Tuesday, 10 January 2012

“Let them eat bonds!” Before they eat themselves.

Despite conventional wisdom, government bonds are not a good investment. The endgame for government bonds is either default or default—either outright default or default by central bank-created inflation.

And as the Euro crisis (really a govt debt crisis) plays out, it’s clear enough that endgame is coming soon.

“The government bond market is still skating on thin ice,’ says Detlev Schlicter, and with it “the entire financial system.”

Read about it here at Detlev’s ‘Paper Money Collapse’ blog.

And learn about his thesis here, in his recent talk to London’s Adam Smith Institute, described by 'Libertarian Home’s Andy Janes as “very impressive, if terrifying.”

He argues that the present financial crisis is far from over; generally misunderstood and misrepresented, it is far from being a ‘crisis of capitalism’. Detlev traces the history of failure of paper money systems and lays out why present policies pursued by various governments and institutions are misdirected and counterproductive.

Thank Galt for warming, eh.

A reader (thanks Greg) has spotted the warmists’ latest spin, trumpeted by no less than their favourite outlet the BBC.

They are now not trying to hide the decline [notes Greg]. In fact they admit that things are getting colder--but now the spin is that global warming [sic] is slowing down an ice age. This is somewhat like Obama claiming that while unemployment under his watch has sky-rocketed under his administration, it would have been worse if not for him.

So now that the warmists’ religion is collapsing under patently transparent nonsense, what’s going to replace it as the chief weapon in the anti-industrialists armory?


‘Body and Soul’

Could this be the greatest jazz solo of all time? The good folks at Jazz on the Tube sure think so.

Coleman Hawkins, ‘Body and Soul’

Monday, 9 January 2012

Ron Paul

I’ve had to discuss Ron Paul frequently over the holiday break. Not because I brought him up. For some reason, friends wanted to talk about him. Here below are links saying a little of what I tried to say about him in response, summarised by those more knowledgeable about the subject than I.

Short summary? Ron Paul is not a libertarian. He

  • rejects the Jeffersonian principle of a "wall of separation" between religion and government;
  • is anti-immigration (“to the right of most Republicans” says Vodka Pundit Steve Green);
  • is anti-abortion (Paul describes "the rights of unborn people” [sic] as “the greatest moral issue of our time," and "abortion on demand" as "the ultimate State tyranny");
  • “plays footsie” with racists and kooks;
  • is a hypocritical supporter of pork-barrel earmarks for his own congressional district;
  • is opposed to free-trade agreements (like NAFTA); and
  • is appallingly “blame-America-first” on  foreign policy.

In addition, he is a Creationist—a point of view disqualifying the holder from intelligent discussion of, well, virtually everything.

In short, then, and to repeat, he is not a libertarian: he is a “states-rights” religious conservative, with all the intellectual confusion that implies—yet his growing public prominence as a self-proclaimed spokesman for the ideas of liberty gives grave concern for the fate of those ideas.

UPDATE:  Clearly, Ron Paul is far from the secular freedom lover many would like him to be. Argues Gus Van Horn,

   he functions as a Trojan horse for the religious right even as he pretends that personal freedom is as obviously good and uncontroversial as breathing on a regular basis. (Personal freedom is good, but this is neither obvious nor uncontroversial.)
So what then about his claims to being a lover of freedom? What exactly is Paul's vision of "a free society"?  On that subject, this Open Letter to Ron Paul is an eye-opener, written by one Duncan Bayne in response to this article by Paul criticising the 1993 BATF & FBI assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco. Says Bayne:
   While I agreed with many of your criticisms of BATF and FBI tactics & strategy, it became apparent to me that your article was not primarily concerned with those criticisms: the main thrust of the article was to whitewash the monstrous evil committed by David Koresh and his followers. You wrote:
‘The community of faith that once lived at Mount Carmel in Waco, Texas, believed the promise of a free society.’
“This is the "community of faith" that sacrificed twelve-year old girls to Koresh so they could serve as his 'wives' - some of whom bore his children. If that level of barbarism - a religious community complicit in the slavery and rape of young girls - represents anything approaching your idea of what is a ‘free society,’ then I don't want you having any say in how society operates.

    Too true. There is no need to defend the barbarism and paedophilia of Koresh’s supporters in order to attack the BATF and FBI goons who killed them. Yet Paul is happy to embrace the barbarity, and in doing so demonstrates the Objectivist argument against irrational libertarianism.  Without a rational philosophical foundation, argue Objectivists, without a decent "philosophical infrastructure," politics becomes a dangerous pursuit of empty words, floating abstractions, and range-of-the-moment compromises. How can you call libertarians allies in freedom, ask hardcore Objectivists, when libertarians such as Ron Paul can't even agree on what the word "freedom" stands for?  And how can you call someone an advocate of freedom at all when their vision of a "free society" apparently includes the the freedom to rape twelve-year-old girls?

It's clear, just as Van Horn charges, that freedom is neither obvious nor uncontroversial. In fact, personal freedom can and does (and must) be predicated on the base of reason, not of subjective whim.  As Michael Berliner points out in this article on Ayn Rand,

    She understood that to defend the individual she must penetrate to the root: his need to use reason to survive. ‘I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism,’ she wrote in 1971, ‘but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.’ This radical view put her at odds with conservatives, whom she vilified for their attempts to base capitalism on faith and altruism. Advocating a government to protect the individual's right to his property, she was not a liberal (or an anarchist). Advocating the indispensability of philosophy, she was not a libertarian.
The point could hardly be clearer. Van Horn concludes:
   The fight for freedom is, as I have pointed out, a war on two fronts: the political and the intellectual. Of the two, the intellectual is the more fundamental, and cannot be lost. The longer enemies to freedom like Ron Paul can masquerade as friends, the longer it will take for people to become aware of the actual requirements for a society that respects individual rights.

That he can masquerade as a friend to freedom at all demonstrates how far the intellectual battle for freedom still needs to travel.

Because the harsh fact about Ron Paul is that on the few occasions he takes off the tinfoil hat and talks Austrian he’s damn good. But when he’s wearing the tinfoil headwear, as he does the rest of the time, he’s rotten.

Why Wikipedia doesn’t make money

Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales explains why making money isn’t his primary goal—to the surprise of those who think it should be for an Objectivist.

[Hat tip Diana Hsieh, who Jimmy quotes in his Ford Hall Forum speech]

Welcome back

Welcome back everyone.

How was your holiday?

Mine was a beauty.

And thanks for asking.

So what’s been happening with everyone?

“Balloon Race,” by David Knowles


“Balloon Race” by Wairarapa artist David Knowles is posted this morning to mark the tragic accident over the weekend—and to remind us of the spirit that animates the sport, and produces this sort of spectacle.

Let the tragedy not destroy it.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Your pocket guide to festive drinking

Observed Alexander Pope, “Drink is the feast of reason and the flow of soul.”

So drink sensibly this Festive Season, i.e., start early, then lash yourself securely to a bar.

And tell the wowsers to go to hell. It’s what hell was invented for. For wowsers.  For wowsers who try to deliver “Good News” like this:

_Quote_IdiotIf 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 someone whose disciple you’d want to be, or something you’d want to celebrate. Ever.

At Christmas time we don't say "sacrifice and repent," we say enjoy yourself and thrive! Especially enjoyable when you know  Islamic "scholars" find "saying Merry Christmas worse than fornication or killing someone."  So hold your drinks high, shout loudly “Merry Christmas and a Salacious Saturnalia,” and celebrate the Season as a time of unabashed earthly joy.

Because it’s entirely self-evident that flourishing and being happy about it is good for you.

So as Tom Waits once said, “Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends.” Here’s the Champagne Song from Die Fledermaus to get you started with the appropriate toast: “It’s not how much you drink, it’s what you drink.  A toast to King Champagne!” (Kiri’s toast starts about 2:00 in.)

And here’s the drinking song from Verdi’s Otello, sung by an unusually ebullient bunch of Laplanders*. The loose translation is ‘Wet Your Throat,’ but you hardly need an ace translator to work out what they’re singing about.

* Well, almost. Finland is pretty close, right?

Books, books, books, books…

I’ve been trying to limit my pile of holiday reading this year.


I thought reading books on my iPad would help reduce the stack. But I suspect I’ve overdone it again.


So what’s on your holiday reading list this year?

Monday, 19 December 2011

Vaclav Havel (1936-2011)


THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT HISTORICAL event of the last fifty years was the collapse of Communism, and with it the liberation of hundreds of millions from slavery.

One of the most important figureheads in that fall died last night: Vaclav Havel, dissident playwright, Velvet Revolutionary, the first president of the free Czechoslovakia he and his colleagues wrested from the Soviets, and the man who successfully guided the Czech Republic from communism to relative freedom.

His story is as inspiring as his understanding that authoritarianism can never last; that the collapse was inevitable; that authoritarian rule is inevitably the victim of a "lethal principle" that will always destroy it:

"Life cannot be destroyed for good," he wrote in a widely-circulated samizdat letter in the last years of Soviet rule. “A secret streamlet trickles on beneath the heavy crust of inertia and pseudo-events, slowly and inconspicuously undermining it. It may be a long process, but one day it has to happen: the crust can no longer hold and starts to crack. This is the moment when something once more begins visibly to happen, something new and unique."

HAVEL—PLAYWRIGHT, POET, MAGAZINE editor and a dissident against totalitarian rule since the mid-sixties—led the 1989 ‘Velvet Revolution’ which overturned the Communist government of Czechoslovakia, and remained as President of the new country until he retired.

The Velvet Revolution was a revolution of ideas - ideas that in the end saw the Communists concede rather than confront them; Havel won with his principles, which he developed in his many battles to beat the Bolshevik bastards back. He and his supporters were regarded as a major threat by the communists not because of their numbers, but because of what they said. More particularly, the communist government knew that when Havel said something, HE MEANT IT.

Vaclav Havel had no intention of ending up in his country’s presidential palace; it was his fight to keep his own magazine, Tvar, alive and un-banned that got him involved in politics, but the way he fought eventually brought down a government. His fight was based on ideas, it was based on principle, and it required an almost ineffable patience.

Havel learnt a crucial lesson in the power of principle very early in his career. He learned to never rely on the “moderates”—that it is these creatures who are your biggest enemies; it is them who will knife you in the back while smiling.  He learned this when he was sold out by his own fellow writers and imprisoned; sold out by souls so cowardly, so in thrall to the Soviets - so craven - that they would rather die on their knees than even give thought to the notion of standing up for their own freedom. Havel and his supporters learnt then that if they were ever to achieve anything they must stand up for themselves. They did, and eventually they won their country.

Two years before the ‘Velvet Revolution’ there were no outward signs that his years of struggle would ever have any tangible effect, yet Havel remained adamant that the struggle was worth it; he was convinced that totalitarianism contained within it a ‘lethal principle’ which would eventually kill it.  He described this principle in a illicit ‘samizdat’ essay widely-circulated in the desolate years after the Soviets had crushed the Prague Spring

[Havel] described a society governed by fear - not the cold, pit-of-the-stomach terror that Stalin had once spread throughout his empire, but a dull, existential fear that seeped into every crack and crevice of daily life and made one think twice about everything one said and did.
The essay was, in fact, a state of the union message, and it contained an unforgettable metaphor: the regime, the author said, was "entropic," a force that was gradually reducing the vital energy, diversity, and unpredictability of Czechoslovak society to a state of dull, inert uniformity. And the letter also contained a remarkable prediction: that sooner or later, this regime would become the victim of its own "lethal principle." "Life cannot be destroyed for good," [Havel] wrote. “A secret streamlet trickles on beneath the heavy crust of inertia and pseudo-events, slowly and inconspicuously undermining it. It may be a long process, but one day it has to happen: the crust can no longer hold and starts to crack. This is the moment when something once more begins visibly to happen, something new and unique." *

"Life cannot be destroyed for good." Fifteen years after Havel wrote those words in a samizdat pamphlet those streamlets burst forth, sweeping away communist regimes from Berlin to Bucharest and carrying the playwright Vaclav Havel from the ghetto of dissent to the world stage. Those extraordinary events of 1990 enrich that letter with new levels of meaning.

HAVEL FIRST BECAME INVOLVED in political resistance in the mid-sixties in his efforts simply to survive; to keep alive his small literary magazine, Tvar, in the face of pressure from the Communist Party to close it down. In resisting, he discovered what he called "a new model of behaviour":

When arguing with a center of power, don't get sidetracked into vague [nitpicking] debates about who is right or wrong; fight for specific, concrete things, and be prepared to stick to your guns to the end.

That model of principled behaviour served him well:

On Tuesday morning, November 28,1989, Havel led a delegation of the Civic Forum to negotiate with the Communist- dominated government. The issue was not a magazine this time, it was the country. Ten days before that, the "Velvet Revolution" had been set in motion by a student demonstration in Prague; that was followed by a week of massive demonstrations culminating. in a general strike on Monday, November 27. Early Tuesday afternoon, following the meeting, the government announced that it had agreed to write the leading role of the Communist Party out of the constitution. We do not know what was said at the meeting, but I don't think we would be far wrong to assume that the discussion stayed very close to the concrete issue of amending the constitution, and that the Civic Forum delegation stuck to their guns. A principle that Havel and his colleagues had learned decades before now stood them in good stead.

By the end of that month, Havel was President of the country in a process that readers of Atlas Shrugged could easily recognise. The battle begun simply to save Havel’s magazine had ended by saving the people of Czechoslovakia.

Yet he recounts how he began this battle simply by resisting pressure from his local 'Writers Union' to 'persuade' him to close the magazine. He quickly realised that his real enemies were not the Soviets. His real enemies were all those who Lenin had once called his ‘useful idiots’ – all those like the Writers' Union who are prepared to compromise with their enemies and to sell out their friends - supposed allies who, in accepting servitude for themselves, happily impose it on others.

In the end though and despite his resistance, [the banning of Tvar] became more and more inevitable. The Central Committee of the Union had to make it appear as though they were doing it on their own initiative, but in fact they were ordered to do it by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Left to themselves, the anti-dogmatics [as the wowsers were descriptively called] would not have banned us, but we weren't worth a rebellion inside the party so they did it anyway. Of course they explained it to us in their traditional 'anti-dogmatic' way: The struggle for great things - the general liberalization of conditions - demands minor compromises in things that are less important . It would not be tactical to risk an open conflict over Tvar, because there is bigger game at stake [etc., etc]. … This is [the very] model of self-destructive politics. …

We argued that the best way to liberalize conditions is to be uncompromising precisely in those "minor" and "unimportant details, such as the publication of this or that book or this or that little magazine. Our argument was not heard. Nevertheless, a kind of hangover from this experience remained in anti-dogmatic circles. And it began to spread rapidly when we refused to accept their ultimatum silently, and refused to accept the rules of the game as they had played it until then.

Havel and his Tvar team mobilised to defend themselves, organising petitions and meetings amongst their fellow writers, refusing - in Ayn Rand's words - to accept the sanction of the victim. Used to more compliant behaviour from their victims, this unusually principled resistance got under the skin of the Central Committee:

I think our efforts had a great importance, one that has not been recognized, even today. We introduced a new model of behaviour: don't get involved in diffuse … polemics with the centre, to whom numerous concrete causes are always being sacrificed; fight "only" for those concrete causes, and be prepared to fight for them unswervingly, to the end. In other words, don't get mixed up in back-room wheeling and dealing, but play an open game.

I think in this sense we taught our anti-dogmatic colleagues a rather important lesson; … They realized that many of their former methods were hopelessly out of date, that a new and fresher wind was blowing, that there were people - and there would obviously be more and more of them - who would not be stopped in their tracks by the argument that a concrete evil was necessary in the name of an abstract good. In short, I think that Tvar had an educational effect on the anti-dogmatic members of the writing community. Suddenly here was the party taking us, a handful of fellows, more seriously than the entire anti-dogmatic "front." And they were taking us more seriously for the simple reason that we could not be so easily talked out of our convictions.

In 1969, Havel wrote to Alexander Dubcek, the face of the brief 'Prague Spring' before it was crushed by the Soviets, pleading with him to leave political life rather than let himself be used as a propaganda pawn. Dubcek did leave office. Reflecting on that letter seventeen years later, Havel wrote:

I had written that even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance. In this I found, to my own surprise, the very same idea that, having been discovered by many people at the same time, stood behind the birth of Charter 77 and which to this day I am trying - in relation to the Charter and our "dissident activities" - to develop and explain and, in various ways, make more precise.

In an interview two years before the Soviets fell, when from the outside things still seemed apparently hopeless, Havel reflected that years of seemingly hopeless resistance had indeed produced effects, though not ones that everyone would notice :

[Our various actions], of course, have wider consequences. Today far more is possible. Think of this: hundreds of people today are doing things that not a single one of them would have dared to do at the beginning of the seventies. We are now living in a truly new and different situation. This is not because the government has become more tolerant; it has simply had to get used o the new situation. It has had to yield to continuing pressure from below, which means pressure from all those apparently suicidal or exhibitionistic civic acts. People who are used to seeing society only 'from above" tend to be impatient. They want to see immediate results. Anything that does not produce immediate results seems foolish. They don't have a lot of sympathy for acts which can only be [practically] evaluated years after they take place, which are motivated by moral factors, and which therefore run the risk of never accomplishing anything. …

Unfortunately, we live in conditions where improvement is often achieved [only] by actions that risk remaining forever in the memory of humanity [as] an exhibitionistic act of desperate people.

Havel, reflects that it is the sum total of these many 'hopeless acts' of 'exhibitionism' that in the end force change; that only by not lying down in the face of an apparently hopeless struggle are these crucial and very tangible victories achieved:

To many outside observers [the many small victories of principled action] may seem insignificant. Where are your ten-million strong trade unions? they may ask. Where are your members of parliament? Why does [the President] not negotiate with you? Why is the government not considering your proposals and acting on them? But for someone from here who is not completely indifferent, these [small signs] are far from insignificant changes; they are the main promise of the future, since he has long ago learned not to expect it from anywhere else.

I can't resist concluding with a question of my own. Isn't the reward of all those small but hopeful signs of movement this deep, inner hope that is not dependent on prognoses, and which was the primordial point of departure in this unequal struggle? Would so many of those small hopes have "come out" if there had not been this great hope "within," this hope without which it is impossible to live in dignity and meaning, much less find the will for the "hopeless enterprise" which stands at the beginning of most good things.

Freedom lovers everywhere might reflect on Havel’s words, and his experience. We must sometimes seem to be such an apparently "hopeless enterprise" as he describes, engaged in a doomed an unequal struggle.

But we can learn from Havel that such an apparently "hopeless enterprise" can eventually ignite success. As he suggests, if our own actions are to ever become "the beginning of … good things" we must always let our hope "within" motivate us to action.

We must realise we ourselves are the change we hope to make in the world; that our ostensive enemies are really only paper tigers supported by nothing but lies; that our real enemies are the inertia of thousands with heads full of mush, and our so-called friends with nothing in their souls but marshmallow.

Havel himself had to spend four years in jail before his battle was won. Little wonder. Power does not concede without a struggle. As former American slave Frederick Douglass said, struggling for freedom in the century before Havel’s: " The struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle! "

The struggle for freedom goes on, its path lit by heroes like Douglass and Havel.

We mourn the loss of Vaclav Havel, and celebrate his life.

* * * *

* Quotes are from the book Disturbing the Peace.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Quote of the day: Christopher Hitchens, (13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011)


"My own opinion is enough for me, and I claim the right to
have it defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere,
any place, any time. And anyone who disagrees with this
can pick a number, get in line and kiss my ass.”

- Christopher Hitchens, Free Speech Debate at University of Toronto, 2006

Friday, 16 December 2011

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, Christ was never even in Christmas --except in fiction and by order of the first Popes.

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 of 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.

imageFact 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 (right). 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 along with Magi, stars and shepherds dreamed up almost out of whole cloth.  (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 folk claiming Christmas back for their revels.

BECAUSE THE VERY BEST OF Christmas is still very much pagan, thank Odin. 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.

And while I’ll be posting occasionally between now and next year, I’ll see you back here again to give it the full press 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. Concentrate as well as you can…

* 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.

*** Panic not, I won’t be away long.  I’ll be posting occasionally over the summer break, and be back for good around the second week in January. Or so.  Enjoy your holidays. I will be.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Classical realism, in NZ

I’ve just been to a wonderful show by two hugely talented artists at the start of their careers, artists the like of which you thought you’d never see again.
The “show was a presentation for Angela Mackie’s ‘Art History Cathedral Lectures’ – a whole enormously valuable experience on their own. So rather than listen to me, Here’s what Angela had to say about these two talented souls:
Classical Realism – Thursday 15 December 2011
Two European artists who trained (and met!) in Florence, became engaged in Paris, and married in Auckland – Jesper Sundwall and Jasmine Kamante – are our guest artists and speakers at our last lecture of the year on Classical Realism. They will be talking to you about their rich experiences training in the Classical Tradition in modern day Europe, and the journey that led them there. In addition, a selection of their drawings and paintings will be exhibited for sale at the lecture.

Jasmine Kamante, of Persian extraction, has had a passion for drawing portraits from a very young age. She began her art studies in New Zealand with a Bachelor of Visual Arts, specialising in glass and clay sculpture. Jasmine then spent three intensive years studying classical drawing and painting techniques in ateliers in Florence and Paris. Now a classically trained artist, she specialises in figurative narratives. Jasmine currently works full time in her studio in New Zealand.
    Jasmine's extensive studies of the human figure and, indeed, her own delightful personality and enquiring mind give her an empathy for her subjects which translates into accurate and honest representation of their facial expressions and body language. Her eclectic training has enabled her to blend a variety of techniques to produce exquisite work which has a sense of volume and movement.
Jesper Sundwall (above) is an artist from Stockholm, Sweden. He studied at Parsons School of Design in Paris and New York, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours in 1997. He designed for New York clients such as Rolling Stone Magazine, Sony and Korg for six years. During this time Jesper also studied at New York Art Academy. He then went on to pursue his passion for art and hone his painting and drawing skills by studying at an atelier in Florence. He now paints full time in his studio in New Zealand.
    Jesper's body of work showcases carefully considered, representational still lifes and figures. His works display a sensitivity that animates even the most inorganic of subjects. With expertly placed brush strokes, he manages to capture the varying tactile qualities of different materials and textures so well that you want to reach out and touch the subject.

And, yes, these works and many more are for sale at Jasmine’s and Jesper’s websites.

An atheist Christmas?

Q: Is it appropriate for an atheist to celebrate Christmas?

A: “Yes, of course

The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men...
    “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 . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations 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.”
            - Ayn Rand

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Sing Happy Christmas

My favourite Christmas song, performed by my favourite…oh, shite, why don’t I just let you hear it.

This is great.  Shane McGowan’s great Fairytale Of New York, sung by Christy Moore with all the poignancy and accuracy it demands—none of which will be exhibited when I and my crapulous friends sing it later tonight.


And Happy Christmas.

Perigo! for Xmas

imagePerigo!: 8.00pm on Stratos, Freeview 21 & Sky 89

I’ve just been told that over the Xmas break Stratos will be screening the Best of Perigo!, 6 favourite episodes of the Perigo! show re-screened, starting with Lindsay’s interview with the dear, departed Roger Kerr this Thursday at 8.00pm on Stratos, Sky 89, and ending with his Ayn Rand Special—about which he said, “This is it for me … I couldn’t be prouder.”

These are the shows, in the order they’ll go out:

1 - Roger Kerr
2 - Muriel Newman
3 - Don Brash 2
4 - The Mad Butcher
5 - Deborah Coddington
6 - The Ayn Rand Special

Set your telly now.

“Prepare for European default”

Prepare For a European Default.” That’s the stark message from both GMO Investments and Kyle Bass on the inevitability of Europe's demise.

Why inevitable? Because the huge need for capital and the dire dearth of it available. Capital needs are almost EUR300 billion.  Short of the central bank printing money (with everything that implies) no-one is gong to risk their own capital on this rapidly opening black hole. Says Bass: “There is no saviour large enough with a magic potion of capital to stave off this unfortunate conclusion to the global debt super cycle."

Time for banks, investors and pontificators to start treating “sovereign loans,” i.e., government debt, as the risky asset class it really is, says GMO.

Here’s Bass, who made a fortune predicting previous crashes:


NOT PJ: What's the Reason for this Folly?

_BernardDarnton"All I want for Christmas," says guest columnist Bernard Darnton, "is Christmas"

I wasn't one of those who bought a house near the top of the market with a hundred-percent mortgage and then extended the loan six months later to buy a bloody great big shiny new TV, so the recession (if not the Christchurch earthquake) has so far passed me by.

The worst effect of both is that austerity is still fashionable, even amongst those who aren't feeling the pinch. I had hope it would be a passing fad I could easily ignore, much as I ignore most passing fads. Not having a bloody great big shiny new TV I don't usually find out what the passing fads are until they've passed by, reached their destination, gone to the pub, and are having a lonely drink to drown their sorrows having been deserted by their followers.

Regarding the TV thing, I should add that I don't have anything against shiny expensive gadgets – Note to Santa: I quite like shiny expensive gadgets – it's just that I don't want a top notch telly when the programmes are so crap. Shite in high-definition is still shite.

The worst aspect of austerity-as-fashion-accessory is that it has invaded that stronghold of glorious consumption, Christmas. I know there are supposed to be religious reasons for Christmas – Jesus or Sol Invictus or something – but as far as I'm aware no verse in the Bible mentions the real highlight of Christmas, a fat bloke dressed as a Coke can.

This year once again our family has decided to cut back. That is, one person in our family has decided to cut back and told everyone else to comply. I certainly wasn't part of this daft decision, being merely a hanger-on by marriage. (And I only find out about this stuff after the fact. Mrs Darnton does all the present buying and associated carry-on at our place.) I don't think any of us is in financial trouble. I suspect the dig-for-England mentality is just a bit of vaguely Puritan middle-class guilt. A bit like when your mother told you to eat your dinner because people were starving in Ethiopia. Which makes as much sense as putting your coat on because it's cold at the North Pole.

We are now subject to strict present buying rules, which have been laid down by the central authority. Each participant is to buy one present, addressed to a designated recipient, up to a legislated maximum value. Excruciating Christmas morning horrors await.

The primary failure of the centrally-planned Christmas is that not everyone knows the plan. The Christmas Control Authority has been too polite to tell some people that the trimmings have been trimmed. Those without inside knowledge of how the systems works will arrive arms laden and expecting full festivities. Their generosity will be cruelly punished.

The Christmas Control Authority has also become the clearing house for problematic gift-buying decisions. Those who've been assigned a difficult relative or someone they don't know well seem to believe that a bureaucracy clever enough to make up all these rules also knows exactly what everyone wants. No. Expect resources to be misapplied to the novelty sock and amusing coffee mug industries. I'm almost praying for scorched almonds.

On the upside, the atheists are going to have a good time regardless. While the churchgoers are going to church (if they can find one here in Christchurch their God didn’t turn to rubble) the atheists will get in a two- or three-bottle head start to make the proceedings bearable, perhaps even entertaining. Without an explicit liquor ban, this will be the festive outlet of choice.

The question for next year is: will the failed experiment result in a return to laissez-faire or yet another round of regulation to correct the problems caused by the first lot. I wish you a raucous and regulation-free Christmas and hope that Santa hasn't been turned back from your place for the crime of overloading his sleigh.

Quote of the day” Paper money is …

_QuotePaper [money] is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it.
                                          - Ayn Rand, from “The Money Speech” in Atlas Shrugged

The art of war, by cartoon [updated]

Cartoonist John Cox explores design and the Occupiers’ feeble efforts at “change.”

Who is John Cox?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Coffee fuelled the Age of Enlightenment

Who knew that when the Turks fled Vienna in the sixteenth century, the bags of strange dark beans they left behind would take over western Europe, and eventually fuel the Age of Enlightenment!

Steve Johnson, the author of The Invention of Air spells out in the video excerpt below what Stephen Hicks and I have known for some time:

When the sweet poison of the Treacherous Grape[2]
Had acted on the world a general rape; …
Coffee arrives, that grave and wholesome Liquor
That heals the stomach and makes the genius quicker.

Coffee was the Great Redeemer!

The massive, heavy body types of seventeenth-century paintings had their physiological explanation in high beer and beer-soup consumption… The insertion of coffee achieved chemically what the Protestants sought to fulfil spiritually [by] ‘drying’ up the beer-soaked bums and replacing them with ‘rationalistic, forward-looking bodies’ typical of the lean cynics of the nineteenth-century.[4]

Notes on the Eurozone crisis

imageGuest post by Libertarian Sus

So British PM David Cameron is getting it in the neck for saying F.U. to the E.U.  But what’s new?
I bring you a few excerpts from Yes Minister 30 years ago which, if they had been taken seriously, may have helped avoid the entire situation.

(Note to younger readers and Americans:  Yes, Minister was a clever Brit-com in the 1980s.  PM Margaret Thatcher reportedly never missed it in that it was so close to the bone.  Jim Hacker, a wet, naive plodder, was a senior MP, with the odious Sir Humphrey his personal secretary, i.e., a civil servant and thus, the real political power base.  It later morphed into Yes, Prime Minister when Jim became the PM which saw Sir Humphrey holding the national reins.  Humphrey was fantastically vile.   The EEC was the forerunner of the EU.) 

This is genius:

Episode Five: The Writing on the Wall

Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it's worked so well?

Hacker: That's all ancient history, surely?

Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn't work. Now that we're inside we can make a complete pig's breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it's just like old times.

Hacker: But surely we're all committed to the European ideal?

Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister.

Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?

Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It's just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes.

Hacker: What appalling cynicism.

Sir Humphrey: Yes... We call it diplomacy, Minister.

Episode Five: The Devil You Know

Hacker: Europe is a community of nations, dedicated towards one goal.

Sir Humphrey: Oh, ha ha ha.

Hacker: May we share the joke, Humphrey?

Sir Humphrey: Oh Minister, let's look at this objectively. It is a game played for national interests, and always was. Why do you suppose we went into it?

Hacker: To strengthen the brotherhood of free Western nations.

Sir Humphrey: Oh really. We went in to screw the French by splitting them off from the Germans.

Hacker: So why did the French go into it, then?

Sir Humphrey: Well, to protect their inefficient farmers from commercial competition.

Hacker: That certainly doesn't apply to the Germans.

Sir Humphrey: No, no. They went in to cleanse themselves of genocide and apply for readmission to the human race.

Hacker: I never heard such appalling cynicism! At least the small nations didn't go into it for selfish reasons.

Sir Humphrey: Oh really? Luxembourg is in it for the perks; the capital of the EEC, all that foreign money pouring in.

Hacker: Very sensible central location.

Sir Humphrey: With the administration in Brussels and the Parliament in Strasbourg? Minister, it's like having the House of Commons in Swindon and the Civil Service in Kettering!

Sayonara Kyoto [update 4: Sayonara climate activism]


After two weeks of conferencing and a couple of late nights over the weekend, delegates to the Durban Climate Conference emerged yesterday bearing … something.

Actually, nothing. Nothing at all. Well, nothing except political folk trying to spin failure as success. A “historic agreement” to meet again later.

Don’t take my word for that. Even the warmists agree. Take Greenpeace International’s head man Kumi Naidoo, for example, who says,

“Right now the global climate regime amounts to nothing more than a voluntary deal that’s put off for a decade.”

This conference was the last chance to resuscitate the Kyoto agreement before it expires next year. Which means Kyoto is now dead.

And in a decade, Kyoto will be dead, buried, and have a large granite headstone over it.

What a shame.

The biggest news to emerge from the conference was the inclusion of developing countries like China and India in agreements. But what did they agree to? They agreed to meet again later. To take part in more talks to produce another agreement to met again, where they will no doubt agree to meet and talk again.

Because neither the Chinese nor the Indian politicians want to voluntarily put the heads of their own producers in a noose. They will leave that sort of stupidity to the idiots of the west.

In other news, carbon prices hit a record low on the European exchange (the only place where you can buy this sort of hot air), trading at a record low of 6.77 euros.

And Nick Smith has been demoted from the front bench.

UPDATE 1: I endorse this comment from Julian, below:

And Canada has just invoked its legal right and pulled out of Kyoto. Are you listening Mr Key? Why are you hampering NZ business?

UPDATE 2: [Hat tip G-Man]

Don't pretend we know what causes climate change – John Robson,  T O R O N T O   S U N
Not only is the Kyoto Protocol technically flawed, the so-called science behind it is utter twaddle. Never mind complicated things like non-linear mathematics or, indeed, mathematics of any sort. The alarmists can't possibly know how to predict the future of Earth's climate because they can't explain its past…
    Ask the warmers with their spuriously precise predictions of a "greenhouse effect" involving floods, famines, hurricanes a'blowin and a bad moon rising: Can you plug in known year 1000 data and have your computer model produce a Medieval War Period ? If not, why should anyone believe you can plug in year 2000 data and predict 2215 or 2875?
    It's not just the Middle Ages.… 
    [Even so] should we encounter sudden temperature change, the best defence would be wealth: productive resources able to replace failed agricultural systems, energy to heat or cool ourselves to survive new climatic patterns, new irrigation or drainage systems. The worst defence would be to inflict massive harm on our economies in pursuit of environmental phantoms.
    It's not just that Kyoto couldn't stop man-made global warming if it were happening. It's that the whole process is driven by fake science.
    If they can't explain the past they can't predict the future. And if they won't discuss the past, you know they can't explain it.

Long Faces in Durban – Jack Kelly, R E A L   C L E A R   P O L I T I C S
Unseasonable cold greeted delegates to the U.N. conference on climate change in Durban,South Africa, Nov. 28. They were chilled more by the impending collapse of one of the most brazen scams in the history of the world.
    The warnings of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the world faced doom from anthropogenic (man-made) global warming were based on peer-reviewed scientific literature, the IPCC chairman claimed. But when Canadian writer Donna LaFramboise checked the 18,531 references in the 2007 report, she found 5,587 were newspaper and magazine articles written by non-experts, unpublished theses and pamphlets produced by environmental groups.
    IPCC reports supposedly were written by leading scientists. Ms. LaFromboise found many authors were graduate students selected more for political connections and "diversity" than for expertise. This explains, in part, why these reports contain so many factual errors.
    Fraud is a better explanation….
    In a review of Ms. Lafromboise's book … Judith Curry, chair of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, said she "feels duped" by the IPCC, which she supported until December 2009. That month someone posted on the Internet 1,000 emails in which prominent scientists discussed how to hide a decline in global temperatures, evade Freedom of Information Act requests and smear scientists who disagreed with them. The U.N. climate change conference a couple of weeks later then flopped, in part because of the flap those emails caused.
    Just in time for the Durban conference, 5,000 more emails have been leaked. In this batch, scientists admit the science supporting anthropogenic global warming is weak and depends on data manipulation.


India Proudly Sinks the Durban Climate Change Talks – R E A S O N   M A G A Z I N E
America no longer is the only villain in the climate change melodrama. Canada this week formally withdrew from the Kyoto Treaty in order to avoid being slapped with $14 billion in fines next years for failing to deliver on its promised cuts. Canada’s environmental minister Peter Kent maintains that Canada would have to resort to extreme measures, like pulling all motor vehicles from its roads and shutting heat off to every building in the country in order to meet its targets. (He blamed the Liberal Party for agreeing to the treaty “without any regard as to how it would be fulfilled.”)
    This may or may not be hogwash, but with most of the major “polluters”—America, Canada, India and China—ducking and dodging, I think it is safe to start singing a requiem to a global climate change treaty. [Emphasis mine]


The Great Global Warming Fizzle – Bret Stephens,  W A L L   S T R E E T   J O U R N A L
The climate religion fades in spasms of anger and twitches of boredom.
How do religions die? Generally they don't, which probably explains why there's so little literature on the subject…
     Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen.
    As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term "climate change" when thermometers don't oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other "deniers." And as with religion, it is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit.
    This week, the conclave of global warming's cardinals are meeting in Durban, South Africa, for their 17th conference in as many years…
    Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the climate apocalypse. Namely, the financial apocalypse.
    The U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and the EU have all but confirmed they won't be signing on to a new Kyoto. The Chinese and Indians won't make a move unless the West does…
    Cap and trade is a dead letter in the U.S. Even Europe is having second thoughts about carbon-reduction targets that are decimating the continent's heavy industries and cost an estimated $67 billion a year. "Green" technologies have all proved expensive, environmentally hazardous and wildly unpopular duds.
    All this has been enough to put the Durban political agenda on hold for the time being. But religions don't die, and often thrive, when put to the political sidelines. A religion, when not physically extinguished, only dies when it loses faith in itself.
    That's where the Climategate emails come in…
    The reason they mattered is that they introduced a note of caution into an enterprise whose motivating appeal resided in its increasingly frantic forecasts of catastrophe. Papers were withdrawn; source material re-examined. The Himalayan glaciers, it turned out, weren't going to melt in 30 years. Nobody can say for sure how high the seas are likely to rise—if much at all. Greenland isn't turning green. Florida isn't going anywhere…
    Any belief system, particularly ones as young as global warming, cannot easily survive more than a few ounces of self-doubt.


Durban Climate Change Outcome Rubbished – Dr Richard McGrath, L I B E R T A R I A N Z
Libertarianz leader Richard McGrath today labelled freshly-demoted cabinet ministers Nick Smith and Tim Groser as "useful idiots in the farce that was recently played out in Durban, South Africa."
    "As is the norm for these Climate Change junkets, there was plenty of hot air, and - thankfully this time - little in the way of commitment to further crippling industry and productivity.”
    "The Libertarianz Party believes individual New Zealanders should be left free to respond to any perceived human influence on global temperature in their own way. They don't need failed politicians such as Smith and Groser to tell them what to do, to punish their attempts to better their lives, and to regurgitate the junk science of charlatans such as Jim Salinger and Phil Jones…
   "The Libertarianz Party calls for an end to the idiocy of the ETS, which unfairly and senselessly penalises New Zealand farmers and industry for no gain."


Amongst all the commentary about yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle littering cyberspace, there is one worth reading. At Imperator Fish. It begins thus:

The King of the Gods, Zeus, yesterday announced a reshuffle of his pantheon, in an effort to freshen up his front bench.
    Getting the pantheon line-up right was always going to be one of the trickier tasks facing the Father of Gods and Men, and he will have had to manage some bruised egos during the process.
    One of the biggest beneficiaries is Hades, King of the Underworld. The Ruler of the Dead has been a strong performer over the last term and has been rewarded with an elevation to number four in the pecking order. Hades keeps the pits of Tartarus, but also assumes responsibility for economic development, science and innovation, tertiary education and associate finance.

Read on here.

Monday, 12 December 2011



There once was a boy called John Banks

Once upon a time there was a boy called John Banks. 

When he was a very, very young boy he was in a gang with ‘Piggy’ Muldoon. He was one of Piggy’s favourites. Sometimes when Piggy would smile at him and pat him on the head. Those were the nights that John enjoyed most.

He thought back to them when he became mayor of a very small council called Auckland City.

He was mayor of a very small council, but he wasn’t content.

He wasn’t content because John didn’t want to be mayor of a very small council.  A man who was one of Piggy’s favourites deserved better, he thought. And because he didn’t want to be mayor of a very small council, he borrowed a lot to make himself look bigger.  It worked for Piggy, he thought. Well, for a while, anyway.

So, like Piggy, he borrowed an awful lot. He borrowed nearly one billion dollars, more than any mayor had ever borrowed before!  And boy, did he and his small council have fun spending it.  He felt really big, and really, really important. And people liked him, or seemed to.

Things were good.

For a while, anyway.

But John still wanted to be mayor of a big council. Of a really big council.

So when his friend Rodney amalgamated all the small Auckland councils into one big one, John knew what to do.

Unfortunately, his arch-enemy Len knew how to do it better.

So when Len did him out of the job Rodney had made for him, the job running the big council, John was really jealous. And he was especially jealous when Len said his big council was going to borrow 3.2 billion dollars, a quarter of that just to cover Johns’ debts. And he was green with envy when Len promised to crank up the debt to six billion dollars in five years time.

John was jealous, but he said nothing. He said nothing, because John had a new job.  Another job. A job wearing yellow, drinking cups of tea in public, and telling people who run things they should borrow a lot less.

And no-one else wearing yellow seemed to notice what John had learned from Piggy. Or that he dribbled occasionally whenever someone mentioned Len. Or Len’s borrowing.

But at least they weren’t mentioning his.

Quote of the day: Your life belongs to … ?

The left: Your life belongs to society. The right: Your
life belongs to god. Ayn Rand: Your life belongs to you.
- Yaron Brook, from his talk “Ayn Rand and
the Tea Party: A Recipe for Cultural Change

Labour: Choosing the least worst

After several weeks of their primary contest, the Labour Party caucus is about to choose a new leader.

The choice for their next Prime Minister appears to be between a blunt pencil* and a vicious braggart.

Tough choice.

But is it any worse than having to get behind a leader who thinks Smile and Wave is an economic policy?

*  Thanks to Leighton Smith for the metaphor.

Watch out, there’s a (new) watchdog about [updated]

The Law Commission has been dreaming up ways to “regulate” bloggers, and new ways to regulate mainstream news.

Their proposal includes a new “code,” and an “independent regulator.”  “Independent” in the sense of being being an agent of government, but paid for by those it regulates. And “voluntary” in the sense of “do what we suggest, or we’ll make you.”

Naturally, the bigger bloggers are  generally happy with the suggestion—in the same way and for the same reasons that bigger companies are generally happy with more regulation.

They’re happy because the more regulation there is, the more difficult it can be made for their smaller competitors.

And because they generally get to write the code.

So expect a new watchdog to be announced once the pretence at “consultation” over this is completed.

And free speech, once again, to diminish.

UPDATE: Russell Brown is less enthusiastic than the Blue Team bloggers. But still concludes

Not everyone will be comfortable with the proposals in the paper, but the Law Commission has, I think, admirably fulfilled its brief of providing a basis for discussion.
    And, finally, the role of a free and robust press in a democracy is strongly and repeatedly emphasised in this discussion paper. Given that the minister who commissioned this review did not think to say so, I am particularly glad the Commission has.