Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Saturday morning rambling

More 'offcuts' this morning, leftovers from the desk of this blog writer.
  • NZ's review of the Immigration Act [pdf] has been completed, and as Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn observes wryly,
    Pretty much everything you need to know about it can be surmised from New Zealand First's reaction of calling it "a step in the right direction". While there is some good news, the control-freaks at Immigration got almost everything on their wishlist. And this will make our immigration system more vicious, more unfair, and more arbitrary, with less oversight, less accountability, and substantially greater potential for injustice.
    Disgusting. To see just how far this is away from from what was possible, consider my own comments on the review here, and Harry Binswanger's superb argument for open immigration here: "You want a solution to the 'problem' of illegal immigration? Then here it is."
  • Here's a topical quiz: Which firearms fits you best? [Hat tip, Rule of Reason]. When I tried it earlier it was so popular that the answer page was hanging -- I still haven't found my own favourite. Maybe later.
  • This looks to be a great resource, a collection of essays on reason and science which I'll be downloading later today and reading with interest:
    Science vs Superstition [pdf] – the case for a new scientific enlightenment challenges the common belief that scientific progress in today’s world inevitably entails an element of danger or moral uncertainty. While many people seem to lack the vision of a genuinely better future, the authors of this collection of essays believe that it is time to make the case for a more positive attitude towards the future – a future that is made better through science. In eight chapters, edited by Jim Panton and Oliver Marc Hartwich, Science vs Superstition shows how our perception of science has changed in recent decades and examines several case studies of the battle of scientific progress against unsubstantiated fears.
  • If you think you can keep your lunch down, Zillion have a charity auction in which you can bid to have lunch with John Key. Bidding is currently at $805. Morning tea with Helen is currently at $1410. You'd need a stronger stomach than I could muster for either of them.
  • Some of you will have enjoyed (I trust) the recent series on the decline and deserved fall of conservatism I ran here recently at Not PC, based on a superb examination by Professor Bradley Thompson. Delightfully, the religious conservatives at the Brothers Judd have taken exception to Prof Thompson's arguments. Nicholas Provenzo has the story in Foxhole Theist Syndrome; he concludes that Judd's nonsense shows once again how any 'alliance' with religious conservatism is doomed to failure.
  • Following the recent spate of murders by polonium of KGB operatives, modern-day Russian dissidents, and just plain old critics of the Kremlin -- and of the man within -- Ted Keer runs down the list of all the recent murders, attacks, outrages and threats to the west of President Putin and wonders aloud why "Russia should [not] be immediately excluded from the G8, the WTO, its foreign assets seized, its diplomats expelled, its UN seat be stripped, Ukraine should be admitted immediately into NATO. Putin should be given what he deserves. With the socialists in power in Washington, he'll probably be given tea and sympathy."
  • The Samizdata bloggers really don't like David Cameron. Anyone who doesn't like John Key will understand - it is after all the slimy Cameron upon whom John Boy is modelling himself, and we don't even get the organ grinder, just the monkey: a copy of Cameron who is just a clone of Blair. Not exactly a bargain?
  • The Skyscraper Page has a fabulous scrolling pictorial of skyscrapers old and modern and under construction. You really can spend hours scrolling through these marvellous images. [Hat tip, The Libertarian Front]
  • Russell Roberts updates his brilliant short article on Comparative Advantage with a second salvo on The Power of Trade: How Trade Transforms our Standard of Living. Good reading. (And while you're at the Econ Library, check out Armen Alchian's article on Property Rights. I plan on coming back to it later myself-- there are some interesting insights therein.)
That's it for the moment. I'm off to the inaugural symposium of Auckland and Otago University's Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Ultra Cold Physics (I'll be taking a warm jacket), then on to the opening of the Museum dome (of which I'm hoping for great things), then over to an open day for a new Parnell Montessori school. Phew.

I'll check back later if I can to tell you just how exciting it's all been.

UPDATE:
  • The website for the Dodd-Walls Centre seems to be undergoing problems at present, probably due to overloading. Why not bookmark it now if you're interested, and check back in later?
  • Without trying in any way to sound like John Campbell, what a marvellous day that was celebrating some wonderful Kiwi achievements. The Dodd-Walls Centre, for which the physics symposium is intending to raise interest, is named after two of New Zealand's leading physicists, the late Jack Dodd and Dan Walls, perhaps New Zealand's leading physicists after Rutherford, and it is intended to keep NZ physics among the word leaders in Photonic and Ultra Cold Physics. (This post on The Coldest Place in the Universe, my evening with Nobel Prize winner Carl Wieman and three-hundred others, will help explain what Ultra Cold physics is all about, and why all the excitement. )
    Research Centre head Crispin Gardiner's biography concludes with how physicist "Jeff Kimble summed up how Dan [Wall] had put New Zealand not only on the map [in quantum physics] but in the centre of it: "Whenever I go to a conference on Quantum Optics nowadays, wherever it is in the world, there is inevitable a voice with a heavy Kiwi accent from the back of the auditorium asking a very penetrating question."
  • The Museum Dome (left) is, in a word, spectacular. The dome itself hovers over one of New Zealand's great public spaces (I don't mean the atrium, which is a mess, but the top floor Events Centre itself).
    Standing within emulates the feeling of standing atop one of Auckland's volcanic cones; the dome hovering overhead is perfectly scaled to hold the room full of celebrating seated diners (one of its spendidly intended functions); and shaped to thrust the view out to the landscape beyond -- and it must have one of the most thrilling views of Auckland's high-rises in all Auckland! As a convention centre it is already booked out until 2008 - such a shame, however, if it isn't made more widely available to the public. You owe it to yourself to visit if you can get the chance.
  • Parnell Montessori Primary is bright and fresh and a delight to visit, and situated right next door to Parnell's Montessori College -- and ready to open in the new year. I wish them well -- indeed, I did so yesterday. :-)
RELATED: Science, Education, Nonsense, Religion, Immigration, Auckland, Architecture, Education, Politics-UK, Religion, Politics, Property Rights, Economics, Self-Defence

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Should we have a heart for Pinochet?

Former dictator General Augusto Pinochet just refuses to go away. His heart attack has him back in the news, but still there is no-one who can find a good word for the murderer of 10,000, maybe even 30,000 of his countrymen.

Why should there be a good word for such a man? Well, ponder at least why there are so many bad words for him when there are so many good words for worse folk like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Mikhail Gorbachev, and so many not-so-bad words (given their even worse crimes) for other folk like Robert Mugabe, Pol Pot, Mengistu and Idi Amin. "One must ask," asked democide researcher RJ Rummel a couple of years ago, "why in a world of mass murderers that have killed far more people than Pinochet, do the media and human rights organizations devote so much attention to him?"
Elsewhere, many former mass murdering dictators and their henchmen walk the streets free from publicity or have died in their sleep never having faced justice. Uganda’s former President Idi Amin [for example], who murdered 255,000 people, some with his own hands, fled Uganda into exile and lived in Saudi Arabia with his four wives and with a government stipend until he died peacefully in 2003... [Or] Pol Pot, the worst of the lot over this period, responsible for the murder of 2,000,000 Cambodians in four years, was arrested in 1997, charged with treason, and sentenced . . . get this now . . . to house arrest.
Why indeed? Writing when both Pinochet and Gorbachev were still in power, Tibor Machan pondered why the latter received praise, plaudits and the love of liberals everywhere, while Pinochet received only approbation.
The question is, why? While he has been a ruthless opponent of political freedom in Chile for almost as long as he has been in power, in 1980 he helped forge a new constitution for that country that paves the way to full-scale political democracy... Pinochet has also established an economy in Chile that has led to greater prosperity there than in any other Central and Latin American country. While Chile has pockets of poverty, the country nevertheless has had lower inflation and higher employment than its neighbors.
And now in fact Chile has perhaps the freest economy and the freest press of all Latin America -- yet while Mikhail Gorbachev gets credit for reluctantly (and only tentatively) transforming the Soviet Union (he never forswore his desire to save what he called Lenin's "genuine socialism"), and only inadvertently freeing it and Eastern Europe from the yoke of dictatorship, Pinochet gets none at all for partially embracing capitalism and setting Chile on the road to something better than he and his confrères. Crikey, he's got to be one of the few political mass-murderers who at least admits some blame. RJ Rummel has a theory for "the huge difference in attention [and popularity]":
I suspect it is because Pinochet was a victorious enemy of the left. He seized power from Chile’s Marxist president who was maneuvering his own revolutionary overthrow of the democratic system, and eventually succeeded in setting the stage for a return to a moderate democratic government and full capitalism (this is a description, and not praise of his mass murders to achieve this). Most of the other killers on [Rummel's] list, including Pol Pot, however, were Marxist or socialist of some favor (Amin was praised by the left as an anti-imperialist, particularly his nationalization of foreign businesses; in 1975 he was elected president of the Organization of African Unity). To coin a phrase, for the Marxist and left, which dominate the major Western media, academic studies, and human rights organizations, which is the worst of the worst seems to depend on whether their ox is gored.
As Tibor Machan asked, "Is it that for most [western] intellectuals there are no enemies to the left?" Anyone like to answer that? Can we get a resounding condemnation for all the mass-murders on Rummel's list?

LINKS: Pol Pot? Idi Amin? No, it's Pinochet again - RJ Rummell
Glasnost in Chile? - Tibor Machan (1989) [page 23 of the PDF]
Pinochet to undergo heart surgery - Ireland Online
Pinochet admits dictatorship blame - CNN.Com

RELATED: Politics-World, History-Modern, History-Twentieth Century

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Beer O’Clock: King Cobra

Your beer and snakes this week come from Neil at Real Beer.

Not many things in this world scare me. Spiders do. And Scorpions. (And socialism.) However, perhaps my greatest fear would be snakes.

Snakes on a Plane may well be a very funny film with a soon-to-classic line that only Samuel L Jackson could pull off and still be cool, but I get totally creeped out just by the poster. So it is with some surprise that I've recently found myself become quite infatuated by a snake – of sorts.

King Cobra is billed as a “double fermented, superior strong lager beer.” It is rare for a lager to be double fermented and bottle conditioned (live yeast in the bottle) but this is no ordinary beer. (Can you hear Samuel saying that?)

While Cobra is a famous Indian beer brand making a pretty ordinary lager, this is a very different beast. Brewed in Belgium and distributed from England, this is a premium brew with a very European feel, delivered to you the drinker in a distinctive, dark, 750ml bottle with a champagne cork on top and a picture of a pair of gold elephants on the front.

Who could ask for anything more?

King Cobra pours a soft, slightly cloudy gold with a lovely, lively, finely bubbled head. It’s a spritzy drop with the bubbles bouncing happily off the tongue. Relatively soft flavored, it has subtle hints of apple and orange with a distinctive twang from the yeast. It can be poured clear or slightly cloudy, but it ends with a pleasant soft bitter finish.

King Cobra is not a Belgian strong ale or an English strong lager – it lacks both the complexity for the former and the crassness to be the latter. This beer is something quite different – but it is highly recommended. Try it instead of champagne at your next Christmas function.

LINKS: Brewery – www.cobrabeer.com

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

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Quote for today: The Anti-Industrial Revolution...

[O]bserve that in all the propaganda of the ecologists—amidst all their appeals to nature and pleas for "harmony with nature"—there is no discussion of man's needs and the requirements of his survival. Man is treated as if he were an unnatural phenomenon. Man cannot survive in the kind of state of nature that the ecologists envision—i.e., on the level of sea urchins or polar bears. . . .

In order to survive, man has to discover and produce everything he needs, which means that he has to alter his background and adapt it to his needs. Nature has not equipped him for adapting himself to his background in the manner of animals. From the most primitive cultures to the most advanced civilizations, man has had to manufacture things; his well-being depends on his success at production. The lowest human tribe cannot survive without that alleged source of pollution: fire. It is not merely symbolic that fire was the property of the gods which Prometheus brought to man. The ecologists are the new vultures swarming to extinguish that fire.
[Ayn Rand (1971), "The Anti-Industrial Revolution," Return of the Primitive, 277.]

Why will capitulation work this time?

Lots of talk going on over the just-released report by the Iraq Study Group, but not too many making the following point made by Elan Journo:
The Iraq Study Group has issued many specific recommendations, but the options boil down to a maddeningly limited range: pull out or send more troops to do democracy-building and, either way, "engage [with]" the hostile regimes in Iran and Syria. Missing from the list is the one option our self-defense demands: a war to defeat the enemy. If you think we've already tried this option and failed, think again. Washington's campaign in Iraq looks nothing like the war necessary for our self-defense.

What does such a war look like?
Read on here and find out Elan's answer. He makes another important point, which also goes to his answer, and it is this:
Those who say this is a "new kind of conflict" against a "faceless enemy" are wrong. The enemy Washington evasively calls "terrorism" is actually an ideologically inspired political movement: Islamic totalitarianism.
Good point -- a point so fundamental that it should never be forgotten, as it has been too often.

Meanwhile, Yaron Brook makes the point that capitulation is the only way to describe the Iraq Study Group's proposals.
The Iraq Study Group endorsed the increasingly popular notion that America should ask Iran and Syria to help bring peace and stability to Iraq.

"But Iran and Syria are our enemies," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. "These countries are responsible for the maiming and deaths of numerous American soldiers in Iraq. For months Iran and Syria have been fomenting terrorist activity against American troops and Iraqi civilians, providing terrorists with training, weapons and explosive devices. "The United States should be bombing, not 'engaging,' these terrorist regimes.

"Any U.S. appeal to Iran or Syria for help in Iraq would be suicidal and immoral. By evading the evil of these regimes and pretending that they're peace-seekers who share our goals, the United States would be encouraging and rewarding their aggression. Dispensing with moral judgment is not a short-cut to achieving peace; it is a sure way of unleashing and goading the killers to redouble their efforts against us."
It's the same 'shortcut' that's been tried for the last sixty years ... and just look at where it's got us.

LINKS: What real war looks like - Elan Journo, Ayn Rand Institute
Iran & Syria are our enemies - Yaron Brook, Ayn Rand Institute
The long, long trail of appeasement, capitulation and death - Not PC (Sept 11, 2006)

RELATED: War Religion Politics-World

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Crime protection in South Auckland

Bainimarama: A patriot? Or a nut?

Joe Bennett suggested this morning that Commodore Frank Bainimarama is either a patriot, or he's nuts. I think that pretty much sums it up.

We do know he's acting illegally, that is, unconstitutionally. We do know -- or at least it's been said, including this morning by previously deposed PM Mahendra Chaudhry -- that corruption is rife in Fiji, the "Qarase Government was seen to be condoning that," and Bainimarama claims to be cleaning it up. Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian Prime Minister, "told Morning Report that while this latest military coup is illegal, a better future can be negotiated for the people of Fiji." But it seems to me that we need a lot more information than we presently have to form the conclusion that the Commodore is a patriot, although I'm more than willing to countenance that argument.

A friend makes the case in his favour (I've cleaned up his argument just a little):
What sort of mickey mouse constitution makes Mr B go cap in hand to a bunch of Chief 'Indigenous Rights Racists' ie., the Great Council of Chiefs, in order to call for 'no confidence' in a PM who seeks to set one of the Racists' mates free?! That constitution be damned!

Mr B is standing up for the principle of equality before the law that supersedes the conventions of politicians; there are some things that should be beyond the vote -- life, liberty, the pursuit of property and happiness, these equal rights for all -- and Mr B is standing up for those rights and for justice! [exclamation marks deleted].

If the constitution was just then he would not need to act as he has! He's risking his neck for the sake of equality of rights for Fijian Indians! He's a hero! Democratically elected racists ought to fear such a righteous army commander And the Libz contitution allows for him to disregard the state when it is in violation of the people's valid rights!
Now, it's true that the Libz Constitution for New Freeland allows (and I agree wholeheartedly with the principle) "that whenever any government becomes destructive of [our legitimate] rights, it is in rebellion against its citizens, who may then remove it and institute new government." And it's also true that the US Declaration of Independence declares (and I agree wholeheartedly with the principle) "that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed ... with certain inalienable rights," and allows (and I agree wholeheartedly with the principle) that "whenever any Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it..."

But here's the kicker:
1) That right only exists, says the Declaration (and I agree with the principle wholeheartedly), if and only if the abolition of a Government destructive of those ends is effected in order "to institute new Government, laying its Foundations on such principles" as those briefly outlined above.
2) The authors of the Declaration (with whom I agree wholeheartedly) recognised that "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes," and accordingly they laid out in the Declaration itself the "long Train of Abuses and Usurpations [designed] ... to reduce them under absolute Despotism" against which they declared themselves to be acting. Vague talk about "corruption" is very far from such a declaration.
And, 3) it's by no means clear (to me at least) that this is the basis on which Commodore Bainimarama is operating anyway.

However, 4) the reporting of the reasons for the coup has been very far from comprehensive, at least in the reading that I've done. As such, I'd be happy to hear arguments along the lines of my friend's argument above. Is the good Commodore a patriot, a defender of equal rights, or is he just a nut?

LINKS: Former Fiji PM Chaudhry willing to help military - Radio New Zealand
Proposed Constitution for New Freeland - Free Radical
The unconstitutional Bainimarama - Not PC

RELATED: Politics-World, Constitution

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Quantum Physics Debate, 2: The Many Worlds Interpretation rebutted

Further to our debate on the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Physics begun here at Not PC by Brian Scurfield, doctoral student Mark Sadgrove offered this response which has been lightly edited to appear here as a post (thanks, Mark):

I probably shouldn't wade in here, but it is nice to see this topic being discussed on a New Zealand oriented site, simply because, academically speaking, there are some fine minds in this country when it comes to research into fundamental quantum physics, and it would be nice if that translated into wider public interest.

Disclaimer: I'm a Quantum Physics PhD who has published work with Rainer Leonhardt and Scott Parkins mentioned in comments in the original post. Specifically, my own work could be said to err more towards supporting the notion that interaction with the outside world is the only thing that's needed to explain the quantum measurement problem away... Having said that, the Many Worlds Interpretation is as far as I'm aware still an interpretation rather than a theory with new, testable predictions, so I'm really no more qualified than anyone else or for that matter any more biased by my use of established quantum theory when it comes to commenting on this stuff.

I have a few points to make:

1) The "Many worlds interpretation" is still called an interpretation. Is anyone aware of any specific predictions that Many Worlds theory makes which are outside of standard quantum theory? In this case there might be hope for confirming it one way or another...

I seem to recall that some (perhaps prominent?) physicists have said that a successful quantum computer would force people to believe the many worlds theory because, well, that super-classical computing power must be coming from somewhere , the idea being that we share the possible computing power of a huge number of somehow existent universes when we use a quantum computer. Personally I still don't find this convincing. From a very utilitarian point of view, that computing power arises because nature, as embodied in the laws of quantum mechanics, allows it to occur. Quantum mechanics just works that way and that's that.

The reason people are groping for interpretations is because they find it difficult to form a clear, intuitive picture of the natural process that is occurring [in observations of Quantum phenomena], unlike in classical mechanics where little balls colliding with each other is to a crude degree all the mental imagery you'll ever need. But an interpretation is just window dressing until it actually leads to intuition which makes NEW predictions. Smarter people than me are backing 'many worlds,' but I'd like to know if they've made any progress on the prediction front.

2) Occam's Razor. I always thought that the most compelling reason for being suspicious of the Many Worlds Interpretation was Occam's Razor which states that given the infinite possible explanations that one can give for a physical phenomenon, the simplest possible explanation (that is the one with the fewest parameters) should be preferred. [N.B., it can be simply stated as the law of succinctness, in Latin: "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem," or, "entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity."

'Many Worlds' theory multiplies Universes ad infinitum just so we can have a cosy mental picture of the natural processes described by QM. A lot of people think that this is a dear price to pay! This is a capitalist-oriented site right. [Oh yes - Ed.] So do you really think that Nature would be this wasteful of resources when cleaner, more efficient single-universe models can explain things just as well? (Of course, the point is that some people think that ONLY Many Worlds theory can explain all the observed phenomena in which case it doesn't matter how "wasteful" it seems, because it's the only game in town.)

Another way to look at it is through the testability lens which a lot of people have also brought up. If you claim that there are multitudinous other universes which are created by quantum "splitting" or "differentiation" events but, oh hang on, you can't ever reach them or even feel their influence except via a rather unspectacular interference experiment, then why should I believe you? People who do believe such things are, for example, good candidates for believing that there is a very specific God in Heaven - a bearded man in the Judeao-Christian tradition for example, exactly as described in the bible [sorry: The Bible].

While we have no real evidence of such specifics, believers might say, if exactly such a god did exist it explains a few things about the world. Well perhaps, but why believe all these things that you can't verify along with the very general idea of a creator which does not imply any specific form for god.

==> Do we really have to swallow a multiverse teeming with infinite slightly differentiated universes all equally "real" just to explain the quantum measurement problem? Are there leaner versions of many worlds without infinite versions of each of us floating around in them?

(3) Is QM an interpretation? Remember that Physicists don't have to buy into any interpretation of quantum mechanics to use it effectively. In a comment on the previous post, Brian S took Scott Parkins' to task about a quantum jump "interpretation". But I don't think Scott was using any interpretation. The jump issue in quantum mechanics, or the collapse of the wave function, ra, ra, ra, whatever you wish to call it, is I think the bare minimum theory needed to predict naturally observable events. I don't agree that there is any interpretation going on here.

The facts are that when you look at the distribution of photons from a slit experiment on a detector screen, each one makes a "dot" at just one point - that's your measurement. To describe the distribution of points you use quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics describes the photon as a "delocalised" or non-point-like entity - a wave as such which gives the requisite interference pattern. It also provides a probabilistic rule telling you how likely a given measurement is given the form of this wave. What you do to connect the wave model of the pre-measurement photon to the measurement you actually make - your interpretation of the observed physical phenomenon - is up to you, but it doesn't change the basic description of what happens which is standard quantum mechanics.

Some rather vocal proponents of the de-coherence project think that they've got the quantum measurement problem - jumps and all - ironed out by just considering the interaction of a closed quantum system with it's environment. I favour de-coherence myself (remember I'm biased - I invoke it a little in my thesis) because it seems clean. The idea is that the idea is that the nice probability waves that don't have any particular "position" are in reality rapidly converted into particular "classical" states in any real system because there is interaction with the environment. I don't think many people believe that de-coherence theory is enough to explain the measurement problem away completely, but it IS a theory and it does help make sense of certain experimental observations to some degree.

Personally, de-coherence looks to me like Quantum Mechanics without the difficult jump, but with the Born Rule explained (see W. H. Zurek, Probabilities from Envariance, 2004 - still controversial!!!) and no multiple Universes required.

Reading the recent Wheeler preprint ('100 Years of the Quantum' -Tegmark & Wheeler [pdf]) referenced in the previous post, the De-coherence theory is in fact presented as being an important addition to Everett's Many Worlds Theory and not an explanation in competition with it. I am not convinced after a cursory review of that paper that there is really anything left to explain if dec-oherence works as well as Tegmark and Wheeler imply in this preprint, but even so the "Many Worlds Theory" they describe does not seem as grandiose as the usual idea of infinite simultaneously existing Universes being almost identical to our own. Rather, a far more subtle "Many Minds" idea is suggested which seems rather different to me, or at least is far less suggestive in a sci-fi sense.
* * *
Okay sorry to go on. Maybe my overall point is that Many Worlds Interpretation seems to excite a lot of people when it's really a subtle idea, for which refinement might remove a lot of the sci-fi elements -- this is even if it survives as an attempt to provide a picture of the undoubtedly successful quantum mechanical laws. It seems to me that the successful implementation of Shor's algorithm alone is not enough to irrefutably prove the existence of multiple "me's" in Universes of which I can never otherwise observe the effect.

As a final note, I attended the Quantum Physics of Nature last year and saw Zeilinger's labs in Vienna. Very nice! I also heard debates about precisely this stuff and I can assure you that the physics community is nowhere near a consensus...

LINKS: Quantum Physics Debate, 1: The Many Worlds Interpretation - Brian Scurfield at Not PC
Introduction to Quantum Physics - Wikipedia
Many Worlds Interpretetation - Wikipedia
Born Rule - Wikipedia
Probabilities from Envariance - Arxiv.Org
Copenhagen Interpretation - Wikipedia
The Quantum Aristotle - Peter Cresswell, SOLO

RELATED: Philosophy, Science

Bassett on Hager the Horrible -- "Why are today’s hacks so easily beguiled by a polemicist?"

Michael Bassett responds with feeling to Hager the Horrible's hollow book. (I'll quote from his response at length because it's lengthy enough that there's much I've left unquoted even so):
Nicky Hager resembles something washed up on a Fiordland beach. There’s something of the Ancient Mariner about him, but his views are narrow like the Exclusive Brethren’s he rails against....
Such is Hager’s righteousness that he’ll stoop to anything. First he acquired stolen property, Don Brash’s emails. Well-brought up people would have returned them to their owner. Not Hager. He convinced himself that he had a higher duty, to publish them. The fact that he stood to gain publicity and profit from doing so was, you must understand, one of the painful duties of a crusader. Did he pay for the stolen goods? Hager is strangely coy about his own funding. He didn’t contact Brash, lest it alert him. Nor did he attempt to find what was missing. Hager possessed no faxes, phone calls, publicly available transcripts, or meeting notes. He seldom referred to newspaper reports. Just a thin incomplete veneer of emails. Some were doctored as I discovered to my surprise. Who did that, I wonder, and why? In the end Hager fixed us with his glittering eye, producing a beat-up over mundane matters of a kind that all political parties deal with every day. How a party positions itself is what politics is about...
Why are today’s hacks so easily beguiled by a polemicist? Because too many of them were intellectually washed up on his same Fiordland beach. In the 1960s and 1970s, universities and journalism courses taught students to test evidence by asking what other factors might be relevant to a story, before drawing conclusions. In today’s post-modernist, politically correct world, instincts, hopes, opinions and feelings are more important than facts. Thus reporter Ruth Berry could write that Don Brash’s views on the Treaty had “alienated” him from “middle voters”. Surely she meant herself? Brash’s Orewa speech doubled National’s poll support. When he resigned, National was ten points ahead. Too many journalists go around the blogs and talk only amongst themselves. Facts seem superfluous. Sadly, they are also foreign to many modern university arts disciplines where some reporters were taught. Evidence is what you say it is, not what it actually is.
I feel sure I've been saying something somewhat similar myself. I suspect the journalists have been visiting the wrong blogs.

I don't say this often, but go read Bassett's piece. It's worth it just for the conclusion.

LINKS: Nicky Hager and the hollow book - Dr Michael Bassett
Thief - Not PC (29 Nov)
Why we need chains - Not PC (28 Nov)
Hager, Brash & Herald humbug - Not PC (21 Nov)

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National

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"The establishing of an establishment" - a different kind of censorship

This is a post about free speech.

It is not a piece about those outrageous assaults on free speech committed in Fiji yesterday by Bainimarama's minions. Nor is it (at least not directly) about the outrageous assault on free speech planned by the Clark Government and the new National Party who both want to ban anyone from criticising political parties during the election period (you can read those pieces here, here, here, here, here, and here -- and I recommend you do read them while you're still allowed to).

No, this is a post about a different kind of attack on free speech. One more subtle, and no less chilling. Let me start here by mentioning a story run by the UK Daily Pundit [hat tip Tim Worstall] about every liberal's favourite UK newspaper:
The Guardian is effectively being subsidised by the government and could go bust if a Tory government introduced a ban on public sector recruitment through newspaper ads. At present, government recruiting is costing the taxpayer in excess of 800 million pounds per year. Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, is promising to change the system to allows jobs to be advertised for free on a new official website. The cost of running the website would be approximately 5 million pounds per year.
The Media Bulletin notes that "The Guardian currently dominates this market and, according to research by Reed Personnel Services, advertises two-thirds of public sector jobs." Now, I don't want to talk about that proposed ban or about the cost of employment websites. What I do want to talk about is that advertising.

If Reed's are right, and there's no reason they wouldn't be, that's 600 million pounds of government money going to The Guardian every year by this means alone -- and I'm sure no-one would suggest The Guardian and its employees are not so stupid that they don't know which side their bread is being buttered on, and who it is who is doing the buttering.

What that story brought quickly to mind was my own memory of reading Derek Fox's Mana magazine a while back. In many respects Mana is an admirable magazine celebrating Maori achievement and the many successes of young Maori, but flicking through its full-colour, glossy pages positively overflowing with advertising I was struck by how almost without exception those ads has been placed by Government departments (and the compliment is repaid in much of the writing, and can be seen in the links at the Mana magazine website).

It seems that like The Guardian this otherwise admirable magazine is being kept afloat by Government cash .

Don't you find that curious?

No less curious perhaps, you might say, than the many artists, musicians, scriptwriters, screenwriters, television producers and television production companies kept afloat by government cash and government grants from Creative New Zealand and New Zealand on Air or their proxies, or the many scientists kept afloat by government grants or by employment in government research projects.

What's the problem, you might ask?

Well, think about this. There is more than one kind of censorship. In fact, I'd suggest to you that there are two. The first and most straightforward method of censorship is for a government to ban speech that they don't like -- that's just what National and Labour want to do at elections, and I hope you lot feel disgusted enough about that to do something about it. The second form of censorship is one that Ayn Rand called "the establishing of an establishment," and it is even more insidious and no less chilling:
Governmental repression is [not] the only way a government can destroy the intellectual life of a country... There is another way: governmental encouragement.
That's right. Rather than simply banning opponents or banning expression, this form of censorship is much more subtle: it encourages expression (or scientific research) that is deemed acceptable, and by implication discourages anyone interested in career advancement from engaging in possibly unacceptable expression or research.
Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true: it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood.
It makes them sensitive instead to what is deemed acceptable, and thereby lucrative -- and it encourages and makes lucrative that very form of sensitivity. This is what Rand called "the welfare state of the intellect," and the result is as destructive as that other, more visible welfare state: the setting up of politicians, bureaucrats and their minions (the establishment) as arbiters of thinking and taste and ideology; the freezing of the status quo; a staleness and conformity, and an unwillingness to speak out; in short "the establishing of an establishment" to which new entrants in a field realise very quickly they are all but required to either conform or go under.
If you talk to a typical business executive or college dean or magazine editor [or spin doctor or opposition leader], you can observe his special, modern quality: a kind of flowing or skipping evasiveness that drips or bounces automatically off any fundamental issue, a gently non-committal blandness, an ingrained cautiousness toward everything, as if an inner tape recorder were whispering: "Play it safe, don't antagonize--whom?--anybody."
If you've ever wondered where this "special, modern quality" comes from, this is perhaps one answer -- through the intellectual mediocrity advanced by this less well-known form of censorship -- a censorship of encouragement. It's a much less obvious and much more insidious method of censorship, and no less chilling for that.
The [US] Constitution forbids a governmental establishment of religion, properly regarding it as a violation of individual rights. Since a man's beliefs are protected from the intrusion of force, the same principle should protect his reasoned convictions and forbid governmental establishments in the field of thought.
Think about it.

LINKS: 
RELATED: Free Speech, Politics-UK, Politics-NZ, Science

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Fijian sanctions "harmful"

Based on current reports, the coup in Fiji is a a disaster for Fijians. So too are the sanctions imposed on Fijians by the Clark Government.

I say "imposed on Fijians" instead of "imposed on Fiji" since it is not the perpetrators of the coup but Fijians themselves that will suffer most from the severing of sporting ties, the removal of aid and scholarships, and the ban on Fijian immigration to NZ and on seasonal work in NZ for Fijians. Just as U.S. sanctions on Cuba, for example, have caused no pain at all to Castro but immense pain to individual Cubans, so too Clark's sanctions will hurt Fijians, but not its new military leaders.

Sanctions on military associations aside, the sanctions will have no effect on Bainimarama -- they are more about us feeling better about being ineffectual than they are about effecting any improvement for Fijians.

LINKS: NZ imposes Fiji sanctions - TVNZ

RELATED: Politics-World, Politics-NZ

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Quote for today

A disagreement that does not challenge fundamentals serves only to reinforce them.

- Ayn Rand, from the essay "The Establishing of an Establishment", in Philosophy: Who Needs It

Here's an exercise for the reader: how many recent events can you think of that serve to demonstrate this point.

RELATED: Quotes

More restrictions, less power, more carbon.

DAILY INDIA: Carbon emissions have risen sharply since 2000
A recent study by the Global Carbon Project has shown a sharp rise in carbon emissions globally since the year 2000. The study said carbon emission was rising by less than one percent annually up to 2000, but was now rising at 2.5 percent per year, mostly as a result of rise in charcoal consumption and a lack of new energy efficiency gains.
Could it be that increased restrictions on new technology and on the construction of new power plants have increased carbon emissions? Could it be that our old friend the Law of Unintended Consequences is once again in effect here? I suspect so.

Hear me out. New power plants have the increased efficiencies sought, but as increased environmental regulation makes construction of these newer power plants more difficult and more expensive and there fewer new plants are built (just consider for example NZ's RMA restrictions on new power plants), then older, 'dirtier' plants that new technology would make obsolete are left to produce for longer -- and carbon emissions are increased rather than reduced.

And the burning of charcoal (right) is a uniquely third world means of producing low-quality energy that is on the increase as other, more efficient means of energy production are made more difficult and more expensive, especially in parts of Asia and Africa where the increased charcoal burning has reportedly been happening.

So my hypothesis here is that increased environmental regulation has led to accelerated carbon emissions. Counter-intuitive that may be, but that's the Law of Unintended Consequences for you (the one law that all enthusiasts for regulation should at least try and get to grips with).

The thing to realise is that human economies and human production are not a static entity that can be easily commanded and controlled -- economies are dynamic: try and stamp down on enterprise in one area and it will pop out in another, more unexpected area. Stop new technologies, and older technologies will take up the slack -- and there is no older, more historic form of energy production than the burning of charcoal, and none dirtier either.

So my conclusion? If decreasing or slowing down carbon emissions is really important to you, then I suggest you support the deregulation of energy production and the increased production of new energy -- especially in the third world.

LINK: Carbon emissions have risen sharply since 2000 - Daily India
Unintended consequences - Concise Encyclopaedia of Economics

RELATED: Energy, Politics-World, Global Warming

Sahuaro House - a desert house by Frank Lloyd Wright

One of a complex designed for the Arizona desert as part of the San Marcos Hotel project, 1928-29. The project was a victim of the Depression.

RELATED: Architecture

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Brash responds to Hager

When Don Brash resigned from Parliament, he indicated that he wanted to respond substantively to Nicky Hager's book full of stolen emails. His latest newsletter, he says, is that response.
The information which Hager uses was stolen, of that I have no doubt, [says Brash] and he has almost certainly broken the law in doing so. How the information was stolen is still not clear, though of course I have views on that which I have conveyed to the police investigating the matter...
After discussing each of the claims in about as much detail as they merit -- "It is, of course, impossible to reply to every allegation in that book short of writing a book of my own" -- he concludes, accurately:
Hager never lets the truth get in the way of a good conspiracy theory. He has used information very selectively, apparently modified some of the emails he has obtained, and drawn conclusions which are, in many cases, quite absurd. One could get the impression from reading the book that the only thing my close advisers and I did all day was meet with narrowly-based religious groups, wealthy friends, and American neo-conservatives, which is patently ridiculous.

A few months ago, Hager fed the line to a Sunday paper that the SIS had infiltrated the Maori Party. Subsequent investigation proved that claim to be, in Helen Clark's words, a "work of fiction". Mr Hager specializes in outrageous claims. Nobody should take them too seriously.

As indicated earlier, there are lots of statements in Hager's book with which I disagree strongly. I do not intend to comment further on the issue until the police form a view on who stole the emails which provide some of the titillating material in the book.
The newsletter is online at Scoop. Incidentally, I note that Helen Clark commented recently that the practice of using the 111 computer system to access private information was "disgraceful." How much more disgraceful is the theft and publication of private correspondence. "Police take a very, very dim view of inappropriate use of the computer," said Clark over the use of 111 system, "and wherever it is detected they will act." So too should they act in the case of Hager's use of stolen correspondence. Consistency, if not integrity, demands that Clark support the prosecution of the theft.

UPDATE: The thief responds, conceding two errors, ignoring the charges of theft and that he fails to tell the whole story, and essentially demanding nothing less than a 500-page rebuttal of his own 350-page book. "The most notable feature of Don Brash's rebuttal, of course, is that he does not mention or bother to respond to all the hundreds of pages of revelations about his party where he was unable to find fault."

LINK: Nickey Hager's book - Don Brash Writes, Scoop

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National

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Speech rationing picks up pace

The pace for shutting down free electioneering is picking up here in the People's Republic of Aotearoa with Billy Bob English putting National's political weight behind outlawing "third-party advertising that attacks political parties" and either banning or making bloody difficult private donations to political parties.

D'you think it might have something to do with the two big parties recognising a mutually beneficial interest in shutting down the smaller parties? Some call it speech rationing, you know.

LINKS: Helengrad's speech rationing - Bernard Darnton at Section 14.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National, Free Speech

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"Answer the question!"

If you need to change or misrepresent or spin your opponent's argument in order to refute it, then it's a fair bet (or at least a reasonable starting assumption) that you had to do so in order to answer the argument. Far more convincing if you can answer the strongest argument against your own position, rather than the weakest -- and far more meaningful too.

Good advice. It comes most recently from Eric at Brain Stab, who gives me a serve (can you imagine!) on the way to making his point, via Karl Popper,
that we should always try to clarify and to strengthen our opponent's position as much as possible before criticising him, if we wish our criticism to be worthwhile.
Good point. One that bears regularly repeating around the blogosphere.

LINKS: Oh I'm sorry, this is abuse - Brain Stab

RELATED: Free Speech, Blog

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The unconstitutional Bainimarama

The Herald reports the events in Fiji here, with a timeline. The short summary:
On November 13 [Commodore Bainimarama] issued nine demands to the Qarase government which included the withdrawal of the bills.
At 6pm (7pm NZT) on December 5 he seized control, installed himself as President, sacked Qarase, named his own man as PM and sent soldiers onto the streets with police.
Fiji is a constitutional democracy. Whatever claims Bainimarama might make regarding his actions, he cannot be claiming to be acting constitutionally. We can see why he wants to appoint himself President:

Section 87 Commander-in-Chief
The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the military forces.

But he can't just appoint himself at the barrel of a gun, the President needs to be properly appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs (the Bose Levu Vakaturaga):

Section 90 Appointment of President and Vice-President
The President and Vice-President are appointed by the Bose Levu Vakaturaga after consultation by the Bose Levu Vakaturaga with the Prime Minister.

And even if you concede that he can get over that hurdle, he cannot simply dismiss the PM off his own bat:

Section 109 Dismissal of Prime Minister

(1) The President may not dismiss a Prime Minister unless the Government fails to get or loses the confidence of the House of Representatives and the Prime Minister does not resign or get a dissolution of the Parliament.
(2) If the President dismisses a Prime Minister, the President may, acting in his or her own judgment, appoint a person as a caretaker Prime Minister to advise a dissolution of the Parliament.

So just to summarise: based on the reports merging from Fiji, it seems to me that Bainimarama has no claim to be acting constitutionally.

UPDATE 1: From NBR: "[Bainimarama] said Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's refusal to agree to President Ratu Josefa Iloilo's request to resign had left Fiji in "limbo" and forced him to act." Well, unless the Prime Minister lost a motion of no confidence in the House of Repreentatives, the President appears to have no power to dismiss Qarase. And the President may appoint a caretaker Prime Minister, but only the Great Council of Chiefs "after consultation with the Prime Minister" may appoint the President.
The Commodore said the constitution would largely remain in place, and the judiciary and other arms of government would continue to operate.
It would appear he's talking nonsense, but that he's paying lip service to the constitution suggest a respect for the institution, even if only in the breach. And here's the hope:
[Bainimarama] said he would next week ask Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs to reappoint Mr Iloilo as president. The caretaker government would then be appointed. In the meantime, a military council would offer advice. Commodore Bainimarama said once the country was stable and electoral rolls amended, elections would be held.
We shall see.

UPDATE 2: Perhaps the only wrinkle here is that Fiji was not, perhaps, on a completely constitutional footing. Laisenia Qarase was not originally an elected Prime Minister -- he was appointed by Bainimarama after the Commodore rescued Fiji from the Speight coup in 2000, and it's been reported that from his point of view Qarase has violated the understanding between them made at that time. But Qarase's election in 2006 surely put an end to any post-coup period of unconstitutionality?

LINKS: Fiji: What's happened so far - Herald
Fiji's Constitution, adopted 23 September, 1998 - (German) Institute for Public Law
Full coup launched in Fiji - NBR
Fiji General Election, 2006 - Wikipedia

RELATED: Politics-World, Constitution

Soper in Suva

Here's one reason it's difficult to know what's going on in Fiji: the quality of the reporting is dire.

Take Barry Soper's radio report this morning: after letting us know that he wasn't himself going to argue with Fiji's military -- their weapons are "intimidating," he confided -- he then revealed that "there's a split here in Suva between those who support the coup and those who don't." Who would have thought it.

Does anyone have any idea where to get some decent news on the situation in Suva?

"Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun." So far that's about the only thing that we can be sure of -- a useful reminder to us all.

UPDATE: Bernard Darnton notes that the Fiji Times have courageously refused to publish a bowdlerised newspaper today. From a statement on the Fiji Times website:

Armed soldiers came to the Victoria Parade officers at 7.30pm last night, and asked for “assistance”. After a brief discussion outside, the soldiers entered the building for a discussion in the papers newsroom...
“We were ordered to breach the Constitution and not publish any dissenting views that may be sent to us by free citizens, as well as the views of legally elected members of the Qarase government. "If we do not have the freedom to publish with responsibility, then we do not publish.”

RELATED: Politics-World

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John Boy, and John Boy junior.

I'm afraid the Herald's John Armstrong is getting worse, not better. His year-long application for the job of John Key's catamite continues in glowing prose in this morning's Herald (thankfully kept from the front page only by the dramas in Fiji -- perhaps the best thing there is to be said about the all-too-confusing events there).

Here's how I ever-so-briefly summed up yesterday's question period in Parliament, John Boy Key's first as opposition leader, after listening in to find some hint of spine in the new National leader: "...the chamber was buried in fog, and the drip (ie., Key] was buried by the Prime Minister." Now here's Armstrong, with his tongue firmly placed where Trevor Mallard thinks about inserting Heineken bottles.
It may not yet be a battle of equals. But one thing is clear from yesterday's first head-to-head clash in Parliament between John Key and Helen Clark. There is now going to be a real battle.
Clearly we heard a different question period. The one I heard was a blancmange of powderpuff questions, with Key huffing and puffing over his recent conversion to the religion of global warming, and the Government benches hooting with derision at what they must surely see as an easy run ahead. "They're like the third form," hooted Clark, which pretty much sums up how John Boy sounded.

Armstrong's praise for Key, however, knows no bounds: "You could almost see National MPs' hearts swelling with pride." (Those are Armstrong's own words. My own stomach swelled with nausea when I read them, I can tell you.) John Boy "cut loose," says John Boy junior, and with "ferocity" -- ferocity! -- "eyeballing Helen Clark directly as he spoke." Just imagine! Eyeballing Helen Clark, the crazy fool!! "Mr Key had cleverly [emphasis mine] chosen to quiz the Prime Minister on her stated aim of making New Zealand "carbon neutral..." Sickening, isn't it. The cleverness apparently comes because the line of questioning was one in which Key signalled he is out to out-Clark Clark -- that is, "out to 'own' climate change."

"Key holds his own," says Armstrong. Well, he got that much right. What a drip. Anyway, you don't have to take my word for John Boy's wet performance, or the word of John Boy junior. You can listen in yourself.
Key's own appearance doesn't take long. Mercifully.

UPDATE: Liberty Scott has two reports on the blancmange opposition. First, Maurice Wimpianson demonstrating why "
Telecom has stopped funding political parties, almost all of them are full of thieves." And then the policy free zone that is National's conversion to the politics of "climate change," for which Scott helpfully suggests the best policies would be 1) abolishing the RMA, 2) privatising the roads, and 3) deregulating and privatising the power generators. (Well, you don't visit here for mainstream thinking, now do you?)

LINKS: Key hold his own in honourable draw - John Armstrong, NZ Herald
Question Time for Tuesday 5th December - Radio NZ
Nats give Telecom zero - Liberty Scott
National's new policy free zone - Liberty Scott

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National

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Greg Carvell defends himself again, this time in court

Greg Carvell is in court tomorrow at 9:30am, defending himself against the charge of defending himself. As I've said before, it's not a court appearance he deserves but a medal.

If you want to help, you could show up in the Auckland District Court to give him support, or you could just send funds to the Greg Carvell defence fund. As Oswald says, "that could easily be me -- or any one of us. It doesn't have to be a shooting, either-- you could cream some lowlife with a frying pan and wind up in the dock in this country..."

Do you think you should have the right to defend your life? Now is the time to stand up for it!

UPDATE: Greg Carvell has elected trial by jury, and will reappear for that in the new year. Good to hear protests outside the court upholding the right to self-defence as a a real human right.

LINK: Gun shop shooting - a father's hell - Stuff
Medal for gun dealer, not court - Not PC (Nov, 2006)
Libz on the NRA news - Not PC (Aug, 2006)
Greg Carvell defence fund
A worthy cause - Oswald Bastable


RELATED:
Politics-NZ, Self-Defence

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God Releasing Stars into the Universe - Michael Newberry

One of my own favourite Newberry paintings, this one speaks of creation -- artistic creation. Open it up and stare at it for a while, and you might see what I mean. Says the artist,
The act of creation, personally, feels like a catalytic experience. Energy gathers inside me, is quickly digested, and explodes out of my being through my hands.

I love the operas of Puccini and Verdi but many people don't understand why the singer can soar so effortlessly while they are supposed to be dying. That has never bothered me, I love it in fact. The voice is representing their overall spirit. In a similar way that is the spirit in this painting, it is not meant literally but, rather, its a symbol of my spirit.
If you want an original Newberry for yourself, or for a gift, or a Newberry print to give to someone for Christmas, then now is the time to take advantage of his misfortune and buy with twenty percent off.

LINKS: Newberry Art - Michael Newberry
A Passionate Vision, Price List - Michael Newberry
Newberry Sale! - Not PC

RELATED: Art, Objectivism

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New blog: The LIbertarian Front

The country's youngest libertarian has started a blog that you should add to your blogroll. Callum McPetrie told Libz leader Bernard Darnton he intends to become leader of the Libertarianz. Bernard told him that he needs to turn old enough to stand for Parliament first. He responded be starting a blog.

Check out Callum's blog here: The Libertarian Front.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Callum.

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No spark for Key, but Ashes test catches fire

A contrast of two contests this afternoon:
  • John Boy Key's first Question Period in parliament today was predicted to be full of fireworks, but turned out to be no contest -- the chamber was buried in fog, and the drip was buried by the Prime Minister.
  • By contrast, the last day of the Ashes Second Test was predicted to be a dull draw, but that contest is a very different story to the non-contest in Helengrad: England are at time of writing 5/77 and Australia on the charge! Is there still enough time for Aus to burgle a victory and go two up?!

Wayne Kerr leads Nats

John Boy Key struggles to be all things to all people while trying to remember where he was in 1981. "In 1981, were you for or against the Springbok Tour?" asks Fresh FM's Matt Lawrey. (Notes Russell Brown: "It's a good question because it explores a fundamental divide in New Zealand society. You couldn't be older than 12 at the time and not have an opinion on it.")

Replies the Wet One: "Oooh, I can't even remember. [Giggle]. 1981? Um, ahh, hmmm ...... I dont' really know ... I, I, I, ah, I ... don't really have a strong feeling of it ... at the time - it's such a long time ago..." Do you have an easy one?

As Russell Brown summarises, Key's answers are "insipid."
Listening to it (and it's worth listening to the whole thing), the impression is that he's unsure what he should say. The interview moves on to why he voted against the civil unions legislation and again he gives vague, even contradictory answers. He doesn't care "whether people are gay or lesbian," but thought the government was being dishonest and ought to have said its aim was really gay marriage. So he's in favour of gay marriage? No, he's "not entirely sure whether gay and lesbian people should be able to get married."
Listen to the interview at the Hard News site, and another interview hosted there in which John Boy sucks up to a Christian TV interviewer. Concludes Russell: "Key doesn't seem able to articulate a strong political philosophy, even to back up his stated beliefs. "

And ain't that the truth. What does John Boy Key stand for? You'd have to ask the last person he spoke to.

UPDATE: BTW, the 'Shine TV' link at Russell's site has meteorologist Augie Auer (discussing global warming) on after John Boy. Bit too much religion for may taste, but. ;^)

LINKS: Doing the rounds - Hard News

RELATED:
Politics-NZ, Politics-National

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New Whig

The Whig is blogging again over at Mulholland Drive. Go give him a hard time about his new leader.

NZQA: Perfectly suited to the Age of Crap

The Seventeenth Century was the Age of Reason. The Nineteenth Century was the Age of Capitalism. The Twenty-First Century will more than likely be the Age of Crap.

Sandi at SOLO outlines some of the means whereby the New Zealand Qualification's Authority is helping to usher in such an age, specifically "what type of courses are within the NZQA Framework [and for which] the government provides student loans."

Here's some highlights:

Developing Christian Spirituality
8515 3 Discuss a theology of hardship, suffering and blessing in Christian faith and life
Christian Worship & Preaching
11034 4 Choreograph, plan, and use dance as a medium of expression in Christian worship
Natural & Traditional Health & Healing
14822 25 Use an advanced range of essential oils and carrier oils for aromatherapy in the clinical setting
Hellerwork
Hellerwork is a series of one-hour sessions of deep tissue bodywork and movement education designed to realign the body and release chronic tension and stress. Verbal dialogue is used to assist the client in becoming aware of emotional stress that may be related to physical tension.
14819 40 Apply Hellerwork dialogue techniques to meet individual client needs
Homeobotanical Therapy
Homoeobotanical remedies are powerful, synergistic blends of organic herbs in liquid form. They are potentised homeopathically and specifically chosen to target the Organs and Systems on the body.
14831 5 Use homeobotanical repertory and materia medica in clinical practice
Hypnotherapy
14771 6 Conduct hypnotic regression for hypnotherapeutic practice
Reflexology

Read on here for the full list of crap.

As Sandi points out, the real tragedy is not so much the taxpayers' money wasted on these 'courses' but the intelligent young minds being thrown away in pursuit of such nonsense, while courses that do explicitly promote rationality have trouble fitting into the NZQA framework.

"Every man is free to rise as far as he's able or willing," noted Ayn Rand, "but the degree to which he thinks determines the degree to which he'll rise." By that standard, graduates of course such as these are having their wings clipped before they've even learned to fly.

LINKS: NZQA - Sandi at SOLO
Montessori teacher training in NZ - Maria Montessori Education Foundation (NZ)

RELATED: Education, Politics-NZ

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