Saturday, July 23, 2005

"...That rip-roaring harmony hound, Duke Ellington"

Anyone who missed the Concert FM's Jazz Profiles radio programme on Duke Ellington a couple of weeks ago -- or if you heard it and want to hear it again, can find at least some of it online here in five short parts (scroll down past some other audio gems to find the shows, or click here for parts one, two, three, four and five) .

As one of the show's interviewees avers, Ellington was unquestionably the greatest composer in the history of jazz. Listen in and find out why.

If you want something further, check out some other NPR Ellington excerpts here, or invest in perhaps the best introduction to Ellington's genius, Beyond Category, or my own favourite his Far East Suite. Superb.

Not PC: What you might have missed

More of what you might have missed at Not PC this week if you've been away, had computer problems, or just shamefully haven't been tuning in here every day. Shame on you! All this below plus humour, innuendo, gossip and a complete set of new steak knives free with every visit (Hint: one of these things is not true).

Prohibition finds new victims
The 'high profile sporting stars' and celebrities that were caught up in the latest drug hoohah and whom we dare not name just go to show that the main problem involved with drug use is not the harm of the drugs themselves but the criminalisation involved with their use...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/prohibition-finds-new-victims.html

Chris Lewis: Tall Poppy
I'm enormously sad to learn that New Zealand Tennis have finally driven tennis ace Chris Lewis from New Zealand. Chris is a wonderful sportsman and a tremendous human being, and his departure for California leaves me angry at his treatment here at home...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/chris-lewis-tall-poppy.html

The west's suicide bomb
Once again Cox and Forkum are on the money with their cartoon, The Real Suicide Bomb, inspired by a line from Mark Steyn's A victory for multiculti over common sense . Steyn's most important point is one expanded by Robert Tracinski, that "you can't assimilate with a nullity - which is what multiculturalism is." In the battle for civilisation in which we're presently engaged, it is crucial to know what in fact the values that support civilisation are. As Steyn notes they are more than just eating fish and chips, playing cricket and sporting appalling leisurewear...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/wests-suicide-bomb.html

Poll shows species headed for extinction
If you're any sort of anthropologist or ecologist you should keep your eye on the last days of a particular human species about to beome extinct, Homo politicis Actus, otherwise known as the ACT Party...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/poll-shows-species-headed-for.html

A word from your taxpaid sponsor
A correspondent just sent this to me, and it seemed the best thing to do with it is to post it here. I agree with every word: I'd like to vent my spleen over something heard on the news this morning only I'm not sure which direction to vent. The fire in Dunedin apparently destroyed the offices of some people organising the "NZ Masters Games" (whatever that is). The bit that's got me going is that the sponsors of said games is "ACC Think Safe"...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/word-from-your-taxpaid-sponsor.html

Nick Smith: Idiot.
We all know that National's Nick Smith is an idiot, but you'd think he could at least remember what he says from one week to the next. Last month he described Labour's proposed changes to the RMA as a "massive U-turn." "...This important change was proposed in a bill by National in 1999 but dismissed by Labour as evil and dangerous," says a breathless Smith. Now, a month later, he says of these same reforms they are "window-dressing ... a piecemeal response to a law that requires far more substantive reform."
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/nick-smith-idiot.html

Apollo 11: Human Achievement Day!
On our present calendar there days in which to 'Remember the Spotted Whale' ands more than one 'Poke a Sharp Stick at the Capitalist Day'; they litter the calendar all they way from here to the next 'Say Sal'aam for Noam Chomsky Day.' So I was disappointed to find I'd missed a proposal by Objectivist Center head Ed Hudgins that "A new [commemorative day] should be added to the calendar - informally rather than by government decree: Human Achievement Day...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/apollo-11-human-achievement-day.html

Sawmill project shows RMA court a "lottery"
One million dollars, several years of planning, and the Coromandel sawmill proposed by Blue Mountain Lumber has now been knocked on the head by the Environment Court. Apparently the court decided that people on the property's 'marginal strip' could see the proposed plant. Wouldn't that be just awful for them...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/sawmill-project-shows-rma-court.html


My Son the Fanatic
Irfan Khawaja has a hot film tip for you: A friend asked me over the weekend for help in understanding the London bombings, and I told her (as I'd recommended in a previous post) to go out and rent the 1997 British film, "My Son the Fanatic."
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/my-son-fanatic.html

Legalise It. Not.
The Greens are proposing to legalise cannabis decriminalise cannabis fine people for using cannabis. This is somewhat of a backdown from previous positions on the freedom to put into your own body what you choose yourself. I look forward to hearing Nandor re-recording Peter Tosh's legalisation anthem under a new title, 'Fine It'!
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/legalise-it-not.html

Piling on the pylon pressure
Transpower have announced the route through which it plans to force its line of pylons through the Waikato, unswayed by the pleas of farmers over whose land these pylons are being forced, and of a government previously eager to have the issue resolved post-election.
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/piling-on-pylon-pressure.html

Roman Polanski finally admits 'I was wrong'
Roman Polanski has finally admitted he was wrong to have committed statutory rape all those years ago, before fleeing for France with a warrant for his arrest "on charges of luring a 13-year-old girl to the home of Jack Nicholson under the pretext of photographing her, then drugging and raping her." No sign of him intending to return to face the music however...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/roman-polanski-finally-admits-i-was.html

More spoilsport neighbours
Jim Eagle has a good thoughtful piece in the Herald on the RMA and those people that 'come to the nuisance' and then complain about the neighbour they knew about when they moved in...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/more-spoilsport-neighbours.html

Honesty the best policy, Rodney
Third-placed Epsom candidate Rodney Hide was door-knocking around the electorate yesterday with The Herald in tow. "I'm on 1 per cent in the polls - nothing can bother me," he says. He may not be bothered, but I noted yesterday he was delusional..
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/honesty-best-policy-rodney.html

Liberal slavery and the 'substantive freedom' fallacy
Kiwi Pundit has picked up the baton with Richard with whom I have had various disagreements on the question of freedom both thick and thin, most recently here and here. As I've said before, Richard's criticisms of libertarianism are more in the nature of caricature than they are analysis..
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-slavery-and-substantive.html

Hatred and mysticism behind the violence
As Christopher Hitchens says in a post below, "Random and 'senseless' though such violence may appear, we also all know it expresses a deadly ideology; indeed that in some ways it is that ideology. The preachers of this faith have taken care to warn us that they love death more than we love life..."
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/hatred-and-mysticism-behind-violence.html

Loving death, loving sacrifice
Christopher Hitchens has argued of the London murders "It is a big mistake to believe this is an assault on 'our' values or 'our' way of life. It is, rather, an assault on all civilisation... For a few moments [on July 7], Londoners received a taste of what life is like for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, whose Muslim faith does not protect them from slaughter at the hands of those who think they are not Muslim enough, or are the wrong Muslim." If you think this is hyperbole then remind yourself of the weekend's terror attack in Baghdad..
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/loving-death-loving-sacrifice.html

Who would commit mass murder?
The terrorists that murdered Londoners were home-grown and foreign-trained to make them ideologically equipped for their 'ultimate sacrifice.' Where were they trained, who would encourage such thinking, and just what in the name of hell did they think they were sacrificing for? The answer to the first question, reports The Times, is that Hasib Hussain and Shehzad Tanweer were trained in Pakistan...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/who-would-commit-mass-murder.html

More misunderstood killers
So who wants to defend this atrocity -- was the suicide bomber and those who encouraged and resourced him just 'misunderstood'? BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber killed 27 and wounded 67 people, mostly children...
http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/07/more-misunderstood-killers.html

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Friday, July 22, 2005

A real spin doctor

While we're talking about human achievement, greatness and tall poppies -- well, as I was doing anyway -- I came across this wonderful piece of writing in (gasp) The Herald as I sought coverage of the long-awaited Ashes cricket series.

Plucked from the Independent, it is a wonderful tribute to a remarkable man, Shane Warne, and entirely free of what I expect to see shortly in the comments below, what Chris Lewis described as the crab bucket mentality. Whatever you have ever thought about Shane Warne, read this piece. It is a magnificent tribute.
Sportsmen salute his competitive courage. Spectators rejoice in his artistry. In an age of reason, he chased the wildest of dreams.
Marvellous stuff.

Chris Lewis: Tall Poppy

I'm enormously sad to learn that New Zealand Tennis have finally driven tennis ace Chris Lewis from New Zealand. Chris is a wonderful sportsman and a tremendous human being, and his departure for California leaves me angry at his treatment here at home.

Chris has been at odds with New Zealand Tennis's 'coach-by-numbers' mentality since his arrival back in NZ over ten years ago to begin coaching junior tennis players. The more success his proteges attained, the more the coach-by-numbers brigade were shown up as the conformist dullards they are, and the more antagonistic they became.

The last public blow-up over NZ's dismal Davis Cup loss to Pakistan had the dullards spluttering into their gins as Chris pointed out where blame for the failure lay: squarely in their laps. While the dullards closed ranks praising "a great team performance" -- referring presumably to the closing of ranks as NZ's tennis chickens flew home to roost -- NZ Tennis CEO Don Turner sprang into action. He tried to shut Chris down.

Chris Lewis -- a former number one junior in the world, a Wimbledon singles finalist in 1983, former coach of Ivan Lendl (World # 1) and Carl Uwe Steeb (World #14) -- was told that he would have to answer to a new 'high performance manager' whose own performance achievements were close to nil. He was told further that his players would effectively be nationalised by NZ Tennis, and that he should "work together with all the key parties in the name of nationhood."

As I said at the time, "Perhaps in the name of 'nationhood'; they'd rather he packed up his proven talent and took up a well-paid coaching job overseas while they make permanent bookings for the Kazakhstan Hilton. That would be good for the 'nation' wouldn't it."

Apparently that's what NZ Tennis did want and does want, and now they've got it. The dullards would rather be comfortable in their mediocrity than have their boat rocked by the truth, or try and deal with real talent. This is what Ayn Rand meant when she talked in an article about Marilyn Monroe of a particularly common variant of the hatred of the good for being the good:
"When you're famous, you kind of run into human nature in a raw kind of way," she said. "It stirs up envy, fame does. People you run into feel that, well, who is she--who does she think she is, Marilyn Monroe? They feel fame gives them some kind of privilege to walk up to you and say anything to you, you know, of any kind of nature--and it won't hurt your feelings--like it's happening to your clothing. . . . I don't understand why people aren't a little more generous with each other. I don't like to say this, but I'm afraid there is a lot of envy in this business."

"Envy" is the only name she could find for the monstrous thing she faced, but it was much worse than envy: it was the profound hatred of life, of success and of all human values, felt by a certain kind of mediocrity--the kind who feels pleasure on hearing about a stranger's misfortune. It was hatred of the good for being the good--hatred of ability, of beauty, of honesty, of earnestness, of achievement and, above all, of human joy.
Chris described NZ's tall-poppy syndrome himself some years ago as the "crab bucket mentality."

Anyone familiar with the behaviour of a bunch of crabs trapped at the bottom of a bucket will know what happens when one of them tries to climb to the top; instead of attempting the climb themselves, those left at the bottom of the bucket will do all in their collective power to drag the climber back down. And although crab behaviour should not in any way be analogous to human behaviour, I can think of many instances where it is...

As a tennis coach running a comprehensive junior & senior development programme for Auckland Tennis Inc., it is my job to produce future tennis champions. Among other things, this involves demanding the maximum amount of effort from every player with whom I work. If a player is to become the best he can be, he must dedicate himself from a relatively early age to the single-minded pursuit of his tennis career. Along the way many obstacles & barriers will be put in his path. One such obstacle, which brings me to the point of my article, is the tremendous amount of negative peer pressure that is brought to bear on anyone who attempts to climb life's peaks by those who have defaulted on the climb.

I trust Chris will find fairer pastures in California.

Apollo 11: Human Achievement Day!

On our present calendar there days in which to 'Remember the Spotted Whale' ands more than one 'Poke a Sharp Stick at the Capitalist Day'; they litter the calendar all they way from here to the next 'Say Sal'aam for Noam Chomsky Day.'

So I was disappointed to find I'd missed a proposal by Objectivist Center head Ed Hudgins that "A new [commemorative day] should be added to the calendar - informally rather than by government decree: Human Achievement Day -- July 20th, the date in 1969 when human beings first landed on the Moon." On July 20th, suggests Hudgins,
let's each reflect on our achievements -- as individuals and as we work in concert with others. Let's recognize that achievements of all sorts -- epitomized by the Moon landings -- are the essence and the expected of human life. Let's rejoice on this day and commemorate the best within us with, as Rand would say, the total passion for the total heights!
Great idea! To add to the celebration of this particular achievement, have a look at NASA's page commemorating the moon landings, Google's own Google Moon interface (make sure you zoom right in), and an excerpt from Ayn Rand's terrific 1969 article paying homage to the achievement:
What we had seen, in naked essentials - but in reality, not in a work of art - was the concretized abstraction of man's greatness...

That we had seen a demonstration of man at his best, no one could doubtthis was the cause of the event's attraction and of the stunned numbed state in which it left us. And no one could doubt that we had seen an achievement of man in his capacity as a rational beingan achievement of reason, of logic, of mathematics, of total dedication to the absolutism of reality.

Frustration is the leitmotif in the lives of most men, particularly todaythe frustration of inarticulate desires, with no knowledge of the means to achieve them. In the sight and hearing of a crumbling world, Apollo 11 enacted the story of an audacious purpose, its execution, its triumph, and the means that achieved itthe story and the demonstration of man's highest potential.

African-American suspended

Those who were offended by the 'Michael Jackson photo' below are going to love this story. An African-American student was suspended from his Nebraska school after posters with his mug on were posted all over the school advocating he receive the' Distinguished African American Student Award.'

The student was a white South African. His mother said her son, Trevor Richards, "is not a racist." Some of his best friends are black, she said. I swear, I am not making this up.

[Hat tip, Stephen Hicks]

Sawmill project shows RMA court a "lottery"

One million dollars, several years of planning, and the Coromandel sawmill proposed by Blue Mountain Lumber has now been knocked on the head by the Environment Court. Apparently the court decided that people on the property's 'marginal strip' could see the proposed plant. Wouldn't that be terrible for them.

Blue Mountain spokesman Garth Moore said on Radio NZ this morning that as far as he can see the RMA decision process is "a lottery." A lottery, perhaps, with the odds stacked against property owners.

With odds stacked as they are, why would anyone be planning any large projects such as these?

Message from Iraq

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Prohibition finds new victims

The 'high profile sporting stars' and celebrities that were caught up in the latest drug hoohah and whom we dare not name just go to show that the main problem involved with drug use is not the harm of the drugs themselves but the criminalisation involved with their use.

Robert Downey Jr for example never caused his employers a problem with his drug use, except that that he kept getting arrested for buying drugs. As Judge James P. Gray said of Downey's 2001 conviction,
How is actor Robert Downey Jr.'s problem with drug abuse any different than Betty Ford's problem with alcohol abuse? Why is it appropriate to send Robert Downey Jr. to jail but send Betty Ford to treatment? Shouldn't drug users who cause harm to others raise different questions, and answers, than users such as Downey who do not harm anyone but themselves?
NZ's 'high profile sporting stars' and celebrities will probably now face similar problems to Downey and to poor old Simon Poelman. I was about to start a lengthy blog rant on all this when it came to my attention that James Gribble had already done the job. Highly recommended.

The west's suicide bomb

Once again Cox and Forkum are on the money with their cartoon, The Real Suicide Bomb, inspired by a line from Mark Steyn's A victory for multiculti over common sense . Steyn's most important point is one expanded by Robert Tracinski, that "you can't assimilate with a nullity - which is what multiculturalism is."

In the battle for civilisation in which we're presently engaged, it is crucial to know what in fact the values that support civilisation are. As Steyn notes they are more than just eating fish and chips, playing cricket and sporting appalling leisurewear.

The best defence I've yet seen of western values over the suicidal nullity of multiculturalism is George Reisman's 1992 'Education and the Racist Road to Barbarism.'
From the perspective of intellectual and cultural content, Western civilization represents an understanding and acceptance of the following: the laws of logic; the concept of causality and, consequently, of a universe ruled by natural laws intelligible to man; on these foundations, the whole known corpus of the laws of mathematics and science; the individual’s self-responsibility based on his free will to choose between good and evil; the value of man above all other species on the basis of his unique possession of the power of reason; the value and competence of the individual human being and his corollary possession of individual rights, among them the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness; the need for limited government and for the individual’s freedom from the state; on this entire preceding foundation, the validity of capitalism, with its unprecedented and continuing progress, capital accumulation, and rising living standards; in addition, the importance of visual arts and literature depicting man as capable of facing the world with confidence in his power to succeed, and music featuring harmony and melody.

Once one recalls what Western civilization is, the most vital thing to realize about it is that it is open to everyone...

Race is not the determinant of culture. Not only is Western civilization open to the members of every race, but its present possessors are also potentially capable of losing it, just as the people of the Western Roman Empire once lost the high degree of civilization they had achieved. What makes the acceptance of the “Eurocentrism” critique so significant is that it so clearly reveals just how tenuous our ability to maintain Western civilization has become...

(If you want to get your hands on Reisman's article in pamphlet form, Libertarianz are offering a copy free with every new Libz membership. Download a membership form here, and just write 'Reisman offer' at the top when you send it in. As they say, for a limited time.)

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A word from your taxpaid sponsor

A correspondent just sent this to me, and it seemed the best thing to do with it is to post it here. I agree with every word:
I'd like to vent my spleen over something heard on the news this morning only I'm not sure which direction to vent.
The fire in Dunedin apparently destroyed the offices of some people organising the "NZ Masters Games" (whatever that is). The bit that's got me going is that the sponsors of said games is "ACC Think Safe".
What the hell is an organisation that gets its money by compulsion (read theft) doing giving it away in sponsorship to anything.
Maybe if they didn't sponsor things or pay for endless ads on TV they could drop the rates to the poor bloody people paying it.
It's enough to make you vote LIBERTARIANZ.
Consider me half vented.
I'm delighted to have been a conduit for such a vent. Bravo!

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My Son the Fanatic

Irfan Khawaja has a hot film tip for you:
A friend asked me over the weekend for help in understanding the London bombings, and I told her (as I'd recommended in a previous post) to go out and rent the 1997 British film, "My Son the Fanatic."

Well. No sooner do I come up with a brilliant idea but some smart-ass writer at Slate steals it telepathically out of my head (or out of my in-box or off of my universally-read blog). Anyway, don't forget that I said it first --even if she said it better .

Reafd Irfan's caveat before you view.

Nick Smith: Idiot.

We all know that National's Nick Smith is an idiot, but you'd think he could at least remember what he says from one week to the next. Last month he described Labour's proposed changes to the RMA as a "massive U-turn." "...This important change was proposed in a bill by National in 1999 but dismissed by Labour as evil and dangerous," says a breathless Smith.

Now, a month later,
he says of these same reforms they are "window-dressing ... a piecemeal response to a law that requires far more substantive reform."

So which is it? Like a monkey on a typewriter trying to type a word, you can be sure that if he open his mouth and lets the wind blow his tongue around for long enough he'll eventually say something that's correct. In this case, it's his most recent pronouncement. Labour's proposed amendments are indeed "'window-dressing' to try to convince voters they had fixed its problems, when they had not." Much like Nick's own proposals when he was Minister of the RMA back in 1999 and has been peddling ever since. What Nick is really angry about is that Labour have stolen his own window-dressing, and he's now exposed as a peddler of nothing but nonsense, and certainly not of substantive reform.

As I said at the time they were announced, Labour's proposed changes to the RMA are a lane-change not a U-turn. To use Nick's words, it's "a piecemeal response" to a law that requires a stake through its heart -- much like Nick the Dick's own proposed RMA reforms. He would certainly know window-dressing when he sees it since that describes perfectly the changes he presently proposes to the RMA, and indeed those he proposed as Minister back in 1999.

Perhaps as he looks for further things on which to pontificate, Nick might contemplate this question: if Labour's proposed amendments constituted "substantive reform" in 1999 when they were put forward by Nick Smith, and just "window-dressing" now they've pinched his plans from him, then what does that say about Nick's own past and present plans for the RMA?

Nick Smith: Idiot,window-dresser and, as Lindsay Perigo said of him back when, a man with a fork in his tongue big enough to hug a tree with.

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Smokestack socialism makes joke of Kyoto

What makes an environmental basket-case? In a word, socialism. Specifically, state ownership of the means of production. The Mises Daily has a story this morning of a shitty man running a shitty coal-burning plant in New Delhi. Explaining how the plant works, one of the plant's top officers avers: "I dump the ash (the residue from burning coal) in the river, I do not pay the railways for delivery of the coal, I do not pay the coal company, and I will keep running it this way." Naturally, the plant is state-owned.

India's filthy and corrupt coal-burning plants point to the reason for the needed separation of state and industry (can someone please tell Jim Anderton), and show what happens when the state is both referee and a player on the team.

It also helps demonstrate the feel-good irrelevance of the Kyoto Treaty: India and China between them are planning up to 775 new coal-fired plants by 2012, "which would pump up to five times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce."

Meanwhile, the British House of Lords has issued a report on the economics of climate change that deserves some attention. As TechCentralStation explains, the report's conclusions are unambiguous.
"The science of climate change leaves considerable uncertainties about the future," it declares. "The costs of mitigation are uncertain, as are the benefits which are also more distant." The committee even questions the objectivity of the IPCC process and its models concerning emissions. It adds: "Positive aspects of global warming appear to have been downplayed in IPCC reports." The committee also recognizes that the Kyoto Protocol will have only a very small impact on lowering global warming and that it is very unlikely the plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will succeed.

Now you know why.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Laughing at the martyrs

Two Muslim mothers are sitting in the cafe chatting over a pint of goat's milk. The older of the mothers pulls her bag out and starts flipping through pictures, and togther they start reminiscing.

"This is my oldest son Mohammed. He's 24 years old now."
"Yes, I remember him as a baby," says the other mother cheerfully.
"He's a martyr now though," mum confides.
"Oh, so sad dear," says the other.
"And this is my Kalid. He's 21."
"Oh, I remember him," say the other happily, "he had such curly hair when he was born."
"Yes. He's a martyr now too." says mum quietly.
"Oh, gracious me..." says the other.
"And this is my third son. My baby. My beautiful Ahmed. He's 18," she whispers.
"Yes says the friend enthusiastically, "I remember when he first started school."
"He's also a martyr, " says mum, with tears in her eyes.
After a pause and a deep sigh, the second Muslim Mother looks wistfully at the photographs and says...
"They blow up so fast, don't they?"

Legalise It. Not.

The Greens are proposing to legalise cannabis decriminalise cannabis fine people for using cannabis. This is somewhat of a backdown from previous positions on the freedom to put into your own body what you choose yourself. I look forward to hearing Nandor re-recording Peter Tosh's legalisation anthem under a new title, 'Fine It'!

I look forward too to seeing the Greens at some stage saying something about poor Schapelle Corby, whose appeal against her life sentence begins shortly. As I've said before, their silence on Corby is a clear indication they've lost the freedom mojo. So too is their call for fining cannabis users. Shame.

Piling on the pylon pressure

Transpower have announced the route through which it plans to force its line of pylons through the Waikato, unswayed by the pleas of farmers over whose land these pylons are being forced, and of a government previously eager to have the issue resolved post-election.

The Waikato Times reports, "Transpower communication manager Chris Roberts said staff would hand-deliver letters to about 600 landowners today confirming a western route had been chosen for the transmission line from Whakamaru to Otahuhu." Along that western route Transpower will be entering into what they've called 'negotiations' with land-owners -- negotiations in which Transpower will be reminding landowners that if they don't accept the compensation offered then Transpower will be using the big stick of the Public Works Act to force them to accept.

There's not really much I can add to what I said back in May.
What's wrong with asking nicely? Why use the government's stick to force property owners against their will? When railroading was at its peak in 19th century America, railroads used to purchase 'options' from land-owners along their three or four preferred routes - options that would only be picked up once one of the routes became 'live' by having purchased [from willing sellers] 100% of the necessary options along that route. The Kapuni gas line that went through some years ago made use of similar undertakings. There is no reason at all that the state-owned Transpower cannot make use of a similar voluntary mechanism to gain their transmission route, no reason at all except that as a government department they can't be bothered. To resort as they have done to wielding the bullying big stick of government is a disgrace.
It's pretty clear that there's bugger all respect for property rights about. This year has also made it pretty clear that 'compensation for takings' is not by any means the same thing as protecting property rights, despite what some people still think. Do you think that Kelo v New London and the Transpower land grab might help convince them, and will it be too late?

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The nature of ownership

Tibor Machan has related to me "Wittgenstein's wonderful little exposition on the nature of ownership."
It is related by Norman Malcolm in the following story about him in which ownership is spelled out very instructively: "When in very good spirits he would jest in a delightful manner. This took the form of deliberately absurd or extravagant remarks uttered in a tone, and with the mien, of affected seriousness. On one walk he 'gave' me each tree that we passed, with the reservation that I was not to cut it down or do anything to it, or prevent the previous owners from doing anything to it: with those reservations they were henceforth mine." (Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein, A Memoir [London: Van Nostrand Rinehold Co., 1070], pp. 31-32.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Coonley playhouse

Frank Lloyd Wright: Stained glass windows from Avery Coonley Playhouse, 1912 Posted by Picasa

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Roman Polanski finally admits 'I was wrong'

Roman Polanski has finally admitted he was wrong to have committed statutory rape all those years ago, before fleeing for France with a warrant for his arrest "on charges of luring a 13-year-old girl to the home of Jack Nicholson under the pretext of photographing her, then drugging and raping her." No sign of him intending to return to face the music however. Reporting on a trial in which Polanski is presently involved The Times reports:
Asked about charges he may face in the US, the Polish director told the court today: "As far as those events are concerned, I would not even start to justify myself. What I did was wrong and I don’t see why I should go back to this for the purposes of this trial."
Polanski is still marooned in France, unwilling to travel for fear of arrest on these charges. I can't say I've ever been too sympathetic to his plight myself.

More spoilsport neighbours

Jim Eagle has a good thoughtful piece in the Herald on the RMA and those people that 'come to the nuisance' and then complain about the neighbour they knew about when they moved in. As Jim says, "It's an attitude that I have great difficulty understanding." Me too, as I've said here a few times before, most recently here.

He's also got a few thoughts on the consultation requirements of the RMA. Consultation, he says, "is all too often a chance for the local busybody, the neighbourhood curmudgeon and the nimby brigade to force the rest of the world to conform to their selfish viewpoints. Do we really want these people running our communities?"

Jim's opinion piece is here. As I've said before, common law offers the best chance to depoliticise the busybodies.

[Hat tip TinCanMan.]

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Honesty the best policy, Rodney

Third-placed Epsom candidate Rodney Hide was door-knocking around the electorate yesterday with The Herald in tow. "I'm on 1 per cent in the polls - nothing can bother me," he says. He may not be bothered, but I noted yesterday he was delusional; today's report suggests he is also economical with the truth: Responding to questions from one group of clients, he says of "the Resource Management Act which 'bugs' their clients, 'we won't just review it, we'll throw it out the window!'"

Um, honesty alert Rodney: That's not your party policy. Your environment policy promises only "
substantial changes" to the RMA, not a stake through the heart. Sadly, there's only one party at this election promising a stake through the heart of the RMA, and it's not ACT.

Surely honesty is the best policy, Rodney.

Liberal slavery and the 'substantive freedom' fallacy

Kiwi Pundit has picked up the baton with Richard with whom I have had various disagreements on the question of freedom both thick and thin, most recently here and here. As I've said before, Richard's criticisms of libertarianism are more in the nature of caricature than they are analysis, so it surprises me that KP calls them "excellent." But there you go.

Kiwi Pundit says in passing that my 'pure version' of libertarianism is 'unsound,' and that liberals like him are more practical: unlike libertarians, liberals he says are "willing to give up some of our liberty in order to make a better society" (as if giving up a little liberty would do that). But he makes some interesting points nonetheless in response to Richard, particularly on the relationship between slavery and so-called substantive freedom.

Under Richard's notion of 'substantive freedom,' says KP, "If a slave-owner were to offer significant benefits to his slaves such as healthcare, education for your kids,... a luxurious villa with a jacuzzi and 32 inch flat screen TV, then you are free, despite the fact you have to go out every day and pick cotton or face serious punishment."

You can see with that example why socialists like the concept of 'substantive freedom' since it demolishes the idea of real freedom in favour of a little slavery (or a lot, depending on your view). As such it is what Ayn Rand called an anti-concept, a "term designed to replace or obliterate some legitimate concept."

You can see too from his example that when liberals say they are "willing to give up some of [their] liberty in order to make a better society" that they are really saying is that a little slavery is what makes a better society. Now that's pretty unsound, I would say. Basically it means the liberals are just arguing with the socialists as to the degree of slavery necessary to make the 'better society.'

But I digress. Read KP's whole thing here.

Monday, July 18, 2005

'A Rocky Coast by Moonlight,' by Paul Sandby Posted by Picasa

Poll shows species headed for extinction

If you're any sort of anthropologist or ecologist you should keep your eye on the last days of a particular human species about to beome extinct, Homo politicis Actus, otherwise known as the ACT Party.

The Herald's weekend poll make it clear if it wasn't already that ACT are dead. Polls are often suspect, but there is little now beyond suspicion in that verdict. Two percent at best in nationwide party vote polling (one percent in the weekend's TV1 poll), ACT needs an electorate to survive. Many of us have wondered why we haven't seen Rodney Hide campaigning in Epsom, and the poll tells us why: with only weeks to go, Rodney is third in Epsom behind National's Richard Worthless and Stuart Nash of Labour. With all the resources behind him and a once-sympathetic electorate, he can't even beat these hacks in a pre-election poll.

ACT are kept alive not by volunteers but by paid employees, and when they're not in parliament, the money stops. When the supporters stop donating and the taxpayers' money stops rolling in, where will ACT be then? Dead, is the answer. So in less than two months we'll see the end of ACT scandal-mongering and of politics before principle; of saying less than you mean and meaning less than you say; of unprincipled wimps who wear suits to bed, and perk-busting politicians who enjoy tax–paid trips around the lambada bars of South America.

As it happens, I predicted ACT's demise some years ago in 'The Free Radical.'

The essence of practical politics must surely be to expand the market share for your ideas. Let me tell you now, that unless you seek to change minds you will never expand your market share beyond those who already agree with you. That is what Act is now finding so difficult. Because in order to be heard you must have something to say; in order to change minds you need fundamental principles to promote. Act has none.

The last days of such a species would make an interesting anthropological study for someone.

[UPDATE: Apparently one behaviour exhibited by the pack-leader of such a species is severe delusion. Rodney Hide has told his blog readers the Herald poll has him "coming third in a straight poll but winning if achieving a centre-right government depends upon it." Winning? The poll shows that when asked 'Would you vote for Rodney Hide if his win ensured the ACT Party's return to Parliament?' 61% of respondents said Not Bloody Likely Mate, and only "38.8 percent say they would vote strategically for him if it provided a partner for a centre-right government." How he gets 'winning' out of that is beyond me.]

Hatred and mysticism behind the violence

As Christopher Hitchens says in a post below, "Random and 'senseless' though such violence may appear, we also all know it expresses a deadly ideology; indeed that in some ways it is that ideology. The preachers of this faith have taken care to warn us that they love death more than we love life."

Making that ideology concrete are some comments in today's Times. The first is from London-based cleric Hani Al-Siba’i, who says of the London killings,

“If Al-Qaeda indeed carried out this act, it is a great victory for it..." When asked about the killings of civilians by Islamists in Iraq, he denied that victims could be divided into combatants and non-combatants. “The term civilian does not exist in Islamic religious law. There is no such term as civilians in the western sense. People are either of Dar al Harb [literally, house of hostility, meaning any non-Islamic government] or not.”

When contacted yesterday, Al–Siba’i stood by most of his comments, although he said the remarks about the definition of civilians “may have been mistranslated”.

And The Times reports another cheerleader from murder is on his way to London.

Al-Qaradawi, 79, is banned from America for advocating child suicide bombers in the Middle East, although he has condemned the London bombings. He has reportedly said: “The Israelis might have nuclear bombs but we have the children bomb and these human bombs must continue until liberation.”

These people do mean it. The Times also has a series of interviews with suicide bomber volunteers in Gaza, and with one suicide bomber survivor. They concur with the venom above. "One member of al-Qassam said: “We do not have tanks or rockets, but we have something superior — our exploding Islamic bombs.”
“How did you feel when you heard that you’d been selected for martyrdom?” asked [The Times]. "It’s as if a very high, impenetrable wall separated you from Paradise or Hell,” he said. “Allah has promised one or the other to his creatures. So, by pressing the detonator, you can immediately open the door to Paradise — it is the shortest path to Heaven.”

The interviews makes clear the mysticism at the heart of all this:

“What is the attraction of martyrdom?” I asked. “The power of the spirit pulls us upward, while the power of material things pulls us downward,” he said. “Someone bent on martyrdom becomes immune to the material pull.

And in this religion, as in so much fundamentalism, the material world is seen as evil; the good can be reached only by shunning this world and seeking another through faith. Ayn Rand identifed the link between Faith and Force, in her article 'Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World.'
The real conflict, of course, is reason versus mysticism... The conflict of reason versus mysticism is the issue of life or death -- of freedom or slavery -- of progress or stagnant brutality...
Reason and freedom -- are corollaries, and their relationship is reciprocal: when men are rational, freedom wins; when men are free, reason wins. Their antagonists are: faith and force. These, also, are corollaries: every period of history dominated by mysticism, was a period of statism, of dictatorship, of tyranny.
Makes you think, doesn' t it.

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Loving death, loving sacrifice

Christopher Hitchens has argued of the London murders "It is a big mistake to believe this is an assault on 'our' values or 'our' way of life. It is, rather, an assault on all civilisation."

"For a few moments [on July 7]," Londoners received a taste of what life is like for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, whose Muslim faith does not protect them from slaughter at the hands of those who think they are not Muslim enough, or are the wrong Muslim."

If you think this is hyperbole then remind yourself of the weekend's terror attack in Baghdad:
A suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt Saturday night inside a Shiite Muslim mosque in a town south of Baghdad, igniting cooking gas in a tanker parked outside and setting off a massive fireball that killed at least 98 people and destroyed or damaged homes more than a half-mile away, police said.
These murderers are not killing 'invaders,' or killing 'oppressors.' This is just killing because they can, and at the cost of their own lives. This is killing of innocents justified by faith, and an ideology that glorifies sacrifice and killing. Here's the school where at least one of the London killers learnt blind hate. As The Times reports, "There is no science, maths, literature or other languages and everything was by rote learning. 'Why do we need discussion?' asked my guide Rashid, the deputy director, when I questioned this. 'What is written is written.' "

I'll let Hitchens conclude for me:

Random and "senseless" though such violence may appear, we also all know it expresses a deadly ideology; indeed that in some ways it is that ideology. The preachers of this faith have taken care to warn us that they love death more than we love life. Their wager is that this makes them unstoppable. Well, we shall have to see. They certainly cannot prove their point unless we assist them in doing so....

We know very well what the "grievances" of the jihadists are.

The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way.

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Found: The Smoking Gun


I've received a few e-mails asking: "Where the hell have you been this while?" and similar questions less politely phrased. And there's the answer above. That's me with the smoking gun at the Libz Guns and Fun Event in Northland over the weekend. A prize goes to anyone who can guess what we might have been shooting at.

Julian Pistorius has a short piece on the Event here, but in the name of public taste he says little of the aftermath, which involved a decent curry, a lot of alcohol, an awful lot of rain, and a cabin in the woods. And at that point memory fails me. :-)

The protection of law

Two quotes on and of the law here which set my wheels spinning. The first is from a decision handed down by Lord Denning, often derided for his 'unfashionable' opinions (reasons for this may be divined from Thomas Sowell's columns on ''Mainstream' Judges') ; the second from the superb Man For All Seasons:

"The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail - its roof may shake - the wind may blow through it - the storm may enter - the rain may enter - but the King of England cannot enter - all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.' So be it - unless he has justification by law.": Southam v Smout [1964] 1 QB 308 at 320

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Margaret: Father, that man’s bad.

Sir Thomas More: There is no law against that.

Roper: There is! God's law!

More: Then God can arrest him.

Roper: Sophistication upon sophistication.

More: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal.

Roper: Then you set man's law above God's!

More: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact - I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I'm a forrester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God....

Alice: While you talk, he's gone!

More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.