Saturday, May 20, 2006

Frank Gehry on film

Those who appreciate the architectural charlatan that is Frank Gehry -- known for screwing up bits of paper and telling his draughtsmen to turn the crumpled mess into a building (which he denies) -- will be interested in Sydney Pollacks' film tribute to the fraud. A trailer for the film can be seen here. The official site for the film is here. [Hat tip Butterpaper Australasia]

The man's latest rejected work is shown at left and below, the proposed $400 million new Guggenheim Museum for New York. Frank Lloyd Wright it is not. Apparently at one exhibition of the model (below) Gehry insisted it had been displayed back to front ... although he wasn't entirely sure...

An unsympathetic description of the expensive and sorry mess can be found in a piece by Robert Tracinscki, with which I wholeheartedly concur:
For a man feted as the greatest living architect, Gehry's style is surprisingly one-note. Almost all of his buildings look like giant piles of crumpled tin foil. Their most interesting feature -- the interior spaces tend to be giant blank boxes -- is an exterior cladding of titanium sheets folded into wild, discombobulated shapes. These are supposedly works of "abstract sculpture," but in fact they are carefully designed to achieve a specific effect: not to look elegant or graceful, but to look jumbled, chaotic, nonsensical.

Gehry's proposed design looked very much like a fake wrecked building -- which the Guggenheim Foundation was proposing to build in a city so recently home to the real thing. This effect was highlighted by the fact that Gehry's New York Guggenheim was to be much taller than his other piles of twisted metal, looming 400 feet above the East River and looking like a crumpled skyscraper.
Read more criticism here. Or a more positive assessment here.

LINKS: Sketches of Frank Gehry - Apple.Com
Sketches of Frank Gehry - Sony Pictures
Goodbye to Frank Gehry's bad joke - Robert Tracinscki
Wrap session - criticism of Frank Gehry's work and career - ArtForum

TAGS: Architecture, Art, Films, History-Modern

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How money is spent - the four ways

Do you know about the four ways money is spent? The Tomahawk Kid has Milton Friedman's classic summary for you -- a timely reference for budget week:
When you spend your money on yourself, you're keen to get the thing you want most at the best price. Think middle-aged men haggling with a Porsche dealer...
Read on here.

LINKS: The TRUTH about money - The Tomahawk Kid

TAGS: Economics, Politics, Quotes

Telstra shrugs?

Who said this, and about what: “Those who risk capital to earn returns shouldn't have to subsidise those that don't.”

If I told you that the subject of the comment was telecommunications, you might think it was a comment from a disgruntled Telecom shareholder. It wasn't. It was said by Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo who, eleven months into his job, is resisting 'unbundling' of his company's Australian broadband network and calling instead for deregulation.
Australia needs a fast, modern telecoms infrastructure [says Trujillo]. And the quickest way to get there is to allow unfettered competition. Mr Trujillo says that America and Europe learned long ago that “to foster competition the government cannot control the levers, it must let the market work. Virtually every other country has moved towards less regulation in telecoms."
For "virtually every other country" read virtually every other country but our own authoritarian backwater, where a very different story is told by the various hyenas slavering to pick over Telecom's bones. Trujillo, a Mexican free-marketeer from way back apparently -- where he would undoubtedly have seen first hand what nationalisation looks like -- is adamant that Telstra's rivals not get something for nothing, and is resisting being forced to grant access to Telstra's proposed $3 billion broadband fibre network to its competitors. Says The Economist:
Worried that giving rivals a free ride would undermine his profits, Mr Trujillo is threatening not to lay the fibre: “My duty is to our shareholders—including 1.6m ordinary Australians. I will only invest where I can earn an economic return.”
Good for him. Spineless Telecom executives might have something to learn from Trujillo's righteous truculence.

LINKS: Face Value: Calling Canberra - Economist

LINKS: Politics-Australian, Politics-NZ, Economics

Cash prize for free market writers

Writers and journalists may enter their work for a US $10,000 prize -- writers and journalists that is, "whose published works promote the institutions of a free society: limited government, rule of law brokered by an independent judiciary, protection of private property, free markets, free speech, and sound science." So that's about four of you in New Zealand.

If you're one of the four then have a look at the 2006 Bastiat Prize for Journalists, inspired by the 19th-century French philosopher, journalist and free trade populariser Frédéric Bastiat. Entries close on 30 June, 2006.

And if you're not sure who Frédéric Bastiat was (bio here), his Economic Sophisms and 'The Law' are required reading for any student of liberty and markets, and both can be found complete and online! The Law here. Economic Sophisms here. His essay 'What is Seen and What is Not Seen' is a perfect example of his entertaining style, and it formed the basis for Henry Hazlitt's book, Economics in One Lesson -- also now available online.

LINKS: Bastiat Prize, 2006 - IPN
The Law, by Frédéric Bastiat - online at the Library of Economics & Liberty
Economic Sophisms, by Frédéric Bastiat - online at the Library of Economics & Liberty
'What is Seen and What is Not Seen,' by Frédéric Bastiat - online at the Library of Economics & Liberty
Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt - Foundation for Economic Education

TAGS: Economics, Politics

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Friday, May 19, 2006

'Baby you can't drive my car'

Um, if you're wondering why Paul McCartney married a one-legged do-gooder without signing a pre-nup, then here's two reasons why.

UPDATE: You want thoughtful on this? Then try the thoughts of Cactus Kate:
McCartney is one of the true icons left in the world today. He is now stronger for the release of the noose around his neck that was Heather Mills.
LINKS: Heather Mills, Paul McCartney's newly-estranged wife, who didn't sign a pre-nup-- and could be in for one of history's largest divorce settlements - Tabloid Rabies

TAGS: Sex, Music

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Beer O'Clock: Mike's Mild Ale

Naming your beer 'mild' in an age when the art of subtlety has withered and tastes tend towards extremes is a risky business. So is starting a microbrewery with only one beer in your portfolio.
However, with Taranaki's White Cliff's Brewery now approaching twenty years with mild ale as their flagship product, that approach has clearly worked well for them.

Mike's Mild Ale is a very good example of this old English style, with just a hint of dry antipodean flavour to add some edge. Although much darker in the glass, this mild is full of flavours that are not too far flung from the good old 'kiwi brown' and makes a great first step into the world of craft ales. Compared to the classic English milds there is less malt sweetness left in Mike's, thanks to a hungry Irish strain of yeast, and this allows the wonderfully subtle malt notes of cocoa, caramel and toasted grains to come through and tease the senses. It's quite dry and slender through the mouth, without being thin or watery, but as it warms it really begins to show off it's charm of roasted chocolate malt and the firm nutty base of crystal and pale malts. At 4% it's very sessionable (the short way of saying 'you can drink lots and still be able to hold a good conversation'), which makes it a great Autumn evening drop.

Some people promote Mike's Mild on the fact that it's made with rain water and 100% organic ingredients [that should read "despite the organic ingredients," Ed.], or that it's won medals in both of New Zealand's international beer awards. First and foremost for me, however, is that it's an exceptionally drinkable session ale that is far from meek.

Slainte mhath
Stu.
LINKS: White Cliff's Brewery Mild Ale

TAGS: Beer_&_Elsewhere

Paris Hilton or Mother Teresa?

Who's the better person, Paris Hilton or Mother Teresa? Come on, make your call. Personally, I think Hirsi Ali has it over both of them, but the MT v Paris battle has just been engaged, and positions are already being formed (so to speak) -- and you will need to make a call.

You see, the Catholic League of America wants Penn and Teller's Penn Jillette sacked from CBS for plumping for Paris (if that's really the right word for supporting a stick insect). And he dissed Mother Teresa. Fancy that. Says the League in calling for Jillette's dismissal:

On his April 5 CBS radio show, Penn Jillette commented on the rumor that Paris Hilton may play Mother Teresa in a movie. He said Mother Teresa "had this weird kink that I think was sexual" about seeing people suffer and die. He also said that "Paris Hilton is so far above Mother Teresa on the moral scale, she should not lower herself" to playing the saintly nun. After comparing Mother Teresa to Charles Manson, Jillette again said she "got her [sexual] kicks watching people suffer and die." He concluded by saying, "Paris Hilton. You're so much better than that. Don't take the gig. Keep making good wholesome porn films. Just do that. Do what you're cut out for. Don't lower yourself to playing Mother Teresa."

Well, I'm with Penn. Paris (I'm told) does make good sex tapes. And Mother Teresa was no saint. As Christopher Hitchens pointed out some years back following the publication of his all -warts bio of MT, the grizzled Albanian witch did like watching people suffer and die.:
MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return) and from Charles Keating of the Lincoln Savings and Loan. Where did that money, and all the other donations, go? The primitive hospice in Calcutta was as run down when she died as it always had been—she preferred California clinics when she got sick herself—and her order always refused to publish any audit. But we have her own claim that she opened 500 convents in more than a hundred countries, all bearing the name of her own order. Excuse me, but this is modesty and humility?
Still not convinced? Then try this excerpt from 'The diabolical works of Mother Teresa,' an article by Auckland University's Robert White:
You see, Mother Teresa believes that poverty and suffering are "gifts" from God. And the sisters in her order, The Missionaries of Charity, are taught that suffering makes God very happy. Mother Teresa once recounted, with a bright smile, how she had told a terminally ill cancer patient, who was suffering from unbearable pain, that, "You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you." Now, get that. According to Mother Teresa, Jesus, who, remember, is a moral ideal in her religion, expresses his "love" through tormenting the sick and the dying, while his father - God - gets his kicks from watching their suffering. This is pure sadism. And, unfortunately for the poor, Mother Teresa was ruthlessly intent on making God a very happy deity.'
One could go on, and of course Hitchens himself did exactly that with his book, and in subsequent interviews and articles.

So should Paris "lower herself" then? And who's the better human being: Paris or MT? If you decide the former, perhaps you could do your bit to ensure that Penn Jillette doesn't get sacked for saying so by contancting Joel Hollander at joel.hollander@infinitybroadcasting.com and demand that Penn Jillette stay.

UPDATE: The complete edition of Robert White's brilliant essay 'The Diabolical Works of Mother Teresa' is now back online.

LINKS: Catholic League angry with Penn Jillette - Julian Pistorius, SOLO
Mommie Dearest: The pope beatifies Mother Teresa, a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud - Christopher Hitchens, Slate
The diabolical works of Mother Teresa - summary of article by Robert White,
Scoop
The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice - book by Christopher Hitchens, Amazon.Com
Christopher Hitchens on Mother Teresa (Interview) -
Free Inquiry Magazine

TAGS: History-Twentieth_Century, Nonsense, Political_Correctness

Dutch appeasers reject Ali

In what seems to be the last straw for courageous Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch Immigration Minister has now revoked her passport, following which Ali has resigned her seat in parliament and suggested it's time to move to the States.

US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said she's welcome any time. As Andrei says at Sir Humphrey's, "Holland's loss will be America's gain." Sure will.
Click here to read more ... >>

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Brain drain budget. Brain dead news.

Spin is in. Sadly. Last week I pointed out that you and I are taken for idiots by the Parliamentary power-lusters, which was misunderstood to be an attack on the stupidity of the public. Au contraire. Most of us are focussed on our own business not on what the political vermin are doing, which is as it should be. That's a good thing. However, the point I attempted to make was that those who are in a position to check the politicians' spin are not challenging it, but are peddling it instead. And you lot, their audience, are letting both them and the pollies away with murder.

To a man, woman and all things in between, the commentariat just repeat whatever spin they're given, without ever stopping to run it by the grey matter first.

For example, we're still hearing about the "billion dollar leak" -- even though the amount lost is now $2.2 billion, and not one cent of that loss is due to The Leak; we've continued to hear about 'unbundling' instead of calling the actual cause of the loss what it is: theft; and yesterday we were treated to disingenuous spin from Helen Clark in response to Don Brash's criticism of the Budget that there was nothing in it to discourage New Zealanders from continuing to move to Australia, where in contrast to the Cullen Budget $45 billion of tax cuts has been announced.

"Helen Clark and Michael Cullen believe there is a place for tax cuts," said Brash. "It's called Australia. This is the brain drain Budget, the Bondi Budget. Tragically, we are now set to lose even more skilled people across the Tasman." Responded Clark without missing a beat: "If he likes Australia so much, why doesn't he go and live there."

Isn't Clark's spin obvious? Transparent? Glaring? There's a clear difference betweeen highlighting the tragedy of a brain drain, and seeking to join that brain drain yourself. The spin was repeated on all channels across the evening and across the news this morning, but I have yet to hear one question from any commentator or interviewer to any of the spinners asking how they justify it, and whether they aren't just talking nonsense to obscure the accuracy of Brash's criticism.

Brain drain budget? Sure was. Braindead news? Too right.

LINKS: Delusions en masse, and spin all the time - Peter Cresswell, Not PC
Bondi budget bad for New Zealand - Don Brash, Scoop

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Budget_&_Taxation, Politics-Labour

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'Some rare good news' for Berrymans

Some good news yesterday for Keith and Margaret Berryman:
The High Court yesterday ruled their application for a judicial review should not be struck out.

Since Inglewood beekeeper Ken Richards was killed in 1994 when the army-built bridge leading to the Berrymans’ King Country farm collapsed, the couple have been fighting against being held responsible for the collapse. A coroner in 1997 ruled that the Berrymans had not properly maintained the bridge but the Berrymans want a second coroner’s inquest to be held to include consideration of the army’s “Butcher report”, which found fault with the bridge’s design.

The Solicitor-General last year refused to order a fresh inquest and the Berrymans are seeking judicial review of that decision. But the Solicitor-General, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and Taumarunui coroner Timothy Scott last week argued in the High Court at Wellington that the judicial review application should be struck out.

Late yesterday afternoon Justice Alan Mackenzie ruled the application should not be struck out and that the Berrymans should be entitled to costs.
As the Wanganui Chronicle says of the decision, "some rare good news" for Keith and Margaret, and for their hard-pressed lawyer Rob Moodie.

LINKS: A break for the Berrymans - Wanganui Chronicle
Berryman saga web site

TAGS: Berrymans, Politics-NZ

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'Tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright' - Unknown


Tonight, a tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright, by an artist unknown. The space and subject are Wright's; the light and composition seem Flemish, or Dutch.

And coming up next week, just to whet the appetite of Ayn Rand enthusiasts, a painting by Ayn Rand's husband Frank O'Connor, a painting by her favourite artist, and then a post with her very favourite painting.

Expect to be surprised.

TAGS: Art, Architecture

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

More heat, more species. Why?

Research by three Auckland scientists has answered an old ecological mystery: why is it that the farther from the tropics you travel, the fewer species there are.

Why does the 'nicer' climate produce more species?

The answer provided by the scientists' research and summarised by The Economist is simple (ie., not irreducibly complex):
That there is more sunlight—and so more opportunity for photosynthesis—at the tropics explains why warm climates create more living matter (or biomass, as it is known to ecologists). It does not, however, explain why this biomass is apportioned into more species... By a process of elimination ... the three researchers were left with the conclusion that, by pushing metabolic rates up, tropical heat causes more mutation and thus more speciation. In other words, evolution happens at a faster rate in Kenya than, say, in Kansas. It does, though, occur in Kansas, too—whatever some of its citizens might think.
Read the full piece here. And the abstract for the published research here.

LINKS: A heated debate: A clue to an old ecological mystery - (stolen from) The Economist
print edition
The road from Santa Rosalia: A faster tempo of evolution in tropical climates - Shane Wright, Jeannette Keeling, and Len Gillman, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA

TAGS: Science, Conservation, Global_Warming, Religion

Some quotable quotes for Budget Day

Another Budget Day, another advance auction of stolen goods. Here, specially for Budget Day, some thoughts and quotes on the nature of taxation:

"To steal from one person is theft. To steal from many is taxation." - Jeff Daiell

"I think coercive taxation is theft, and government has a moral duty to keep it to a minimum." - former Massachusetts Governor William Weld

"See, when the Government spends money, it creates jobs; whereas when the money is left in the hands of Taxpayers, God only knows what they do with it. Bake it into pies, probably. Anything to avoid creating jobs." - Dave Barry

“The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.” - Jean Baptiste Colbert

"The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." – Alexis De Tocqueville

"A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves. - Bertrand de Jouvenel

'We shall tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect.' - 'New Deal' luminary Harry Hopkins

"Most of the presidential candidates' economic packages involve 'tax breaks,' which is when the government, amid great fanfare, generously decides not to take quite so much of your income. In other words, these candidates are trying to buy your votes with your own money." - Dave Barry

“Taxation is just a sophisticated way of demanding money with menaces.” - Terry Pratchett

“For every benefit you receive a tax is levied.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"It's sad to realise that most citizens do not even notice the irony of being bribed with their own money." - Anon.

"[There are dangers in] the disposition to hunt down rich men as if they were noxious beasts." - Winston Churchill

"When Barbary Pirates demand a fee for allowing you to do business, it's called 'tribute money.' When the Mafia demands a fee for allowing you to do business, it's called 'the protection racket.' When the state demands a fee for allowing you to do business, it's called "sales tax." - Jeff Daiell

"Taxation is far greater an evil than theft. It is a form of slavery. If you cannot choose the disposition of your property, you are a slave. If you must ask permission to work, and/or pay involuntary tribute to anyone from your wages, you are a slave. If you are not allowed to dispose of your life (another way of defining money, since it represents portions of your time and effort, which is what your life is composed of) in the time, manner and amount of your choosing, you are a slave." - Libertarian writer Rick Tompkins

"The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave." - Ayn Rand

“We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle” - Winston Churchill

"Taxation without representation is tyranny." - James Otis

"Taxation WITH representation ain't so hot either." - Gerald Barzan

"Our forefathers made one mistake. What they should have fought for was representation without taxation." - Fletcher Knebel

"When a new source of taxation is found it never means, in practice, that the old source is abandoned. It merely means that the politicians have two ways of milking the taxpayer where they had one before." - HL Mencken

"What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin." - Mark Twain

"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it." - Ronald Reagan

"Death and taxes are inevitable; at least death doesn't get worse every year." - Unknown

"When more of the people's sustenance is exacted through the form of taxation than is necessary to meet the just obligations of government and expenses of its economical administration, such exaction becomes ruthless extortion and a violation of the fundamental principles of free government." - former US President Grover Cleveland

"Rulers do not reduce taxes to be kind. Expediency and greed create high taxation, and normally it takes an impending catastrophe to bring it down." - Charles Adams

"The mounting burden of taxation not only undermines individual incentives to increased work and earnings, but in a score of ways discourages capital accumulation and distorts, unbalances, and shrinks production. Total real wealth and income is made smaller than it would otherwise be. On net balance there is more poverty rather than less." - Henry Hazlitt

"The poor of the world cannot be made rich by redistribution of wealth. Poverty can't be eliminated by punishing people who've escaped poverty, taking their money and giving it as a reward to people who have failed to escape." - PJ O'Rourke

"A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul." - George Bernard Shaw

"Freedom is the quality of being free from the control of regulators and tax collectors. If I want to be free their control, I must not impose controls on others." - Hans F. Sennholz

"There's only one way to kill capitalism--by taxes, taxes, and more taxes." - Karl Marx

"The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation." - Vladimir Lenin

"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." - PJ O'Rourke

"A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves." - Bertrand de Jouvenel

"The power to tax involves the power to destroy." - former US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall

"Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed." - Robert Heinlein

"Taxes are the sinews of the state." - Cicero

"Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors, and miss." - Robert Heinlein

TAGS: Budget_&_Taxation, Quotes

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Climate confusion

Try this exercise: Type in www.climatescience.org.nz. Do it, and you reach the NZ Climate Science Coalition, the recently formed group of scientists and global warming skeptics "aimed at refuting what it believes are unfounded claims about man-made global warming" (Their formation was reported here and here.) So far so laudable.

Now try typing it in with a different suffix, say .co or .net. What do you find? Why, you find Greenpeace cybersquatting. "Underhanded" is how the Climate Science Coalition describes the squatting. Says Owen McShane on behalf the Coalition:
I never thought I'd see the day when a once proud international environmental organisation would stoop so low in an attempt to divert attention from its own false message... We can but wonder why Greenpeace has stooped this low, unless it is because they want to divert people from our website, www.climatescience.org.nz, which debunks the claims Greenpeace and others are making about dire consequences of so-called greenhouse emissions. We can only conclude that Greenpeace do not want the public to find out that these claims are not supported by the science.
What other conclusion can be drawn? Perhaps this is the sort of thing that caused Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore to quit and start his Greenspirit organisation. As he says about his departure from Greenpeace:
I now find that many environmental groups have drifted into self-serving cliques with narrow vision and rigid ideology. At the same time that business and government are embracing public participation and inclusiveness, many environmentalists are showing signs of elitism, left-wingism, and downright eco-fascism. The once politically centrist, science-based vision of environmentalism has been largely replaced with extremist rhetoric. Science and logic have been abandoned and the movement is often used to promote other causes such as class struggle and anti-corporatism. The public is left trying to figure out what is reasonable and what is not.
True enough. It rather puts the strategy of confusion that people claimed for Theresa Gattung in perspective, doesn't it.

UPDATE: The Greens FrogBlog says it's all the nasty Coalition's fault. How dare they "claim ownership of a term like 'climate science'."says the Frog. How dare they! It’s too broad, and their attempt to brand themselves this way was misleading in the first place." So there. The nasty men had it coming.

LINKS: Greenpeace slammed for "underhanded " tactics - Climate Science Coalition
Greenpeace accused of "passing off" - Climate Science Coalition
NZ global warming sceptics coalesce - Not PC
Climate science - both sceptics and septics online - Not PC
Climate Science Coalition website
Greenspirit website

TAGS: Global_Warming, Politics-NZ, Science, Environment

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A tale of three Budgets

The New Zealand Government is currently enjoying the fruits of the highest tax take in NZ history. New Zealanders are paying 50% more nominal tax than they did in 2000. At the same time, says Michael Cullen, "we cannot afford tax cuts." Clearly, we also have the highest spend-up in NZ history as well. But "we cannot afford tax cuts."

Clearly all those on the mooch in New Zealand do not come cheap. And clearly also, taxing, mooching and spending are on the increase.

So how would you go about reining in this runaway train? Can it be done? Here's three Budgets demonstrating how, with a will, you could. I don't expect Michael Cullen to take a blind bit of notice of any of them.

The first is my own 'Gun-to-the-Head Budget,' which uses an idea of PJ O'Rourke's to cut spending down to size:
The secret to balancing the budget is to remember that all tax revenue is the result of holding a gun to somebody's head. Not paying taxes is against the law. If you don't pay your taxes you'll be fined. If you don't pay the fine you'll be jailed. If you try to escape from jail, you'll be shot. Thus, I - in my role as citizen and voter - am going to shoot you - in your role as taxpayer and ripe suck - if you don't pay your share of the national tab. Therefore, every time the govt spends money on anything, you have to ask yourself, ‘Would I kill my kindly, gray-haired mother for this?’
With that in mind, in descending order of virulence, here's:
  1. My own 2001 'Gun-to-the-Head Budget': Would You Kill Your Mother to Pay Michael Cullen?
  2. The 2005 Libz Alternative Budget, complete with accompanying press release and Q&A;
  3. Liberty Scott's wussy Budget Wishlist, described by him as "more modest than a Libertarianz budget, but bolder than an ACT one I think."
Enjoy. And perhaps you moochers on whom the government is spending money might take some time to consider PJ's point.

TAGS: Budget_&_Taxation, Libz, Economics, Politics, Welfare

Budget: No suprises

A "no surprises" budget is what Cullen is likely to deliver tomorrow, or so he told the country last week. There was a time when Budgets were compulsory listening, when you had to take notice because surprises were thrust rudely upon us, and the Finance Minister's hand was thrust roughly into your wallet with literally only a moment's notice. With just a word from the FM, for example, the service stations/bottle stores/tobacconists of the country had people queuing up to avoid new taxes set to come in before midnight. Such was the power of the Treasurer, including both the power to tax like hell and the power to surprise.

At least, that was the case when Muldoon was Finance Minister. The latter power has now gone, as today's pre-Budget summary in the Herald demonstrates, but the former power still remains -- as today's pre-Budget summary in the Herald of what we alrady know about the Budget demonstrates (sadly the summary is not online). In fact, the power to tax like hell is now greater than ever; greater even than when Muldoon was the government's finance un-wizard; greater even than when Roger Douglas was reading the Budgets (when the tax take was at a previous all-time high) ... greater than at any other time in New Zealand history.

“The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.” Frankly, the government does a lot of plucking; the only limit is the hissing you lot put up. If the tax take is a measure, you're not doing enough hissing.

Who's being plucked? YOU ARE. Whose money is it? YOURS. It's your money. Governments produce no money of their own. Every dollar spent by government first has to be taken from you. IT'S YOUR MONEY. As Fulton Huxtable said in a piece that's become a modern classic:

Consider the logical implications of the idea that your money is yours. Money is a repository of the time in your life it takes you to earn it. If your money is yours, then it means the time in your life it takes to earn it is yours. If your life's time is yours, then your life is yours, yours by right and not a single minute of it should be taken from you without your permission.

If your money is yours, then you, not others, have the right to it. If your money is yours, you, not the state, have the right to control its use and disposal. If your money is yours, then you have the right to spend it as you please and no one — not the state or your neighbours — has the right to forcibly direct how your money is spent....

If statists lose their claim to your money, then they will lose their battle to bring you under their control.
If you want to win the battle against statists who seek to deprive you of your rights and freedom, then fight to spread the idea that your money is yours. We need a rising chorus of voices chanting: "It's my money." If we begin to hear this, it will be the best news for freedom that we have seen in decades.
True enough. Get that hissing going! After all, it's you whose being plucked. Or are you one of the moochers we're being plucked for?

NOTE: If you simply must follow every word as it's delivered, TVNZ have their Budget Special live-on-air and streaming live on their site from 1:50 to 4:30pm tomorrow. Details here.

LINKS: It's Your Money! - Fulton Huxtable, Free Radical
Budget coverage 2006 - TVNZ
Are New Zealanders paying too much tax - Phil Rennie, Centre for Independent Studies [8-page PDF]

TAGS: Budget_&_Taxation, Politics-NZ, Libertarianism

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Nigger!

"Nigger!" That word signalled the success of the World War Two dam-busting operation, a great feat of arms commemorated yesterday and made immortal in the classic film Dam Busters.

Nigger, as many of you may know, was the name of 617 Squadron Leader Guy Gibson's dog, the popular squadron mascot killed by a car the morning of the successful raid -- named apparently to reflect his colour, Nigger Brown, the contemporary British use of the word -- and his name was chosen as the triumphant codeword to signal the mission's success in breaching the Mohne and Eder dams in Germany's industrial Ruhr valley.

I doubt that the word will be used in Peter Jackson's remake -- "the word Nigger is not ideal for the modern world," said film backer David Frost -- but it's delicious to consider the trouble it would cause if it was. After all, if it's not considered too PC to remind the Germans they lost the war...

UPDATE: Whoops. Jackson denied involvement in the remake the day after the Mail on Sunday published the story. Spokesman for Peter Jackson, Matthew Dravitzki explained: "We denied the story at the time but they've run with it anyway. It's just one of those continuing speculative things. Because of Peter's involvement in aviation and his involvement with the Aviation Heritage Centre in Omaka, people just tend to assume we are involved in an aviation movie. It is not the case. Peter will not be directing a remake of The Dam Busters." Bugger.

LINKS: Nigger - Wikipedia
Operation Chastise - Wikipedia
Jackson working on Dam Busters remake - Stuff

TAGS: History-Twentieth_Century, Films, Heroes, War

Micheal Ryan is a hero

Michael Ryan (right) is a hero. If the story as told is true, then far from receiving dismissal, dirt and opprobrium as he has been over the last twelve hours or so, he should be given a bloody medal. As I said at the time of the Government's line grab:
Whoever the whistle-blower was, whoever divulged Cabinet's plan to nationalise Telecom's network, did exactly the right thing. What the whistle-blower did was warn a victim of burglary what he overheard the burglars planning to do to them. It was a moral act.
It sure was. There is a difference between a whistleblower and a 'snitch' (as Clark's spin doctors and the line grab apologists have called Ryan). The difference apparently lies in which side of the information diclosure you're on, and what information is disclosed. Some whistle blowers are admired. The US actually values people whistleblowers so much they have whistleblower laws designed to protect them; Woodward and Bernstein were feted for protecting their source, and helping him bring down a President; the recent Plame case raised the issue that "whoever leaked the information did so to expose potential government wrong doing."

And that's really the key, isn't it: despite the spin, this was government wrongdoing. As Deborah Coddington expained on Sunday, "the Government's taken a leaf out of National Socialism's book - leave the actual ownership in private hands but have the State dictate what private owners can do with their property." What Ryan did was the right thing. Ryan just gave the victims a heads up so they coud take whatever evasive action they could if they had the gumption to do so. He told the victims of theft in advance that a coterie of thieves was about to do them over.

Michael, if you're reading this, Good on You.

UPDATE 1: Helen Clark this morning called Ryan's passing on the information "an act of gross and disgraceful dishonesty." So that means that in Clark's rather arid world it is dishonest to pass on information about an impending theft, but presumably not dishonest to enact such a theft.

UPDATE 2: Southern Gent makes the excellent point that "he is not worthy of a medal" since in his own words "he did not do it for the money." Good point. :-)

LINKS: Messenger taking full blame for leak - TVNZ
Telecom leaker named - NBR
'Leaker' has been dismissed - Newstalk ZB
Deborah Coddington: Nationalising Telecom a more honest move - NZ Herald
Telecom: Who leaked? Who cares. - Not PC

TAGS: Politics-NZ

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What do employees do all day, and why do they end up with so much porn on their 'puter?

I'd ask you this question, but it's possible a percentage of you already know the answer. A large percent of you. Did you know that most of the porn downloaded is done on the boss's time? Who would have guessed. I thought you lot spent all day reading blogs: that's what my site stats tell me anyway. Turns out however:
  • one in three computers contains some sort of pornography:
  • "70 per cent of the porn that is downloaded in North America is downloaded between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m."
  • about 30 per cent of people with porn on their computers are women,"
  • One U.S. study estimates surfing at work costs their economy $250 billion dollars a year. Looking for pornography is the biggest chunk of that.
Conclusion? If anyone can provide the service of making pornography easily available so people don't have to hunt all over for it, they could save employers a shitload of money.

LINKS: Porn on the job - Canada National Post

TAGS: Sex, Geek_Stuff

Night arrives over Europe and Northern Africa - NASA


Night arrives over Europe and Northern Africa, part of a set of NASA pictures showing earth from space. See if you can work out why the particular picture above is a fake.

LINKS: What a pretty blue planet - Mr Dreckard's Social Studies Classroom
'Image of the day' gallery - NASA

TAGS: Art, Science

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Nick's 'Bluegreen' vision

Just as three-time loser Murray McCully is what passes for a strategist in the National Party, Nick Smith (right) is what passes there for a visionary. Sad but true. Here's Nick's latest vision, as seen in the Herald:
The Green Party got 5.3 per cent of the vote at the last election, giving it six MPs in Parliament. "Only 6822 votes saved the Greens from political oblivion last year," Dr Smith said in his speech. "If we can convince just one in 20 of those Green voters that National is a better bet than the Greens, that alone would be enough, all other things being equal, for National to win in 2008."
So far, so ho hum then. If 6822 people hadn't voted Green last year then the Greens would be gone. And if National could have persuaded them to vote National instead, then Team Blue would have won on the day. Hardly 'visionary', but this is Nick Smith, readers. So what then does Nick the Dick propose to seduce the environmental voter?
Dr Smith said National was exploring some new ideas with the development of environmental policy.
Oh yes? And what, I say with trepidation, might those 'ideas' be? It's certainly true that there's an enormous market out there for rational, rights-based environmentalism -- but is Nick Smith really the man to meet that market? I doubt it, but I went to Scoop to check. There online is Smith's whole sorry speech outlining his strategy for the Blue Team to attract Green votes -- "a teaser," Smith called the speech, to develop "a Bluegreen agenda that will fit with National Party values."

Since the twin standards of property rights and common law protection of them have over seven-hundred years of success in protecting the environment -- as organisations like the American PERC and the Canadian Environment Probe have been pointing out for some time in publications, campaigns, reports, books, articles, speeches, op-eds, guides, media releases, and radio and TV appearances -- and since these two time-honoured legal standards are surely in line with what are at least said to be "National Party values," I searched Smith's text excitedly to see if these phrases put in an appearance. Any at all.

I searched in vain.

So what ideas were there in the speech?
I looked eagerly for fresh, new ideas. Was there perhaps a call for a new environmentalism, one that puts human beings first? No, there wasn't. Did he resolve to repair the many environmental tragedies of the commons that despoil the country, and threaten native wildlife? No, he didn't. A recognition perhaps that capitalism is cleaner than all other alternatives? That property rights in the defence of nature is an idea that could galvanise environmentalists and economists alike, and defend the rights of land-owners right across the country to boot? Of course not.

Instead of sound, fresh, free-market and property-rights based approaches to environmentalism, what was delivered instead were the same tired old nostrums with nary a new coat of paint. "
National’s Bluegreen approach to New Zealand’s environmental challenges" includes the following top-down, addled authoritarianisms from Smith:
  • Strong support for "the principle of sustainability"
    - as EnviroSpin Watch says, the idea that "no growth at all, or limited growth of a type only approved of by an elite few"; the notion that no existing resources may be used without government permission, and no new resources created.
  • His group will be "looking at 'community conservation'"
    - a way to buy, quite literally, the support of 'grassroots environmentalists' by doling out taxpayers' money to them.
  • "We should," says Nick, "also be upping the ante on emissions standards [for cars]"
    - expect more expense then for more car owners.
  • "We do need to further develop our network of marine reserves"
    - some of us still remember how Nick's own Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act (HGMPA) was introduced to lie across the RMA, to 'complement' it, and to make its effect on property-owners even worse; and how without the kind of community-wide protest that has yet to ignite Whangamata, Nick's Act and the RMA between them nearly killed the Whitianga Waterways project? Remember? Nick the Dick wants more of the same. More of it. Moron.
  • Nick wants "new national parks ... including the Waitakere Ranges"
    - among these Ranges up to 21,000 people presently make their homes; this on its own would make Nick's virulently interventionist HGMPA look modest by comparison.
  • "A big idea we should be thinking about is tradable water rights"
    - that, dear readers, is as close as this idiot comes to sense; seven years after being kicked out as Environment Minister he wants to "think about" tradeable water rights. Sheesh.
  • "We also should be thinking about tradable emission permits around the whole challenge of climate change"
    - he's really on the cutting edge of nonsense, isn't he? Could he get any more flaccid, you wonder? Yes, I'm afraid he can.
  • To remedy the problem of "fresh water quality, and issues like nitrification of iconic lakes like Rotoiti, and didymo in our southern rivers," Nick proposes
    not recognising property rights in New Zealand's watercourse and lake and seabeds as would be both sensible and in line with "National's values," but more of the same top-down authoritarian eco-fascism that caused the problems in the first place.
  • That is: "On issues like solid waste, fresh water quality and contaminated sites we [need] some stronger direction from central government... I believe we can get better economic and environmental outcomes from an EPA approach."
    - for those who don't know the American EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency), it is an all-encompassing, all-powerful leviathan that sits astride land development, land use, economic development and the growth of industry more effectively and more stiflingly than perhaps any other single bureaucracy except the IRS. If this behemoth and its hydra-headed offshoot of regulations and sub-agencies is in line with "National values," then those values are even more blighted than I thought. But this is the man who called the RMA far-sighted environmental legislation...
  • "...a comprehensive RMA reform package... [that is] not about lowering environmental standards but about reducing the cost, delays and uncertainty of the process"
  • - I've talked before and at length about why the RMA doesn't need reviewing, but abolishing; and I've talked before about how Nick's nostrums are not even 'reform' of the Act he calls "far-sighted environmental legislation," but "window dressing" -- as he himself admits. Idiot.
  • "A new area of work we must get our head around is compensation to landowners ... for confiscation of their land under the Public Works Act."
  • - tell it to Darryl Kerrigan from 'The Castle': "You can't buy what I've got," said Darryl, truthfully. As I argue here, and as Darryl's adventures made plain, compensation for confiscation is not property rights, and I hardly think proposing it will attract either environmentalists or real advocates of property rights in any case.
  • "We are keen to give hunters a greater role in management of their game... [and] it is time recreational fishers had a far greater say in managing their resource."
  • - then perhaps he could simply encourage the recognition of private harvesting and management rights in such things as wildlife and fisheries, and the many common law solutions for recognising such pre-existing rights, rather than the collectivist organisations, quangoes and measures he will no doubt be proposing.

"There is lots of work to do to develop these ideas," says Nick. He's not wrong. "We want your input," he says. Well, he's had mine. "We want," says Nick, "a Bluegreen agenda that will fit with National Party values, deliver for the environment, and help energise the public into trusting us with the stewardship of this precious country in 2008." What he has proposed instead is, to summarise, confiscation, nationalisation, eco-fascism and the continuation of his view that the RMA and his HG Marine Park Act is "far-sighted environmental legislation."

There is nothing new here, nothing; just the same dreary, unimaginative, authoritarian me-tooism we've come to expect from Smith and his colleagues. So how does Blue-Green wetness differ from Red-Green 'Watermelonism'? At least the Watermelons are honest.

LINKS:

PERC - Improving environmental quality through markets
- PERC
Environment Probe
Property rights in defence of nature (online book)
- Elizabeth Brubaker, Environment Probe
The unsustainablility of 'sustainability'
- EnviroSpin Watch
The common law and the environment: rethinking the basis for modern environmental law (summary)
- book, edited by Roger Morris & Andrew Morris, PERC
National 'needs 1 out of every 20 Green voters'
- NZ Herald
A Bluegreen vision for New Zealand - Scoop
Nick Smith: Idiot.
- Not PC

For further reading, I encourage you to visit my own archive of posts and articles on Environment, Property Rights, Conservation and Common Law.

TAGS: Environment, Property Rights, Conservation, Common Law, Politics-National, Politics-NZ.

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'We shall tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect.'

"We shall tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect."

Who said that? With two dozen new taxes, tax revenues increasing by $4 billion last year alone, and up to two-thirds of New Zealand working families now on the mooch with Welfare for Working Families, you could be forgiven for thinking that the statement above was used by Labour's Mike Smith or Michael Cullen to describe the ongoing electoral strategy of the Labour Party.

As it happens, it wasn't: that was the basic strategy of Franklin Roosevelt's 'New Deal' regime as described by 'New Deal' luminary Harry Hopkins in a shared confidence to a friend; over the years however in countries all across the globe several generations of suckers have signed up for the deal whereby they agree to try and vote themselves rich, and the governments they elect thereby have reciprocated by agreeing to the strategy of bribing them with their own money.

Watch it all happen again on Thursday -- and remember that as you listen to pre-Budget promises this week that every dollar spent by government, which is entirely unproductive, first has to be extracted by force from those who are productive.

TAGS: Budget & Taxation, Politics-NZ, Quotes, Politics-Labour

The Tax Department...

Labour bought the election with your money

The Labour Party bought the last election with taxpayers' money, knowingly overspent the legal limit, and has now leant on police to save themselves from prosecution. Before the release of documents under the Official Information Act (OIA) that was how Labour's half-million dollar spending on its pledge cards appeared. Now the OIA information has been released, the assessment seems almost certain.

David Farrar is making the material available online. Says he:

Over today, and possibly tomorrow, I am going to make a series of posts drawing on the hundreds of pages released by the Police under the OIA in relation to their decision not to charge Labour with over-spending at the last election. These will include extracts and scans of various letters and reports.

They will all be in the new category of Electoral Act, so that you can click on the series link to see them all together.

I believe that any fair person reading the documents will conclude, as I have, that the Police decision not to prosecute was based on either incompetence or cowardice - not a charge I make lightly. But the documents speak for themselves.

And so they do. Go visit, and have a good long look at how and by whom the election was bought with your money.

LINKS: Background to the series - Kiwiblog
Electoral Act Archives - Kiwiblog

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour

'A Cathedral Towering Over a Town' - Karl Friedrich Schinkel


Painting meets architecture in architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel's 1813 painting of 'A Cathedral Towering Over a Town.' Click on the picture to enlarge.

TAGS: Architecture, Art

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Dick Turpin meets the taxman

A cartoon for Budget Week:

Original cartoon by Nick Kim, courtesy of The Free Radical.

TAGS: Cartoons Humour Budget_&_Taxation Libertarianism

Cue Card Libertarianism - Laissez Faire

Laissez-faire: Literally, leave/let to make or do; denotes the policy of non-intervention by government in the economy, an obvious application of the libertarian non-initiation of force principle.

The term originates from the despotic reign of King Louis XIV who had grandiose ambitions for France and believed that only through the state could they be achieved. His chief adviser, Colbert, a 17th century French version of Sir Robert Muldoon or Jim Anderton, believed that he could manage and control his way to national prosperity and duly regulated everything in sight. Meeting one day with a group of industrialists, he asked them what more he could do for them. One of the industrialists, a man rejoicing in the name Legendre, replied: “Laissez-nous faire!” -- “Leave us alone!”

Opponents of laissez-faire typically attribute to it the results of interventionism (the woes of the New Zealand electricity industry being a classic example) and then proceed to demand more intervention to repair the results of the ealier meddling – thereby, if they are successful, compounding the problems by further distorting the natural ebb and flow of supply and demand. New Zealand’s economic difficulties that came to a head in the Muldoon years arose from precisely this type of acquiescence to the demands of lobby groups seeking favours.

For decades farmers, unions, and business interests jostled for domination of government’s agenda, all meeting with considerable success at different times, always to the ultimate detriment of the economy. The solution to domination of the government by one group is not domination by another. Those who feel that Big Business and the current government are too cosily intertwined, for example, should realise that, even if that were true, the answer is not simply to effect a change of partner, but to disentangle government from all sectors of the economy altogether. Corporate welfare is as wrong as 'social' welfare.

Let's be clear: Advocates of laissez-faire are opposed to government collusion with any pressure group. Advocates of laissez-faire propose a complete and constitutional separation between the state and the economy, in the same way and for similar reasons as the separation of church and state, believing that only in this way can governments be prevented from playing favourites and confined to their legitimate function – protecting the rights of individuals.

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 'Cue Cards' will be published as a set at the completion of the series.


TAGS: Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Economics, Libertarianism, Politics, Politics-NZ

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Cue Card Libertarianism - Monopoly

Monopoly: n. exclusive domain over the production or provision of a given good or service.


Coercive monopoly: n. exclusive domain over the production or provision of a given good or service that is maintained by government force.

The difference between these two very different things is as little understood as are the reasons that some companies come to claim near-dominance. But the difference is crucial.

The claim by statists that a free market inevitably leads to monopolies is a classic case of the inversion described under Laissez-Faire; an inversion in which the market is distorted due to state intervention, and the market is then blamed for the distortion that results.

True monopolies are creations of the state: there has been no company in history that has been able to maintain exclusive domain over all of the production or provision of a given good or service without the assistance of the state.

If true monopolies offend you, then it's government intervention you should abhor. The state will exercise its own monopolies, as with the old Air New Zealand, Post Office, or Producer Boards, or the present electricity lines 'business' and roading network, where other parties are prohibited by law from entering the relevant field; the state may confer monopoly status on a chosen private firm by issuing a charter or an exclusive franchise; or the state may boost favoured firms into positions of market dominance by means of subsidies, tariffs, quotas and other forms of artificial assistance and protection. That is a true coercive monopoly.

However, a 'monopoly' that emerges from the cut and thrust of competition in a free marketplace to achieve near dominance purely by its own efforts deserves its dominance by dint of the outstanding service by which alone it can achieve it; such a company has not been granted its position by state charter, but by consumer choice.

Maintaining such a position of voluntarily-maintained near-dominance in a market is not easy; as long as the field remains open and coercion and fraud are prohibited it is in permanent danger of losing that dominance.

Bigness as such is not a menace; state coercion that creates an artificial bigness or barriers to entry, is. 

Statists who erroneously fault the free market for producing monopolies are curiously staunch in their defence of existing state monopolies, and have taken to using the argument that certain fields are 'natural monopolies.' This may be translated as: “Whatever fields are now monopolised by the state are natural monopolies, therefore the state should continue to monopolise them.”

This argument is absurd on its face. That there are technical difficulties or problems in de-monopolising certain fields, e.g. roads and electricity, is a legacy of the state’s monopoly, not something intrinsic to the field. In most cases, however, there are not even technical obstacles to deregulation, just the knee-jerk moral objections of hidebound socialists, which have been eloquently quashed by deregulation’s actual fruits. Anti-Trust Laws in the United States and laws in New Zealand that enforce competition by state force -- laws that purport to 'promote competition' by preventing so-called 'anti-competitive behaviour' -- these both allow for the most vicious statutory violations of accepted legal and judicial norms in the semi-free world.

Under these laws, citizens cannot be sure beforehand what constitutes a crime, and under these laws, citizens guilty of no more than running a great business have been jailed. Charging a lower price for one’s products than a competitor has led to prosecution on the grounds of unfairness; charging the same price as a competitor has led to prosecution on the grounds of collusion; charging a higher price has led to prosecution on the grounds of exploitation of the consumer.

Such is the Alice-in-Wonderland world of Antitrust.

A truly 'natural' monopoly or near-monopoly – ie., an unsubsidised, unprotected victor of unregulated competition enjoying near-dominance in their field – is to be applauded: while it lasts! And where it really does exist!

But a coercive monopoly--a creature of the state who could only survive under its wing--that's where your real opprobrium should be directed.


This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The 'Cue Cards' will be published as a set at the completion of the series.

  TAGS: Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Economics, Libertarianism, Politics, Politics-NZ

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