Saturday, August 08, 2009

Books, books, books, books

Thanks again to recent donors to the blog who’ve clicked the Tip Jar down there on he right-hand side.  As always I sprang immediately into action, and headed for the nearest book store – in this case the Mises Book Store.    I’m looking forward to making my way through the pile now it’s arrived.  :-)

Books

And fear not fellow bloggists.  I picked up a few paperbacks from David Harcourt Antiques TradeMe fiction listings as well.  I’m enjoying Dashiel Hammett’s Maltese Falcon as we speak.

What’s on your bedside table you can recommend?

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Beer O’Clock: Beer and Politics Do Mix

Humble beer scribe Neil Miller (of Real Beer and The Malthouse Blog) finds out what beers our MPs like to drink (including the Prime Minister) and reviews the Bath range of ale. Is there a connection between the two topics...

Only in New Zealand can a humble beer journalist email politicians and aspiring politicians, ask them to name their favourite beers and get a 99% reply rate.  

The first Minister of the Crown to reply was Hon Peter Dunne, MP for Ohariu-Belmont and Leader of United Future.  His favorite beers are Heineken (“because of the smooth taste”) followed by a Guinness (“because it is a meal in itself”).

Part-time senior Labour MP and now full-time blogger Hon Trevor Mallard defied all the stereotypes by nominating Monteith’s Radler as his favored tipple because “it’s fresh and light with a bit of spice”.  Unsuccessful Alliance candidate Richard Wallis then confirmed any number of stereotypes by arguing the best beer is Tui and “nothing else need be said I think.”

New Labour MP Grant Robertson’s selections made me want to cheer then cry.  He “can recommend the excellent Emerson’s Oatmeal Stout from Dunedin.   Full, rich, almost a meal in a glass!  For something a bit lighter, and with summer in mind, a Corona with a wedge of lime or lemon is high on my list.”

ACT’s Heather Roy conceded “I'm more likely to be found with a glass of Riesling but on a hot summer's day I'm quite partial to Steinlager Pure.”  However, she quickly redeemed herself by saying “I enjoy going to the Malthouse on Courtenay Place – it has a relaxed atmosphere and is a great place to meet friends after work.”  She is now in Cabinet.

Former National List MP Mark Blumsky had no hesitation in picking Tuatara Pilsner as his beer of choice - “I just love the fact it is fresh, full-flavoured and local!”  Current National List MP Katrina Shanks chose Monteith’s Original because “it is a nice easy ale to drink in summer or winter” while Cabinet Minister Hon Chris Finlayson picked “Budweiser, but only the Czech version as I believe the US version is poison.”  No news yet of Anheuser-Busch suing New Zealand’s Attorney General which is probably a good thing.

Hon Mahara Okeroa, then Labour member for Te Tai Tonga, was the only politician approached who never replied.  It’s been two years now and hopes of receiving an answer are fading fast.  His Cabinet colleague Hon Annette King could find the time as Police Minister to select “ginger beer” as her pick but Mr Okeroa’s role as a “Minister of State” apparently precluded a reply.  In unrelated news, Annette King was returned to Parliament in 2008 and is now Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.  Mahara Okeroa was defeated and currently has four supporters on his Facebook page.

2575869 Until recently, the beer preferences of Prime Minister John Key were unknown.  It was one of the about two topics not covered in the recent enormous interviews in the Sunday papers.  I have seen him enthuse about Heineken at a press conference but it was a press conference announcing Heineken’s sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup so that was pretty mandatory.  My attempts to question the Prime Minister directly on his beer preferences were thwarted by a phalanx of real journalists with microphones and reporters notebooks surrounding him and asking real questions until he was whisked to safety by the Diplomatic Protection Squad.

As it happens, I have found out the answer to the question everybody wants to know – “what beer does our Prime Minister like to drink?”  It is a very modern type of scoop.  I found it out through the internet, by accident.  I was on the “This is Bristol” website happily reading the “Warmley News”, as one does, when I was confronted by an article titled “New Zealand PM John Key likes Bath Ales.”  It read:

Prime Minister of New Zealand has taken a liking to beers made by a Bristol brewer.  National Party leader John Key, 47, who was elected to lead the Kiwis in 2008, has been supping beers made by Bath Ales and sold by Bristol expat Chris Carrad in his Wine Circle shop in Auckland.  The store, in Mr Key's constituency of Helensville, specialises in beers from Europe, but those made by Bath Ales in Warmley – 11,400 miles from New Zealand – are a particular favourite for the Prime Minister.

Speaking to the Post from New Zealand, Chris said:

We get Mr Key in the shop when he's in his constituency and he's very nice.  He spends a lot of time in Wellington, which is the seat of Parliament and is about eight hours drive away but he comes in the shop when he can, while his bodyguards sit in the ministerial car outside.  We sell several Bath Ales brands including Gem, Barnstormer and Wild Hare and his constituency secretary tells me they all go down a treat – especially Gem.

Roger Jones, Bath Ales MD, said: "We're delighted Mr Key enjoys it."

main_gem_01 Bath Ales is a brewery which has been operating in Warmley since 1985.  Showing his legendary political wisdom, the  proprietor of Wellington’s Malthouse bar begin offering a range of the Bath beers well before this story broke into the mainstream media and collective popular consciousness.  The Malthouse fridges currently contain:

Gem – The Prime Minister prefers this 4.7% ESB which is exceptionally well-balanced.  There are plenty of caramel, toffee and roasted notes with just a hint of cleansing hops at the end. 
Wild Hare - A 5% blond ale which pours a burnished gold.  It is dry, fruity (oranges and lemons) with hints of hay and a balancing malt sweetness. 
Dark Hare – Not to be confused with the evil rabbits in Watership Down, this 4% stout is a deep ruby hue with a gentle nose of caramel and liquorice.  Light in body, the flavours include coffee, chocolate, biscuit and vanilla before an earthy hop finish.
Barnstormer – This is a 4.5% premium bitter whose full body showcases hints of caramel, toast, nuts and dark fruits.

Finally, any politician worth their salt would be proud of the motto of Bath Ales – “brewed for those who know... and those who don’t.”  That covers all the bases quite nicely.

Cheers

Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cross-posted at The Malthouse Blog

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Friday morning ramble [updated]

I’ve ended up the week with another huge number of things I’d wanted to say to you but never got the chance.  So here, in no particular order, is another ramble through some of the things I’d wanted to talk about at greater length – a bunch ‘o links you can come back to over the weekend and think about yourself.
Enjoy!

  • Outgoing European Union President Václav Klaus had some unflattering things to say about his fellow European leaders, and something surprising to say about American president Barack Obama.
    Read Václav Klaus grades EU politicians. [Hat tip Reference Frame]
  • Great cartoon and comment over at The Visible Hand on the controversy over Anne Tolley’s canning of night school funding.
    Head over to Cartoon: Night classes.
  • College students today face an ideological onslaught from educators who are more concerned with creating "good citizens" than teaching them real knowledge, says Montessorian Marsha Enright, It's time for a new approach, she says, and she’s making one: She’s launching a “finishing school” for intelligent youngsters, to teach them everything they should have been taught in school but weren’t, and to “unteach” all the destructive nonsense they shouldn’t have been taught.
    Anyone who realises the enormously destructive role that leftist capture of the education system has played in the collapse of the culture will want to applaud her, and to read:
    Students Need Mental Ammunition.
  • In fact, if you Want Excellence in Education? Return to Reason says Michael Gold at The Egoist Blog.
  • And if you want cultural change, we need to get on with the essay competition I talked about last year.  And that’s just the start of it all.  Who’s with me?
  • Meanwhile, Rational Jenn offers more another tip for rational parents. "Explaining the virtue of Integrity to children can be difficult,” she says. “I helped my son begin to grasp this idea by pointing out an example of when he displayed that virtue himself."
    Read A Conversation about Integrity posted at Rational Jenn.
  • 6a00d8341bff5053ef01157218a82c970b-350wi What sort of arsehole architect would design this excrescence on the right for a clinic to treat patients with chronic brain diseases, dementia and cognitive disorders?  Answer: that arsehole Frank Gehry of course.
  • As we start to hear calls from the US for yet another “stimulus” package,  throwing good but rapidly depreciating money after bad, it’s time to get the lowdown on the crude Keynesianism at back of all the profligate stimulunacy.
  • Here, by the way, are some simple experiments to prove why “stimulus” can not work.
    Read Obama: Please Try This at Home.
  • And on a similar theme, why not read up On the Inescapable Contradiction of Fractional Reserve Banking.
  • It’s All About Say’s Law, you know. Yes, it really is.
  • Bubble, bubble toil and trouble.  Can Bubbles Also Be Made in China?  Looks horribly like it.
  • Good quote here from the 3-Ring Binder blog:
    ”1.The concept of individual rights is morality applied to politics.
    2. The purpose of the government is to protect our individual rights.”
  • Deliberation - BRIAN LARSENRobert Garmong’s been teaching philosophy to prisoners, and he reports they were far better students than his usual brood. 
    Read Teaching Intro to Philosophy...In Prison.
  • By the way, have you ever noticed that when you’re debating with graduates of various subjectivist philosophy courses they invariably end up telling you that your questions are “too complex” to answer successfully.  From whence comes this fetishistic complexity worship?  The Rational Capitalist explains: The Modern Intellectual's Virtue of Complexity, Part I.
  • This Bryan Larsen painting (right) is beautiful.  Just thought you’d like to see it too.
    Click on the picture to see it larger.
  • I’m still flabbergasted at the Nazis in Hawkes bay who are insisting that a family tear down a seawall they built to protect their home – they have been given until the end of August to pull down the wall, or face the possibility of jail time or a fine of $200000.  Just another example of why the Resource Management Act has to go so New Zealanders can get their property rights back.
  • Meanwhile, the Nazis at North Shore City are adding insult to economic calamity for the city’s developers, and those who would like to buy affordable homes from them.  They’ve just hiked their thieving “development levies”  by a whopping 150%.
    Gooner has the news at No Minister: Development levies.
  • 2724190 Speaking of petty fascism, Margaret and Keith Berryman (right) are enduring their last kick in the face from government: delayed for years in their fight for justice by the lying, dissembling and near-fraudulence of everyone from Helen Clark to Jenny Shipley to the NZ Army and beyond, they’ve now been told by a judge that their action against the government will fail because it’s too long after the event.  Poor bastards.
    They’re poster people for Thomas Jefferson’s much-repeated dictum that a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away all you’ve ever earned.
  • Mythbusters’ Andy Savage reckons the show will keep going “as long as people keep believing stupid shit.”  Looks like it will be around a long time.  Watch him interviewed here at Reason TV
  • Apparently there’s to be a remake of my all-time favourite TV show The Prisoner, opening in October.  There’s a nine-minute preview below.  I’m worried by it. [Hat tip Charles Burris]
  • The swine flu outbreak has seen everyone look to government to solve the public health problem.  Stephen Hicks offers two cautionary tales to suggest we shouldn’t be so quick to look to government to solve this problem either.
    Read Two cautionary tales about cholera, the plague, and politics.
  • Canadian Paul McKeever offers “Required reading for anyone interested in the issue of socialised medicine: the Supreme Court of Canada's 2005 decision, which ended Quebec's ban on private health insurance. The reason: government health care is *rationed* care, which was leaving people to suffer and die.”
    Read Supreme Court of Canada - Decisions - Chaoulli v. Quebec (Attorney General).
  • George Reisman reckons you should listen to this phone-in interview on the ObamaCare Plan over at Fred Thompons’s website, including news of compulsory five-yearly counselling sessions on euthanasia for over-65s. “An assault on seniors” Reisman calls it.
    Listen here to the Betsy McCaughey Interview, and visit www.defendyourhealthcare.us/.
  • And see also two videos on the reality of ObamaCare.
  • So come on, Is Health Care a Right? Answer the question, Congressmen!
  • Come on, What 'right' to health care?
  • You want a quick post that gives a hint to what a true free market in health care could be like. This is it: Target's Free Market Health Care Innovation.
  • Why do so many seemingly intelligent people lose their critical faculties when it comes to public transport – especially public transport by train? Liberty Scott fisks all the idiots gathered around the altar of the train.
  • shulman-koenig Architectural photographer Julius Shulman died last month. For most people, when they think of modernist architecture, it will be a photograph of Shulman’s – like the classic at right -- that will come to mind.
    Read the Wall Street Journal’s obituary here: How Julius Shulman Told a House’s Story.
  • This looks like my kind of art gallery too – a Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow that “has invited art lovers to write their thoughts down in an open Bible on display as part of its Made in God's Image exhibition.”  PZ Myers reckons “It's an interesting idea. I've signed a few bibles at people's request myself — I usually mark up the first page with the question, ‘Where are the squid?’” 
    Read My kind of art gallery.
  • Matt Nolan at The Visible Hand reckons there’s now fourteen economics blogs in New Zealand.  Flatteringly, he includes my bumbling efforts in the list.
  • If you haven’t yet seen the video of the Inspector General of the US Federal Reserve Bank admitting she hasn’t got a clue where several trillion dollars has gone, then yyou really need to have a look now.  It’s frightening.
  • And speaking of mismanagement at The Fed, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has been circling the States giving “Town Hall Meetings” to ramp up his popularity in the face of a public appalled at the almost daily evidence of the incompetence of him and his colleagues.  Jeff Perren runs the rule over Bernaanke’s Kansas meeting, saying that “During the entire period the ‘deer in the headlights’ look never left his face.”
    Read Bernanke Grilled At Townhall in Kansas, and see if you can answer Jeff’s question:
    ”It's always a little shocking to see a man who has taught at Princeton be so stupid. What remains a mystery is why men of intelligence like Bernanke absorb and accept the blatant nonsense that a healthy-minded college freshman could poke big holes through without effort.”
    Any ideas?
  • What’s the answer?  End the Fed. Economist George Selgin says Congressman Ron Paul's bill may never pass, “but history suggests the US economy would be better off without the Federal Reserve.”
    Read End the Fed? A not-so-crazy idea..
  • Here’s some vintage pro-inflation propaganda from America’s last Great Depression.  Maybe Ben Bernanke could re-release it?
  • Take a look at America’s Debt Clock.  It’s frankly frightening.
  • Speaking of a deer in the headlights, perhaps it’s a shame Mr Bernanke hasn’t got a friend like Paddy, an Irish hunter, who dialled 911 to say, "I just shot at something that I thought was a deer but it was another hunter. I'm afraid I just killed Mick." The operator says, "It's OK sir, it may not be as bad as you think. First, make sure Mick's really dead." Paddy says OK and sets down the phone. Then the operator hears a gunshot. Paddy picks up the phone and says, "OK, now what?"
  • Afghanistan: Destination? Non-victory.
  • Conservative intellectual Bill Kristol – America’s Matthew Hooton -- demonstrates on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart why the term conservative intellectual is an oxymoron.
    Watch here at this link, and you might begin to understand why Ayn Rand called today’s conservatives “futile, impotent and, culturally, dead.
    “They have nothing to offer and can achieve nothing [she said]. They can only help to destroy intellectual standards, to disintegrate thought, to discredit capitalism, and to accelerate this country’s uncontested collapse into despair and dictatorship.”
    Kristol is Exhibit A for the prosecution. Watch here at this link.
  • Or as Andy Clarkson (aka The Charlotte Capitalist) asks, "Are Conservatives Going To Save Socialism Again?"
  • If you thought those subjectivist philosophy professors were snarky about Ayn Rand in the New York Times this week, then you should have seen how Friedrich Nietzsche was received by his “colleagues” at Basel University.  Ouch!
    There’s nothing so vicious as a philosophy professor in the face of a competitor who’s telling them their time is up.
  • Subjectivist philosophy professors don’t like Ayn Rand, but why are more and more businessmen falling in love with her novel Atlas Shrugged?
    Alex Epstein gives a pithy explanation in Why Businessmen Love Atlas Shrugged.
  • Speaking of outraged charlatans, psychotherapists are outraged that Wikipedia has put online the Rorshach inkblot tests that they use to help practice their chicanery. Poor dears.
    Read A Rorschach Cheat Sheet on Wikipedia?.
  • By the way, you won’t believe the Internet Porn Statistics, even when they’re so elegantly presented.  Watch Internet Porn Statistics.
    Thank goodness we’re all paying $1.5 billion to get broadband, eh?
  • 2009476953 A 1951 Phoenix home that famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed for his son has been sold for US$2.8 million.  That’s its lounge on the right.  Head here to learn more.
  • Eric Crampton reckons Phillip Field’s conviction for corruption is Eroding our Clean Green image.
    Although Jim Hopkins reckons that between Phillip Field and Bill English, they might be able to help us close at least one gap with Australia: the corruption gap.
  • Here’s what some people are calling “the greatest letter of complaint ever” – a disgruntled Virgin Airlines passenger writing to Richard Branson.  Hilarious.
    Read Greatest ever letter of complaint.
  • Fellow Wagner fans fearful of how Katherina Wagner is execrating her grandfather’s work might at least like to know that she’s bring the Bayreuth Festival experience to the web, including live webcasts of performances! Head to the really excellent Bayreuth website here, and you’ll find yourself in heaven. Or at least Valhalla.
  • In Ayn Rand's final public talk, she exhorts a group of businessmen to stop apologizing, and stop supporting anti-capitalist institutions: "It is a moral crime to give money to support ideas with which you disagree. It is a moral crime to give money to support your own destroyers." See how the force of her ideas captivated an audience and drew a tumultuous response.
    Watch The Sanction of the Victims.

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‘Candle’ – David Knowles

Candle A new work here by Wairarapa artist David Knowles, “an unashamed homage to the 'Sculpture of Dominique' scene in The Fountainhead.  I have used the electricity between bright yellow and dull blue to accentuate the theme of a light in the gloom,” says David.

You can see this and many more new works by David at an exhibition opening this weekend at the new Icon Gallery in Masterton – or, of course, at David’s website Real Art.

Candle-closer

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Objectivist banking business

"Put balls and chains on good people, and bad things happen."
-- John Allison, chairman, BB&T bank

In yesterday’s Business Herald Fran O’Sullivan profiles Ralph Norris, who makes the point that “strong banks are absolutely critical to the strength of the economy” and there are few stronger anywhere than the the  Australian-owned banks which NZ and Australia share. Allowing them to go about their business unimpeded by politicians’ inquiries and their blundering micro-management will help grow both economies, says Norris.

He points out however that the “big four” Australian banks are effectively subsidising shaky financial companies through the government’s financial sector guarantee scheme.  Faced with this and other threatened meddling, “some of the Australian banks have seriously considered whether they should continue in this market - there are opportunities elsewhere," he says.

Bravo.  That’s almost a call to shrug right there.

There a few enough bankers in the world standing up for honest banking.  Another such is the chairman and former CEO of North Carolina’s still-thriving BB&T bank, John Allison, profiled in the New York Times this week, a man who is not just a banker but also an Objectivist as well – and not just an Objectivist, but an Objectivist businessman who insists that following Objectivist philosophy, a philosophy based unflinchingly on reason, gives businesses that do so a competitive advantage. In other words, it’s good for your bottom line:

   BB&T, he says, has a proven formula for success that centers on “an uncompromising commitment to reason.”
    Under Mr. Allison, new executives were handed a copy of “Atlas Shrugged.” All employees get a 30-page pamphlet describing BB&T’s philosophy and values: reason, independent thinking and decisions based on facts.
    “Wishing something is so does not make it so,” Mr. Allison says. “I guarantee that long before the rest of us knew, those geniuses at
Lehman Brothers knew that something was wrong, but they evaded it.”

It’s worth reading this New York Times profile in full, because his lessons go far beyond banking. Read “Give BB&T Liberty, but Not a Bailout.”

And note, as you’re reading, the snarling hostility of the subjectivist philosophy professors quoted in the article to the idea that good philosophy might lead to success in the real world.  “The reason why Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism is not for [the subjectivist philosophy professors],” points out Objectivist philosopher Craig Biddle, “is that it is for those who are willing to think for themselves rather than follow the herd, and who are not embarrassed by clear, straightforward arguments.”

You can see the problem with such a philosophy for the soft-shelled shysters of academia, can’t you - and also its hard-edged appeal for honest entrepreneurs.

  RELATED: Read the title essay of Why Businessman Need Philoslophy.

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Murdoch pulls up the web drawbridge

Rupert Murdoch has announced his “media giant News Corporation Ltd intends to charge for all its news websites in a bid to lift revenues, as the transition towards online media permanently changes the advertising landscape.” News here.  Barry Colman will be calling himself a prophet.

“This will be an epic fail,” predicts the hugely influential Daily Pundit blog however. “Murdoch is an old fart, and thinks that simply by waving the old magic wand, he can make the internet generation pay for his product.”  Dumb(ass) like a fox the Pundit calls it.

B3 Bloggers Bar Bash

Don't forget it's drinks tonight at Galbraiths for the monthly B3 Bloggers Bar Bash. See you there from 6.30pm onwards.

Anti-smacking law is non-objective

Says Professor Jim Evans on the Bradford/Clark/Key law:

    This is not clear legislation. In creating this law, Parliament abandoned its constitutional responsibility to say with clarity just which conduct is criminal.
    The section results from a political fudge. Whatever other views one takes about the topic of smacking, that much at least ought to be kept clear.  [Hat tip
Lindsay Mitchell]

The anti-smacking law is not objective law.  Just vote NO.

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NOTPJ: Methode Glaswegienne

This week Bernard Darnton delves into the greatest culinary tradition in Europe (except for French, Italian, Basque, Greek, Viennese, Swedish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Luxembourgian, …)

_BernardDarnton “Scottish cuisine” is not a phrase that fills you with hope. It doesn’t suggest the sophistication of French, the urgent, exotic freshness of Thai, or the “what the hell did that used to be?” of Chinese. Well, maybe the last. No, “Scottish cuisine” makes you think of mashed up sheep’s organs stuffed into a different, unmashed-up sheep’s organ.

Nonetheless, Scottish nationalists have reacted with outrage and denial at the discovery that haggis may have originated in the south of England rather than in Caledonia. Food historian Catherine Brown has made headlines this week with her claim that a haggis recipe published in 1616 in The English Hus-Wife predates any Scottish mention by a hundred years.

The claims have been rebutted by a representative of the Scottish Institute for Arts and Sciences who said, “If yer repeat that again I’ll fuckin’ nut yer, yer little gobshite.”

However, the claim rings true. English cuisine is shaped by England’s climate. That is, it’s crap. Traditional English dishes are, by-and-large, horrible – jellied eels, damp chips with mushy peas, and vegetables boiled until they’re grey. Things have changed a bit recently with the now widespread addition of Jamie Oliver’s frothing spittle.

So haggis will fit right in in England. With its loss, the only item remaining on the traditional Scottish menu is the deep fried Mars bar. While this sounds disgusting, and is enough to give everyone at the Heart Foundation a stroke, it is in fact a work of genius. But you will only ever appreciate this if you consume one when you’re pisseder than a tankful of ill-disciplined newts. I discovered this while living in the Edinburgh of the South.

chicken_tikka_masala1 The unlikely saviour of Scotland’s culinary tradition could be chicken tikka masala. Ali Ahmed Aslam, founder of the Shish Mahal restaurant in Glasgow, lays claim to inventing the dish. With the help of his local MP, he has applied to the European Union for “Protected Designation of Origin” status.

Protected Designation of Origin status is what’s responsible for rules like the one saying that fizzy wine that doesn’t come from the Champagne region of France has to go by the clumsy appellation of “Methode Champenoise.” Likewise Parma ham that’s not from Parma, Newcastle Brown Ale that’s not from Newcastle, and Stilton cheese that’s not from some rigorously defined bit of the English Midlands. (It’s illegal to make Stilton cheese in Stilton, which is near Cambridge, but you don’t need all those acres of bureaucrats to come up with rules that are simple.)

Unlike these products though, chicken tikka masala doesn’t have the word “Glasgow” in its name so I’m not sure what they’re trying to protect. My Hindi’s not that great (although it’s better than my Glaswegian) but I think “chicken tikka masala” means something like “chicken lump mixture.” Presumably, under the proposed rules, restaurants outside Glasgow’s West End would have to refer to the dish as “Glaswegian-style chicken lump mixture” – an advertiser’s dream.

The EU’s meddling would at least clear up any confusion that the dish might be of Indian origin. A tin of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup is not a traditional ingredient in the Punjab. England, however, looks likely to get stuck with the haggis unless they can pass the blame on to the Vikings.

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

Reminder: Blogger’s bar bash Thursday!

Weizenbier window It’s the first Thursday of the month this week, so get ye along to Galbraith’s at the top of Mt Eden Rd for the Bloggers’ Bar Bash.  Join bloggers and blog-readers for a pint or two and some friendly banter.  I’ll be there, Annie Fox will be there, Matt and Madeleine will be there – and who knows who else.  We might even get Susan and LGM and Falufulu Fisi and a few other NOT PC regulars out for the evening!

So why not come and join us from about 6:30pm on! All welcome – both bloggers and blog readers.

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Quotes of the morning: On the tale of two snouts [update 2]

Patrick J.  on Bill English:

Says the Bill: "I've done nothing wrong, but it looks bad."
It's a sad indictment of modern politics.  No longer a question of ethics, but aesthetics.

David Slack on the snouts in the trough:

Next perception correction: Paula repays her TIA allowance. Says: "That's what feisty people out there who back themselves do.’

Good luck with that one.

UPDATE 1: MPs’ Primary Place of Residence form is here [pdf].  Note the question at the foot of page one [hat tip Red Alert].

UPDATE 2:  The Companies Act requires shareholders to provide a full residential address. Section 377 of the Act states that it is an offence under the Act to make a false statement in relation to any of the requirements of the Act, including giving the correct address. And according to the Registrar of companies, the “full residential address” of Beneficiary Bill, the shareholder of Resolution Farms, is in Wellington --  because Sir Double Dipton has told them it is.  Story at the Double Standard.

I wonder where Bill and the brood say Mass every Sunday?

Edinburgh Airport’s new control tower – REID Architects

edinburgh_airport_control_tower

edinburgh_airport_control_tower_23 More information about the control tower here at the Edinburgh Architecture site.

More information about Manchester-based REID Architects here.

Stay tuned here at NOT PC for news in a few hours of Glasgow’s recent claim to fame . . .

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Frightening news from the Big Brother files [update 2]

From the 1984/Big Brother files comes the tale of two former bastions of freedom:

[Hat tip Paul McKeever]

UPDATE 1:  Apparently the news from the UK is bad, but not so bad as reported. (That’ll teach me for believing the Daily Express.) The real news is the launch of “family intervention projects” that are almost as intrusive, though without the cameras, and not costing anywhere near as much [hat tip Luke H].

UPDATE 2: The Obama Administration is about to use the Trojan Horse of copyright to introduce new law to allow searching of PC’s, Laptops, and media devices.

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Benny TV [update 3]

Here's a new 'reality' TV that someone might like to pitch to Julie Christie.  Or perhaps an idea for some good research for a keen statistician.

Time for a top-rating prime-time TV show to answer the question:  “Who’s the country's biggest beneficiary?  Who really is the biggest moocher on the taxpayer, the biggest sucker on the state tit, the biggest bludger, trough-snuffler and rent-seeking-rort-mongering-entitlement-bogan in the country.”

You can see the show now, can’t you.

“Our next guest is the new Minister of Housing 'Whack-it-on-Your-Bill Phil' Heatley – a man who takes the idea of “state houses” so seriously he’s tried to corner that market himself.  A man with so many houses being paid for by so many taxpayers it would take a Cook Islands taw lawyer to work out.

“Could he be the country’s biggest beneficiary?

“Or is it the new Mistress of Police, Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins, whose arse isn’t so big that she can’t shoot up a taxpayer-funded housing loophole when she sees one, or a good old-fashioned taxpayer-funded limo ride when she can get one.

“Or the new Welfare Matron, Paula Benefit, who’s racked up a whole lifetime on the taxpayers’ tit – “a poster girl for National’s welfare policies” she called herself when she was appointed to head up NZ’s biggest spending department-- and doesn’t look like stopping any time now."

“Or is it our current Minister of Finance, Beneficiary Bill, who pulls down a bigger salary than any business would ever pay him, and claims still extra for having "a place of residence" he visits around twice every year?  A man with so many children only a thousand-dollar-a-week taxpayer subsidy is apparently enough to keep the whole brood together.

“Champion effort that.

“Or could it be it’s the former Minister of Finance Dodger Rugless, who likes to take advantage of the taxpayers' largesse to swan around on foreign holidays, making sure it’s us who picks up his tab?

“Or is it one of EnZed’s former ministers or Prime Ministers, one of them who hasn’t been picked up the latest News From the Trough, but who got a taste for things taxpayerish early on and is unable to kick the habit?  One of the former tit-suckers who can't take their mouth from the teat, and who's pulling down all the free travel and perks and the platinum-plated politicians' superannuation scheme that we're all paying for? 

“What about the former Minister of Wine & Cheese Jonathan Hunt, or former PMs Shipley, Bolger, Palmer, Moore -- or the UN's new pin-up girl Helen Clark? Could one of them be our champion?”

"Stay tuned for another thrilling episode of Who’s the Biggest Beneficiary?  Brought to you, naturally, by NZ on Air, so you can see more of who you’re paying for.”

Well, maybe not such great TV – although you would see plenty of red herrings and a lot of scuttling for cover. But high time surely for someone to answer the question.

And no fear those of you up in the gallery saying these people earn their money.  We all know that's not true. 

And no fear either saying they need to be paid the salary and perks commensurate with what private employers are paying.  We all know no private employer would pay any of these pillocks for their putative skills and talents -- any employment offered them privately now is offered not because of their well-developed skills at hand-shaking and shucking off responsibility, but only on the basis of the political pull they might bring to a board-room table. (And if you doubt that, then just check out Cactus Kate's recent research on this very question.)

So come on someone, who's got some hard figures? Who shall we crown NZ's Biggest Beneficiary?

And do you think we might interest Julie Christie in the idea for a TV programme?

UPDATE 1: A couple of changes to your scheduled programme. 

  1. John Key – for whom the only test of ethics is ‘will this make me look bad in the Herald’ – has decided just before this afternoon’s Question Time that Beneficiary Bill’s walletectomy of the taxpayer doesn’t quite pass the smell test, but it might do if Bill hands back around $12,000 of what he’s been pulling down. So that takes our early favourite down the ranks a little.
  2. But a late entrant has arrived on the set: Alan Bollocks from the Reserve Bank, who takes more than half-a-million dollars out of taxpayers’ pockets every year -- not to mention the damage he does in his day job.  Could it be we could abolish the Reserve Bank, refit the building with ministerial cells, and just shove all the trough-snuffers in there?   We could save all the salaries and subsidies (and on all that monetary harm) and if we filmed all their goings on in there we could call it Bludger Big Brother.

UPDATE 2: Bernard Hickey points out that the gap between “public sector” wages and those of the people who pay for them is now greater than ever. This is the only “income gap” we really do need to worry about, and the only one that needs to be reversed.

UPDATE 3: Cactus Kate suggests the $99-a—night Ibis Hotel for all out-of-Wellington MPs for the three nights they stay in the city every sitting week.  Still sounds far too generous to me, when their salaries are so far above what any of them could earn elsewhere.

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Pigdogs, privatisation and the pliers

Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath takes his regularly irreverent look at some of the past week’s headlines.

1. Dog mauling left woman looking like ‘blob of blood’ – A woman jogging down a country road near Putaruru is attacked and badly injured by a pack of eight pig hunting dogs. She has had the first of several operations to her mangled limbs and scalp. The female owner has now been arrested and charged. Assuming Margit Christensen was going about her lawful business, and that there was no reason for the dogs to attack her, the owner of the dogs should be held fully liable for the cost of the medical treatment and the police and ambulance callout (and the dogs should be shot forthwith). Ideally, if Ms Christensen had an insurance policy that covered all the costs associated with her treatment, her insurance company could then recover the amount paid out from the dogs’ owner.
Instead of this, the cost of treatment will be covered by the ACC insurance monopoly, whose premiums are paid at the point of a government gun. ACC will dictate what payments to the hospital are ‘appropriate’, and what help will be offered to Ms Christensen during her recovery. There is no capacity for New Zealanders to purchase a higher level of insurance cover from ACC by paying a higher premium – in the ACC monopoly, one size fits all. Policies are not individualized; New Zealanders are lumped into one amorphous collective, with no distinction made (among those who are not employed) for high or low risk lifestyles. No financial incentives exist for the private citizen who takes extra precautions in trying to keep out of harm’s way.
Just one more reason why accident insurance should be opened up to private competition.

2. Government may support rights plan – Having said they will ratify the UN declaration on indigenous people’s (bogus) rights, the National Party are just beginning to realize what a draconian, backward document it is. At least Simon Power has stated that these imaginary rights are trumped by our constitutional framework and existing law. Which, thankfully, will render the UN declaration toothless. Looks like the Maori Party -- who announced rather prematurely that New Zealand would support the declaration (that the Clark government had so rightly opposed) -- is wagging the dog. If this declaration is ratified and ended up taking precedence over existing law, there would be a never-ceasing series of land occupations and multi-billion dollar compensation claims that would result in pitched battles and bloodshed.
One way to settle all outstanding Waitangi Treaty claims would simply be to issue shares in all Crown land currently under claim by Maori to individual Maori shareholders, not to tribal authorities or tribal leaders. Shareholders could purchase land to the value of their shareholding – first in gets the best land. Let them band together and create co-operative farms, vineyards, kumara patches – or whatever. The key to this is that once Crown land is transferred into private hands, the UN can’t touch it, or tell its owners what to do with it!

3.Westpac looks set to follow BNZ and scrap penalty fees – In the minds of people like Jim Anderton and Chris Trotter our banks, oil companies and other multinational corporations form secret cartels that collude to fix prices, cut services and rip you and me off. Yet here we have banking giant Westpac having to cut fees because of that time-honoured price-chopping market place factor: competition. Now ANZ National and ASB are feeling the heat and inching closer to dropping their fees too. Looks like the grumbles from dissatisfied customers over the past year have made a difference. Marvellous what a bit of rivalry can do – while the banks fight it out among themselves, the winners will be you and I -- the customers.

4. ‘Man pulls out 13 of his own teeth with pliers – from the Daily Mail’s NHS horror file, another victim of the British public health system (along with an equal measure of self-neglect, to be fair). A 42 year old veteran of the British Army in Iraq says he tried to enrol with 30 dentists in East Yorkshire to get some treatment before giving up in frustration and repairing to the garden shed to perform a bit of DIY. This news article comes complete with picture of the amateur toothsmith, complete with gappy smile and thirteen presents for the Tooth Fairy.
Where even in New Zealand would anyone have to try thirty dentists before they could find one who would even see them? What dentist in their right mind would work for rock-bottom non-negotiable prices, while having to keep a small business afloat? Why do you think the goal of ‘equal access to all regardless of ability to pay’ means rationed die-while-you-wait care?

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath

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Toilette de Venus - Auguste Rodin

Rodin-Toilette-de-Venus-3

Another beautiful bronze by French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) emanating from his ‘Gates of Hell’ series.

artwork_images_425649297_459238_auguste-rodin

See more posts on the master sculptor here.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Pre-school non-education vs Montessori education

Over the weekend The Herald reported 

    Many 5-year-olds are starting school unable to count or complete the alphabet, despite years of pre-school education. . .
   
Rosemary Vivien, head of Edendale School in Sandringham, Auckland, said the Ministry of Education had outlined general expectations of what children should know when they started school. These included being able to count to 20, knowing the alphabet, recognising colours and being able to write their own name.
   
More than half the children who started at Edendale, a decile 5 school, could not do that. . .

Grotesque news, when you think about it, to which David Farrar commented that

I have said many many times I would take money from tertiary education and stick it into pre-school or early childhood education,

and talked about his niece who “turned five late last year and could proudly count to 100 and back – both in English and Maori.  I sort of assumed that counting to 100 was pretty standard for pre-school. Certainly counting to 20 should have occurred.”  It certainly should, but even that’s hardly stretching anybody.

I responded at Kiwiblog that both Mr Farrar and the Ministry have their sights sets pretty low – and it’s  almost tragic that even the Ministry’s low standards are not being met. In good Montessori schools however, I pointed out,

CLICK HERE FOR A MONTESSORI LECTURE YOU MUSTN'T MISS!! six year olds are counting and understanding the concept of one million, doing long division and binomial equations, and reading and writing their own short stories.
    These are not exceptional students, these are normal students. And
these results are well documented.
    The answer is not more money “stuck” into into government-sponsored pre-school or early childhood education programmes. These programmes are the problem. And neither is the answer more forced retraining for ECE teachers or more free hours — and it’s certainly not more power to the Ministry of Ed — it’s simply to get the hell out of the way of the better schools and the local Montessori teacher training centres.
    Montessori schools and the better mainstream ECE shools have been shafted by govt policies and extra govt spending over the last decade-and-a-half; what they need now is less interference and govt spending, not more.

Like I said, when you can see what children can achieve at good Montessori schools, too see what passes even for success in mainstream schools is heart breaking.  And it’s important to realise that the results I cite above – such as counting and understanding the concept of one million, doing long division and binomial equations, and reading and writing their own short stories – are achieved by pushing Montessori children into achieving those sort of results. But far from it — it’s the kids who are pushed who generally don’t achieve. As I went on to say at Kiwiblog:

   The results are achieved, paradoxically you might say, not by pushing them but by letting them be kids; by recognising what they’re thirsty for at each stage of their development, and making sure that’s what’s in front of them when they’re eager for it.
    Of course, this is just a very small part of the reason for the success of Montessori education, but an important one: the recognition of what Dr Montessori called “
sensitive periods for learning.”
    Rather than dumbing children down and treating them as morons, as mainstream education does, Montessori treats them as young people with brains which they want to train themselves, and offers them the means by which to do that.

Steven_Hughes Now it’s often thought that what good Montessori schools do for children is some sort of miracle. but that’s just not true.  It’s not a miracle; it’s simply good science.  Montessori education works because, as a forthcoming visitor to New Zealand points out, “Montessori education parallels what is known about brain development.”

Dr Steven Hughes is a neurologist and paediatrician who fell in love with what Montessori education can do when he sent his own children to Montessori school, and quickly realised what was going on in front of his eyes at school mirrored what he was seeing in his own scientific research on brain development.

Hughes is an assistant professor of paediatrics and neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical School in the USA and will be visiting Auckland soon after a speaking tour of all major Australian cities – and I’d highly recommend going along and hearing what he has to say.  Everyone I know who’s seen him talk before says he’s outstanding.  From the ad for the Auckland public lecture on September 18 at AUT’s Northcote campus.

    This public lecture will help you gain unique insights into how Montessori education provides children with an unparalleled foundation for the development of academic, social, and executive functions critical for advanced problem solving and lifetime success.
    In this highly visual, rapid-paced and entertaining talk, Dr Hughes will share how Montessori education parallels what is known about brain development and how Montessori fosters the development of advanced cognitive functions, social cognition, and such higher-order competencies as empathy and leadership.
    He will show how and why Montessori kids are ‘good at doing things’.
    This talk is especially great for fathers who may wonder about this ‘Montessori-thing’!

You can get a ticket to this event from your local Montessori centres or schools or by emailing eo@montessori.org.nz, or freephone 0800336612.  But be quick. The Montessori Association of NZ has kept the cost low at only $10 per person for early-bird bookers, which deadline runs out soon. Visit the MANZ website for more information.

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The Natural Selection rap

Yes, I have rap reservations, but the crowd-participation chorus is a good one.  Watch this live track from The Rap Guide to Evolution, and head to the man’s website to hear (and legally download) the whole collection. [Hat tip Pharyngula ]

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Bill & Roger: Just a couple of overinflated beneficiaries

WogerIs Entitled BennyBill Beneficiary Bill and “Roger the Taxpayer.”  Two graduates of the entitlement culture running right from the top to the bottom of the New Zealand political tree. Two people with their hands in your pocket – two moochers who saw a racket, and wanted in on it.   Two looters – one of whom as minister of finance increased the total tax take, the other of whom increased the total deficit.  Two bludgers, neither of whom ever saw an “entitlement” they didn’t want part of.

Two of the country’s most highly-paid beneficiaries, with morals to match.

Seems to me that whatever claims to moral authority either of them might have had once, and any such claims must be vanishingly small, their studied and unrepentant fleecing of the taxpayers has now destroyed it.  As Adam at The Inquiring Mind says, “Bill English has committed the cardinal sin of being the resident of a glass house who has commenced to throw stones.  He may not have ‘broken the rules’ but he has undoubtedly diminished his ability to speak with any authority . . . “  Given Douglas’s previous reputation, that goes double for him.

Frankly, except for the occasional party zealot, who are out in force even now insisting neither of these bludgers has done anything wrong, who would ever again take seriously anything either of them has to say on taxing, spending, belt-tightening, economising, responsibility, or honesty.   Who could?

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Beer summit

Jim Treacher was a fly on the wall at the manly goodness that was Obama’s beer summit.  Here’s the transcript-in-pictures. [Hat tip Tim Blair]

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LIBERTARIAN SUS: Breaking & entering

Burglary is not just a property crime, says Susan Ryder.

susanryder The feeling occurs straight away. You may not be able to put your finger on it and it might even take a bit longer to register that something is wrong, but you know from the outset that something’s definitely not right.

And then it hits you -- hard. The realisation can be overwhelming and sickening and frightening, all at once. You’ve been burgled.

Other factors come into play, too, such as the extent of the damage and time of discovery; (the darkness always makes things more ominous). And if you’re alone when you discover the circumstances, it can be really horrible.

It’s happened to the homes of my parents and sisters. In fact my little sister’s house was broken into twice in two days while we were in Australia celebrating the wedding of our other sister. That was dandy, my brother-in-law having to cut his holiday short to get back to oversee the situation – and during the Easter break, too, when airline seats were as scarce as brains on The Bachelor. My parents’ store was also burgled on two occasions.

Touch wood, my own experience is limited to my wallet being stolen in Portugal and latterly, my car broken into one evening in Auckland. Driving home afterward was awful. The damage and subsequent theft of property was bad enough, but the thought of an unknown person or persons in my car made my skin crawl. Being penniless in Lisbon was no picnic either, but that’s for another time.

Yesterday I learned that a family friend, an older woman who lives alone, was burgled last Saturday night. She was away; ironically, she was doing an absent friend a good turn by caring for the latter’s home and pets for the night. The perpetrators broke in and ransacked the place, helping themselves to many of her possessions along the way. As a parting shot, they generously left the front door and windows wide open for good measure. She discovered the mess the next morning. Lord only knows when the local police will arrive to file the necessary reports. It took the same police force two months and several reminders to visit my sister back in 2003.

If you haven’t been burgled, it’s difficult to comprehend exactly how it feels. Natural emotions range from frustrated to furious, but worst of all is the knowledge that strangers have been tramping through your home, fingering your belongings and rifling through your cupboards and drawers with callous indifference. My mother couldn’t wait for the police to finish up so she could wash her clothes. She hauled everything out of the dressers and systematically washed the lot. And then she started on Dad’s.

In the following days you walk down the street and wonder “was it him?” or “does she know what I’ve got in my home?” and “they know where I live ... will they come back?”

In the case of our business customers – and they were many – it was hard not to suspect them all, even though I hated myself for it. It’s an awful feeling that stays with you for some time.

Not that the arseholes concerned give a toss about you. They don’t give two hoots that your children might be terrified; that you can’t sleep for worrying; that you jump at every strange sound – especially at night – and automatically brace yourself when pulling up in the driveway for months afterwards. It’s either a professional situation or a bit of fun to them. They’re banking on you being insured, (responsible people are like that); and that your sanctuary has been ruthlessly violated doesn’t occur to them, let alone matter.

Some people don’t consider property crime to be serious, former Police Minister Ann Hercus, for one. Ms Hercus, who went on to become New Zealand’s Ambassador to the United Nations, is on record as saying as much in the late 1980s. To this day, she doubtless believes in more lenient punishment for those who commit property crimes. Those concerned are probably disadvantaged or misunderstood or “had a difficult childhood”, don’t you know. It never ceases to astonish as to how the abuser is of more concern to these clowns than the abused.

So now it’s my friend Lyn’s turn to go through this hateful situation. She’s a sweet, generous person by nature, although right now I imagine she’s rather less concerned with the personal woes of her burglars.

And unlike Ann Hercus, I’m with Lyn.

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

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Quote of the day: On alcohol and joy

The timorous mineral water and “better not” attitude to life rather than the “why not?” attitude seems to be among the saddest of the health postures – a loss of joy, hedonism and self=exploration.”
                                                                   - Frank Moorhouse in his fine book Martini: A Memoir

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“The real right to medical care” [updated]

George Reisman has just posted on his web site www.capitalism.net a reprint of his 1994 essay THE REAL RIGHT TO MEDICAL CARE VERSUS SOCIALIZED MEDICINE. Says George:

I wrote this essay to help defeat the Clinton plan for socialized medicine. In all essentials it’s as valid today as it was then. It’s a demonstration that government intervention inspired by the philosophy of collectivism is the cause of America's medical crisis and that a free market in medical care is the solution for the crisis. I urge everyone who wants to help defeat the essentially similar Obama scheme to read it.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman once again shows himself on the wrong side of every contemporary issue.  Here he is getting ‘pwned’ (as the youngsters say) in a ‘straw poll move’ in a health care debate last year  [hat tip David R. Henderson.

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The tragic lovers - Kitagawa Utamaro

Utamaro001Full title: The tragic lovers Oshichi the greengrocer's daughter and Kichisaburo the young temple-servant. A wonderfully full print from ukiyo-e master Kitagawa Utamaro  (1750-1806). You can see the tragedy about to happen in the closeness and the turbulence.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

30 Songs [updated]

George from The Nevermind Aesthetic didn’t tag me for this, but I did it anyway because I was curious.

Instructions...if you're interested:
1. Turn on whatever MP3 player you possess.
2. Go to SHUFFLE songs mode.
3. Write down the first 30 songs or more that come up--song title and artist.
4. NO editing/cheating, please. Write them order.
5. Choose 25 (or so) people to be tagged...or not. 
So here goes:

woodenheadCD Ain’t No Right – Jane’s Addiction
How Do You Think It Feels? – Lou Reed
Sixty Seconds to What – Ennio Morricone
Caution – Bob Marley
Tremolo – Marc Chesterman/Woodenhead soundtrack)

41X1E6ECTTL._SL500_AA240_ Fruhling – Jesse Norman, singing Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs
Making Plans for Nigel – Nouvelle Vogue
Ennui – Graham Brazier
Oop Bop Sh’ Bam – Dizzy Gillespie
Daddy’s a Postman – Graham Parker

Redgum_-_Caught_In_The_Act-[Front] Charade – Henry Mancini
Diamantina Drover – Redgum
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl – Muddy Waters
Enola/Alone – Manic Street Preachers
Aquarium – Saint Saens

41YZ1Y7YEML._SL500_AA240_ Autograph – Bernard Butler
Evil Lies in that Ring (Act 3, Scene 1, Siegfried) – Richard Wagner
Virtuoso Etudes after Gershwin – Earl Wild
Memories are Made of This – Mario Lanza (after Dean Martin)
Der Engel – KIrsten Flagstad, singing Richard Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder

Fripp_&_Eno's_Evening_Star People Move On – Bernard Butler
The Card Cheat – The Clash
I Think I’m a Mother – PJ Harvey
Green Walls – Toy Love
Wind on Water – Fripp & Eno

MusicCatalog_B_Barry Adamson - The King Of Nothing Hill_Barry Adamson - The King Of Nothing Hill Whispering Streets – Barry Adamson
Criollo – Phil Manzanera
Lawless – Christy Moore
Ho-Ho Schmiede Mein Hammer – Lauritz Melchior singing the ‘Forging Song’ from Act 1 of Richard Wagner’s Siegfried
Amarcord Suite - Nino Rota

So there you go.  Some great curiosities there.

I won’t tag anyone but if you’d like to be tagged just leave a note in the comments so I can link to your post in an update.

UPDATE: MacDoctor’s had a crack at the game.

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