Friday, May 08, 2009

NZ Music Month: My Favourites

Last time I told you my top five or so favourite NZ albums I could only post links to the albums – and I sensed you all passed quickly past. Now YouTube has changed all that, so here for your listening and reading pleasure in NZ Music Month are my own top ten all-time favourite NZ albums in, ah, 'autobiographical' order. Now with clips! (Some of them sometimes even related to the albums listed!)

  • Hello Sailor: Hello Sailor – thrashed this to album to death when I was about thirteen. And as Jennie could tell you, "my life was saved by rock n’ roll.”
  • AK79 – and then there was punk
  • Toy Love: Toy Love
  • Graham Brazier: Inside Out
  • Hammond Gamble: Plugged in & Blue
  • Luke Hurley: Reha – not much decent video of old Luke.  This looks to be about it.
  • Kiri te Kanawa: Four Last Songs – music to live up to
  • NZ's opera knight Donald McIntyre singing in Wagner’s Die Walkure
  • Kiri: Songs of the Auvergne – bonus point if you know in which unforgettable local movie it was used in
  • Little Bushman: Pendulum (can you spot old Big Nose down the front?)
So what are your favourite NZ albums?  Come on, ‘fess up now.

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Stress tests

You might have noticed that the results of Timothy Geithner’s “stress test” of American banks was released today.  Mish summarises the results in plain language.:

Fed Determines Banks Need $74.6 billion in Fantasyland Scenario, $599 Billion in Cakewalk Scenario
”The results cannot and will not provide "considerable comfort" because the stress test parameters were a cakewalk. . . The banks were insolvent and many still are. The Fed has thrown $trillions at this mess and the banks remain short of capital. If you are depending on research from Fox-Pitt Kelton Cochran Caronia Waller, you need a new analyst.”

“Routine”? [Update 4]

Another victim of the War on Drugs overnight: Senior Constable Len Snee, shot and killed in Napier "during a routine drug bust."  His name may be added to that of Sergeant Don Wilkinson, shot and killed in Hain Avenue, Mangere East, in September last year, as two more police victims of the failed War on Drugs in just the last twelve months.

Both were shot and killed in "routine drugs busts" -- the latest described by police themselves as "a very mundane low level cannabis operation."  The mother of Snee's murderer seems more clear eyed about the whole horrendous situation than all the policeman now impotently camped outside her son’s house, "What are they trying to protect?" asked Anna Molenaar. "A silly marijuana plant? What a thing to protect...now someone's been shot and someone's in hospital. Just can't comprehend it really, just can't comprehend it."

It's hard to comprehend, isn't it, all too hard, that when you criminalise something as harmless as marijuana -- less harmful, according to the British medical journal Lancet than both alcohol and tobacco -- then what you're doing is ensuring is more harm than you can imagine, and more deaths like these.

When you criminalise something as harmless as marijuana, you don't make it disappear, you simply put the sale of the drug in the hands of criminals -- and if criminals don't care what your War-on-Drugs laws say, then they sure as hell won't care what your gun laws say either.  When you criminalise drugs, then "routine" drugs busts become life and death situations.

That's hardly "harm minimisation," is it.

And there's something even more disgraceful, if that’s possible, and that’s the way police are handling this situation.

While the gunman is holed up inside, a dead or dying policeman is lying outside, and has done for nearly twenty-four hours.  Speaking late last night,  his colleagues were unable even to confirm whether Senior Constable Len Snee was alive or dead!   Look, the gunman may have explosives but he has no one else in the house with him, yet while he was and still is being treated with kid gloves, a policeman has been allowed to die, and a city itself held hostage.

Is there some reason overwhelming force can’t be used on a man who has already foregone his right to life?  Is there any reason any other life at all should be put at risk in extracting the murderer from his foxhole.  Is there some reason tear gas, grenades, fire, light armoured vehicles, bazookas, mortars or heavy artillery – or even just plain good tactical policing – can’t be used against someone who they now have no reason to treat with anything else but disdain?  Yes, he might blow himself and his house up, and he might even cause wider damage further afield, but why the hell didn’t they evacuate the nearby houses, rescue their colleague, and clear the situation and the gunman up at least a dozen hours ago!

When South Auckland police spent forty-eight minutes "securing the scene" while bottle store owner Navtej Singh lay bleeding to death on his shop floor last year, it looked like bald incompetence.   Now, it’s beginning to look like it’s standard police “strategy.”

It’s as dumb as the War on Drugs itself.

I’m almost speechless.

UPDATE:  MikeE isn’t speechless:

Am I the only one who sees something a little bit like Ruby Ridge with this police siege?
Man is minding his own business, growing pot in his property.
Police come, try to arrest him for victimless crime.
He defends himself (using a vastly inappropriate level of force) taking out one cop, injuring three others.
Scene escalates due to police procedural incompetence, and bad drug laws.

UPDATE 2: I can’t resist posting this story from last year; that New Zealand's "hopelessly out of date and irrelevant" drug laws need a shake-up to fight a changing narcotics landscape, delegates to two “high-powered conferences” told the Herald.

   At the Beyond 2008 Regional Consultation for Australasia, delegates from community organisations meet to discuss alternative answers to the drug problem.
    The delegates will push for a move away from the predominantly United States-led "War on Drugs", to a more treatment-based approach. . .

Clearly, they’re even more out of dates than they were last year.

UPDATE 3The usually sane MacDoctor thinks the argument that the War on Drugs causes violence is absurd. In fact, worse then absurd, it’s “the most pathetic and meaningless argument I have ever heard.” See:

But if you truly want absurdity, then look no further than Peter Cresswell’s argument that this all could have been avoided by legalising cannabis. Superficially, this is true. But it has to be the most pathetic and meaningless argument I have ever heard.

So it’s true “superficially” that when you criminalise something as harmless as marijuana you ensure more harm than would be due to the substance alone – that when you criminalise drugs, then "routine" drugs busts become life and death situations for police -  but it’s otherwise pathetic and meaningless to point that out.  Not quite sure how you untangle that.

Might I suggest that the good MacDoctor, who as a doctor is normally interested in evidence, should confront the reality of the War on Drugs declared by Richard Nixon thirty-eight years ago and which (like the American War on Alcohol in the twenties) has led not to the diminution of any of the banned substances but instead to a vast expansion of their supply, and not to peace and harmony but to violence, killing and death – of both lawmen and outlaws.  As The Economist noted recently in a piece calling for a reconsideration of the whole War on Drugs,

the United States spends $40 billion and arrests 1.5 million people a year in an attempt to reduce illegal drug consumption. Keeping one prisoner in jail costs approximately $30,000 a year, and about half of the people in jail today are there because of drug offenses.
    U.S. drug policies are making criminal gangs rich beyond belief and helping to destabilize countries around the world. It is now almost suicidal to be a police officer in Mexico, where officers are assassinated with impunity by drug lords -- violence that is spilling into the United States. Afghanistan's warlords -- as well as the Taliban, which has moved into parts of Pakistan -- support their troops with profits from opium sales.
    In the United States, organized crime is responsible for most of the drug trade. These are the same kinds of gangs that made it rich bootlegging alcohol during Prohibition in the early 20th century. It should be clear by now that outlawing something only makes people want it more. . .
    There are a lot of facts, myths and emotions on both sides of the issue, but that doesn't mean we should ignore it. And just because we have criminalized it for 50 years, does not mean that we have to continue doing so for the next 50 years.

Think about it.  If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re more than likely to keep getting what you’ve always got before.  [NB: You can read some of The Economist’s account online, starting with ‘How to stop the drug wars.’)

UPDATE 4: Will de Cleene asks a few relevant questions still unanswered by an MSM big on emoting and short on reporting the facts:

No-one in the MSM is asking, so I will.

  • How many cannabis plants did the cops find in Jan Molenaar's house when they broke in?
  • How much would they be worth on the market?
  • How much harm was prevented by their interception, BERL?

[Hat tip Brad Taylor]

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Gallery opening, Michael Newberry

group If you’re lucky enough to be in Santa Monica this weekend – which sure as hell sounds like a song title to me – then make sure to call in and wish artist Michael Newberry well with his new gallery opening. The opening reception, says Michael, marks the debut of the stunning Venus, plus plenty of still lifes and several recent landscapes painted in Central Mexico, Greece, and Santa Monica.

Opening Reception: Saturday May 9, 2009 7-10 pm

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

NOT PJ: Freedom Becomes Patchy

Last night, observes Bernard Darnton, MPs hung round after dark to gang up on freedom.

The fashion police have been given sweeping new powers in Wanganui. Police now have the power to remove the clothes of anyone who’s wearing something Chester Borrows doesn’t approve of.

The Wanganui District Council (Prohibition of Gang Insignia) Act, which passed last night, prohibits gang insignia (in Wanganui District). The stated intent of the Act is “to prohibit the display of gang insignia in specified places in the district.” At least that’s clear.

Clarity is this law’s only virtue. The reason that this law even came before central government is that when Wanganui District Council tried to pass exactly the same thing as a bylaw they discovered that they weren’t allowed to because it breached the Bill of Rights Act.

Freedom of expression and freedom of association mean nothing to politicians, who simply want to be seen to “do something.” The law passed with partial support from Act. Putative defender of freedom, Rodney Hide, voted for this law. If anyone’s aware of the injustice of being investigated by the Police for wearing a coloured jacket with a logo on it, it should be Rodney Hi-de-hi.

We expect this sort of thing from drunk gay-basher David “We’ve got too hung up on people’s rights” Garrett but John Boscawen, who should know better, added Act’s third vote – a shame when during the Electoral Finance Act campaign he pretended to believe in freedom of expression. Would all those who voted for Act, claiming that getting into government would fix everything, please finally realise that you’re trying to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Backers of the law claim that it’s necessary to crack down on gang members and that they need to be cracked down on because they’re always breaking stuff and hurting people. If that was true you wouldn’t need a law against leather jackets, you could just arrest all these gangsters under the Prohibition of Breaking Stuff (and Hurting People) Act.

If the law is a success, i.e. if people’s rights to dress themselves are successfully trampled, Christchurch looks set to follow suit. When the Bill was introduced in 2007, then-mayor Garry Moore said, “I would do everything in my power to rip every gang patch off in the city. If the civil libertarians want to stand around selling drugs and killing our kids, then I’m in a different camp.”

Council of Civil Liberties chairman Tony Ellis said, “People have freedom of expression and freedom of movement, and those are quite fundamental human rights.” He didn’t mention whether or not he wanted to stand around selling drugs and killing our kids.

Garry Moore’s solution to his perceived gang problem was to treat everyone like criminals. Literally. The Department of Corrections bans the wearing of gang colours in prison. Prisoners aren’t allowed to wear anything that’s predominantly red (Mongrel Mob) or black (Black Power). Moore is no longer mayor so we’ll never know if he could have succeeded in banning Cantabrians from wearing red and black.

The supposed crime committed by gang insignia wearers is “looking scary.” How can looking scary be made illegal in any sensible way? Skinheads look scary. Do we ban them from shaving, as the Taliban might, or do we look to the French Revolution and ban them from having heads?

Legalise drugs and you’d destroy most gangs’ revenue bases. Combine that with the cost of re-stitching all those Mongrel Mob jackets when W(h)anganui gets its ‘H’ back and you’d cripple the gangs in no time. Prosecute and lock up anyone who commits violent or property crime, regardless of what they’re wearing.

Is there anyone prepared to support One Law for All?

* * Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column appears every Thursday here at NOT PC * *

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Zarzuela Hippodrome – Eduardo Torroja (1935)

L - Eduardo Torroja, Zarzuela Hippodrome A thin-shelled concrete roof for what is now a seventy-five year old stadium near Madrid.  The concrete is 5 1/2 inches thick at the supports and just 2 inches thick at the edges.

The roof form itself is generated by “hyperboloids of revolution,” making each segment easy to analyse and distributing the forces evenly through each of the shell surfaces – which is what allows this thin surface to support a 42 foot cantilevered span.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pricking the pull peddlers

I found myself in the unusual position of agreeing with the Greens’s Russel Norman this morning, in his call to limit the access to Parliament Buildings of professional lobbyists, and to provide a Register of Lobbyists so we can all see who’s stroking whom.

There’s only one thing he said on Radio NZ this morning with which I disagree. “There's nothing wrong with lobbyists," he said.  Well, yes there is.

Looked at dispassionately, lobbyists are people who take advantage of  a system that dispenses power, favours and loot to sell their friendships with those who dispense the largesse.  They are what Ayn Rand called “pull peddlers.”  They are the inevitable cockroaches who take advantage of the looters' system to become rich by selling "pull," or influence.

Without the power of government to take away your property, or to command your obedience, the pull peddlers influence would disappear – and so would they.

What Russel proposes is good enough as far as it goes, but it hardly goes very far at all.  If Russel really wants to control the power of lobbyists to pull down political favours, then he needs to get his head around limiting the power of government to grant them.  He needs to understand the corruption of the mixed economy. If we want to get rid of the influence of lobbyists and their minions, then as Yaron Brook says of American government, “we have to return our government to its sole legitimate purpose: the protection of individual rights.”

But on that, I suspect, Russel and I will never agree.

Warrants of unfitness

The Land Transport busybodies are boasting they’ve shut down a record number of “offending” garages for issuing what the jobsworths say are "dodgy" Warrants of Fitness.

This is appalling.

It only makes it harder to find someone to issue a Warrant for my own classic.

And it makes you wonder who exactly certifies the busybodies to be fit to boss us around – and exactly how fit they are?

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Make Mises your daily read

The latest two Daily Articles emailed to me from the Mises Institute make plain why, when they’re talking economics, you need to read what they’re saying.

PIGFDRbook Three theories offer competing explanations of the Great Depression, says David Gordon in yesterday’s article ‘Did FDR Make the Depression Great?’ 

There is the Keynesian account, which stresses a lack of aggregate demand; Milton Friedman's monetarism, which ascribes the severity of the early years of the Depression to a drastic cut in the money supply by the Fed; and, of course, the Austrian theory that Bob Murphy describes in his new book, and on which Gordon relies here.

Using Murphy’s analysis, Gordon explains in short order how both the first two theories can be summarily dismissed, and why the Austrian account needs to be taken seriously – not least because so many Austrians saw it all coming before the Great Depression * , just as they did before this latest Great Downturn.

    As [Murphy] abundantly shows, historical evidence strikes decisive blows against both the Keynesian and monetarist theories. On the Keynesian account, increased spending, by reviving aggregate demand, will restore good times. If so, why did Hoover and Roosevelt's massive spending leave America mired in depression? 
    [And] Murphy turns the tables on Milton Friedman, who emphasized statistical evidence, by showing that monetarism fails to explain the data. . .  
    If Keynesian and monetarist theories cannot cope with the historical evidence, does the Austrian theory fare better? In the Austrian view, depressions come about because expansion of bank credit results in malinvestments. Because these need to be liquidated, the government should follow a "do nothing" policy that allows the market to return to normal conditions. When this policy was followed, recovery from depression took no more than a few years, in the 1873 depression, in contrast to the total failure to recover during the New Deal. The results were even better in the 1920–1921 depression, when both Wilson and Harding slashed government spending: "the 1920–1921 depression was so short-lived that most Americans today are unaware of its existence."

BusinessWeekWhatGoodCover So that’s the first article.  The second builds on it: Should People Just Ignore Economists? The answer might surprise you.

Citing a Businessweek cover story "What Good Are Economists Anyway?" Mark Brandy records their

    important point that, since most economists failed to predict the current crisis, the worst economic collapse in nearly 80 years, we need to consider whether or not their work has any value.
    Unfortunately, after bringing this failure to our attention, the article, written by economics editor Peter Coy, concludes that it's important to accept advice from the same economists who demonstrated their incompetence by not seeing this financial collapse in advance.

As Mark Brandy and Businessweek point out, surely it would be far better to ignore those now exposed as incompetent -- "If you are an economist and did not see this coming,” says a blogger they quote, “you should seriously reconsider the value of your education and maybe do something with a tangible value to society, like picking vegetables" – and to take your advice instead from those who did see it coming.

And those economists are overwhelmingly from the Austrian school.  You can read their analysis  by visiting the Econoblogs down on my left-hand sidebar, and in your own inbox every day by subscribing here.  Do it now.

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DOWN TO THE DOCTORS: Chemists and Cockroaches, National’s Knockshop and Rodney’s Folly

An irreverent look at some of the past week’s headlines, from Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath

  1. “Outrage Over Brothel At National MP’s House – National list MP Kanwal Bakshi evicts tenants from a dwelling he owns in Mt Eden after complaints from the neighbours that it was being used as a brothel. Fair enough. It belongs to Mr Bakshi and his business partners, and he can decide who rents it. Ironic that Phil Goff, whose party while in government quite rightly legalized prostitution, had the temerity to complain to John Banks about the goings-on at the brothel, albeit on behalf of one of his constituents. Most of the fuss appears to centre around whether or not the premises in question were licensed. That is, whether the government could regulate, or more importantly, tax it. Heaven forbid people should be permitted to work as free men and women, rather than as semi-slaves to the almighty State. 
  2. “Pharmacy Idea A Hard Pill To Swallow– A thought-provoking editorial in the NZ Herald suggests Health Minister Tony Ryall should think hard before bowing to pressure from members of the Pharmacy Guild whose noses are inching closer to the taxpayer trough. These people are after your money and mine in exchange for acting as informants for Big Brother. In return for “incentives” (read taxpayer money), they will interrogate customers and send the information obtained back to the health bureaucrats in Keynesia (the city formerly known as Helengrad). The Herald rightly points out that such “incentivisation” is a recipe for over-milking the tax cow through excessive “servicing” by pharmacists, which begs the question: would we personally pay for it? To quote the editorial, if there was a genuine need for this standard of care, chemists would not need public funding in order to offer it. Precisely.
  3. “North Shore Supermarket Finally Opens – This disgusting twenty-year saga is an indictment of planning laws and of the ability of petty-minded individuals to sabotage the plans of commercial developers for totally bogus or frivolous reasons and/or anti-competitive motivation. It has reportedly taken two decades and ten million dollars for the Wairau Road Pak’N’Save store to be granted permission to open. Ultimately it will be the customers of this store who will pay the price as they spend the next few years paying a little bit more on each grocery item they purchase. Let’s hope they run the nearby competing supermarket (who, if I understand it correctly, were involved in delaying Pak’N’Save from opening) into the ground.
  4. “Urgency For Super City Bill – For some reason John Key and Rodney Hide want to ram through Parliament under urgency a bill that centralizes power over ratepayers into the hands of a small number of very powerful officials, which may or may not include appointed representatives of a race thought to be so inferior they couldn’t possibly be elected through the normal democratic process. Why the rush? Labour MP Phil Twyford suggests the government is using urgency to bypass the current legal pathways which apparently allow for a referendum on the matter. I agree. Rodney appears to be fixated in making the apparatus of the State more efficient rather than rolling it back.
  5. “O’Connor Back In Parliament – Like a cockroach that hides under the doormat and creeps back inside under the door while you’re asleep, Damien O’Connor re-enters parliament. Rejected by the good people of the West Coast -- rightly offended by Helen Clark’s description of them as “feral” --  another Labour hack sneaks in as a List MP. Two other Labour MPs thrown out by voters have done the same. It ought to be outlawed.

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath

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Blog stats for April: The “Easter” stats

    Visitor numbers dropped slightly in this month of Easter holidays (he says trying to justify the fall), so no reason yet to justify bothering the Nielsen rankings
 
   Still, in a month in which Public Address, Kiwiblog and Scoop joined forces to advertise together, and Bernard Hickey signed up to take advantage of TradeMe’s advertising outreach, maybe that time isn’t too far away?
    Anyway, here’s the stats for how many readers your could have had your ads in front of this month at NOT PC, on a month in which most of you read but didn’t bother to comment – and I take that to means you either agreed or disagreed with most of what was said.  Or perhaps the reverse.

NZ Political Blog Ranking for NOT PC in March: 3rd (February: 3rd)
Alexa Ranking, NZ: 1821st (March: 575th)
Alexa Ranking, world: 280,130th (March: 291,338th)
Avge. Monday to Friday readership: 1582/day (March: 1695)
Unique visits [from Statcounter]: 44,979 (March: 48,294)
Page views [from Statcounter]: 63,878 (March: 69,568)

Top ten posts for April:

Most commented upon posts

Top referring sites
No Minister 1086 referrals; Kiwiblog 999; Libertarianz 385; Tumeke 357; Whale Oil 322; Facebook 257; SOLO 159; Home Paddock 132; Cactus Kate 128;  Lindsay Mitchell 103; Roar Prawn 99; Oswald  Bastable 87; Anti Dismal 83;   Liberty Scott 77; Crusader Rabbit 76; Strike The Root 73; 
Top searches landing here:
not pc/peter cresswell etc 927; causes of global financial crisis 381; broadacre city 119; toxicity of environmentalism george reisman 101; when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce 75;  new zealand libertarian constitution 60; nude olympians 50; owen mcshane environmental legal assistance fund 53; new york 47; john adams 43; wine flu 39
They're reading NOT PC here:  
NotPC-March-2009 
Sttill awaiting my first reader from Alaska … where are you Sarah?
Top countries/territories (from Google Analytics)
NZ 35%; USA 29%; UK 4.5%; Australia 4.2%;  Canada 2.5%; Germany 1.6%; Italy 1.1%; France 0.9%; 
Top cities
Auckland 22%; Wellington 6.1%; Christchurch 3.9%; Sydney 2.0%; London 1.9%; New York 1.5%; Palmerston North 1.0%; Melbourne 0.9%; Hamilton 0.7%; Los Angeles 0.7%; Dunedin 0.5%; 
Readers' Browsers
Firefox/Flock 45%(47); IE Explorer 38.5%(43); Safari 9.4%(9.3); Chrome 3.3% (2.8); Opera 2.1%(1.8)
Readers’ OS
Windows 83%;  Mac 14%; Linux 2.1%; iPhone 0.3%
Readers’ Screen Sizes
1024x768 24%; 1280x800 21%; 1280x1024 15%; 1440x900 12%; 1920x1200 3.7%; 1152x864 2.6%
Readers' Connection Speeds
Unknown 35%(38); DSL 32%(32); Cable 19% (18); T1 10%(9.5); Dial-up 2.2%(2.4)BooksBooksBooksBooksBooks

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

PS: Been doing a bit of fiddling around under the hood to make NOT PC easier and quicker to load.  Hopefully that should help out those of you who might have been having a few problems.  :-)

PPS: And thanks to all of you who’ve sent donations in the last brief while to help keep this blog and its writer going. They’re all very much appreciated.  To paraphrase Robert Parker’s hero Spenser, when I get donations I spring immediately into action: I head for the nearest bookshop. Or Marbeck's

See:

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RCA Building - Raymond Hood et al

GE-Building-1930

“The skyline of New York, said Ayn Rand, “is a monument of a splendour that no pyramids or palaces will ever equal or approach.”  Here’s the sort of thing she might have meant, at the time she might have formulated that thought: the centrepiece of Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, the RCA/GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Place, seen in a recently cleaned up photo as you’ve never seen it before – in the 1930s , before the construction of the International Building (aka 45 Rockefeller Plaza) that you can see being begun in the foreground.

Designed by sculptor Rene Chambellan and architect Raymond Hood, who called himself “spokesman for my associates in a great adventure.”  (Architect Wallace Harrison said in 1937, “People are always asking who designed Rockefeller Center.  Each of us answers, ‘I did’.'”

My thanks to Berend for passing on the photo; he points out one can easily understand why a young Ayn Rand would have fallen in love with sights like this.

Click on the pic for a huge version, and head to Ace of Spades and Powerline for more discussion.

And for non-New Yorkers who’re wondering where you might have seen the building before . . .

NB: Of course, a major irony here is that GE is now one step away from something very, very nasty.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Tuesday ramble

A Tuesday avo’ ramble through a bunch o’ links, a bunch of good stuff, that I’ve been meaning to write about more thoroughly, but haven’t had sufficient time. Here we go with all the stuff that’s too good to miss, in no particular order:

  • New Zealand monetary policy criticised … by Peter Schiff. Listen here to him criticise Alan Bollard’s approach at the Reserve Bank. “Really irresponsible” is the kindest thing he can say about Alan – but he’s got much worse to say about America and the Fed.
  • The Libertarianz party notes with alarm the arrest of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party's candidate in the Mt Albert by-election, Dakta Green – an arrest that seems strangely consonant with his announcement as a candidate. “While Libertarianz believes that political party candidates should be subject to the laws of the country like any other citizens, the timing of the arrests rings alarm bells that the police are politically motivated in their actions.” Read Libertarianz: Free Dakta Green!.
  • Tim Selwyn likes the look of the support. “This is a wonderful development. If ever there was a political movement that needed to spark up and chill out it would be the Libz. Good for them.” Read Mt Albert - Libz backing stoners?.
  • Lindsay Mitchell discovers belatedly that Chris Trotter talks nonsense:
Chris Trotter writes ... that Mr Key and his right wing mates are showing signs that they are about to get rid of "what's left of the welfare state."
This implies most of what constitutes the welfare state has already been dismantled.
All that remains are the unemployment, sickness, invalid and domestic purposes benefits; the independent youth, emergency, and unsupported child benefits; super and veteran's pensions; accommodation supplement and state housing; the minimum wage; Working For Families; residential care subsidies; childcare subsidies; Paid Parental Leave; student allowances; interest free student loans; 'free' public hospitals and public schools; various family and child tax credits; universal no-fault accident compensation; widow's benefit; orphan's benefit; free dental care for the young; free healthcare for under sixes; the Super GoldCard; the Community Services card; the methadone programme; legal aid; Restart and Replace; 9 day working fortnight subsidies; subsidies to hundreds of 'charities'...
No. There's not much to remember. Did I miss anything? Oh yes, there is a case to include corporate welfare, and grants to the arts and sports as part of the broadest-sense welfare state.
So Trotter exaggerates just a little. Who knew?
  • On his Fox News Show, Glen Beck is working his way through the people at the Ayn Rand Institute. This week on his show he’s got Harry Binswanger. Watch here at YouTube.
  • Everyone’s saluting Margaret Thatcher. And why not, she changed a bankrupt Britain for the better. Read:
    • Division of Labour: “Thirty Years Ago Today ... Margaret Thatcher became PM of the UK. Alas, her fine work is being undone by Gordon Brown.”
    • Mark Steyn (via Tim Blair): “Margaret Thatcher was a great leader, who reversed her country’s decline – to the point where, two decades later, the electorate felt it was safe to vote the Labour Party back into office. And yet, in the greater scheme of things, the Thatcher interlude seems just that: a temporary respite from a remorseless descent into the abyss.”
    • Liberty Scott: 3 May 1979 - the day Maggie's revolution started.
    • The Fairfacts Media Show has a musical tribute. I fear the worst.
    • Read the confession of utter economic failure by the Prime Minister Thatcher threw out, James Callaghan. It’s a message for finance ministers everywhere, and everywhen.
    • And in a related note, I recall a few weeks back how Britain’s economic depression, brought about by three decades of socialism, inspired a generation of musicians to get angry.
  • And everyone’s favourite present-day British politician, Daniel Hannan, talks to the Freedom Association & Conservative Future organisations. Kaiwai has the videos.
  • Meanwhile, news just in that Wall Street II is in the wings. Cactus Kate looks at what might be on the cards for an ageing Gordon Gekko. “Let’s make him a winner this time in trading the bullshit and hot air that are carbon credits off the credit-crunch crisis in 2009.
  • While we’re on Gordon, let’s ask the question “Is Greed Good?” Says the Ayn Rand Institute’s Yaron Brook in answer, “The answer to this question really depends on what you mean by ‘greed.’ If you mean the pursuit of short-term gratification at any cost, then I do think greed defined that way is bad.” However . . . read Is greed good? Yaron Brook responds for the full answer.
  • Chrysler (and Gekko) is what happens when CEOs don’t pursue their rational long-term interests, and sell out instead to the short term. The final injustice, as George Reisman points out, “is that the United Automobile Workers Union and its pension fund is to become the largest stockholder in Chrysler when the firm emerges from bankruptcy. his is the very same union that brought about the collapse of Chrysler in the first place. Its philosophy and policy of grabbing ever more in wages and benefits while doing almost everything possible to prevent the company from earning the wherewithal to pay those wages and benefits made it impossible for the company to survive in the face of competition not subject to such union bloodsucking.” [And be warned that George Reisman’s blog may not be long for this world.]
  • The Depression Recession World Economic Collapse affects everyone, even porn stars. Says ex-porn star Penny Flame,“The funny thing about the industry, right now . . is that NOBODY IS WORKING. . .” In a classic description of how malinvestment in a boom leads to tumbleweed in the bust, she continues, “Too many people shot too much content. That’s why none of the girls are working [now]. . . But in the end, everybody getting excited and over shooting has over-saturated the market, and now there is all this porn with no home, not enough people to buy it, not enough horny men and women to watch it….” It’s not lack of demand, it’s too much malinvestment, baby.
  • How do you make a reduced amount of money go around in a Depression? Well, one thing you don’t do is raise wages. Australian Mark Wooden is the latest to make that case: Minimum-wage freeze will keep people in jobs.
  • Oh, what do you think has been the nest performing asset class over the last decade? No, guess again. It starts with a ‘g.’ See below, and the same thing here for American assets.
    ash040109b
    It’s the “decade of gold.” “How come so few people have noticed...?" wonders Adrian Ash. Read When Gold Ruled The Earth.
  • And I can’t resist pointing out how well the Iraqi dinar has been doing. From nearly 2,000 to the US dollar immediately post-Saddam, it now sits at 1158 to the dollar. That’s not a bad return over just a few years since I first wrote about it.
  • Meanwhile, Matt & Madeleine explain how to be a famous blogger. It’s childishly simple:

  • And when better to gab about God than after linking to M&M. Danyl at Dim Post looks at nudity, new clothes, and why there isn’t turtles all the way down – and ridiculous reviews of The New Atheists. Scratch your atheistic itch at Gabbin’ about God redux.
  • Why do politicians break their promises? asks Brian Caplan. Might as well ask why cats lick their arse. Same answer: Because they can.
  • Vital Signs has more on Militant Islam Moves to Dominate Pakistan's Prosperous Swat Valley. Worrying.
  • And the Cato blog has more on the destructiveness of using the reputation of good banks to prop up the failed positions of bad banks. See Bank ‘Stress Tests’ Need Transparency. Urgently.
  • Yaron Brook reckons there’s an Ayn Rand Renaissance going on.
  • Even long-time arch-enemy National Review is starting to come around, as Samizdata notes. Slightly. Read Objectivist Philosophy for Fun and Profit, (Subtitle: “How a banker avoided ruin by cleaving to Ayn Rand’s system of ethics.”)
  • It’s all part of the The Irrelevancy of Conservatism, says Edward Cline, who explains why conservatives still need to attack Rand, even when they purport to support her.
  • And here’s the banker that got the Samizdata and NRO boys excited: John Allison of BB&T, who with his “open defence of rational/individualist/objectivist philosophy, a credo that runs counter to 2000 years of Judea/Christian/subjectivist/marxist ethics … and explicit defence of reason [shows that] Yes, such businessmen do exist, they are not merely the stuff of a well-known novel.” Here’s Allison back in January, in the talk that’s got them excited: The Financial Crisis: Causes and Possible Cures.
  • And congratulations to Andrew Medworth, proprietor of Britain’s Ayn Rand Forum, who in one thoughtful post at Samizdata cut through so much of the usual bullshit and bluster that usually follows an endorsement of Ayn Rand.
  • Ever noticed "the troubling correlation between the number of homicides committed by Palestinians and the level of funding of the Palestinian Authority"? The Middle East Quarterly has. Do you think these two things are related? Undoubtedly, they say.
  • The Daily Show's Jon Stewart suggested that Harry Truman was "a war criminal" for dropping nuclear bombs on wartime Japan. Sam Pierson points out a kick-arse presentation at Pajama TV that shows "with due respect, just how moral it was. A kick-arse presentation, and worth the 17 minutes," says Sam.
  • Frogblog is quoting a survey saying "a majority of kiwis support taking real action to combat global warming". “Fine,” responds Liberty Scott, “who is stopping them?” And how come all the measures the Frog supports involve force?
  • Gonzo has some good news for impecunious art-loving Wellingtonians: “The season of Monet & the Impressionists is winding up its run at Te Papa. Before it goes, Wellington City residents too poor to score the entry fee get in for free this Thursday 7th May.” But watch the small print.
  • What Can Architecture Learn From Nature? Brett Holverstott finds out.
  • And finally, guess what happens if you watch Jaws backwards. It becomes “a movie about a shark that keeps throwing up people until they have to open a beach" And what movie do the Ku Klux Klan enjoy watching most? Roots backwards, so they can watch all the slaves go home.
    Jimmy Jangles has more playful thoughts on that theme.

Satellite NB: And finally, really and truly, here’s an important and timely P.S. The most thorough interview Ayn Rand ever did was sitting down with Alvin Toffler for the ‘Playboy Interview’ and the good folk at Playboy magazine have just put it all on line!
As a few of my friends have said, “The interview is a virtual primer, and a teaser of sorts.” And, “No matter how many times I’ve read this interview over the years, it’s the precision, the clarity of mind, that continues to amaze me.”
And, naturally, it means you really can say you’re reading Playboy for the articles.
Read it all here: Playboy Interview: Ayn Rand, March 1964.

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Wowsers win again

cocaineladies New Zealand is in the news overseas for the wrong reason again.  For wowserism.  Explains Reason magazine, a complaint from the local Salvation Army about an advertisement for Las Vegas-based Redux Beverage’s energy drink, Cocaine, has been upheld by the NZ Advertising Standards Authority. . .

The Salvation Army said cocaine was an illegal substance and by using the name cocaine, "the manufacturers and advertisers are legitimising cocaine" . . .  The ASA said that although the product's name was permissible, the advertisement's "Warning!" was a cheap way to "trade off the properties of drugs..."  The Salvation Army is now "asking" the company to change the drink's name.

Responds Reason, with tongue slightly in cheek:

The Salvation Army, however, was not admonished for trading off the properties of the military. The Sally's a helluva group, which does good work around the world. Their alcohol-free accommodations in Mumbai, India, are a wonderful place to enjoy a clean bed and a quiet drink alone. But they should stay out of the business of...actual businesses.

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LIBERTARIAN SUS: The sky is falling. Or not.

Our regular correspondent Susan Ryder has fears, worries and concerns.

susanryder Just over a week ago we awoke to the news that the sky was falling. The latest cunning plan to decimate mankind had apparently unleashed itself in Mexico - which is as good a place as any, I suppose - and by God, it was only a matter of time before we were all doomed.

It seemed that the world’s media had been collectively possessed. To hell with droning on about the global credit crisis or their ongoing love affair with Barack Obama. Bring on the pandemic!

Within a matter of hours, we were bombarded with stories of Mexicans in crowded hospitals dying by the score of something called “Swine Flu.” Media fever intensified alongside the virus itself, with cases being reported in the United States and Canada. But the real breakthrough occurred when a handful of Auckland high school students started sneezing after a school trip to Mexico. It was the media equivalent of winning Powerball.

Houston, we have lift-off! Aaaachoo!!

What happened after that was just surreal. Legions of reporters camped outside the homes of the afflicted Rangitoto College students, providing “updates” every five minutes. Public health bigwigs fell over themselves to line up next to Health Minister Tony Ryall, despite nobody seeming to know much about anything, least of all the virus. Ryall was guaranteed to mention that the government remained “cautious” and “concerned” at least twice during every interview. Words like if, might, could, perhaps, potentially and possible were tossed around with gay abandon, while the stocks of Tamiflu, unneeded since SARS failed to live up to its promise of horror, were sailing out of pharmacies. The survivalists and oddbods who remain on full alert for the NEXT BIG THING scrambled to unearth supplies of trusty face-masks unused from the Bird Flu scare, and batteries and Weetbix from Y2K.

You can’t be too careful.

It was all going beautifully for the local media, except for a few inconvenient facts. First, the students looked a picture of health as they recovered quickly to smile and wave behind their windows for the cameras (albeit visibly bored with too many games of Monopoly). Second, the fatalities attributed to the virus stubbornly remained confined within the Mexican borders. And, third, try as they might, no amount of media time could improve the presentation skills of Tony Ryall and the health bureaucrats.

Then a stroke of luck occurred – a Swine Flu death in the United States. Holy Worldwide Disaster, Batman, we’ve gone international at last!  There’s mileage in this story, dammit, even if we have to mate with Pinky and Perky to get it!

The World Health Organisation meanwhile was presenting a slightly less apocalyptic scenario. They quietly changed the name, from Swine Flu to something less headline friendly.  They confirmed, as of yesterday, there were 985 laboratory-confirmed human cases of H1N1 in 20 countries, of which Mexico accounts for 590 alone, with 25 deaths. Of the remaining 19 countries, ten have one laboratory-confirmed case; two have two; Israel has three; New Zealand, four; and Germany, eight. Those in double figures are the UK with 15; Spain, 40; Canada, 85 and the US with 226. The sole US fatality was reported to be a Mexican toddler.

On the subject of pandemics, the WHO also states that the infamous Spanish Flu of 1918-19 claimed more than 40 million lives. Current epidemiological models, they say, project a “pandemic” as something resulting in the loss of two to seven million lives. The Swine Flu, by comparison, has a bit of work to do.

More facts: Did anybody bother to point out that Mexico is a country of nearly 120 million of which nearly 20 million live in Greater Mexico City alone? That many of its people live in poverty?

That ordinary influenza that has never even seen a pig routinely claims thousands of lives every year in many first-world countries?

Or that in the cold winter of 1975 there was a flu epidemic in this country? Many high schools reported high absentee levels due to the illness. There was talk of my own school closing down temporarily when the absentee figure crept near the 40% mark, but after the danger period of about a fortnight, everyone recovered and that was that with no fuss.

Instead we have the likes of the 32 year old who contacted Newstalk ZB on Sunday morning to say that she was terrified of getting the virus – in spite of never having left Auckland this year or associating with anybody who has recently been overseas. Consumers who stopped eating pork and pork products in spite of the WHO’s assurance that there is no risk of H1N1 infection from consumption of such meats. And an ever-increasing number of fatalities attributed to the virus which turn out to have been greatly exaggerated. Chalk it all up to that unholy media trinity of fears, worries and concerns, and to a much anticipated horseman of apocalypse that steadfastly refuses to arrive.

There is one bonus, however. At least it’s seen Tony Veitch vanish from the front pages. And it’s given Roche Pharmaceuticals and their shareholders something to smile about, too.

* * Read Susan Ryder’s column every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *

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‘Dance of the Nymphs’ – Donato Creti

161299

A classical pastoral fantasy in which a light-hearted “musical conversation” is taking place.  Australia’s National Gallery hosts the briefest of discussions.  The painting by Donato Creti (1671-1749), the visual equivalent of “tiddlywink music,” is from 1742.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Top four places to live (hic)

After an extensive survey covered by Anti Dismal, looks like the top four places in which to live are in Ireland, Luxembourg, Hungary and Moldova.

Compelling evidence here.

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Quote of the day: James Callaghan

When better to listen to the confession of utter economic failure of former British Prime Minister James Callaghan than the thirtieth anniversary of his bankrupt Premiership being swept from power by Margaret Thatcher in the wake of Britain’s 1979 Winter of Discontent – “discontent” and economic disaster that Callaghan’s Keynesianism did so much to bring about – and just before our own finance minister sets about writing his Budget.  Said Callaghan to his party’s conference:

We used to think that you could spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists, and in so far as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step. . . ”

Call it budget advice from a bankrupt Prime Minister.

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NZers not “getting it,” says McKibben. “Excellent!” says NOT PC. [updated]

Another warmist troglodyte is visiting New Zealand to bang the warmist drum before the Select Committee, following on the heels of that stranger to honesty, Stephen Schneider.  This time round it’s cuddly old Bill McKibben, who told New Zealanders yesterday, “New Zealand is retrograde; you’re just not getting it like other countries are.”

If only.

You know what dear old Bill means by “getting it”?  Here’s a clue.  In his 1989 diatribe 'The End of Nature' he quoted approvingly this benediction to alligators by John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club -- "a good epigram" he called it:

Honorable representatives of the great saurians of older creation, may you long enjoy your lilies and rushes, and be blessed now and then with a mouthful of terror-stricken man by way of a dainty.

And in a glowing review of Bill’s diatribe, National Park Service biologist David Graber showed he “gets it.”

We are not interested in the utility of a particular species, or free-flowing river, or ecosystem to mankind [said Davo]. They have intrinsic value, more value—to me—than another human body, or a billion of them.… It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along..

“McKibben is a biocentrist,” said Graber, “and so am I.”

If “wishing for the right virus to come along” is what it means to be a “biocentrist” – if wishing alligators “a mouthful of terror-stricken man” is what it means to “get it,” then what Bill can go and get is to get fucked.

NB 1: More quotes from McKibben’s confreres here.

NB 2: George Reisman comments on the Nature of Environmentalism here, which includes a comment on the context and meaning of the quotes above.

UPDATE: Always hip to pointing out that correlation is not causality, Jeffrey Tucker wryly observes that “Global temperature changes caused by postage stamp increase. If you doubt it,” he says, “see the proof, with statistics and all that.”

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More PJ

Having been away for most of the weekend driving around the Coromandel, I missed most of the PJ O’Rourke roundups – apart from my own, of course.  Sounds like a lot of drinking went on at other tables too, what with women finding Farrar and Sean Plunket strong contenders for the boudoir, and Chris Trotter achieving Christhood (or so Roar Prawn would have you believe).

Anyway, we were this close to The Great Man for most of the night.  And for most of the night we say that view through tears of laughter.

PJ

Annie Fox got this close afterwards – and is still buzzing.

And PJ stood still long enough afterwards to be surrounded by the exuberant Libertarianz crew.  Tongue tied by adulation, alcohol poisoning and proximity to our hero, I fear we were making little sense by this time and the effects of Wine Flu were beginning to seriously kick in.

PJandTheLibzTeam And don’t think you’ll get me with a tie around my neck again soon, so make the most of it. . .

PJandTheLibzTeam-2

Fortunately for you lot who weren’t there, or through over-exuberance or other afflictions you can’t remember what you were laughing about that the time, the Herald has some excerpts from PJ’s speech, from which I’ve pinched the quotes below.  And fear not freedom lovers: The Free Radical will have the whole speech in its entirety in its new issue, coming soon.

  • We live in democracies. Rule by the majority. Rule by the people. Fifty per cent of people are below average in intelligence. This explains everything about politics. Not that we'd want to live in a country ruled only by the best and brightest. That would be too much like being married to Cherie Blair.
  • Long term there's only one thing that gives me hope as a right-winger - the left wing. It's going to be hard to do a worse job running America than the Republicans did, but the Democrats can do it if anyone can.
    The left is the party of government activism - the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, slimmer, taller, and take a dozen strokes off your golf game. The right is the party that says government doesn't work. And then they get elected and prove it.
  • The US Government is going to take over the American car industry. I can predict the result - a lightweight, compact vehicle with a small carbon footprint using sustainable alternative energy. When I was a kid we called it a bike.
  • America has wound up with a charming leftist as a President. And this scares me. Not because I hate leftists. I don't. I have many charming leftist friends. They're lovely people - as long as they keep their nose out of things they don't understand. Such as making a living.
  • A charming leftist President scares me because what if Obama really does turn out to be a "uniter, not a divider"?
    This could mean an end to partisan bickering and result in politicians of all stripes working together to solve national and international problems. Then we're really screwed.
    America needed a Republican president because America has a Democratic Congress. Republican president, Democratic Congress - this means gridlock. I love gridlock.
    The worst thing in politics is "bipartisan consensus". Bipartisan consensus - that's like when my doctor and my lawyer agree with my wife that I need help.
  • So what are our national leaders up to?
    Well, I can't speak for yours. But I've been keeping an eye on mine.
    The first thing President Barack Obama does is a US$700 billion economic stimulus. Wasn't that the last thing President George W. Bush did?
    US$700 billion Bush financial bail-out plus US$787 billion Obama stimulus package plus a US$3.6 trillion federal Budget - add all that together and it equals ... More money than there is.
    The 1 trillion, 487 billion dollars that America is spending on the financial bail-out plus the economic stimulus package is equal to more than a year's worth of US individual and corporate income tax payments put together.
    Which raises the question: instead of a bail-out and a stimulus, why not no taxes for a year? Zero. Stop taxing us!
    Would this be an economic stimulus? Uh, yeah. A stimulus? Comparing no taxes to what the Obama Administration is doing is like comparing Viagra to Tylenol PM.
    But, no taxes? This will never fly.
    Why not? Because no taxes - that only puts money in the pocket of people who pay taxes. Politicians can't buy votes like that. People don't love a politician for giving them their own money that the politician just snatched. This is like running off with a man's wife and expecting him to thank you when you drop her home the next day.
  • Robin Hood didn't steal from the rich and give to the rich. Likewise, politicians who pretend that they're Robin Hood have to give tax money to people who don't pay taxes.
    And do you know how many people pay taxes, statistically speaking? None. . . We're sponges. And the G20 remedy for this recession is like the medical treatment back in the days of Adam Smith - apply more leeches!

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Auckland: the rule of squares

Discussing the proposed Auckland uber-city over the weekend, we came up with a few basic rules of thumb about the amalgamation of any bureaucracy of this sort.

Bureaucracies work on 'the rule of squares.' This is both a mathematical rule and an observation on the type people who work there.

What  it means about the entities who work there is obvious.  What it means for the onset of power lust is this: If you double the size of the organisation, then you multiply by four the sense of overweening self-importance of its bureaucrats (that is, by two-times-two). Double the size of the organisation, and you multiply by four their sense of uninhibited (and unlimited) power. Double the size of the organisation, and you multiply by four the sense of disconnection from the real world, and from the people they are supposed to serve.

Remember Auckland before the amalgamation of its boroughs?  Do you see what I mean?  Remember London when Red Ken Livingstone took over the reins of London, and started by attacking every vehicle owner in the city? D’you understand what I’m talking about?

If you double the size of a bureaucracy, you multiply by four all the bossiness of a bureaucracy.  The new Auckland uber-state will be at least four times larger.

Which means when you head cap in hand to the new uber-state seeking permission to add an extension to your lounge, or to add a new bedroom – or to complain about the latest exhorbitant rates rise -- then you'd better be at least sixteen times more obeisant or else suffer all the consequences.

Fancy that, do you?

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