Saturday, June 10, 2006

A message from the slaughtered


Cartoon above by Cox and Forkum. Reuters Video here showing the house call paid on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by two 500lb smart bombs. May the murderous Jordanian rest in pieces.

TAGS: War, Cartoons, Politics-World

Friday, June 09, 2006

Beer O’Clock gets manly with Skol Super, the 'Bus Stop Beer'

It's Friday, and we all need a drink. Neil from Real Beer has this week's recommendation:

Skol Super – my one weakness, my Achilles heel if you will.

It is not a fashionable thing to say in good beer circles, but those big bold cans of 9% lager are a guilty pleasure of mine.

It was actually the first beer I ever reviewed. I chose Skol Super as a strange personal protest against the launch of the Citrus Hopper, Berry Hopper and Peach Hopper range of fruit beers, and of 'Stinger – The Fruit Flavored Lager.'

Those alleged beers were a truly a national disgrace.

They were literally nothing more than the usual watery New Zealand lager with a shot of sugar and some fruit syrup chucked in. They didn't need to be brewed - you could have whipped them up in a Soda Stream in five minutes - although it would have been an utter waste of five minutes.

In a moment of rare good sense, consumers quickly turned against them and they faded away. I mourn their passing like I would the end of polio or skateboarding. ( I do at least live in hope of the latter.)

Anyway, to register my disapproval against the (thankfully short-lived) fruit-syrup-beer phenomena I resolved there and then to review the strongest, manliest beers I could find on the shelves of my local New World.

That is where Skol Super came in.

This manly sounding beer is brewed in the United Kingdom. It comes in very manly 500ml cans. It has a most manly strength of 9% abv. It sponsors the World Championship of that most manly of sports - darts.

It is a light, almost sandy, colour with a large but wispy head. The first taste impression is of a full, strong, alcoholic mouth feel. You certainly won't mistake this for Export Gold in a hurry. It has hints of malty sweetness – but is not cloying. It has an inoffensive, but reasonably short, after taste.

I am reliably informed it is the beer of choice for British vagrants where it is usually served in a brown paper bag. Because of where it is often consumed, Skol Super has earned the moniker 'Bus Stop Beer.'

Here, it is almost five dollars a can, which leaves very little over for the brown paper bag. A guilty pleasure indeed...

LINKS: Real Beer

TAGS: Beer_&_Elsewhere

Propositions on free speech

It seems timely to repost my Propositions on Free Speech, which I hope will help to show the legitimate moral parameters of free speech -- as one NZ blogger reminds us this morning, the local legal parameters of free speech are markedly more contrained.
The right to free speech means the right to express one's ideas without danger of coercion, of physical suppression or of interference by the state.

Bad ideas are still ideas. You should be just as free to air them as I should be to ignore them, or to pillory them.

Just as I must take responsibility for what I do with my health and my life, so too must I take responsibility for what I say.

I may be offended, but I may not commit violence against those who offend me. I may boycott, but I may not behead.

The right to free speech gives the smallest minority the absolute protection of the state to air their views.


The smallest minority is the individual.
Continue reading here.

LINKS: Some propositions on free speech - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
What freedom of speech? - Relative Humility

TAGS: Free_Speech, New_Zealand

'Free Speech and Dissent During Wartime'

'Free Speech and Dissent During Wartime.' That's the title of a very popular lecture, delivered this week at the Mises Institute and available online, that "examines the effect of war on civil liberties in American history," including an examination of the laws of sedition, which are generally only utilised in wartime.

The lecturer is John Denson, editor of The Costs of War, and it begins by examining the American Alien and Sedition Act of 1798...

Lecture details here. Audio here. Video here.

LINKS: Free speech and dissent during wartime - John Denson
Mises Media

TAGS: Free_Speech, War, Politics

Silence of the lambs

No Right Turn has the roundup of sedition-related news and commentary around the traps. He notes too an important observation by Liberty Scott, who asks "the quite reasonable question of where the usual voices of liberalism within the political parties are on this."
The Labour Party, who were once victims of this unjust law? Silent. National? Silent. ACT, who proudly proclaim themselves to be "the liberal party"? Silent. The Greens, usually a reliable voice on civil liberties issues? Silent. And of course nothing from the Progressives or Maori Party either. This is a serious civil liberties issue which threatens the freedom of speech of everyone in New Zealand - and our supposed representatives in Parliament refuse to say a word. Thanks, guys.
The only political party to make comment is Libertarianz, which does at least make me proud, but the silence of the rest just leaves me in disgust.

UPDATE: Greens now have a release out. A day late, and maybe just a dollar or two short.

LINKS: Sedition roundup - No Right Turn
Outrage of sedition: where are the other parties - Liberty Scott

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Libz, Politics-ACT, Politics-Labour, Politics-National, Politics-Maori_Party, Politics-Greens

'The Third of May' - Goya


TAGS: Art

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Some thoughts occasioned by the events of today ...

  • "If the abuse be enormous, nature will rise up, and claiming her original rights, overturn a corrupt political system."
  • "When dictatorship is a fact, revolution becomes a right."
  • "All oppressed people are authorized, wherever they can, to rise and break their fetters."
  • Henry Clay, Speech, U.S. house of representatives, (March 24, 1818)
  • "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it."
  • "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
  • "When the government is dissolved, the people are at liberty to provide for themselves, by erecting a new legislative, differing from the other, by the change of persons, or form, or both, as they shall find it most for their safety and good: for the society can never, by the fault of another, lose the native and original right it has to preserve itself"
  • John Locke, Second Treatise on Government, Section 220, (1690)
  • "Must men alone be debarred the common privilege of opposing force with force, which nature allows so freely to all other creatures for their preservation from injury? I answer: Self-defence is a part of the law of nature; nor can it be denied the community..."
  • "If therefore any future prince should endeavour to subvert the constitution by breaking the original contract between king and people, should violate the fundamental laws, and should withdraw himself out of the kingdom; we are now authorized to declare that this conjunction of circumstances would amount to an abdication, and the throne would be thereby vacant."
  • "In the transition to statism, every infringement of human rights has begun with the suppression of a given right's least attractive practitioners."
  • Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It?
  • "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the Governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to Institute new Government...."
TAGS: Quotes, Politics

Sedition verdict gives new meaning to 'Helengrad'

Another nail in Liberty's great coffin: A man has been charged and convicted of, wait for it, sedition. TV3 report here (video). Radio report here (audio)

Not in the nineteenth century, but today. Not in time of war or great conflict, but in the "benign strategic environment" that is the South Pacific. Not in a third-world banana republic -- not in a Kafka-esque, Eastern European Soviet hell-hole -- not even in Mugabe's Zimbabwe -- but here, today, in Auckland's District Court. Convicted of sedition for an act of vandalism in Sandringham Rd eighteen months ago that was accompanied by five -- count them, five -- five leaflets scattered down Ponsonby Rd early one morning that tried to explain the vandalism, and invited NZers to "commit their own acts of Civil Disobedience" in opposition to the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

It's not exactly Michael Collins or Lord Haw Haw, is it? It's not even John Minto or Mike Smith.

But for those actions, a jury this afternoon found one Tim Selwyn guilty of an intention to "bring into hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection against" the Queen or the government and to incite "violence, disorder, and lawlessness." In other words for vandalising the PM's electorate office, and then boasting about it, Mr Selwyn now faces two years in prison. Not for simple vandalism, for which he's already been properly convicted. But for sedition.

Now, note too that this charge has not been brought under the Prime-Ministership of William Massey, nor under that of Robert Muldoon -- nor even under the wartime Prime-Ministership of Peter Fraser -- but in peacetime under the leadership of Helen Elizabeth Clark, who herself just over twenty-five years ago was engaged in her own acts of vandalism and civil disobedience up and down Sandringham Rd and various other streets around the Eden Park of 1981 that was then 'occupied' by a Springbok team. The same Helen Clark who then appeared to value open and vigorous debate -- even with flour bombs, broken glass and lengths of four by two. The same Helen Clark who herself was once said to value the civil disobedience of Henry David Thoreau, of Martin Luther King, of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

How easy it is to become a dictator.

Free speech and open political expression were once considered a great value by Helen and her ilk. Free speech and the right to the free expression of political views were once something supported by the left. With one or two noble exceptions however, blogger No Right Turn heading the list, not one has raised a decent voice in opposition to this case. It seems that free speech as a left-wing value is dead. Carry out the coffin. And then shoot the pall-bearers.

As No Right Turn has noted before, the legal definition of sedition is so broad as to criminalise virtually any criticism of the government. If today's political opposition were doing their job properly, they should themselves fall guilty under the Act. Not likely today, however. And not one word either in opposition to this case from any of today's supine, brain-dead, morally-castrated, principle-free opposition.

A sedition trial is rare. So rare most people can't even remember the last time a troublesome political opponent was tried for the offence. The only thing stopping prosecution under this Act was the odium in which cases of sedition were held. With this case and this verdict however -- and with very little opposition -- it now seems the 'trial balloon' has been a success, and the way is clear to threaten all manner of political opposition.

And who in all fairness could now rise up in protest?

It's hard to express the necessary outrage at this verdict. For political debate in this country, it is chilling. It is a clear, frontal assault by the executive on political expression in this country -- and the judiciary has just handed Helengrad an outright victory. I would like to call on all of you to rise up in protest at this outrageous abuse of state power. I would like to, but I can't. The law doesn't allow me to.

That's how chilling it is.

As former Labour Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer said back in 1989, "Libelling the government must be permitted in a free society." It is apparent from today's verdict that the label 'free society' to describe this country would from this time on be erroneous. And how many people really do give a shit about that.

Ake! Ake! Ake!

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Free_Speech

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'Jackson Pollock' - Victor Pross


A piece of art by caricaturist Victor Pross, satirising (con) artist Jackson Pollock. I think the point is fairly clear.

LINKS: Victor Pross Caricatures

TAGS: Art, Humour

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sedition trial

A round up below of the various reports on Tim Selwyn's sedition trial, currently under way in Auckland's District Court and on which I sat in briefly this afternoon.

Selwyn was charged with the crime of sedition after being involved in an early morning axe attack on the window of Helen Clark's electorate office, unoccupied at the time, in order to raise awareness of the theft of property rights that was the Foreshore and Seabed Act. In pamphlets distributed at the time, the attackers called for others to commit their own acts of civil disobedience in protest at the Act's introduction.

The axe attack was apparently intended to gain attention for Selwyn's opposition to the Act, which on the face of it was a poorly planned, perhaps hot-headed, but hardly (you would have thought) seditious -- unless, that is, the definition for sedition is a pretty loose one. Turns out that's exactly the case, as No Right Turn explains here:
The definition is so broad as to criminalise virtually any criticism of the government. And historically, that is exactly how the law of sedition has been used in this country: as a tool of persecution for those whose political opinions were deemed "non-mainstream."
Frankly, if Selwyn is convicted of sedition, then we all could be. As Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton said on Tuesday:

Tim Selwyn's prosecution for sedition once again highlights this government's contempt for freedom of expression. Selwyn's act of vandalism has already been dealt with under a separate charge, to which he's pleaded guilty. The sedition charge is simply an attempt to punish criticism of the government.

The law against sedition is a medieval hangover that should be removed from our law books immediately. Sedition law is an assault on free speech – it only criminalises political expression.

Speech that really incites violence can be dealt with under existing laws against public disorder, as pointed out by Sir Geoffrey Palmer during a review of Crimes Act Reform: 'Sedition should not be a crime in a democratic society committed to free speech. Libelling the government must be permitted in a free society.'

Using this archaic law to try and silence its critics is typical of both this government's high-handedness and its disrespect for freedom of expression.

The trial started Tuesday, and will likely finish tomorrow.

LINKS: Checkpoint, Wednesday summary (audio)
NZ Herald, Wednesday report: Axe attack on PM's office 'symbolic gesture', court told
Dominion, Wednesday report: Protestor says axe attack was 'symboloc gesture'

Checkpoint, Tuesday summary (audio)
NZ Herald, Tuesday report: Sedition trial starts into axe attack on PM's office
Dominion, Tuesday report: Axe attacker to take stand in sedition attack

Background to the trial comes from No Right Turn, whose post here summarises the pre-trial reports, some previous sedition trials and the reactions from the country's politicians -- to date there has been only, from Libertarianz -- and here at Scoop he summarises the case.

Blogger News Network have their own summary here. Selwyn's own blog has what is decribed as Context, but might perhaps be better understood as an example of how little persuasive power any pamphlet of Selwyn's might have.

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Law, Free Speech

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50 greatest gadgets

PC World has a list of the top fifty gadgets of the last half-century that make the world a better place -- none of them, interestingly enough, invented in North Korea, the Soviet bloc, feudal Africa, Easter Island or the Victoria University Womens Studies Department.

Thank Galt for freedom and capitalist ingenuity, eh?

You can start the list with number 41-50, explore by decade, or you can dive straight in and find out their number one.

UPDATE: Yalnikim asks below how many of these objects that have helped the pursuit of happiness do readers actually own. (I paraphrase a little.) For mine, I can say I own or have owned an Instamatic, a Polaroid, a digital calculator, a video camera, a walkman, a computer, a Motorola StarTAC, Intellimouse... If he's willing to stand by his claim that he's never bought any one of them, (or any derivative thereof) then I'm willing to say he's, well, perhaps just a little economical with the truth.

LINK: The 50 greatest gadgets of the past 50 years - PC World [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

TAGS: Geek_Stuff, Science, Ethics

Tiananmen massacre remembered

Seventeen years ago thousands of pro-democracy Chinese students occupied Tiananmen Square for several weeks while the Beijing public held off the military by blocking convoys unwilling to shoot those in their way. For those of us watching at the time, we thought we'd seen it all before: the fall of the former Soviet regimes of Central Asia and Eastern Europe and the liberation of millions of human beings from their Communiust masters had begun in just such a way, and liberation had been effected in the main peacefully, and without bloodshed.

Not in China.

On May 30, protestors in Tiananmen Square erected a papier-mâché ‘Goddess of Democracy’ which for a time faced down the iconic portrait of Chairman Mao hanging from the gates of The Forbidden City. It lasted just five days before the killing began.

There has been no public commemoration in mainland China of the 17th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, but there has been elswhere:
  • In London local Chinese and officials gathered in Trafalgar Square last weekend to remember the victims of the massacre. "There are tears that flow in China for the children that are gone," said the lyrics of a song played on a stereo. "Oh children, blood is on the square. Oh children, blood is on the square."
  • In Hong Kong, thousands of protestors staged a candlelit rally to mark the pro-democracy rally that ended in the slaughter of 3,000 civilians.
  • In the US, the State Department called for China to provide a full accounting of those who were killed, were detained, or went missing during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations 17 years ago, and of "the government's role in the massacre."
  • That call is echoed in Taiwan by Taiwan's main opposition leader. "The mainland has to face the issue sooner or later," Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of the island's main opposition Nationalist Party, told Reuters late on Saturday when asked if he had any words for Chinese leaders on the eve of the Tiananmen anniversary. "The earlier it can face the issue and adjust, I think the more (chance) it can succeed."
Meanwhile, Human Rights in China (HRIC) have "launched a podcast series of interviews with participants of the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement." And the BBC have have archive reports including Kate Adie's on-the-spot reporting from the China of 1989.

LINKS: 17th Tiananmen aniversary passes in China - San Jose Mercury/AP
'Oh children, blood is on the Square' - Epoch Times
Thousands mark Tiananmen Square anniversary in Hong Kong - Fox News

US calls for accounting of Tiananmen Square deaths, detentions - US Department of State
Interview: Taiwan's Ma says China must reassess 1989 protest - Reuters, India
HRIC launches podcast interviews for June 4th anniversary - UN Observer
1989: Massacre in Tiananmen Square - BBC News: On this day

TAGS: History-Twentieth_Century, Socialism,
Politics-World

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Taser protection

There are two sides to the introduction of Tasers. Here's one:
However:
  • Their abuse by police departments overseas, NZ's somewhat thuggish police culture -- which has become so evident in traffic policing and through recent court hearings -- and the many, many laws on the books that are an affront to personal liberty suggest that no matter what internals police guidelines are established for their use, tasers used by the NZ police are going to be used against some people that have committed no real crime, and some of them will be used when and how they shouldn't.
The first point makes the introduction of Tasers urgent. The second point makes it important that their introduction is done right, with proper checks and balances and not just fine words. A promise from police Superintendent John Rivers "that there will be no relaxation over time, Tasers will only ever be used as an absolute last resort," is just not enough. You can imagine for yourself how much restraint such fine words would exercise on Clint Rickards and his colleagues.

If Tasers are to be introduced, proper legal checks and balance must be introduced to effect firm, entrenched, systematic and transparent restraint. Victimless crime laws must be repealed so innocent people are not 'Tased.' And as I argued here a short while ago, police systems need to urgently change to fix what most of us already know: that all is not well with the force. Trevor's ten points for fixing police systems would be something else to get on with quick-smart.

If the introduction of Tasers is urgent, as I believe it is, then all this needs to happen with speed. And here's one further point:
LINKS: Stun guns worry experts - TVNZ
It's an unfair cop - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
How to save our police force - New Zeal (Trevor Loudon)
Police Tasers: Good for them, good for us - Not PC (August, 2005)


TAGS: Politics-NZ, Law, Victimless_Crimes, Self-Defence

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Learning from Easter Island: something for Russel Norman and his Greens to think about

Russel Norman's acceptance speech shows the intellectual horsepower that got him the Greens' co-leaders job, and Liberty Scott has another critique of it this morning. I want to examine Russel's view given in that speech of our "impending environmental collapse" and his solution for averting it:
I wanted to start [he says in his acceptance speech] by talking a little about the history of Easter Island... The story of Easter Island is the story of one potential future of the planet writ small...
Okay, stop laughing there at the back. Let the man continue:
A hierarchical society was built around the construction and worship of ... giant statues. The largest and heaviest statues were carved and raised just before the civilisation collapsed. And the civilisation collapsed because they had cut down every substantial tree on the island ...

After the last tree was felled they could no longer build ocean going canoes to catch fish, they ran out of timber to build houses and keep themselves warm, the soil eroded into the sea, there was no wild fruit to eat, and all species of land birds became extinct. Their civilisation collapsed due to civil war over resources and famine, resulting in the loss of 90 percent of the population.
According to Russel, our own culture of industrialism, worldwide trade, contract and property law, and shackled capitalism is the same as the Easter Islanders, only larger:
Now, our society has its own cult of the ever-bigger statue, and it's called the cult of never ending growth in material consumption and GDP. Each year we must build an ever-bigger statue consuming yet more resources taken from the forests and quarries and factories of the four corners of the earth. Every year we must consume more of resources available from the planet in order to expand our material consumption.
I'll let you work out for yourself for a moment just some of the many things Russel has to overlook to make his comparison between the dirt-poor Easter Islanders and free-wheeling, ever-productive modern man. But what's Russel's solution to the impending collapse he predicts for us?
If we are to avoid the fate of the Easter Islanders then we need international environmental treaties that empower governments to discriminate on the basis of how products are made - that is whether they were made in an environmentally harmful way or not.
This is the thinking that got Russel the co-leaders' job. Like author Jared Diamond, who he gives as one source of his 'arguments,' he lacks understanding both of the Easter Islanders' collapse, and what allows the modern semi-capitalist world to work so damn well, and to produce so damn much. And he lacks an awful lot of perspective. What he wants as a solution to the problem he thinks he's identified is to shackle the production that makes human life possible, and to return to the primitivism that killed the Easter Islanders.

Here's something to consider: The Easter Islanders are not us. Their way of life, fortunately, is not ours. Crucially, their culture is not ours. As David Landes argues in his book Poverty and the Wealth of Nations, it is culture that matters.
Culture is a greater determinant for wealth than are geography or history alone... Cultures that value property and contract rights and personal liberty are in the end going to be more successful than those that don’t.
That is the crucial thing. As is found so often, what the 'have-not' cultures had not and have not is freedom, and what makes freedom possible. As Landes says, it's these three things that have underpinned the rise of the western world since at least the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they were of course spectacularly absent both in the culture of Easter Island, and the Green Party policy manifesto. Property rights. Contract rights. Personal liberty. To ignore these three boons is to ignore human history since about the middle of the sixteenth-century, and to fail to understand human productivity and wealth production.

Perhaps Russel and the Greens could take that lesson from the Easter Islanders: the importance of property rights and contract rights and personal liberty, and what happens in their absence? Sadly, it is these answers to the problem he poses that Russel and his party seems set firmly against. As Gene Callahan says of Diamond's analysis:
he has not realized that ... there is a ... discipline called history that concerns itself with discovering the particular antecedents of some unique going-on that explain its occurrence, based on critically analyzing artifacts from the past that have survived into the historian's present.

... Diamond's mistake is not merely of concern to scholars. The view that "vast, impersonal forces" largely determine the course of history, whether those forces are taken to be "the material conditions of production," as in Marxism, or geographical circumstances, as in Diamond, naturally suggests that individuals can do little to affect their own future.

As a logical consequence, in order to improve the lives of those who have been dealt a poor hand by those forces, it seems necessary to counteract them with another vast, impersonal force, namely, the State. Huge international programs intended to redress the arbitrary outcomes brought about by historical forces are recommended. The cases of countries with few geographic advantages but relatively free economies, such as Japan, prospering, and those of nations blessed with natural resources but ruled by highly interventionist governments, for example, Brazil or Nigeria, lagging behind, are easily dismissed as anomalies by those who are convinced that human action plays an insignificant part in history.

John Bratland makes a related point, against both Diamond and Russel Norman:
For Diamond [and Norman] societies are entities that act independent of the actions of individuals. He sees societal ascent or collapse as being contingent upon the extent to which societies embrace a centralized structure and management. But in so doing, he ignores institutions critical to peaceful, prosperous social interaction and the formation of society: (1) private property rights and (2) human action leading to division of labor and emergence of cooperative monetary exchange. With these institutions, individuals are able to avoid conflict and rationally reckon both scarcity and capital. Without these institutions, societies such as the Soviet Union and Easter Island are seen to have a common fate in that scarcity implies conflict, chaos, ‘waste’ and eventual collapse.
The fate of a culture is not fixed in the stars; it is set by the extent to which "institutions critical to peaceful, prosperous social interaction" are valued, and to which human genius is free to create. Curiously, it is this model for human life that Norman rejects, and it is the centralised Soviet model that he seems to favour as a model for society.

Perhaps if he was serious about his own critique, he might reconsider his position.

LINKS: Russel Norman's links Easter Island and the WTO and comes up with ? - Liberty Scott
Collapsed: Jared Diamond's arguments - Not PC
The Diamond fallacy - Gene Callahan, Mises Institute
On societal ascendance and collapse: An Austrian challenge to Jared Diamond's explications -
John Brätland (US Dept. of the Interior), Mises Institute

TAGS: Property_Rights, History, Economics, Environment, Politics-Greens, Books

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Mystery and Melancholy of a Street - Georgio de Chirico


Mystery and Melancholy of a Street, by Spanish artist Georgio de Chirico. 1914.

TAG: Art

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Rodney: Dancing for mediocrity

Lynne Truss, "the world-famous author" of Eats, Shoots and Leaves explains Rodney's limpet-like ability to stay in contention in the TV show that defies good taste as much as Rodney's dancing (reportedly) defies the definition of the term.

In her new book Talk to the Hand Truss examines the utter bloody rudeness of everyday life. Fifth in her list of "six good reasons to stay home and bolt the door" is what she identifies as the rush from merit, or what she calls "booing the judges":
Authority [she says] is largely perceived as a kind of personal insult which must be challenged. On TV competitions, judges are booed and abused for saying, "Look, I'm sorry, he can't dance!" because it has become a modern tenet that success should have only a loose connection with merit, and that when 'the people' speak, they are incontestably right.
Now, if that doesn't explain it, I'm not sure what would.

TAGS: Books

Trickle-down in action

For years we've heard from the likes of anti-capitalists like Russel Norman, John Kenneth Galbraith and Michael Cullen about "trickle down." According to one view, capitalism is supposed to be characterised by the poor getting the crumbs that have trickled down from the top tables of the rich. Galbraith characterised it thus: "If you feed the horse enough oats, the sparrow will survive on the highway."

But no sane economist has ever advocated such a view. Thomas Sowell invites anyone -- anyone -- to prove him wrong in that assertion:
A year ago this column defied anyone to quote any economist -- in government, academia, or anywhere else outside an insane asylum -- who had ever argued in favor of a 'trickle down theory'... a stock phrase on the left for decades and yet not one of those who denounce it can find anybody who advocated it. The tenacity with which they cling to these catchwords shows how desperately they need them, if only to safeguard their vision of the world and of themselves.
Frankly, if you want to see trickle-down in action, the only place you're going to see it is in Government. The best place to see it in NZ is in Labour's Welfare for Working Families package: they take your money, waste a large portion of it (fiscal drag, you see), and then dole out a small proportion of it back to some voters (for which they're pathetically grateful). That's trickle-down for you, as administered by the residents of an insane asylum.

LINK: The 'trickle down' left" Preserving a vision - Thomas Sowell
The 'Trickle down' economics straw man - Thomas Sowell (Sep, 2001)

TAGS: Economics, Labour, Welfare, Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Nonsense

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Red Green is new co-leader person-person

The Greens have a new co-person-leaderette, the red Russel Norman (he's the ginga on the left with rival candidate Nandor). LibertyScott has an analysis of Norman's vapid acceptance speech.

If bland luddite blathering is your thing, then Russel will be your cup of herb tea. That it's been voted in as the Green thing makes clearer than anything else could how intellectually ghetto-ised the party is keen to make itself.

If you haven't already, read Trevor Loudon's various posts on Russel's background to see why the Greens are called watermelons.

UPDATE: Trevor has provided a convenient summary of all his Norman-related posts right here.

LINK: Russel Norman, ecologically, economically vapid - LibertyScott

Green Party Insider on Extreme Left Take-over - New Zeal (Trevor Loudon)
Fisking Russel Norman- New Zeal (Trevor Loudon)

"Russel Norman" at New Zeal
Reds taking over Green Party?
- New Zeal (Trevor Loudon)

TAGS: Politics-Greens

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Popular Not PC

Top ten popular posts here at present, just so you know:
  1. Super 14: Genius
  2. Bernini - Ecstacy of St Teresa
  3. Beer O'Clock: Monk's Habit
  4. CO2: They call it pollution
  5. Frank Lloyd Wright - Broadacre City
  6. Ms A Presley gets community service
  7. Annette Presley: Face of threats
  8. Cullen's a grumpy little thief this week
  9. Beer O'Clock: A Moa that's not endangered at all
  10. How postmodernism gutted the left
And the top few searches:
  1. peter cresswell
  2. not pc
  3. the living city frank lloyd
  4. tim wikiriwhi
  5. broadacre city
  6. bernini sculpture the ecstacy of st teresa
  7. presley tree auckland fine
  8. when did the industrial revolution start
  9. mark inglis
  10. ah chee house nz
  11. belgian show no balls
  12. hitchens fry debate
  13. samoan/niuean girl pics
  14. clitorectomies sterility
  15. evening fall of day rimmer
  16. classic sex
  17. reith lectures mp3
Yep, just a couple of oddities there, to which you can add "gay pc signs""lucy lawless exposed breast," "inflamed testicles," "rape can be funny" and "online weirdos," which also pretty much expains about half the searches that land here.

TAGS: Blog

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Rodin's life force

I love it when other people 'get' great artists like Rodin -- it's like discovering them yourself for the first time. And by crikey, Oh Crikey's just discovered Rodin and fallen "madly in love," and it's great to watch. Says OC:
Rodin's art is saturated with immense psychological depth & complexity. His figures often appear 'in motion' as if encapsulating that very moment of peak desire & passion.

I sat riveted leafing through picture after picture of hands. Who would've thought a mere 'hand' could convey so much anguish & torment, or tenderness & delicacy? ...

In Maori terms, we could say Rodin's sculptures have a mauri, or a 'life force'. The more rational among us will scoff, "Oh, that's silly, inanimate objects can't possibly have a life force!" But they're dead wrong, Rodin is alive! ...


All the more depressing is the glut of crap art polluting Wellington's public spaces. What I'd give to trade all that cheap, gimmicky nonsense for one Rodin! That's what you call 'art'! And that's what will live on for centuries after all the other tired, contrived, uninspired rubbish is rightfully buried & forgotten.
What a magnificent (and true) tribute. Go here to read it all.

LINK: Bloggers come and bloggers go, but great art endures: Rodin's mauri- Oh Crikey

TAGS: Art, Sculpture

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The 7 deadly sins of home renovations

According to Market Watch magazine, these are the top seven things not to do when remodelling the American home for investment (the same 'sins' mostly apply to the NZ home-owner considering renovations for profit). Here's the summary:
  1. Don't over-expand or over-capitalise.
  2. Don''t make you home into something it isn't.
  3. Don't change a room's function
  4. Don't DIY
  5. Add a large contingency amount to your budget
  6. Don't renovate what brings no return
  7. Don't forget maintenance.
You'll notice that an architect or home-owner remodelling for fun rather than profit might have a somewhat different list. Full list with reasoning here.

LINK: Seven deadly sins fo home remodelling - Market Watch magazine

TAGS: Building

Cold May, cool science

A few bloggers have already noted that this last May was NZ's coldest in ten years, and wondered where global warming is when you need it. In a Saturday press release, the Climate Science Coalition agrees and expands on the point:

NEW ZEALAND CLIMATE SCIENCE COALITION

3 June 2006. PRESS RELEASE

Claims by Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today about "greenhouse" gases and "global warming" are contradicted by the national climate summary just released by the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) showing that last month was the coldest May since 1996.

Dr Vincent Gray, a member of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition's scientific panel and a member of the expert reviewers panel of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the NIWA report demonstrates that there is no relationship between warming and level of gases in the atmosphere.

"This coldest May in 10 years comes at a time when recordings made at Baring Head of carbon dioxide over New Zealand show that concentrations of the gas have increased by almost 15 per cent since 1970, in spite of the fact that average temperatures in this country have been in decline since 1998," said Dr Gray. "This makes a mockery of claims by global warming propagandists that warming is driven by carbon dioxide. In turn, this brings into question the whole rationale for the Kyoto Protocol, carbon taxes and other unjustified measures that have been in the public and political arena in recent months.

"Global warming enthusiasts claim that there is a steady increase in global temperature caused by the steady increase in what they erroneously label as "greenhouse" gases. But there was no warming between 1942 and 1978 despite a steady increase of greenhouse gases over that period. Similarly, there was no increase in the average temperature of New Zealand between 1955 and 2006. The greenhouse gases seem only to work over some periods and they stop working at others. This is impossible. The odd warming period (for example 1910 to 1942, 1978 to 1998) must have some other cause," he said.

Dr Gray has just published a paper responding to global warming claims by the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "I believe my paper to be the only international response so far to the NOAA paper, which in most respects is the last remaining serious claim of the greenhouse supporters and the IPCC for a relationship between greenhouse gas increases and 'global warming'. The warming takes place only on the earth, but not in the lower troposphere where it is supposed to happen, " said Dr Gray, whose paper is available on the coalition's website: www.climatescience.org.nz

Dr Gray has commented also on methane: "The rate of increase of methane in the atmosphere has been falling since records began in 1984, It has now reached a constant value for five years, and can be expected to fall. Of course, all the models predict that it will rise."

Contact: Climate Science Coalition

ENDS

TAGS: Global_Warming, New_Zealand

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

How much is a handbag really worth?

What's a handbag worth? Well, depends how you measure it. When it's one of hundreds of vinyl replicas on sale in the shops it's worth thirty bucks. When former All Black captain Tana Umaga has used it to subdue team-mate Chris Masoe, it's clearly worth more than your average old bag -- in fact, as you've probably already heard, Sue Langmaid (that's her celebrating at right) has just paid Nicole Davies a cool $22,750 on behalf of a friend for the privilege of ownership, causing howls of outrage to erupt around Grey Lynn and the Aro Valley.

So what's a handbag worth, and how do you know? And why the outrage?

Some economists would say the handbag has an intrinsic value, and then hurry to find ways of measuring this value, most of which on close examination turn out to be quite subjective, and all of them requiring large payments to economists to assess.

Karl Marx (and most of the residents of Grey Lynn and the Aro Valley) would have assessed how much the handbag is worth by the amount of labour that went into making the bag, this was what Karl called the labour theory of value, and would then decry anything charged above that amount as exploitation -- but unless she's putting on a very brave face, buyer Sue seems about as far from being exploited as it's possible to be. Hence the outrage: Sue's friend is clearly a filthy capitalist herself, awash with cash from exploiting the workers and speding her ill-gotten gains on trivia.

Ludwig von Mises by contrast would have said that the handbag is worth exactly what someone wants to pay for it. What's it worth to me? Bugger all? What's it worth to Sue Langmaid's friend, who Rugby Heaven reports she bought it for? Clearly, to her friend, owning the bag is worth more than having the $22,750 he's paid for it, and worth more than having (for example) an otherwise highly desirable Hermes Birkin handbag now selling at eBay for $22,000. And to Nicole Davies, who just sold it, having $22,750 is obviously worth more than having the bag. So both Sue's friend and Nicole are now happy - they've both received a higher value to them -- and so are we because we now know what the bag is worth to Sue's friend.

The point is that no value can be assessed aside from its context. Things don't have any intrinsic worth -- their value comes from our own assessement of their value to us. Like everything else, this handbag, and the Hermes Birkin, is worth no more and no less than what someone wants to pay for it. And that's value, folks.

LINKS: The $22,000 Umaga handbag farce - NZ Herald
Handbag buyer would have paid more - Rugby Heaven
Subjective theory of value - Wikipedia

TAGS: Economics

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Lindsay Perigo on Radio Live: Barking madness

This should have been Lindsay Perigo's editorial on Radio Live this afternoon,(or at least it would have been if they could have got the feed up):

There’s a lot of it about. Barking madness, I mean. Some of it’s good, most of it is innocently bonkers, some of it is quite intentionally evil.

Michael Cullen has certainly gone barking mad. Earlier this week the flaky Finance Minister went nuts at press gallery journalists for letting their own desire for tax cuts get in the way of their objectivity in reporting the issue. This after a catastrophic poll showing Labour trailing National by nine points, after omitting tax cuts from the latest budget, notwithstanding that they take $9 billion more of our money than they spend so lovingly on our welfare.

Now Mad Michael must surely know that it not only is it in fact the first recourse of a desperate politician to blame the media for his woes, but it’s also seen to be by voters, notwithstanding their quite extraordinary stupidity— so his impromptu tirade will send his fortunes plummeting further. But even crazier is his claim that journalists in general and those he singled out in particular, are in favour of tax cuts. At least three of those and 99% of all journalists are raving lefties who’d probably favour tax increases, especially for the evil rich.

The idea that the current Fourth Estate, and the supinely subservient press gallery in particular, are zealous protectors of our liberty and our money from the greedy intrusiveness of Big Government is ludicrous. Crazy Cullen was screaming at his own allies. Barking mad. Bad.

Of course, another early recourse of desperate politicians is to question the patriotism of their adversaries. National leader Don Brash, showing an unusual aptitude for a good one-liner, which we should probably attribute to his speechwriter, said that Labour does indeed believe there’s a place for tax cuts—it’s called Australia. That hurt. Helen Clark’s response? Don’s a traitor, who wants our kids to grow up cheering the Wallabies. Why doesn’t he go live across the ditch himself if he thinks it’s so great over there? she demanded. Potty, potty Prime Minister! Fact—Kiwis are heading for Australia in record numbers; 34,000 in the year ended March. Fact—they ‘re going because they can work hard over there and retain much more of their earnings in their own pockets. It’s not that Australia is some sort of Small Government El Dorado—it isn’t; it’s just that its government has less of a Soviet mindset than the one in Helengrad. Don Brash wants to stem the tide and see hard workers better rewarded in New Zealand. For that he’s unpatriotic? Potty, potty Prime Minister. Barking mad. Bad.

An example of barking mad, good, was the protest by hundreds of feisty farmers in the McKenzie country against the imminently compulsory micro-chipping of dogs, replete with their own dogs barking up a storm. The farmers are mad at the pointless cost and inconvenience of this idiotic procedure, as well they might be. Barking mad dogs will be no more controllable or trackable because of compulsory micro-chipping, whose only tangible result will be more money in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats. My question is, how long before the dinky dictators in the Beehive want to microchip us? The only humans who ought to be microchipped are politicians and bureaucrats themselves, and certain other types of criminal. Farmers seem to grasp this. Here’s hoping they’re as successful in their campaign against micro-chipping as they were against the stinky Fart Tax. Farmers. Barking mad, good.

Barking mad bad is par for the course in a country where funny Toyota ads get pulled, folk get fined for cutting down their own trees, bureaucrats tell you what colour you may paint your house, progress grinds to a halt because of taniwha, barking mad Muslims and Catholics unite in their efforts to end free speech, the Green Party elects a red co-leader, Rodney Hide doesn’t get eliminated immediately for his embarrassing jerking-off in Dancing with the Stars because the ACT Party are skewing the voting (notwithstanding the excellent observation of Paul Mercurio: “Krystal, you’re hot; Rodney, you’re not”) and so on … but we can take heart from the fact that it’s not just us—the whole world has gone barking mad.

Out of Seattle this week we learned that those in charge of public schools there regard individualism as a form of racism. Yes folks, you heard me right. Racism, according to Seattle Public Schools, includes “having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.” Now, I don’t think even Steve Maharey or Trevor Mallard have gone that barking mad, though the epidemic of so-called Attention Deficit Disorder among the young would suggest that our public schools are doing a great job of inoculating youngsters against a future time orientation. Happily this particular piece of barking madness has been rescinded after a public uproar. One Caprice D. Hollins (she’d have to be barking mad with a name like that), Director of Equity and Race Relations for Seattle Public Schools, has announced:
In response to the numerous concerns voiced regarding definitions posted on the Equity & Race website, we have decided to revise our website in a way that will hopefully provide more context to readers around the work that Seattle Public Schools is doing to address institutional racism. The intended purpose of our work in the area of race and social justice is to bring communities together through open dialogue and honest reflection around what is meant by racism and the impact is has on our society and more specifically, our students. …

Thank you for sharing your concerns. Warm regards, Caprice D. Hollins, Psy.D., 'Director of Equity & Race Relations'
Seattle Public Schools.
Unfortunately, that’s only a temporary tactical retreat. The world is run by the likes of Caprice D. Hollins.

I presume “Psy.D.” is some sort of psychology degree. Psychologists, of course, are all barking mad. They’re a mixture of lunacy and charlatanry. Here’s one, Marc Wilson, a lecturer in psychology in fact at Victoria University, quoted in the paper today, about what would motivate someone to pay $22,750 at auction for the handbag (pictured right) with which Tana Umaga subdued his rampaging colleague Chris Masoe:
By having the bag to hold and rub and take to bed with you, you are able to live some of that out.
Some of what out? Just what does Marc Wilson think the successful bidder wants to do with the bag? Remember, dear taxpaying listener, you and I are paying this witchdoctor to intone such hocus-pocus. Barking mad, bad.

Yes, there’s a lot of it about. Help me fight it. Raise your voice of sanity right here on Radio Live: 0800 723465

UPDATE 1: It looks as if the broadcast feed from Helengrad is off for the afternoon, so you''ll have to do without Perigo live on Radio Live, this week at least.

UPDATE 2: Revised and updated version of editorial posted.

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics, Nonsense, Education, Racism

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