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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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

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'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


McCarten finds reason in the irrational

Matt McCarten has realised we are at war, and he's chosen sides: he's on the side of new "socialist friend," Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, the general secretary of Hizbollah, the Lebanese para-military organisation armed by and answerable only to its paymasters in Iran and its quartermasters in Syria; whose 10,000 or so rockets full of ball-bearings were fired freely into the population of Northern Israel for several weeks; whose cadres spent the last six years and many Iranian petro-dollars preparing for this conflict -- an aggressive supra-governmental paramilitary who are now refusing to disarm, despite it being an express condition of the cease-fire agreement signed by both sides.

McCarten sees Hezbollah as the solution, not the problem. End the
"occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine" says McCarten, echoing his new hero, or else expect permanent war. "So long as there is imperialism in the world, a permanent peace is impossible," McCarten quotes Nasrallah approvingly -- Nasrallah's is the "new voice of Islamic reason," says NZ's voice of old-school socialist un-reason, a voice he says that "resonates with indisputable reason." This is McCarten's assessment of the butcher-in-chief's re-stated intention to wipe Israel off the map and to engage in "permanent war" until he does.

At least we now know for sure which side McCarten is on. The side of the loons. The side of Islamic totalitarianism. The side of those who adamantly refuse to recognise any right for Israel to exist. The side of those who fight in the name of jihad. If there is one primary reason for permanent war in the Middle East, it is that view -- a view that McCarten shares. If there is one primary reason for the war with Islamic totalitarians being exported to the rest of the world, it is the idea that there is somehow "reason" on their side.

Place the blame for war where it lies: with those whom McCarten supports, and with those like him who give them ideological house-room. The bodies of the dead can be laid at their feet.

MEANWHILE, Cox and Forkum have a response to cries in the recent conflict of there being a 'disproportionate response':

New voice of Islamic reason resonates with indisputable reason - Matt McCarten, NZ Herald
Disproportionate response II - Cox and Forkum

RELATED: War, Religion, Politics-World, Politics-NZ, Politics-Alliance

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Sunnis shooting Shiites

Who opens fire on an unarmed group of people going about their business? Apparently the practitioners of a religion of peace and love do. Says CNN:
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims crowded the streets of the Iraqi capital, heading to the shrine of an eighth century imam... Gunmen on the streets and snipers from the rooftops opened fire on the crowds in six Baghdad neighborhoods, police said.
And who were those gunmen? They were Sunni Islamists -- including (it would seem from CNN's pictures) at least one Sunni imam with a pistol -- whose imaginary friend had told them to massacre Shi'ite Islamists. Such is the way this religion of peace fights a war of ideas.

Iraq's liberation from Saddam's tyranny left Iraqis free to succeed, free to flourish, free to make their own mistakes. It seems that, as with the liberation of Yugoslavia from Tito's yoke, too many of the newly-free are eager only to loot, to bomb and to kill -- and to kill in the name of their religion.

Peace and love? Tell me another.

LINKS: 20 pilgrims killed, hundreds wounded in Baghdad - CNN [Hat tip Elliot Who?]

RELATED: War, Politics-World, Religion


Breakfast with Wayne - debating the 90-day Probationary Employment Bill

I finished my beauty sleep early this morning to have breakfast with Sue Bradford, Ruth Dyson, Wayne Mapp, Rodney Hide and about a hundred or so others. The event was a debate on Wayne Mapp's 90-day Probationary Employment Bill, for which Ruth Dyson argued we should listen to the facts.

Unfortunately, as an employment lawyer in the audience quickly showed, not all the facts are on Ruth's side.

The fact is that every business and every entrepreneur survives by taking a risk; by seeing a new vision or a new idea, assessing it, and then backing their judgement. The fact is that present employment law does not favour taking risks in whom employers choose to hire, because as too many Employment Court decisions have shown, letting an unsuitable employee go is a about as easy as getting Helen Clark to admit she shouldn't have spent taxpayers' money on her Pledge Card -- and can be almost as expensive a process.

The fact is that in in the present legal environment every employer who has to choose between someone well-qualified but dull and someone else less-qualified and less-experienced but perhaps a little sharper is more likely to see the nice-but-dull candidate signing the Employment Contract, and the more 'risky' candidate being shown the door. Present law favours nice-but-dull, and lowers the boom on candidates who need a risk taken on them. Those more risky candidates are finding it hard to get a toe on the employment ladder, and the fact is that present employment law is helping to making that happen.

We all suffer by that -- employers, manufacturers, employees and consumers -- but there is one group who suffer most, and despite the great boon this bill would offer them, they are not going to be listening to 'nice but dull' Wayne promoting it.

Who stands to benefit most? Let's have a look. Government figures show an unemployment rate of only 3.6%. At the same time, there are nearly 300,000 people are either on a benefit or otherwise unemployable. Whatever your view on the facts of economic growth under Labour or the truth of those particular figures, there is one figure that no one is challenging: 27% of young Maori are unemployed -- they are under-skilled, under-experienced, under-qualified (and in too many cases criminally-qualified) -- they are the very group of people who most need employers to be free to take a chance on them, and the very group that present employment law is helping keep unemployed. But they aren't listening to Wayne.

There's someone who might listen to Wayne though who could make a tangible difference. The Maori Party could with some justice call present employment law racist -- and in this case they might actually be right. It's targeted against the very group the Maori Party claim to represent. It makes life worse for them. Wayne Mapp's Bill would do more for under-skilled and under-qualified young Maori than any hundred government programmes aimed at closing their gaps -- it would give them the chance at real employment, and the chance for many of them to turn their lives around.

For this Bill to pass it will need to the Maori Party's vote. Let's hope they consider who stands to benefit most from it.

LINK: Probationary emplyment bill far from redundant - Susan-Jane Davies, EMA

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National, Law, Economics

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Khalifa Sports Center Tower - Roger Taillibert

The Khalifa Sports Center Tower, designed for the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Quatar, by French architect Roger Taillibert, the designer of stadia for the Montreal Olympics and of Paris's Parc de Prince stadium.

Taillibert talks of his sports stadia as "Game Space" ...
a place where man can unleash, either in shelter or in the open, his definitive physical performances.
As definitive performances go, Taillibert's own are right up there.

LINKS: Roger Taillibert's website

RELATED: Architecture

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Monday, 21 August 2006

Nicole Kidman is hot

Nicole Kidman is hot.

Instead of hand-wringing or trying to duck making moral judgement (as so many others around the place have done), Nicole and 84 other Hollywood types took out a full-page ad in the LA Times laying responsibility for the deaths in the recent conflict squarely on the shoulders of the aggressors: Hezbollah and their vicious friends.

Mel Gibson was not among the 85 signatories.
[Nicole Kidman], joined by 84 other high-profile Hollywood stars, directors, studio bosses and media moguls, has taken out a powerfully-worded full page advertisement in today's Los Angeles Times newspaper. It specifically targets "terrorist organisations" such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine.

"We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah and Hamas," the ad reads. "If we do not succeed in stopping terrorism around the world, chaos will rule and innocent people will continue to die." "We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism at all costs."
That makes Nicole my personal favourite to play Dagny in the upcoming movie of Atlas Shrugged!

LINKS: Kidman condemns Hamas Hezbollah - Sydney Herald Sun [Hat tip Diana Hsieh at Noodle Food]
Atlas Shrugged movie - ImDb page
LA Times, 16 August - Press Display viewer

Israel, War, Politics-World, Films

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More drugs, less crime?

New York's crack epidemic of the late eighties undoubtedly contributed to a huge rise in crime figures. Crack, as you will recall, is illegal.

So is heroin. But in recent years for several geo-political reasons increasing amounts of low-cost and very pure heroin has been hitting New York's streets, and as one correspondent to the Spectator points out, this "quasi legalisation" of heroin has been accompanied by ... what do you think: a drop in crime figures.

So what do you think? Could it be that what's being too much overlooked in the link everyone sees between illegal drugs and crime is the 'illegal' rather than the drugs? That's the answer given by the correspondent, who points out: "Heroin is more widely available than at any time in history -- probably more than if it were legal. Addicts simply do not have to commit so much crime to feed their habit."

And that's also the position of the criminal justice profesionals from LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) who argue that, "We believe that to save lives and lower the rates of disease, crime and addiction, as well as to conserve tax dollars, we must end drug prohibition."

Just think.

Lindsay Mitchell has the letter on her blog. I recommend a read, and a pondering of the implications.

LINK: A different take on NY crime drop - Lindsay Mitchell
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition - website for LEAP

RELATED: Victimless Crimes, Politics-US


Dov Fisks Fisk

"Hizbollah are "increasingly heroes across the Muslim world," says Robert Fisk. "As usual," responds Dov Bing, professor of political science at Waikato University, "[Fisk] offers no references for this sweeping statement" -- so Prof. Bing scans the Sunni Arab press on our behalf.

  • Lebanese Huda Al-Husseini wrote in Al-Sarq Al-Awsat: "Lebanon has been taken hostage by Hizbollah, Syria and Iran and Islam itself has almost become a hostage to Iran's aspirations."
  • Egyptian Hazem Abd Al-Rahman wrote in Al-Ahram: "All Iran wants is to extend its hegemony over the eastern Arab countries, and it is trying to use Hizbollah as a Trojan horse to achieve his aim."
He concludes,
The Sunni countries are anxious to contain Iran.
It is ironic that Israel is playing a role on the side of the moderate Sunni states in this new power play in the Middle East.
The least Mr Fisk could do is to let readers know about the thinking of the Sunni Arab press.
But as I'm sure Prof. Bing is aware, Mr Fisk is never one to tell all the relevant facts, not when cherrypicking them gives him a better story. Read Prof Bing's whole piece in the Herald here.

LINK: Dov Bing: Coup fear creates new allies - NZ Herald [Hat tip Whale Oil]

RELATED: Politics-World, Israel, War

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Darnton on air

Bernard Darnton was interviewed last night on Lindsay Perigo's Radio Live show about his legal action against Helen Clark, Parliamentary Services and 46 Labour MPs.

Listen up here courtesy of Julian.

UPDATE: Whale Oil notes that Helen Clark now has a new defence. In response to Paul Holmes question this morning asking whether she intends to pay back the money spent on the Pledge Cards she responded, "Mmm ... there's been no ... such ... request." Visit Whale Oil's post and you can hear the conversation for yourself. (Question and response about 5:30 into the linked audio.)

LINKS: Perigo interviews Darnton - Julian Pistorius
You have to hear this to believe it - Whale Oil Beef Hooked

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


Sunday, 20 August 2006

Were Maori environmentalists?

A friend who wrote a thesis several years ago on common law solutions to environmentalism asked me this question a few weeks ago, and I've only recently got around to answering (I've paraphrased the question just a little):
Q: How did Maori activists [he asks] attain the apparent status they now possess in the environmental movement? In other words, why do NZ environmentalists bow to Maori prejudices? When I wrote my thesis this absurdity was not evident as it is now. Please can anybody shed some light on this?
So here's my rather belated answer.

On the facts of pre-European Maori environmental stewardship , the best I've read is a shortish piece by M.S. McGlone et al: 'An Ecological Approach to the Polynesian Settlement of New Zealand' published in The Origins of the First New Zealanders [Auckland University Press, 1994.] Unfortunately, it's not online (although I do quote from it briefly in this article), but it does rather give the lie to the idea of Maori as sound environmental stewards.

Take bird life for example.
"James et al estimate that untouched Oceania may have had more than 9000 bird species -- more than the total of surviving species on Earth today. Most of this incredibly rich fauna was eliminated by the direct or indirect effect of [pre-European] settlement... The amount of accessible fat and protein per square kilometre on a Pacific island may have been unequalled anywhere in the world...

Direct evidence exists for this superabundance of bird and marine resources on unexploited islands... In the initial settlement period [of New Zealand], the early abundance of bird bone must have represented a truly incredible exploitation rate... [Yet] NZ midden evidence shows that the consistent exploitation of birds in the late prehisoric results in few bird-bone remains...

The extinction of birds other than moa and of reptiles, and the shrinking of the range of many other species are well-attested (Cassels 1984)... the absence of these species in natural deposits such as caves, swamps and sand dunes after about 1,000 years ago strongly suggests early and vigorous depletion...
In summary: the birds were being killed and eaten in great numbers, in complete disregard it seems of any long-term consequences.

The case is the same for New Zealand flora. Slash and burn agriculture "rapidly destroyed much of the forest cover... By 600 years [Before Present] many animals had been driven to extinction or close to it, and very large areas of country, even in remote inland South Island valleys, were being burnt regularly... A degree of burning may been beneficial, for a [short] time at least."

However, over the longer term: "Extensive burning of inland valleys and ridges offered no obvious advantages in terms of food production..." The result of indigenous environmental stewardship over the longer term? Population grew rapidly in the North Island of NZ from 800 years BP, before slowing down about 400 years BP (following the major forest clearance phase) and plateauing about 200 years BP at about 100,000 when resources began diminishing (see graph at right).
After the initial settlement phase, New Zealand moved directly into a subsistence mode which characterised other island populations only during famine or when pushed into highly marginal lands... By the end of the prehistoric period New Zealand was no longer resource-rich, and the very scarcity of resources and reliance on hard-won wild foods had created a situation from which no larger political entities could easily arise.
So the idea of Maori as sound environmental stewards is not supported by the archaeological evidence. As 'sustainable' environmentalists they just weren't. So how to explain then the apparent status they now possess in the environmental movement? The reason is more widespread than is contained in environmentalism alone.

I think there's perhaps three legs in answer to the question, all related.

1. The Noble Savage

The first is the notion, first given currency by Rousseau, of the 'Noble Savage' -- the romantic idea of wild, untamed human creatures 'uncorrupted' by civilisation. It might be noted that this creation of 'romantic primitivism' was postulated entirely without evidence.

As Roger Sandall amongst others has noted, "A 'savage,'' untouched by civilization, would be akin to an animal, and neither noble nor a good role model for a society. By viewing civilization as something that corrupts or taints a person's pure or natural state, 'new tribalists' are succumbing, like Rousseau, to the romantic idea that the natural state of a human being, without the moderating effect of civilization, is somehow better. To the critics this notion is easily refutable, either by comparing human quality of life before civilization, or as humorist P.J. O'Rourke pointed out, by considering the natural state of children."
In Sandall's view, [summarises Wikipedia] romantic primitivism places far too high a value on cultures that were often characterised by, among other aspects, limited human rights, religious intolerance, disease and poverty. Other negative aspects he discusses include domestic oppression (usually of women and children), violence, clan/tribal warfare, poor care of the environment and considerable restriction on artistic freedom of expression.
'The Four Stages of Noble Savagery: The Moral Transiguration of the Tribal World' is the Appendix to Sandall's book, 'The Culture Cult,' and is highly readable on this question. He concludes by discussing the 'Disneyfication' of the 'Noble Savage':
Sentimentalism begets puerility. The ruthless scalpers of yesterday become Loving Persons. One-time ferocious fighters are discovered to be Artists at Heart. Hollywood becomes interested...
Combined with this a suffocating religiosity now descends on public discussion, enforced by priests and judges, journalists and teachers, poets and politicians, all of whom claim that native culture possesses a “spirituality” found nowhere else. Soon the primitive is elevated above the civilized. In the words of one observer in New Zealand it is said that the whites “have lost the appreciation for magic and the capacity for wonder” while white culture, besides being “out of step with nature. . . pollutes the environment and lacks a close tie with the land.”

Few are unkind enough to note that “the imagined ancestors with whom the Pacific is being repopulated”—Wise Ecologists, Mystical Sages, and Pacifist Saints—“are in many ways creations of Western imagination.”

Just like Pocohantas. Or Chief Seattle.

2. 'The National Question'

The second leg is specifically political, the idea that Lenin called 'The National Question' -- a specific strategy adopted by Marxist-Leninists to help destabilise a colonised country by use of the grievances, real or otherwise, of indigenous populations.

This movement came to attention in NZ in the late seventies (made most visible with the 'Treaty is a Fraud' movement), and you might say that reached its apogee under Neville Bolger's appeasing stewardship (when it suddenly transmogrified into an'Honour the Treaty' movement).

When mainstream Marxism collapsed following the collapse of the Berlin Wall -- and with it any claim that Marxist societies would ever be able to produce (or be good environmental stewards) -- rather than give up their authoritarianism, the custodians of 'The National Question' stampeded into local and overseas environmental movements, as I'm sure Trevor Loudon will attest. Consequently, the numbers of 'National Question' adherents and other fellow-travelers (the gullible type whom Lenin called Useful Idiots) who call themselves 'green' but are still red on the inside would seem to be quite large.

3. Multiculturalism

The third leg, related to and in some sense underpinning both, is the notion of 'multiculturalism' -- the idea that all cultures are equal (apart, that is, from the cultures of the west). 'Multi-culti is one of the many foolish notions of postmodernism, (encompassing both moral relativism and political correctness) that captured the academies in recent years.

Naturally when the least are made equal to the best, the least win out. If all cultures are asserted (without evidence) to be equal, then one is disarmed from finding evidence that would disprove such an assertion. To find and assert such evidence would, according to the multiculturalist, be 'racist.'

The consequence is this: If one is disarmed from judging a culture -- which is one of the goals of moral relativism -- then the worst cultures are left free from moral judgement, and moral judgement itself becomes bereft of any evidential-base: the only immorality to a multiculturalist is to challenge the assertions of multiculturalism. That too would be racist.

But as Thomas Sowell points out, you can judge cultures, and in fact if human life is our standard then morality demands that we should judge them.

Cultures [he insists] are not museum-pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives. The judgment that matters is not the judgment of observers and theorists, but the judgment implicit in millions of individual decisions to retain or abandon particular cultural practices, decisions made by those who personally benefit or who personally pay the price of inefficiency and obsolescence."

Anyway, on this last point you might want to have a good look at:

- Cassells, R., 1984: 'The role of prehistoric man in the faunal extinctions of New Zealand and other Pacific Islands,' in Martin et al Quaternary Extinctions, Uni of Arizona Press.
- James
et al, 1987: 'Radiocarbon dates on bones of extinct birds from Hawaii,' Proceedings of the Nat. Academy of Sciences of the USA, 84.
- Leach, H.M., 1980: 'Incompatible land use patterns in Maori food production,'
New Zealand Archaeological Ass. Newsletter, v.23.


RELATED: Environmentalism, Racism, Multiculturalism, Postmodernism, Political Correctness, Politics, Conservation, Maoritanga, Philosophy


Walking through an empty city

Michael J. Totten takes a walk around Kiryat Shmona, the town most targetted by Hezbollah katyusha rockets.
I expected to see at least one destroyed house. There may be a destroyed house in there somewhere, but I drove all over and couldn’t find one.
The reason? Katyusha missiles filled with ball bearings aren't military weapons, they're weapons of terror. They can't destroy a city, but they can make it uninhabitable.
War is coming again, and it’s coming like Christmas. It will not resemble the Middle East wars we are used to.
It certainly won't if those missiles are filled with something more potent than ball bearings.

LINK: Terror war - Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal

War, Israel, Politics-World