Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Berrymans' lawyer mortgages house to pay fine for seeking justice

Several years ago an embattled Adrian Chisholm placed an ad in the paper:  "Honest and a 'lawyer?" said the ad,  "then we need you."  Two lawyers phoned, one of whom had been disbarred.  The other was retired.  That's how rare is the breed that was being sought.

Rob Moodie is one of that rare and esteemed breed.  For years he has pursued justice for former farmers Keith and Margaret Berryman who, through collusion and cover-up and political legerdemain, have lost nearly everything they own -- and just recently he was forced to mortgage his home to pay a $5000 fine and $32,000 in costs awarded to the Crown after he was found guilty of contempt of court for publishing the army's 'Butcher Report' on on the Internet -- the army's own suppressed report that pointed to their culpability in the whole affair.

Poneke offers much of the story and a suitable tribute to the spirited Mr Moodie here.  (And here's Rob Moodie's own website, which I'd like to think should shortly have details of how to send financial donations to help him out.  If not, I wonder If someone might like to start such a project?)

UPDATE:  A trust has been in existence for some years for financial donations.  It is the Berryman Moodie Trust, National Bank Taupo. The Account number is 060429 - 0222810 - 00.  Donations can be made online, or at any National Bank.

What moves history?

"Just as a man's actions are preceded and determined by some form of idea in his mind, so a society's existential conditions are preceded and determined by the ascendancy of a certain philosophy among those whose job is to deal with ideas. The events of any given period of history are the result of the thinking of the preceding period."
- Ayn Rand


Oscar the grouch

I wonder if anyone could complete this sentence for me:

The Oscars are important because ...

I've never quite understood their importance, myself.  For the most part they involve movies of little value and actors with little to offer.  Can anyone explain why I or anyone should care?

Atlas, Jolie, movie, on again

The on-again off-again movie project of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is on again according to entrepreneur and executive producer for Lionsgate fims John Agliaro.

With Hollywod's writers' strike over and Angelina Jolie reportedly and despite reports still firmly attached to the project -- "[lead character] Dagny Taggart is the most relatable character to me of all the extensive literature I have ever read,” Jolie is amusingly reported as saying -- Agliaro is looking forward to seeing some progress.  In an interview with Susan Paris, Agliaro admits

The Writers Guild strike has delayed us... Rand’s original title for Atlas Shrugged was The Strike. So irony of ironies, we’re being held up by a strike. Fortunately the Directors Guild has already settled.

If it wasn’t for the writers' strike the script would be finished and we’d be looking at locations.

So when will filming begin? Which other actors are involved?  What can he tell us about the script?  Answers all there in the interview, some of which I might wish were otherwise -- I'm still not sure it's a project to which this crew can do justice.  One thing for sure about which Agliaro is almost certainly correct: if the project does get off the ground then as he says "We will have hostile reviews."

I think the extreme right and the extreme left will unite in a rare unity to denounce the movie and its philosophic message.

Let's hope if it does get off the ground this time there's enough in the final cut about which they can be hostile.

Opinions vs ideas (revised)

Some people have ideas; others just have opinions.  There is a difference.  Opinions are like arseholes -- everybody's got one.  Especially in the blogosphere.

Ideas on the other hand represent something more considered and generally more well integrated than mere range-of-the-moment opinions -- a species so frequently seen spewed out across the blogosphere's comments section.   The very best ideas are part of a distinctive and integrated worldview --  as author Burgess Laughlin explained recently, "a comprehensive set of ideas that, taken together, explain at least: (1) the basic nature of the world in which one lives; (2) one's own basic nature; and (3) the manner in which one should act in the world."  If we have a rational objective framework such as this to work from, we're likely to make a better fist of things when we are relying only on half-formed and half-baked opinions we've picked up who knows where.

I was musing on this distinction between opinions and ideas and on the befuddlement of most of the blogosophere's opinionated commentariat when I read this insightful comment from author Burgess Laughlin:

When someone gives me his opinion about a current controversy -- say, voting for candidate X rather than Y -- I like to ask: "What method did you use to arrive at your conclusion?"

I usually get non-answers:

1. "Well, ..." (Silence, either befuddled or angry).

2. "Common sense." (Milieu as oracle.)

3. "It's obvious what the right answer is." (Subconscious as oracle.)

4. "Reason." (Inviting the question of how to employ reason in a particular case.)

5. "Logic." (Inviting the question of how to proceed logically in a particular case.)

6. "It's too complex; everyone has to work it out personally" (Conclusions are a matter of personal taste.)

My position is that if there is no identifiable method, including an explanation of why that method was chosen, then there is no objectivity in one's conclusions.

Spot on!  Burgess has a book called The Aristotle Adventure and runs a blog called 'Making Progress,' on which he recently explained another related distinction: that between a worldview, a philosophy and an ideology.  Highly recommended reading, all.

"No gods or kings. Only man."

nogodsorkings-thumb Don't be surprised if your video-game playing teenager starts to pick up Ayn Rand books: the makers of popular video game 'Bioshock' have made Rand's Objectivism -- or at least, the makers' version thereof -- into a "central theme" of the game.

Story here at a gaming site, including a largely sympathetic interview with the Ayn Rand Institute's Yaron Brook.

"Global warming is a total crock of shit."

lutz-volt Not my words, but those of an American auto executive who momentarily grew a pair.  Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman of General Motors America, told reporter Glenn Hunter in a "closed door lunch" that hybrid cars like Toyota's Prius “make no economic sense” because their price will never come down," and added, according to Hunter:

Global warming is a “total crock of shit...  I’m a skeptic, not a denier. Having said that, my opinion doesn’t matter. [With GM's new battery-driven Volt hybrid, pictured with Volt, right], “I’m motivated more by the desire to replace imported oil than by the CO2 (argument).”

It took a while, but the brief report of his heresy in an industry magazine soon attracted apoplexy and abuse in equal measure, and as usual industry leaders ran for cover like timid chooks in a storm. And then in the normal course of things, Lutz backed down too.  Well, sort of.  On his GM blog, Lutz told readers to judge GM by its actions -- including the Volt hybrid that will help "lessen, and eventually even eliminate, the environmental impact of the automobile"-- rather than his words.

General Motors [he says] is dedicated to the removal of cars and trucks from the environmental equation, period. And, believe it or don’t: So am I! It’s the right thing to do, for us, for you and, yes, for the planet.

But he was right, wasn't he. It is a total crock of shit. Lutz made that comment at the end of a January that "experienced the sharpest January-to-January global temperature drop - three quarters of a degree Celsius - since records began in 1880."   No wonder it snowed in Jerusalem (twice) and there were blizzards in places like Greece and Crete and Turkey, and heavy snows in China that caused about ten billion pounds worth of damage. 

No wonder even the European Union are quietly climbing off the global warming train and becoming a foot-dragging follower instead of the loud leader it has been, announcing this week it is now "ready to exempt" Europe's steel, chemical and power industries from the European carbon-trading regime.

No wonder, since as climate scientist Richard Lindzen explains in a recent Op-Ed, "there is no case for climate alarmism" -- and it this rapidly collapsing case that is paradoxically causing "the astounding upsurge in alarmism of the past two years."

The notion of a static, unchanging climate is foreign to the history of the earth or any other planet with a fluid envelope. The fact that the developed world went into hysterics over changes in global mean temperature of a few tenths of a degree will astound future generations.

Such hysteria simply represents the scientific illiteracy of much of the public, the susceptibility of the public to the Goebbelian substitution of repetition for truth, and the exploitation of these weaknesses by politicians, environmental promoters, and, after twenty years of media drum beating, many others as well.

Given that the evidence ... strongly suggests that anthropogenic warming has been greatly exaggerated, the basis for alarm due to such warming is similarly diminished...  [O]ne may reasonably ask why there is the current alarm, and, in particular, why the astounding upsurge in alarmism of the past two years. When an issue like global warming is around for over twenty years, numerous agendas are developed to exploit the issue....

[Given all the vested issues at stake], one can readily suspect that there might be a sense of urgency provoked by the possibility that warming may have ceased. For those committed to the more venal agendas, the need to act soon, before the public appreciates the situation, is real indeed.

teirneygraphicnew533 UPDATE 1: How do the IPCC's predictions for temperatures in the years 2000 to 2007 look against the reality?  Well, as Roger Pielke Jr. says, any way you want them to look really.

Pielke's describes his graph at right showing the IPCC's predictions (in brown) against a range of temperature records as "a feast for cherrypickers."

In the Prometheus blog, where you can read the details of his computations, he writes: “One can arrive at whatever conclusion one wants with respect to the IPCC predictions. Want the temperature record to be consistent with IPCC? OK, then you like NASA. How about inconsistent? Well, then you are a fan of RSS. On the fence? Well, UAH and UKMET serve that purpose pretty well.”

Pielke's graph fits nicely with a graph that appeared in the IPCC's fourth and latest report measuring the record of predictions that appeared in the three previous reports against their own chosen temperature record for the periods of those predictions.  Even with the luxury of choosing their own record and drawing their own trend line, their predictions look about as useful as Britney Spears's childcare advice.

"The science is settled"?  Who are you kidding.  Given the disparity between predictions and records -- and even between records -- then as Piekle suggests, it's barely even possible to see what actual measurable predictions climate scientists are even making.

Absent an ability to rigorously evaluate forecasts, in the presence of multiple valid approaches to observational data we run the risk of engaging in all sorts of cognitive traps -- such as availability bias and confirmation bias. So here is a plea to the climate community: when you say that you are predicting something like global temperature or sea ice extent or hurricanes -- tell us is specific detail what those variables are, who is measuring them, and where to look in the future to verify the predictions. If weather forecasters, stock brokers, and gamblers can do it, then you can too.

UPDATE 2Tim Blair checks out some more unsettling "science is settled" revelations from a few years back:

Remember the “secret Pentagon report” on global warming from a few years back? The secret report that wasn’t secret? Here’s one of the report’s predictions, as understood by Britain’s Observer newspaper:

        As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.

That was written four years ago - before the Great Upheaval of ’05. Caused by the rising.

Beethoven Monument - Max Klinger


Max Klinger's Beethoven monument in location at Joseph Olbrich's Vienna Secession building: to demonstrate what a coming together of talent the 'Secession' movement represented, one need only notice the room also features the famous Beethoven frieze by Gustav Klimt.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Slowing the bastards down ... a little

A little good news from last week's National Business Review, which reports the following like it's a bad thing:

    At the beginning of the 1993 National government, the executive took 20 sitting days on average to pass a bill. The 1996 National-New Zealand First government enacted new laws in an average of 34 days.
    When Labour took power in a minority coalition with the Alliance in 1999, that time ballooned out to 66 days.
    Bills also spend more time at select committee being scrutinised, despite time limits being put on the process to avoid bills being lost behind desks.
    Consequently, the number of laws being made has dropped under MMP by about a third each year.
    Governments can still pass important legislation as in the past and, similarly, screeds of unimportant legislation. The point is not that MMP governments cannot govern but they cannot govern by blitzkrieg.

So MMP has one good thing going for it then: it slows the bastards down.  Nowhere enough, mind, but when legislation is being measure in "screeds," every little bit counts.

3,000 contestants, and not one winner

Three-thousand youngsters aged from eight to fifteen took part in a Triathlon yesterday, and nobody won.  "Winning wasn't the name of the game," you see. "It was about taking part and giving it your best."

No wonder all three-thousand were 'awarded' a gold medal.  Welcome to politically correct sport. Story here [hat tip RW].

Hindsight no good either

Since there has been no warming since 1998, the sole repository for alarmist warmism lies in computer models which predict various forms of horror for twenty-first century temperatures.  Sorry, I should say super-computer models, since it requires more than just your average huge computer to crunch the numbers representing all the many variables  associated with a (warming or not) earth -- it takes several enormous super-computers to even attempt the deed.

And in truth, "attempt" is all that's been done.  Despite forecasts for a hundred years of alarmism spewing out of these super-computer models, a recent study determines that not one of the top twenty-two models on which policy-makers rely can be depended on to 'predict' the temperatures for the past one-hundred years. 

[Climate scientists David H. Douglass, John Christy, and S. Fred Singer analyzed 22 climate models and found their predictions at odds with actual warming over the past 30 years...

Most of the models predicted significant middle- and upper-troposphere warming, yet actual warming was minimal.

Douglass and his colleagues write, "Model results and observed temperature trends are in disagreement in most of the tropical troposphere, being separated by more than twice the uncertainty of the model mean. In layers near 5 km, the modelled trend is 100 to 300% higher than observed, and, above 8 km, modelled and observed trends have opposite signs."

Not good.  A summary of the study by Drew Thornley notes:

Many top climate scientists point out climate models are incapable of handling confounding factors such as cloud cover and water vapor (the dominant greenhouse gas), thus distorting climate predictions.

Additionally, they note, the models do not reflect the actual causes of warming... Singer writes, "Dire predictions of future warming are based almost entirely on computer climate models, yet these models do not accurately understand the role of water vapor. Plus, computer models cannot account for the observed cooling of much of the past century (1940-75), nor for the observed patterns of warming..."  Computers, no matter how big, cannot take account of all of the earth's complexities and processes, critics of the alarmist models also note. As a result, no current climate model can explain the causes of climate changes, accurately predict future climate, or form a sound basis for environmental policy.

Policy-makers relying on these models for future policy-making should take note.

Cue Card Libertarianism - Liberalism

LIBERALISM: It ain’t what it used to be! It used to uphold the application of the principles of laissez-faire -- loosely translated as "Leave us alone!" -- not just to the economy but to all areas of life. Today's liberals however would be hard-pressed to leave anything alone.

In the very first issue of the The Free Radical David Kelly explained,
“Liberal has the same etymological root as liberty, and the original, or classical liberals, from John Locke to Thomas Jefferson, stood for liberty across the board. They fought for freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of values, against the icy grip of orthodoxy in politics and religion; and they defended economic freedom – the right to own property, to enter any line of work, to trade freely with willing buyers and sellers.” (David Kelley, 'May We Have The Word Liberal Back?' TFR, Issue No 1.)
Liberalism’s original concept of the proper relationship between citizen and government was formulated by John Stuart Mill thus:
The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community against his will, is to prevent harm to others.
Unfortunately, Mill himself retreated from this position in the name of equality and of something he called “cultivation” (“The uncultivated cannot be competent judges of cultivation”) which, along with the imprecision of the term “harm to others” helped pave the way for the hijacking of the word by its modern bastardisers – utterly illiberal imposters who are opposed to freedom of thought, speech and values (they are advocates instead of censorship, Political Correctness, compulsory sensitivity training, etc) and to freedom in the marketplace (which they insist must be shackled in support of their psychological and physical prop, the welfare state). The modern position my be conveniently summarised by Algernon Sidney, a contemporary of John Locke's. "Freedom is glorious," he said, "but requires moral supervision."

By such imprecisions is fredom destroyed.

While today's liberals ooze illiberality, the real inheritors of the classical liberal mantle are today's libertarians who, following Ayn Rand, replace the imprecision of Mill's notion of "harm" with the far more precise formulation of the non-initiation of force principle.

In New Zealand however, the bogus liberals still rule. They overrun the parliament and commentariat. They infest our universities. They are the most compelling single advertisement for their own mortal dread – the privatisation of education. From their taxpayer-funded ivory towers they have fought, and continue to fight, every measure of economic liberalisation tooth and nail.

For decades they were either indifferent to or explicitly supportive of the appalling violations of rights in communist countries. They are at heart totalitarians. They have twisted freedom of action to mean freedom to destroy freedom of action. They once stood on a rugby field in Hamilton and prevented the Springboks from playing, but were nowhere to be seen when, at the conclusion of the Springbok tour, the All Blacks set off for Ceaucescu’s Roumania. Opposing the Springboks then they opposed race-based laws; now those same former protestors rush race-based laws through parliament, and see no irony in dong so.

These modern-day state-worshippers have replaced Voltaire’s famous dictum with a newer more 'liberal' version: “I disagree with what you say, and will use any organ of the state (Human Rights Commission, Race Relations Office) to stop you saying it.”

The proper response of genuine freedom-lovers to these unspeakably contemptible usurpers of a noble word is to invoke the true liberal injunction, as above: "Laissez-nous faire" -- or in its best English translation: "Piss off!"

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand libertarians, originally published in
The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series so far can be seen down on the right-hand sidebar.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Beer O'Clock: A 2008 promise

In which Stu from SOBA promises great things for Beer O'Clock every fortnight over 2008.

Allow me to take you on a fun and informative journey of style in 2008. It's a journey on which New Zealanders are long overdue (especially people like the smart and savvy individuals that read 'Not PC'). It will be a journey through beer styles.

In this day and age we all know that wine styles are far more complicated than 'red' and 'white'. but how many know that beer styles are just as complex, if not more so? Almost every wine drinker I know could pick a sauvignon blanc from a chardonnay but, when it comes to beer drinkers, how many could pick a porter from a schwarzbier? This year I'd like to work through some of the beer styles that we might commonly, or not so commonly, come across on the shelves and in the fridges of licensed premises in New Zealand.

Beer styles are a contentious issue. Some beer lovers complain they take the fun out of beer, while the odd brewer will insist that their beer is beyond any stylistic boundary. Both statements can be true and in many ways, and for the majority of drinkers beer styles really are are completely unnecessary. We generally drink by brand rather than style. We ask for a Heineken, a Becks or a Stella rather than a Premium American Lager. If we're lucky enough to be faced with the choice: we might ask for an Emerson's APA, an Epic or a Founder's Fair Maiden rather than an American Pale Ale. However if you like beer, and are interested in playing the field a little, the smallest amount of beer style knowledge - coupled with some appropriate packaging from our breweries - can help you out a long way.

We shouldn't be bound by style but we can be enlightened by them.

The style guidelines I'll base my beer journey on has been developed by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) in USA (and, before you scoff with a jokes about equine-filtered American beers, the USA is the current world power and most innovative country in regards to craft brewing). The BJCP style guidelines were originally developed by home-brewers, beer lovers and judges, resulting in a slightly smaller, broader and more all-inclusive set than most commercial guidelines. Commercial competitions such as the World Beer Cup tend to develop and use guidelines based more around some of the marketing fluff; they tend to define styles more tightly resulting in slightly more categories overall,allowing more medals to be awarded, which encourages more entries and results in greater income opportunities from entries and sponsorship. "Low-carbohydrate light lager" for example (a commercial style which in every sensory aspect would fit into one of the Light Lager styles) is more a marketing gimmick than it is a true beer style.

RockyPatelBAN-wI'll leave you with a simple truth about styles and brands - and a favourite quote of fellow Beer O'Clocker Neil Miller. Beer writer Stephen Beaumont argues

Beer drinkers have been duped by mass marketing into the belief that it makes sense to drink only one brand of beer. In truth, brand loyalty in beer makes no more sense than ‘vegetable loyalty’ in food.

Can you imagine it? "No thanks, I’ll pass on the mashed potatoes, carrots, bread and roast beef. I’m strictly a broccoli man myself."

And for your information, tonight I’m drinking (and definitely recommending) Pilsner Urquell.

In a fortnight: 'When is your Pale Lager my Pilsner?'

Slainte mhath, Stu

Why good people don't stand for council

Aaron inadvertently demonstrates the reason [hat tip Mulholland Drive]:

   We had a meeting of the Hobson Community Board meeting last night.  The two biggest items on the agenda were the community opposition to Waiata Reserve playground, and also the responses to the interest over providing a public toilet in the Little Rangitoto Reserve.

Click here to find "some good news also regarding a public toilet for families at Little Rangitoto Reserve."  It just doesn't get better than this, does it. 

PC's Special Tip: Those on pills for sleep deprivation should consider enrolling for a council sinecure at the next local body elections.

Got attitude, will travel

If all you had was twenty-five dollars, a gym bag and a good attitude, how far would you get?  Adam Shepard set out to see whether starting with in a homeless shelter in Charleston, South Carolina with only those three things to his name was enough to get him his goal of a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within twelve months, and without relying on either his education or his former contacts.

He made it in ten.

The most important thing he started with was a good attitude, something apparently missing with author Barbara Ehrenreich who set herself a similar challenge and then whined about her failure in her book Nickle and Dimed, which "chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor."  As Megan McArdle helpfully points out to Mssss Ehrenreich, "If you set out to prove you can fail, you will generally find it is not that hard. That failure is therefore not good evidence of the impossibility of success." But it does provide evidence that if you're poor in spirit then you'll likely remain poor in more tangible ways too.

It's only a small example, but it illustrates a point well made by both Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell, that most of today's rich are yesterday's poor, and that 'class' is more an adjective than a noun. [Hat tip Noodle Food]

Opposed to referenda

The Tomahawk Kid explains very well why I and many others are opposed to the Bradford-Key anti-smacking Bill that effectively nationalised New Zealand's children, but won't be signing Larry Baldock's petition for a referendum against the law.  The reason is simple.  First, because it makes no sense to support your own destroyer.

   I support Larry Baldock's action on the anti-smacking bill because ... it would return rights to those from whom they were stolen.
   Unfortunately, Larry would impose his will upon others on different topics - he gives with the right hand, and takes away with the left because he does not understand the very basic principles of property rights and the rights of the individual.

And second, while some individual referenda might promise the return of some of the rights we were born with, the idea of binding referenda itself is in the end destructive of individual rights.

   A referendum is the counting of heads - not the quality or the content of the thoughts in those heads!  It is 2 wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner!
   A referendum stands for "mob rule!" where the majority get to vote away the rights of a minority (the smallest minority of course being the individual.)

Until the most important things in our polity are put beyond the vote -- our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property and happiness -- and only a written constitution and widespread support for these rights can do that effectively -- then binding referenda are not the harbinger of freedom, they are just another one of its desecrators.

Mental toughness

Former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell explained once that his team saw an opponent's mental weakness as something like a weakness outside of stump: something to exploit.   As in sport, so too in life.  There's often talk of mental toughness in sport, and too often it's when New Zealand sportsmen suffer another ignominious defeat.  Champions have it.  Losers don't. 

But what exactly is mental toughness?  Sports psychologist Patrick Cohn [hat tip AB] suggests there are four key components to mental toughness:

1. Competitiveness: "This is someone who loves the heat of battle," Cohn says. "They're motivated by testing their skills against the next person. Obviously, they love to win and hate to lose. You need that. People might think, 'Well, isn't everyone competitive?' The answer is 'no.' The really competitive person digs deeper than the next guy."

2. Confidence: "Self-confidence is probably the No. 1 mental skill that championship athletes possess," Cohn says.

"Simply put, it is their belief in their ability to perform. They see themselves as winners. They think, act and behave in very confident ways, sometimes to the point it can turn people off."

3. Composure: "This one has a couple of connotations," Cohn says. "The first is: Can you keep it together under pressure at crunchtime? It's the last minute of the game, and you're trailing by three: It's how well you can stay under control emotionally and can perform when you need to.

"The other component is how well you deal with mistakes. Can you stay composed and forget about them? Or do you get upset and frustrated and thrown off your game? Athletes who are composed don't get rattled and compound one mistake into many."

4. Focus: "The idea is to give focus and attention to what's most important — and, when you do get distracted, to refocus quickly," Cohn says. "This is the key component to success in sports such as gymnastics and diving, but it's important in all sports."

As philosopher Andrew Berstein summarises, "It's a spiritual thing. It's in someone's moral character — some indefatigable quality that a person has that they're not going to be denied."

A few lessons there for more than just how we play sport.


You have to laugh.  Professor Ursula Cheer says TV3 has "risked its credibility as a public broadcaster" by featuring a patsy interview with a convicted criminal on John Campbell's prime-time "news" show.

I have to ask, since when did Campbell's 'Socialism at Seven' gush-fest have any credibility?

What does "the public" actually own? (updated)

While nationalisation of children, seabedinfrastructure and private property is still firmly on the New Zealand agenda -- and always sells well at Grey Lynn cocktail parties -- privatisation is supposedly so frightening for New Zealanders that politicians run from the 'P' word like they do from Owen Glenn when there are cameras around.  Despite failing schools, hospitals and roads (to name but three very public disasters) "public ownership" is still a sacred cow too scary to slaughter.

It makes no sense.

There is no value whatsoever in either the concept or the reality of "public ownership."  The "public" -- you and I -- has no more control over Capital Coast Health or Transpower, for example, than we do over Smith and Caughey or the corner dairy, substantially less in fact. As Madsen Pirie points out,

The public actually has more influence, via its choices and purchasing decisions, on private sector businesses than it can ever have over state industries and services.

If we don't like what the corner dairy or Smith and Caughey are selling, we can stop buying there or even sell off our shares, if we own some.   But if we don't like Transpower's bumbling with the Cook Strait cable or Capital Coast Health killing people then we've got no more control over that than the citizens of Soviet Poland had over "their" shipyards.

The point is that there is no reason at all to favour "public ownership" of infrastructure or businesses -- and in the final analysis, no reason at all to even consider "public ownership" as ownership at all since, as Pirie argues, none of the important attributes or rights of ownership inhere in the "ownership" we supposedly enjoy of our "public assets":

The state sector may have the name of the public filled in on the dotted line, but the public do not own it in any meaningful sense of the word. All of the attributes of ownership, such as control, the right to determine what use is made of it and under what conditions, is determined by the bureaucracy in command of it.

Read Pirie's account of the "public ownership" fallacy here at the Adam Smith Institute blog, and Paul Walker's discussion of his account here.

UPDATE: "It is in the very nature of government management (bureaucracy) that it will be inefficient, and prone to corruption," says today's article at the Mises Daily.  It was Ludwig von Mises in his book Bureaucracy who drew the important distinction between between "bureaucratic management" and "profit management," and who explained why the latter necessarily fails: "In public administration, there is no connection between revenue and expenditure … there is no market price for achievements."  Says John Chapman:

[Mises] explained that neither incentives nor exploitation of useful information are optimal under bureaucratic management, and by definition there could be no rational calculation via profit and loss...

Conversely, after privatization, operations and cost efficiencies improve because once incentives are in place and aligned, and people are empowered and incited (by the lure of profit) to utilize "particular knowledge" of markets, methods, competitive conditions, et al., performance improves.

Much more important even than this loss of "efficiency" is Mises warning of "a byproduct of bureaucratic management": the gradual vanishing of the "critical sense."

When one sees ministers in charge of hospitals that kill and schools that spit out illiterates having no sense of shame at the failure, what we're looking at is exactly what Mises warned about.


Read more about this book...

'Split Box' House - Melling:Morse Architects


House by Gerard Melling and Allan Morse in Tuateawa Bay, Coromandel. 

There's a thorough write-up over at the Modern Residential blog.  The reasons for the house's name should be obvious.


Thursday, 21 February 2008

Cats, pigeons and throwing Owen Glenn amongst them

If poodles were pigeons, Owen Glenn would be a cat.  Whatever that means.  And whatever it means, Mr Glenn must be chortling at how the pigeons are all erupting at all the cats he's throwing out amongst them.  The rumours abound, among the most laughable being that anyone would pay Sir Horrid Maorisong one million dollars to be an MP -- or that anyone would believe it.  Or report it.  Just who's kidding whom here.

And he must be doubled over at old senior political journalist Audrey what's-her-name at the Herald who, as Three Point Turn explains, began the day by interviewing her typewriter and ended by inviting everyone involved to deny they'd been beating their wife.  Well almost.

It takes very little to get the commentariat in a stew, and very little more to sink them into a stupor.

UPDATE: On a slightly lighter note, don't miss David Slack's take on the Glenn, Owen saga: he takes the whole Honorary Consul thing literarily -- and I literally mean literarily.

Islamist history in bite-sized chunks

Powell I'm really looking forward to starting Scott Powell's online history course on The Islamist Entanglement later this afternoon -- and it's not too late to sign up yourself.  If you’ve heard about Powell History’s unique content and method, and clients’ rave reviews (and here too!) then you might like to know he's offering students a keen deal:

    Try one.  You don’t have to commit to the whole course — a steal at $249, but still a good chunk of change.  Instead pay the discounted rate of only $20 for a single lecture.
    I guarantee you’ll like what you hear.
    And then you can take another one at the same discounted rate (limit of two!).
    Then, when you’re ready to commit to truly learning history for yourself, you can can use your payments as installments on the full price of the course.
    There’s never been an easier way to gain an independent knowledge of the past!
    CLICK HERE NOW, to get started!

But be quick.  First lecture starts in just three hours.

Mayor Idol

Vote for your favourite mayor at Air New Zealand's site, and get cheap fares to their city.  Good gimmick.


New Rand reading

If you're a regular reader here at Not PC you can't fail to have noticed I have several heroes, one of whom is novelist philosopher Ayn Rand.

Now I'm aware that while many of you are sympathetic to Rand's ideas, you have some reservations.  I'm aware too that some of those reservations are based around things you've heard about Rand's personal life.  Radio host Leighton Smith, for example, has said a few times that he's attracted to her ideas, but he thinks she's "a bitch."

Nothing could be further from the truth, as two recent additions to the web should prove. 

The first recent addition demolishes the source of most of the gossip and innuendo about Rand that people take for the truth -- most of the dirt comes from two self-serving biographies from former associates of Rand who, as author James Valliant demonstrated in his timely tome 'The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics,' cheated her financially, professionally and systematically through nearly all the time they knew her. (You might be interested in my own review of his book.)  For those, who don't already have it, James has recently made available the key chapter from his book that closes the lid on any claims these erstwhile biographers have to either veracity or integrity:  Chapter Four: The Exploitation of Ayn Rand.  If you have any interest at all, it's must-reading to see the character of those who exploited her then, and continue to exploit her memory now.

frank_and_ayn And here's the other recent bonus, and far more attractive reading: Mary Ann and Charles Sures, who knew and worked closely with Rand and her husband for nearly three decades (that's Rand and husband Frank pictured right), have made their own book-length memoir of recollections of 'Facets of Ayn Rand' available on the net.  This is not just well worth reading, it's worth bookmarking and coming back to regularly.  Says Mary Ann of the memoirs:

    We want to preserve our recollec­tions of Ayn Rand and our evalua­tion of her. Few peo­ple knew her for as long as we did — I for twenty-eight years and Charles for almost twenty. She was an extraordinary thinker and person, and we knew her in both capacities. In the years to come, peo­ple will be ask­ing the same ques­tion they ask about her today: what was Ayn Rand like as a person, in her private life? We can answer that ques­tion...
    What we, and many, many others, owe to her is incalculable. But, in addi­tion to that, we have read things about her that give a distorted picture of what she was like. We want to correct the record.

Between them, I'd like to think these two recent additions will not just just correct the record, but help rehabilitate a reputation that never had any right to be tarnished by the smears and innuendo that still put some people off reading Rand further.

The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics
by James Valliant

Read more about this book...
Facets of Ayn Rand (Audiofy Digital Audiobook Chips)

Read more about this book...

Losers picking losers

It's not often Jim Anderton is on the right side of an argument, but when he accuses John Key and Bill English of pork barrel politics and a return to Muldoonist subsidies ... he's spot on.

After a dinner with managers of Southland's Alliance Group meat cooperative, John Boy and Billy Bob visited Southland a week later and pledged the group a "suspensory loan" of two-hundred million dollars to fund a mega-merger -- when or if the boys come to power.  Reports NBR:

    Mr Anderton said it would be the first subsidisation of the agricultural sector since the National government of Sir Robert Muldoon. He accused Mr Key of making policy up on the spot.
    "The result is a $200 million promise to the meat industry," Mr Anderton said. The suggestion of a subsidy to the meat sector would be in breach of New Zealand's undertakings to the World Trade Organisation and its battle to get other countries to dump similar subsidies. "We would lose all credibility," Mr Anderton said.
    The fact that a senior political figure in New Zealand was suggesting agricultural subsidies was a "big embarrassment for New Zealand," he said. Mr Anderton said the idea of a mega-meat company may have its merits, but it would stand on its own commercial case.

And so it should.  The deal offers a remarkable insight into how John and Bill view government's relationship with business -- apparently they think it's their job to "pick winners" with taxpayers' money, while they pick up their own dividend in the voting booth.

As it happens, Paul Walker from Canterbury University has two insightful posts on why governments who "pick winners" invariably pick losers; the simplest answer appears to be that it's not so much that governments picks losers, it is that losers pick on governments to help them in deals that have only a weak commercial case -- or as economists Richard E. Baldwin and Frederic Robert-Nicoud argue, "... government policy doesn’t pick losers; losers pick governments policy."

On this, see: Why do governments back losers? Two parts of an answer., and    
                      Why governments pick losers ... or do they?

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Cold feet, cold temperatures.

The Hive suggests the government are getting "cold feet" on their proposed emissions trading regime.  Good.

Perhaps I can recommend replacing the whole nonsense with a very special kind of carbon tax, one that would recognise, for example, news that Arctic sea ice is not going anywhere and that the Northern Hemisphere is in the grip of its coldest winter for years.

UPDATE: Scientist Lubos Motl points the latest numbers mean we have "a new winner" in the global warming hit parade ... but not the way warmists would like to tell you:

   Just a small curiosity. January 2008 was the coldest month since January 2000 following RSS MSU and the coldest month since May 1995 according to GISS. The new numbers from HadCRUT3 [ HTML, data, graph ] identify January 2008 as the coolest month since February 1994.
If the temperatures [continue to] drop ... in a few months, most of the 20th century warming - and virtually all of warming that can be sanely attributed to the industry - may be simply gone.
   Nature is capable to do such things in an elegant way - without paying tens of trillions of dollars, without introducing a new totalitarian ideology, without scaring children, without elevating stomachs in the movie theaters, and without awarding a Nobel peace prize to an annoying, fat, and power-thirsty crank.
   Nature rules. And cools. It is simply cool. And yes, that's a rule.

Cold comfort in die-while-you-wait hospitals

While the amount taxpayers are forced to pay on the government's die-while-you-wait health system has increased by billions every year, the waiting and the dying has only got worse.

Just four weeks ago figures were released revealing that up to one in eight patients at Wellington's hospitals "is the victim of a medical accident, error or mishap," and up to twenty-three patients of Wellington's Capital Coast Health were either killed or endured serious harm through inattention, incompetence and bungling. [Radio NZ story here. Dom Post story here.]

At the time, Capital Coast Health apologists issued the airy dismissal that "these problems occur everywhere" -- made no less scary by the fact the apologists seemed to think this made it okay -- and just last week Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson warned that New Zealand hospitals are "unsafe."  He's right.  Just this morning we received some confirmation that incompetence that kills is both nationwide and endemic, in news that

Mistakes led to the deaths of or serious harm to 182 patients in public hospitals between July 2006 and June 2007.

This is not good.  Not good at all.  And all while government spending on the government's health system has rocketed. The answer is clearly not more of our money. Some more substantial change is needed.

Now, it's true that these problems do occur everywhere -- that is, everywhere the state attempts to handle the lion's share of a country's health care.

In Britain, for example, studies suggest these serious or "sentinel" events as they're called regularly affect up to one in ten patients, and that this figure is normal for a bureaucratically driven state-run hospital system. One in ten. Think about what that means for a moment. It's a level of incompetence that is life threatening for one in every ten patients that enter the portals of a government-run hospital.

Think about that next time it's you or a loved one entering that hospital.

Frighteningly, this is a level of failure -- of failure that leads to death -- that state health apologists consider acceptable, and with the more excuses for failure we hear, the more it's clear just how much failure has now come to be accepted as normal. The apologies and excuses offer no comfort at all that any motivation even exists to remedy the bungling that last year killed twenty-three people in Wellington's government hospitals forty people in government hospitals around the country.  Of the horrifying figures for example, minister David Cunliffe Health Minister David Cunliffe says "the numbers are small" and insists "New Zealand hospitals are among the safest in the world."

Cold comfort.

It's not just a die-while you wait system. These figures show there are good odds you'll die if you get there as well. Perhaps that's why fifty-six percent of New Zealanders surveyed recently told the Commonwealth Fund International Health Survey that the country's creaking health system needs "fundamental change." This isn't time to sit around and make excuses. It's not time to simply change the administrators and keep the same failed system. It's time for radical action.

Time to move?

A friend suggests I should consider moving to Australia.  At least when you're being screwed by city planners there it might be more enjoyable, he says.

Good point.

And the link is ... (updated)

George Reisman offers both a puzzle and a challenge for environmentalists.  He asks you first to identify the common link between communism, nazism and environmentalism -- and before you erupt in outrage once you've uncovered it, may I invite you to examine and reflect upon the link he identifies.  It's important.

Here's a clue: it's a particular view of ethics, encapsulated in just one hyphenated word.

Perhaps you think that to even suggest such a link is absurd?  Offensive even?  Then just consider Reisman's argument that it is neither:

Green-Hammer&Sickle-739240    The “extremists” among you openly call for the death of 1 to 6.4 billion human beings. The “moderates” among you openly call for the forced reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 90 percent within a few decades, which would serve to reduce energy use almost to the same extent. Such a severe reduction in energy use follows from the fact that there are no presently existing large-scale viable alternatives to fossil fuels other than atomic power, which is regarded by most members of your movement as a death ray and is opposed more vehemently than fossil fuels. Furthermore, the likelihood of ever finding and developing such alternatives will be greatly reduced by Green-Swastika-Flag-725585destroying the energy sources we do have and need to increase. So what your movement advocates is mass death or, at the very least, dreadful mass impoverishment whose outcome will be tens or hundreds of millions of unnecessary deaths and a life of misery for those who survive.
    If your motivation in calling yourself an environmentalist is merely such things as that you like to see flowers bloom on open meadows, and you love trees, whales, and polar bears and the like, then you owe it to yourself to put as much intellectual and moral distance as possible between you and those who do advocate mass impoverishment and mass death...Green-UN-Flag-794113
   If you care about your moral character, don’t place an indelible stain on it by supporting a movement that seeks to destroy Industrial Civilization and all the human lives and human well-being that depend on it. Accept moral responsibility for the ideas you propound and stop standing in the service of mass destruction and death.

Read all of Reisman's challenge here, and his puzzle here.

UPDATE 1: Xavier at the Reluctant Botanist offers a contrary opinion.

UPDATE 2: Owen McShane suggests that as it becomes more and more obvious we're going to see more and more people making these connections -- and he points me to his recent paper written for Muriel Newman's webpage: Beware the Dark Greens.

    We may all be Environmentalists now – but we must beware of the Dark Greens
    Over the last few decades most of us have learned to be feminists, and are generally comfortable with our conversion. But most of us have also learned to identify and avoid being grouped with the dark side of the feminist movement that remains deeply Marxist in its roots and intentions.
    Similarly, most of us are now environmentalists. We take some pride in our efforts to care for our surroundings, and to ensure that we enjoy the world around us without despoiling it for others. However, we also need to be conscious of the motives of the “dark greens” who threaten our democracy and many institutions and attitudes we hold equally dear...

Read on here..

Good riddance, Busy Whiskers

End communism Fidel Castro has stood down, but Cuban jails are still full of his opponents, the seventy-three thousand people he killed without either the benefit of trial or due process are still dead, and (as Humberto Fontova describes it)

a nation with a formerly massive influx of European immigrants needs machine guns, water cannons and tiger sharks to keep its people from fleeing, while half-starved Haitians a short 60 miles away turn up their noses at any thought of emigrating to Cuba.

The sooner Castro and his brother Raul join the ranks of the dead, the better.

The Honorary Consul

Here's the first thing I've got to say about all the words written about Owen Glenn, his donations to he Labour Party, and the gongs and baubles of office he may or may not have got because of his donation: I really don't care.

If Mr Glenn chooses to spend his profits promoting a party ideologically opposed to profits, the contradiction is his to work out.  It's his business.  Once again the opposition has been distracted with a sideshow while issues of real substance go by the board -- substance presumably being considered too scary for a party so desperately short of this ingredient themselves.

And on the matter of the job of New Zealand's Honorary Consul to Monaco, it surprises me that with all the words written on this matter so many have confused the position of Monaco's Honorary Consul to New Zealand (a job I understand Richard Worth holds) with the position of New Zealand's Honorary Consul to Monaco -- a very different role, and one that brings to mind the character of Charley Fortnum, the Honorary Consul of Graham Greene's novel: a sixtyish, befuddled and more than slightly sodden old reprobate whose description seems to aptly fit Mr Glenn.

The Honorary Consul: A Novel (Simon & Schuster Classics)
by Graham Greene

Read more about this book...

'Melissa' - Joshua le Rock


First prize winner in the drawing category in the Art Renewal Center's International 2007 ARC Salon. [Graphite on Paper, 12 x 20 inches]

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Hack on blogs

The mainstream media has another look at blogs.  According to Philip Matthews at The Press, "left wingers" blog because they have to ("to do something about the Right’s dominance of the blogosphere" apparently), "right wingers" blog because they're angry, and "far-Right bloggers" -- well, they're all just "bottom feeders."  So much for the in-depth analysis of Mr Matthews.

As for libertarian bloggers like Lindsay Perigo and Liberty Scott and Lance Davey (and that's just libertarians starting with 'L'), we don't even exist -- although if we did exist I'd suggest libertarians blog because they'd like the world to be a freer place, and because they have a low tolerance for bullshit, big government and other braindead nonsense. On the latter, Mathews mostly qualifies.

UPDATE: Most of the cast who appeared in Mathews's piece are discussing it at Kiwiblog, as they are at the SubStandard, Kiwiblogbog and Sprout & Bean,

Historian in the house

I'm very excited about something, and let me tell you what.

It's said that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are bound to be bitten in the arse by the lessons they failed to learn.  As science fiction writer John Wood Campbell used to say, "It's not so much that History repeats herself, it's that sometimes she screams 'Won't you ever listen to what I'm trying to tell you?' and lets fly with a club."

Now, like many of you I certainly failed to learn from the history that was delivered at school.  There wasn't much of it, and what there was was mostly nonsense delivered poorly.  Historian Scott Powell wants to change that: arguing that philosophy killed history (read his four-part series on that argument: Part one, two, three and four), he's put together an online history course for adults that differs markedly from any history course you've yet encountered because it recognises how we actually acquire and use knowledge -- and I'm going to 'attend' the next one, on 'The Islamic Entanglement,' right from the comfort of my own house.  That's why I'm excited.  Explains Scott,

The Islamist Entanglement is part of [an online] history program I call "A First History for Adults." I developed this program because I realized there were many adults out there who want to learn history but have no place to start. Time and time again I've seen adult students who are committed to learning about the past ask historians in frustration, "Where can I get started?" It's one thing to enjoy a book or lecture by a great historian; it's another thing to actually gain knowledge for yourself. It doesn't just happen by being exposed to someone else's expertise...

My aim is to create a presentation of history that specifically builds upon the context of knowledge of the average educated adult, and allows you to create a real foundation of knowledge. I help students create a "skeleton" or framework upon which more elaborate research and abstract thinking can be profitably pursued. Probably the most important thing that I do is eradicate as many non-essential facts as possible, and then show how the really pivotal ones can be grouped into useful historical abstractions, called "periods." It's not a magic serum, but it is the most productive way to build general historical knowledge.

Gus Van Horn sayss "History as taught by Mr. Powell is not just fascinating. It is powerful stuff!" And Diana Hsieh reckons learning history with Scott Powel is "like nothing I've ever experienced before, either in school, with my history reading, or from Objectivists."

I'm finally learning -- and really learning, not just hearing in one ear and out the other -- and integrated, essentialized history. Now, when I read more detailed accounts of some era or event, I'll not just be able to place that new material in a clear context, but I'll also be able to use his methods to essentialize, integrate, and retain that new knowledge. So I cannot recommend his "First History" course highly enough.

Learn more about Scott's history project at his website or his blog, or by reading Ed Cline's interview with him about the upcoming course.  And you can find out more about the course on Islamist Entanglement and sign up for it here and here

Oh, and if you want to prepare for the course, here's the latest posts on Scott's Middle East Milestones series on some of the key developments that have shaped the region.

I wish they *didn't* work so hard

Poneke posts on how hard most politicians work, poor lambs, which gives an indication of just how motivated one must be to spend all that time dreaming up and implementing schemes to do us over.

Frankly, I'd rather have my MPs working less.  Much less.  In fact, I"d like to see all one-hundred and twenty-one MPs take Judith Tizard as their model, and attempt to emulate her work rate -- or lack thereof.

The country would be a much better place, I assure you.

Reason, freedom, and raising fine children

A guest post here by Brian Scurfield, who argued recently that the future of liberty depends on the idea taking root that it is possible to educate children in a coercion free environment.  He lays out his argument in this post.

What I want to argue in this post is that the way we treat our children is intertwined with the future of liberty.

Most parents want to give their children a good education and to inculcate in their children good values and respect for reason. Yet, despite these intentions, our education system has failed our children. Why is this? Is it simply a case that the problem lies with State schools and that all will be well and good if schools were privatized? While privatization would be a step in the right direction, I don't think this in itself would solve the problem. For the problem is much deeper than just a question of who should run the schools. The problem in fact lies with some deeply entrenched ideas about how children should be raised.

In their starkest form, these ideas hark back to the old idea that "to spare the rod is to spoil the child". Of course, most parents today would find this idea abhorrent, and rightly so, yet many parents are willing in one form or another to practice coercion on their children. They would argue that coercion is necessary to get their children to learn, that it is OK to coerce children because children, after all, are not miniature adults and that parents have more knowledge and experience than children.

I would like to ask these parents how you can inculcate reason if you are willing to employ coercion?

A person that employs coercion to inculcate reason demonstrates by their very actions that reason - not to mention liberty - can be overridden in the pursuit of a goal. But these things can't be overridden: Not only will you probably not achieve your goal or getting a child to learn, you will end up with a whole lot of bad and unintended consequences. Many of these you may not even become aware of.

There is a link between the inculcation of reason and freedom from coercion.

The idea that coercion should play no part at all in child-rearing apparently is an idea that many people, including libertarians, have difficulty accepting. Libertarians often pull out the property-rights argument, that it's my house and my rules. Yet this is to confuse one's legal rights with one's moral obligations. Just because you think your child shouldn't be watching that soap opera doesn't mean it is a morally right for you to simply turn off the TV. Just because you think your child should be attending Auckland Grammar doesn't mean you should force your child to go there.

You can't just raise a child any way you please. That is to deny that children are people possessed of ideas, motivations, and a will of their own. It is also to deny how knowledge is created.

Children are not buckets that you pour ideas into. Children learn best when their learning is self-directed and governed by interest. It's how you learn best isn't it? Young children are naturally inquisitive, but it is only too easy to stamp out that inquisitiveness through coercion.

Parental authoritarianism and thinking "I know best" is just as corrosive as State authoritarianism.

Furthermore, if "knowing best" gives you the right to coerce your child, then that argument will be used against you by others who claim more knowledge and more experience than you. Which, of course, it is.

It is because the creation of knowledge and the inculcation of reason are strongly intertwined with freedom from coercion that the future of liberty depends on how we treat our children. A future libertarian society is going to require lots of new knowledge, including knowledge about freedom, but that knowledge will not be won, nor that society last, if children are not allowed the freedom to control the contents of their own minds.

I believe it is possible to educate a child in an environment free from coercion. This doesn't mean that you become a doormat for your child or that what your child says goes. But how is it possible? Well, it requires lots of things. It requires acknowledgement that both you and your child are fallible, that one or both of you may be wrong, that problems can be solved through reason, that by working with your child you can find a common preference where nobody need get hurt. Yes, these things may not always be easy, but that's no excuse for not trying. The whole approach is called Taking Children Seriously.

Minds beat stomachs

Most of you will know of the famous Paul Erhlich v Julian Simon bet.   For a decade beginning in 1968, Ehrlich insisted the population is exploding, resources are running out, and we're all gonna die. Our time is up, he reckoned:

  • The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines. Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. Population control is the only answer.
    —Paul Ehrlich, in The Population Bomb (Ballantine Books 1968)
  • I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.
    —Paul Ehrlich in (1969)
  • In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.
    —Paul Ehrlich, Earth Day (1970)
  • Before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity…in which the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion.
    —Paul Ehrlich in (1976)

Ehrlich was taken seriously at the time, and his arguments are taken seriously still by Russel Norman and the Greens.  Economist Julian Simon was one of the few at the time to call Ehrlich's bluff. Simon maintained that more people meant more opportunities, not less, the reason being (as Owen McShane summarises) "that minds outperform stomachs" -- as we get more minds with access to more knowledge and producing more and more innovations, then minds win by an ever growing margin

Ehrlich was so outraged by Simon's argument that in 1980 (by which time the paucity of dead fish should already have told him something) he accepted a bet with him.  Simon invited Ehrlich to choose a basket of goods that he insisted would rise in value by 1990 due to their increasing scarcity. Wikipedia summarises:

The essence of Simon's position in the bet was that, despite the population growth that was sure to occur during the 1980s, the effective supply of natural resources would increase during this decade because human beings would figure out how to find, extract and use such resources more efficiently.

And the surest measure of this increased supply would be lower inflation-adjusted prices of resources.

Convinced that higher population is a curse, Ehrlich accepted the $1,000 bet. He chose (for Simon gave Ehrlich the choice of which resources to bet on) a bundle of copper, chromium, nickel, tin and tungsten and bet Simon that the real price of this bundle of resources would be higher in 1990 than in 1980.

In 1990 the prices in September of that year were compared to the prices of these resources in September 1980. Simon won convincingly. The real price of each of these five resources had fallen over the course of that decade, indicating that their supplies had grown even though human population had also grown by more than 800 million during that same time.

So over the decade of 1980-1990, Ehrlich was proved comprehensively wrong -- which in the way of such people hasn't stopped him mouthing off since. (On the release of Bjorn Lomborg's book Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World in 2001, Ehrlich ranted, "If Lomborg had done some arithmetic, he could have . . . spared us a book as thick as a brick and almost as intelligent." And if Ehrlich had spared us his comment, he might have spared us forming for ourselves the fairly obvious conclusion about himself...)

There are some who still insist the result of the bet was just bad luck.  That the decade chosen was unfortunate. That concern has now been summarily dismissed by economist Don Boudreaux, who wondered recently what would happen if the same bet had happened over the decade from 1990-2000.

As Mark Perry summarises, the result would have been the same:

Simon would have won again (see chart below), since all of the metals declined in real price except for tungsten, and the average price decline of the 5-commodity group was -19%.

Case closed.  Again.  Minds still beat stomachs.  Always will.