Saturday, May 29, 2010

Perhaps you could do me a favour [updated]

I wonder if you could do me a wee favour.
You see, the entries for the Air New Zealand Best Blog Award are due in round midnight on Monday, and since other blogs are agonising over entering enlisting the help of their readers, I wondered if I might do the same.  (As David Lange said when a round of applause brought the lights back on at an official function, “Many hands make lights work.”)
Vere simply, the entry requires me to send the judges (and I quote), the
“four best samples of work in the calendar year 2009 that define your blog.”
So the question is, which four?
Which is where you come in. Perhaps you could let me know in the comments either which four posts from 2009 you liked best; which touched you, enlightened you or infuriated you the most; or just which ones these five judges* are likely to like.
Ta.
And speaking of Round Midnight, here’s Joe Jackson** making a surprisingly superb fist of the Thelonious Monk/Cootie Williams standard. Think of it as a “thank you” for your help. :-)
* The five judges are blogger Tim Selwyn, spin doctor Matthew Hooton, marketer Ricardo Simich, new media type Regan Cunliffe, and media maven Martin “Bomber” Bradbury.
** By the way, the rest of the Thelonious tribute album on which this features isn’t bad either.
  1.  LEAKY HOMES, Part 1: The myth of deregulated building
  2. Just the facts, ma'am
  3. "No Future" - punk's past
  4. It’s Bastille Day!
  5. Can good art be political art?
  6. ANZAC DAY REFLECTION: War! What is it good for?
  7. Stimulunatics
  8. Justice still not being seen to be done 
  9. It's Easter, which means... 
  10. Freedom for me . . . but I’m not so sure about ye
Problem is, customers, which six do I leave out?

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Friday, May 28, 2010

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: It’s mind-changing!

Ready to ramble round the interweb again?  Not counting the many fine posts here at NOT PC, Here’s the best liberty links I’ve spotted for you this week.

  • This is how to honestly change your mind (in chronological order)
    1. “Maybe I’m missing something, but the TV3 story about Key and his vineyard sounds a bit daft to me: Key invested in the vineyard before he was elected and his investments were then placed into a blind trust – is he supposed to pretend he can’t remember buying a vineyard?”
    Maybe I’m missing something . . .DIM POST
    2. “So the allegation is that Key transferred his assets into a company managed by his blind trust – but that he had visibility of the assets owned by that company. This contradicts his previous statements to Parliament. So they might have something there.”
    Okay now I see it – DIM POST
    3. “Shockingly enough it looks as if Labour’s latest attack against Key actually stacks up…”
    Stage 1 – DIM POST
  • prison_extension_2 When you’re thinking about the eight-story prison rising beside the gateway to Auckland, towering over school playing fields blocking the view of the harbour and the city’s volcanic cones, just remember that that people who designed, built and gave permission for it to be built—which includes the council’s so-called Urban Design Panel—are the people that the Resource Management Act gives absolute say-so over the quality of the built environment.
    Mt Eden-finished So why would you want to give them that power?
    Prison an "architectural monstrosity"
    - TVNZ
    Looming prison tower offends community – NZ HERALD
    "Architect" Phil Goff Invited To Give Speech Outside Mt Eden Prison – CAMERON BREWER
  • Don’t get yourself too excited about the British Con-Lib government “slashing” their spending.  In just one short announcement of the cuts Liberty Scott counts four lies, two shifty evasions, one incompetent explanation—and a pretty limp-wristed attempt to cut anything very much at all.
    Much Ado About 1% – LIBERTY SCOTT
  • “Chris Trotter writes an interesting piece on what may have lain behind National’s rejection of the Tuhoe ‘deal.’ Well worth reading.” [Hat tip Inquiring Mind]
    Coming Apart, Or Holding Together?  - CHRIS TROTTER
  • “Over at the (low) Standard Marty G is proving once again that he doesn't know much about economics. He gives us Privatisation: The facts. Read them if you must. As a public service let me give some actual facts about privatisation.”
    Privatisation: the facts – ANTI DISMAL
    UPDATE: But there’s more!
    Privatisation: the "facts" – ANTI DISMAL
  • Over at Kiwiblog and The Visible Hand, David Farrar and Matt Nolan show once again they know nothing about the Emissions Tax Scam, but plenty about spin.  Says Matt, quoted approvingly by the Manatee, “The ETS is a scheme to raise the funds to pay for our [sic] Kyoto Liability.  Even if you don’t believe in global warming, we [sic] have a liability that is based on carbon emissions.  As a nation, either people who produce the carbon pay for it – or everyone pays for it through higher taxes.” Or else “we” simply repudiate this simple scheme that Simply Simon Upton stupidly signed up to. 
    Fortunately their commenters “get” that, even if the spin doctors bloggers don’t.
    Nolan on ETS – NATIONAL PARTY SPIN BLOG
    National, Labour, Greens: You all get this, please help clear it up! - VALUE-FREE ECONOMICS BLOG
  • But we need an Emissions Tax Scam to impress our trading partners, you say?  Bullshit, say the facts:
        Value of NZ trade with countries having some sort of trading scam themselves: $5 billion.   
        Value of NZ trade with countries having nothing of the kind: $34.5 billion.
        Countries outside the European Union who’ve shackled themselves with an Emissions
        Tax Scam: One.  Us.
    The Magical Twenty Nine Countries with an ETS – NO MINISTER
  • So that’s just us and the European Union, then.  Oh, and California.  I wonder how are things going there…?
        “California, that former land of opportunity, was one of the first states to pass its own version of "cap and trade" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2007 when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the law, called AB-32, he said it would propel California into an economy-expanding, green job future. Well, a new study by the state's own auditing agency—its version of the Congressional Budget Office—has burst that green bubble.
        “The study released May 13 concludes that ‘California's economy at large will likely be adversely affected in the near term by implementing climate-related policies that are not adopted elsewhere.’ While the long-term economic costs are ‘unknown,’ the study finds that AB-32 will raise energy prices, ‘causing the prices of goods and services to rise; lowering business profits; and reducing production, income and jobs.’
        “The economic reality here is what the Legislative Analyst's Office calls ‘economic leakage.’ That's jargon for businesses and jobs that will ‘locate or relocate outside the state of California where regulatory-related costs are lower.’ The study says the negative impact on most California industries will be ‘modest,’ but energy-intensive industries—specifically, aluminum, chemicals, forest products, oil and gas and steel—’may significantly reduce their business activity in California.’”
     Cap and Flee: California refutes its own 'green jobs' policy - FLASH REPORT
  • I haven’t watched it all yet, but regular reader Falufulu Fisi reckons that if you watch this five-part series on You Tube you’ll have a much clearer grasp of what I mean when I say that banks create money “out of thin air”; or when economists talk about “the organisation of debt into currency.”
  • As they say:
    Debt Money-It’s the Ultimate Ponzi Scheme – DAVID McGREGOR
  • What to do about North Korea?
    1) Perry de Havilland calls for the simplest solution, and his commenters explain to him why it’s not that simple.
    Crisis in Korea... - SAMIZDATA
    2) Hitchens hits it, especially in the last sentence!  The headline isn’t too bad either.
    How Kim Jong-il blackmails the West into supporting his evil North Korean regime. – CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
  • Speaking of Hitchens, here he is talking to Kim Hill last weekend about, well, everything really. Agree or disagree, it’s wonderful to hear such pithy, articulate conversation.  Something to enjoy, and aspire to.
    Listen here. Download here.  40 min.
    Saturday Morning with Kim Hill: Christopher Hitchens – THE DAILY HITCHENS
  • Okay, when is this going to get sorted:


    “According to the yellow CPI line our core state spending [sic] should now be around $40billion instead of the budgeted $64.7billion….”
    Crikey, even the Europeans know it’s time to sort this shit out, don’t they?  Don’t they??
    When and how?  - NO MINISTER
    Say It Isn't So! – RATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • It’s already too late for America.
    Deficit Landmines Dead Ahead! – DOUG CASEY REPORT
  • Who would have thought it? Second-hand appliance dealers conniving with beneficiaries to deceive Work and Income.  Looks like yet another confirmation of Milton Friedman’s Four Rules of Spending. Rule No. 3: “I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!” Or an X-Box.
    WINZ sting exposes beneficiary scam  - NZ HERALD
    Milton Friedman on the four ways you can spend money  - SIGNAL VS. NOISE
  • “Of all the motivations for reforming the DPB, improving the lot of children is the most important… if [getting parents into] work isn't the answer then it must be more welfare. But if more welfare is given, more children will grow up on welfare and their expectations will be based on their environment and in 20 years time the advocates will still be calling for more welfare. More welfare is an ever-expanding downward spiral.”
    Cheaper to leave them on the DPBLINDSAY MITCHELL
  • Yet another story of how governments use the welfare state to manufacture their own voters. “A morality of sacrifice not only needs sacrificial victims, it also needs recipients. Hence it manufactures the latter in order to further immolate the former.” [Hat tip Thrutch]
    Cliff-Diving into Dependency, and Trolling for Democratic Votes – PAJAMA MEDIA
  • Quite interesting...if we could buy a copier off the government...

  • “In light of Randal Paul's views on abortion, reproduction, and end-of-life decisions, nobody should be asking whether Paul advocates too much liberty.”
    Rand Paul Wants Total Abortion Bans - ARI ARMSTRONG
  • The Wall Street Journal and the Cato Institute have the third-to-last and second-to-last word on the Randal Paul kerfuffle. [Hat tip Vulcan’s Hammer]
    ”Even if Mr. Paul was speaking out of a principled belief in the rights of voluntary association, he was wrong on the Constitutional and historic merits. The Civil Rights Act of 1964—and its companion laws, such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965—were designed to address abuses of state and local government power. The Jim Crow laws that sprang up in the South after Reconstruction and prevailed for nearly a century were not merely the result of voluntary association. Discrimination—public and private—was enforced by police power and often by violence.”
    Rand Paul's Constitution: The Kentucky candidate's bad history  – WALL STREET JOURNAL
    ”Contending that only government power saved us from slavery and Jim Crow, it ignores the role of private power – the abolitionists, and the civil rights movement – that brought about that government power. More important, it invites us to believe that government had little or nothing to do with slavery and Jim Crow in the first place…”
    A Bum Rap for Limited Government – CATO
  • Harry Binswanger gets the last word:
       ”Rand Paul (not named for Ayn Rand) is busily retreating from the principle of property rights, which he correctly applied to state his opposition to the portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which denied the right of private businesses to discriminate on the basis of race.
        “What he should have said is that there's a right to be irrational, and racism is the most irrational form of collectivism.
        “Of course, that needs more explanation, because there's only a right to choose between rationality and (non-coercive) irrationality, not a primary right to be irrational. Rights exist to protect the exercise of rationality, which necessarily entails leaving people free to be irrational, as long as they don't initiate physical force.”
    What Rand Paul should have said [excerpt]  - HB LIST
  • It looks increasingly likely that crony capitalism is at least partly to blame for the hash being made of the Gulf Oil Spill. Time to wheel out your public choice economists.
    “The familiar old trap is set: Do you want unfettered markets and oil spills or government regulation and safety?  The implied premise is that the oil industry operates in a free market. So, the argument goes, the only alternative is government regulation…[but] the Gulf oil spill occurred on property owned and managed by the federal government, and the operator-at-fault (BP) has been the most politically active in its industry.
    “Has BP been too busy spending money to [buy politicians, and to] impress the government and the public with how’“green’ it is to look after safety adequately?”
    ”…The free market will undoubtedly take the rap — but it’s an unjust rap. According to
    Reuters, ‘Like BP, both Transocean … and Halliburton, a contractor, also pumped money into the campaign war chests of senators who sit on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee.’
    ”I have a feeling the companies weren’t buying repeal of corporate favors.”

    The BP Spill: Self-Regulation, Public Property, and Political Capitalism – MASTER RESOURCE
  • “Once again, an episode from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged leaps to life from behind closed doors in Washington, D.C. According to a recent report from The Washington Post, President Obama is angry about the British Petroleum oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico:
  • BP-oil-fire-300x225     ‘Since the oil rig exploded, the White House has tried to project a posture that is unflappable and in command.
        ‘But to those tasked with keeping the president apprised of the disaster, Obama’s clenched jaw is becoming an increasingly familiar sight. During one of those sessions in the Oval Office the first week after the spill, a president who rarely vents his frustration cut his aides short, according to one who was there.
        ‘‘Plug the damn hole,’ Obama told them.’

    That’s the politician’s answer to every intractable problem: give orders, issue threats, and wait for obedience. But the creative human mind cannot take orders like that. Notice I didn’t say, ‘refuses to take orders.’ I said, ‘cannot take orders.’”
    “Plug the damn hole!”  - VOICES OF REASON

  • But don’t go thinking Obama is stupid—on foreign policy, or anything else for that matter.
    Obama: Neither Naïve nor Foolish nor Misguided  - RULE OF REASON
  • “Everyone knows that the Obama administration’s decision to suspend consideration of applications to drill in the Arctic is driven by political considerations, some attempt to ‘respond’ to the BP mess in the Gulf. But what strikes me as just how willy nilly the state acts toward the goods and services that fuel civilization itself. The decision makes us all poorer on the margin, increases ‘dependency’ of the U.S. on foreign oil, drives up prices, and sets back social advance in every way – all in the name of some random attempt for one guy to appear ‘strong’ and ‘act’ in the face of an accident. It’s rarely been more obvious, day to day, that the machinery of the state, while pretending to be the caretaker of mother earth, only destroys hope for real human beings.
    Mises Economics Blog Playing Fast and Loose with Civilization – JEFFREY TUCKER

_Quote      A man who chooses between drinking a glass of milk and a
glass of a solution of potassium cyanide does not choose between two
beverages; he chooses between life and death. A society that chooses
between capitalism and socialism does not choose between two social
systems; it chooses between social cooperation and the disintegration
of society. Socialism is not an alternative to capitalism; it is
an alternative to any system under which men can live as human beings."
Ludwig Von Mises- Human Action

  • The Roadkill Diaries calls “bullshit” on bleating about Gaza’s much-touted supply problems.
    Gaza Strip: Not Dry Enough! – SMALL DEAD ANIMALS
  • Bet ya didn’t know that for all the bigotry and banging on the Australian “Liberal” Party and their fellow travellers have been doing about those nasty boat people taking over Australia, there’s been just 60 boats arriving this year.  Break through all the casual bigoty that even infests your basic  Australian newspaper report, and that’s the basic fact. It’s not like the place isn’t big enough to fit them in … or that the Australian economy doesn’t need them.
    Boat 60 arrives at AshmoreWEST AUSTRALIAN
    Former PM takes stand against bigotry, shrugs off party – NOT PC
  • You now how you’re always hearing that those nasty illegal immigrants are all criminals?  No, that’s something else that’s not true.
    New Crime Stats Contradict Anti-Immigration Hype- CATO AT LIBERTY
  • How’s the Aussie dollar doing since the K.Rudd announced his Rape-The-Mining-Companies Tax? Um…

    CLICK FOR STORY
    How’s the Aussie doing? - CATALLAXY
  • “ I often hear from extremely intelligent engineers that they have read all sorts of patents in the last decade that should not have been issued.  Despite their brilliance, I am usually pretty sure that they have no idea what they are talking about.”
    Patent Ignorance – STATE OF INNOVATION
  • And while we’re on patents, let’s talk about the bane of “patent pools”: Antitrust.
    Patent and Antitrust Law   - STATE OF INNOVATION
    Does Cyberspace Need Antitrust? – ERIC CRAMPTON & DON BOUDREAUX
  • All the presentations from the Heartland Institute’s Fourth International Conference on Climate Change are here, including presentations from Christopher Monckton, Richard Lindzen, Anthony Watts, Willy Soon , Ross McKitrick and Steve McIntyre; NZers Chris de Freitas, Bob Carter and Bryan Leyland, and ARI writer Keith Lockitch and Ayn Rand enthusiast Andrei Ilaryanov.
    4th International Conference on Climate Change – ENVIRONMENT & CLIMATE NEWS
  • Lindsay Perigo summarises the entire Christian mythology in eight paragraphs.
    There’s more laughs than the Bible. And infinitely more erudition.
    The Story of the Lonely Goblin – LINDSAY PERIGO
  • Something to think about: “why forbidding organ sales creates unnecessary dilemmas.”
    A sale would be cleaner  - REASON-PHARM
  • Some history on the death penalty. “By the mid-fifteenth century crimes subject to the death penalty … included the following: rebellion, fraud, bigamy, incest, arson, theft, adultery, carrying off a woman against her will, blasphemy, moving signs of property boundaries, attacking someone, high treason, child murder, using dishonest weights and measures, murder, counterfeiting, rape, attempted suicide, striking someone to death, converting to Judaism, treason, having sex with animals, and sorcery.”  That’s quite a list, says Stephen Hicks.  “There has been a steady decline in the infliction of this punishment in every decade since the 1930’s … which seems a healthy development — except for that part about letting sorcerers off the hook.”
    The death penalty in fifteenth-century Europe – STEPHEN HICKS
  • I bet you never really “got” commas at school either; yet they make life and reading so much easier. (Just ask the victims of the Panda who eats, shoots and leaves.) 
    Lisa Van Damme from the Van Damme Academy gives you the lesson you should have got in your school.

  • Here’s some top-rate educational satire.  [Hat tip Montessori Ed]
    If you’ve been round this blog any time at all you’ll know by now I’m a keen advocate of Montessori schools, and an enthusiastic denouncer of Montessomething schools, i.e., schools with Montessori on their fancy signboards and hefty invoices, but nowhere inside their school.
    So here’s a website hilariously satirising the schools who foist fraud upon parents, and their children, by selling something they’re not delivering. It’s brilliantly done, right down to the school’s newsletter.
    Start with the page on teacher quality, which would be hilarious if it didn’t describe 95% of schools in New Zealand with the Montessori name on their letterhead.
    PS: Don’t worry if you don’t get the jokes.  Just click on the “Help” menu.
    Visit the Montessomething School! 
  • "Magic, Objectivism, and Peikoff -- what more could you ask for?" Well, maybe Penn.  Or Teller…
    Leonard Peikoff Interview With Magician Steve Cohen - NOODLE FOOD
  • A new DVD release of 1942's 'We the Living' introduces audiences to Rand's brilliant but obscure first novel. Fantastic! [Warning: There are spoilers]
    Love, Politics And Ayn Rand – FORBES MAGAZINE
  • It’s time to stop building those stoopid goddamn social media websites.  Haven’t we got enough already!!!
    8 Websites You Need to Stop Building – THE OATMEAL
  • You see it all the time but, well, “Why would someone advocate an idea that he knows to be false?"
    Putting the Cause Before the Truth – SHEA LEVY
  • Just in case you were wondering what a city without billboards looks like…it’s not pretty.
    Publi-City or No Publi-City – ARKINET BLOG
  • Here’s Django Reinhardt’s song ‘Minor Swing’ updated in Chocalat.


  • And for those who are wondering where the “Ramble” title comes from…here’s Robert Johnson from 1936.

I think that’s me for now.
Have a great weekend!
PC

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“One With” Martin Eichinger

CLICK FOR ORIGINAL

I’m seeking words to describe this, but have none.

So just sit, and look, and wonder.

And decide if you can afford to purchase a first casting from this stunning [hardly encompasses it, does it] new clay work.

More of this man’s work here, at the Quent Cordair Gallery.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quiz

Okay, here’s a quiz for you.

In a plush downtown Auckland hotel yesterday a man got up in front of a well-dressed and well-fed audience and announced the following:
I have a dream job.
My product is in daily use.
The government jails my competitors.
We ourselves set the selling price.
Our production costs are only a fraction of the product’s value.
And we make hundreds of millions of dollars profit every year.
So here are my two questions for you:
  1. Who is this man? 
  2. Who does he work for?
  3. And what do they produce?
And here’s a clue for you: Despite what you might think, the answers are not 1) William Burroughs, 2) a gang, and 3) drugs.

Answers over the fold—or click the link above for a definitive clue.

Click here to read more ... >>

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Former PM takes stand against bigotry, shrugs off party [updated]

Feilcartoon-200x0Two Australian elections ago John Howard and his supporters talked blandly about machine-gunning Afghani refugees trapped on a boat beyond Australian waters, being banned from landing anywhere by the actions of the Australian Navy.

It was an election-winning strategy for John Howard’s Liberals snatched from the jaws of a poll-predicted defeat, bought however at the price of xenophobic inhumanity towards human beings yearning only to breathe free—an inhumanity that Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party hopes to rekindle in its favour this election with frankly disgusting ads trumpeting the red arrows of invading armies over the unashamedly bigoted slogan “Stop Illegals Now!” [You can get an online glimpse here.]

The Australian Liberal party’s plunge into electorally-led xenophobia has just lost it the membership of a former Prime Minister. After nearly forty years, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has finally stood by the principles he once claimed to have, and publicly resigned from the party.

_quote FIVE years ago, Malcolm Fraser delivered his most scathing critique of the party he led to three federal election victories, and confessed that he had thought seriously about quitting after half a century of membership.
    Under John Howard, he said, it had become a party of ‘fear and reaction,’ conservative not liberal, and willing to play the race card and discriminate against asylum seekers.
    “The reason he didn't quit then was the signal it would send to small-l liberals in the party ‘who seek to keep a liberal flame alive.’
   “Instead, he used a speech at Melbourne University to ''urge all of those who are concerned by events to take part in public life, in the affairs of the party, to seek change and secure liberty.''
    “…Party sources say Mr Abbott's hard line on asylum seekers, reflected in a recent TV ad featuring red arrows representing the movement of boats from Indonesia, strengthened Mr Fraser's resolve… Petro Georgiou, who was an adviser to Mr Fraser and a state campaign director before becoming a Liberal MP, said the departure ‘should be viewed as the action of a man who takes his convictions very seriously.’”

Fraser himself was a Prime Minister who promised much and achieved little—“a mirage” Australian freedom fighter Ron Manners called Fraser in his latest book.  Claiming at one point to be an admirer of Ayn Rand (Fraser once dined with her in Gerald Ford’s 1976 White House) he now, in his retirement, has finally done the one principled thing that his admiration would once have suggested we should have seen more of.

UPDATEThis interview last year with Malcolm Fraser helps clarify the few brief comments he’s making now.

_quoteThirty years ago, [the Fraser] government made headlines with an immigration controversy that resonates with contemporary events. Malcolm Fraser’s government accepted around 100,000 Indochinese refugees into Australia after the Vietnam War, many coming by boat – a similar trip to that made by those featured in the headlines today. As a new Labor government attempts to roll back some of the controversial policies instituted by the Howard Government, Malcolm Fraser has publicly broken with his Liberal successors and criticised the treatment of asylum seekers by recent governments as a violation of human rights...
    “At the end of 2001, the events of the Tampa and the Children Overboard affair marked a watershed moment in Australian politics. Although mandatory detention was instigated by a Labor government in 1992, Mr Fraser is forthright in his view that it was the Coalition, under John Howard, which made asylum seekers a political issue. ‘The Howard government was behind in the polls preceding the Tampa election, so I think the political motivations were pretty strong. But in that government there was a strong area of belief also that what they were doing was right, because they didn’t want to understand… I don’t think for a minute that what they were doing was right. What they were doing was evil.’
    “…Mr Fraser believes that xenophobia in the face of immigration is harmful, and maintains that more is required for the effective integration of migrants into Australian society. ‘While there are unique things about Australia, the values we need for a peaceful and just society are similar no matter what country you are in,’ he states. ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s a poor country or a wealthy country. If you want decent conditions for your family, education and food, a chance to give your kids a better life than you had, then the values involved in all that are international.’”

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A Leighton listener is having a hard week

A regular reader is missing her daily Leighton Smith fix, and ready to tear her hair out at his replacement.  She sent me this.

_quote O-M-G.  Quel Horreur! I’ve got an affliction !  Day 3 and I am beside myself – don’t know if I can get past day 5 without getting into some self harm (like puncturing my eardrums),  What bloody stupid sod at NewstalkZB decided that an acceptable (never mind remotely suitable) replacement for Leighton Smith was Paul Holmes. 
    “I’ve come to the conclusion that he has completely lost it – if he ever had it.  The most brainless (or should that be braindead) waste of space I have never listened to. 
    “Monday I managed 3 sentences before I had to turn off; Tuesday I only handled ‘Good morning’; this morning just the music almost made me smash the radio, especially when I discovered a comedian round here had glued the on/off switch. 
    “Please tell me it’s only for this week.  Do you think the PTB at NewstalkZB are aware that 99.99% recurring actually turn off their radios every morning – the twerp is talking to nobody !  Even that blonde tart would have been better and I can’t stand her either. I’m trying to decide whether to wear earplugs for the rest of the week or just lock myself in a padded room without sharp objects in fear that just the sound of Paul Holmes’s’ voice will send me off again.
    “Aaaagrgh!!”

Robie House restoration project wins award!

Robie

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, whose “digital” dining room is pictured above, has just won an award for the creators of its digital restoration.

_quote The digital restoration of Wright’s Robie House, created by zünpartners, received the Webby Award for Cultural Institutions. The recreation of Robie House’s interior spaces allows visitors to explore the home as envisioned by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1910, the year construction was completed. The Web site is designed to engage visitors in the restoration process help encourage donations required for its completion and provide an interactive educational demonstrations…
    “The most dramatic effect is the restoration of Wright's lighting scheme. Reproduction period light bulbs were sampled for an accurate color and glow. Special attention was given to recreate the pattern of the grill which serves as a light screen on top of the sconces which, when lit, illuminate the adjacent wall. The composition of different fixtures and lights is a wholly unique Robie House experience.
The Robie House sparked a revolution in residential architecture whose influence still reverberates today. Designated by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 10 most significant structures of the 20th century, this American treasure is celebrated as one of Chicago’s most important works of art. Robie House, more than any other structure, demonstrated Wright’s genius and brought him acclaim from both the United States and abroad. In its precision-like arrangement, the home continues to be recognized as one of the most important buildings of the 20th century, a building that propelled the modernist movement in architecture.
View the award-winning digital restoration at: http://www.gowright.org/robie/

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: No PIIGS please, we’re British [updated]

_richardmcgrath Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for stories on issues affecting our freedom.

This week: Examining the Cameron-Clegg austerity package:

I think it’s worth watching how the new Conservative-Lib Dem government in Britain handle the crisis left to it by Gorgon Brown’s grasping and totally corrupt Labour administration. In the past 24 hours, the Queen delivered the new government’s plans on what it plans to do about the debt and productivity crises that threaten to consign the United Kingdom to the naughty corner along with Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, i.e., the PIIGS.  [UPDATE: “The worst deficit on the east side of the Atlantic is not in Greece. It's in England. And the worst household debt is not in Spain; it's in England too…”]

The Daily Telegraph for one examined the details of the Queen’s Speech point by point. I believe these bear examination, and if David Cameron can follow through with some of them Britain will be a lot better off. Already the new PM has put a stop to most of the chauffer-driven cars and luxury train travel for the 650 House of Commons trough-dwellers.

Points with which I can mostly agree (my comments in italics):

  • A 'significant acceleration' in the reduction of the UK's state deficit, delivered mainly by cutting spending rather than increasing tax.
    Hurrah!
  • Abolition of ID cards and National Identity Register.
    A victory for privacy rights.
  • Reversal of the bulk of the former Labour administration's planned rise in employers' National Insurance contributions.
    That makes it easier to employ people.
  • Referendums on any future EU treaty.
    Not sure if that’s the correct plural form of referendum [no, it ain’t – Ed.] , but if that aids the disintegration of the EU, the demise of the euro and the return of the gold standard, it’s got to be good.
  • A review which could bring forward the date when the state pension age increases to 66.
    That will give people incentives to make provision for their own retirement. Never mind a “review,” however: Retirement age should be ratcheted up steadily so that pensions are essentially privatised.
  • A 'significant increase' in personal allowances for income tax in next month's Budget, with a long-term goal of taking the first £10,000 out of tax.
    As long as it results in less tax overall. Note Libz want to first $50k of income left in the hands of those New Zealanders who earned it. 
  • Full strategic defence and security review.
    Necessary with every change of government, but worrisome with the pacifist Lib-Dems involved.
  • Maintenance of Britain's nuclear deterrent, with continued scrutiny to ensure that the renewal of Trident is value for money.
    Yes, the nuclear deterrent is a proven peacekeeper.
  • New restrictions on the authorities' use of CCTV cameras and DNA data and a ban on the storage of internet and email records without good reason.
    Bravo – I assume this applies to state surveillance and record keeping. Ideally, there should be no snooping into people’s e-mail and internet records.
  • Directly-elected individuals to hold the police to account. Yes, the police have to be accountable and their powers strictly limited.
  • Redrawing parliamentary constituency maps to reduce numbers of MPs and make seats a similar size.
    Yes. Reduce the size of the trough and the number of entities who frequent it.
  • Power for voters to 'recall' errant MPs with a petition signed by 10% of electors in a constituency.
    That’s good – keep the bastards terrified of stepping out of line by the constant reminder they are servants of the people, not the other way around.
  • Establishment of an independent Office of Budget Responsibility, taking the power to set economic forecasts out of the hands of politicians; and an Office of Tax Simplification, to suggest reforms to the tax system.
    There should be a requirement to run budget surpluses and to simplify taxation before phasing it out.
  • Simplification of benefits system to improve the incentive to work.
    I’d suggest the ultimate simplification--abolition.
  • Plans to reduce and simplify corporation tax rates over five years.
    Ditto.
  • Creation of a Public Health Service to encourage people to take greater responsibility for their own health.
    As long as this reduces the overall size of the NHS.
  • Independent commission on how to fund long-term care for the elderly and disabled.
    Yes, as long as the long-term emphasis is on privatisation and devolution.
  • Relaxation of health and safely laws to allow 'commonsense policing.’
    Yes, put an end to the PC nonsense that is taking all the fun out of life for children.
  • Measures to allow social enterprises, charities and co-operatives a greater role in public service provision.
    Yes, the state could delegate most of its functions to the private sector.
  • A cut in the number of quangos and cost of bureaucracy.
    Absolutely. A savage cut.
  • Devolution of powers over planning and housing to local councils and communities, scrapping the Infrastructure Planning Commission.
    Less central planning = good. More local “planning” = not so good.
  • New rights for communities to take over state-run services.
    Hopefully this means recognition of old rights, and individuals (or voluntary co-operatives) taking over state-run services, but I fear this is simply a foreshadowing of Cameron’s  promised “citizen committees.”
  • Requirement for public bodies to publish salaries and expenses of senior officials online.
    Quantify just how much these parasites take from the British taxpayer.
  • Residents' referendums on local issues - including the power to veto excessive council tax rises.
    Including the power to veto any tax rises, and right to opt out of receiving council services where possible.
  • Abolition of Home Information Packs.
    Not sure what these were, but sound very Nanny Statish. [Yes, they were - Ed.]
  • Restoration of rights to non-violent protest.
    Whoever removed these rights (Gorgon?) should be broken on the wheel.
  • Commitment to work towards an 'ambitious' global climate change deal.
    This is far too important to be supervised by anyone except Viscount Monckton of Brenchley.
  • Continued commitment to working with the Afghan government to deliver lasting security and stability in the country.
    That may include a troop withdrawal and encouraging free trade with the people of Afghanistan. [But not before the obliteration of the Taliban – Ed.]
  • Commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, particularly in relation to Iran's suspected weapons programme.
    Best if we keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of theocracies.  And best we seek specifics as to how that is being done.
  • Aid spending to reach 0.7% of national income by 2013.
    By keeping charity voluntary. Stop all foreign aid from state coffers.
  • Enhanced measures to freeze terrorist assets.
    And freeze the terrorists themselves: imprison them in Antarctica.
  • A pledge to support 'market-led' investment in high-speed broadband.
    Which will happen when the state and the economy are separated.
  • Opportunity for more schools to take up academy status.
    If this means cutting state funding and setting them free from party political influence.
  • Independent commission on how to fund long-term care for the elderly and disabled.
    Just as long as free-market solutions are seriously considered.

Stuff I’m not so keen on:

  • · Legislation for fixed-term five-year parliaments, with a requirement for 55% Commons support to seek an earlier dissolution.
    Not sure how this differs from the status quo. I thought a no-confidence vote was enough to roll the gummint currently. [At present, the govt can call an election any time within that five-year period they see a bolter’s chance of maintaining or enhancing their majority – Ed.]
  • Annual limit 'in the tens of thousands' on non-EU migrants allowed to live and work in the UK.
    As long as it’s made clear they have no claim on the welfare system and must make provision for their own needs, I say “let them come.”
  • Creation of new Border Police Force.
    Depends what the function of this force is – if its aim is to uphold individual rights, I’d be for it.  But we know it won’t be.
  • Transfer of City supervision powers to the Bank of England.
    The BoE should be abolished, and all private banks allowed to print their own money—just as they did in Scotland over a hundred-years ago.
  • Proposals by the end of this year for a 'wholly or mainly elected' Upper House of Parliament elected by proportional representation.
    I see nothing wrong with hereditary peers, the proposed change is just a replication of the Commons. There should be a limitation of the politically appointed peers that were endemic under Blair and Brown. Non-political peers would be vastly preferable to party hacks. But the most important change would be to make the Lords’ veto power immune from being overruled.
  • Restoration of pensions link to earnings in April 2011.
    Pensions should be privatised.
  • Capital gains tax on non-business assets to be imposed at rates close to income tax.
    No, no no!
  • Support for the development of a high-speed rail network. Not if it’s state-funded, which sounds like what’s on the table.
  • Part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, while retaining the network of post offices in public ownership.
    Just sell them off - lock, stock and barrel.
  • Moves to give NHS clinicians more power over care provision and to enable patients to share in decisions over their treatment.
    No. The whole system is rotten and this sacred cow must be slaughtered. Partition off the hospital system and sell (or give away) the lot.
  • Stronger powers for police and councils to remove licences from problem pubs and clubs.
    Well, only if the owners of the clubs are convicted of real crimes.
  • National programme of domestic energy efficiency measures, along with plans for a possible ''smart grid'' and Green Investment Bank.
    I thought you were rolling back the Nanny State, Dave.  “Wind turbines for all!”?
  • Promise to pursue agreement on party funding reform 'to remove big money from politics'.
    No, let anyone fund political parties to any degree. It’s part of freedom of speech and expression, and right to spend your money in any way you choose.  If you don’t want legislators bought and sold, then remove the power of legislators over buying and selling.
  • Extension of the right [sic] to request flexible working.
    A bogus right; why not just let employers and employees come to an agreement themselves without gummint interference?

I will be interested to see how vigorously the Cameron administration pursue some of their loftier goals. But there are some quite specific plans here, which could hugely benefit the people of the United Kingdom.

Can David Cameron put the ‘Great’ back in Great Britain? Time will tell. But if he seriously sets about the first lot of measures mentioned above, he might at least keep it out of the knacker’s yard with the PIIGS.

“When the people fear the government, there is tyranny - when the government
fear the people, there is liberty.”
- Thomas Jefferson  

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Warmists whacked in Oxford Union debate

nuclear-004 Oxford Union debates are a big deal.  Remember when David Lange leaned toward Jerry Falwell and told him “I can smell the uranium on your breath”—a line still much-quoted today? That was from an Oxford Union debate of around a quarter-of-a-century ago.  Oxford Union debates are a big deal.

Which makes the latest debate in which warmists were whacked by the Union a fairly big deal too.

Leading the skeptic team to a 135-110 victory in a debate on the motion “That this House would put economic growth before combating climate change” was Christopher Monckton, a man who more than any other gets under warmists’ skin.  The SPPI blog [via Watts Up With That] describes his presentation:

_quoteChristopher Monckton said that real-world measurements, as opposed to models, showed that the warming effect of CO2 was a tiny fraction of the estimates peddled by the UN’s climate panel. He said that he would take his lead from [his team-mate] Nigel Lawson, however, in concentrating on the economics rather than the science.
    “He glared at the opposition again and demanded whether, since they had declared themselves to be so worried about ‘global warming,’ they would care to tell him – to two places of decimals and one standard deviation – the UN’s central estimate of the ‘global warming’ that might result from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration. The opposition were unable to reply. Monckton told them the answer was 3.26 plus or minus 0.69 Kelvin or Celsius degrees.
    “An Hon. Member interrupted: ‘And your reference is?’ Lord Monckton replied: ‘IPCC, 2007, chapter 10, box 10.2.’ [cheers]. He concluded that shutting down the entire global economy for a whole year, with all the death, destruction, disaster, disease and distress that that would cause, would forestall just 4.7 ln(390/388) = 0.024 Kelvin or Celsius degrees of ‘global warming,’ so that total economic shutdown for 41 years would prevent just 1 K of warming. Adaptation as and if necessary would be orders of magnitude cheaper and more cost-effective.

He’s quite right, of course.  Even if the warmists’ worst fears were to be granted credibility (and the likes of Richard Lindzen offers a substantial challenge, suggesting for example that the effect of doubling CO2 would be a temperature rise of just 1.0 degree Celsius), even total economic shutdown would not allay them. 

Yet the only “action” that warmists call for is government action to ban or to shackle private action, ruling out (both in their own minds and, if they are successful in their calls, in reality) any possibility at all of human beings adapting to a changing climate freely and individually, i.e., in exactly the way that human beings have successfully adapted to changing climates right across the millennia.

Face it, when people are left free to make their own choices for themselves, they are able to make better choices for them than a screaming hippy with a clipboard would make on their behalf.  And since the time period in which people might be required to adapt would be substantial (we’re talking decades, if not centuries here) then the time required for people to, for example, change the places in which they live and work, is more than sufficient for that to be done in a civilised manner, with the necessary changes being flagged by price signals.  (So don’t worry, Al Gore will have more than enough time to sell his sea-level apartment in San Francisco before he starts seeing the tide in his living room.)

Furthermore, warmists often forget, or have never considered, that under all but their most catastrophic scenarios, the future generations who they say will benefit tomorrow from banning or shackling private action today will (unless the warmists are successful in shackling producers completely) be several orders of magnitude richer than we are today.

Furthermore, as economist Robert Murphy points out  in ‘The Economics of Climate Change

_quote it is rather absurd to argue about the impacts of present tax policies [or cap-and-trade schemes] on global temperatures in the year 2150. Yet, it is precisely these projections that provide the foundation for policy recommendations.
    “Many critics have raised this objection before, but it bears repeating: We have no idea what the world economy will be like in the 22nd century. Had people in 1909 adopted analogous policies to ‘help’ us, they might have imposed a tax on buggies or a cap on manure, needlessly raising the costs of transportation while the U.S. economy switched to motor vehicles. This is not a mere joke; ‘serious’ people were worried about population growth, and the ability of large cities to support the growing traffic from horses. Had someone told them not to worry, because Henry Ford's new Model T would soon transform personal locomotion without any central direction from D.C., these ideas would probably have been dismissed as wishful thinking. As famed physicist Freeman Dyson has mused, future generations will likely have far cheaper means of reducing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, if the more alarming scenarios play out.18
    “In the climate change debate, people often forget that under all but the most catastrophic scenarios, the future generations who will benefit from our current mitigation efforts will be much richer than we are. For example, Nigel Lawson points out that even under one of the worst case scenarios studied by the IPCC, failure to act would simply mean that people in the developing world would be "only" 8.5 times as wealthy a century from now, compared to 9.5 times as wealthy if there were no climate change.19

To translate, this means that even if the scare-mongers were correct, they intend to strangle prosperity now – right in the middle of the deepest depression in seventy years – simply so that your future generations one-hundred years from now might be able to afford an extra Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster while they orbit the planets.

Makes no sense to me at all.  And it made no sense to 135 Oxford Union voters either.  My hat goes off to their very sensible British souls.

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‘The Football Players’ – Henri Rousseau

rousseau_football

Untrained and unaware of the great game of Australian football (hard to believe, but true), nonetheless in his 1908 painting ‘The Football Players’ Henri Rousseau is clearly striving towards depicting the great game.

If only someone could have vouchsafed him a ticket to a game.  There’d be a lot less prancing about in his canvas.

Nice kidney punch, though.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cameron Slater (aka Whale Oil) in hot water again [update 2]

Cameron Slater (aka Whale Oil) is in hot water again for naming someone before the courts.  The argument being floated today is that since the “high profile public servant” named by Slater has been found not guilty, Slater’s naming constitutes grounds for arrest.

Yet as Cameron himself points out, the not-guilty verdict on a claim the man assaulted his son looks to have been delivered based on a very interesting wrinkle indeed in Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking law.

And as as Lindsay Mitchell points out, the public concern expressed by the man’s lawyer is pretty much an own goal.

UPDATE 1: Since I’ve already argued before about the nonsense of name suppression, I’ll simply link rather than argue anew.

UPDATE 2: Lawyer Stephen Franks argues “there may be a few grounds for suppressing the name of people charged with crime,” and lists four reasons with which I’d concur.  Those aside, however, “open justice must be restored, from the time of charging.”  This decision, says Franks, is

_quote another inexcusable intrusion on free speech and the principle that justice should be delivered in open courts, where we can form our own views about whether it is without fear or favour according to rank and connections…
    “I feel ashamed that I will not publicly disclose who this acquitted man is, to help make unworkable the continuation of this offense to our liberties. I'll not put myself and my license to be a lawyer at risk .  Many heroes who secured our liberties did risk all to get free speech and open justice.
    “But there is something I can do. Whale Oil is standing up for the principle. Despite often finding his language and expression gratuitously unpleasant, I can help make the point by reducing his personal cost of standing up for the rest of us.  We who are too careful can salve our consciences with contributions. If we make it plain that fines and other penalties will just attract mass support, eventually our would-be masters will have to accept the loss of their current power to suppress.
    I'll find out the account we can contribute to and provide the link for others who want to contribute.”

And so shall I.

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Paul the Younger

Even Radio NZ is now starting to discuss the victory of Tea Party candidate Randal Paul in the Kentucky Republican primary (perhaps the first time a winning candidate in a minor Republican primary has been mentioned on Radio NZ at all).  Clearly, there’s more than just the Tea Party connection that got Radio NZ interested enough to comment.

Just for the record, despite the popular contraction of his first name to “Rand,” Randal wasn’t named after novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, but he does enjoy her novels. It just Ayn’t true.

But what of his politics?  Is a man surfing the Tea Party wave like Paul good simply because he’s successfully surfed that wave? Well, maybe not. The intellectual banner of the Tea Party itself is mixed, and so too it is Paul the Younger. “Rand Paul, like his libertarian father Ron Paul, is a Christian-influenced ‘isolationist,’” argues Objectivist Scott Holleran, which is troubling news. 

It’s often said that, speaking in traditional pol-sci terms, libertarians are “fiscal conservative and social liberals”; in those terms, Randal’s father Ron is both a fiscal conservative and a social conservative—meaning he hardly deserves the freedom-loving applause he gets. So if Paul the Younger is cut from similar cloth then, Houston, we do have a problem.

We have a problem because both Paul Senior and Paul the Younger are not just another pair of faceless politicians.  Despite policies which frankly contradict the claims, Paul Senior achieved “growing public prominence as a self-proclaimed spokesman for the ideas of liberty,” and Paul the Younger has certainly capitalised on that widespread national prominence, even as he’s chanted the anti-concept of so-called state’s rights (an invitation, as Rand the Original once pointed out, simply to replace federal tyranny with local tyranny), and sought the backing of social conservatives like the far-Right theocratic group Concerned Women for America (allowing Paul the Younger to boast on his website that his "socially conservative views have earned the respect and trust of church leaders across Kentucky."

Not exactly exciting news for freedom-lovers, is it—nor for those eager to make the connection with Rand the Original, who would have been appalled.

    “Consider how Rand saw Reagan and his friendly relations with the Moral Majority:

            ‘The appalling disgrace of his administration [said Rand the Original] is his
        connection with the so-called ‘Moral Majority’ and sundry other TV religionists,
        who are struggling—apparently with his approval—to take us back to the Middle Ages,
        via the unconstitutional union of religion and politics.’

    “Rand said Reagan was trying to ‘arouse the country by some sort of inspirational appeal. He is right in thinking that the country needs an inspirational element. But he will not find it in the God-Family-Tradition swamp.’ So while Randal Paul was sucking up to the social conservative religionists, Ayn Rand had called their ideology a ‘swamp’ and wanted nothing to do with them.”

Vodka Pundit Steve Green’s expressed early concern about Paul Senior, about “the impact that his representations of those ideas are having [and will have] on a national audience.”  Given Paul the Younger’s name and his Tea Party associations, those concerns are even more relevant about Paul the Younger since his own performance has the potential to damage the former and derail the second.

It’s nothing personal. The concern is about the fate of those ideas, and not for Paul’s fate as a candidate for higher office—particularly since his choice to exploit the “Rand” name makes his mis-identification with Rand’s ideas so much the easier for the ill-informed.

The first week after Randal’s victory already offers further cause for concern.  It was a week mired for him in the hash he made of an ill-advised appearance on Rachel Maddow’s TV show, a week in which he went first one way on civil rights and property rights, and then another, until at the end of it no-one could be quite sure what his position was on race, on civil rights, on the rights of employers and property-owners—and even on Rachel Maddow. (Although his own confusion doesn’t justify the abject confusion of some commentators on almost everything).

So in summary,  until I see something both more principled and more substantial from Ron Paul’s son, I can only wish to see in reality the sentiment once expressed in the title of the Shayne Carter & Peter Jefferies song: “Rand(olph)’s Going Home.”

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Patent thickets?

Those opposed to inventors keeping property in their own inventions will often be heard muttering about the destructive economic effects of so-called “patent thickets.”

_quote The patent thickets problem, a form of ‘tragedy of the anticommons,’ is
a phenomenon by which people underuse scarce resources because of
overlapping ownership. In the patent thickets, a technology is prone to
underuse because of the high costs of licensing resulting from multiple
ownership stakes in the same technology.”

“This concept is not unique to patent law,” notes associate professor at George Mason University Adam Mossoff,

_quoteit is based on Professor Michael Heller’s theory of the anticommons in real
property, which arises when there is excessive fragmentation of ownership
interests in a single parcel of land. According to economic theory, the problem of
such excessive fragmentation of ownership interests is straightforward: It
increases transaction costs, accentuates hold-out problems, and precipitates
costly litigation, which prevents commercial development of the affected property.

The implicit assumption is that some sort of redistribution of property is the answer to this alleged problem.  But as Adam Mossoff points out, even “Professor Heller acknowledges that ‘the empirical studies that prove — or disprove — our theory remain inconclusive.’”

sewing It’s in this context that Mossoff’s series of posts on the Sewing Machine Wars “and the denouement of this patent thicket in the Sewing Machine Combination of 1856 is important.” 

Why would you be interested in “sewing machine blogging”?  Simple:

  1. because the invention of the sewing machine in the late-nineteenth century was an achievement then “on par with the latest high-tech or pharmaceutical discovery today”;
  2. because its invention, patenting and commercialisation tell us an awful lot about how patent law works, and once worked well;
  3. because it tells us how patent conflicts are resolved voluntarily; and,
  4. because author Adam Mossoff knows all about patent law.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The current welfare state is unaffordable…”

_quote The current welfare state is unaffordable… The [sovereign debt] crisis has made the day of reckoning closer by several years in virtually all the industrial countries."
            - Uri Dadush, director of the Carnegie Endowment's International
              Economics Program, quoted in the NZ Herald

You can only fake reality for so long.  The welfare state model is broken.

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“In the mountain depths…” - Hokusai

05_1024

    A print from Hokusai’s ‘100 Poems’ series demonstrates a brilliant and fully meaningful use of diagonal composition.
    In an idealised Japanese landscape, Hokusai’s joyful sense of life transforms a poem about “the sadness of loneliness and of autumn signals of approaching death” into its opposite.. Story here, bottom of page..  Clue at top left of print.

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