Saturday, 9 July 2005

Responding to atrocity

Early yesterday morning I commented "at such times as these, isn't it a reminder that despite their mixed premises and many political differences between us -- and with significant low-life exceptions such as George Galloway and Keith Locke -- western people and politicians actually share more than we differ." The responses over the day confirmed that point; with the notable exception of Galloway the response world-wide and across New Zealand has been tremendous. If there has been some good news amidst the barbarity, that must surely be it.

So Simon asked me "What did [Keith] Locke say that you're unhappy with?" A fair question. In my defence, I called Keith a low-life not so much because of what he said yesterday (the offending post was published at 8:15am yesterday morning, before anyone had really said anything) but because of his post-September 11 actions around the country. I posted one such response of Locke's to the Frog Blog a few weeks ago.

[At a Rotorua public meeting] Keith sat there smiling and nodding his head in agreement [while Annette] Sykes told the audience: “I will never forget that morning turning on my TV and seeing those planes fly into those two towers, I jumped for joy, I was so excited to see that at long last capitalism was under attack. I was laughing, I was so happy, but then I saw those people jumping out of the windows and it suddenly hit me, oh those poor waiters, the poor cleaners, those poor lift operators, who the greedy capitalists had employed to do all the dirty jobs were probably the people jumping out of the windows.”

Keith neither challenged nor questioned Sykes’ rant, he sat there and smiled and nodded and then led the applause when she finished.

As it happens, when the Greens' response came out yesterday it was very good, unlike that of the Maori Party who expressed sympathy without condemnation, as if these barbaric multiple murders were some sort of natural disaster that had 'just happened' to tragically take people's lives. Bloggreen was similarly judgement-free:
Firstly all my thoughts are with the people of London. This tragic event will change your city I do not doubt. Be strong, look out for each other and know our thoughts are with you. ...

But I have to say this: Learn from New York. The question is not who did it, but why did they did it.
Actually, the question is this: who did it, who helped them, why did they do it ... and where do they live.

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A Saturday morning ramble: How do you judge success?

I was chatting with a friend over breakfast when Hello Sailor's 'Gutter Black' came on the radio. (Seems it's being used for a new local TV series, so there'll be a few well-deserved royalties going Dave McArtney's way.) My friend commented that he'd never heard the song before, which seemed incredible to me; that song, I said, was what turned me on to music!

It's true. As a kid growing up there was no music in the house aside from the dross of early seventies government TV and radio -- and I'm sure many of you remember how bad that was -- so aside from the theme to 'The Thunderbirds,' music to me was just so much bland foreign territory with about as much interest as a week's holiday in Taihape. Until one day when we were sitting in the car outside the Westfield freezing works -- I can remember the moment IT happened, you see -- and THIS SOUND came on the radio.

"What's that?!" I said to my sister who was sitting fiddling with the car radio. "Turn it up!" I'd never heard anything like it. It was 'Gutter Black' in all its clever, punchy, pithy glory. If that was music, I wanted more.

I saved up my Newspaper-round money and bought the first Hello Sailor album, and I played it every afternoon for a year. After that copy wore out, I bought another one and played that every afternoon for another year. I was in love with music, and Hello Sailor was to blame. (Several thousand CDs and records later, maybe I should send Dave and Graham the bill?)

So after I'd told my friend all this, he confessed to an even sadder childhood: he'd never heard of Hello Sailor at all. Incredible. I talked and talked (as I do) but he'd never heard of them. He had however heard of Dragon, with whom Hello Sailor started playing back in their early days. In fact, when both bands were getting started they lived together in a rambling old house in Ponsonby, dubbed Mandrax Mansions due to the incessant and regular drug taking going on there.

So my friend and I then reflected on how history works, and how you judge success. You see, by 1975, Dragon had gone to Australia and achieved fame and fortune and $200-a-day heroin habits, while Hello Sailor were still in Ponsonby taking cheap drugs. By 1980, Hello Sailor had just acquired world-famous-in-NZ status before splitting (not for the first time); and Dragon were flying, in all senses of the word. Contrasting fortunes indeed.

But now, in 2005, the good fortune has turned around. Three of Dragon's original five members are dead, while Hello Sailor's line-up are all alive, kicking and in rude good health. And with new solo albums out to boot (Buy Graham's here, and Dave's here).

So how do you judge success?
If your interest has been piqued, you can buy The Sailor Story here.


Friday, 8 July 2005

Brains beats barbarity

'Theseus slays the Minotaur' --sculpture by Antoine-Louis Bayre.

Lifting your spirits

On such a day as this, what can you do to lift your spirits without forgetting the atrocities of last night?

I recommend music, especially music that represents the best of the culture that is presently under attack. Listening to the best of the west is almost like an act of defiance, a reminder that this is what we're defending against the nihilists.

So what works then? Jean Sibelius' 2nd Symphony is presently doing wonders for me. Ralph Vaughan Williams' 'Rhapsody on a Theme of Thomas Tallis' has also hit the spot, and I fully expect Jesse Norman's rendition of Richard Strauss' 'Four Last Songs' and Wagner's five 'Wesendonck' lieder to do it for me shortly. And I note Craig is listening to and enjoying Noel Coward's 'London Pride,' as I did earlier when I followed the link he posted.

And even Radio New Zealand have offered something to look forward to. Tomorrow afternoon they begin a two-part programme on, in my estimation, America's greatest composer: Duke Ellington. (Word has it that RNZ have their programming streamed somewhere, but I'm blowed if I can work out where.) And Duke perhaps should have the last word on rising above adversity: "I merely took the energy it would have taken to pout," he used to say, " and I wrote some blues." And such effortless-seeming blues they are too. I can't wait.

One of those that caused it ...

The Times has the story of a passenger who cheated death, and perhaps also of the one that might have tried to cause it:
Terence Mutasa, a staff nurse at University College hospital, treated two passengers, young women in their twenties, for minor injuries and shock. “They were saying some guy came and sat down on the bottom deck and that he exploded,” he said. “They said the guy sat down and the explosion happened. They thought it was a suicide bomber.”
A report from the Guardian corroborates the claims, which are still perhaps only speculation. Other reports have wondered whether it was a suicide bombing, or a bomb that exploded early, which fits with Guardian reports that the devices were not exactly reliable.
But a source told The Guardian that three controlled explosions had been carried out on "suspect devices". Furthermore Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre, told The Guardian that "two unexploded bombs" were recovered as well as "mechanical timing devices".

An earlier BBC-TV broadcast suggested one of those was apparently at Stockwell station; if so it suggests South London was also on the list of targets.

New blogs being added

New sites being added to my Blogroll, for obvious reasons: Jihad Watch and FaithFreedom.Org

Business as usual

More random thoughts, with appropriate hat tips:
  • Business as usual. That was the phrase of stoic courage made famous in the London blitz, and typified in the photo to the right. 'Business as usual' is the quiet bravery of offering two fingers to aggressors who simply do not understand what makes human life sacred, and human effort valuable.
  • I look forward to a combined declaration from the exended G8 this afternoon. Call it the 'London Declaration,' as Adam Reed has:
    From this point on, terrorists and their "political" and "spiritual" leaders shall have no sanctuary anywhere on Earth. Not in Saudi Arabia, not in Iran, not anywhere. Justice on Earth, and the survival of human civilization, demand no less. And we humans must demand nothing less from our leaders.
  • We should be clear that we are at war. It is not a war against terrorism per se, it is a war declared on us by Islamic jihadists. It is a war of self-defence against a culture that reviles the wealth and freedom of the west because neither are possible in a culture that values neither. In many ways it is the last hurrah of fundamentalist losers who know their cultural values have brought nothing but poverty, dictatorship and death, and have nothing more to offer. It's easy to kill; harder to offer the values that sustain life.

  • America and the allies reacted in self-defense, and against jihad, while the EU is appeasing Islam.

  • The Islamic terrorists who commit these atrocities are not the poor or downtrodden of the Muslim world, they are its best and brightest. What sort of culture has its best and brightest commit multiple murder, while its poor and downtrodden flee (when they can) to find a better life.

  • Freedom's enemies have many faces, but one fundamental evil: hatred of the good for being the good. The lietmotif of nihilist hatred is a "radical rejection of the good, absolutely and in principle; rejection of what is good by any standard and by all standards, rejection of good as such. The emotional expression of nihilism is 'hatred of the good for being the good.' 1.

    "Good guys can't believe nihilism. They can't imagine that anyone could accept nihilism, let alone try to practice nihilism, let alone cultivate in himself a hatred of the good. The good guys' naivete on this point is their main strategic weakness: how do you fight enemies you can't even believe exist?" [Hat tip, Michael Miller.]

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We are all Londoners today

"We are all Londoners today." That was the response from Jenny Dervin of Atlanta to the Times Online,and doesn't it describe the way we all feel this morning. The vibrant, tolerant city of London is today's front line in the battle for those western values that makes cities across the west the great places they are. The smiling, celebrating faces that were in evidence in London yesterday celebrating their Olympic victorywill be back, and when they are it will be a victory for all of us.

Grace under pressure

This was not an accident, this was a planned, intentional act to take multiple human lives.

The concerted explosions across central London, ripping apart trains, a bus and the people who were in them should focus us all on realising that the people who do this are not like us. They are snivelling, crawling, anti-life scum that have nothing to offer the world and the people in it except violence, destruction and death. Let's take them at their word, and not accept any part of what they stand for.

Some random thoughts:
  • Like all of us, I'm sure, I'm still waiting to hear back from friends in London that they're okay. When I lived in London and IRA bombs went off, I would laugh at calls to see how I was; now I'm being laughed at in turn. I'm glad they're laughing.
  • What a great performance by the authorities -- by medical staff, transport staff, police and other services that have clearly had a response to this sort of outrage planned, and well-planned.
  • Londoners are so wonderfully calm under this sort of pressure. Grace under pressure.
  • 37 people killed. 700 injured. I hope some of those killed were the perpetrators. [UPDATED: Now 52 confirmed dead, 700 injured. ref Times]
  • London stock exchange down, and then straight back up again. Business as usual.
  • Given the planning that this attack displays, the good news is the relatively low loss of life. Despite the easy, soft targets they chose to rip apart with their explosives, it seems the cowardly, destructive fuckers were unable to acquire the materiel to kill and destroy at the level of Madrid, New York or Bali, or the coordination to kill on an even greater scale. Is that some sort of blessing? Are these people weaker in their destructive powere than we give them credit for?
  • At such times as these, isn't it a reminder that despite their mixed premises and many political differences between us -- and with significant low-life exceptions such as George Galloway and Keith Locke -- western people and politicians actually share more than we differ. Tony Blair's words at midday London time could not be bettered: "It is important, however, that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world. Whatever they do, it is our determination they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations around the world.”
  • The solidarity shown by western leaders at Gleneagles was something to see. Thirteen leaders including Jacques Chirac, George Bush, Kofi Annan and Vladimir Putin stood shoulder-to-shoulder on stage behind Tony Blair has he decried the outrage, and promised to defend our values. I hope they mean it.
  • Once again we see the lesson that you can not kill terrorism, you can only choke off its means of supply by hunting down those who support them and give them succour. At times such as these it becomes even more important that those who value human life and the ideas that support life do make a stand for the values of liberty and freedom.
  • Those people that commit these atrocities and those who support them have exactly nothing to offer us except bloodshed , tears and death. Nothing.


Thursday, 7 July 2005

Bastards bomb the west again!

The brutality in London is a continuation of the war against civilisation that was declared with the 9/11 attacks. Unable to write coherently, and still unclear who exactly commited this atrocity, I'll post fragments of the response I wrote then to try and make sense of that earlier attack, until it's possible to make sense of this one:

But whoever committed this outrage, and whatever they claim to stand for, it is clear enough what they are against: As former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said soon after the disaster, this was an attack against civilisation itself...

What caused this was an act of piracy by everything that slithers against everything that stands - or stood - erect; by the very lowest, against the very highest that civilisation has to offer. And, as in the days of piracy on the high seas, this modern savagery must be stamped out by a fierce uncompromising commitment to the protection and sanctity of innocent human lives.

Civilisation has today been attacked by savages armed only with carpet knives, and it must learn how to defend itself against such an enemy. It has not yet armed itself with the weapons to do so - either philosophically, or militarily. Unfortunately, it must...

Civilisation is under threat, and each of us must ask ourselves: where do I stand with respect to the values that underpin civilisation, and that civilisation represents? What have I done to support those values - or to smear them? What have I done to uphold those values, or to spit on them?

As SOLO contributor Bill Grazier said: "Although those bastards can kill our citizens, they'll never kill the human spirit, never extinguish joy or love or friendship... as long as we maintain our strength and dignity, then these bastards will never defeat us."


View of Mt Fuji

Woodblock print by Hokusai, part of the 'Views of Mt Fuji' series.

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Who is looking where?

So who exactly is the blogger 'Looking in NZ'?

Well, here's a clue: My post two below this one on Peron's problems is almost exactly the same as the comment I posted on the comments board of 'Looking in NZ's apologia for Jim Peron, which just been removed. Is that a clue?

Maybe you should ask?

More liberty at the movies

Now for some more uplifting material. David Boaz has posted his personal list of his all-time favourite libertarian-themed movies here, to which I'd add at least three more: 'Braveheart,' 'Breaker Morant,' and the entire TV series of 'The Prisoner.' (Okay, it's not a movie, but it is fabulously libertarian.) Perhaps the most topical of all libertarian movies at present is 'The Castle,' although not everyone agrees. I hope the good people of Kelo have a chance to watch it before they're thrown our of their homes by order of the US Supreme Court.

And while talking liberty and movies, Crypticity has noticed a certain liberty-flavoured ad played before a recent screening of 'Hotel Rwanda.' See what he's talking about here, and see the ad for yourself here. Reports have it that said ad was pulled fom the Bridgeway Northcote after fielding a "number" of complaints. As my informant says, "I think I hear the ruffling of feathers." :-)


Peron's problems are of his own making

Some bloggers have been feeling sympathy for the difficulties in which Jim Peron now finds himself. I'm not one of them.

'Looking in NZ' has said a lot about Peron’s problems, about which he seems to know an unusual amount, but hasn't once mentioned the elephant in the middle of the room that’s the direct cause of those problems: Peron was a professional advocate for sex with children, and a writer and publisher of material that advocated sex with children.

And not 'twenty years ago.' The copy of Unbound that Peron published was put about in the early nineties, not so long ago, and I understand there were even later editions. Uugh.

Ruth has wished "bad karma" on those who have "run him out of the country." Yet in my view it is Peron that has run himself out of the country by his own actions and his own lies.

Personally, I see no problems with barring from the country someone that advocates sex with children; someone that has stood up for, associated with and raised funds for those that practice criminal activity, and who has not resiled from having done so, but has intead denied it in the face of clear evidence and the many attestations of those who knew what was going on including collaborators, former owners of his shop, and those who observed his activities at events, meetings, and in his book shop back then.

It doesn't matter what Peters accused him of; what matters is what Peron did. And what he did was enthusiastically advocate sex with children. Does it disturb me then that his life has been made more difficult, then? No, it doesn’t. He deserves every difficulty put in his path.

IMHO, people that advocate criminal activity ~should~ be barred from entering the country – and I'm sure you agree with me that sex with children should be criminal. Frankly who, aside from Jim Peron and the members of NAMBLA and the Auckland Man-Boy Love Association, would disagree with that?

IMHO it's quite appropriate that such low-life scum are refused entry to New Zealand when their past is exposed. What would motivate such a person to think they should be welcomed in? Should Immigration overlook the past of such a person? Not in my moral universe. Such a person is the reason libertarians advovate immigration controls, so we can ensure that only peaceful people can pass freely. Will mistakes be made in the exercise of such controls? Sure, but this is not one.

'Looking In NZ' says it is wrong that Peron won't have access back here to sort out his business. So what. That's not their concern, and nor should it be. And frankly, it's not as if his business is a going concern in any case, and for the business category on which he entered it needs to be. Peron has been out of the country for the last few months by his own choice, and all that time his shop has been closed, presumably an admission that there’s no business going on anyway. And he does have a number of people available – albeit a dwindling number --- who still support him despite the way he’s used, abused and taken advantage of them. Surely between them they can organise his few possessions and send them on. Or they could sell them to cover some of his debts.

“What is happening is very disturbing. And it ought to disturb all of us,” says "Looking in NZ.' No, it ought to disturb Peron. Perhaps the experience will help him to ask of himself a few very serious questions. I wonder perhaps if ‘Looking in NZ’ will be asking any of those questions of himself?


New blog for Sir Humphrey's

The Humphreys are planning to change the look and function of their blog, and they've got a mockup here, which I have to say looks very sharp. As Sage said, very "newspaper."

I'm jealous. Is there a better looking NZ blog? I did like the look of Ruth's Artificial Intelligentsia blog -- although I'm not allowed to say that, and it's now gone anyway.

Well done guys.

Kelo, eminent domain, and guns

Two radio interviews for you this morning, neither of which I've yet listened to myself (I confess) but both of which come very highly recommended.

The first covers the Kelo vNew London land grab okayed by the US Supreme Court, an 'eminent domain' decision called by Property Rights activist, Erich Veyhl "the logic of destruction." Eminent domain? We call it economic fascism. Vehyl's interview with Prodos is here (and an earlier Prodos interview on the subject of eminent domain is here.)

The second interview is on something somewhat related -- I'll let you draw the link yourself: the right to keep and near arms in defence, on which subject British libertarian Sean Gabb is interviewed on Radio Lancashire. The link is here.

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Wednesday, 6 July 2005

Rice Paddy

Photo by Yuri Bonder.

Straight talk & spin

Helen Clark comes up with the straight talk on stoning, and Russell Brown with the spin.

Discussing Ashraf Choudhary's agreement that homosexuals and adulterers should be stoned in accordance with the Koran's teachings, Russell declared:
I have to sympathise with him. He was not asked whether homosexuals and adulterers should be stoned to death; he was invited to declare that the Koran was incorrect in saying so. That was how the question was asked. For a Muslim leader to say the Koran is incorrect is, I gather, beyond serious.
So? As I said yesterday, it's quite appropriate to condemn a culture -- or aspects of a culture -- when it's clearly anti-life. Why be coy?

Helen Clark (unaffected by her dinner with spin-meister Alastair Campbell) was far more direct. Newstalk ZB reports:
Helen Clark says Mr Choudhary's comments on the show certainly do not fit with Labour values or her own. She says she does not care if it is in any religious tract, it is not something that is acceptable.
Bravo! Truth is there's nasty crap in both Bible and Koran, and it doesn't help anyone to pretend otherwise. Good on her for saying so.

Clark's direct approach mirrors the similarly direct Ewen McQueen, current CHP leader, who refused to defend the indefensible Graham Capill. Said McQueen: ""To have been saying the sort of statements that he made for the number of years he said them while at the same time committing these crimes, it really is the worst form of hypocrisy." Isn't it just.

I wonder why Rodney Hide hasn't been similarly direct about Jim Peron's banishment?


Anti-capitalism in Edinburgh

Freedom and Whiskey is a libertarian from Edinburgh with pics and comments on the anti-capitalist nutters currently infesting his fair city. My favourite:
Walking back from photographing yesterday's march in Edinburgh I was approached by an elderly gentleman wearing a Scottish Socialist Party badge. He asked if I would like to purchase a postcard of Che. I asked him why on earth would I want to buy a photo of a mass murderer who shot small boys. I enjoyed this confrontation so much that I had to go and celebrate with a beer.


Mugabe begins confiscating guns ... what's next?

Robert Mugabe has begun confiscating guns. Why do you think that would be?
Authorities in Zimbabwe have ordered civilians to surrender their firearms, with police sources saying the move was a precautionary measure following the government’s action against informal dwellers and hawkers.

The police said licences for certain categories of guns had been revoked in terms of the Firearms Act, reports ZimOnline. The government last cancelled firearm licences during the peak of its farm seizure programme in 2000. That move was targeted at white commercial farmers who at that time held a number of assault guns for self-protection.
And we know just what happened to those white farmers, don't we? It's worth remembering that the primary reason the US Founding Fathers wrote the right to bear arms into their Bill of Rights was to allow citizens to protect themselves against tyrannical government. This is precisely why. [Hat tip Gun Control]

And it seems the Guardian is now coming in behind Mugabe ... "The vilification of Mugabe is now out of control," it says. Nothing like a socialist rag to support Forced evictions, brutal land grabs, slum clearances and murder. [Hat tip]

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Auckland's trains fail rugby fans

Auckland's trains failed last night to get people to the game on time. Special game trains to Eden Park arrived late to the the game, punters who were delayed told the Herald. A Connex spokesmen said "heavy passenger numbers had delayed two trains by 15 minutes" but "as far as we are aware" people got there on time. Who do you believe?

It seems the problem is the rail system just couldn't cope when more than six people tried to ride the trains at once...

Our friend at Slow Train Coming predicted trouble yesterday morning. So how many do you think will now try and use the trains to get to Saturday's game? Or at all?


Labour's desktop toy

Forget making billboard parodies, Richard at BeNZylpiperazine has made a whole executive desktop toy out of Labour's new billboard. Wheee! As Craig says about this desktop toy, "So wrong and creepy - yet so deliciously fun..."

Tuesday, 5 July 2005

Peron out

News just in, as yet unconfirmed:
"Today Jim Peron, Auckland bookstore owner accused by MP Winston Peters of being a paedophile received a letter from NZ immigration informing him he was not to re-enter NZ from Germany where he is currently organising a conference."

[UPDATE: Stuff, Herald and TVNZ now have the news.]

Stoning Ashraf Choudhary

The idiotic pronouncement by Labour MP Ashraf Choudhary that stoning gays and adulters is okay because it is in the Koran and "what the Koran says is correct" demonstrates once again that all cultures are not equal, and Islamic culture perhaps least equal than most -- at least as long as Islamic culture refuses to change and continues to support evil nonsense such as this. As Ruth says: "I agree some stoning is OK - let's start with the Muslim clerics - I don't have a problem with that." Me either.

The fact is that cultures are not beyond criticism (a point made last week by Wellington probation officerJosie Bullock), and nor should they be. We should judge Islamic culture, and indeed all cultures, according to how well they work for those within them.

Thomas Sowell made exactly that point in his book Conquest and Cultures:
Cultures are not museum-pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives.
Now that's a point worth contemplating.

Meddling arseholes highlight system of a downer

Just as Shania Twain finally receives permission to build a house on her own land, news comes in that Serj Tankian (pictured right) "the singer of American band System of a Down has failed in his bid to buy a west coast beach property and develop a recording studio."

What sort of small, myopic, authoritarian, third-world shithole are we living in here? The Overseas Investment Commission decided between their taxpayer-funded lunch and morning tea that this chap couldn't move here, couldn't buy land here, couldn't "
identify local musicians to record demos, and then seek recording deals for them in the US" ... in short, they've told him to take his money and his life and just piss off somewhere else. Why couldn't these blowhard bureaurcratic retards just piss off themselves and mind their own fucking business?

It's been said that when tyranny knocks at your door it wiill be carrying a gun.
I disagree. When tyranny knocks at your door it will be carrying a clipboard. The one carrying the gun should be you. But to paraphrase Robert Heinlein, beware of strong drink; it can make you shoot at meddling areseholes, and miss.

Feel free to send all the meddling arseholes from the Overseas Obstruction Commission a message telling them what you think about them:
Stephen Dawe is the Chief Executive Officer and Secretary; Peter Hill, Assistant Secretary; Annelies McClure, Manager Applications; Pedro Morgan, Legal Analyst; David Turnbull, Applications Co-ordinator; Chris Miller, Data Analyst; Suzanne Conley, Executive Assistant; Olwyn Smith, Administrative Assistant; Wendy Russ, Filing Clerk.

Overseas Investment Commission

Level 9, 2 The Terrace
Phone: +64 4 471 3838
Reserve Bank Building
Fax: +64 4 471 3655
P. O. Box 2498

New Zealand

Please address all written correspondence to "Meddling Arseholes."

More Aid, Less Growth

Aid kills growth, that's the message of a report by the Globalization Institute.
For every 1% increase in aid received by a developing country, there is a 3.65% drop in real GDP growth per person. Contrary to the conventional wisdom in the aid industry, the study finds that even where recipients have good governance, the effect is also negative.
The effect is negative because aid kills off fledgling businesses every time it undercuts what they themselves supply. It's negative because the aid gets funnelled through existing governments, cementing in the existing corrupt power structures that have made the African mess happen. I wonder if the Live-8 and 'Make Poverty History' enthusiasts have read the conclusions.

Enacting real free trade, ending subsidies to their own farmers, and bringing down the US and European tariff wall is something that western politicians could do to help Africans help themselves out of poverty. More sweatshops, real property rights and the rule of law, and an end to out-and-out corruption is something African politicians can do to help their own people. Good luck getting them to care. Try telling Robert Mugabe that his people's liberty and property matter.

[Hat tip]

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Deep Impact

Big news this morning is Deep Impact, an astounding mission to investigate a comet. Tillnet has some good quotes and some great links:

Deep Impact smashes all expectations New Scientist’s post-event coverage of the spectacular Deep Impact strike is a good and useful review. The NASA and websites are also supurb.

She's right. It's amazing what human beings can do when they put their minds to it -- the websites demonstrate the extent of the achievement.

Still celebrating the Fourth

It's still July 4 in the US, so it's still appropriate to link to further July 4th thoughts to complement those from yesterday. ;^)

So here's three thoughtful pieces. Lindsay Perigo resolves on this day to reconvert to socialism; Ed Hudgins makes clear what it is to be independent; and James Kilbourne calls Jefferson's ringing Declaration of Independence "America's Anthem" and also "freedom's anthem heard around the world":
Whenever you hear news of people fighting for democracy, pause and give thanks for the Declaration of Independence. I am thankful every day that by blind luck I was born in this country. I want the whole world to have the comforts and the opportunities that have so enriched my life. When they tear down a wall in Berlin, when an oppressed group is granted a right in Latin America, when a business is allowed to exist in China, a protest is allowed in a former Soviet satellite, a woman attends a school in Afghanistan or a purple forefinger is raised in Iraq, I think to myself, “the world may not know all the lyrics, but they are definitely singing our song.”
And he's right. America was the nation of the Enlightenment, and her Declaration crystallised the political achievement of the Enlightenment: the development of the concept of rights. With the exceptions of God's creation of rights and their self-evidence, the words could not be bettered today (although some of us have tried):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...

A wonderful, wonderful anthem to freedom that rings down through the years. If only the real meaning of those words could be heard and undeerstood.

Monday, 4 July 2005

'Washington Crossing the Delaware,' by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. Posted by Picasa

Compromisers and meddlers destroy Costa Rica's libertarians

Sad news from Costa Rica about the parliamentary libertarians there, who have apparently gone native. Former activist Jorge Codina reports that the Moviemento Libertario (ML) is no longer a movement, nor any longer libertarian -- corrupted it seems by association with power and pragmatism. "The pragmatists are in control," says a tired, drained and clearly burnt out Jorge.

He puts the blame for the corruption of a fomerly principled parliamentary libertarian party firmly at the door of the 'classical liberal' Friedrich Naumann Foundation, an organisation whose lietmotif is compromise -- "you have to dump the ideology to get elected" said the unelected FNF to the already elected MLers, a message picked up by the pragmatists seduced by their proximity to power who have become politicians instead of libertarians, praising "good government" instead of freedom, and "efficiencies" over rights. Sound familiar?

As compromise replaces principle, the very reason for the existence of the Moviemento Libertario disapears, as the party is also now predicted to do. If politics has replaced principles, then how does ML fundamentally differ from any other bunch of power-lusters? Sad news indeed, and not without parallels here in NZ.

As Lord Acton once presciently pointed out, power corrupts ...

What do consent figures tell us about the property boom?

The number of Building Consent applications for new homes has plummeted (Bob Dey has figures here), prompting some speculation that the property boom is turning south. Maybe so, but I wouldn't be making those predictions based on these figures alone.

Fact is, there are a lot of other reasons for consent figures to plummet, most of them involved with out of control red tape flowing on from the leaky homes hysteria:
  • the many, many changes to the building code, which taken together have delayed the preparation of plans to be submitted for consent ;
  • the legion of associated uncertainties with these code changes, particularly as to who shoulders the risk should the prescribed methods, materials and details fail;
  • the long, long, loooong delays in getting consents processed;
  • the lengthy lead-times just to get an appointment to submit your consent application;
  • the number of builders and developers who have chosen to leave the industry because of much of this nonsense, a number which anecdotal evidence suggests is high.
Given all these impediments, it seems to me that you shouldn't take a drop in consent figures alone as evidence of an end to the boom, no matter the size of the decrease.

News from Iraq

A spoof interview here with some Iraqi insurgents. [Hat tip Silent Running.]

July 4th: Celebrating revolution

On July 4th, Mark Steyn reminds us that criticisms of the US for being 'unilateralist' are ever so slightly amusing when you realise that a position of 'unilateralism' is simply a euphemism for one of 'independence,' the concept for which the July 4 celebration is putatively held.

Why not abolish the holiday altogether, wonders Tibor Machan. A nation born in liberty now subjects itself to the very tyrannies and usurpations against which it once revolted, he says, so what is there to celebrate.
The Fourth of July ... is supposed to celebrate the Declaration of Independence and its revolutionary idea that it’s not governments, states, monarchs, kings, tsars, and the like who possess sovereignty. Rather we, individual human beings, are the sovereign ones. That idea was revolutionary then and, let me assure you, it is revolutionary now.
He calls for a recovery of the revolution in order to make the holiday meaningful. A first step might be an understanding of that revolution -- what it brought, and how it happened. What better time to learn (or re-learn) the history than today: constitutional scholar David Mayer has just the posts to help: he reminds us that the Founding Fathers brought about 'A Republic, not a Democracy'; he explains here how they went about doing it. And he reflects here on the 'Meaning of Independence Day.' Wonderful stuff.

[Hat tip to Stephen Hicks for the Mayer links.]
[UPDATE: I notice that on this July 4 No Right Turn is also celebrating the ideas that gave birth to the United States, and like Tibor he decries the present state of American liberty. Oddly enough, his reasons for thinking America needs a 'get well card' are rather different to those of Tibor.]

Property-siezing the beginning of Sovietisation?

Further commentary here from economist Richard Salsman on the Kelo et al v City of New London decision evicting people from their Connecticut homes to make way for a shopping mall. (My own earlier comment on this is here and also here.)

Salsman discusses the taking in the wider context both of planning and zoning laws, and he draws an even wider bow, arguing that Soviet-type five-year planning is the ultimate endpoint of the court's ruling.
It's worth understanding two other perverse aspects of the Court's majority opinion yesterday: 1) it justified the taking on the grounds that the municipality (the City of New London, Connecticut) had a "comprehensive plan" and 2) it held that the government not need even argue or guarantee that a taking will foster net economic benefits or greater tax-revenues. Now, what "plans" could be more "comprehensive" than, say 5-year plans for an entire nation, like those contrived by central planners in the former Soviet Union? According to the Court, the bigger, more comprehensive and more audacious the government plan, the more likely it will pass judicial muster in the future and the more it can entail unjust takings. Thus the Court only now condones unjust takings at the municipal level; it positively invites still-wider planning and takings at the state and federal levels. Worse, such central planning need not even pretend to engender net economic benefits. Take note, would-be central planners and ex-Soviet commissars: for there's now a welcome place for you -- in America.
He concludes by quoting two of the most cogent short arguments for upholding the right to property, those made by Atn Rand and by Jean-Baptiste Say, both worthy of your attention.

Nozick noodlings

My recent arguments with Richard at Philosophy et cetera (see below) might have put some of you off Robert Nozick altogether, which would be a little unfortunate. In the way of young philosophy students, Richard has taken Nozick's case for libertarianism to be the only case for libertarianism, and he's ended up criticising a caricature instead of the real thing; I spent some time pointing that out to no avail. (He subsequently decided that I'm "intellectually dishonest" because I don't fall into one of his favourite pigeon-holes, which is a pity, but at that point our discussion ended.)

Nonetheless, there is much of value in Nozick, as Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty has found:
I'm reading Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia right now, an my first impression is... "Holy Jesus this is good!"
That varies a little with the views of Sean Kimpton, who argued "while advocating a libertarian political philosophy [Nozick] is doing more harm than good." Feel free to form your own opinions. :-)
* If you're interested in the arguments, the following posts give my side, which each link to those of Richard's to which they are responding:
Linked Posts
: Why libertarians don't own their own bodies
The ‘problem’ of initial acquisition
Freedom, through thick and thin


Computer problems

I'm having computer problems here this morning. Normal transmission will be resumed as soon as possible.

Sunday, 3 July 2005

What a performance!

Now that was a better contest last night. Power, precision passion, and even a few punches, treated appropriately by the match officials too. All good to see, as was Graham Henry completely unable to keep an all-encompassing smirk of victory off his face in the after-match interview. Wonderful to see and he deserved every inch of his gloating, as did Tana Umaga's quiet pleasure at his try against the team that spent a week bleating about him. Good karma.

Because really there was only one team out there playing well; despite coach Woodward calling the Lions performance "great," it wasn't. It was great only by comparision with their pathetic performance last weekend, but compared with some of the truly great performances of previous Lions teams -- and of course by last night's All Black team -- it only passes muster in the space between Clive Woodward's ears. "Best prepared Lions team ever" my arse.

Despite the enjoyment of last night however, the series has frustratingly not lived up to the expectations we had of it; it hasn't been anything like that truly competitive contest the 2001 Lions had with Australia. The Lions players aren't up to it -- not one would make a First XV picked from those on display last night -- and Clive Woodward is now exposed as not being a coach's arsehole, and ungracious with it.

So perhaps for the last test we can help the Lions out in order to make it a contest to remember. To even it up we could lend them a few players and let them play with seventeen on the park. Marty Holah and Nick Evans might like the run, and Joe Rocoko could also do with a gallop, and he does know Eden Park. Could be fun for everyone.

And lending them a real coach might help them. Getting the Lions 0ut from under Woodward's tangled web would be a bonus for everyone.