Friday, August 27, 2010

The next Great Depression has already been YouTubed. See… [update 2]

In a more rational world, the world would have been out of economic depression in February last year.  That would be the sort of world in which those alleged economists whose theories either caused the crash (or blinded them to what was about to happen) would have been kicked to the kerb in short order. Alleged economists like the morons laughing at Peter Schiff three years ago…

Sadly, that hasn’t happened. Instead, those economists who shouted a warning that the first crash was coming—like Peter Schiff & Thorstein Polleit & Robert Blumen—are still being ignored; and all the failed economists who caused that crash are still in the van helping to cause the next one—just as they did in the first Great Depression*.  As Tom DiLorenzo and Steven Kates and Caroline Baum explain…

It’s still not too late to stop the next crash, but it will take a radical overhaul of both economics and government to avert it. As George Reisman explains…

But unless that radical overhaul happens—and even if they begin to realise that they themselves are the problem, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking any mainstream economist or politician will get the hell out of the way so it will—unless it happens, a “double dip” recession is all but inevitable, the depth and rapidity of which will be measured by the extent to which the mainstreamers are given power to continue making it worse.  Just as they did in the first Great Depression. As Peter Schiff explains,

_Quote [They] are not going to let our economy restructure. [They] are going to destroy it. [They] are going to drive it into the ground. [They] are going to wipe out everybody...[Those] are the politics...That is why I remain so negative on my outlook on the United States.

And as they say,when the United States catches a cold…

And since the alleged economists are providing no rational foundation on which non-economists can parse their own future (“they do not understand what it takes to create jobs ... and are flummoxed by their experiment in Keynesian economics not working”) many sane and rational folk are instead finding real economists to listen to—like those I link to above—and doing their own thinking about what’s coming. People like the normally relentlessly upbeat Tony Robbins, who (while still accepting some of the consumerist myths peddled by mainstream economists) begs his followers to get themselves informed about the coming Crash.

That’s the sort of advice you ought to at least listen to…

As they also say—or should—it’s time for even the alleged economists to stop worrying and learn to love depressions. Especially when they do so much to cause them.

* Back in October 2008, before the last election, I warned that all the remedies bandied about by all the alleged economist would be the cause of another crisis, just as they were when the likes of Hoover and Roosevelt used them to extend the 1929 correction for another fifteen years.

When  markets need to correct, when real savings are being consumed on malinvestments that urgently need to to closed off, then here's what you can do to make sure the necessary correction won't happen:

  1. Prevent or delay liquidation by propping up shaky businesses and shaky credit positions. (Better to flush out the malinvestments quickly, so recovery can get under way.)
  2. Further inflate the money supply, creating more malinvestments and delaying the necessary correction. (Better to maintain the currency’s purchasing power rather than dilute it.)
  3. Keep wage rates up --or keep money wages constant when prices start falling (which amounts to the same thing) -- which in the face of falling business demand is a sure recipe for unemployment. (Better to take your cut now, and give your business a chance to restructure.)
  4. Keep prices up (by means of the likes of green-plated building regulations) or add new costs to struggling businesses (such as the dopey Emissions Tax Scam), delaying the necessary corrections that will make businesses profitable again. (Better to let prices fall to the new level they need to post-crash. Trying to help recovery by artificially re-inflating prices is like backing over someone you’ve run over in your car, hoping that it will make the patient better.)
  5. "Stimulate" demand by spending on "infrastructure" projects just to make it look like the government is doing something -- when what that something actually does is to take money from profitable businesses in order to bid resources away from struggling businesses. (Better if government cuts its coat according to its new cloth, without competing with struggling businesses and raising the prices of now-much-scarcer resources.)
  6. Discourage saving and investment by increasing government spending (all of which is consumption spending) and maintaining high tax rates. (Better if government cuts its coat according to its new cloth, without taking now-much-scarcer resources away from struggling businesses.)
  7. Subsidise unemployment with make-work schemes paid out of money from profitable businesses that bid resources away from struggling businesses, delaying the shift of workers to fields where genuine jobs would otherwise be available. (Better to abolish all minimum-wage laws, so everybody who wants to work can work—and work in a job that pays its own way.)

As Murray Rothbard points out in America's Great Depression (from which I draw the above seven points) when you list logically the various ways that government could hamper market adjustments and hobble the adjustment process, you find that you have precisely listed the favourite "anti-depression" arsenal of government policy.

I said in 2008 all these variants of stimulunacy would be used, and would fail. And as Tom DiLorenzo explains above, each of them was and did—just as they were in the First Great Depression. Expect to see them all used here.  Again.

UPDATE 1: And you thought I’m being pessimistic?  Check out Egon von Greyerz from Matterhorn Asset Management [hat tip Foundation for Economic Growth]:  “There Will Be No Double Dip

_QuoteNo, there will be no double dip. It will be a lot worse. The world economy will soon go into an accelerated and precipitous decline which will make the 2007 to early 2009 downturn seem like a walk in the park. The world financial system has temporarily been on life support by trillions of printed dollars that governments call money. But the effect of this massive money printing is ephemeral since it is not possible to save a world economy built on worthless paper by creating more of the same. Nevertheless, governments will continue to print since this is the only remedy they know. Therefore, we are soon likely to enter a phase of money printing of a magnitude that the world has never experienced.  But this will not save the Western World which is likely to go in to a decline lasting at least 20 years but most probably a lot longer…

UPDATE 2: A couple of readers emailed asking me about some reading I might recommend to help them get informed.  Here’s some web articles:

  • ‘The global financial/economic crisis: causes & solutions’ – David McGregor
  • 'Great Myths of the Great Depression' - Lawrence Reed [sixteen-pages in PDF]
  • 'Saving the Depression: A New Look at World War II' - Mark Skousen
  • The Dangerous Return to Keynesian Economics’  - Steven Kates
  • ‘Regime Uncertainty: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Returned After the War - Robert Higgs
  • ‘Economic Recovery Requires Capital Accumulation, Not Government "Stimulus Packages"’ – George Reisman
  • ‘Production vs Consumption’ – George Reisman
  • Is Deleveraging Bad for the Economy?’ – Frank Shostak
  • ‘Lord Keynes & Say’s Law’ – Ludwig Von Mises
  • More articles at the Mises Institute’s Bailout Reader
  • More articles at the Ayn Rand Center’s Response to the Financial Crisis
  • And here’s some books (linked, where possible, to online editions):

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    Special Techniques Reveal Greek Statues' Original Appearance

    Guest Post by Jeff Perren.

    Amazing.

    A technique called ‘raking light' has been used to analyze art for a long time.

    A lamp is positioned carefully enough that the path of the light is almost parallel to the surface of the object. When used on paintings, this makes brushstrokes, grit, and dust obvious.

    On statues, the effect is more subtle. Brush-strokes are impossible to see, but because different paints wear off at different rates, the stone is raised in some places – protected from erosion by its cap of paint – and lowered in others. Elaborate patterns become visible.

    Ultraviolet is also used to discern patterns. ...

    Our image of Ancient Greece is inescapably colored, pardon the pun, by having grown up with the austere appearance of its white marble buildings and statues. The technique reveals just how colorful their culture truly was.

    Read the rest.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    The world’s best man-caves.

    These “fourteen famous man rooms” were selected by the Art of Manliness blog to show where great men went to collect their thoughts, to do their work --“a study where they would retreat to think, read, and write … a garage or workshop where they would tinker and experiment …  places a man could call his own.”

    From Ernest Hemingway to Thomas Edison to Frederick Douglass to Thomas Jefferson to Charles Darwin, the blog showcases some great work and withdrawing spaces in which some great men have found inspiration. These are my favourite two, the Oak Park Drafting Room of Frank Lloyd Wright—with the upper mezzanine storey hung on chains above the workroom below—and Mark Twain’s Writing Hut, in which he completed Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finntwain2 Describing his eyrie to a friend he talked of it “perched in complete isolation on the top of an elevation that commands leagues of valley and city and retreating ranges of distant blue hills.

    _Quote It is a cozy nest and just room in it for a sofa, table, and three or four chairs, and when the storms sweep down the remote valley and the lightning flashes behind the hills beyond and the rain beats upon the roof over my head—imagine the luxury of it.

    twain1 Wright’s aim was inspiration. And experiment. And production. This was the workspace he created when he set up on his own , and in which over the next twenty years he and his assistants produced 125 structures the like of which the world had never before seen.frank1 Visit the Art of Manliness blog to read about the importance of man spaces, and to see the other dozen places in which world-beating work was done. They might inspire you to do your own. [Hat tip Gus Van Horn]

    PS: I couldn’t resist adding this picture of Wright, below, at work (many  years after leaving Oak Park) in his writing office in Taliesin, Wisconsin.  It’s one of my favourites. FLW-TaliesinStudy

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    The brains of peaceful people … and murderers

    The experience of early childhood education suggests, and brain research confirms, that they way you think effects the way your brain develops. The process of myelinisation in a child’s early years (i.e., the process whereby the brain grows a fatty sheath around developing nerve fibres to better transmit its neural pulses) almost literally cements in the child’s way of thinking, and the “filing system” his brain is developing as he grows and explores his environment. This development of the brain doesn’t cease at five or six, it continues right up until we’re twenty-four or so.

    It’s a two-way process. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, We build our brains, thereafter they build us.

    California neuroscientist James Fallon studies the brains of psychopathic killers; people with badly built brains—who almost literally have got something missing. But what he also discovered was something “about libertarians that—just might—keep them peaceful.”

    And oddly, the part that might keep them peaceful is precisely the part that neuropsychologist Steven Hughes and Montessori researcher Angeline Lillard identify as the very part that Montessori education builds up (and that nannying and “helicopter parenting” discourages): the executive function.

    How ‘bout that.

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    James Cameron—a Titanic lack of balls [update 3]

    ChickenLittleWallpaper1024 Director James Cameron is famous for a movie in which you can spend two hours watching people drown (Titanic) and for the first movie in history about war between aliens and humans in which we’re meant to barrack for the aliens (Avatar). He also famously issued a challenge to climate skeptics, saying in a much-discussed March interview he wanted “to call those deniers out into the street at high noon and shoot it out with those boneheads."

    So Ann McElhinney, the co-writer and co-irector of Not Evil Just Wrong, accepted immediately—telling Cameron she’d “even drive herself to your Camegigantic gated Malibu double mansion to shoot it out.” So did Marc Morano of the popular Climate Depot website.  And new media mogul Andrew Breitbart.

    So Cameron accepted the challenge. “His people” set it all up. He agreed to a debate this week at a conference in Colorado. And then, bit by bit, he just kind’a chickened out, as Ann McElhinney describes:

    _Quote As the debate approached James Cameron's side started changing the rules.
    They wanted to change their team. We agreed.
    They wanted to change the format to less of a debate—to "a roundtable." We agreed.
        Then they wanted to ban our cameras from the debate. We could have access to their footage. We agreed.
        Bizarrely, for a brief while, the worlds most successful film maker suggested that no cameras should be allowed-that sound only should be recorded. We agreed
        Then finally James Cameron, who so publicly announced that he "wanted to call those deniers out into the street at high noon and shoot it out," decided to ban the media from the shoot out.
        He even wanted to ban the public. The debate/roundtable would only be open to those who attended the conference.
        No media would be allowed and there would be no streaming on the internet.  No one would be allowed to record it in any way.
        We all agreed to that.
        And then, yesterday, just one day before the debate, his representatives sent an email that Mr. "shoot it out " Cameron no longer wanted to take part. The debate was cancelled.
        James Cameron's behavior raises some very important questions.
        Does he genuinely believe in man made climate change?  If he believes it is a danger to humanity surely he should be debating the issue every chance he gets ?
        Or is it just a pose?
    The man who called for an open and public debate at "high noon" suddenly doesn't want his policies open to serious scrutiny.
       I was looking forward to debating with the film maker. I was looking forward to finding out where we agreed and disagreed and finding a way forward that would help the poorest people in the developing and developed world.
        But that is not going to happen because somewhere along the way James Cameron … has moved from King of the World to being King of the Hypocrites.

    And after cancelling the debate? “Cameron still went to the conference where he called climate skeptics ‘swine,’and sniffed that the skeptics weren’t “of his stature in society.”

    Make that King of the Fucking Hypocrites.

    JamesCameronatHighNoon (1)

    UPDATE 1: Says Climate Depot’s Marc Morano, “Cameron let his friends in the environmental community spook him out of this debate," When he was warned that he was probably going to lose and lose badly, he ran like a scared mouse.”

    UPDATE 2: Cameron busted on his stated reasons for withdrawing. Emails show the real story.

    UPDATE 3: Meanwhile, a founder of warmist site Real Climate demonstrates at Wikipedia how intellectual honesty is done in warmist circles, leading the charge as the most prolific climate information gatekeeper at Wikipedia.  If he can’t argue his case, he simply bans it.

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    Things are good. Things are very good.

    Despite all the doom and gloom about things, despite even the present recession, now is still a very good time to be alive.  The human environment has never been better. The author of The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley, reckons human beings are far better off now than in the past--and make significant advances when free exchanges of ideas and trade flourish. “When our species invented exchanging, it was as if ideas started having sex…” [Hat tip Vulcan’s Hammer]

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    Notes from a Google Barcamp: The something-for-nothing brigade

    Guest post by Paul van Dinther
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        THIS WEEKEND I PRESENTED some of my PlanetInAction.Com work at a Google Barcamp here in Auckland discussing various Google Technologies, and people’s reactions to it.
        The day started with a topic on so-called “net neutrality,” the idea that ISPs should not be able to favor some types of data over others. Almost to a man and woman, the attendees disapproved of Google’s proposal to prioritise certain types of traffic on its own new wireless networks.  The key claim was that airwaves and frequencies are in “public ownership.” Yet not a single person in the room recognised the simple fact that Google is proposing to do something on a network that Google itself owns!
        Google knows wireless data has a constrained capacity. Profit is the motivation that drives them to shape a service that has the potential for maximum return, thus enabling them to invest and sustain a profitable and usable level of service. A fact that was totally lost on a large part of the audience who simply wanted a say in property in someone else’s property.
        SO WE MOVED ON TO NZ government plans to block copyright offenders’ access to the internet.
        This time a mixed response. Some said "Yes" because it enabled offenders to be dealt with permanently, while others said "No" because it would make it impossible to access the internet for learning. "You mean porn?" someone inevitably intervened.
        Once again, nobody entertained the idea of keeping the government out of it altogether. I suggested that ISPs set their own terms and conditions in accordance with the law and, if those terms are broken—for violating copyrights, for example—then the ISP can and should cut you off. However, other ISP's should be free to open an account with you. No government meddling needed.
        Someone in the audience asked: "What if none of the ISP's want you anymore?" My response: "Well then you are screwed, no more internet for you." A teacher objected that "Internet access is a human right." Lot's of agreeing nods. The reasoning was that people “need” the internet for their education. (Need, apparently, being used as a claim on others.)
        I asked them if they were aware that in manufacturing this “right” they intended to impose a duty on someone else to deliver that right. Well that was easily solved for these people: government should play a bigger role in imposing that alleged duty.  Their “need” was that important, apparently.
        I pointed out that, since the government’s announcement that billions of taxpayer dollars would be poured into fibre infrastructure, many potential network investors had simply closed their wallets in response—resulting in less overall investment and far less diversity and choice, and with the government’s hands on the internet faucet.
        THE TOPIC SHIFTED TO privacy with regard to Google Maps and Google Earth—my area of expertise. I showed the audience how data from both Google Maps and Google Earth is contributed from many sources, such as the old historic aerial photography from 1963 of the North Shore. Someone suggested that Google would soon own all our information. It needed pointing out that Google collects, stores and distributes such information but does not own it, any more than a publisher does when he publishes someone else’s photos. Just as in a book, the old historic aerial photographs remain under the ownership of the original owner, in this case Land Information NZ, on whose website those same images can be found.
          "Google Street view invades our privacy" was the next fatuous whine, the whiners oblivious to the fact that all data in Street View is public information easily obtainable by anyone walking down a street.
        SO, A BIG DAY for the whiners.  But who exactly were these people? Well as it turned out there was a large contingent of school teachers among the audience.
        Why was I surprised.

    Cheers,

    Paul van Dinther

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    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    ‘Bather Arranging her Hair’ - Renoir

    renoir42 Bather Arranging her Hair, 1893
    92.5 x 74 cm, Oil on canvas

    Every nude is striking. Renoir’s more so than most.

    But what makes this—or Praxitiles’ Aphrodite of last night—a nude rather than just being naked?

    Kenneth Clark used to say that nakedness is you or me getting out of the bath, whereas a nude is altogether more stylised. Nudes are “ideal forms of art,” he maintained, while naked bodies are just their embarrassing, real-life counterparts. But Kenneth Clark was a prude.

    William Blake chose his words carefully when he said “Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed.” He meant that in every sense. An artist sees all of reality naked, and then paints it.  The nude is one very important, and delightful, part of that.

    Thank goodness.

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    St John of Aotearoa

    Following the advice of Imperator Fish, I did check out Bloomberg's hagiography of our Prime Minister, St John of Aotearoa—complete with endorsements of his miracles by both his party’s biggest backer, and his government’s biggest beneficiary.

    Unfortunately, I had just eaten…

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    DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Inflammable Material—Alcohol & ACT

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

    This week:  Alcohol and ACT - both flammable.

    1. NZ HERALD: Australia ‘should follow NZ on alcohol’ – expert
    THE DOCTOR SAYS: Can you believe Simon Power wants to enact 126 new regulations to tighten how other adults can drink – because he doesn’t think people have the knowledge, or right, to determine how to do so in way of which he approves. Now a fellow control-freak from Australia, Maree Teeson doesn’t feel these 126 new edicts (out of the 153 recommended by Law Commission Wowser-in-Chief Geoffrey Palmer) are anything close to enough, describing them as “lightweight” and “feather-like.” People like Maree Teeson, the sort of we-know-best-what’s-right-for-you guardians that nobody needs, is the living, breathing face of Nanny. Such people are the living, breathing raison d'être for the Libertarianz Party.

    2. NZ HERALD:Govt proposes new adventure tourism rules
    THE DOCTOR SAYS: All risky tourism ventures will have to be registered (read: taxed) and pass a safety audit (read: taxed + bureaucrats). Sigh. Yet more, not less, Nanny State from the party that promised to roll back the oppressive weight of government after the 2008 election. Because 39 people died in New Zealand in the course of 6 years doing “outdoor activities” (some of these, presumably, from underlying medical conditions that were unrelated to the activities), 1500 commercial operators are now under threat of yet more regulation. Nothing like using a sledgehammer to kill a gnat. (Pun intentional.)

    3. NZ HERALD: Alcohol clampdown unfairly targets dairies, owners say
    THE DOCTOR SAYS: This got so far up my nose I could feel it tickling my frontal lobes. So.. in response, the Libertarianz Party have put out a press statement calling for Simon Power to stop bullying shop-owners:

    Libz Defend Dairy Owners' Rights
    Libertarianz Party leader
    Richard McGrath described Simon Power's proposed legislation to restrict the sale of alcohol at dairies and convenience stores as a "clumsy, racist, attempt to impose his Victorian attitudes on young people." Dr McGrath urged dairy owners to vote Libertarianz at next year's election, "in protest at the National Party's attempts to interfere in their businesses."
    "Once again, Simon Power shows a scant regard for the wishes of communities and the livelihoods of honest traders," he said. "His bullying of dairy owners is a pointed attack on the ethnic groups that own a disproportionately high number of these shops, and the consumers that purchase their wares."
    "As for the Minister's desire to restrict access to alcohol for all under-20-year-olds in response to the actions of a minority: will his next edict be a mandated bedtime regime for 18 and 19 year olds? After all, if they can't be trusted to drink in moderation, how on earth could they possibly get themselves to bed at a decent hour?"   
    Dr McGrath urged New Zealanders to embrace common-law solutions to the problems of underage drinking. "Dairy owners should be able to sell whatever they like to other adults, subject to mutual consent. Parents should be held accountable for the actions of their children. Therefore, if minors are harmed through alcohol use, their parents or guardians should be questioned and possibly prosecuted. In turn, parents should be able to launch civil action against anyone who gives or sells their under-age children alcohol."
    Furthermore, he said, those who commit crime against property and other people should be held responsible and liable for any damage they cause. "Victims of crime committed by those under the influence of intoxicating substances should be compensated in full by the offenders."
    Dr McGrath reminded business owners that they had the full backing of the Libertarianz Party in being able to defend themselves from robbers and burglars with appropriate levels of defensive weaponry. "Anyone who tries to rob a dairy or shop deserves to be neutralised rapidly, as the situation warrants."
    "The scapegoating of dairy owners, as exemplified by Simon Power's proposed laws, is consistent with the National Party's war on small businesses. The Libertarianz Party, on the other hand, believes in slashing income tax, abolishing GST, opening ACC up to competition, ending liquor licensing laws and repealing the Resource
    Management Act, in order to to make the establishment and operation of small businesses simpler and easier."

    4. STUFF: ACT’s Heather Roy under pressure to quit Parliament
    THE DOCTOR SAYS: ACT party hack Hilary Calvert has been flown up from Dunedin and is now circling like a vulture over Heather Roy. However, in breaking news, Rodney Hide’s “leadership” is being challenged by former ACT board member and list candidate Peter Tashkoff. In a highly damaging broadside which adds fuel to the flames of ACT’s self-destruction, Tashkoff (who was beaten in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate in 2008 by the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party candidate) said Hide was a “failure” and a “liability”—and he was so disgusted at Hide’s handling of the Roy saga that he would challenge the leader’s candidacy in Epsom.
        Hide, the former perk-buster, whose chops were busted when he milked taxpayers and used the very same perk for his girlfriend that he had formerly railed against.
        Hide, who has done irreparable damage to the cause of freedom by his behaviour inside and out of Parliament.
        Hide, who has set back the cause of liberty with his determination to fit the necks of Auckland regional ratepayers into one Super-Sized Noose.
        Rodney Hide needs to go, and ACT themselves needs to either return to their core values (if they have any - they don’t appear anywhere on ACT’s website) or disband.

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

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    David Bain has a job

    “Did you hear that David Bain has finally got a job? He now has a paper run in Fielding.”

    Just another David Bain joke to add to the list.

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    Save the Whale

    Today’s the day that Whale Oil appears in court to defend his challenge against the use of name suppression to protect the guilty, and the well-connected—especially when those two are the same.

    Whatever you might think about Whale himself, aka Cam Slater, his is a legitimate form of principled protest.  Of civil disobedience. Breaking the law, on principle, and taking your lumps for the breach is an appropriate way to protest unprincipled law. But it’s activism that comes with a price. A big one.

    So if you agree with his protest against the law and you’re able to help an impecunious blogger make it, head here to learn how to make a deposit to his fighting fund—or click on that “Chip In” widget up there on my right sidebar.

    New Article: ‘Obama's Playbook: Why He Keeps Saying Dumb Things’

    _jeffrey-perren Guest Post by Jeff Perren

    Another of my articles has been published at Pajamas Media -- Obama's Playbook: Why He Keeps Saying Dumb Things.  Here's an excerpt:

    _Quote The key to everything Obama does is that he truly is a committed, 99-44/100ths pure progressive. That fact explains not only the content of his views but why he keeps stumbling over one controversy after the next. As Jonah Goldberg expressed it in Liberal Fascism, progressivism is “a totalitarian political religion,” and Barack Obama is one of its most faithful acolytes. He’s simply acting in accordance with his personal theology.
        Unlike even semi-rational philosophies, progressivism is built on sheer fantasy. Other doctrines may make errors, some of them very serious, but most are built on at least some foundation of real-world evidence and logical analysis. Progressivism is one of the few that is actually anti-evidence and anti-logic.
        That assertion is not a wild-eyed interpretation by a crazed right-winger. It’s the official view of progressive intellectuals themselves. Merging with its offshoot of postmodernism, progressivism holds that people are unable to grasp evidence first-hand or to be objective about its interpretation.
        Postmodern philosophers from Hegel to Dewey to Heidegger, Herbert Marcuse, and Richard Rorty have said so. Their students and followers are just applying what they’ve been taught. Those individuals are the ones who shaped Obama, nurtured his education and careers, and helped get him elected.

    Read more.

    Your feedback is invited here, there, and at my blog.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

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    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    ‘Aphrodite’ - Praxiteles

    aphrodite1

    For the first time in history, in Classical Greece, sculptors began depicting the beauty of the human figure—and the master of Classical Greek sculpture was Praxiteles.

    His naked Aphrodite—the Goddess of love, depicted preparing to bathe--was so famous, that dozens of later Roman copies were made. This is the marble original, c.350 BC. It was the first monumental female nude in classical sculpture.

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    QUOTE OF THE DAY: Accentuate the just

    _Quote Just as justice demands primary emphasis on recognizing the good, so public policy must primarily be formulated to make life for the good and the innocent possible. Dealing with criminals [and drunks] is a secondary issue.
                          - Amit Ghate, “You Can't Have the Time Back

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    “A bottle store on every corner…”

    Announcing yesterday’s package of puritanism, Simon Power-Lust signalled that he will be continuing the attack on small bottle-store owners begun by Helen Clark the very week bottle-store owner Navtej Singh was shot.  One of the three big “improvements” delivered by his reforms, says Simon, is that it “gives communities a say in when and where liquor outlets can open.”  The unspoken announcement being: “We’re going to make it damned hard to get a new license, or renew an existing one.”

    This frankly just blames small-business owners for selling to wiling customers.  It’s the same sort of finger-pointing in which several hundred people indulged in Manukau last week, marching on council buildings to complain about what other people are doing. One woman in the rally, who revealed to the interviewer that she had a god on her side (she didn’t reveal which one), complained that in Manukau there is now “a bottle store on every corner.” “That’s not what we want as a community,” she huffed.

    Well, I beg to differ.

    If there really were a bottle store on every corner (there are 350 bottle stores in Manukau, but many more corners) then that would in fact be a sign that this is precisely what “the community” does want—because the customers of those bottle stores, who come from “the community,” are the very people who are keeping all these bottle stores open, demonstrating as clearly as you can that this is precisely what “the community” does want.

    So what the woman should have said was “this is not what I want.” “The community, c’est moi.” But why is her voice more important than any other?  And why should her puritanism give her any power to to tell you and me when and where we can buy a bottle of wine? 

    Well, on that one you’ll have to ask Simple Simon. Because in “giving communities a say in when and where liquor outlets can open,” he is simply giving a say to busybodies like this one, and taking it away from the communities themselves. Because like that woman, Simple Simon is completely unaware that communities already are “having a say” in where and when outlets are open—having a say by voting with their wallet every time they make a purchase.  

    They’re called customers, Simon. At the end of the day it’s not you or I or anyone else who decides whether or not a bottle store or any other store stays open.  They do: their customers.  And these customers are the community.

    Perhaps you should listen to what they’re saying. Because shutting down these small businesses won’t limit demand for alcohol, it will simply change where it’s bought. And meanwhile, as Eric Crampton observes, there are a lot of immigrant families whose businesses are going to be destroyed.

    RELATED POSTS:

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    Monday, August 23, 2010

    ‘Prisoners From the Front’ – Winslow Homer

    PrisonersFront1866 Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910). Prisoners from the Front, 1866.
    Oil on canvas. 61 x 96.5 cm (24 x 38 in.)

    I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ stunning TV documentary series on the unspeakable tragedy that was the American Civil War—four years when the country tore itself apart over the stain of slavery the Land of the Free should never have countenanced.

    The character of the men making up the war’s two armies is well expressed in Winslow Homer’s classic portrait, representing three rebel soldiers of varying temperaments undergoing the interrogation of a sober Union general.

    It remains one of the most well-known images from the whole blood-soaked struggle.

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    Drinking-age humbug [update 3]

    Is it just me, or is there something vaguely distasteful about middle-aged people who’ve made fuck ups out of their own lives making up rules for how 18-20 year-olds should spend theirs—rules, especially, about drinking.  Nothing is more calculated to flush out the fuck-up’s inner puritan.

    And when those middle-aged fuck-ups are politicians ready to “bring out the ban”—to ban all 18-20 year-olds from buying alcohol simply because a few, a very few, 18-20 year-olds have behaved badly—then that just stinks of rank humbug.

    Not every 18-20 year-old is a train crash waiting to happen, any more than every politician is a braindead, spendthrift fat fool who wants to download porn, travel extravagantly, or play fast and loose with confidential defence documents (though tarring all politicians with the same brush claim is infinitely more justifiable).  Blaming them all for the bad behaviour of some is frankly ludicrous, not to say iniquitous.

    And asserting that people considered old enough to vote those politicians into power are not yet old enough to choose what goes into their shopping trolley is frankly indefensible.

    Young Jenna Raeburn makes the case for keeping the status quo far more soberly than I can manage. Her restraint is admirable.

    UPDATE 1:

    _Quote_thumb[2] The government will be unveiling its liquor policy today, and a core element seems to be national opening hours, with off-licences restricted to opening between 7am and 11pm, and bars and nightclubs between 8am and 4am…. What next? A legislated national bedtime?

    UPDATE 2:  Matt Nolan at The Visible Hand wonders why the wowsers can’t even get their outrage straight:

    _Quote_thumb[2]One of the main reasons the government wants to crack down on alcohol is because of thescenes no civilized society can relish,“, which is when people of the age of 18-24 go into town and run amok....
        So they are introducing a policy that will give people the incentive to go into town, instead of drinking at home…so more people will just drink in town (where it is likely more student bars with low margins and high quantities will open), and with them already in town there can be even more people to “run amok.”

    More unintended consequences of nannying.

    UPDATE 3The liquor policy is unveiled. They’ve gone for a half-nanny rather than the full reach-around begged for by the Law Commission. Paul Walker makes a number of cogent objections to being bossed around by Simple Simon. Roger Kerr makes a toast to moderately common sense.

    UPDATE 4: Two new Facebook groups you may like: Open Bars and Being Able To Buy Alcohol At Night.  Because “why should it be illegal to buy a bottle of wine after 11pm?”

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    I Ran [updated]

    Q: What’s more important in world politics than the mis-named Ground Zero Mosque?

    A: The fact that the world’s biggest sponsor of terrorism has just gone nuclear—in rhetoric as well as reality.

    Q: And how was this allowed to happen?

    A: Thirty years of bipartisan appeasement:

    _Quote Consider the rise of Islamic Totalitarianism. In 1979, a new Iranian regime founded on Islamic [] principles held fifty-two Americans hostage for four hundred and forty-four days, while America helplessly begged for their return and Iranian leaders had a world stage to proclaim their superiority to the nation they call the ‘Great Satan.’ … [W]ith America on her knees, the burgeoning anti-American movement achieved a crucial victory.
        [Did this] warrant a military response? Did it rise to the level of a direct attack sufficient to place us at the point of ‘last resort’ with Iran and other nations that sponsor Islamic terrorism? Not according to Jimmy Carter. What about after two hundred and forty-three marines were killed in Lebanon in 1983? Not according to Ronald Reagan. Or after Khomeini’s fatwa offered terrorists a bounty to destroy writer Salman Rushdie and his American publisher for expressing an ‘un-Islamic’ viewpoint in 1989? Not according to George Bush, Sr. Or after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993? Not according to Bill Clinton. The pattern is telling.

    It is a pattern that has allowed Iran’s Mullahs to pursue the Islamist Holy Grail combining nuclear enrichment with the sponsorship of world terrorism—from Lebanon to Gaza to Iraq to Afghanistan—while allowing themselves to think the pursuit will attract no response.

    Since future decisions are so often made on the basis of past actions, it underscores again how a forceful response at the right time can quell a conflict before it starts; whereas the lack of one so frequently leads to dangerous escalation, and much more force being necessary much later.

    I-RAN-Over-30-Years-of-Bipartisan-Appeasement-4-NRB [Cartoon and article by Bosch Fawstin]

    U.S. "reassures" Israel that Iran is "at least 12 months" from nuclear bomb despite starting reactor today…  There, there. You're not going to get obliterated today; it's just later on where things could get a little dicey…  Just try not to think of the idea that the "dying" Lockerbie bomber could, theoretically, outlive your country as you know it.

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    Attacking the messenger doesn’t alter the message

    Um, can someone tell me why it’s so important to know who leaked that 82-page memo last week confirming how far ACT has strayed from being a party of ideas, rather than addressing what is in it, i.e.,

    • that ACT’s caucus has discarded the realm of ideas altogether, and now fights people instead;
    • that unless ACT urgently tries to expand the market for its ideas, something at which it has signally failed, it will remain reliant on National’s favour in the seat of Epsom;
    • that National Party polling in Epsom suggests Hide has only a “tenuous” hold on it, yet, (almost unbelievably given its reliance on the seat for its very existence), no ACT polling has been done to determine the truth of that;
    • that the thuggish David Garrett appears to run the caucus;
    • that secure documents in Act’s offices are just the opposite;
    • that Act is a dysfunctional party run by an ego made fatter by ministerial office, in denial about its imminent oblivion.

    The document itself argues “Act sees [politics] as primitive combat, with a need to destroy a colleague's reputation” rather than address the real issues, and it offers ample evidence to back up the claim. 

    The reaction to the document’s release tends to just further confirms the thesis, wouldn’t you say?

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    Australia: Weak govt? Not a problem. [Update 3]

    Following the Australian election, which left both Libs and Labor in equal place on either side of the “can’t-form-a-government-on-their-own” line, commentators are talking about the “problems” inherent in having a weak government.

    Problems? 

    In just the last few years, so-called “strong government” has delivered to Australia a ridiculously profligate programme of economic stimulunacy; eye-watering deficits; a home-insulation programme that killed installers; a tax to strip-mine the economic backbone of Australia … and Kevin Rudd. And it left Australia on the brink of having an emissions tax scam inflicted on it.

    So by that standard, weak government—which simply means that this kind of stupidity will be harder for a parliament to deliver—will be a good thing, not a problem.

    UPDATE 1: “Strong” government delivered the destructively inept toe-rag called Wayne Swan.  Fortunately there still exist people like Michael Kroger with the gumption to tell him the truth to his face. [Hat tip Tim Blair]

    UPDATE 2: Word up to the xenophobes: According to a NSW Labor activist, Gillard’s anti-immigration views were a key factor in the collapse of Labor’s vote: [Hat tip Tim Blair]

    _Quote In our attempt to go after the white bread conservative vote in Lindsay, we have lost entire ethnic communities, our traditional base. It’s a disaster,” the [activist] said.
       
    “In 25 years, I have not seen people of Chinese background walk past people with Labor how-to-vote cards. As soon as she started talking about too many immigrants, we lost every ethnic vote.”

    One bright spot, perhaps, in an election in which bagging would-be immigrants seemed to become a sport for both main parties.

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