy departments will often wheel out something called the 'Is-Ought' argument as 'proof' that facts are inherently value-free, or (to put it another way), that neither reality nor reason provide any basis from which to formulate a reliable ethics.

THE 'IS-OUGHT' ARGUMENT was a remarkable piece of sophistry devised by a drinker called David Hume ("David Hume could out-consume Schopenhauer and Schlegel" -- as many of you will remember), who suggested the fact that the world is this way or that way provides no means of suggesting whether one ought or ought not do something, and thus there is no way -- no way at all -- to put together any sort of rational morality. This is the sort of thing that in university philosophy departments passes for a sophisticated argument.
What's remarkable is that such a fatuous proposition should still have sufficient legs to persuade graduates of philosophy departments over two-hundred years after it was formulated. The 'is-ought problem' is a problem only if your mind has been crippled by such a department.
Aristotle stands first in line as a healthy contrast to both religionists and subjectivists and university philosophy professors in being a consistent (and too-frequently overlooked) advocate of a rational, earthly morality -- his was a "teleological" approach to ethics. That is, he said, we each act to achieve certain ends, and those ends must be the furtherance of our lives. All actions are (or should be) done "for the sake of" achieving some goal.

ARISTTOTLE PROVIDES A STARTING point from which to proceed rationally. Let’s think about what the basis for any rational standard of morality for human life would be. Morality should be ends-based – it should be goal-directed – but what end should it pursue? Surely the starting point would be the nature of human life itself? Shouldn’t the fact that human beings do have a specific nature tell us what we ought to do?

IT WAS AYN RAND who identified that the crucial fact about human life that provides such a starting point is the conditional nature of life, the fact that living beings daily confront the ever-present alternative of life or death. Act in this way and our life is sustained. Act in that way, and it isn't. Life is not automatic; it requires effort to sustain it, and reason to ascertain what leads towards death (which is bad), and what leads towards life (which is good). What standard then provides the basis by which a rational morality judges what one ought to do, or ought not to do? Life itself. Life is the standard. As Ayn Rand observed in her essay ‘The Objectivist Ethics,’

It is only the concept of "Life" that makes the concept of "Value" possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.

Following Rand, Greg Salmieri and Alan Gotthelf point out that,

Rand’s virtue-focused rational egoism differs from traditional [ie., Aristotelian] eudaimonism in that Rand regards ethics as an exact science. Rather than deriving her virtues from a vaguely defined human function, she takes “Man’s Life” – i.e. that which is required for the survival of a rational animal across its lifespan – as her standard of value. This accounts for the nobility she ascribes to production – “the application of reason to the problem of survival” (1966, p. 9). For Rand, reason is man’s means of survival, and even the most theoretical and spiritual functions – science, philosophy, art, love, and reverence for the human potential, among others – are for the sake of life-sustaining action. This, for her, does not demean the spiritual by “bringing it down” to the level of the material; rather, it elevates the material and grounds the spiritual.

THE FACT THAT LIFE is conditional tells us what we ought to do: in the most basic sense, if we wish to sustain our life, then we ought to act in a certain way. This is the starting point for a rational, reality-based ethics: reality itself.

clip_image001If, for example, that glass of brown liquid in front before us is dangerously toxic, then one ought not drink it. That would be bad. If, however, it is a glass of Epic Pale Ale, Limburg Czechmate or Stonecutter Renaissance Scotch Ale, then all things being equal one ought to consume it -- and with gusto. That would be good.
So much for the 'is-ought problem.' The fact that reality is constituted in a certain way, and that every living being confronts the fundamental existential alternative of life or death is what provides the basic level of guidance as to what one ought or ought not do. This fundamental alternative highlights an immutable fact of nature, which is that everything that is alive must act in its self-interest or die. A lion must hunt or starve. A deer must run from the hunter or be eaten. Man must obtain food and shelter, or perish.  We must seek out good beer or else sentence ourselves to a lifetime of drinking Tui. 

The pursuit of morality is that important.

The fact that we exist possessing a specific nature and that reality is constituted the way it is tells us what we ought to do.

(The intelligent reader will already have noticed that in seeing morality in this way, the primary issue in morality is not our responsibility to others, but fundamentally our responsibility to ourselves. Without first understanding our responsibility for sustaining our own life, no other responsibilities or obligations are even possible. Tibor Machan observes that this fact is recognised even in airline travel, where the instruction is always given that if oxygen masks drop from the ceiling you should put your own on first before trying to help others. Basically, this is a recognition that if you don't look after yourself first then you're dead, and of no use either to anyone else or to yourself. This might help explain to interested readers why Ayn Rand named her work on ethics: The Virtue of Selfishness.)

To any living being, facts are not inherently value-free, they are value-laden – some facts are harmful and we should act to avoid them; others are likely to be so pleasant that we should act to embrace them --  but all facts we should seek to understand, and in this context we should understand that all facts are potentially of either value or disvalue to us.   Facts are inherently value-laden.

Contemplating the delightful reality of a glass of Limburg Czechmate, for example, demonstrates that some facts can be very desirable indeed, and are very much worth embracing. The point here is that it is not the facts themselves that make them valuable, it is our own relationship to those facts: how those facts impinge upon and affect our lives for either good or ill. It is up to us to discover and to make the most of these values. Leonard Peikoff makes the point in his book Objectivism:

Sunlight, tidal waves, the law of gravity, et al. are not good or bad; they simply are; such facts constitute reality and are thus the basis of all value-judgments. This does not, however, alter the principle that every "is" implies an "ought." The reason is that every fact of reality which we discover has, directly or indirectly, an implication for man's self-preservation and thus for his proper course of action. In relation to the goal of staying alive, the fact demands specific kinds of actions and prohibits others; i.e., it entails a definite set of evaluations.
For instance, sunlight is a fact of metaphysical reality; but once its effects are discovered by man and integrated to his goals, a long series of evaluations follows: the sun is a good thing (an essential of life as we know it); i.e., within the appropriate limits, its light and heat are good, good for us; other things being equal, therefore, we ought to plant our crops in certain locations, build our homes in a certain way (with windows), and so forth; beyond the appropriate limits, however, sunlight is not good (it causes burns or skin cancer); etc. All these evaluations are demanded by the cognitions involved -- if one pursues knowledge in order to guide one's actions. Similarly, tidal waves are bad, even though natural; they are bad for us if we get caught in one, and we ought to do whatever we can to avoid such a fate. Even the knowledge of the law of gravity, which represents a somewhat different kind of example, entails a host of evaluations --among the most obvious of which are: using a parachute in midair is good, and jumping out of a plane without one is bad, bad for a man's life.

But this is (or should be) basic stuff.

NOW, UNLESS YOU'RE a university philosophy professor (or David Hume) you don't simply sit there looking wide-eyed at the world, acting only on the basis of what appears in front of you on the bar. As Aristotle pointed out, if we want the good then our actions should be goal-directed.  A rational man acts with purpose: that is, he acts in pursuit of his values. If our purpose is the enjoyment of more glasses of Limburg Czechmate, for example, (something even David Hume would agree is a value) then we must act in a way that allows us to acquire more drinking vouchers with which to buy them, a fridge in which to keep them, and to sustain our health, wealth and happiness so that we might enjoy them for many more years in the future.

We should act in this way or in that way, in other words, in order to bring into reality certain facts that our (rationally-derived) values tell us are good. Acting in this way is itself good. We might even call it “virtuous” – virtues being the means by which we acquire our values.
And further: we should act not just in order to stay alive. As Aristotle and Rand both point out, the proper human state of life is not just bare survival, it is a state of flourishing – not just life, but “the Good Life.” Rand again:

In psychological terms, the issue of man's survival does not confront his consciousness as an issue of "life or death," but as an issue of "happiness or suffering." Happiness is the successful state of life, suffering is the signal of failure, of death...
Happiness is the successful state of life, pain is an agent of death. Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values...
But neither life nor happiness can be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims. Just as man is free to attempt to survive in any random manner, but will perish unless he lives as his nature requires, so he is free to seek his happiness in any mindless fraud, but the torture of frustration is all he will find, unless he seeks the happiness proper to man. The purpose of morality is to teach you not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.

Such is the nature of a rational morality. The fact that the world is constituted as it is, means that if life is our standard -- my life, here on this earth -- then we ought to recognise the value of a rational morality, and if we wish to achieve happiness we ought to act upon values derived from a rational morality focused upon life on this earth.

What the hell else could be as important?

Let me say it again on conclusion: the standard for morality -- the rational standard -- is not obedience to what your God says or Moses says; it's not doing what your priest or your pastor or your Imam says; it's not subscribing to the same standards as your teachers or your peers the folks who live next door; it's not listening to what your own "inner voice" seems to say, or what your mother or your father or your Great Grandfather Stonebender used to say.  Not if it defies reason.

The rational standard is Life, our life, and the lives of those we love. The immediate beneficiary of our actions is not others; it's ourself, and the purpose of such a standard is not to suffer and die, but to enjoy ourselves and live.   (Once we've identified and internalised ethical guidelines to further our own flourishing, we can then only then safely listen to our own "stomach feeling," but it would be fatal to do so any earlier.)

To turn Descartes on his head (which is no less than the silly French philosopher deserves), the basic ethical principle is this: "I am, therefore I'll think." Because if we don't think clearly there'll soon be no "I" around to think about.

I hope you think about that.

* * * * *

** For your homework, if you want to know more about Objectivist morality then you might want to act on that ...

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Arise, Sir Ed.

My  favourite story of Sir Ed. 

WHEN HILLARY AND TENZING reached the top of Everest for the first time, the story goes that Tenzing fell to his knees and gave thanks to the spirits that had helped their journey; he prayed to each of the four winds, and he carefully placed in the ground a small stake on which prayer ribbons were attached. While he was doing this, Hillary stuck a flag in the ground, unzipped his fly and took a piss.

This was his mountain.  That's how a man like Sir Ed celebrates a huge achievement.

Farewell.

Friday, 11 January 2008

There's no government like no government...

Graham Reid gives the news we've all been longing to hear:

In a surprising but welcome announcement the duty minister said yesterday that Parliament would not be reconvening in the foreseeable future as “the country seems to be getting on pretty well without politicians”.

Speaking from Kakamoana Motor Camp in Northland where he is currently holidaying, Trevor Mallard said he has spoken with the leaders of all other parties and they were in agreement that the summer break from the House should be extended indefinitely...

Nazism = Socialism = Totalitarianism

Only yesterday Poneke was expressing amusement that In the comments section of one of his posts, Trevor Loudon says he regards the National Front, the Italian fascists and the German Nazis as left wing. "I kid you not."  Never one to back down when he has truth on his side, Trevor's come out swinging, explaining this morning why fascists are leftists.

Since the debate has been thus re-opened, perhaps I could point debaters once again to the observation that while HItler's National Socialists didn't nationalise the economy's commanding heights as Lenin would have had them do; they didn't need to -- as Hitler said, they nationalised people instead. Political correctness at the point of a gun. The result for Hitler's Germany and in the end for most of Europe was the same as it was for Lenin's Russia. Destruction.

As George Reisman explains, Nazism was Socialism, and Socialism is Totalitarianism. (See him make the case in an onine video lecture).  Says Reisman:

De facto government ownership of the means of production... was logically implied by such fundamental collectivist principles embraced by the Nazis as that the common good comes before the private good and the individual exists as a means to the ends of the State. If the individual is a means to the ends of the State, so too, of course, is his property. Just as he is owned by the State, his property is also owned by the State.
The Mises Economics Blog describes Reisman's thesis thus:
Contrary to myth, Germany was a socialist state, not a capitalist one. And socialism, understood as an economic system based on government ownership of the means of production, positively requires a totalitarian dictatorship. Indeed, the identification of Nazi Germany as a socialist state was one of the many great contributions of Ludwig von Mises.

And as if your eyebrows aren't already heading for the ceiling, here's another claim of Reisman's that might get them there that is arguably even more important than the title thesis: "In the United States at the present time, we do not have socialism in any form. And we do not have a dictatorship, let alone a totalitarian dictatorship." Read on to find out what Reisman says about the present system in the US, and by implication the rest of the west.  We do not have a dictatorship, he says we also do not yet have Fascism. "Among the essential elements that are still lacking are one-party rule and censorship. We still have freedom of speech and press and free elections," he says...

Iraq death count "wildly exaggerated"

                       06.10.12.SurveySays-X

The Wall Street Journal has now opened up its website to non-subscribers (or "lost its wall" in Tim Blair's words) just in time for me to link to their story on how the Iraqi death toll of 655,000 so gleefully reported around the globe in 2006 was 'sexed up.'

We know that number was wildly exaggerated. The news is that now we know why.

It turns out the Lancet study was funded by anti-Bush partisans and conducted by antiwar activists posing as objective researchers. It also turns out the timing was no accident. You can find the fascinating details in the current issue of National Journal magazine, thanks to reporters Neil Munro and Carl Cannon. And sadly, that may be the only place you'll find them. While the media were quick to hype the original Lancet report -- within a week of its release it had been featured on 25 news shows and in 188 newspaper and magazine articles -- something tells us this debunking won't get the same play.

The Lancet death toll was more than 10 times what had been estimated by the U.S. and Iraqi governments, and even by human rights groups...

The Lancet study could hardly be more unreliable. Yet it was trumpeted by the political left because it fit a narrative that they wanted to believe. And it wasn't challenged by much of the press because it told them what they wanted to hear. The truth was irrelevant.

As Investor's Business Daily reported at the time:

The study used a methodology known as "cluster sampling," which can be valid if using real data and not anecdotal reporting. Most of the original Lancet clusters reported no deaths at all, with the journal admitting, "two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Fallujah." Fallujah? Hello?

Fallujah at the time just happened to be a major concentration of pro-Saddam and anti-American sentiment, the home base for the homicide bombers and terrorist "resistance" before the U.S. Army and Marines cleared out that nest of thugs.

And the number of clusters used?  Just forty-sevenTim Blair points to a new count - suggesting a much lower toll - which draws from more than 1,000 clusters.  Don't expect that one to get wide coverage either.

It's not just that much of the press and the blogosphere won't want to admit the 'sexed up' death toll they so gleefully reported a year ago was wrong, it's not just that they hate to retract, it's also that they don't want to have to admit -- even to themselves -- that the counterinsurgency strategy implemented by General David Petraeus is working, that by any decent standard Petraeus is the Man of 2007, and that the Iraqis are generally better off now than they were under a bloody, murdering dictator.   To most of the world's press, the truth remains irrelevant to their 'narrative.'

In a world awash with non-objective journalism, thank goodness for the Wall Street Journal.

Centro idrico Vigna Murata - Mark Zanuso and Eduardo Victoria

                                                                     CentroIDRICOfrancopalpacelli

I know what you're  going to say.  What is it?  The answer, I think, is a new water tower by Italian architects Mark Zanuso and Eduardo Victoria.  You can see a picture show here .

Why settle for ordinary, when with just a little dash of genius you can have extraordinary!  [Hat tip ADAO - the International Web Portal of Organic Architecture]

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Minto vs history (updated)

In a recent Herald opinion piece former NZ Prime Minister Mike Moore made a statement obvious enough to any student of history not blinded by flawed ideology: "Without secure property rights poverty will endure."

John Minto is blinded by flawed ideology.  Point number one of Marx's Communist Manifesto calls for the abolition of private property.  Leon Trotsky pointed out with some glee that where there is no private ownership, individuals can be easily bent to the will of the state under threat of starvation or worse.  John Minto still lives in the shadows cast by these two gentlemen, leading him to place before Herald readers this morning the outrageous lie that "property rights often mean little, if anything, to people in poverty."

It's hard to know here to start with this claim.  He begins by lying about poverty in the US, carries on to ignore the history of property rights and the wholesale destruction of poverty whenever property rights were protected, and concludes with his outrageous lie intended to gull careless readers into accepting his own malodorous world view.

The fact is that property rights protect our lives and the fruits of our labours -- they allow us to pan long range.  As Hernando de Soto points out (de Soto being one of the folk singled out of Minto's barbs), when property rights are insecure, residents of poor shanty towns build their furniture before their walls or roofs.  That's rational behaviour when time horizons are short. As property rights become more secure and their time horizons become longer, however, people can build their walls, their roofs, and then plant crops and trade and make plans that take months or even years to come to fruition.  This is what it means to create wealth - wealth being the opposite of poverty, as some of you might recall.

If Mr Minto is blind to those basic facts, there's no need for you to be.

The fact is, the material values we each produce keep us alive, and allow us to flourish.  Only ghosts can survive without this property; human beings cannot.  Secure property rights allow us to project our values into longer and longer time horizons; the more secure, the further our horizons.  They allow us to bring to bear the unmatchable power of our minds to the pursuit and creation of wealth and human flourishing.

Unlike other animals, human beings cannot survive as we come into the world; in order to stay alive and to flourish we each need to produce and to keep the fruits of our production.

Tom Bethell’s landmark book The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages traces successes and disasters of history consequent upon the respective recognition or denial of property through the ages: Ireland’s potato famine, the desertification of the Sahara and the near-disasters of U.S. colonies at Jamestown and Plymouth can all be traced to lack of respect for property.  The glorious triumph of the Industrial Revolution is the greatest vindication.

In Bethell's book (every home should have a copy), he identifies four crucial blessings of property that, he says,

cannot easily be recognised in a society that lacks the secure, decentralised, private ownership of goods. These are: liberty, justice, peace, and prosperity. The argument of [his] book [and of history] is that private property is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for these highly desirable social outcomes.

Property rights give us a Turangawaewae, a firm place to stand deserving of legal protection.  Their identification and recognition was an enormous advance in intellectual history, and the practical result of their application across both history and geography has been the destruction of poverty.

It is only the poverty of stale Marxism that could blind a man to something so obvious.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: More posts on Property Rights.

UPDATE 1: Liberty Scott points out "there is a country that echoes Minto’s vision of virtually no property rights, and the sort of true democracy I was talking about – its capital is Pyongyang. Global Peace and Justice is the euphemism for Global Revolution and Socialism."

UPDATE 2: Owen McShane and Paul Walker weigh in against Minto with superbly swinging blows.

Nixon in New Hampshire

The Whig on Hillary:

"Hillary is the Nixon of the Left."

Very apposite.

Street fighting men against free speech (updated)

Over recent weeks Trevor Loudon has been searching out links between local anarchists and peace activists, their associations with the Green Party, Zapatistas and international anarchist networks, and the weapons training so many of these peace lovers were undergoing in the Ureweras. (See the many, many posts he's made making the links at his weblog, New Zeal).   While the Green party has maintained a stoic silence, this has upset the anarchists and so called peace activists.  So much so that at Indymedia where they hang out, they're talking about where Trevor lives ...

...also they [Trevor and his family] live in a freakishly clean suburb called Northwood where there are rules for everything from the car you park in the driveway to the amount of money you spend on landscaping. Would anyone like the address? phone number?
Another has added;
He [Trevor] has a file in the Suspected Child Molester data base at CTF, in another words, he likes young boys .

Trevor no longer lives in Northwood (so don't bother firebombing the suburb) but as he says, "you can see how this sort of carry on might be intimidating on several fronts."  Certainly can.  He makes the point that the left tend to attack or intimidate those who oppose them.  It's a common modus operandi, to vilify rather than oppose honestly (perhaps because socialists overwhelmingly view others as a route to their own power, and as Chris Trotter has written are prepared to accept any corruption as long as it keeps the left in office*).  It's something even Barrack Obama is enduring at present with wild talk of assassination in the air -- a "meme" Obama rival Hillary Clinton is apparently willing to have used to her advantage.

Even so, Labour's Electoral Finance Act requires individuals expressing political opinions such as Don't Vote Labour to publish their names and addresses, leaving them and those they live with open targets to any nutjob under the sun.

This can't be right.  It certainly isn't free speech.

-------------------------

* Zen Tiger's recent comment about Trotter is spot on: "Chris Trotter is a man of standards. He has at least two of them. And double standards equip the left so very well to argue their way to electoral victory."

UPDATE: From Jack Wheeler's To the Point comes this comment, which is, um, exactly to the point:

If you Google "Obama" and "assassination" you will get 384,000 hits.
All over the world, the media is speculating on the possibility.  Typical is the January 8 (the day of the New Hampshire primary) headline in one of Australia's major newspapers, The Australian:
Obama Must Be Wary of the Assassin's Gun.
The "news angle" of thousands of such stories is the same.  The first line of The Australian story is:  "Barrack Obama is crazy brave.  His victory in Iowa puts him in the crosshairs of many a gun-toting racist for whom the thought of a black president is an abomination."
It's the drumbeat theme echoing around the globe:  evil racist-fascist right-wing war-mongering child-eating nazi conservatives will always destroy America's hopes of being a peaceful humanitarian nation.
After all, it was just such a fascist-nazi right-winger that murdered JFK and killed Camelot, right?  What's that?  Lee Harvey Oswald was a Communist?  Oh...
Please ignore that impossibly embarrassing fact.  Especially since it brings up the real question that no liberal dares to think, much less ask:
Will Hillary find an Oswald of her own to take out Obama?

Read more ...

Holiday viewing

'Twas the season to kick back catch up on essential holiday viewing.  Here's some of the holiday films and DVDs I managed to fit in this year.  Lack of decent rain rather kept the viewing down:

Glenn Miller Story - perfect Christmas day viewing.
Spooks - catching up on all the episodes I missed back in Season Two.  Truly nail-biting drama!
House - catching up on Season Three.  Who has time to watch TV during the year?
The Prisoner - there's always someone who needs to be (re)introduced.
Twilight Zone - classic Rod Serling episodes so sharp you cut yourself.
Wicker Man -  "You'll simply never understand the true nature of sacrifice..."
Casablanca -  always worth re-watching.
Third Man - Orson Welles does Graham Greene.  Twin genii.
Marnie - a reminder that Sean Connery was once almost too good for film.
The Town is Quiet - Marseilles on a bad week. 
Dark Blue World - excellent Czech Battle of Britain romance - and some great flying scenes.

Now I look back at the list, it must have rained more than I remembered!  So what did you curl up in front of in your cinema room over the holidays ?

Depressing

Oswald's quip below is short, to the point and as accurate as so many of his quips often are:

"...The number of people receiving the sickness benefit due to depression has more than doubled in the past five years..." [Source: Stuff]
What depresses the crap out of me is the amount of income tax I'm paying!
It's not just being on the dole thats depressing!

Holiday House 2 - Organon Architecture

                    Bach_Sketch_NW

Yesterday I posted what I called Holiday House 1 to show you my idea of the ideal bach -- something integrated with its site; something casual enough to be relaxing yet with cunning aplenty to make it work well, and enough visual strength not to be overawed by its setting.  Here this evening is what I'll call Holiday House 2, also by Organon Architecture , using two large cantlivered 'hypar' shells to define space and shelter.  I think it has something of the same qualities as Holiday House 1, if I say so myself, and would grace any private,  sloping bush-clad site overlooking water.  Or open country.

What's your own ideal bach like?

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Zero emissions? Only of good sense.

Al Gore III won an Oscar, an Emmy and a Nobel Peace Prize for a film in which he claims "You can even reduce your carbon emissions to zero."  Good luck doing that.  Below the telling observation that "It is the nature of civilization to use energy and it’s the nature of liberalism to feel bad about it," Robert Bryce notes his amazement that

none of the dozens of smart people involved in the production of the movie – including, particularly, Gore himself – paused to wonder aloud something to the effect of, “Hey, what about breathing? Don’t we produce carbon dioxide through respiration?”

The answer, is yes, we do. Thus, by including the claim that you can “reduce your carbon emissions to zero” the film’s producers might as well have hung a sign around Gore’s neck that says “I’m an idiot.”

Frankly, that's how I feel every time I read, see or hear yet another of the Goracle's weighty pronouncements.  But let's just say you chose to keep breathing and go right on living (that's right, you can stop holding you breath now, Darlene). You'd find out pretty soon that the goal of "zero emission" is not intended to be real  -- this, after all, is politics not science -- it is intended only as an "aspirational" goal.  That's the way Helen Clark and David Parker mean it when they recite the same braindead incantation, calling for us all to follow Gore's triad of virtue and get on our bikes, change our light bulbs and start planting things.

But even that's a nonsense.  As a recent Australian report showed, "if every Australian household switched to renewable energy and stopped driving their cars tomorrow, total household emissions would decline by only about 18%."  The triad of virtue is just another triumph of hot air.  The fact is, as page five of the Australian report points out (and this is a report by the Australian Conservation Foundation, hardly the skeptic's friend), the carbon dioxide embedded in the food we eat and the goods we purchase are "more than four times the emissions from our personal use of electricity." 

How about we stop the nonsense, and start recognising that the only emissions that are ever likely to be near zero are those coming from politicians when measured for the sense they contain.

New site: Climate Debate Daily.

Denis Dutton has gone and done it again.  You should already be familiar with his Arts & Letters Daily site -- compulsory browsing at least once a week for anyone who uses the web for something more than just hooking up on Facebook.  Now he's collaborating in a new project that seems just as likely to be on every thinking web user's list of essential reading: Climate Debate Daily, a regular summation of the latest news and writing from both the sceptical and warmist sides of the global warming debate.

Bookmark it now.  Here's some top reading from each camp currently appearing on the front page:

  • 2007 was the seventh warmest year since record-keeping began, the IPCC says, and made for brutal weather...continue »
  • The year of global cooling. In 2007, hundreds of people died, not from global warming, but from cold weather hazards. And look at the Southern Hemisphere...continue »
  • Thanks to global warming huge swaths of right-wing America are set to face a biblical deluge in a few more presidential cycles...continue »
  • Virtual science, the kind the IPCC uses to scare us to death, is ripe for manipulation, usually unconsciously, by virtuous scientists. Michael Duffy explains...continue »
  • We are in for a minimum of 90 more years of warming no matter how many Hummers are junked in favor of Priuses. Let's adapt...continue »
  • Better for Australia to cut the panic and build “a strong economy and thus the adaptive capacity to deal with whatever catastrophes unaided nature may have in store for us”...continue »

Auckland's planners giving developers the heave-ho

Developers are leaving Auckland.  This is not new -- the folks who build the city have been quietly leaving for some time in the face of increasing impositions on their efforts -- but apartment developer Conrad Properties decided to speak to Bob Dey to explain why they've had enough.

The short answer is that development in Auckland is now uneconomic.  They point the finger squarely at Auckland City Council, saying they're to blame for two things at least:

One is the introduction this year of an Auckland City Council plan change setting minimum sizes for apartments, and the other is the council's policy on development contributions.

The combined effect of both impositions is to add $120,000 to the cost of a two-bedroom unit, and this is on top of the increased costs and sundry delays associated with changes to the Building Act.  The cost of the "development contributions" alone -- which is a means by which the Resource Management Act allows council to put their hand even further into property owners' pockets --  amounts to around $70,000 per unit.

Annie Fox explains the sort of thing on which this money is usually wasted by council once extracted:  "purchasing multi-million-dollar properties at inflated prices."

One that got my blood boiling for it's total stupidity, was the purchase of the SuperLiquor site on the corner of Ponsonby Road & O'Neill Street, for a staggering $7 million.
Retail? I hear you ask. However, not for retail, but to be demo'ed and turned into a park! The most ridiculous place for a public park, it will be small, which in itself isn't a problem (small parks can be charming) but with roads on two sides (one being a main road) it will be bloody awful place to sit. It will be empty 99% of the time, and anyway within 1km of this site there are 8 reserves and 16 within 2kms.
Apparently, they had to make a purchase to justify all the reserve contributions they have been taking over the years. Why didn't they just give the money back to the developers?

Good question.  Another question should be why they're allowed to damn well take the money in the first place.  The answer is the Resource Management Act, which gives council's carte blanche to boss developers around and to make them pay for it.

But Conrad Properties and developers like them aren't paying any more.  They're getting the hell out  -- and who could blame them -- leaving the supply of Auckland housing up to ... whom?

It's time to drive a stake through the heart of the RMAThe fact is that the real culprit here isn't the council officers or planners or regulators who make the plans that are forcing developers out; the real culprits are the Resource Management Act that gives planners and regulators the power over other people's property, and a culture that assumes that local governments need planners and regulators to plan and control the city.  They don't.  On this point I'm four-square behind the Anti-Planner Randal O'Toole, who says that,

"After more than 30 years of reviewing government plans, including forest plans, park plans, watershed plans, wildlife plans, energy plans, urban plans and transportation plans, I've concluded that government planning almost always does more harm than good."

Ain't that the unfortunate truth.  Time to put a stake right through the heart of the RMA, and draw the teeth of the planners and regulators for good.

Don't vote National

Okay, as most of you and New Zealand now know, Andy Moore started up attack website Don'tVoteLabour, and he's in trouble with the Electoral Commission.  I like what he's doing.  I like it a lot.  And guess what: Friend Richard Goode has started one called Don'tVoteNational.  I like that one too.  I like it a lot.  An awful lot.  ;^)

UPDATE:  From this morning's Herald editorial:

How absurd that New Zealanders can no longer make a political statement in an election year without satisfying a welter of petty regulation...
... it is on the web, a new frontier of attempted regulation, that Labour's red tape will be most resented. The act's restrictions on election material expressly exempts "the publication by an individual, on a non-commercial basis, on the internet of his or her personal political views ... "
Bloggers might have little difficulty fitting that definition but they will need to be aware that should their site acquire more than one author or, heaven forbid, make some money in some way from their political observations, the speech patrol could be down on them. It is outrageous that they even need to concern themselves with such rules.
When people come to wonder what has happened to a freedom they once took for granted, the answer is seldom a single, memorable edict. It is more often a hundred trifling rules, requirements and restrictions, each defensible within the logic of the law but together oppressive in their effect.

That's the way that freedom ends. That's the way that freedom ends. Not with a bang but a whimper. If you've never understood how to boil a frog alive, then here's your answer: not with a single bold move to turn the tepid water hot, but by a hundred trifling raises of temperature until the frog has ceased to wonder what happened to the tepid temperatures it once took for granted.   So it goes.

Now THIS is what I call a holiday house ...

                                                                                     4pm Summer

Plan - Ground FloorSomeone emailed me in support of John Key's bach.  Well, of what John Key and a journalist claim is a bach. 

They reckon it's a beaut bach, just as John Boy obviously does.

Well, I don't.  I know what baches should look like. 

Here's one here.  Yes, I've posted it here before, but here's my own favourite unbuilt bach.  Relaxed.  Casual.  Open.  Expansive.  And yes, it's one I designed myself.   Let's call it Holiday House 1. (Click on pics to enlarge.)Sections

                            

UPDATE:  The pictures above show the house in mid-summer, in mid- to late-afternoon, when shade is your friend and the large eaves do their work.  Here's a picture of the house at the same time of day in mid-winter, showing the penetration of the sun at the time when it's wanted:

                             4pm Winter

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Anti-Labour website hears (but not heeds) electoral watchdog's warning

The new year has barely begun and the Electoral Commission is already flexing its new Government-given muscles, warning website creator Andy Moore that if he doesn't heed their warning over his attack website Don't Vote Labour that "he is not complying" with provisions of the Electoral Finance Act, then trouble will be a-coming his way.

Moore correctly says that the Commission's demand that he include his name and address on the site "is a breach of freedom of speech," and at this stage he has no plans to knuckle under.  Good on him, I say.

But there are others who are less supportive of free speech.  Martin Bradbury for instance, who says "you want to be an attack dog for the right, you gotta be registered" -- which to translate from oaf-ese means "Register with the government in order to criticise the Government." Brilliant!  Or: "Disagree with me, and I will defend to to the death the necessity for you to be muzzled."  With 'allies' like that, free speech hardly needs enemies.

Perhaps protagonists here should be reminded again of some of life's verities. That, as Salman Rushdie points out, without the freedom to offend, then freedom of expression ceases to exist.   And those still left defending the Electoral Finance Act might like to be reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said that "it is error alone that needs the support of government.  Truth can stand by itself."

Free speech is a precious and delicate flower.  As Saudi blogger Fouad al-Fahran has discovered in being arrested for violating Shari'ah laws on free speech (“everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah”) it is a flower all too easily pruned.

Cancer Card rescinded

I was as delighted to hear of new blogger 'Annie Fox!' conquering cancer as I was to read her disappointment at the rescinding of her 'cancer card':

The old Cancer Card gets you out of doing anything boring at all if you don't want to – work included. Fan-bloody-tastic, should have got cancer ages ago!
The mysterious thing about the Cancer Card is that its power increases the sicker you become, so after about your 4th course of chemo its power will probably be at its peak and provides many, many a free-pass. The only thing Cancer Card can't actually do is cure cancer.
But I noticed a disturbing thing the other day - mine had vanished! No I hadn't left it in the car to be stolen by the local yobs. But ever so slowly, as I got better and better, its power had diminished. It's like a muscle, the less you use it, the weaker it becomes, until eventually it withers & dies.

See, every silver lining has a cloud.  ;^)

Command and control education okay, says Minto

The Urewera 17 transcripts and John Minto's close association with all the protagonists was enough to show that the motives of his Global Peace and Justice mob were the reverse of those suggested by the name.  It was certainly neither peace nor justice that the snipers' rifles and molotov cocktails were intended to produce.  Minto's other interest, of course, is the Quality Public Education Forum, and like GPJ, it's another mis-named front.  As his rebuke to Tim Shadbolt over the issue of educational innovation demonstrates, it's neither quality nor education that interests him.  It's control.

Southland Institute of Technology (SIT) has used the government's tertiary 'voucher scheme' to deliver innovative education systems country-wide, says SIT's mayoral champion Tim Shadbolt, in courses that compete with other providers in both content and delivery.  But the government's new command-and-control tertiary scheme, which has seen him announce a year-long campaign of opposition, will kill SIT's innovative approach, he says, and kill off the opportunity of education for many youngsters who relish the teaching tools used in SIT's classrooms.  "There are kids in South Auckland who will miss out [if the courses are dropped]," says Shadbolt, pointing out for example that SIT's courses that use TV and computers as teaching tools had been successful with those who had difficulty in traditional classrooms. "A lot of street kids find paperwork off-putting. They're more comfortable with computers and TV and are prepared to have a go."

But this is competition and innovation delivering quality education.  That's not what Minto is for.  Minto literally wants to "erase 'entrepreneurialism' from the curriculum."  Showing his true colours, Minto insists Shadbolt and SIT should sit still, stop innovating, and do just as the education commissars tell them to, which means to butt out of competing and possibly showing up other educational providers.  Competition in education, under which SIT and its students have flourished, creates a "pointless and wasteful turf war" according to Minto, adding nothing to education "but the false notion of choice based on glossy brochures."  Such is Minto's notion of competition.  Organisations competing for your favour create a "pointless and wasteful turf war" and "a false notion of choice based on glossy brochures."  He would prefer the system more familiar to Soviet housewives, it seems: the empty shelves and substandard produce of a commissar controlled collective.

It would be a "tragedy for all young New Zealanders," says Minto, "if Mayor Shadbolt's campaign to undermine the new [command and control] funding mechanism is successful."  In fact, it would be an even greater tragedy if Minto were accepted as a genuine supporter of quality education.  Like peace and justice, it's of little interest to him except as a front for his real interest: Marxism.

UPDATE: By the way, if you're wondering why the the names of two of the groups associated with New Zealand's recent "terrorist camp" raids sound so benign ("Global Peace and Justice Auckland," spearheaded by communist John Minto and "Peace Action Wellington" by sniper rifle trainee Valerie Morse), then as Lindsay Perigo suggests, "Think Gramsci."