Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Good news: The 'bailout' has crashed

Good news this morning: it looks as if America's trillion-dollar nationalisation of bad assets won't be going ahead. As readers of my earlier posts on this should realise, this is good news. Investor Jim Rogers encapsulated last week the bad news at the heart of the now-dead bailout plan:  "This is madness, this is insanity, they [want to] more than double the American national debt in one weekend for a bunch of crooks and incompetents."  Ain't that the whole truth.

Quite aside from the absolute irresponsibility of printing $700 billion of bailout cash to further inflate the money supply -- more of the same rocket fuel that caused the problem in the first place -- the plan to keep prices high is precisely the opposite of what's needed in a depression. 

Herbert Hoover's plans to keep prices high after the 1929 stock market crash was an object lesson in what not to do after a crash -- as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke conceded last week to House Republican Ron Paul (see the video here). Hoover's plans, continued by Roosevelt in 1932, did precisely the opposite of what he intended: instead of protecting failing businesses and providing the funds necessary for recovery as he hoped, the failure to let the market contract and flush out the dead wood and malinvestments as is necessary for recovery merely prolonged the pain.

Today's American bailout plan made the same mistake, and would simply have prolonged the pain (and with that cash injection, even enhanced it).  Allowing the market to cut its losses and cut out the dead wood -- which is what a contraction consists of -- is painful for a year or two, but prolonging the contraction only ensures it's going to be painful for a whole decade (just as it was for Japan when it applied the same medicine in the early nineties, ensuring their necessary recovery was delayed for a decade, a point made on Morning Report this morning by Jim Rogers) with good money being poured after bad long after the time to cut the losses is over. 

How long must the necessary contraction take?  "Until," says Ludwig von Mises, "the illusions of the boom have been dispelled and economic activity has readjusted to the realities of the existing conditions. Attempts to interfere with free and flexible prices, wage and interest rates prevent recovery and prolong the depression period."

Let's repeat: you can't fake reality.  The contraction and both recovery need to happen; they can't be avoided.  The only choice is whether that takes a year or two, or whether the process is prolonged for a decade. 

Which of the two would you prefer?

And, too, by bailing out the assets of incompetent banks, it would have punished the shareholders and directors of competent banks and businesses.  As John Allison of North Carolina's BB&T Bank said late last week, the Paulson Plan is aimed at helping poorly run banks -- it has nothing at all for competently run banks:

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's proposed $700 billion bank rescue aims to help ``poorly run'' companies and the primary beneficiaries would be Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, said BB&T Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Allison in a critique of the plan.
    Treasury ``is totally dominated by Wall Street investment bankers'' and ``cannot be relied on to objectively assess'' the impact of government policy on the financial industry...
    ``There is no panic on Main Street and in sound financial institutions,'' Allison wrote. ``The problems are in high-risk financial institutions and on Wall Street'' ... 
    The market should be allowed to eliminate ``irrational competitors,'' he said. ``There were a number of poorly managed institutions and poorly made financial decisions during the real estate boom,'' Allison wrote. ``It is important that any rules post-`rescue' punish the poorly run institutions and not punish the well-run companies.'

You can read the full statement from John Allison here.

UPDATE 1:  The always astute Frank Shostak affirms the argument: "The Rescue Package Will Delay Recovery," he says.

UPDATE 2:  In An Open Letter to My Friends on the Left, Steven Horwitz answers the many critics who say this is a crisis of free markets; people like the two US presidential candidates who say erroneously it's a result of "shredding regulations" (as if!) and a "lack of regulatory oversight"; or local Marxist Matt McCarten, who says "the US example puts paid to the free market idea":

In the last week or two, I have heard frequently from you that the current financial mess has been caused by the failures of free markets and deregulation. I have heard from you that the lust after profits, any profits, that is central to free markets is at the core of our problems. And I have heard from you that only significant government intervention into financial markets can cure these problems, perhaps once and for all. I ask of you for the next few minutes to, in the words of Oliver Cromwell, consider that you may be mistaken. Consider that both the diagnosis and the cure might be equally mistaken.

Consider instead that the problems of this mess were caused by the very kinds of government regulation that [were] now proposed...

And in an older article Frank Shostak, again, points out how regulations allowing banks to inflate their own money supply (what's known as "fractional reserve" banking) accelerates both booms and busts, and how under fractional reserve banking (in which all banks are inherently bankrupt) , the various means by which their "reserves" are met are inherently flawed, and when the ineveitable crisis does come "the collective attempt of banks to improve their solvency actually runs the risk of making them less solvent, thereby deepening the liquidity crisis."

In every sense then, we're now paying for the bad decisions of regulators and the government's central bankers.

UPDATE 3:  On the question of this being a "failure of free markets," it's worth re-reading this article by George Reisman, in which he points out  both the ack of a free market, and the reason for there being "very little, if any, rise in real wages" in the recent booms:
    In contrast to the experience of the 1920s, in the two great recent credit expansions, i.e., the dot.com bubble of 1995-2001 and its successor the presently collapsing housing bubble that began not long thereafter, there has been very little, if any, rise in real wages. Most commentators appear to attribute this to nothing more than the unrestrained greed of businessmen and capitalists. They apparently go on the theory that if there is anything in the economic system that breathes or moves other than at the command of the government, or other than with the active supervision and control of the government, it is proof that we live in an era of “laissez-faire"...
    This alleged laissez-faire environment, such writers pretend, has enabled businessmen and capitalists shamelessly to enrich themselves at the expense of increasingly impoverished wage earners, to whom nothing any longer even “trickles down.” {Are you listening, Barack Obama?]  Increased free trade and “globalization,” of course, are attacked as part of the process and as greatly contributing to the stagnation or outright decline in real wages.
    In sharpest contrast to such blather, in the real world there are innumerable rules and regulations enacted by the Federal Government to control virtually every aspect of economic activity. They are contained in the more than 70,000 pages of The Federal Register. The overwhelming mass of government interference described therein, and in its counterparts at the state and local level, is a glaring refutation of claims about the existence of any kind of laissez faire in the present-day world. The very description of such interference, in tens of thousands of pages of official text, is a refutation of such size and literal weight as to render any claims about laissez faire or insufficient government controls or regulations utterly nonsensical.
    This truly massive body of material also suggests that the actual explanation of the stagnation in real wages is precisely an ever growing burden of government intervention in the economic system. The intervention is in the form of policies that undermine genuine saving and in numerous other ways undermine capital accumulation and the rise in the productivity of labor. Personal and corporate income taxes, the inheritance tax, the capital gains tax, and government budget deficits—all entail the taking away of funds that if left in the hands of their owners would have been heavily spent, indeed, overwhelmingly spent, in the purchase of capital goods and labor services. Instead, those funds are diverted into financing the consumption of the government and those to whom the government gives money.
    Inflation and credit expansion greatly exacerbate this diversion of funds, because their effect is artificially to increase the incomes subject to these taxes and to thus to deprive business firms of the funds required to replace assets at prices made higher by the same process that increases their taxable incomes. The progressive aspect of income and inheritance taxes also worsens their effects, because incomes tend to be saved and invested the more heavily the larger they are; at the same time, substantial inheritances are more likely to be retained in the form of accumulated savings and capital than are modest inheritances.
    Because of the reduced demand for labor that results from the taxation of funds that would otherwise have been used in employing labor and in buying capital goods, wages are substantially less than they otherwise would have been. At the same time, the buying power of those reduced wages is also sharply reduced in comparison with what it would otherwise have been.
UPDATE 4:  From Noodle Food:
Reading that NY Times article in full, I'm impressed by the seemingly principled opposition to the bailout. See these descriptions and quotes:
Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, said he intended to vote against the package, which he said would put the nation on "the slippery slope to socialism." He said that he was afraid that it ultimately would not work, leaving the taxpayers responsible for "the mother of all debt."

Another Texas Republican, John Culberson, spoke scathingly about the unbridled power he said the bill would hand over to the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., whom he called "King Henry."

A third Texan, Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, said the negotiators had "never seriously considered any alternative" to the administration's plan, and had only barely modified what they were given. He criticized the plan for handing over sweeping new powers to an administration that he said was to blame for allowing the crisis to develop in the first place.
In contrast, consider what the supporters of the bailout are saying:
When it comes to America's economy, [Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Democratic Majority Leader] said, "none of us is an island."

Representative Maxine Waters, a Democrat, said the measure was vital to help financial institutions survive and keep people in their homes. "There's plenty of blame to go around," she said, and attaching blame should come later.
UPDATE 5:  Jeffrey Tucker at the Mises Institute is cock-a-hoop!

House rejects the bill. This is a magnificent repudiation of the Fed, the Treasury, Bush, Wall Street welfarists, inflationists, and stabilizers of all sorts. The costs of what the Fed has already done are going to be massive and felt for many years. But at least Congress has so far, and this time only, not participated in the evil.

It's a great birthday gift for Ludwig von Mises.

Whatever the case with stock markets--and we can be confident that whatever prices emerge are truer than they would be with a bailout--it is fantastic that oil prices have retreated so dramatically. Drivers cheer. May all commodities follow. How this can be spun as dreadful news is beyond me.

Debating leaders' debates

There is more heat and light generated in getting to a leaders debate these days than there is from the damn debates themselves. 

We can all remember last election how Jim Neanderton and Peter Dunne-Nothing stamped their feet like spoiled children when TV3 took away their rattle -- in the end TV3 were unable to rule the Tantrum Twins out of the leaders' debate only because the twins used the power of the state to force a private broadcaster to act in a way they, the politicians, wished them too.

So much for their respect for the freedom of the Fourth Estate.

This year they're throwing the same tantrum again, joined this time by Rodney Hide and Jeanette Fitzsimons who've also been excluded from the playground main leaders' debate this time.  It looks at this stage as if TV3 have shrugged rather than capitulate again, but TVNZ resolutely continues with plans to hold "two head to head debates between Miss Clark and Mr Key and a separate debate for minor party leaders."

Good.

Despite the wishes of all the minor party leaders, the best evidence suggests that either Clark or Key will hold the office of Prime Minister after the election, and a thorough examination of both, without the distractions of bevy of other buffoons, is essential. What's needed is less of a gameshow, and more of a grilling.

And a thorough examination of the buffoons minor leaders is also necessary, but with the emphasis here mostly on what they consider crucial to coalition, without the distraction of hearing them comment on issues on which their views are almost wholly irrelevant. And on this former Alliance leader Laila Harre has a plan.

Since the needs of both debates are different, so too should the debates themselves be separate. And since the need for a thorough examination is paramount, what's needed is interviewers able to give a thorough examination of their interviewees -- something of which NZ's two main broadcasters are sadly lacking -- instead of becoming the main event themselves (something of which NZ's usual stock of interviewers  are all too adept).

UPDATE: Jim Mora has invited me on Radio NZ's Panel this afternoon to debate the debate about the debates with Chris Trotter and Jeremy Wells.  Should be a good ... discussion.

"Me too" and mendacity on Nats' Maori policy

Despite talk that National has formed an understanding with the Maori Party that will allow them to do a deal after the election should both have the votes (a deal putting National into government and Pita Sharples into the Maori Affairs ministry), National has just released a Maori Affairs policy suggesting either a few problems for the talked-about deal -- or a few problems with the honesty of National's policy commitments.

As Liberty Scott accurately characterises it, it is "me-too" all over again:

  • "Me too" on continuing to support (read - use your taxes to spend money on) Maori broadcasting, Kohanga Reo, racially-based housing, racially-based "professional development," racially-based health provision and the like," despite this "support" having led to what Scott describes as "appalling violence, abuse and intergenerational criminal underachievement of the underclass of predominantly Maori families, failing again and again, and worst of all breeding children in a climate of fear, abuse and neglect." National is for more of the same.
  • "Me too" on "recognising the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of New Zealand," despite it being too hastily written and lacking too much to bear the weight of such an accolade.
  • "Me too" on "more support" i.e., taxpayers money, for the kangaroo court that is the Waitangi Tribunal. (National's David Farrar says "I especially like the commitment to speeding up the Treaty settlements by shifting the office to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, having independent facilitators and greater resourcing for the Waitangi Tribunal."
  • "Me too" on their backsliding on the deadline by which the Waitangi Gravy Train will be brought to a halt, and nothing at all about the fullness or finality of settlements. Scott has more on both these points.
  • "Me too" on establishing "post-settlement governance entities that best meet [Maori's] multi-dimensional roles and responsibilities," which presumably includes even more veto powers for iwi under the Resource Management Act.
  • "Me too" on the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Yes, they do promise to "reform the Resource Management Act to facilitate growth and development in the aquaculture industry" -- and the prospect of giving some weight to property rights to achieve this is dangled -- and they do promise to abolish the Maori seats, but it's this last and their position on the Foreshore and Seabed Act that will, at least on paper, pose the greatest problem for any coalition with Hone and Pita and Tariana.

And a deal with National is on the cards. Since the notion of reducing state spending on racially based policies is alien to National's policy document, one has to wonder if, like the Treaty Settlement policy, it's primarily about keeping the Maori Party happy?

But what about the policies on the Maori Seats and the Foreshore & Seabed Act? Opposition to Labour's Foreshore and Seabed Act, which removed from Maori the right to go to court and prove in common law their ownership rights over foreshore and seabed, led directly to the formation of the Maori Party. As Hone Harawira said recently, why would they give support to the party that introduced what is the worst violation of Maori rights for one-hundred and fifty years? (On which he's correct, incidentally.)

Pita Sharples said after National's policy release that abolition of the Maori seats is for Maori to determine (not as long as it represents a racial gerrymander it isn't) and National's stated policy on foreshore and seabed is "problematic" for any coalition deal ... "but they expect to see changes."

Now, John Key refuses to either confirm or deny whether or not those specific, high-profile marquee policies, either of them, are negotiable, but yesterday morning on National Radio he explicitly refused to rule it out -- and we all know what that means in politics, don't we.

So this looks like talking out of both sides of the mouth, doesn't it. Promising something in public to the electorate that the electorate wants to hear, while in private promising the Maori Party precisely the opposite in order to keep them on side.

Which all suggests that National intends either to break their promise to the electorate by backtracking on one or both of these big ticket policy commitments, or to break an understanding with the Maori Party -- that they will go easy on abolishing the Maori seats, and work towards abolishing the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Which do you think is most likely? And what does this say about National's honesty?

UPDATE:  Pita Sharples confirms the analysis in an interview to air tonight on Alt TV.

How House - Rudolph Schindler

       HowHouse01 

Another beauty by Viennese-Californian architect Rudolph Schindler, from 1925 when he first settled in California, in that marvelously creative period between the wars when he helped define the best of Californian 'modernism' -- which said modernists were mostly too dim to appreciate.  Said Schindler in a letter to the Museum of Modern Art in 1943,

   I consider myself the first and still one of the few architects who consciously abandoned stylistic sculptural architecture in order to develop space as a medium of art. ... I believe that outside of Frank Lloyd Wright I am the only architect in U.S. who has attained a distinct local and personal form language.

And so he had.  Frank Lloyd Wright, never one to overpraise a colleague, allowed in references that Schindler "has built quite a number of buildings in and around Los Angeles that seem to be admirable from the standpoint of design, and I have not heard of any of them falling down...   He has a good mind, is affectionate in disposition, and is fairly honorable I believe. Personally, though strongly individual, he is not unduly eccentric and I, in common with many others, like him very much."

Like Schindler's own house on Kings Road, the How house also features concrete, redwood and glass.  Says the Schindler House website of this beauty:

The How House sits on top of a steep ridge, angled to the street, with a gorgeous view of the Los Angeles River. It is one of the best examples of Schindler’s use of geometry and proportion in order to manipulate space. The main volume of the house is shaped as a cube with smaller spaces extending out from it.

It's now on the market, and can be picked up for a modest US$4.9995 million...  [Hat tip Prairie Mod]

HowHouse02 HowHouse03

Monday, 29 September 2008

Exit Maid Marian

Twice in her parliamentary career I've been surprised to find myself cheering on Marian Hobbs, who gave her valedictory speech to parliament last week.

Who wouldn't be surprised?

The  first time I found myself in her corner was with her resolute defence of science and genetic engineering in the face of Nicky Hager and "little creep" John Campbell's pathetic 'corngate' beat-up in the run-up to the 2002 election, when civilised New Zealanders were silently and not-so silently applauding Clark and Hobbs for allowing a GE crop to reach maturity, and reflecting that things could have been a lot worse with Nick Smith in the Environment chair, and will be a lot worse if rumours about Jeanette Fitzsimons taking the chair in a post-election Labour Cabinet were to come to pass.

The second time I applauded Hobbs was just yesterday when I came across her valedictory speech, and not just because she's leaving parliament, but for for her observations on the state of journalism which she identifies is more focused on personalities than it is policies.   This is not just the complaint of someone who's had a bad run with the media -- although it is partly that -- it's also right on the money.

    "Politics is about making decisions, be it the laws we pass or the budgets we approve," she said.  "But modern news media doesn't evaluate our decisions in the light of which policy is best.
    "Instead they build a web around personalities and behaviour. It's about a smiley new face versus the one we are familiar with. The news is about decision makers, rarely about decisions."

This is the reason scandal-mongering and smiley faces flourish in the corridors of power, while policy-makers are either ignored or pursue their work in the shadows - often to the detriment of those whom their policies damage.

"You need only to sound assertive, even when you don't know what you're talking about," she said.

There's a lot of that about, isn't there. When the focus of reporting is on "the game," and who's "winning it" rather than on policies and who's being done over by them, it's no wonder that flatulent fools like Winston Peters -- who's never read a whole policy document right to the end, but is a master at sounding assertive -- gets all the media time he does, while policy analysis -- even on the blogs -- is little more than left versus right.

UPDATE: "As the media often rate how well MPs are doing," David Farrar asked MPs to reverse the favour, and score the media and press gallery.  The results are here: MPs survey of the media.  On a scale of 0-10, very few scored over 5, and then only barely.

YouInterview on YouTube

Here's some news, followed by something you can do about it:

    TVNZ and YouTube today announced a history-making initiative which will allow New Zealanders to put questions directly to Prime Minister Helen Clark and Opposition Leader John Key - the ONE News YouTube Election Debate.
    TVNZ, New Zealand’s public broadcaster, and YouTube, the leading online video community, will jointly present a live televised election debate between the two party leaders, featuring questions posted as video submissions on YouTube.
    The leaders’ responses will be broadcast live on TVNZ’s flagship News channel, TV ONE, on October 14. ONE News’ Mark Sainsbury will moderate the 90 minute ONE News YouTube Election Debate, with three ... political journalists asking additional questions.
    Starting today, YouTube users in New Zealand, and expats, can submit their questions at
www.youtube.co.nz/debate.

Now, here's what I suggest. Why not take out your camera and record one or more of the Fifty-Odd Questions for National I posted here back in June.  There's plenty to go around, so why not pick out your favourite(s).

Go on, make sure John Boy doesn't get an easy ride on October 14.

Murder? It's not OK.

You can be sure that when another blogger calls you "intelligent and engaging," there's bound to be a catch -- and in Russell Brown's latest post, there sure is:  "I personally like Peter Cresswell: he is an engaging and intelligent man," he begins.  And then the knives come out:

Unfortunately, he is also an Objectivist libertarian, which means he will often go off on ideologically-motivated rants that enjoy all the internal consistency of your average tantrum.

Fortunately for me, the knives in this case are just metaphorical.  I say that because five Aucklanders and their families and friends are less fortunate than I -- five people including Austin Hemmings have died from real knife attacks in Auckland city since mid-July -- not to mention Darnell Leslie, stabbed to death in Invercargill on Saturday.  Darnell Leslie was the fifty-first New Zealander to die at the hand of another New Zealander since the start of this year.

Russell's metaphorical knife is out for me however because in saying on Friday it is time to take a stand over the flood of violence that so far this year has cost fifty-one New Zealanders their lives I am "channeling the spirit of Leighton Smith" -- and out there in the People's Republic of Grey Lynn & Pt Chevalier, no greater crime exists.

I made the "mistake" of saying that the one thing governments are legitimately supposed to be doing is protecting New Zealanders from crime and violence -- when it's manifestly clear this government is not doing that, and has no focus on doing that. 

I committed the sin of pointing out that the primary focus of law and order should not be protection for criminals, but protection from criminals,  -- and aside from criminalising good parents, the focus of our local law enforcement has been more on revenue collection than it has been on barring physical force from social relationships.

I summoned up my inner frighfulness to ask, "Will the random, violent, bloodthirsty stabbing of a man in central Auckland last night be the final straw? Is that enough, finally, to make you sit up and say 'No more!'"

And I had the temerity to quote Susan the Libertarian, actually talking to Leighton Smith: "Is this enough to pierce your apathy?" she asked his listeners.  If not this, then what?

What indeed.

Fifty-one people killed at the hands of other people this year is clearly not enough to pierce the apathetic hide of the Grey Lynn and Wadestown apparatchiks, who think (if they think about it at all) that wringing their hands and crying "It's not OK, eh" will be all that's needed to stop the bloodshed -- and if that doesn't work, that covering their eyes with metaphorical hoodies will at least help to keep the bloodshed out of sight.

Since it's my Objectivism that apparently animates my own ideologically-motivated animus to people being killed, and Russell thinks it's "not clear what Cresswell is proposing here," let's see what Objectivism has to say about all this. "The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others."  Who could object to that?  "No man—or group or society or government—has the right to assume the role of a criminal and initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man," said Ayn Rand.  "If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules.

    This is the task of a government—of a proper government—its basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why men do need a government.
   
A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective controli.e., under objectively defined laws."

Sounds clear enough, doesn't it:  Initiating physical force against others is wrong. It's a crime.  Government's primary task is stopping it, without initiating force in the process.  Who could possibly object?  Well, apparently Russell Brown does. Despite  a clarification in the comments for a reader  ("Nowhere at all," I say "have I suggested that the role of police is to walk around and follow each and every individual, so they can clap them in cuffs the moment they step out of line"), he wonders nonetheless what it all means.

Does this mean the suspension of habeas corpus, he asks. An expansion of police enforcement and surveillance so prodigious as to guarantee an officer's intervention?  A policeman at every dinner table?  Well, no -- although a policeman would probably be better company than the likes of Peter Williams QC, who's never seen a criminal without simultaneously envisioning a paycheck. And a policeman in every home -- or at least a bureaucrat with a clipboard -- is the wet dream of both Sue Bradford and Cindy Kiro.

What it does mean however is removing the scales (and the hoodies) from one's eyes, and urgently recognising that the focus of the law and the number one job of government -- its only moral justification -- is the protection of you from me, and me from you. 

Which means apprehending and vilifying criminals, not attacking their victims

Which means focusing on crimes with actual victims, not on victimless crimes that fill up NZ's prisons with people whose only crime is harming themselves. 

Which means recognising that the rise of violent crime (up 12.5% since last year) is the backfire of collectivism -- that paying several generations of New Zealanders to have children they don't want has not been a recipe for happy families, but for people who see their primary means of survival as other people, and whole suburbs in which that ethic is daily acted out

Which means recognising that every New Zealander has the right to defend themselves, and the concomitant right to possess the means thereof.

Which means taking burglary and other property-related offences seriously, so that more bad law isn't needed to fix bad sentencing; so that those criminals who start with property crime don't learn the messages early on that they may obtain financial values  from others by resorting to physical force; so that they don't learn that the word "justice" is always preceded with the words "revolving door."

What it does mean in short is recognising that if the legitimate arms of government are to protect innocent people from others who think force is the means by which humans deal with one another -- in other words, if the police, the law courts and the prisons are going to do their proper job -- then they need to protect those who value their life, liberty, property and happiness from those who've shown beyond reasonable doubt that they're quite partial to taking them all away.  ("The rights of the accused are not a primary," points out Ayn Rand, "they are a consequence derived from a man’s inalienable, individual rights. A consequence cannot survive the destruction of its cause.")  That's the only reason to lock people up, isn't it: to protect us, not to rehabilitate (or even to punish) them

Let me repeat it again: The primary focus of law and order and the sole moral justification for government is to bar force from social relationships.  The protection of our individual rights. If criminals show they have no intention of respecting others' rights, then the law should have no compunction in taking away theirs.  This is manifestly not the primary focus of the present government, but nor has it been of any real interest to most of its predecessors.

While some people prefer to avert their eyes from all the carnage, and to make fun of the likes of Garth McVicar -- one of the few New Zealanders to speak up for victims instead of for those who've done them over -- those who feel threatened are on the march.  It's the measure of a community's desperation in the face of crime, for example, that ten-thousand people marched in South Auckland's bad weather recently to demand their fundamental right to protection from criminals to be upheld.  But where the self-anointed once joined, supported and promoted marches against violence -- the likes of the "Reclaim the Night" marches, for example, were once a safe way for lefties to meet their future partners -- now they're content to sit at home in their own safe suburbs while chuckling cynically at the desperation that would motivate someone like Manukau's Peter Low to contemplate employing Triads to provide protection, anything to make their streets safer than they are now!

While the police fiddle and the self-anointed smirk, the possibilities of lynch mobs emerges from the shadows.  Look too, for example, at the gobs of support given to a Manurewa man when he stabbed and killed a tagger not so long ago -- and for the most part the support came from those who claim to be against such violence.

Such is the measure of people's desperation.  They want protection; they're not getting it.

So what's to be done right now?  For some people, I suspect the difficulty of doing something means they draw the line at doing anything. As it happens, however, I gave some sort of a prescription in a post earlier this year on Curing South Auckland, one of the places in which no-one can ignore the very real rising tide of violence that threatens to destroy the place. Here they are, in summary:

  1. A police force that protects the innocent.  One that has the tools and the people to do the job, but more importantly has the knowledge, training and backup -- and the will -- to use them (which means promoting people like former Senior Sergeant Anthony Solomona, not sacking them.)
  2. A justice system that takes the guilty off the streets. Rudy Guiliani's successful 'Broken Windows' policy is a guide: start with the small crimes, where failure to punish leads offenders into bigger crimes, and put these right first.  (And remember that justice isn't about retribution, it's about protecting the rest of us.)
  3. Hold parents accountable in law for the offences of their children.  You have them, you take responsibility for what and whom they destroy.
  4. Stop paying no-hopers to breed. We are forced by government to pay people to have children they don't want. The result of all those unwanted children appears on the front page of our newspapers nearly every day.
  5. Have an education system that gives youngsters the tools for life -- that teaches each of them, not how fit in and how to follow (which is all the present factory schools teach them), but how to use the brain they are born with, and how to use it to give themselves wings instead of shackles.
  6. Perhaps most important of all is this, which is much, much harder: work towards towards the destruction of what tennis ace Chris Lewis calls 'the crab-bucket mentality,' the hatred of achievement with which young South Aucklanders shackle themselves and damn their more successful brothers, and instead of the 'warrior values' of dependency and conflict and renunciation that are all many young South Aucklanders see, promote instead a philosophy of individualism that offers genuinely life-affirming values to which to aspire ...

No one, including me, says it's going to be easy to turn things round. But just because it's difficult to do something doesn't mean doesn't mean that one should support doing nothing.

UPDATE: Russell points to crime figures that he says shows there's nothing to worry about, "something that has always been apparent to anyone prepared to look up the numbers: Crime rocketed in the 1970s and has been trending down since."  However, something really is apparent to those prepared to look beyond the headlines, even the one to which he links.  "Reported crime was steady at around two crimes a year for every 100 people from 1900 until about 1970," says the psychiatrist quoted, "and then climbed steeply to peak at 13 crimes per 100 in 1992." If you believe the headline, that was then and this is now.  But how about now?  For the last four years crime figures, according to the psychiatrist, have "levelled out" at 10 crimes for every 100 people. 

For Russell et al, that's nothing to worry about.  It means all is fine and dandy.  Essentially violent crimes and homicide shot up in the mid-eighties, and have failed ever since to come down, but as long as he and his friends can point to graphs showing the Red Team did less badly than the Blue Team there's nothing for anyone to worry about -- expect perhaps for those 1 in 10 people who've been victims of the crimes people say we shouldn't be worried about.

And in fact, to be precise, if we actually did look up the numbers, we'd see that violent crime in New Zealand is not so easy to dismiss. New Zealand scored highly earlier this year in an international crime survey.

New Zealand scored highest for thefts from cars, second highest for burglary, fifth highest for assaults, 10th highest for robbery and 11th highest for theft of personal property and for sexual assaults against women in The International Crime Victims Survey. The survey compared 30 countries in 2004 and 2005.

And we'd see too that levels of violent crime are not "levelling off" at all.  There were 127.1 per 10,000 violent crimes recorded last year in the official figures, and the trend since 1999 has been up, not down!

                          

Which means the figures provide no grounds at all for back slapping complacency.

UPDATE: Callum McPetrie points out "The underlying factor, behind the government's size and the sanction of criminals, is political correctness, fuelled by the moral equivalency of modern philosophical and political thought.

It's the idea that the murderer is the true victim of an 'oppressive society,' and that the man who was murdered deserved it ... If he gets stabbed or shot, moral equivalency says: 'So what?' "

And the Prime Minister says, "It's the victim's fault"!.

Don't Vote Green

Allow me to direct you to a  new election website:

 DontVoteGreens

The message is this: Don't vote to make future generations poorer, as the Greens' billboards exhort you to: vote instead for freedom, vote for prosperity, vote (in short) for yourself.

Which means Don't Vote Greens.

Don't Vote Labour.

And whatever you do, Don't Vote National.

National are NOT the answer.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Cats fight hard, but emerge empty handed

majaction_narrowweb__300x439,2 The Geelong Cats leapt high with a near perfect season this year, but in in yesterday's Grand Final they came up empty handed, beaten  by a team wearing mud brown and urine yellow -- an ignoble end to what Cats fans hoped would be a Cats dynasty.

As the Real Footy site sums up, it was a case of 'Kitty Kitty Bang-Bang.'

It was hard-fought and physical -- a great Final played in front of over 100,000 pople in the MCG, and millions more worldwide -- a game was won in Hawthorn's half-back line, reflected in the man-of-the-match award to Hawthorn's half-back flank 'general' Luke Hodge.  Fine work here time and again snuffed out the near continuous Geelong attacks -- in the second quarter Geelong kicked just 1 goal and 9 behinds; in the third quarter (often called the "championship quarter") Geelong entered the 'inside 50' scoring arc so many times they almost set up camp, but for all that dominance they could put up only nine scoring shots to Hawthorn's eight (and of those Hawthorn goaled five times; Geelong just three).

In the end, Geelong won everywhere but on the scoreboard. Hawthorn did what they had to do, starting with those annoying bastards on their half-back line, and in the end they ensured Geelong couldn't.

Bugger.

UPDATE:  "Funny things can happen in grand finals," said Geelong coach Mark Thompson after this one. "It certainly happened today. There's no certainties in this business, and we were beaten by a better team on the day."

    Pre-match planning wasn't the issue, Thompson said. It was the on-field execution.
    "Some of the things we planned for worked, and some of the things that we planned for weren't implemented consistently enough over the day."
    Thompson said he was worried that the players thought the game was simply going to happen, even after a second term that produced 1.9.  While he didn't believe they felt the pressure, he suspected they may have expected the torrent of behinds in the second quarter to turn magically into goals.
    "You know, that's just wrong. To win premierships, you need to do everything right, and Hawthorn was absolutely spectacular today."

Yes, they were.  The bastards.

Friday, 26 September 2008

NOT PC's week, to 26/09

It's been a busy week here at NOT PC, and in politics in general, and while other blogs and most politicians are content to rake muck and monger scandal, this one has been focused on fundamentals -- and rocketing reader numbers suggest to me you appreciate that.  Anyway, here's what you, the readers, ranked most highly over the last seven days or so:

  1. "Lock up the bloggers!"
    In Europe MPs are trying to silence recalcitrant bloggers; in Malaysia they're locking them up; while in NZ politicians are simply "reviewing broadcasting and web rules."  Whatever happened to free speech?
  2. Is the phenomenenal disconnected from the noumenal ... ?
    Who knew that the world's most destructive philosopher appears to be alive and well and apparently flourishing ... in Fiji?
  3. Who's for a poke in the eye, then?
    The only wasted vote is a vote for someone who's going to do you over.
  4. Avoid these dairy products
    A link to an "unqualified list" of Chinese dairy and related products you might like to avoid.
  5. Borrowed time - the anatomy of recession
    There are too many parallels to the Crash of 1929 for comfort -- including almost complete ignorance of the reasons for economic collapse.
  6. Stop the bailouts!
    The same so called "experts" responsible for the all the counterfeit capital that caused all the trouble now want to inject more of the same  rocket fuel that caused the problem in the first place!
  7. Sensing Bullshit!
    The worst TV show in a very poor schedule just won awards for excellence, when what its makers really deserve is opprobrium and a punch in the face.

Lots of good reading then, including this script for John Clarke poking fun at John Key's wriggling (which IMHO drew tool little attention), and still more good reading at this week's Objectivist blog roundup over at Rational Jenn's.

Enjoy your weekend, and Go the Cats!rfso_sep08

Beer O'Clock: Beervana!

Beerly commentary this week from Stu of SOBA, whose contribution of his own Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black to my fridge played no part at all in my decision to run his post ...

Carl-Vasta-at-Tuatara BrewNZ has come and gone again. This year, as well as the judging and awards, we saw a welcome return to the public side of the event with the “Beervana” festival. While not quite taking over the whole of Wellington like the ‘host bar’ concept used to do, I’ve heard an overwhelming majority of fantastic reports of the festival (I was in craft-beer-barren Queenlsand at the time, so can only rely on reports from the field).

There was a new aspect to the awards side of things too, with a Champion New Zealand Brewery being awarded to the brewery with the best overall results. Did you know that the Tuatara Brewery in the hills of Waikanae, near Wellington, was named New Zealand’s best brewery? If not, then you haven’t been paying attention on Friday afternoons.

Tuatara and brewer Carl Vasta (pictured right checking out his brew) picked up gold medals and best-in-class trophies for their Belgian-style Ardennes and their hoppy India Pale Ale, as well as an extra gold medal for Hefe, their delicious German-style wheat beer. Tuatara is about the only NZ brewery without a website … is there a correlation there? Rather than build a website, Tuatara recently tripled their batch size – I wonder if they knew something was coming their way? It’s the perfect timing to take advantage of such a fantastic (and well-deserved award) award. Hopefully this will lead to a greater availability of these splendid beers.

Nipping on the heels of Carl Vasta and his Tuatara team was Steve Nally, from Invercargill Brewery in the Deep South, who picked up two best-in-class trophies for the second year running – and this included the highly-coveted Classic New Zealand styles (which, for the first time, included the hugely popular ‘NZ Pilsner’ style). Interestingly, I’ve found that Steve’s award-winning Biman lager has been one of the most talked about beers in the Wellington beer scene this year, and it is still not on tap anywhere in town. I don’t expect the drought to last much longer!

You couldn’t meet two more down to earth beer loving brewers than Carl Vasta and Steve Nally. These awards prove that head-down hard work really does pay off (and a little bit of luck and timing surely helps).

The full beer awards results are here at the official BrewNZ site, while beer judge and scribe Geoff Griggs sums up the weeks events in this Marlborough Express article.

Interestingly, the awards do not always reflect the public affection for beer. I've done an unscientific survey of people (read: I “googled” everything I could find about BrewNZ and Beervana) and picked up this list of “crowd favourites” that I have listed for you below, of which Epic Pale Ale is the only award winner amongst them!

How many of these beers have you heard of? Did you know about BrewNZ and Beervana? Did you attend? And, if so, what did you think?

Anyway, tonight I’m drinking Emerson’s Bookbinder - the beer that pulled me over from casual drinker of good beer to bona-fide beer geek. At only 3.7% abv, and absolutely packed full of flavour, it is a near perfect end-of-week tipple for a thirsty guy like myself. And isn’t it great to be able to fill-your-own flagon at the excellent Regional Wines and Spirits (if only there was a prize for best bottle store).

Many of these beers, if not already in your local beer retailers or pub, are available through the new online Beerstore or via mail order at Regional Wines and Spirits.

Slainte mhath, Stu

Time to make a stand!

What does it take for New Zealanders to rise up and demand their government forego all the nonsense they shouldn't be bothering with, all the bossy-boot bullshit about baubles and bureaucracy and scampi and scandals, and focus instead on the one thing they're legitimately supposed to be doing, which is protecting New Zealanders from violence?

What does it take?

Will the random, violent, bloodthirsty stabbing of a man in central Auckland last night be the final straw? Is that enough, finally, to make you sit up and say "No more!"

Will it make you speak out to demand that government start doing its real job? That it starts protecting you and me from every nutter who'd like to raise a hand against us in violence, instead of doing us over themselves? That it begins to realise the primary focus of law and order is protection from criminals, not protection for criminals.

It's time -- right now -- to put victims first, not criminals, and to make damn sure the number of victims takes a rapid and benevolent dive.

What are you going to do about demanding a change?

UPDATE 1: I just heard Labour's Mark Gosche and National's Chester Borrows discussing the the murder on Radio Live, and their "solutions" to the rising tide of violent crime. "We both agree on the solutions," said Tweedlum's Chester Borrow's. Yes we do, agreed Tweedledumber's Mark Gosche.

Did their so-called solutions entail a greater police focus on protection from criminals, and less on giving violent criminals an easy ride and an early exit from prison (if they ever get there)? An end to the failed system of paying no-hopers to breed? Legalising the right to self-defence and to the means thereof? Any of that? No, what they both insisted is the urgent and necessary solution to the rising ride of violence, especially around Auckland, is "stronger communities." "Targeted welfare." More "stay-at-home parents."

No wonder we're inundated with savagery.

Even if they were right, the policies they're following are only destructive of stronger communities. Whether delivered by muck sprayer or fire hose, the result in South Auckland of several generations of taxpayer funded largesse is several generations of people who think they're entitled to live at someone else's expense. The Socialist Samaritan has not been a success. Welfarism is a certified killer.

The parents encouraged to stay at home by the gobs of welfare doled out to nearly three-hundred thousand New Zealanders are hardly hold the solution to anything, even to their own damned lives. And the good parents? Hell, they're both going out to work, and they need to -- and when they tot up their take-home pay at the end of each year, they probably notice that at the present level of fiscal rapacity one of them is going out to work just to pay their tax bill -- just to pay for stay-at-home no-hopers and political beneficiaries like Gosche and Borrows, and for their political masters for whom the welfare bill is little more than a sophisticated election bribe.

What does it take for the time-servers to realise it's time for more than just hand-wringing? What will it take for you to demand that they do?

UPDATE 2: Susan the Libertarian tells Leighton Smith, "There is a proverbial last straw, eh." Listen to Susie here explaining why this should be the last straw for every thinking person. She starts fourteen minutes in. "Is this enough to pierce your apathy?"

UPDATE 3: Russell Brown thinks I've lost my marbles: this post you're now reading is apparently an ideologically-motivated rant that enjoys all the internal consistency of your average tantrum. Oh dear.

UPDATE 4:  I respond to Russell's post here: Murder? It's not OK!

Caption Contest

PC-Rubbers
What is PC up to, and why?

"For the naive mind there is something miraculous in the issuance of fiat money..."

holbert20080924 As if he too were writing yesterday, economist Ludwig von Mises has advice for those contemplating the imminent nationalisation of Wall St's debts via one trillion dollars of printed money.

It is impossible to grasp the meaning of the idea of sound money if one does not realize that it was devised as an instrument for the protection of civil liberties against despotic inroads on the part of governments...
From time immemorial inflation [i.e., printing money] has been recommended as a means to alleviate the burdens of poor worthy debtors at the expense of rich harsh creditors.
However, under capitalism the typical debtors are not the poor but the well-to-do owners of real estate, of firms, and of common stock, people who have borrowed from banks, savings banks, insurance companies, and bondholders.
The typical creditors are not the rich but people of modest means how own bonds and savings accounts or have taken out insurance policies... The idea that millionaires are the victims of an easy-money policy is an atavistic remnant.

And the idea that people of modest means must bail out the pirates in neck ties is equally atavistic. Moreover, the illusion that the money for the bailout will come from somewhere else [Where? Somewhere?] is the illusion of 'fiat money,' i.e., of money printed by central banks that has nothing backing it other than the good wishes and the power to tax of the government.

For the naive mind there is something miraculous in the issuance of fiat money. A magic word spoken by the government creates out of nothing a thing which can be exchanged against any merchandise a man would like to get. How pale is the art of sorcerers, witches, and conjurors when compared with that of the government's Treasury Department! The government, professors tell us, "can raise all the money it needs by printing it."[4]

Such is the method by which Henry Paulson's Treasury Department proposes to "increase liquidity," to "raise" the money by which the government's bailout of failure will be achieved -- $1200 per US taxpayer -- more of the same artificially-created inflationary rocket fuel that has already burned the fingers of capital markets, and cost taxpayers a chance at genuine prosperity: little more than smoke and mirrors.

It is enough to stress the point that such a policy of deceit is self-defeating. Here the famous dictum of Lincoln holds true: You can't fool all of the people all of the time. Eventually the masses come to understand the schemes of their rulers. Then the cleverly concocted plans of inflation collapse. Whatever compliant government economists may have said, inflationism is not a monetary policy that can be considered as an alternative to a sound-money policy. It is at best a temporary expedient.

In the long term, the bill will have to be paid. It will be you and I who will be paying it.
[Quote from Ludwig von Mises' Theory of Money & Credit, excerpted here.]

UPDATE 1: To get an idea of the scale of the bailout, it will cost around $1200 per US taxpayer, taken not from their tax payments but -- like all inflationary expansions -- taken from their savings by a backdoor form of theft, and in addition to what they see taken from their pay packets.

This will be a US$700 billion addition to the money supply, adding a huge spike to the graph below. The last big thranche of printed money to hit the markets was over 2001-2004, and as Frank Shostak explained the other day, it was that very rocket fuel that's been blowing out the markets ever since. The world economy was subjected by its central bankers to the largest credit bubble in history, and says Don Rich, the results should have been obvious.

Not only residential real estate, but also corporate, developing market, and nonsecured debt security and loans have been priced at absurd valuations because the central banks of the world kept interest rates at absurdly low levels during the early part of the decade.

The consequence of this "open the floodgates" monetary-policy-induced credit bubble was to induce the entire financial services industry to distort the process assessing risk and reward in the allocation of capital on a system-threatening scale — hence the events of earlier this week. Basically, the central banks of the world pushed interest rates so low as to lure the finance industry into the trap of chasing yields irrespective of risk...

makegraph.php

And now their pyramid is collapsing, they want more of the same!

This $700,000,000,000,000 of counterfeit capital (with more to come whenever Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke and their successors feel like it) is welfare for Wall Street to be paid out of the pool of real savings that would otherwise go into real investment. As Michael West said on Monday, Henry Paulson and the Senate's Banking Committee "want American taxpayers to hand a cool $US700 billion ($840 billion) to his pals on Wall Street in return for a gigantic bundle of their delinquent assets ... without his pals taking a pay cut. Could there be a finer reward for failure? Could there be a worse deal for taxpayers?"

And the dumbarses on Wall St are too dumb to even see that what they're applauding is their own demise.

The federal government is now admitting that the entire credit-generation process in the United States has collapsed. Going forward, that is bad news for the real economy — for the claims on the profit-generating capacity of the economy upon which the stock market constitutes claims. This is all bad news, not good news, for Wall Street.
More formally, there is a gap between the nominal and real value of debt instruments that across the entire credit spectrum easily exceeds $5 trillion, the risk of which the federal government [i.e., the taxpayer] has assumed.

As J. Boyd Page says in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, just say no.

UPDATE 2: I liked this comment at the Mises Blog from someone 'supporting' the bailout:

At this point, I don't see much reason to oppose the Wall Street bailout. You see, what the government should do to solve this problem is kill the Federal Reserve, kill the income tax, and cut back the size of government by 90%. But, since there is not a snowball's chance in hell that they are going to do that .... this bailout is just another path to the same eventual outcome.
In fact, if we're lucky, using taxpayer money to bail out Wall Street might suck funding away from all the other useless government departments...

If only it were more than just wishful thinking.

UPDATE 3: Commenter "Terry" corrects me:

The fractional reserve system is best described not as an economic pyramid, but an inverse-pyramid. It is top heavy and built on a comparatively small base of capital.
An objective monetary standard would be representative of a pyramid with a base layer (or layers) of capital which widens -and thus strengthens - as the total economic structure grows.
With an inverse pyramid by comparison, as more layers of credit are piled one ontop of the other, the capital base becomes an ever weaker point compared to the whole. As the weight of yet another layer of credit (i.e. debt) is lumped on top it adds to the instability of the whole structure, with its total weight surpassing that which the (capital) base can support. The inevitable is that the structure falters, crushing and destroying the bottom supportive layer/s - i.e. capital.
This is what we are witnessing now.
The only logical solution to prevent a total catastrophe is to deleverage - dismantle the inverse pyramid, starting at the top, so that the base may preserved, and hopefully a better engineering design adopted (i.e. turn the bloody thing back up the right way around and stop trying to defy the laws of physics!).
What the Fed is proposing now as the solution to the present crisis - a crisis where the giant upside down triangle of debt which is the entire US financial system is dangerously balanced on a small apex of capital - is to make the whole thing even MORE top heavy.
This truly is madness.
If the $1 trillion bailout proceeds, as it seems it will, we will all have but one option left: reach for our hardhats.

'A System of Architectural Ornament' - Louis Sullivan

       gilesp_guaranty_1m

"In these little masterpieces of poetic imagination,' said Frank Lloyd Wright in 1949 of Louis Sullivan's ornamental drawings produced around half-a-lifetime before, "the poet in him shines forth on the record as a free, independent spirit characteristic of the free of all time."

'Wright,' he would say [when Wright worked under Sullivan] concerning details which I was trying (as yet by instinct) to work with T-square and triangle ... 'bring it alive, man!  Make it live!'  He would sit down at my board for a moment, take the HB pencil from my hand and, sure enough, there it would be.  Alive!
    ... He did "make it live." 
    ...Say this greatest feature of his work was esoteric.  Is it any the less precious for that?
    Do you realize that here, in his own way, is no body of culture evolving through centuries of time but a scheme and "style" of plastic expression which an individual working away in this poetry-crushing environment ... had made out of himself?  Here was a sentient individual who evoked the goddess whole civilizations strove in vain for centuries to win, and wooed her with this charming interior smile -- all on his own, in one lifetime too brief.
    ... Although seeming at time a nature-ism (his danger), the idea is there: of the thing not on it; and therefore Sullivanian self-expression contained the elements and prophesied organic architecture.  To look down on such efflorescence as mere "ornament" is disgraceful ignorance.  We do so because we have only known ornament as self-indulgent excrescence ignorantly applied to some surface as a mere prettification.  But with the master [Sullivan], "ornament" was like music; a matter of the soul...

The ornament shown here comes from Sullivan's 1924 book, A System of Architectural Ornament, According with a Philosophy of Man's Powers.  Giles Phillips from MIT has a complete collection of the book's twenty plates, and a Flash presentation of the System based on a study of Sullivan's Guaranty Building (above) here at his website.

sullivan-plate-06 sullivan-plate-10 sullivan-plate-17

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Avoid these dairy products

Blogger Lady Lavender, whom I consider a reliable source, has an "unqualified list" of Chinese dairy and related products you might like to avoid.

Oh McCain, you've done it again

How revealing is John McCain's unilateral call to "suspend campaigning" in the face of America's financial meltdown.

What does he think this is -- a popularity contest? A presidential dog and pony show whose result has no relevance to the way the mess is cleaned up?

If McCain has policies to introduce that will clean up the mess, that he really thinks will clean it up better than those of his opponent, then wouldn't that make him all the more motivated to have them introduced, rather than those of his opponent? Wouldn't the financial meltdown make it more urgent rather than less to have those policies introduced? Wouldn't it? If you were convinced you knew what was going on, and you knew your opponent's solutions were destructive, wouldn't you be champing at the bit to keep him from the levers of power?

That would be the case, of course, if McCain was really convinced he had some idea of how to clean up the mess -- if he knew what caused the meltdown and what to do to address it -- if he had a fundamentally different approach to the "regulate them until they bleed" call that's already been articulated by his opponent -- or if he had anything to add to the "American workers" schtick he's been waving around bathetically -- or if he even gave any sign at all that he knows what's going on, fundamentally.

That he himself is apparently convinced he hasn't is all the admission the rest of us need to believe he's right. He doesn't.

The only reasons for any candidate to unilaterally suspend campaigning in the face of such a serious calamity would be the conviction that the winner of the dog and pony show will have no way to solve it anyway, that the result is unimportant to the future direction of the country -- that it really is just a popularity contest with no relevance to the fundamental direction of the country -- a conviction in short that the fundamental attitudes of both candidates are so similar and so impotent that it doesn't matter who's elected anyway.

In which case we must take McCain's admission for what it is, and recognise that he has thereby disqualified himself as any sort of serious candidate.

'Freedom' - Danielle Anjou

                        freedom-large

Visit Danielle's website for many more inspirational bronzes.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

It was a mistake

After seeing John Key hand wringing all over the TV channels about his "mistake," I can see John Clarke and Brian Dawe making a meal of it all.

BRIAN DAWE: Good evening Mr Key.
JOHN KEY: Good evening, Brian.
DAWE: Don't you think it was wrong to lie to TVNZ reporter Fran Mold about your Tranz Rail shares.
KEY: No Brian, I didn't lie, it was a mistake.
DAWE: But surely ...
KEY: Yes, it was a mistake. She caught me unprepared.  I was out campaigning, and what she wanted was details.  Details!  Just imagine!  Anyway, I made a mistake.
DAWE: A mistake? 
KEY: Yes, I should have told the public earlier about the full extent of my shareholding, and I should never have held the stock for as long as I did.  That was another mistake.
DAWE: A mistake?
KEY: Yes, a bad mistake.  Damn thing lost me money.
DAWE: But you lied about the number of shares.
KEY: No Brian, that was a mistake.
DAWE: A mistake?
KEY: Yes, it was a mistake to lie.
DAWE: Thank you, Mr Key.
KEY: Thank you, Brian.

"Lock up the bloggers"

Further to yesterday's post about Euro MPs looking to ban troublesome Eurobloggers, vocal Malaysian blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin was locked up this morning for two years in a high security prison as, according to the Malaysian Home Minister "police had found concrete evidence that his postings in the Malaysia Today blogsite were prejudicial to the security of the country." Malaysian blogger Rocky Bru has background [hat tip Lady Lavender, who points out even Malaysia's draconian Internal Security Act (which allows detention without trial) does not deter blogcitizens from lambasting the ruling Malay party - "once a sacred subject no one is allowed to criticise."]

Don't be complacent. Politicians really dislike criticism, and if they can close it down, they will. Or try to.

The Hive asks what the New Zealand government is doing about this. Whale Oil answers: "They are reviewing broadcasting and web rules."

NB: Sign the petition to free Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Teresa Kok and Others Held Under Malaysia's Internal Security Act.

UPDATE 1: Since so many worldwide appear wholly unfamiliar with the concept of free speech, except in the breach, might I humbly suggest they begin their understanding of this basic pillar of freedom with this post on Some Propositions on Free Speech, which lays out the legitimate moral parameters of free speech.

UPDATE 2: Welcome Rocky's Bru readers. Feel free to stick around and, in particular, to check out all the posts here ast NOT PC on Free Speech and Sedition. Perhaps I could invite you to begin with this 'Cue Card Libertarianism' post on Persuasion versus Force.

UPDATE 3:  Contemplate these thoughts:

Forcing people to bite their tongues produces only a "veneer of tolerance concealing a snakepit of unaired and unchallenged views."
- Rowan Atkinson

It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that", as if that gives them certain rights. It's no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. "I'm offended by that." Well, so fucking what?
- Stephen Fry

What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.
- Salman Rushdie

UPDATE 4:  How often when the rubber hits the road do we discover who really has the courage of their convictions.  'The People's Parliament' wonders whether RPK was emboldened by reading too much into all thee declarations of support from his readers -- support that seems to be withering on the vine now he's in detention.

    And reading too much, he asked of the millions of MT readers for 150,000 signatures for the petition to the Agong in relation to the judiciary, and got 25,700++*?
   
What could we all possibly have meant by these declarations of solidarity and support if the petition demanding his release from ISA detention, now four days old, has garnered 20,463 signatures?
   
Just what do we mean [by "support"]?

What sort of "support" is it that people demonstrate when even something as simple as signing an online petition is too much!  Let them hear the words of liberated American slave, Frederick Douglass:

    The whole history of progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
    This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
--Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

* As of 10pm Friday morning 26/6/08 NZ time, the petition stands at 29,112 signatures.