Saturday, August 19, 2006

Darnton on ZB: "The case is good"

Bernard Darnton explains to Larry Williams on last evening's show why he is taking the PM and Parliamentary Services to court over election spending. "The case is good," says Darnton.

Listen here. Story here.

[Hat tip Julian Pistorius]
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LINKS: Labour files defence over election spending - Newstalk ZB
Listen here - Newstalk ZB

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RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour, Darnton v Clark, Libz

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Still some chains on Government

The reason we have governments is the same reason we have guard dogs: to protect us from those who want to do us over.

The problem with governments and guard dogs is the same however: give 'em an inch and they'll eat you out of house and home; fail to train them properly and they'll be more trouble than they're worth; let them off the chain and they'll end up going for your throat and savaging you instead of the bad guys -- in fact, they'll end up being the bad guys.

That's why Constitutions were invented, and after years of neglect even President George W. Bush can still receive a reminder that the chains of the Constitution can still be felt around his neck.

The US Supreme Court is the body with constitutionally-given power to veto unconstitutional actions of both Legislature and Executive, but the Constitution gives even subordinate courts power to veto. Idiot/Savant sums up recent vetos so well I can only quote him at length. [Thanks I/S.]
The "war on terror" may be eroding human rights an civil liberties, but it is also giving us some of our strongest language in defence of freedom. First, we had the Supreme Court's memorable statement in Hamdi v Rumsfeld that

[A] state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens.

And now we have the statement by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the US District Court, in her decision [PDF] on Bush's warrentless domestic eavesdropping scheme, that

There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution.

and that therefore, the Administration's "arguments" about the "inherent authority of the President as Commander in Chief" are bunk. Even in a time of war, the President is bound by the constitution and the law. He is not, in the infamous words of Nixon's lawyers,

...as powerful a monarch as Louis XIV, only four years at a time, and is not subject to the processes of any court in the land except the court of impeachment.
Even in its dotage there are still serious constitutional chains on the US Government. The Head of State is not an Absolute Monarch.

And guess what: even in its dotage, the 1688 Bill of Rights still imposes constitutional chains on the NZ Government, and the extent of those chains will be tested soon in Darnton V Clark, examining whether or not a Government was entitled to use money appropriated from taxpayers for one purpose for something entirely different.

Like these recent US Supreme Court cases this one goes to very heart of government power, and to that line that divides a constitutional republic from a dictatorship. I look forward to it.

LINKS: "There are no hereditary kings in America" - No Right Turn (Idiot/Savant)
Helengrad, 1688. Bill of Rights. - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - Constitution - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Putting freedom beyond the vote - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Darnton Vs Clark - lawsuit website

RELATED: Politics-World, Politics-US, Politics-NZ, Constitution, Darnton V Clark

Myths and misconceptions about the Big Bang

The Angry Astronomer has a post listing some common misconceptions about the Big Bang.

I'll give you the list; go see the Astronomer for the reason.

1) The Big Bang was an explosion
2) The Big Bang theory doesn’t explain what caused it
3) There’s no evidence for the Big Bang
4) The Big Bang doesn’t leave room for God

On the last, I'd say the Big Bang is utterly irrelevant to questions of theism or atheism, which is essentially the point AA is making.

LINK: The Big Bang - common misconceptions - The Angry Astronomer [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

RELATED: Science, Religion, History

The Atlas of Economics

Austrian economist Peter Boettke, here in New Zealand recently to deliver the 2006 Ronald Trotter Lecture, had this to say recently about how effective Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged is in teaching economics (the article, 'Teaching Economics Through Ayn Rand: How the Economy is like a Novel and How the Novel Can Teach Us About Economics,' is unfortunately offline).

During his years of teaching, Boettke confesses he frequently used Atlas as a teaching tool, comparing the economic ideas it taught with those in John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. He writes that 'Atlas' "details the benefits from voluntary exchange, the importance of a sound monetary standard, and the role of individual initiative and creativity as the engine of economic progress. Rand's work highlights the importance of private property rights in providing incentives, the mutually beneficial aspects of exchange, and exalts the human achievement of innovation and wealth creation..."
Rand makes the very important point that the critique of socialism was never against rational planning per se. Rather the question was who was to do the planning and the scope and the scale of the planning proposed.

[Rand] communicates to her readers within the context of a beautifully constructed story the basic insight concerning the perverse incentives of collectivism, the inability to engage in rational economic calculation without private property, the law of unintended consequences in interventionism, and the interest-group logic of political capitalism...
The difficulty of reasoning economically from first principles to logical conclusions combined with unmasking the sophisms of special interest groups led [Henry] Hazlitt and [Ludwig von] Mises to devote their lives to economic education through the written and spoken word.

It is my contention that Rand picked up that challenge and attempted to provide economic enlightenment to her readers through the story of 'Atlas Shrugged.' The book is no doubt one of the most philosophical novels of the twentieth century -- whatever one's judgment is of that philosophy -- but learning philosophy through Rand is not my topic....

The slippery slope that Hayek, Hazlitt and Mises warned about -- where one failed intervention begets another failed intervention -- is neatly illustrated in Rand's story. Moreover, as in the work of these economists, the reversal of public policy away from statism and toward freedom will not occur until a sea change in the underlying ideology takes place. So one can read in Rand's novel both the dynamics of interventionism and the mechanism of effective social change that a variety of classical liberal economists since Adam Smith have attempted to articulate in their articles and books.

'Atlas Shrugged' is arguably the most economically literate work by a major novelist in the history of literature. Daniel Dafoe actually wrote in the field of economics, and his story of Robinson Crusoe became the quintessentially fictional allusion for economists. But in my opinion, Rand taught more common-sense economic truth than any other novelist.
As the chaps at LFB say, it's a fascinating article about not only how the novel illustrates economic principles through its plot about a massive breakdown of an economy, but also how economists must tell a "good story" about how the economy works to be successful both theoretically and pedagogically.

LINKS: Learning while visiting NZ - Peter Boettke - Austrian Economists Blog
To what extent was Rand a Misesian - Mises Economics Blog
Atlas Shrugged - Amazon.Com

RELATED:
Books, Economics, Objectivism, Philosophy

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Beer O'Clock: Delirium Tremens, Strong Pale Ale, 9%

Continuing the theme of pandering to requests from anonymous comments, this week’s Beer O’Clock from Neil at Real Beer goes in search of the legendary Pink Elephants of Huyghe.

The Huyghe brewery in Belgium has been in existence since 1654 but today’s beer – Delirium Tremens – is only about 20 years old. It comes in a bottle painted to look like pottery and with a label boasting its trademark Pink Elephants and (inexplicably) Alligators Wearing Sunglasses.

Beer wise, it is a bottle-conditioned, strong Belgian pale ale weighing in at a hefty 9%. The brewing process is complex and uses three different yeasts. It is considered a classic beer – one of Beerhunter Michael Jackson’s Top 500 beers in the world.

Huyghe also make a dark beer called Delirium Nocturum and a seasonal winter beer called Delirium Christmas (or Delirium Noel) – the labels have the famous Pink Elephants with little Santa Hats on and they are just too cute.

They also make La Guillotaine – the blandest 9% Belgian Strong Ale you will ever taste.

As for the name, Delirium Tremens (known popularly as 'The DTs') is a potentially fatal form of ethanol (alcohol) withdrawal. Christy Moore for one has a fine song on the subject. Several US states however banned this beer because of the name. Their loss.

The beer itself pours a lazy, hazy yellow with a compact, firm head. The nose is peppery, grainy, fruity (orange, banana) with a little late coriander spice. In the mouth it is smooth, yeasty, fruity (apple and pear) and little spicy (coriander and pepper). It has pleasantly long bitter finish.

Like many quality Belgian beers it hides its high alcohol content.

Take care, once the bottle is opened those marvellous pink elephants are never far away…

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

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Americans more prone to supernatural nonsense

Americans are more likely to believe in supernatural bollocks than almost anyone else in any other Western country. That's the clear and unfortunate conclusion of research recently published in 'Science' magazine.

Surely proof if proof were needed that freedom is a greater indicator of prosperity than clear-headedness.

That's a graph on the right collating the results of surveying 32 European countries, the US and Japan which reveals "that only Turkey is less willing than the US to accept evolution as fact." You might view it as a 'sanity ranking.' Said the study's author of the US's position:
American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalists, which is why Turkey and we are so close.
The result is disturbing for those who value science and reason. Of reason and science and evolution, James Watson, co-discover of the secrets of DNA had this to say:
One of the greatest gifts science has brought to the world is continuing elimination of the supernatural, and it was a lesson that my father passed on to me, that knowledge liberates mankind from superstition. We can live our lives without the constant fear that we have offended this or that deity who must be placated by incantation or sacrifice, or that we are at the mercy of devils or the Fates. With increasing knowledge, the intellectual darkness that surrounds us is illuminated and we learn more of the beauty and wonder of the natural world.

Let us not beat about the bush — the common assumption that evolution through natural selection is a "theory" in the same way as string theory is a theory is wrong. Evolution is a law (with several components) that is as well substantiated as any other natural law, whether the law of gravity, the laws of motion or Avogadro's law. Evolution is a fact, disputed only by those who choose to ignore the evidence, put their common sense on hold and believe instead that unchanging knowledge and wisdom can be reached only by revelation.
Sadly, the number of people in the world's most prosperous country "who put their common sense on hold" is increasing rather than decreasing. Rationality is on the slide. Twenty years ago the percentage of people in the US who accepted the idea that the earth was created only six-thousand years ago and that Joshua made the earth stop turning for twelve hours were just 55 percent of the population.

But now the number of nutters who believe that what their imaginary friend said is superior to reason and evidence-based science has increased to sixty percent!

It's hard really to know who is the least sane. Those who believe in the supernatural, or those who follow the equally irrational postmodernism lampooned in yesterday's post. Science is under attack on both fronts.

In any case, my heart goes out to anyone with a brain living in Kansas. All I can offer you in recompense is this account of the crucial and highly entertaining cross-examination of William Jennings Bryan in the Scopes Monkey Trial, and a link to my own three-part series on Unintelligent Design.

LINKS: Public acceptance of evolution - Jon D. Miller et al, Science Magazine
Unintelligent Design, Part 1 - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Fighting evidence-based medicine with postmodernist bollocks -
Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Darrow vs. Bryan - website for Positive Atheism Magazine

RELATED:
Science, Religion, Nonsense

Party stooges still spinning party corruption

Unwilling and also unable to defend the corruption of his favourite political party, Labour party hack Jordan Carter is instead peddling his party's chosen spin -- he's posting instead in breathless support of so-called 'Democracy Funding,' that is:
  • the proposal for taxpayers to fund politicians both to run their offices, and to run for office;
  • the proposal to force taxpayers to pay for political parties whose opinions they may well despise;
  • the proposal to allow the ruling party to force taxpayers to pay for their election campaigns.
There are only two reasons anyone is talking about this:
  1. Labour can't find enough people willing to voluntarily write a cheque to support them.
  2. The slimy buggers have been caught with their hands in the till so they want to legitimise the theft.
  3. They've been found breaking the rules that define the difference between democracies and dictatorships, so they want to changing those rules.
  4. They'd rather have everyone talking about changing the rules rather than how they broke the rules.
But is anyone but the party stooges really buying this?

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

Fighting evidence-based medicine with postmodernist bollocks

"Microfascists unite! You have nothing to lose but your evidence-based science!" That's the mildly paraphrased call from three postmodernist academics who have published (in what was once a fairly reputable journal) a deconstructionist attack on reason and evidence in medicine. Excerpt:
Background
Drawing on the work of the late French philosophers Deleuze and
Guattari, the objective of this paper is to demonstrate that the evidence-based movement
in the health sciences is outrageously exclusionary and dangerously normative with regards to scientific knowledge. As such, we assert that the evidence-based movement in health sciences constitutes a good example of microfascism at play in the contemporary scientific arena.

Objective
The philosophical work of Deleuze and Guattari proves to be useful in showing

how health sciences are colonised (territorialised) by an all-encompassing scientific research paradigm – that of post-positivism – but also and foremost in showing the process by which a dominant ideology comes to exclude alternative forms of knowledge, therefore acting as a fascist structure.
[Hat tips Stephen Hicks and Bad Science -- check out Bad Science's 'Postmodernist Bollocks' if you want a really serious laugh, and Hick's 'Explaining Postmodernism' if you want to understand why such bollocks is fashionable.)]

It would be nice to think this was a joke, much like the celebrated hoax on deconstructionist idiots perpetrated by physicist Alain Sokal (story on the 'Sokal Hoax' here; Sokal's website here; Sokal's excellent book eviscerating fashionable postmodernist nonsense here). However, given that such bollocks is still all-pervasive in too much of academia, the move to disintegrate knowledge and to 'un-know' what we already know seems to be continuing apace.

LINKS: Deconstructing the evidence-based discourse in health sciences: truth, power and fascism - Bad Science
Socal hoax - Wikipedia
Alan Sokal's website (includes much more detail of the hoax, including the reasons why and the reactions to)

RELATED: Health, Science, Postmodernism, Nonsense

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ACT election spending has costs

Oh dear.
Former "perkbuster" Rodney Hide is joining other political parties in fighting the Auditor-General's view that much taxpayer-funded party advertising for last year's election was unlawful...

Among the examples of ACT's pre-election advertising cited by the Auditor-General in his draft ruling were newspaper spreads two days before the ballot proclaiming "What Act Brings To Parliament", and listing things the party wanted.
Taxpayer money is not allowed to be used "for the purpose of supporting the election of any person or the casting of a party vote for any political party."

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Story here. Readers of this blog will remember a few other examples of ACT's 'perkbusting' campaigning being paid for by the taxpayer.

There's a lesson here, isn't there, for anyone who care to learn it.

UPDATE 1: A lesson too this morning from the Solicitor-General's office, courtesy of Audrey Young in the Herald:
A legal letter from the Acting Solicitor-General contradicts political parties' claims that they had approval for taxpayer-funded election spending.
Since the row began, Labour, New Zealand First and Act have said the Parliamentary Service - which runs Parliament - approved the payments.
New Zealand First and Act say they sought prior approval from the Parliamentary Service for their taxpayer-funded election spending.
And Labour leader and Prime Minister Helen Clark says the issue is essentially a dispute between the Parliamentary Service and the Auditor General.
But a letter from Acting Solicitor General Cheryl Gwyn says the Parliamentary Service's job is to administer payments.

It has no decision-making power and is not able to vet spending before the money is paid.

The letter, dated July 27, was written to Auckland barrister Alan Dormer.
He is acting for Libertarianz Party leader Bernard Darnton, who is seeking a judicial review of the spending on Labour's election pledge card, which cost $446,000.
UPDATE 2: The letter from the Acting Solicitor-General can be found here in PDF form, courtesy of Bernard Darnton.

LINK:
Soft-shoe shuffle on ACT's spending - NZ Herald
Official contradicts MPs on electoral expenses - Audrey Young, NZ Herald

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

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One hand behind the back, and both eyes closed

From Diana Hsieh's 'The Evils of Half-Fought Wars':
"A U.N. resolution calling for the disarming of Hezbollah in Lebanon is not the same thing as the actual disarming of Hezbollah in Lebanon--let alone the defeat of Hezbollah throughout the Middle East. And by urging Israel to end its military offensive, the administration has ended any possibility that Hezbollah will actually be destroyed. "The only way to end the threat from Islamic totalitarian groups like Hezbollah and their state sponsors is to inflict crushing devastation upon them by aggressive military action."

...The West has shown too much weakness for the jihadists to be easily convinced of any new-found determination to crush Islamic totalitarianism that the West might exhibit. That'll be the true legacy of decades of appeasement: the mass destruction required to destroy the threat of Islamic totalitarianism. It's a horrifying prospect. Even worse, it's a moot point at present: I have little hope of any Western power rediscovering the moral courage required to defend itself from the barbarians at the gates...
I fear she's right. Three-and-a-half years after Japan's suprise attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese mainland was a smoking ruin and the militarists who had brought the destruction down upon the country had killed themselves. But now, nearly five years after the surprise attack on the World Trade Center by Islamic totalitarians, the barbarians are still at the gates and the West is looking like Neville Chamberlain without the spine.

And much though we might wish it otherwise, those barbarians are not going away...

LINKS: The evils of half-fought wars - Diana Hsieh's blog, SOLO

RELATED COMMENTARY FROM THOMAS SOWELL & MARK STEYN [Hat tip and comments from Ross Elliot's blog]:
  • Will cease-fires never cease?
    In which Sowell provides a concise, modern history of Israel and lays the blame for Arab refugees firmly at the feet of the Arabs themselves. Hot off the press.

  • Pacifists versus peace
    In which Sowell shows that "peace" movements do not achieve peace at all but enable & encourage aggressors.

  • Advocates of 'proportion' are just unbalanced
    In which Steyn argues that a proportionate military response plays into the hands of the aggressor and renders the victim impotent.

  • Islamoschmoozing
    In which Steyn identifies the vacuity of multiculturalism as a replacement for true identity, and the alacrity with which Islam fills the gap.

  • Pan-Islamism challenges idea of nation state
    In which Steyn argues that Pan-Islamism, not wars between nations, is the real threat, and that Westernism is dying by degrees, sacrificing itself upon the altar of multiculturalism.

TAGS: War, Israel, Politics-World

Cartoon by Cox and Forkum: 'Incoming'

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Annette Presley -- the face of chardonnay?

Check this out from yesterday's Dominion:


Wonder what the second prize was: maybe ten minutes with Annette? Snort!

(Full puff piece here. Hat tip Lindsay M.)

RELATED: Telecom, Humour

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

HEADS UP: Labour file defence

Helen Clark and 46 other current and former Labour MPs have finally filed their Statement of Defence in Darnton V Clark -- the case that will test the legality of their misappropriation of taxpayer's money to pay for the Pledge Cards and succcessfully buy the election.

Litigant and Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton suggests visiting the entry on his lawsuit blog at http://www.darntonvsclark.org/, where you can either read his three-sentence summary "or download 9 pages of mumbo-jumbo."

Things are soon to get interesting.

UPDATE (9:15am, 18 August): Darnton's lawyer Alan Dormer responds very briefly in today's Herald:
Labour's statement of defence says the pledge card was "an inherently political expression".
This is a different emphasis to that put on the card by Helen Clark, who said it was allowable under election spending rules because it set out the party's policy.
The statement of defence also says that under the Bill of Rights, the Labour Party and its leader have "the unqualified right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference".
Mr Dormer said Labour appeared to be saying that it had a right to exercise freedom of speech at the taxpayers' expense.
"If one put all their quotes together, there would be a high degree of inconsistency, it seems to me."
LINK: Labour's Defence - Darnton Vs. Clark
Official contradicts MPs on electoral expenses - NZ Herald

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

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Ask not for whom the tipping point comes. It comes for Helen.

It's fairly widely agreed that Margaret Thatcher's eleven years in power were ended when she lost touch with the electorate and brought in the poll tax. (Having just landed in the UK with my girlfriend, I can tell you first-hand what a severe shock it was to be handed a NZ$4000 bill just to be able to rent a flat!)

For Thatcher the poll tax was the tipping point, the moment when even her supporters turned against her, and when all those critics who had been biding their time figured out it was then safe to attack. Once the floodgates were opened by the poll tax debacle, all it took was one mauling by a former ally (whose verbal thrusts had been likened to "being savaged by a dead sheep") to bring her down -- and with Thatcher it wasn't the electorate who sacked her, it was her own colleagues.

Once the tipping point comes, it only takes a 'small putsch' for the House of Cards to fall.

It seems that with the Auditor-General's revelations of Labour's electoral corruption now ringing out around the country, the tipping point has now come for Helen Clark and her Labour Party.

Recent articles and editorials have uncharacteristically savaged her for her "Government's absolute determination to cling to office at any cost," even as her deputy threatens the media with attack by the IRD. And now, as David Farrar observes, "today's Dominion Post editorial on the illegal pledge card spending makes the others (which were very stern also) look like wimps."
It starts by asking:
"What part of shameless and arrogant does Labour not understand?"
And it just gets more acerbic by the sentence.

What's noticeable with these recent richly-deserved MSM attacks is the point made by Insolent Prick in a comment to that post: "This is the same mainstream media that ate out of Auntie Helen's hand for the last ten years, and swallowed her spin hook, line and sinker. Shows you just how low Labour's got if even the editorials have turned on her."

Quite. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, for it would seem to be ringing for Helen. Roll on Darnton V Clark.

LINKS: 1990: Howe resigns over Europe policy - BBC: On This Day
Shameless and arrogant - Kiwiblog (David Farrar)
A blatant opportunist - Editorial, Dom Post

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

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Castro encomia: Bring your bucket

How amazing was Castro? Let, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alexandre Trudeau tell you, in time for the (hopefully) forthcoming obituaries. Two more sycophantic sacks of shit you've never seen -- unless that is you count those who adored 'Uncle Jo' Stalin.

Craig Ceely has the potted sycophancy here. Take it in small doses.

LINK: Walter Duranty lives, and writes encomia to Castro - Craig Ceely's blog, SOLO

RELATED: Politics-World

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Petition to ban the ... ?

What does Bastiat's heavily satirical petition from the candlemakers and the idea to ban the single most deadly nuclear reactor have in common?

Guess.

Given that they want to ban free trade and hydrogen monoxide respectively, the Sues Bradford and Kedgeley might want to take note.

UPDATE: I've changed the link for 'The Petition of the Candlemakers' because I've just noticed the buggers at that first link only had up half of the bloody petition! Sheesh already.

LINKS: Candlemakers' petition - Frederic Bastiat
Xxx kills 60,000 a year, WHO says
- Reuters [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

RELATED: Economics, Environment, Humour

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Ding dong, another dictator dead

Another dictator dead. Ring 'dem bells. Liberty Scott has the lowdown on Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner, the country's biggest bully from 1954 to 1989, the last but one of a long line of South American dictators.

Who's the 'one'? Why, Castro's mate Hugo Chavez of course.

LINK: Stroessner dies at last - Liberty Scott
Alfredo Stroessner page - Dictator of the Month


RELATED:
Obituary

More mining please

When do you think this was written:
You must know that the world has grown old, and does not remain in its former vigour. It bears witness to its own decline. The rainfall and the sun’s warmth are both diminishing; the metals are nearly exhausted; the husbandman is failing in the fields, the sailor on the seas, the soldier in the camp, honesty in the market, justice in the courts, concord in friendships, skill in the arts, discipline in morals...
The person who said "in the third century AD" wins the prize. Yep, today's pessimists and are pikers compared to the doom-makers of the third century. Since then, we've mined, scraped, drilled, extracted and quarried millions and millions and millions of tons of stuff from the earth, and guess what: there's still billions of tons left, and even without recycling some of that stuff that's enough for at least another million years of extraction.

George Reisman has done the calculation. Go check his working for errors. And even with all that stuff extracted, man's ingenuity continually finds new uses for all the stuff we can extract, increasing the amount of useable stuff potentially available to us.

Despite this however, George is not entirely optimistic. The problems he sees, however, are not with resources running out, but with resources being taken out of possible production:
Our growing problems in connection with the supply of natural resources are not caused by nature but by us. We have allowed ourselves to abandon our reason and give up our freedom. We have allowed ourselves to be led by people who would have us freeze and be immobilized rather than spill some oil on snow hardly any of us will ever see or disturb the habitat of wild animals that mean nothing to us. If we allow this to continue, then where we are headed is to a world describable by these terrible words of despair [at the start of the post].
And if we chose not to allow this, not to tolerate this ...
There is no helplessness in fact. To men who use reason and are free to act, nature gives more and more. To those who turn away from reason or are not free, it gives less and less. Nothing else is involved.
I guess that's why the late Julian Simon used to all the human mind and human creativity "the ultimate resource."

UPDATE: Links and 'punchline' added.

LINK: Mining for the next million years - George Reisman's blog
The ultimate resource - Cafe Hayek

RELATED: Conservation, Environment

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Pumping Pahrump -- the affordable 'Wild West'

From Owen McShane's CRMS Newsletter:

Rules and Regulations.
Houston is famous for being the only major city in the US with no zoning or other planning regulations. It is equally famous for having one of the world's most affordable housing markets. The Demographia survey rated it with an affordability index of only 2.7. (Auckland is around 6).
If you get to Atlanta [for the "Preserving the American Dream" conference] you might find it worth while visiting Houston to see for yourself.

However, you should be equally keen to visit the famous city of Pahrump. You may have never heard of it but we should all be intrigued by this Nevada city –- one hour's drive from Las Vegas.

Pahrump not only has no planning codes or zoning – it has no building codes either! That's right - you don't need a building permit to build your dream home in Pahrump.

You might think people would shun such a "wild west" city like the plague. Funny that. Pahrump has been growing at 15% a year for the last seven years. The Nevada State average is only 3.8%. People love being able to buy land at only $20,000 a lot, and to build more cheaply too. This looks like a city to watch.

[How does it all work?] Much like the boat building industry in New Zealand, I suspect. There is much to learn from the leaky boat syndrome isn't there?

LINKS: Pahrump - Wikipedia
Centre for Resource Management Studies website
In defense of property rights -- Warren Ross & J. Brian Philips, Capitalism Magazine [Part 1 of a six-part series written during one of the many campaigns to overturn Houston's relatively laissez-faire urban design record. "It addresses the political philosophy underlying zoning as well as the specific arguments made by the pro-zoning advocates in Houston."]
"Preserving the American Dream" conference - Randal O'Toole's American Dream Coalition

RELATED: Urban_Design, Building

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Temple on a High Rock - Hiroshige


TAGS: Art

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bullshit!

A friend watched 'Bullshit' last night, and has this to say:
I've just watched another superb episode of Penn & Teller's 'Bullshit' on Prime. Sincerely hope you caught it. I've been a fan of these two for a long time. They're out and out libertarians. I especially enjoyed Nixon, in sanctimoniously alerting America to this 'enormous problem' in 1971 (as opposed I guess, to the 'minor' problem of Vietnam), being described as a 'whacko motherfucker' ... Delicious. This was the smartest 45 mins of TV devoted to drug use that I've ever seen. I'm going to write to Prime and beg them to repeat it. Who knows. We must advise/remind libs to regularly watch the programme and then write to Prime, as it's truly 45 minutes of blatant promotion of freedom. Tuesdays @ 10pm.
Of course, if it doesn't get repeated, looks like the boys have made it available on Google Video for you to watch. Here's the summary of the 'War on Drugs' episode : "Penn and Teller examine the war on drugs. If drug prohibition ended there wouldn't be a dangerous black market, police would have more time to go after real criminals and drugs would be safer." Are they wrong?

LINKS: War on Drugs - 'Bullshit!' - Google Video

RELATED:
Victimless_Crimes, Films

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Threats from the historian

Q: Which senior politician is threatening a major newspaper with tax problems if they continue to expose Labour's spin on Pledge Card spending.

A: Michael Cullen. Bernard Darnton explains:
Yesterday, the NZ Herald published a story comparing “The Spin” with “What Actually Happened”. Cullen has suggested that the paper “consider the consistency of its position” (ie start to toe the party line) and implies that if they don’t they might find themselves “liable to a very large tax bill.”
Remember how Franklin Roosevelt used to set the IRS on his political opponents? I'm sure Cullen does; he's a professional historian and a Roosevelt-admirer. Remember Richard Nixon's 'Enemies List'? Seems Cullen's starting one too. Nixon's Attorney General John Dean explained the purpose of the 'Enemies List' in a memo:
"This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration, Stated a bit more bluntly —how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies."
If Cullen is learning from history, he might reflect that within three years of boasting about using the available federal machinery to screw his political enemies, Attorney General John Dean was to become Inmate John Dean -- and a good job too.

There are some limits to power.
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LINKS: Mikey “Avelli” Cullen Gets Nasty - Bernard Darnton
Nixon's Enemies List - Wikipedia

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

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Go to jail!

I expect you've already heard about the Government's shake-up of sentencing and imprisonment. DPF has a summary of the main points, and he gives marks to each of them.

I just want to reflect on the point of a criminal justice system. What is the primary purpose of a 'corrections' system? Is to to punish? Is it to rehabilitate?

No, it is to protect the rest of us from the criminal.

And what should be the primary intention with sentencing? The sentence should ensure 1) that the rest of us are made safe from the criminal; 2) that no criminal achieves any value from his crime; and 3) as far as possible, no victim is worse off for it. Remember the victims?

Part of the motivation for the proposed changes is to fix the problem of New Zealand's overflowing prisons. However, as I said when Damien O'Connor first proposed this brave new regime, if you withdrew all offences for which there are no victims and granted those people imprisoned just for those non-offences-- ie., just for victimless crimes -- you could easily free up a large portion of the prison capacity, and then you wouldn't have to reduce sentences by 25%. And then our protection from real, dangerous criminals would be much better ensured.

UPDATE 1: Whale Oil has obtained a copy of the proposed guidelines for judges so their sentence can match the offence. Sample:
Stealing taxpayer money: What money, we just changed the law to 'validate' that.
UPDATE 2: Links to previous posts added, and text slightly revised.

LINKS: Criminal justice system - Kiwiblog (David Farrar)
Government meddles with sentencing - Whale Oil

RELATED AT 'NOT PC': Lock 'em up; free the others - Not PC (Feb, 2006)
While we're talking about rehabilitation for prisoners - Not PC (Feb 2006)
Crimes against society - Not PC (March 2006)
Prison overcrowding - Not PC (May 2005)

TAGS: Politics-NZ,
Law

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This is how it started in Zimbabwe

Remember when Zimbabwe was still counted one of the world's semi-civilised countries? When it could still feed itself. When it wasn't a chaotic hell. It wasn't that long ago.

This is how the collapse started in Zimbabwe, now described in a report from South Africa:
REUTERS - White South African farmers could have land seized
13 August 2006

POLOKWANE: South Africa has warned white farmers it may seize their properties under the land restitution programme if they fail to agree a selling price within six months...
Oh dear. That was exactly how it started in Zimbabwe.

RELATED: Politics-World

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John Constable

No art from me tonight. Instead, I suggest you go and check out the John Constable paintings up at artist Lindsay Mitchell's blog to wipe that image of Nasrallah from your retina.

If you really study a Constable, ignoring the familiar chocolate box subjects, you can see what people like Turner got from such things as his wildly turbulent cloudscapes.

Check him out at the Te Papa exhibition if you're in Helengrad. Might as well get some use from the money you've spent on the place.

LINK: Constable - Lindsay Mitchell

RELATED: Art, Wellington

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

One handshake at a time


Pic from Punch. One for those who are happy to condemn Israel, the US, the UK, George Bush, John Howard, Tony Blair, Ehud Olmert, John Boy Walton -- and anyone else they care to smear -- but who can never bring themselves to say even a harsh word against scum like Nasrallah.

As Edward Cline says, it is not peace such people are so desperately seeking, but release from the responsibility of taking a moral stand -- in this instance, on the right of Israel to retaliate with force against a power seeking its destruction.

May the splinters from the fence on which they sit infect what is probably their best feature.

LINK: Our Islamic nemesis, then and now - Edward Cline, Rule of Reason
Punch for Tuesday - Punch

RELATED: War, Politics-World,
Cartoons

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"It didn’t take long for the IDF to reach the Litani..."

Michael Totten has blogged his latest from the Israel-Lebanon front line -- filed now at his 'Middle East Journal,' written just before the ceasefire: The Storm before the Calm. [Hat tip Samizdata].

METULLA, ISRAEL – Israel scrapped the proposed ceasefire agreement on August 11 and launched a full-scale ground invasion of Lebanon. Presumably the Israeli Defense Forces wanted to rapidly snap up territory between the border fence and the Litani River before agreeing to the real cease-fire that’s tenuously in effect at the time of this writing. The ceasefire does not require an Israeli withdrawal. Instead it puts their military operations in Lebanon into a holding pattern.

It didn’t take long for the IDF to reach the Litani...
RELATED: Israel, War, Politics-World

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Pledge Card: "The whole story"

G-man points out the Labour Party are sweating this one.
Faced with a lawsuit, a turning media and the poisoning of the ground water--they're really pulling out all the stops on this one issue... They are pulling out every single cliched political trick they can muster, all of them. The big test is whether the media will buy into it, or see it for what it is, an elaborate change-the subject-strategy.
Remember how during the election Clark told voters she was "very excited about the pledge cards, and said that it would be delivered to every household and would be the centre-piece of the campaign for them"? G-Man does. And as he says,
At the time I remember thinking (naively as it turns out) that that would cost a small fortune, and wouldn't leave much left over for other election advertising. That's the story--it's not any other side-track. It's not any red-herring they're trying to find. It's that--plain and simple. They had taxpayers' money earmarked for one purpose, and they spent it buying votes.
Read the whole post here. (And time to get those tapes digitised, G-Man.)

UPDATE: I was presuming you would have already seen David Farrar's evisceration of Helen's latest spin. It begins like this:
Good God Clark is trying to spin the issue of the pledge cards so badly, she could set herself up as a wind turbine and power a few hundred homes.
Read it all here.

LINKS: Helen Clark Mounts Diproportionate Attack on Nats - G-Man Inc.
Darnton Vs Clark website
Spin, spin, spin, spin - Kiwiblog (David Farrar)

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

'Mahmoud Pundit'

For those who've read Mein Kampf, there's a potentially similar piece of confessional literature unfolding now on the web. The portents are there. Hitler's psychotic ambitions for war and conquest were revealed in Mein Kampf; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has a new blog, on which -- who knows -- he might reveal to us his dreams of starlight and moonbeams and nuclear terror?

Click on the little Ameri-English flag up on the right to read 'Mahmoud Pundit' in English. Leave comments. Decide for yourself if it is Uncle Mahmoud (Allah at Hotair has doubts), or just a nutter with a megalomaniacal fetish.

Or both.

UPDATE: Paula has some verse to celebrate the Nut Job breaking into cyber-print. Go see.

LINKS: Mein Kampf Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's blog
Ahmedinejad starts his own blog (Update: Fake?) - Hot Air

RELATED:
War, Politics-World, Geek Stuff, Cartoons

Cartoon by Cox and Forkum

Architecture Film Festival '06

The Architecture Film Festival '06 kicks off around the country on 1st September.

I tell you this with trepidation because I haven't booked for any sessions yet, and I'm told that bookings are going "tremendously well."

Films this year on Santiago Calatrava, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe (pictured right), Norman Foster's 'Erotic Gherkin,' the energy of Lagos as seen by Rem Koolhaas, Marion Mahoney and Walter Burley Griffin (former Frank Lloyd Wright alumni and the designers of Canberra) and more, much more.

But don't let me persuade you too much of its merits, or I won't get a seat myself.

LINK: JASMAX Film Festival '06: Celebrating Architecture - JASMAX

RELATED: Architecture, Films

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Poverty-causes-jihad myth exposed by 'Telegraph'

Britain's Daily Telegraph points out that those arrested in Britain for the fortunately failed plot to blow up passenger-laden planes were relatively well-off muslim university students who were recruited on campus. Indeed, "Waheed Zaman, 22, a bio-chemistry student and the president of the Islamic Society at London Metropolitan University, was one of 24 people arrested last week." (Zaman's sister also reports that he met 'Baghdad' George Galloway "many times.")

So if those arrested were young middle-class muslim students in touch with high-profile MPs, why does the Washington Post, a whole ocean away from the truth, describe the motivation of these would-be murders to be "young men [who] face a lack of jobs, poor educational achievement and discrimination in a highly class-oriented culture"? As The Unalienable Right Blog points out [hat tip Jihad Watch],
if The Washington Post is correct, that unemployment and rage at foreign policy cause extremism, how many Britons who are unemployed, against British foreign policy, and non-Muslim have been found to have plotted to blow up airliners? Perhaps the common denominator here is not employment status or objection to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And if the rage is being fueled by unemployment and lack of education, why are so many of the plotters tied to British universities?

The view from the Post looks like nothing more than a rehash of the old left-wing "poverty causes crime" canard, re-tooled as the "poverty causes jihad" canard.
As Jihad Watch and The Unalienable Right conclude, "the Post is simply repeating the old poverty-causes-jihad myth, and if the facts are otherwise, so much the worse for the facts."

Fortunately, some western politicians understand that. In an article in the unlikely place of The Guardian, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, a champagne socialist from way back,
told the BBC that drawing a link between government policy and the terror threat would be the 'gravest possible error'. She said such suggestions were "part of a distorted view of the world, a distorted view of life. Let's put the blame where it belongs: with people who wantonly want to take innocent lives."
Yes. Let's.

LINKS: Young muslim rage takes root in Britain - Washington Post
University students at centre of terror plots - (UK) Daily Telegraph
UK Telegraph vs. The Washington Post on roots of jihad - Jihad Watch
UK Telegraph vs. The Washington Post on roots of jihad - The Unalienable Right
Beckett rejects links between foreign policy and terrorism - The Guardian
Terror suspect Waheed Zaman met George Galloway "many times" - Gateway Pundit
Who are the 'bomb plot suspects'? - The Times

RELATED: War, Religion, Politics-World

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Not 'peace,' but freedom from any moral stand

Edward Cline hits the spot:
... When one watches the frantic, contemptible relief with which the U.S. and Europe react to the least chance for "peace" between Israel and Lebanon (re the recent U.N. Security Council resolution to end the fighting, but condescending to allow Israel to defend itself), one cannot help but sense that it is not "peace" they are seeking, but release from the responsibility of taking a moral stand, in this instance, on the right of Israel to retaliate with force against a power seeking its destruction.
Read Cline's whole historic piece here: Our Islamic Nemesis, Then and Now. If you've been wondering what Thomas Jefferson would have made of today's all-pervasive policy of so-called moral equivalence toward the Middle East, Cline has some surprising revelations.

LINK: Our Islamic nemesis, then and now - Edward Cline, Rule ofReason

RELATED: War, History, Israel, Politics-US, Cartoon

Cartoon by Cox and Forkum

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Lion lying down - Rembrandt


'Lion.' Sketch by Rembrandt van Rijn. Look just how much is conveyed so sparingly.

And a suitable piece to mark today's ceasefire in the Middle East. Rembrandt's lion looks pacific, but... And on the day of this ceasefire, the lion is lying down with what, exactly?

RELATED: Art

Monday, August 14, 2006

Protective vests


Just one of half-a-dozen cartoons with a similar theme here.

Cease fire? Jihad Watch suggests,
Hamas understands very well what the stationing of Lebanese troops under UN auspices on the Lebanese/Israeli border means: a victory for Hizballah.
Anyone expect Hezbollah to disarm? Not the Jerusalem Post, who report:
The Lebanese government was scheduled to meet on Sunday to discuss the disarming of Hizbullah south of the Litani River, but postponed that meeting following indications by the guerrilla group that they would not do so...
So ... what's been achieved then to make the Lebanese/Israel border safer? And do you think they're laughing up their sleeves in Tehran, even as they take this opportunity to re-arm and re-equip Hezbollah?

[And just by the way, what is the correct spelling for 'The Party of God'? Turns out God alone knows. 'Murderous bastards' would do it, but how then to distinguish them all the other murderous bastards around.]

RELATED: Israel, War, Politics-World, Cartoons

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Some days, there just ain't no fish

Why no new posts today? To quote the philosopher Hoagy Carmichael:
(Ain't no fish, ain't no flounder, ain't no tuna, ain't no fish)

Holy mackarel!
Some days, there just ain't no fish...
And although at times you get a messful
Other days are less successful
Some days, there just ain't no fish.
There you go. Back when I get a suitable nibble, and a spare minute.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Good news for parents in search of real education for their children

Good news at the bottom of this post for parents of children who have a problem with learning. But first, a lecture (That's right, there's no such thing as a free lunch.)

"The hierarchy of knowledge is the most neglected issue in education."

Now just what the hell does that mean? Well, outside the Beehive and the bureaucracy (and the NZEI) everyone is aware of "the borderline illiteracy, the nonexistent math skills, the vast ignorance of history, and the lack of basic reasoning ability that characterize [thousands upon thousands] of students today. " You know about that bad stuff, right?

What if I were to tell you that the chief problem with education as it's presently delivered -- the prime culprit in the present-day crime of 'educating for illiteracy' -- is the failure to adequately address the hierarchy of knowledge. What today's educationalists most neglect, argues Lisa Van Damme (who runs her own private and genuinely good private school), is the recognition that knowledge and the acquisition of knowledge is hierarchical. Let her explain:
All abstract knowledge depends, for its meaning and validity, on other knowledge that sets the context for it. For example, algebra depends on addition, and calculus depends on algebra. The more complex the knowledge, the more extensive the knowledge that must precede it.

One major aspect of the fact that knowledge depends on other knowledge—the aspect most relevant to and most violated in education—is that more abstract knowledge depends on less abstract knowledge. This is
the principle of the hierarchy of knowledge.
She goes on:
A concept or generalization is more or less abstract according to its cognitive distance from the perceptual level. Concepts and generalization exist in a hierarchy, from the perceptual level to the highest level abstractions.

Highly abstract concepts presuppose a very long chain of prior conceptualizations. This is why, for example, so much knowledge must be gained for students to learn calculus.

Knowingly or not, parents encounter the issue of hierarchy all the time. When my daughter Lana was 2 ½ years old, I took her to the hospital to visit a friend of mine who had given birth that day to a baby girl named Talia. I told Lana, “Today is Talia’s birthday!” She looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, “She’s having a party?” I said, “No, it’s her birthday,” and stumbled my way through an explanation of what it meant for this to be Talia’s “birth day” and what the connection was between a “birth day” and a “birthday party.”

I quickly realized that it was impossible for Lana to grasp the connection between the birth of a baby and the cake, presents, and balloons, which to her were the essence of a birthday party. To do so, she would have to grasp, among other things, the concept of “birth,” which she did not yet really understand, the concept of a “year,” so that she could learn that the passing of a year marked the anniversary of a person’s birth, and the concept of “celebration,” so that she could understand why the anniversary of one’s birth is celebrated with a party, and so on. It was impossible for me to teach Lana a more advanced understanding of the concept of “birthday” given her context of knowledge—she had not formed and could not yet grasp the prerequisite concepts.
that's a very, very brief outline of the subject. On that more later. But now, here's the good news:

1) Lisa Van Damme's school, the Van Damme Academy, has a curriculum content and methods of teaching that fully recognises the hierarchy of knowledge in learning, and they report enormous success in actually educating their students, and teaching them how to learn. (Her students enter high school already having learned and retained much of the early high-school curriculum, and having developed a real love of learning.)

In their history programme for example, rather than teaching isolated facts that the student can only hold "because the teacher says so," history is taught in a manner that that allows the student to grasp and "integrate their knowledge of the major events and trends of history with knowledge from other fields and a wide range of personal experiences. Only then will they be able to form rational, meaningful convictions about politics [and much else]."

Now, for my New Zealand readers (who have already leaped ahead and realised that Lisa's Academy is in Laguna Hills, California) the really tremendous news is that the Van Damme Acedemy is now offering the first distance learning of its courses. Starting September 2006, their Remote History Programme kicks off.
This academic program, designed for students at the elementary school level, teaches the history of Western civilization, from the Ancient World, through the European Middle Ages, to modern America... VanDamme Academy invites you, whether you are a parent with one child, or a homeschool teacher with twelve, to learn more about this program now. (Parents and teachers should read "An Introduction to European History for Parents and Teachers.") For ongoing news relating to the program, please join the Remote History Program's Mailing List by clicking on the link below.

If you want more details of the history programme, the Anouncements page of the Van Damme Academy has a two-part audio outlining the school's unique history curriculum.

2)
Now for the second piece of good news. I've referred before to Lisa's superb article on the hierarchy of knowledge in education, and I've quoted from it above, but up to now the only way you can access the full article is by paying a yearly sub to 'The Objective Standard' (which is, by the way, worth every penny).

But now, you can listen online to Lisa's speech in three parts delivered to homeschooling parents on 'The Concept of the Hierarchy of Knowledge.' As she says, it is one of the most important topics in education." Scroll down on this Announcements page to find the speech.

LINKS:

AUDIO: 'The Hierarchy of Knowledge: The Most Neglected Issue in Education,' and 'The Van Damme Academy History Curriculum': both can be found online at the
Van Damme Academy Announcements Page.

RELATED:
Education, Objectivism

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