Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Con-art in Kaipara

It's his money to waste, but if you want to see what Alan Gibbs has wasted his money on you can watch thirteen-and-a-half minutes of streaming TVNZ video showing much of what he calls 'art.' For a supposedly hard-nosed man, it's somewhat surprising to see what craftless tat some con artists have erected to persuade him to part with his cash.

Pictured above by way of example is a chunk of rusting steel, an enormous wall of which by the same 'sculptor' has been erected at great expense in one of Gibbs's Kaipara paddocks.

"It's some of the very best art in the world," Gibbs says of it all. I think not. "Capitalism is the greatest natural gift to mankind." Now there's more hard sense.

LINKS: Sunday: Alan Gibbs - TVNZ (13:25)

Art, New Zealand

Some Auckland mayors realise ring-fencing the city is 'unsustainable'

Some Auckland mayors at least have realised that 'ring-fencing' the city, as the Auckland Regional Council have done with their Metropolitan Urban Limit (discussed here and elsewhere), is restricting choice, restricting development, and driving up property prices -- without any positive spin-offs therefrom. Who would have thought it -- keeping a city contained within an arbitrarily decreed boundary wall leads to restricting the city's growth and "throttling economic opportunities"?! Herald story here.
Mayors of Manukau and Waitakere say the region's master plan for growth is throttling economic opportunities in their cities and needs an urgent overhaul.

When it was introduced in 1999, the Auckland Regional Council's regional growth strategy was hailed as the answer to managing the effects of growth such as in urban sprawl.
That is to say, when it was introduced in 1999 town planning gurus (who view 'sprawl' as an evil to be abolished, and the idea that people might have some choice in how and where they live as just anathema) hailed both the plan and the 'vision' of ring-fencing Auckland as "far-sighted" and "sustainable" and "smart." Idiots. Anyway, let the story continue:
But Manukau Mayor Sir Barry Curtis says the 50-year blueprint created by the region's eight councils is "out of date and irrelevant".

... The shortage of land for housing was pushing prices sky-high and making it difficult for young people to get homes.

Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey said he also wanted a review of the strategy to be completed as soon as possible.

He was impatient about the lack of progress in having potential new development areas at Westgate, Whenuapai and Hobsonville brought inside the metropolitan urban limit and made available.

"Anyone that is in local government is frustrated by long delays, procrastination and the inability to see the big picture - not by this council but by regulatory officialdom that stifles growth and prosperity."
As studies of the world's cities have shown and as I've argued and pointed out here before [see posts on Housing and on Urban Design], cities around the world that strangle the supply of land are less affordable to live in -- up to three times less affordable than comparative cities without similar restrictions! It's encouraging that Auckland's mayors -- some of Auckland's mayors -- are finally coming to terms with that.

Sadly, their call is not for no bureaucratic planning or for an end to all the petty "officialdom that stifles growth and prosperity" -- that would be too much sense to hope for: The call is just for a change to this plan and to its restrictions. Nonetheless, a recognition from at least some of the city's mayors that removing land from the supply-side of the equation is just nuts is a good thing. More power to them ... in a manner of speaking.

NB: You can read about Auckland's Metropolitan Urban Limit here, and about the economic effect of such limits on housing here and here.

LINKS: Auckland mayors unite in plea for more land - NZ Herald
East Germany in East Auckland - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
NZ Housing affordability "in crisis" says report - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
'Sustainable' cities are unaffordable cities - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

RELATED: Housing, Urban Design, Politics-NZ, Auckland, RMA

Cue Card Libertarianism - Unions

Compulsory unionism was a major component of the economic Fools’ Paradise to which the Alliance residue Matt McCarten, Laila Harre, Keith Locke et al would have us return, and for most of the Twentieth-Century a ‘Trojan Horse’ for Marxist movements who were more often genuinely concerned with economic dislocation and disruption than they were with worker welfare.

(The Unite and Supersize-My-Pay campaigns conducted by McCarten and Harre continue the ‘struggle’ – the aim not so much to achieve an increase in the ‘minimum wage’ or the ‘youth rate’ as to gain a new powerbase for themselves, and the radicalisation of the youth with whom they’re working.)

While voluntary unionism is a simple reflection of people’s right to choose whom they associate with, compulsory unionism is an imposition on that right. It is both morally and economically destructive. Compulsory unionism in New Zealand imposed artificially high wages on the economy and excluded potential non-union labour from the workforce, people who could have been employed at true market rates but who were instead left in unemployment. This acted to the detriment of productivity, and ultimately to the detriment of all workers.

The abolition of compulsory unionism was provably beneficial – acknowledged by all but the most blinkered to have provided a major impetus to New Zealand’s economic recovery. (Note that even the Labour Government’ s Employment Relations Act retains many of the voluntary planks of its predecessor.)

From a libertarian point of view, people have a right to organise into unions if that is their choice and if the employer agrees. He has the right not to agree – this being an aspect of property rights, whereby you enter someone else’s premises on his terms. Equally, workers have the right to effect a closed shop with their employer, if that is his choice and their choice. In the context of a totally free market, however, closed shops on the one hand or the forbidding of union membership on the other would be, and would be seen to be, incongruous and self-defeating. The role of government in a free employment market would be simply the protection of employment agreements that have been freely entered into.

'Cue Card Libertarianism' is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians. Originally published in The Free Radical. The 'Introduction' to the series is here
The series so far is here.

RELATED: Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Libertarianism, Politics, Economics

The question of government money

Is it morally proper for a libertarian or Objectivist to accept government money? For an advocate of small government and an opponent of government theft to accept a government scholarship, a government research grant or a government job?

Good question. Ayn Rand's answer is "Yes" -- and she then proceeds to explain and qualify the answer. "There are many confusions on these issues," she says, "created by the influence and implications of the altruist morality." Read on and find out what confusions she identifies, and what those implications are.

The first confusion that many libertarians or Objectivists might face is whether even to accept private scholarships or private donations -- some might even mistakenly see such a thing as an affront to their independence, or as a "sacrifice" on the part of a donor. That would be mistaken, says Rand.
It is morally proper to accept help when it is offered, not as a moral duty, but as an act of good will and generosity, when the giver can afford it (i.e., when it does not involve self-sacrifice on his part), and when it is offered in response to the receiver’s virtues, not in response to his flaws, weaknesses or moral failures, and not on the ground of his need as such.

Scholarships are one of the clearest categories of this proper kind of help. They are offered to assist
ability, to reward intelligence, to encourage the pursuit of knowledge, to further achievement—not to support incompetence.

If a brilliant child’s parents cannot send him through college (or if he has no parents), it is not a moral default on their part or his. It is not the fault of “society,” of course, and he cannot demand the right to be educated at someone else’s expense; he must be prepared to work his way through school, if necessary. But this is the proper area for voluntary assistance. If some private person or organization offers to help him, in recognition of his ability, and thus to save him years of struggle—he has the moral right to accept.

The value of scholarships is that they offer an ambitious youth
a gift of time when he needs it most: at the beginning.
So much for private scholarships. What about government cash that's been stolen from taxpayers -- should a libertarian accept a government scholarship?
The right to accept [government scholarships] rests on the right of the victims to the property (or some part of it) which was taken from them by force.

The recipient of a public scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism.

Those who advocate public scholarships have no right to them; those who oppose them, have. If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral contradictions of welfare statism, not in its victims.

Since there is no such thing as the right of some men to vote away the rights of others, and no such thing as the right of the government to seize the property of some men for the unearned benefit of others—the advocates and supporters of the welfare state are morally guilty of robbing their opponents, and the fact that the robbery is legalized makes it morally worse, not better. The victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it. Whenever the welfare-state laws offer them some small restitution, the victims should take it.
I have to say that when I went through university it was back in the days when a derisory sum was paid in student grants, and I was very happy to take it. I also have to say that at the same time I was working and paying more in tax than I was receiving in grants -- but Rand argues (in the context of 1966 America at least) that such a calculation is irrelevant.
First, the sum of [a given student's] individual losses cannot be computed; this is part of the welfare-state philosophy, which treats everyone’s income as public property. Second, if he has reached college age, he has undoubtedly paid—in hidden taxes—much more than the amount of the scholarship. Or, if his parents cannot afford to pay for his education, consider what taxes they have paid, directly or indirectly, during the twenty years of his life—and you will see that a scholarship is too pitifully small even to be called a restitution.

Third—and most important—the young people of today are not responsible for the immoral state of the world into which they were born. Those who accept the welfare-statist ideology, assume their share of the guilt when they do so. But the anti-collectivists are innocent victims who face an impossible situation: it is welfare statism that has almost destroyed the possibility of working one’s way through college. It was difficult, but possible some decades ago; today, it has become a process of close-to- inhuman torture. There are virtually no part-time jobs that pay enough to support oneself while going to school; the alternative is to hold a full-time job and to attend classes at night—which takes eight years of unrelenting 12-to-16-hour days, for a four-year college course. If those responsible for such conditions offer the victim a scholarship, his right to take it is incontestable—and it is too pitifully small an amount even to register on the scales of justice, when one considers all the other, the non-material, non-amendable injuries he has suffered.
Hmmm. I'm sure Rand has already surprised you. What about accepting government welfare, the dole or a pension? What does uber-libertarian Rand, the arch-enemy of government theft say about that? What do you think? Perhaps instead of simply giving you Ayn Rand's answers on the taking of government jobs, government research grants (or of government money, taken to argue for the diminishment of the ability for government to take money), I'll leave those questions as an exercise for the reader. Here's some guidance:
The moral principle involved in all the above issues consists, in essence, of defining as clearly as possible the nature and limits of one’s own responsibility, i.e., the nature of what is or is in one’s power.

The issue is primarily
ideological, not financial. Minimizing the financial injury inflicted on you by the welfare-state laws, does not constitute support of welfare statism (since the purpose of such laws is to injure you) and is not morally reprehensible. Initiating, advocating or expanding such laws, is.

In a free society, it is immoral to denounce or oppose that from which one derives benefits—since one’s associations are voluntary. In a controlled or mixed economy, opposition becomes obligatory--since one is acting under force, and the offer of benefits is intended as a bribe.

So long as financial considerations do not alter or affect your convictions, so long as you fight against welfare statism (and only so long as you fight it) and are prepared to give up any of its momentary benefits in exchange for repeal and freedom—so long as you do not sell your soul (or your vote)—you are morally in the clear. The essence of the issue lies in your own mind and attitude.

It is a hard problem, and there are many situations so ambiguous and so complex that no one can determine what is the right course of action. That is one of the evils of welfare statism: its fundamental irrationality and immorality force men into contradictions where no course of action is right.

The ultimate danger in all these issues is psychological: the danger of letting yourself be bribed, the danger of a gradual, imperceptible, subconscious deterioration leading to compromise, evasion, resignation, submission. In today’s circumstances, a man is morally in the clear only so long as he remains intellectually incorruptible. Ultimately, these problems are a test—a hard test—of your own integrity. You are its only guardian. Act accordingly.
There. I feel better for getting that off my chest. Morality in the Objectivist view does not consist of a series of instrinsic commandments that must be followed in al possible situations -- an endless series of "shalt-nots" designed only to command your sacrifice and achieve your unhappiness. Acting morally involves making judgements and acting on them; knowing what your values are, and understanding how your values can be achieved non-sacrificially within the context of the world you live in.

As Rand affirmed, "the purpose of morality is not to teach you to suffer and to die; it is to teach you how to enjoy yourself and live." On the issue of accepting government money, as with so many other issues, the concrete results of such a policy can suprise those unfamiliar with such a view of ethics.

LINKS: Cue Card Libertarianism - Altruism - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
'The Objectivist' - Article Descriptions -- Objectivism Reference Center (see article 'The Question of Scholarships,' June 1966)

Ethics, Politics, Libertarianism, Objectivism

Israel: A philosophical defence strategy

Neo-Libertarian has some thoughts on what Israel can and has been doing to defend itself from those who want Israel wiped off the map, and what its long-term strategy should be. Israel's military strategy of defence is based on secure buffer zones between it and its enemies, whch explains its positions on the Golan Heights, the Sinai and the Straits of Tiran, the West Bank, and in Southern Lebanon.
What Israel does is actually a self-enforced version of classic UN buffer peacekeeping. A traditional UN peacekeeper force does nothing but sit between two combatants, on a border, and prevents either side from crossing. While this hardly prevents rocket strikes above the force (like Hezbollah firing over UNIFIL to hit Israel) it prevents ground invasions.
So what can Israel do now in Southern Lebanon:
First things first, Hezbollah must be destroyed or (more realistically) severely crippled. That's the short-term. Neither Lebanon nor Israel is safe while Hezbollah is running around armed.
Agreed. And it has to be done, if possible, without spreading the conflict.
For the mid-term, the US and the world need to clamp down on Iran funding Hezbollah.
And good luck with that, and with obtaining Syria's agreement to withdraw their support for this proxy war.
A long-term solution has to recognize what's to become of the peaceful citizens residing in the states that Israel combats. Arabs have rights and hopes. A real solution must place primacy on developing Arab liberalism and Arab democracy. Simply attacking Hezbollah doesn't fight the source of the problem, and unlike fighting against states like Egypt or Jordan (which have institutional interests like maintaining power and borders that push them to seek ceasefire or even peace) there's less incentive for groups like the PLO or Hezbollah to seek peace...

And when the fighting is over, Israel should compensate accidental victims specifically and the country generally with direct payments to widows, reconstruction of the airport and highways, and generally rebuilding what it broke in the fighting. The US should follow in parallel with the promise of strong support for democracy promotion, including thinkers and philanthropists.
Remembering of course that democracy is just one form of legalised mob rule.

What is essential for the Middle East is long term cultural change: the development of a culture that abhors tribalism and the ongoing tribal wars that have left everyone suffering, and everybody left alive worse off.

In the end it is only the promotion of reason, individualism and capitalism that can be a long-term antidote to the mysticism, tribalism, and state- and warrior-worship that infests the place -- the promotion of a trader culture instead of a warrior culture, and a realisation that peaceful people are a boon to each other, not a threat. Call this a philosophical defence strategy if you like, because that is exactly what it is.

As Ayn Rand noted in her essay 'The Roots of War':
The trader and the warrior have been fundamental antagonists throughout history. Trade does not flourish on the battlefields, factories do not produce under bombardments, profits do not grow on rubble.
And neither do dreams.

LINKS: Buffer-zone realism versus holistic liberalism - Neo-Libertarian
Statism as the cause of war - excerpt from 'The Roots of War' by Ayn Rand
Cue Card Lebertarianism - Democracy - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Lebertarianism - Harmony of Interests - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

RELATED: War, Israel, Politics-World


A prize of a virtual chocolate fish to the first person who can name the artist of this piece. You might be as surprised as I was when you find out.

RULES: No one from Kansas may enter this competition.


Monday, 28 August 2006

What's your footprint?

Oh dear. The Environment Ministry's online ecological footprint calculator has decided it would need 3.5 globes to sustain my lifestyle if everyone lived as I do, but otherwise is not so complimentary. The Ministry Sustain-O-Meter has declared, "You live a reasonably sustainable lifestyle by New Zealand standards." I hang my head in shame.

Here's the full, dripping wet, rationally unsustainable declaration:
You live a reasonably sustainable lifestyle by New Zealand standards. However, by world standards your lifestyle is not sustainable. If everyone on the globe used as much land as you do, 3.5 globes would be needed to support the world's current population.

Your strictly vegetarian diet considerably reduces your ecological footprint. Your food footprint is half the New Zealand average - ie 8,572 square metres smaller. As you no doubt know, your vegetarian diet is environmentally friendly as it takes less land and resources to supply your food needs.

Your use of vehicles is relatively high. This increases your personal ecological footprint to 317 square metres above the national average. The use of public transport could considerably reduce your ecological footprint.
Have a go yourself. [Hat tip Mr Hide, who scores an impressive 11.3 globes.] See if you can achieve either a more craven lifestyle than mine, or a more planet-raping one than his. (And see if you can work out the primary fallacy in the idea of a 'footprint' scored in such a way.)

And compare it to the Earth Day Footprint Quiz, which decides that "if everyone lived like me, I'd only need 1.5 globes to support me." Only a 233% difference between that and the Ministry's quiz -- clearly this isn't science so much as something that starts with a 'p.'

LINK: Ecological Footprint Calculator - Environment Ministry
Earth Day Footprint Quiz - Official Earth Day Do-Gooders

RELATED: Environment, Quiz, New Zealand

Windows Paint

An amusing short animation here showing "what happens when Windows Paint gets a mind of its own." Graphics users should appreciate the humour.

RELATED: Geek Stuff, Humour

"Not guilty by reason of insanity." Really?

I haven't followed the case at all, but I understand there was a recent verdict of 'not guilty by reason of insanity' in the case of a Hawkes Bay mother who killed her six-day-old son by smashing his skull.

I'll just pause for a moment and let that news and the verdict sink in.
In the High Court in Napier yesterday [Friday] Justice Paul Heath found the mother not guilty of murdering her baby on the grounds of insanity and ordered she be detained as a special patient, as her lawyer Bill Calver had requested...

The crown prosecutors did not challenge the five psychiatric reports presented to the court, all of which pointed to the woman being legally insane at the time.
The woman was "legally insane at the time," and the court concluded this provided a reason to declare her not guilty of murder.

What do you think? Do you think being insane makes you any less culpable? Do you think being declared insane by psychiatrists -- however many of them declare it -- somehow absolves someone of responsibility for their actions?

I don't. I'm all in favour of abandoning the 'insanity defence' altogether.

If you can commit murder, it might be said that at first sight that was already proof of insanity. But the main point surely is that people must be held responsibility for their actions. Drunkenness, drug-taking, PMT, post-natal depression, "my team just lost," etc. -- none of these provide an excuse for theft or assault, for beating the kids, for kicking the cat, or for bludgeoning to death your new-born son.

Allowing a defence of 'not guilty on the grounds of insanity' makes a murder victim no less dead, and is an injustice to their memory.

That said, I'm not in favour of state treatment of 'mental illnesses' either. In my view, the only reason to lock someone up is when they have committed a provable crime -- an actual initiation of force or fraud against another. In that, I'm entirely in agreement with psychiatrist Dr Thomas Szasz who in books like The Myth of Mental Illness questions the idea of mental illness altogether, and in The Therapeutic State challenges the state's role in locking people up for no more reason than having been declared "mentally ill."

In Szasz's view, there are certainly organic conditions that cause brain problems that in many cases can be cured relatively easily with medication -- and the illness then is a specific and curable physical illness, not a mental condition which is often only a symptom of the illness itself.

"True brain diseases," says Szasz, "are the province of neurologists, not psychiatrists." Labelling as "mental illness" the symptoms of an organic physical condition is as wrong as calling 'thinking problems' or 'problems with living' "illnesses," and declaring that the state can or should somehow cure or treat or lock people up for these afflictions.

As Szasz points out, such a thing is very, very dangerous indeed.

The state's only case for locking people up, says Szasz, should be for some crime they have actually committed, not for being, by the state's definition, "mentally ill." I agree with him. And murder is very much something for which they should be locked up.

You can read a good interview with Szasz here in Reason Magazine: 'Curing the Therapeutic State.'

LINKS: Baby-killing mother was insane - Hawkes Bay Today
'Curing the therapeutic state' - Reason Magazine
The Thomas Szasz Cybercenter for Liberty and Responsibility -- Thomas Szasz's official website
'The Myth of Mental Illness' - Text of the original 1960 paper that formed the basis of Szasz's first book - Psych Classics, York University
The Therapeutic State - Amazon.Com
The Myth of Mental Illness - Amazon.Com

RELATED: Law, Science, Politics-NZ, Health

Field or Pledge Card?

Q: Is Helen cutting Phillip Field loose this morning so attention this week is on Field himself instead of Labour and the Pledge Card? Just wondering.

Which is the more important issue, do you think?

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour, Darnton V Clark

Spectacular photos from the Jones Beach Air Show

Spectacular photos from the Jones Beach Air Show earlier this (northern) summer. [Click on them to see them larger: they are spectacular.]

You can see more online here at the Air Show website. (Did I mention they're pretty spectacular?)

LINK: Gallery - Jones Beach Air Show

Saturday, 26 August 2006

Art, Beer and History: All you need for a great weekend read

I'm heading up to Dargaville for the weekend, so I'll leave you with the perfect weekend reading:
  • 'Who Needs Great Art?' by Peter Cresswell

    Painting, movies, literature, sculpture, music, architecture ... all have the ability to make us cry, to make us laugh, and -- just occasionally -- to make us feel ten-feet tall. Why is great art so powerful? -- why does it have this profound ability to affect us? And who needs it? Find out in this short but succinct account.
  • 'A Complete Hiftory of Man According to Hif Divers Delightf'
    Part 1: 'You Smell of Goat'
    Part 2: 'Making the Genius Quicker'
    by Peter Cresswell

    What is the meaning of life? Why was civilisation begun? The answer of course is blindlingly simple: beer. It was for this that man came down from the trees.

    "In the beginning all that existed was savagery and raw steak. With beer and bread was ushered in civilisation. (Bread and circuses were to come some time later, when politicians first figured out how to bribe people with their own money.)"

    Read this two-part piece analysing history through the sometimes foggy lens of mankind's diverse delights.
Enjoy. And if you enjoy enough I'll get on to finishing Part Three.

UPDATE: Links fixed (Yes, I know, "Stupid bastard can't even get the links to two articles right." Sigh.)

RELATED: Art, History, Beer & Elsewhere, Humour

Friday, 25 August 2006

Beer O'Clock: Founders Long Black

"Another week, another beer. This time we’re back across this side of the ditch, in Nelson, and it’s totally my choice," writes Stu from Real Beer.

Nelson has a long and distinguished brewing history. These days it is both the home of the country’s commercial hop production and of Mac’s Brewery – where the rebirth of craft beer in New Zealand took place. As well as Mac’s Brewery, who now brew in several other locations throughout the country, there are several small and independent brewing operations in Nelson.

The most easily accessible of the smaller operations is the Duncan family’s Founders Brewery. Based in Founder’s Historic Park the brewery offers a strong sparkling cider alongside four beers: the nutty brown Generation Ale; the biscuity, grassy hopped, Vienna-style Red Head; a fruity hopped German-styled Tall Blonde; and my personal favourite the German dark lager Long Black.

The Long Black pours a mysterious deep dark brown, very nearly black, with a thick and persistent tan head. The clean nose is toasty and grainy, reminding me of coffee and toasted muesli (which helps justify you drinking it before midday, if you feel so inclined). The flavours follow suit completely with clean, dry toasted graininess, a touch of bittersweet dark chocolate, and a soft hop bitterness that is thoroughly approachable. It’s a great dark beer to try if you think you don’t like dark beers.

I visited the brewery’s lovely little cafe on a perfect spring evening last year, where the beers were tasting incredibly fresh and smelling divinely biscuity - quite different from anything else I’d tried in New Zealand. A friendly tour and a huge free platter of nibbles (thanks to them over-catering a function) made it the perfect way to end an enjoyable bike trip around Nelson’s breweries. I’d certainly recommend a visit to anyone who is in the region. Otherwise you can pick the beers up in most reasonable supermarkets and bottle stores.

Slainte mhath Stu

LINKS: Ratebeer opinions
Founder’s Brewery and Cafe

Beer & Elsewhere

A golden cocktail

Think some of the Beer O'Clock recommendations here recently have been expensive? Then consider this, Ireland's most expensive cocktail, "priced at a sobering €500 (NZ$1,009)."
The 'Minted' cocktail -- a vanilla and chocolate Martini on sale at the Mint Bar in central Dublin's Westin Hotel -- includes vanilla-infused vodka, 200-year-old cognac and flakes of 23-carat gold. The drink comes in a designer crystal glass with chocolate truffles served on the side.
Careful with that gold card.

LINKS: 'Golden' $1,000 cocktail for the rich - Xtra News

RELATED: Beer and Elsewhere

Balls to Kiwisaver

I loved this headline and opening line from Bernard Woolley today:

Kiwisaver neutered

Pity we couldn't have got a two-for-one deal and got Michael Cullen done at the same time.

Brilliant. And it carries on our 'balls' theme beautifully from recent days.

PS: Why would you rely on the details when as we know every government scheme like this that's ever been set up anywhere has very quickly changed from what it was initially to something quite different, something that suits whichever government of the time that's administering the thing that week.

And whatever the details this week, why on earth would you trust any government on something so important and involving such long-term personal consequences when it's crystal clear their own planning or thinking doesn't extend past the next headline?

If politicians want saving, which we all agree is necessary, then my advice to them is the same as my advice to Dick Hubbard the other day: Stop taxing us so goddamn fucking much!

RELATED: Politics-NZ

Drinking at the Hitler Bar

A few years back when we staged a Walk for Capitalism around Princes Wharf and Auckland's Viaduct, the Herald was amused that we didn't "darken the door" of the popular Lenin Bar. Asked why by the Herald reporter, one of the walkers replied, "If someone opened a bar called Hitler, would that be tasteful?"

Now I thought that was a good rhetorical question -- why would you want to drink in a bar whose name celebrates totalitarianism and mass murder? Well, ask the patrons of the Lenin Bar? And now ask too the patrons of the new Hitler's Cross Restaurant in Mumbai, India, where Yahoo News reports "local politicians and movie industry types were on hand to celebrate [its opening] beneath the posters of the Nazi leader and swastikas."

Hat tip for the story to Nicholas Provenzo who asks, "What's next? Himmler's Death's Head Bistro? Quisling's Croissants & Pastries? Goering's Gelatos?"

LINKS: Walk celebrates money-making - NZ Herald, Dec 3, 2001
New restaurant bears Hitler's name - Yahoo News
New restaurant bears Adolf Hitler's name - Rule of Reason weblog

RELATED: Politics-World, Auckland, Libz

Private Members Bill: What's yours?

No political junkie could have missed all the Private Members Bills that in the absence of a real direction from this corrupt Government have been focusing the minds of politicians in recent months.

Even a party with just two people can write a Private Members Bill that can be drawn from the ballot and have some chance of success. All it takes is one MP with one good idea and sufficient lobbying to get half the MPs in Parliament to vote for it -- and even an unsuccessful Private Members Bill has the ability to achieve results on your own favourite issue, as Rodney's Rates Capping Bill has done.

So I have a question for all you political junkies whose enthusiasm is for ideas rather than personalities: If you were an MP -- Galt help us all! -- then on what topic would your Private Members Bill be? What would you most want to achieve with a new law?

Post your answers below, and I'll post mine on Monday. (And I'll give you a clue about mine: it would include the words 'Codification' and 'Abolition.')

UPDATE 1: As usual, Idiot/Savant provides the service for political junkies of keeping an eye on what Members Bills have recently popped out of the hopper.

UPDATE 2: Idiot/Savant also suggests: "people check out my 'In the ballot' series. There have been 58 bills put in the ballot this year (about 30 in at any one time), and I've covered 46 of them."

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Law, Politics

Firenze high speed rail station - Norman Foster

Proposed Firenze High Speed Rail Station by Norman Foster. Just the sort of train station in which a man wouldn't mind alighting.

LINK: High speed station - Firenze la città nuova

RELATED: Architecture

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Getting your balls in a tangle

The person who sent me this swears it is true:

Who am I to doubt him, and several other sources?

TAGS: Humour

"Clark stole election," says Brash

NZ HERALD: Clark stole election, says Brash

Audrey Young is still on the case, reporting from yesterday's Questions in the House that,
National launched a fevered attack on Prime Minister Helen Clark in Parliament yesterday, accusing her of having "stolen" the election through Labour's taxpayer-funded $446,000 pledge card, which was recently declared unlawful by the Auditor-General in a draft report.

National leader Don Brash led the attack, ending in a demand for a fresh and fair election...

"Helen Clark stole the election. Not content with enormous bribes to voters with other people's money, she had to misappropriate half a million dollars of taxpayers' money to fund her campaign. She should pay the money back," he said, the trigger for his own MPs to repeat the chant.

"She should then resign, go to the country and have a fair election."
Meanwhile, John Armstrong reports that the response to the questioning was so noisy that many MPs couldn't hear the Q and A.
But then you did not need to be able to hear Dr Cullen to know what he thought of the afternoon's proceedings.
It was enough to observe his increasingly vein-popping demeanour, finger-pointing indignation and facial complexion turning puce to match the tie around his neck.
Such a shame. The pressure of their own dishonesty is getting to them. If you missed it yesterday, you can watch the proceedings online courtesy of the TVNZ site. (Scroll down to the 'Parliament Live' section, click 'Wednesday,' and then fast forward through the first few minutes of prayers and rubbish. The main relevant questions appear to be One and Three and, I think, Five.)

LINKS: Clark stole election, says Brash - Audrey Young - NZ Herald
Business as usual as decorum forgotten - John Armstrong - NZ Herald
One News video archive - TVNZ News

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour, Politics-National, Darnton V Clark

Inside the Googleplex

What goes on inside the Googleplex? The 'Googleplex' is the name for Google's headquarters, in which some pretty smart people produce some pretty sharp stuff -- and seem to have a great time doing it if this seven-minute video is any indication. (Looks like they're looking for staff.)

And BBC Radio have an audio peek inside the place -- it's a little longer, but being radio of course you don't get any pictures. (But you smart people have alrady worked that out, right.)

The open and creative nature of the Google workplace and of Google's success seems to be attributed by most commentators to the characters and personalities of Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin -- and guess what: they're Montessori graduates. Asked in a TV interview about the reason for their success, they told interviewer Barbara Walters "it was their going to Montessori school where they learned to be self-directed and self-starters. They said that Montessori allowed them to learn to think for themselves and gave them freedom to pursue their own interests."

Find a Montessori school here, and set your own kids on the path to success.

LINKS: Sneak a peek inside Google - Mod Mom
Inside the world of Google - BBC Radio
Montessori graduates Larry page, Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos - The Michael Olaf Montessori Company
NZ Montessori schools - Montessori Association of New Zealand

Geek Stuff, Education

Rex Haig conviction: what does it say about capital punishment?

The release of Rex Haig might cause some of you advocates of capital punishment to have a rethink. Let Nick Kim's cartoon make my point:

At least, it should cause you to rethink. Shouldn't it? No argument that murders forfeit any rights to their own life, of course they do, but the nature of our criminal justice system is that mistakes will happen, and even the best criminal justice systems have a history of such mistakes, and innocent people are convicted.

"The problem involved," suggested Nathaniel Branden some years back, "is that of establishing criteria of proof so rationally stringent as to forbid the possibility of convicting an innocent man." And the problem is that no criminal justice system, however good, can provide such a guarantee. It is not epistemologically possible -- that is, the nature of knowledge makes such a guarantee impossible.

In a nutshell: It's hard to give an innocent man his life back when you've already taken it in error. And it's impossible not to make errors.

(I participated in a valuable online debate on this matter a year or so back. Have a peek if you want more of the argument.)

Oh, and let me just give my best wishes to Mr Haig. I hope you can now get on with getting your life back.

LINKS: Rex Haig conviction quashed by Court of Appeal - NZ Herald
Capital punishment - online debate at SOLOHQ

RELATED: Law, Cartoons, Politics-NZ

Inconvenient truths

"The glaciers are melting!" Well, of course they are. That's what glaciers do.

"No, no, Greenland's glaciers are melting, and it's global warming!!" Well, yes they have been shrinking ... for at least a hundred years. And guess what: "the biggest reduction was observed between 1964 and 1985." During that period I think you'll find the world was slightly cooling. Hmmm.

"And, and, snowfall in Antarctica is increasing/decreasing/showing clear signs of global warming!!" Well, no. Not true either. In fact, "There were no statistically significant trends in snowfall accumulation over the past five decades, including recent years for which global mean temperatures have been warmest."


LINKS: Greenland's glaciers have been shrinking for 100 years: study - Breitbart.Com
Overall Antarctic snowfall hasn't changed in 50 years - National Science Foundation

RELATED: Science, Global Warming

'Death of a Moa' - Trevor Lloyd

Now here's a landscape painter with a unique sense of humour: Trevor Lloyd. I've become a fan since seeing this in a recent exhibition, for which this was used as the 'title piece':

The Auckland Art Gallery has a huge collection of his work, much of it available online (just go here and type in Trevor Lloyd).

About 'Death of a Moa' they have this to say:
Made for the enjoyment of his family, this unique fantasy painting is one of Lloyd's most ambitious works. The last giant moa has fallen, its body watched over by a gathering of native birds and patupaiarehe, mythic Maori fairy folk. The cacophony of squawks and cries is almost audible. Lloyd captures the personalities of the various birds: the pukeko, a little stand-offish, looks on inquisitively; the gregarious kea shares the news with a late arrival still in flight; and the kakapo, notoriously shy and retiring, sits on the outer edge of the group. ('Enduring Nature: Hoki Atu Hoki Mai,' 2004)
LINKS: Works by Trevor Lloyd - Auckland City Art Gallery (just type in 'Trevor Lloyd' and hit the 'Search' button)

RELATED: Art, New Zealand

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Boobs. Bikes. Pictures.

Boobs. Bikes. Pictures. The Herald's got 'em.

UPDATE 1: So has Stuff.

UPDATE 2: I missed it when his press release was issued on Friday, but at least one candidate in next year's Auckland mayoral elections was all in favour of today's Boob Run: Independent candidate Stephen Berry, who last stood for the mayoralty under the Libz banner. Just thought you should know.

UPDATE 3: Well I'm not sure what it says about the young man, except perhaps that he's been hard at it today, but Whale Oil has a full gallery of backs, boobs, bikes and bimbos posted for your viewing pleasure. I won't say "enjoy" since I'm sure you'll only visit in the interest of keeping yourself abreast of events.

LINKS: Thousands on Queen St for Boobs on Bikes Parade - NZ Herald
Photo gallery at Stuff

Berry backs boobs on bikes - Stephen Berry, Scoop
Stephen Berry contesting 2007 Auckland mayoralty - Scoop

Auckland, Libz

Rates Rant. Parental Advisory.

You know, watching Penn & Teller's 'Bullshit' more regularly has the potential to make me even more acerbic than normal. Combine Penn-&-Teller-viewing and reading the wit and wisdom of the only mayor in the country with a face like a cat's arse, and I'm likely to head into orbit.

For instance, re-reading over a late lunch the Herald's front-page story on the rates inquiry proposed by the Nats and the Greens (and now Labour), I could feel my blood pressure rising when I realised that Dickwhack Mother Bloody Hubbbard just sees any inquiry as a chance not to bring rates down from their ever-more-stratospheric heights, but instead to put his motherfucking hand further into ratepayers' and taxpayers' pockets -- pockets already being well-fucking-stolen from.

He "welcomed the enquiry" said Dickwhack. Why? "It may be that a select committee will put more urgency and a bit more grunt into the whole question." Oh yes?
The main issue he wanted to see addressed was [get this] a form of direct and guaranteed grants from the Government so councils did not have to go cap in hand on a project-by-project basis to Wellington... An inquiry should also look at other sources of money, such as bed and utility taxes, GST on rates, regional funding issues for Auckland and rates on Crown-owned properties.
So just to clarify: what this already fucking overspending mayor wants "addressed" is not methods by which his flagrant overspending and sheer fiscal bloody incompetence can be reined in, but ways in which his already well-off-fucking-piste council can spend and steal and spend and steal even more!!

How about THIS for a solution to your problems you fucking thieving cat's arse: STOP SPENDING SO GODDAMN FUCKING MUCH!!

Feel free to write to His Worship expressing similar sentiments at these addresses:
Auckland City Council
Private Bag 92516
Wellesley Street, Auckland
Business Fax: 307 7579
Email: mayor@aucklandcity.govt.nz

c-/ Hubbard Foods Ltd
P.O Box 24-395
Royal Oak
And feel free to write to his offsiders at the thieving fucking council in similar fashion. Sheesh. Thieving arseholes and Penn & Teller between them have a real shit-load of grief to answer for.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Auckland

What's the deal?

Oswald Bastable gets it right:
What's the deal with Maori royalty? I didn't vote for them.
Who did?
"It's time kings and queens moved into the history books as something we did before we knew better..."
Quite right.

LINK: I didn't vote for them! - Oswald Bastable

TAGS: Maoritanga, New_Zealand

Balls tampering

Cactus Kate has thoughts about cheating at cricket: the length of Pakistani cricketers' fingernails, how Imran gets up her nose (and a few other places), how the English cheat ... oh, go on, just read it.

LINK: Imran Khan(t) - Cactus Kate

Sport, Humour

The illiterate teaching illiteracy

BBC NEWS: Tests flummox trainee teachers
Many [British] trainee teachers are struggling to pass tests in numeracy, literacy and information technology, figures show.

Anyone doubt that the same tests here would show the same problems? If there really is a 'tragic cycle' at work in our society, then it's the illiterate teaching illiteracy to and the innumerate teaching innumeracy ... and this country's Teachers' Colleges continuing to put their heads in the sand about the cause of the tragedy: Them and their methods.

STUFF: "NZQA figures show nearly 30 per cent of enrolled level-one NCEA pupils did not achieve the minimum literacy standard last year."

We've seen headlines like these for at least ten years now, haven't we? The current generation of illiterates are already out there teaching the next one, aren't they?

But does anyone really care enough to stop it happening? The minister in charge cries crocodile tears while the shadow minister blusters without direction or purpose, and meanwhile NZ children, generation after generation, are forced to attend the state's factory schools, and emerge with their minds turned to mush.

And so it goes on.

PS: See how you do on the three sample questions from the Trainee Teachers' test. Here at the foot of the BBC page.

LINK: Tests flummox trainee teachers - BBC News
Govt wants literacy line in the sand - Stuff

Education, Politics-NZ

Milton Friedman likes Don Brash

Uber-economist Milton Friedman admires Don Brash. True. While not resiling from his "passive monetary policy: Thou shalt abolish the Federal Reserve," Friedman attributes the "better performance in monetary policy over the past twenty years or so ... primarily [to] the recognition by central banks worldwide that they have responsibility for inflation."

And how did that happen, says Friedman?
My aphorism, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon,” was converted from an object of derision to a near truism. This experience was of course strongly reinforced by the leadership shown by Alan Greenspan in the United States, but also I believe by the leadership shown by Donald Brash in New Zealand.
Read it all here: Letter from Milton. [And listen here to Don defending central banking to a libertarian free-banking audience. And see here my own comments on how the Reserve Bank's guidelines have become a straitjacket for the economy.]

LINK: Letter from Milton - Greg Mankiw's Blog [Hat tip Rodney Hide]
Do we need a central bank? - DonBrash.Com [transcript of speech to SOLO conference]
Do we need a central bank? - Audio of speech, including Q & A
Denying prosperity by misunderstanding inflation - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

Economics, Politics-National, History-Modern

The under-endowed Overlander

Years ago I remember Bob Jones praising the Auckland-Wellington overnight train (now called The Overlander) as the very best way to travel intercity. Jump aboard in one city, he said, enjoy an early evening drink, head for your bed and arrive downtown in good time in your city of business, fighting fit and fresh as a daisy and already in the heart of the city and ready to go.

It must also be remembered that this was in the years when Bob had a thing about the 'ugly fat woman policy' that the local government airline monopoly NAC seemed to pursue in hiring hostesses -- apparently hair-lips and big arses abounded -- so bear in mind that competition with the airlines was not exactly hot stuff.

My point, if I have one, is that times have changed. Intercity airline travel is better than it's ever been. Meanwhile, the standard of intercity rail travel is perhaps worse than it ever was -- sleeping cars for instance joined the Dodo some years ago. Now, speaking personally I think that's a shame, but my thoughts and feelings on the matter really butter no parsnips, and neither should the thoughts or feelings of others. Cash might help, but pleasant thoughts on their own pay no bills, do they.

Jeanette Fitzsimplesimons's meditations certainly pay no bills. Clutching a petition to her chest and an exhortationary crease across her brow, The Simplesimons opines: “It is easy to forget how essential the Overlander is to the communities along the route.” Great. If it's "essential" to them then presumably they'll be happy to stump up some dosh to help keep the service running then? No? Ah, apparently that's not what Fitzsimplesimons was meaning.

How about The Kedgley? "New Zealanders from every walk of life obviously feel very attached to this train service," she says, petition in hand. "They don't want to see it scrapped. Travelling by train up and down the island is an experience they value, and they want their children to enjoy it in future." So how are they expressing their attachment? Perhaps by delving into their piggy banks, or their spare venture-capital funds?

Apparently not.

Apparently the "value" that people place on The Overlander is not one you can measure, and certainly not the same value they place on not wasting their own money. After all, if people truly saw a value in The Overlander then nothing stops them clubbing together with their own money and putting together a proposal to Toll to help keep the service running. If all they say is true about the number of people to whom this service is essential, then the number of people willing to club together should be enormous, shouldn't it?

But it's not true, is it. It's just hyperbole isn't it. No one does value it as much as Jeanette and Sue say they do. In fact, to pinch a line from Penn & Teller, what they're saying is plain and simple, straight up and down, nothing more than hot air and Bullshit!

It gets them some good headlines though, doesn't it.

* Liberty Scott has a similar though much more politely expressed position, and with all the details you've come to expect from Scott. Check it out here.

LINKS: Greens's answer to Overlander - petition and subsidy - Liberty Scott
Greens campaign unlikely to save Overlander - NZ Herald

RELATED: Politics-Greens, New Zealand

Top Googling

As usual, some interesting searches amongst the most popular ones landing here at 'Not PC.' As usual, Annette Presley and Frank Lloyd Wright feature highly. And also as usual there's the occasional psycho in charge of a keyboard -- and here I refer to the person searching for Rolf Harris.

rose siedler house architecture
not pc blog
swedish nightclubs
annette presley
wright's-broadacre city
rob moodie berryman bridge
postmodern essay generator
frank lloyd wright design cues
not pc fascism
appointment with the wicker man
broadacre city
frank lloyd wright broadacre
functionally illiterate
not pc peter cresswell
claude megson
carlos spencer, toffee pops advert, download
nietzsche not function flyswatter
0wned by psych@ fucked israel
hot iraqi girl gallery
political spectrum new zealand
define muffdiver defamation
rolf harris playing wobbleboard cartoons

TAGS: Blog

'The Young Diana,' by Anna Hyatt Huntington

The Young Diana, by Anna Hyatt Huntington, set in the Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina.

The Gardens were set up in 1930 by New York industrialist Archer Huntington and his sculptor wife, Anna Hyatt Huntington, as a natural outdoor setting for Mrs. Huntington's sculpture and for the preservation of southeastern flaura and fauna. It was the first 'public' sculpture garden in the US.

RELATED: Art, Sculpture

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Bullshit! at Ten

Just so I don't miss it again, a friend has very kindly reminded me that Penn & Teller's celebrated TV programme 'Bullshit' screens again tonight on Prime.

Tonight's topic is 'recycling' -- something I had a go at myself some weeks back. Tune in and watch them make fun of people too worthy to survive.

If you miss it tonight, do a Google search. It's everywhere.

Welfare isn't working

What's been going on with welfare while every one's been crowing about the unemployment figures being the lowest in history? Lindsay Mitchell has an overview:

When Government's 'Trim the DPB' campaign began back in 1995, there were 102, 000 people on the DPB. Now? There are still 102, 000 on the DPB, and several thousand more bureaucrats to help administer the various 'Trim the DPB' campaigns devised since then.

What else? Back in 1995 the Government introduced "bold new measures" to "reduce the number of sickness beneficiaries," then totalling 74,000. What's the result, eleven years later? There are now 122,000 people receiving a sickness benefit.

As Lindsay concludes:
The government should STOP doing whatever it is they do. They just manage to make matters worse.
They sure do. Over the last ten years around $150 billion has been taken from taxpayers and spent in a war on poverty, and it's a war that no one is winning; not the government, not the taxpayer, and if recent studies are correct, not the 200-300,000 or so who've been the targets of this war over the last ten years: according to those studies, and despite the vast sums being spent fighting poverty, over the last five years for example the number in "severe hardship" has become both more numerous, and worse off.

That's $150,000,000,000 -- enough to have given every beneficiary in the country a massive $500,000 each to start their own war on poverty, and it still hasn't worked. It just hasn't worked. To paraphrase PJ O'Rourke,
the spending of this truly vast amount of money -- an amount more than half again the nation's entire gross national product in 1995 -- has left everybody just sitting around slack-jawed and dumbstruck, staring into the maw of that most extraordinary paradox: You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money.
When do we realise that government welfare doesn't work -- not for anyone -- and least of all for those who it is supposed to help.

LINKS: It's pathetic - Lindsay Mitchell
Labour has failed the poor - No Right Turn (Idiot/Savant)
Excerpt from 'How to endow privation' from PJ O'Rourke's book 'Parliament of Whores'

RELATED: Welfare, Politics-NZ