Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Wednesday, 10 September 2008


I'm off! By the time you read this I'll be on a plane with some very good friends heading to some hot, hot sun for a good few days. Back Tuesday.

I will keep in touch ... probably ... but in the meantime, why not try to visit the sites that I enjoy trying to keep up with every day:

See ya!

The Govt will steal your home

A man's home is his castle? That hasn't been completely true for years, but a new law is finally nailing the coffin shut. As Owen McShane reports, after the softening up, the deluge:

I trust that no missed this story which reports that government or TLAs may get the right to seize people’s homes for whatever higher-density housing redevelopment is mandated by local planners. Private property rights are fundamental to our democracy and economy. I never believed that any government of New Zealand would even contemplate “stealing” people homes so that others should live in an urban planner’s high density utopia!
The idea that this solves unaffordable housing is laughable were it not so tragic.
I cannot believe this could be contemplated in NZ.
I have seen how this operates in the US, says Owen, and its a means of cleaning out Black and Hispanic neighbourhoods so that councils (who purchase the houses) can then sell at a cheap price to their developer mates.
The corruption around these schemes immense and inevitable.
Another reason to go to Australia!

America's Castle Coalition fights these "eminent domain" cases as they're called in the States, and their site documents the abuse about which Owen talks. And of course, there's much more here at NOT PC, including the tale of how Donald Trump used this means of corruption to put up a carpark at one of his casinos. Or just google "Susette Kelo."

Freedom's just another word for what we've gone and lost

Back in 1964, Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater told his party's convention,

"We must, and we shall, set the tide running again in the cause of freedom. And this party, with its every action, every word, every breath, and every heartbeat, has but a single resolve, and that is freedom."

That was then.  In 2008, the Republicans had their Monday themed for "Serving a Cause Greater than Self." Tuesday was "Service," Wednesday was "Reform" and Thursday was "Peace."  But, as Steve Chapman points out in the Chicago Tribune, what was missing here?  It was "only what used to be held up as the central ideal of the party."

The heirs of Goldwater couldn't spare a day for freedom.

Neither, in the Land of the Free, could the Democrats.  While the Republicans preached "Sacrifice," "Service," and "Country First!"  (come on, you saw all those placards, right?) the Donks banged on about "One Nation," "Renewing America's Promise" and "Securing America's Future."

The party proclaimed "an agenda that emphasizes the security of our nation, strong economic growth, affordable health care for all Americans, retirement security, honest government, and civil rights." Expanding and upholding individual liberty? Not so much.

So what's happened to morning in America?  What's happened to its founding ideals, unique in human history, wonders Chapman?

    What has set this country apart since its inception is not the notion of obligations but the notion of rights.
    "All previous systems had regarded man as a sacrificial means to the ends of others, and society as an end in itself," wrote the novelist and philosopher
Ayn Rand. "The United States regarded man as an end in himself, and society as a means to the peaceful, orderly, voluntary co-existence of individuals."
    That idea got lost somewhere between
Thomas Jefferson and John McCain.

To be fair, it never even made it across the Pacific.  But in the nation that started out committed to honouring human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property and happiness, it's a hard fall from there to see its leading presidential candidates see who can outbid whom in extolling self-sacrifice to the collective.

The differences in fundamentals between the candidates is slim that as Burgess Laughlin said so insightfully over at Rule of Reason,

I think of the difference between McCain and Obama as the difference between "NATIONAL socialism" and "national SOCIALISM."


"Behold, What a wonder is man!"

LHC__top Stuff mediocrity worship, just look at the power of the human mind.

As Emerson put it, "Instead of being a mere machine of organic matter, we are the thoughtful, the intelligent beings; we are with all the possibilities and privileges of an immortal existence."

Animals at best build rudimentary contraptions. Beavers build dams. Termites build nests. Hookworms build homes in the human body, where they suck parasitically for a lifetime. Meanwhile, man builds skyscrapers, and cyclotrons -- and then with what he's learned goes on to build large hadron colliders.

"Behold, what a wonder is man."

Auditorium Building - Louis Sullivan


There was a time back when the world was still young and fresh and vigorous, and everything human seemed possible -- at least that's how it must have seemed to those alive at the time. A very different time. Back when progress wasn't a dirty word, and people showed up to celebrate the opening of a new canal that spanned two oceans, bridges that spanned great canyons, or a new railway that linked a continent -- or of inventions like that of the incandescent lightbulb, which forever changed a world that was for so long lit only by fire.

Reefton, New Zealand, was one of the first places to celebrate the invention -- it was the first town in the world to boast electric reticulated lighting, ahead of Thomas Edison's Menlo Park! Architect Louis Sullivan was one of the first to celebrate the new invention in architecture: the golden arches of his auditorium, so gaily lit with the bright bulbs of the new age, its surfaces painted ivory "in subtly graded tones overlaid by three-karat gold leaf" to enhance the effect, brought ravishment to an audience ravening for the stuff. [Story here from the Wall St Journal.]

Alas for the age of the incandescent; killed by more than just a few luddites and their enforcement of 'eco-bulbs' on all of us, like it or not.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

It's up to you, Helen

It's been a long time since the words "honourable" and "Helen Clark" have been used anywhere outside Parliament in anything other than jest, but after Owen Glenn's appearance before the privileges committee this afternoon, there is now only one honourable thing for her to do, and she must know it.
Owen Glenn's documented evidence that Winston Peters' paw prints were all over every part of NZ First's donation deal; that Labour President Mike Williams sought and gave his express consent to the donation; that Williams was informed of progress every step of the way ... taken together these all explicitly contradict crucial claims made by Peters that he never even knew about the money, and make it unlikely in the extreme that Helen Clark didn't know every important detail of the deal -- despite what she herself has said in talking around the affair.
There's only one honourable thing to do now, and Helen Clark must know: to go to the country and call an election.
It's up to you, Helen.

State Police

I confess I haven't followed the topic at all -- it seems to slipped under everyone's radar but Tim Selwyn's, who points out that the Police Bill which is about to be signed into law with near unanimous parliamentary support will make the independence of the police from the politicians something we will only be able to remember.  Notes Tim's co-blogger, it gives the Prime Minister of the day unregulated power to appoint the Police Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners, while relegating the Police Minister under the Prime Minister.

    Meaning the Police are answerable to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister hires and fires those who run the policy, it is a closed relationship that does as my co-blogger points out “invites political manipulation, under-performance and ultimately corruption”.
    The exacerbating factor is that we are realigning accountability right when the Police are about to execute and mug the Serious Fraud Office of it’s existence and it’s 'no-right-to-silence' powers...

Ominous indeed.

There are of course those who are happy when their own team takes over the reins of power that powers like this are available to them, but even party supporters might like to reflect on some of the reasons we have restraints on executive power.  Perhaps they could condition their support by imagining it's their opponents who have all the reins in one hand.

Infrastructure infra dig

New Zealand's two big parties would both like to make infrastructure an election issue this year.  The socialist party wants to tax and borrow and spend to build infrastructure; by contrast, the socialist party promises to borrow and tax and spend to build infrastructure. 

It's always good to have a real choice at an election.

Naturally, with the subject becoming a political football -- with nationalisation being the new black, and privatisation becoming the new 'p' --  it's an area from which investors are wisely steering well clear, and so far this election cycle most intelligent commentators have too.

Thank goodness then for a large helping of common sense from Roger Kerr, who opens a piece in the Dominion thus:

    Much discussion about infrastructure is confused. What is infrastructure and how is it best provided?
    Infrastructure is a loose term covering a collection of industries and assets. The government does not have a major role to play in many of them...
    Thus is it not possible to talk sensibly about any general infrastructure problem in New Zealand...

Paul Walker summarises one of the only rational commentaries on NZ's 'infrastructure problem' to emerge in recent months: 'Kerr on Infrastructure.'

Hurricane Glenn

After Hurricanes Gustav and Ike hit Louisiana and the Caribbean, the long-anticipated Hurricane Glenn is now bearing down on Helengrad from Monaco this afternoon, with extensive political damage almost certain in its wake.

The blog Keeping Stock is offering a Guess the Diversion contest:

    Obviously the PM isn't going to want the attention of the nation focused on Owen Glenn's step into the corridors of power tomorrow. She's already being quoted on Newstalk ZB as saying that New Zealanders are "over" the NZ First funding row, and it makes sense that someone from Labour will pull a rabbit out of a hat in the next 24 hours to divert the eyes and ears of the nation.
    So what's it going to be? A waterfront stadium for Auckland? No, they've already done that. Buying the railways? No, too late.

Home Paddock is keeping the theme fresh today, with a game to guess what Peters' excuse will be today.

So what's your pick?  What's it going to be?  You have to be in to win.

Bazett House - Frank Lloyd Wright

    My favourite Wright houses as a 'group' are the Usonians -- small, for the most part, but perfectly formed, and conceealing a wealth of ingenuity.    
    The Bazett house of 1940 was laid out on a hexagon grid -- it is essentially 'hexagonised' version of the earlier Jacobs plan, which was the 'classic Usonian.'  
    More beautiful pictures and stories abut the Bazett house here and here, including a few notes on its construction.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Can't fail, won't fail, must fail

The world woke up Monday to what's being billed as one of the biggest nationalisations ever: the bailout by taxpayers of US behemoths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two bloated government-created panjandrums, something like NZ's SOEs, are repositories of around fifty percent of America's "secondary" mortgage market -- of the cheap credit that 'The Fed' printed and Fannie and Freddie then doled out so would-be home-owners could make up the difference between what they wanted to pay, and what they could really afford.

Someone had to pay the bill eventually for the decade-long bubble this created. That someone is us.

The chickens represented by this middle class welfare for house-buyers have now come home firmly to roost. The delusion of inflationism -- the process by which prosperity is 'assured' by expanding the money supply while strangling production -- which allowed everyone to believe this was sustainable, has been demonstrated by this collapse (and be every previous bust) that pumping up an economy with the government's counterfeit capital never can be sustainable, but in paying for the bailout with more of the counterfeit capital that caused the problem it's clear the chickens haven't yet landed in the homes of those who most need the lesson.

It's as if they still think that the magic salve of printed money will still be able to turn stones into bread, and snatch miracles out of disaster.

This is not good sense; it's throwing good money (yours and mine) after bad.

And let's get something straight here: creating these behemoths in the first place was not an example of capitalism at work -- that was the ' New Deal.' And bailing out these behemoths now is not capitalism at work either-- it's just more middle class welfare whose bill will eventually have to be paid. But letting them fall would be capitalism at work -- a long-overdue and urgently necessary creative destruction that will do more to stabilise the situation than any amount of dollar bills dropped on the world's economy by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Or else let it be said as it was said some generations ago: "They saved the banks, but destroyed the economy."

UPDATE 1: The Financial Times summarises the 'deal':

The US government’s decision to place Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into “conservatorship” came without a specific cause ...
The government is using a belt and braces to hold up the show ... It will recapitalise the government-sponsored enterprises by gradually buying preferred stock – a plan that will also massively dilute existing shareholders. It will lend the GSEs what they need to continue, before slowly reducing their operations from 2010. And it will buy their mortgage-backed securities directly itself. All this is bullish for credit markets. As for the future structure of the US mortgage market – that is a problem for the next guy. [In other words, it will be a drain on everybody's future productivity.]
How much might it cost taxpayers? The Treasury can inject as much as $100bn into each GSE to help support their combined $5,400bn portfolio of bonds – although it is unlikely to need to do so. It may even make a profit from the GSE mortgage-backed debt that it buys directly and then holds to maturity.
Even so, the bailout is potentially huge, although it will probably not be the US’s biggest: the cost to the taxpayer from the savings and loan crisis was $300bn in today’s money... drastically extending the role of the state cannot be what Paulson imagined he would be doing when he joined the Treasury from Goldman Sachs in 2006. But perhaps he is simply behaving like any good banker – he is expanding his balance sheet. The US government’s, after all, is pretty much the last one left in town.

UPDATE 2: "This is just socialism for the rich," says Jim Rogers. America is now more communist than China." See him here on YouTube.

UPDATE 3: Paul Walker rounds up some reactions around the economics blogs.

Don't ban force

It became obvious over the last few years to anyone with a brain that a vast number of people in positions of political power were absolutely unable to discriminate between smacking and beating

For the likes of Sue Bradford and Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro, a firm open-handed smack on a child's bottom is no different than a beating delivered with a vacuum cleaner pipe or a piece of 4"x2".

So much for Ms Bradford's and Ms Kiro's ability to discriminate.

They provided further evidence of this mote in both eyes over the weekend, showing themselves utterly unable to determine any difference between a child initiating force against another child, and a teacher using force in defence of of that child -- ie., between violence, which is never justified, and retaliatory force, which is our right. [For more on the difference, see my 'Cue Card' on Force.]

When "top youth aid cop" Inspector Chris Graveson quite properly -- and in the current cultural climate, courageously -- pointed out that  "Teachers should not be afraid to 'man-handle' violent children if they pose immediate risks [to others], even if it means leaving bruising,"  Bradford and her confreres were ready to pounce.

    "You hear people saying, `You can't touch children. You can't do this, you can't do that'.  (But) if a child's being attacked, you're duty-bound to intervene," Graveson said at a New Zealand Educational Institute seminar in Wellington on Friday...

To which Bradford responded: "Teachers can use force to stop a child from causing harm to themselves and others [and I'm sure they're grateful for the Bradford/Key/Clark Act limiting that force] ... But what concerns me with the comments from the police officer is you can use force up to the level of bruising the child.  That might lead to some teachers using what I would consider unreasonable force."

And education minister Chris Carter responded: "There are policies to deal with disruptive and violent children... The problem with what the officer has said is he's taken a broad-brush approach to what is actually very specific and rare cases."

And the Office of the Children's Commissioner  responded that "it was never appropriate to bruise a child."

Never?  As the Timaru Herald asks, are they in the real world, these people? How will a "policy" help Hemi when Hone's beating him over the head with a chair?  How can it be "never appropriate" to drag Johnny off Jemima with peremptory force when he's beating her to a pulp (and as Graveson points out, "Serious sexual offenders as young as 12, who would be labelled paedophiles if they were adults, [for] preying on young victims")? 

How could one ever think it "unreasonable" to protect young victims from the classroom bullies and thugs who would take them over if the "sense" that Kiro and Carter and Bradford exhibit ever became too common.

The point is this: it's not just desirable to discriminate between force and defensive force -- between coercion and self-defence -- it's essential. Indeed, as Ayn Rand points out, it's the very basis of a rational politics:

Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. The ethical principle involved is simple and clear-cut: it is the difference between murder and self-defense. A holdup man seeks to gain a value, wealth, by killing his victim; the victim does not grow richer by killing a holdup man. The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force.

Don't ban force, ban the initiation of force -- because by making retaliatory force illegal, all you do is increase the violence.

See the history of pacifism for countless examples -- like this one.

National environmental nonsense

A POPULAR PIECE OF schoolboy doggerel when I was a youngster went as follows: "If you notice this notice, you will notice there is no notice to notice."

That was pretty much everyone's reaction when Trevor Mallard revealed National's Environment Policy had turned up on his cafe table between the baked beans and the toast last week, and then again when the Policy itself was confirmed over the weekend by National's senior liability, Nick Smith.

Fact is, there's pretty much nothing noticeable to notice. The environmental ‘vision’ outlined within is nothing of the sort. It essentially amounts to the same old state interference via continued disrespect, if not complete ignorance, of private property rights -- in other words, the same old "me too" environmentalism Smith has been peddling now for a decade-and-a-half.

  • Neither abolition nor change nor even mention of National's Resource Management Act.
  • No commitment to reinstating the protection of New Zealanders' property rights that the Resource Management expunged.
  • No recognition that it is property rights and common law that provide the most secure environmental protection possible, and did so for most of seven-hundred years.
  • A new Environmental Protection Agency to continue the job of doing over New Zealanders' property rights that the Resource Management began.
  • The already announced promise to strangle the economy by 50% to half-meet the Kyoto Protocol targets National signed up to on Smith's previous watch.
  • National's own Emissions Tax Scam.

Nothing new at all then, just the same authoritarian approach to "the environment" from the dripping wet Nick Smith now as he exhibited when he was a minister administering the Resource Management Act back in the nineties -- the same wet green wet dream as every other politician -- unless of course you count yet another bureaucracy that National would like to join the horde huddled around Wellington's downtown in search of ever more expensive office space: an "Environmental Protection Agency" that will no doubt emulate the expensive disaster that its American progenitor is widely recognised as being, while hoovering up over-earnest young graduates from the inexorably increasing number of environmental psuedo-science courses that are slowly taking over the educational sector, for an agency that will be inexorably doing the same to the economy.

doctors_nurses250 Quite how another bureaucracy to add to Wellington's already replete list is going to lead to fewer bureaucrats rather than more (and a note to National's billboard incompetents: if you're going to lie for your living, then at least try to be grammatically correct), only either a politician or a liar would know. But I fear, dear reader, you've already spotted the repetition there. And quite how another agency with all-encompassing powers second-guessing every single productive person in the country is going to help either prosperity or freedom, only a politician would try to explain.

And they do try. Prosperity? Growth? "Environmentalism and a commitment to economic growth must go hand in hand," said Key's speech writers. "We should be wary of anyone who claims that one can or should come without the other," he read. "Let me be clear that I don't think environmental and economic objectives need always be traded off one against the other," he clarified. "Increasingly, New Zealand's environmental credentials will underpin our prosperity," he insisted. One wonders who he was trying to convince since, as this blog has made a fetish of arguing since its birth, when environmentalism by diktat is the chosen route, freedom and prosperity are the first things to disappear.

Freedom? Prosperity? Environmental values? If those three together are to mean anything, then firm clear property rights under a regime of common law were and are and always have been the only possible way to harmonise the three, and in face the only way they ever have been. Private property rights in a common law system provide the strongest possible protection for the environment and for property owners -- clear property reflect back to owners the consequences of their own actions; common law gives standing to those whose ownership rights are violated by environmental degradation.

If you really wish to improve the environment, with the additional bonus of achieving massive economic growth within a relatively short space of time, just have the guts to abolish the Resource Management Act outright. Don’t tinker; just trash it. That appalling piece of fascism allows others to control the use of one’s property. Further, it is the single biggest impediment to progress within New Zealand. When somebody owns something, they look after it to maintain its value. When the law upholds them in that protection, we all get to kick an environmental goal. In other words, if you wish to maintain the quality of the environment while giving wings to prosperity, which surely even Nick Smith must agree is urgently necessary, you can start by implementing full private property rights -- instead of promising to do them over further.

DESPITE KEY"S LIMP ATTEMPTS to link environment and economics simply by raw insistence, the link between the two fields is clear enough.

After all, economics has been defined as the science that studies infinite wants in a world of scarce resources. That must surely have something to say about things? And effective property rights under a system of common law is demonstrably the most effective method yet devised of 'internalising externalities' -- of reflecting back to owners the real environmental consequences of their activities. (See for example: "The Invisible Hand of the Market Doesn't Deliver a Sustainable Nation": True or False?)

Between them, strong property rights and real price signals are far more efficient at telling us all the real consequences of our own activities and of our own choices-- and they offer the added benefit that they're not just real rather than made-up; they're not just efficient; they're not just moral, but they're good for freedom as well.

That's not something one can say for any the silly statist schemes Smith takes to be 'green.' The biggest long-term cost of all of them is not just for the environment, it's in their cost to the human environment -- the cost to us all of shackling industry and productivity; of the time wasted in fruitless feel-good stupidity; of the larger state needed to administer all these programmes (with the various threats that implies) and in the loss of freedom to live our own lives in our own way.

As Fred L. Smith says, "The threat posed by humans to the natural environment is nothing compared to the threat to humans posed by global environmental policy."

As I've said before, when they come for you they'll be carrying a clipboard, not a gun -- and the person carrying it will probably be called Jeremy.

If you've got this far, you probably want to know more. Since The Free Radical devoted part of an issue to Nick Smith's authoritarian greenwash two years ago, readers may download a PDF copy of that issue here, or by clicking on the cover above. And for more on the inimitable connection between environmental values and property rights, feel free to investigate some of NOT PC's writing on the subject:

And here's a more sane, sober and serious set of environmental policies that could be adopted by any party committed to rolling back statism, instead of advancing it:

Friday, 5 September 2008


No live coverage, I'm afraid, but the main game at the MCG will be on Sky Sport 3 from 10pm tonight -- you'd have to expect some highlights from the earlier final ...
UPDATE 1: Just finished ... NZ lost by eight points after leading for most of the game!
UPDATE 2: Game report and pictures here from 'World Footy News,' and the Brisbane Courier Mail has news of the International Cup's World Team selection -- the tournament's equivalent of an 'All-Australian' team -- which included three New Zealand players: forward Richard Bradley, full back Andrew Chrighton, and captain and ruck rover Andrew Congalton. Congratulations, guys.
Here's NZ & PNG lining up at the MCG for the anthems:

It promised so much ...

Top posts, top week!

For those who disgracefully failed to keep up here at NOT PC this week, here's what visitors seemed to like:

  • Sarah Who?
    "Sarah who?" That's the question most of us were asking at the start of the week, and we've been running to keep up ever since. Some were saying this will be "the grand slam in the bottom of the 9th" -- the moment when John McCain wins the Presidency." [Other Palin posts here, here and here.]
  • Beer O’Clock: The Shakespeare
    New Zealand’s first modern brewpub has a long and illustrious history, and Herald journalists three-deep at the bar -- but what about the beer?
  • What's the evidence for strangling prosperity?
    The Government is rushing to impose an Emissions Trading Scheme, and the Blue Team has their own to impose if that doesn't work out, but where the hell is the evidence that there's any need for either? And why does the organisation supposed to be providing the "unequivocal" evidence of warming wash their hands of responsibility for it?
  • Trotsky beset by blog "fascists"
    There is "a 'fascist' quality to the blogosphere," says Chris Trotter -- electrons full of "misogyny, anti-intellectualism, and aggression" and, "even more worryingly," what he would call “ideological exterminism.” Strong words from a man who not so long ago came out strongly in favour of corruption.
  • Let the bullshit begin
    The National Party's billboard campaign, now started, is singularly weak -- and not just because the campaign's so-called "brain," Glenn Jameson (right, avec moi), is a duplicitous respectability-worshipper as slippery as a snail crawling under a snake -- but because it shoots its own self right in the foot.
  • Bill Bored
    Here's one we laughed at more.
  • Architectural Mini-Tutorial: 'Capturing a View Alive'
    And finally, something much more edifying: the first of a series of "mini-tutorials" on the basic elements of architecture. Do you know how to capture a view alive? It's easy when you know how.

Have a great weekend. I'm off the Macs' Brewhouse for one.

UPDATE: As always, plenty of good reading too in this week's Objectivist roundup. Don't miss out, now.

Beer O'Clock: Tuatara crowned best NZ brewery

tuatara_20145_20pixel New Zealand's new champion brewery is now, officially, Wellington's Tuatara Brewery. 

Reports NZPA, Tuatara Brewing was crowned the best brewery in New Zealand at the latest BrewNZ awards, the first time a "champion brewery" had been selected.  Its victory came from it beers being judged "highest overall across all entries."

     Tuatara won from among 46 breweries from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Malaysia and Singapore, which entered more than 200 beers.
    The international panel of judges deliberated for three days to select the overall winner, as well as awarding Best in Class winners in the following categories:

  • Classic NZ Styled Beers: Biman, Invercargill Brewery, Invercargill.
  • Amber and Dark lagers: Hereford Bitter, Dux Brew Co, Christchurch.
  • International Golden Lager: James Squire Pilsener, Malt Shovel Brewery, Australia.
  • French & Belgian style ales: Tuatara Ardennes, Tuatara Brewing, Wellington.
  • New world/American style ales: Epic Pale Ale, Epic Brewing Company, Auckland. UK and other European style ales: Tuatara IPA, Tuatara Brewing, Wellington.
  • Stouts and Porters: Clydesdale Stout, Harringtons Brewery, Christchurch.
  • Strong ales and lagers: Monteith's Winter Ale Doppelbock, DB Mainland Brewery, Auckland.
  • Wheat and other grain beers: Emerson's Weizenbock, The Emerson Brewing Company, Dunedin.
  • Fruit, spiced, herb flavoured beers: Boysenbeery, Invercargill Brewery, Invercargill.
  • Packaging award: Monteith's New Zealand Lager, Monteith's Brewing Company.
  • Experimental and non or low alcoholic beers: Enrico's Cure, Green Man Brewery, Dunedin.

Congratulations to Tuatara -- and naturally, beer was the winner on the night.   And plenty of good beer there to choose from for your weekend drinking.

Going for a 'P'

Q: What’s the best thing about using 'P'?

A: Only 3 sleeps ‘til Xmas!

But enough of this flippancy!  'P' is a serious issue; it is causing serious damage to many people!

Well, yes it is serious, which is why unlike every other political party since the War on Drugs(TM) began, Libertarianz has a serious plan to deal with it.

Yes, that's right, just like Libz plan to actually defend New Zealand (unlike all those other tossers who thing hand-wringing and hakas are enough to do the job), Libz also plan to actually deal with the scourge of P -- the ideal prohibition drug -- instead of, like every other party, continuing to make the problem worse.

If I say so myself, it's an excellent plan.  Read it here.

More, please.

Speaking of things that should be banned on publicly "owned" footpaths, as some people have been, there are politicians about who'd like to ban this:

The fools.

What say we make a concerted effort instead to make bans unfashionable?  Who's with me here?  Let's Ban Bans!

If you don't like something someone's doing, what's wrong with persuasion for goodness' sake.

A tale of two speeches [updated]

You've got to hand it to Sarah Palin -- that was a great speech. It's got the whole world talking, and with good reason:

It's easy to forget that this [Obama] is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform - not even in the state senate. This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting, and never use the word 'victory' except when he's talking about his own campaign. But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed ... when the roar of the crowd fades away ... when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot - what exactly is our opponent's plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he's done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to make government bigger ... take more of your money ... give you more orders from Washington ... and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.

Read it in full here, or watch it (again) here.

So that's one Palin speech, a great speech -- a speech that has gone around the world -- and boy, doesn't she come across well. Hannah Strange in London's Times sums up reactions:

Conservatives are swooning, liberals terrified - that's how I would sum up the media reaction to Sarah Palin's big moment in St Paul last night. Never mind that she told a fair few porkies - both about her own record and Barack Obama's - the young governor of Alaska issued a rallying cry to the conservative Republican base that will go down in the annals of the culture wars as one of the most energising opening salvos of recent times

See the rest of Strange's piece for a round-up of reactions. Here's another recent Palin speech however that might innoculate you from all the swooning [hat tip Noodle Food]. If Palin's speech last night made my eyes slightly moist (yes, I confess; how rare it is to see such forthrightness) then this speech made my skin crawl. It's Palin talking a few months ago to the Assembly of God church by which she says she was "saved." (From what exactly she was "saved" is never quite clear.)

She says repeatedly, like a point for the audience to remember, "that God's Will be done." She says that people, you and I, "can't do any good unless their heart is right with God"! She says that U.S. soldiers in Iraq, all of them, are "on a task that is from God." Se says "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan." This is worrying stuff. But then in part two of the video the pastor says quite seriously -- and Palin is on stage for this, smiling through it all -- that "God wants Alaska to be a refuge for people from the 'lower 48' during the Last Days, and this church must be ready to receive them." Wow. Just, wow.

PZ MYers at Pharyngula calls it "a terrifying video ... going on and on in front of her Assembly of God church, talking about the war in Iraq as "a task that is from God", promising the congregants the gift of prophecy, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus … it ought to make any rational human being ill."

I'd like to hear how you react. Watch both parts of the latter speech here.

UPDATE 1: Just to head off an obvious objection: If it's okay to criticise Obama for his choice of guru -- and I believe it is -- then so it's okay to criticise Palin's. If Jeremiah Wright is fair game, then so too is Pastor Ed Kalnins of the Wassila Assembly of God, where she was baptized at the age of 12 and which she attended most of her adult life until 2002 when she left for Juneau -- maintaining, in her own words "a friendship with [this] special, special place." Nico Pitney and Sam Stein reckon "A review of recorded sermons by Ed Kalnins, the senior pastor of Wasilla Assembly of God since 1999, offers a provocative and, for some, eyebrow-raising sketch of Palin's longtime spiritual home."

Pastor Kalnins has also preached that critics of President Bush will be banished to hell; questioned whether people who voted for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted to heaven; charged that the 9/11 terrorist attacks and war in Iraq were part of a war "contending for your faith;" and said that Jesus "operated from that position of war mode."

How do you feel now?

UPDATE 2: "Christians and other mystics sometimes argue that religion makes people moral. I disagree: morality is a practical science which can only be understood by rational consideration, not emotionalism ... One particularly despicable influence of religion was out on display when John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential candidate." Read on here.

UPDATE 3: I said above that "if it's okay to criticise Obama for his choice of guru -- and I believe it is -- then so it's okay to criticise Palin's." Nick Provenzo reckons there's a significant difference between McCain plumping for Palin, pastor and pentacostalism and Obama defending Wright:

While Obama has his own religious demons to contend with (such as his bigoted and raving anti-American ex-pastor whose sermons Obama was all too willing to sit though), Obama's religious background serves to discredit him, while McCain's recent moves are intended as a pragmatic effort to strengthen his chances of winning in November.

UPDATE 4: You saw all those signs at the Republican National Conventions: "Country First," "Service," "Sacrifice." Myrhaf saw them too: "When you put service first," he notes, "then freedom comes second at best." This is the real tragedy, he says:

[At this conference] we watched the beginning of the end of freedom in America, brought to us by well-meaning Republicans who have not the slightest idea that their perverted hierarchy of values will lead to destruction of individual rights. They were all good people we saw on TV tonight. Good, solid Americans.
Their ignorance of economics and philosophy will be the end of the country they love.
If the Democrat Party is a mad farce, the Republican Party is a tragedy. In striving to serve the land they love, America, they will end up destroying it.

The real difference between Obama and McCain? "McCain wants Americans to sacrifice to country; Obama wants Americans to sacrifice to the whole world." But they do both demand your sacrifice.

Zoning out education

Since 'zoning' has worked so 'well' for New Zealand's school children, and has so much support, why not apply it to other areas so other NZers can get the benefit of enforced stratification?

Lindsay Mitchell reveals how 'well' it would work for supermarkets and their customers ...

Meanwhile, National has turned their attention to zoning.  They intend to ... what do you think? ... "tweak" zoning.  As Lindsay says, "Archetypal Nat policy. To 'tweak'. Remove the 't' to reveal what their policies really are."

The Discovery of America - Salvador Dali


The discovery of the New World, symbolised by the youthful Christopher Columbus, unfortunately accompanied -- not to say dominated, as here above in Dali's painting and at both recent political conventions -- by the Old Time Religion of the Old World, a bacillus which still infects and undercuts America today

There is of course an alternative view; that "Religious teachers predominantly in America, compared to Europe, are good healthy materialists. They ... go with common sense."  Guess who had this view, 47 years ago at least.

[Image taken from AllPosters.Com]

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The futile sacrifice of 'Emissions Trading'

GoreFaints News just in that Al Gore fainted when he heard that despite truckloads of CO2 being belched into the atmosphere there is still no evidence to support his hysterical profit-making, and that nutbar scientist James Lovelock -- who invented the "Gaia" nonsense so beloved of climate witchdoctors, and who wails "Before this century is over, billions of us will die"  -- says that New Zealand's proposed Emissions Trading Scheme is "a waste of time." 

"New Zealand, says Lovelock, "is wasting its time passing an Emissions Trading Scheme." Listen here.

Fact is that any ETS from either big party, is little more than a futile sacrifice -- government action that will stop private action, and have no other effect.  If Al Gore actually were right and the worst does happen, the best thing governments could do is get the hell out of the way so free people could adapt to changing circumstances, just as free people always have.  Shackling prosperity now not only doesn't do anything to avert the supposedly coming catastrophe, it makes us much less able to adjust, and much poorer withal.

Could someone please listen?

Those arresting vagrants

"Homeless" is one of those marshmallow modern euphemisms people use these days to avoid saying something real -- a bit like saying "wetlands" when what you're talking about is a swamp; or "investment" when what you're talking about is government spending; or that you "need resources" when what you're after is a handout.

We didn't used to describe people who sleep on the street as "homeless" -- we'd call them what they were: bums and tramps and vagrants.  "Homeless" suggests that fate has swooped down and overnight swept away home, fortune and sacred honour from those unfortunate few who just wake up one morning and find themselves "sleeping rough."  It takes away responsibility from the "homeless" for their own choices that saw them end up on the street.

That said, it's not right at all to arrest people for something as essentially harmless as putting a sleeping bag on a footpath, as Auckland City Council Community Services Committee chairman Paul Goldsmith would like to do.  Goldsmith (who to fit on his full job title must have a business card bigger than a vagrant's backpack) says that mattresses on footpaths, puddles of urine and people behaving offensively, especially near Aotea Square in the central city is "unacceptable."  To him.

    He said it was frustrating the council could order people around in all sorts of ways, but could not do anything about the people sleeping on footpaths.
    "At the moment the approach seems to be that we can't do anything.
    "You can't just stick a cafe on the footpath, but it seems you can stick a mattress on the footpath and leave it there until 9.30 in the morning and make the place look a mess."

Notes Radio NZ: He says "council is determined to improve the situation," and "is not ruling out the possibility of arresting vagrants."

Well, yes, it is "frustrating," but this is not Singapore or China.  This is Aotea Square, not Tiananmen Square. Some of us think it's enormously immoral, not to say frustrating, that small-arsed sawdust caesars like Mr Bloody Goldsmith and his committee have the power to "order people around in all sorts of ways."  Some of think that a few mattresses would be a small price to pay for getting rid of a few jobsworths as offensive to freedom as he and his ilk.

As long as the bums neither neither break my leg nor pick my pocket, then the long arm of the law (and of Mr Goldsmith's proto-fascist committee) should leave them the hell alone.

In any case, perhaps Mr Goldsmith might reflect (if he ever does such a thing) that he is looking at this backwards.  Perhaps his little committee could take up their own beds and get the hell out of the way so people could stick a cafe on the footpath -- giving cafe and shop owners an interest and some power in keeping their frontage clean and secure. 

Perhaps he could realise that this problem always existed, but only became evident when the City Mission moved its soup kitchen to its latest location, almost on Aotea Square, and since the council started spending its valuable time harassing shop owners (whose footpaths these should be) instead of working on their behalf. 

Perhaps he could recognise too that arresting people simply because "the authorities" don't like them is not the free society some of us would like to inhabit -- there's nothing wrong with beggars on the street (and it's true that many of them like the life), but there's a lot wrong with arresting beggars for being there, and with the buggers who'd like to lock them up. 

Perhaps Mr Goldsmith might understand that in places like London, for example, where the problem is much greater, shop owners and small businesses frequently "adopt" their vagrants, giving them a cup of tea and a sandwich in the morning when opening up for business before shooing them off for the day.  There was one such tramp who in winter used to sleep at the front door of our construction company in Shepherd's Bush, and on some mornings when our building sites were short-handed, all he had to do quite literally was stand up to get a job. But he couldn't do it.  The very idea of work repelled him.  Arresting him for his choice would have helped nobody, but a cuppa and a sandwich and a small broom made "our" tramp just another part of life in the big city.

Auckland is a big city, Mr Goldsmith, not your feudal fiefdom.  Perhaps you should remember that.

Here's Christy Moore, with 'Go, Move, Shift.'

NZ through to Grand Final at MCG!

NZAFL-SemiI'm sure all readers will be overjoyed, just as I was, to hear that New Zealand walloped Ireland in last night's semifinal in the AFL International Cup by 57 to 15, and will be playing Papua New Guinea in the final at the MCG on Saturday, 5pm local time.  (PNG beat South Africa 62-15 to make the final.)  Results here, brief story here.

Says PNG coach Andrew Cadzow, it will be a closely contested match.

    We play more of a running game, they're a very structured side, so certainly they're going to be very, very hard to beat because their ... strengths are our weaknesses and probably the opposite are ours.
So it'll probably be a game of two different sort of styles of play more than anything else, so I think it'll be who's on the day ... hot and ... who gets it right. It'll be an interesting ... game.

It will be.  Having played against PNG back in 1997, when we were well beaten, I have to say they're damn quick!  Should be a great contest to watch. 

Just get there late so you can avoid another bloody haka.


Crikey.  I never thought I'd see the day: Chris Trotter comparing John Key to ... a matador!

Somehow, the imagery just doesn't work for me.

Can't fly, can't sail, can't fight

A new report on NZ's arthritic 'defence' force concludes the air force can't fly, the navy can't go to sea, and the army couldn't knock the skin off a rice pudding.  In other words, NZ's defence policy amounts to 'God Defend New Zealand,' since nobody else is able to.

It gets worse.  Defence minister, Phil Goff, told punters not to worry, this is "not out of the ordinary," it's "nothing new."  Fact is, he says, he's been seeing reports like this for years.

Comforting, don't you think, in the world's present less-than-benign strategic environment?

Fact is, there have been reports like this for years, and Phil Goff isn't the only one to blame. Despite the latest Government throwing a miserly $8.6 billion at the moribund military, one of the very few legitimate branches of government, the previous National Government had run them down to such a level that the $8.6 billion was like a small piss on a very big desert -- and given that they're happy with the "enduring consensus" on defence (or lack thereof) they have no plans now to change that come November.

Which makes National's Wayne Mapp's bleating about the latest report just more of the crocodile tears he so easily sheds.

Be nice if there was at least one political party who recognised the crucial importance of actually defending the country, don't you think?

What's the evidence for strangling prosperity?

A blog reader contacted me this morning to tell me he'd just got off the phone to NIWA. He wasn't happy.

Given that parliament is currently under urgency to make room to pass the Emissions Tax Scam Bill next week (despite the Greens' Russel Norman saying only a week ago that they wouldn't support the Bill if it was pushed through under urgency), and since this is a bill that will strangle industry for this generation as successfully as the Resource Management has strangled development, my reader figured he'd check out the local research that backed up this anti-industrial bulldozer.

After all, David Wratt, NIWA's General Manager Climate Change, is on record as saying the evidence for global warming is "unequivocal."  Get that?  Unequivocal.  And being NIWA's General Manager for Climate Change, one would expect that he's just the chap to whom the politicians would go to seek the evidence.

So this is what my reader set out to do too. What he was after was a local data set that unequivocally illustrates this unequivocal warming trend (or lack thereof) -- in other words, the evidence from NIWA on which the politicians are relying.  The raw evidence that hasn't been tampered with.  The woman he spoke to at NIWA however was very evasive on the point.  What she had for him, in a word, was nothing.  Unequivocally nothing.  (Don't take our word for it, try it yourself on +64 4 386 0300, or email: climate-enquiries@niwa.co.nz, or fax: +64 4 386 0574, attention “Climate Enquiries.”  Details here.):

"I mentioned to her the website john-daly.com," he says. "I pointed out that one can go to the 'What the Stations Say' page on that site, and see what sort of warming trend there is (or lack thereof).  There is a world map there. You click on the area of interest, and the actual stations are presented with their corresponding records."

My reader spent about an hour on this site, clicking all over the world, and was unable to find anything, anything at all, that substantiated David Wratt's "unequivocal" warming trend. The records for New Zealand, Easter Island, and Antarctica are particularly interesting, he told the telephonist at NIWA. Here for example is the record for Christchurch and Invercargill to 2001:


Says my reader: "What I reasoned was that if these data are fiction, then Wratt should be able to produce the actual sets.If these were presented to the public, perhaps the warmist
perception can be corrected. Some local 'undoctored' data might be more convincing than Al Gore's propaganda."

Sadly, he wasn't successful.  NIWA's telephonist had nothing to offer him.

But you can find NIWA's own raw data yourself, online, if you sign up to NIWA's National Climate Database (go to www.niwa.co.nz and choose National Climate Centre) -- which I did -- and a very nice lady emailed me with comprehensive instructions on how to use the system -- which I did.

Now, just recall that the government is rushing through an Emissions Trading Scheme based almost solely on advice from NIWA that New Zealand and the rest of the planet is warming. But curiously, when signing up online to access this data one is given the caveat that "NIWA does not make, and the Recipient acknowledges that NIWA has not made, any representation or warranty (express or implied) as to: (i) the accuracy or completeness of the Data; (ii) the use to which Data may be put; or (iii) the results or outcomes which may be obtained from using the Data."

A curious thing to say, don't you agree, when it is data such as theirs -- in fact, data that is theirs -- on which the future prosperity of this country is now being made to hinge, yet they can offer no representation or warranty (either express or implied) as to the accuracy or completeness of the Data?

Curious indeed.

Curious too that when one downloads data for some of NZ's longer-term recording stations, one is at a loss to find the trend that Wratt and and the ETS rats claim is "unequivocal."  (See here for example for the raw temperature record for Kelburn from 1928 to 2005.) 

So New Zealand isn't warming.  No surprise, really, since our entire hemisphere shows no sign at all of warming.

However, it turns out that Wratt is neither relying on local data nor global data for his warning of unequivocal warming.  His case rests not on actual evidence of existing warming, but almost solely on the IPCC's "projections" of future warming, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their four successive reports. 

That is to say, not on evidence of warming, but on evidence of projections of future warming.

(Note that this is an organisation more political than scientific. "Its brief," says Christopher Brooker, "has never been to look dispassionately at all the evidence for man-made global warming: it has always taken this as an accepted fact. -- helmed by what John McLean calls an "incestuously linked ... core group of academics whose models underpin everything the IPCC wishes us to believe about global warming.")

These "projections" -- note, these are explicitly not "predictions"  -- are enormously complex to calculate. Explains one modeller,

one needs to estimate a multi-dimensional probability distribution that quantifies how likely different model parameter combinations are given knowledge of the uncertainties in our observations. The computational cost of mapping a multi-dimensional probability distribution for a climate model using traditional means [requires] 104 to 106 model evaluations for problems involving less than ten parameters...

Given the complexity, the answers delivered by the models have a tendency to be written by the limited number of assumptions, fudge factors and parameters one is able to build in.  In other words, "the answers are written in the assumptions."

Which leads one to ask, just how good are these ultra-long-term weather forecasts?  Since they've been making them for nearly twenty years now, a simple method is to see how how good they've been.

Simple answer: they've been crap at looking forward, but great at looking back.  As Marlo Lewis says when looking at how well projections match observations, "despite accelerating emission rates and concentrations" "there’s been no net global warming in the 21st century. Although seldom reported by the mainstream media, it’s quite a story, because no climate model predicted it."


Just to show you how crap, the "projection" from the IPCC's last report, the Fourth Assessment, of a temperature increase of 0.2 degrees per decade already overstates the amount of warming we have seen -- or in scientist-speak, "based on measurements since 2001, and the four statistical models described above the central tendency for projections communicated in the IPCC AR(4) falls outside the range consistent with real earth weather data." See:


And here:


Remember, this is despite accelerating emission rates and concentrations.

They've been making these projections now for nearly twenty years , yet despite being able to "backward project" quite well with later reports (as the other three trend lines produced from later reports in 1995, 2001 and 2007 all manage to do), they're not quite so good when they try projecting forward.        

A series of articles by Roger Pielke Jr published in January, before this year's temperature dip, shows just how crap the previous future projections have been. In Pielke's words, "It seems pretty clear that the IPCC in 1990 over-forecast temperature increases" [see below where he even tries to help by nudging the starting point], while the later record "is clouded by an appearance of post-hoc curve fitting."

              1990 IPCC verification

If you're about to vote to strangle New Zealand prosperity on the basis only of these projections, then may I urge you first to take the time to check Pielke's analyses from January this year:

               AR4 Verification Example

And if you're taking advice from David Wratt, then ask him to show you NZ's unadjusted temperature record, and don't take no for an answer.

I urge you: Don't strangle New Zealand's prosperity on nothing more than bullshit and pseudo-scientific guesswork.

'Walkure' - Mario del Monaco

When I posted Mario del Monaco's majestic version of 'Nessun Dorma' not so long ago, it seemed to me his beautifully dark voice would be ideally suited to Wagner, and I wondered if he ever indulged.

To my delight, the latest Wagner Society newsletter tells me that indeed he had, and it's right there on YouTube!  Here he is,  in a scene from Die Walkure,  singing Ein Schwert verhiess mire de Vater (My father promised me a sword).  [Click the pic to go to YouTube]

There's a few shaky moments, but as one commenter at YouTube says 
Finally, Wagner sung with warm blood and a pair ofballs. Never will we see his like again. I think this kind of singing is what I miss most when I go to the opera; that tightrope, full-throttled, edge-of-your-seat, 'maybe won't make it to the end of the opera' singing.
Just listen to him sing "Walse! Walse!" To give you a bit of context, he's preparing for battle, girding his loins for teh fight of his life -- and ours.  Imagine Muhammmed Ali before his bout in Zaire with George Foreman, if our lives depended on it.

And if you think Wagner's not for you, then just read this from Sex'n'Drugs'n'Wagner by Peter Bloch, editor of Penthouse magazine:
“The Ring, now being performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, violates just about every modern taboo imaginable. Moreover, history proves it dangerous. Consider a warning label that was once proposed: Warning: Contains lyrics or matter which describes or advocates one or more of the following: suicide; explicit sexual acts including but not limited to rape; sodomy; incest; bestiality and sadomasochism; murder; morbid violence; or the use of illegal drugs.” Wagner’s epic manages to include almost all of these offences, often cloaked in seductive,
heart-pounding music whose rhythms all too often can move an incautious listener to be carried away by - even identify with - the evils being acted out on stage.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

More thoughts on Sarah Palin

Why the left really hates Sarah Palin.  Read it.

Why they shouldn't underestimate her. Ponder it.

Why libertarians should really like her.  Consider it.

Why rational individuals might, nonetheless, remain wary.  Think about it.

The world's shortest philosophy books

Researchers at Mississipi University have uncovered some largely unknown 'shorter classics' of the world's best-known philosophers (in fact, shortest classics) that might challenge the view that they're largely humourless. They include:
  • Coping with Change by Parmenides
  • Watch Your Waistline by Peter Abelard
  • How We Can Make this a Better World by Gottfried Leibniz
  • The Wit and Humor of Immanuel Kant
  • What I Learned from the Noumena by Immanuel Kant
  • Nietzsche's Logic
  • What Next for Capitalism? by Karl Marx
  • Our Natural Rights by Jeremy Bentham
  • Things I Haven't Reconsidered by Bertrand Russell
  • Ethical Theory by Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Things to Say about Whereof One Cannot Speak by Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • What I Really Meant by Jacques Derrida, and
  • Our Duties to Others by Ayn Rand
If you need to, ask a passing philosopher to explain the jokes.  [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]