Saturday, February 05, 2011

Why not celebrate One-Law-For-All Day instead? [updated]

IT’S WAITANGI WEEKEND AGAIN. The time when, by long tradition,  blowhards and bludgers gather in the Bay of Islands to pontificate about this country’s history, and use what’s called its “founding document” as a club to beat each other around the head.

P I C   B Y   M O T E L L A A day that should be something to celebrate is instead a national embarrassment. And no wonder. The traditional celebrations often involve the widespread dissemination of pictures of the Prime Minister variously crying or holding Titewahai Harawira’s hand, or ducking as wet T-shirts and clumps of earth are flung at them.  [UPDATE: And it’s started again already this year.]

In recent years, the sport of watching Hone avoid his erstwhile colleagues, and stories of  journos bleating about having to pay to gain entry to the Te Tii Marae have both been added to the “celebrations,” all of which just conceal deeper rumblings underneath.

With the Maori Party is still in harness (almost) the usual arguments are (almost) still in quietus this year, but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone away. While most of the professional grievance industry can now be found inside the tent pissing out instead of outside the tent pissing in--as they used to—the eruption of Mt Harawira earlier this year is an early warning sign that stuff (beaches, land, “compensation”) isn’t being thrown into the laps of tribal leaders as quickly as the grievance industry would like.

And even if they were given all they wanted, like Oliver Twist they’ll still be back asking for more, sir.  Such is the culture to which modern Treatyism has delivered us: one of separatism and race-based welfare—one in which government is the referee in disputes between free individuals, but instead the great, all-encompassing deliverer of goodness. And the Browntable to whom the goodness is delivered (in the form of cash and goods and large tracts of the North and South Island) are sparing indeed when handing on the cash and goods and large tracts to those whom they claim to represent.

Which brings us back to the reason for this particularly fractious season. And we might ask ourselves, was it something in that simple document drawn up by Governor Hobson that has caused this annual and ongoing farce? Or something that’s been made up since?

It’s the latter, of course.

What the Treaty contained was just three simple clauses and a preamble written in haste by a moderately-educated British-Irish sea captain to bring British law to these islands. That it  has become one-hundred-and-seventy years later a charter for separatism and a regular income for a ‘Browntable’ aristocracy is a measure by which the meaning of those clauses has been distorted, and the ambit of the agreement stretched.  

What the Treaty actually promised was the introduction of good law and of equal rights before the law – in other words, good colour-blind law. In its new incarnation as a “living document,” however, it has become a charter for more nationalisation of land, of seabed or of foreshore—for demands from moochers for the unearned—for eternal grievance and the rise of ohanga-to-poka welfare and brown feudalism. 

But what was promised in that short document was, very simply, the introduction of British law to these islands—which at the time meant a legal system in which what we own is protected, in which real injustices could be proven swiftly and without great expense, and where justice can be done and be seen to be done.  That was what the Treaty actually made possible.

The disappointment is that the promise has not always been the reality.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment for the future, however, is to reflect that for all the time spent on Te Tiriti in New Zealand school rooms, there's so little understanding of what it means, and of the context in which it was signed.  Teaching real history is no longer fashionable.  Teaching myths is. Myths like . . .

Partnership?

Despite the fiction that has been put about in recent years to give Browntable leaders access to the trough, the Treaty did not promise 'partnership' of the form now espoused -- neither word nor concept appeared in the document. It was not a Treaty offering permanent welfare to moochers, nor a tax-paid gravy train for looters.

In three short articles it simply offered the introduction of British law, and the rights and protections that were then protected by British law.  That was it. 

Biculturalism? 

The Treaty which was drawn up and signed talked neither about race nor culture.  Like British law itself at the time it was colour blind.  What it promised was not the politics of race but the same protection for everyone, regardless of race, creed or skin colour.

Would that today's law be so blind.

* * * * *

AT THE TIME IT WAS SIGNED, the context of British law really meant something.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, British law -- which included British common law -- was the best the world had yet seen.  It was what had made Britain rich, and what still makes the places where British law was introduced or emulated some of the most prosperous places in the world in which to live today.

From the perspective of one-hundred-and-seventy years later, however, when individual rights and property rights are taken for granted even as they're slowly expunged, it's easy to take the framework and protection of British law for granted.  Looked at in the context of the history of human affairs however it was a tremendous achievement: the first time in which individual rights and property rights were recognised in law, and protected in a relatively simple and accessible framework.  Perhaps history's first truly objective legal system

The introduction of British law to the residents of these Shaky Isles at the bottom of the South Pacific, which at the time were riven with inter-tribal warfare, was a boon -- and those who so eagerly signed up knew that.  The immediate perspective of all involved might have been short-term – of the British, to forestall a feared annexation by France; of the warring chiefs, to gain a foothold for trade and to secure territorial gains made in the most recent inter-tribal wars -- but there's no doubt that all had at least an inkling that life under British law promised greater peace in these isles than had previously enjoyed, and a much greater chance at prosperity.

"He iwi tahi tatou"

'He iwi tahi tatou.' We are now one people. So said Governor Hobson to Maori chieftains as they signed the Treaty that has become the source of so much division. But are we really 'one people'? Not really. No more than our ancestors were then. But nor are we two, three or fifty-four peoples -- do you have a people? -- and nor does it actually matter, since what Captain Hobson brought to New Zealand with the Treaty along with British law (which then meant something) was Western Culture—which, uniquely, makes it possible to see one another not as 'peoples,' not as part of a tribe or a race, but each of us as sovereign individuals in our own right.

That was A Good Thing. A Very Good Thing.

But unfortunately, despite the coming of western culture and the introduction (or at least the aspiration) of colour-blind law, we still don't see each other as sovereign individuals so much, do we?   The tribalism is still there (albeit the warring parti4s now hurl lawyers at each other instead of spears) and the myth-making about 'partnership' and 'biculturalism' is just one way to avoid seeing it.

A charter for objective law

To be fair, the Treaty itself isn't much to see. What Hobson brought was not the founding document for a country but a hastily written document intended to forestall French attempts at dominion (and the Frank imposition of croissants and string bikinis), and which brought to New Zealand for the first time the concept of individualism, and the protection of property rights and of an objective rule of law.

    “The Treaty of Waitangi should be commemorated [says Lindsay Perigo] because it bestowed upon Maori the rights of British subjects, thus introducing the notion of individual freedom within the rule of law to gangs of tribal savages who hitherto had been cannibalising and enslaving each other. But it has become a de facto constitution in the absence of a formal one, a brief for which it is woefully inadequate,” argues Perigo.
    “The five-paragraph, three-point Treaty is silent on many matters with which a constitution must deal. Moreover, there are ongoing arguments about what it really meant and which version is authentic. The best thing to do is scrap it and start over.”

The five-paragraph, three-point Treaty was short, spare and to the point. It was silent on many matters with which a constitution must deal because what it relied upon was the context of British law as it then existed.   The Treaty's three short clauses promised little in themselves -- as everyone understood, the intent was to point to the wider context of British common law and say 'We're having that here.' 

But that understanding is now clouded with invective, and the context of British law and common law as it once was is no longer with us. British law is not what it was, and there's a meal ticket now in fomenting misunderstanding of what it once promised.

The Treaty signed one-hundred-and-seventy years ago today was not intended as the charter for separatism and grievance and the welfare gravy train that it has become - to repeat, it was intended no more and no less than to bring the protection of British law and the rights and privileges of British citizens to the residents of these islands --residents of all colours. That was the context that three simple clauses were intended to enunciate.

And one-hundred-and-seventy years ago, the rights and privileges of British citizens actually meant something -- this was not a promise to protect the prevailing culture of tribalism (which had dominated pre-European New Zealand history and underpinned generations of inter-tribal conflict, and which the modern myth of 'partnership' still underpins), but a promise to protect individuals from each other; a promise to see Maoris not as part of a tribe, but as individuals in their own right; a promise to protect what individuals own and what they produce by their own efforts. That the promise is sometimes seen more in the breach than in the observance is no reason to spurn the attempt.

The Treaty helped to make New Zealand a better place for everyone. Especially those native New Zealanders whom it liberated.

Liberation, and protection

Life in New Zealand before the advent of the rule of law recognised neither right, nor privilege, nor even the concept of ownership. It was not the paradise of Rousseau's noble savage; force was the recognised rule du jour and the source of much barbarity (see for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').  Indeed just a few short years before the Treaty was signed, savage inter-tribal warfare reigned, and much of New Zealand was found to be unpopulated following the fleeing of tribes before the muskets and savagery and cannibalism of other tribes.

Property in this war of all against all was not truly owned; instead, it was just something that was grabbed and held by one tribe, until it was later grabbed and held by another. To be blunt, life was brutish and it was short, just as it was in pre-Industrial Revolution Europe, and - let's face it -- it was largely due to the local culture that favoured conquest over peace and prosperity. As Thomas Sowell reminds us:

    "Cultures are not museum pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives."

Pre-European local culture was not working well for those within that culture. Let's be really blunt (and here I paraphrase from this article):

    “In the many years before the Treaty was signed, the scattered tribes occupying New Zealand lived in abject poverty, ignorance, and superstition -- not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included). The transfer of Western civilisation to these islands was one of the great cultural gifts in recorded history, affording Maori almost effortless access to centuries of European accomplishments in philosophy, science, technology, and government. As a result, today's Maori enjoy a capacity for generating health, wealth, and happiness that their Stone Age ancestors could never have conceived.”

Harsh, but true. And note those words before you hyperventilate: "not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included)."   Some one-hundred and fifty years before, the same boon was offered to the savage, dirt-poor Scottish tribesmen who were living then much as pre-Waitangi Maori were.  Within one-hundred years following the embrace of Western civilisation, Scotland was transformed and had became one of the centres of the Enlightenment.  Such was the cultural gift being offered.

The boon of Western Civilisation was being offered here in New Zealand not after conquest but for just a mess of pottage, and in return for the right of Westerners to settle here too. As Sir Apirana Ngata stated, "if you think these things are wrong, then blame your ancestors when they gave away their rights when they were strong" - giving the clue that 'right' to Ngata's ancestors, equated to 'strong' more than it did to 'right.'

Who 'owned' New Zealand?

It's said that Maori owned New Zealand before the Treaty was signed, and that while the 'shadow' of sovereignty was passed on, the substance remained.  This is nonsense.  Pre-European Maori never "owned" New Zealand in any sense, let alone in any meaningful sense of exercising either ownership or sovereignty over all of it. 

First of all, they had no concept at all of ownership by right; 'ownership' was not by right but  by force; it represented taonga that was taken by force and held by force -- just as long as they were able to be held (see again, for example' Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').  Witness for example the savage conflict over the prosperous lands of Tamaki Makaurau, over which generations of Kawerau, Nga Puhi, Ngati Whatua and others fought.  There was no recognition at any time that these lands were owned by a tribe by right -- they were only held as long as a tribe's might made holding them possible, and as long as the fighting necessary to retain them brought a greater benefit than it did to relinquish them (and by the early 1800s, with so much fighting to be done to hold them, all tribes gave up and left the land to bracken instead).

Second, even if the tribesmen and women had begun to develop the rudiments of the concept of ownership by right (the concept of ownership by right being relatively new even to 1840 Europeans) they didn't own all of the country -- they only 'owned' what they owned.  That is to say, what Maori possessed were the specific lands and fisheries and foreshore and seabed they occupied and farmed and fished and used.  This was never all of New Zealand, nor even most of New Zealand. The rest of it lay unowned, and unclaimed.  They only ‘owned’ what they owned

Third, prior to the arrival of Europeans, Maori did not even see themselves as 'one people'; the word 'Maori' simply meant 'normal,' as opposed to the somewhat abnormal outsiders who had now appeared with their crosses and muskets and strange written incantations. The tangata whenua saw themselves not as a homogeneous whole, but as members of various tribes.  This was not a nation, nor even a collection of warring tribes.  Apart from the Confederacy of United Tribes -- an ad hoc group who clubbed together in 1835 in a bid to reject expected overtures from the French -- there was no single sovereignty over pre-European New Zealand, no sovereign entity to cede sovereignty, and no way a whole country could be ceded by those who had never yet even laid claim to it in its entirety.

Our 'Founding Document'?

So the British came, and saw, and hung about a bit. The truth is that some of the best places in the world in which to live are those where the British once came, and saw, and then buggered off -- leaving behind them their (once) magnificent legal system, and the rudiments of Western Culture. See for example, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and of course (as noted in obituaries of former governor John Cowperthwaite) Hong Kong. We lucked out.

What the Treaty did do, for which we can all be thankful, was to bring British law to NZ at a time when British law was actually intended to protect the rights of British citizens, and it promised to extend that protection to all who lived here. For many and often differing reasons, that was what the chieftains signed up to.  To become British citizens, with all the rights and privileges thereof.

But as we’ve been at pains to day already, the Treaty itself was not a founding document. No, it wasn't. On its own, with just three simple articles and a brief introduction, there was just not enough there to make it a document that founds a nation. As a document it simply pointed to the superstructure of British law as it then was and said, 'let's have that down here on these islands in the South Pacific.'

The treaty's greatest promise was really in its bringing to these islands those rights and privileges that British citizens enjoyed by virtue of their then superb legal system; the protection of Pax Britannia when those rights and that protection meant something, and when British power saw protection of British rights as its sworn duty. The result of this blessing of relatively secure individual rights was the palpable blessings of relative peace, of increasing security, and of expanding prosperity.

Sadly, British jurisprudence no longer does see its duty that way, which means the legal context in which the Treaty was signed has changed enormously, and the blessings themselves are sometimes difficult to see. Law, both in Britain and here in NZ, now places welfarism and need above individualism and rights. That's the changing context that has given steam and power to the treaty-based gravy train, and allowed the Treaty and those who consume the Treaty's gravy to say it says something other than what is written in it.

The truly sad thing is that the Treaty relied on a context that no longer exists -- and the only way to restore that context, in my view, is with a new constitution that makes the original context explicit.  To restore the original legal context, and to improve upon it with a legal context that protects and reinforces an Objective rule of law -- as British law itself once did -- one that clarifies what in the Treaty was only vague or was barely put. And in doing so, of course, such a constitution would make the Treaty obsolete.

Thank goodness.

The Dream

Waitangi Day comes just two weeks after Martin Luther King Day. The contrast is spectacular. Perhaps we should remind ourselves of King's dream for the future of his own children:

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character..."
Perhaps we will one day celebrate that same dream down here -- not as a dream, but as reality.  Celebrating our national day not as a charter for grievance that continues to poison discussion, but instead with real joy.  Shaking off the gravy train of grievance, and celebrating that the colour of a man's skin is of no importance compared to the content of his character. 

Perhaps one day we will actually celebrate the birth of this great little country, instead of seeing its birthday as an annual source of conflict.

Wouldn't that be something to really celebrate?

* * * * *

Linked Articles: Unsure on foreshore: A Brash dismissal of Maori rights? - Not PC
Do you have a people? - Not PC
Property Rights: A Gift to Maori New Zealand - Peter Cresswell
Education & the Racist Road to Barbarism - George Reisman
What is Objective Law? - Harry Binswanger
No Apology to Indians - Thomas Bowden
Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law" - Not PC
All hail the Industrial Revolution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Individualism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Rights - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Need - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Welfarism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Ethnicity - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Government - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism:Constitution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Property - Not PC
A Constitution for New Freeland - The Free Radical

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Friday, February 04, 2011

How soon is too soon to start your child on computers?

TVNZ: “Parents buying laptops for students 'unrealistic
The Secondary School's Association is calling for the government to review its technology funding for schools as it says laptop computers are becoming a necessary part of meeting the curriculum.
    But Education Minister Anne Tolley says the government will not be paying for them. . .

wild-zoo-pre-school-childrens-computer-desk_0_0 How important are computers in a child’s education? Let me answer the simpler question first, i.e., how soon is too soon to start your child on computers? Answer: Any time before seven years of age.

Why? Because right up until the age of seven a child’s brain is almost literally being wired—neural connections are being formed around which myelin sheaths will be growing, forming the brain for life. What they learn and discover, and how they discover it, in those first seven years is quite literally going to be forming that brain. Children in this age group are learning via their senses, so active exploration is always going to be more beneficial than passive learning in front of a screen.

Children at this age (0-6) are in the process of 'setting up their file folders' for life; they do that by exploring their relationship with the world, and by beginning to fill those files with data from their many interactions with the world.  What they need is a rich, linguistically full environment in which to do it.

The primary means of learning at this age begins with touch, and thence through all the senses, linking touch, smell, sight, sound, motor skills and the kinaesthetic sense, integrating the data provided by all these senses.

What they lean from observing and playing with a real object is very different from the same thing on a screen. Think for example about the difference between seeing a flying thing on a computer screen and the same object in real life flying through the air -- something you can watch moving and chase and hold in your hand and weigh afterwards. Speed relative to the observer, a sense of gravity, momentum, inertia, a feeling for aerodynamics -- all of these are new data for a child that can be integrated through observation and experimentation with such an object.

None of this can be learned by sitting passively in front of a computer screen. After six, computers can become important, but not before.

Basically, what they experience at this age by staring at a computer is too arid and disembodied to do the job their brain development requires.

51W1NN Vp2L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_ In her excellent book Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds -- and What We Can Do About It, Educational psychologist Jane Healy identifies a number of developmental tasks to be mastered by the young child which may be distorted by too much electronic stimulation—particularly the important “executive function” of the brain. (These include learning to pay attention; learning to use all the senses; learning the difference between fantasy and reality, and living and non-living things; learning causality; learning to relate socially; learning to be an active learner; learning to remember, integrate and “juggle” one’s ideas; learning if-the (causal) reasoning; learning to internalise signs and symbols.)

She says,

_Quote In the case of the child under seven, there are few things that can be done better on a computer and many that fail miserably by comparison. 
    Because age six to seven represents such as important developmental milestone for the human brain, I believe it is a realistic steeping-stone into constructive computer use. In fact, for children above age seven, combining computer and manipulative activities may result in better learning.  Younger children however are better of spending time in a physically and linguistically rich environment.
   Even for children who lack this type of privileged existence, there is no evidence that today’s computer applications will make up the inevitable gaps.  Spend the money on early childhood programs.

Good advice.

So what about that other question at the top of the page: “How useful are computers in a child’s education?”  Once children are old enough for them to be useful, Healy allows they can be very useful indeed.  But she has more than a few caveats.—with some provisos:

_QuoteCan [computer] technology contribute to learning?  I think it can . . .
    If a child has sufficient cognitive skills and social development
   If technology is not substituting for important developmental experience
   If we are not expecting it to do what it cannot do
   If the technology complements a well-planned curriculum
   If it does not steal funds from more important needs (e.g., early childhood education, arts programs)
   If we are judicious in planning and selecting software and activities
   If we don’t become seduced by flashy graphics and digital legedermain
   If parents and teachers are willing to provide a human “scaffold” for technology=-assisted learning . . .
. . . then young people may profit from wise choices in this [still] emerging field.

That’s an awful lot of ifs.

Which seems to mean that for the second time this week I have to suck it in and say . . . the education minister has done the right thing.

And, yes, I really do like being able to say that.

PS:

  • If you’re really keen, you can check out Healy’s book at Google Books.
  • And this neat interview with Healy that starts with the Warning: The mind you save by not buying that whiz-bang computer could be your own child’s!

PPS: I notice that the ad presently above this post encourages you to patronise Kidicorp’s allegedly Montessori preschools by promising a “genuine program” and “licensed teachers.”  I suggest you not bother. Kidicorp’s allegedly Montessori schools are nothing of the sort, and the teachers therein are (for the most part) not Montessori teachers. Don’t be had.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

“Best practice” is bad practice

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but I’ve grown heartily sick at the number times I've encountered wankers waffling on about "the importance" of following something called "best practice"—a practice by which everyone in a profession or industry is encouraged to copy the practices of those whom the wankers deem to be the best.

It’s not just bad grammar, it’s bad for business.

It is, of course, simply a recipe for encouraging mediocrity and box-ticking, discouraging entrepreneurial experimentation and innovation.  For banishing competition and difference. To substitute conformity for innovation, and “conventional wisdom” for independent thought. To establish an establishment.

Until recently, wankers like this were a danger only to themselves and to know-nothings who paid for their advice and could be safely ignored. (Wankers like this always charge for their advice--and the more worthless it is, the more they charge. As Greek philosopher Thales was supposed to have observed around 2,500 years ago, the most difficult thing in the world is to know oneself; the easiest is to give advice to others. The wankers always charge the most for the least.)

But with the government increasingly trying to put every professional's head into one noose--and with the grey ooze of bureaucracy increasingly covering every part of the country, ignoring this stupidity is becoming increasingly difficult. With the onset of compulsory occupational licensing for everyone from drainlayers to financial advisers, pretty soon we will see the elevation of “conventional wisdom” into law, to be ignored only at the risk of expulsion from one’s chosen profession.

“Best practice” is a recipe for the calcification of industry, and the banishment of the very entrepreneurial experimentation that drives production and technology improvements. 

JUST IMAGINE IF HENRY FORD had followed these now widespread exhortations to place the practices of others over your own independent judgement. Henry Ford found the automobile a rich man’s toy, and turned it into a possession of everyman. He didn’t do that by following “best practice.” He did it by improving the quality of automobile while improving everything about their production. And he did that by continuously introducing new improvements and reducing costs, even as his rivals began emulating his innovations

The higher profits, naturally, went to Henry. To the innovator. And the benefits went to everyman. But at no stage could Henry sit back on his haunches and simply do what he had always done. As George Reisman outlines, what drives the new levels of achievement so essential to furthering our lives is not following “best practice” but pursuing bigger profits. 

_QuoteWhat was good enough to once make a high rate of profit, ceases to be good enough as soon as enough others are able to do the same thing. In order to go on earning an above-average rate of profit,one must continue to stay ahead of the competition.  By the same token, any business that stands pat is necessarily finished in a free economy, no matter its past successes.
    For the technological advances of any given time are further and further surpassed as time goes on. Think how absurd it would be in virtually any industry to try to make money today by producing with the most advanced, most profitable techniques of 1900, 1940, or even 1980 [or 2000], and not bothering to adapt to the changes that have happened since then [and take them even further]. [Capitalism, pg. 176]

The advocates of “best practice” completely discount the importance of entrepreneurial activity as a driver of excellence—mostly because they don’t understand its importance as the primary driver of all economic activity.

So too do they underestimate the power of profits.

_QuoteIt cannot be stressed too strongly that under the freedom of competition, innovations must be adopted not only to make exceptional profits, but to be able to make any profits whatever. They must be adopted merely to remain in business at all.  This is true because sooner or later, as the result of the freedom of competition, virtually all cost cuts are translated into price cuts, and whoever does not produce with the lowest [possible] methods cannot cover his costs. [Capitalism, pg, 177]

Every producer is always looking for an edge—a means whereby to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Copying them isn’t good enough. What is needed is to beat them.

The constant rule that confronts every businessman every day, in short, is “innovate or die”—just one reason unleashing  entrepreneurs is so important.

But the advocates of “best practice” are down on innovation. They would like instead to substitute  substitute conformity.  And they’re very much down on entrepreneurs.  They would instead much prefer to deal with box-tickers—partly because the box-tickers are more likely to ask for their advice.

NOW ODDLY ENOUGH, I WAS thinking thoughts like this over the summer when I came across an astonishing article in an unlikely source. I was reading a copy of NZ Education Review when I came across an article by Professor Stephen Cummings from Victoria University of Wellington arguing that

_Quote there’s a move away from copying best practice toward seeing each organisation as a particular and unique collection of capabilities to be developed. You can’t be a leader by following “best practice.”’

Too right.

You can read Professor Cummings’s article here: Facts and fads affect strategic management.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Crybabies, Coroners and one Rebellious Ratepayer

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

This week:   Crybaby Councillor, Nanny Coroner and the Rebellious Ratepayer

  • OTAGO DAILY TIMES: Cr McTavish in tears as climate plan debated“Emotional scenes” prevailed as a young Dunedin city councillor turned on the water works at a council meeting and hurried along efforts for the council to “plan” for climate change. . .

THE DOCTOR SAYS: Whenever rational argument fails, you can rely on a greenie to resort to emotion disconnected from reason.
   This story would be laughable if it wasn’t going to cost Dunedin ratepayers nearly $30k to address a problem that doesn’t exist. I have a feeling young councillor Jinty McTavish wants to drain ratepayers now, before people wake up to the evidence that is freely available to them and he really needs counselling himself.
    The only sane voices on the Dunedin Council seem to be Lee Vandervis and Syd Brown. The more I see of Lee Vandervis, the more I like him. He would make a great mayor for Dunedin, and I’m proud so say I voted for Lee in 1984 when he stood for Bob Jones’s New Zealand Party. Lee and Syd – good on you for opposing this green bullying and emotional manipulation.

  • OTAGO DAILY TIMES: “Workers Must Belt Up!Otago coroner David Crerar takes it upon himself to demand that NOT only should seatbelts be made compulsory by law, but this compulsion should be inserted into employment contracts. . .

THE DOCTOR SAYS: Once again, an authority figure uses an isolated incident to push for more intrusion of rules and regulations into the private affairs of New Zealanders.
    We already have laws that compel people to put seat belts on when driving on public roads. If people don’t obey that directive when it’s the law, why would they obey it when it’s buried in an employment contract. In any case, with employment courts so biased against employers, what employer is going to be bothered suspending or sacking an employee who doesn’t wear a seat belt.
    The next step is not hard to figure out: if employers are forced to include clauses on seat belt wearing in their contracts with employees, then employers will end up punished financially and legally if their employees fail to comply. Simple as that. 

  • OTAGO DAILY TIMES: “Ratepayer sick of DCC says : Vote for meA ratepayer suggests downsizing the size and scope of Dunedin local government and selling off various millstones and white elephants. . .

THE DOCTOR SAYS: Given the opportunity I would definitely vote for this man, and good on him for speaking up. He suggests reducing ballooning council debt to zero by selling the new rugby stadium and the Dunedin Chinese gardens; getting rid of 20% of council employees; delaying road resurfacing works (I suggest progressing this further by handing streets over to the people that live in them and letting the residents pay for road works); and reducing funding to libraries and suchlike.
    I have a further suggestion: once that is done, if any future councils rack up debt they become jointly and severally liable for paying it off at the end of their term in office.
    This man doesn’t deserve the ignorant and negative comments that followed his stand against council irresponsibility. This man deserves a beer!

“Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite
at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”
- Ronald Reagan        

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Yasi! [update 4]

Our thoughts here are with any of you in or near the path of Cyclone Yasi—set to cross the North Queensland coast early Thursday morning—and with folk (like me) who have friends, relatives or loved ones there.  At Category Five, it’s stronger (though less intense) than the Category Four Cyclone Tracy that flattened Darwin some decades ago, and very slightly stronger even than the hurricane that hit New Orleans so destructively a couple of years ago.

It’s going to be a big one.

IDQ65001

Let us hope the destruction is less than predicted, and everyone is better protected than we fear.

There is some good news in this however: You’ve now got a ready response to any of your friends or relatives who are always banging on about how good the Queensland weather is.

P.S.: If you know of good websites/sources/places to keep in touch with cyclone news and updates, feel free to post them in the comments.

UPDATE 1

  • Twitter tag for cyclone related news and gossip is #TCYasi
  • Satellite animation of Yasi here
  • INteractive weather and wave forecast maps here
  • Weather warnings summaries here
  • CYCLONE HOTLINE - 1300 993 191 - or www.redcross.org.au to register and to find families
  • The weather channel tracking Cyclone Yasi here 
  • Cairns airport updates here

UPDATE 2: Cairns humour:

6x2yg

UPDATE 3: By way of comparison [via Stan Blanch], and note that American and Australian hurricane/cyclone Categories are not exactly commensurate:

167516_10150176583478662_595623661_8558006_6878822_n

UPDATE 4: You can watch the “progress” of Yasi at ABC Australia’s 24-hour news TV, online here.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Ayatollah ElBaradei

Although some are still fooled by the talk of “freedom” around Cairo, the onset of an Islamic dictator in 2011 is looking all but inevitable in Egypt, with consequences as profound for the Middle East (and the world) as when an Islamic dictator first took over Iran in 1979—the most important turning point in Middle Eastern geo-politics since Napoleon took the pyramids.

(Check out yesterday’s post for some background on today’s fire in Cairo, and this video below for a short summation of the views of the folk in and around “Liberation” Square, Cairo, who want nothing more than to be free to destroy, and have nothing to offer the world but blood, tears and genocidal hatred .)

It will only have added irony if the vehicle by which that dictatorship comes is the man whom the UN had inspecting Iran’s nuclear facilities—”nothing to see here” was his message when he came back from Tehran—the same man who now says of the Muslim Brotherhood, the progenitors of Al Qaeda and Hamas, that “We should stop demonizing them.”

The heroic Ayaan Hirsi Ali gave her take on Egypt this morning, one to which most of us would like to give a resounding “Yeah!”:

"We should help the secular democrats with a campaign of 'Yes to freedom. No to shariah.'

Well, yes we should. But the fact has to be faced that hoisting that sentiment in the face of the Islamist whirlwind is little more than wishful thinking. In the battle of Mid-Eastern ideas, freedom lost out to shariah centuries ago, and everything since has been the consequence of that.

I suggested yesterday what’s been obvious for some time, Egypt is going Islamist, as has Lebanon last month, as did Iran in 1979, and there’s very little you or I or Ayaan can do about it.

The mystic blood-letters are taking over from their secular cousins.

To commiserate with those few folk of reason in Egypt, who will soon be shot by both sides, here’s a sing-along from 1979 that is almost as topical today: Ayatollah, by Phil Judd and the Swingers.

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Good news for early childhood today!

Today’s the day that government subsidies for early childhood centres are reduced, and all the usual suspects are gnashing their teeth and predicting disaster. This will  be bad for the early childhood industry, they say.

It won't be.

It might instead be the day early childhood centres begin to get back their souls.

You see, like Mephistopheles, the state bought the souls of early childhood centre owners with those subsidies. In return for oodles of money the formerly independent sector gave up its independence and embraced the state’s curriculum (who needs choice when you can embrace uniformity?), the state’s regulations (one teacher for every six children, thank you very much and another upstairs to fill in all the state-require paperwork) and the state’s qualifications (all teachers in your classroom will have the state’s qualification, or else!).

Were early childhood centres any better for the deal?

No.

Were children?

No. Not at all.

Sure, there was an inundation of activity in the sector, with early childhood teachers flying off to countless conferences, endless seminars and studying for questionable qualifications—all  paid for out of the windfall from the state. Not to mention the proliferation of sundry tertiary institutions set up simply to deliver all the new graduates in the state’s dubious qualification that the state was all-of-a-sudden demanding.

Because without having a classroom jam-packed with teachers holding all those newly-minted, one-size-fits-all qualifications (we don’t want experience or variety in our classrooms, thank you very much, we insist on uniformity and mediocrity!)—and with a teacher registration system demanding those teachers be constantly jetting off to all those indoctrinational bunfests—centres were unable to draw down the real big bucks from the government.

The results of the early childhood subsidies were as predictable as the results of Muldoon’s ill-begotten agricultural subsidies. What was once a burgeoning upwelling of diversity—with parents able to choose between low-cost schools offering Steiner, Montessori, Playcentre, Kohanga Reo, and Froebel philosophies, delivered across the country in Kindergartens, state-maintained schools, private schools, and community owned & run schools—all coexisting quite happily, with parents taking easy advantage of the diversity & choice on offer—is today a stale grey wasteland of uniformity and mediocrity, with mega chains like KidiCorp offering dumbed-down edutainment programmes for the masses, and smaller centres competing with the mega chains for a slice of the subsidy dollars.

It has been a delight for the owners of the mega chains, who have hoovered up schools and centres in order to farm as many of the subsidies as they can. It has been a disaster for the early childhood education of children.

Every centre, despite the philosophy on the signboard (whether Montessori or Steiner, Frobel or Kohanga Reo) delivers substantially the same sub-standard programme (by decree). Every centre, despite the philosophy on the signboard (whether Montessori or Steiner, Frobel or Kohanga Reo) has teachers inside fresh out of their indoctrination centres teachers college all with substantially the same qualification, meaning the signboard (whatever it says is being offered inside) is virtually meaningless.

It has made of the once diverse sector a cooky-cutter deliver of one-size-fits-all uniformity.

Such, indeed, was the stated intention of the last two governments, who declared (in the name of “quality,” believe it or not) that they wanted to stamp out the diversity of the sector with both carrot and stick.

The stick was the forced retraining of teachers, the ejection from the profession of those who refused to retrain, and the infusion of newly indoctrinated young teachers to take their place. It was a stick that mandated that everything from shopping centre creches to the homes of home-schooling Montessori parents must have the decreed number of staff on those premises bearing the state’s newly-minted qualification or else.

The carrot was the subsidy scheme, whereby centre owners were gently persuaded by means of a rising tide of emoluments that their best interests lay in giving up and giving in, and doing just exactly as they were told.

And so they did, receiving a virtual flood tide of dosh, of which even Minister Tolley admits,

_Quote We are now at the stage where the taxpayer is subsidising early childhood centres at an average of $7600 per child per year.
   
This compares to an average of $5528 for a primary school student, and $6733 for a student at secondary school.

Time, in other words—now that the hook has been taken—for the bribe to be reduced somewhat.

That centre owners are now complaining that the windfall they came to enjoy is now sinking from flood tide down to king tide is no surprise. It’s what happens, at some stage, to everyone who allows themselves to come rely on the blandishments of government. Because just like the recipients of Muldoon’s agricultural subsidies, both they and the sellers of early childhood materials and programmes were getting used to the flood tide of taxpayer cash awash in the sector, and they’re now going to find it harder to return to the way things were. If, indeed, they can.

But like those farmers (who, unlike the owners of early childhood centres, were required to go cold turkey) as they quietly begin to wean themselves off the state teat and begin to reflect on what they’ve given away in recent years in order to farm these subsidies from the state, they might slowly realise that this diminution of subsidies will actually enable them to get back their souls they’d so readily given away, and to begin once more being real educational professionals instead of remotely-controlled automations of the state.

To begin again employing people who know what they’re doing, not because they know how to tick boxes.

To start over seeking out teachers with real, high-quality, internationally-recognised qualifications instead of simply employing the lowest-common-denominator holders of the state’s low-rent spoon-fed diplomas while gleefully hoovering up the truckload of subsidies that came with the employment of these no-hopers.

It’s not bad news at all then for children. It’s good news.

If, that is, it’s not already far too late.

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John Barry, R.I.P.

John Barry, one of the finest composers and arrangers of film music, has died.

Best known for his unforgettable James Bond music, he scored hundreds of films—including many of my own favourites.

His brand of taut romanticism never went out of style. Fortunately.

He will be very greatly missed.

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Monday, January 31, 2011

One-minute budget Obamanomics

Despite the headline talk of cuts, Obama’s budget plan is to use the miracle of big numbers to do nothing at all (much like British Prime Minister Cameron). This short video explains the ruse:

[Hat tip to an anonymous commenter]

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The inevitable conflagration in Cairo [updated]

There will be no attractive outcome from the incipient revolution in Cairo’s streets.  On one side, fighting for survival, a  nationalistic sense of “nationhood” going back several millennia that has been represented in recent decades by the brutal military dictatorships of Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak; on the other, fighting for its biggest conquest since the Iranian Revolution, a brand of toxic, militant Islam from which sprang the ideology of hate that powers Al Qaeda and related Islamic murderers.

Whoever wins in the street battles, the results will not be pretty.

All that can be said in favour of the dictators is that they were and are opposed to the militant mystics—helping make Egypt one of the more secular, “westernized” Islamic nations in the Middle East. But the price at which this was bought was a militant dictatorship maintaining control by political oppression—an environment of overarching brutality in which the odious mystic hate-mongers flourished underground. Like a bacillus.

That bacillus is now out of the cellars and into the streets, and whichever particular individual takes over after the violence subsides (and note that the leading opposition candidate Mohammed ElBaradei is backed by the same Muslim Brotherhood from which Al Qaeda mentor Sayyid Qutb emerged) the eventual victor will assuredly be the bacillus.

It was always inevitable. If Egypt ever had a renaissance, it was only in 1919 to 1928 in the wake of World War I when Egypt's rising tide of nationalism re-emerged in the modern form of secular socialism, building a “modern Egypt” in the likeness of a worker’s Soviet and such lifeless monuments to its dead past as this one shown here by Mahmoud Mokhtar.  Egypt’s sense of nationhood certainly goes back centuries, (as historian Scott Powell explains “an implicit premise embedded in Egyptian thinking that extends back to its “glorious” pharaonic past, of which the ever present pyramids and temples [and mortuaries and funerary palaces] provide a constant reminder”), but without the philosophical base responsible for these past glories, its modern “renaissance” could never rekindle the full power of its past (as Mokhtar’s soulless sculpture adumbrates). The strident militant nationalism of Nasser/Sadat/Mubarak could never be a real substitute for the full-on pharaonic metaphysics.

Hence, since the death of Nasser, Egyptian nationalism's most vigorous standard bearer, Egypt's nationalism has withered in the face of the more explicit and integrated metaphysics and values of Islam, both of which are widely accepted by the Egyptian population.  As I blogged a couple of years ago,

_Quote the values of these two ideological forces have been in open warfare ever since the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 -- the suppression of the Brotherhood and the murder of Nasser's successor Anwar Sadat by Muslim Brotherhood killers being two ready symbols of the conflict played out between the secular but disintegrating nationalism and the vigorous, violent and persistent Islamism that the brotherhood embodies.
    This can be a conflict with only one victor.
  Scott Powell argues at his 'Powell History Recommends' blog that because nationalism is merely a set of disintegrated implicit notions whereas Islamism  is an "all-encompassing and explicit system of ideas," it is therefore "only a matter of time before it takes over."

Only a matter of time . . .

_QuoteEgypt is thus a nation in flux, and on its way to somewhere worse. "Despite the constant use of force by the Mubarak regime to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood," notes Powell, "that Islamist organization remains the only organized political opposition in Egypt [as a 2008 day of angry protest was intended to demonstrate]. This matters because the country may be on the verge of economic collapse and widespread violence."

An Egyptian Islamist theocracy? Don’t bet against it.

Why does this matter to us?

_QuoteThis matters to us because Egypt is not only the source of one of the most virulent of Islamism's anti-western toxins, but because it has the potential to be the next Poland -- ie., "the next flashpoint that ignites an unexpected larger war, such as occurred in 1939."

Let us profoundly hope not.

Here’s The Cure:

UPDATE: Egypt and the world face a crossroads, says Liberty Scott.

_QuoteLet's be clear, an Islamist run Egypt would pose a threat not only to Israel, but could be a base for terrorist activities in Europe and beyond.  It would have a stranglehold over shipping through the Suez Canal, and be leading the largest Arab state by population.   The Iranian military religious dictatorship is already claiming a new Middle East, Islamic dominated, is coming to the fore, let's hope not.
    For if it were to happen, do not be deluded that it will cost in lives, and could create a new age of conflict that makes Iraq and Afghanistan seem like they were easy. . .
    For if it is a bad dream for Egyptians to be suppressed by the Mubarak regime, it would be one of our worst nightmares to have an Ayatollah of Cairo.

Not that Obama would know. Looks like while Cairo burns, Obama parties.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thought for the day

Our thought for this Sunday morning comes from the Pre-Socratic philosopher Xenophanes of Colophon (570-475BC), who first voiced this insight piece of post-prandial wisdom:

_Quote Among men he is to be praised who after drinking produces noble thoughts . . . “

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