Wednesday, 24 April 2019

"People can run all the clever lines they like about how many of the people in those bottom quintiles have things now that comparable people in 1981 didn’t have. But it is doesn’t excuse the entirely manmade disaster of the housing markets in New Zealand and Australia" #QotD


"In 1981, when our societies are as whole were substantially materially poorer than they are now, (Australia’s real GDP per capita was about 80 per cent higher in 2016 than in 1981), young people at the lower end of the income distribution was just as likely to own their own home as those at the upper end of the income distribution. But now people at the bottom at less than half as likely to own their own place. In a well-functioning market that simply wouldn’t have happened. But we – and Australia – having housing and urban land markets rigged by central and local government politicians and their officials, and the people at the bottom are the ones who how most severely and adversely affected.
    "A decent society has to be judged, in considerable part, by how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable among us. People can run all the clever lines they like about how many of the people in those bottom quintiles have things now that comparable people in 1981 didn’t have. But it is doesn’t excuse the entirely manmade disaster of the housing markets in New Zealand and Australia ..."

          ~ Michael Reddell, from his post 'Housing policy failures bear heavily on the poor'
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Tuesday, 23 April 2019

'I’m Fed Up with Donald Trump'

Three competing views, below, of the Mueller Report, released Thursday last. To which one do you subscribe:

1. Michael Smith, from his post 'How We Got Here':
"For all the wailing from the many in the chattering classes, there are stark differences between Trump and the supposedly pious who self-elevate themselves to judge him...
   
"In my opinion, the difference is that Trump’s love of America trumps his lack of tact and personal values, the opposite is true of the Democrats, the NeverTrumpers and the milquetoast, 'go along to get along' Nelson Rockefeller Country Club Republicans (like Mitt) who have stood by as our government devolved...
    "I should sooner live in a society governed by two thousand people who love America as much as Donald Trump than in a society governed by two thousand members of the current Democrat Party."
 2. Trey Givens, from his post 'I’m Fed Up with Donald Trump':
"I’ve tried to avoid letting my personal dislike of [Trump] colour my view of the facts.
    "Until now.
    "And it was the Mueller Report that bought all of this crashing into the fore for me. And it’s why I’m fed up with him and his cronies and even the Republican cowards in Congress who support him.
    "While I can see honest, reasonable disagreement with my conclusion, I am completely convinced that the Mueller Report shows that Donald Trump obstructed justice. The Mueller Report documents Trump instructing people to lie and mislead investigators and the American public. It shows that his Press Secretary, the snide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, repeatedly and unapologetically lied to the American public. And as we reflect on his role in other activities such as Michael Cohen’s illegal payoffs to Stormy Daniels, the Trump Tower project that he also lied about, his comments on the grotesque Billy Bush tape, and the fact that he repeatedly, consistently lies on Twitter and at his campaign rallies, I don’t see how any reasonable person can come to the conclusion that Donald Trump is worthy — as a human being — for the office of the president...
    "Trump lies and he knows he’s lying. And people still back him up even though he’s lying, and they know he’s lying! That’s preposterous to me.
    "So, no, Trump’s lying isn’t news. No one is surprised about it, not even me. I just find myself in a position where I am confronted with what I see as incontrovertible evidence that Trump not only lies to make himself look good to the public, but he lies in such a way that seeks to undermine the rule of law, the integrity of the US government, and the well-being of the American public.
    "Donald Trump is a terrible human being and whatever good policy ideas he may have cannot justify supporting him."
3. And finally, from Jeffrey Tucker:

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Thursday, 18 April 2019

"America’s immigration system is not 'broken,' as conservatives and liberals often claim. Broken implies the possibility of fixing. America’s immigration system is instead inherently defective. Defective means no possibility of fixing." Bonus #QotD


"America’s immigration system is not 'broken,' as conservatives and liberals often claim. Broken implies the possibility of fixing. America’s immigration system is instead inherently defective. Defective means no possibility of fixing. 
    "A system of immigration controls is based on the concept of central planning, a core feature of the socialist paradigm. A government body of politicians and bureaucrats plans, in a top-down, command-and-control manner the movements of tens of millions of people in a highly complex labour market...

    "Planners assign a quota of immigrants to each country, based on what the planners assess is the amount and nature of labor that is needed in the United States. They also decide qualifications and criteria for entry — e.g., education levels, proficiency in English, and so forth. Inevitably, the planners come up with a scheme that is totally contrary to the natural laws of supply and demand that govern human nature and behaviour...
 
    "Central planning destroys that complex and harmonious system. Suddenly, the planners are substituting their judgments for the judgments in the market economy. But all they do is produce chaos, or what Ludwig von Mises called 'planned chaos' ... 
    "That’s why there are thousands of people stacked up at the [US-Mexico] border — because of central planning....
"David Brooks’s 'comprehensive immigration reform plan' will not work and is incapable of working. The same is true with every other immigration reform plan.
 
    "The only thing that works is freedom and free markets. And it’s also the only thing that is consistent with moral ... values."

        ~ Jacob Hornberger, from his post 'No Comprehensive Immigration Plan Will Work'

RELATED LINKS:
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"You cannot make men abandon the means [socialism] until you have persuaded them to abandon the goal [collectivism]. If one wishes to cure a dying world, one has to start with moral and philosophical principles. Nothing less will do" #QotD


    "When the social goal chosen is by its very nature impossible and unworkable (such as collectivism), it is useless to point out to people that the means they’ve chosen to achieve it are unworkable. Such means go with such a goal; there are no others. You cannot make men abandon the means until you have persuaded them to abandon the goal. 
    "Now the choice of a personal purpose or of a social ideal is a matter of philosophy and moral theory. That is why, if one wishes to cure a dying world, one has to start with moral and philosophical principles. Nothing less will do." 
          ~ Ayn Rand, from her letter to Leonard Read on his founding of FEE

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Wednesday, 17 April 2019

"All of us owe a great deal of thanks to the Parisian Catholics of the 13th century who re-introduced Aristotelian reason back into the world. They planted the seeds of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution. And thus as a consequence gave us everything good we have today -- all the scientific advances, our prosperity, and our right to our lives as individuals. This fire is an immense historical tragedy."



It's been astonishing to discover how many people feel they a personal connection with Notre Dame de Paris. For lots of reasons, the place seems part of all of us. Today's Quote pays homage to the cathedral as a symbol, as one of the reasons the place and that time of its birth are so important to the western world:
"All of us owe a great deal of thanks to the Parisian Catholics of the 13th century (Albert Magnus, St. Thomas Aquinas, Siger of Brabant, and likely unknown others) who re-introduced Aristotelian reason back into the world. They planted the seeds of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution. And thus as a consequence gave us everything good we have today -- all the scientific advances, our prosperity, and our right to our lives as individuals. This fire is an immense historical tragedy."           ~ Andy Clarkson



RELATED LINKS:







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Tuesday, 16 April 2019

"Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of centuries." [Updated]




[UPDATE: MAIN STRUCTURE SAVED FROM TOTAL DESTRUCTION... NINE CENTURIES OF HISTORY BROUGHT CRASHING DOWN... ]

Notre dame de Paris is burning down!

What a disaster. What to say?

Victor Hugo's legendary book of that name has the great cathedral as a character. In introducing it in Book 3 he describes the edifice -- "human intelligence," he says, "is [here] summed up and totalised":

The church of Notre-Dame de Paris is still no doubt, a majestic and sublime edifice. But, beautiful as it has been preserved in growing old, it is difficult not to sigh, not to wax indignant, before the numberless degradations and mutilations which time and men have both caused the venerable monument to suffer, without respect for Charlemagne, who laid its first stone, or for Philip Augustus, who laid the last.

On the face of this aged queen of our cathedrals, by the side of a wrinkle, one always finds a scar. ~Tempus edax, homo edacior~; which I should be glad to translate thus: time is blind, man is stupid.

If we had leisure to examine with the reader, one by one, the diverse traces of destruction imprinted upon the old church, time's share would be the least, the share of men the most, especially the men of art, since there have been individuals who assumed the title of architects during the last two centuries.

And, in the first place, to cite only a few leading examples, there certainly are few finer architectural pages than this façade, where, successively and at once, the three portals hollowed out in an arch; the broidered and dentated cordon of the eight and twenty royal niches; the immense central rose window, flanked by its two lateral windows, like a priest by his deacon and subdeacon; the frail and lofty gallery of trefoil arcades, which supports a heavy platform above its fine, slender columns; and lastly, the two black and massive towers with their slate penthouses, harmonious parts of a magnificent whole, superposed in five gigantic stories;--develop themselves before the eye, in a mass and without confusion, with their innumerable details of statuary, carving, and sculpture, joined powerfully to the tranquil grandeur of the whole; a vast symphony in stone, so to speak; the colossal work of one man and one people, all together one and complex, like the Iliads and the Romanceros, whose sister it is; prodigious product of the grouping together of all the forces of an epoch, where, upon each stone, one sees the fancy of the workman disciplined by the genius of the artist start forth in a hundred fashions; a sort of human creation, in a word, powerful and fecund as the divine creation of which it seems to have stolen the double character,--variety, eternity.

And what we here say of the façade must be said of the entire church; and what we say of the cathedral church of Paris, must be said of all the churches of Christendom in the Middle Ages. All things are in place in that art, self-created, logical, and well proportioned. To measure the great toe of the foot is to measure the giant.

Let us return to the façade of Notre-Dame, as it still appears to us, when we go piously to admire the grave and puissant cathedral, which inspires terror, so its chronicles assert: ~quoe mole sua terrorem incutit spectantibus~.

Three important things are to-day lacking in that façade: in the first place, the staircase of eleven steps which formerly raised it above the soil; next, the lower series of statues which occupied the niches of the three portals; and lastly the upper series, of the twenty-eight most ancient kings of France, which garnished the gallery of the first story, beginning with Childebert, and ending with Phillip Augustus, holding in his hand "the imperial apple."

Time has caused the staircase to disappear, by raising the soil of the city with a slow and irresistible progress; but, while thus causing the eleven steps which added to the majestic height of the edifice, to be devoured, one by one, by the rising tide of the pavements of Paris,--time has bestowed upon the church perhaps more than it has taken away, for it is time which has spread over the façade that sombre hue of the centuries which makes the old age of monuments the period of their beauty.

But who has thrown down the two rows of statues? who has left the niches empty? who has cut, in the very middle of the central portal, that new and bastard arch? who has dared to frame therein that commonplace and heavy door of carved wood, à la Louis XV., beside the arabesques of Biscornette? The men, the architects, the artists of our day.

And if we enter the interior of the edifice, who has overthrown that colossus of Saint Christopher, proverbial for magnitude among statues, as the grand hall of the Palais de Justice was among halls, as the spire of Strasbourg among spires? And those myriads of statues, which peopled all the spaces between the columns of the nave and the choir, kneeling, standing, equestrian, men, women, children, kings, bishops, gendarmes, in stone, in marble, in gold, in silver, in copper, in wax even,--who has brutally swept them away? It is not time.

And who substituted for the ancient gothic altar, splendidly encumbered with shrines and reliquaries, that heavy marble sarcophagus, with angels' heads and clouds, which seems a specimen pillaged from the Val-de-Grâce or the Invalides? Who stupidly sealed that heavy anachronism of stone in the Carlovingian pavement of Hercandus? Was it not Louis XIV., fulfilling the request of Louis XIII.?

And who put the cold, white panes in the place of those windows," high in colour, "which caused the astonished eyes of our fathers to hesitate between the rose of the grand portal and the arches of the apse? And what would a sub-chanter of the sixteenth century say, on beholding the beautiful yellow wash, with which our archiepiscopal vandals have desmeared their cathedral? He would remember that it was the color with which the hangman smeared "accursed" edifices; he would recall the Hôtel du Petit-Bourbon, all smeared thus, on account of the constable's treason. "Yellow, after all, of so good a quality," said Sauval, "and so well recommended, that more than a century has not yet caused it to lose its colour." He would think that the sacred place had become infamous, and would flee.

And if we ascend the cathedral, without mentioning a thousand barbarisms of every sort,--what has become of that charming little bell tower, which rested upon the point of intersection of the cross-roofs, and which, no less frail and no less bold than its neighbour (also destroyed), the spire of the Sainte-Chapelle, buried itself in the sky, farther forward than the towers, slender, pointed, sonorous, carved in open work. An architect of good taste amputated it (1787), and considered it sufficient to mask the wound with that large, leaden plaster, which resembles a pot cover.

'Tis thus that the marvellous art of the Middle Ages has been treated in nearly every country, especially in France. One can distinguish on its ruins three sorts of lesions, all three of which cut into it at different depths; first, time, which has insensibly notched its surface here and there, and gnawed it everywhere; next, political and religious revolution, which, blind and wrathful by nature, have flung themselves tumultuously upon it, torn its rich garment of carving and sculpture, burst its rose windows, broken its necklace of arabesques and tiny figures, torn out its statues, sometimes because of their mitres, sometimes because of their crowns; lastly, fashions, even more grotesque and foolish, which, since the anarchical and splendid deviations of the Renaissance, have followed each other in the necessary decadence of architecture. Fashions have wrought more harm than revolutions. They have cut to the quick; they have attacked the very bone and framework of art; they have cut, slashed, disorganised, killed the edifice, in form as in the symbol, in its consistency as well as in its beauty. And then they have made it over; a presumption of which neither time nor revolutions at least have been guilty. They have audaciously adjusted, in the name of "good taste," upon the wounds of gothic architecture, their miserable gewgaws of a day, their ribbons of marble, their pompons of metal, a veritable leprosy of egg-shaped ornaments, volutes, whorls, draperies, garlands, fringes, stone flames, bronze clouds, pudgy cupids, chubby- cheeked cherubim, which begin to devour the face of art in the oratory of Catherine de Medicis, and cause it to expire, two centuries later, tortured and grimacing, in the boudoir of the Dubarry.

Thus, to sum up the points which we have just indicated, three sorts of ravages to-day disfigure Gothic architecture. Wrinkles and warts on the epidermis; this is the work of time. Deeds of violence, brutalities, contusions, fractures; this is the work of the revolutions from Luther to Mirabeau. Mutilations, amputations, dislocation of the joints, "restorations"; this is the Greek, Roman, and barbarian work of professors according to Vitruvius and Vignole. This magnificent art produced by the Vandals has been slain by the academies. The centuries, the revolutions, which at least devastate with impartiality and grandeur, have been joined by a cloud of school architects, licensed, sworn, and bound by oath; defacing with the discernment and choice of bad taste, substituting the ~chicorées~ of Louis XV. for the Gothic lace, for the greater glory of the Parthenon. It is the kick of the ass at the dying lion. It is the old oak crowning itself, and which, to heap the measure full, is stung, bitten, and gnawed by caterpillars.

How far it is from the epoch when Robert Cenalis, comparing Notre-Dame de Paris to the famous temple of Diana at Ephesus, so much lauded by the ancient pagans, which Erostatus has immortalised, found the Gallic temple "more excellent in length, breadth, height, and structure."

Notre-Dame is not, moreover, what can be called a complete, definite, classified monument. It is no longer a Romanesque church; nor is it a Gothic church. This edifice is not a type. Notre-Dame de Paris has not, like the Abbey of Tournus, the grave and massive frame, the large and round vault, the glacial bareness, the majestic simplicity of the edifices which have the rounded arch for their progenitor. It is not, like the Cathedral of Bourges, the magnificent, light, multiform, tufted, bristling efflorescent product of the pointed arch. Impossible to class it in that ancient family of sombre, mysterious churches, low and crushed as it were by the round arch, almost Egyptian, with the exception of the ceiling; all hieroglyphics, all sacerdotal, all symbolical, more loaded in their ornaments, with lozenges and zigzags, than with flowers, with flowers than with animals, with animals than with men; the work of the architect less than of the bishop; first transformation of art, all impressed with theocratic and military discipline, taking root in the Lower Empire, and stopping with the time of William the Conqueror. Impossible to place our Cathedral in that other family of lofty, aerial churches, rich in painted windows and sculpture; pointed in form, bold in attitude; communal and bourgeois as political symbols; free, capricious, lawless, as a work of art; second transformation of architecture, no longer hieroglyphic, immovable and sacerdotal, but artistic, progressive, and popular, which begins at the return from the crusades, and ends with Louis IX. Notre-Dame de Paris is not of pure Romanesque, like the first; nor of pure Arabian race, like the second.

It is an edifice of the transition period. The Saxon architect completed the erection of the first pillars of the nave, when the pointed arch, which dates from the Crusade, arrived and placed itself as a conqueror upon the large Romanesque capitals which should support only round arches. The pointed arch, mistress since that time, constructed the rest of the church. Nevertheless, timid and inexperienced at the start, it sweeps out, grows larger, restrains itself, and dares no longer dart upwards in spires and lancet windows, as it did later on, in so many marvellous cathedrals. One would say that it were conscious of the vicinity of the heavy Romanesque pillars.

However, these edifices of the transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic, are no less precious for study than the pure types. They express a shade of the art which would be lost without them. It is the graft of the pointed upon the round arch.

Notre-Dame de Paris is, in particular, a curious specimen of this variety. Each face, each stone of the venerable monument, is a page not only of the history of the country, but of the history of science and art as well. Thus, in order to indicate here only the principal details, while the little Red Door almost attains to the limits of the Gothic delicacy of the fifteenth century, the pillars of the nave, by their size and weight, go back to the Carlovingian Abbey of Saint-Germain des Prés. One would suppose that six centuries separated these pillars from that door. There is no one, not even the hermetics, who does not find in the symbols of the grand portal a satisfactory compendium of their science, of which the Church of Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie was so complete a hieroglyph. Thus, the Roman abbey, the philosophers' church, the Gothic art, Saxon art, the heavy, round pillar, which recalls Gregory VII., the hermetic symbolism, with which Nicolas Flamel played the prelude to Luther, papal unity, schism, Saint-Germain des Prés, Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie,--all are mingled, combined, amalgamated in Notre-Dame. This central mother church is, among the ancient churches of Paris, a sort of chimera; it has the head of one, the limbs of another, the haunches of another, something of all.

We repeat it, these hybrid constructions are not the least interesting for the artist, for the antiquarian, for the historian. They make one feel to what a degree architecture is a primitive thing, by demonstrating (what is also demonstrated by the cyclopean vestiges, the pyramids of Egypt, the gigantic Hindoo pagodas) that the greatest products of architecture are less the works of individuals than of society; rather the offspring of a nation's effort, than the inspired flash of a man of genius; the deposit left by a whole people; the heaps accumulated by centuries; the residue of successive evaporations of human society,--in a word, species of formations. Each wave of time contributes its alluvium, each race deposits its layer on the monument, each individual brings his stone. Thus do the beavers, thus do the bees, thus do men. The great symbol of architecture, Babel, is a hive.

Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of centuries. Art often undergoes a transformation while they are pending, ~pendent opera interrupta~; they proceed quietly in accordance with the transformed art. The new art takes the monument where it finds it, incrusts itself there, assimilates it to itself, develops it according to its fancy, and finishes it if it can. The thing is accomplished without trouble, without effort, without reaction,--following a natural and tranquil law. It is a graft which shoots up, a sap which circulates, a vegetation which starts forth anew. Certainly there is matter here for many large volumes, and often the universal history of humanity in the successive engrafting of many arts at many levels, upon the same monument. The man, the artist, the individual, is effaced in these great masses, which lack the name of their author; human intelligence is there summed up and totalised. Time is the architect, the nation is the builder.

Not to consider here anything except the Christian architecture of Europe, that younger sister of the great masonries of the Orient, it appears to the eyes as an immense formation divided into three well-defined zones, which are superposed, the one upon the other: the Romanesque zone, the Gothic zone, the zone of the Renaissance, which we would gladly call the Greco-Roman zone. The Roman layer, which is the most ancient and deepest, is occupied by the round arch, which reappears, supported by the Greek column, in the modern and upper layer of the Renaissance. The pointed arch is found between the two. The edifices which belong exclusively to any one of these three layers are perfectly distinct, uniform, and complete. There is the Abbey of Jumiéges, there is the Cathedral of Reims, there is the Sainte-Croix of Orleans. But the three zones mingle and amalgamate along the edges, like the colors in the solar spectrum. Hence, complex monuments, edifices of gradation and transition. One is Roman at the base, Gothic in the middle, Greco-Roman at the top. It is because it was six hundred years in building. This variety is rare. The donjon keep of d'Etampes is a specimen of it. But monuments of two formations are more frequent. There is Notre-Dame de Paris, a pointed-arch edifice, which is imbedded by its pillars in that Roman zone, in which are plunged the portal of Saint-Denis, and the nave of Saint-Germain des Prés. There is the charming, half-Gothic chapter-house of Bocherville, where the Roman layer extends half way up. There is the cathedral of Rouen, which would be entirely Gothic if it did not bathe the tip of its central spire in the zone of the Renaissance. [This portion of the spire, which was of woodwork, is precisely that which was consumed by lightning, in 1823.]

~Facies non omnibus una, No diversa tamen, qualem~, etc. [Their faces not all alike, nor yet different, but such as the faces of sisters ought to be.]

However, all these shades, all these differences, do not affect the surfaces of edifices only. It is art which has changed its skin. The very constitution of the Christian church is not attacked by it. There is always the same internal woodwork, the same logical arrangement of parts. Whatever may be the carved and embroidered envelope of a cathedral, one always finds beneath it--in the state of a germ, and of a rudiment at the least--the Roman basilica. It is eternally developed upon the soil according to the same law. There are, invariably, two naves, which intersect in a cross, and whose upper portion, rounded into an apse, forms the choir; there are always the side aisles, for interior processions, for chapels,--a sort of lateral walks or promenades where the principal nave discharges itself through the spaces between the pillars. That settled, the number of chapels, doors, bell towers, and pinnacles are modified to infinity, according to the fancy of the century, the people, and art. The service of religion once assured and provided for, architecture does what she pleases. Statues, stained glass, rose windows, arabesques, denticulations, capitals, bas-reliefs,--she combines all these imaginings according to the arrangement which best suits her. Hence, the prodigious exterior variety of these edifices, at whose foundation dwells so much order and unity. The trunk of a tree is immovable; the foliage is capricious.

"The understanding of the distinction between words and violence is a crucial part of civilisation. This distinction is corrupted both by people (terrorists) who say violence is words, and people (woke) who say words are violence."


"The understanding of the distinction between words and violence is a crucial part of civilisation. This distinction is corrupted both by people (terrorists) who say violence is words, and people (woke) who say words are violence."~ Coleman Mulkerin, paraphrased from his tweet..

Monday, 15 April 2019

"I hate politicians..."

... and if you do too, you may enjoy this from Christy Moore's latest:



Listen to it over a Guinness.
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"There was only one defendant who should have been in the dock -- the NHS. The NHS simply has neither the money nor the staff to provide even a safe service, let alone a curative one." #QotD


"She was part of a system that gave the boy insufficient care but the system was in chaos on the day. Even the computers weren't working and key staff were simply missing, just not there in the ward. And the doctor who was there had been given the job with no warning and had never been trained to work in that ward. Understaffed is hardly the word for it. It was a caricature of a medical service.   
    "In the circumstances the doctor was run off her feet and could not be expected to think of everything and do everything.
Her conviction was indeed a sham and a coverup. There was only one defendant who should have been in the dock -- the NHS. The NHS simply has neither the money nor the staff to provide even a safe service, let alone a curative one."
          ~ John Ray, from his post 'The haphazard care offered by Britain's NHS can kill'.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

"We are entering a dangerous social condition in which the direct expression of opinions that conflict – or merely seem to conflict – with a narrow set of orthodoxies is instantly punished by a band of self-appointed vigilantes. We are being cowed into abject conformity around a dubious set of official doctrines and told to adopt a world view that we cannot examine for fear of being publicly humiliated by the censors." #QotD


"Then there is Islamophobia. It seems that by questioning this word and pointing to its origin in the Muslim Brotherhood’s propaganda campaigns I am somehow showing myself to be guilty of the offence that it describes. I deplore the current use of this word, since it implies that there is some peculiar and irrational state of mind from which all objections to Islam proceed. I myself distinguish Islam, as a faith and a way of life, from the radicals who commit crimes in its name. I have a respect and tenderness towards the first of those, and a hatred of the second. But it is increasingly difficult, with the current abuse of language, to make this point, or to encourage Muslims to make it too. 
    "I think of ‘homophobia’ as a similar word, designed to close all debate about a matter in which only one view is now deemed permissible... 
    "We in Britain are entering a dangerous social condition in which the direct expression of opinions that conflict – or merely seem to conflict – with a narrow set of orthodoxies is instantly punished by a band of self-appointed vigilantes. We are being cowed into abject conformity around a dubious set of official doctrines and told to adopt a world view that we cannot examine for fear of being publicly humiliated by the censors. This world view might lead to a new and liberated social order; or it might lead to the social and spiritual destruction of our country. How shall we know, if we are too afraid to discuss it?" 

          ~ Roger Scruton, after being "deplatformed" by activists, responds with 'An Apology For Thinking'
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Saturday, 13 April 2019

"You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down." #QotD


"You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down."
           ~ Mary Pickford

[Hat tip Quent Cordair]
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Friday, 12 April 2019

"The same progressives who obsess over inequality and statistical disparities also fume at the education reformers and charter schools that have helped narrow learning gaps and thus led to better life outcomes for underprivileged groups." #QotD


"The same progressives who obsess over inequality and statistical disparities also fume at the education reformers and charter schools that have helped narrow learning gaps and thus led to better life outcomes for underprivileged groups... They talk about equality, then fiercely oppose measures that stand a chance of achieving it." 
          ~ Jason Riley, from his WSJ op-ed 'Progressives Threaten to Destroy School Reform'
..

Thursday, 11 April 2019

"Hate speech is whatever I say it is."



"If this thing you call 'hate speech' is banned, and it is you who effectively 

defines what this 'hate speech' is, then you may effectively ban whatever 

sort of speech and speakers you yourself dislike. It's a beautiful thing, 

censorship, when you're the one who's holding the whip."



And they're off, and the battle to be the one who defines so-called hate speech has begun.

If you're a censor, or would-be banner of speech or speakers that you don't like, if you want to instantly criminalise free expression, then the beauty of this anti-concept called 'hate speech' is precisely that it is so ill-defined, and undefinable. So as long as you get this thing into law, and you win the race to be the definer, then you have your whip hand on banning whoever and whatever you like. Or don't like. 

It is an incoherent concept that confuses more than it clarifies -- and of course for those riding this 'hate speech' horse, that is its real beauty. Instead of using the power of persuasion to fight people expressing unpopular ideas, they can use the power of the state's guns.

'Hate speech' will be whatever they say it is. And there's a lot of power-lusters eager to be on board.

So what sort of ideas might be before the state's guns if such a regime were imposed? Just this morning we have three clear examples of what sort of ideas they would like to make unpopular: all of them the sort that would attract a 'pile-on' with the commentariat online, but probably a nod of quiet agreement further out around the traps:
  • Australian rugby star Israel Folau had another religious-inspired online brain fart yesterday, telling his several thousand Instagram followers that gays, fornicators, idolators, and sundry others his Bible doesn't like will all be going to hell unless they repent. Rather than not following his Instagram feed however, thousands of whiners instead passed around his post in order that millions might be offended by it, and now it's gone viral his post is being "investigated" by "the Rugby Australia Integrity Unit" who, says the ARU, are now "engaged on the matter."
    Instead of ridicule of the ridiculous, a rugby player's posts are being "investigated" when of course there is nothing at all to investigate. (What's to investigate? He's just reading the Bible out loud.) But that's not the point: the investigation itself is meant to have a chilling effect upon anyone else expressing anything similarly fatuous. That's the real point of all of these inquisitions. Kneejerk reaction replaces righteous ridicule of his religiosity -- and meanwhile the window of what it's safe to talk about closes further.
  • In the west these days it's still safe to ridicule most religions. The one religion however that may not be ridiculed is Islam. The word now commonly used to to describe opposition to Islamist idiocies is what liberal Muslim Maajid Nawaz calls "the deliberately vague misnomer 'Islamophobia,' Islamists [seizing] the opportunity that [Christchurch] presented to insist that any scrutiny of their reading of Islam, as opposed to hatred of Muslims, is cast as bigotry... They seek nothing but an opportunity to reintroduce a blasphemy taboo through the backdoor." "Neither the word, nor the definition are fit for purpose," says Nawaz. "It is merely a conflation of genuine anti-Muslim bigotry, with an attempt to shoehorn in and institutionalise a protection to shield Islamism and Conservative Islam from criticism."
    Why should they have such a shield, especially when there is so much in the religion to criticise. Or should we close the window even further.
  • There is a local pseudo-religion however that is also already institutionally protected from criticism, which 'hate speech' laws would only make further immune. The story was puffed on Radio New Zealand this morning, who played several clips of people in Pt Chev said to be offended and hurt because they received a leaflet in their letterbox inviting them to consider the idea that colonisation was overall good for Maori, that the idea of a Treaty "partnership" is a fiction, that the Maori seats and Waitangi Tribunal should be abolished, and of course that New Zealand law should be colour blind. The pamphlets are said by the offendees to be "anti-Maori," and the ideas so hurtful and "racist" that they should be banned.
    And, after the banning of Don Brash, can anyone doubt that in any regime of 'hate speech' they would be -- political speech banned by politicians and political activists so that political ideas that are simply arguable (shouldn't we at least talk about those Maori seats?) are instead banned outright.
    The window is soon very firmly shut, and political expression made airtight.
And these are just three things plucked from this morning's news cycle, with (unusually) Golriz Ghahraman not even amongst them. [UPDATE: And right on cue, Ghahraman's mentor, co-leader and partner in 'hate speech' Marama Davidison saying on Twitter that Folau must be added to her list: "Israel Folau's bigoted comments about our rainbow whānau and our transgender community are the opposite of peace-building. Rugby Australia c'mon this is hate speech." She's got a little list.]

It is one thing to ridicule what someone says. It is another thing altogether to criminalise what they say.

The commentariat, the twitterati and the political elite have long had a problem with how the great unwashed talk and think and what they say when their betters aren't around. For that elite, the chilling effect is a feature, not a bug. Perhaps the key feature. Shut down what they can talk about, and (they hope) their thinking will soon follow. (And if a few free-expression martyrs are jailed along the way, then all the better._

It will still probably remain okay even under this regime to criticise old white men, 'one-percenters,' and Israel (both the place, and the person). These things after all are just sport. But after Christchurch, if things were to proceed with the same indecent haste with this as they have with anti-gun laws, then everything else could soon be off limits.

That seems to be the plan, these 'trial balloons' firming up into one all-encompassing fat drone policing what can be thought and said.

Free-speech campaigner Suzanne Nosell distinguishes between "hateful speech" which is a real thing," and so-called 'hate speech' which is just a muddle, this "incoherent concept that confuses more than it clarifies." The package deal of 'hate speech' wraps up three distinct things, she observes:

  1. direct threats and incitements to violence;
  2. garden-variety insults directed at a particular gender, race or religion; and
  3. speech such as Holocaust denial.
If we recognise that in defamation truth is an absolute defence, then we can already see that 
these diverse phenomena cannot all be lumped together and, collectively, either permitted or prohibited. It does not make sense to have a single approach to Donald Trump’s proposals from the presidential campaign podium to discriminate against Muslims, pro-Trump messages written in chalk on university walkways, and the trolling of feminists on social media or anti-immigrant comments by Dutch politicians...
    [The] law has for decades recognised a category of speech – incitement to imminent violence – that is unlawful because of its potential to catalyse crime. But calls and steps to prohibit speech that is merely hateful yet still nonviolent broaden this definition considerably in ways that [the law] has until now consistently rejected.
In many parts of the world not so fortunate as to have inherited (or to have already thrown off) a tradition of speaking freely -- places as otherwise diverse as South Africa, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Canada and Russia -- Nosell observes that "the umbrella term 'hate speech' increasingly criminalises expression." Even in Britain, the former home of free speech.

In the name of all that is good and non-hateful, we should not be so eager ourselves to gag and to criminalise speakers here. If we have differences, isn't it better to just talk?

"In a shrinking world where it is ever more important both to be able to speak freely and to appreciate the subjective impact of speech on others," concludes Nosell, "the concept of hate speech is too malleable to be of help."

Unless of course you want to be in that elect group who want to exploit that malleability. Because it's that very malleability that gives you real power.
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"The more realistic we make the framework of analysis, the more dubious the Keynesian solutions appear. The classical wisdom on savings survives Keynes’s assault; there is nothing paradoxical about thrift." #QotD


"The more realistic we make the framework of analysis, the more dubious the Keynesian solutions appear. The classical wisdom survives [Keynes]’s assault; there is nothing paradoxical about thrift. After a speculative boom, during which people consumed beyond their means, the correct response is for all to live below their means in order to replenish their savings. In such a scenario, government efforts to prevent savings—by engaging in its own counterbalancing borrowing—simply hamper recovery." 
          ~ Robert Murphy, from his post 'Nothing Paradoxical About Thrift'

RELATED:

  • "Nothing has changed, other than the belief among economists that public sector spending will create jobs. It won’t, just as it never has, just as it will not create jobs in the future when the next economic crisis eventually occurs, as it inevitably must."
    The Dangerous Persistence of Keynesian Economics - Steven Kates, QUADRANT MAGAZINE
  • "My goal is to make you mad at the evil being wrought in the name of fighting inflation and maximising employment."
    How Keynes Put a Ticking Time Bomb Under Capitalism - Keith Weiner, SAVVY STREET

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Wednesday, 10 April 2019

"Never has so much naked ambition disguised itself as virtue, and the more loudly political factions proclaim they're out to save the world, the more ruthless they are likely to be. Liberty will come under assault from the banner of tolerance; fascism will advance in the guise of grievance." BONUS #QotD


"If one were to predict between comity and authoritarianism in the coming years the odds would favour authoritarianism. Never has so much naked ambition disguised itself as virtue, and the more loudly political factions proclaim they're out to save the world, the more ruthless they are likely to be. Liberty will come under assault from the banner of tolerance; fascism will advance in the guise of grievance."  
        ~ Richard Fernandez, from his post 'Progressive Strategy for 2020: Change the Rules of Engagement'.

"Problem-solving requires confidence [in children] that solutions can be discovered and a healthy self-esteem about one’s ability to find them. These attitudes require nurturing over a long period of time, on countless small, day-to-day issues. Too much too fast can only destroy them.” #QotD


“Frightened or apathetic children are not going to grow into the adults who will be able to solve the world’s problems. Problem-solving requires confidence that solutions can be discovered and a healthy self-esteem about one’s ability to find them. These attitudes require nurturing over a long period of time, on countless small, day-to-day issues. Too much too fast can only destroy them.”    
      ~ Philosopher Stephen Hicks, from his 1991 [!] WSJ article, 'Global Problems Are Too Big for Little Kids,' on widespread reports of children coming home from school scared that the world is ending soon

RELATED:


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Tuesday, 9 April 2019

"Under pressure, democracies have a nasty habit of acting like panicked crowds, suppressing anything frightening or just different in a search for security and conformity... a grim illustration of just how vulnerable the "liberal" element of liberal democracy can be." BONUS #QotD


"Under pressure, democracies have a nasty habit of acting like panicked crowds, suppressing anything frightening or just different in a search for security and conformity...   "In the wake of [the brutal mass murders committed at two mosques in Christchurch], the country's government has succumbed to blind reaction by restricting speech, depriving innocent people of arms, and heightening domestic surveillance—intrusions into individual rights that are inherent whether or not governments and majorities formally respect them.  
  "It's a grim illustration of just how vulnerable the 'liberal' element of liberal democracy can be." 
          ~ Jerome Tuccille, from Reason magazine's 'In New Zealand, a Democracy Turns Against Itself'.

"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." #QotD


"Galileo was sent to the Inquisition for affirming that the earth was a sphere; the government had declared it to be as flat as a trencher, and Galileo was obliged to abjure his error. This error, however, at length prevailed, the earth became a globe, and Descartes declared it was whirled round its axis by a vortex. The government in which he lived was wise enough to see that this was no question of civil jurisdiction, or we should all have been involved by authority in vortices. 
     "In fact, the vortices have been exploded, and the Newtonian principle of gravitation is now more firmly established, on the basis of reason, than it would be were the government to step in and to make it an article of necessary faith. Reason and experiment have been indulged, and error has fled before them. It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself." 
          ~ Thomas Jefferson, from his Notes on the State of Virginia, 1787
[Hat tip Dianne Durante]
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Monday, 8 April 2019

"If this thing you call 'hate speech' is banned, and it is you who effectively defines what this 'hate speech' is, then you may effectively ban whatever sort of speech and speakers you yourself dislike. It's a beautiful thing, censorship, when you're the one holding the whip." QotD




"'Hate speech' is so amorphous a thing it cries out for definition.
    "And this is the real point of this term: precisely that it is so hard to define. This is the true beauty of this anti-concept. Because if this thing you call 'hate speech' is banned, and it is you who effectively defines what 'hate speech' is, then you may effectively ban whatever sort of speech -- and speakers! -- you yourself dislike: White men. Gun owners. Your critics.
    "It's a beautiful thing, censorship, when you're the one holding the whip."
          ~ paraphrased from this blog's post, 'The knee jerks, and, after having jerked, what's left?'

RELATED LINKS:

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Friday, 5 April 2019

"I would define terrorism as deliberately targeting innocent non-combatants with the aim of influencing an audience. The goal might be ‘freedom.’ But terrorists slip over the moral line when they deliberately target the innocent." #QotD


"Q: How would you define terrorism, because often people say one man’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter?
"A: I would define terrorism as deliberately targeting innocent non-combatants with the aim of influencing an audience. The goal might be ‘freedom.’ But terrorists slip over the moral line when they deliberately target the innocent."

          ~ International terror expert Jessica Stern,
             recommending 'Five Books on Who Terrorists Are'
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Thursday, 4 April 2019

Gun buyback: Correlation is not causation [updated]



THE LABOUR-LED GOVERNMENT'S compulsory 'gun buyback' legislation is said by the Deputy Prime Minister to cost somewhere around $300 million. That would buy a lot of policemen.

So clearly the Labour-led Government, along with everyone else in Parliament except ACT's David Seymour, has concluded that this compulsory buyback will keep New Zealanders a lot safer than a lot more policemen will.
That doesn't say a lot for our policemen. (Nor does that figure say anything about the realistic cost of the buyback, which is more like billions than millions.)

But what do we know about how much safer the compulsory gun buyback will make us?
The fact is, neither the Labour-led Government, nor anyone else in Parliament really knows, because they haven't and won't have the time to do that research.

What they are really relying on is the alleged popular success of the Australian compulsory gun buyback after the Port Arthur massacre. So it's worth asking just exactly how successful that gun buyback was in making Australians safer. So I went to look for research that did look at how successful that had been in reducing lethal violence. In 2016 Science Direct published 'A systematic review of quantitative evidence about the impacts of Australian legislative reform on firearm homicide,' which concluded:
Australian studies have not found evidence of changes in lethal violence following gun law reform. Empirical findings about Australian gun law reform contradict ‘popular’ views about those laws...
    These [studies] examined various different time periods, and used a range of different statistical analysis methods. No study found statistical evidence of any significant impact of the legislative changes on firearm homicide rates.
That sounds fairly conclusive, right?

In fact, if you look at the rate gun deaths from 1998 to 2014, you would think New Zealand and Australia already had the same restrictions on guns:

Source: GunPolicy.Org

And yet Australia already has these restrictions that New Zealand politicians are now eagerly rushing through.

So what is going on here? Why do those two declining figures (great news, by the way!) seem about the same even though the two country's gun laws are so different? Why does the popular 'knowledge' of the Australian buyback success not tally with the Australian studies that have found no evidence of changes in lethal violence following gun law reform? Why, in summary, do empirical findings about Australian gun law reform contradict ‘popular’ views about those laws.

And what does it say about the gun buyback programme that the decline began nearly a decade before?

The simple answer from the researchers is this: that the rates of gun death were going down in any case. The evidence from those researchers is that the buyback did not cause the decline (which as you can see form the graph above began before 1996) it simply correlates with its continuation.

Correlation is not causation. Perhaps the popular view is so different because that simple lesson is still widely unlearned.

SO WHAT DO THE the results of Australian research on their buyback programme over there tell us we should expect to see as a result of spending around $300 million on the compulsory buyback programme here? "The results," says one, "suggest that the [buyback will] not have any large effects on reducing firearm homicide or suicide rates." In short, concludes another:
Although gun buybacks appear to be a logical and sensible policy that helps to placate the public’s fears, the evidence so far suggests 23 that in the Australian context, the high expenditure incurred to fund the 1996 gun buyback has not translated into any tangible reductions in terms of firearm deaths. 
As I was saying, $300 million would buy an awful lot of policemen. Not to fool ourselves that more policemen would have foiled this or any other shooting -- because a police response time of 36 minutes even of the almost-miraculous 6 minutes* to arrive at a site where unarmed people are being shot is telling proof otherwise -- but if we must have knee-jerk law and rushed spending decisions as a result of this massacre, why not head down that path instead of criminalising otherwise law-abiding gun-owners. (Not forgetting that the murderer himself broke existing gun laws in modifying his weapon before his lethal spree, reminding us that no matter what laws are passed, criminals -- like gangs -- will still ignore them whenever they feel like it.)

AND IF WE ARE serious about avoiding another atrocity like this one -- which is after all the alleged aim of this expensive legislation being rushed through with such unseemly haste -- then another unanswered question seems to present itself, which is this: what would you might most want to have with you when a man with a gun bursts through your door and starts shooting? A policeman to defend you all would be a fine thing to have, but in their absence – and experience from around the world tells us that a policeman can never be there in time to defend us – what you may most want is something to scare the gunman off. Just as this arsehole-with-a-gun was finally frightened away by a very brave man threatening the coward with an EFTPOS machine and with a shotgun the gunman had already discarded.

Because self-defence is still legal in New Zealand, just, under Section 48 of the Crimes Act “If one fears for their life or that of another.” Good law. The very same law that police are covered by when using firearms for their activities. Law however that is not set in stone, and that the police have for some time been wishing to overturn.
Could the outcome of the Mosque shootings have been different if the police upheld the law on self-defence instead of vilifying anyone who uses firearms for self-defence? We can never know.

After the Christchurch atrocity, and the political reaction to it, crime researcher Dr. John Lott asks the obvious question:
Police are extremely important in stopping crime, but the police can’t be there all the time. The police themselves understand that they virtually always arrive on the crime scene after the crime has occurred. And that raises a real question, what should people do when they’re having to confront a criminal by themselves?
Anyone like to have a crack at answering that? Because your politicians haven't. And won't.

But you should keep asking it.

We do know already that this rushed legislation will be followed by other more considered legislation, imposing further restrictions on gun ownership, and considering again a programme of costly gun registration. If there is an agenda, it will become apparent then. We must hope, and remain vigilant, that the agenda does not go from vilification of this legal right to removing it from the books altogether.

Because then where would we and other brave men be when we do need to defend ourselves? 

THIS IS NOT AT all to say that a government has no moral right to regulate weapons. Of course they do. Governments (properly) hold the legal monopoly over the use of force in a given geographic area. That's a fundamental definition of what a government is. Being a primary means of projecting force means that weapons and the regulation thereof must be permanently on their radar. But by what principle should this be done? As philosopher John Mccaskey patiently explains
To see why it is proper for a government to regulate weapons and to understand the principles by which it should, we need to go back to some fundamental principles of moral philosophy, political philosophy, different kinds of rights, and the nature of government... 
    You have a natural right to defend yourself against an attack, using unlimited force if necessary. But it still might rightly be illegal for you to own or carry a gun... 
      Remember, the proper question is not, 'Why can the government restrict my access to guns?' The proper question is, 'What share of its legal monopoly on the use of force should the government share with its citizens?' The proper answer is, 'Whatever is needed for those citizens to protect themselves when the government cannot.'
Those remain a Q+A that this government, and this country, still need to have. Why don't you begin asking and answering it for yourself?

* * * * * 

* The New York Times lays out the probable response timeline which, however rapid, still allowed the murderer to leave the first place of carnage and drive across town to create another:
It is unclear exactly what time the gunman entered Al Noor, which was crowded with worshipers for Friday Prayer. But the police said that they received the first call for help at 1:41 p.m., and that the first officers arrived there six minutes later.
    The video recorded by the gunman, which was livestreamed on Facebook, showed a man trying to tackle him inside the mosque, only to be shot and killed.
    Six minutes after firing his first shot, he drove away. Three minutes later, a siren can be heard on the video as he is driving to the second mosque.
    The siren becomes louder, then fades, suggesting the police and the gunman may have just missed each other, with officers and medical personnel racing toward Al Noor as he was pulling away. 

    About 30 front-line police officers would be on the streets of Christchurch around lunchtime on an average Friday, said Chris Cahill, a detective inspector who is president of a local labor union for police officers.
    
    When that first panicked call came in, he added, the dispatcher would have sent all of them to Al Noor….

    The police said a special armed tactical unit arrived at Al Noor Mosque four minutes after the first officers, or 10 minutes after the initial emergency call…
    “Any police force in the world — to get to the scene in six minutes, a specialist team there in 10 — that would be a success,” Cahill said.
Patrick Skinner, a former C.I.A. counterterrorism officer now working for an American police department, agreed.
  “I’d say that the police response was rather quick in a tactical sense,” he said, noting that the officers were rushing into a violent situation that was still unfolding — and that had been encouraged by individuals espousing bigotry and hatred.
    Still, it was not fast enough. The officers arrived to a horrific scene, with the dead and wounded outnumbering the city’s usual on-duty police force.

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