Monday, 5 October 2009

Apple’s Countdown to another court

Apple Considering Apple Computers’s decades-long legal disputes over its flouting of the intellectual property of the Beatles’s Apple Corps, it’s surely ironic that Apple Computers is now suing Countdown Supermarkets, claiming that Countdown’s new logo is “too close to its own.”

Surely only “a moron in a hurry” -- or a lawyer looking for a payout -- would be misled into confusing a computer store with a supermarket.


‘Smart Growth’ and the coming ‘Housing-Led Recovery’ – or, to put it another way: ‘Oxymorons for Morons’ [updated]

I don’t know about you, but if I keep hearing excited talk about the oxymoron of a so-called “housing-led recovery” I’m either going to scream or blow up a housing project. News that mortgage lending is outstripping business lending by several percentage points is not news to about which we should be excited, but alarmed.

Haven’t we learned already that family homes are not productive investments but consumer goods? That buying consumer goods with investment capital is a great way not to recover, but to go broke?  That durable consumer goods whose prices are inflated by truckloads of the central bank’s counterfeit capital don’t represent “growth” but an asset bubble ready to pop?

If any other class of goods inflated as fast as houses do, and have, we’d want to do something about it.  But not when it’s housing.

The inflation and then the popping of the housing bubble, for which we’re all now paying, was brought about, in simple terms, by the ability of banks in a fractional reserve system to create credit out of thin air; all that newly created credit going predominantly into housing instead of genuine productive investment; and the supply of new housing being kept down by so called “town planners” – more specifically. those planners’ obsession with what they amusingly call “Smart Growth.’ 

None of these things has changed.

There’s no pressure to change or rein in the fractional reserve banking system, and little understanding of the urgent need for this to be done.  There’s very little mainstream understanding of the difference between productive investment and unproductive consumption.  And planners are still obsessed with so called Smart Growth.

If you only come here to read the economics posts, then you probably still unaware of the effect of this Smart Growth delusion on the economic disaster, so do yourself a favour and read Randal O’Toole’s latest critique of Smart Growth – which as Owen McShane says “is a ‘must read’ seeing so many local authorities are rushing to write Smart Growth into their current Plan Reviews” – go here to read How Urban Planners Caused the Housing Bubble. And in case you think this will be totally American centred, or of little interest to economists, then note this quote from page 17:

“In a recent survey of 227 housing markets around the world, former governor of the New Zealand Reserve Bank Donald Brash observes that ‘the affordability of housing is overwhelmingly a function of just one thing, the extent to which governments place artificial restrictions on the supply of residential land’.”

Would that Don, or his successor in the Reserve Bank, understand the effect of that particular institution on the housing bubble.

UPDATE: Vin Suprynowicz points out that continual government interference during the  Depression served only to delay economic adjustment and recovery.  As it was in the Great Depression, so too for this one.

Top ten cures for the blog squirms.

A fellow blogger emailed me asking what I do when I have the ‘blog squirms.’ In other words, what to do on a slow news week -- or when you’ve really nothing to say for the day, but you feel like you really should? So to help him out, here’s my own Top Ten Cures for the Blog Squirms:

10. Listen to Moaning Report, until I feel like throwing something.
9. Listen to Leighton Smith until I feel like writing something.
8. Read the Herald in hard copy until I feel like kicking something.
7. Read other bloggers’ posts until I feel like linking to something worth linking to.
6. Post the conversation I had last night in the pub.
5. Write about a piece of music or a favourite piece of architecture . . . or about global warming. (Now there’s three subjects on which there’s always something more to say.)
4. Pull out and polish off posts that I'd started but never finished.
3. Expand on comments that I've made elsewhere but were worth saying again, and saying longer.
2. Start a blog war.

And finally, the number one thing to do when you’ve got the blog squirms:

1. Post replies you’ve made to emailed enquiries.  Like this one.  ;^)

What do you get when you cross a libertarian and a Fabian socialist?

So what do you get when you cross a libertarian and a Fabian socialist?  Turns out you get a chap who is equally sceptical of both the state and corporate welfare; of the the short-comings of central control by government -- “about the exercise of ministerial power over ordinary people by often heavy-handed government departments” – and of “business indifference to [people’s] needs.” (Well, I did say he’s a socialist, didn’t I.)

A dose of libertarianism would enhance our democracy” he says in today’s Australian newspaper.

Adventure kindergartens [update 2]

Safety-obsessed New Zealand may not be ready for rugged no-nonsense “adventure kindergartens” – described in yesterday’s rag as “a radical preschool movement that advocates toughening up the little darlings with a back-to-nature approach, including turfing them outdoors in all but extreme weather.”  Story here: A really wild way to grow kids.

But the guy in the story who says New Zealand “may not be ready for it” teaches in Aro Valley, Wellington, so his opinion can be safely discarded. New Zealanders of the old school should embrace this, if they can beat back the bureaucratic bastards who will undoubtedly try to stop it.

There’s nothing “radical” about taking kids out of cotton wool and letting them see the world as it is. About letting them learn about taking risks, and to take responsibility for their own choices. That’s simply how the world, or at least New Zealand, used to be – and should be again.

It’s not all that a good education should be, but it should certainly be part of what a good one looks like.

UPDATE: Sean Fitzpatrick says:

    “To me the interesting issue is not the proposal in itself – it is the idea that such a measure is seen as somehow ‘novel’.
    “To anyone born before the mid-seventies, a childhood full of falling over on concrete covered school-yards, getting stuck up trees or trying to fetch one’s soccer ball from a gorse bush was all par for the course.  It provided us with life experiences, choices to be made and consequences to be handled.  It prepared us all for life.”

Dead right. To paraphrase that much quoted line, the end result of banning risk is to fill the world with molly-coddled fools.

UPDATE 2: Opinionated Mummy has further thoughts:

“We are now so used to thinking in terms of preparing for the very worst and the least likely scenarios, that that we do not realise how overbearing and ridiculous our safety measures have become. We are so concerned about safety that we forget what we are giving up for our children: freedom, resourcefulness, learning the value of hindsight and using common sense, or believing that common sense has any value at all.”

Exactly.  We substitute the possibility of physical damage with the certainty of mental and spiritual damage – and since children grow up unable to properly assess risk for themselves, the strong possibility of physical damage at some unspecified time in the future. Read Risk paranoia for more.

Quotes of the Day: On the politics of global warming [update 4]

The politics [of global warming] are tough now because conservatives years ago allowed the debate to get away from them; frightened of being labelled nature-haters, they declined to attack anti-progress green arguments as they were being formed. Result: in 2009 they’re dealing with a full-blown religion, and they’re discovering that logic isn’t much of a weapon against faith.”
………………………………….Tim Blair, commenting on ‘Malcolm Turnbull’s Malcontents


The current Global Warming Debate is not about temperature or CO2 levels. It is an ideological clash between those who want to change us (rather than the climate) and those who believe in freedom, markets, human ingenuity, and technical progress. The advocates of global warming alarmism ask for an almost unprecedented expansion of government intrusion, of government intervention into our lives and of government control over us. We are pushed into accepting rules about how to live, what to do, how to behave, what to consume, what to eat, how to travel. It is unacceptable.”
………………………………………….- Hon Vaclav Klaus, President Czech Republic.


Grasp those two points, and you’ll understand why warmists are so excited – and why they can be taken seriously when they campaign to have industry shackled by forty percent from 1990 levels: because if you haven’t grasped it already this is not about logic. It’s an ideological clash.

And as Muriel Newman reminds us in her latest newsletter, the clash here in New Zealand is about to reach an historic climax:

“National’s Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill is now in front of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee. Submissions close on the 13th of October, giving a scandalously short time frame for the preparation of submissions on legislation of this scale. Emissions’ trading is the biggest government policy to be imposed on New Zealand in recent times and promises to be just as invasive and cancerous as income tax.”

So read her latest and scientist Chris de Freitas’s briefing before getting your submission in quick smart:

UPDATE 2:  As more and more scientists and science writers see a whole decade of temperatures refusing to rise in accord with the predictions of their models, after years of non-warming – after an day in which the largest snow fall in 25 years has closed the Desert Road and the Napier-Taupo highway, it’s starting to look like the climate alarmism of Time magazine might actually be justified.  It’s just that it took thirty-five years to show it.

UPDATE 3: The draft of the Copenhagen Climate Change Treaty, on the basis of which all the world’s Emissions Trading Scams are being drawn up, is looking less of a climate treaty and more of a blueprint for world socialism.  See for example ‘From The Copenhagen Climate Change Treaty’ at the Coyote Blog, and more along these lines at Anthony Watts’s blog.

UPDATE 4: Oh, and the Coyote Blog is also the home of the free online book  'A Layman’s Guide to Anthropogenic (Man-Made) Global Warming'. It’s purpose is simple:

agw_cover_front_small     “. . . to provide a layman’s critique of the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory, and in particular to challenge the fairly widespread notion that the science and projected consequences of AGW currently justify massive spending and government intervention into the world’s economies.  This paper will show that despite good evidence that global temperatures are rising and that CO2 can act as a greenhouse gas and help to warm the Earth, we are a long way from attributing all or much of current warming to man-made CO2. 
    “We are even further away from being able to accurately project man’s impact on future climate, and it is a very debatable question whether interventions today to reduce CO2 emissions will substantially improve the world 50 or 100 years from now.”

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Ayn Rand has something to say to Glenn Beck [updated]

You know what’s wrong with America now? According to top-rating Fox TV host Glenn Beck it’s … wait for it … “God is no longer trusted in America”! The number one reason America is going to the dogs? Says Beck, it’s because the numbers of godless heathens in America are growing! And what’s going to save America from the ObamaMessiah and his minions? According to Beck, and to those who think like him, it’s more people in America worshipping the big guy in the sky!

Idiocy like this you have to walk around carefully in case you happen to step in it. But he believes in it.  He has faith.

Why was America so successful?  Was it because it was the country whose founding was based on the notion of individual rights? No, says Beck, it was because Americans “recognise God’s authority”  (never mind that there’s better evidence for doing the right thing than “my God told me.”) Because God told Americans what to do (never mind that he also told the leaders in all those theocracies trying to destroy America what to do).  Because Americans are god –fearing.  But stop being god-fearing, apparently, and it’s all over for capitalism, for freedom, for individual rights – and for America.  He really does believes this stuff [hat tip Joe Maurone].  See:

Sheesh already.  As if it were true that “being god-fearing” leads inexorably to freedom (not according to the centuries of Dark Ages and the dictatorial voices of Islamist thugs it doesn’t.) As if it were true that America was founded upon religion?  Not according to the founding fathers it wasn’t.  As if it were true that capitalism and individual rights needs faith and superstition as support. Not if you adhere to reason they don’t. And as if speaking yesterday, instead of back in 1961, Ayn Rand “replies” to Glenn Beck and his false faith-based notion, and knocks all this phony baloney out of the park. [hat tip HWH]

As she points out, the fusion of capitalism and religion on which Beck and his fellow conservatives  is not merely wrong, it's fatal. When you tell people that the foundation of capitalism is religious faith, then you imply that reason and science are on the side of the collectivists.  There is no greater point for a defender of capitalism to concede.

UPDATE: Turns out Ayn Rand Center head Yaron Brook explained this to Glenn Beck a few weeks back. Watch from about 2:30 (the first 2:30 are awful) [hat tip Objectivism Online Forum].

Saturday, 3 October 2009

‘Tweeting’ on my mind

Never had time to post the (ir)regular Friday Ramble yesterday, and I won’t have time either today.

So if you want you regular bunch o’links – if you want your fix of good stuff around the net to browse through over the weekend, then why not head to my Twitter page where I find the good stuff so you don’t have to waste your time with the bad stuff.

Check it out:      

And if you want to get the links ‘live’ as I post them, click ‘FOLLOW’ once you’re there.  :-)

Oh, and here’s my ‘song of the week,’ Serge Gainsbourg’s song for Brigitte Bardot, especially for Sam P . . .


PS: And just for the sake of . . .  completion, why not check out Brigitte Bardot singing Serge’s ode to the ‘Harley Davidson.’  Your weekend will instantly feel a whole lot better.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Beer O’Clock: Oktoberfest

Neil Miller takes a look at his German calendar,and heads straight down to Wellington’s Malthouse clad in leiderhosen . . .

Oktoberfest It has begun.

The 176th Oktoberfest opened in Munich on 19 September and will run through to October 4.  Over 6 million litres of beer will be drunk at the event which is both the world’s biggest beer festival and the world’s biggest fair.  Fourteen larger and several smaller beer tents and beer gardens provide enough seating at any one time for 98,000 of the expected 6 million visitors.

Oktoberfest began as an elaborate wedding commemoration for Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (who had narrowly avoided marrying Napoleon) in 1810.  Since then, Oktoberfest has been cancelled only 24 times due to wars or outbreaks of disease.

If proof was ever needed that Oktoberfest is actually a pretty classy event, look no further than the organiser’s decision in 2007 to ban serial oxygen-thief Paris Hilton.  The official reason was that Paris “cheapened” the festival in 2006 with her attendance but the real reason was perhaps that she had used her time at the festival to run an advertising campaign for canned wine.

Malthouse is looking to start its own October beer tradition with the first annual “Octoberbest” – a month long celebration designed to showcase some of the medal winners from the Brew NZ Beer Awards and some Malthouse staff picks from Beervana and elsewhere. 

Oktoberfest at Wellington’s Malthouse will enjoy some important differences from the German version:

  • While entry to both Oktoberfest and Octoberbest is free, a “Mass” (one-litre stein) in Munich this year will cost between €9.30 and €11.60 – almost NZ$24.  That makes it almost as expensive as drinking on Auckland’s Viaduct.  Malthouse prices will be lower.
  • On 24 occasions the German Oktoberfest has been completely cancelled due to epidemics (usually cholera) or wars.  Neither of these phenomena is expected to affect Courtenay Place in October.
  • Smoking is permitted in the Oktoberfest beer tents even though Bavaria has some of the most stringent anti-smoking laws in the world.  Oktoberfest has an exemption from the smoke-free laws, Octoberbest does not.
  • New in the Malthouse fridge is the very appropriate Galbraith’s Munich Lager.  This is a rare bottled beer from the iconic Auckland brewpub.  It is a Bavarian style lager which pours a pale gold with a firm head.  It has a spicy, grassy nose, a sweet, nutty body and a crisp, bitter finish.  Authentic German ingredients are used.

Head brewer Keith Galbraith is a wonderful host and has even inspired some poetry over at the Beer Haiku Daily website.  The poem is called “Perfect”:

Butcher and brewer
Make ESB sausages
Perfect with mashed spuds

This poetic offering is by Rupert Morrish who notes "my local butcher makes these excellent Bitter and Twisted sausages for Galbraith’s."  I suspect this is not the first time the dashing Keith Galbraith has had a poem written about him. *

Finally, a pertinent question, can it really be a coincidence that the first day of Oktoberfest was also International Talk Like a Pirate Day?

* I have no actual evidence of this of course.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine

‘NZ in Print’ – this has now gone way beyond satire [update 3]

IT’S GETTING HARD TO make a joke these days without some humourless bastard taking it seriously – and it’s getting hard to satirise the statists without giving them new ideas.

Some years ago, back before Al Gore invented the internet, a pale physics student from Otago called Bernard Darnton penned a piece of rollicking satire called ‘Achtung Fatso!’ in which he satirised the food fascists by exaggerating their programmes. Fat taxes. Guidelines on healthy eating issued by a Ministry for Nutritional Responsibility. The commissioning of a Body Mass Index Safety Authority.  These were all satire back in 1997 – or they were, until the likes of Sue Kedgeley started getting ideas.

Bernard has a lot to answer for.

And so does Lindsay Perigo. Years ago when we Libz were opposing the broadcasting fee he satirised NZ On Air with suggestions for a new organisation called NZ in Print.

    “We have a thing in NZ, a government body called NZ on Air. It shells out taxpayer money to local outfits to produce television programmes it deems worthy. It used to collect a dedicated fee from anyone who owned a television set before we freedom-fighters got that abolished.
    “One day, as part of an ongoing campaign against this monstrosity … I went on my radio show and announced that a new statutory body was being set up called NZ in Print, which would collect a levy from every New Zealander and use it to set up a govt-run daily newspaper. "This'll point up how ridiculous and indefensible NaZis on Air is," I thought. Problem was, listeners believed me till I told them I was pulling their tits. "NZ in Print" just didn't seem that unlikely in our Nanny State environment!”

I guess he didn’t realise that people like Fran O’Sullivan was listening.

o'sullivan_fran160210 This week in Wellington, you see, while purporting to talk about political blogging O’Sullivan was shamefully shilling for her employers.  “Increasing commercial pressures on newspapers and diminishing resources to do investigative journalism,” was the bleat. Taxpayers stumping up for electronic media but not for paper-based was her whinge. Bailouts for newspapers! was her solution. What she advocated was that “NZ on Air should become NZ on Media, and all media should be able to apply for worthy ‘local content’ projects whether they be TV, radio, print or Internet.”

Oh. My. Word.  What chutzpah! To confess that your employers’ Victorian-era business model is failing, and then to stand there demanding the taxpayer picks up the slack. To take a bad idea – govt funding of the arts and culture  industry – and to use that to justify an ongoing bailout for your newspaper industry. Talk about a dirty business, and this from a supposed business journalist.

And has she been smacked down for it?  Not a bit of it.  For her trial balloon suggested journalists like her be given a tilt at the trough she’s earned herself a round of applause!

This is the sort of thing David Farrar considers “a really good idea.”

This is what Janet Wilson & Bill Ralston (the man who did to TVNZ News what he’d previously done to Metro magazine) call “an interesting idea.” “Fran has a good point,” they say.  Lead me to the trough! they smirk.

What a bunch of disgusting, grasping  low-lifes.

At times like this you can only wish that satirists would stay silent, and self-interest take a higher road.

It’s not just more welfare for Ponsonby late-lunchers that such a “solution” would deliver.  It would also deliver a further kick in the guts to free speech – and make your daily newspaper effectively an arm of the state.

We already know what “worthy ‘local content’” looks like from the dross delivered by the NZ On Air dole-outs.  Can you imagine what sort of worthy “investigative” journalism would be funded by such a body? It certainly wouldn’t be funding investigations into abuse by government, or of troughing in high places – that much is for sure – just the sort of softcock-Cameron-Bennett handwringing that contaminates your TV screen on a Sunday evening . Because as Nigel Kearney asked at Farrar’s place,

    “Can Sullivan’s plan for a permanent bailout be done without the government deciding what investigative journalism does and does not get funded?”

No, of course it couldn’t. This would be chilling to free speech – it would be what I’ve called once before “a different kind of censorship,” and Ayn Rand called “the establishing of an establishment."

So what the hell does that mean? Sit back while I explain.

LET ME START MY answer to that by mentioning a story run a few years back by the UK Daily Pundit about every liberal's favourite UK newspaper:

    “The Guardian [it said] is effectively being subsidised by the government and could go bust if a Tory government introduced a ban on public sector recruitment through newspaper ads. At present, government recruiting is costing the taxpayer in excess of 800 million pounds per year. Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, is promising to change the system to allows jobs to be advertised for free on a new official website. The cost of running the website would be approximately 5 million pounds per year.”

The Media Bulletin noted that "The Guardian currently dominates this market and, according to research by Reed Personnel Services, advertises two-thirds of public sector jobs." Now, I don't want to talk about that proposed ban or about the cost of employment websites. What I do want to talk about is that advertising. If Reeds are right, and there's no reason they wouldn't be, that's 600 million pounds of government money going to The Guardian every year by this means alone -- and I'm sure no-one would suggest The Guardian and its employees are not so stupid that they don't know which side their bread is being buttered on, and who it is who is doing the buttering.

You see what I mean by another kind of censorship? As they often say, he who pays the piper calls the tune.  Do you really want the tune the newspaper’s whistling over your morning brekkie to have been composed in a government office?

Do you really want hard stories soft-soaped by journalists with one eye on their investigation and the other on their tender into the government for further work?

It’s as easy for a government to buy a compliant media by doling out taxpayers’ cash as it was for Helen to buy a compliant “creative sector” by doling out grants and dole payments.

SO LIKE I SAY, there is more than one kind of censorship. The first and most straightforward method of censorship is for a government to ban speech that they don't like -- that's just what Labour & National  like to do with their Electoral Finance Act & Electoral Finance Act Lite respectively, and I hope you lot feel disgusted enough about that to do something about it.

It’s the second form of censorship that Ayn Rand called "the establishing of an establishment," and it’s surely no less chilling. As she says so succinctly:

    “Governmental repression is [not] the only way a government can destroy the intellectual life of a country... There is another way: governmental encouragement.”
As a form of censorship this one is much more subtle,and much more appealing to trough-snuffling self-interest.
    “Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true: it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood.”

That’s worse than flat-out censorship, isn’t it. It makes folk indifferent to truth and falsehood (and to the immorality of becoming another bailout bludger) and sensitive instead to what is deemed to be acceptable, and thereby lucrative -- and it encourages and makes lucrative that very form of sensitivity.

This is what Rand called "the welfare state of the intellect," and the result is always as destructive as that other, more visible welfare state.  You see the establishment of politicians, bureaucrats and their minions as arbiters of thinking and taste and ideology; you see the freezing of the status quo; you observe a creeping staleness and conformity, an insidious unwillingness to speak out.  What you see, in short, is "the establishing of an establishment" to which new entrants in a field realise very quickly they will have to either conform or go under. As Rand observed of the behaviour this kind of censorship encourages:

    “If you talk to a typical business executive or college dean or magazine editor [or spin doctor or opposition leader], you can observe his special, modern quality: a kind of flowing or skipping evasiveness that drips or bounces automatically off any fundamental issue, a gently non-committal blandness, an ingrained cautiousness toward everything, as if an inner tape recorder were whispering: Play it safe, don't antagonize--whom?—anybody’."

Is that what you want your taxes to encourage?  If you do then you can count me out.

The American Constitution effected a separation of church and state for a reason – one that is observed at least de facto down here at the bottom of the South Pacific. As Ayn Rand observed, the constitutional separation prevents a formal governmental establishment of religion because such a thing is properly regarded as a violation of individual rights. By extension, then,

    “Since a man's beliefs [about religion] are protected from the intrusion of force, the same principle should protect his reasoned convictions and forbid governmental establishments in the field of thought.”

Think about it.  And then send your thoughts on to people like David Farrar and Fran O’Sullivan and Bill Ralston, who should really know better. Remind them perhaps of that line I quoted above:

“Governmental repression is [not] the only way a government can destroy the intellectual life of a country… There is another way: governmental encouragement. . . .”

UPDATE: How quickly they all turn once they’re offered a trough to lie in.  Whale Oil puts his hand up for a piece of the funding pie.

UPDATE 2:  Don’t extend the aegis of the state broadcasting subsidy body NZ On Air to other media, says Liberty Scott -- Don’t extend it: abolish it!

‘Paris Street: Rainy Weather’ – Gustave Caillebotte


A symphony of umbrellas and pedestrians inhabit a wet and unforgiving Parisian street. But there’s something going on here, isn’t there . . .

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Auckland bloggers’ bar bash tonight! – now with an aftermath update!

Oops!  I almost forgot to invite you out for a drink tonight at the regular Bloggers’ Bar Bash at Galbraith’s – and that would never do!

So consider yourself invited.

And take note that there’s a whisper, here, about some celebrity guests – about which, I couldn’t possibly comment.

What: Auckland Bloggers Drinks – a social gathering of bloggers and bloupies (those who read, comment on and hang out with bloggers)
Thursday 1 October from 6.30pm
Galbraiths, 2 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland

(Just to help you keep your diary regular, the B3 Bloggers’ Bar Bash happens the first Thursday of every month – with occasional additional affrays when blogging luminaries are in town.)

UPDATEWhale Oil summarises the evening:

“Now this is the funny part. We had objectivists, libertarians, fundy Christians, Conservative Christians, atheists, agnostics, homos, dying people, National supporters, Act supporters, Cactus Kate who is a category all on her own and one leftist, green aforementioned obnoxious ass. Everyone but him got on fine with much hilarity for the entire night except for this humourless prick.”

NOT PC’s Blog Stats for September

AS MOST READERS have done their level best to avoid noticing, September was Grand Final month.  It was also a month in which we say a ten percent lift in reader numbers – which is never anything to sneeze at, and there’s no tissues being used here – but as evidence that correlation is not causation, not one of my posts on AFL ranks at all, and reader numbers in Melbourne and Geeelong have failed o go through the roof. Oh well.
There’s nothing obvious to put the jump in numbers down to then, so I’m going to ascribe it to the good old-fashioned reason of good writing bringing in more readers – at least, I’ll keep claiming that until someone can suggest a more likely reason. 
IN the meantime, here we go with September’s stats:

Unique visits [from Statcounter]: 49,469 (August: 44,210)
Page impressions [from Statcounter]: 74,173 (August: 65,826)
Avge. Monday to Friday readership: 1795 readers per day (August: 1514)
NZ Political Blog Ranking for NOT PC in August: 4rd (July: 3rd)
Alexa Ranking, NZ:  1,011th (August: 1,118th)
Alexa Ranking, world: 275,071st (August: 348,280th)

Top ten posts for August:

Most commented upon posts

Top referring sites:
No Minister 1784 referrals; Kiwiblog 1418; ; Libertarianz 465; Cactus Kate 375;  Tumeke 375; Crusader Rabbit 354; SOLO 260; MacDoctor 236; Liberty Scott 196; NZ Conservative 231; Lindsay Mitchell 213; Annie Fox! 196; Night City Trader 190; Anti Dismal 146; Opinionated Mummy 144;
Top searches landing here:
not pc/peter cresswell etc. 992; contaminated soils owen mcshane 150; causes of global financial crisis 78; boobs on bikes pictures 75; nude olympians 69; fred stevens nz 68;  beer songs 61; economist prediction 53; david bain jokes 50; sean connery good in my own skin 45; broadacre city 44; wine flu 41; national anti smacking MPs perigo 38; morning drink 35; “david slack” 33;
They're reading NOT PC here:
Top countries/territories (from Google Analytics)
NZ 45%; US 23%; Australia 5.4%; UK 4.7%; Canada 2.2%; Germany 1.5%; India 1.1%; Italy 1.1%
Top cities
Auckland 27%; Wellington 7.5%; Christchurch 5.2%; Sydney 2.3%; London 2.3%; New York 1.8%; Brisbane 1.2%; Palmerston North 1.1%; Melbourne 0.9%; Dunedin 0.8%; Los Angeles 0.5%
Readers' Browsers
Firefox/Flock 44%(44); IE Explorer 35%(35); Safari 13%(13); Chrome 5.5% (4.8); Opera 1.6%(1.6)
Readers’ OS
Windows 79% (79); Mac 18% (17); Linux 2.2% (2.6); iPhone 0.5% (0.7)
Readers’ Screen Sizes
1024x768 22%; 1280x800 18%; 1280x1024 14%; 1440x900 12% 1680x1050 12%;
Readers' Connection Speeds
DSL 35%(35); unknown 34%(34); Cable 19% (19); T1 8.1%(7.7); Dial-up 3.8%(2.8)

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

NOT PJ: Electoral Finance React

This week Bernard Darnton says something political, and doesn’t even tell the Electoral Commission what time he’ll be home.

_BernardDarnton The Electoral Finance Act is back from the grave. It turns out that incumbency protection is far more appealing when you’re the incumbent.

The Labour press release on the topic is not so much eye-opening as gob-opening. David Parker complains that “the Government is happy to consult only on aspects of electoral reform that suits it.” Yiddish lexicographer (amongst other things) Leo Rosten described chutzpah as “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”

There’s no need to actually read the press release. We know what Labour’s preferred system would look like. Phil Goff may have apologised for scolding us about what shape lightbulbs we use and how many litres flow through our shower heads but you can be sure that Labour still knows exactly how many spots a leopard should have and won’t tolerate any alternative.

At the time the original Bill was being debated, National’s freedom-loving cohort – and it’s genuine, if inconsistent – was in the fore. A few cynics suggested that they were just in it for their own venal reasons but I was just happy to be fighting for something popular for a change.

However, like any large political party, National is also home to the pompous and the power-hungry. Their objection to the Electoral Finance Act wasn’t its contents but the fact they weren’t doing politics, they were having politics done to them.

Beside them were the thin-skinned – the ones who were upset because they weren’t asked nicely (or at all) about what should be in the new law. These people should get another job. If politics was about asking nicely for things I wouldn’t have so much to complain about each week.

So back comes the tinkered-with version. There will still be restrictions on who you can give money to, and how much. There will still be restrictions on what you’re allowed to say during an election campaign and in which media you’re allowed to say it. There will still be requirements to register with the Electoral Commission if you’d like permission to speak and to put your address on flyers so that nutters can stick knives in your lawn.

Advocates for election-period gagging rules, like Green co-leader Metiria Turei, are constantly in a flap about money: “It is vital that New Zealand’s democracy cannot be bought by big business.” Here’s the thing: it can’t anyway. The correlation between money spent on an election campaign and number of votes gained is very weak. As the New Zealand record holder for dollars spent per vote, I should know.

The Exclusive Brethren, another of Turei’s bogeys, know too. They’re always used as an example of what was wrong with the old system – big money from mysterious groups piling in to swing an election. The trouble is the plan was a complete failure. It didn’t work. It didn’t come close to working. If it was a dog you’d shoot it. If it was a person you’d insulate its house and pay it to breed.

Justice Minister Simon Power’s proposal document asks for more advice on “how the scheme could uphold freedom of expression, be simple and easy to comply with.”

Lindsay Perigo responds to Power’s challenge in the only way it’s possible to respond to wordy regulatory blather – by stating the bleeding obvious: “Well, here’s something simple, Simon. Just repair to Section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act, which upholds ‘the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.’

“No restrictions on who may fund whom (publicly or privately), who may campaign for whom, who may advertise for whom and with whom – and no taxpayer money to anyone. That’s freedom of expression, Simon, and it’s darned simple and easy to comply with.”

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

‘Nocturne in Black & Gold: The Falling Rocket’ – James McNeill Whistler


So how’s that work for you then? How is this, a picture of a spent firework, different to your average “abstract” pseudo-art which smears paint randomly across a canvas?  Certainly, Whistler got it in the neck at the time he exhibited this (1877) from contemporaries like Ruskin, who accused him of “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.”

But compare this, as Ruskin couldn’t do, to the likes of Jackson Pollock around eighty years later, who really did fling pots of paint in the public’s face. In contrast to Pollock’s random profligacy with paint, Whistler depicts here a real scene (a fireworks display over the Thames), from which he selects a moment to stylise in paint (a falling rocket!) – and in that choice lies the difference between art and bullshit.

Think about why that matters.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Objectivism for fun & non-profit – Wikipedia founder explains

A while back I posted a presentation by BB&T banker John Allison in which he explained how his bank uses Objectivist values to make enormous profits.  (Watch here if you haven’t seen it before, or watch it again, but with a pen and paper this time to take notes. :-)  )

Anyway, by way of “contrast,” here’s a snippet of an interview with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales – with whom I used to engage on the old Atlantis email list back in the early days of email – addressing how Objectivist philosophy guides his non-profit work.

If you think those two views represent a contradiction, then you really haven’t understood much about Objectivism.  Watch and see why.

"Have you no shame? Have you no decency?"

For two weeks we've heard and seen all sorts of fatuous bullshit emanating from the United Nations Building in New York, yet if the bullshit itself wasn't enough to turn your stomach -- much of it emanating from dictators and thugs for whom enslaving their own people is the normal order of their day -- overnight we've seen why the whole United Nations project is a threat to peace and a threat to the whole western world: because the United Nations talks peace but rewards violence, just as any body replete with the world’s biggest thugs would have to do.

It talks peace but rewards violence -- and as any parent can tell you, it doesn't matter what you say to a bully, what matters is what you do. Bullies don’t care about fine words, what they understand is fighting back.

So what happened overnight? I'll answer that in a moment, but first let's go back a couple of days - and I do that because the story I’m going to help recount shows the whole failure of the UN in microcosm.

A couple of days ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stared the gathered UN delegates in the face, and asked them a challenging question: "Have you no shame? Have you no decency?" (I posted a link to that speech, a great speech, in my Monday morning ramble. And I’ll post it here again just because it’s so damn good.)

"Have you no shame? Have you no decency?" He asked that question, he had to ask that question, because at that same podium just the day before the UN played host to a dictator who’d just stolen an election and killed his own people who protested at the theft, a man who used the lion’s share of his own time at the podium to deny the murder of six million human beings at the hands of the Nazis -- and with a few noble exceptions who walked out (which I’m happy to say included NZ’s delegation), the delegates sat there in that hall and lapped up all the hatred. 

The man was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and he’s now working on a nuclear programme.

A nuclear programme Mahmoud himself has indicated could be used to wipe out many of the surviving descendants of those the Nazis murdered – to wipe them off the map.

A nuclear programme initiated by a regime that that jails bloggers for "insulting" the regime and leaves them to die in prison; stones homosexuals to death; that supports, trains and supplies terrorist organisations in Lebanon and Iraq and beyond.

A nuclear programme that the west has treated with denial (what nuclear programme?)and hand-wringing (something should be done! but peacefully!) and now, according to the latest reports, with “sanctions” -- which Team Obama says will dissuade Tehran from getting a nuke, an announcement that follows hard on the heels of announcing his nuclear-free fantasy world.

Sanctions, you say! Because “sanctions” worked so well to bring down Castro. And Saddam. And to stop North Korea’s nuclear programme. Thugs and dictators who the UN didn’t just do nothing to disarm, but instead gave them a podium from which to preach and resolutions with which to protect them.

"Have you no shame? Have you no decency?"

Netanyahu challenged the delegates to see the Iranian leadership for what it is. He challenged them too over Gaza.

For years, Arab and Middle-Eastern countries have berated Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, but refused entry for Palestinian refugees to their own countries. They prefer to hate Israel rather than help their neighbours – hatred which the UN has supported. And for years, the United Nations has stood by in silence while aggressor after aggressor has attacked Israel, and stood up in condemnation only when Israel has fought back to defend its very life.

The United Nations stood by with its eyes closed while Iran armed Hezbollah guerrillas with rockets, which they poured into Israel from the North over the heads of mute UN observers.

It stood in silence for years as Palestinians smuggled Iranian-supplied rockets into Gaza, and said nothing as Palestinian guerrillas (backed by their government) fired the rockets into Israel from bases located in schools, in hospitals, in mosques, and from the middle of densely packed housing.

And what happened overnight?

Here’s what happened. The United Nations issued a report declaring that in defending itself against these cowardly attacks from Gaza, Israel "committed actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity."

"Have they no shame? Have they no decency?" Have they learned nothing?

The United Nations talks peace but it rewards violence; it talks peace, but plays host to murderous thugs; it talks peace but it rewards aggressors, and condemns those who act in self-defence.

No wonder the world is drowning in a sea of blood. Moral equivalence, the ethic on which the UN is based, rewards force used in aggression and condemns force used in self-defence.

Moral equivalence is immoral disarmament.

No wonder the aggressors are smiling.

Queens wharf stage one winners: it’s not the public [updated]

The five first stage winners of the two-week Queen’s Wharf design competition are announced this morning – my own entry wasn’t amongst them, and neither were any that I’d picked in my summary here a few weeks back – and nor were any that are likely to set the world alight. If there’s a winner here, it’s not going be the public.

Just to remind you, the competition was intended to select a design for a new cruise terminal and a “Party Central” for the Rugby World Cup an beyond.

The designs selected to go forward to Stage 2 of the competition are as follows (click on the links to view a PDF):
Design number 024 - Andrius Gedgaudas, Architect, Shanghai China.
Design number 046 - Den Aitken, Pete Griffins and Hamish Foote, Field Landscape Architecture, Auckland.
Design number 170 - David Gibbs and Aaron Sills, Construkt / SVB, Auckland.
Design number 195 - John Coop, Tasman Studio, Auckland.
Design number 216 - Simon Williams, Williams Architects Ltd, Auckland.

(These five designs were selected by, wait for it, Murray McCully and Gerry Brownlee, ARC Chairman Mike Lee and Auckland City Mayor John Banks, “assisted by” the chief executives of the Ministry of Economic Development, Auckland Regional Council and Auckland City Council, and – as professional advisers – Prof. John Hunt, Ian Athfield, Rebecca Skidmore, Jillian de Beer and Graeme McIndoe.)

In total they represent a collection of sheds and seats and shipping containers – in a prime spot at one of the world’s best harbours – that (with the exception of #216 which at least has an overbridge to get them there) are somehow supposed to attract pedestrians from Queen St through a bus plaza, across two busy streets and out to their barren windswept plazas. Sheesh.

Which all rather reminds me of a quote I stumbled across today that you can consider as you view these schemes:

“A bold architectural statement turns a public building into a landmark, but it is in the details where the architect becomes the real storyteller.”
- Curtis W. Fentress

Have any of these here got either of those qualities right?






UPDATE: More blather on this here at the Herald, who repeat the claims of the council’s press release that

    “All five were chosen for their ability to strike the right balance between meeting the need for a great public space, act as a major celebration during the Cup and provide a world-class cruise ship terminal.
    “Other ideas include using the historic pattern of the wharf, major open space across the width of the northern end, a harbour pool within the perimeter of the wharf and simple sculptural forms for the cruise ship terminal.”

In answer to the trolls – and a lesson in courtesy

A troll wants to know what happened to the money donated to the Darnton v Clark court case that was left over after Helen changed the law to extricate herself from it.  To find out the answer to this burning question, (well, “burning” to the troll anyway) I didn’t spam the question every ten minutes on every active thread here at NOT PC (which is what our troll did, one of the reasons my comments here are still under moderation).  Instead I just emailed Bernard Darnton, something anyone with a computer and a connection could have done. And he replied:

“The leftovers from the DvC donations were donated to the Free Speech Coalition’s anti-EFA campaign.”

So there’s your answer. If you really wanted it, all you had to do was ask politely (remember politeness?)

And it’s a shame the Free Speech Coalition’s money’s been all used up, because it’s looking like we’re going to need to get active again against National’s EFA-Lite.

Must have, can have


If you’ve been meaning to buy books from the Mises Store, then now’s your chance.  In honour of the 128th birthday of Ludwig Von Mises, one of the twentieth-century’s most successful economists in terms of his explanatory power – explaining all the economic disasters of the last hundred years well before they happened* – the Mises Store is offering 15% off, for the next two days only.

So rattle your dags and improve your economic education. If you’re new to it all, then you’ll probably want to start with something off these two lists:

And if that’s all beyond your budget even at 15% off, then take advantage of the huge collection of free books on PDF, which includes pretty much every essential book in the canon of Austrian economics. Use the store (or my ‘recommended reading list’) as a guide, download them to your computer and you’ve got the makings of your own portable economics library!

*PS: If you want to test that claim, the books you need are Socialism, The Causes of the Economic Crisis, Planning for Freedom, The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle, and The Theory of Money & Credit, which between them (and in advance) explained the disaster of fiat money, the German hyperinflation, the economic crash of the thirties, the post-war bureaucratisation of the west, the stagflation of the seventies, the collapse of socialist Eastern Europe in the late eighties, and the results (which we’re all now ‘enjoying’) of Alan Greenspan putting rocket fuel into the US economy. Or read Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism to see where and when and why he said it all.

Fill your boots up!

‘Gare Saint-Lazare: Arrival of a Train’ – Claude Monet


One of a whole series in and around the same Parisian railway station, in which he aimed to capture through the whole series of vignettes (rather than in one grand composition for which these might have served as a study) the vitality of these new “secular cathedrals” that then symbolised the modern world – a place where Monet could treat the smoke from the grimy locomotives, for example,  the same way a Constable of an earlier era might have treated a pastoral cloud formation.

But a Constable would never have cut off the legs of his foreground figures like that.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


Susan Ryder wakes up to daylight saving.

susanryder You can always rely on a politician to both meddle and bugger things up. And United Future’s Peter Dunne fits that bill even more than most.

This is a whinge about daylight saving. Not daylight saving per se, I hasten to add, because I love the concept, but a whinge about the starting time. In a nutshell, it’s too early.

I can remember when daylight saving, as we know it, started. There was a trial period over the summer of 1974/5 when I was a marching girl … now there’s an image for you! Marching was a huge summer sport for girls, with competitions held every weekend in centres all around the country. It was loads of fun with the added bonus of visiting all the Wanganuis and Waipuks along the way. Try to contain yourselves, please.

There were three age-related grades: Midgets (under 13), Juniors (13-15) and Seniors (16+). We were still in the Midgets that summer, ie just kids. Lots of free time in between required routines meant keeping a close eye on watches. Whenever Wendy, a team member, was asked the time, she would always respond with “ten past two, daylight saving time which drove me nuts.

“It’s just ten past two!” I would reply tersely. “You don’t have to say ‘daylight saving time’ Wendy. It’s just the time!”

She would shrug it off and do it all again the next time she was asked. She never understood why it irritated me so – and I could never understand why she didn’t realise that the phrase was redundant. Poor old Wendy; stupidity drove me crazy even then.  :-)

change-clock-2-3am But daylight saving didn’t start in 1974. A quick check with the Department of Internal Affairs shows that the idea was first mooted in this country in 1895 and raised again in 1909; the second occasion by Sir Thomas Sidney MP, who was in favour of putting clocks forward by an hour during summer to extract the additional daylight. His Member’s Bill was unsuccessful but he was persistent, reintroducing it annually until it was finally passed into law via the Summer Time Act of 1927. Sidney’s assertion that “there will be a saving in the consumption of artificial light” was prophetic. Given the current climate, it’s a wonder he hasn’t been dubbed the Father of the Green movement or some such wetness … but I digress.

There was a year or two of fluffing around with dates, resulting in the extension of a half-hour period to make the New Zealand Summer Time officially 12 hours in advance of GMT. This seasonal adjustment occurred until 1941 when the Summer Time period was extended by emergency regulations to cover the whole year, the change being made permanent in 1946 by the Standard Time Act.

Fast-forward to 1974 when the fun began all over again. Sensibly, the start date was late October when the weather started to warm up and the days lengthen. Stupidly, the end date was early March when the weather was still warm and the days long.

The fluffing around with dates has continued unabated ever since. The nadir occurred a few years ago when daylight saving started so bloody early that parts of the country were still under frost. Even the spring lambs refused to make an appearance and stayed put. And in spite of the seasons having changed over the last decade or so with regard to starting and finishing later, the daylight saving period was still ending prematurely in mid-March.

Peter Dunne and the bureaucrats leapt into action and, who’d have thought it, got it wrong again. Two years ago the government announced that it had extended the daylight saving period from 24 to 27 weeks. In translation, it now means that it sensibly ends in early April, but – stupidly – still starts, too early, in September.

Look, here’s the thing. At this time of year the mornings have just started to lighten when we’re unnecessarily plunged back into darkness for another month; while it’s still too cool to really exploit the longer evenings.

Wouldn’t the logical course of action see Labour Weekend as the obvious start date?

  1. It occurs at the end of October when the mornings are naturally lighter and the evening temperatures are better akin to outdoor activities (than September).
  1. The long holiday weekend would give everybody the extra day to deal with the ‘jet lag’.
  1. Everybody would know from one year to the next when daylight saving was due to start.
  1. It would bring us into line – near enough, anyway – with the timing of the Australian states that employ it.

Or would that make too much sense?

Unfortunately, when it comes to Peter Dunne and the bureaucrats, I suspect the answer is yes.

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

‘Under the Birches’ – Theodore Rousseau, 1842


Part of the Barbizon school of French painters, and known as "le grand refusé" for the frequency with which his work was rejected by the fashionable salons of the day, Rousseau’s beguilingly simple realism captures the quotidian realities of life rather than its romantic extremities – but his treatment of light is quite superb, leading many these days to cite Rousseau (no relation to the other famous Rousseaus) as a precursor to the much later impressionists.

The National Gallery of Australia has a wee spiel on Rousseau and this work you might find entertaining.

Monday, 28 September 2009

National to reintroduce EFA-lite [updated]

Remember the protests over Labour’s Electoral Finance Act? Remember the wriggling by Greens and Labour supporters attempting to justify this outrageous assault on free speech? Remember the campaigns against it by the Free Speech Coalition and John Boscawen?  Remember all the heroes? Remember the subsequent abolition of the Act by National and the apology by Phil Goff – and the promise that National would eventually dream up something better with which to replace it?

Remember it well, because it was all for naught.  As Lindsay Perigo points out at SOLO, the National Socialists Sell Out Again!

The National-led Government's draft proposals for legislation to replace the vicious Electoral Finance Act make one wonder why National bothered keeping its much-vaunted promise to repeal that Act, since what is proposed by Justice Minister Simon Power is in many instances indistinguishable from what was, says SOLO Principal Lindsay Perigo.

For instance, on state funds for election broadcasting:

The Government is consulting on three options for reform of the broadcasting allocation as follows:

1. Status quo - retain the current broadcasting  allocation regime.
2. Moderate reform - allowing broadcasting funds to be spent in any media, and not just radio and television.
3. Significant reform - allowing broadcasting funds to be spent for any purpose, and not just election advertising.

On donations:

Retain the regime governing donations to constituency candidates and political parties that was developed as part of the Electoral Finance Act 2007, and now forms part of the Electoral Act 1993.

On campaign spending limits:

Increase expenditure limits for constituency candidates and political parties (last increased in 1995), and periodically adjust limits for inflation.

On political ads:

Require promoter’s name and full street address and suburb which is either a residential address, or is where the promoter can usually be contacted during the day (cannot be a PO Box).

On campaigning by third parties:

The Government is consulting on two options for regulation of parallel campaigners:
1.     Proportionate regulation  - this option will establish campaign expenditure limits and thresholds over which the parallel campaigner must register with the Electoral Commission - unlike the Electoral Finance Act 2007, however, the scheme is weighted in favour of freedom of expression, and is simple and easy to comply with.
        The Government is therefore requesting further submissions on how the scheme could uphold freedom of expression, be simple and easy to comply with.
2.     Status quo - this option could be subject to possible modification, such as restriction of parallel campaigning to New Zealand individuals and groups.

On radio and television advertising by third parties:

The Government is consulting on two options:
1. Allow parallel campaigners to advertise on radio and television, provided that they are subject to a system of proportionate regulation (the first option proposed for the overall regulation of parallel campaigners).
2. Retain the current prohibition.

On whether you'll be fined $100,000 for exercising your right to free speech:

The new stand-alone electoral agency will be tasked with publishing guidance on electoral finance rules and providing advisory opinions on whether publications amount to an election advertisement.

Penalties for electoral finance offences were increased significantly by the Electoral Finance Act 2007, as were the time limits for prosecution of serious electoral finance offences.
[The Government would] retain the offences and penalties regime and time limits that were developed as part of the Electoral Finance Act 2007 and now forms part of the Electoral Act 1993.

"This is all contemptible," says Perigo. "Sell-out Simon asks how the scheme could better uphold freedom of expression, be simple and easy to comply with. Well, here’s something simple, Simon. Just repair to Section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act, which upholds 'the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.'

"No restrictions on who may fund whom (publicly or privately), who may campaign for whom, who may advertise for whom and with whom—and no taxpayer money to anyone. That's freedom of expression, Simon, and it's darned simple and easy to comply with.

"For precisely that reason, one fears, the National Socialists will do the opposite and proceed with this reprehensible resuscitation of the very Act they so recently dumped. This would be sufficient reason to dump them," Perigo concludes.

Your democracy is still under attack, this time by the people who said they were going to protect it.  Which is the biggest betrayal, do you think?killthebill

UPDATE: By way of contrast, David Farrar – a chief promoter of the Kill the Bill campaign- says of Simon’s EFA-Lite, “Overall it is a good document. . . .”  Apparently it’s only bad when Labour promotes such things.

Meanwhile, Marty G. at The Standard is at least more principled.  He was for Labour’s assault on free speech, and he’s for this one as well. Says Mart “At first blush, Power appears to have done a reasonable job and he’s done it by largely keeping the EFA intact.”  Our evaluation of the latter is the same – it’s the former on which we disagree.