Friday, August 08, 2008

Beer O'Clock: Wheat Beers Are For Women

Our beer correspondent Stu has a provocative take on wheat beers ...

pc_WheatBeer For as long as I can remember I’ve been pushing the beer boundaries with beer. When all my friends were drinking Export Gold, I was drinking DB Bitter (that is not a joke). When they got around to Monteith’s Celtic and Mac’s Real Ale I had already been through those beers, and past Mac’s Extra, to my first real show-stopping/jaw-dropping beer – Emerson’s Bookbinder. I had finally found something that was worth sticking around for. I still drink this beer regularly, and a good pint of it now is as exciting as a good pint of it was ten years ago.

About this time, other friends who had never really liked beer much at all were talking to me about wheat beers that were cropping up in some of the more cutting edge bars, cafes and restaurants around Wellington. In particular, they mentioned Hoegaarden and two now defunct New Zealand wheat beers - Limburg’s Witbier and Weissbier. These beers were full of flavour combinations that you wouldn’t expect in beer – orange and coriander or banana and cloves. They were sweet, but used spicy characteristics and tartness to cut through that and make them more drinkable. They were fizzy but they were full mind blowing flavours that the carbonation carried – not just caramel sweetness.

From my own perspective Limburg seemed to be the dawn of a modern craft beer scene in New Zealand. They grew the market and started to drag in people who weren’t normally drinking beer, rather than just adding another stepping stone to the progressive journey beer drinking awareness. Fast forward a decade or so and New Zealand still produces some excellent wheat beers.

In the Belgian-style (or “wit”) category Mac’s Great White recently went head-to-head against the world famous Hoegaarden in a Mac’s-hosted taste-off amongst SOBA members. Hoegaarden snuck in on the day but my personal preference was for the Great White, which was mealier, earthier and fresher when compared to the very perfumy “overly-perfect” character of Hoegaarden. Moa Blanc is a nice version of the same style, while Three Boys Wheat started off as an excellent “kiwi” interpretation – using lemon zest instead of orange – but has been up and down in recent times.

In the German-style (“Weissbier” or “Weizen”) we have Tuatara Hefe, Emerson’s Weissbier, Croucher Hefe, Invercargill WASP (a rarer ‘krystal’ or clear style of the weizen). These beers show off the banana and clove characteristics to varying degrees. All are delicious on their day, with Tuatara, Emerson’s and the Invercargill beer all having won numerous medals. Franziskaner and Schofferhofer are the imports you are most likely to see on local shelves.

American-style wheat beers – the ‘premium lager’ of wheat beers, and the one you stick the lemon in – are, thankfully, quite rare in New Zealand. Unfortunately so are Dunkel Weizen and Weizen Bock. Look out for these latter two, especially if you like darker and/or stronger ales. Schneider Aventinus is in the Weizen Bock style, is excellent, and is regularly available in supermarkets all over the country. It was recently the straw, or wheat, that broke my camel’s back.

Wheat beers are refreshingly superb in summer and spring (we’re not that far away), especially when they are fresh and full of their crisp wheat flavours and enticing fruit and spice notes. As they age, and the vitality diminishes, they begin to take on sweeter ‘flabby’ characteristics and lose the perfumery of aromas. Look for the freshest possible bottles you can find.

Contrary to some people’s opinion (and my attention seeking title) wheat beers are no more for women than pinot gris is. I guess the stereotype has come about because they are less bitter than most other beer styles but, like other stereotypes, this is a generalisation well worth breaking. Enjoy all beer in all its diverse forms.

Slainte mhath, Stu

ps. A proactive answer to all those “where can I get these beers?” thoughts… check out www.beerstore.co.nz.  And to join up with like-minded drinkers, check out the Society for Beer Advocates, also known as SOBA.

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Sketches - Rodin

D4186g11_12-rodin_rainbowAuguste  Rodin was not just one of the world's most expressive sculptors, he also had a fine line in a dynamic form of sketching. 

Fascinated with the human form and its infinite expressive variations, Rodin would let nude models loose in the studio while he dashed off literally thousands of pencil and watercolour sketches, often without even lifting the pencil from the page. D7174g

 D4309g They weren't studies for new sculptures as such, more a method for automatising his feeling for human form. and an attempt to express living motion in a static art.

“Be angry, dreamy, praying, crying or dancing,"was the only instruction the models ever got. "It is up to me to capture and maintain the line that appears truthful.”

These are just some of the many thousands of sketches he dashed off, and then pored over, studied and often cut up and reassembled. (Click the pics to enlarge.)

                                                        D4146g

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Olympics are about to start.

Bring it on!

Who, with any sense of life, will be able to resist the two week spectacle of excellence on which all these athletes have been focused for the last four years.

0013729e42ea0a01dd2644 I'm looking forward to seeing champion athletes who've spent years perfecting the skills of their sport demonstrating the heroism of which top sport is chock full -- and modelling the skimpy outfits that show off their champion bodies. (And since the point of laws against performance-enhancing drugs is to protect the purity of sport from athletes using equipment to give them an unfair advantage, I submit that the Olympics should go back to the nudity which was de rigeur in the Ancient Olympics, and applaud those athletes like Rebecca Romero above who obviously shares this view.)

What I'm not looking forward to is the incipient outbreak of nationalism that goes with every Olympics -- expect the outbreak to be even more virulent given this year given the Olympics' proximity to two major elections.

And I'm prepared to be amused by the likes of a question from Keith Locke to Helen Clark in Parliament on Tuesday, asking the Prime Minister if she would be "advising New Zealand athletes to wear face masks" to protect themselves against Beijing's smog. Instead of advising Mr Locke that unlike himself world champion athletes might have some clue themselves about how to protect their own air passages should that be necessary, instead of telling him to grow up and get his own life, instead of telling him that what New Zealand athletes wear is not the business of the Prime Minister ... instead of any of that, she told him that on TV the other night she "saw patches of blue sky" over Beijing, so she thought such advice wasn't necessary.

It's hard to know who's more stupid.

The Olympics are about to start. Bring on the human drama!

UPDATE: Scott Powell says, "One of the things I love about world sporting events such as the Olympic Games, other than the displays of fantastic athleticism, is that they provide an opportunity for people to escape from oppressive regimes by seeking asylum in freer countries. The fact that this won’t be possible in 2008 because the Olympics are being held in one of history’s most oppressive nations is only one dimension of the travesty that are Olympic games in China, but at least one athlete may have found a way around the problem...." Read on here for the story.

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NOT PC applauds dairy owner for protecting his own life

Allow me to pause for just a moment to say a very loud "Bravo!" to the Christchurch dairy owner who protected himself and his wife from machete-wielding thugs by shooting them in the face with an air pistol.

"Bravo!"

Let's be clear about this: He had the right to defend himself and his wife against the thugs, who were at the time slashing at the air near his throat and chest and had backed him up against the cigarette racks, and he had the courage not to let the bastards win.

"Sir, I applaud you."

I can not say the same for the New Brighton police, who said the actions of the dairy owner, who calls himself 'Nike,' were "certainly not good practice".

Police advice was to comply with robbers and "get them in and out as quick [sic] as possible."  Police said they were "discussing" whether Nike's actions would have further repercussions.

This is appalling.  Getting these thugs "in and out as quick as possible" would likely have resulted only in another corpse.  Is that what Detective Constable Matt Grant of the New Brighton police really wants?  Would he stand still while thugs used himself and his wife for target practice, if a weapon was close at hand?  (If he would, then his wife should start packing and be out the door within the hour.)

Bear in mind that, by the testimony of the man attacked, "they tried to kill us from the very start. It happened really fast. They ran in holding the knife out and started trying to chop me."  Would Detective Constable Matt Grant have our hero simply hold up his hands while the thugs actually slashed him across his throat and chest?  Would that somehow help end the violence?

The police policy of unarmed capitulation to get the thugs in and out as quickly as possible is a killer.

It killed Navtej Singh, who was complying with the thugs in Manurewa who shot him without compunction for the price of a few six-packs.  It killed John Vaughan, shot in the head at the Mangere Bridge branch of the ASB while complying with all the demands of thug who killed him.  And it put at threat the dairy owner last week who was shot in the arm by rampaging thugs who were themselves intent on getting in and out as quickly as possible, without any concern about who they harmed along the way.

Observe three things. 

  1. The idea that banning bottle stores under 150 square metres would do a anything at all to lessen armed robbery is absurd on its face.  It would have done nothing to help John Vaughan, nor the two dairy owners above -- nor any of the many dairy owners who daily feel the ire of thugs who know no better than using violence to get what they want.  Government ministers know their new law is absurd -- they just hope their voters are too dumb to know.
  2. The idea that complying with robbers' demands will keep you safe is absurd, and contradicted by the evidence.
  3. "Complying" when a machete-wielding nutcase is slashing the air around your chest and throat means complying in your own murder.  Detective Constable Matt Grant might not think so, but we each have the right to defend our own lives against aggressors.  The police can either help people in that job -- and if they were to assist dairy owners to properly defend themselves, that on its own would help discourage the thugs and bring order -- or they can hinder them, leaving them unarmed in the face of savagery that the police's compliance (and the law courts' leniency) has helped unleash.

UPDATE:  Bravo, too, to Crusader Rabbit for this comment:

I'd like to point out to the idiot detective constable that even sea urchins have spines--for the purpose of self-defence.

Well said, sir.

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The "warming glow" of bureaucracy

I was appalled to hear the results of the study by Waikato University's Professor John Gibson which confirmed speculation that those working in the government bureaucracy are paid on average twenty percent more than those working for private industry, and for the most part are happier -- happier, he says,  because of the "warm glow" they garner from their "public service," ie., "from a belief that their work is useful to society..."

This is appalling.  Their work doesn't serve the public -- with few exceptions their job descriptions involve coming to work every morning to devise ways of getting the hell in the way of the public.  Their work isn't useful to society; it's destructive of everything that is useful.  This is the reason it
takes months of being pestered by pricks with clipboards to shift a kitchen window, that it's nigh-on illegal to criticise the ruling party, and that Equatorial Guinea has a higher per-capita income than we do.

It's not just that bureaucrats are parasitical on private industry, from whom the money is extracted to pay their inflated wages (wages that are bidding away good people from genuinely productive work), but in everything they do they're they're positively destructive of productivity and innovation -- putting their intelligence and skills to work every day to obstruct productive people going about their private business.  This is the only tangible product of every "public servants'" day.

Thank goodness, at least, that bureaucrats don't work long hours.  If that keeps them happy, then more power to them.  But if there's a genuinely  "warm glow" to be felt in "public service," then as Jeff Scialabba points out, it's the warm glow of self-immolation.

Frankly, the only "warm glow" that I'd like them to feel is the heat that would come from the huge conflagration all their paperwork and regulations would make if it was set to the torch, as it should be.  Urgently.

  • More on the story here and here, and audio here from John Gibson on Radio NZ this morning.

UPDATE: Paul Walker summarises the research and asks the question, "Why are government salaries so high? I'm sure its got little to do with productivity."  As you'd expect, he also has a few answers.

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The dishonest in pursuit of the disreputable

No, I didn't post yesterday.  I spent most of the day setting up a new computer to replace the one that had died.  It's never a quick process, is it.

I was very happy to see you debating amongst yourselves in my absence.

In any case, most of the stories swirling round the news yesterday I'd either commented on already, or were just too trivial for words.  The controversy, for example, over fraudulent interlopers with concealed dictaphones recording politicians at a semi-public event saying things they're too timid to say at a fully public gathering -- an example, I'd say of the dishonest in pursuit of the disreputable.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Not PC's blog stats for July

Here's some of the main stats for NOT PC's last month:

NZ Political Blog Rank for NOT PC: 6th (May, 5th)
Alexa Ranking, NZ: 590th (last month 558th)
Alexa Ranking, world: 255,026th (last month 254,965th)
Avge. Monday to Friday readership: 996/day (979)
Unique visits [from Statcounter] 30,678 (26,265)
Page views [from Statcounter] 47,957 (42,680)

Top posts:

Top referring sites: 
   Search engines 2395 referrals;  Kiwiblog 1747; Libertarianz 837; No Minister 761;  Whale Oil 520; Cactus Kate 382; Liberty Scott 241; SOLO 231; NZ Capitalist 210;  Anti Dismal 190; Annie Fox 190;
The Hive 170; Lindsay Mitchell 142; Mulholland Drive 133; Real Estate Blog 125; Crusader Rabbit 112
Top searches landing here:
    not pc 423; studionz 96; john key me too 76; peter cresswell 74; beer songs 70; archicad12 66; nipcc 63; china ready olympics 62; broadacre city 47; freedomist 43; worst building in the world 34; heineken mini keg 33; ken ring lunatic 32; peter rabbit tank killer 31;  bobby carlyle 31
They're reading NOT PC here: 
NOT-PC_August08
Top countries (measured by Statcounter):
   NZ 57%; USA 15%; Australia 5.2%; UK 3.7%; Holland 1.6%; Canada 1.2%; France 1.1%; India 0.9% 
Top cities (measured by Statcounter):  
   Auckland 16%; Wellington 6.2%; Christchurch 4.6%; Melbourne 3.0%; London 2.2%; Sydney 1.3%; Canberra 1.1%; Amsterdam 0.8%; Atlanta 0.8%; Orlando 0.7%; Manila 0.7%; New York 0.7%

Cheers, and thanks to you all for reading and linking to NOT PC this month, 
Peter Cresswell

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'Waiting for the Verdict' Abraham Solomon

By special request, here's another one for the lawyers...

             T03614_9

You might ask yourself why our Mr Solomon has chosen to depict the characters at the centre of the legal drama so distant from the 'light' of the court.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Child abuse needs urgent action

In reaction to the wave of brutality on children since the start of this year, a litany of horror itemised on the front page of today's Herald under the news that a four-month-old Papakura baby is on life support after "non accidental" head injuries, Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro says "a lot of the problem came back to how the abusive parents were raised themselves.  It is time something is done," she says, "to ensure we get it right for the next generation."

She's right of course.  Something must be done.  Urgently.  Three deaths and multiple cases of brutality since January this year -- atrocities that parents and step-parents are inflicting on their own children -- shows that whatever is being done now is not only not working to protect children, it's actively putting hem in harm's way. 

Something must be done.

The first thing that must be done follows from the fact that Kiro and her predecessors have used their office not to advance the cause of children, but for the sole purpose of grasping every opportunity to advance the nationalisation of New Zealand children.  Her office should be be disestablished forthwith.

The second thing that must happen follows from the failure of Sue Bradford and John Key's anti-smacking law to do anything at all to arrest the tidal wave of brutality, which is its immediate abolition and the return of  the power of honest discipline of their offspring to good New Zealand parents -- who are being punished for the sins of the few without the few themselves even feeling the effect.

The third thing that should happen follows from identifying the nature of those who are predominantly killing their children, which is predominantly children who kill their own children, i.e., people who are paid by taxpayers to have children they don't want , who kill those unwanted children with barely a moment's reflection -- and sometimes pause to eat McDonalds as they head off to hospital to drop off the bodies. 

The overarching answer is obvious: It's time to stop paying no-hopers to breed.  Here's how to do it.

UPDATELiberty Scott points out there's a few more things that need to be done, in addition to the cessation of paying no-hopers to breed.

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"Keep Talking to Strangers, Mr English" - Perigo

Bill English "should be encouraged to talk to strangers more often, and his musings transcribed and declared official party policy."  That's the opinion of Lindsay Perigo, who says English should Keep Talking to Strangers.

UPDATE: And now Bill English tells a fourth lie to add to his earlier trifecta: He's saying now he got it wrong, about the one time in his life he got it right.

You see the trouble you get into when you're too scared to grow a pair?

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Lobotomising young minds

Have you ever noticed that when formerly intelligent people go to university, they frequently emerge knowing less than they did when they went in (or else they've rejected ideas altogether).  Where once, it required a surgical procedure like lobotomy to remove the thinking parts of the brain, now it simply takes immersion in university for three years or more.  Spend more than ten minutes talking to any number of today's young graduates, and you'll know what I mean.

The reason for the phenomenon can be explained in two words: post-modernism.  "Post-modernism," explains a recent article in The Australian, "is hobbling Australia's best and brightest university students by locking them into narrow, prescriptive and politically correct ways of thinking and using language."

Unfortunately, the phenomenon is not confined to Australia.

For a concise survey of how the world of ideas came to this, I highly recommend Stephen Hicks' Explaining Postmodernism. Buy one for a student today -- it might just save their lives.  And do read The Australian's exposure of the phenomenon. [Hat tip Ashley C.]

Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault
by Stephen R. C. Hicks

Read more about this book...

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Islamists never sleep

The murder of sixteen Chinese policemen by Islamist militants in western China, just five days before the Olympics start in Beijing (where security is being stepped up), highlights once again that complacency about worldwide Islamist terror is based more on wishful thinking than it is on observation and thoughtful analysis of what's actually going on in the world.

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'Attorney and Client, fortitude and impatience' - Phiz

This classic illustration of the relationship between attorney and client comes from Charles Dickens's classic portrayal of lawyerly fortitude in pursuit of their clients' fortunes, Bleak House.

           Bleak_House_25

'Phiz' was the pen name of one Hablot Knight Brown (1815-1882), one of  the best of Dickens's many illustrators.  

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Nothing bold about "infrastructure bonds"

It's said that National's proposed "infrastructure bonds" are a bold and innovative solution to funding infrastructure that will kickstart New Zealand's "growth engine."  That's just bullshit. 

To the extent that Key's proposed infrastructure bonds do attract real capital, they take that real capital away from genuine productive investment, ie., investments that show a real profit.

The extent to which investment in these bonds bids away investment in genuine productive investment is the extent to which NZ's growth engine is held back even further.

The reason that investment in these bonds will tend to bid away investment in genuine productive investment is that investment in the government-backed "infrastructure bonds" will be more secure.

They are not secure because the projects they back are less risky than private projects for wealth creation -- there is barely any government project anywhere in the world that ever came in under budget.  Their greater security arises from the fact that unlike private businesses, government has a gun in their hand.  To pay interest on privately-backed bonds, businesses have to make a profit.  To pay back or pay interest on government bonds, the government holds the gun at taxpayers' heads.

That's neither innovative nor bold.  That's just thuggery.

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How expensive is unpopularity?

The Hive has taken a look at how well-used are the much-hyped and exorbitantly expensive government websites, and by looking at their Alexa rankings you'd have to say "bloody poorly"  -- which also describes the wallets of New Zealanders after being fleeced to pay for them.

By way of example, this humble blog which you're reading now costs next to nothing, in fact it pays for itself, and according to Alexa it ranks 255,026th in the world, and 593rd in New Zealand.  That would place NOT PC third in the Hive's list of government websites, which we now know cost us millions of dollars,* just behind Stats NZ, and well ahead of  MFAT, Treasury and the Ministry for the Environment.  Check out the list here.

* And just for reference, the Sparc website and the Mission-On website, which are two holes down which we know millions of our dollars have been poured, rank 1,821st in NZ and 19,086th respectively.  To find blogs that unpopular, you'd have to visit the likes of these two, where neither thought nor readership are evident -- but at least we're not required to pay for them.

Bad English

If there's one thing NZ's so called free market reformers were guilty of, it was lying about what they were going to do.  This mendacity has infected free market reforms for a generation -- infecting them with the idea that somehow free market reforms like privatisation and deregulation are somehow unsound, unsafe or immoral.  After all, if so called supporters of free market reforms are too ashamed to argue for them openly, the impression is given that there's something to be ashamed about.

Bill English is not a free market reformer.  But he is a liar, as this recording indicates..  [Transcript here.]

UPDATE 1:  He's a liar three times in one weekend.
"We will not borrow to fund tax cuts," he told journalists two weeks ago -- now he wants us to believe the borrowing is just to fund infrastructure. Yeah right.
"We won't sell Kiwibank in the first term" -- now he tells listeners he will, but "not now."
Then he claims he did not remember the conversation linked above, and then refers to "the part of the tape they did not play..." -- this being the tape of the conversation he did not recall...

UPDATE 2:  Liberty Scott comments on National's fundamental problem.

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A sound beating

Thank goodness the All Blacks seem to have got their mojo back, at least for one weekend.  Looks like Richie McCaw is more important to the ABs than Stirling Morlock is to the Wallabies.

No RMA reform that's worth a damn, with even worse promised

THE NATIONAL PARTY, SAYS John Key, promises to "reform" the Resource Management Act "within the first 100 days of our first term.

How?

Remember that National introduced the Resource Management Act back in 1991.  Remember that National's Nick Smith administered the Act as environment minister, without change, for three years to 1999 -- and he's on record as describing it as "far-sighted environmental legislation." 

What do they want to do to it now that they haven't wanted to do before? And what will Nick "far-sighted environmental legislation" Smith want to do to it anyway?

Do they want to put protection of New Zealander's property rights at the heart of the Act?  No.

Do they want to take power over your property away from planners and council bureaucrats?  No.

Are they promising anything that it will make projects like the Whangamata marina and Wellington's waterfront hotel any easier?  No, they aren't.

To make it easier for a builder to get a subdivision consent and lower the price of land to buyers?; or for a supermarket owner to build a new supermarket in the face of a competitor?; or a developer to build a new village in the face of council opposition?  No, of course not. 

Will they abolish the likes of development levies, and squash the huge delays and rises in consent costs that add thousands, and sometimes millions, to every private project in the country?  No, of course they won't.  Will they do anything at all to increase the supply of suitable land available on which to build houses, or to remove council planners the power to zone private land, and the power to set urban walls around New Zealand towns and cities?  No, emphatically not.

Not one of these things will happen under National.

OF THE FEW DETAILS released that actually describe what they would do in that first 100 days (and who now expects details from this lot?), all they really establish is they will make it easier for the government to "Think Big" -- requiring projects of so called "national significance" to be consented in nine months, or else.

That won't help you or I get our projects built or our property rights protected, but it would allow the government to steamroll over people's property rights to push through projects like the Waikato pylons.

They don't want to protect your property rights.  They don't want to make it easier for you to build, they only want to make it easier for them to build, using borrowed money.

They say, or at least, Nick Smith promised last year, that they will set up an "Environmental Protection Authority"? 

Does that sound like less bureaucracy and less of the stifling red tape that's strangling us all? 

The say, and Key promised this in his conference speech, to enact an emissions trading scheme. "My goal," says Key, "is to have such a scheme on the statute books within nine months of taking office."

Does that sound like less bureaucracy and less of the stifling red tape that's strangling us all? 

"We are determined to remove the handbrake the RMA places on growth," they say. "We are determined to let good ideas flourish in this country. We are going to get New Zealand moving again."

There is nothing reported from either Smith or Key to indicate any of that is true, nothing at all to indicate either will do anything to help New Zealanders get their property rights back -- and much, including that promised emissions trading scheme, to suggest otherwise.  This is just more new window dressing that looks just like the same old window dressing, with new impositions thrown in.

National are NOT the answer.

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Borrowing to fake credibility

JOHN KEY"S NATIONAL PARTY thinks New Zealanders are stupid.  He and his cronies think dishonesty works, and they're prepared to run an election campaign on that basis -- that's the only conclusion one can draw from the headline announcements at the party's annual conference over the weekend.

An honest political party would not maintain that one can maintain current spending levels in every area (including the Welfare for Working Families programme it has now promised to keep) and even increase spending in some areas (such as a new 'Ministry of Infrastructure'), and still be able to afford tax cuts.

An honest political party would know that if you offer serious tax cuts, you need to make commensurately serious cuts in spending

An honest political party knows that offering tax cuts while "borrowing to fund infrastructure" is just smoke and mirrors for "we're borrowing to fund tax cuts."  Only a blind, deaf and dumb National supporter would think otherwise.  (And an honest National party supporter would remember that one of the few promises John Key and Bill English have made is that he will "not borrow to fund tax cuts."  So much for honesty when pre-election promises are broken before the election campaign has really begun!)

An honest political party would know something else as well.  Building "infrastructure" is said by dishonest parties to be different to other government spending, which is all consumption spending. Spending on infrastructure is said to be "investment." An honest political party knows that this is bullshit. 

Investments have two characteristics which distinguish them from consumption spending: 1) they show a return; and 2) they finance their own replacement. An honest political party would know that however you try to slice it, neither is the case with "infrastructure spending."  Borrowing to fund infrastructure is just borrowing to fund a shinier more politically correct kind of consumption, and taking capital away from genuinely productive investment that will actually increase wealth instead of consume it.

HONESTY HAS NEVER BEEN a primary National Party principle. Power lust always has been.  At this election, the National Party wants to pay lip service to  free enterprise and smaller government while ruling out anything, anything at all, that smacks of either of those of its two stated principles.

The National Party has become the stale, hypocritical salon which Ayn Rand describes as "Party X":

    Party X would oppose statism and would advocate free enterprise. But it would know that one cannot win anybody's support by repeating that slogan until it turns into a stale, hypocritical platitude—while simultaneously accepting and endorsing every step in the growth of government controls.
    Party X would know that opposition does not consist of declaring to the voters: "The Administration plans to tighten the leash around your throats until you choke—but we're lovers of freedom and we're opposed to it, so we'll tighten it only a couple of inches."
    Party X would not act as Exhibit A for its enemies, when they charge that it is passive, stagnant, "me-tooing" and has no solutions for the country's problems. It would offer the voters concrete solutions and specific proposals, based on the principles of free enterprise. The opportunities to do so are countless, and Party X would not miss them...
    Knowing that a cut in taxes should be accompanied by a corresponding cut in government spending, Party X would compute the costs and choose the specific government projects it would promise to abolish. If the country heard some concrete details of what those taxes are spent on—such as the story of a few foreign lobbies—anyone but a confirmed totalitarian would scream in protest.
    Party X would set the pattern for the gradual lifting of the tax bur-den—at a time when both business and labor are beginning to realize that the best way to save a collapsing economy is to leave more of their own money to the citizens who earned it.

The National Party wants to have its cake and eat it too. It wants voters to think that it's possible to fake reality -- that one can offer tax cuts while promising to raise government spending in every area .

UPDATE 1: You might recall that John Boy told a recent Local Government conference, i.e., the annual bun-fest for council bureaucrats: "It’s my view that central government has much to learn from local government when it comes to infrastructure planning, investment, and management."  Perhaps if you'd like to go to your desk and take out your recent rates bill, and compare it to the same bill from, say, five years ago, you'll have some indication of just how much he thinks central government has much to learn from local government when it comes to infrastructure planning, investment, and management, and how much it's going to cost you.

UPDATE 2: Liberty Scott comments on National's Think Big "infrastructure policy": National looks to Muldoon and Pork

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Change you can *really* believe in -- and help make happen

There are two elections this year -- one in America, one in New Zealand -- neither of which will have the slightest effect either in arresting the cultural decline of either country, or in pointing the way to the fundamental cultural reform that is an urgent necessity in both.

Reason, individualism and capitalism have been under attack now for decades in the U.S., in N.Z. and all around the the world, yet the fundamental philosophical ideas behind those attacks are now themselves in retreat, leaving an intellectual vacuum as shallow as the leading candidates in both elections. 

The fundamental emptiness of candidates and campaign is itself a reflection of that intellectual vacuum.

We all know something is wrong with the world, but just getting angry won't do a thing to arrest the decay.  We have to get smart.

One of those most responsible for the intellectual decay had this to say about the point of philosophy:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it.

The philosopher who said that was Karl Marx.  His philosophical system is as false has hell, which is the only word to describe the places created by his enthusiastic followers, but for a century-and-a-half the followers of Karl Marx and his ilk have succeeded in changing the world for the worse.

It's time for fundamental philosophical change for the better.  That means, in a phrase, change you can really believe in. That's the point of the three lectures about which this post is based, all of them now online. If you take ideas seriously, then I urge you to make the time to watch them.

ARC Yaron Brook and his colleagues at the Ayn Rand Institute have a twenty-year plan to make the culture over -- a plan on which they've already embarked with some success,  a plan which they outline in the third lecture.  You might describe it as "doing a Gramsci," only in reverse.

The first two lectures examine the influence of three important forces on the culture of the west for good and ill -- free market economics, environmentalism, and religion.  Then in the third lecture he uses those examples to make predictions about the future, and extracts lessons for those who seek to inject reason into the culture.

Our eventual goal should be a "culture of reason", one in which intellectual leaders have a deep respect for reason, the world is full of energetic rational producers, great and beautiful art abounds, and material prosperity is valued as moral. Not everyone in this culture will be an Objectivist, but the principles of Objectivist philosophy would be infused throughout this culture. It's hard to imagine such a culture now, but this can and should be our goal...
As a realistic goal in 20 years, we could see a culture in which Ayn Rand's ideas are in wide circulation.  Not everyone will agree with those ideas, but at least ideas such as "egoism", "rational self-interest," and "capitalism" (as we Objectivists understand them) are all part of the mainstream culture, being actively discussed and debated as a serious alternatives to the status quo.
    So how do we get there?  What can we do?

The bulk of this lecture outlines what's being done to make this a culture of reason, and what you can do to help bring this about.

If you don't take ideas seriously, or if reason is not for you, then neither are these lectures.  But if you do and it is, then I recommend tuning in and 'turning on' to what is offered here.  There's no reason that with sufficient financial backing a group of committed activists couldn't effect the same programme outlined by Yaron for American cultural change here in New Zealand -- and no reason we shouldn't start next year, or the minute the election is over.  I invite you to digest the lectures and think about where you might fit in to such a campaign of cultural change.

As Paul Hsieh from Noodle Food comments (and I've relied on his summary for some of the above):

    This was an alarming yet inspiring set of lectures.
    It was alarming in that Yaron Brook and his colleague Onkar Ghate concretized in chilling detail the magnitude and urgency of the threats facing us. But it was also inspiring in that they offered a vision of a positive future that I want to live to see, as well as giving enormously valuable theoretical and practical advice on how we can effectively fight for that future.
  If we make the cultural turnaround that needs to take place in the next 20 years, then future historians will someday look back on this set of lectures as a seminal event in American history. Given that it is likely that many of us will be alive in 20 years (and possibly even in 40 years), then many of us will directly experience the fruits of our action (or lack thereof).
   I for one want to live in that future "culture of reason". I think we have a legitimate shot at getting there, but I also recognize that it is by no means certain. I also know that if we sit back and do nothing, then we *definitely* won't get there.     All I've ever wanted in life is a fighting chance at achieving my goals, and we have one here. And even if I eventually lose, I want to go down swinging, and swinging *hard*. I sure as hell don't want the bad guys to win by default simply because I didn't choose to act to achieve my values.

As someone once said, the world won't change itself.  If you want to live in that future culture of reason, then take responsibility now for helping to make it happen.

For ten years now, the Ayn Rand Institute has been undertaking a concrete programme to make American culture safe for reason once again.  If you'd like to help make New Zealand safe for rational life-affirming values, following the same concrete programme adopted in America, I urge you once again to digest the lectures and think about where you might fit in to such a campaign of cultural change.

You can find the three lectures online at the front page of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights website.  Each lecture is in three parts, and is totally free. (You can navigate to the various parts via the scrolling list that's just below the video box.)

Lecture 1 - Yaron Brook - Introduction; free market economists; environmentalism.
Lecture 2 - Onkar Ghate - Religion in politics and culture.
Lecture 3 - Yaron Brook - The future of our culture; why and how Objectivists can engage in cultural activism.

PS: I know there are a lot of you out there in New Zealand who know what I'm on about.  I know that not just because of the numbers who visit this blog, and who I've met over the years, but because the fourth-highest number of visitors to the Ayn Rand Institute's new website comes from ... New Zealand (see the Alexa rankings here).  There's a lot of us about.  If we can each take effective coordinated action, then I know we can make the change that's needed.  Think about the New Zealand you want to see in twenty years time, and let's start making it happen.

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