Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

Tigers in both India and China have been under threat for years. In China, Mao wanted them wiped out and encouraged people to kill them (presumably when they themselves weren't being killed by the Red Guard); after Mao, tigers became highly valued for their body parts, particularly tiger bones which are apparently highly valued for the treatment of arthritis, and protection was applied to tigers. The result was the opposite of that hoped for: the numbers plummeted even faster. India too tried protection: thirty years ago they launched Project Tiger, "the most high-profile conservation program in the world" to conserve remaining tigers. The numbers continued to plummet.

In both India and China the results were the same: Tiger numbers plummeted in both China and India during periods of both hunting and of protection. Hunt them and their numbers plummet. Protect them, and the numbers still plummet. They plummeted in China right down to just 20 or 30 left alive at the lowest point. The reason is that 'protection' raised the value of tigers to poachers, so much so that it was worth the risk to kill them, while ensuring that the value could only be enjoyed by the poachers.

Now, a different solution is being mooted. As noted by the chaps at Cafe Heyek, "Barun Mitra, the vastly talented head of India's Liberty Institute, has this splendid op-ed in today's New York Times. In it, Barun proposes that the best way to keep tigers from going extinct is to allow them to be owned and traded -- that is, objects of commerce."

And in fact, that's what is currently happening in China, with the result that the 20 or 30 have now become 3,000-4,000.

* You can read Mitra's op-ed here (if you have an NY Times sub): Sell the Tiger to Save it
* You can read Mitra's report here at PERC: Saving the Tiger: China and India Move in Radically Different Directions. (See also, PERC's Special Report: Who Will Save the Wild Tiger? by Michael Sas-Rolfes)
* And you can read a short summary of Mitra's op-ed here at Cafe Hayek: Roaring Applause for this Proposal. It begins:
...like forests, animals are renewable resources. If you think of tigers as products, it becomes clear that demand provides opportunity, rather than posing a threat. For instance, there are perhaps 1.5 billion head of cattle and buffalo and 2 billion goats and sheep in the world today. These are among the most exploited of animals, yet they are not in danger of dying out; there is incentive, in these instances, for humans to conserve. So it can be for the tiger. In pragmatic terms, this is an extremely valuable animal.
Read on here. As Professor Graham Webb says of this form of 'economic conseravtion,' if you want to protect wildlife for people who value them, then those who live with the animals need to be able to extract some value. In short, conservationists need to recognise the property rights of those who host the wildlife they want protected.
...An increasing body of conservationists believe local people should not be treated as the enemy of conservation (Hutton and Dickson 2000). They should be active partners, at the frontline. To achieve and sustain this, they need to receive tangible, sustainable benefits for their efforts. In most cases, the only sustainable way of providing those benefits is through using wildlife for economic gain. That is, conservation through sustainable use (CSU).
You can find an opposing view here.

RELATED: Conservation, Politics-World, Economics

Age of independence

The case of the sixteen-year-old who divorced her parents has attracted much interest, and to my mind it shows again how to resolve the various debates over the drinking age, the driving age, the age of consent, the voting age, the age of majority, etc, etc.

Why not just wrap them all up and have one age at which one becomes an independent adult able to make decisions for oneself and to take responsibility for them? The issue is of particular importance to libertarians, since we have to constantly point out that all acts between consenting adults are the business of nobody but those consenting adults -- but at what age does one become a consenting adult? When exactly and in law does one reach the age of independence?

The Libertarianz's proposed Constitution for New Freeland has a simple answer:
The age of independence shall be deemed by law, but the courts may deem an earlier age on application of the child, if the child can demonstrate its independence.
It's a bright line that of necessity is somewhat nominal, but which allows those who wish to be considered as an independent adult to make a claim for that status -- and it allows those who know reasons why they shouldn't be granted that boon the opportunity to point out the reasons why not.

LINK: Constitution for New Freeland - Article 1: Bill of Rights - Free Radical

RELATED: Law, Libertarianism, Politics-NZ,

"Ports of Auckland has yet to see any feasible proposition..."

Ports of Auckland's Geoff Vasey told Mike Hosking this morning that "Ports has yet to see any feasible proposition" to create alternatives if the waterfront stadium takes their existing facilities. It will "take some time to build alternative facilities," he says, and of course any work on a waterfront stadium can only begin once those alternative facilities are built and moved into.

And there's no plan for that.

Where, I wonder, is the 'vision'?

Meanwhile Mike Lee, chair of the Auckland Regional Council (a politician) says it is "a major concern," however the advice he has received from Mallard's advisors is "the concerns the Ports of Auckland have can be met." Who would you believe?

UPDATE: Ports of Auckland issued a press release today clarifying the extent to which they need clarification, and the failure to address their genuine concerns for NZ's largest working port.

LINK: Port co says stadium brings problems - Newstalk ZB [Audio]
ARC considers Ports issue for stadium - Newstalk ZB [Audio]

RELATED: Stadium, Politics-NZ, Auckland

Stadium drawings deceptive

Union House on Quay Street measures just under 44m high to the top of the braced frame, with an interstorey height of 3.4m. That's a dimensioned elevation of it at left, and in the picture below it's the white building in the foreground with diagonal braces, pictured just to the right of the stadium. (See it also in the picture at right.)

Do you think the stadium in the picture below (one of the suite of officially released drawings of the proposal [pdf]) has been drawn to a height of just two floors below the top of Union House's structural frame?

And if not, why do you think it hasn't been?

UPDATE 1: Robin from RobiNZ CAD Blog has put together a model with Architectural Desktop and Google Earth, just to see what the height really looks like and how dominant the thing is when drawn to its actual, stated height. See the results below (Union House, used as a datum, is shown red). The top picture is from the same viewpoint as the presentation drawing above so you can easily compare the two. It seems that stadium architects Warren and Mahoney have been using more than a little airbrush...

Now, why do you think they would do that? What does it mean when they have to lie to convince you?

UPDATE 2: Whale Oil has a post on the same subject, showing approximately a 7m discrepancy between the stated height of the stadium and the height shown in the official presentation sketches.

UPDATE 3: Bear in mind that the waterfront stadium proposal includes provision to extend Bledisloe Wharf by a further 65m closer to Devonport. Extend it too much further and we'll be presented with our second harbour crossing...

UPDATE 4: "A source" tells me that "the graphic artists were told by the architects to use 34 metres, which kinda means they cheated on purpose." Looks that way, doesn't it. [Removed because "the source of the source" says this isn't what he said.]

UPDATE 5: David Slack has an account of last night's Devonport meeting to oppose the waterfront stadium. And he has a prediction:
The ACC vote will only establish whether they will be willingly giving up their ratepayers' wallets. The whole thing will turn on how the ARC decide to lay their bets, looking at the Ports on one side and the Government on the other. I predict they will try to push the Government into making the IRB or NZRFU dig deep to come up with an 80 million dollar resolution of the 12,000-odd seat shortage for the final. They'll propose that we do something splendid on the Tank Farm in due course, without suspending the RMA and democratic process and call it a National Stadium. This stadium would be funded by the government rather then the people of Auckland. That's the way they do it with 'National' buildings in Wellington.
UPDATE 6: Photo of Union House added, and extent of dimensions clarified in the text.

UPDATE 7: Pics below of stadium bulk from Quay St East (top) and Quay St West (below) using Robin's Architectural Desktop sketch over Google Earth (click on the pics for a larger image). That's Union House in red (used as the datum) and the Ferry Building shown in yellow. The stadium is unfortunately shown in sea green...

UPDATE 8: Den has supplied a far better screen grab of the official stadium pictures showing the relationship between proposed stadium and Union House, which we've been using for our datum, so you can much easier answer the question posed initially, ie.: has the stadium in the picture below (one of the suite of officially released drawings of the proposal [pdf]) been drawn to a height of just two floors below the top of Union House's structural frame:
Your call.

RELATED: Stadium, Politics-NZ, Auckland

The Bathing Hour, Valencia - Joaquín Sorolla

Joaquín Sorolla
The Bathing Hour, Valencia, 1909
Oil on canvas. 150 x 150.5 cm
Fundación Museo Sorolla, Madrid

From an exhibition showing the work of both Joaquín Sorolla and John Singer Sargent, with whom Sorolla has been compared. [Hat tip Jeff Perren]

Just beautiful.


Monday, 20 November 2006

Values and politics

"Bad politics is a consequence of bad societal values, not a cause. Politicians simply mimic and purvey what society demands."


RELATED: Politics, Ethics, Objectivism

Brash still leads Nats...

The Kiwi Herald cracked me up again this morning:
KIWI HERALD: Brash Still Leads Nats, Moore PM New Zealanders awoke this morning to the startling news that Don Brash is still the leader of the National Party..."Lets face it," said Mr Lush, "By my count, the coup against Don Brash has been announced 373 times by media in the past seventeen weeks and the wiley old bugger is still there. The gap between forecast and fact is leading to a real crisis of confidence in the fourth estate."

RELATED: Humour, Politics-NZ

"Faith is as evil as smallpox"

A British Christian organisation commissioned a survey testing public perception of some of Richard Dawkins's more "confrontational" statements from his book 'The God Delusion,' and had the balls to release this result: "42% think faith is as evil as smallpox."

If you have a look at history, you'll see that they're right. Or just think about what Voltaire said, "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

LINKS: 42% think faith is as evil as smallpox - UK Polling Report
Learning from history - Not PC (April, 2006)

RELATED: Religion, Politics-UK, Philosophy, Ethics, History, Cartoons

Burkas, bans and bigots -- and free speech

Phil Howison has a brief look at the decisions to ban burkas in Holland and to acquit bigots in the UK, and he sees a parallel.

First, the bigots. Head honchos from the British National Party (right), kind of like NZ First with steroids and streetfighters, have been acquitted on charges of "stirring up racial hatred," not because they didn't try to stir up racial hatred -- "Let's show these ethnics the door in 2004," said one -- but because the judge hearing the case has a laudable but increasingly unfashionable respect for free speech:
Summing up, the Recorder of Leeds, Judge Norman Jones, QC, said: "This case is not about whether the political beliefs of the BNP are right or wrong. It's not about whether assertions made about Islam are right or wrong."

He added: "We live in a democratic society which jealously protects the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression, to free speech. It extends to the unpopular, to those which many people may find unacceptable, unpalatable and sensitive."

Exactly right. Bravo Judge Jones! If you have no right to offend, then you have no right to free speech. So what's the problem? The problem is Gordon Brown. If the current laws don't allow a conviction, and they're chilling enough, then PM-in-waiting Gordon Brown suggests changing the laws to make them even more suffocating. Chilling indeed.

And what of the burka ban? There is a difference, one that sadly escapes too many, between between being outraged by something (as I posted here: "Cultures are not of equal value: prosperity is superior to poverty, happiness is superior to misery, freedom is superior to slavery, and a visible face is superior to a slit revealing two anonymous eyes") and calling for that thing to be banned. The two things do not relate. As Phil concludes:
It will be impossible to mount a principled defense of Western civilization unless its defenders understand the Western principles of individual rights and tolerance.
And he's right, isn't he. You have a right to offend. You have a right to wear what you want. And we all have the right to disagree on that. But you have no right -- none at all -- have that with which you disagree banned.

LINKS: Islam, anti-Islam and freedom - Pacific Empire
BNP verdict ‘may change race laws’ -- Scotsman
Burka ban in the Netherlands? --FP Passport
Free Speech glossary -- Free Speech
The dance of the long black veil - Not PC (October, 2006)

RELATED: Politics-UK, Multiculturalism, Religion, Political Correctness
, Politics-World, Free Speech

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Stadium for sale

There's a second-hand reconvertible stadium for sale at Trade Me. Needs cleaning. Be quick.

UPDATE: Do make sure you check out the Questions and Answers on this auction. The vendor seems to have taken lessons from Bernard Darnton.

Stadium, Politics-NZ,

"No!" to waterfront stadium

Blogging this afternoon's public meeting co-hosted by Keith Locke and Rodney Hide to oppose Mallard's waterfront stadium: the meeting ended with a unanimous vote against the proposal.

It's not often I go to a 300-strong public meeting on a political hot potato and don't heckle -- or don't need to. It's even less often that I would be found applauding (loudly) Keith Locke, Rodney Hide, John Minto, several Auckland City Councillors and the architect of Wellington's Te Papa (in fact, I can assure you it's never happened before).

Today, however, was that day.

On the simple issue of saying "No" to Trevor Mallard's Auckland waterfront stadium, there was no need to heckle and every reason to applaud since at this afternoon 's meeting to oppose the stadium, all spoke in opposition to the waterfront stadum, and all made perfect sense -- and over the course of a two-hour meeting, they were joined by several other speakers who also made perfect sense across a surprising similarity of themes: the lack of information, and the lying about the information given; a government intent on railroading this thing through; the outright inability for a project like this to fit that site; the enormous cost both for the stadium and for the moving of the port facilities; Here's a brief summary of what the main speakers said, who where:
  • Keith Locke: The decision-making in evidence here is an affront to democracy; the proposal undermines what has been happening to open up the waterfront; there is no evidence for it invigorating the CBD as claimed; it will be a huge economic cost; there is no specific design here, just a sketch on a piece of paper. Right on all five.
  • Dianne Brand, from the Auckland Architecture School, and member of Dick Hubbard's 'Urban Design Panel': Theatre and stadium design, she says, is commercially all about bums on seats. Architecturally, this stadium as designed is "all bum, from all directions." It is "disproportionately large" for that site -- and evidence offered later in the meeting is that the few drawings released distort the scale to hide the real size; and in an effort to make the thing fit, it has over the last week been given "the tutu treatment": a man-made beach to the north, in the middle of the commercial shipping lanes (as one wag said later, something only a Wellington architect would propose), and a "commercially unviable western park." It doesn't fit. At all.
  • Architect Pete Bossley: Bossley, responsible for Te Papa, told the meeting he and others have repeatedly asked to see the reports on urban design issues for the stadium. "We've asked. They haven't been done." No examination has been done on issues of wind, scale, transport. The stadium is out of all proportion for the site (and he would know). It buries the finger wharves that could eventually be usedThe architectural effect of the stadium needs to be considered when empty, with all the lights off, just as it will be for ninety-five percent of the time, not as the pretty pictures show it bathed in a halo of light.
  • Lynette Wells (hotel industry): pointed out the iniquity of the proposed method of funding, that is, the bed tax and the airport tax. There is "alarm" within her industry at what this would do to tourism; tax and ratepayers should be alarmed at the price, and the potential for other councils to levy similar taxes in their areas if this is approved; the hotel industry is "vehemently opposed" to both.
  • Cathy Casey (Auckland City Councillor): Councillors, who are expected to make a decision on this with two weeks, "have been treated like mushrooms -- kept in the dark and fed with shit." The Herald this morning is "lying," she said, when they reported "Councillors in shock stadium u-turn " on the waterfront stadium. "There has been no such U-turn. [Herald journalist] Janet Savage made that up." A Press Council complaint is being prepared. Casey later supplied a list of the councillors and where they stand (see below). Five against the bedpan, eight for, and eight 'floating' councillors.
  • Christine Caughey (Auckland City Councillor): The stadium is an affront to the process being worked through by Auckland City to open up the waterfront. Submissions have repeatedly shown, for example, that people want viewshafts opened up to the Hauraki Gulf islands. Councillors have been "ambushed by the Minister." They have asked for a firm design ... there is none. For evidence on costings ... there is none. For evidence of urban design analysis, or transport studies, or economic impact reports ... there are none.
  • Robyn Hughes (ARC councillor): The ARC owns the port, not the government. She does not want "a giant used condom" down there. Speaking to me before the meeting, Hughes confirmed to me that the proposal presently on the table for moving the port is to extend Bledisloe Wharf into the harbour by another 65m (that's half a rugby field).
  • Tessa Duder (author and historian): Duder talked of quotes she had found describing the site of Auckland, and compared them to what is proposed. [I remember architect Claude Megson, for example, talking about the Auckland as one thin strip of land hung suspended between the sparkling waters of two harbours, and anchored by two sets of hills to east and west.] The imagery of what has been proposed "is seen from flattering angles, is doctored and dishonest," (on that, see below). "That gently glowing, translucent, floating white cloud will certainly be a 10 to 12-storey wall along much of Quay St - a monstrous, cancerous protrusion into the harbour." With what is proposed for the edge of those sparkling waters, she would no longer look forward to taking her guests and grandchildren up Mt Eden and North Head since she couldn't explain to them how such a monstrosity could have been built; "I will have difficulty holding back my tears."
  • Waterfront resident Susan Grimsdale: Received assurances from council when buying her apartment that there was an 18m height limit for ports area -- stadium sketch is said to be 37m (about twelve stories). BUT: the presentation pictures (see right) are a lie. The light standard to the right of the stadium in the picture to the right is 30m high, but the stadium is shown lower. "This is pure deception" [something, as we know, that is not unfamiliar to Mallard]. "Think Big" in a different guise. [Check back later for a properly-scaled sketch of the stadium based on released information.]
  • John Minto [yes, that John Minto]: "Trevor Mallard accuses Auckland of "a lack of vision." But when you see Trevor Mallard, so you see "vision"?" When NZ won the 2011 World Cup, it was based on spending $45m for temporary stands to increase the capacity of Eden Park. As a resident, Minto is all in favour of that proposal. And as he pointed out, Mallard has told schools they need to run cake stalls to fund any extras at their schools. "Why doesn't the Eden Park Trust Board start baking cakes to raise their $45m?" [Why not, indeed?]
  • Steve [?] Bagley (Auckland Rugby Union): ARU will lose $20m over the World Cup. Waterfront Stadium estimates are "dishonest," he says. Eden Park is costed on $9,000 per seat, which is consistent with the costs of the last eleven stadiums to be built in this part of the world. Waterfront Stadium costed at just $6,000 per seat, plus the plattform and piling, plus the cost of removing the port operations [including extending Bledisloe Wharf by 65m]. Think one billion. At least.
  • David Thornton (No More Rates): Three questions still not answered, but we can all guesstimate for ourselves what the answers will be: How much will it cost? At least one billion. Who pays? Us. Who will own it, and who will pay the operating losses? Er ...
  • Bill Hodge (constitutional law specialist): Four main legal issues with the ramming through of the waterfront stadium with enabling legislation that are going to cause "immense damage to our constitutional fabric." 1. The common law issues of tort, nuisance etc. that are to be overridden without consultation. 2. The overriding, without consultation, of statutory controls on nuisance, eg, the RMA. 3. The overriding, without consultation, of commercial legislation, such as the Local Government Act, the Port Companies Act and the Public Finance Act. 4. The overriding, without consultation, of Treaty of Waitangi issues. The Government's answer for all four sets of issues is clear: Enabling legislation in the same form as the Thing Big legislation of 1982 for the Clyde Dam that overrides the Local Government Act, the Resource Management Act, the Public Finance Act, the Port Companies Act and others. And therein lies a lesson for any politicians voting in favour of the 2006 version: they should remember what happened to Social Credit, who decided to vote for Muldoon's Thing Big legislation, and were deservedly buried by the voters.
  • Rodney Hide (ACT leader): From discussion with Mallard, Mallard has confirmed that for the waterfront stadium to go ahead: 1. he needs a majority from both the Auckland Regional Council and the Auckland City Council (so get those letters, emails and phone calls out to those councillors); 2. he needs the National Party to agree on the Bed Tax, on Enabling Legislation, and on a Kafka-esque Consent Authority to rubber stamp a consent that overrides all the legislative protections outlined by Bill Hodge (so get those emails, letters and phone calls out to all the National MPs, and tell them you don't want a billion dollars of your money wasted on a Monument to Mallard).

Auckland City Council will meet Thursday night to vote on their decision. Auckland Regional Council will meet Friday. Lobbying of National Party MPs will be undertaken all week (look out for deals being done this week). You have just one week to sway the argument.

A PUBLIC PROTEST is organised for AOTEA SQUARE Thursday lunchtime, 12:30pm, in advance of the Auckland City Council vote. Get on down there.

Cathey Casey issued a list of the eight "floating" Auckland City councillors who need to hear from you: Leila Boyle cr.boyle@aucklandcity.govt.nz, Bill Christian cr.christian@aucklandcity.govt.nz, Glenda Fryer cr.fryer@aucklandcity.govt.nz, John Hinchcliffe cr.hinchcliff@aucklandcity.govt.nz, Toni Miller cr.millar@aucklandcity.govt.nz, Penny Sefuiva cr.sefuiva@aucklandcity.govt.nz, Faye Storer cr.storer@aucklandcity.govt.nz, Bruce Hucker cr.hucker@aucklandcity.govt.nz.

Here are the addresses for the Auckland Regional Councillors who need to hear from you: dianne.glenn@arc.govt.nz; christine.rose@arc.govt.nz;
sandra.coney@arc.govt.nz; hoadley.consultants@xtra.co.nz; mbarnett@chamber.co.nz; david@khh.co.nz; bill.burrill@arc.govt.nz; robyn.hughes@arc.govt.nz; craig.little@arc.govt.nz; joelc@kiwilink.co.nz.

Auckland's mayors: Bob.Harvey@waitakere.govt.nz; George.Wood@northshorecity.govt.nz;
contactus@manukau.govt.nz; mayor@aucklandcity.govt.nz.

Auckland's MPs, and those who are (or should be) taking an interest: tmallard@ministers.govt.nz; mcullen@ministers.govt.nz;
pm@ministers.govt.nz; judith.tizard@parliament.govt.nz; don.brash@national.org.nz;
murray.mccully@national.org.nz; jonathan.coleman@parliament.govt.nz; john.key@parliament.govt.nz; wayne.mapp@parliament.govt.nz; clem.simich@parliament.govt.nz;
peter.dunne@parliament.govt.nz; wpeters@ministers.govt.nz; ; jeanette.fitzsimons@parliament.govt.nz; pita.sharples@parliament.govt.nz.

And you can contact all the National Party MPs here to discourage them NOT to support either enabling legislation to override existing law, or the imposition of any new taxes: www.national.org.nz. (And, if you're keen, download contact details for all 121 MPs here [pdf].) Tell them you'll remember both at the next election.

Get on to it!

UPDATE: Herald has a report of the meeting, and their own story on how Auckland's councillors will be voting. They claim six councillors are floating, as against Cathy Casey's eight: "Two of those yet to decide - Citizens and Ratepayers Now councillors Doug Armstrong and Toni Millar - indicated last night they would support a waterfront stadium if the Government agreed to build it further east, on Bledisloe Wharf." But as Armstrong wasn't on Casey's list of "floaters" (she had him backing Hubbard) and Bledisloe has already been rejected (as Brian Rudman reports) ... They also have Christian and Storer as Eden Park supporters, and Glenda Fryer as a yes, whereas Casey has all three as "floaters."

It's going to be tight.
RELATED: Stadium, Politics-NZ, Auckland

Our Bible reading for today

Let's see what words of wisdom the Bible has for us today. Opening my Skeptics' Annotated Bible almost at random I find:
For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall.--2 Kings 9:8
Ah. And so entertaining as well. It really is good advice to stay home and read your Bible. And you could read your Mark Twain as well, who had this to say on they that pisseth against walls:
"A person could piss against a tree, he could piss on his mother, he could piss on his own breeches, and get off, but he must not piss against the wall -- that would be going quite too far. The origin of the divine prejudice against this humble crime is not stated; but we know that the prejudice was very strong -- so strong that nothing but a wholesale massacre of the people inhabiting the region where the wall was defiled could satisfy the Deity." -- Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth
God, as they say, moves in mysterious ways.

LINKS: Skeptics' Annotated Bible

RELATED: Religion, Nonsense

Saturday, 18 November 2006

Tangled up in Tonga

Idiot/Savant has it right on Tonga:
....Tonga has apparently asked New Zealand for military assistance to restore order. I am deeply uneasy about this. It's one thing to stop people from killing one another, but this smacks of propping up a corrupt feudal regime. And if that regime fails to deliver on its promises of democratic reform, and another riot happens, will we see New Zealand soldiers gunning down Tongans to keep a kleptocrat in power?
Good question. Tonga, Timor, Solomons ... Fiji? And given that the democratic reformers themselves appear to be in favour of the rioting -- Akilisi Pohiva, for example, says "the violence that erupted in Tonga on Thursday was a natural consequence of many years of fighting for democracy"! -- rioting that has reportedly almost wiped out most of Nukualofa's businesses -- it seems to me like a situation to keep out of, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Robert W states it plainly in the comments:
Is there a credible alternative to the King? That is, is there an effective, organised opposition who is dedicated to peacefully transforming Tonga from monarchy to (for argument's sake) a constitutional Republic?

Because if the choice is just the Kleptocrat vs The Mob, we don't want to get in the middle of it unless we are prepared to annex Tonga -- and I'm not.

Saturday afternoon ramble

I told you I'd carry on rambling this afternoon, didn't I. Here's more of my unfinished list of things that might interest you:
  • Grim Pill had one of my heroes on this morning, Professor Graham Webb about whom I've spoken here before a few times (here, for example, and here). An almost fascinating discussion which I only caught the end of, State Radio has yet to post the audio so Ci an hear it all (I guess they're all nine-to-five state employees there, huh?) So keep an eye here for the audio to be posted ... maybe Monday?
  • And on the subject of State Radio, Bryan Crump hosted an interesting discussion last night with the founders of pirate radio station Radio Hauraki. Youngsters might not realise just how "oppressive" (their words) was the wall-to-wall grey monopoly that was State Radio before Hauraki prised open the monolith. Keep an eye here for the grey ones to post that interview.
  • Oh yes, Keith Locke and Rodney Hide will be co-hosting a meeting tomorrow avo to help coordinate opposition to the white elephant proposed for the waterfront. With fitting irony, the meeting is to be held in one of Auckland's greatest white elephants, the Ayatollah Centre. Be there at 2pm. I will be. Locke, Hide to Host Meeting on Stadium.
  • What is the importance of great art? Lisa van Dame outlines how a "unique approach to analyzing a work of art has transformed my esthetic life, enhancing my enjoyment of art, of literature, and of life in general." Read on to see how just this one aspect of art can enhance your own life: The Power of Observation: From Art to Literature to Life.
  • Speaking of great art and of stadiums, can you see this by architect Renzo Piano growing out of the north-west corner of the domain? More later...

  • And I presume by now you've seen Bob Clarkson's estimate for the Bedpan to be $1.8 billion? As Illinois-based professor of economics and business Robert A. Baade says in this morning's Herald, when you're talking about the "hoopla" of so-called iconic buildings and their projected "economic benefits, "We have a kind of rule of thumb. We move the decimal place one place to the left and we're closer to what actually occurs." For construction of these things, a good rule of thumb is to move the decimal point one place to the right from the first estimate.
  • A new literary genre: blogger's books. Tim Worstall joins the throng with 2005 Blogged: Dispatches From the Blogosphere.
  • TS Eliot suggested that the greatest tragedy is to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Joe Libertarian has some new evidence: the blue-skinned fruitcake who stood for the US Libertarian Party in
    a hotly contested Senate race where Democrat Jon Tester won by just 2,565 votes. Jones's vote count of 10,324 was more than enough to cover the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates. By virtue of his ten thousand vote pull, Jones is being given credit for shifting the balance of power in the senate. It is an honor he does not deserve. Was the notoriety and press coverage generated by Jones good for the libertarian party? I don't think so.
    See: The Blue-Skinned Libertarian.
  • The idea of comparative advantage is at once one of the most non-intuitive and most powerful concepts of economics. If you don't understand comparative advantage, you can't begin to understand the point of Adam Smith's invisible hand, or the harmony of interests shared by free men. Russell Roberts from Cafe Hayek has published a new piece, part one of a two part series on comparative advantage. "I find it remarkable how poorly professors of economics (including this one) teach and understand a concept that many would label the single most important insight of the discipline," he says. "An easier way to understand the lesson of comparative advantage is to see that there are two ways to get fish, the direct way and the roundabout way. The direct way is go fishing. The roundabout way is to collect water and trade it for fish. Which is better? It depends of which way is cheaper." See: Treasure Island: The Hidden Elegance of Comparative Advantage.
  • More links from Stephen Hicks on the misanthropy of some environmentalists:
    Another environmentalist doom scenario meets its doom: Apocalypse Cancelled. Of course, that won’t slow down those for whom environmentalism is a cover for anti-humanism. More on anti-humanists from Robert McHenry at Tech Central Station.
  • And George Reisman chimes in on the same subject: Standards of Environmental Good and Evil: Why Environmentalism is Misanthropric.
  • And I'm still waiting to get my copy of Stephen's Nietzsche and the Nazis, A Personal View.
    Can't wait. How philosophical were the National Socialists? How socialist were they? How did the Nazis come to power in a nation as educated and civilized as Germany? What influence did heavyweight intellectuals such as Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, and Oswald Spengler have? And to what extent was Nietzsche a forerunner of the Nazis? Here is the strikingly- designed 38-chapter Scene Selection Menu
  • Speaking of the late Milton Friedman (which we were yesterday), I see David Slack has posted the first Pinochet reference. Deserved, yes, but you'd think he might at least wait until Milt is buried. That's just to say that while Friedman was often very good (as most obituaries deservedly point out), he wasn't all good, as Walter Block points out at the Mises Blog. Friedman's divorce of morality and economics was his biggest failing: here's a post in which I summarised Rand's celebrated example of this failing in Friedman's early career: Helen Clark and Michael Cullen Might Like It.
  • By the way, have we mentioned recently how good is globalisation? George Reisman has chapter and verse on the benefits, a complete weekend read, on the subject. Globalisation: The Long-Run Big Picture.
  • Oh yeah, thanks for the plug, DPF. Who knows when that might be online, eh?
UPDATE: The Radio NZ links are being updated as I write. Good old Radio NZ, eh. :-)

RELATED: Stadium, Auckland, Politics-NZ, Architecture, Art, Objectivism, Economics, Obituary, History-Twentieth Century, Environment, Ethics, Politics, Libertarianism, Politics-US, Blog

Another Saturday morning ramble, 1.

At the end of every week I have notes about all sorts of things I wanted to write about but never got around to. Here's just a few of these (in no particular order) that you might want to ponder yourself:
  • Those pictures show Cardiff's Millenium Stadium, which (conditions underfoot aside) is perhaps the world's finest rugby stadium. And there seems to be a message there for Trevor Mallard, doesn't there? To paraphrase John Lydon, "This is Not a Bedpan."
  • The prosecution of Greg Carvell for shooting a machete-wielding intruder is igniting much-deserved outrage. Oswald Bastable rounds up blog comments on the matter. The Sensible Sentencing Trust says, "We have become a society that stands up for the rights of the criminal and we’ve trampled all over the rights of the law-abiding citizen. It’s despicable" -- and they're right. Libertarianz, as you might recall, said Carvell deserves a medal, not a charge sheet. Even former lawyer Richard Worth has a view on the matter, and as a former lawyer his view helps to encapsulate the case:
    On Thursday 27 July 2006, Ricky Beckham burst into the premises of Small Arms International in Penrose armed with a machete and allegedly said "give me the guns or I will kill you". Greg Carvell shot Beckham in the stomach at close range with a handgun. It seems a classic case of self-defence. The law is clear - you can use such force to defend yourself as is reasonable in the circumstances; up to and including deadly force.
    Rodney Hide, however? He has no view. None at all.
  • Rodney does have a view on property rights however. Like our friends in the Clark Government who, in their pursuit of a waterfront stadium are showing us what they really think about issues of moment -- in their case of the legal chains that bind us, and which they themselves wish to be free of -- in his otherwise laudable pursuit of the Carlaw Park option Rodney Hide shows how he really feels about property rights: "Mr Hide said he would support using the Public Works Act to confiscate private land at Carlaw Park." Can I hear a "Sheesh!" ? How about a "For fuck's sake!" ?
  • Did you know that Patrick McGoohan from The Prisoner and Diana Rigg from The Avengers have a Degree of Separation of 2? The Uni of Virginia have a 'Star Links' system that allows you to determine the degrees of separation of any film or TV performers. Try it out.
  • And speaking of John Lydon, Clint Heine has linked to a You Tube clip of Johnny Rotten (AKA Lydon) on censorship, which I imagine would be good ... if I could get the damn thing to load. See if you have more success than I have to date.
  • Karl Popper's defence of science is still sadly popular, and still so threadbare that as a defence it does everything science's attackers want. Sydney University's D.C Stove attacks Popper and four other "modern irrationalists," explaining how all their irrationalism about science became credible. I'm told it's very good, but as I haven't yet read it myself I can't say that first-hand. Let me know.
  • A Glossary of Free Speech is up at Bernard Darnton's FreeSpeech.Org.NZ site. Highly useful. Highly recommended.
More to come later this avo: Look for more 'Ramble' updates through the day -- and look out too for two posts I'm putting together on the Stadium debate: one showing what lessons the Sydney Opera House competition, architecture and construction has for the Waterfront Stadium, and another looking again at Carlaw Park.

RELATED: Stadium, Property Rights, Politics-ACT, Politics-NZ, Self-Defence, Films, Free Speech, Science, Philosophy

Friday, 17 November 2006

Beer O'Clock: Black Mac

An old favourite reviewed by Real Beer's Stu. Enjoy.

Mac's and craft brewing are very nearly synonymous in the New Zealand beer lover's vernacular. Terry McCashin's Stoke brewery, near Nelson, was the epicentre of a sluggish craft brewing revolution that now has New Zealand breweries making some of the best beer in the world. The beer was good and the bottles were strikingly different, a perfect recipe for success. After building up a nice little trade Lion came in with the cheque book and the rest is history. Until now...

Mac's are about to be everywhere you look. They are going through a rather large re-branding exercise, and with this one comes some fairly brutal consolidation. Gone are the old regulars from the Mac's Brewery Bar (Verboden Vice, Wicked Blonde and Sultry Dark) and with them go some of the more recent additions to the Mac's family (Reserve, Blonde and Copperhop). The survivors are Gold, Black and Sassy Red, while the pitter patter of tiny feet is heard from the new kids: Hop Rocker (a crassly named but tasty hoppy lager), Great White (a cloudy wheat beer) and Spring Tide (a low-carb something or other, cough, cough).

I'm always excited when new beers come out, some re-branding occurs or a new head brewer takes on a job. The results of any of these changes are usually an improvement in flavour, at least for the first few batches (as the accountants struggle to work out $/litre), and so I approached my old friend Black Mac with a renewed sense of excitement.

Black Mac, or Mac's Black as it was also briefly known, was one of the original stable of Mac's beers brewed in 1982. It's been through a few changes but has always remained a fairly dry, mildly hopped dark lager. It was also one of the first beers to grab me by the scruff of the neck and shake the DB Bitter can from my hand (or was it Speight's Old Dark?).

This year's model pours the usual dark brown with garnet highlights and a lacy tan head. The nose is surprisingly hoppy, with herbal lemony hints of the famous Fuggle hop dominating an underlying toastiness. Once in the mouth the beer is assertively toasty and quite fizzy, which is to the detriment of the dry cola-like caramel notes in the background. It's also a little overtly astringent (that warming sensation around the front and roof of the mouth). However, before I get too disappointed there's a late flourish of hop flavour to please the palate. Far from mind-blowing, but it is, I guess, a beer worth another investigation.

After emptying a couple of the bottles and staring at the new labels, I do find myself wondering how much money Mac's have donated to the school of the winning entrant in their branding competition. A smart idea, which surely must be cheaper than paying the marketing department to come up with something stylish. Perhaps the Auckland Waterfront Stadium Sub-Committee should look into the idea - they could probably award one prize each for the Mallard and Hubbard stands.

Slainte mhath

LINKS: Real Beer
Mac's (coming soon)
Mac's (old school)
Mac's Brewery Bar
Society of Beer Advocates

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

Darnton on Aussie ABC

Australia's ABC radio sought out Bernard Darnton to find out just what was going on at the last election. Pledge card, misappropriations of public money, lies, retrospective legislation ... it's all right here. [Interview starts about 23:20]

As Bernard says, I assume that for slagging off the Clark Government overseas he’ll get charged with treason.

LINK: Interview on ABC’s Counterpoint - Darnton V Clark
Electioneering NZ Style - Counterpoint, ABC Radio

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

Tongan chaos

Democracy: the counting of heads regardless of content. If mindless burning of your downtown is your chosen way to replace a monarchy with a democracy, and if an unrestrained democracy is the result, then Tonga is on the way to something worse than where they are now. As Phil at Pacific Empire notes:
Chinese-owned businesses have also been attacked, just as in the recent Solomon Islands unrest, and possibly providing further evidence for Amy Chua’s hypothesis. The attitudes and actions of Tonga’s new king have proved fatal to his government’s legitimacy.
Let us hope that the actions of what have been called "drunken youths" will not prove fatal to an eventual, peaceful replacement for the monarchy.

Keep up to date at Matangi Tonga.

LINKS: Tonga update - Pacific Empire
Breaking news in Tonga - Pacific Empire
Rioting crowd leaves trail of wreckage in Nuku'alofa - Matangi Tonga

RELATED: Politics-World

Milton Friedman dies

Milton Friedman has died overnight. He was 94. Obituaries everywhere, so I'll just point you to some of the best:
  • Liberty Scott: "For all of his critics, Friedman was one of the most successful advocates of economic liberty in the world..."
  • New York Times: "...the grandmaster of conservative economic theory in the postwar era and a prime force in the movement of nations toward lesser government and greater reliance on free markets and individual responsibility."
  • Tyler Cowen: "He was one of the most important minds of the second half of the twentieth century and his influence remains felt all around the world."
  • Tyler's blog partner Alex Tabarrok: "Great economist by day and crusading public intellectual by night, Milton Friedman was my hero. Friedman's contributions to economics are profound, the permanent income hypothesis, the resurrection of the quantity theory of money, and his magnum opus with Anna Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960, all stand as great achievements."
  • Freakanomics author Steven D. Levitt: "He was truly a revolutionary thinker. People do not realize how revolutionary because so many of his ideas that were thought to be crazy when he suggested them eventually came to be seen as obvious..."
  • Samuel Brittan in the FT: "Milton Friedman ... was the last of the great economists to combine possession of a household name with the highest professional credentials." (Ignore Brittan's fatuous claim that "only John Maynard Keynes was able to combine a household name with the highest scientific credibility" -- the claim says more about Brittan than you need to know.)
  • Wall Street Journal [via Brad de Long]: "...one of the most influential economists of the last century..."
  • Peter Boettke: "Today is a VERY sad day for both those who love economic argument and value economic freedom. "
As Matthew Sinclair says, "I think, in the end, the best tribute to Friedman is in his work." Milton Friedman's 10-episode Free to Choose TV series, perhaps one of the most influential free-market programmes ever, was available free at Google Video (but no longer) but Matthew Sinclair has found some clips at You Tube. [Let me know if you find any more.] It was good TV. As a commenter says at Cafe Hayek, "In each instance he took on his opponents with unflailing politeness but also with the intellectual rigor that showed his true commitment to reasoned discussion."

The Cassandra Page describes the effect of Friedman's book Free to Choose on him and his own intellectual development, and he largely speaks for me as well:
I don't know much about his life, but I remember the impact he had on me and my own growth. Friedman's book, "Free to Choose" was one of the first truly conservative books I read as I broke free of the leftist teachings of my public school education almost 25 years ago.

As I recall, I never finished the book. By the time I had read most of it, I was so excited by the ideas it presented, I moved on to other, more libertarian works. "Free to Choose" was simple enough for a high school student to understand. The book easily explodes the myths propagated by any unionized teacher regarding economics, politics and even history. With Friedman's help, it was relatively easy for me to "unlearn" the myths I had heard regarding the industrial revolution, the depression, taxes and federal spending.

Free to Choose, in the early 1980's, was like manna in the desert for someone whose only previous exposure to conservatism and conservative economics came from the statements of Ronald Reagan...
You can enjoy Friedman's Nobel Prize acceptance speech here.

Finally, The Cassandra Page also has a series of Friedman quotes to help give you the flavour of the man [hat tip Tim Worstall]:
Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.

I'm in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my values system, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so. Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal.

Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.

The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.

The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.

UPDATE 1: I'll just note here, without canvassing all the reasons now, that I wasn't a fully-fledged Milton fan myself. This post helps to explain why: Not PC: Helen Clark and Michael Cullen might like it.

UPDATE 2: Just in from Forbes.Com:
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher paid tribute, saying, "Milton Friedman revived the economics of liberty when it had been all but forgotten. He was an intellectual freedom fighter. Never was there a less dismal practitioner of a dismal science."

Obituary, Economics, History-Twentieth Century

Dullard lashes out

By jillikers, Mallard snarls when he's spurned, doesn't he. Clearly the meeting with Auckland councillors yesterday went as well for him as the various stadium votes around the place.
  • Aucklanders have "no vision" he says -- or could it just be we dislike his vision, and really don't like being railroaded.
  • "Waterfront opponents" are guilty of "a viral campaign" against him, he charges.
  • Eden Park trustees are incompetent, he suggests, for offering him a $385 million option for just 14,528 extra seats.
"Trust him," he says, despite his venom and despite him -- in just one week -- lying about Eden park piling and the price of the waterfront stadium; insisting that the Government's own legal avenues for development be sidestepped by the Government; declaring last week he needs "unanimity" in the stadium choice and this week (when things are going against him) that all he needs to go ahead with the waterfront is just a rump that agrees with him; and it being revealed this morning that the piling contract for the waterfront option may have been illegally let (never mind, eh, that's what retrospective legislation is for!).

And I note that "Aucklanders" have been instructed to "decide" on just two stadium choices in just two weeks -- as Jim Hopkins summarises: "Here are your options. Pick one or it goes to Jade!" -- without anything like adequate information being presented to explain the Government's preferred option; without any explanation at all what the plans are for the displaced port operations; without any explanation why other options such as Wiri, Carlaw Park and North Harbour were so summarily rejected, apparently without adequate investigation -- even as he dismisses "phone-in" polls that reject his baby as "unscientific."

Is it any wonder this person and his methods of operation are held in such contempt -- and I say that in the full knowledge that Parliament's speaker "may treat as a contempt reflections on the character or conduct of a member in the member’s capacity as a member of the House."

But tell me this, has anyone seen anything clarifying how those decisions are to be communicated to he who likes to be obeyed? Or is it really just Auckland City and Auckland Regional Councillors who get to decide? Or can we just expect a declaration by the Sports Minister about this time next week decreeing what he has discerned"we" actually want?

Minister, you are contemptible. I fart in your general direction.

UPDATE: Confirmation this morning too that Mallard lied about Carlaw Park, which he said was dismissed for three reasons which included the problem that "roading runs too close to the proposed area for the park, leaving inadequate space for people filling a 60,000 seat stadium to spill out on to afterwards." As I noted at the time, the 'problem' just isn't there at Carlaw Park (see a proposed Carlaw Park plan to the right with concourses effecting the dispersal), but it is there in spades with Mallard's bedpan as traffic engineer Graham Steverson confirms this morning:
A fundamental requirement would be closing Quay St for rugby cup games and other big events.

"That is essential because it is the only side of the compass you have got to get everybody out of the stadium, so you can't have a live road there."

The question of where Quay St's regular traffic would go was "a biggie."

It is. Mr Steverson can't just be dismissed because he's Eden Park's traffic engineer. It is a biggie. See NZ HERALD - Stadium decision: Street closure and tunnel on cards [Hat tip Whale Oil]

RELATED: Stadium, Sport, Politics-NZ, Auckland

Asger Jorn Art Museum Project - Jørn Utzon

A rather unusual project this one, by Jørn Utzon, the architect of the Sydney Opera House, for an art gallery for Danish 'painter' Asger Jorn (the inventor of 'three-sided soccer').

I say "unusual" because of the gallery's three stories, two of them are below ground. You can find out why and more about the project here and here. The picture at top shows the one above-ground storey, with just the tops of the three-level top-lit galleries peeking through, as Utzon said, like “crocuses big and beautiful in porcelain.”
The second photo above is a plaster model showing part of the internal spiral ramp system (very Guggenheim), just above a section through the buried building, and below a floor plan of the gallery level.
LINKS: Silkeborg Museum of Fine Arts - About: Architecture
Unbuilt project, Jørn Utzon, Silkeborg Art Museum extension - arcspace.Com


Thursday, 16 November 2006

Fisking "the science is settled"

"The science is settled," we're told. Not so, says Dr Vincent Gray, who fisks the conclusions of the Third Assessment Report of the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to see how "settled" the official statement really is. Says Dr Gray, "Even a cursory study of the arguments put forward to support the idea that greenhouse gases are warming the climate would show that the "science" is very far from "settled", and that the arguments for this proposition are not based on science at all, but largely on guesswork."

Dr Gray seeks precision, and looks to ascribe precise meanings to the published statements. He points out however that precision is not what the reports offer.
The most pervasive example is the "equilibrium climate sensitivity", the rise in global temperature from a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration. The range of figures used by the IPCC 1.5ºC to 4.5ºC, was decided by "a show of hands" at an early meeting of "experts". The IPCC Reports are full of statements of how "confident" they are of model results, and how they are "improved" (over what?).

They have developed a series of purely qualitative guesses to judge the model results, to which they have the cheek to assign statistical figures, as follows:

"In this Summary for Policymakers and in the Technical Summary, the following words have been used to indicate approximate judgmental estimates of confidence:
virtually certain (greater than 99% chance that a result is true);

very likely (90-99% chance);

likely (66-90% chance);

medium likelihood (33-66% chance);

unlikely (10-33% chance);

very unlikely (1-10% chance);

exceptionally unlikely (less than 1% chance)."
These creative guesses are obtained from meetings of "experts" who are all people who depend for their livelihood on the success of their models. These figures cannot therefore be taken seriously.

It is useful to consider the following statement of the IPCC (often regarded as a"conclusion") using these assessments.
"In the light of the new evidence and taking into account of remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations..."
"most." not all, but how much?

"observed" "over the last 50 years" restricts it to the unreliable surface record.

"warming' "over the last 50 years" The "observed" temperature fell for the first half, from 1950 to 1976.

"likely" This means, as stated above, one chance in 3 to one chance in 10 that they are wrong.

"greenhouse gas concentrations" No mention of humans. The most important greenhouse gas is water vapour and nobody knows whether its concentration has increased or fallen.
Let us look at the other IPCC statements.
"The balance of the evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate..."

"balance" This presumably means more than 50% probability.

"suggests" Who decided that this suggestion should be made? Biased scientists?

"discernible" but has it actually been DISCERNED?

"human influence" No mention of greenhouse gases.
Then there is
"There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities..."

"most" Above 50%?

"warming ... over the last 50 years" Restricted to the unreliable "surface record."

"warming ... over the last 50 years" For the first half (1950 to 1976) the temperature fell.

"attributable" but it has not actually been ATTRIBUTED, has it?

"human activities" which do not include emissions of greenhouse gases.
Then, on top of that, is this statement from Chapter 1 of "Climate Change 2001"
"The fact that the global mean temperature has increased since the late nineteenth century and that other trends havebeen observed does not necessarily mean that we have identified an anthropogenic effect on the climate system.Climate has always varied on all time scales, so the observed change may be natural."
How can anybody claim that this mixture of pronouncements can be interpreted to mean that "the science is settled"?
RELATED: Global Warming, Science, Politics