Friday, 21 March 2008

Beer O'Clock: Orval

Your Beer O'Clock post this week comes from Stu at SOBA.

It’s good to drink good beer on Good Friday. It’s just a shame we can’t buy it.

Orval is one such good beer. In fact it is very, very good. So good, to my personal palate, that it’s my ‘desert island beer’ – the one beer, amongst the thousand-odd I’ve tasted, that’d I’d pick to drink for the rest of my life if such a terrible decision was forced upon me by some kind of non-benevolent supreme being (or just bad luck).

Orval pours hazy rose gold with a large, lacy white foam. It has a champagne-like spritzy look and feel, with a nose that is lightly bready, with hints of boiled-sweets, a unique woody spice and a little dried citrus zest. In the mouth it is dry and effervescent, slightly leathery, pithy, and with a bitterness reminiscent of old style oranges. There’s a little cinnamon and anise in there too. Its subtle touches linger on the palate for a lot longer than the average beer. Orval is a very special beer but, like almost every good beer, is relatively affordable and can be enjoyed on any occasion.

Part of the unique character of Orval is the brettanomyces yeast (commonly called ‘brett’), which adds some of the aromatic spice and really dries out any residue sweetness in the beer. This yeast continues to work in the bottle and, while changing the characteristics of the beer over time, can add an extra percent or two to the labelled alcohol level. Beware.

The monks behind Orval also produce a Port-du-Salut style cheese. You can take this combination as an explicit beer and cheese-matching tip (contrary to the opinion of Kerry Tyack, beer and cheese really is a match made in heaven). The dry bitterness of the beer contrasts with the creamy sweetness of the cheese, while the subtle fruit characteristics of each complement each other.

A brilliant beer inside a beautiful bottle, fit for a gorgeous glass. What’s more, it is available all-year ‘round at bottle stores, supermarkets and good beer bars all over the country (except, of course, Good Friday). I’ll drink it nine times out of ten whenever I’m at any of the Belgian-themed bars littered throughout our main cities.

If God-fearing monks produce the beer, then surely God must want us to drink it. And if this beer is the word of God... Amen!

Next time, back on the beer style theme, we’ll look at why 'Amber and Dark Lagers Ain't Ales.'

Slainte mhath, Stu

Religionists vs non-religionists on air

A friend has uploaded for me the four-handed religion debate this morning from Lindsay Perigo's show on Radio Live this morning, which I'm told was brilliant radio.  I have to take his word for that at this stage since I was sleeping at the time, but you can click here to hear the debate in its full MP3 brilliance.

On the side of there being angels is Brother Richard Dunleavy and the Reverend Richard Randerson.  Arguing against are Perigo and, from the Rationalists Association, Mr Bill Cooke.

It kicks off with Perigo announcing that God is a psychopath...

Party (pills) on Campus

Highly amusing to read Jim Banderton's apoplectic response to ACT on Campus's Auckland Uni branch selling party pills to encourage students to sign up.  My own reaction when I heard the plan was just the opposite -- I was pissed off that Libz on Campus hadn't thought of it first.  Damn!

Perhaps there's hope for young ACToids after all, just as long as they don't go as soft as their seniors.  As Duncan says over at Kiwiblog, "Maybe ACT does have a chance, if only they’d roll Hide & Douglas in favour of some young blood with balls."

I was amused too to see this exchange in the comments at Kiwiblog:

JAMES W.: “Does Jim have a youth wing?”
MIKE COLLINS: "Yes. It involves Matt Robson, Botox and a hippy wig."


It's Easter, which means ...

IT'S EASTER, GOOD FRIDAY, a day when government flunkies fan out around the country to sacrifice shop-owners, and the Christians who insist on their sacrifice to the gods of bureaucracy celebrate the sacrifice of their own ideal two-thousand years ago.

Every religion has its own myths that go to the very heart of their beliefs. The Easter Myth is central to Christianity, and all too revealing of the ethic at Christianity's heart.  Bach's St Mathew Passion' musically and beautifully dramatises the Myth, and is all too revealing of the nature of it.

Just think, Christians revere Christ as their ideal, and Bach has his chorus praise him, worship him, and eulogise Him -- this after all was their hero, the man they believe their god sent to earth as an example of the highest possible on this earth -- and then they and that same god went and had him killed.

That's the story. This, says Bach, is what Christians revere: The murder of their ideal.  

In Pagan times, Easter was the time in the Northern calendar when the coming of spring was celebrated -- the celebration of new life, of coming fecundity.  Indeed, the very word "Easter" comes from Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, and means, symbolically, the festival celebrating the rebirth of light after the darkness of winter.  But with the coming of Christianity, the celebration has been hijacked to be a veneration of sacrifice.

Such is the nature of the Easter Myth, and of the ethic at the very heart of Christianity. Not peace, not love and understanding, but sacrifice -- the murder and torture of tall poppies -- the sacrifice of the Christian's highest possible for the sake of the meanest most rotten 'sinner,' whose redemption Christ's murder was supposed to buy.

To put it bluntly, the Easter myth that Bach dramatises so well is one of suffering and sacrifice and murder, and the collusion of a supposedly omnipotent and omniscient god in the murder of his own son -- and if you subscribe to the whole sick fantasy that's what you have to believe; in the name of religion he shows us that the good (by Christian standards) must be sacrificed to the rotten; the constant to the inconstant; the talented and inspirational to the lumpen dross -- the ideal to the worthless.

For Christians, then, Easter is a time to revere that sacrifice and to remind themselves (and us) of the centrality of sacrifice to their fantasy. Oh yes, there's a 'rebirth' of sorts, but not one in this earthly realm, and not before a celebration of intense pain and suffering that supposedly bought redemption and virtue for those who possessed neither.   As Robert Tracinski says so bluntly, "Easter's Mixture of the Benevolent and the Horrific Reveals Religion's Antagonism to Human Life."

THERE IS ANOTHER STORY that stands in complete contrast to this one, that is in all senses its polar opposite. Unlike the heroes of Bach's Passion, the heroes of Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead shun sacrifice. The ethic of The Fountainhead, one for which each of the leading characters fights in their own way, is one in which genius has the right to live for its own sake.  The contrast with the demand of Christianity that The Good inheres in the act of suffering and dying for the expiation of others could not be stronger, or the question more important!  Rather than demanding and worshipping the sacrifice of the highest to the lowest -- or as Nietzsche did, retaining the ethic but reversing the beneficiary of the sacrifice by demanding the sacrifice of the lowest to the highest -- the ethic of The Fountainhead insists that The Good is not to suffer and to die, but to enjoy yourself and live -- without any sacrifice at all.

In my book, that really is an ethic worthy of reverence.

NOW, I'M ALL TOO aware that if you believe the Easter Myth, then anything I say here is going to pass right by you.  So if you do insist on venerating sacrifice this weekend, and especially if you're intending a bit of crucifixion yourself, or even just a bit of mildly flogging or self-torture, then here are a few simple Easter Safety Tips for you from the Church, which are not unfortunately intended as satire.

And now here's a Nick Kim cartoon from The Free Radical for all the bureaucrats who are working today ...


Thursday, 20 March 2008

Perigo for Easter

PUBLIC NOTICE: Lindsay Perigo will be hosting the breakfast session, 6-9 am Easter Friday and Easter Monday, Radio Live. Expect to hear James Valliant on again for another of his eulogies to Jesus.

The failing policies of the present

Now here's an economist doing what economists do best: economist Paul Walker, who posts at the Anti-Dismal blog (as in, anti "the dismal science"), summarises a post by economist Frederic Sautet at the Austrian Economists blog looking at productivity growth in New Zealand.

Sautet has looked at New Zealand's productivity growth over the last decade for labour, materials and capital (so called multifactor productivity), and for labour alone, and what he's discovered is that ... growth in both crucial yardsticks is going backwards.

Like all decent economists, he seeks a reason for this shameful outcome of a decade of Hard Labour government and has little trouble finding it and pointing it out -- it's government failure, he says:

The current Labour-led government has criticized the "failed policies of the past" (i.e. the reform period and the deregulation of the 1980s and 1990s) for not delivering enough. Instead of continuing to improve the institutional context for socially-beneficial entrepreneurship, Prime Minister Helen Clark decided, among other things, to increase government spending (and the number of government bureaucrats), re-regulate the labor market, increase taxes (i.e. distort the tax structure, thereby rejuvenating the tax planning industry), intervene in utilities markets, provide more welfare, reintroduce corporate welfare, and renationalize businesses. All this is surely reflected in the weak growth in multifactor productivity...

Read: The "Failed Policies of the Past" vs. the Bad Policies of the Present: Can Productivity Figures in NZ Tell Us the Truth?

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

When economists make predictions, just walk away ...

crystal_ball_lg 'Mathematical economists' predict all sorts of things, and all sorts of people believe them -- but there's a reason contrarians still make money even if Bear Sterns can't: the 'mathematical economists' with their crystal balls really don't have the first clue what they're talking about.
These are the people, it should be remembered, who told the government they'd be in deficit when they're not (oops); who said for years that government surpluses would be small (when they turned out to be huge); that Kyoto would be a net benefit to New Zealand taxpayers (it's going to cost us billions) ... we're heading for recession, says Cullen, we're not, says Clark; we are says the BNZ, we're not says BERL ...   let's face it, none of them really has the first clue what's going on.
And that's just the gee-whiz crystal-ball gazers who do the sums for government!  Then there's the ones who pull down the really big salaries, the chaps who are all over the TV and radio making predictions -- which mostly consist in agreeing with what every other pundit is saying -- but it turns out with these types that they've got no more idea about what's going on than your taxi driver does, as a new study fresh from the printer makes clear.  What you see in the graph below is a chart of NZ's Trade Weighted Index for the last fourteen years -- a crucial figure on which billions of dollars are spent -- measured against the predictions of all those big-name chaps with a calculator, a big salary, and not a clue what's going on.  Take a look:
You'll be wondering what those little fan-shaped things are that seem to bear no relation to the actual TWI?  Those suckers are the range of predictions made by most of the big names you hear cluttering up your airwaves with their soothsaying (the red line is the median forecast, the grey line is the range of their predictions, the solid black line baring little to no relation to either of these is what actually happened).  Just to stress this point again: none of these turkeys is able to predict the future any more than you could by throwing a dart at the wall.  Or to put it another way, when you hear these mathematical economists making predictions about the future, don't believe a word of it.  You might just as well read your tea leaves.
Here's the real lesson: Economics doesn't give you a crystal ball allowing you to make quantitative predictions about the future.  It doesn't give anyone that kind of crystal ball -- and anyone who says it does is either lying to you, or to themselves.  As Ludwig von Mises pointed out fifty years ago, economics is not a science capable of quantitative predictions:
People by and large know today that a boom brought forth by a policy of credit expansion and "easy money" cannot last forever and must sooner or later lead to a slump. They do not want to be taken by surprise and ruined... As they believe that economics is the art of predicting tomorrow's business conditions, they consult the economists.
"How will business be in the coming months?" asks the newspaperman when interviewing the economist. No convention of businessmen is held without the solicited presence of a professor of economics, or the head of a bank's research department, who in guarded language produces a cautiously qualified prediction about the nation's, or the world's business. Whenever and wherever a businessman catches sight of an economist, he tries to sound him out about the future state of the market.
But we've already seen that the country's highest-earning economists have no idea, do they.
Economics can only tell us that a boom engendered by credit expansion will not last. It cannot tell us after what amount of credit expansion the slump will start or when this event will occur. All that economists and other people say about these quantitative and calendar problems partakes of neither economics nor any other science.
Economics predicts the outcome of definite modes of conduct, in our case, of a policy of credit expansion. But this prediction is qualitative only. Economic prediction can never disclose anything about the quantitative relations concerned. There is not, and there cannot be such a thing as quantitative economics ... [and any] forecasts about the course of economic affairs cannot be considered scientific.
  George Reisman drives home the point in his book Capitalism:
Despite popular beliefs, economics is not a science of quantitative predictions.  It does not provide reliable information on such matters as what the price of a common stock or commodity will be in the future, or what the 'gross national product' will be in the next year or quarter ...
...or what the Trade Weighted Index will ever be, except in the past. The future is unknown.  There's no way to put a number on it. Real economists know that, and don't pretend otherwise.
Proper economics -- not the mathematical junk that squeezes real market processes into a Procrustean Bed of mumbo jumbo -- that is, real descriptive economics of the kind practiced by Austrian economists will, as Reisman goes on to say, "provide an important intellectual framework for making personal and business economic decisions."  A proper knowledge of economics will help defend business and economic activity against regulators and politicians who continually seek to destroy both.  It will not teach businessmen how to make money, he says -- a skill "they possess to an incalculably greater degree than economists" -- but it will explain why it is to the self-interest of everyone that businessmen should be free to make money.
That should surely be enough for anyone, you would think, without witchdoctoring up the world with lots of overpaid and under-successful clairvoyants.

Pure Perigo

ACT politicians are "conviction politicians," says Helen Clark?  Bah humbug, says Lindsay Perigo at SOLO:

6n_douglas2_150308_180One great thing about [Roger Douglas], as I argued recently, is that he's a conviction politician. But his convictions are not libertarian. If anything, Roger's return opens things up even more for Libertarianz. Rodney's born-again soft-cockery and Roger's compulsionism mean the chasm between Libz and ACT is greater than ever. 

And what about those 'cabinet prospects' for Dodger Rugless that have got a few people hyperventilating?  Perigo again:

Rodney wants National to commit to putting Roger in cabinet. Key says: "I'm not going to go and run a government that slashes benefits and privatises off all the assets that the state continues to own; I'm not going to run a radical agenda." Rodney says he wants nothing more radical than "caps" on taxes and spending.

Time was when blokes flashed their members to see who had the biggest. These guys are competing to see who has the limpest.

Nothing much left to say, is there?

"God damn America"

The female Democrat presidential candidate said a week ago that "if Obama was a white man," he would not be doing so well in his presidential bid.  The woman was Geraldine Ferraro, the Dems' 1984 candidate for vice-president with Walter Mondale (they lost in a landslide), and in just one week she's been proved right.

Yes, "it's heartening," as black commentator Thomas Sowell observes, "that the country has reached the point where a black candidate for President of the United States sweeps so many primaries in states where the overwhelming majority of the population is white...  That's the good news.

The bad news," says black commentator Thomas Sowell, "is that Barack Obama has been leading as much of a double life as Eliot Spitzer." 

What's he talking about?   "God damn America," says Obambi's mentor in speech after speech after speech - and that's among the mildest of pastor Jeremiah Wright's more incendiary comments -- and Obambi's given a free pass on the implications of this because of his race.  You don't think that's true?  Then, suggests Scott de Salvo, let's see what would happen if the shoe was on a different foot:

If John McCain regularly attended a church and considered his priest a spiritual advisor and a member of his campaign, and his priest said the following: "Barrack Obama is not qualified to be President. He doesn't understand white America. He never grew up in a white church. He never lived as a white man. He never had the experiences of a white man. He cannot be President."


"This is a despicable, racist country. This is a country of poison and murder. This country is no different from al Qaeda. This country faked Pearl Harbor, etc."

Can you imagine the firestorm?  Can you hear one now?  "Such statements by a close associate would DESTROY a white candidate like McCain or Giuliani," says de Salvo, but "in the case of Obama, the entire liberal media has mobilized in defense of Barack Hussein Obama in a concerted effort the likes of which has never been seen."

It's just nor credible, says Sowell, to claim that Obama "never a clue as to what kind of man [pastor] Jeremiah Wright was... You can't be with someone for 20 years, call him your mentor, and not know about his racist and anti-American views."  Sowell's conclusion is that the free pass only exists for one reason:

Senator Barack Obama's political success thus far has been a blow for equality. But equality has its down side.

Equality means that a black demagogue who has been exposed as a phony deserves exactly the same treatment as a white demagogue who has been exposed as a phony.


Auckland's 'Te Wero Bridge' competition


Pictured here are two of the seven final contestants in the competition for the planned 'Te Wero Bridge' in Auckland's viaduct.  Council has drawings of all seven finalists [hat tip Aaron Bhatnagar's Auckland Blog].  These are my own favourites: Entries Two (above) and Three:



Tuesday, 18 March 2008

"Nationalise it!"

Nationalise Air New Zealand ... nationalise The Warehouse ... hell, the Labour Party's semi-official 'trial balloon' blog doesn't care what happens to private property as long as there's either heavy-handed regulation of it or some good old-fashioned thoroughgoing confiscation going on -- just as long as private property owners get a good kicking, it seems.

No problem, no "principle" -- except to keep the red flag flying if they can.

Hickey looks at Wall St

Bernard Hickey has some sobering observations for local investors looking at the panic on Wall St.

Some NOT PC stats (week 10-14 March)

Some stats for you from the last working week: 

NZ Political Blog Rank for NOT PC: #6 (last month #5)
Alexa 1-week  Ranking: 277,663 (last week 307,327)
Unique visits [from Statcounter] 4,865 (4,978)
Page views [from Statcounter] 7,516 (7,618)
Top referring sites:
    Search engines, 1664 referrals; Libz, 198; Kiwiblog, 80; Whale Oil, 62; No Minister, 50; Woolfie, 39
Top keywords:
   not pc, 89; nipcc, 61; pc blogspot, 28; ipcc bali, 21; obama and clinton, 21;  ahmed zaoui; 21;
They're reading NOT PC here:

Top countries (Statcounter):
   NZ, 50.5%; USA, 16.4%; Australia, 5.4%; UK, 5.2%; Canada, 2.4%; Italy, 1.7%; Sweden, 1.6%
Top countries (Alexa):
   NZ 67%; USA, 17.7%; Canada, 2.3%; Venezuela, 1.5%; Chile, 1.5%; Argentina, 0.8%; Colombia, 0.8%
Top cities (Statcounter):  
   Auckland, 17%; Wellington/Christchurch, 3.5%; Sydney, 2.9%; Melbourne, 2.7%; London, 1.8%

Cheers, and thanks for reading and linking to NOT PC, 
Peter Cresswell


"The 2008 Olympics will 'open up' China about as effectively as the 1936 Olympics opened up Germany," said Robert Tracinski in 2001.  Recent events in Burma and Tibet and the ongoing human rights abuses and continuing existence of slave labour gulags show he and other commentators making similar points were right.  With the Olympics just months away, Chinese politics now looks little different to Chinese politics at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The chief question for New Zealanders to consider as we read news of Buddhist monks being shot on the streets of Lhasa is whether free trade will 'open up' China more effectively than the Olympics.

I have my own views on that, but I'd be interested in hearing others.  What do you think?   Given that the chief importance of a NZ-China free trade deal to the Chinese is their hope that our deal will presage others, what do you think the effect of free trade with China will have on China itself?

I'd love to hear your views in the comments.

"Know your enemy ..."

In 'The Art of War' Sun Tzu writes "Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster." Helen Clark knows her enemy right down to their spineless marshmallow roots.  Said Clark yesterday:

"I think the way National's behaving they are leaving room for ACT because the National Party doesn't stand for anything, the National Party only stands for power and people in ACT at least have things they believe in ..."

Mostly true, yes?  Asks Liberty Scott, who reflects on Clark's comment: "What does the National Party stand for that is consistently different from Labour?"  Can you give him or Helen an answer?

'The Foundation for Economic Growth'

A friend spotted a  website for an interesting looking local group advocating economic freedom for New Zealand -- rare enough these days -- about whom neither of us could establish anything except that they looked interesting, they promote the urgency of economic freedom for New Zealand, and one of Muldoon's former cabinet ministers appears to have his name on the masthead.

That last point is bizarre, but doesn't seem to affect the writing at the Foundation for Economic Growth website.  This, for example is commendably clear-sighted:

If we look back at the Muldoon era we can see very clearly that he had this bent towards socialism and towards the end of his command and control reign he had instituted a price freeze, a wage freeze and interest rate freeze. He found that he couldn’t control everything as he had thought and ended up in a position of running the country into the ground and then trying to stop everything in its tracks till he solved the problems. Just like Russia, or North Korea.

Clear enough.  No problems there.  And no problems with this record below of New Zealand's place in the world over the last hundred or so years, or their general remedy: more freedomnew-zealand-economy-s

So, anyone know much about the Foundation for Economic Growth?

NB: Just to create a bit of mischief, could I point readers to a wee story at the Mises Institute site asking 'What's Wrong with Economic Growth?'

'Venus' - Michael Newberry (update 1)


It started over seven years ago as an idea (that's her below in August 2001), and over the weekend painter Michael Newberry 'signed off' on Venus -- the last of his 'Mediterranean themed' works -- and with this he takes his art to a whole new level.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         The great artists like Rodin and Michelangelo breathe life into their figures; through some almost indefinable magic they make them come alive -- as Phil says of Rodin their figures feel as if they're in motion, and captured at a moment of peak emotion or of existential moment.

venus_2001_08-315 Newberry's Roman goddess of love and sexual healing has that white heat quality of the masters, and his subject. Often depicted in art, he captures his Venus arising at the break of dawn.  Luminous, wide-eyed, almost holographic in three-dimensional intensity as he looks to come alluringly out of the canvas at the new world she's born into.

[Venus, 2008, oil on linen, 48 x 48."  Head here to see the progression of the piece in sketches, and here in a 'time lapse' video. Hand study for Venus at left.]

UPDATE:  A neighbour to whom I showed Venus, clearly too used to looking only at bad art, couldn't get to grips with why this would take so long to paint.  I could have told her about the time it takes to make a vision real -- to see on canvas what you see in your mind -- and then to test and re-test that vision, finding new inspiration and new understanding of what the vision means and what it needs. 

I could have told her that but I knew I'd be wasting my time, so I didn't.

For some indication of why it takes so long for a vision like this to become reality, compare the final version above with the painting as it was two years ago -- at a point when lesser mortals would have declared the painting finished.  Open both paintings in separate windows and compare the two paintings:  ask yourself why the painter made the changes he did, and consider the magical effect of those changes.

Monday, 17 March 2008


Imag65g5e3 This morning's Auckland Today business magazine has Marc Ellis discussing his business philosophy:

We're about freedom of choice.  We are becoming quite PC as a nation and run the risk of being dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.  This type of society is based on fear.  We are informed as to what is and is not appropriate by the Government and they attempt to ostracise those who run against the tide.I like to make decisions for myself.  I don't like being told that I shouldn't lie in the sun, shouldn't drink more than seven servings, shouldn't drive a car quickly and shouldn't let my kid walk to school for fear of stranger danger.  Life has the risk of becoming dull and boring if you subscribe to every rule being set by the minority and it creates people who cannot think outside the square.  Is that skill not what this country was founded on?

toon2Refreshing, and all too sadly true.  Here's a cartoon:

[Hat tip Sus and Whale.  Cartoon is by Body from the Herald]

Bear Sterns, bear markets and the coming credibility crunch

The US Federal Reserve Bank has been pumping rocket fuel into the economy for years by the simple expedient of inflating the money supply and debasing the currency.  For year after year after year the Fed's printing presses have been pumping credit into the world's markets, yet as their credit-created chickens are now coming home to roosts all around us the only thing that's never questioned is the existence of the Federal Reserve system and its meddling central bankers.

The Fed's fingerprints are all over the 'credit crunch' and the sub-prime crisis yet not once have they questioned their policy or their existence -- instead they continue headlong with a policy of full steam ahead, and damn the torpedoes.

Sub-prime crisis?  More credit is the answer.
Stock market start to creak? Throw more counterfeit capital at the problem.
Banks and finance houses going belly up? Inject even more credit to throw new money after bad.
Invoke a rarely used Depression-era procedure to bolster Bear Stearns, the latest casualty, and promise to pump in even more counterfeit capital to fund further malinvestment, and instead of being booed the Fed receives the mass plaudits of the commentariat -- most of whom are as eager to see new credit as crack addicts are to see the chance of a new fix.

President Bush says of this latest fix that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is "doing a good job under tough circumstances.  Intelligent observers say just the opposite.  Ludwig von Mises for example, who told readers back in 1949 that :

There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as the final and total catastrophe of the currency involved.

Or observers such as 'Adventure Capitalist' and famously contrarian investor Jim Rogers who told CNBC last week it's time for the economy to go cold turkey, and for the Fed and Ben Bernanke to fold their tent and shuffle off the stage before it's too late.  Rogers' interview is worth watching in full -- he's one man who does know what's going on:


NZ's 'independent' anti-nuclear stance

nuclear-005 New Zealand has enjoyed few really prominent international moments in the sun -- the most celebrated by the chatterati is that 'glorious moment' in the mid-eighties when the country thumbed its collective nose at one of the world's superpowers: telling our ANZUS treaty partner and former ally the United States we wanted no more of its nuclear umbrella, and to go take a hike.

New Zealand's  foreign policy turnabout was taken in the very midst of the Cold War -- it was celebrated then as a courageous sign of independence and is celebrated still as an outstanding and iconic example of New Zealand's vigorous and free-thinking independence.

It was nothing of the sort.  It was neither rational, nor independent.

The knee-jerk anti-American, anti-science anti-nuclearism still infects the country's thinking today, to everyone's detriment.  And far from being an assertion of New Zealand's independence, an article by Trevor Loudon and Bernard Moran from Australia's National Observer magazine confirms the anti-nuclear position to have been a strategy cooked up in Moscow. 

The 'peace movement' was the chosen trojan horse -- "We have many clever people in the Soviet Union," a local peace activist attending a course in Moscow on how to destabilise a country was told, "but no one has even been able to come up with a weapon potentially as powerful as the peace movement."  The stalking horses were three Labour MPs who still bestride the local political stage.

That 'peace activist' quoted above was actually an SIS agent called John Van de Ven who was interviewed in 1990 by Loudon and Moran, upon whom they rely for their account.  Van de Ven was told by his tutors that then Soviet leader (and former KGB chief) Yuri Andropov had "initiated a strategy for taking a social democratic country out of the Western alliance, by utilising the 'correlation of forces' provided by the peace movement and the trade unions. New Zealand was given a high priority by the Soviets, for its strategic propaganda potential -- show the strategy worked here, and you demonstrated you could apply the same pressure to less distant dominoes like Denmark.

The immediate  result of the strategy (and one still evident today) was the Soviet infiltration of the peace movement and the trade unions, and consequently of the left wing of the then Labour Government as well. As the late Tony Neary of the Electrical Workers Union related to an audience in 1987

"In the New Zealand trade union movement, those who mutter about Reds under the beds must be joking. The Reds are already in the beds and have been there for some years. By now they are sitting up and getting breakfast brought in."

nuclear-001The "Reds" were as thoroughly in charge of NZ's anti-nuclear groundswell in the seventies and eighties as they were of the US State Department in the thirties and forties.  The anti-nuclear legislation they brought about here knocked New Zealand permanently out of ANZUS and the western alliance, and it still paralyses both our relationship with the US and our ability to produce clean energy.

Given its long-lasting and entirely negative results, it's as crucial to understand the mechanics of how it came about as it is to understand that those who learned this methodology are still about. In the Oxford Union debates David Lange famously shot back at a heckler that he could "smell the Uranium on his breath"; it remains unfortunate still that he couldn't smell the borscht on the breath of his foreign policy advisers, or didn't care that he did.

If you want to understand how the Soviets made the local peace movement and the Labour Party their puppets, then read and digest 'The untold story behind New Zealand's ANZUS breakdown' from the National Observer.


talibanderton While Jim Talibanderton peddles BZP-based myths for the media to recycle -- including the one that he's not a killjoy -- others like Michael Earley are busying busting them.

After fisking Neanderton's speech to the house on his ban on BZP-based party pills (featured here last week), Earley sent the following letter to the Manawatu Standard correcting a blatantly misleading article on the ban:

Sir, It is clear that your correspondent Lee Matthews obviously has not done his research on BZP. Almost every statement in his article is either factually incorrect, made up or based on anecdotal evidence. He might wish to consider a career other than journalism.

BZ'P is a stimulant -- you cannot "pass out" on party pills, its pharmacologically impossible. If teens were consuming a large amount of BZP they would likely throw up the before the pills were pills digested and the active ingredient able to affect them.

"Party pills, mixed with alcohol or cannabis, could be lethal." - There is not a single recorded instance in the history of BZP (worldwide) where it has found by a coroner to be the cause of death. The same goes with Cannabis. Though you are quite correct that Alcohol can be lethal...

"Sometimes P addicts tried to used party pills to get themselves off the harder drug. It didn't work. They suffered shattering headaches and health side effects." - Actually it did work, I personally know people who have used BZP to get off P; research by Massey University and SHORE also backs this up.

"Party pills, BZP [benzylpiperazine], they're basically cattle drench, to stop worms. The kids who take them might as well squirt drench down their throats." - Since it was created in the 1940s, BZP has never been used as a cattle drench of for worming. This is an urban myth. It is correct that piperazines have been tested as wormers in the 1950s, but they were not sold commercially as drench, and none of these were BZP, MeOpp, TfMPP or other Piperazines

Matthews's article is simply no different from  the 'Reefer-Madness'-type articles that appeared last century. Surely an article with this many factual errors deserves a correction or retraction?

Michael Earley

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Holy Reality TV, Batman

It's Sunday, so you should have a look at the real Old Testament.  I bet you didn't know that there were cameras filming every important incident in the book from Eve's first bite to Abraham's circumcision?  True story.  Check out The Real Old Testament.  Hilarious.                                                                           Clipboard01

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Saturday morning ramble #159

Some random rambling around some stories, links and articles that caught my eye around the net this week ...  but first, the week's most popular posts here at NOT PC, in case you missed them first time 'round:

  1. Where's Jesus?
  2. Dover pisses on political correctness
  3. New sins for a new century
  4. Bureaucrats: Flip Flop Boy promises "more with less"
  5. What's a railway worth?
  6. Celebrity debate

What might the ACT party do? They're holding their election-year conference this weekend and struggling to keep their head above electoral water -- this conference, they hope, will throw them the lifeline they need. Crikey, they've even re-publicised old Dodger Rugless as the country's would-be saviour, and invited along the insane Penny Bright to talk to them about her career disrupting other people's business -- presumably in the hope she'll get arrested and start some momentum-gathering headlines, if anyone can stop her talking first.

Anyway, with National assiduously trying to outflank Labour on the left that should leave ACT plenty of territory to carve out on the other flank if it weren't so intent on not frightening the horses (there was a time when they promised to abolish tax, now they just offer to "cap" tax).

Liberty Scott puts forward ten red-hot policies ACToids could put forward if they were really interested in policies instead of playing around -- serious about being seen as a genuine alternative to National's Labour-Lite -- which reminds me to remind you of the five straightforward policy options I put about before the last election that it could adopt if it wanted to be taken seriously as a genuine freedom party...

Hippies.  No one likes 'em. As Ronald Reagan once observed, ‘they look like Tarzan, walk like Jane, and smell like Cheetah."  Naturally, only someone old enough to be one or hate them all would know what that means ... but I'm pretty sure Ronny would like how John Stewart's Daily Show Bodyslams Berkeley Hippies.  "Oh you're vicious, you hit me with a flower..."

Supporters of state interventionism and government meddling frequently cite the twin canards of 'market failure' and 'the free rider problem' as reasons not to let freedom reign.

Two articles from the Mises blog should disabuse any reasonable reader of these notions, or at least point the interested reader to literature that does:

A third could be recommended to the reader concerned with the latest manifestation of both government failure and big-government economics, the so called 'credit crunch' and attempts to reverse it:

And a fourth from the same source might be thought sufficient to send the intelligent reader on his way much better for the experience:

Anti-Dismal has an economics quiz for you -- an economics quiz like no other.

Here are some questions to test your knowledge of the useful history of economic thought. Some of them are only slightly impossible...  Attempt as many questions as possible until you fall asleep, indicating the time and place.

Czech president Vaclav Klaus spoke to a recent climate conference in NY about the threat to freedom from warmist hysteria:

A week ago, I gave a speech at an official gathering at the Prague Castle commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1948 communist putsch in the former Czechoslovakia. One of the arguments of my speech there, quoted in all the leading newspapers in the country the next morning, went as follows: “Future dangers will not come from the same source. The ideology will be different. Its essence will, nevertheless, be identical – the attractive, pathetic, at first sight noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of the common good, and the enormous self-confidence on the side of its proponents about their right to sacrifice the man and his freedom in order to make this idea reality.” What I had in mind was, of course, environmentalism and its currently strongest version, climate alarmism...

Read his whole speech here:  'From Climate Alarmism to Climate Realism.'

Who was Ludwig von Mises?  Seeing his name appears around here regularly, a few of you have written me asking.

Since I always like to answer intelligent questions if I can and this is certainly a question worth answering, here's a 30-minute video introducing the man, his career and his thinking to a 197os audience.  (You might note that not all of the Misesians interviewed are always as rational as the man they describe.)

Hear about his many battles with Communists and Nazis and other socialists, and all his numerous victories -- how he saved Austria from a Bolshevik revolution and from the ruinous inflation that decimated Weimar Gemany; how he showed in 1920 that socialism had to fail, in 1912 that central banking causes recessions and depressions; and across the course of his whole life that only laissez-faire capitalism is fully compatible with Western civilization.  Video is by MisesMedia.

For those who want more, there's always Mises' own 1969 essay on ''The Historical Setting of the Austrian School of Economics',' which is as it happens my homework for this week for George Reisman's economics course.

'Oh, and since it's topical, here's a link to the free download of Ludwig von Mises' monograph on 'Bureaucracy,' published the day after FA Hayek's 'Road to Serfdom.'  Send a copy of both to John Key.  And maybe another to Russell Brown.

Any number of economists have been arguing recently that while no-tax is better than some-tax,  a "revenue neutral" carbon tax is however still better than the bureaucratic "cap and trade" regulatory mess most governments would rather introduce instead.  (There's even one or two who suggest a rather special kind of carbon tax be introduced).

One recent argument for a "revenue neutral" carbon tax was put forward by John Humphreys of Australia's Center for Independent Studies (CIS), before being comprehensively dismantled by fellow Australian Gerard Jackson.  Humphreys argues a Carbon Tax would be less harmful to the country than Emissions Trading -- that it would be “more efficient, effective, simple, flexible and transparent.”  Rubbish, says Jackson.  Any carbon tax or carbon regulation would mean lower productive capacity. "A carbon tax," he says, "is a direct tax on capital and hence Australia’s capital structure and the process of capital accumulation..."

Prodos has a summary (with links) of both positions, and Humphreys engages with Prodos in the comments.

dj-gif A friend has been telling me all about a friend of his friend -- three degrees of separation, you see, and of deniability -- a mad Frenchman who heads out with a video camera and a few props and ... well, have a look at his video page and see

He speaks comedy, the international language, and since there's no language barrier when you're holding your sides laughing you'll have problem keeping up.

Here's three opportunities for someone switched on to get even more switched on ...

  • The Montana-based PERC, who over the years have produced truckloads of good sense on property rights and environmental issues, are holding a camp for 'Enviropreneurs' "a unique two-week experience in Bozeman, Montana, that will equip conservation leaders with the necessary tools of contracts, communication, property and economic analysis..."  Send the details today to someone you know who would benefit, and point out that "participants receive a US$3000 stipend plus room and board."
  • The Ayn Rand Institute is on the lookout for interns for its California office "to spend the {Northern] summer in sunny California, working and studying with professional Objectivist intellectuals."  Details here -- but be quick, applications for this year close today.
  • And details here of Objectivist Conference 2008 (OCON 2008) in Newport Beach, California, in July, for which scholarship opportunities are still available.

I'm afraid you've already missed the The Mises Institute's Austrian Scholars Conference for this year -- which closes today, and also came with scholarship offers -- but it's never to late to start planning for next year or to think about some of their other scholarship options ...

Okay, we've all had a go at the list of seven new sins issued by the Pope's left-hand man this week -- but no one's really had a go at the Pope and his left-hand man until Frank Furedi and Lindsay Perigo get going and get wound up.  Have a dekko at:

Mamet sees the light

mamet_19732t Playwright David Mamet (right) has long been one of my own favourites -- despite the sometimes teeth-grating anti-capitalism with which they're imbued his plays and films and commentary are still some of the sharpest around,which is really the crucial criterion when it comes to choosing films and theatre -- but the man who's for so long been the liberals' darling has recently had the scales fall from his eyes.
I recognized that I held ... two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other—the world in which I actually functioned day to day—was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).
And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live, and that that country was not a schoolroom teaching values, but a marketplace.
"Aha," you will say, and you are right. I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism...
The liberal reaction has not been kind.  Just witness the comments to his Village Voice piece in which he explains Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal. [Hat tip Tim Blair]

The Economist magazine looks at the history of the idea of the 'rule of law' -- it's less common than you might have thought -- and Stephen Franks draws a New Zealand connection...

I got pointed to World Climate Report from Denis Dutton's Climate Debate Daily, where three recent articles caught my eye:

It's been nearly twenty years since scientists started pulling on politicians' coats about global warming (or was it politicians who started pulling on scientists' coats?) and twenty years since the world's politicians set up the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- known to headline writers as the IPCC.  Sterling Burnett at the Washington Times summarises twenty years of IPCC science -- what have they got right? how much have they got wrong? why so?  See: Climate Panel in the Hot Seat.

Friday, 14 March 2008

A memo on manners ...

From the "insufferably smug" file comes this bleat from Russell Brown on what he calls "John Key's promise to hold public service staff numbers":

On one hand, I suspect Key is right, and that there are indeed instances of bloat, empty strategising and Wellington log-rolling to be found. On the other, National's use of the perjorative epithet "bureaucrat" for anyone who's not a nurse, teacher or cop is fatuous and offensive.

Fatuous!  And offensive!!  Just imagine.  Crikey, it was only a short while ago -- 1993, in fact -- that my dictionary defined bureaucrat as " a government official." And just fifteen years later the online community's leading Labour apologist is telling us the word is offensive.

This is real progress, people.  But there's still more from His Insufferable Smugness as he continues to whimper on behalf of the cardigan wearers ... 

Key seemed to be trying to use the b-word in every sentence when he talked to Havoc yesterday.

Well, it was bFM, Russell.  

As Victoria University's Bill Ryan pointed out in an interesting interview on bFM later in the day, Key also referred to 'navel-gazers' and 'paper-shufflers'.

Oh, the horror!

Like Ryan, I'm not averse to scrutiny, especially of favoured ministries. I'd just prefer it to be conducted in grown-up language.

"Grown-up language."  This plea for civility appears just a paragraph or two above a description of an online exchange as "a classic episode of pants-pooing and toy-throwing."  Grown up for sure.  Anyway, what's wrong with colourful language, for goodness sake? With calling a spade a spade?  Or with those who spend what's laughably called their working hours collecting navel lint and shuffling paper being called 'navel-gazers' and 'paper-shufflers'?

And why the hell should we respect bloody bureaucrats -- the bane of every productive person's life.  As my favourite author observes,

A businessman's success depends on his intelligence, his knowledge, his productive ability, his economic judgment—and on the voluntary agreement of all those he deals with: his customers, his suppliers, his employees, his creditors or investors.

And what does a bureaucrat's success depend on?  His political pull.

A businessman cannot force you to buy his product; if he makes a mistake, he suffers the consequences; if he fails, he takes the loss. A bureaucrat forces you to obey his decisions, whether you agree with him or not—and the more advanced the stage of a country's statism, the wider and more discretionary the powers wielded by a bureaucrat. If he makes a mistake, you suffer the consequences; if he fails, he passes the loss on to you, in the form of heavier taxes.

Bureaucrats.  Screw 'em -- and all the supporters who ride in on 'em.

PS: Here's another state-worshipper in an illiterate umbrage fit.  Funny how such a mild-mannered proposal is flushing 'em out...

Beer O’Clock – From the Archives

This afternoon's Beer O'Clock come comes from Neil at Real Beer ...

Today’s column celebrates the return of my good friend Shong Mau from Merry Old England. He has bucked the trend and moved to New Zealand from a high wage economy. Of course, he is not the only person to have done this. There have been three recorded instances in the last year alone.

While my Realbeer colleague Stu is promising a year’s worth of informative and educational columns on classic beer styles, the reappearance of Shong got me thinking about a pile of beer tastings he and I undertook years ago. I faithfully took notes on what we said about each beer and… well, they have been in an orange folder ever since. Ironically, the folder is clearly labelled “Reviews to write up.”

So, better late than never, this column is a dip into the Archives (the legendary 'M-Files' which include the full dossier on the global cover-up of that ferry which ran aground in the Cook Strait, and that secret tape of Lindsay Perigo chatting up Margaret Thatcher). It also contains never-seen-before reviews of beers which may or may not still be available.

 Sadly still available, Kronenbourg 1664 (5%, France) is recorded as being “surrender monkey yellow” in colour. The beer was described as “thin, insubstantial, looking like it would give up easily.” Annoyingly, the nose was reasonable but the actual taste made it “feel like you have already been drinking for hours.” It was stale, sticky and vaguely unpleasant with only a hint of bitterness. The embossed bottle was nice, the contents less so. In this case, I would have to agree with the striking brewery workers who tipped thousands of litres of the stuff down the drain. Shong said it was “not good” and this was reflected in the average mark of 4 out of 10.

Rooster’s Haymaker, (6.5%, Hastings) was described as tasting much better than it looked. It was frisky, malty with a pleasantly long finish. One taster picked up a dried apricot flavour in the background. Shong said it was “easy to drink.” It received an average mark of 5.66.

Another French offering, Fischer (6%, France) pictured right, proved very popular however. It had a light and fluffy head and sweet malty nose with a hint of wood smoke. Proclaimed as “being so good it could be German” it was quickly noted that “it was for a while there.” Fischer showcased a certain fruitiness and bitterness as well as a mellow finish. Shong said it was “good.” The beer scored 7.5.

We have all missed Shong’s beer wisdom and palate.

Cheers, Neil

Too popular for NZ

Funky furniture giant Ikea has been barred from opening its first New Zealand store by the Environment Court because "its stores are so popular."

Such is the upside-down world of the Resource Management Act.

The nearest Ikea store will remain for the time being in Sydney -- unless of course they become less popular in the meantime.  Story here.  [Hat tip Elliot Who?]

They're not drinking our beer here

230px-Taedonggangbeer The country is so poor it's people are boiling up grass to make soup, but according to this report from Reuters [hat tip Stash], North Korea is apparently now producing a quality beer from equipment snaffled from England.

Problem is, it's becoming too expensive for South Koreans to enjoy ("they used the best quality material without thinking of the production cost," says a South Korean distributor who no longer stocks North Korea's Taedonggang beer since it jumped 70% in price without warning) and most North Koreans don't drink beer.  Says Jon Herskovitz at Reuters, they prefer "cheaper rice-based liquor that packs a big punch."

"They need to be able to drink more at the same price," said Choi Soo-young, an expert on the North at the South's Korea Institute for National Unification.

Choi said the brewery is a favourite project of the ruling communist party, whose members can afford beer and will make sure the factory receives all the ingredients it needs even though the North cannot produce enough food to feeds it 22 million people.

And despite being desperate for foreign currency, it's reportedly unlikely Taedonggang beer will ever replace North Korea's export of nuclear fearmongering as its main export. 

The brewery has occasional trouble sealing bottles properly ... the glass it uses is fragile ... [and distributors have] had to print labels in the South and send bottles from China in order to package the beer for export.

Ranked by RateBeer as decidely average, Taedonggang is described as "a full-bodied lager a little on the sweet side, with a slightly bitter aftertaste."

Stronger, more harmful drugs unleashed by MPs

400,000 consumers of party pills have now been told by 109 MPs that they may no longer legally purchase or consume party pills, and Matt Bowden of the Social Tonics Association is clear what the result of prohibition will be.  "400,000 people have been sent into the arms of the gangs," he told Mike Hosking this morning.

In their eight years on the market there have been neither deaths nor serious injuries due to party pills, but the ban now means those looking for a safer alternative to alcohol or tobacco will have to look elsewhere, and criminals looking for new markets to tap have just been handed a new one on a plate.  As Green MP Metiria Turei said, ""He (Mr) Anderton put our young people at risk to meet his own political objectives."

Because when criminals sell drugs, the safety of their buyers is far from a priority -- politicians who have just voted to make gangsters rich would do well to brush up on Milton Friedman's 'Iron Law of Prohibition' so they may fully understand the disaster they've just unleashed on New Zealanders.  Says Friedman:

"Prohibition encourages dealers to produce and provide the stronger, more harmful product. If you are a drug dealer in Hackney, you can use the kilo of cocaine you own to sell to casual coke users who will snort it and come back a month later – or you can microwave it into crack, which is far more addictive, and you will have your customer coming back for more in a few hours. Prohibition encourages you to produce and provide the more harmful drug."

Look for up to 400,000 people (many of whom had been weaned of harder drugs by the legal high of party pills)  to now be wooed by suppliers of stronger, more harmful products in streets near you soon.

'Winter scene in Hamamatsu' -Hiroshige


Another deceptively simple scene from Hiroshige's 'Tokaido' series featured here this week.  You see, this is one reason I like Hiroshige's work.: He doesn't do what to us would seem the obvious thing with his scenes.

In this print he depicts our travellers in Hamamatsu. Hamamatsu's most famous attribute was its castle, and any contemporary viewer of this work would expect to see it featured prominently; the castle is shown, but hardly in the foreground: the foreground instead shows our travellers warming themselves by a bonfire in the shelter of a large tree, and through several unusual compositional devices -- some of which, such as cutting the page in half with a tree trunk and leaving empty space at the corners, violate all the canons of traditional western art -- our eye is led out from the travellers to the background in which the castle is seen.  The lower sheltering bank unifies the composition, and its curve comes out to embrace the scene and the travellers.

The view seen here reflects several similar 'Shakkei' techniques used to link Japanese houses and gardens to wider views beyond -- 'capturing the view alive'  is the aim -- one of which is to 'capture with tree trunks,' and another to capture with elements linking foreground and background.

Open the drawing up to its largest size letting your eye roam around the page taking it all in, and then let yourself become aware of where and how Hiroshige makes your eye dance around the page.  It's quite delightful how he does it...

PS: Here's a page of gorgeous Hiroshige prints that you can download and view as large files.  Head over and browse for a while.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Celebrity debate

proudhon-bastiat-oddcouple Pierre Proudhon is famous for his aphorism "Property is theft."  Frédéric Bastiat is revered for observations such as this one, that "life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place."

The alert reader will have spotted that both these gentlemen were French, and their positions appear profoundly opposed.  What you might not have known, and I certainly didn't until a French friend pointed it out, is that both men engaged in a spirited debate in from 1848 to 1850 that appeared in Proudhon's journal that up to now have only been available in French, and without Bastiat's final reply that Proudhon refused to publish.  Up to now.

As the Mises Blog points out however, you can now enjoy the Proudhon-Bastiat debates in English, in full, which includes the concluding letter from Bastiat summarising his final position.  As co-translator Roderick Long notes,

The exchanges aren’t always ... polite ... ; in fact the two writers grow increasingly frustrated with each other over the course of the debate, until Proudhon ends by denouncing Bastiat as “a man whose intellect is hermetically sealed, and to whom logic is as nought,” and declaring him intellectually “a dead man.” Bastiat retorts that Proudhon “has ended where one ends when one is in the wrong; he is in a rage.” (We should probably bear in mind that at the time of this debate Bastiat was in the final stages of terminal illness [incidentally lending Proudhon’s metaphorical death sentence upon him an uncomfortable flavour – a celebrity death match indeed!], while Proudhon had recently begun serving a three-year prison sentence for criticising the President; so neither can have been in the best of moods. In any case, Alain Laurent has suggested that the influence of Bastiat’s arguments in the debate may have played a role in the increasingly liberal cast of Proudhon’s later thought.)

Wealth or control: which do entrepreneurs want most?

As shareholders in Auckland International Airport ponder whether or not to sell their shares to Canada Pensions, and Canada Pensions meanwhile pledges if successful to retain an ownership stake up to forty percent but to sell down its voting rights to 24.9% -- and ministers David Parker and Clayton Cosgrove ponder whether or not to make these voluntary decisions moot by dropping the hammer on shareholders and buyers alike --  it's worth taking the opportunity ourselves to ponder the difference that entrepreneurs see between ownership and control. As Stephen Hicks summarises:

What do entrepreneurs want most: wealth or control? Professor Noam Wasserman, of the Entrepreneurial Management unit at Harvard Business School, looks at some of the difficult choices entrepreneurs make.

Read Wasserman's paper here.

NZ troops are propping up a theocracy

Every free country has the right to liberate a slave pen (allow me to remind careful readers of the difference between a right and a duty).  It has the right to hunt down those who have committed or intend to commit violence against its citizens.  These two principles -- the recognition of individual rights and of the right to self-defence -- were the twin justifications for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, an invasion and occupation supported by New Zealand troops, and it's clear enough from the fairly widespread support for the Afghanistan campaign that these two principles are at least dimly understood by everyone who possesses a greater grasp of world affairs than Keith Locke.

So why then are New Zealand troops in Afghanistan propping up a regime that is about to execute a young man for the crime of ... wait for it ... blasphemy?  That's right, blasphemy.  For the 'crime' of questioning the treatment of women in the Koran (something everyone who possesses a moral standing greater than Eliot Spitzer should undertake occasionally) Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh has been condemned to death by an Afghani court.

It wasn't supposed to be like this, was it?  As Idiot Savant says [hat tip Liberty Scott] "We wouldn't support Iran's rabid theocracy with troops; why are we supporting Afghanistan's?" An excellent question asked even by Peter Dunne.  I'm not sure either of them will like the answer spelled out, however.

The answer, as Yaron Brook and Elan Journo have argued in some detail, is that the twin campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq were not genuinely based on the principles of self-defence and individual rights.  While they began with the righteous indignation symbolised in the name chosen for the military campaign against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan: Operation Infinite Justice, Brook points out that "this reaction was evanescent," and as the name of the operation changed the campaign for self-defence eventually became something else quite different: a promise of "self-determination" for those liberated in the invasions and a promise to spread "democracy" to those with little or no understanding of the concept of freedom.  Since democracy is a counting of heads regardless of content, the result of spreading democracy to those whose heads are full of theocratic mush should have been obvious.

Whatever they chose, whomever they elected, Washington and its allies -- us included -- promised to endorse. The decision was entirely theirs.

If self-defense were part of the goal ... then one would logically expect that, for the sake of protecting American [and New Zealand] lives, Washington [on behalf of its allies] would at least insist on ensuring that the new regimes be non-threatening, so that we do not have to face a resurgent threat [or support a theocracy]. But Bush proclaimed all along that America would never determine the precise character of Iraq’s (or Afghanistan’s) new regime. The Iraqis [and Afghanis] were left to contrive their own constitution...

When asked [for example] whether the United States would acquiesce to an Iranian-style militant regime ..., Bush said yes. Why ...? Because, Bush explained, “democracy is democracy. . . . If that’s what the people choose, that’s what the people choose.”

What the majority of Afghanis chose for their country, as history now shows and Brook makes clear, was a theocracy that allows "legions of undefeated Taliban and Al Qaeda warriors to regroup and renew their jihad," and that murders its citizens for questioning a holy book that rates women below goats.

This is not what New Zealand troops should have been fighting for, and if that's all they're now there for then it's time that they weren't.