Friday, May 23, 2008

Beer O'Clock Beer Styles: American Ales

Stu from SOBA continues his cruise around the main beer types.  This week, the style known as American Pale Ales ...

PC-anchor-liberty-ale If you're a fan of the hop-dominated New Zealand Pilsners that are in fashion right now (think Emerson's Pilsner or Mac's Hop Rocker), then you have to give a little thanks to the USA for their creation.

These hop driven kiwi beers were, no doubt, inspired by the creations of hop crazy American craft brewers over the last 30 years.

While New Zealand hops – much like our varietal wines - tend to be "fruitier" (with allusions to gooseberries, guava, mango, pawpaw, lychees and passionfruit), American ales are certainly hop-centric. Their hops tend to be described as having a "citrus" character --  and the hops of both countries sometimes receive "pine" or "grassy" descriptors too.

Epic Pale Ale and Emerson's APA are both outstanding and quite true-to-style American Pale Ales. Meanwhile Croucher Pale Ale, Founder's Fair Maiden, Renaissance Discovery and Three Boys IPA are all kiwi-hopped interpretations of the style. Try the NZ and American hopped versions side-by-side, and look for the difference in hop character.

The American Amber Ale and American Brown Ale styles get maltier, darker, and less perceivably bitter, while still showcasing the bold hop aroma and flavour of American hops. I'm surprised that more New Zealand breweries haven't explored these styles, as they tend to be easier entry-level styles to lure in the budding craft beer drinker. Perhaps it has got something to do with our modern obsession with extremely pale “premium” beers. Mac's Sassy Red is certainly the standout American-style amber ale available locally, while The Twisted Hop's splendid Poplar Brown and Sunshine Brewery's Reserve Ale are two quite different approaches on the brown ale theme.

At the more alcoholic and brashly "American" end of the spectrum are India Pale Ale, Imperial IPA and American Barleywine. American IPA is like an amped up Pale Ale and Imperial IPA is, in an oh-so-typically American fashion, an overly-amped Pale Ale on steroids (the "high to absurdly high hop bitterness" description, within the style description, gives you some idea of what this beer is). Hallertau Brew Bar, near Auckland, brews an Imperial IPA called Stuntman every now and then. If Jackass was a beer, it would certainly be an Imperial IPA.

Keep an eye out at your local specialty beer store for beers from Anchor or Sierra Nevada (or the rarer Goose Island range) as all are classic examples of American styles [Anchor’s Liberty Ale could be the beer for Not PC readers]. On that note – and to inform Berend on reasons to leave South Auckland – if you know of a decent place to find good beer, then please add it to the beer places section on RateBeer.

In recent news: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, one of the giants of the craft beer movement, have introduced a nice spin on this story of inspiration by releasing a kiwi- hopped American Ale - Southern Hemisphere - as a part of their Harvest Series (the beer includes 100% New Zealand hops, picked in Nelson and flown direct to California to be used within a week of the harvest). Sadly, we will probably be quite unlikely to get access to this beer here.

And, in a classic twist of fate brought on by a variety of factors, the American hop industry has gone from a massive case of oversupply to a fairly severe supply shortage in the last few years (the  biofuels boondoggle is only partly to blame). Are we about to see a new "hopless" revolution in brewing? Are hops set to become one of New Zealand's major exports? Or will superman reverse the rotation of the earth and set things right? Something to contemplate when you crack open an ale tonight...

Next time: “Dark and Delicious: Stout and Porter”

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Climate refugees still inconveniently invisible.

    Did anyone watch Al Bore's academy-award-winning-Nobel-peace-prize-demeaning-Al-Bore-aggrandising work of science fiction on Sky Movies last night?
    Did anyone notice if the line about global warming having already made hundreds of thousands of climate refugees from low-lying Pacific islands come flooding into New Zealand was included?  (You'd think that might have been excised for an audience that knows better, wouldn't you?)
    Has anyone seen any of these "climate refugees" yet?  No?
    Anyone seen these islands being denuded by rising sea levels?  No?
    Anyone spot any of the the nine "errors" found by the British court, the "thirty-five" inconvenient truths found by Christopher Monckton, or the 120 one-sided, misleading, exaggerated, speculative, or wrong assertions that Marlo Lewis points out in his 'Skeptics Guide to An Inconvenient Truth?

Don't worry.  Most of the media haven't noticed them either.

Best you keep an eye out  for The Great Global Warming Swindle when it airs here next week on Prime TV. It's the perfect rejoinder to Al Bore's fantasy. 

Don't forget: Sunday June 1, 8:30pm, on Prime TV.  So that's prime time on Prime, Sunday the first .... spread the word around.

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New blog

Friend Russell Watkins has started a real good real estate blog.  Go over there and give him some abuse.

Electoral Finance Act anger just won't go away

Just got back from holding a placard outside the Carlton Hotel to protest the iniquity on free speech that is the Clark Government's Electoral Finance Act.

Helen Clark was there for the post-Budget lunch, where she and a few compliant business leaders swap jokes and election pork over a few tax-paid canapes.  For some reason however she decided to eschew our genteel welcoming party outside the front door and chose instead to enter the hotel by the tradesman's entrance -- sort of sad, isn't it, when a Prime Minister can't even enter the front door of a major Auckland hotel without being harassed by errant serfs.

Here's a few pictures.

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Looks like even 'Michael Cullen' agreed with the protest.
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al-Qa'ida are losing

Tim Blair reports some "good news for everybody":

Deaths from terrorist attacks globally dropped by 40 per cent last year as al-Qa’ida and its affiliates suffered a drastic collapse in popular support throughout the Muslim world, a Canadian study claims ...

“Historically, most terrorist campaigns have failed, and the Islamists’ slumping popular support in the Muslim world is now a huge liability for the al-Qa’ida network,” Professor [Andrew] Mack [director of the Human Security Research Report project] said ...

While Professor Mack acknowledged terrorist attacks had increased recently in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said they were offset by decreases “just about everywhere else in the world except Algeria”...

"We argue that the war on terror has had a lot of tactical successes," Professor Mack told The Australian last night.

"Counter-terrorism is just so much more effective now than it was before 2001. There's better co-operation, better intelligence and the terrorists' financial networks have been disrupted.

"The minuscule level of support these guys have now in the Muslim world has caused increasing numbers of Muslims to side with their governments against the militants. We saw that most dramatically with the Sunni awakening against al-Qa'ida in Iraq."

That said, this news leaves no grounds for complacency.  The virulence of the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (which Scott Powell picks to become the next Islamic theocracy), the similar pressures simmering below the surface in Turkey, the continued financial and ideological support for Wahhabism by Saudi Arabia, the sponsorship of terrorism by the theocracy of Iran ...  the Hydra of Islamic totalitarianism has not yet been slain, and won't be as long as the 'war against a tactic' fails to recognise who the real enemy is.

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Why Houston housing has avoided boom and bust

Here's a lesson that town planning advocates everywhere should note.  While most of the American housing market has experienced boom and bust in the face of expansionary Federal Reserve policies, housing in Houston has remained relatively immune -- even though it's been at the epicentre of rapid economic growth due to the commodities boom.

The reason?  While most of the western world is under the thumb of town planners, with the result that housing in much of the western world has become seriously unaffordable, the city of Houston remains unzoned, and its housing among the most affordable anywhere.

Even the Federal Reserve has noticed the phenomenon, and has begun to realise that zoning and regulating land is destructive.  Says a new report by the Dallas Fed, the more unregulated US housing markets have weathered increased demand not with price appreciation, which is how it has played out in most western markets, but largely with new construction.  This is essentially because it's very much easier to build new homes in Houston. If it had been set up as a laboratory experiment to prove the failure of zoning, it couldn't have been done better:

       Given that Houstonians had access to the same new types of mortgages as the rest of the country and that Houston has had greater population growth than other large metros, we might expect price appreciation to be stronger in Houston than elsewhere. However, the opposite has been true.
   
Houston’s large supply of land means that demand growth primarily results in more construction, not higher prices...
   
At $155,800, Houston’s median house price is the third lowest among the 12 largest U.S. metropolitan areas and is less than half the average for these cities (Table 4). Houston’s median price is lower than even the national average, which includes inexpensive rural areas...
   
By comparison, the median house price in metropolitan San Francisco, where zoning laws and building codes are very strict, is $825,400.
   
This result—more zoning bringing higher prices—is a robust one. Economists Edward Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko find that house prices across the country are positively related to the degree of zoning and regulation...  But with plenty of unzoned neighborhoods remaining [in Houston], Houston house prices, on the whole, are restrained near construction costs.

You would think that news like this would attract the attention of everyone struggling to come to terms with the crisis in affordable housing.  You would think that even the most enthusiastic advocate of giving power to town planners might at least pause to reconsider their zeal.  That is, if evidence and affordability actually mattered to them more than political power.

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We agree these aren't tax cuts ...

Yesterday at NOT PC we suggested that yesterday's Budget didn't truly deliver tax cuts -- instead what it delivered was only a partial inflation adjustment for the last nine years of overtaxing, and it was delivered with a barrel of pork we're all gonna have to pay for by government borrowing.

Liberty Scott however disagrees that is was an inflation adjustment.  "It is not an inflation adjustment at all," he says in a comment here. "I used the government's own figures --  it has, at best only half addressed inflation. People are still paying more in real terms in income tax than they were in 2000."

Check Scott's calculations and see his assessment of the barrel of pork that Cullen just uncorked at Scott's post: Cullen Really is Still Taxing You More.

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Odious tree-huggers, #173

I've noticed several times before the truth of Lindsay Perigo's observation that National's Nick Smith has "a fork in his tongue big enough to hug a tree with."  See for example here, here, here and here.

Here's the odious little worm out practicing with another tree-hugging National Socialist [photo from Whale Oil]:

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Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall - Hans Scharoun

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Hans Scharoun's Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall, damaged by not destroyed in a recent fire, is said to have the best acoustics of any concert hall yet built.

Like Frank Lloyd Wright, Scharoun was an organic architect -- sometimes known as 'the other modernism' -- which to Scharoun meant working from 'the inside out' to let the building develop based on its essential function rather than by some externally imposed style.  In Wright's words, this produced a building in which form does not just follow function, but in which form and function are one.

Scharoun_small Scharoun's design for the Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall, produced from 1953 to 1963 introduced concepts to concert hall design such as 'vineyard terracing,' which give superior acoustic performance to the then traditional 'shoe box' design.  And after noting that “people always gather in circles when listening to music informally,” he introduced the then radical concept of ‘music in the round’ -- the building developing from the natural way in which we enjoy music together, and placing everyone close to the performers.

No wonder it plays home to one of the world's great orchestras.

   004-Philharmonie_1a004-Berlin_Philharmonic_rehearsing

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

No tax cuts -- it's inflation adjustment, stupid.

A colleague has done some sums, and he reckons Cullen's high-end tax cuts aren't actually tax cuts at all -- what they are is just partial inflation adjustments.

Since Labour came to power 9 years ago, the top threshold (if it had kept up with inflation) would now be $75,000. All they did was raise it from 60,000 to 70,000.

The 33 % threshold has been raised from 38,000 to 40,000. A minor adjustment for inflation.

So, nothing to see here ... move along ...

They're certainly borrowing to pay for what they say is a cut -- this budget signals a savage turn into deficit spending, sucking credit out of capital markets for genuine investment -- but looked at like this Labour will simply be borrowing now to fund the last nine years of theft and overspending.

UPDATE 1Radio NZ News reports the 21% band is from earnings of $14K to $40K (not to $48K).  Says Richard McGrath in the comments here: "What Cullen doesn't tell us is that earnings in the band $14K through to $38K will be taxed at 21% instead of the current 19.5%, a TAX INCREASE. Someone earning $38K will get less than $12 a week tax relief. Cullen's chucking crumbs to the peasants. What a miserable prick."

UPDATE 2NBR have details of Cullen's auction of your stolen goods, but appear to have missed the substantive point raised in the main post above.

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Libertarianz '08

Liberty Scott explains clearly, cogently and convincingly why voting Libertarianz in 'o8 is not a wasted vote.

I won't waste time summarising it, since by the time you've printed it out, hung it on your fridge and used it several times in debate with your backsliding friends and acquantainces you'll be able to summarise it perfectly yourself. But I will repeat this important point:
It is time to be bold politically and stand up for beliefs and philosophies, not pander to fears and prejudices. Your vote is a very small influence, so it should be one that says what you believe in - and that should be more than simply "I want rid of Helen Clark."
It's all up to you, isn't it.

Meanwhile, good luck with getting your tax cut this afternoon.

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Barbarism hurting both living and dying

Said Bill English when voting against the last voluntary euthanasia bill to be presented to Parliament, "Pain is part of life, and watching it is part of our humanity." That view is inexpressibly evil, and is wholly responsible for the position in which Taumaranui man Ian Crutchley now finds himself.

The conviction of Mr Crutchley on the charge of attempted murder for trying to help his dying mother highlights the urgent need to set in place a legal framework allowing those asked to assist voluntary euthanasia the appropriate legal protection.

It is unconscionable in whjat is supposed to be a civilised country that people be put in the position he was by barbaric law that says your life is not your own -- law made by politicians who insist that suffering is part of life, that watching people suffer is part of our humanity, and that you may not have your own suffering ended in the manner of your choosing.

Make no mistake, the views of Mr English are entirely consistent with his Catholic philosophy, whuch preaches that suffering is moral, that guilt is unearned and (in the words of Mother Teresa) "the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people."

If you feel anger at the treatment of Mr Crutchley, then this is the philosophical view you must challenge: the philosophical outlook of a barbaric age that has no place in the twenty-first century.

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It's now illegal to protest against dangerous cult

It seems New Zealand isn't the only place in which free speech is under threat.  In the UK it's now clearly illegal to call a cult a cult.

The Guardian reports a teenager had his placard confiscated and now faces prosecution for calling the cult of Scientology a cult in a peaceful demonstration opposite the London headquarters of the cult.  Within "five minutes of arriving" police told him he "was not allowed to use that word."  A policewoman later read him section five of the Public Order Act and "strongly advised" him to remove the sign (the section prohibits signs
which have "representations or words which are threatening, abusive or insulting").  When he quite properly refused, his sign was confiscated and she issued him with a summons.

In a clear demonstration how stepping on individual rights accords with abuse of power, the Guardian notes, "The arresting police force had 20 senior members receive gifts from the church in the last few years." [hat tip AB]

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Hollywood Bowl

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    There's something about the Greek ampitheatre concept that makes you feel plugged into existence -- art and music in the round and in the raw and celebrating the natural landscape in which it's set.   It just feels right, goddamnit! 
    The  Hollywood Bowl isn't quite Epidauros, but the seats are a little more comfortable ... and it does have a damn fine soundshell that projects the performance to the whole audience.

UPDATEScience Daily points out the near-perfect acoustics at Epidauros are almost wholly due to the decision to construct the seats with limestone, which makes the perfect acoustic filter for voice production: "Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have pinpointed the elusive factor that makes the ancient amphitheater an acoustic marvel. It’s not the slope, or the wind — it’s the seats. The rows of limestone seats at Epidaurus form an efficient acoustics filter that hushes low-frequency background noises like the murmur of a crowd and reflects the high-frequency noises of the performers on stage off the seats and back toward the seated audience member, carrying an actor’s voice all the way to the back rows of the theater." [Hat tip Eric Olthwaite.]

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The destroyer of money

SpotlightOnKeynes Modern-day macroeconomics -- that's the stuff that justifies government manipulation of money to make booms, busts and regular credit crises like the one the world is in now-- is still infected with the virus of John Maynard Keynes, the man who did more to destroy the value of money than anyone else in any century.

The ghost of this long-dead economist still dominates macroeconomic teaching and thinking today, and can be seen in such nonsensical statements from the likes of Michael Cullen that it's inflationary when we get to use our own money, but not inflationary when governments take it from us and piss it up against the wall.

In the long-run the domination of Keynes the state-worshipper has been all bad both for economics, and for those economies which good Keynesians have been manipulating ever since.

His wisdom may be judged by such "insights" as these, which both common sense and genuine economists had long debunked:

To dig holes in the ground,” paid for out of savings, will increase, not only employment, but the real national dividend of useful goods and services. (Keynes, General Theory, Ch. 16).

No wonder Henry Hazlitt, in his thorough book-length destruction of Keynes' tax-and-spend system concluded "all Keynes's recommendations for practical policy are unsound," and that

though I have analyzed [Keynes's General Theory] theorem by theorem, chapter by chapter, and sometimes even sentence by sentence ...I have been unable to find in [Keynes, General Theory] a single important doctrine that is both true and original. What is original in [Keynes's] book is not true; and what is true is not original.

For those unable to take advantage of Hazlitt's brilliant book-length critique, a much shorter introduction to Keynes and his destructive notions can be found at the Mises Institute site: Spotlight on Keynesian Economics.

If you genuinely want to understand how governments destroy our money, and the nostrums that back up the pillage, then this is a great place to start.

The Failure of the New Economics
by Henry Hazlitt

Read more about this book...

UPDATE 1:  The US Federal Reserve is now subsidising failing bankers to the tune of $31 billion, representing a record level of money being printed to prop up the likes of the Maserati-driving bankers who've been writing bad loans.  As Steve Forbes points out in a letter to the New York Times,

Last August when the credit crisis hit, the Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, began flooding the banking system with liquidity, like throwing money out of a helicopter. Since then, the American economy has ground to a halt, and global economic growth rates have slowed. Yet the price of oil since August has zoomed from around $70 a barrel to more than $120.

UPDATE 2:  George Reisman has the perfect follow up reading: Standing Keynesian GDP on Its Head: Saving Not Consumption as the Main Source of Spending:

According to the prevailing Keynesian dogma, consumption is the main form of spending in the economic system, while saving is mere non-spending and thus a “leakage” from the spending stream. This dogma underlies much of government economic policy in the United States, including the so-called economic stimulus package that has just been enacted. In this article, I prove, to the contrary, that consumption is not the main form of spending in the economic system and that the source of most spending is, in fact, saving.

UPDATE 3: Arnold Kling suggests the whole field of modern-day macroeconomics should be abandoned altogether.  "In my view, macro seriously undermines sound economics... "  I agree with him, and after watching macro majordomos Ben Bernanke and Alan Bollard fumble their respective balls, you might be inclined to agree too.

The whole field is phucked.  After the likes of Marshall left the econo-field bare by excessive devotion to his "representative firm" (and von Mises and Hayek's sober and rational analyses of money and credit and trade cycles were ignored as being too close to common sense) Keynes jumped in to fill it with his utterly wrong-headed and destructive notions which essentially found the field, and it's been all downhill ever since.  Causes follow their effects; conclusions are the opposite of their premises; and falsification is ignored altogether.

I can't resist posting Ayn Rand's observation of the field, which is, in effect,

a science starting in midstream: it observed that men were producing and trading, it took for granted that they had always done so and always would—it accepted this fact as the given, requiring no further consideration—and it addressed itself to the problem of how to devise the best way for the "community" to dispose of human effort.

And one of Ayn Rand's many observations of Keynes (this from a brilliant article analysing modern-day mainstream economics called 'Egalitarianism & Inflation'):

    [P]roject the mentality of a savage, who can grasp nothing but the concretes of the immediate moment, and who finds himself transported into the midst of a modern, industrial civilization. If he is an intelligent savage, he will acquire a smattering of knowledge, but there are two concepts he will not be able to grasp: "credit" and "market."
    He observes that people get food, clothes, and all sorts of objects simply by presenting pieces of paper called checks—and he observes that skyscrapers and gigantic factories spring out of the ground at the command of very rich men, whose bookkeepers keep switching magic figures from the ledgers of one to those of another and another and another. This seems to be done faster than he can follow, so he concludes that speed is the secret of the magic power of paper—and that everyone will work and produce and prosper, so long as those checks are passed from hand to hand fast enough. If that savage breaks into print with his discovery, he will find that he has been anticipated by John Maynard Keynes...

   Perhaps it is harder for us to understand that the mentality of that savage has been ruling Western civilization for almost a century.
   Trained in college to believe that to look beyond the immediate moment—to look for causes or to foresee consequences—is impossible, modern men have developed context-dropping as their normal method of cognition. Observing a bad, small-town shopkeeper, the kind who is doomed to fail, they believe—as he does—that lack of customers is his only problem; and that the question of the goods he sells, or where these goods come from, has nothing to do with it. The goods, they believe, are here and will always be here. Therefore, they conclude, the consumer—not the producer—is the motor of an economy. Let us extend credit, i.e., our savings, to the consumers—they advise—in order to expand the market for our goods.
   But, in fact, consumers qua consumers are not part of anyone's market; qua consumers, they are irrelevant to economics. Nature does not grant anyone an innate title of "consumer"; it is a title that has to be earned—by production. Only producers constitute a market—only men who trade products or services for products or services. In the role of producers, they represent a market's "supply"; in the role of consumers, they represent a market's "demand." The law of supply and demand has an implicit subclause: that it involves the same people in both capacities.  
  When this subclause is forgotten, ignored or evaded—you get the economic situation of today.

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Tax cuts? We'll give you tax cuts!

I'm very pleased to see the Libertarianz release their own alternative Budget well ahead of Michael Cullen's tax-and-spend clunker.  Leader Bernard Darnton presents the main points at Libz TV, and here's just some of the highlights to start you salivating:

  • Michael Cullen grudgingly gives you back $20 a week after nine years in power. John Key offers $50 – eventually.  Libertarianz will make the first $50,000 of income tax-free immediately. This means that the average New Zealand household, with an income of $68,000, would keep an extra $403 per week..."
  • Helen Clark and John Key say no even to taking GST off food.  Winston Peters says tinker with it. Libertarianz says get rid of GST immediately, knocking $20 off a $250 grocery bill and ten dollars off the price of a tank of petrol.
  • "The government will say they can't afford this – but it's not their money – it's YOURS. You have the right to spend your money however you wish. Libertarianz is pro-choice when it comes to your money."
  • "Of course you can't cut tax without cutting government spending – and we're happy to oblige. Education, health, and superannuation are far too important to be left in the hand of politicians.
    "We will allow people to spend as much or as little of their money on these as they wish..."

See more details at Scoop, Bernard Darnton's presentation at Libz TV, and the whole spreadsheet on which the Budget is based here at the Libertarianz site.  As Darnton concludes:

    "With the Libertarianz budget, the churning of money through the government's sticky fingers will be almost eliminated by the tax-free threshold. A flat tax on income over that $50,000 threshold of 25%, reducing 5% per year for 5 years, will fund a smooth transition. After 5 years, no more revenue will collected from the citizenry by coercion or force. Taxes will be voluntary."
   
"It's enough to make you vote Libertarianz!"

UPDATE: Lindsay Perigo says "Bravo!"

    "It's especially gratifying to see the end of the loathsome GST, otherwise known as the ACT Party Tax," says Perigo.
    "By coercive government fiat, GST adds twelve-and-a-half per cent to the price of everything. GST was the means by which Roger Douglas continued to expand the Nanny State (after its introduction, tax revenues rose by 6 points as a percentage of GDP) and grind down the smelly proletariat while lowering taxes for his crony-phony capitalist mates (libertarians, of course, favour genuine capitalism, the kind that is not in bed with politicians).
    "The measures advocated here by Mr. Darnton put meaningful tax cuts on the table for the first time. They would return hundreds of dollars a week to the pockets of their rightful owners, their earners.
    "With the demented Global Warming chooks coming home to roost in the form of skyrocketing food and energy prices, the Libz prescription couldn't be more timely.
    "Just what the doctor ordered. Even Dr. Cullen should order it," Perigo concludes.

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Frightening Facebook friends

Dave Gee must be doing something right with his blog since it ranks ahead of Cactus Kate's in the local politico-blog rankings -- no mean achievement.  Maybe it's because he finds stuff like this: What if Facebook was Real Life? 

Frightening!

Kennedy's seizure

What I felt when I first heard the news of Senator Edward Kennedy being diagnosed with malignant tumours was summarised very well by Blair Mulholland:

Mary Jo Kopechne's Killer Still At Large. 
Damned seizure didn't quite finish him off.  Bugger.

The second was a paraphrase of a comment made by Evelyn Waugh when Randolph Churchill underwent treatment after a similar diagnosis:

It would be a triumph of modern science -- to find the only part of Edward Kennedy that isn't malignant and remove it.

NB: If you're not sure who Mary Jo Kopechne was, read Myrna Blyth's Remembering Mary Jo.

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Beat up

I feel the need to say something about Phil Goff's supposed 'gaffe' in his interview with Oliver Driver last night on Alt TV, segments of which were leaked yesterday to Ben Thomas of NBR.

An interview with Driver being more monologue than dialogue, perhaps Goff should be admired for being able to say anything at all: since Driver's ego almost overshadows the whole interview, I'd suggest it's hard to take too much from it at all.

arafat w new zealand may 29 03But even given the words Driver was trying to put in Goff's mouth -- and this is much more obvious from listening to the actual interview than it is from reading the leaked transcripts -- to concoct the overheated hyperbole that so many commentators have on the basis of comments so innocuous is frankly farcical.

The over-excitement says more about the commentariat than it does about Phil Goff (pictured right with a terrorist), or Helen Clark.

And who can say they don't feel somewhat refreshed for once that there's a politician who refuses to deny the obvious?

  • You can see the relevant clip of the interview here:

UPDATE:  Newstalk ZB's Leighton Smith has an interesting take.  This is no gaffe, he says, (about which I agree, Goff is too experienced for that) but the use by an experienced politician of a two-bit TV station to promote himself as a politician committed to honesty and openness, in the same way that Barack Obama has successfully pulled off the same scam in the US.

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Russell Collins House - Bruce Goff

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Built in 1959 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. [Photos from 'Ralph's Photography' site.]

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Untruth from the usual places

"Pacific Islanders' crime rates, poor education and low employment are creating an underclass and a drain on the economy, a study [released by] economist Greg Clydesdale, of Massey University's management and international business department."  So says the Dominion's front page this morning.

Message to Greg: your figures are in error. As Lindsay Mitchell points out, the figures for crime, employment, housing and welfare don't even begin to support your argument, which means your conclusion doesn't stack up.

So much for Mr Clydesdale, Massey University's management and international business department, and the fact-checking ability of the Dominion.

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Truth from unlikely places

I bet you'll never guess either the philosopher whose wisdom appears in the following two quotes, or even his country of origin -- and I'm damn sure you won't pick those for whom he was a mentor.

Said our man:

“It is philosophy that makes man understandable to man, explains human nobility, and shows man the proper road. The first defect appearing in any nation that is headed toward decline is in the philosophic spirit. After that deficiencies spread into the other sciences, arts, and associations.”

Why does philosophy have such power? Explains the author:

Philosophy is the escape from the narrow sensations of animality into the wide arena of human feelings…In general, it is man’s becoming man and living the life of sacred rationality. Its aim is human perfection in reason, mind, soul, and way of life….It is the foremost cause of the production of knowledge, the creation of sciences, the invention of industries, and the initiation of the crafts.” (emphasis added)

Isn't that wonderful?  And what's more, it's true.

So do you want a clue?  Here's one: our man underwent a philosophical change almost as profound as John Stuart Mill's collapse from eloquent advocate of laissez faire to scum-socking apologist of socialism (though for different reasons -- this philosopher was unlikely to have been pussy-whipped as Mill was).

Give up?  Then for your answer, head over to the history blog of Scott Powell, who uncovered these amazing lines.  As the Resident Egoist says, "Prepare to be shocked."

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How many thousand make a "consensus"?

The global warming models are falling into disrepute, global temperatures still flatly refuse to climb, and now the "science is settled" argument is about to look even more unsettled:

The National Press Club in Washington will today release the names of as many as 32,000 American Scientists who reject not only Kyoto-style greenhouse gas limits, but the very premise of manmade global warming itself. [Story: American Thinker]

So what's left of the warmist argument?  Why the need to shackle our producers?  And what's the collective noun for 32,000 scientists? 

A 'consensus'?

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Dr Robert

Pssst.  I know that many of you know Robert White, a local Objectivist, so I'm very happy to report that Robert is now Doctor Robert -- his thesis on the philosophy of Ayn Rand has now been accepted, and the title of Doctor about to be bestowed.

Congratulations Doctor.

UPDATE: Oops, apparently my grapevine was slightly inaccurate.  I said the title of Doctor is about to
be bestowed. In fact, Robert's degree was conferred several weeks ago.

Here's the Beatles, with 'Dr Robert':

                          

And here's a very good Peruvian Beatles covers band doing Dr Robert.  Who knew that such things even existed.

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NZ blog rankings, March/April

The lads at Tumeke have again done blog readers a service with their ranking of the NZ political blogosphere for March-April just out overnight, with some big changes in the top ten.  You can see it here.  Not bad work for "an insane, radical, anti-semite, Maori-lover, thieving, prisoner-whore" and "a fat, lefty, peacenik, traitor, fag."  Not bad at all.

The chief value of the rankings isn't just boasting rights for bloggers (oh, okay, I'm up from sixth to fourth, jumping ahead of the Green Party's Frog Blog, nyahh, nyahh), it's in the service it offers blog readers.  You may not be able to read the news from twelve different angles as you can in the UK, for example with their wide-ranging and entertainingly opinionated newspapers, but if you read the top dozen NZ political blogs every day you can achieve something of the same effect.  (And if you do read the top dozen NZ political blogs every day, you'd be well advised to download and use an RSS newsreader to make your reading easier.)

But there's still plenty of gems outside the top twelve, some of which Tim Selwyn (he's the the insane, radical, anti-semite, Maori-lover, thieving, prisoner-whore) has highlighted in his summary of the rankings. (And don't worry, that's his own self-loathing autobiographical description.)

I like Tim's summary of #34 Liberty Scott -- "think: Idiot/Savant's style, Trevor Loudon's research, Peter Cresswell's thinking" -- but  I'm not sure the description is entirely intended to be a compliment.

Anyway, take some time and do some exploring.

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A deadlock holiday

French women may not be obese, but the French bureaucracy is.  "As much as 55 percent of the state budget currently goes to pay for civil servants and state pensions," says the New York Times, which means a significantly entrenched interest group violently opposed to change, and with abundant time on their hands.

French president Nicholas Sarkozy has a simple plan to trim the fat, says the Times, which is simply to replace only half the number of bureaucrats who retire.  With this rather timid approach, Sarkozy hopes to cut 22,900 civil-service jobs this year, and 35,000 next year.  Hardly radical, considering there are more than 2.5 million Frenchmen and women enjoying a comfortable berth in the bureaucracy, but enough to get hundreds of thousands out on strike in defence of the status quo.

As this elephantine bureaucracy inexorably calcifies the French economy, the need to deflate the civil service bubble is enormous.  What's needed is not timidity, but a genuine circuit breaker. 

Perhaps I could recommend to Monsieur Sarkozy an easier method by which to break the deadlock and to really empty out the civil service, a method I'd recommend to local politicians as well.  It is this: Why not offer every single civil servant -- every bureaucrat sucking off the state tit -- offer them all a year-long holiday at taxpayers' expense.

Who would object?  Well, apart from the taxpayer, of course.  At first, anyway.  You see, I'm suggesting a very special kind of holiday. 

First of all, the effect would be a sort of bureaucratic moratorium; businesses struggling under the weight of Gallic red tape would have twelve months of relief to get a few things done for a change. That would be a relief to every business, and to every one of their customers.

Any difficulties that would arise from the temporary loss of those few bureaucrats who do perform a useful service would be allayed by the loss of those whose job is only to create difficulties.

Which points to the second main benefit: Who's going to miss most of these bastards when they're gone? If most of them aren't missed in twelve months, most people will be asking why not make it twenty-four months ... or thirty-six ... or, permanently.  Bingo!

Over those twelve months of the bureaucratic moratorium it would become apparent even to the most dedicated bureaucrat-lover that the positions occupied by most of their heroes are utterly worthless -- that they are holding down jobs that are really not worth doing, or in their doing are only creating difficulties for others.  Sure, some of them will have been missed --and this will give an easy indication of which ones can't be done without -- but at least ninety percent won't be missed at all and be swiftly sacked on their return (should any even bother to return at all).

I would suggest that wherever the weight of public opinion is now, in twelve months time the momentum would be with Sarkozy and their sackings, without any unrest in the streets.  What do you think?

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Roll out the 2008 pork barrel

"An election," HL Mencken used to say, "is an advance auction of stolen goods." As the Herald's front page points out this morning, the bidding is starting earlier this year. 

NZPork Only five months into election year and National have already promised to spend $1.6 billion more of your money (and counting), while Labour have already promised to spend $4 billion -- with more to come this week with the reading of Cullen's election-year budget, and later in the year as Labour gets desperate enough to do anything to get itself a fourth term. 

At the same time as announcing new bribes paid for with more of your money, both parties have started another bidding war: this time it's to give some of the stolen goods back in the form of tax cuts -- a non-virtuous circle only a politician is able to square.

Good on the Herald for pointing out this is 'good' old traditional pork-barrel politics, and for their plan to keep a 'Porkometer' to measure the extent of the swindle.

UPDATE: According to Russell Brown's information, the Porkometer is already between $1.5 and $4.5 billion light [see his post 'Shooting for the Moon' to see some pretty hairy numbers around what John Key's fibre promise is likely to cost us].

And David Slack points out that "the story doesn't ask which, if any, of the items proposed by Labour have been expressly ruled out by National."  I think we all know the answer to that one, don't we, so for an accurate figure maybe just take Labour's number and double it.

PS: A point to everyone who spots the provenance of the punchline in the title of David's post.

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Studio Cottage, Island of Shikoku - Dean Bryant Vollendorf (August 25, 1929 - May 6, 2008)

Island_of_Shikoku001

Photographer and architectural archivist Edward Schatz just sent me a note to say that the creator of delightfully light-hearted gems like the cottage above has died.  The website on which he was working before his death will continue, with friends posting images and memories of the man over the coming weeks.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Headcase: 'Farmer Bob' Mugabe

Check out 'Farmer Bob' Mugabe's farm at YouTube [hat tip Julian].

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The shape of flip flops to come

On the beleaguered Emissions Trading Scheme, TVNZ reports "In a policy announcement on Sunday morning, [National] leader John Key has revealed the party will not be supporting the scheme in its current form." 

Am I the only one who adds Key's support for "a well-designed, carefully-balanced" Emissions Trading Scheme to the last four words in that sentence above to get the prediction of a(nother) forthcoming flip flop?

Those four carefully chosen words reveal the ghost of flip flops past which hovers Sunday's policy announcement. It's the anti-smacking bill all over again, isn't it.

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Surveys

If you have a spare moment and you read or publish a political blog, then you can help out a young man doing research on political blogging at the University of Political Correctness in the Waikato by filling out his surveys: here if you read political blogs, and here if you also publish a political blog.

Oh, and while you're doing online surveys, here's one that tells you What Type of Trader you are (I'm Strategic, it seems) and another here to see whether or not you can tell females from shemales.  Very important work -- and not entirely unrelated to political blogging.

Stunts dwarf ACT policy announcement

Rodney Hide's twenty-three point pledge card for ACT electioneering has now been announced.  The first twenty points are rather kindly summarised by Liberty Scott, but for some reason he ignores the last three points.

So perhaps someone else can explain how ocean swims, lambada and dressing up as a dwarf advance the electoral cause -- or any cause at all?

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MMP?

MMP?  STV?  First Past the Post?  Doesn't matter to me which electoral system is used in New Zealand -- frankly, the whole argument is a populist sideshow.

What's important is not the method by which governments are elected, but the way in which they're tied up.

What's important is not the counting of heads regardless of content -- whichever method is used to count the empty heads -- but putting things beyond the vote that are far too important to leave at the mercy of an empty-headed majority.

Sure, we can look forward every three years or so to several weeks of no government while the power-lusters negotiate how the cake is carved up, but when the new Government is inevitably formed it frequently looks like a mongrel combination of both fish and fowl, and it frequently ends up spending even more than it would otherwise due to the need to buy off smaller parties (did someone say Families Commission, solar panels and Gold Cards?).

Sure, it can slow down legislation.  A little.  But it's also true that the minority 'tail' gets to wag the whole country, introducing legislation that's a real dog (how amusing that Greens's co-leader Russel Norman sees minorities gaining power through the construction of the electoral system as a problem).

As Lindsay Perigo points out, "MMP has already done its damage, giving unreconstructed socialists like Banderton and the Luddite Greens clout in government out of all proportion to their popular support."  The point is not to change the electoral system, but to to protect ourselves from Nanny governments.  We might begin by remembering that

Democracy, so often and so tragically confused with freedom, allows for the destruction of freedom at the behest of majorities or pluralities. In particular it enfranchises welfare cannibals who vote for the party that promises them the greatest amount of money stolen from its legitimate owners. Elections become, in H. L. Mencken’s immortal words, ‘an advance auction of stolen goods.’

"Any meaningful electoral reform must at minimum disenfranchise those who suck on the state tit. Bailey Kurariki, who is no doubt looking forward to voting Labour, the party that most conscientiously spawns his ilk, should not have the vote at all until he is self-supporting.

"Most importantly, the inalienable rights of every individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness must be placed out of harm’s way, beyond the vote. Politicians must be constitutionally prevented from violating those rights, no matter how many state-indoctrinated zombies demand such violation.

"Every adult human being has the right to live his life as he/she chooses, constrained only by the requirement to respect the right of others to do the same. This right should be enshrined in a constitution and made sacrosanct in law,” Perigo concludes.

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Clarifying the cost of liberty

Just to clarify a few things for those who are arguing on another thread, NZ Libertarianz maintain:

Let me stress too that my own silence on a thread does not necessarily indicate assent with any comments in those threads.

Now, it's not a bad thing to have summarised all that this week, because this week is Budget Week -- the week when the government announces how it plans to pluck the taxpayer goose this year with the minimum amount of hissing. On such a bleak occasion, it's not a bad idea to reacquaint ourselves with the reason we have governments in the first place (which is to protect our rights, not to do us over) and just how little a proper government would cost.

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Bossy Boris

Many readers of this ramshackle blog have indicated to me enormous support for Boris Johnson's success in the London mayoralty elections, looking forward to a new era without Red Ken.  Said Liberty Scott of the loopy Tory toff for example, "I have no idea what Boris would bring, other than a healthy dose of skepticism about Nanny State..."

Well, no.  Looks like a predictably unhealthy dose of Tory backsliding and New Puritanism.  Brendan O'Neill reports at Sp!ked that "the very first act of London’s new Conservative mayor, Boris Johnson, has been to declare a ban on drinking alcohol anywhere on the public transport system."

As I said before, Johnson's election signals a London without Red Ken, but not a London in which any of Red Ken's policies are repealed (that's the way conservatives roll, you know -- just watch NZ come November).

O'Neill makes the point clear:

You can tell a lot about a political leader by his attitude to alcohol. Historically, your position on the Booze Issue – including the freedom of people to buy it, to consume it, and even to vomit it up again in a hedge if necessary – defined where you stood on individual liberty itself, and on the trustworthiness of the mass of the population to make choices and to live with their consequences.

Where illiberal, elitist, suspicious and quite often Christian outfits sought to restrict people’s access to alcohol, great defenders of freedom and civil liberties groups emerged from the struggle against prohibition. John Stuart Mill’s impassioned defence of freedom, On Liberty, was written ‘in the midst of the growing power of Christian temperance groups’ (1); the American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920, also the year in which the American government prohibited the manufacture, transportation and sale of all alcoholic beverages (2).

[This ban] reveals more about [Boris'] new regime than he thinks. Boris ... wants his booze ban to demonstrate that he will be tough on anti-social behaviour and singular in his determination to restore respect, good manners and possibly cap-doffing to the streets of London. In fact, the ban reveals that, post-Ken, petty authoritarianism and distrust of the London masses is still rife in City Hall.

Over to you, Boris backers.

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Adams not hungry any more

I was surprised to hear that former United-No Future MP Paul Adams is alive and well and helping the Density Party Christian Party Family Party launch their election campaign over the weekend, because he undertook a hunger strike three years ago so that God would prevent the "evil' of the Civil Unions Bill being passed into law -- one he oviously failed to finish off.

His God clearly failed to notice Mr Adams' protest (he wasn't the only one), but Mr Adams is obviously eating again, and all the evils he predicted have failed to come to pass.

So too, I suspect, will a repetition of his time as an MP.

Shooting the Koran

Why do some Muslims get incensed about a US soldier using the Koran for target practice, but take to the streets to offer support (or by their silence give tacit support): to fathers who slaughter their daughters ( so called  'honour killings'), to rape victims being executed, to those who insult the Koran being executed, to teenagers being sentenced to death for consensual sex, to adults being sentenced to death for adultery.

Liberty Scott has the question, and the evidence.

As he (almost) says, "the priorities of far too many Muslims are: book first, lives second, goats third ... and women a distant fourth).

And what about those who berate Westerners for being 'offensive' to Islamic culture, but who turn a blind eye to a religion that was born in violent conquest and which today mandates and endorses genital mutilation, the subjugation of women, the stoning of gays, the beheading of those who satirise their stone-age beliefs, and the violent institution of sharia law and dhimmitude across the globe?

What sort of person would get more angry at those being offensive to such a barbaric culture than they would at the practitioners of barbarity themselves?

Frankly, if barbarity like that described above doesn't offend you, then you've failed as a human being. 

And if the barbarity comes from a religious book, then all the more reason to use it as target practice.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday School: Blasphemy

More blasphemy this Sabbath, but this time with humour.

                                    blasphemy

Don't worry if you don't get the joke -- I had to have it explained to me too.  I don't think you'll have any problem understanding this one: Rowan Atkinson welcoming you to Hell:

                           

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