Saturday, February 18, 2006

Hello Sailor's summer gig

Here's where I'll be later this avo: At Hello Sailor's Summer Concert in the Park at Mt Eden's Tahaki Reserve (cnr Clive, Normanby and Mt Eden Roads, just North of theMountain itself). These guys are world class, and this regular summer gig is a perfect (free) Auckland evening out. Join me. :-)

Gig starts at 6pm, Sailor on at 7:50pm. Bring picnic stuff, BBQ gear (if you're early) beer and wine, and enjoy a great summer afternoon and evening lying in the park. (It pays to get there early and spread your blanket in a good spot.)


And in other Sailor news... Ben King (Goldenhorse) and Alan Janssen (OMC) are mixing Hello Sailor's new album ready for release in a few months. Great news. Perhaps for the first time we might have an album that sounds like Sailor live?

UPDATE: A great evening, except for three things. 1) Graham was more than usually drunk. I don't think his harmonica had been stolen so much as it had, ah, misplaced itself. 2) It's high time to get rid of substitute bass player Paul Woolwright in place of one who understands how good bass playing should propel the music foward, not weigh it down. He made the bouncy GMT sound as if all the clocks had stopped. 3) And whoever was on the mixing desk should be shot -- he seemed to take Spinal Tap seriously and had everything turned up to eleven. Even the bloody piano was distorted. Sheesh!

Labour propaganda that never was

Gen XY has a list of the Top Ten Taxpayer-Funded Labour Propaganda That Never Was. My favourites:
10.Pledge cards with discount coupons redeemable at The Mad Butcher, The Warehouse, KFC and Hubbard’s cereals.
8.Fridge magnets from George Hawkins informing victims of crime to scream in order to get a quick Police response.
Personally, I thought the idea of Labour MPs "fanning out across the country ... in a 'charm offensive'" was pretty offensive. I guess we did pay all their travel expenses, right? And weren't Judith et al simply charming?

LINKS: Top Ten Taxpayer-Funded Labout Propaganda That Never Was - Generation XY
Labour's harm offensive -
Not PC

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A Valentine's Week Special: The chemistry of love

"Love and obsessive-compulsive disorder could have a similar chemical profile," says professor of psychiaty Donatella Marazitti, who studies "the biochemistry of lovesickness." Now there's a topic to ignite the passions, one explored in this month's National Geographic magazine.

The key apparently is two chemicals:serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin -- "perhaps our star neuro-transmitter" -- the one that is altered by drugs like Prozac -- is what quite literally gives our passions real feeling. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder apparently have an imbalance of serotonin; so too do people in the grip of love.
Translation: love and obsessive-compulsive disorder could have a similar chemical profile. Translation: love and mental illness may be difficult to tell apart. Translation [says the National Geographic]: Don't be a fool. Stay away.
If you take advice like that last you're probably dead already. And if you take the science of the idea, you can see that our emotions are very real things. "Sex is emotion in motion," declared Mae West -- those emotions really do have us in thrall. We're wired for love and the obsession that goes with it. Don't deny it, celebrate it. When anthropologist Helen Fisher used an MRI machine to investigate those who do celebrate it , "what Fisher saw fascinated her":
When each subject looked at his or her loved one, the parts of the brain linked to reward and pleasure -- the ventral tegmental area and the caudate nucleus -- lit up... Love lights up the caudate nucleus because it is home to a dense spread of receptors for a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which Fisher came to think of as part of our own endogenous love potion.

In the right proportions, dopamine creates intense energy, exhilaration, focused attention, and motivation to win rewards. It is why, when you are newly in love, you can stay up all night, watch the sun rise, run a race, ski fast down a slope ordinarily too steep for your skill. Love makes you bold, makes you bright, makes you run real risks, which you sometimes survive, and sometimes you don't...
Dopamine, says British psychologist Dr John Marsden "has similar effects on the body and mind as cocaine or speed. 'Attraction and lust really is like a drug. It leaves you wanting more'." Sounding familiar, anyone? "My love is chemical." "Love is the drug." "Love Sick." Turns out the songwriters were right all along. "What's your drug of choice then?" Love. Romantic Love.

It's our nature to fall in love, to be obsessed with love, to lose ourselves in love. "To fly in love on many splendoured wing/ Towards what hot sun may/ Roast my own illusions/ And melt my very soul." So said the poet, Amen.

Now, as I suggested last when giving my $2 on the nature-nurture debate, we're not entirely slaves to our nature, even on the subject of love. "If that was all we had -- if nature and nurture were the whole of the debate -- then that would be it, and we would be ruled only by our animal functions." There is still the large matter of our free will, of choice, which involves in part who we fall in love with, and what we allow ourselves to do about our passions. More on that another day. Until then keep up your obsessions, and enjoy the weekend.

LINKS: So what, really, is this thing called love - National Geographic [introduction only]
Video: That thing called love - National Geographic
Love is the drug, scientists say -- BBC News

Nature v Nurture - character is all - Peter Cresswell

Getting your vag done darling?

Vaginal rejuvenation? It's not for everyone apparently, just for those who want a 40-year-old virgin - or who want to be one.

LINK: You too can be a forty-year-old virgin - CNN's Anderson-Cooper Blog

Bernini: Pluto & Persephone



Bernini: 'Pluto & Persephone,' 1622. (By request)

You don't need to be an art critic to see what's going on here. Bernini's sculpture was raw, powerful, muscular and erotic -- and executed with the hand of a master. Imagine seeing this for the first time without benefit of all the visual ephemera of today's eyes, and yet fully acquainted with the expressive potential of the human form.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Beer O'Clock: Limburg Czechmate PiIsener

On the recommendation of some of you lot and the chaps at RealBeer.Co.NZ, I'm just about to crack one of these. I had my first last night, and it's gorgeous. Not really a beer to drink all night -- and you'd need an uncle who owned a bank to be able to in any case; a small bank to be fair -- but it's just perfect for two or three on a summer's afternoon in the garden. Hoppy, with a full flavour and a very dry, bitter finish. (See, you can tell I've been reading those beer websites.) Definitely worth a try.

For some reason, it's a beer that seems to demand some Morricone on the system.

LINKS: Limburg's next move - RealBeer.Co.NZ
Limburg Czechmate Pilsener - Ratebeer.Com

Sharp

"Ban ads." I t's been a refrain for the last few days in this pathetic authoritarian backwater, hasn't it. "Ban ones about sugar." "Ban them if they're too violent." "Ban them! It's for the chooldren." "Ban them on one channel so we can fall asleep in front of the telly."

Ban, ban, ban. You'd think we'd never seen a good ad in our lives. (Crikey, the worst ad is better than the best episode of Close to Bloody Home ever was. Always was.) Luckily, The Goodness has singled out three examples from the ad world that are not just good, they're so sharp you'll cut yourself. Imagine for example how you might make a poster ad for haemorrhoid cream ... and then go take a look and see how a professional does it. Sharp, very sharp. (Ouch.)

LINK: Nice new ads - The Goodness

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Heard the one about the doctor, the hooker and the libertarian?

Heard the one about the doctor who's opening a brothel 'cos he's sick of the health bureacracy pushing him around?

A certain Dr McGrath spoke up for the doctor a week or so ago, and last night at a packed public meeting in Mangonui Julian Pistorius put in a word or two for the hookers -- or at least the erstwhile Dr Benson's freedom to hire them. (Apparently Sue Bradford, a strong promoter of the Prostitution Reform Act was "very sympathetic," but alas apparently washing her hair last night and unable to attend).

Here's just some of Julian's words:
Dr Benson should enjoy the right to do with his private property what he wants, as long as he does not violate the equal rights of his neighbours...

The issue at stake is a crucial one. It is one of morality as opposed to law. Maxim Institute busybody Scott McMurray] has already admitted that one can't change human nature by force. Assume, however, that you are forced to behave in a certain way by restrictive laws, laws that dictate morality. Firstly, who decides what's moral? The majority? The minority that claims to be most offended? Everybody is offended by certain things they consider immoral.

Secondly, if due to morality laws, you are not free to choose between a moral action and an immoral action, then can you really be moral? Only a free choice, can be a moral choice. Immoral choices have negative consequences, but you can only learn what is moral by looking at other people's examples, and by learning from your own mistakes.

So the only way for you to change society for the better, is not to ban things you don't approve of, but to live morally, set a good example, and to let people be free to make their own mistakes, to learn from the consequences of their own actions.

A free society has to be a tolerant society.
I can't argue with him. You might disagree with what Dr Neil Benson is doing with his business, but the crucial phrase in this sentence is just two words: "His business." Not yours.

And now it's surely time for some gratuitous pictures of prostitutes.

LINKS: Switch to brothel gains GP notoriety -NZ Doctor
Libz Back Benson's Beach Bordello - Dr Richard McGrath
Dr Neil Benson's Brothel - Julian Pistorius

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Which WMD?

Which WMD? Oh, you mean those weapons? The ones talked about by Saddam and his henchmen on these tapes? Watch the ABC TV story here.

LINK: The secret tapes -- inside Saddam's Palace - ABC News [Hat tip Adolf F]
Secret tapes news story (Video link) - ABC News

Don't get hooptedoodle mixed up with your story

Novelist Elmore Leonard gives valuable writing advice. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Top two tips for mine:
  • Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip. You know, the hooptedoodle.
  • If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.
Bad advice for a blogger:
  • Being a good author is a disappearing act.
A good novelist shold be invisible. True. Unless you're Truman Capote. For a columnist or a blogger however, being invisible is career poison -- if indeed there were such a thing as a blogging career path. Be visible. That's my own advice to writers of blogs: Let us hear your voice. And avoid passive verbs like the plague.

LINKS: Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing - The Official Elmore Leonard Website
When Passive Verbs Attack - Peter Cresswell

Helping Chinese censors

Cox and Forkum (cartoon right) have updates on yesterday's Congressional hearing in which Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Cisco Systems explained why they've been helping China to suppress dissent.

Republican Rep. Jim Leach suggested that Google had apparently acted "as a functionary of the Chinese government."

"This is astonishing," Leach said.

Meanwhile, our favourite cartoon site also links to a NY Times story that suggests "perhaps the tide is turning against censorship in China: Beijing Censors Taken to Task in Party Circles ."

LINK: Reined In - Cox and Forkum
Beijing Censors Taken to Task in Party Circles - New York Times
And yesterday at Not PC: Bill Gates is a lot less evil than Google

NASA's Top Ten

Not a piece of art this evening, but a wonderfully inspiring image of the Mars emerging from behind the Moon, one of the People's Choice Top Ten Images from NASA.

This one, Mars Over Moon, came in first. You can download a high-res image at this page. Beautiful, just beautiful. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Chris Cairns retires

You'll notice that I haven't posted a tribute to Chris Cairns.

While we're talking about rehabilitation for prisoners...

Okay, we weren't exactly talking about rehabilitation for prisoners, not here anyway, and not yet -- but the subject always comes up when prisons, punishment and prison overcrowding are discussed, often in this manner: "Aren't prisons cruel." Why yes, they are -- please refer to our IYCDTT, TDCTC* policy. "But aren't they universities of learning for budding criminals?" Well, yes they are -- what do you suggest: solitary confinement? "No! We should rehabilitate prisoners rather than punish them."

I have three responses to that. 1) Good luck. 2) It's the state's job to protect the rest us from genuine criminals, not to give them therapy (although to be fair, afternoons with a psychologist might be considered a sort of punishment). 3) Good luck getting it to work. In evidence, I refer you to Corrections Department CEO Barry Matthews, who admitted this week that "some flagship rehabilitation programmes are not working."

Mr Matthews was responding to claims by New Zealand First MP Ron Mark that figures show inmates who participate in certain rehab programmes are MORE likely to re-offend.

He concedes that is true, and says there is a slight negative variance which indicates cause for concern.

A "slight negative variance" is bureaucrat-speak for 'we sucked a kumara, and I have no idea why.' (No doubt 'more resources' will cure the problem, or at least mollify the Department -- it's always been the traditional government reward for catastrophic failure). Anyway, so much for rehabilitation -- seems the government does just as well with that as it does with everything else. [Hat tip Lindsay Mitchell]

UPDATE: If you want an alternative view, argued enthusiastically, then Fighting Talk's Lyndon Hood is your man. "In fact," says he, "the biggest problem with the intensive, in-prison rehabilitation programmes is that there aren't enough of them... You can't say rehabilitation is a failed experiment if it hasn't been tried."
--------------------------------------------
* If You Can't Do the Time, then Don't Commit the Crime.

LINKS: Prison rehab programmes failing - Newstalk ZB News

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Bill Gates is "a lot less evil than Google"

As Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google and Cisco Systems appear before a Congressional hearing to defend their compliance with Chinese government censorship rules in order to gain a foothold there, John Ray finds that Bill Gates' MSN Search is "a lot less evil than Google." He's found yet more stuff that Google doesn't like, but Bill Gates' search engine does, and "it's not just Chinese material they censor but also stuff appearing on their own Western blogspot blogs."

He has both a theory, and a conclusion. "Isn't competition great? So scrap your Google toolbar and get a MSN toolbar," he says. That might be just a little hasty.

LINK: Google and Yahoo face their Congressional critics - TimesOnLine
Google is really sick -
Dissecting Leftism

Those dirty Americans

YAHOO NEWS: BATTLE CREEK, Michigan, USA - A man who pleaded no contest to a sodomy charge involving a sheep says he should not have to register as a sex offender...
[Hat tip for the news, Paula at Ultrablog]


Hah! Time for some sheep jokes about Americans, the dirty buggers.
  • A Canadian bloke was walking down the street in Michigan when he saw a farmer going hammers and tongs on a sheep. The Canack yelled out, "Hey mate, in Canada we shear our sheep." The Seppo* turned around and said, "Piss off mate, I'm sharing none of this."
  • Q: What do you call safe sex in Michigan?
    A:Marking an 'X' on the sheep that kick.
  • 'A Michigan Nursery Rhyme'
    Mary had a little sheep
    With the sheep she went to sleep
    The sheep turned out to be a ram...
    Mary Had A Little Lamb.
  • A Canadian farmer and a Man From Michigan were walking out in the field one day and they spotted a sheep tangled in the wire fence.. "Wow!" said the Canack. "I wish that was a woman all tangled up in that there fence." Said the Man From Michigan, "I just wish it was dark!"
  • An American walks into his bedroom with a sheep under his arm and says: "Darling, this is the pig I have sex with when you have a headache." His girlfriend is lying in bed and replies, "I think you'll find that's a sheep, you idiot." The man says, "I think you'll find that I wasn't talking to you."
And in honour of the Pub-owner in Brigend, Co. Donegal, Ireland, who was convicted some years ago of running a brothel after he installed some sheep in a house behind his pub for the pleasure of his patrons:
  • Q: What do you call four sheep tied to a lampost in Donegal
    A: An Irish leisure centre
  • Q: What do you call an Irishman with a sheep under his arm?
    A: A pimp.
  • Q: What do you call an Irishman with sheep under one arm, and a goat under the other? A: A bisexual.
Now finally, just to finish off (so to speak), there's a message to sheep-shaggers at this link.
---------------------------

*Seppo: rhyming slang. 'Seppo' = septic tank = Yank

Questions about NZ's culinary disgrace

WTF is it with Watties Tomato Sauce, and how come it's considered the height of culinary excellence by Kiwis? A world full of flavours, and we have to have this muck as our own contribution? (Is this the culinary equivalent of 'Shortland Street,' or 'Close to Home' -- vile, insipid, characterless and utterly without imagination?)

How can you do that to fresh tomatoes, and how do you get something so vile from food so fresh and delightful?

Why do we have to have a bottle of this inedible muck contaminating our fridge just so guests can smear their food with it -- food full of flavour, lovingly prepared, only to have this red daub smothering all subtle flavours. And they demand it, don't they! I've been with friends at restaurants, who even insist on getting a bottle of this muck at the table. Why, for heaven's sake? Don't they want to taste the food they've ordered and paid for? Wouldn't they just be better with a bowl full of Filboid Studge, eaten at home in the dark?

And it's not even an attractive bottle, is it? Is it specifically designed to dribble, and to cake up around the top? Is that part of its 'charm'? And why does the contents last forever? We've got a bottle at the back of the fridge dating back to the pleistocene age, and it still delights visitors. Just what exactly does Watties put in that bottle to preserve things, and can anti-aging scientists learn from them?

All in all, if this is NZ's great culinary secret, maybe we can contrive to keep it that way, huh?

Whinging in NZ has his own rant on the subject here. Blame him for starting me off.

LINK: "the taste that Kiwi's know and love" - Whinging in New Zealand

Still trying to get rights right

I began this blog with a post in April last year on the nature of rights, and how to get rights wrong. A lot of posts have passed under the overpass since then, many on the same subject, but the wrong still needs righting. I said then, "I had always thought one of the most difficult concepts of which we have to convince people is that rights cannot be multiplied beyond necessity," and pointed to an earlier piece of mine arguing that when rights are multiplied beyond necessity -- when bogus rights are invented and an attempt made for them to fly -- then real, legitimate rights are made to suffer.

That introduction is by way of saying that Walter Williams is the most recent to take up the subject. He asks:
Do people have a right to medical treatment whether or not they can pay? What about a right to food or decent housing? Would a U.S. Supreme Court justice hold that these are rights just like those enumerated in our Bill of Rights? In order to have any hope of coherently answering these questions, we have to decide what is a right. The way our Constitution's framers used the term, a right is something that exists simultaneously among people and imposes no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech, or freedom to travel, is something we all simultaneously possess. My right to free speech or freedom to travel imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference. In other words, my exercising my right to speech or travel requires absolutely nothing from you and in no way diminishes any of your rights.
Read on to hear Williams's argument on a subject that, if sufficiently understood, from which all else politically would follow.

The key point is this: if rights are granted beyond those that are legitimate, if for example rights to health, clothing, education and wide-screen TVs are granted, then those who provide those goods and services are faced with a duty to pony up. About that proposition, Ayn Rand pointed out: "No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as the right to enslave." Right on.

LINKS: What does the Herald know about rights? - Not PC (April 3, 2005)
Rights & Goods - Peter Cresswell
Bogus rights - Walter Williams

More from Not PC on Rights

'Call to Arms' - Rodin


Designed in 1879 for a competition to commemorate the French dead in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, but not chosen , it was finally erected in 1916 as a memorial to the fallen of Verdun. The idea to post it came to me after just watching Stanly Kubrick's breakthrough film 'Paths of Glory'; "the film is magnificent," say one very good review, paraphrasing a WWI French general, "but it certainly is not war."
Kubrick might have ... produced something of great value--a film of the stature of Breaker Morant or To Kill A Mockingbird.But he didn't. Instead, he spent all his time sending his message, and a fine opportunity was largely wasted. What might have been a tour de force of the human heart became, instead, a rather pointless, contrived tale of petty ambition.
The French army deserved much better than it got. So did the actors. So did the public.
LINKS: What price propaganda? - Robert Barr Smith
Breaker Morant - review by PC

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lock 'em up. Free the others.

TVNZ NEWS: The government is looking at open prisons and community based sentencing as a way to reduce inmate numbers in New Zealand's crowded prisons. Fresh from observing European systems, the Minister of Corrections Damien O'Connor says he will consider more "creative" ways of reducing prisoner numbers, including open prisons and work based sentences... The plan would mean up to 30% of prisoners being able to leave prison during the day to work...

Well, here's two suggestions to reduced prison overcrowding:
1) Criminals could stop committing crimes. If you can't do the time, then don't commit the crime.
2) Government might grant an overdue amnesty to those guilty only of victimless crimes.
To paraphrase what I've said before on the issue of overcrowding:

The reason people are locked up is to protect the rest of us from people who are a real, proven threat; specifically, to protect us people who have committed crimes in which it has been proved they are a threat. [That's the primary job of government, for goodness' sake.] With just one caveat, those prisoners deserve to be in there, not given 'open prison' favours and allowed out to commit other crimes.

Here’s the caveat, and therein the solution: if we really do care about injustice and about overcrowding then we could immediately cut prison numbers by about a third by freeing people who have committed any so-called crime in which there is no victim. Victimless ‘crimes’ such as our drug laws and laws against cutting down our own trees should be expunged from the books as the injustice they are, and as a practical solution that effectively doubles police numbers and reduces the prison population by at least a third.

I say keep the dungeons for those who’ve committed real crimes, and free the others.
UPDATE: "One third?" asks Mark V. "Hmmm. Maybe not," says PC.

LINKS: Open prisons under consideration - TVNZ News
Prison overcrowding - Not PC

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Saddam not eating

TIMES ONLINE: Saddam Hussein today claimed that he and three of his seven co-defendants were on hunger strike...

Great. I hope he dies of it. As Elan Journo argued a week or so back, "By granting Hussein a trial, justice is perverted."

While you're waiting for him to starve himself to death, perhaps you might like to make fun of the murdering arsehole by playing 'Rock, Paper, Saddam' again -- now, with a sequel, 'The Picture'!


Saddam:
Reading 'Interior Decorating for Dictators'

UPDATE:
Times Online has these thoughts:
THE trial of Saddam Hussein has become a farce. If its faults are not quickly cured, it should be removed from Iraq and held somewhere else. The best thing that can be said about it is that it has avoided the worst faults of the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav President, which is now entering its fifth (and probably final) year. Yet the Milosevic trial is still the better model. It can at least be defended as fair. Saddam’s claim that he is being tried unfairly looks more justified by the day. Of course, there is an argument that trials of dictators should not be held at all... But the alternatives are to free these people — or shoot them immediately.
LINKS: Saddam 'hunger strike' claim - Times Online
The injustice of Saddam's trial - CapMag
'Rock, Paper, Saddam' with sequel: 'The Painting'
- Jib Jab

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Greens - reading the bans

A commenter on yesterday's bottled water post took issue with my claim "that the Greens always want to ban things. Perhaps you could list all the things that you think the Greens want to ban," he/she challenges.

Well, I have to tell you that my commenter was right. The Greens don't want to ban everything, just this lot:
  • Californian grape imports
  • alcohol ads
  • ferrets
  • TV ads for kids
  • ads on TVNZ
  • growth hormones
  • native wood chip exports
  • native logging
  • pig swill
  • xenotransplantion trials
  • smacking
  • GE
  • field trials for GE
  • chemical trespass
  • property rights from the Bill of Rights
  • quick-fire logging
  • logging
  • fishing for toothfish
  • whaling
  • 'toxic timber'
  • set-netting
  • bottom trawling
  • feeding animal remains to farm animals
  • battery cages
  • CCA-treated timber in playgrounds
  • direct to consumer advertising of drugs
  • "the screening of programmes which sensationalise violence or use violence"
  • "the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy animals"
  • GE maize
  • commercial releases of genetically engineered crops
  • "nuclear shipments from New Zealand?s exclusive economic zone"
  • sow crates
  • the dry sow stall
  • "weapons of mass destruction"
  • nuclear powered vessels in our waters
  • beef imports from Britain to other European countries
  • "Japanese fishing boats from New Zealand waters"
  • "the importation of all timber and timber products not certified as sustainable"
  • open cast mining
  • gold mining
  • mining
  • human cloning
  • food irradiation
  • spray drift
  • all ships carrying nuclear weapons, wastes and fuel from the EEZ
  • "backyard burning of rubbish such as plastics and treated timber"
  • "smoking in all workplaces including bars, restaurants and offices"
  • "new uses of coal for energy"
  • "factory farming"
  • "project-based approvals for the development of GE organisms"
  • "all further building of prisons"
  • free trade with China
  • junk food advertising to children
  • "the sale and long-term lease of New Zealand property to foreign investors"
  • "the sale of toy tobacco products to under 18s"
  • GM wheat
  • "environmentally destructive fishing methods"
  • "uranium shipments"
  • "the use of the antibiotic avoparcin in animal feed"
  • "imports of cars older than 7 years"
  • amalgam use in dentistry
  • the incineration of unsorted waste
  • "risky anti-depressants"
  • "import of tissue for sheep cloning"
  • 'trade in hazardous wastes"
  • "'super baby' selection"
  • shopping bags
  • live sheep exports
  • dihydrogen monoxide
So, you're right. Apart from those very few things the Greens are pretty much live-and-let-live, and I was very unfair to say otherwise. Very harsh.

My commenter continues that the Greens don't wish to have things banned. Instead: "I think we will find that ... the Greens want only to discourage their use [sic], say through additional taxes or education campaigns, or minimum standards or suchlike."

Well, let's do a rough check on the Greens's website. It's a fairly unscientific study (which is too be fair like much of the Greens's own literature), but a quick check shows that the word 'ban' appears 165 times -- in fact, that's how I made up my list above -- the phrase 'additional taxes' appears not at all, but 'eco taxes' shows up 16 times; 'minimum standards' 7; and 'educational campaigns' brings up the rear with only 6 appearances.

So it looks like my commenter was absolutely right, for which I guess I can only apologise.

UPDATE: I've added to the list, 'Ads on TVNZ,' since Sue B. Kedgley has come out this morning against these. It's just so hard to keep up with her Ban List!

LINKS: Green Party website: Search for 'ban'
Green Party website: Search for 'eco taxes'
Green Party website: Search for 'minimum standards'
Green Party website: Search for 'education campaigns'

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Rodin's 'Eternal Spring'

















Auguste Rodin's 'Eternal Spring,' from 1903. This particular piece is a small bronze casting, just 40cm high.

Cartoons: What the outrage achieves

Ayn Rand always suggested that one should never bother to examine an absurdity, ask yourself only what it achieves. Melanie Phillips does the job as she recaps on those cartoons and related events. As Susan the Libertarian said when she sent me the link "Whoops, what a giveway! It's got very little to do with cartoons!"
  • Denmark will soon assume the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council, and at the very time that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wil be referring Iran to the Security Council for its reactor programme.
  • Twelve cartoons were published in September 2005 in Denmark. No death threats.
  • They were republished on the front page of the Egyptian newspaper al Fagr back in October. No death threats. No boycotts. No outrage.
  • In November, Danish Imams including Ahman Abu Laban pass fifteen cartoons to Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi -- three of which were added by the Imams themselves.
  • Iran sees an opening: "to portray Denmark as ‘an enemy of Islam’ and mobilize Muslim sympathy against the Security Council" just as it considers their nuclear programme and their threats to "wipe Israel off the map."
  • Syria sees an opening: the dossier on the Syrian assassination of Lebanese Premier Rafiq al-Hariri lands on the same Security Council desk, with Denamrk in the chair. "To portray Denmark as ‘an enemy of the Prophet’ would not be such a bad thing when the council, as expected, points the finger at Assad and his regime as responsible for a series of political murders, including that of Hariri."
  • The Imams see an opening: the opportunity for street shows in favour of so-called 'hate speech laws' and for laws banning religious satire, such as that recently and only narrowly defeated in the UK.
"What to do?" cry the appeasers and the hand-wringers in the face of vile calumny, nuclar missile-rattling and attempts to club countries into censoring speech about Islam. "Give up at once," is the catchcry from Guardian wet blanket Polly Toynbee, as Scott Burgess acerbically reports. Not so fast, says John O'Sullivan in National Review Online:
Vile though it is, this trickery by radical Islamists at least demonstrates the uselessness of appeasing their demands for censorship. I f they are granted, our concessions will merely be the springboard for a further attack on Western liberty. And if we disobligingly refuse to furnish them with a pretext, the Islamists will manufacture one as Hitler used to manufacture border incidents in order to justify his planned aggressions. So we might as well fight in the first ditch rather than the last.
Who's up for it? More intellectual ammunition here.

LINKS: The cartoon jihad (3) - Melanie Phillips
Boycott Egypt! - Rantings of a Sand Monkey
If you weren't aware - this Muslim is to blame - Big News
A plea for understanding - The Daily Ablution
Thank the Lords for some religious sanity - Not PC
Not PC on those cartoons

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A library of classics

Have you ever wanted to track down all those books that appear in other books? You know, books like Panther Without Eyelashes by Adeodato Lampustri, which appears in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum; or Clinton York's classic A History of Nebraska from the Richard Brautigan novel Abortion: An Historical Romance; or how about the seminal reference work On the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus which appears in one of the later Sherlock Holmes adventure stories?

Well, you can't track them down of course, as they're all imaginary books: they exist only in the works of fiction in which they appear. But you can do the next best thing -- you can browse the catalogue of the Imaginary Library.
The Invisible Library is a collection of books that only appear in other books. Within the library's catalog you will find imaginary books, pseudobiblia, artifictions, fabled tomes, libris phantastica, and all manner of books unwritten, unread, unpublished, and unfound.
Enter the portals here. [Hat tip Berlin Bear]

LINK: The Invisible Library

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Bland inanity

"I guess I should warn you," uber-bureaucrat Alan Greenspan once told a Senate Committee, "if I turn out to be particularly clear, you've probably misunderstood what I've said." Don't you hate people who intentionally obfuscate what they're saying, and want themselves to be intentionally misunderstood? Who talk in inanities, and never say what they mean? You too? Then I've just started a book I need to recommend, but Julian has beaten me to it:
Richard Mitchell is well known as the publisher of the controversial monthly - The Underground Grammarian. In Less Than Words Can Say, Mitchell tries to open our eyes and ears to the mind-numbing language used by bureaucrats, politicians, teachers, administrators and blowhards of all stripes.
Says Mitchell himself in his foreword:
If I told you that this little book would provide you with general insight into the knowledge of a discipline, would you read on? If so, then you had better read on, for you are in danger. People all around you are offering inanity, and you are ready to seize it, like any well-behaved American consumer dutifully swallowing the best advertised pill. You are, in a certain sense, unconscious.
Good stuff, which I can highly recommend -- and it's all online here!

LINKS: Less Than Words Can Say - Julian Pistorius
Less Than Words Can Say - Online text

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Who put the mental into fundamentalism?

Anyone who's spent time around the blogosphere will have come across conceptual art project fundamentalist crusader AJ Chesswas. Apparently he is for real, he's had his somewhat antediluvian views challenged by “a romantic involvement with a Labour party campaigning feminist law graduate" -- surely she hasn't! -- and Liberty Scott has had a long, long, long go at his views on sex. "Who put the mental into fundamentalism?" asks our hero. And just what's AJ's hang up anyway? (And why is he retiring from the blogosphere?)

LINKS: Christian fundamentalism and sex - Liberty Scott

Understanding Valentine's Day

Valentines Day. Def'n: The day in which men are castigated for not doing enough, and woman for demanding too much. A day in which women are given license to expect the impossible, to wish for the improbable, but to accept the second-rate. Not a day in which either men or women will be happy, although some will still finish it with a smile on their faces.

More bottled stupidity

What about all those idiots using water bottles, eh? As I said a few months back, "How dumb do you have to be to buy this stuff?" Oddly, the Green Party agrees:
Bottled water is a multi-million dollar scam that is threatening the environment and sucking money out of people’s pockets, the Green Party says. “While tap water is better in some places than others, growing sales of single-use bottles are creating a significant problem, as well as costing more than petrol per litre,” Green Party Waste-free Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says. A major new study from the US-Based Earth Policy Institute has highlighted the environmental cost of the growing trend to buy bottled water.
And the FrogBlog has chimed in too. To their credit, the Green Party hasn't yet called for a ban -- yet -- but you can be sure that will be hard on the heels of the report. It is one of their favourite words, after all, but at this stage they're simply trying to 'lay a guilt trip on you.' However, as Liberty Scott points out, the report they cite is based on some flawed ideas:
Is the world going to be swamped with all these bottles using up land and making our cities and landscapes ridden with garbage?

No.
See his argument here. And learn why 1) landfills ain't such a bad thing, and 2) how private property rights and less bureuacracy would reduce litter. And as he says, "Littering is something that environmentalists spend far too little time being concerned about."

LINKS: Bottled stupidity - Not PC
Bottled water a scam - Greens
Stupidity - FrogBlog
Bottled water and waste - Liberty Scott

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Cue Card Libertarianism - Euthanasia

Euthanasia: The assisted termination of one’s life at one’s own request.

In 2006 it should not be necessary to have to point out that the word 'voluntary' should be prefixed to the word 'euthanasia' -- that is, that the choice to end one's own life is only one's own to make or to assign, and must be voluntary and uncoerced -- nor should it be necessary to argue that when people find themselves facing the prospect of unendurable suffering and they wish to end their own lives but are incapable of doing so unaided, that they be able to call upon someone to help them. It shouldn't be necessary but it is, as Lesley Martin, Jack Kevorkian and others convicted of helping people in that tragic situation can attest.

Currently, by law, anyone who provides such help is deemed a criminal, and can be charged with outright murder, or aiding and abetting a suicide. This is an affront to individual autonomy, which presupposes not only the right to live as one chooses, but also the right to die as one chooses – even if one is not ill and not in pain. A libertarian New Freeland would uphold the right to kill oneself and to be assisted to do so, and would ensure a mechanism was in place to secure the rights of those who do wish to end their lives, and the legal protection of those who are asked to assist them.

This stance, however, is by no means to be taken as endorsement of mercy killing without the consent of the party whose life is to be terminated – that is a much more complex question and one much argued about among libertarians as much as others, and not one that can be properly addressed in this 'cue-card' format.

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. The series as it develops can be found here.

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'Two Small Fishing Boats' - Hokusai Katsushika

'Two Small Fishing Boats' - Hokusai Katsushika. Wood block print, 61 x 46cm.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Rugby, Physics, Philosophy & Beer

If you're in or around Auckland and your eyes lit up at that headline above, then this is going to be right up your alley. A few friends and I are proposing to rerun a provocative series of taped lectures on the philosophic corruption of physics -- and just as physicist/philosopher David Harriman integrates physics and philosophy with his lectures (while answering all those absurdities that many people claim that quantum physics 'proves'), we plan to integrate BBQ, beer-drinking, physics and rugby.

What could be better, eh? Schrodinger's Cat? Strange particles? The interconnectedness of everything? Beer! In a series of taped lectures, informal discussions, and fully loaded BBQs we'll peel back the philosophical base behind modern physics, and examine why and how it became corrupted -- and no prior knowledge of either physics or philosophy is needed. Knowledge of beer and how to open it might however prove useful.

As to details, my co-conspirator-in-chief suggests we run this every second Saturday while the Super 14 is on, starting discussion of the Harriman tapes about 5pm, lighting the BBQ at 6:30pm, and then watching Super 14 on the Drinking Room's big screen at 7:30. Saturday is better than Friday, says my co-conspirator, since we can gather earlier and talk later. My problem is that my next few Saturdays are already booked up -- but who needs me all the time, right?

If you're interested or know somone who should be, then let them know and drop me a line at organon at ihug dot co dot nz to let me know your preferred evening(s). Come and join us for an informal lecture and discussion on this provocative topic.

WHAT: 'Philosophic Corruption of Physics' lectures, BBQ, beer, and Super 14
WHERE: View Road, Mt Eden. Details on application.
WHEN: Your choice. Let me know by email at organon at ihug dot co dot nz.
Cartoon by Nick Kim.

Cars

Cars and I just don't seem to go together. In fact, vehicles I own seem to have some sort of problem with me. Friend's cars, company cars, rental cars, none have ever given me any problems. Only when they're mine do they decide to make the struggles of Sisyphus look like a great afternoon out in the open air.

You know, I do all the maintenance on them, I keep them shipshape, I've never lost my No Claims Bonus ... but something always just. Seems. To. Happen. I'll show you what I mean.

My first vehicle was a motorcycle. I had it for a year or two, before being run off the road by a woman going through a stop sign. I still remember flying through the air over her car thinking, "Hmmm, what happens now." So I bought a car. A beautiful little MG Midget like that one on the left. That too lasted a year and a bit, before the axle snapped while I was giving my girlfriend a driving lesson. I headed to Sydney to recover, as you do.

Somehow, on my return, I was persuaded to buy a Mini. The Mini lasted a few years, doing a lot of driving between Wellington (where I was living) and Auckland (where I was playing footy), before expiring on a routine trip into Uni one morning: the brakes failed coming down Mt Pleasant Rd. Unpleasant. I avoided going over the edge, but that was the end of that Mini, and at least one fence-post.

A friend in Auckland took pity on this poor Uni student. He had a Minivan in his barn, and when the chickens were shooed out the car went, and there was plenty of space in the back for my tools. The car ran well. Once. Drove down to Massey Uni for Easter to see my girlfriend, who was living on campus in a flat at the base of the Vet Tower. It ran beautifully.

I parked outside in the wee small hours, and I was shaken awake too few hours later by my hostess. Was the car I'd driven down a cream Minivan? I said it was. She said it was upside down outside -- the sight of the little car had been too much for a group of passing students, it seems who had done what you do when you're dumb. The car (and my tools inside it) were never the same again. I should have known better, really: my tools had been stolen from the earlier Mini at the same place a year earlier.

To cut a long story short, since then I've had a Ford Escort which was stolen and wrecked; a long hiatus in which I enjoyed no problems at all with company cars, thank you very much, before returning to Auckland and a Mitsubishi Sigma that was destroyed by another woman going through a stop sign; a Fiat Spider in which one by one gearbox, engine then body gave up on life; and a Subaru that was written off late last year after three cars and a Coca Cola truck decided to go into the back of it on the motorway.

Bad karma. If I didn't know better, I'd say I was being picked on for something, wouldn't you?

I have a new car now. Bull-bars. Bullet-proof engine. Sturdy engineering. And it doesn't leave the house except when it really, really, really has to. I try and borrow other people's instead. I have no problem with them.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cue Card Libertarianism - Need

A cannibalistic concept of need permeates the entire range of anti-freedom philosophies: the view of need as a claim. “I need food and sustenance,” this view states, “therefore you are obliged to be it, provide me with it, or give me the wherewithal to purchase it.” “I need resources,” says this view, “and this need gives me a claim over others that they must fulfil. Somehow.”

It is this view of need as a claim over others that underlies the whole Welfare State -- in a phrase: it is the ethic of the moocher, and the world-view of moral cannibalism. “Since I cannot be sure that you will meet my needs voluntarily,” says the moocher, “the state on my behalf, must force you to.” The moocher in cahoots with the looter – what could be more ingenious.

Uncomfortable with the crudity of it when so accurately formulated, the philosophical purveyors of this concept disguise it by repairing to a mysterious ‘social contract’ to which we are all supposedly unwitting signatories. Its political purveyors take for granted that voters regard need as a claim, just as they do themselves, and pitch policies to the satisfaction of the needs of one group at the expense of all others. The instrument by which such policies are implemented, now that literal cannibalism is no longer socially acceptable, is, of course, compulsory taxation.

“This is the history of governments – one man does something which is to bind another. A man who cannot be acquainted with me, taxes me; looking at me from afar ordains that a part of my labour shall go to this or that whimsical end - not as I, but as he happens to fancy. Behold the consequence. Of all debts, men are least willing to pay the taxes.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

The most derisory example of this view of need, taken to its logical extreme, was probably voiced by Hitler when he promised that the Third Reich would provide husbands for all spinsters.

The wrongness of treating need as a claim is that it overlooks the fact that human beings are free agents. This view, which today is all-pervasive, succeeds in tying the non-needy to the needy, with the chains of enslavement hidden by government sleight of hand. It replaces the genuine right to satisfy one’s needs through one’s own efforts and by voluntary interaction with others, with the bogus ‘right’ to have one’s needs met by others with no effort of one’s own, and without those others having any choice in the matter.

In the field of ethics, this view -- which we may truly call altruism in action -- replaces consent with demands; in the field of politics it replaces right with need; in the field of human endeavour it punishes the productive, and rewards the unproductive. The result is that one begins to see others as a threat, rather than as the boon they should be in a free society in which none are parasitic on any other.

In a free society such a travesty would be laughed out of court. The needs of those genuinely unable to meet them through their own efforts would be met by voluntary charity, in ways much more innovative, effective and generous than coercively-funded state bureaucracies could begin to contemplate – not as a matter of grudging obligation, but as a matter of genuine benevolence.

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. The series as it develops can be found here.