Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Thanks again, Orcon

Well that's just great.

I'm back online for just one day, and then Orcon's Auckland network decides to shit itself, and I'm back offline again. Orcon--the ISP that's proved so unreliable in recent years you'd think it was owned by the government.

And of course, you'd be right: "On 12 June 2007, Kordia, a state owned telecommunications company, purchased Orcon for NZ$24.3m, effectively nationalizing it."

So this is my only post for today, I'm afraid. Sitting around in internet cafes isn't my idea of fun. See you when Orcon decides the weather is sufficiently good to provide a service.

Monday, 17 January 2011

MONDAY RAMBLE: It’s 2011 already. Welcome back.

As we all head back from the beach and begin easing gently back into a new year, here’s some pertinent news and comment that appeared around the net while the rest of us dozed.

  • Let’s face it, 2010 was a disaster. Dave Barry gives a month-by-month reminder of how awful it was, and (almost) makes it all hilariously better.
    Dave Barry’s 2010 Year in Review – Dave Barry,  M I A M I   H E R A L D
  • What could be more topical in 2011 NZ than a discussion of the property of waterways? NZers insisting NZ’s waterways and foreshores be kept in so-called “public ownership” while bewailing the tragic consequences of this commons might reflect that “this “public ownership”  is increasingly thwarting the life-serving nature of waterways as sources of drinking water, fish, and recreation—not to mention what it does for private property and resource use.
    The Practicality of Private Waterways
    – J. Brian Phillips & Alan Germani,  O B J E C T I V E  S T A N D A R D
    [PS: Read the intro, and I think you’ll agree it’s worth purchasing the whole article]
  • Pictures here of a state under water.
    Four days that broke our hearts [Slideshow] – B R I S B A N E  C O U R I E R  M A I L
  • “The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, though a terrible tragedy, is not of historic significance. More significant is the efforts of the Left to blame this on the Right, particularly the Tea Party movement… Now consider violence in relation to the Left—the very people trying to use this tragedy to indict the Tea Partiers. I heard Bill Maher say on TV that this sort of violence is not found on the Left. Only two words are needed to refute Maher's outrageous claim: ‘Bill Ayers.’”
     A Philosopher Reflects on the Giffords Shooting – Harry Binswanger,  C A P   M A G
  • What could a famously contrarian investor possibly see in a country of 4 million people whose economy is mostly based on agriculture and tourism? Here's a thought: maybe Peter Thiel wants to turn New Zealand into the next Silicon Valley. Or maybe even the libertarian utopia of his dreams. [Hat tip Eric Crampton]Billionaire Facebook Investor Peter Thiel Pours Money Into His "Utopia," New Zealand – S . F .  G A T E
  • For the first time ever the US Congress is reading the US Constitution in the House—and being asked to justify all new laws on the basis of the Constitution (like that’s going to last). Even the New York Times is almost excited.
    House Reading of Constitution Is Not Without Issues – N E W  Y O R K  T I M E S
  • Bolton 2012 T 4 FB Um, how interesting would it be if John Bolton ran for US President? Talk about polarising. [Hat tip (and T-shirt) Bosch Fawstin]
    ‘The Man with the Mustache’ 
    – Jay Nordlinger, N A T I O N A L   R E V I E W
  • Distressingly, Denis Dutton died at the end of December. He was a giant. The Wall Street Journal and the UK Spectator explain why you should care; Eric Crampton tells how inspiring it was to have such a man as friend and colleague; someone called Robin Maconie wonders how the open-minded Dutton ended up (like Karl Popper did) at such a closed-minded university; and you get the chance to enjoy again Dr Dutton’s brilliant presentation at TED just last year.
    Denis Dutton showed how intellectual life can be made to flourish on the Web 
    –  W A L L  S T R E E T  J O U R N A L
    A lesson in living the Skeptical life – James Allan,  S P E C T A T O R
    Defending the Open Society: the Heritage of Denis Dutton – Robin Maconie,  S C O O P
    Eulogy – Eric Crampton,  O F F S E T T I N G   B E H A V I O U R

  • Austrian economics and the ideas of Ludwig Von Mises are increasingly making inroads, everywhere from academia to the US Congress’s Federal Oversight Committee. Pete Boettke discusses both.
    INTERVIEW: Peter Boettke on the Rise of Austrian Economics, Its Academic Inroads and Why the Market Should Decide
    -  D A I L Y  B E L L
    PODCAST: Boettke on Mises - Russ Roberts,  E C O N T A L K
  • “Should economics be pursued as a profession or a vocation? Below I argue that this choice of subjective orientation is enormously important, and tends to dictate whether an economist will serve the cause of truth and freedom, or waste his or her talents on convenience, ephemera, and statism.”
    Economics: Vocation or Profession? – Joseph Salerno,  M I S E S  D A I L Y
  • Matt Nolan has spotted the emergence of a bubble. A very, very dangerous one.
     I think I’ve found a bubble – T . V . H . E .
  • Despite the fatuous claims of Prime Ministers and so-called economists some months ago that the “silver lining” of Christchurch’s earthquake would be all the “stimulus” it would create, there has been precisely no economic boom in Christchurch despite the injection of up to $600m in insurance payouts. Once again, the Broken Window Fallacy wins against the economic morons.
    $600m in payouts - why no boom?  - S T U F F
  • We’re “addicted” to oil. “Renewable” energies are better than oil. “Peak oil” is on us. Oil is a “deadly pollutant whose use must be capped.
    Is there anything so crucial to modern life which has attracted so many downright untruths?
    The 6 Myths About Oil – F O R B E S
  • George Reisman debunks a favourite nostrum frequently peddled by labour unions and the denizens of the Sub-Standard. “Labor unions like to argue that the payment of higher wages is to the self-interest of employers because the wage earners will use their higher wages to make additional purchases from business firms, thereby increasing the sales revenues and profits of business firms. However, wrong and foolish it may be, this is an argument worth analyzing in some detail, because it can provide a gateway to a discussion of the actual sources of profit in the economic system…”
    Where profit comes from – G E O R G E   R E I S M A N ‘ S   B L O G
  • Crikey. You’re supposed to love Friedrich Hayek. Not looooooove Friedrich Hayek.
  • I can now proudly present the winner of the Atlas Shrugged video contest …

    …. which just beat out these two entries:

  • Are these the perfect beach shelters? Order yours now, direct from the Crimea. And good luck getting consent from the grey ones to erect them on a beach close to you.
    Y-BIO habitation  - A R C H I T I Z E R
48325843 4212b10c
  • Religion is supposed to be crucial to achieving happiness. Hard to believe when it undercuts every important precondition of self-esteem.
    Religion vs. Self-Esteem – Tom Bowden, A . R . C . T . V .
  • If you're a student looking to improve your grades and can afford to spend $1.99 or $2.99, you may like three apps for iPhone/iPod Touch that Wolfram Alpha released today.
    Wolfram Alpha: apps for algebra, calculus, music – R E F E R E N C E   F R A M E
  • Here are more than one-hundred things real people never say about advertising. [Hat tip Joe Green]
    Things Real People Don't Say About Advertising
  • Here’s a remarkable map of the world: a “moving illustration of the relationships that define our modern world.”
    Infographic of the Day: The Facebook Map of the World – F A S T   D E S I G N
  • Aussies can’t play cricket anymore (and let’s be fair, neither can we), but anyone who can say they’re “so hungry they could eat the crotch out of a dead leper’s undies” can still piss all over anyone else’s slang. {Hat tip Quote Unquote]
    Aussie slang – 6  F E E T  U N D E R
  • Women have no feelings. [Hat tip Hayden W.]

  • Sounds of summer. Summer Song. Louis Armstrong & Dave Brubeck. “I dig summer. that’s my time of year.”
  • Sounds like summer. Singing the Blues. Bix Beiderbecke & Frankie Trumbauer.
  • “Who loves the sun? Who cares that it makes breezes?”

Welcome to 2011,

SUMMER SECONDS: Some propositions on the “right” to privacy

Summer. Time to relax, unwind, and take out classic articles from the archives for a second time around. Here’s one from 2009 . . .

People talk about there being a “right to privacy.” But does such a thing exist, or is is the promotion of this “right” above all others merely a convenient means by which to obliterate more genuine rights? Let’s get a few thoughts going on this so-called “right.” Here’s a few to start you off”

“An issue such as ‘the invasion of privacy’ cannot be discussed without a clear definition of the right to privacy, and this cannot be discussed outside the context of clearly defined and upheld individual rights.”
    - Ayn Rand

“Privacy: it’s a good, not a right. It’s not something to be recognised, it’s something to be earned.”
    - PC

“Yes, we each of us need privacy. But our need for something is not a claim on someone else.”
    - PC

“Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.”
    - Ayn Rand

“Social democrats are collectivists of the first order. For them society is a large beehive or ant colony, and they are convinced that they have landed the job of managing it. It is a bit ironic, actually, since it is usually social democrats who champion ‘the right of privacy.’ Apart from that, though, liberal democrats do not acknowledge the existence of individual rights. Most of all, they are nearly unanimous in denying private property rights. . .  these people dogmatically assume that "the wealth of the country" is for them to use and dispose of as they see proper. Individuals have no rights to their resources, income or wealth, especially not those individuals who have plenty of them.”
    - Tibor Machan

“Does a human being have the right to privacy? Well, is human nature such that in their community lives people require their own realm of authority, their own sovereignty—self-government—with respect of various aspects of their lives? Of course they do—that’s what being a responsible moral agent amounts to. So the right to privacy exists. It stands as a bulwark against meddlesome other people, especially governments.”
    - Tibor Machan

“Privacy is a good -- like food, music, or love. So while we have the right to take the actions required to secure our privacy via judicious use of our property and voluntary contracts with others, we have no direct right to privacy per se. . . Laws designed to protect privacy undermine genuine rights to property and contract.”
    - Amy Peikoff

“The ‘right to privacy’ is a misguided attempt to save some shreds of certain [legitimate] rights while retaining a way to eviscerate others.”
    - Arline Mann

Discuss—especially with reference to the difference between goods and rights.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

KRIS SAYCE: Stimulating Climate Change

_Kris_Sayce Guest post by Kris Sayce 

You can’t help but love him… Michael Pascoe of the Fairfax papers. In today’s effort he comes up with two beauties:

“And now, with all but the hard-core climate change denialists accepting that extreme weather will become more common, there’s no excuse at all. Streets and houses that flooded in 1974 are flooding again now and will flood again.”


“As for the economics of it, yes, there are terrible numbers being bandied around, but while there’s damage and destruction and loss, there’s also massive stimulus in the rebuilding. The economy is as strong as the determination of the people. It’ll be all right.”

We’ve already exposed this economic flood stimulus as – to use the Fairy Ruddfather’s phrase – bunkum.

There is no stimulus.

But Pascoe isn’t the only one spinning this yarn.  Westpac economist Matthew Hassan and St George economist Justin Smirk writing over at Business Spectator provide more detail:

“There would be also the boost to economic activity due to cleaning and rebuilding activity. A rough rule of thumb is that the rebuilding effect is about ½ the size of the output loss. We estimate a 0.1 per cent contribution to GDP.”

At least they admit that the net position is no stimulus to the economy.  The net position is a cost.  That is, it doesn’t stimulate the economy.

For example, point to the stimulus in this photo… if you can:

Cars and debris piled up on a railway bridge near Grantham.Source: The Age

No, I can’t see a stimulus either.  I can see a whacking great big clean-up bill though… I can see that a bunch of people will be without a car for a few weeks… I can see that Queensland Railways will need to replace and inspect a whole lot of train rails.

This idea of economic stimulus from natural disaster is ridiculous.

Money Morning reader Graham sent us an email a week ago.  He was responding to our comment in Friday’s Money Morning about how HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham had claimed the floods would result in a boost to the economy. Graham wrote:

“Just like the 250 homes rebuilt, out of the 2000+ homes destroyed on black Saturday? Now two years on! I’m one of those still trying to rebuild and get my family back home in Kinglake, and I’ve seen many families fall apart or go under as a result! The only way I can get my family back home is to rebuild my home, myself, nail by nail… Forget the household durable goods! ALL the ‘under insurance’ money goes into rebuilding a roof over your head first…”

We also wrote about the stimulus nonsense in Money Weekend.  You can read that article here.

The way mainstream logic works, the next thing we’ll hear from them is that people dying in the floods is good because it’ll create more jobs for gravediggers!

I mean, seriously.  There’s something wrong with these people.

Not only that, but many readers wrote in to point out that flooding isn’t covered by most insurance policies.

The Australian Securities and Exchange Commission’s (ASIC) website points out:

“Because flood cover is not offered in most house and contents insurance policies, people may find out too late that they are not covered for the losses caused by a flood.”

Oops!  There goes the argument that foreign insurance firms will pay for the flood damage.  Not that we bought that argument anyway.

And the front page of today’s Australian Financial Review (AFR) – just this moment dropped on our desk by Australian Wealth Gameplan editor, Dan Denning – notes:

“More than half of all insured homes in Queensland are not covered for flood damage, and insurers have ruled out making voluntary payments to compensate policyholders.”

Which is fair enough.  If policyholders take the risk that their home won’t flood, it’s hardly fair to ask the insurance firms to cough up for the damage after the fact.

So who’ll pay?  The individuals themselves, or charties, or equally likely the taxpayer.  Now, you may be fine with that.  But let’s not kid ourselves with the pathetic argument that the floods will provide a boost to the economy.

And we’ll guess that in the town of Toowoomba, much fewer than half the households will have flood insurance.  Considering there’s no major river that flows through the town, and having looked at Google Maps we’re struggling to even find the creeks that supposedly exist.

Oh, and the fact that it’s 691 metres above sea level would also make you think flooding isn’t likely.

But it didn’t take long for the Climate Changers to point the finger.  Again, Pascoe wrote:

“And now, with all but the hard-core climate change denialists accepting that extreme weather will become more common, there’s no excuse at all. Streets and houses that flooded in 1974 are flooding again now and will flood again.”

Mr. Pascoe may care to remember that the world existed before 1974.  But listen to him and the other climate changers and you’d think all these floods are a recent event.  That it’s all down to what we’ve done to the planet since the early 1970s.

Fair dues though.  He’s not the only one.  Reuters quotes Matthew England of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales:

“I think people will end up concluding that at least some of the intensity of the monsoon in Queensland can be attributed to climate change.

“The waters off Australia are the warmest ever measured and those waters provide moisture to the atmosphere for the Queensland and northern Australia monsoon.”

David Jones, head of climate monitoring and prediction at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne chips in:

“The first thing we can say with La Nina and El Nino is it is now happening in a hotter world.
    “So the El Nino droughts would be expected to be exacerbated and also La Nina floods because rainfall would be exacerbated.”

The Reuters reporter notes that Mr. Jones added – but without directly quoting him – that “it would be some years before any climate change impact on both phenomena might become clear.”

Very convenient.  Say it’s caused by climate change but then push the proof out to some time in the future.

But if all these terrible humans have caused the climate to change and monsoons to increase and floods to worsen… how do we explain the following chart:

Highest annual flood peaks for Brisbane

Source: Bureau of Meteorology

It’s from the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and shows “Known Floods in the Brisbane & Bremer River Basin”.

You can click here to see the chart for yourself.  This particular chart records levels at the City gauge.

A second chart records levels at the Ipswich gauge:

Highest annual flood peaks for Ipswich

Source: Bureau of Meteorology

I don’t know about you, but can we really say that flooding on the Brisbane River is a new occurrence?

I wouldn’t have thought so.  In fact there were more “major” floods in the Nineteenth century than in the following centuries.

So the idea that the floods are proof of climate change and that we must do something about it now before it gets worse, is just plain nonsense.

As we’ve pointed out before, your editor has no clue whether climate change is genuine or not.  We simply don’t have the brain power to figure it out.

But what we do know is that floods happen.  They happen regularly.  In fact we’ve had a lot of rain down in Melbourne too – although not as bad as in Queensland.

And what we also know is that it’s disingenuous for the climate changers – and non-climate changers – to pick individual weather events and claim it’s proof that climate change does or doesn’t exist.

As far as we can see the Queensland floods provide about as much proof of climate change as they do about disasters being good for an economy… in other words, none.


Kris Sayce
For Money Morning Australia

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

How to Eliminate "Inflammatory Right-wing Rhetoric"

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

I don't have much to say about the recent Arizona shootings by madman Jared Loughner, except this:

Many commentators almost as mad as Loughner have attempted to connect this lunatic's actions to "inflammatory right-wing rhetoric." I won't go into here the long list of inflammatory left-wing rhetoric (and actions) that spill over into open violence. (Michelle Malkin has a good summary — with detailed proof — if you're interested.)

Instead, I'll make a suggestion.

If the Left wants to eliminate at a stroke the vast majority of heated, hated right-wing rhetoric there's a very simple way to do that: give up.

Get out of the way. Stop advocating the violation of individual rights every day in every way. Stop trying to get legislation passed that steals private property for the purpose of funding your favorite social engineering goals. Stop extolling the alleged virtue of interpreting the U.S. Constitution in ways that further Progressive goals. End your advocacy of coercion through government.

Your cause is not noble, your methods are not virtuous, your philosophy is not just. Your ideas are more than mistaken; they're immoral, impractical, and unconstitutional. Change your philosophy and change your behavior and 'the Right' will have no longer have an incentive to fight back against your support for squishy tyranny.

Until then, you can expect the rhetoric to continue. A vocal segment of the American people will simply no longer sit back passively and watch their freedom get corroded away, one bad edict at a time.

Until then, the intellectual revolution to restore it will continue undiminished.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Paying Debt With More Debt

_jeffrey-perren Guest Post by Jeff Perren


U.S. Debt 1940-2010

The U.S. Government is staring into the maw of its self-made debt crisis. This week, it crosses a Rubicon—or would like to. As Tad de Haven at Cato explains:

_Quote The [U.S. Government’s] present debt limit is $14.3 trillion, and total outstanding debt subject to the limit currently stands at just under $14 trillion. Given that policymakers don’t have the will to cut spending immediately in order to keep the debt from hitting the limit, a political battle over raising it is unfolding.
    The Obama administration is basically warning that congressional (i.e., Republican) intransigence over raising the limit could potentially lead to the federal government defaulting on its debt, because it needs to borrow money in order to make its debt payments…

Borrowing money in order to make its debt payments. Once again we see that something the U.S. Federal Government does routinely, if practiced by a private individual (Bernie Madoff, say), would be seen as financial suicide.

The Feds get away with it, of course. You and I (and Bernie) don't, of course, because unlike the government we can't force others to pay our debts — not without going to jail, that is.

Say, that gives me an idea...

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The History of the Yo-Yo

_jeffrey-perren Guest post by Jeff Perren

One of my favorite pastimes is reading about inventions. About.com has a good, short article on the surprisingly long and colorful history of the Yo-Yo.


yo-yo1_Quote They have been around for over twenty-five hundred years... Around 1800, the yoyo moved into Europe from the Orient...
     It is a Tagalog word, the native language of the Philippines, and means "come back." In the Philippines, the yoyo was used as a weapon for over 400 hundred years. Their version was large with sharp edges and studs and attached to thick twenty-foot ropes for flinging at enemies or prey...
    Modern inventor Donald] Duncan's first contribution to yo-yo technology was the slip string, consisting of a sliding loop around the axle instead of a knot. With this revolutionary improvement, the yo-yo could do a trick called "sleep" for the first time…

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Still More Gangster Government

Guest post by Jeff Perren

There is, sadly, more gangster government on display in the U.S. A new example arrives almost daily now. Merrill Matthews writing for Forbes has one.

"Take the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka, ObamaCare). The law empowers the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to monitor health insurance premium increases. If HHS bureaucrats identify increases they think are “unreasonable” — which they define, at least for now, as a 10 percent increase or higher in one year — they can begin to harass the company.


We had a taste of how the administration responds to what it considers to be unreasonable increases last fall when health insurers started raising their premiums to reflect the new benefits and “consumer protections” being forced on them under ObamaCare.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pounced, sending a letter to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a health insurance trade association, asserting: “There will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases. …. Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections.”

Translation: We’re going to make your life miserable until you recognize there’s a new sheriff in town."

Yeah, like the Sheriff of Nottingham. Where's Robin Hood — or Ragnar Danneskjold, if you prefer — when you need him?

Thursday, 30 December 2010

More Gangster Government From Obama's Thugs

_jeffrey-perren Guest Post by Jeff Perren

One of the distinctive characteristics of gangster "business operations" is to make up the rules as they go along. Gangster government does something similar when they ignore courts and Congress and simply go on as if neither had said anything.

One more instance in a long line of that in the U.S. occurred with the recent declaration by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the Orwellian-named "net neutrality" rules. I wrote an article some time ago explaining how any such rules necessarily violate property rights and the right of free trade. Peter Ferrara now demonstrates in an American Spectator essay how Obama's thugs are proceeding Chavez-like to demonstrate how much they truly don't care about that.

_Quote On April 6, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Comcast Corp. v. Federal Communications Commission that the FCC does not have the power to issue net neutrality regulation. ...
    Rejecting that reasoning in an opinion written by one of the Circuit's more liberal Judges, David Tatel, the Court had to remind the FCC that "administrative agencies may act only pursuant to authority delegated to them by Congress."
    The Court said regarding the FCC's reasoning, "if accepted it would virtually free the Commission from its congressional tether." The Court added that "without reference to the provisions of the [FCC's governing] Act directly governing broadcasting, the Commission's ancillary jurisdiction would be unbounded."
    Indeed, the FCC's lawyers suggested to the Court in oral argument that in the agency's view it already has the power to impose price controls and rate regulation on Internet service providers and broadband operators.
    Yet, the FCC just flouts this decision in going ahead and issuing its net neutrality regulations by rulemaking last week.

If there is any good option at this stage for businessmen — and for us, who trade with them — other than simply ignoring the law, I can't think what it might be. It's either that or passive acquiescence to tyranny.

We in America are now ruled, in fact, by petty dictators unbounded by anything but resource limitations in enforcing their Progressive whims.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

NOT PJ: Good Riddance 2010

_BernardDarnton This week Bernard Darnton raises his last unbroken champagne glass to welcome in the New Year.

2010’s been a bit of a crap year so it’s time for a new one.

Things for me started off fine having the New Year at my parents’ place in England. It was the first time our whole family had been in the same room for five years and the first time that my parents had been in the same room as all their grandchildren ever.

Outside, Britain was in the grip of the worst winter in 30 years. (Now the second worst winter in 30 years.) We escaped shortly before Heathrow closed. The warmth of Singapore was a welcome relief except for the small matter of a toddler who immediately fell sick, couldn’t stand the heat, and didn’t understand time zones. As I have mentioned elsewhere, anyone considering travelling with a toddler should be compulsorily assessed and treated under the Mental Health Act.

From the literal blizzard of an English January I landed back into a metaphorical blizzard of work. Those who work in the software industry will know what a “death march” project is. Those who know about the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II will know what an actual “death march” is. A death march in the software business is a project that’s a bit like the endless overworking of prisoners during the war except without the apology from the Japanese government afterwards.

Eventually I thought “bugger this for a game of soldiers” and left. I was in the middle of sorting out my new job when the house moved four metres closer to Darfield and the contents of my bookshelves and liquor cabinet moved two metres closer to the ground.

Fortunately my only injury from the Canterbury earthquake was a slap to the head as I realised we’d abandoned the water bottles, gas cylinder and aging tins of peaches in Wellington when we shifted down last year. It was comforting to turn on my hand-cranked radio that morning and discover that John Key was immediately flying down to show solidarity with the people of Christchurch. I assume he was crapping in a plastic bag like the rest of us.

As if the most expensive natural disaster in New Zealand history wasn’t enough, the Pike River coal mine was rocked a few weeks later by New Zealand’s worst accident since Erebus.

The year will also be remembered by friends who lost parents or, worse, children. Of course, things like this happen every year - and there were also a year’s worth of births and weddings - but some years are remembered for their highlights and some for their lowlights. 2010 was the year of the Canterbury earthquake and Pike River.

With only a few days of 2010 left, it’s time to yell out a hearty “Good Riddance,” raise the last unbroken champagne glass, and cheer in 2011 with gusto. New Year is my favourite holiday. I have no interest in deities, royalty, or trade unions so all but two of our public holidays mean nothing to me.

Anzac Day is a day for solemn reflection on the past—a day to remember not only that our freedoms were bought at great expense but also to consider, with lottery-winner’s disbelief, that someone else picked up the tab.

New Year is a day to look forward to the future—a day to seize and to say, no matter what happened last year, that this year’s pages have not yet been written. And to resolve to write those pages.

Last year’s mistakes and disasters belong to last year. They can be learned from. Last year’s successes belong to last year, too, and they can be built on. Above all, New Year is a reminder that today can be better than yesterday and that each of us has the ability to make it so. What better reason to celebrate?

* * Read Bernard Darnton’s column at NOT PC every week between glasses * *

Friday, 24 December 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright: “Man the Enlightened Being”


Architect Frank Lloyd Wright used to send out his poetic Christmas message on “Man the Enlightened Being” his poetic Christmas message on “man the enlightened being” every Christmas time. So do I. [Note that Wright did not understand the word ‘Democracy’ to mean “a counting of heads regardless of content” as we do at 'Not PC'; by the word “Democracy,” Wright himself simply means Freedom.]

“The herd disappears and reappears," says Wright's message, "but the sovereignty of the individual persists." What better time of year to reflect on that.

_Quote Literature tells about man. Architecture presents him. The Architecture that our man of Democracy needs and prophecies is bound to be different from that of the common or conditioned man of any other socialized system of belief. As never before, this new Free-Man’s Architecture will present him by being true to his own nature in all such expressions. . .
    With renewed vision, the modern man will use the new tools Science lavishes upon him (even before he is ready for them) to enlarge his field of action by reducing his fetters to exterior controls, especially those of organized Authority, publicity, or political expediency. He will use his new tools to develop his own Art and Religion as the means to keep him free, as himself. Therefore this democratic man’s environment, like his mind, will never be style-ized. When and wherever he builds he will not consent to be boxed. He will himself have his style.
    The Democratic man demands conscientious liberty for himself no more nor less than he demands liberty for his neighbor. . .
    Whenever organic justice is denied him he will not believe he can get it by murder but must obtain it by continuing fair dealing and enlightenment at whatever cost. He will never force upon others his own beliefs nor his own ways. He will display his social methods to others as best advantage as critic or missionary only when sought by them.
    His neighbor will be to him (as he is to himself) free to choose his own way according to his own light, their common cause being the vision of the uncommon-man wherein every man is free to grow to the stature his freedom in America under the Constitution of these United States grants him.
    Exterior compulsion absent in him, no man need be inimical to him. Conscience, thus indispensable to his own freedom, becomes normal to every man. . .
    Remember the men who gave us our [American] Nation. We have ‘the Declaration’ and our Constitution because they were individualist. Great Art is still living for us only because of Individualists like Beethoven. We have creative men on earth today only as they are free to continually arise as individuals from obscurity to demonstrate their dignity and worth above the confusion raised by the herding of the common-man by aid of the scribes and Pharisees of his time—quantity ignoring or overwhelming quality. The herd disappears and reappears but the sovereignty of the individual persists. . .

Read on here for the full message: “Man, the Enlightened Being” by Frank Lloyd Wright, and remember to have a great individualistic holiday season.

And remember this useful advice about responsible holiday drinking: Don’t underestimate when you’re at the bottle store. When there’s serious celebrating to be done, it would be irresponsible to run out.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Jellyfish and broken arses

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

      This week:  Jellyfish and broken arses

  • NZ HERALD: “Plan opens ACC to private insurersAccident Compensation Corporation Minister Nick Smith confirms his decision “in principle” to allow competition in the workplace insurance market…

THE DOCTOR SAYS: Talk about spineless! If Nick Smith believed privatizing the Accident Compensation Corporation was right “in principle,” surely he would just do it rather than pussyfooting about seeking a “mandate” from voters. Either the man believes privatisation is the right thing to do, or he doesn’t. Simple as that.
    This blue-green invertebrate had six months to consider a “stocktake” on the ACC which recommended it exit the market for workplace insurance. And still he rejected doing it!
    Let’s face it, Nick Smith is a blue socialist, a supporter of big government, and any downsizing of the state will only happen over his dead body. That’s why you should NOT waste your vote on the BlueLabour Party, and instead consider voting for a party that has unflinchingly supported the privatisation of workplace insurance because it is the moral thing to do.
    This piss-weak effort from tree-hugger Smith is just further confirmation that BlueLabour are too scared to act on principle in case someone, somewhere might take offence.
    For the record, a Libertarianz government would not postpone decisions until after the next election. It would carry out its pledges according to its principles of individual sovereignty, private property rights, limited government and capitalism (essentially the same thing expressed in four ways).
    ACC could be gone by lunchtime, with employers and workers given the choice of whether they wanted to insure themselves or to carry their accident liability risk themselves.
    If Nick Smith and BlueLabour really believed privatizing ACC was the right thing to do, they would have done it early last year. Don’t waste your vote again on these jellyfish. Next year is election year. Turn over a new leaf and vote according to your core beliefs. If you believe in the justice of the free market, and in getting government out of your life, there is only one party that fits the bill – LIBERTARIANZ.
    After all, are you any better off now than you were under Helen Clark?    

THE DOCTOR SAYS: What a breath of fresh air! At last, someone from a mainstream political party in the Western hemisphere who recognises drug prohibition is a failure and decriminalisation is the answer.  
    Bob Ainsworth gives the reasons why the government should leave adults alone to make their own decisions about self-medication: “Prohibition fails to reduce the harm that drugs cause in the UK, fuelling burglaries, gifting the trade to gangsters and increasing HIV infections. The war on drugs creates the conditions that perpetuate the illegal trade.”
    Ainsworth envisages a system of regulated sales of drugs via doctors and pharmacies. I see this as a transitional policy until people become used to the idea that drugs can be accessed legally and safely. Eventually, adults should have access to low-cost, high-quality medication – and the best way to deliver that is via a free and open market.
    Only thing is – why didn’t Mr Ainsworth say all this during the thirteen years his party was in government? Already, Labour party leader Ed the Red Miliband has shown himself incapable of abstract thought by his whining copout: “What about the children?”
    The children, Mr Miliband, are the responsibility of their parents who hold their rights in trust until the children are old enough to assume these rights themselves. No sensible person is advocating making drugs available to minors without the express permission and supervision of their parents.
    Anyway, parents administer potentially fatal drugs to their children every day – for example, paracetamol – with very low rates of overdose or other problems.
    Conservative Party deputy leader Peter Lilley is sympathetic to Mr Ainsworth’s sentiments, even if he makes the rather artificial distinction between “soft” and “hard” drugs.
    However, Tory crime prevention minister James Brokenshire disagrees, saying legalization “fails to address the reasons people misuse drugs in the first place, or the misery, cost and lost opportunities that dependence causes individuals, families and the wider community.”
    Bah, humbug. Perhaps Minister Broken-arse should consider the misery, cost and lost opportunities that decades of socialism (and, more recently, the Islamisation of large parts of the UK) has caused tens of millions of British people.
    The libertarian solution to the man-made problem of drug prohibition is to hand back to people dominion over their own bodies, and make the challenge of medicational misuse a health issue and not a criminal one.
    Let adults decide for themselves what they put into their bodies, but hold them responsible for the consequences of their actions at all times._richardmcgrath

And with that sage advice I bid you goodbye for 2010.
Enjoy the Festive Season, and I look forward to seeing you back in the New Year.
Doc McGrath

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Have a Salacious Saturnalia!


Those cunning secularists, perverting the “reason for the season”!  We hear the same complaints every year, from Fox News to the Vatican, that "Christ is being taken out of Christmas," about the "War against Christmas" (TM) --  about the "widespread revolt" against "Christian values” and “Christian symbols” –about the prevalence of "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" greetings.

Here's what I say to those complainers:  Get a life.  Learn some history. And try a Christmas joke:

Q: "What's the difference between God and Santa Claus?"
A: "There is no God."

Ha ha ha.  The harsh fact is, customers, there is no God, and Christ was never even in Christmas --except in fiction and by order of the first Popes. 

_Quote None of the four gospels gives any notion of what time of year (let alone in what year) the supposed Nativity occurred. Only two gospels mention the virginity of Mary and only one has any mention of a "manger" [i.e., a trough]. Nowhere is there any record of a "stable." Wise men and shepherds are likewise very unevenly distributed throughout the discrepant accounts. So that the placement of a creche surrounded by a motley crew of humans and animals has no more Scriptural warrant than does The Life of Brian. Moreover, the erection of this exhibit near the turn of the year is actually a placation of the old Norse gods of the winter solstice - or "Yule" as the pre-Christians sometimes called it.
    I myself [
says Christopher Hitchens] repose no faith in any man-made text or made-man redeemer, so when it's Christmas I say "Merry Christmas" with a clear conscience, as I respect Ramadan and Passover, and also because "Happy Holidays" is so thin and insipid. I don't mind if Christians honor the moment by displaying, and singing about, reindeer (a hard species to find in the greater Jerusalem/Bethlehem area). Same for the pine and fir trees that also don't grow in Palestine. I wish everybody joy of it.

And so do I. I just wish the Christians would leave off bashing us over the head with their myth—and their values.

Jesus wasn't even born in December, let alone at Christmas time: he was born in July* -- which makes him a cancer**.  Just like religion. 

And God doesn’t even like Christmas trees, for Chrissake!

Historians themselves know the "reason for the season," and it's not because of anything that happened away in a stable at a time opf a non-existent census.  Even the Archbishop of Canterbury knows the truth, conceding a couple of Christmasses ago that the Christmas story and the Three Wise Men - the whole Nativity thing itself --  is all just "a legend."

And I like myths and legends. I’m even happier when we remember they’re stories, not historical accounts.

Fact is, 'Christmas' itself was originally not even a Christian festival at all.  The celebration we now all enjoy was originally the lusty pagan festival to celebrate the winter solstice, the festival that eventually became the Roman Saturnalia. This time of year in the northern hemisphere (from whence these traditions started) is when days stopped getting darker and darker, and started once again to lengthen.  This was a time of the year for optimism.  The end of the hardest part of the year was in sight (particularly important up in Lapland, the pagan home of the Norsemen where all-day darkness was the winter rule), and food stocks would soon be replenished. 

All this was something worth celebrating with enthusiasm, with gusto and with plenty of food and drink and pleasures of the flesh -- and if those Norse sagas tell us anything, they tell us those pagans knew a thing or two about that sort of celebration!  They celebrated a truly Salacious Saturnalia.

One popular celebration involved having a chap put on the horns and skin of the dead animal being roasted in the fire (worn with the fur side inside and the blood-red side outside ), and giving out gifts of food to revellers.  This guy represented Satan, and the revellers celebrated beating him back for another year by making him a figure of fun (I swear, I'm not making this up).  Observant readers will spot that the gift-giving and the fur-lined red outfit (and even the name, almost) are still with us in the form of Santa.  So Happy Satanmas, Santa!

SUCH WERE THE celebrations of the past.  But the Dark Age Christian do-gooders didn’t like the pagan revels.  Instead of bacchanalia, these ghouls of the graveyard wanted instead to talk about suffering and their sores, and to spread the misery of their religion worldwide; instead of throwing themselves into such lewd and lusty revels, they thought everyone should be sitting at home mortifying their flesh  – and  very soon they hit upon a solution: first they stole the festivals, and then they sanitised them.  Instead of lusty revels with Satan and mistletoe, we got insipid nonsense around a manger.  (Just think, the first 'Grinch' who stole Christmas was really a Pope!) 

So given this actual history, it's somewhat churlish of today's sanitised saints of sobriety to be complaining now about history reasserting itself and claiming Christmas back.

AND THE VERY BEST OF Christmas is still very much pagan. The mistletoe, the trees, and the presents; the drinking and eating and all the red-blooded celebrations; the gift-giving, the trees and the decorations; the eating and the singing; the whole full-blooded, rip-roaring, free-wheeling, overwhelming, benevolent materialism of the holiday -- all of it all fun, and all of it fully, one-hundred percent pagan. Says Leonard Peikoff in 'Why Christmas Should Be More Commercial', the festival is "an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life." I'll drink to all that, and then I'll come back right back up again for seconds. Ayn Rand sums it up for mine, rather more benevolently than my brief introduction might have led you to expect:

    “The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.
The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....
    “The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying is good for business and good for the country’s economy; but, more importantly in this context, it stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decoration put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

And so say all of us.  I wish you all, wherever you are a  Cool Yule, a Salacious Saturnalia, and a very Happy Christmas.

I’ll see you back again in the New Year.

Be as good as you can be while I’m gone.***

PS: Here’s some related Hot Facts from the Hot Facts Girl.

* Yes, this is simply a rhetorical flourish. Jesus' birth may have happened in March. Or in September -- or not at all -- but it certainly did not happen in December. More on that here.

** "A cancer. Like religion." Think that's harsh? You should try Landover Baptist's Bible Quizzes. Or Sam Harris's 'Atheist Manifesto.' Ouch! [Hat tip for both, good old Stephen Hicks] And, I confess, I pinched the quip from Australian comedy team The Doug Anthony All Stars.

*** Yes, I’ll be gone, but you’ll not be totally forgotten. Bernard Darnton and Doc McGrath have columns still to come. Jeff Perren can never keep his fingers too far from his keyboard. And, unfortunately, our place in Matakana does have internet access . . .

Monday, 20 December 2010

Have an earthly commercial Christmas

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 IS CHRISTMAS TOO COMMERCIAL? Hell, no! You hear the same complaint every year, but for many retailers this year and last, Christmas hasn’t been commercial enough.

And according to at least one sane person, Commercialism Only Adds to Joy of the Holidays.  “It's the season for earthly pleasures,” says Ayn Rand enthusiast Onkar Ghate, “and embracing the spectacle is no sin.”

Actually, he had me at “earthly pleasures.”

Anyway, complaining about the “commercialisation” of Christmas pretty much misses the point anyway, because Christmas is the most benevolent and frankly commercial holiday in the catalogue. It was designed that way.

_Quote Christmas as we know it, with its twinkling lights, flying reindeer, and dancing snowmen, is largely a creation of 19th-century America. One of the most un-Christian periods in Western history, it was a time of worldly invention, industrialization, and profit. Only such an era would think of a holiday dominated by commercialism and joy and sense the connection between the two.

As Ghate says, Christmas is a time of unabashed earthly joy.  That’s what’s good about it. Like philosopher Leonard Peikoff says, at Christmas time we don't say "sacrifice and repent," we say enjoy yourself and thrive!  And we do, whatever the economic climate. We get together with workmates, friends and loved ones, celebrating the year with gusto; we give gifts to people we value, whose friendship and company we want to celebrate. Toasts are made and livers threatened. Boats full of happy people cruise the harbour; laughing diners fill restaurants; shops overflow (well,most years) with people buying gifts to make people happy who make them happy; and glasses full of enlivening liquids are raised the heavens to celebrate life here on earth. 

So what's not to like about Christmas being commercial? About capitalist gift-giving between consenting adults—and even children.

Because that sort of secular celebration is the real meaning of Christmas. Christmas is not really about a chap who came to earth to deliver “Good News” like this:

_Quote_Idiot If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife,
and children
, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he
cannot be my disciple.--[
Luke 14:26]

Because even if this was his birthday (which it isn’t) that’s not something you’d want to celebrate. No, in any case, Christmas is a good old pagan holiday taken over and rechristened. So let’s take it back and celebrate it like all good pagans should—like these enthusiastic Norsemen singing a song by Verdi for which the loose translation is ‘Wet Your Throat.’

Let me leave you now with “Five Golden Hemorrhoids: A Biblically Correct Version of The Twelve Days of Christmas

Don’t panic, children

Children especially might enjoy this update…

_Quote_Idiot INDEPENDENT, UK (March, 2000):  “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past
Britain's winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives …
    According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event” …
    “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said

Don’t worry children. Fast forward to today:

And don’t worry. Several feet of global warming over Britain is just one of those signs that global warming is definitely still happening.

Here’s Mahalia Jackson. Still dreaming…

Oh dear

I’ve just started packing for the holidays. And I think I’ve overdone the books again.


Thanks to all the NOT PC readers who’ve very kindly donated to help keep my library growing. You make it more difficult every year to pack my suitcase. :-)

Carols for Godless People . . .

I suspect only the British could do this: a full-blooded atheist celebration, “celebrating the majesty of the universe, and most of the things in it,” called ‘Nine Lessons, and Carols for Godless People.’

Here’s Part One of Seven… [hat tip Marcus Bachler]