Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Today in New Orleans

Some updates below on things in New Orleans:
  • Our own Herald has the story of some NZers who were caught in New Orleans. "Life has been horrible," one says, "I've seen so many things I've never seen before." She said the national guard had arrived the previous day and they had finally slept for more than a few minutes. "It was too dangerous before that." The friends said they had been forced to smash their way into stores for drinks.
  • The Boston Globe has "a list of famous spots in the city, and how they are faring, though the full extent of the damage won't be known for some time."
  • Updated aerial photographs of the the areas affected by Katrina have become available at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Katrina site and Sciponius.com has a Wiki map "intended for the use of people affected by Hurricane Katrina who have or are trying to find information about the status of specific locations affected by the storm and its aftermath." Try not to clog their bandwidth. [Hat tip Marginal Revolution]
  • "Under the hot Louisiana sun, the sweltering nights with no air conditioning and only the hope of a breeze,... and in a week in which the temperature topped 90 degrees day after brutal day... In the words of Algiers resident Nicholas Beninate, 'Ice is like gold.'" And ice is arriving according to the New Orleans Time Picayune; in some places there is a feast of it, in some places famine, but it is arriving.
  • And not just ice, there's power too. According to The Interdictor, "Various buildings in the CBD are getting power based on priority. The Pan Am building across the street from us just got power. The W has been powered up again. The Double Tree has power. The Dome has power. According to Brian, we're behind a couple of hospitals but we could be getting power in a matter of hours."
  • Alan Howard has a timeline comparing the New Orleans tragedy with the San Francisco earthquake, which doesn't look good. The only thing I might say is that the scale of the present disaster is unprecedented; this is not the Great Fires of San Francisco or London or Chicago, this is Pompeii or Carthage or the Great Plague. Equally, it is unprecedented and unexpected that rescuers would be fired upon by those intended to be rescued.
  • But it's not all anarchy. There are some police in New Orleans. It's just they're not all taking their job seriously, some have been 'shopping.' See the video here. That said, in an emergency it is entirely appropriate to acquire the necessaries of life by such means, provided one repay later what was taken--but not when on duty, if indeed they were. (Ayn Rand's argument for this here; scroll down to the end.)
  • Pumping the water back out of New Orleans might take longer than the eighty days claimed by the Army Corps of Engineers due to the state of the water, and objections from the EPA to that water going back into Lake Ponchartrain. It's got to go somewhere, and there's an awful lot of it...enough at its peak to cover the entire United Kingdom. Sig has posted pictures here (top of page) and here (bottom of page) of some of the water in the streets--it does, as The Interdictor says, look "disgusting."

Degrees in everything at Unitec

How many more universities should New Zealand have? And who should decide? Auckland's Unitec wants to be awarded university status, but according to an expert panel appointed to assess their merits as a university, they don't apparently have any. Application refused.

Sione Palu argues here that UNITEC doesn't deserve university status, but neither does it need it. Good reading.

Message to Cullen: "Always bullshit from the truth"

An Irish QS at the London construction company at which I once worked was a fabulously bullish negotiator from whom I picked up a few tips. "Always bullshit from the truth," was one of his pieces of wisdom, one which Michael Cullen should perhaps take to heart. Cullen is laying bullshit upon bullshit with his whiteboards, slides, graphs and charts all purporting to show "National's promises do not stack up."

But it was all bullshit, and he knows it, and you don't need to be a genius to do the numbers.

Crikey, even David Farrar can do the numbers (Hi David), and he has. Gareth Morgan this morning pointed out too that both National and Labour propose to use the surplus for their respective cuts and spending promises: Labour's promised spending package would cost 2% of GDP, National's cuts 2.5%. So whatever criticisms Cullen makes of the affordability of National's cuts he must also make of his own, says Morgan.

Fact is, much, much more than National's meagre tax cuts are affordable. However, as DPF concludes, "[Cullen is] trying to twist the facts in a way which lacks credibility, especially in view of [his] own spending pledges. You can not start drinking like an alcoholic in a brewery and then start issuing warnings against excessive alcohol consumption."

Perigo on the election: Statism or Selfhood?

So who are you voting for this election? Are you voting to get your life back from the Government, or will you be voting for more of the same--voting for selfhood, or voting for a greater menu of statism?

Lindsay Perigo makes clear in his Editorial for the latest Free Radical magazine (just out) which way he's going. He won't surprise anyone with who he's voting for, but you might appreciate his anaysis of why he's voting that way. How does he rate the other parties? What does he make of Rodney Hide and Don Brash? Read on here.

(And you can order your Free Radical from all good newsagents, or subscribe here.)

Beachhaven Candidates Meeting

A report from Libz Northcote candidate Peter Linton on last night's Beachhaven meeting:

Great meeting at Beachhaven last night with nine other candidates. Destiny, Winston First, ACT were non-entities.

Jonathan Coleman was your typical smarmy National politician, prepared to say all the right things to get your vote. If he keeps up the energy and the grease he could take the seat off Anne Hartley. The Maori Party candidate Frances Waaka had some passion for what she stood for & made a good attempt.

Nandor Tanczos was your typical Greenie--no surprise there--but a good public speaker & had some fire in his belly. Not his electorate, but the Greens don't have a candidate in Northcote. Perhaps Nandor is covering all Auckland electorates without a Green Man of their own? He was relieved to see I didn't turn up wearing a suit & tie as he didn't want to look like everyone else - fat chance with his hair.

I wore my Politically Incorrect T-shirt, black jeans & winkle pickers to make sure I didn't look the same as anyone else. It certainly made me stand out --particularly the winkle pickers: you could still smell the moth balls.

Grant Gillon was there saying vote for Anne Hartley, but give your party vote to him. He came across as just another tax & spend socialist who knows what's best for the masses. No surprise there either: he works with Jim Anderton.

Anne Hartley is another evil socialist who not only knows what's best, but would happily tell everyone that they're too stupid to know & they should be grateful that she's in Parliament. All hail Oh Great Sister Anne!

For myself, ran over time slightly, however I really enjoyed the question period with some great interjections. It was reassuring being able to say what you think because you're selling ideas not trying to buy votes.

A great night.

Punk's birthplace to close

The birthplace of punk is closing. Punk wasn't born in England, it was born in New York at CBGB's with bands like Television, the Ramones, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Talking Heads, Patti Smith and Blondie performing on its small plywood stage. Now CBGB's lease has expired and, despite the protestations and forward bookings of CBGB's owner, it is not being renewed. "I think we may be here into December," says owner Hilly Kristal, "with a little luck. It can go that long." The landlord disagrees: "A statement from [landlord] Muzzy Rosenblatt called for CBGB's to 'vacate the premises both voluntarily and expeditiously,' adding that the organisation which aids New York’s homeless now 'believes it is in the best interest of our clients – the homeless and neediest New Yorkers – to sever this relationship.'"

Visit the CGGB Shrine while you can.

Modern Enemies of Reason

A fabulous piece here from the unlikely source of Mike Moore, former prime minister of New Zealand and former director-general of the World Trade Organisation. [Hat tip Owen McShane]  

Modern enemies of reason - SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST,
September 2, 2005:
Proving that genetically modified foods are safe is a bit like proving the existence of the Loch Ness monster: it's hard to prove something is not there when fanatics want to believe.

It is embarrassing to see environmentalists being suckered into using dubious European slogans such as the "precautionary principle" - which the rest of the world realises is sophisticated protectionism for their privileged, subsidised farmers. This is just another example of Europe losing the plot.

What once gave Europe, and cultures of European extraction, the edge? What allowed their societies to flourish and expand, giving their economies the opportunity to explode with creativity and become the dominant global force for the past few centuries? The answers: the separation of church and state, freedom of religion and, more importantly, freedom from religion. Given freedom, enlightenment was sure to follow, philosophers argued. "Have the courage to use your own reason," was the motto of the Enlightenment. People began to refuse to outsource their consciences to clerics, or accept privileges conferred by a sovereign.

So who are the modern enemies of reason, tolerance and freedom? Fundamentalist religious fanatics rage against modernity: their most evil expression of powerlessness is terrorist attacks. But even in open societies, intolerant forces gather, march, and claim to know a truth that everyone else must live under.

These enemies of reason normally align themselves on the political right. There are, however, enemies of reason who pose as progressives and, like others, claim to be saving the world. The environment is their vehicle of power. Fundamentalists oppose stem-cell research, which offers ways to treat some of mankind's most devastating diseases and injuries. But pharmaceutical research is moving out of Britain due to rabid activists who last year were responsible for over 300 attacks on research facilities and staff.

The FBI, in a recent report to a US Senate committee, warned that eco -militants are the new terrorist threat: fire-bombing SUV dealers in opposition to gas-guzzlers; burning so-called insensitive housing developments, causing US$ 70 million in damage; and so forth. Yet, it is in the name of animal rights that the most violent exchanges have taken place in many countries. One animal-rights activist recently said that they were not bound by law, and their cause was like the anti-slavery campaign.

Where the fundamentalists and environmental militants join hands against science is in the arguments against GM foods and stem-cell research. Genetically modified foods offer us the opportunity to feed a hungry world. It is hard to see how we will provision the world and lower the use of dangerous insecticides and fertilisers without enlisting the new forces of science.

Of course we must be prudent, cautious and seek high standards, because science can move faster than our moral, ethical or legal capacity to cope. But those who wish to destroy science have as their forefathers those who burned so-called witches, not the heroes who freed the slaves. These small groups, which exaggerate the dangers to a gullible media, represent pre-Enlightenment thinking. It is, however, a good way to grab the headlines and raise funds.

Carlo Scarpa: Casa Ottolenghi a Bardolino

Monday, 5 September 2005

The Ghost Town that is now New Orleans

"The news and opinion spin cycle is moving faster than the winds of a category 4 hurricane. Barely have we had the opportunity to feel denial about the terrible tragedy, feel sympathy for victims and begin lending our support than we've leapt to the stage of recrimination: Who's to blame? And the rush to judgment is running ahead of appropriate investigation and facts."

And so it is. Duane Freese's comments above gives the reason why I've been posting stuff here to try to get to grips with what's going on and what it means before leaping to judgement: aside from the obvious fact that living in lawlessness is as bad as living gets, the only thing emerging from the uncertainty of what is happening in New Orleans is that things are desperately uncertain, as an archived Fox News reports from Shep Smith and Geraldo Rivera shows (you'll need Quick Time for these), and as the confused blogged reports from The Interdictor continue to demonstrate. The New Orleans Times Picayune blog helps.

Irfan Khawaja says on his blog, "I’ve kept a discreet silence so far about events in New Orleans, in part because they’re too fluid to discuss, in part because they’re too horrible to contemplate." To me it's because they're so horrible that they must be contemplated in order to make some sense of them.

So it's in this spirit that I've previously posted links to articles and information that tries to make sense of what happened and why it did. Posts (in reverse chronological order) here, here, here, here, and here are examples. More tonight:
  • Duane Freese's Breaks in the Levee Logic offers plenty of background and links to help with informed judgement on the disaster response and the history of Louisiana's infrastructure.

  • Also at TechCentralStation, Jackson Kuhl considers how The City Below Sea Level was founded, and why, and on what geological base: answer a sinking one, founded "on swampland drained by pumps and canals."

  • There are nonetheless good reasons why New Orleans is such a Geopolitical Prize as to make its rebuilding inevitable, argues George Friedman. [Hat tip Sharon Ferguson at Tributaries.]

  • And more thoughts here from Rand Simberg on the unwelcome subject of 'price gouging' , to which he gives three cheers (even as the comments go wild at Druckenmiller's thoughts on the subject). Note that Simberg and many others specifically exclude from their analyses “the horrific situation in the worst-hit areas, in which first-worlders have been thrust into the third world literally overnight, many with no place to even sleep, let alone have access to food, water and other necessities or money with which to purchase them.”

    Advocating anything less than simple benevolence for those in the midst of the horror would be something less than human; however, to advocate anything other than market mechanisms to set prices once the immediate tragedy is past is to ask for the natural disaster to be compounded by a man-made one.

  • To conclude, it's worth remembering that New Orleans wasn't just a tourist mecca and a great industrial city of 1.3 million people: even as it endures its death throes we really should remember that New Orleans gave birth to something unique and special, as New Orleans-born jazzman Wynton Marsalis says in his own statement on the tragedy. My final words here tonight are his:

    New Orleans is the most unique of American cities because it is the only city in the world that created its own full culture - architecture, music and festive ceremonies. It's of singular importance to the United States of America because it was the original melting pot...]The collision of] cultures created jazz and jazz is important because it's the only art form that objectifies the fundamental principals of American democracy. That's why it swept the country and the world representing the best of the United States.

    New Orleanians are blues people. We are resilient, so we are sure that our city will come back. This tragedy, however, provides an opportunity for the American people to demonstrate to ourselves and to the world that we are one nation determined to overcome our legacies of injustices based on race and class. At this time all New Orleanians need the nation to unite in a deafening crescendo of affirmation to silence that desperate cry that is this disaster...

    We're only as civilized as our level of hospitality. Let's demonstrate to the world that what actually makes America the most powerful nation on earth is not guns, pornography and material wealth but transcendent and abiding soul, something perhaps we have lost a grip on, and this catastrophe gives us a great opportunity to handle up on.

Survivors

Does anyone else remember a TV programme from times past called Survivors, which explored how comfortable, well-off Westerners would cope when worldwide disaster strikes and working infrastructure is ripped from under them. As I recall, it began as good drama and ended as melodrama, but it did highlight how difficult life would be for those who wouldn't have the skills needed to support themselves, nor the rule of law to protect them.

Apocalyptic drama was all the rage for a while, including one of my favourite films Quiet Earth starring Bruno Lawrence. If only disasters could be confined to celluloid, or at least the appropriate lessons learned from those disasters depicted on celluloid .

The coalition challenge

As Winston's third horse gets crushed in the two-horse race between Helen and Don, it seems he is finally going to come down off the fence and announce who he will go with if enough voters are stupid enough to give him the chance. Will it be Helen or Don? How big an office will he want? Can he be Treasurer again, and if so who will do the heavy lifting for the Member for Courtenay Place like Bill Birch did last time? And will Winston First even make the 5% threshold and be 'kingmaker' as he would like to be?

Whatever the answers to those questions, it once again raise two issues of crucial importance to small parties in the MMP environment:

1) How do you deal with coalition while maintaining your principles?
2) What can a minor party really do from the backbenches?

The first question is not something that bothers Winston since his stock in trade is populism rather than principles, but it is an important question for parties like Libertarianz whose raison d’ĂȘtre is the principled application of freedom. And the second question is equally important, and it is crucial that punters are aware that minor parties do actually have a strategy for effecting real change from the backbenches, rather than--as other parties do so often--stooping to scandal-mongering and mudslinging in order to maintain their profile and the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

Fortunately, the power of principle means that a libertarian caucus in Parliament would have a very real and unique way to effect real change in the direction of more freedom and less government, and doing it without either mudslinging or selling out. How would we do it? And would we go into coalition given the chance?

I'll tell you tomorrow -- I've already given you enough clues. :-)

Questions for the day

1. So, do you think the Labour-Progressive-Green hacks and politicians really think Don Brash is a racist? Or is it that they want you to think that?

2. Would Rodney Hide endorse decriminalisation of cannabis for personal use? Ask him at the next Epsom meeting. LibertyScott gives some good reasons why he should. And while you're asking, find out when ACT's RMA Policy will hit the streets...if indeed it ever will.

3. Was the latest poll showing Labour eight percentage points behind really "a mistake" as Pete Hodgson tried to claim? Or was the "mistake" Hodgson's own by trying to spin the result. At least Jordan was more honest: "Nothing good one can say about this," he said.

4. What can Labour pull out of the bag now that their pledge card has already been produced? Any shots in the locker now their high-risk strategy of attacking Brash instead of the lightweights behind him seems to have backfired. Do they have a Plan B?

5. How much will ACT get for selling their principles? $11.50 will buy them at the moment, but watch out for the Auto-bid of Andrew Falloon, number thirty-four on ACT's list.

Privatising the land

This is what happens when you really value something: you don't ask for government help or ask them to get out the big stick, you just put you money where your mouth is.

A US conservationist has created a huge, private national park in Chile, to immense local opposition. It's a real-life example of what might happen if we sold NZ's national parks. I expect the land will be far better maintained than publicly owned parks, or what passes for New Zealand's conservation estate, and will include voluntary easements for access.

Speaking of NZ's 'conservation estate,' as the pamphlet says that upset Jeanette so much (how the truth hurts), the bureaucrats administering the estate have ensured:
  • Kiwi numbers are in serious decline due to ineffective predator control;
  • 77% of native species in decline;
  • 1080 operations have wiped out birdsong in many areas;
  • Millions of hectares of DoC-controlled land is going to ruin;
  • No possum or stoat control on 85% of the South Island estate;
  • And instead of private conservation initiatives the Greens wish to expand the conservation estate, push lease-hold farmers off the land, increase government control over conservation, and annul private property rights.
No wonder Jeanette got all septic at the chap who wrote the pamphlet. (Have a look at a video of Jeanette's attempt to 'confront' the pamphlet's author rather than argue the facts. It's hilarious.)

Signs of freedom in Brooklyn?

A report back from last night's Brooklyn candidates' meeting in Wellington Central:

The room was packed; there weren't enough chairs, there were people lined up against the walls, and there were people outside the doorways peering in. The crowd of about 150 was feisty with a couple of party rent-a-crowds obvious but the heckling was reasonably good-natured. Best heckle was at Sue Kedgley, talking about alternative transport. She said she had a raft of policies and some wit noted that a raft policy was even worse than a bicycle policy.

Libertarianz' Bernard Darnton got a reasonable response and got his points across with minimum yelling from the audience and Marion Hobbs. The audience was talked over and Marion was corrected and she didn't respond further :-)

Surprise of the night was a question to National about tougher crime policies and their effect on prison overcrowding. Mark Blumsky said that he didn't mind paying to lock people up and build extra prisons. Darnton noted that you could increase sentences, limit parole, etc without increasing the prison population by repealing the Misuse of Drugs Act. There were a few gasps but the main response was applause, which surprised Danton as much as anyone.

Another 150 people heard the libertarian message, and a dozen or so candidates heard it for the nth time.

Signs of freedom in Northland?

A busy weekend of campaigning in Northland has Julian both excited, and losing his hair. Maybe. What's getting him excited is hearing Blockwood Smith giving speeches like this, (as described by Julian):
Freedom this, freedom that, individual rights, getting rid of Nanny State, letting people live their lives without government interference by bureaucrats, etc. He threw in: "Government can give nothing that it has not taken away first, and if government is big enough to give you everything you want, then it is also big enough to take it all away." He ended with two words: "Freedom Matters."
Despite the fine words I counsel caution in Julian's excitement. Blockwood is of course the man that introduced the NCEA, and perhaps even more in danger of being delayed by a full-length mirror than Winston.

So what's getting Julian losing his hair? Your money, hopefully. He's offering to be 'de-scruffed', which should please Bob Jones, but de-scruffed at a price.

A city evacuated

The evacuation of New Orleans, a city of 1.3 million, tells the scale of the destruction and the pettiness of some of the moaning about disaster relief. The Interdictor reports "It looks like their are more reporters on the street now than regular civilians... The city really does look like a ghost town." I can't think of a single evacuation of an entire modern city, nor debates about whether it is worth rehabilitating that city. The scale of destruction is that of Rome sacking Carthage, and as if salt were once again being spread on the fields...

Sunday, 4 September 2005

Marines, Welfare, Gouging & Benevolence: More news & views on the tragedy in New Orleans

More news and opininion on the tragedy in New Orleans. Both news and opinion is that of others. First, The Marines are there, and Mark--in downtown New Orleans and reporting at The Interdictor LiveJournal--reports, "The city is starting to feel more secure now. Much larger military and Homeland Security presence and many fewer civilians left. Of course with this added security comes additional dangers like hyper-suspicious, armed authorities." Two steps forward, one step back.

Robert Tracinscki from The Intellectual Activist has a theory about what we have seen happen in New Orleans, and why the military presence is needed:
It has taken four long days for state and federal officials to figure out how to deal with the disaster in New Orleans. I can't blame them, because it has also taken me four long days to figure out what is going on there. The reason is that the events there make no sense if you think that we are confronting a natural disaster....Public officials did not expect that the first thing they would have to do is to send thousands of armed troops in armored vehicle, as if they are suppressing an enemy insurgency. And journalists--myself included--did not expect that the story would not be about rain, wind, and flooding, but about rape, murder, and looting.
But this is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster.
Read on here to see what he suggests caused it, or at least what perhaps exacerbated the natural disaster. Meanwhile, Julian Sanchez has got heartily sick and tired of "this spate of tiresome ruminations on how the hurricane is some sort of ultimate gotcha to deploy against the idea of small government."
This is all profoundly stupid. There is no deep overarching ideological point here, because for pretty much everyone short of the anarchists, preventing the collapse of civilization into a
huge Hobbesian clusterfuck makes the list—whether yours is short or long—of
things governments are supposed to do—state governments when feasible (assuming
adequate preparation on the ground is better than airlifts later), federal
government when it isn't...The real problem here sure looks like nothing more or less than a staggering display of ineptitude, which as the anti-matter doppelganger of mom, apple pie, and puppies, is pretty easy to oppose across ideological lines. By all means, let's hold officials at all levels accountable for how this has gone down, but spare us the pretended insights into the merits of mohair subsidies we're supposed to draw from all this.
And some more thoughts on price-gouging here from Steven Druckenmiller, to go with the thoughts I'd posted previously here in the discussions on petrol rationing. All make good economic sense -- Price Gouging Saves Lives argues David M. Brown for example, and so it can -- but sadly all fail to mention how the principle of benevolence might sometimes necessarily temper that hard sense, something Ruth argues for here. [Hat tip SOLO for some of these links.]

Anarchy?

PJ O'Rourke once suggested that the best short argument against an anarchist would be to send them to Beirut. Pretty swiftly, suggests O'Rourke, the former anarchist would be saying, "Ah, more police please."

The last week in New Orleans might do the same thing for some anarchists and anarcho-capitalists...

Saturday, 3 September 2005

AFL Finals are away!

A finals 'blog' has been set up for the AFL finals series, which kicked off last night in Perth with a wonderfully enthralling arm wrestle eventually won by West Coast over the Sydney Swans.

The Age's game report here. And that's one of the Swans' best last night, Nick Davis, battling for the ball with the Eagles' Drew Banfield who gave Davis plenty of room to move.

I'm looking forward to this afternoon's Geelong v Melbourne elimination final. Can I just quietly say Go the Catters?

Labour - six of the best

In the interests of balance and fairness, Drone has been trying to come up with six Labour achievements to mark the six years of their rule. Seems like something to try.
1. One unequivocal move in the direction of freedom was the introduction of civil unions. Government has no business in people's bedrooms, and good for Tim Barnett for quietly and diligently pushing this through on the grounds of individual freedom. Support for laws such as this is a litmus test for freedom lovers: it is not for the State to judge adult relationships; it is their job simply to recognise and protect them should the partners wish that to happen (I won't mention the Property Relationships Bill -- whoops! I just did). The Civil Union Bill moves in the direction of freedom, with no new coercion. A big tick.

2. The decriminilisation of prostitution recognised that people should be free to do with their own bodies what they wish, and free to charge for the use of their bodies if they wish. You don't need to be an advocate for prostitution itself to recognise that it's not the State's business to proscribe people's choices for themselves. And once again, good for Tim Barnett for being the quiet achiever. Another big tick.

3. I confess I'm struggling now. Like Drone, I think the Chinese free trade deal looks good. So that's another tick.

4. I did enjoy Marian Hobbs' defence of genetic engineering during the pathetic 'corngate' beat-up. Not so much an achievement, I guess, but her arguments and those of the Royal Commission for the science of GE were very sound, and as a consequence the legal environment for genetic engineering hasn't been as bad as it could be. Things could have been a a lot worse with Nick Smith in the Environment chair.

5. As Drone says, "some of Phil Goff's changes with parole and sentencing have been a step in the right direction of making punishments fit the crime." To that I would only add the words 'slow', and 'only because of electoral pressure.' Susan Couch and others would undoubtedly disagree that things have yet moved far enough, and of course they'd be right.

6. The words 'slow', and 'only because of electoral pressure' could also be applied to the few weak moves to remove racial favouritism from legislation. But baby steps have been taken, which is something.
So that's it unless anyone else can think of any more?

How on earth could this tragedy happen?

As the sky over downtown New Orleans turns pink in the chemical haze of at least three separate fires (see webcam), and reports from inside the city suggest the worst (some pics here), I offer for your consideration and mine some arguments and thoughts about the New Orleans disaster you may not hear elsewhere, but are worth the pondering. I suspect however that answers to many of the questions we want to ask are beyond the expertise of all of us doing the asking.

Anyway, let me begin with a link to a chillingly prescient National Geographic 'hypothetical' from last year explaining why "the Federal Emergency Management Agency list[ed] a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City... Yet just as the risks of a killer storm are rising, the city's natural defenses are quietly melting away." Read on here.

So, who's to blame for the city's defences melting away? Naturally, Lew Rockwell blames the State. Is he right? I don't know. The State isn't shooting at rescue helicopters or raping people inside the Super Dome, but it was the entity that built and maintained the flood defences.
Mother Nature can be cruel, but even at her worst, she is no match for government. It was the glorified public sector, the one we are always told is protecting us, that is responsible for this. And though our public servants and a sycophantic media will do their darn best to present this calamity as an act of nature, it was not and is not. Katrina came and went with far less damage than anyone expected. It was the failure of the public infrastructure and the response to it that brought down civilization.
Reading further: The city's defences are 'levee-only' says Mark Thornton in a brief summary of the levee system, their history, and some alternatives considered. It was these levees, created by the US Army Corps of Engineers that were breached.
A "levees-only" approach caused sediment to accumulate on the river bottom forcing engineers to regularly raise the level of the levees to hold the same amount of water. The mighty Mississippi River had literally been lifted above ground level in many places. It is obvious that this strategy created the potential for increasingly severe flood damage...The original 7.5 foot levee at Morganza, Louisiana, was able to maintain the Great Flood of 1850 but by the 1920s the levee required a 38-foot height to hold the same amount of water.
But is it even sane to choose to live in a city below sea level on a hurricane coast? And who would choose stay in such a city when a hurricane is heading your way? Justin Darr has some acerbic thoughts on who stayed:

The sad answer is that many of these residents remained because they where waiting for the government to aid them. Many trapped in New Orleans right now are in a state of shock. They expected the nanny state which provides them with housing, medical care, food, and education to also come forward and provide them with the means of escaping a natural disaster. When a state of emergency was declared in August 26th , they waited...The nanny state has created a class of people in America not only unable to take care of their own needs, but incapable of existing within normal society.

Harsh. Perhaps. Mark Steyn puts it with a little more veneer in a lengthy interview here. But the veneer of civilization does appear to have been ripped off, despite the efforts of some people to keep some things going. But why live in a city below sea level that is potentially under water? Might as well ask why live in a city on one of the world's most active faults; or in a city dominated by volcanoes. Or in Holland, much of which is also below sea level and protected by dikes -- earlier versions of which didn't stop the North Sea Flood of 1953.

And the Army Corps of Engineers (if you can believe them after Lew Rockwell's gibes) suggest that "draining the billions of gallons of water that have inundated New Orleans could take three to six months, substantially longer than some experts have expected," leading to speculation that the city may perhaps be abandoned. In any case, it seems certain New Orleans will never be anything like the same again -- perhaps too the questions this disaster raises may themselves prompt further change, and not just in engineering measures.

And while you're thinking about all that, do use this disaster to consider NZ Pundit's advice: Be prepared yourself.

Friday, 2 September 2005

New Orleans LiveJournal Blog: Survival of New Orleans

The New Orleans webcam to which I posted a link earlier this morning has a livejournal blog (or vice versa) run by New Orleans resident and libertarian Michael Barnett, who is still running a datacenter (just) in New Orleans as he keeps his blog updated on events around him. Background here. Michael's blog here or here (depending on resources I guess). Pictures here (be patient - lots of people looking). Of his blog Michael says,
Now this journal exists to share firsthand experience of the disaster and its aftermath with anyone interested.
Its latest recounts a story from the Convention Center where an estimated 10,000 people have been waiting three days for promised buses, which have yet to show up.

Pictured right is another jazzman from the birthplace of jazz, where the Saints continue not to be coming in: a true gentleman and an ambassador of jazz, Wynton Marsalis. I needed to post it to pay tribute to what seems the death throes of the jazz's birthplace, and also to get that picture of the murderer from the top of my blog before I head out for a drink.

[UPDATE: Wired has a piece on The Interdictor/Survival of New Orleans blog explaining what where, when and why. "It may be the only blog currently both written and hosted inside New Orleans, and it's receiving nearly 3,000 visitors an hour." Hat tip SOLO.]

Al Qaeda claims responsibility

Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the July 7 London bombings in a video aired on Al-Jazeera. The Times has the story. LA Times has some more.

Pictured above and right is the terrorist identified as Mohammed Sidique Khan both as he appeared in the video, and at Hillside Primary School, Dewsbury, in 2002. Not pictured is his bomb on the Edgeware Rd train with which he killed himself and six people.

What's wrong with election promises?

The new issue of Northland Libz' Speakeasy is up at their site. A small PDF download. Hooch Helen Hughes discusses in plain language what is wrong with this government and with all the election promises.

Did global warming drown Bourbon St?

Former New Orleans resident and full-time man of sense James Glassman from TCS puts the sword to environmentalists using Hurricane Katherine as evidence either that hurricanes are intensifying, or is evidence of global warming.

Katrina has nothing to do with global warming. Nothing. It has everything to do with the immense forces of nature that have been unleashed many, many times before and the inability of humans, even the most brilliant engineers, to tame these forces. Giant hurricanes are rare, but they are not new. And they are not increasing. To the contrary. Just go to the website of the National Hurricane Center and check out a table that lists hurricanes by category and decade.

Reason magazine also "checked the barometer on hurricanes and global warming" a few weeks back to see if there any pointers to a connection. The result: no connection found.

[Hat tip: Hit and Run's Hurricane Bullshit]

Development needs entrepreneurs, not macroeconomists

"Why are some countries rich and others just suck?"

Adam Smith was among the first to attempt to sensibly answer this question in his Wealth of Nations. Joseph Schumpeter later explained how entrepreneurial innovation fuelled the wealth of nations -- PJ O'Rourke had a go too, and it's from him that I got the question -- and David Landes' recent book brings the good-sense answers somewhat up to date by relating the question of entrepreneurialism to cultural values.

But why on earth then do so many economists turn to such non-sense then when it comes to answering such questions. Why especially do the IMF and World Bank try to encourage developing economies to grow by 'top down' meddling rather than by liberating the entrepreneurialism that exists everywhere? Pete Boettke sheets home the blame to the victory of Keynesian economics:
From Smith to Schumpeter questions of economic development were asked without reference to the aggregate data of national income accounting. But after Keynes, it seemed almost impossible to ask questions of development without reference to aggregate measures of national income... Armed with Keynesian theory and the statistical tool-kit of refined measurement and control, Keynesian policies could guide government in the effort to correct the flaws of the capitalist system and manage the economic system appropriately so that stability and prosperity could be experienced.
Boettke explains briefly how flawed the Keynesian macroeconomic approach to development is, and offers pointers to some successful recent approaches in Africa for example that recognise "the eradication of poverty will not come from international aid agencies and the decisions by western leaders on how best to redistribute wealth world-wide, but through the entrepreneurial spirit of Africans themselves."

Linked article.

Where is ACT's RMA Policy?

What exactly is ACT's policy on the RMA? Do they know themselves? The ACT website has contained the following promise for some time (it occurs here, here, here, and here):
Environmental legislation to be effects-based, which implies substantial changes the RMA [sic]. (ACT has a separate RMA Policy that details these changes).
But aside from this being both dripping wet and as bland as week-old porridge, the ACT website still has no "separate RMA Policy" as promised. It just ain't there. 

Has someone forgotten to write it?

Is there disagreement about what "substantial changes" to the RMA would look like?

Is Ken ('I-love-the-RMA') Shirley running a rearguard action to keep the thing?

Or does ACT just not give a shit about substantive policy because they're too busy making up new websites and trumpeting dodgy polls?

I think we should be told.

In the meantime, how's this for a "separate RMA Policy":

Abolish it.

Put a stake through its heart -- that should separate the men from the faint-hearted -- and reinstate the common law protections for property rights and the environment that have been buried by central planning, district planning and the RMA's meddling eco-fascism.

 Fortunately, somebody already is saying that, and has been saying it now for over ten years.

Any reason ACT couldn't adopt that as its policy?

Any reason at all other than gutlessness?

New libertarian blog

I have emormous pleasure in announcing a new NZ libertarian blog, Liberty Scott, from which I shall be expecting some stiff competition. :-)
I have created this blog to share my utterances on New Zealand politics, international affairs, social issues and anything that I get particularly passionate about... I have a need to share what I find outrageous, wonderful, amusing and challenging about the affairs of New Zealand and the world.

I am a libertarian, with a capital L ... because I unashamedly believe in the freedom of adults to interact voluntarily, without force.
Welcome to the blogosphere, Scott.

More things I don't care about

  • What Helen Clark said to the airline pilot
  • What Roger Kerr said to Don Brash
  • What the Insurance Council said to Don Brash
  • What Helen Clark does with her microwave
  • Whose hand Rodney Hide is shaking this week
  • How many many married men Cathy had sex with this week
  • Who Russell Crowe hit this week
  • How fast Helen was going
  • Conspiracy theories about oil prices
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • Sin City
  • The Simpsons
  • The new Dr Who
  • The old Dr Who
  • The new James Bond
  • Sam Neill
  • Nicole Kidman's new movie
  • Jonny Depp's new movie
  • New movies
  • The MTV Music Awards
  • NZ Idol
  • Idiots that can't write a song of their own
  • Idiots that don't have a brain of their own
  • Bloggers who can't generate an original thought of their own
  • Bloggers that are just party stooges (Hello Jordan)
  • The Hectors Dolphin
  • People who can't tell the difference between racism and removing racial privilege
  • People who can't tell the difference between getting welfare and getting your taxes back
  • People who want something for nothing
  • People who think they can vote themselves rich
  • People who think that being a consultant with a government contract means they're self-employed
  • People who think that being a resource consultant means you're supporting yourself
  • People who wont say what they really think
  • Politicians who are bold with other people's money
  • Steve Maharey's blameless life
  • Steve Maharey
  • The new haka
  • The old haka
  • Hakas
  • Who the Maori Party are going into coalition with
  • Who the Maori Party won't go into coalition with (National? What a surprise.)
  • Who Winston thinks he's kidding (is he kidding anyone, apart from the National Front?)
  • The softcock centre-right
  • The dripping wet centre-left
  • People who don't question details before believing every poll that is put in front of them
  • The ramblings of undergrad philosophy students
  • The ramblings of bloggers who really should know better
  • Who J-Lo is married to this week
  • Who Britney Spears is not married to this week
  • Why Jennifer Aniston is not married this week, and how she feels about it
  • Who are these people anyway?
And have you noticed:
  • how the results of a dodgy ACT poll whose methodology has still not been revealed has all of a sudden appeared everywhere like some sort of Prague Spring?
  • how every party blogger of every stripe hits their marks so efficiently, and in such a coordinated fashion
  • how National haven't mentioned it was they who introduced both the NCEA and the RMA
  • how Labour haven't mentioned that it was National who introduced both the NCEA and the RMA
  • how ACT's Ken Shirley hasn't mentioned he helped write the RMA
  • how the Labour hacks are becoming increasingly shrill
  • how Destiny billboards just don't stay up very well
  • how Nick Smith and the worm have both thankfully become invisible
  • how Paul Holmes sadly hasn't
  • how Susan Wood is ^%$(&&) ... sorry ... I nodded off there for a moment and fell face down on my keyboard
  • how if Don Brash read out the phone book then headlines, podcasts, video interviews, and Scoop scoops would quickly appear about how it means he's planning to send our boys to Iraq on a nuclear warship paid for by enslaving all Maori and by selling off all the schools and hospitals to American mates of the Roundtable. Or something.
  • how manly Peter Davis looks in his Peruvian sweater

Woodenhead Waiheke

A freak of modern New Zealand cinema is about to land in Waiheke tonight.

Woodenhead screens "Friday night late" at the Waiheke Community Cinema 9.30pm on September 2, 2005. 2 Korora St, Artworks, Oneroa

Directions:
Catch the Waiheke ferry leaving from Auckland & then jump on the bus from the ferry to the top of the hill where the Artworks complex is - the Cinema is in the Artworks complex, next to Indian restaurant Ajadz.
The 8.45 ferry will just make it by 9.30pm. There is a return ferry at 12.30am. Phone 372 4240 to book.

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Bless New Orleans

Hot Five era Louis Armstrong. Certified genius, untamed spirit and New Orleans favourite son.
May your God and the spirit of St Louis bless New Orleans at this time. (And here, by the way, is a webcam showing an empty downtown New Orleans. Hat tip Mises Blog)

"Keep taxing petrol" - Mallard

"Cutting excise tax on petrol would mean less money for [xxxx], Energy Minister Trevor Mallard says" on the Herald site.

Insert any words you like where I've put xxxx -- after all, Trevor does. And remember when you fill up your car that 47% of the cost, plus GST, goes straight to Michael, Trevor and Helen to piss up against an electoral wall. Steve Forbes has an idea where some of the rest of the cost increase comes from.

[UPATE 1: Links fixed.]
[UPDATE 2: Bush's agreement last night to release some of the US petroleum reserve fulfils one part of Forbes ' recommendation.]

Composers Rich List

Not to be outdone by the Rich Lists of the financial papers, The Grauniad has a Composers Rich List with some surprises...

[Hat tip Marginal Revolution.]

Can destruction really be good for the economy?

Whenever destruction happens on a large scale, such as is happening now in New Orleans and the American Gulf coast, the economically illiterate exercise their natural wish to find something good out of tragedy by talking nonsense. In the case of destruction on such a massive scale, the nonsense usually takes the form of arguing that such destruction is 'good for the economy.' "Look at how much work has been created," say the illiterate, ignoring how many lives have been lost and how much wealth has been destroyed.

The Mises blog has spotted the first occurrence of this fallacy in the popular press, from the New York Times/International Herald Tribune (dated Sept 1):
But economists point out that although Katrina has destroyed a lot of accumulated wealth, it ultimately will probably have a positive effect on growth data over the next few months as resources are channeled into rebuilding. "Longer term, in the wake of a number of hurricanes there is actually an increase in measured output that even shows up at the national level, because there is a whole bunch of rebuilding activity," said Stephen P.A. Brown, director of energy economics at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
As the Mises blog comments in rebuttal:
But why wait for Mother Nature's random acts of destruction to help get the economy going? Why waste the expertise that the U.S. government has in the area of destruction? So, to help kickstart the economy we should evacuate all major urban areas and then unleash a massive dose of B-1 bombers, F-16 fighters and Cruise missiles and reduce all cities to rubble. Just think of the unprecedented construction boom this would help create!
Stephen A. Brown and others of his ilk have clearly never read the classical debunking of this idiocy, Frederic Bastiat's short piece What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen, a wonderful piece of writing that I heartily commend to your attention. Destruction is never good. On a scale such as this there is no good news in it, whatever the economically illiterate might try and tell you.

Petrol rationing?

With the recent hikes in petrol prices, dumb-arse politicians are beginning to murmur about petrol rationing and price caps. Fortunately, those dumb-arse politicians are American. Unfortunately those politicians are American, in what was once the land of the free, prosperous and economically literate.

Rationing and price caps are both tools of the economically illiterate, which is of course why politicians are beginning to talk about it. The Mises blog, CapMag and David M. Brown have the antidotes to such talk:
And Stephen Hicks has the goods on what to do about NO GAS DAY!, an internet campaign to "STICK IT UP" the "price-gouging oil companies."

Tragedy everywhere

News from New Orleans and the American Gulf coast continues to get worse, as it does in Baghdad where 1,000 people are expected to die after a stampede on a bridge after someone apparently yelled "suicide bomber."

Utterly tragic.

And what sort of sick fuck would cut a cat in half? Someone in Huntly apparently. It's hard to find anything eloquent to say on mornings like this.

A new NZB3 podcast

Julian Pistorius has a new podcast up, which discusses Marx (Karl, not Groucho)and Locke (John, not Keith) taking tea; open markets for apples; some 'high calibre' property rights; and much more.

Enjoy.

[What's a 'podcast'? It's an audio-link that plays when you click it. No huhu.]

Cue Card Libertarianism -- Ethnicity

ETHNICITY: The elevating of one’s racial identity and associated cultural traditions to a position of supreme importance – a racist version of collectivism, under-pinned by post-modernism in philosophy, and still very fashionable in academia.


A UCLA General Catalogue eloquently presents this viewpoint, saying:
“This university has no higher priority than to advance the ethnic diversity of its students, faculty, staff and administrators.” No higher priority?! Similar priorities are evident in New Zealand academia, with this 'new racism' too often given predominance over real learning. (Wananga and sing-along-Maori anyone?) Auckland University for example until recently boasted "The University has special responsibilities and obligations to Maori flowing from the Treaty of Waitangi which must be taken into account in setting strategic goals. ...The bi-cultural basis of New Zealand society and Maori engagement in academic life confer much of the distinctive and special character of this University."

American universities typically offer courses with such titles as “Black Hair as Culture and History,” with associated tests such as “400 Years Without a Comb.” Similar nonsense, under the general umbrella of Political Correctness, has been widespread in New Zealand for some years -- the phenonomena of racial pride and identification with one's tribe has been widespread, and employees requiring courses in 'cultural safety' and the non-existent principles of Te Tiriti has become de rigeur. The idea of Aryan ethnicity once swept Hitler to power; ethnicity drove the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; it still drives conflict in Sudan, Gaza, Israel, and elsewhere in the Middle East and around the world. It is cultural and spiritual poison.

Defining oneself by one’s race and tradition -- things about which one has no control over -- is utterly incompatible with defining oneself by one’s conscious choices, and deriving pride in one's own achievements rather than just those of one's ancestors -- which is the essence of individualism.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.

Girl with a Pearl Earring


Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, begun all the way back in 1665, and completed a year later, just two years before England's Glorious Revolution and Bill of Rights of 1688. This is the art of the Enlightenment.

Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Dodgy polling in Epsom?

The Act on Campus boys have breathless announced a poll in Epsom that doesn't make any sense, but apparently announces 'they're back.' (Back from where, I wonder?)

The poll was "conducted last night of [just] 360 Epsom residents," they say excitedly, and naturally the poll shows Rodney in the lead, which is precisely why the boys are so excited -- "WE"RE BACK!!!!" they cheer. In the lead, that is, by 3 people out of the 36o polled -- or 2.952 people if you believe the figures, since the boys have announced them to plenty of significant figures more than is justified, and the arithmetic still doesn't work out.

For example, if 30.79% of 360 respondents prefer Hide, that's 110.84 people (either 110 or 111). So that's odd. (If you're rounding either 110 or 111 to two significant figures you would get 30.55% or 30.83% respectively, not the figure quoted.) You'll find the same oddity with all the figures, so presumably then the results have been 'shifted' "to match the voting demographics of Epsom." Naturally, when it is the boys themselves that have done the shifting I'm going to be suspicious, especially when the boys claim of the result "they fully expect with this news ACT's polling to lift as well."

So this is not exactly a neutral poll, is it? Every party does tracking polls and the like, but not all of them trumpet the results in this fashion.

I'm suspicious of it also because I myself received a call myself last night from "a group of volunteers in Epsom committed to freedom" which began by asking me (erroneously) if I knew that voting for Rodney Hide would ensure a centre-right government, and ended by confirming (when I asked) that it was a call from the ACT Party. If it is those same "volunteers" that were the ones collecting and collating this poll data, then I'm not sure they're worth the electrons they're being posted with.

If you're trumpeting stuff like this, then your back is very clearly at the wall.

Drop in crime? No.

Labour repeatedly tells us we have the lowest unemployment figures since unemployment was invented, but this is at the same time as we have 300,000 New Zealanders on a benefit. They also trumpet the 'drop' in crime statistics across the country, but now frontline police themselves report these figures as meaningless since many, if not most, people don't report many crimes.

Who would you believe?

Holmes: Why do they do it?

Not a big day on the campaign trail yesterday. NZ First attacked National's tax cuts as "total nuts", the Maori Party attacked National as racist, the ACT Party put its principles up for sale, Labour and the Greens continued their love-in (Jeanette in the Transport portfolio!) and Don Brash "told a Tauranga audience if a Labour-Green government came to power, it would lead the country further down the path of racial separatism."

Some of these things are actually true.

But the big campaign moment yesteday was surely the skin-crawling interviews on 'Holmes' with Clark and Brash and their respective partners. Why does anyone agree to sit on a couch in front of several TV cameras and high-power lights so that Paul Holmes can ask you about your love life? And why did these four? Are there really any votes in telling people how you warm up your cup of tea, or how you left your wife? Galt spare us.

Kneel, Sam

So why is Sam Neill so all-fired qualified to talk about who New Zealanders should vote for? A fair question. St Molesworth has the top ten reasons. First one:

1. No one understands the needs of blue-collar South Auckland workers like an Irish-born actor tax exile now living in Sydney and California. (Read on.)

The difference between uni and high school

Top twenty-five differences here between high school and university (or college as the Seppos call it). My favourites:

22. In college, the professors can tell you the answer without looking at the teacher's guide.
13. In high school, when the teacher said, "Good morning," you mumbled back. In college, when the professor says, "Good morning," you write it down.
11. In college, weekends start on Thursday.
4. College women are legal.

[Hat tip Stephen Hicks.]

Why Ayn Rand was so smart

Regular readers of this blog will occasionally come across references to a woman called Ayn Rand -- confess, you've noticed haven't you. I know Bob Jones has -- and have maybe wondered why I have such a high opinion of her and her philosophical acumen.

Tibor Machan answers the question this morning:
[S]he is a very popular novelist and has in time inspired a good many scholars to explore her ideas in the various branches of philosophy and political economy. And she also made some novel and radical contributions to the discipline of philosophy, even as its practitioners mostly showed her disdain. One contribution in particular is extremely vital. This is Rand’s novel understanding of the nature of human knowledge.
Tibor briefly sketches the key to her theory of knowledge (very briefly) and also outlines the reasons for the disdain. The key is ... ah, read it yourself. :-)

Giving good tongue

In a praiseworthy work of public service, TinCanman has unearthed a wonderful How-to-kiss video that will do wonderful things for your extremities.

He also has a warning of what happens when you park your plane in South Auckland (below).

Good work that man.

An apologist for paedophiles speaks up

A 22 year old Nebraska loading-dock worker has been prosecuted for having sex with a thirteen year-old girl -- a girl for whom her mother took out a protection order against the 22 year-old. Too late. She is now fourteen, a high school student, married (for which the couple drove to Kansas), and a mother. Stories here, here, and here.

"Our position is we will prosecute cases where adult men are having sex with children," says the prosecutor, quite properly. Oddly enough, the paedophile has his apologists. Jim Peron saw fit to publish his apologia on his blog that
claims to be 'Looking in NZ'. I wonder what he thinks the relevance is to NZ? Perhaps you should ask him.

Tuesday, 30 August 2005

ACT Party sell their principles

It's true. And you can start the bidding at just $1. See.

The advantage of speaking for the speechless

Too many people spend too much of their time speaking either on someone else's behalf or as a spokesman for people or things who can't speak for themselves, and they spend too much of our time telling us what we should be doing on behalf of those they claim to speak for. And in the name of those "without a voice" they often seek to silence those who do.

There is a special status in law and in our culture given to advocates who claim to speak for the voiceless. They get extra kudos, legal aid, sympathy, headlines, moral stature ... and just sometimes (and just coincidentally) they also get themselves a job for life.

Look for example at politicians who like to claim they speak for the disadvantaged, even as they disadvantage all of us by putting their hands in our pockets -- naturally too ensuring they advantage themselves by doing so. Or politicians who say they 'speak for their people,' even as their actions serve to further impoverish the people they claim to speak for. Why don't these claims and the consequent theft and impoverishment caused receive any decent scrutiny?

Or look at high-profile activists, like for example Cindy Sheehan, who claims (or allows others to claim on her behalf) to speak for "an invigorated anti-war movement." As Rick Moran asks, where exactly are all the protesters she is supposed to have inspired? [Hat tip SH] Why do claims like this get traction, unless it is that the views of activists like Mother Sheehan reflect those who so breathlessly report their activities and opinions?

And what about those busybodies who claim to speak for "future generations," as if they somehow have a direct line to what future human beings are going to want at some unspecified time in the future. Why do they get taken so gosh-darned seriously? Who's to say that 'future generations' won't think they're all bloody idiots with an anti-human agenda who should have been silenced with a gag and a bucket of paraquat?

And how about those that claim to speak for other species, or for wild and beautiful landscapes, or for the heritage values, spiritual values, cultural values, or moral values of the community. Why do these people get headlines and hegemony when the communities, species, trees, rocks and mud puddles they claim to speak for haven't ever given them any mandate to speak on their behalf?

How do they all get away with it, and why do we let them?

When you are speaking for the speechless, the best thing about it is that the speechless can't speak up for themselves to tell you when you're talking nonsense -- which is precisely why so many idiots are attracted to this kind of advocacy. Your idiocy is trumped by the fact that a) you have a mandate (or claim to), and b) you care (or claim to). When the things and people you claim to be speaking for can't contradict you, you can in short have it any way you want since what you say goes. It's your opinion that matters, and your opinion has all the moral force of those you claim to be speaking for, but without the need to convince them that you're making any sense.

So if you're speaking for the speechless, speaking for the unspeakable, speaking for those who wouldn't let you if they knew, or speaking for those who know you're an idiot but just don't give a shit, then don't pretend you're speaking for anybody who has specifically endorsed you. Tell people instead who you are really speaking for. Yourself.

Vote Eco-Fascism!

A new website has been created that asks you to Vote for the Environment! Actually, it says it asks you to "vote for the environment" but what it actually asks you to vote for are authoritarians and troglodytes claiming to speak on behalf of 'the environment,' since there is nothing anywhere to indicate that the website's creators realise that the best protection for environmental values is not authoritarianism and command-and-control but instead the recognition and protection of private property rights.

The websites creators ask you to endorse political parties that promise to (among other things):
  • give lots more money to DoC and other selected government agencies and other quangoes;
  • increase the carbon tax, and to prevent the construction of coal-fired and nuclear power stations;
  • increase the indoctrination of impressionable school-children with the religiosity of 'sustainability';
  • ban the introduction of GE;
  • endorse the theft of private land by allowing public access over it;
  • make the Resource Management Act more onerous.
The underlying assumption is an antediluvian one that government action always works, that private property rights don't, that the 'tragedy of the commons' never happens, and that the more action government takes the better. Naturally, the FrogBlog is excited by it all.

There used to be a joke told by DoC workers, that the best way to eradicate possums would be to give possums to the Department of Conservation to protect. True too. Perhaps in this spirit DoC could instead take on the job of advocating for this form of antediluvian authoritarianism, while some of us at least get on with advocating for private property rights.

While you're thinking about all that, have a look at a whole bunch of quotes about property rights and freedom, my own recent speech on the subject, and an organisation that realises that when it comes to environmental matters, property rights do matter.

Perhaps you could cast a vote for that.

God gadgetry

Some great Gadgets for God available here. What a great service! Make sure you send Bishop Brian a mailing list.

My personal favourites are the Talking Jesus Action Figure and the inspirational Mother Theresa Singing Doll, the practical yet spiritual Glow Grave, and the eminentlypractical 'Jesus Saves' Air Freshener -- which should really have a 'Jesus Saves' bog roll to go with it, shouldn't it.

Order now for Father's Day, or buy these if you have a teenage child's birthday coming up.

Funding racism, or not

Bloggers and politicians have been in apocalyptic mood over Brash's frankly rather timid proposal to end some race-based funding, to review some race-based government departments, and to speed up the Waitangi gravy train.

The welfarism and government favour won't exactly end under National, it will just be ... diverted. That hasn't stopped an outpouring of vitriol accusing Brash of everything from what Hitler did to the Jews (Harawira), to sending Maori back to Hawaiiki (Tze Ming), to "stripping Maori of their rights" (Idiot/Savant), to "teaching illusion" (John Johansen via the Frog), to delivering "a new jar of snake oil" (David Slack), to "Maori bashing" (Tariana) to taking the very bread out of the mouths of poor brown people everywhere who just can't survive without special favours and truckloads of money from the government (that one I just made up).

This is a view that all good things including wealth, favour and our only chance at piles of money come from government, that all wealth is doled out from on high -- arriving in our laps like manna from government-heaven -- that our belonging to a group is our way of receiving these boons, and government turning off the tap for these boons is turning off our only access to wealth; indeed, turning off our access to what we need for our very survival. It is the view that Other People's Money is the only recognised route for wealth and riches -- which was the view tested in court by Donna Awatere on a smaller scale, and found to be something called theft.

It is a view that denies the reality of where wealth comes from, and what makes freedom possible: the spirit of enterprise, and the philosophy of individualism. Such a spirit and such a philosophy is the antidote to the predictable collectivist poison spewed forth over the last eighteen hours.

Top ten reasons for the war in Iraq

Christopher Hitchens argues in 'The Weekly Standard' that the war in Iraq is not just A War to Be Proud Of, but that the case for overthrowing Saddam was unimpeachable. Powerline summarises the top ten reasons for his positive assessment here. Surpisingly, Hitchens credits Tony Blair as the only statesman from the nineties to emerge from the decade with any credit on this front...