Thursday, 25 December 2008

NOT PJ: What's the Reason for this Folly?

"All I want for Christmas," says Bernard Darnton, "is Christmas":

I wasn't one of those who bought a house near the top of the market with a hundred-percent mortgage and then extended the loan six months later to buy a bloody great big shiny new TV, so the recession has so far passed me by.

The worst effect I've seen is that austerity is now fashionable, even amongst those who aren't feeling the pinch. I hope it's a passing fad and I intend to ignore it, much as I ignore most passing fads. Not having a bloody great big shiny new TV I don't usually find out what the passing fads are until they've passed by, reached their destination, gone to the pub, and are having a lonely drink to drown their sorrows having been deserted by their followers.

Regarding the TV thing, I should add that I don't have anything against shiny expensive gadgets – Note to Santa: I quite like shiny expensive gadgets – it's just that I don't want a top notch telly when the programmes are so crap. Shite in high-definition is still shite.

The worst aspect of austerity-as-fashion-accessory is that it has invaded that stronghold of glorious consumption, Christmas. I know there are supposed to be religious reasons for Christmas – Jesus or Sol Invictus or something – but as far as I'm aware no verse in the Bible mentions the real highlight of Christmas, a fat bloke dressed as a Coke can.

This year our family has decided to cut back. That is, one person in our family has decided to cut back and told everyone else to comply. I certainly wasn't part of this daft decision, being merely a hanger-on by marriage. (And I only find out about this stuff after the fact. Mrs Darnton does all the present buying and associated carry-on at our place.)

I don't think any of us is in financial trouble. I suspect the dig-for-England mentality is just a bit of vaguely Puritan middle-class guilt. A bit like when your mother told you to eat your dinner because people were starving in Ethiopia. Which makes as much sense as putting your coat on because it's cold at the North Pole.

We are now subject to strict present buying rules, which have been laid down by the central authority. Each participant is to buy one present, addressed to a designated recipient, up to a legislated maximum value.

Excruciating Christmas morning horrors await. The primary failure of the centrally-planned Christmas is that not everyone knows the plan. The Christmas Control Authority has been too polite to tell some people that the trimmings have been trimmed. Those without inside knowledge of how the systems works will arrive arms laden and expecting full festivities. Their generosity will be cruelly punished.

The Christmas Control Authority has also become the clearing house for problematic gift-buying decisions. Those who've been assigned a difficult relative or someone they don't know well seem to believe that a bureaucracy clever enough to make up all these rules also knows exactly what everyone wants. No. Expect resources to be misapplied to the novelty sock and amusing coffee mug industries. I'm almost praying for scorched almonds.

On the upside, the atheists are going to have a good time regardless. While the churchgoers are going to church, the atheists will get in a two- or three-bottle head start to make the proceedings bearable, perhaps even entertaining. Without an explicit liquor ban, this will be the festive outlet of choice.

The question for next year is: will the failed experiment result in a return to laissez-faire or a second round of regulation to correct the problems caused by the first lot.

I wish you a raucous and regulation-free Christmas and hope that Santa hasn't been turned back from your place for the crime of overloading his sleigh.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

'Man the Enlightened Being': - Frank Lloyd Wright's Christmas Message from 1953

I like to post this Christmas message from Frank Lloyd Wright every year around this time ...
so it's probably a good time to wish all of you a great Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year -- that is, every single one of you who doesn't wish increased state bullying upon me and mine and on the rest of the populace of New Zealand who remains here. Just a small number of you, then.

So as the offices here at Not PC Towers begin to shut down for the holidays, I really do want to re-post architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s poetic message on “man the enlightened being” which he used to send out at Christmas time. “The herd disappears and reappears," says Wright's message, "but the sovereignty of the individual persists":

Literature tells about man. Architecture presents him. The Architecture that our
man of Democracy needs and prophecies is bound to be different from that of the
common or conditioned man of any other socialized system of belief. As never
before, this new Free-Man’s Architecture will present him by being true to his
own nature in all such expressions. This aim becomes natural to him in his Art
as it once was in his Religion.

With renewed vision, the modern man will use the new tools Science lavishes upon him (even before he is ready for them) to enlarge his field of action by reducing his fetters to exterior controls, especially those of organized Authority, publicity, or political expediency. He will use his new tools to develop his own Art and Religion as the means to keep him free, as himself. Therefore this democratic man’s environment, like his mind, will never be style-ized. When and wherever he builds he will not consent to be boxed. He will himself have his style...

Read on here for the full message: Man, the Enlightened Being by Frank Lloyd Wright, and remember to have a great individualistic holiday season. And remember this useful advice about responsible holiday drinking: Try to schedule responsibly so you get it all done before lunch.

DOWN TO THE DOCTORS' Illuminati Conspiracy Overturns Light Bulb Ban

In the New Year Doc McGrath will be regular weekly correspondent. Here's a wee taster for now...

Last week Gerry Brownlee announced, on behalf of the new National-led government, that plans by the previous administration to ban incandescent light bulbs were to be shelved. This is, of course, a fairly minor change in itself - but it offers a glimmer of hope to those who believe that people should be encouraged to think for themselves and act in accordance with their judgment.

The Clark/Cullen/Simpson troika and would-be Light-Bulb Czar David Parker thought they could chop away more of our freedom by spending three-million dollars telling people how they should light up their homes. This blew the fuse for most voters.

Weary after nine years of taking orders, they finally rejected Helen and her endless micromanagement of their lives. And so, the Blue Team once again occupy the treasury benches. Yes, this is the same Blue Team that gave us the Resource Management Abomination, and many New Zealanders are justifiably nervous at what other plans the Nats might have up their sleeves.

However, one of their first moves has been to put the kibosh on the proposed light bulb lunacy. The Libertarianz Party, while recognizing this as a small blow for freedom, is hopeful that it may represent the start of at least three years of quiet but steady deregulation, which is surely the route to prosperity and working our way out of the economic recession.

The word ‘Illuminati’ literally means enlightened ones. Fortunately, the National/ACT/Maori grouping have become enlightened on the issue of light bulbs, and have conspired to defeat Nanny and her army of interfering busybodies.

New Zealanders can choose, if they wish, to use the energy saving fluorescent light bulbs that look like coils of plasticine. I use them at home, but I’m not yet sure how much they will trim off my power bill. But at least I have a choice now. Helen Clark’s ban was an insult to every thinking person.

Look for more from Doc McGrath in the New Year ...

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

SUS'S SOUNDBITE: Let's make Christmas more commercial!

Another sound bite from Susan Ryder.

I love Christmas. I love everything about it, from shopping to decorating to singing carols. It’s my favourite time of the year, as it is for millions around the world.

There’s something about putting your tree up. I put mine up earlier than anybody I know, with the exception of my sister who occasionally pips me to the post. I usually aim for the last Sunday in November, complete with my favourite festive music. My youngest sister, a mother of three, somewhat violently swears the two of us to secrecy, lest my nephews and niece pester her to get their tree up ridiculously early, too.

The music is important, because it simply wouldn’t be Christmas for us without it. The first is from Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters, originally recorded in the 1940s. My late grandfather was a huge Crosby fan and he and Nana had the record. We played it every Christmas until it quite literally warped – and even then we still played it. Several years ago we discovered it on CD, thereby preserving the tradition for the next generation, who I’m delighted to report know all the words of Mele Kalikimaka.

The second is a relative newcomer, “Aaron Neville’s Soulful Christmas”, introduced by one of my brothers-in-law, a musician. Aaron might look like a criminal – and he does - but he has the
voice of an angel. I defy the hardest heart to not be moved by his rendition of “O Holy Night” in particular. Occasionally we will permit an interloper on Christmas Day itself, but generally it’s just Aaron and Bing. Perfect.

Anyway, back to the tree where my decorations are like old friends who visit once a year. Some were picked up in my travels in the days when the offerings in New Zealand were severely
limited, but now, thanks to globalisation, we are spoilt for choice.

No matter the size of the tree, though, or the quality and quantity of the decorations, they come alive with Christmas lights. The lights provide the magic.

Retailers love the Christmas season and for good reason. For many, it’s the busiest time of the year with December sales representing a healthy portion of their turnover. The big annual
spend-up on Christmas gifts is an example of the market at work. Stores are stocked to the brim with goods to sell, employing thousands of staff in the process. Students are gainfully employed
as much-needed additional staff to help offset the costs of their next educational year, or to just get through the summer.

Manufacturers work hard to complete orders on time and freight companies are flat out with seasonal deliveries. The livelihoods of many depend upon the Christmas season, and yet every year we hear the same cries that Christmas has become commercialised, as if it is a bad thing.

But why is that so?

To answer that question, it is worthwhile to explore its origins. Here’s a quick look. Christmas is a Christian holiday and like other Christian holidays, it has its origin in paganism.

Saturnalia was a Roman festival in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture. It began on 15 December and lasted for seven days of feasting and revelry, just prior to the winter solstice that
fell around 25 December on the Julian calendar. The solstice included glorification of Mithra, the god of light who several centuries later became known as the god of the sun. The Roman
Catholic Church had the habit of absorbing pagan traditions into Christendom, converting the holiday commemorating the birth of the sun god into “Christ Mass”, a ceremony honouring the birth of the Son of God.

However, Christmas-time celebrations prior to the 1800s still featured much pagan revelry among the British commoners, at times little more than wild carousals. It is believed that this
drunken revelry had much to do with Oliver Cromwell – never much of a partygoer – going so far as to outlaw Christmas in the 17th century, forcing it underground for a time. This ban was
extended to many of the early North American colonies where “violators” were fined five shillings. After its reinstatement, Christmas still bore much of its earlier debauchery, but some of
our current traditions started to appear. For example, caroling began with groups of individuals visiting houses in the community singing songs in exchange for eggnog. Gift-giving, however, was still extremely limited, and virtually unknown within families.

The traditions of several countries are involved. The Yule log came from Scandinavian mythology, “Yule” being the Anglo- Saxon term for the months of December and January. After
most Scandinavians had converted to Christianity, “Yule” became synonymous with Christmas.

By the 17th century, the Germans had converted the Christmas tree, originally a sign of fertility, into a Christian symbol of rebirth. The Dutch called Saint Nicholas, an altruistic bishop from the
4th century, ‘Sinterklaas’, who was to become ‘Santa Claus’ in the USA. In 1823 the American professor Clement Clarke Moore wrote the delightful poem entitled A Visit from Saint Nicholas,
better known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.'

But perhaps the greatest change occurred after the publication in 1843 of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, providing lessons on charity and the importance of caring for family and
friends. As a result, Christmas became a joyful, domestic holiday focusing on children in particular. It was an illustrator with “Harper’s” magazine, who first depicted Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole in the latter half of the 19th century, while Coca-Cola ran commercials in 1931 showing Santa as the children’s gift-giver, as we know him today. Rudolf, the much-loved ninth reindeer appeared in 1939 via an advertising agent on behalf of his retailing client, all of which paved the way for the commercialism seen annually for decades.

The festive colour and sparkle brightened the dark days of the long northern winters, with the seasonal sales providing welcome respite during the slower trading months.

But what of Christmas down under, occurring as it does in early summer. Is it not odd to see traditional winter celebrations imposed by early settlers upon warm, sunny days? Christmas
cards depicting robins on snow-covered mailboxes? Rugged-up Carolers sipping hot toddies?
Not at all … if that’s what you like. Whether you prefer a traditional roast meal or a barbecue outside, a formal dinner or informal brunch, a church service to celebrate the birth of Christ
or a walk along the beach, a large, rowdy family affair or a quiet day indulging your favourite pastimes, is entirely up to you.

And rather than decrying its commercialism, I prefer to embrace it for the wealth it provides and the jobs it creates. It would be a mean-spirited Scrooge who begrudged another his
income during the Season of Goodwill. Do some people overstretch themselves fi nancially? Sadly, yes. But the truth is that nobody forces them to do so. Beautiful doesn’t have to be big and bold. It never did. Yes, the Santa sleepwear is tacky. Yes, the reindeer antlers are tragic on anyone old enough to pay full price at the pictures and Michael Jackson’s 'I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus' (I really did!) drives me nuts, too. But it all vanishes in comparison with the beauty of a Christmas tree lit up in the darkness, or the enrapturing melodies of some of the most beautiful music ever written.

Not to mention the face of the little one who gazes upon the simplicity of the nativity scene in the stable where the celebration of Christmas, as we know it today, all began.

May Father Christmas be good to you all.

This articloe originally appeared in the Franklin E-News. Get more of Sus' Soundbites here. And have a Salacious Saturnalia!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Bring back morning drinking!

Oops!  Things were so busy here yesterday that I had no time even to post a Beer O’Clock post.  Appy pollie loggies, my droogs.

So here instead is a hymn in praise of morning drinking – the perfect piece to cut out and print off and take away with you on holiday to hand out to all those wowsers who object when they hear the sound of your cork being popped at 10am.

Bring back the Breakfast Drink, by Jeffrey Tucker
     Everyone knows the rule: drink no liquor before noon. How insufferable such advice is! It has caused morning drinkers to hide their habits, deny them when confronted, and otherwise feel like they are doing something wrong or immoral or socially intolerable, a combination which leads to other forms of pathology.
     It is time for them to stand up and proclaim themselves and their habit as the noble act that it is. All over the world, there exists a grand tradition of including a bit of spirits with one’s breakfast, or at least a bit of beer or wine product. How tragic that those who struggle mightily to uphold this practice are reduced to doing so alone, enjoying their pleasure only in the privacy of their own kitchen for fear of inviting the public humiliation.
guinness donut      I was reminded of this tradition recently when a friend – a brilliant and productive young composer and musicologist who has to remain nameless – partook in his favorite breakfast, which he does every day insofar as it is possible. The food part is simple: a chocolate cake donut, with or without icing. The drink part: a pint of Guinness Stout. The method: dip the donut in the stout and chomp it down. It is the adult version of the child’s milk and cookies trick. 

Read on here for more great ideas for breakfast drinking.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Taking the Christ out of Christmas?

By popular request, here’s the return of an old favourite …

I HEAR COMPLAINTS AGAIN that "Christ is being taken out of Christmas."  Everyone from the Vatican to Fox News is complaining about the "War against Christmas" (TM) --  about the "widespread revolt" against "Christian values and symbols from the holiday."

Here's what I say about those complaints.  So what if Christ is taken out of Christmas?  Christ was never in Christmas, except in fiction and by order of the Pope.  In fact, Jesus wasn't even born in December, let alone at Christmas time: he was born in July* -- which makes him a cancer**.  Just like religion.

Fact is, 'Christmas' was originally not even a Christian festival at all.  The celebration we now all enjoy was originally the lusty pagan festival to celebrate the winter solstice, the festival that eventually became the Roman Saturnalia. This time of year in the northern hemisphere (from whence these traditions started) is when days stopped getting darker and darker, and started once again to lengthen.  This was a time of the year for optimism.  The end of the hardest part of the year was in sight (particularly important up in places like Lapland where all-day darkness was the winter rule), and food stocks would soon be replenished. 

All this was something worth celebrating with enthusiasm, with gusto and with plenty of food and drink and pleasures of the flesh -- and if those Norse sagas tell us anything, they tell us those pagans knew a thing or two about that sort of celebration!  They celebrated a truly Salacious Saturnalia.

One popular celebration involved having a chap put on the horns and skin of the dead animal being roasted in the fire (worn with the fur side inside), and giving out gifts of food to revellers.  This guy represented Satan, and the revellers celebrating beating him back for another year by making him a figure of fun (I swear, I'm not making this up).  Observant readers will spot that the gift-giving and the fur-lined red outfit (and even the name, almost) are still with us in the form of Santa.  So Happy Satanmas, Santa!

SUCH WERE THE celebrations of the past.  But the Dark Age do-gooders didn’t like the pagan revels.  These ghouls of the graveyard wanted to spread the misery of their religion; they thought everyone should be sitting at home mortifying their flesh instead of throwing themselves into such lewd and lusty revels – and  very soon they hit upon a solution: first they stole the festivals, and then they sanitised them.  Instead of lusty revels with Satan and mistletoe, we got insipid nonsense around a manger.  (Just think, the first 'Grinch' who stole Christmas was really a Pope!)  Given this history, it's churlish of today's sanitised saints of sobriety to be complaining now about history reasserting itself.

THE BEST OF Christmas is still very much pagan. The mistletoe, the trees, and the presents; the drinking and eating and all the red-blooded celebrations; the gift-giving, the trees and the decorations; the eating and the singing; the whole full-blooded, rip-roaring, free-wheeling, overwhelming, benevolent materialism of the holiday -- all of it all fun, and all of it fully, one-hundred percent pagan. Says Leonard Peikoff in 'Why Christmas Should Be More Commercial', the festival is "an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life." I'll drink to all that, and then I'll come back right back up again for seconds. Ayn Rand sums it up for mine, rather more benevolently than my brief introduction might have led you to expect:

    The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.
The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....
The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying is good for business and good for the country’s economy; but, more importantly in this context, it stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decoration put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.
And so say all of us.  I wish you all, wherever you are a Merry Christmas, a Delicious Satanmas, and a Salacious Saturnalia!
* Yes, this is simply a rhetorical flourish. Jesus' birth may have happened in March. Or in September -- or not at all -- but it certainly did not happen in December. More on that here.

** "A cancer. Like religion." Think that's harsh? You should try Landover Baptist's Bible Quizzes. Or Sam Harris's 'Atheist Manifesto.' Ouch! [Hat tip for both, good old Stephen Hicks]

It’s about ideas, stupid

Ideas move the world.

What’s moving the world mostly at the moment is bad is bad ideas: bad ideas (as these links explain) on capitalism and economics, on science and the environment and global warming , on political philosophy, on philosophy itself.

But one man, and one small group can have an effect (as Margaret Mead was supposed to have said, “Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”)

This post over at the New Clarion offers the excellent example of Joe the Plumber making a difference[hat tip Thrutch], including this unarguable conclusion:

Just think: one plumber who has read Mises rocked the Obama campaign for days. If one educated American can have such an effect, imagine what would happen if just 5% of Americans read good economics and good philosophy. The welfare state would be seriously challenged. It might even be over.

A few of us are gearing up in the New Year to start systematically working towards that 5% goal in this country.  It’s about cultural change, stupid.

If you’d like to be part of the project, keep an eye out here for details in the New Year.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

THE FREE RADICAL ‘Summer Reader’: The Crisis Edition

TFR80-Cover Hi to you all, and welcome to a ‘Summer Reader’ of the Free Radical.  This is the Crisis Edition, and it’s packed with great reading on the economic crisis; who caused it and how, and what politicians and their servants are doing now that will only make it all worse.

George Reisman, David McGregor, Gene Callahan, Stephen Hicks, Sean Gabb and Jeff Perren make sense out of nonsense, and order out of economic chaos.

On it’s own that’s the price of your copy back right there.  But that’s not all!

We have a world exclusive!  Right in time for the forthcoming parliamentary inquiry into climate change, Christopher Monckton –- that’s Viscount Monkton of Brenchley to you and I  -- writes an Open Letter to John Key on the politics and science of climate change, taking him to task for his stated plan to drive NZ’s economy even further into penury to pay for an environmental delusion.  This thorough debunking of “the apocalyptic vision of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change” is really one to sit and savour. (You can read some leading excerpts here.)

This is the article you need to send your warmist friends and enemies, and to quote from when you write you letters to the editor, and your submissions to the parliamentary inquiry in the New Year.

But that’s still not all.

  • We have the late Larry Sechrest’s tremendous call to take on the enemies of civilisation, which is to say the enemies of capitalism.  Taking them on begins with understanding them. Says Larry in one of his last public talks before his death, "if one couples the repugnant urge toward envy with a broad misperception of reality," it results inexorably in the headlines and press releases and what passes for analysis around the commentariat.
  • We have Lindsay Perigo’s and Peter Cresswell’s differing views and expectations of the new Key Government – and Lindsay’s spirited attack on the headbangers and the caterwaulers: those musical morons who don’t ‘get’ good music, or why it’s objectively superior.
  • We have the Christchurch man who just wants to save weka, in the face of councils and government departments who wish he wouldn’t.
  • We have Stephen Hicks’ attack on teachers who teach fear-mongering instead of science.

All this and much more, including all our regular columnists and reviews, and all the usual ribaldry, irreverence and wit.

This is almost all your summer reading right here.  A copy of The Free Radical and a copy of Atlas Shrugged, and that’s all the thinking man and woman needs these holidays.

* * Now take note that this is a mail-order only issue. To get your copy, head straight to the Free Radical Store and click subscribe now to be included in the latest mail-out, or pay online to receive a digital copy (which should be online very soon).  Or, if you just want a hard copy or six (or more)of this issue, then deposit $9(inc. p+p) for each issue to ASB account 12 3016 0561084 00 (add your name in the ‘From’ field of your online banking form), and then email or fax (09)638 9445 with your details, and Shirley will have your copies winging their way to you before you can say ‘Apocalypse Not.’ * *

You need ‘The Free Radical.’  Your friends need ‘The Free Radical.’  Even your local MP needs ‘The Free Radical’ -- your politicians sure as hell need ‘The Free Radical,’ which is why it’s so urgent that you either take what you read and pass it on to them, or buy a copy just for them.

There has never been a better time to make good ideas heard.

This Christmas, give the gift of ‘The Free Radical’ to a friend or to yourself.   And enjoy.

If you like NOT PC, then you’re gonna luuurve ‘The Free Radical.’  Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss out!

Peter Cresswell

English gives ignorant xenophobia a go

Here's the latest entry in the file marked 'The More Things Change, the More the New Govt Looks Just Like the Last':

    The Government has vetoed plans by one of Asia's richest men to buy a giant ironsands business in a $250 million deal.
    The new Government, which had criticised the Labour administration's decision to block a partial takeover of Auckland airport, sandbagged the deal because of a lack of "substantial and identifiable benefit" to New Zealand.

As Nigel Kearney comments,

    It's a sale by an Australian firm to a Hong Kong firm. There is no direct economic gain or loss to New Zealand, but the indirect gains are:
    1) Companies will be more willing to invest here if they know they will be able to sell without government interference.
    2) A company that wants to buy is much more likely to look after the business and safeguard jobs than a company that wants to sell but can't.
    Only racism or ignorance can explain English's actions. I'll be charitable and put it down to ignorance.

I’ll put it down to ignorant xenophobia.

Negative real sanity [update 3]

The US Federal Reserve – the Fed – has now set interest rates at negative real levels, which means it’s given up on a recovery by saving, and with its “blunt announcement” that it “will print as much money as necessary to revive the frozen credit markets” it’s now obvious to everyone that it’s given up on the US dollar. 

Which means, says blogger Jeff Perren, the Fed is now officially insane.

UPDATE 1: There’s a reason the Fed is insane – and most of the world’s economic ‘experts’ who comment with so much apparent authority on the Fed are all equally insane: it’s because of the power of ideas.  To be accurate, I mean the power of bad ideas. And to be specific, I mean the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, the long-dead so-called economist to which today’s so-called experts turn in times of trouble.

Check out this of the frankly frightening praise of the Fed’s frankly insane Ben Bernanke to see conclusive evidence for the charge of insanity for all of CNBC’s talking heads, and to help you understand just how much in thrall these so-called experts are to this so-called economist (so-called experts, it should be pointed out, who are wholly responsible for causing the bloody crisis in the first place).

I won’t repeat all I’ve already said about the bad ideas of this so-called economist -– if you’re keen you can read all those posts here -– except to say that popular advice in times of crisis used to be, “When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.”  That pretty much describes Keynes’s advice too, leaving somebody else at some time much later to pick up all the pieces.

So why is this the default position in an economic crisis?  Says William Anderson, “the eternal default position on economic crises – the Keynesian one – arises because academic economists foolishly have rejected Austrian Economics and the wise counsel it provides.”  “It is clear, he says

    that modern neoclassical economists are clueless in general about capital… In order to even comprehend the Austrian claims, the mainstream economist needs to discard the simplistic homogeneous notion of the capital stock, and seek a richer framework that reflects the time structure of production…
    Even accomplished economic thinkers like [Nobel prize-winner Gary] Becker seem incapable of understanding the basic Austrian notion of "malinvestment," instead mistakenly calling it "overinvestment" …
    The Austrian School are correct in pointing out that typical academic economists really don’t understand capital very well, and their few attempts at formulating a theory of capital have been failures. Yet, I believe that the mainstream failure of capital theory is due to the greater failure of economists to understand that simple good: money.
    Economists can speak of "money supply" or "price levels," but very few understand the very nature of the money economy and what happens when governments predictably abuse their monopolies of "money creation." Even the "free market" economists often stumble over the issue of money, even when they "specialize" in it, as did Milton Friedman.

All too sadly true.  So why are so many so clueless?  Why so unwilling to embrace, or even to properly address, the answers of the Austrian school of economics? Anderson’s answer:

The failure of economists to embrace Austrianism comes both from ignorance about the economy in general and the fact that Austrian "solutions" do not provide a central role for economists to be seen as heroes or "fixers" of the economy.

So in the absence of genuine knowledge, the so-called experts are competing instead in devising increasingly desperate schemes to "jump start" the economy. As Anderson says, “The blind are leading the blind.”

UPDATE 2: One of the so-called “experts” mentioned above who were heaping praise on the so-called hero of the hour, Ben Barnanke, was Paul McCulley, managing director at PIMCO, the world's largest bond fund, which is unaccountably treated with rapt respect by so-called financial “experts.”

McCulley called Tuesday's move "a glorious day in the history of central banking" in which the Fed "went all in, in poker terms, in the fight against deflation and depression."  This is just fucking insane.

Fortunately, I don’t need to write a long post here explaining why the opinions of McCulley and PIMCO should be treated with kid gloves at best, because Mike Shedlock (known as Mish) has already done a thorough job in a piece I meant to post a few weeks back.  Read it here. Mish gives McCulley a “blue ribbon for complete economic silliness.”  That’s a polite way of saying “this boy’s batshit fucking crazy.”  And he is.

UPDATE 3: The astute Peter Schiff reckons Bernard Madoff’s fraudulent Ponzi scheme offers an important economic lesson, and a candidate for high government office:

    As the multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Wall Street insider Bernard Madoff unravels in the media spotlight, the nation is being presented with a rare opportunity to understand the true nature of many of our most cherished financial structures. Hopefully we have the wisdom to connect the dots.
    Although the $50 billion loss engineered by Madoff is truly a staggering accomplishment (and was done using old-fashioned fraud rather than the mathematical wizardry that has characterized Wall Street’s recent larcenies) the size of the scheme pales in comparison to the multi-trillion dollar Ponzi structures run by the United States government. In fact, rather than looking to jail Madoff, President-elect Obama should consider making him our new Treasury secretary…

Read on here: In Madoff We Trust.

NOT PJ: Razing the Standard of Government

Bernard Darnton saw some creative writing advice that said, "Write drunk, edit sober." I think he’s half-way there…

Razing the Standard of Government

One of “Bomber” Bradbury's predictions for 2009 is that “Rodney's razor gang will slash and burn while the slash and burn is spun as moderate.” One of my predictions for 2009 is that Bomber will continue talking crap. Whose prediction would you give shorter odds to?

In the real world, Rodney's razor will turn out to be one of those girly razors made of pink plastic with lubricating strips and surrounded by moisturising soap. In fact we probably won't even notice the effects of Rodney's Intuitive Extra-Sensitive Silky-Glide Aphrodite 3000. It will completely avoid irritation and dryness. And John Key will have made sure that it's already blunt. And disposable.

This isn't meant as a criticism of Rodney Hide. Given the chance he would undoubtedly prefer something more effective. Metrosexual transformation is one thing but surely underneath the wheat-germ exfoliant and the alpha-pro-retinol eyelid cream there's still a red-blooded IRD-basher. No, this is the sad reality of life as one of several minor coalition partners. If Rodney suggested anything remotely worthwhile, National would vote with the Māori Party – and Pita Sharples is a man not fond of razors. There's a man who should get a haircut (and get a real job).

Digressing for a moment back to the Aphrodite 3000 and its supermarket-shelf siblings... There are about two hundred different types of razors these days in four hundred unnatural colours, made of all sorts of post-Space Age nanotechnology clever-bugger plastics to flex and mould to your contours (or something). There are dozens of new models every year. Who designs them all?

Nobody goes through school, diligently attending to his geometry homework (assuming such a thing still happens), hoping to be a disposable-razor designer. My guess is that lots of people want to be Formula-1 racing car designers. And then they apply to design school to hone the skills required of a cutting edge automotive design legend, dreaming of the back-handed compliment from Jeremy Clarkson.

And because of the free-student-loans bums-on-seats tertiary education system they all get in. No matter that the actual number of Formula-1 racing car designers required annually in New Zealand is bugger all. Well, less actually. Zero. The number of vapid airheads who want to be fashion designers is infinite. The number of vapid airheads who want to learn how to operate a sewing machine is bugger all. Well, less actually.

So the number of schools catering to misguided dreamers spending other people’s money multiplies. Arts colleges probably turn out hundreds of deflated designers who don't end up creating the new MacLaren or MacBook; they get shunted instead into the disposable razor industry or its soul-mate, the bloody-stupid-toothbrush industry: “If we put the bristles in upside-down it could trim your nose hair and read your horoscope too!”

We don't need Rodney “Hydroxy replenishing derma-scrub” Hide's emasculated razor gang. We need Rodney “Leatherface” Hide's chainsaw massacre. There are four hundred and god-knows-how-many government ministries, departments, offices, agencies, bureaus, commissions, boards, tribunals, registrars, and authorities out there. Any that can't be named by ten percent of voters should be closed tomorrow. Those that everybody's heard of, like the Ministry of Education, should have all the obviously useless crap like toothbrush design colleges trimmed forthwith.

* * Read more of Bernard Darnton every Thursday here at NOT PC * *

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Tipping point?

The world is warming … to common sense. European political leaders have realised that strangling their economies in pursuit of a fiction is just dumb. “Instead of standing by plans to cut CO2 emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, the actual reductions,” says the Wall Street Journal Europe, “might be as trivial as 4% if all exemptions are factored in.”

Four percent!  Clearly, Europe is cooling on global warming.  And:

Kevin Rudd's announcement of a carbon emissions reduction target of 5 per cent by 2020 demonstrated that his pre-election claim that climate change was the great moral issue of our time, and demanding that Australia lead the way, was what Winston Churchill would call a terminological inexactitude: a whopper, a piece of bare-faced duplicity of epic proportions. But thank goodness Rudd and his colleagues deceived us [See Janet Albrechtsen: Blessed change in the climate]

Five percent! Australia too is cooling on global warming. 

The world is clearly coming round to common sense on the great global lie.  And with the forthcoming select committee inquiry into global warming here, New Zealand has the same opportunity to resile from the bullshit, and to step back from Key’s ludicrous pre-election promises to strangle NZ’s economy by up to fifty percent in order to fix a non-problem.

Thank goodness then for Christopher Monckton’s Open Letter to John Key on Climate Change.

One would like to think it could be the necessary tipping point here.

Keep ‘em in the dark, and feed ‘em the RMA [updated]

On the same day that National’s Nick Smith’s announced the members of his “expert group” of advisors to help him “review” the Resource Management Act, news broke that indicated why the Resource Management Act so urgently needs to be reviewed – if not axed altogether.

Meadow Mushrooms' Morrinsville plant -- a multi-million dollar business employing more than 180 people -- is being shut down.  “The closure has nothing to do with the recent economic downturn,” says plant manager Roger Young.  "It's only because of this (Environment Court) action."  In case you didn’t know, the Environment Court gains its powers under the Resource Management Act.

The problem, you see, is that they smell.  They smell worse than a dirty nappy on a wet dog.  The plant might have been pumping out bad smells for fifty years but, when you smell that bad, you pick up some enemies. 

Some of Meadow Mushrooms’ enemies are neighbours (four farmers in particular who moved in knowing the plant was there), some of them are trade competitors, but under the Resource Management Act both these groups acquire the power to bring down their foe – with the result that the farmers get to raise the value of their land at the expense of their neighbour, and the trade competitors get to increase the value of their businesses, but again its at the expense of this long-standing employer, the biggest in the Waikato-Piako business.

There’s something here that smells alright, and I don’t just mean the smell of rotting compost. 

There's a very real injustice that would have been so easy to avoid.  Let me remind you of the doctrine of coming to the nuisance which should so obviously have been invoked here – except of course that the RMA has made its application impossible.

The doctrine of coming to the nuisance is a common law principle of long standing.  Under common law you have, as Cactus Kate correctly points out, “Freedom to do what you want on your property as long as it doesn't impinge on others' right of peaceful enjoyment of their property,” but if you’re not impinging because you’ve initially either no neighbours on which to impinge or your neighbours have no problem at all with your emissions of noise, or smell or smoke (or with the money you’ve agreed to pay them so you can emit), then ipso facto you aren’t actually creating a nuisance to anyone, and this pre-existing situation acquires legal standing.

So if some new party them moves into this situation knowing that you’re creating a smell, a noise or otherwise creating a nuisance, then they have no legal right to complain.  Since they came to the nuisance by choice, then under this doctrine the law recognises the pre-existing situation and the acquired rights, and not the complaints that newbies might care to raise. They knew you were there; they presumably got their property cheaper because of it; then the doctrine of coming to the nuisance applies, or should do.

The Coming to the Nuisance Doctrine is an enormously powerful principle protecting pre-existing rights, and quickly establishing rights in situations of apparent neighbourhood conflict. Move next door to a clean and well-run chicken farm or a pig farm for example (even if the place has been ‘re-zoned’ since the farm opened), and under this doctrine you have no right to have them thrown out. Move next door to a speedway track, and you have no right to complain about excessive noise.

I assume you see the difference with how things presently work.

If the farm or the speedway track or whatever it is was there before you chose to buy next door, and if it’s well and properly run, then those pre-existing rights should and can and once were protected in law; and if they were still you and I and Meadow Mushrooms’ neighbours would then have a strong incentive to either make a more careful choice in future (whereas now the incentive is there to move in and force them out), or to buy out the farm, or buy easements or covenants over the neighbouring land to create the new rights they’re now acquiring by using the RMA’s big stick.

Either way, when the coercion is removed and bargaining is all that’s allowed, the tendency is for property to end up in its highest value use by peaceful resolution. This is not something planners can ever claim to have achieved.

And what this principle demonstrates, or would do over long use, is that zoning and ‘planning’ as district planners do it is not only coercive, but unnecessary. Coming to the nuisance is THE antidote to zoning and ‘planning’ and all the bureaucratic bullshit. Implement the coming to the nuisance doctrine – which would be as easy as introducing a codification of basic common law principles including this one, and then abolishing the RMA --  and then you don’t have all the conflicts, and nor do you need the whole expensive farrago that’s been created by the RMA.

Instead you would have clearly delineated property rights that can be peacefully traded until ‘equilibrium’ between neighbours’ desires and what they’re prepared to pay for them is reached, and life mercifully free of the diktats of the planners.

NOW, HAVING SAID ALL THAT about the iniquity of the plant being closed down, I’d normally be in sympathy with the owners. But not in this case.

One of the major shareholders in the plant is one Philip Burdon, magnate and former trade minister in Jim Bolger’s National Government – the same same government that imposed the Resource Management Act on us.

Talk about being hoist by your own petard.

Like I say, I'd normally be in sympathy with the owners, but Mr Burdon at least has brought this on himself.  For him, I feel no sympathy whatsoever.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS REVIEW of the RMA by the new National Government?  And what about Nick Smith’s new expert group –- what does that tell us about the likely course of the review? Is there any hope?

Frankly, the membership of the group tells you everything you’d expect from a man who was Minister of the RMA in the last National Government, who calls the RMA “far-sighted environmental legislation, and who said just recently that he intends to “review” the Resource Management Act to, quote, “look at how companies win the right to take private land.”

Alan Dormer looks to be the only decent one there, and he is undoubtedly the choice of Rodney Hide. His submission on the original RMA Bill back in 1991 was a cracker.

The others are as wet as a tidal wave.

Penny Webster is the Rodney District mayor who’s presided over enormous rate increases in the Rodney district, but even in straitened time doesn’t think “this shouldn't entail pruning.” [Scroll down here to see what I think of that.]

Guy Salmon is a blowhard ‘Blue Green’ opposed to any notion of property rights. He is a great advocate of Scandinavian style ‘consultation’ and ‘community values’ crap, and a personal friend of Nick the Dick.

Mike Foster ‘works’ for Beca Planning, who are effectively an arm of the Environmental Defence Society and are great advocates of the nonsense of so-called ‘Smart Growth’ and detailed structure plans.

Dennis Bush-King is from Tasman District which is a Smart Growth town with some of the least affordable housing in NZ (a feature shared by almost all of the world’s smart growth cities).

Mike Holm was a founder of the Environmental Defence Society, and a lawyer who makes a killing off the RMA..

Wyatt Creech is ... well, I did mention 'wet,' didn't I.

Neither Owen McShane nor myself got a phone call.  I can’t say I was surprised.

The last time all these people got together in a room, we were all left worse off.

At least with these appointments Smith is making his intentions plain: More of the same, only more so -- with the major change being an exemption for Government so they can get on with ThinkBig 2.0.

There should now be no excuse for any optimism from National voters about what to expect from this ‘review.’  It will make whitewash look the colour of creosote, and smell just as bad.

So if you’re thinking of making investments based on the expectation of positive changes to the RMA, then don’t bother.  You won’t get them.

UPDATE:  Speaking of Owen McShane, his latest newsletter has superb commentary on the RMA and the Meadows Mushroom malady. See Can we increase the Security of Rural Industry? and The High Risks of Growing Food.

Art & Perception

The art you like is a shortcut to your philosophy.  It really is. And you know, each time I say that here it annoys people.  I mean it really annoys people.  Which tells me that their view of art really means something to them: it touches their values – their own personal philosophy --- something deep inside themselves.

Which means the very virulence of the (over)reaction is evidence for the thesis.

You see, every choice an artist makes demonstrates his own values, his own personal philosophy, just as your reactions to what the artist has done demonstrates yours.

There’s nothing to fear about that, it’s simply the nature of real art.  That’s why art is art: it has the power to tell us something about ourselves and the way we see the world.  Not the way we might pretend to others (or ourselves) about how we see the world, but the way we really see it, and evaluate it.

“But how,” I hear you ask, “does an artist translate his philosophy into his art?” Good question.  And fortunately for all of us, artist Michael Newberry is supplying the answers in a new addition to his art tutorials called ‘Connecting Your Philosophy to Your Art.’  His first post in this new series focuses on perception, using this painting below. He asks, and answers, the question: what do you think the artist’s evaluation of the value of perception is?  What do you think it might be?  And what clues in the painting make you think so?  (Try to answer the question for yourself before looking at Michael’s concise explanation.)


Vase of Flowers in a Niche
about 1732–36
Jan van Huysum, Dutch, 1682–1749

So, what do you think the artist’s evaluation of perception is?  And what, dear reader, is yours?

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Internet or sex? Wrong answer!

NBR reports a sad statistic from America, which I suspect would be replicated here:

   A US study asked 2000 men and women if they'd rather go two weeks without sex or the internet.
    The Intel-funded research, reported in no lesser organ than The New York Times, found 46% of women and 30% of men would rather swear-off sex for two weeks than give up the net.

Sad, very sad. 

Unrecorded is the number of people who prefer sex ON the internet.  Or the number of frequent internet users with whom sex is something to avoid rather than endure.  Care to speculate on those percentages?

SUS’s SOUND-BITE: Metaphorical Middle Finger

by Susan Ryder

Yesterday morning I awoke to the news that former MPs Don Brash and Katherine Rich, together with author Lynley Hood were calling for a new enquiry into the Peter Ellis case. For those who were not in the country at the time, me included, the former Christchurch Civic Creche employee was jailed in 1993 for 16 counts of sexual offences against children, but has always maintained his innocence.

The last few posts have seen me speaking up for white men, (although God knows why -- there’s a few commenting here I’d gladly sacrifice to the feminazi godless!), arguing the merits of drug legalisation and open immigration, (guaranteed to make the blue corner see red, those two), and calling Muslim terrorism for what it is: terrorism by Muslims.

Being so close to Christmas and already having a seasonal message lined up for next week (bet you can’t wait!) I was in the mood for something light. I’d been toying with the idea of having a laugh at either a bunch of sopping wet green mush I came across in a magazine at the hairdresser’s last Friday or the .. wait for it .. Miss World 2008 contest I stumbled upon on TV yesterday while sitting down to lunch. This latest saga in the ongoing Peter Ellis story changed my plans in a trice.

I returned to New Zealand permanently in 1995 two years after Ellis’s sentencing, to find the case still raging. I cannot comment upon it per se, except to say that it sounded a mighty nasty affair.

The call for another enquiry prompted some interesting calls to Leighton Smith’s programme. Several men, all fathers and grandfathers, recounted their being frightened of bathing or even playing with their little children/grandchildren around that time, lest their actions be misinterpreted. I remember having a conversation with a late friend, then a father of little kids himself, on that very topic whereby he was adamant he was not going to acquiesce to the nonsense. I applauded him then and still hold to that viewpoint.

I’m quite dotty about little kids. They crack me up. I just don’t get those who don’t have an affinity with them. I blame it on my parents and grandparents, all of whom were and are the same. I’m the sort of person who openly coos at strangers’ babies. Provided you communicate with little people in tandem with their parents to rightly disarm the stranger-danger thing, nobody in my experience has ever taken offence. On the contrary, they have always been delighted that someone has taken the trouble to be nice to their kids. I’m sure it’s because most people share a soft spot where babies and little kids are concerned.

So it wasn’t onerous for me to be a nanny, au pair or mother’s helper, call it what you will, on several occasions in past travels. In all, I’ve cared for a dozen children aged from three months to 10 years, in various international locations. The duration ranged from a few weeks to 12 months, all consisting of feeding, washing and playing with kids together with light housework and ferrying them around. The upshot was that I found myself living in gorgeous places in affluent surroundings in between bouts of travel, meeting lovely people along the way.

One such job was in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, living with a great couple and helping out with their three children while they ran their business from home. They acquired membership of the nearby country club so I could take the kids to the pool whenever I wanted. It was a generous gesture: the membership was expensive and they personally loathed the place on account of its largely plastic members, who were all teeth, tan and little else.

If you can’t beat them short-term you may as well join them short-term so I befriended lots of the weekday Barbies, all of whom had little kids, too. (The Kens were all hard at work making squillions in Silicon Valley). I used to leave the baby at home with his parents, while I took their 5 year old son and his little sister, aged 3.

If it all sounds like a recipe for easy money, I’d be the first to admit that the jobs were not overly-taxing. But every time I buckled the kids into the car, I was conscious that I was responsible for their parents’ greatest treasures. You can double that responsibility where water is concerned, particularly in the world’s most litigious country, all of which brings me to the point of this wee story.

‘Missing children’ is the euphemism for snatched children in the US. I was acutely aware of this horror every time I poured a cup of coffee, milk cartons sometimes displaying images of missing children, together with relevant details. It is a family’s worst nightmare and beyond comprehension. On the strength of that, I tried to never take my eyes off the kids which, as any parent or guardian will tell you, is much easier said than done, especially in a busy, noisy pool environment.

Little people attract a disproportionate amount of stuff; the smaller they are, the more stuff required, which routinely saw me packed up like a carthorse. I used to grab a table close to the pool so that when I wasn’t in the water with the kids, I was only a couple of feet away. When it came time to leave, the 5 year old was understandably upset that I wanted to take him into the women’s changing room with his sister .. “but I’m a big boy, Sus!” .. and I wasn’t having him go into the men’s on his own on my watch, so I settled on a compromise: to quickly and quietly change them poolside, there and then.

We were surrounded by tables, chairs, umbrellas and bags for Africa; in other words, barely visible. I dried them from the waist up and put their tops on, then whipped their togs off, drying & dressing them in seconds. Sandals and hats on, bags repacked and loaded (on me) and we were gone. I never thought anything of it.

I should have. The first pilgrims were Puritan by name and puritanical by nature and more than 300 years later, I discovered that the feeling was still mutual. Nothing was ever said to me, but casually mentioned to the couple with whom I lived. They, bless them, responded that they were delighted I took their kids’ safety so seriously in their absence and that you’d really have to wonder at the sort of adult who was offended at the very brief sight of child nudity, impeded by outdoor furniture to boot! The three of us rolled our eyes at the silliness and shared a good laugh at their expense.

Needless to say I continued to visit the pool, smile and acknowledge everybody and then discreetly dry them poolside before leaving every day, joined by my Australian and Norwegian au pair friends who did the same with their charges. Nobody said a word.

And the moral of this story, ladies and gentlemen? Never be cowed by collective stupidity and small-mindedness. Stand up and scorn it. Laugh at it loudly. Give it the metaphorical middle finger if you feel so inclined. It deserves no better.

* * Read more of Sus at Sus’s Soundbites * *

Hapuku Lodge ‘Tree Houses,’ Kaikoura – Wilson Family architects


hapuku-lodge-trees You know, tourism architecture so often throws up interesting stuff, where an architect has taken a chance and actually tried to address the context of the project rather than simply unroll the office’s standard set of plans, re-title them, and then send out a bill -- as so many offices seem to do.

These ‘tree houses’ designed by the family who own and run them are really do sit beautifully in their context.  I like them.  I think they’re neat.

Here’s the Lodge’s website if you want to learn more, or you’d like to book yourself in.  And here’s more info about the architects.


Monday, 15 December 2008

‘FREE RADICAL’ EXCLUSIVE: Christopher Monckton’s Open Letter to John Key on Climate Change’

I’m delighted to be able to give you two very exciting pieces of news.

First, a much-delayed bumper summer issue of  ‘The Free Radical' magazine is just days away from hitting the inside of subscribers’ letterboxes – in fact, the finishing touches are being put to this issue as we speak!  Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss out on your Christmas treat: all the reading you need to make sense of today’s current events.

Second, in anticipation of National/ACT’s select committee inquiry into climate change, we have a world exclusive Open Letter to John Key on Climate Change sent by the world’s leading climate ‘skeptic,’ Christopher Monckton – or Viscount Monckton of Brenchley as he’s known to his friends.

This is pure gold; the world’s leading climate ‘skeptic’ explains to NZ’s new Prime Minister that the apocalyptic vision of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is a lurid and fanciful account of imagined future events that was always baseless, was briefly exciting among the less thoughtful species of news commentators and politicians, and is now thoroughly and scientifically discredited.

To give you just a taste, here’s some leading excerpts.  As you can see, it’s a thorough exposition:

  • I applaud the stated intention of both Act and National to re-examine both the fatally flawed emissions-trading plans of the previous government and the fundamentals of the science of “global warming”, but I remain concerned at your continuing policy goal – pointlessly to halve your country’s economic output.
  • Is climate change literally a “hot” topic? As you ponder that question, Sir, consider that the recorded temperature in the Christchurch of 2008 is no warmer than the Christchurch of 1910 – as you can establish for yourself by checking the record. Clearly, there are more facts to bring to bear than either your colleagues or your advisers have told you hitherto.
  • The facts which I shall give you in this letter are taken not from my own imagination, nor from the obscurantist reports of the UN’s climate panel, nor from any lobby group, but from the real-world, observed data and the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
  • Today’s temperature, in the perspective of the long recent history of our planet, is unusually low…
  • At both Poles, it was warmer only half a century ago than it is today.
  • A symposium of the International Astronomical Union [2004] concluded that it is the Sun that was chiefly responsible for the warming of the late 20th century; that the “global warming” that had been observed over the previous 300 years had ended; that global cooling would soon become the norm; and that anthropogenic effects on the climate were negligible.
  •     From 1700-1998, temperature rose at a near-uniform rate of about 1 °F per century. In 1998, “global warming” stopped, and it has not resumed since. Indeed, in the past seven years, temperature has been falling at a rate equivalent to as much as 0.7 °F per decade. Very few news media have given any prominence to this long and pronounced downturn in the temperature trend.
        The January-January fall in global mean surface temperatures between 2007 and 2008 was the steepest since global-temperature records were first compiled in 1880.
  • Since the world is not warming at the rate projected by the UN’s climate panel (the IPCC), it follows that the urgency relentlessly suggested by that panel is by no means as great as the UN’s reports would have us believe. Some 20 years ago, the IPCC told us we had ten years to avert climate disaster. Today, the IPCC’s chairman says exactly the same.
  • Despite rapidly-rising carbon dioxide concentrations, there has been no new record year for global temperature in the ten years since 1998; and, in the United States, there has been no new record year for national temperature since 1934.
  • Greenhouse gases keep the world warm enough for plant and animal life to thrive. Without them, the Earth would be an ice-planet all of the time rather than some of the time… Two-thirds of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is naturally present, and carbon dioxide occupies just one-ten-thousandth more of the atmosphere today than it did 250 years ago: for the atmosphere is large and we are small.
  • Sir, you have proposed a “target of cutting New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by the year 2050.” Yet your party is supposedly committed to free enterprise, and you have said you are “ambitious for New Zealand”. Do you not think that a far greater degree of scientific certainty as to the effects of minuscule increases in carbon dioxide concentration on temperature would be advisable before you inflict strategic damage on any such scale upon your own country’s economy from within?
  • A recent survey of 539 peer-reviewed scientific papers published since January 2004 and selected at random using the search term “global climate change” reveals that not a single paper provides any evidence whatsoever that “human induced climate change is real” or that “it’s threatening the planet.” The fictitious notion of imminent, catastrophic climate change is almost wholly absent in the scientific literature… Since the UN’s estimates are indeed exaggerations, and are known to be so, the only potentially-“credible” basis for alarmism falls away.
  •     Using computer models to predict the climate cannot ever be effective or accurate: for the climate, in the formal, mathematical sense, is chaotic… Long-run climate prediction is impossible unless we can know the initial state of the millions of variables that define the climate object, and know that state to a degree of precision that is and will always be in practice unattainable.
        It is the common characteristic of any chaotic object, such as the climate, that the slightest perturbation, however minuscule, in the initial value of even one of that object’s variables can induce substantial and unpredictable “phase transitions” – sudden changes of state – in the future evolution of the object. The climate is defined not by one or two variables but by millions.
  • The UN [IPCC, 2001], accepts that the climate is “a complex, non-linear, chaotic object”, and, consequently, that “long-term prediction of climate states is impossible.” Yet it then attempts the impossible by making predictions of climate sensitivity that are already being proven exaggerated by the failure of temperatures to rise as the computer models had predicted (or, recently, at all).
  •     All of the climate models relied upon by the UN predict that the distinguishing characteristic or “fingerprint” of anthropogenic greenhouse-gas forcing is that in the tropical mid-troposphere, about 6 miles up, temperature over the decades should rise at two or even three times the rate of increase observed at the tropical surface.
        However (and it is crucial that you should understand this), the computer-predicted “hot-spot” over the tropics that is the supposed fingerprint of anthropogenic greenhouse warming, entirely distinct from that of any other source of warming, has not been observed in any of the tropospheric temperature datasets. Thirty years of satellite data do not show the “hot-spot” either. It is not there.
  • You also need to know that the values for climate sensitivity in the computer models – in short, the central estimates of how much the world’s temperature will increase in response to a given rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – are not outputs from the models, but inputs to them. The computers are being told to assume high climate sensitivity, so a high climate sensitivity is what they find.
  • Let me summarize the irremediably shaky basis for the UN’s alarmist case. It is not based on physical theory. In several fundamental respects, it is at odds with theory… Nor is the UN’s case based on real-world observation: and, as we have seen, its principal predictions and conclusions are grievously at odds with real-world observation… The UN’s entire case is based on computer modeling, in which – astonishingly – the models are told at the outset the values for the very quantity (temperature response to increased carbon dioxide concentration) that we are told they are going to calculate.
  • From late 2001 on, the oceans and the atmosphere simultaneously cooled. The UN dealt with the problem by ignoring it, as did many of the news media, who simply failed to report that the world has been cooling for seven years.
  • Sea level has been rising since the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. It is 400 feet higher now than it was then. The rate of increase has averaged 4 feet per century. Yet in the 20th century .. sea level rose by little more than 7 inches… There is no scientific basis, therefore, for saying that any anthropogenic warming that may have occurred over the past 50 years has had any appreciable effect on sea level.
  • The UN imagines that most sea-level rise will come not from the melting glaciers about which the media so frequently fantasize, but from thermosteric expansion – sea water swelling as it warms. However, thermosteric expansion can only occur if the body of water in question is getting warmer. The oceans are not getting warmer (except in certain regions, such as the Antarctic Peninsula, where there is evidence of undersea volcanic activity).
  •     There is no reason to suppose that sea level will rise any faster in the 21st century than it did in the 20th – i.e., by about 8 inches…
        There is not and has never been any scientific basis for the exaggerated projections by a certain politician that sea level might imminently rise by as much as 20 feet. That politician, in the year in which he circulated a movie containing that projection, bought a $4 million condominium just feet from the ocean at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco…
       In a recent case in the High Court in London the judge said of this politician that “the Armageddon scenario that he predicts is not based on any scientific view.”
  •     Given that glacial recession began long before humankind could have had any appreciable effect on global temperature, and given that the rate of recession has remained uniform, on what basis can it be said that it is anthropogenic “global warming” that is causing the glaciers to recede?
  •     Finally, only a tiny proportion of the future sea-level rise imagined by the UN’s climate panel is attributed by it to melting glaciers.
  • You will recall that in the 1940s the Arctic was warmer than it is today.
  • Both the summer and the winter extent of the sea ice surrounding Antarctica was greater in 2007/8 than at any time since the satellite record began 30 years ago.
  • But the most telling evidence of all is that the mean thickness of the Greenland ice sheet increased by 2 inches per year – a total of 1 ft 8 in – during the decade 1993-2003. Once again, there is no cause for alarm.
  • Tim Flannery, an environmentalist campaigner, “predicted” last June that Sydney’s dams would run dry. He said this was “the most extreme and the most dangerous situation arising from climate change facing any country in the world right now." He made his prediction just days before a deluge that made that month the wettest June since 1964.
  • Over a sufficient timescale of decades, then, a warmer climate will entail not a drier atmosphere but a moister one. Sure enough, some of the world’s driest regions – such as the southern Sahara – have experienced more, not less, precipitation over the period of the satellite record.
  • As to suggestions that the world is likely to see reduced water supplies, you are yet again seeing “global warming” blamed for a problem that has nothing to do with warmer weather. As the human population expands, its demands on water supplies increase. That, and not “global warming”, is why many parts of the world do not have regular supplies of drinking water.
  • There is no longer any credible, scientific basis for the implicit conclusion that “a higher incidence of extreme-weather events” has occurred because of anthropogenic “global warming.”
  •     A certain Tennessean tobacco-planter and politician, in his notoriously-inaccurate sci-fi comedy horror movie about the imagined “climate crisis”, cited a scientific paper that, he said, revealed that “global warming” was already killing polar bears.
        However, the paper concerned, had actually said that just four polar bears had died in the Beaufort Sea, not because “global warming” had made sea-ice scarce, but because of unusually strong winds and high sea states in a severe Arctic storm. The politician had simply chosen to misstate the principal conclusion of the paper on the cause of the polar bears’ death, because the truth did not fit the great lie.
  •     Intrigued by this evidence that there is more ice, not less, in the Beaufort Sea, I decided additionally to check the total extent of sea ice in the Arctic on 30 November 1979 and on 30 November 2008. I found that there was almost as much sea ice on St. Andrew’s day this year as there was in the first year of the satellite record…
        I also decided to check whether the global sea-ice extent had declined in response to the supposed “global warming” of the past 30 years. It had not. There has been no trend – no trend at all – throughout the period of satellite observations.
  • The key characteristic of a species at risk is, of course, declining population. However, the population of polar bears is not plummeting. Instead, there are five times as many polar bears in the Arctic today than there were in the 1940s. As you may think, Sir, that is hardly the profile of a species facing imminent extinction as its habitat shrinks away.
  • I have presented evidence, drawn directly from the raw data and from the peer-reviewed, scientific literature, to establish that, at the very least, there is reasonable doubt about whether destroying the Western economies on the scale now proposed ... would make any difference whatever to the climate, even if there were a “climate crisis” ...

And finally,

  • Sir, every one of the reasons advanced by the IPCC and its faithful adherents for alarm and consequent panic action has been demonstrated to be hollow and without any scientific foundation or merit. Yet, if your proposal to close down half of the economy of New Zealand is to be justifiable, then the false scientific and policy propositions that you apparently support must be shown to be true.

I did say it was thorough – and this is just the excerpts!

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Is Christmas too commercial?

Now it’s the last full week before Christmas, it’s time for my first Christmas post of 2008.  How do you answer this question:

Is Christmas too commercial?

It’s clearly not as “commercial” this year as morons like Kevin Rudd would like to make it (he’s just printed and distributed 8.7 billion dollars of shopping subsidies to make his economic theorists happy) and it’s obviously not as commercial this year as it has been when real money was less tight, but how often do we hear that whinge that “Christmas is too commercial!”

And it’s just  nonsense anyway, says philosopher Leonard Peikoff, because that complaint misses the very point of Christmas,  the most benevolent and frankly commercial holiday in the catalogue.

At Christmas we don't say "sacrifice and repent," we say enjoy yourself and thrive!  Getting together with workmates, friends and loved ones, celebrating the year with gusto; giving gifts pleasure to people you value, whose friendship you want to enjoy. Boats full of happy people cruise the harbour; laughing diners fill restaurants; shops overflow (well,most years) with people buying gifts to make people happy who make them happy.  What's not to like about Christmas being commercial?

    Christmas [says Perikoff] is an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life. Yet all of these are castigated as "materialistic"; the real meaning of the holiday, we are told, is assorted Nativity tales and altruist injunctions (e.g., love thy neighbor) that no one takes seriously...
    The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....
    All the best customs of Christmas, from carols to trees to spectacular decorations, have their root in pagan ideas and practices. These customs were greatly amplified by [Western] culture, as the product of reason, science, business, worldliness, and egoism, i.e., the pursuit of happiness...
    Life requires reason, selfishness, capitalism; that is what Christmas should celebrate -- and really, underneath all the pretense, that is what it does celebrate. It is time to take the Christ out of Christmas, and turn the holiday into a guiltlessly egoistic, pro-reason, this-worldly, commercial celebration.

And so say all of us.

Well, most of us.  Some of you will be saying there’s some other “reason for the season.”  Well, historians know the "reason for the season," and what they know is it's not because of the Nativity.  Even the Archbishop of Canterbury apparently knows the truth, conceding last year that the Christmas story and the Three Wise Men - the whole Nativity thing --  is all just "a legend."  [Hat tip James Valliant]. 

This Christmas, think about giving the gift of truth.  And have a happy, and commercial, Christmas.

Police investigating greens?

The Sunday Star Times published claims yesterday that a police intelligence unit was spying on Greenpeace protestors.

Since this was the same Sunday Star Times, and the same so-called reporters, that not so long ago published claims that Tariana Turia was being bugged by the SIS – a claim investigated and subsequently demolished by Justice Paul Neazor, who called it "a work of fiction"  – you’ll forgive me if I don’t lend any credence to the report without better evidence than Nicky Hager and Anthony Hubbard provide.

But let’s assume for argument’s sake that the claim is true.  So what? The groups are said to include the likes of Safe Animals from Exploitation (SAFE), Peace Action Wellington, GE-free groups, and Save Happy Valley.  All of these are law-breakers – as is their ‘mother ship’  Greenpeace, who if you’ll remember were supporters of the likes of the Sea Shepherd, which spends time in freezing Antarctic waters trying to sink Japanese whaling ships with all the lives on board. 

These people are not part of a knitting circle.

SAFE have a history of breaking and entering, and destroying people’s property.  It was GE-free groups who broke into Lincoln University a few years back and destroyed experiments worth millions (and, incidentally, risked spreading the GE virus against which they were protesting).  And Save Happy Valley and Peace Action Wellington are nothing like as benevolent as they sound: members of both these groups have been arrested and investigated in the past for wilful damage, and both were included in those arrested last year as part of the Te Qaeda/Urewera 17 operations. 

So even if the claim was proven true, if these groups are being investigated is simply means the police are doing their job.

PS:  If you harbour peaceful feelings about any of these groups, do yourself a favour and search Trevor Loudon’s blog for information on what they get up to, and what they’re involved with.  You’ll raise more than just your eyebrows.  Here’s a few links just to get you started:  Greenpeace, Peace Action Wellington, Save Happy Valley Coalition and animal rights groups.   Says Trevor, “Can't think why the police would be interested in these people. Any ideas?”

UPDATE: From the Dim Post:

    Left wing activists targeted by the police in an ongoing and controversial domestic intelligence operation have reported that they are ‘greatly relieved’ that information about their massive conspiracy to defraud the Social Welfare Department was not passed on to police by paid informer Rob Gilchrist.
    ‘We would have been totally busted,’ admitted Aro Valley resident Jules Fletcher, a 43 year old sickness beneficiary and tactical intelligence officer of the two man revolutionary cell ‘Tino-rangatiratanga People’s Global Jihad for Social and Environmental Justice Now!’.

Friday, 12 December 2008

FRIDAY FUN: You can’t fix stupid [update 2]

True headlines by people and copy editors who should know better…
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UPDATE 1 (courtesy of Lance): chickaccusesUPDATE 2 (courtesy of the Sturminator):
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