Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Uplift: It’s Your Revised Sermon on the Mount

Put down your symbols of torture for a moment, grab a couple of good old pagan Easter Eggs, and consider something more uplifting than the Easter story Here, courtesy of Lindsay Perigo, is his wholly revised, updated and uplifted Sermon on the Mount.

A Revised Sermon on the Mount

Blessed are the poor in spirit—when they become rich in spirit and matter, for theirs will be the kingdom of earth.

Blessed are they who mourn—when they get over it.

Blessed are the meek—when they acquire pride, for then they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after individual rights—when they rise up for their cause, for then they shall become free.

Blessed are the merciful—when they learn to discriminate, for then they shall obtain justice.

Blessed are the pure in heart, since to be pure in heart they must be using their brains.

Blessed are the peacemakers—when they learn that peace doesn't come at any price, and wipe tyrants off the map.

Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely—when those men be the High Priests of Islam, Christianity, Socialism, Postmodernism, and all other manner of unreason.

Blessed are the rational, the independent, the honest, the sincere, the productive, the just, the justly proud; the scientists and capitalists; the poets, singers and symphonists of love and thought—for theirs is the glory of man.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward on earth—when you have earned it, and it is not the fruit of a bailout.

Ye are the salt of the earth—but if the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? If ye become tame as sheeple, ye shall be trodden under the feet of politicians and bureaucrats and postmodern philosophers. Be ye instead the light of the world. Do not hide that light under a bushel, but let it so shine before men that they may see your vision of reason and freedom, and glorify it, and bring it to pass on earth.

Amen.  Hope you’re all having a good one yourself.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Week, 4: Surely There Are Better Stories to Tell?

Today’s reflection on the celebrations of Easter Week, and their source…

In Pagan times you see, Easter was the time in the Northern calendar when the coming of spring was celebrated -- the celebration of new life, of coming fecundity.  Hence the eggs and rabbits and celebrations of fertility. Indeed, the very word "Easter" comes from Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, and means, symbolically, the festival celebrating the rebirth of light after the darkness of winter. 

But with the coming of Christianity, the celebration was hijacked to become this veneration of torture and sacrifice I talked about yesterday.  Remember here the true nature of sacrifice:

    “ ‘Sacrifice’ [says Rand] does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious. ‘Sacrifice’ does not mean the rejection of the evil for the sake of the good, but of the good for the sake of the evil. ‘Sacrifice’ is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don’t.

That’s why of itself it’s barbaric. It is, to quote Nietzsche, a revolt of everything that crawls against everything that’s high.  That’s why the barbarity of the Christian sacrifice is so stark.

If it were true.  Because unfortunately, as PZ Myers points out, Jesus isn't even saving us from anything real, and even in the made-up story he makes no change in the world with his death.

And the story itself was not even original.  In the Norse myths (to quote just one of many similar myths) the head god Odin hung himself on the World Tree Yggdrasil—not to sacrifice himself to himself, but to achieve greater understanding. As the Icelandic Edda tells the story,

I ween that I hung of the windy tree,
Hung there for nights full nine;
With the spear I was wounded, and offered I was,
To Othin, myself to myself,
On the tree that none may ever know
what root beneath it runs.
None made me happy with loaf or horn,
And there below I looked;
I took up the runes, shrieking I took them,
And forthwith back I fell.
Then began I to thrive, and wisdom to get,
I grew and well I was;
Each word led me to another word,
Each deed to another deed.

As Joseph Campbell observes,

_QuoteNo one can miss the parallels here to the Gospel themes of Jesus’ three hours on the Cross (3 x 3 = 9), the spear in his side, his death and resurrection, and the boon of redemption thereby obtained. The phrase “and offered I was/To Othin, myself to myself” is interesting in the light of the Christian dogma of Christ and the Father as One.”

These are the sort of stories the Christian myth supplanted, as I mentioned in Part 1.  And in hijacking the pagan celebrations of spring,  they overtook a mostly joyful celebration of growth and fertility, of peace and new understanding, and added to it a new ingredient: the ethic of sacrifice -- the murder and torture of tall poppies -- the sacrifice of the Christian's highest possible for the sake of the meanest most rotten 'sinner,' whose redemption Christ's murder was supposed to buy.

To put it bluntly, the Easter myth that Bach dramatises so well is one of suffering and sacrifice and murder, and the collusion of a supposedly omnipotent and omniscient god in the murder of his own son – or himself, if you follow the illogic -- and if you subscribe to the whole sick fantasy then that is what you are required to believe—to believe in every rotten, blood-dripping detail. For in the name of religion we see that the good (by Christian standards) must be sacrificed to the rotten; the constant to the inconstant; the talented and inspirational to the lumpen dross -- the ideal to the worthless.

For Christians, then, Easter is a time to revere that sacrifice and to remind themselves (and us) of the centrality of sacrifice to their fantasy. Oh yes, there's a 'rebirth' of sorts in their fantasy, but not one on this earth realm, and not before a celebration of intense pain and suffering that supposedly bought redemption and virtue for those who possessed neither.  

As Robert Tracinski says so bluntly, "Easter's Mixture of the Benevolent and the Horrific Reveals Religion's Antagonism to Human Life." And so it does.

BUT MYTHOLOGY IS A strange beast. It was, in ancient times, a form of pre-philosophical, metaphorical knowledge and inquiry. Joseph Campbell argues that “in thinking of the Crucifixion only in historical terms [Christians] lose the reference of the symbol immediately to [themselves[.”

The metaphor obscured by the torture and bloodshed is still the one celebrated by all the myths of springtime, “"matching the bursting forth of flowers and the return of the sun … the plangent longing we experience at this season … very much the longing to be born anew the way nature is.”

The calculation of Easter’s date by reference to both lunar and solar calendars, to both sun and moon – the two largest beings of ancient life around which all of life was organised-- is a clue we’re talking about more than just a dead carpenter.

All these elements fit together … What we have to recognize is that these celestial bodies represented to the ancients two different modes of eternal life, one engaged in the field of time, like throwing off death, as the moon it’s shadow, to be born again; the other, disengaged and eternal…
    [Other folk symbols have similar lunar and solar resonations]. There is, to begin with, the rabbit, the Easter bunny… The rabbit is associated with the dying and resurrection of the moon.  The egg is shelled off by the chicks as the shadow of the moon is the moon reborn …

In short, the overarching pagan metaphor is a call to change, or at least renew. ‘Cos as Mr Dylan liked to say, “he not being busy being born is busy dying.”

It’s this spirit that the composer Richard Wagner tried to capture in his beautiful Good Friday Spell music, part of the culminating wonder of his final opera Parsifal

THE PAGAN METAPHOR undergirds the christian, giving it whatever real life it has.

I can’t help pointing out here there is another story standing in complete contrast to the christian story of torture and sacrifice, that is in all senses its polar opposite. Unlike the anti-heroes of Bach's Passion--who murder their hero in a vain attempt to save their desiccated souls—or Dostoyevsky’s—who torture themselves with thoughts of a “malevolent universe” in which they are “trapped”--the heroes of Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead shun sacrifice and venerate their own human powers on this earth.

The hero of that novel, Howard Roark, appears in court in a similar position dramatically in which Bach has his own hero. Thrown to the mob and fighting for his life in court, rather than acquiesce as Bach’s hero does, Roark states instead—as clearly and categorically as he knows how—his own terms.

    “I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number or how great their need.
    "I wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others.
    "It had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing.
    "I wished to come here and say that the integrity of a man's creative work is of greater importance than any charitable endeavor. Those of you who do not understand this are the men who're destroying the world.
    "I wished to come here and state my terms. I do not care to exist on any others.
    "I recognize no obligations toward men except one: to respect their freedom and to take no part in a slave society.”

Instead of embracing the sacrifice demanded by the mob, as Paul and the christian writers who followed him had their hero do, this hero rejects it. Rejects it emphatically.

The contrast to the other story is stark,wouldn’t you say?

The ethic of The Fountainhead, one for which each of the leading characters fights in their own way, is one in which genius has the right to live for its own sake.  The contrast with the demand of Christianity that The Good inheres in the act of suffering and dying for the expiation of others could not be stronger, or the question more important!  Rather than demanding and worshipping the sacrifice of the highest to the lowest -- or as Nietzsche did, retaining the ethic but reversing the beneficiary of the sacrifice by demanding the sacrifice of the lowest to the highest -- the ethic of The Fountainhead insists that The Good is not to suffer and to die, but to enjoy yourself and live -- without any sacrifice at all of anyone to anyone else.

In my book, that really is an ethic worthy of reverence.

NOW, I'M ALL TOO aware that if you believe the christian’s Easter Myth, then anything I say here is going to pass right by you.  So if you do insist on venerating sacrifice this weekend, and especially if you're intending a bit of crucifixion yourself, or even just a bit of mildly flogging or self-torture, then here are a few simple Easter Safety Tips for you from the Church, which are not unfortunately intended as satire.

And now, for all the bureaucrats who will be working tomorrow while insisting that others don’t, here's that Nick Kim cartoon again ...


Have a happy holiday!

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Quote of the Day: Your Money is Your Life

"Time is our most precious resource, and most of us invest a third or more
of it into productive work so that we can support our lives and make our
hopes and dreams a reality. Every penny we earn represents some
irreplaceable part of our life — and every penny [and every minute]
the government takes from us represents a moment stolen from our life."

- Don Watkins, “Your Money is Your Life

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

“…and the intelligence of a caravan site”

Photo: There’s nothing Kiwis like more than getting on the road and going on holiday. But public holiday fun can quickly turn to frustration. 

Today Labour committed to make things easier and safer on our roads.

Yeah, it’s a strange one, for sure.

Labour leader David Cunliffe hires alleged hotshot organiser Matt McCarten as Chief of Staff, all ready for a big election year. The decision is roundly endorsed by the commentariat. Smart, they say. Linking with the base. A big move. The start of a big campaign.

imageSo what exactly was the big idea behind what was going on yesterday?  A big interview cancelled and a big parliamentary opportunity forwent in favour of a big policy announcement that turned out be something not so big at all about trucks and caravans and something confusing about regos and the fast lane. (I can’t say I’ve got my head completely around the idea, if we can call it that, and it’s so trivial it’s hardly worth bothering.)

This satire from Imperator Fish seems as accurate as the announcement, or lack thereof, and a whole truckload funnier:

A statement from David Cunliffe
Labour’s leader talks about the issues that matter.

Mind you, Stephen Berry and others reckon it is at least great to see Labour “advocating less taxation.” So there’s that.

Pity it is on a small insignificant area that will be cancelled out tenfold by the other taxes Labour promises to introduce.

Yeah, okay. And Mark Ormandy says1

I don't get why when they propose one policy that is perfectly agreeable everyone still feels the need to give them shit for it. I wonder if actually encouraging them when they talk about eliminating red-tape might have a more beneficial result.

Which is true too.

But for crying out loud, can’t they at least make it about something goddamned important!

Bear in mind, we do need a strong opposition – not to keep the buggers honest, since the whole bunch of them are venal thieves. We need it to make the pricks in power stop feeling so bloody entitled.

Here’s R.L. Burnside:

1. And, yes, it’s true, I’ve been trawling Facebook.

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“13 Arguments for Liberal Capitalism in 13 Minutes”

I was told yesterday that the facts refute capitalism.

Which was interesting. Especially since

So here, for Paul McGreal and others are Stephen Hicks’s “13 arguments for liberal capitalism in 13 minutes.”  (That takes you to the transcript; the first vid is below.)

It makes liberal use of words like freedom, incentives, smarter, individuality, creativity, productive ability, the poor, wealth, flourish, happiness, interesting, tolerance, racism (and the discouragement thereof), sexism (also to do with the discouragement thereof), peace, and profit.

I even spot the word “awesome.”  Twice!

So if you’re bored with Easter and inequality, try awesome

Here’s a flowchart for the 13 (click for a huge one) …


… and here’s the first video of 13:


Easter Week, 3: Mythologising Sacrifice

“My favourite definition of mythology: other people’s religion. My favourite definition of
religion: misunderstanding of mythology. The misunderstanding consist in the reading of
the mythological symbols as though they were primarily references to historical events…”
- Joseph Campbell

AND MAN MADE GODS in his own image, and that of the animals he saw around him, and he saw these stories were sometimes helpful psychologically in a a pre-philosophical age. But one of these gods was a jealous god. For this god was so angry at the world he sent one-third of himself to die to expiate the sins of those with whom he was angry, for sins that (in his omniscience) he would have always known they would commit.

imageIt’s not just history the christian story challenges, is it. It’s logic. Their god, both all-knowing and all-powerful (the two key features that make him a god) not only knows all that has happened ad will happen, he is also responsible for all that has happened and does happen - that's what being both all-knowing and all-powerful really means.

Which means that he is not just at one with our sin and suffering: he caused it all, and he knew it would all happen.

Human suffering, according to this view, is not an accident, it is god-given.

On this view, in this story, this god is not just in favour of pain and suffering, he not just actively wills it,  in “saving” the world from himself by having his own son tortured and killed he is an example to parents everywhere. (Just like, you know, Abraham.)

EVERY RELIGION HAS ITS own core myths portraying the very heart of their beliefs. The pagan Greeks told stories of their gods, those Attic super-men, consuming Ambrosia and gambolling on Olympus.  The Norse heroes told stories of their gods lustily wenching and feasting in Valhalla while waiting for Ragnarok.  And the Christians? They tell about the time when their god sent his son down to be nailed up to a piece of wood.

As a myth, you’d think it’s hardly something to celebrate.

Yet the Easter Myth is central to Christianity, and all too revealing of the ethic at Christianity's heart.

Art reveals that core. Look at that fantastic painting below, by Salvador Dali. A great, powerful, awe-inspiring, revealing piece of art.  What does it represent? It represents man-worship -- the presentation of an ideal – one of the greatest presentations of the theme in the twentieth century. (Thank you, Salvador Dali.) Note how the main figure is larger than life and seemingly immune to pain or destruction; a figure, incongruously in this context, portrayed without pain or fear or guilt.

Christus Hypercubus, Salvador Dali

The figure at left, much smaller, looks up at the blindingly bright Christ figure with a look not simply of curiosity or sadness, but of literal man-worship. If we have questions here, when looking at a man – not just a man, our ideal man – nailed up to a piece of wood, they might be along these lines:

"How can you worship the destruction of your ideal man?” 

“Why would you celebrate his torture?”

“Why is suffering so central to your mythology?”

Fair questions, especially when confronted with splatter-fests like Mel Gibson’s Passion that lovingly depict every act of torture and every drop of blood in high-definition Technicolor.

That’s what painting and film can do with the theme. How about music?  Bach’s St Matthew Passion musically and beautifully dramatises this Myth while revealing its true nature. The Passion’s thematic centre occurs when Jesus appears before Pilate and the mob.

_QuoteWhen Pilate asks the crowd who should be freed, Barabbas or Jesus. The crowd replies, "Barabbas!" and Pilate asks, "When what should I do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?" The crowd shouts, "Let him be Crucified!"
    This final shout is musically rendered in such an awful way that the hearer is almost struck dumb. One can feel the terrible doom being called down.
    Pilate then asks (in Part 56), "Why, what has this man done?" His question is answered by what is probably the loneliest Soprano ever, who says, "He has done good to us all, He gave sight to the blind, The lame he made to walk; He told us his father's word, He drove the devils forth; The wretched he has raised up; He received and sheltered sinners, Nothing else has my Jesus done."
    Following this is an even more poignant aria that begins, "Out of love my Saviour is willing to die." After that the chorus repeats the sentence, which is made worse by what we have just heard.
    "Let him be Crucified!"

Made worse, much worse, because of the good he has apparently done.

Just think, Christians revere Christ as their ideal, and in some of the most plangent music ever Bach has his chorus and soloists praise him, worship him, eulogise Him – this, above all, was their hero (Bach tells us); a man known only for good deeds; who spread the good word; the man they believe their god sent to earth as an example of the highest possible on this earth -- and then they and that god went and had him killed.



That's the story. This, says Bach in the true honesty that great art reveals, is what Christians revere: The murder of their ideal man.  The sacrifice of himself to himself.  To appease what? Why, to appease his own blodlust.

It’s an astonishing ethic to celebrate, isn’t it: the sacrifice of the ideal man just to appease and placate the mob.

THE SACRIFICE, YOU SEE, is the thing. Sacrifice is the central ethical thesis of Christianity—so important that an all-powerful god was supposed to sacrifice his own son (who is also himself) to himself just to make the important point: that sacrifice of a higher value—of the very highest—to everything that crawls on earth is central to the Christian ethics.

Central? As the apostle Paul set it up, it is his religion’s very core.

In the Easter Myth giving voice to this ethic of sacrifice, we are invited to praise the willing sacrifice of the man they hold up as their ideal to a mob of the vilest  sinners--sacrificed as a point of ethical and religious necessity in the most vile and bloodthirsty way imaginable.

It's of no avail whether in the Christ myth we hear that he was arrested for blasphemy, or for disrupting temple rituals, or for preaching without a police permit, or that he came to replace one stone-age form of witch-doctory for another. It's of no avail because none of those points are central to the Easter Myth, or of the central Christian ethic portrayed therein: they’re all just plot devices to get the story to Golgotha, and the god-son nailed up.

That is the vile story we are invited to admire and the ethic we are enjoined to emulate.

“What would Jesus do (WWJD)?”, we’re enjoined to ask by religionists Why, he would give up his very life up to the mob, and his very body to be tortured by it. Why? To save (somehow) all you miserable sinners.

The sacrifice, you see, is the thing. And just to be clear:

_Quote“Sacrifice” is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue. Thus, altruism gauges a man’s virtue by the degree to which he surrenders, renounces or betrays his values…

That a story is celebrated in which a divine sacrifice, a human being, a son of the “all-powerful” is offered up in the most vile, most bloodthirsty way possible--to "save" a mob who, according to those same Christians, are created as vile sinners--and to "appease" a bloodthirsty and omnipotent God who intended all this to happen, and (according to the story) sent this ideal man down to earth to make sure that it did …. now if that's not a vile story, even if t'were true, then my name is Odin.

And there's certainly nothing enlightening there on which to base an ethics. And base an ethics on it the religionists certainly do. One they insist is “sublime.”

No wonder the religionists see nothing to apologise for today when priests quietly sacrifice young children to their own misbegotten lusts.

HANS HOLBEIN’S PAINTING ‘CHRIST AFTER CRUCIFIXION’ lays bare the reality of the sacrifice even more directly than Mel Gibson’s splatter movie.

Hans Holbein, 1521, ‘A Christian Confronts Reality’ (after Dostoyevsky)

It’s not a pretty painting, as this detail makes plain:

Hans Holbein, 1521, ‘A Christian Confronts Reality’ (after Dostoyevsky), detail

A good subtitle for this 1521 painting might be ‘A Christian Confronts Reality.’  That, at least, was how the Russian novelist Dostoyevsky felt when confronted with this naturalistic depiction of the battered Christian corpse in 1867: confronted with the horrific reality of crucifixion and its results, Dostoyevsky was struck by the importance of this confrontation for his faith, and inspired to dramatise in his next novel what that confrontation meant. Said his wife,

The figure of Christ taken from the cross, whose body already showed signs of decomposition, haunted him like a horrible nightmare.  In his notes to [his novel] The Idiot and in the novel itself he returns again and again to his theme.

Holbein confronts the Christian viewer with a powerful choice: One must either believe that God raised this ravaged body from the dead, and that the Christian myth, therefore, “offers hope for humanity beyond this life”; or else accept that the dead stay dead, that such an event did not and could not occur, that reality is what it is – with all that follows therefrom. As Dostoyevsky has a character in The Idiot explain it,

_QuoteHis body on the cross was therefore fully and entirely subject to the laws of nature. In the picture the face is terribly smashed with blows, swollen, covered with terrible, swollen, and bloodstained bruises, the eyes open and squinting; the large, open whites of the eyes have a sort of dead and glassy glint. . . .
   Looking at that picture, you get the impression of nature as some enormous, implacable, and dumb beast, or, to put it more correctly, much more correctly, though it may seem strange, as some huge engine of the latest design, which has senselessly seized, cut to pieces, and swallowed up–impassively and unfeelingly–a great and priceless Being, a Being worth the whole of nature and all its laws, worth the entire earth, which was perhaps created solely for the coming of that Being!

Good art need not be a thing of beauty, but it must have something to say. 

This, Holbein’s painting (and Dostoyevsky’s novel), they certainly do that.

If you believe the Creation myth and all that goes with it, the idea that all this was designed by something supernatural and omnipotent, then you must believe this torture too was designed. That it was intended.  That the god that once insisted Abraham sacrifice his own son now makes the mob insist on the sacrifice of their ideal.

Let me ask you again, Don’t you think it astonishing to celebrate this barbarity?

IT WOULD BE EVEN MORE astonishing if that were what Easter really meant.  Thankfully, it’s not.

More on that tomorrow…

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter Week, 2: Enter Hercules…

Apotheosis of Hercules c. 1539. Oil on canvas. Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna

Christianity didn’t start with Jesus, any more than the Easter story did. Paul, who never met Jesus, had a big hand in both.

Jesus’s death was a secular event his followers struggled to explain. He had arrived from nowhere, talking mysteriously about bringing the kingdom of god on earth – interpreted hopefully by many as the coming of a “Messiah”1 to liberate the Hebrews from Roman rule – before arriving in Jerusalem  and almost immediately being put to death.

Any followers who believed Jesus was the Messiah may well have dreamed of some form of political or military triumph in which the priestly authorities would be overthrown and Israel liberated. Instead, Jesus had been arrested, subjected to a rudimentary trial and executed as a common criminal by the most humiliating punishment of all, crucifixion.

His brutal death ended their hopes and plans, and put their leader in whom they’d placed all their hope in the pathetic and very public position of being an “unprophetic prophet.” What to do?

In short, the crucifixion may have been the result of a serious miscalculation. If so, that most haunting of cries, recorded in Matthew and Mark and in the original Aramaic, `My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me', rings out with particular resonance. It was only later, especially through the theology of Paul, that the emphasis shifted towards the crucifixion as the defining moment of Jesus' life.

The gospels supposedly describing Jesus’s life by his followers were written decades later, “by educated Greeks, themselves outsiders to Judaea, but not to Judaism, between AD 70 and AD 100. The gospels illustrate how four Christian writers envisaged Jesus and his message in the period forty to seventy years after his death.”  Even so, we see how reluctant these writers were to include what becomes the Easter story in the fact that the earliest versions of the first “canonical” gospel, Mark, for instance, do not even have  a resurrection. The story is grafted on later.

[His] is a rough, breathy telling, with a Jesus in constant motion, as if in a hurry to get his work done before the End comes. And, hugely significant to most scholars, Mark’s gospel does not end with a resurrection … And we are left, as perhaps Mark and his first readers were left, waiting, expectant, ready for the End to arrive. But the End didn’t come. Mark was wrong about that.

imageNot only did The End not come in the hopeful manner wished for by followers, in 70AD a true disaster struck the Hebrews with the total destruction of The Second Temple after another unsuccessful Hebraic revolt.

Secular success for Jewish Messiahs was just not going to happen.

So the morphing of Jesus’s autobiography began, from un-prophetic prophet leading a hoped-for secular revolt to son of a god bring heavenly blessings through his sacrifice – as if his death and resurrection had been his life’s work and only purpose all along – which “narrative” was the creation out of whole cloth by Paul, writing some twenty years after the events he was supposedly interpreting about a man he had never met.

Making Paul perhaps the first postmodern historian.

“The apostle Paul's own knowledge of Jesus' life appears to have been very limited,” observes Charles Freeman.

Paul comes across as an outspoken and violent protagonist, something of a loner (there is no evidence that he ever married and he is puritanical about sex) and probably obsessive about the mastering of texts... Even if Paul did learn something of Jesus' life it made little impact on him. There is scarcely a reference in any of the letters to any of Jesus' teachings… At some point Paul must have shifted his focus to the symbolic importance of Christ's death and resurrection. His psychological make-up may have been of crucial importance here… Like other Christians Paul had to confront the problem of a messiah who had broken with conventional expectations of messiahship by dying. By the time he writes Galatians, Paul has transformed Jesus into a form of messiah who is radically different from the one expected. Rather than triumphing on earth through his majesty he had chosen to die because humankind was sinful (see Galatians 1:4, 2:20). He had risen to his Father in heaven, his humanity transformed in the process (see later Romans 1:3-4), but his return to earth was imminent.

The resurrection itself, of which Tertullian famously pronounced it must be true since it is so absurd, was a story manufactured almost wholly by Paul/Saul of Tarsus, seeing his own chance for fame and fortune by leveraging himself to the helm of this new movement.

The first reference [to the resurrection] comes from Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, written about AD 55, but even this is twenty years after the events Paul describes. By now Jesus is referred to as `the anointed one', Christos in Greek. Paul does not mention the tradition of the empty tomb at all. He has heard of four appearances or visions of Christ, none involving women and none related to any particular place, although an appearance to James, the brother of Jesus, was presumably in Jerusalem. One of these, to five hundred brethren, some of whom were no longer alive, is recorded nowhere else. Paul ends by adding his own vision of Christ, `on the road to Damascus', as a conversion experience. None of these six accounts, three in Paul's letters and three in Acts, suggests a physical, in the sense of a touchable, dimension to Jesus. In Acts he is simply a light with the power of speech, a clear contrast with Luke's earlier gospel account of a Jesus of `flesh and bones' (Luke 24:39). Paul [who had never met Jesus, let alone heard what he had to say] appears determined to give himself the same status as the other [disciples by manufacturing a meeting] that those travelling with him did not see.

His limited knowledge of his hero’s actual life was helpful, since he had little to unlearn and much raw material to work with outside of Jesus’s own scanty resume, particularly if he were to sell this new myth to pagan Greeks and Romans already overflowing with their own.

How better to do your marketing than adopting the myths and heroes of your very market place?

He didn’t have to go far. Paul’s own hometown of Tarsus re-enacted every four years the sacred drama of Heracles’ martyrdom by fire (“…he went upon Mount Oeta, having built a high pyre and mounted it. He commanded his servants to set it afire… The pyre was still burning when a thunderclap was heard, and the hero, freed of his mortal self, was taken up into the sky”).  Heracles was called Prince of Peace, Sun of Righteousness, Light of the World—his “sun” was greeted daily with the words “he is risen,” and his body ritually sacrificed at the spring equinox.


The Roman/Persian/Indian god Mithra also had his festival on the spring equinox (a potent time on the agricultural calendar). His religion had a eucharist or “Lord’s Supper,” at which Mithra said “He who shall not eat of my body nor drink of my blood so that he may be one with me and I with him shall not be saved.”

As the primary competitor to Paul’s new made-up religion, his new god would at least have to compete with the the Roman/Persian Mithras on equal terms by having his own rituals and resurrection.  How much easier for a ne cult leader if he could simply borrow the stories.

Powerful though they were, these themselves were hardly unique stories however.

Those familiar with Germanic myth and folklore will recall that in the Icelandic Edda, it is told that the All—Father Odin (Wotan, Othin, Woden) hung himself on the world tree, Yggdrasil,in order to gain knowledge “by sacrifice of himself to himself”:

I ween that I hung | on the windy tree,
Hung there for nights full nine;
With the spear I was wounded, | and offered I was
To Othin, myself to myself,
On the tree that none | may ever know
What root beneath it runs.

None made me happy | with loaf or horn,
And there below I looked;
I took up the runes, | shrieking I took them,
And forthwith back I fell…

Then began I to thrive, | and wisdom to get,
I grew and well I was;
Each word led me on | to another word,
Each deed to another deed.

In fact, the theme of pagan deities breaking bread, saving souls by their sacrifice, by vanquishing darkness, by being hung on trees or nailed up and crucified, is legion. Its A to Z includes, but is not limited to:

  • Adad and Marduk of Assyria, who was considered "the Word" (Logos)
  • Adonis (right), Aesclepius, Apollo (who was resurrected at the vernal equinox as the lamb), Dionysus, Heracles (Hercules) and Zeus of Greece
  • Alcides of Thebes, divine redeemer born of a virgin around 1200 BCE-'
  • Attis of Phrygia
  • Baal or Bel of Babylon/ Phoenicia
  • Balder and Frey of Scandinavia
  • Bali of Afghanistan • Beddru of Japan
  • Buddha and Krishna of India
  • Chu Chulainn of Ireland
  • Codom and Deva Tat of Siam
  • Crite of Chaldea
  • Dahzbog of the Slavs
  • Dumuzi of Sumeria
  • Fo-hi, Lao-Kiun, Tien, and Chang-Ti of China, whose birth was attended by heavenly music, angels and shepherds-'
  • Hermes of Egypt/Greece, who was born of the Virgin Maia and called "the Logos" because he was the Messenger or Word of the Heavenly Father, Zeus.
  • Hesus of the Druids and Gauls
  • Horus, Osiris and Serapis of Egypt
  • Indra of Tibet/ India • leo of China, who was "the great prophet, lawgiver and savior" with 70 disciples3
  • Issa/Isa of Arabia, who was born of the Virgin Mary and was the "Divine Word" of the ancient Arabian Nasara/ Nazarenes around 400 BCE4
  • Jao of Nepal • Jupiter/Jove of Rome • Mithra of Persia/India
  • Odin/Wodin/Woden/Wotan of the Scandinavians, who hung himself on the World Tree to acquire knowledge, and was "wounded with a spear."
  • Prometheus of Caucasus/Greece
  • Quetzalcoatl of Mexico
  • Quirinius of Rome
  • Salivahana of southern India, who was a "divine child, born of a virgin, and was the son of a carpenter," himself also being called "the Carpenter," and whose name or title means "cross-borne" ("Salvation")
  • Tammuz of Syria, the savior god worshipped in Jerusalem
  • Thor of the Gauls
  • Universal Monarch of the Sibyls
  • Wittoba of the Bilingonese/Telingonese
  • Zalmoxis of Thrace, the savior who "promised eternal life to guests at his sacramental Last Supper. Then he went into the underworld, and rose again on the third day"
  • Zarathustra/Zoroaster of Persia
  • Zoar of the Bonze

So on this holiday of all holidays, enjoy it in the safe and certain knowledge that while it’s certainly an age-old religious holiday (in the Northern Hemisphere at least), it really has nothing at all to do with the nailing up of an itinerant and largely unimportant Jewish carpenter from Nazareth.

It was mostly the creation of a troubled megalomaniac from Tarsus, based on the myths and stories from ages past.

* * * *

NB: Contains excerpts and notes from Joseph Campbell’s Thou Art That, S Acharya’s The Christ Conspiracy, T.W. Doane’s Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, Kersey Graves’s The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviours, Russell Shortos’s Gospel Truth: On the Trail of the Historical Jesus, Peter Cresswell’s Invention of Jesus: How the Church Rewrote the New Testament, and Charles Freeman’s, A New History of Early Christianity.

1. `Messiah' had meanings within Judaism which do not accord the figure any necessary divinity, especially being “a great military leader, who will win battles for Israel.” 
       The word … does not mean "saviour." The notion of an innocent, divine or semi-divine being who will
    sacrifice himself to save us from the consequences of our own sins is a purely Christian [Pauline] concept that has
    no basis in Jewish thought.

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How the West was Lost: Ranchers and Empire in the American West

20 Cowboys Break Fed Blockade in Nevada, Retrieve Cattle

The recent victory of the Bundy family over invading federal agents – with a posse of armed cowboys riding herd on the agents -- has been characterised as How the West Was Was Won
Author of this Guest Post Ryan McMaken is  not so sure.

The militarised siege of a cattle ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada has drawn national attention as dozens of federal agents, armed with machine guns, sniper rifles, helicopters, and more, have descended on the ranch to seize cattle, people, and generally show everyone who’s boss.

The conservative press has framed the story in a variety of ways, casting the story both as matter of outright federal seizure of private land, and as an absurd environmental crusade to save a tortoise from extinction.

The reality looks to be a little murkier, however, as is often the case when dealing with land ownership in the American West. Back in September, the Las Vegas Sun reported on the Bundy family and noted that troubles began 20 years ago when the family’s patriarch unilaterally determined that he would no longer pay the Bureau of Land Management use fees that have long been required to graze on federal lands. The exact legal and historical details of the Bundy family’s case will emerge slowly over time, but even if the family is completely in the wrong legally (which it probably is), it’s safe to say that taxpayer dollars might be better spent on things other than a shock and awe campaign waged against a tiny ranch in the middle of a Nevada desert. Nonetheless, this is just the latest dispute in a long history of ranchers jockeying with the Federal government over land use permits and land use regulations.[1]

While those who are unfamiliar with land use in the West may see this as some sort of new dastardly deed on the part of the federal government, it is in fact the case that leasing federal land for grazing (among many other things) has been the status quo in the West for more than a century, and the federal government has owned at least 40 percent or more of the land in many Western states ever since it was annexed to the United States in the nineteenth century. In fact, the nation’s 13 Western states are home to 93 percent of federal land, with two-thirds of all land in Utah, and 81 percent of all land in Nevada owned by the feds.

Click here to read more ... >>


Dunedin hotel project death a symbol of the RMA

This is one we know about: a project stopped dead in its very expensive tracks by council intransigence – a council exercising their absolute powers under the Resource Management Act and Local Government Act, finally frustrating a property owner beyond reason.

Dunedin $100m waterfront hotel plans scrapped
Plans for a $100 million waterfront hotel in Dunedin have been scrapped and the developers' partnership with the Dunedin City Council has descended into acrimony.
    Hotel developer Jing Song yesterday confirmed she had torn up a memorandum of understanding with the council, signed just last month, which had aimed to find ways to progress the project…
    [Mrs Song] would not be drawn on the cost of three years' work, having previously said the bill stood at more than $1 million.
    She was also not able to say yet what would happen to the company's Environment Court appeal, lodged - but later placed on hold - after resource consent for the original 27-storey hotel was rejected in June last year.
    ''I think we've probably thrown all our eggs in one basket by trusting the council so much,'' she said.

This failure and the time and expense of it can be seen.

How many other projects are similarly stillborn because of the RMA, or never contemplated, and remain completely unseen.


OMG, But They’re Breaking the Law!

They’re breaking the law! OMG! Society will break down!!

Ah, maybe not. Just look at these dangerous, anti-social rule-breakers…


Click here to read more ... >>


Maybe the Royals have some value after all?

I’m beginning to think the Royal Family may have some value after all.

Two recent incidents, relating to two damned big issues, have changed my mind.

It was reported yesterday by Radio NZ1 that Prince William expressed surprise when visiting Christchurch that the rebuilding in Christchurch is taking so long. 

Translated from diplomatic Royal-speak, which never ever even implies fault or wrongdoing, you might read that as asking, “What the fuck have you been doing all this time, and how come it’s taking so freaking long.”  Which is a fair question, Your Eminence – the correct answer to which, (should the rhetorical question have been directed at the Grey Ones as we suppose it must have been), must surely be, “Sorry, sir, we’ve been getting in everyone’s fucking way!” As they have been.

Score One to the Royals.

And the other incident, you ask?

That came about a few months after the arse fell out of the global economy, when William’s grandmother was visiting the London School of Economics. Having been shown all over the delightful facilities in which high-level econometrics and mainstream economics has been taught to hundreds of intelligent youngsters every year – not to mention the high-powered research pumped out by tenured professors therein – the Queen asked her hosts the obvious question (and here I paraphrase, using words and emotions that must surely been in her mind, if not yours and mine): “How come with all this fancy-arsed economic learning around you, you didn’t even see the fucking crash coming?” (That she refrained from shouting when she asked the question is a tribute indeed to the sort of Royal diplomacy used in delivering William’s question so blandly.)

To the Queen’s question, the response was muddled, mixed and frankly bollocks, a much-delayed three-page missive, finally blaming "a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people." Which, translated into common parlance, might almost be taken as an open admission that their fancy high-flown economic theories and models of central planning are a total disaster area.

And much the same response could, and should, have been made to William.

The Royal Family. Mostly, like Charles, they’re just fools.  But sometimes, they’re like the fool in Shakespeare’s play, stating the bleeding obvious while all around are drinking up large when they should really be drinking the hemlock and falling upon their bloody swords.

God Save the Queen’s.

* * * *

1. Reported in the first story 5:30pm RNZ news last night. Surprisingly, or not, the comments had changed by the 6pm report.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

MMP = More Marriages of Convenience?

I can’t think of a fancy-arsed acronym to describe it, but MMP obviously stands for More Marriages of Convenience. The InterMana Party sort-of agreement, should one ever be made and either party (or agreement) stay around long enough to make a difference, is exactly the sort of marriage of convenience the MMP laws, rules and environment not only makes possible, but positively encourages.

Why that should surprise media commentators says more about media commentators than it does about either Mr and Mrs Harawira or Mr DotCon.

Regardless of what the media commentators think, the rules as written do favour deals between small parties with either big policy differences,1 or going for different votes2.

A ManaNet Alliance fits both bills. The groups are different enough that they’re not competing over the same policy ground. And they have sufficiently similar aims (getting rid of National; promoting leaders’ egos) that they have something around which to coalesce.

The rule being exploited is that allowing a victory in a constituency to trigger MPs on the basis of party votes. While the arrangement being discussed by DotConAndHarawira may not have been contemplated by the rule’s writers, again, says more about the writers than it does the negotiators. 

That it would suit both Harawira and DotCon and  is obvious. For the former, he can trade his potential for electoral success in return for gobs of DotCon’s money (if by then the FBI haven’t got it) and maybe even an extra MP; for the latter, it allows him to parlay his ill-gotten money into MPs – and, thereafter, he hopes, negotiating power in a new Government that might deliver him immunity from extradition.

Both get what they want, they hope, courtesy of MMP.

It may not be what anyone ever contemplated when MMP was begun, but maybe when this jerry-built electoral system was set up, it should have been.

* * * *

1. Parties with very similar policies will obviously be fighting for the same voters, and might therefore find little  on which to agree organisationally, normally...
2. Whereas parties going for different votes, with one going for party votes and the other for electoral, may be able to accommodate each other to mutual benefit whatever their perceived differences, or similarities.

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LGNZ’s Alternative Funding Mechanisms Can Get Stuffed

I note councils around the country are at it again to get someone,anyone, to pay through the nose for their borrowing and over-spending.  They call this “looking for alternative funding mechanisms.”

Basing rates on property values alone may soon no longer be sustainable as the sole taxation form for many councils, says Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ).

Why will basing rates on property values alone no longer be sustainable as the sole taxation form for many councils? The answer is as simple as its corollary conclusion is obvious: because they’re spending too damned much and don’t wish to be stopped.

Instead [of reining in council spending, LGNZ] would investigate other forms of taxation such as local consumption and local income taxes as "complementary alternatives."

Ever since Sandra Lee changed the Local Government Act to give councils the ironically named “powers of general competence” their spending has gone up and up and up – and no Local Government minister with balls has emerged since to reverse this gift, let alone emasculate altogether the congenitally incompetent.  (Someone stick a toe up Nick Smith’s arse and ask him why he won’t stir in this direction.)

So as their powers of general incompetence continue to morph wildly, so too do the many  “alternative funding mechanisms”they contemplate to keep up with them –“complementary alternatives" in addition to the rates, service charges, levies, development contributions and general overcharging done whenever ratepayers and property owners are coerced into their company. They give them many labels…

“Local consumption taxes.”

“Local income taxes.”

“Funding tools.”

“Congestion charges.”

“Visitor charges.”

“Payroll taxes.”

“Capitation payments from central government.”

Many euphemisms to describe putting-our-hand-in-someone’s-pocket-and-rummaging-around-until-we-come-up-with-some-large-notes.

I say: Watch out. There are thieves about – they take many forms, and use many euphemisms their wonders of thievery to perform.

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Equality versus Liberty

Googling around to set up that Piketty post, below, I came up with good old Tibor Machan talking to John Stossel about

NB: Tibor comes on about 8 minutes in, after Bob Beckel argues against “ripping off” the poor by allowing a “large gap.”


Piketty: Egalité, Fraternité–but Let’s Have No More of that Liberté


You may have heard of a French fellow called Thomas Piketty, called “the most important economist today,” whose book Capital (in the Twenty-First Century) has been launched across the intellectual firmament with the sort of impetus not seen since the days of Silent Spring, The Population Bomb – or The Spirit Level.  The book is

Handout695-pages of rollicking neo-Marxist agitprop against inequality and in favour of massive new taxes on the rich. The book is a sensation on the left, a nuclear target for the right, and an endless battlefield for economic theorists of all stripes.
    If you haven’t heard of him yet you are not following North America’s leading purveyors of popular ideology: The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Week, The Nation, The National Review,  The America  Prospect. Hate it or love it — all are welcome from one end of that violent spectrum to the other — Capital is the economics industry’s tomb-raider of the 21stcentury.

If you haven't heard of it yet, fear not: it will be coming soon to a blog near you – or, at least, the warmed-over neo-Marxist rhetoric about “inequality” will.

Piketty rampages through two centuries of economic data and graphs, plunders ideas and theories from hither and yon, fills pages with pop culture references and CEO compensation lore, before settling down to contemplate his “utopian” idea:  A global annual capital tax of maybe 2% on the assets of the rich and a marginal tax rate of 80% on incomes above maybe $500,000 — all necessary to ward off “the violent political conflict that inequality inevitably instigates.”

So, yes, as Terence Corcoran at Canada’s Financial Post concludes:

There’s a lot in Capital, but the book has three basic foundations. There’s the Marxist Set Up, the Capitalist Straw Dog and the Utopian Tax Plan.  All the rest is elaborate if sometimes fascinating filler.

But since you’re going to keep hearing more and more in coming months about Piketty, his book, and especially the Utopian Tax Plan, it’s important to know more.  Austrian Economics blogger Smiling Dave starts at the very beginning:

Click here to read more ... >>

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Easter Week, 1: Its beginnings

It’s Easter Week – a time, since human cultural life began up in the northern hemisphere, when men and women came together to celebrate.

To celebrate what?

Why, to celebrate spring, of course. The end of winter; the onset of new life; of fertility and rebirth; the end of winter’s cold and darkness and the start of longer days, more sun, summer harvests and a time when living is easy. Or, at least, easier.

Imagine this week thousands of years ago, long before lighting and heating and modern refrigeration and all the first world delights and problems of today, back when the ownership of one candle was a valuable thing, and the success of a harvest meant the difference between life and death.

No wonder then that this celebration, of this time, was so important it still lingers today in a different form.

This  celebration was observed in China, called a “Festival of Gratitude to Tien.” Tien, of course, was the Holy One,always spoken of as one with God, existing with him from all eternity, "before anything was made." L. Maria Child, author of The Progress of Religious Ideas through Successive Ages, recounts the litany:

"The common people sacrifice their lives to gain bread; the philosophers to gain reputation; the nobility to perpetuate their families. The Holy One (Tien) does not seek himself, but the good of others. He dies to save the world."

It was observed in Europe, Saxon pagans celebrating annually in honour of the goddess Ostri, or Eostre with a week’s indulgence in all kinds of sports, called carne-e-vale, followed by a fast of forty days.

Persians and Egyptians celebrated this time as the start of the Solar New Year with the giving of eggs as a fertility symbols, usually stained with colours from dye-woods or herbs. The Babylonian goddess of fertility, war, love, and sex was Ishtar (pronounced “Easter”). Ishtar’s Sunday commemorated the resurrection of her consort, a god called "Tammuz," believed to be the only begotten son of the moon-goddess and the sun-god. It was celebrated with rabbits and eggs, and sacred cakes with the marking of a "T" or cross on the top.

Stop me if any of this is sounding familiar.

Click here to read more ... >>

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Armen Alchian on Ownership and Property Rights

If you can’t trade rights, then you can’t trade.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

QUOTE OF THE DAY: On the Source of Today’s Inequality

“Capital in the form of credit is normally and, certainly, properly, extended out of previously accumulated savings. In sharpest contrast, credit expansion is the creation of new and additional money out of thin air, which money is then lent to business firms and individuals as though it were a supply of new and additional saved up capital funds…
    “The truth is that credit expansion is responsible not only for the boom-bust cycle but also for another major negative phenomenon for which public opinion mistakenly blames capitalism: namely, sharply increased economic inequality, in which the wealthier strata of the population appear to increase their wealth dramatically relative to the rest of the population and for no good reason…
    “The [
counterfeit capital] created in credit expansion shows up very soon in the financial markets, where they drive up the prices of securities, above all, common stocks. The owners of common stock are preponderantly wealthy individuals, who now find themselves the beneficiaries of substantial capital gains. These gains are the greater the larger and more prolonged the credit expansion is and the higher it drives the prices of shares. In the process of new and additional money pouring into the financial markets, investment bankers and stock speculators are in a position to reap especially great gains.
    “Since it’s so important, the main point just made needs to be repeated: credit expansion creates an artificial economic inequality by showing up in the stock market and driving up stock prices…
    “The new and additional funds injected into the economic system also soon show up… in an additional demand for consumers' durable goods, such as houses and automobiles. The purchase of these latter goods, like the capital goods purchased by business firms, depends largely on credit and is encouraged by lower interest rates. It is also fed by the capital gains being reaped by wealthy individuals, which results in an especially pronounced increase in the demand for luxury housing and for luxury goods in general.”
            - George Reisman, “Credit Expansion, Economic Inequality, and Stagnant Wages


Entrepreneurship: The Driving Force of the Economy

Author of The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur, Peter Klein has published numerous books and articles on entrepreneurship from an Austrian perspective. Dr. Klein, who is executive director and Carl Menger Research fellow at the Mises Institute, was interviewed in late 2013 by eTalks' Niaz Uddin on the topic of entrepreneurship:

Niaz Uddin: Tell us about entrepreneurship. What are the different contexts of entrepreneurship?

Peter Klein: The terms “entrepreneur,” “entrepreneurship,” and “entrepreneurial” are used in many ways, not always consistently! On the one hand, entrepreneurship is often used to mean self-employment: an entrepreneur is a person who starts or operates a small business. On the other hand, we also use the term “entrepreneurial” to refer to something broader, a mindset or way of thinking that emphasizes novelty, creativity, and initiative. Obviously one can be entrepreneurial in this sense without being a small-business owner.

In the academic literature, things get even more confusing. Originally the word entrepreneur was identified with decision-making, risk-bearing, and responsibility: entrepreneurs were the business people who organized production, transforming resources into valuable products and services for consumers. That usage goes back to the eighteenth century. More recently, scholars have identified entrepreneurship with narrower activities or functions such as alertness to profit opportunities or the introduction of new goods and services or new ways to make existing products. In my academic writing I adopt the concept developed by the American economist Frank Knight and the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises which emphasizes judgmental decision-making under uncertainty.

NU: Why do you think entrepreneurship is the fundamental stand of understanding economics? And how?

Click here to read more ... >>


‘The game is up for climate change believers’

The Herald -- the New Zealand HeraldGranny Herald --- published an astonishing piece yesterday. Head there now and read it, before you read the snippets below.  It’s called: ‘The game is up for climate change believers.’

That’s right. In the Herald.

Filched from the UK Telegraph, and presumably published while the present NZH editor was on leave, the op-ed by former Telegraph editor Charles Moore purports to be a review of a “tremendous book” by Rupert Darwell. It is that, and more – it outlines, in a way you’d never expect to see in the Royal New Zealand Herald, “what has been inflicted on us over the past 30 years or so in the name of saving the planet”—of which warmism is only one symptom.

Like most of those on both sides of the debate, Rupert Darwall is not a scientist. He is a wonderfully lucid historian of intellectual and political movements, which is just the job to explain what has been inflicted on us...
    The origins of warmism lie in a cocktail of ideas which includes anti-industrial nature worship, post-colonial guilt, a post-Enlightenment belief in scientists as a new priesthood of the truth, a hatred of population growth, a revulsion against the widespread increase in wealth and a belief in world government. It involves a fondness for predicting that energy supplies won't last much longer (as early as 1909, the US National Conservation Commission reported to Congress that America's natural gas would be gone in 25 years and its oil by the middle of the century), protest movements which involve dressing up and disappearing into woods (the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, the Mosleyite Blackshirts who believed in reafforestation) and a dislike of the human race (The Club of Rome's work Mankind at the Turning-Point said: "The world has cancer and the cancer is man.").
    These beliefs began to take organised, international, political form in the 1970s …

We are paying now for the organisation begun then.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Quote on the Day, 1: On Income Distribution

“With regards to income distribution, Von Mises made the case that it
is a flawed concept. We do not produce something and then distribute
the income generated by it. The distribution of that income is already
decided, agreed and precedes production. And that product gets made
precisely because of and not in spite of, that agreed income distribution.”

- Martin Sibileau, from his post “What Is Economic Growth? (And Why Don't We Have Any)

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Quote of the Day: Ludwig Von Mises on Anarchism and Government

“Government as such is not only not an evil, but the most necessary and beneficial institution, as without it no lasting social cooperation and no civilisation would be possible…
    “Not the state is an evil, but the shortcomings of the human mind and character that imperatively require the operation of a police power. Government and state can never be perfect because they owe their raison d'être to the imperfection of man and can attain their end, the elimination of man's innate impulse to violence, only by recourse to violence, the very thing they are called upon to prevent...
    “The main political problem is how to prevent the police power from becoming tyrannical. This is the meaning of all the struggles for liberty. The essential characteristic of Western civilization that distinguishes it from the arrested and petrified civilizations of the East was and is its concern for freedom from the state…
    “A shallow-minded school of social philosophers, the anarchists, chose to ignore the matter by suggesting a stateless organization of mankind. They simply passed over the fact that men are not angels. They were too dull to realize that in the short run an individual or a group of individuals can certainly further their own interests at the expense of their own and all other peoples’ long-run interests. A society that is not prepared to thwart the attacks of such asocial and short-sighted aggressors is helpless and at the mercy of its least intelligent and most brutal members.
    “While Plato founded his utopia on the hope that a small group of perfectly wise and morally impeccable philosophers will be available for the supreme conduct of affairs, anarchists implied that all men without any exception will be endowed with perfect wisdom and moral impeccability. They failed to conceive that no system of social cooperation can remove the dilemma between a man’s or a group’s interests in the short run and those in the long run.”
- Ludwig Von Mises, The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, p. 98f,
quoted by Per-Olof Samuelsson in his post “Ludwig von Mises on Anarchism” at THE NIGHT WATCHMAN


Enjoying Without Owning

Forget the negativity, forget your Monday Blues: reflect that every day above the ground is a good one, and resolve to understand what it means to say that all wealth is human wealth … as this Guest Post by Orison Swett Marden suggests.

File:A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884.png

Chapter 6: Enjoying Without Owning

A French marquis, with whom Washington Irving has made us acquainted, consoled himself for the loss of his château by remarking that he had Versailles and St. Cloud for his country resorts, and the shady alleys of the Tuileries and the Luxembourg for his town recreation.

"When I walk through these fine gardens," he said, "I have only to fancy myself the owner of them, and they are mine. All these gay crowds are my visitors, and I have not the trouble of entertaining them. My estate is a perfect Sans Souci, where everyone does as he pleases, and no one troubles the owner. All Paris is my theatre, and presents me with a continual spectacle. I have a table spread for me in every street, and thousands of waiters ready to fly at my bidding. When my servants have waited upon me, I pay them, discharge them, and there's an end. I have no fears of their wronging or pilfering me when my back is turned. Upon the whole," said the old gentleman with a smile of infinite good humour, "when I recollect all that I have suffered, and consider all I at present enjoy, I can but look upon myself as a person of singular good fortune."

The habit of feeling rich because you have developed the faculty of extracting wealth from everything you touch is riches indeed. Why should we not feel rich in all that our eyes can carry away, no matter if others happen to have the title deed? Why should I not enjoy the beautiful gardens of the wealthy and their grounds, just as if I owned them? As I pass by I can make the wealth of colour my own. The beauty of plants, and lawn, and flowers, and trees are all mine. The title deed of another does not cut off my aesthetic ownership. The best part of the farm, the landscape, the beauty of the brook and the meadow, the slope of the valley, the song of the birds, the sunset, cannot be shut up within any title deed; they belong to the eye that can carry them away, the mind that can appreciate them.

How is it that some rare characters manage to have such precious treasures, to get so much that enriches the life out of a poverty-stricken, forbidding environment, while others get little out of the most luxurious and beautiful conditions that wealth can furnish?

Click here to read more ... >>

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GUEST POST: Not Flying the Flag

From an undisclosed location overseas, expatriate NZer Suzuki Samurai muses on the embarrassment of being outed as a kiwi...

When living away from your place of birth, after being asked your name most people ask where you’re from. These days, I mumble the answer. I wish they'd guess a couple of alternatives so I can simply say “Yes.”

I'm often accused of being either English or Australian, not uncommon for a New Zealander I guess. (Oddly enough the only time someone has guessed right was when a turbaned shopkeeper in Manhattan asked me where in New Zealand I was from?!? True story. It turns out this delightful fellow's brother [which can mean cousin, neighbour or friend] owns – you guessed it – a dairy in South Auckland).

So why, I ask myself, is the very idea of proudly (or at least audibly) stating that I come from New Zealand such a struggle for me now?

Click here to read more ... >>


Friday, April 04, 2014

Friday Morning Ramble: The ‘News Drought’ Edition

Embedded image permalink

This week’s ramble is brought to you by … oh, hang on .. who’s this idiot?


Good metaphor for every politician that.

And how about this principled fellow?

What’s been in the news this week? “We're into the second week of news drought here in NZ. Nothing continues to happen. In lieu of news, mirages are common.”

So let’s debunk some mirages, and share some real news…

Personal freedom in NZ: Not as bad as we thought? “Vote with your feet,” Eric tells Americans.
Personal Freedom: NZ is choice – Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR

Fair question:
Why does the support stop short at overseas holidays? – LINDSAY MITCHELL

Message to no-longer-holidaying beneficiaries :

"Any government big enough to give you everything
you want . . . is big enough to take it away again."
- Anonymous

“All parents have a fundamental, inalienable right to direct the course of their own children's education and the spending of their own money. In particular, the opportunity for low-income families to get their children out of the worst government schools and into private schools—or at least charter schools—is a moral imperative of our time.”
Poverty Doesn't Cause Bad Education – PRINCIPLED PERSPECTIVE

“Although different in purpose and in magnitude of harm to its victims, public education, like slavery, is a form of involuntary servitude. The primary difference is that public schools force children to serve the interests of the state rather than those of an individual master.”
The New Abolitionism: Why Education Emancipation is the Moral Imperative of our Time 
– C. Bradley Thompson, OBJECTIVE STANDARD

“A major problem with our current one-size-fits-all education is the gaps that occur in learning.”
Filling the Swiss Cheese Holes – JERRY KIRKPATRICK’S BLOG


Nothing like a gee-whiz graph to show up severe statistical miseducation.  Or lies.
Why barcharts must start at zero – Thomas Lumley, STATS CHAT 
How to Lie With Statistics – NOT PC, 2007

“Apparently the only U.S. government department without a military force at its disposal is the military. So when a lone shooter opens up at an army base, Fort Shock'n'Awe has to call 911 and "shelter in place" until the county sheriff arrives… Years ago, American comics used to mock the unarmed British constabulary. Was it Robin Williams who did that routine about the copper in pursuit of a ne'er-do-well? "Stop! Or I'll shout 'Stop!' again..." The United States Government has taken it to the next level: everyone's armed except the army.”
Johnny, Get Your Gun-Free Zone – Mark Steyn, STEYN ONLINE

“Fascinating essay on the informal arrangements that professional comedians use to create and enforce property rights in their jokes.”
No Joke: Law Does Not Require Legislation for Its Creation or Enforcement – Don Boudreaux, CAFE HAYEK

“"What they want is the resignation of Maduro, the liberation of all political prisoners, and a complete change of government."
Why the Struggle Continues in Venezuela: Regime Change and Nothing Less – Fergus Hodgson, PANAMPOST.COM

Europe mapped, according to the Russians, and the Germans…

“The new United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released Monday, March 31 confirms   "economic growth, including greater concentrations of people and wealth in periled areas and rising insurance penetration, is the most important driver of increasing losses... loss trends have not been conclusively attributed to anthropogenic climate change."
IPCC Sides With Roger Pielke, Jr.: New AR 5 Report Confirms Pielke's Conclusions on Disasters 
Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change – Roger Pielke, Jr., FIVETHIRTYEIGHTSCIENCE

“Green ideologues working for the British government helped "sex up" the latest Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) report in order to make its conclusions sound more scary than the evidence warrants, it emerged today.”
Green Ideologies from UK Govt Sexed Up IPCC Climate Report – James Delingpole, BREITBART

“Millions will die and species will die, was the claim. 2010 was going to see a million people dead from warming. Didn’t happen, now the species claim is going away too.”
Millions will die, Species will Disappear? Well, guess not – JUNK SCIENCE

“Scientist behind the Gaia hypothesis says environment movement does not pay enough attention to facts and he was too certain in the past about rising temperatures.”
James Lovelock: environmentalism has become a religion – GUARDIAN

“There is no scientific proof of man-made global warming and a hotter earth would be ‘beneficial for humans and the majority of other species’, according to a founding member of environmental campaign group Greenpeace.
Humans are NOT to blame for global warming, says Greenpeace co-founder, as he insists there is 'no scientific proof' climate change is manmade – DAILY MAIL
Ex-Greenpeacer Patrick Moore questions climate change, challenges liberals – WASHINGTON TIMES

“The idea that climate change poses an
existential threat to humankind is laughable.”

- resigning IPCC scientist Richard Tol

Meanwhile, columnist and warmist irritant Mark Steyn is in court, sued by Michael Mann, the inventor of the IPCC’s alarmist Hockey Stick. There is commentary.
“I was reading through the latest submission in the quagmire otherwise known as 'legal proceedings' in the Mann versus Steyn case. Clearly, there is some good news and bad news with respect to Steyn's new team of lawyers. The good news is that they clearly understand that what is at stake is free speech. The bad news is that they clearly understand that what is at stake is free speech.”
Mann versus Steyn Update: Kick-Ass Lawyer Edition – Laura Rosen Cohen, END OF YOUR ARM.COM
The Steyn Route to Insanity - Mark Steyn, STEYN ONLINE
What Kind of Fool Am I?- Mark Steyn, STEYN ONLINE

Mark Steyn: “The BBC, meanwhile, put together a "debate" on the "issues" raised by the case. You can hear the show here - the main segment starts about 29-and-a-half minutes in, but there's a couple of soundbites at the top of the show and about 14 minutes in. The host's framing of the topic - should there be limits to what one is permitted to say about "climate change"? - sounds slightly nutty to those of on the free-speech side of this thing. But it's a useful reminder that, increasingly and in many of the most respectable institutions in the western world, there is no deference to freedom of expression. Oh, sure, it's somewhere in the mix, but, as a priority, it's subordinate to all kinds of things - from multiculturalism to climate change.”
Transcript: Should there be "any limits on what can be said about climate change?" 
Summary: Trial of the century? – Judith Curry, CLIMATE ETC.

“The U.S. Federal Reserve will be in a situation shortly where it has to choose
between the dollar and everything else - the economy, the stock market, the real
estate market—because if the Fed continues with the tapering as scheduled, and
then begins to raise interest rates, we will have a worse financial crisis than in 2008.”
- Peter Schiff, “The Federal Reserve Is In A Corner

“Janet Yellen has a plan. The plan is to exit the ultra-loose policy of the Federal Reserve, and to do so very slowly and very carefully. And by slowly I mean very slowly.”
Janet Yellen’s game of Jenga – Detlev Schlicter, THE SCHLICTER FILES

There’s little difference between Australian sailor humour and the pontifications of central bankers and Pau Krugman.
Government sneaks through the 'Affordable Boat Act' – SAIL WORLD.COM

Another fair question.
To YB: Would Bitcoin exist in a free market? – Yaron Brook, LEONARD PEIKOFF.COM

‘The Seen and the Unseen’: “John Stossel, along the way to making a "seen-and-unseen" type of analysis of the machinations of the FDA, reminds us of the actual nature of one of its past "successes.”
Bullying Isn't the Half of It – GUS VAN HORN

Actually, Germany is more like what a proper housing market looks like.
Governments force up housing costs – LINDSAY MITCHELL


“Scientists have grown living muscle in the lab that not only looks and works like the real thing, but also heals by itself - a significant step in tissue engineering.”
Self-healing muscle grown in the lab – BBC NEWS

“Two cabins in Northland have taken the $15,000 prize, but some pretty hard-case locals are not convinced they're deserving winners.”


More here:
20 Jokes That Only Intellectuals Will Understand. – TICKLD

Because you asked.
This is What Happens When You Build a Cube Out of One Way Mirrors – THE MIND UNLEASHED

“Love them or hate them, two tiny cabins in Northland have been named 2014 NZ Home of the Year.”
Home of the Year faces backlash – STUFF
”Given all the attention our Home of the Year is getting, we thought many of you might be interested in hearing some of the thinking behind the jury's decisions.”
Amanda Levete on the Home of the Year – HOME


“Zero waste, lower transport costs and recyclable materials – is 3D-printing the future of housebuilding? Dutch architects are putting the process to the test for the first time in Amsterdam.”
Work begins on the world's first 3D-printed house – ARCHINECT

Technology transforms human lives.
How one man battled the bureaucrats to save a billion lives – Marc Sidwell, CITY A.M.

Technology transforms human lives. The most wonderful video you’ll see today: “Watch as a deaf woman, Joanne Milne, is overwhelmed by hearing for the first time after having her cochlear implants switched on.”

The Black Death may not have been caused by fleas on rats. It may have been airborne, and the result of poor mediaeval health.
Black death skeleons reveal pitiful life of 14th-century Londoners – OBSERVER

“"Witnessing the light bulb go on in someone's head when they realise, and begin to fully understand, the benefits of cannabis legalisation, is a good buzz. A really good buzz.”
No, legalizing medical marijuana doesn’t lead to crime, according to actual crime stats – WASHINGTON POST

More stuff you know that isn’t so:
Southern California not so sprawling after all – ARCHINECT

“When I think about why this is so, I reach the contradictory conclusion that it is because Israel is both safer and more dangerous.”
Why 'helicopter parenting' doesn’t work in Israel – Allison Kaplan Sommer, HAARETZ

Beer. Much better for you than cider.
Hidden levels of sugar in alcohol revealed – TELEGRAPH

Mind you, it depends on the beer.
List of legal beer additives includes fish bladder, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup and insect dyes – NATURAL NEWS
The Shocking Ingredients In Beer – FOOD BABE
Craft Beer and Your Health – CRAFT BEER


Source: “Climate in northern Europe reconstructed for the past 2,000
years: Cooling trend calculated precisely for the first time”
Johannes Gutenberg Universitat, Mainz

New Wire, sounding strangely like old Wire!

Still reckon it’s sheer brilliance to have a harpsichord playing hot swing.

Eat your heart out Horowitz.

Oh, okay then:

And finally:

[Hat tip Russell Beaumont, Richard Goode, Andrew B.. Paul Carfoot, Screwed by State, pete602, Lenore Skenazy, Richard Tol , Richard Calhoun, Tom Nelson, Andrew Frey, Wladimir Kraus, Scott DeSalvo, Keith Weiner, Capitalism, Geek Press, Lindsay Perigo]

Thanks for reading,
Have a great weekend,