Saturday, April 16, 2005

Pop goes the music

From the excellent book and film High Fidelity:
"Do I listen to pop music because I'm depressed, or am I depressed because I listen to pop music?"
Discuss.

Today's cartoon


Cartoon by Nick Kim, courtesy of The Free Radical magazine

Quoting on education

The weekend offers time for reflection. Don Brash offered an education policy this week to make public schools more efficient. Education, he said, “is not the preserve of the Labour Party, the education bureaucracy and the teacher unions; it is the enterprise of every New Zealander concerned for our future.”

True enough. Let every New Zealander then reflect on the nature of the public school enterprise. Fortunately, some great thinkers already have:

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."

-Mark Twain

“Earnestness is just stupidity sent to College.”
- PJ O’Rourke

“Education in the government's factory schools is pumping out an ever-increasing number of functionally illiterate and unemployable youths - good for nothing beyond stuffing a ballot box."

- Peter Osborne

"Mass production in education appeals to us as a prostitution we are not inclined to encourage. . . . Not only do I regard the thing miscalled education - which such a building as you propose is intended to serve - as murder, but a worse form of murder than war, because war disposes of the carcass while [your] so-called education murders the soul and leaves the dead to walk for a lifetime.”
- Frank Lloyd Wright

"To entrust government with the power of determining education which our children shall receive is entrusting our servant with the power of the master.”
- Orestes Brownson

“Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property.... He must be taught to amass wealth, but it must be only to increase his power of contributing to the wants and demands of the state.”
- Benjamin Rush

“Schoolhouses are the republican line of fortifications.”
- Horace Mann

"Resistance to the full-scale institution of government compulsory schooling will only last for one generation. The first generation affected will accept it as a natural part of growing up."
- Johann Gottlieb Fichte, quoting Plato

"The mere absorbing of facts and truths is so exclusively individual an affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat."
- John Dewey

“Few systems boast incentives more perverse than public education, where teacher's tenure - not merit - is remunerated, students with an "appetite for destruction" are coddled with therapy, and school failure is rewarded with an increased budget. And these are the least offensive facets of child-centred, progressive public education. It's a sluggard of a system, and it's turning out bumper crops of ignoramuses, which, all too often, have no more than dangerously inflated self-esteems to show for years of compulsory attendance.”
-Ilana Mercer

“As a result of the fact that education has been tax-supported for such a long time, most people find it difficult to project an alternative. Yet there is nothing unique about education that distinguishes it from the many other human needs which are filled by private enterprise. If, for many years, the government had undertaken to provide all the citizens with shoes, and if someone were subsequently to propose that this field should be turned over to private enterprise, he would doubtless be told indignantly: "What! Do you want everyone except the rich to walk around barefoot?"
But the shoe industry is doing its job with immeasurably greater competence than public education is doing its job.“

- Nathaniel Branden

"The most vindictive resentment may be expected from the pedagogic profession for any suggestion that they should be dislodge from their dictatorial position; it will be expressed mainly in epithets, such as "reactionary," at the mildest. Nevertheless, the question to put to any teacher moved to such indignation is: Do you think nobody would WILLINGLY entrust his children to you and pay you for teaching them? Why do you have to extort your fees and collect your pupils by compulsion?”

- Isabel Paterson

“... So the world got compulsion schooling at the end of a state bayonet for the first time in human history; modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver: Obedient soldiers to the army; Obedient workers to the mines; Well subordinated civil servants to government; Well subordinated clerks to industry; Citizens who thought alike about major issues.”
- John Taylor Gatto

"You pay for these lessons in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are:
The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong.
The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch.
The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command.
The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study.
In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth.
In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched.”

- John Taylor Gatto

“Learning is a conceptual process; an educational method devised to ignore, bypass and contradict the requirements of conceptual development, cannot arouse any interest in learning. The "adjusted" are bored because they are unable actively to absorb knowledge. The independent are bored because they seek knowledge, not games of "class projects" or group "discussions." The first are unable to digest their lessons; the second are starved.”
- Ayn Rand

“The production of monsters—helpless, twisted monsters whose normal development has been stunted—goes on all around us. But the modern heirs of the comprachicos are smarter and subtler than their predecessors: they do not hide, they practice their trade in the open; they do not buy children, the children are delivered to them; they do not use sulphur or iron, they achieve their goal without ever laying a finger on their little victims.

"The ancient comprachicos hid the operation, but displayed its results; their heirs have reversed the process: the operation is open, the results are invisible. In the past, this horrible surgery left traces on a child's face, not in his mind. Today, it leaves traces in his mind, not on his face. In both cases, the child is not aware of the mutilation he has suffered. But today's comprachicos do not use narcotic powders: they take a child before he is fully aware of reality and never let him develop that awareness. Where nature had put a normal brain, they put mental retardation. To make you unconscious for life by means of your own brain, nothing can be more ingenious.

"This is the ingenuity practiced by most of today's educators. They are the comprachicos of the mind. They do not place a child into a vase to adjust his body to its contours. They place him into a "Progressive" nursery school to adjust him to society.”

- Ayn Rand

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Phew! Having reflected, you might now like to try the World’s Shortest Education Survey. How did you do?

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Where's Jim Peron II

Yesterday in Parliament Winston Peters tabled sexually explicit photographs "including photos and sketches of naked boys retrieved from Aristotle's [Jim Peron's bookshop] three weeks ago."

The tabling of these photographs occurred immediately before yesterday's Question Time in the House, and has gone unreported elsewhere.

The photographs and sketches, which openly depict young naked boys in semi-erotic poses and have been described as "disturbing," have been inspected by the Department of Internal Affairs who described them as "not objectionable under the Act." Under any standard of human decency however, objectionable is the least word one could use.

Who's in charge of your life?


Cartoon courtesy The Free Radical magazine. Posted by Hello

RMA amendments offer extra work for lawyers

And from the snouts-in-the-trough-department, this just in:
Legislation amending the Resource Management Act (RMA) will be a goldmine for the legal profession, a lawyer specialising in the RMA has suggested. Warwick Goldsmith, who has specialised in RMA law for 15 years, said that as a lawyer he should be applauding the bill because of the amount of "extra work and income" it would generate.

"What is now proposed is far more complex, far more time consuming, far more expensive, far more intimidating, far more difficult to understand for ordinary people. The only people who will benefit from the proposed changes will be the private companies who process consent applications on behalf of councils... and the lawyers and other experts who are paid to advise consent applicants and submitters...," Mr Goldsmith said.
Blimey, Mr Goldsmith might almost qualify as an honest lawyer, and if he hadn't said the following he might have: "The essence of my submission [on the proposed RMA amendments] is that `if it is not broken, do not fix it'," Mr Goldsmith said. The RMA process at council and Environment Court level was not perfect but was getting better."

Sigh. The RMA is broken; irredeemably broken, and only a stake through its heart can fix it. Abandon it and bring back the common law protections for property rights. That's my submission.
Example
But Mr Goldsmith's admission that legislation such as the RMA offers a meal ticket for people like him who can pretend they have a real job brings to mind my favourite policy from the Libertarianz: their Unemployment Policy. Apparently they say that under Libertarianz unemployment would increase dramatically ... [Click here and scroll down to read.]

Helen Clark: Berryman case highlights abandonment of rural NZ

Helen Clark has issued a press release we can all agree with saying "the Government's refusal to enter into mediation over compensation for Keith and Margaret Berryman highlights the abandonment of rural New Zealand." And so it does.

She says, "The Berrymans are victims in many ways. They are victims of bad legislation and victims of an over-zealous government department." And so they are.

"I feel really sorry for these people," says Miss Clark. "I think their lives have been ruined." And so they have.

"Labour's by-election campaign has been about putting the heart back into the country, and giving hard-working people such as Keith and Margaret Berryman a fair go," Helen Clark said.

By-election? What by-election? Yes, you guessed it, this isn't what Helen Clark said today, this was a press release issued by her five years ago at 10:30am on 27 April 1998 as part of the Taranaki-King Country by-election campaign.

It was headed "Berryman case highlights National's abandonment of rural NZ," which of course it still does. Everything she said then is right on the money.

But now, as another election campaign is now almost upon us, perhaps I could ask all of New Zealand to reflect for a moment on what Helen's subsequent abandonment of the Berrymans highlights, aside from her own abject dishonesty. Answers on a Fax please to Helen Clark: (04) 473 3579, and e-mail to: pm@ministers.govt.nz

You might point out in your correspondence that the $150,000 offered to the Berrymans by her Government in 'mediation' is a sick joke. It does not even cover their $450,000 legal bills, does not begin to compensate for the loss of their farm (which conservative estimates say might now be worth $2.5 million), and in no way compensates for the ten years of hell both Labour and National Governments have put this couple through.

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Pressure on for justice for the Berrymans

There is movement on the Berryman front. Thank God. Following Rob Moodie's release on the internet of the Butcher Report which the Army had tried to suppress, there has been a public stampede to download it, to find out the truth, and I trust to put pressure where it's needed to get justice for the Berrymans. And there has been a disgraceful move by the Manawatu Law Society to censure Rob Moodie for his spirited defence of his clients. (Feel free to write them to say what you think of that.)

Even the politicians are getting into the game - belatedly to be sure, but it is happening - putting pressure on for a public inquiry. While that would be something, it's not a public inquiry that Keith and Margaret Berryman need but compensation and their lives back. And soon. This injustice has already taken ten years of their life; any more delay would just be further injustice over something that should have been sorted years ago.

Five years ago Helen Clark stood on the Berryman's bridge with Mark Burton and Harry Duynhoven and promised "when I become Prime Minister, I will ensure the Government will settle the Berrymans for this outrage." Yeah, right Helen. If Helen thought she could simply bury this she is very much mistaken. As Adrian Chisholm said to me last night, "What she didn't count on was a Rob Moodie out there."

Rob Moodie has zero tolerance for corruption; I have zero tolerance for liars - so perhaps I could encourage you while you're writing the Law Society to fax Helen Clark's office and tell her exactly what you think of her forked tongue. Fax: (04) 473 3579, e-mail: pm@ministers.govt.nz

[UPDATE: If you really want to push the boat out with your correspondence you might like a link to an Excel spreadsheet of email addresses for 160 candidates in the coming election, which naturally includes many sitting MPs. Here 'tis.]

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

A big welcome to all 3,000 of you

Welcome, welcome everyone, to the end of my first week of blogging, and an extra special thanks to the three-thousandth visitor (who my StatCounter tells me has just logged on, is from Austin Texas, and uses Firefox). Thank you sir or madam - couldn't you have called in a week ago? ;-)

In fact big thanks to everyone of those three-thousand visitors - I'd like to think your time here has been and will be well spent - and especially to those who have helped make this site possible, particularly Richard at beNZylpiperazine (sorry, I don't know what it means either, but I'm getting better at pronouncing it) who set it all up, Ruth at Freudian Slippers who posted some timely tips on how to run it, and Berlin Bear from The Capital Letter who helps keep me honest (even if he does type like a monkey). And in fact thank you to everyone on my blogroll, all of whom have welcomed me to the blogosphere in a more benevolent manner than I ever expected. Please help me to thank them by clicking on and reading their insights. In a minute.

But first ... let me post the first week's top ten Google searches for this blog, for no other reason than that DPF does it, which surely counts for something doesn't it? (The number in brackets is what rank Not PC is in Google for that term.) As you see, there is a common theme, one not well-covered by either the MSM or by opposition politicians; and I do hope that everyone who logged on and downloaded that report does something with it:

1. bob moodie berryman report (4th)
2. butcher report moodie (11th)
3. george butcher berryman (3rd)
4. statement by dr rob moodie berryman (3rd)
5. berryman bridge bob moodie (5th)
6. bob moodie butcher report (2nd)
7. berrymans bridge nz rob moodie (11th)
8. blog moodie berryman (1st)
9. moodie berryman (3rd)
10. rob moodie (13th)

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What teachers don't teach

Jason Roth at SaveTheHumans.Com muses amusingly on what his teachers didn't teach him. He puts it rather more (ahem!) colourfully. Click here and scroll down to read. The word 'teachers' appears in the subheading,along with some other words most teachers wouldn't like.

Mis-education


Cartoon courtesy The Free Radical Posted by Hello

Education Policy - Brash has still got it wrong

Don Brash has released National’s education policy to the outrage of all the people who need to be outraged, and to the applause of those like David Farrar and the Education Forum that you’d expect to applaud. The Libertarianz, caught between, have called it a ‘yawner.’

Which prompts me to answer a question libertarians are often asked: How does the libertarian view of public education differ from those of conservatives or liberals? Good question, and with just a hint of over-generalisation let me answer it.

THE LIBERAL VIEW: The liberal view is that all that is wrong with public education can be fixed with more money, better staff-student ratios, greater control of curriculum, more qualified teachers and more paperwork. (I joke about the latter, of course.)

The result of several generations of liberal education policies have however been high levels of “functional illiteracy” and innumeracy, dripping-wet political correctness, central planning of curricula and lots more paperwork – not to mention a failing examination system and degrees being awarded in air-hostessing. None of this has aroused liberals to question their thinking however; their prescription for their failure is more of the same.

THE CONSERVATIVE VIEW: The view of conservatives is that public education needs to be made more efficient. With more efficiency, delivery of education will be better. This is essentially the thrust of National’s new policy: greater efficiencies bringing better education.

THE LIBERTARIAN VIEW: Libertarians disagree. Libertarians maintain that public education is all too efficient: it is ruthlessly efficient at delivering the government’s chosen values. And so it has – we now have several generations who are culturally safe and politically correct ‘good citizens,’ forty-two percent of whom however are ‘functionally illiterate’ and unable to read a bus timetable or operate a simple appliance (see the 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey for the sad details - not unfortunately online).

Previously the government's chosen values included banning the speaking of Maori in schools; this is now of course compulsory, as is the teaching of the ordained versions of Te Tiriti and the inculcation of the ideas of multiculturalism and the inferiority of western culture. Sadly, there is too little time left for reading, and when there is whole language teaching ensures little of this is achieved anyway.

The government's recently chosen values are "fairness, opportunity and security." We know that because Helen Clark said so. Orwell would have recognised these words, as you might in the rigid orthodoxies of what passes for teacher education here. "What happens in our schools is a very big part of shaping the future of New Zealand," says Ms Clark in the same speech, acknowledging that this is the way to make subjects out of citizens.

Libertarians agree with Ms Clark's statement, which is precisely why we want governments away from the schools and away from control of curricula. Both Liberals and conservatives endorse state control of schools and of curricula, and they both seek to be the state. By contrast, Libertarians maintain that a complete separation of school and state is needed for the same reason we have a separation between church and state.

Do you see the difference now?

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

"We're really proud of Jeremy..."


Cartoon courtesy The Free Radical Posted by Hello

Firefox kicks explorer butt

I've become curious about a browser called Firefox since starting this blog, because according to my Site Stats about forty percent of you are using Firefox to read this instead of Microsoft Explorer or the other legion of other browsers. A quick check seemed in order to see how this blog looks with Firefox.

I have to say that I'm enormously impressed - and not just with my blog. :-) With Firefox I'm more than impressed: I love it! Explorer has gone, and I'm now I'm a big Firefox fan. It just would not be possible to do a blog such as this without it, for which most of you are no doubt very, very sorry. It opens quickly; easily integrates News Feeds; is smooth and logical; so easy to import existing settings? And those cool tabs I've lived with for a week but now couldn't be without! (Did I mention I like it a lot?) :-)

So what do you lot think about Firefox? Nearly half of you are using it - which clearly points to a discerning readership - so has anybody tried it and didn't like it? Are there any snags? Or great stories? Or tips? Anybody demur from my opinion of one week?

NOTE: Worldwide stats give different stats to my small sample (which clearly shows my discerning readership). Read those stats and find out about the browser wars here.

Find out about Firefox here, and download it here. You won't regret it.

And if you do start using it, here's a link to make your Firefox scream. It does!

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Getting rights right

"There’s no such thing as human rights,” Bob Jones once said, “not even the right to breath." Uh huh! Right Bob. As this demonstrates, there is a heck of a lot of confusion and a great deal of misunderstanding over the issue of rights. Just ask any student. Or a Council Planner.

Robert Bidinotto comments on the misunderstanding over rights on his blog today, and in doing so helps to explain why libertarians are divided on the Iraq war – something I’ve often been asked to explain.

As Bidinotto says:
…one of the most difficult things is to get people to understand the practical, real-world consequences of abstract philosophical ideas. But in the recent Terry Schiavo controversy, and in the ongoing debate over the Iraq War, we're seeing the (largely unacknowledged) power of philosophy being played out in the form of real life-and-death dramas.

Let me describe one ongoing philosophical controversy that has real-world implications.

Since the end of the Cold War, what had been called the political "Right" has fragmented into a host of warring factions. A major source of that disintegration concerns conflicting conceptions of the concept of "individual rights."
I highly recommend you read on.

Read on here.

New Zealand's persecuted minority: property owners

Crikey, this guy knows what he's talking about. ;-)

Where is the political opposition?

Aaron Bhatnagar calls for 'the right blogosphere' to put aside John Tamihere now and to 'go after' new Labour MP Stephen Ching. Yawn!

This unfortunately is what passes for political opposition in New Zealand. 'Going after' a politician for something - often inconsequential - and trying for his scalp.

Even if 'success' is achieved - even if the scalp is won - then even if the scalp belongs to a member of cabinet, nothing changes. Whatever outrage has occurred continues. Whatever corruption is exposed continues - just more carefully: everyone knows that politicians don't follow up.

Opposition politicians 'going for scalps' and practicing populism, making fun of Labour Ministers and grandstanding in the House think they're achieving something. But the 'achievement' is illusory, and you'd think the poll ratings might tell them that - the public knows what they do not, that this kind of performance leaves the Government's programme untouched.

In my view the job of an opposition politician is to travel the country and find people who have been done over by government regulation, or had their dreams crushed by the statist steamroller, or had their lives destroyed by bureacratic duplicity. To find them, to put their story in the face of the media, to harass and pursue the people responsible.

Sadly, opposition MPs are too busy going for scalps. Rodney Hide did it once, but he doesn't know how to follow up. He's like a drunk having a one-night stand, enjoying the moment and forgetting it once it's over. In this case, he got the scalp of IRD's head, but the TrIRDs themselves were let off the hook, and the outrages exposed just continue underground.

There is no political opposition. Thank God for people like Rob Moodie.

[CORRECTION: Aaron Bhatnagar has pointed out that Stephen Ching is a candidate, not an MP.]

It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing

'Berlin Bear' disagrees with me. It happens. In response to my musical point here he asks: "What I don't get is this: If we can, as you say "without trouble identify what is good music, and what is not" why do opinions on what is good music and what is not, or indeed what is music and what is not, differ so much from one person to the next?"

Good point, and on reflection I withdraw the words 'without trouble.' If it could be done 'without trouble' we wouldn't need either the philosophical discussion or the research, would we?

First of all let's understand that art per se is of crucial importance in human life. Art, if you like, offers a shortcut to our philosophy; it allows us to say when we see a painting or hear a piece of music, "Yes! This is me!" Art that does that for us helps us to integrate our view of the world; it allows us to hold in one 'mental unit' the totality of our view on the world, and by so doing helps to integrate us.

So as we all hold different philosophies and have a different fundamental outlook, it's quite natural that we will all look for different art to give us that "Yes!" moment.

Having said that, it should be clear that not every work of art can do that for us. A piece that does will have sufficient scope, depth and integration (SDI) to integrate a fundamental view of the world, and it is by these measures that we can form objective standards for what is good and bad. As Duke Ellington explains it, "It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing."

So if a painting or book or symphony or poem or sculpture is good enough, if it has suffient SDI, (and if it swings!) it will be capable of being a 'shortcut to our philosophy'; if not, it won't. That's why we can say of one work of art: "This is good art, but I don't like it," or "This is good, I love it," or "This is crap because it insults my intelligence."

If you're interested, I talk about this with respect to music at greater length here, and Ayn Rand talks about this at much greater length and with much greater style in her book The Romantic Manifesto. As you'd expect. I recommend both to your attention. :-)

The importance of this new research, to conclude (thank goodness, I hear you sigh), is that it helps to further explain what up to now has only really been possible with introspection - that is, up to now it's only been possible to feel the effect of melody, harmony and the like in the 'listening room of our own mind.' It seems it might now be possible to show these effects more demonstratively, a very exciting prospect! :-)

Zero tolerance for corruption

Ten years ago Keith Berryman and his wife were screwed by government, and in the ten years since politicians have watched and done nothing as the Berryman's lives have fallen apart due to bureaucratic duplicity.

They lost their farm; they lost their dreams; and as Keith Berryman said a year ago, "It's totally destroyed our lives. Both my wife and I have had tremendous health issues." The Government have offered the Berrymans $150,000 in compensation (acoompanied no doubt by crocodile tears and a crawling apology), but as they say, this amount wouldn't even cover their legal bills.

Lawyer Rob Moodie is now going in to bat for the Berrymans, and he's been coming out swinging:
Lawyer Rob Moodie has defied a court order by posting on the internet a suppressed army report on the 1994 "Berryman bridge" collapse.

Dr Moodie said last night that he had posted it to expose the truth about the collapse, in which beekeeper Kenneth Richards died at the King Country farm of Keith and Margaret Berryman.

Last month the High Court ordered Dr Moodie to return copies of the report by former army engineer George Butcher. The report reveals that faulty army construction caused the collapse because timber transoms were not sealed, letting water in.
Good for Rob Moodie. On the 'Holmes' show, Rob Moodie said his motivation for releasing the report is that he has "zero tolerance for corruption." Rob Moodie is a hero. A pity parliament has so few of them.

[And no, I don't know where to find the report - although I'm told that page twenty has the crucial stuff.]

[UPDATE 1: I'm reliably informed that a polite e-mail to
this gentleman
will find a report on your doorstep within the week.]

[UPDATE 2: Duncan Bayne comments on this case here, and says the Butcher Report can be downloaded through the NBR site, here.]

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Lesbian Oppression


Cartoon from Free Radical

Australian scientists reject hot air

Global warming and the Kyoto Protocol were rubbished recently at an Australian scientific conference. As Tech Central Station reports :
For the first time in Australia, Australia's leading advocates of the Kyoto model were required to publicly defend the "official" UN science supporting Kyoto to their peers. They were not successful. Doubts about the UN science are increasing in Australia.

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Music on the Brain

If you want to give your brain a work-out, listen to music. And if you want a better iPod , use your brain. Those are two implications of recent research into how we hear and appreciate music.

Dartmouth College researchers have discovered that our brain stores tunes and snatches of tunes, and 'fills in the gaps' when we're listening to music without our even being aware that we're doing so. Since songs played on our internal jukebox are note- and sound-perfect, this explains why tunes in our head often sound better than the real thing; it also explains why karaoke singers don't get embarrassed - it's not just the alcohol: their brain is filling in the gaps in their musical performance for them - if not for their long-suffering audience.

Ever have a 'tune in your head' you just can't get rid of? This research shows that this is literally true.

And how does our brain process all this music? According to Harvard Medical School researchers, we don't just process music in some specific part of the brain, when we listen to music the whole brain is being used. Hence part of the reason for the great power of music: it affects all our brain function, perhaps serving as proxy for many of our thoughts, or unearthing many of our most treasured memories.

What's more, say researchers, musical tones go directly to our emotional centres, by-passing our normal cognitive processes: "...music goes much deeper than that — below the outer layers of the auditory and visual cortex to the limbic system, which controls our emotions."

This research really opens the door to understanding the nature of music and why and how it affects us, and it closes the door on those practitioners of noise music who have always claimed the benefit of the doubt. We can wholeheartedly agree with Sir Thomas Beecham who, when asked if he had ever conducted any Stockhausen replied, "No, but I think I trod in some once." There is no argument now for Music for Chainsaws, and the like. We can without trouble identify what is good music, and what is not.

"'Something made of sounds produced by anything' is not a definition of music," as Ayn Rand observed. Rand herself maintained that the crucial aspect of all art is that it "serves to integrate a conceptual consciousness," a claim echoed now by Geoffrey Miller of University College London, who says:
Our brain is constantly trying to make order out of disorder, and music is a fantastic pattern game for our higher cognitive centers. From our culture, we learn (even if unconsciously) about musical structures, tones and other ways of understanding music as it unfolds over time; and our brains are exercised by extracting different patterns and groupings from music's performance.
"It is this very kind of pattern recognition," says writer Kristin Leutwyler, " - which is extremely important for making sense of the world around us — that Keith Devlin suggests in his book The Math Gene gave rise to language and stands behind mathematical ability as well."

So we can now begin to understand how melodies affect us, and why; that emotional responses to melody are an objective response to what we hear; why harmonies, conterpoint and the intelligent use of leitmotifs have such power to move. The door to understanding our responses to real music stands open. How many will want to walk through? Much clearly still needs to be done, but the research Ayn Rand hypothesised in 'Art and Cognition' was needed is now being done.

No buggers interested in Tariana

Tariana Turia’s claims that she was bugged by the SIS have now been undone, and are confirmed as “a work of fiction” by Justice Paul Neazor.

No surprise. The claims were first aired by Sunday Star Times 'journalist' Anthony Hubbard and Nicky Hager - a gentleman with even more tinfoil in his hat than Ian Wishart - and endorsed by a party leader desperately keen to garner publicity for her new party.

Worked, didn’t it.

Good advice might be to remember this finding next time you read a story written by either Nicky Hager or Anthony Hubbard and as Justice Neazor suggests, just file it under fiction.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Not PC is not postmodern either


Readers of discussions at DPF's blog and at Greg Stephens's on political correctness would benefit greatly from digesting a recent book by Stephen Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism. In it he explains the origins and apparent contradictions of Postmodernism and its bossy buddy Political Correctness.

In my Amazon review of the book I say:
This book should be in every student's backpack. In the post-modern intellectual battleground in which each student find himself submerged - and sometimes drowning - this book offers essential intellectual self-defence for every student who still cares to think. No matter if you already know every answer to all the sundry irrationalities you face every day - herewith is a comprehensive summary of your intellectual enemy that for the first time clearly and comprehensively puts each of the post-modern heroes in their place...

...Buy one for a student today. You might just save their life.
It just might you know.

Arab culture

Today's Noodle Food posts a link to ten letters from an American businessman living in Saudi Arabia. Those cultural relativists who think that all cultures are equally valuable - except of course for Western culture which is sexist, Eurocentric, hegemonic and racially oppressive - will probably not want to read these.

For the rest of us who prefer the truth, dive in using the links in the left-hand navigation bar.

When breast is not always best


Liz Weatherly, a mother of three from Torbay, is spearheading an effort to have the Human Wrongs Act amended to protect women who breastfeed on other people's property from being asked not to. The petition follows in the path of much other legislation ensuring that that the views of property owners are ignored, so she has every chance of succeeding.

Weatherly it was who was asked by an Auckland Early Childhood Centre some eighteeen months ago not to breastfeed her nearly-three-year-old at the centre without first discussing it with the centre's owners. Instead she removed her child from the school, waited a year and then called the Holmes Show, who she told she was "not after publicity."

Yeah right. Don't mention the word 'grand-standing.'

Ms Weatherly has never apparently heard of the word 'weaning' either, so perhaps I could point her towards it now. While there, might I suggest that Ms Weatherly and her supporters read and reflect on the independence of the child, and the concept of private property, and the nature of choice.

The rest of us can read this: 'Why doesn't she just use a baby's bottle?' Posted by Hello

Raphael

RMA blather from Benson-Dope and EDS

Gary Taylor and David Benson-Dope discuss in the Herald this morning the best ways to to make life worse for property owners.

Count the number of times the Resource Management Act mentions property rights. Then count the number times Gazza and Dave talk about remedying this. Let me give you a clue: the correct answer looks like a full moon.

Proposed "changes to the RMA are good," fawns Environmental Defence Society chairman Taylor. "The Resource Management Act is important legislation protecting our environment," blathers Benson-Dope. Crap. The RMA is appalling legislation nationalising the property of New Zealanders.

Benson-Dope is just so much empty hot air, but if the EDS really wanted to protect the environment without doing over their fellow New Zealanders they might propose using property rights in defence of nature instead of regulation and nationalisation.

Says Elizabeth Brubaker from Canada's excellent Environment Probe:
Many environmental groups prefer regulatory solutions to environmental problems. But regulations are made by remote governments who, driven by the need to create jobs or some undefined "public good," are often the least responsible stewards of natural resources. Governments of all political stripes have given us thousands of reasons not to trust them to protect the en-vironment: they've licensed – and bankrolled – polluters, turned forests into wastelands, emptied oceans of fish, and dammed rivers that were once magnificent.
She's right you know. I'd strongly suggest NZers still living in the belief that government can fix everything, including our environment, should read this, this and this. Then perhaps they too might join me in advocating a stake driven through the heart of this RMA.

Benevolence of bloggers III

I was warned by Ruth at Freudian Slippers when I started blogging just four days ago that I would find NZ political bloggers uncongenial, and today she repeats that advice on her own blog, saying she's "found them to be unfriendly and misogynistic in the main."

Ouch!

The irony for me is twofold. First, she's posted some great tips for bloggers that I've already found helpful. The second is that I take people as I find them, and so far I've only fallen out with one fellow blogger: Ruth at Freudian Slippers! Anyway, I accept your apology Ruth, but I'm disappointed that this here blog of mine is now persona non grata with you - just "someone's blog" as you refer to it.

Ah me. At least she can't complain now that I don't link to her, can she? And what's all this business about DPF and "the Swedish story"?

Look what Nanny's doing while our backs are turned

Oh crikey, I'm agreeing with Jordan Carter. Well, partially.

Jordan notes that:
One of the more interesting features of the Tamihere affair to date has been the way National and ACT have latched onto his comments about Labour as being some sort of veritable truth. [Labour] are said to be more interested in gay marriage than in running the economy; in prostitution law reform than in building better roads: the basic charge is that Labour is out of touch with middle New Zealand....The reason this has some resonance - and it does have some - is largely because of the way the media has portrayed public life in the last few years. While 95% of Parliamentary time last year was spent on every other area of policy, a hugely disproportionate amount of media focus was on the civil union legislation.
Well, he's right, isn't he. And as it happens, libertarians agree that both the Civil Union Bill and the legalisation of prostitution were good things. In fact, their passing was posibly the best thing to happen in the NZ parliament since Dodger Rugless was eviscerating the bureaucrats back in 1985.

But at this point Jordan's analysis breaks down, and I and he part company. While the focus of the media and populist politicians was on Civil Unions and prostitution as Jordan rightly observes, look what Nanny slipped through the back door:
- A new Building Act (responding to media hysteria) that makes it illegal to build, repair or maintain your own home, and almost impossible to find or pay for a builder to do it for you;
- Smoking banned in bars;
- Revenue-collecting as a priority for police;
- More gravy for the Waitangi Gravy Train;
- Beneficiary numbers at an all-time high, now of course including most of New Zealand's middle class;
- Total tax-take at an all-time high;
- The standard of NZ's schools at an all-time low ...
Must I continue?

We're being had, and while we are populist politicians are wasting time filibustering, and going for the scalp of Tamihere.

I'd prefer they paid attention to what really matters - to New Zealanders being done over by their government. I doubt that Jordan would agree with me on that point, however.

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Lest we forget

Berlin Bear offers good commentary this morning:
As the Second World War and the era of Nazi Germany recede further into the past, and as the last of the survivors and eye witnesses grow old and die, it becomes ever more important that we remind ourselves frequently of the horrors of the Holocaust, so that we may learn from them and ensure that such barbarism will never be repeated. If we disregard this hideous and uncomfortable chapter of world history, or allow time to numb our sense of the injustices done, we run the risk of history repeating itself.

Perhaps someone should tell that to John Tamihere.

Oh dear, John!

For those who haven't heard already, John Tamihere told nutter Ian Wishart he is "sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed." Was he just trying to out-nutter the nutter?

It's as absurd as Helen Clark saying she was "certain Mr Tamihere meant no offence," Tariana Turia and her friends in the Waitingi Tribunal calling the effects of colonisation in Taranaki a "holocaust," or JT's statement in 2001 that Genetic Engineering threatens "genealogical purity."

In fairness to JT, much of the resulting hysteria might be more muted if the full context of his comment was quoted more widely:
"I’m sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed, not because I’m not revolted by it - I am - or I’m not violated by it - I am - but because I already know that."
But is there any further comment to make on his statement? Surely it speaks for itself. Dog Biting Men criticised Jordan Carter for not commenting on JT's earlier published comments, but there wasn't much intelligent to say then. This time however he's posted a statement on behalf of the Labour Party - "the statements are... offensive and utterly unacceptable to the New Zealand Labour Party." I wonder what he thinks himself?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Three Rhinemaidens & a Nibelung


What do you get when you cross three Rhinemaidens and a Nibelung?