Saturday, December 10, 2005

Frank film

Now here's a film that I will be queuing up for on the first night - and quite likely the second and third nights as well:
Academy Award winner Robert Duvall has been approached to portray famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Meanwhile, another Oscar winner, Gene Hackman, is in talks to play department-store mogul Edgar J. Kaufmann in the film adaptation of the book, “Fallingwater Rising,” by Franklin Toker.

Libertarian Duvall, with one of the world's finest actors - Hackman - in a film about Frank Lloyd Wright! I'm buying the popcorn already in anticipation!!

(Pictured above right, Frank Lloyd Wright's design for the Huntington Hartford Country Club.)

Linked Article: Talks under way in casting Wright film

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'Asian Invasion' repelled

After the sad and lamented demise of Farrer's Fawcet -- Fifteen Minutes Well and Truly Spent - Cath Yodgers' blog is another one being deleted. Going, going

She deleted her 'Asian Invasion' blog "after the following sequence of events," which she describes at Farrar's Blog Central, "none of which involved the rumoured discovery by Hong Kong expat wives of the blog," but which, if I summarise, was the imminent discovery by her boss that she was blogging during work hours.

What price anonymity, eh? Lucky I dont use my own real name. :-)

The FBI were 'on to' Ayn Rand

An FBI probe into Ayn Rand concluded that Rand the arch-capitalist could actually have been a communist. (Full file here in PDF.) "If Miss Rand is not a communist as she says she is not, then she has been lead down the rosy path and is guilty of very incomplete thinking, because a careful reader can see the suds still clinging to the brain," says an FBI analysis so full of holes and doubletalk that the suds are spilling out on all sides.

Diana Hsieh at 'Noodle Food' describes "the coup de grace, here's how the [FBI's laughable summary of Rand's ideas] ends":
"Freedom is the right of the individual to react to his perceptions without being restricted to a particular view or a particular reaction.

"Physical freedom is impossible without mental freedom.

"Objectivism and communism are both mental and physical slavery because they restrict the individual to a particular view."
That's just too perfect [laughs Hsieh]. Communists are slaves to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Objectivists are slaves to reality. It's all the same, right?
Objectivists are slaves to reality: at least the FBI got that much right. As Objectivists are wont to say, "You can't fake reality." You couldn't fake this kind of FBI silliness either. If you want to see by what distance the FBI fucked it up, have a look at some of the links below.

Linked Articles: FBI File by Diana Hsieh
What is Objectivism by Lindsay Perigo
Online Lectures on Objectivism by Leonard Peikoff and Gary Hull
Suggested Readings on Objectivism

Friday, December 09, 2005

The perfect martini...

Mencken declared the Martini to be ""the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet." Arts & Letters Daily has news about a new book on cocktails that tells more about the noble drink, and prompts me to re-post an earlier Friday afternoon post on the perfect martini-- but not before sharing Abe Lincoln's view quoted in the article: "It has been my experience that folks with no vices have very few virtues."

And what about the age old question: should your martini be shaken or stirred?

Linked book review: Never argue with a bartender
Linked post: The perfect martini does exist

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Frog shows red underbelly

There are some things that a personal blog like 'Not PC' can get away with, but an official political party blog just can't, no matter how many 'don't-try-this-at-home' riders are put on a piece.

Prededed by the smiling disclaimer that "I present this as entertainment, it is NOT a recommendation," the Green Party's 'Frog Blog' has posted a situationalist manifesto calling for an end to capitalism through 'decadent action.' As the poet said, "Many a true word hath been spoken in jest." Here's a sample from the Frog's Friday-afternoon 'humour':
8. Terrorism and violence against the state can be fun but make sure you get the right tools for the job. Sawn off shot guns are crude and could snag your clothes. In short, if you’re going to shoot a cop - make sure you use a nice gun.
Advice is then given on appropriate heroes to learn from. Included in this bloodstained list:
  • Valerie Solanis - famous for attempting to murder Andy Warhol, and founder of the Society for Cutting Up Men (SCUM);
  • Baader and Meinhof - trained by the PLO and the founders and leaders of the Baader-Meinhof terrorist organisation, Baader and Meinhof were serial killers who killed and planned the killing of dozens of Germans in the seventies.
  • Noam Chomsksy - apologist for the September 11 attacks, and like Keith Locke, a Pol Pot sympathiser.
  • Harry Roberts - "the instigator of the Massacre of Braybrook Street, a triple-murder of policemen in 1966.."
This is the sort of stuff that shouldn't even be joked about, particularly by the official outlet of a parliamentary political party. As Shakespeare warned, "'Jesters do oft prove prophets." Given that too many violent nutbars over the last century, including Che, Castro, Mao and Pol Pot -- whose faces have all at some stage appeared on the various Green Party MPs' bedroom walls -- have taken this sort of exhortation seriously, seems to me that the 'non-violent' Frog has this time gone too far in exposing his vicious red underbelly.

[Anyone want to take bets how long it takes before we hear all the 'Oh, we're only joking'; 'No sense of humour' etc. from the Frog and his Party? It'll probably be my fault for taking offence.]

Linked Post: Consumerism may yet eat its own tail - Green Party

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Iraqi Dinar does better than US dollar

If you'd taken a punt on the Iraqi currency back in August when I mentioned it here, you'd find that your Post-Saddam dinars would have held their value better than American dollars over that period, plus a little more.

Once at nearly three to the US dollar, the dinar stood at 2000 to the dollar immediately post-Saddam, and as of today sits at 1469 (or 1054 to the NZ dollar). The Iraqi economy is functioning in a modest fashion, and quietly doing okay for one still in the grip of violence:
[A recent report on Fox News] takes us to the Iraqi stock exchange , where state-owned enterprises that have been privatized are now traded vigorously on the frenetic market floor. [The] report doesn’t paint an overly rosy picture of the Iraqi economy. The violence has taken its toll, and unemployment is still at 27 percent. But economy is growing. [The report] cites Brookings Institution findings that the standard of living in Iraq has doubled since 2003, and the Iraqi economy is projected to grow by 16.8 percent next year. The post-Saddam dinar has held its value better than the U.S. dollar.
Such is the 'dividend of freedom' that Iraq can now enjoy. Betting on the dinar is a bet on Iraqi freedom. And the dinar is now being used again for major contracts: "Iraqi contractors... are now counting dinars instead of dollars on payday." BetOnIraq.com makes the argument for being bullish on the dinar:
Might a free Iraq thrive? Above and beyond the vast oil reserve, agriculture, and highly educated population, there is now liberty in Iraq. We believe that where liberty is sown, prosperity blooms.

We understand that liberty is always challenged. It's challenged regularly in our own country. Why should a fledgling democracy, on the heels of a 30 year dictatorial rule, be immune?

...We simply trust that the seed of freedom, implanted more than two years ago with the fall of Saddam's regime, has germinated in the hearts of the majority of the Iraqi people. We see this as a wondrous thing, with tremendous possibilities.

If things ultimately turn out well for the people of Iraq, they should also turn out well for anyone who bought Iraqi currency at today's prices.
If you believe that liberty brings prosperity, then as the BetOnIraq website suggests, "Put their money where you mouth is."

Linked Post: Betting on Iraq,
BetOnIraq.Com,
The Winning Side,
Baghdad contractors go from dollars to dinars,

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The very best of this week's 'Not PC'

Here's just some of the scintilating, sparkling and occasionally excoriating writing you've missed at 'Not PC' this week by not tuning in as regularly as you should. Don't let it happen again!

Freezing their globes off in Montreal - when warming meets cooling
If you've been wondering why the UN's Montreal mega-conference on Global Warming has received little coverage -- "what f'ing conference?" I hear you cry -- Rex Murphy has the answer. "Probably because of the cold weather," he says half seriously...
Thu, Dec 8, 2005

A public health guide for blokes:
Christmas parties, Christmas gifts, Christmas holidays -- all have their attendant dangers for the average bloke. For instance, you can lose a girl's interest in just ten seconds at that Christmas party if you say the wrong thing. Fortunately, Lauren Weiss tells you what not to say. If you're successful at this hurdle and you're still seeing her over Christmas...
Thu, Dec 8, 2005

Questions, rhetorical & otherwise, about Reserve Bank meddling
In just under an hour, Alan Bollard will announce the Reserve Bank's new Official Cash Rate. Am I the only one who wonders why the announcement of a bureaucrat should be listened to with so much interest? Why should he have so much power? And why...
Thu, Dec 8

Wananga, waste, and voucher failure
The report on Rongo Wetere's Te Wananga o Aotearoa is rife with stories of profligacy and nepotism, of first class air travel, million dollar contracts to family members, and tales of money wasted on failed IT projects. 'Shocking,' declare all the usual suspects. 'Outrageous.' ACT leader Rodney Hide told NZPA that Mr Shirley had been vindicated. 'The wananga was out of control...
Wed, Dec 7

Showing what God made
Some attractive young German church-goers have put together a calendar showing rather more of God's creation than young church-goers are normally known to show...
Wed, Dec 7

Scalping U2
Leaving aside that, in my view, people who like U2 deserve to be taken for a financial ride just as far as their musical taste has been, we have here a promoter - who you would think would have at least a modicum of financial sense - bleating about people re-selling their tickets, poor lamb, and whinging that the asking price for some is 'beyond their fair value.' The poor lamb is economically illiterate, and he doesn't understand a good thing when he sees it...
Tue, Dec 6

Depoliticise Creationism!
All the political arguments about Intelligent Design, and about how much teachers are paid and what their hours should be -- on all these issues Tibor Machan makes short and perfect sense...
Tue, Dec 6

Having a whack
A textbook anti-Rand smear job has appeared at 'New West' that's worth a read just for the many sober responses. Here's a sample...
Tue, Dec 6

Unions v children
Kindergarten teacher strikes in NZ raise again the question of what teacher unions actually bring to the table...
Mon, Dec 5

Game Theory - "it's a bust"
Martin Kihn, the author of House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time, has been investigating Game Theory, and guess what...
Sun, Dec 4

Tracking down the nutbars
Do yourself a favour and discover David Horowitz's current project: to help you 'track down all the Ward Churchills on campus' and all the networks of all the US nutbar activists that are fit to print. Horowitz, described as “the left’s most brilliant and articulate nemesis...
Sat, Dec 3

Murder by state okay?
[Cartoon by Nick Kim, courtesy of 'The Free Radical.'] The execution yesterday of twenty-five year-old Australian drug smuggler Van Nguyen by the Singaporean state has re-opened the debate on capital punishment...
Sat, Dec 3

Free Radical #69. " Best yet."

I've been devouring my new copy of the 'Free Radical' since it arrived in my letterbox, and I have just two words to describe it. Wow. Twice...
Sat, Dec 3

SOLO Passion!'
Lindsay Perigo has a new project -- well, you might say a re-existing project. SOLOHQ has morphed into SOLO Passion...
Fri, Dec 2

A fairy tale of a leaky house or two
NZ HERALD: A multimillion-dollar claim against the former Building Industry Authority (BIA) over an Auckland apartment complex with leaky building syndrome [picture right] has been struck out by the Court of Appeal...
Fri, Dec 2

Architect v Bureaucrats
A Seattle architect recounts his battles with his local bureaucrats when trying to deposit permit applications...
Fri, Dec 2

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San Marcos Water Gardens - Frank Lloyd Wright

The San Marcos Water Gardens resort project that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Chandler, Arizona, in 1929.


A delightfully playful geometric arrangement sees jewel-like, canvas-roofed private cabins inhabiting an oasis full of sparkling water, beds of flowers, and abundant gardens.


Sadly, the global financial catastrophe of 1929 meant the resort was never built, but the lessons learnt in this and other desert projects inspired Wright with lessons for his own desert house, Taliesin West.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lennon

Twenty-five years since John Lennon was shot by a dropkick oxygen thief, and I can still remember where I was when I heard the news: sitting in wet togs in the back of the family car.

'White Album' Lennon was my own favourite; his first solo album my second favourite; 'Cold Turkey' and the single 'Revolution' my favourite song, (Worst two: 'Imagine,' and 'Number 9.') Despite his musical talents however, Samizdata has it spot on regarding his analytical skills -- remember the Maharishi and the primal scream therapy and the bloody 'bed-ins' with bloody Yoko:
"All we are saying is give peace a chance." And it was true, that really is all he was saying. Lennon said it over and over again. Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace... and presumably felt that just repeating the word over and over again was a better way to convince people that is was a mistake to oppose the communist take-over of South Vietnam... rather than, say, a geo-political critique of US involvement or, say, arguing that preventing communist domination of South Vietnam was not worth American lives or in fact articulating any sort of coherent argument at all. I too would like to imagine a world without war, but I would like to imagine it without tyranny first.

The guy was a buffoon. A talented, gifted, artistic, charismatic buffoon. Just stick to celebrating his art.

Right on, man. Bloody hippy. Good ear for a tune, but.

Linked 'Tribute': Imagine a world without 'Imagine'
Music Heroes Obituary

Freezing their globes off in Montreal - when warming meets cooling

If you've been wondering why the UN's Montreal mega-conference on Global Warming has received little coverage -- "what f'ing conference?" I hear you cry -- Rex Murphy has the answer. "Probably because of the cold weather," he says half seriously. (Picture right of the ususal eco-rabble making trouble)
As conferences go, this one is a real Leviathan. Just think of the Montreal summit's ecological footprint. Is there really a need to fly ten thousand people from 189 countries to a cold city to exchange ideas? Is there no e-mail? Are the phone lines down? Does no one own a Blackberry?

Well, I suppose in this matter, ecology is not really different from politics. High on sermons, low on example. Maybe it's low-key because the celebrity attendance is sparse. There are not many rock stars there. What's an environmental summit without rock stars? Are they all worn out after making poverty history? That was their summer project, remember.

So now here we are in the Northern hemisphere winter. On "brutally cold day" in Montreal,
one of the Greenpeace high priests offered a brilliant synopsis of how comprehensively the concept of global warming applies. He said, and I quote, "Global warming can mean colder; it can mean dryer; it can mean wetter." Well, if warm can mean cold, if warm can mean wet, and if warm can mean dry, is it fair to ask if warm still means warm? This is the beauty of global warming. It's a theory that covers every possibility.

"More of a tent than a thesis," suggests Murphy helpfully. "And if it's just kind of average - say, 48F and partially cloudy, as it will be in Llandudno today," notes the sagacious Mark Steyn, "that's a sign that global warming is accelerating out of control and you need to flee immediately because time is running out !"

Odd how long it takes for the sands of time to run before disaster strikes - the recycled 'Ice Age scare' of last week was being used to frighten us in the late seventies. Time was running out then too, apparently. Steyn notes that and concludes:

...in their efforts to flog some life back into the dead Kyoto horse, the eco-cultists have to come up with ever scarier horrors, such as that "New Ice Age". Meanwhile, the Bush Administration's Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate brings together the key economic colossi of this new century - America, China and India - plus Australia, Japan and South Korea, in a relationship that acknowledges, unlike Kyoto, the speed of Chinese and Indian economic growth, provides for the sharing of cleaner energy technology and recognises that the best friend of the planet's natural resources is the natural resourcefulness of a dynamic economy.

It's a practical and results-oriented approach, which is why the eco-cultists will never be marching through globally warmed, snow-choked streets on its behalf. It lacks the requisite component of civilisational self-loathing.

Wake up and smell the CO2, guys. Sayonara, Kyoto. Hello, coalition of the emitting.

Linked Article: Perhaps Kyoto is Japanese for hypocrisy
Related Articles: "Kyoto Dispatches" - "Notes from the UN Climate Summit in Montreal."
"Home of Le Whopper"
Jargon obscures Montreal message
On climate change, a change of thinking
What planet are the eco-cultists on? - Mark Steyn
"An Unethical Environment?

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More Ellington...

Today's Duke tribute from Chris Sciabarra, the delicate 'Solitude.'

Linked Tribute: Song of the Day #479, Solitude

(Ellington, pictured right, in the sessions for his magnificent 'Far East Suite.')

A public health guide for blokes:

Christmas parties, Christmas gifts, Christmas holidays -- all have their attendant dangers for the average bloke.

For instance, you can lose a girl's interest in just ten seconds at that Christmas party if you say the wrong thing. Fortunately, Lauren Weiss tells you what not to say. If you're successful at this hurdle and you're still seeing her over Christmas, then you're obliged to stump up with a gift. Whatever you do, DON'T GET THE WRONG ONE!
And all that time together over the holidays -- you just know you're going to say the wrong thing, right? To help you at least understand what's going on and to avoid all that picture-without-sound treatment, here's a guide to what she really means when she asks "Does my bum look big in this?"

Linked Advice: How to lose a girl in ten seconds.
What she really doesn't want for Christmas.
What she really means.

Questions, rhetorical & otherwise, about Reserve Bank meddling

In just under an hour, Alan Bollard will announce the Reserve Bank's new Official Cash Rate.
  • Am I the only one who wonders why the announcement of a bureaucrat should be listened to with so much interest? Why should he have so much power? And why is his 'basket' of goods and services by which he measures inflation necessarily an accurate reflection of things as they are?
  • Has anyone met the "average consumer" who regularly purchases this basket?
  • Surely Bollard realises that a rise in interest rates will encourage even more foreign investment in New Zealand, and so give heightened support to a dollar already at record highs? How important is 'price stability' when its pursuit threatens the existence of New Zealander's exporters by pricing them off the world's stage, and New Zealand's producers by raising the price of their borrowing?
  • Does anyone else wonder at the sanity of strangling the backbone of our economy -- producers and exporters -- in order to deal to "the profligate household sector"? Is that sane? And, given that many household borrowers are fairly well insulated from Reserve Bank interest rate hikes, will another Reserve Bank interest rate hike deal to them anyway?
  • And why should they be 'dealt to' anyway? Why is the 'price stability' of Bollard's 'basket of goods' such an important thing, and should New Zealand producers and exporters be sacrificed on the 'cross of stability'? Don't prices in a free market rise and fall naturally as a way of clearing markets? Is that such a bad thing? Don't free markets, when they're left free, exhibit over time a gentle 'deflation'? Why is that a problem?
  • How "profligate" is the household sector? Why is it "profligate" to pay what you can afford? And just whose money is it anyway?
Here's some sense on the upcoming announcement from Westpac:
Westpac says it expects this week's hike to be the last of the cycle, although, it says, the Bank is not likely to relax for months.

"The RBNZ's campaign to give housing a king hit will continue with a further hike on December 8.

"But the stakes are getting higher: the RBNZ risks getting an unwitting grand slam over all aspects of the economy as it targets the last pocket of resistance with the tenacity of a pit bull.

"The economy is slowing, and has been since 2004. Consumer spending growth is slowing, residential construction has contracted in 3 of the 4 last reported quarter, investment in other fixed capital is losing pace and increasingly being dominated by the public sector.

"Net exports are mired in red ink. Business and consumer sentiment are very weak. Horticulture, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, and tourism are already in technical recession.

"Only the government is set to remain a strong growth industry in 2006," Westpac said...
Linked Articles: RBNZ could deliver 'grand slam' to the economy - Westpac
Cue Card Libertarianism - Banking

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"Don’t believe half of what you see...

...and none of what you hear." So says Lou Reed in 'The Last Great American Whale.' He might have been talking about the internet, really -- but most internet users already know that, don't they. The constant use of Snopes.com suggests so, doesn't it?

The 'New York Times' however has just noticed that not everything on the 'net is reliable, and they're worried about it in the way that only the 'NY Times' could worry about something. "FALSE WITNESS: How true are 'facts' online?" screams their worried strapline. Oooh.

What started their worrying was a chap in Tennessee whose Wikipedia biography was incorrect. Fancy. The chap could have simply changed it once he'd found the error using Wikipedia's handy 'edit' button -- which is three-thousand percent easier than changing the lies you find in your newspaper or on television every day -- but instead of that he contacted the 'newspaper of record' who talked his story into a new scare: "Snared in the web of a Wikipedia Liar."

"...the question of Wikipedia, as of so much of what you find online, is: 'Can you trust it?'" asked the producer of 'all the news that's fit to print.' Just imagine.

Well, I suspect that most people aside from conspiracy theorists and New York Time journalists have a healthy mistrust for what they read on the 'net. (ConsumerReports.Org agrees - if you can believe their survey!) Certainly, after the Jayson Blair fiasco most people will have a healthy mistrust for what appears in the 'New York Times.'

The truth is that whether you get your news and information online or off, independent confirmation, checking for sense and contradiction, and the effect of reputation have much to recommend themselves -- just as they do when you read heavier tomes. As Ayn Rand said in her essay 'Philosophical Detection,' "What objectivity ... requires is not an 'open mind,' but an active mind - a mind able and eagerly willing to examine ideas, but to examine them critically." That applies to fact-checking just as much as it does the checking of ideas.

But all that said, I am becoming increasingly impressed with the 'spontaneous order' of Wikipedia. Such a shame that no one's written me up yet. :-)

Linked Scare Story: Snared in the web of a Wikipedia Liar [Hat tip Oh Crikey]

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The Minoan palace of Knossos


At least four-thousand five-hundred years ago, men and women were first beginning to think about the good life. An architectural example of this is the 'Minoan' Palace at Knossos, Crete -- the 'labyrinth' of myth. Not built as a fortification from which deence was to be had -- as so many earlier or contemporary buildings had been and were to be for centuries -- Minos' palace was built arguably as a 'palace of pleasure' with decorations to match, with great courts open to light and air, and with other shaded 'lustral courts' featuring basins full of sparkling waters and sanitary plumbing, and all spilling out to great public areas and to vast and fragrant gardens.

If archaeologist Arthur Evans theories and reconstruction (shown here) was correct, the palace at Knossos was the world's first building giving itself over to absolute pleasure -- and first built and populated over four-and-a-half thousand years ago.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

And more Ellington

Third in Chris Sciabarra's week long Ellington-fest: I Got it Bad (And That Ain't Good).

Linked Tribute: Song of the Day #478, I Got it Bad (And That Ain't Good)

Wananga, waste, and voucher failure

The report on Rongo Wetere's Te Wananga o Aotearoa is rife with stories of profligacy and nepotism, of first class air travel, million dollar contracts to family members, and tales of money wasted on failed IT projects. 'Shocking,' declare all the usual suspects. 'Outrageous.'
ACT leader Rodney Hide told NZPA that Mr Shirley had been vindicated. 'The wananga was out of control and so was the spending. If it hadn't been for ACT's Ken Shirley they would still be running amuck now.'
Thank God for ACT's Ken Shirley, eh?

But hang on a second. Don't mainstream businesses indulge like this all the time? Don't politicians fly first class? Don't all businesses have a few failed projects every now and then? And what's wrong with a good old family business that's making money hand over fist? Why complain about Wetere & Sons & Daughters then? The complaint is that it's taxpayers' money that's being wasted, of course. My money and yours:
"It's just a shame that so much taxpayer money was so poorly accounted for and that it required a huge public exposure to get the Government to respond," Mr Hide said.
So why exactly was so much taxpayer money so poorly accounted for? I'm glad you asked. It was wasted because Wetere & Sons & Daughters were just cashing in on the latest 'free-market' fad: educational vouchers -- a fad in which state control over independent schools is relinquished, and in which funding -- ie., taxpayer money -- 'follows the student.' Milton Friedman is the scheme's godfather, and he supports it as a shortcut to the separation of school and state. National offered a voucher scheme at the last election as a system to encourage reading -- in fact, it was they who set up the system at tertiary level (and called it EFTS).

ACT, explained Deborah Coddington in her valedictory speech, "campaigned hard on the merits of a voucher system, which allows all parents – not just the affluent – to take children to the school they choose, ACT’s policy since 1996." And so it still is. Introduce vouchers, let funding follow the child, and all will be well in New Zealand's schools: universal choice, freedom from central control, and freedom to experiment. So why for goodness sake are they and others complaining when the voucher system is implemented?

Describing the vouchers system, Deborah Coddington eulogised, "If I were a teacher I’d be terribly excited about this scheme. Imagine getting together with a group of likeminded teachers and planning an independent school where you could make classes as big or small as you liked? Where you could diversify, be creative, take young people and let them soar?"

Rongo and family were terribly excited, just as Deborah hoped they would be. They made their plans for an independent school, the 'funding followed the student,' and hey presto the whole family soared! It turns out, doesn't it, that all is not well with the system. Not well at all -- unless you're Rongo Wetere's banker, or some part of the Wetere whanau.

It turns out that when government money just follows the student that many students just like the bells and whistles and the free laptops, and they don't really give a rat's arse for the quality of their course -- and most of these 'playway course' aren't a million miles from what they've had at primary and secondary schools anyway. And their parents -- what about them? Most of their parents are so happy that their kids are studying and someone else is paying that they don't bother to read the fine print. It's not their money being poured down a drain, is it, and after all the youngster is so happy with his new laptop...

It turns out that there are no short cuts to freeing schools from the state. All the latest clamouring for government control shows that as long as government money is involved, goverments will want to take control over how it is spent. And as long as government money is being spent, Friedman's own law of spending has to be invoked, as it was last time I wrote on this issue:
Let me remind readers of the four basic ways of spending money, with some examples to show what I mean (hat-tip here to Milton Friedman and PJ O'Rourke). See if you can work out which situation describes how Rongo Wetere's chequebook was funded:

1/. You spend your own money on yourself -
e.g, you buy your own toys, and you've probably saved for them. You look after them.

2/. You spend someone else's money on yourself -
e.g., a kid gets hold of Dad's wallet in the toy store. Lots of toys, most quickly broken or ignored.

3/. You spend your own money on someone else -
e.g., you buy a toy for a friend. It's cheap.

4/. You spend someone else's money on someone else. Neither price nor quality are important -
e.g., your parents buy a toy for your friend. Its cheap. He doesn't want it.

Until 1984, most government spending in New Zealand fell into Friedman's Category Four -- somebody spending somebody else's money on someone they didn't care about. After 1984 and the transformations wrought by Prebble, Douglas and Richardson, most government spending was still Category Four, except for the way inter-departmental spending was done. All that spending was and still is Category Two: spending someone else's money on yourself. That type of spending is like a young kid in a toy store who's got his hands on his nanny's purse, which pretty much describes Christine Rankin's former Welfare empire, John Tamihere's Waipareira Trust and Donna Awatere's Pipi Foundation.

The whole 'input-output, 'purchasing of outcomes' waffle that Douglas, Prebble and Richardson applied to government spending can all be basically characterised as Category Two spending, and it's what describes Rongo's spend-up at the Wananga.

It describes the voucher system too. Like I said, in the battle to separate school and state, there are no shortcuts. Vouchers are just another shortcut to freedom that hasn't worked, and like all such failures the reaction against it sees the government taking back more control: "The days of tertiary institutions being funded using a "bums-on-seats" formula are numbered," announced new Tertiary Education Minister Michael Cullen recently.

When will the advocates for less government learn that shortcuts to freedom just don't work?

Linked Articles: Wananga CEO says no fraud, nepotism or corruption found
Milton Friedman: Public Schools: Make Them Private
'Not PC' (May 9, 2005): Wananga's failure shows voucher failure

Probe lands on Titan

News just in of the information gathered from the Cassini/Huygens probe's landing on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

The Cassini/Huygens mission is a magnificent achievement with potentially huge scientific spin-offs -- ballistically it would be like trying to land a model plane on top of a small insect that is presently sitting on the other side of the world, and then sending back data and photos of the experience. (That's one photo, right, of Saturn and two -- yes, two -- of her moons, taken from the Cassini space-craft.) And now the information is being processed...

Read here about the description and achievements of the project I attended earlier this year given by Bob Mitchell, head of the Cassini/Huygen mission, which also contains a libertarian meditation on space exploration.

[UPDATE: Post amended to fix my mistaken reporting. I should have just quoted Stephen Hicks: "The Huygens probe has landed on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and here are the latest reports."]

Linked Article: New View of Titan: Strong Winds, Soft Ground and Lightning
Linked Post:
Space: still the final frontier

Showing what God made

Some attractive young German church-goers have put together a calendar showing rather more of God's creation than young church-goers are normally known to show. Excellent.
A German Protestant youth group has put together a 2006 calendar with 12 staged photos depicting erotic scenes from the Bible, including a bare-breasted Delilah cutting Samson’s hair and a nude Eve offering an apple. "There’s a whole range of biblical scriptures simply bursting with eroticism," said Stefan Wiest, the 32-year-old photographer who took the titillating pictures. Anne Rohmer, 21, poses on a doorstep in garters and stockings as the prostitute Rahab, who is mentioned in both New and Old Testaments. "We wanted to represent the Bible in a different way and to interest young people," she told Reuters. "Anyway, it doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that you are forbidden to show yourself nude."
Sounds tempting, doesn't it. Now I know what Van Morrison was singing about: 'Oooh ooh oooh, She gives me religion!'

Linked Article: Youths reveal racy Bible calendar

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Thoughts on anonymous comments:

[Hat tip RoR]

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Rzzzzzzz!

A special message for those who have a problems with 'Rzzzzz!'

Talk to Frank about it.


:-)

More Ellington

Second in Chris Sciabarra's 'Not a Blog' Ellington-fest: 'Sophisticated Lady.'

Linked Tribute: Song of the Day: Sophisticated Lady

Scalping U2

NEWSTALK ZB: The promoter for the sold-out U2 concert next March is angry about the speed with which some people sold on their tickets. Some tickets for the first gig were being offered on internet auction sites within minutes of being issued. They have since sold for as much as $2000. Promoter Michael Coppel says it is fair enough for people who change their minds or find they cannot go to look for a buyer. However, in this case, he says there is obviously some deliberate scalping.

Leaving aside that, in my view, people who like U2 deserve to be taken for a financial ride just as far as their musical taste has been, we have here a promoter - who you would think would have at least a modicum of financial sense - bleating about people re-selling their tickets, poor lamb, and whinging that the asking price for some is 'beyond their fair value.' The poor lamb is economically illiterate, and he doesn't understand a good thing when he sees it...

First of all, 'fair market value' for a U2 ticket is not what the promoter thinks it is, or what I think it is (personally, I'd pay to stay away if I had to): The 'fair market value' for a ticket is an agreement between the seller of that ticket, and the buyer of that ticket, if one can be found. Fair market price in essence is whatever a punter is willing to pay.

If some punters want to pay what you or I think is silly money, then that's nobody's business but the buyer's and the seller's. People pay good money for lots of things that you and I don't like; the market value for them is set by those who do like them.

'The market' is not some disembodied tablets in stone, upon which, for example "the market value of U2 concert tickets" is written: the ticket for a U2 show has no 'intrinsic value' whatsoever, they're just bits of paper making a promise -- their 'value' is what the buyer decides they're worth (if a buyer can be found).

If someone is idiotic enough to pay big money so they can stand in a tent in Auckland and hear Bono bellow over the top of some guitar effects and recycled melodies, then that's the lookout of the idiot. As long as he or she has money to spend on an evening with an superannuated Celtic blowhard, and that's the way they want to spend it, then the fair market value is whatever that punter is willing to pay. At the time of writing, you can pick up a brick and a used battery with U2 concert info on TradeMe for just a dollar ("a great Xmas present" is the tagline on the brick), or pay one dollar for a genuine ticket (only used once) or you can start the bidding at $140 for two tickets to the Auckland show, or you can watch the boneheads cirling around at prices with lots of zeroes (amazing how many 'new' TradeMe bidders are offering silly money trying to 'spike' the auctions).

But our promoter makes another mistake in his complaint about scalpers. An official ticket seller is just the chap who gets them first -- the market gives him no more special status than if he'd dropped down from heaven to announce the first trump.

In fact, the scalper offers a valuable service both to consumer and to promoter. To the consumer, the scalper offers the service of offering tickets that might not othewise be available, and on occasions at a price less than face value (as these tickets soon might be now that a second U2 concert has been announced).

Personally, I've been very happy over the years to take advantage of a scalper's offer of tickets to shows and sports events that otherwise would be unavailable. Wimbledon, the Proms and London's second Velvet Underground show might all have been off-limits to me if not for a friendly scalper -- boy, was I happy to find them.

To the promoter, the scalper offers the service of security, and financial stability. The promoter calculates what he needs to cover his money and to make his profit: the scalper takes the risk upon his shoulders of this figure meeting the market value. It's a form of basic arbitrage.

With the U2 concert, the scalpers win (but see the caveat above with the second concert now being announced). But there's many a concert and a sporting event which hasn't proved so popular with the punters, and where scalpers themselves have been scalped -- in that case they're giving financial support to the promoter that might just be a lifeline. I'm sure Daniel Keighley, for example, would have been very happy to have had his Sweetwaters tickets scalped before the show; at least that means some people might have paid to get in, and Keighley might have made his money back instead of losing it. Financial security is something he might be willing to pay for now.

Anyway, as David Slack says, there is some good news for people who haven't managed to snap up U2 tickets to either concert. "The wonderful news is that in fact that U2 is not the only band in the world. And as if that revelation isn't exciting enough, some of them will be coming to New Zealand! This summer! Exciting details here, here, here and here."

And if you can't find a scalper around for those, there's always Parsifal in March. :-)

Linked stupidity: Anger over U2 ticket sales

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Depoliticise Creationism!

All the political arguments about Intelligent Design, and about how much teachers are paid and what their hours should be -- on all these issues Tibor Machan makes short and perfect sense: all of these arguments can be instantly de-politicised by the separation of school and state. As he says,
Whenever a controversy arises in government funded and administered educational(?) institutions, no one in the mainstream media mentions the real source of the problem. Whether it is making the study of sex, environment, or, currently, intelligent design mandatory, the real issue is systematically avoided. This is whether there ought to be government education in a free society at all...

It is because governments run schools that these matters become so politicized and dealt with by legislatures and courts."
It's no wonder the two biggest complaints every election year are about health and education: it's no coincidence both are run by government. If government ran the only legal shoe factories then we'd all be complaining about the shoes -- if we could get hold of any.

Commenting on Tibor's piece, Robert Winefield correctly observes the nub of the issue: "Both sides of [the Intelligent Design] argument believe it is moral to pay for their educational vision with taxes partly taken from their opponents. All that has happened in the intervening years between the Scopes Monkey trial and the upcoming trial in Kansas is that the shoe has been moved to the other foot." True enough.

Linked Article: Why Teaching Intelligent Design is Such a Problem

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Christmas daydreams

It's about that time of year when daydreams turn to what might appear under your Christmas tree with your name on. Anyway, that's where many of my more polite daydreams have been heading, which is odd really since the one thing missing in our lounge is a Chrismas tree.

Anyway, if any of you nice people reading this really, really did wish to club together to make my year (that would be lovely, wouldn't it?), I really wouldn't complain if one of these gems was to appear under my Christmas tree:
  1. Ken Burns's 'American Lives' DVD mega-set -- eight biographies of American originals, including Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson and Frank Lloyd Wright (the last of which I reviewed some years ago when it came to Auckland).
  2. A USB beer cooler (pictured above). Every home and every office desk should have one. [Hat tip Real Beer]
  3. Front row seats for Parsifal in Wellington in March. (In fairness, lesser seats would also be gratefully received.)
  4. A boxed set of all Beethoven's Nine Symphonies, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, or the enture Solti Wagner Opera Collection, or the Complete 19966 Emma Peel Avengers Megaset! Rzzzzzzz!
  5. Anything -- anything at all! -- from my Amazon Wish List. Or even a book voucher from Time Out bookstore with as many zeroes as you can manage. Look, I'm really not at all fussy, honest...really...hey, where are you going...?. :-)

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Having a whack

A textbook anti-Rand smear job has appeared at 'New West' that's worth a read just for the many sober responses. Here's a sample:
Why this second-rate novelist and third-rate thinker became such a paragon to the Me-First, America-Second crowd is a mystery with a simple fact at its core: Rand, with her mindless anti-Communism (anti-communalism of any sort, really) and her triumph-of-the-will fantasies, gives every soulless shark in a suit the intellectual trappings to disguise the naked materialism and deep amorality of their world-view. If any political philosophy has been as thoroughly discredited in the last 20 years as Marxism, it’s "objectivism": the huge budget deficits, triumphalist foreign policy and disgraceful health-care system that characterize 21st-century America can all be traced straight back to Ms. Rand’s tiresome grandiloquizing.

I understand – every movement, particularly one as intellectually poverty stricken as neoconserva
tism, needs its godmother. I just wish they’d come up with something more original.
Yeah, me too -- and that's just my objections to the smear; whatever happened to sharp, witty, intelligent smearing? One commenter suggested the article could be used for a fun drinking game: "Every time you spot a logical fallacy, factual mistatement, disregard or insensibility to context, or simple misunderstanding by the author of the arguments he is dismissing out of hand, take a drink. Have the medics on hand."

Linked Smear: The philosophy that ate Baghdad

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There's a first and last time for everything...

Another ego trip that everyone's doing, and as I'm just a mindless follower:

TEN FIRSTS
First Best Friend: Mostyn Brown (neighbour). Lost contact when my family moved when I was six. He had a great cowboy outfit. :-)
First Screen Name: Organon.
First Pet: Tinky. Family cat.
First Piercing: Nope. Too fashionable.
First Crush: Um, when I was five, a girl called Lynette Crookes.
First CD Bought: First CD was Television's 'Marquee Moon.' But I was alive when records were the thing: first record was Hello Sailor's 'Gutter Black.'
First Car: MG Midget with a Ford 1600cc engine. (Okay, okay.)
First True Love: DJ
First Stuffed Animal: A stuffed elephant, I think.
First Words: Apparently it was 'bus.'
First Game System: Never had one.

NINE LASTS
Last Alcoholic: A Stella, last night
Last Movie Seen: 'Meistersingers of Nuremburg,' with Donald McIntyre. (Well, it is a film, right?)
Last CD Played: Charlie Christian, 'Good Enough to Keep.'
Last Bubble Bath: ???
Last Time You Cried: 24 August, 2005. Funeral.
Last Time You Laughed: Over beers last night
Last Time You Fell: When hit by a flying trolley in Raglan. Ouch. -/

EIGHT HAVE YOU EVERS
Have You Ever Dated One Of Your Best Friends: Nope. Too much like incest.
Have You Ever Been Arrested: Nope. Harrassed a few times, but never arrested. Rule #1: the policeman is always right.
Have You Ever Been Skinny Dipping: Yup.
Have You Ever Been On TV: Yup.
Have You Ever Regretted A Kiss: Imagine regretting a kiss!
Have You Ever Been Drunk: D'you mean today?.
Have You Ever Slept For 24 Hours Straight: Sure have, after a few all-nighters meeting project deadlines.
Have You Ever Worn the Same Pants for 3 Weeks Straight: Nope; two weeks maybe... ;^)

SEVEN THINGS YOU'RE WEARING
1. Organon Polo Shirt
2. Jean Shorts
3. Underpants
4. Jandals
5. A smile
6. There is no six...
7. ...or any seven

SIX THINGS YOU DID YESTERDAY
1. Watched Roskill Saints win the Auckland Australian Football Grand Final.
2. Drank several beers.
3. Drank a martini on the beach while watching the sun go down.
4. Talked nonsense.
5. Heard about a friend's musical debut at the Kings Arms.
6. Listened to Benny Goodman.

FIVE HEROES
1. Frank Lloyd Wright
2. Duke Ellington
3. Ayn Rand
4. Robert Heinlein
5. Thomas Jefferson

FIVE FAVOURITE THINGS
1. Falafels
2. Google Earth
3. Tofu
4. The Rodin Museum
5. ArchiCAD

THREE CHOICES
1. Radio or CD? CD. Radio is chewing gum for the ears.
2. German chocolate cheese cake or vanilla bean cheese cake? Vanilla bean. Subtle cheesecakes are best.
3. Black or white? Black is the new black.

THREE THINGS YOU WANT TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE
1. Design at least one-hundred homes from which the owners don't want to leave.
2. Visit every Frank Lloyd Wright building still standing.
3. Attend several performances of the Ring Cycle at Bayreuth.

ONE THING YOU REGRET
1. Wasting seed capital and a year of my life on business partners who don't keep promises.

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'To Dream,' by David Knowles

'To Dream,' by David Knowles, a companion piece to 'To Fly' posted here previously, and still available for purchase by following the link.

Linked Art: 'To Dream'

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Ellington tribute at 'Not a Blog'

Seven days of Duke Ellington tributes are just starting at Chris Sciabarra's Not a Blog,' to celebrate the date in 1927 that the Duke opened at the Cotton Club, "one of the most celebrated premieres in American music" history. For once, Chris shows excellent taste in his 'tiddlywink music.' ;^)

Linked Post: Song of the Day #476

Unions v children

Kindergarten teacher strikes in NZ raise again the question of what teacher unions actually bring to the table. Reason magazine has a short summary of how Californian teacher unions act against the interests of children. Who would have thunk it: Teacher unions resisting giving principals the ability to sack teachers that can't teach! Making it obvious once again that the interests of teacher unions are not cognisant with the interests of students.

Two law changes however, Propositions 74 (on teacher tenure) & 75 (paycheck protection) seek to makes some changes, in California at least. Two chances of that happening here... [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Meanwhile, as New Zealand kindergarten teachers strike for more pay we hear the usual blandishments about what they're paid, and how they're worth this, or how they're worth that. But of course without a real market in eduation it will never be possible to establish what teachers are actually worth -- without a market there's just no way to establish what anything is worth. As Ludwig von Mises explained years ago, "central planning by the government destroys the essential tool — competitively formed market prices — by which people in a society make rational economic decisions." If kindergarten teachers truly want to find out what they're
worth, the best thing they could do is to argue for an end to the central planning of education.

The teachers union, NZEI, are also complaining that a demand to increase contact time from 25 hours to 30 or 35 hours is " unworkable as it would not allow enough time for teachers to do essential non-contact work." Perhaps they could reflect that if much of the Ministry-mandated paperwork requirements were removed, then spending so much non-contact time on nonsense would be unnnecessary, and spending more time in the classroom with children would be possible.

Linked article: Hey, teacher unions! Leave those kids alone!
The impossibility of socialism

This is true

EpistemeLinks is a valuable philosophy reference site with some new features, and a store selling philosophy related toys, T-Shirts and stuff.

Check it out. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Links:
EpistemeLinks
EpistemLinks Online Store

What Type of Social Entity are You?

These quizzes become more absurd the more I discover (nice graphic, but)...The Strange Attractor
Category VI - The Strange
Attractor

Though you're not quite sure why, people are drawn
to you like moths to a flame. You really
are too cool for words.
Brought to you by Quizilla

To which I can only reply, 'Yeah right.'

Linked Quiz: What Type of Social Entity are You?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Game Theory - "it's a bust"

Martin Kihn, the author of House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time, has been investigating Game Theory, and guess what: It's a bust!

A generation of MBA students have been taught Game Theory, which on its own should be enough to discredit it, but unfortunately for its enthusiasts nobody in business uses game theory. Kihn and his 'Fast Company crew' checked it out:

Adopting our usual rigorous methodology, we set the following parameters. To count, an example must:

  1. be an actual business situation where somebody used the insights of game theory;
  2. have occurred within the past five years; and
  3. involve real, live, actual companies -- not governments, nonprofit organizations, or Russell Crowe.
The result: a lot of head scratching from the 'experts,' and a big zero in the box showing the number of times Game Theory has been used by businesses. [Hat tip Mises Blog]

Linked post: You Got Game Theory!