Monday, 30 April 2007

The wheels are coming off

A bad year last year, notes the Herald.

The latest consumers' price index showed a big rise in the cost of home basics in the past year.

There was a 4 per cent rise in the cost of food, a 6.9 per cent increase in electricity, a 10.6 per cent surge in gas and 8.5 per cent in water supply charges. The biggest hit was fruit, which shot up 34 per cent, followed by rubbish disposal, up 14 per cent... Coupled with that is a 3 per cent rise in rents, while house prices have risen around 14 per cent in the past 12 months.

You can't keep adding to the money supply by around twelve to fifteen percent year on year -- as the Reserve Bank has been doing -- and you can't go on a multi-billion dollar spending binge -- as the Clark Government has been -- and not expect to see the result in rising costs.

Inflation is another tax. Aren't we already paying enough?

Clark and co must pay $194,000 'arrogance surcharge' says Darnton

The Labour Party has finally -- about time! -- repaid the $800,000 they stole from the taxpayer to help fund their election campaign, but Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton says there's still something more to be paid: An "arrogance surcharge." He explains in yesterday's press release:
"Of course, with the pledge card spending retrospectively legalised last year, there was no legal debt to be paid. The payment must therefore be a gift."

Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons agrees. When the Greens handed $87,000 over to the Parliamentary Service in February she said the payment was "a gift, not a debt." [1]

Darnton added, "A gift of this magnitude must be subject to gift duty." Using Inland Revenue's gift duty guide (IR 194), Darnton calculated the gift duty Labour owes as just under $194,000.

"This is a mess of their own making. If they'd just admitted that they'd taken the money illegally and paid it back in the first place there would be no question of this extra charge but they refused to admit they did wrong and then went and changed the rules. This $194,000 is really an arrogance surcharge.

"I expect Labour to announce that they will take their tax obligations as seriously as they demand other, more productive, New Zealanders to."
Bravo Bernard! This is the sort of thing real opposition leaders should be doing. If you like what Libz leader Bernard Darnton is doing, then you really should consider becoming a Libertarianz member and helping him out. Far better than sitting still for this vapid drivel from John Boy.

Unaffordable housing: Another tell-tale collision

A great quote can sum up a whole human debacle in just a very few words, as this one does:
A traffic jam [says Andrew Galambos] is a collision between free enterprise and socialism. Free enterprise produces automobiles faster than socialism can
build roads and road capacity.
It's true, isn't it -- and still the socialists blame capitalism for 'overproduction' when the problem is the failure of socialism to produce. Forty years ago, for example, plans were drawn up for the expansion of Auckland's motorway system, plans only being brought somewhat to completion now, forty years later.

And still people demand that socialism produce our infrastructure.

That same collision of capitalism and socialism we see in our daily traffic jams is there too in NZ's severely unaffordable housing markets: a bubble inflated by the freewheeling demands of prosperity and credit and immigration colliding with a simultaneous suffocation of supply by the socialism of the state. Based on international comparisons, to meet demand New Zealand's annual build rate should should move between 28,000 to 36,000 residential units per annum. Instead it is currently around 24,000 and falling, restricting supply and exacerbating the bubble. At a time when greater supply is desperately needed to mop up exploding demand, 'planners' -- those throwbacks to socialism -- are throttling the supply lines we do have.

'Planners' -- who labour under the illusion that free people can be planned -- who have ring-fenced our major cities (which represent only 1.4% of the country's land), outside which they have prohibited real growth -- these stranglers of growth who infest local government will frequently wheel out the exhortation that housing must wait for 'infrastructure'; that house building should be severely resricted until roading, watermains and sewerage is built -- and the construction of this infrasructure is to be built (eventually) by this economy's luxuriating remnants of socialist planning. They insist that ratepayers and developers pay for 'new capacity' through levies, impositions and compulsory contributions, coupled with the same barking insistence that this 'capacity' will only be built when the socialist machine is good and ready, and meanwhile house builders and home buyers can go hang.

To paraphrase Andrew Galambos, "An unaffordable housing crisis is a collision between free enterprise and socialism. Free enterprise produces houses faster than socialism can build roads and infrastructure."

Free enterprise is producing houses faster than socialism can build infrastructure and capacity, and the socialists are still crying that the problem is too much free enterprise! We're back where we were in the sixties when you wrote a begging letter to ther Post Office asking for a phone line for your new house, only to be told that there was no capacity in your area, and no plans to build any. It's as if those same Post Office planners were now out there planning our cities, isn't it.

I thought of Galambos and the old socialist phone system this week when I read that in an Auckland desperately unable to keep up with the demand for new houses,
Transit New Zealand is appealing against the [3000-unit] Silverdale North residential project in Rodney, saying that the area does not have the transport infrastructure to support it... It says the development will have " far reaching adverse traffic effects" unless adequate roading upgrades are put in place.
Ask yourself who should be doing those roading upgrades? As a correspondent commented to me, how about Transit, the government's roading company, just get on and do the fucking job they're supposed to do instead of stopping those people who are simply trying to do theirs? It gets worse:
Transit has lodged an appeal with the Environment Court, despite having been aware of the development in its present form for a year.
There's nothing like socialist 'planning' to really demonstrate a lack of basic planning, is there. It took forty years to begin building the motorway extensions that Auckland's socialist planners said Auckland needed to grow -- forty years of increasing congestion while the world changed, Auckland grew up, and free enterprise kept producing cheaper and cheaper cars for Aucklanders to use to get around the city. It's those same socialists who are now demanding our cities grow only as fast as they can manage to plan and build new infrastructure.

Perhaps we should rethink how infrastructure is produced?

Beneficiary-bashing

Time for some good old-fashioned beneficiary bashing. Just so you know who's bludging off you, here's a wee pictorial essay showing some of the country's highest paid beneficiaries:


Several hundred thousand middle-income bludgers -- one-third of the country sucking off the state tit: NZ's most numerous beneficiaries.


The Two Jims' own cash machine: NZ's most unrewarding beneficiary. $138,000,000 so you and I can help "the little guy."


The Clark Government: beneficiaries of the Big Lie that unemployment has been drastically reduced.


Radio New Zealand: proud supporters of the culture of sucking off the state tit.


Town Planners: NZ's most destructive beneficiaries.


Consultants and mega-law firms: NZ's least self-aware beneficiaries.


Political parties with their hands in your pocket: NZ's most unashamed beneficiaries.


The country's mayors: NZ's most lack-lustre beneficiaries.


The Prime Minister: NZ's highest paid beneficiary.


Team New Zealand: arguably the country's most undeserving and under-performing beneficiaries.

New Zealand's beneficiary culture is alive and well. Sucking off the state tit is a lifestyle choice: a choice being made every day by hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who put their hands deep into your pocket.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Time to wake up. A storm is a'coming, and smoke and mirrors ain't gonna save us.

"A rising tide will lift all boats," said a euphoric Helen Clark before the last election, promising a steak on every plate through the beneficence of Labour rule. "A rising tide will lift all boats"? But it hasn't, has it.

Not every boat has been lifted.
  • Not the 300,000 still on welfare after two-and-a-half terms of Labour rule.
  • Not ratepayers, suffering under year-on-year exponential increases in the depth to which petty councillors raid their assets.
  • Not taxpayers, suffering under the two-dozen (and still counting) new taxes -- taxes brought in by a Government who had pledged in 1999 to add no new taxes -- and feeling the effects of a spending binge that's achieved nothing except rampant stagflation.
  • Not would-be first home-owners, priced out of the market by a perfect storm of regulatory restrictions on land supply, and by exponentially increased costs of land and building and interest rates.
  • Not ever-extended borrowers enduring mortagee sales (which doubled in number last year) as those hugely inflated interest rates bite.
  • Not producers, suffering under those hugely inflated interest rates.
  • Not exporters, suffering under exchange rates artificially inflated by Alan Bollard's economic ignorance.
  • Not creditors, attracted by all the extra credit in a marketplace awash with investors cashing in on Bollard's rates, credit piling up in more and more malinvestments just waiting to be washed away in the next storm.
  • Not the many young New Zealanders who emerge from the state's factory schools functionally illiterate and unable to function in a high-skills economy.
In fact, barely anyone except those who've taken advantage of the bumbling, for after seven-and-a-half years of Labour Government our national boat has been sinking beneath the OECD waves -- as their report this week shows anyone who bothers to read it, we are enmired near the bottom of the list of 30 countries measured, and going backwards. Real per-capita income here is diving like a sick man with a snorkel (see picture at right). All the great successes trumpeted out of Helengrad have been smoke and mirrors -- the unemployment figures massaged by the enormous increases in sickness and disability beneficiaries; the growth figures massaged by the government's multi-billion dollar spending binge, and by the massive credit attracted by inflated interest rates and the Reserve Bank's printing presses; the 'prosperity' financed on that credit and on the back of a housing 'boom' that's really an over-inflated regulatory bust.

Except for recipients of taxpayers' largesse -- those unemployed 'artists'; Welfare for Families Beneficiaries; subsidised film-makers -- and all those productive New Zealanders who've done well despite the regulatory and fiscal shackles placed upon them, we are as becalmed as those boats in Valencia were earlier last week.

The tide is high, and the world is moving on -- but it's leaving us behind. A world of economic golden weather has been pissed away in a sodden downpour of politically correct government, and the OECD has just shown us all the tab.

It's high time to wake up.

Sunday Hymn: Suck up to Jesus.

The words of an old hymn, changed to reflect the reality of religious worship: a position wholly inappropriate to human beings; one of crawling appeasement -- on your knees before a figment of man's own imagination.

STAND UP FOR REASON

Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
This is our battle cry.
All ye who don't believe us
In Hell will surely fry.
To dogma we bow gladly;
To reason we don't bend.
The truth does not concern us;
We'd rather just pretend.

Kiss up, kiss up to Jesus,
Imaginary boss.
Oh, Great Hallucination,
Without you we are lost.
Our self-respect goes down with us
When we get on our knees.
But if we really grovel,
Salvation is a breeze.

Suck up, suck up to Jesus,
Imaginary friend.
It's party-time at your place
After our lives end.
To reach your cosmic Disneyland,
We'll genuflect and cower;
We'll kiss your ass forever,
Pretending you'll save ours.

But now I've done some thinking
About this savior-dude,
And after due reflection,
Here is what I conclude:
This mindless little carpenter
Was mentally unglued,
And thanks to his religion
Humanity got screwed.

I live my life for me now;
This is my sacred right.
I scorn all gods and masters;
On mankind they're a blight.
I'll raise the torch of reason,
Our one and only hope,
Until the cross of Jesus
Goes up in holy smoke.

Beware of true believers
Who try to suck us in --
Snake-oil hawkers selling
Imaginary sin.
They're dying to convert us
By sword or by the pen,
But if we fall for their lies,
We're suckers born again.

They have the nerve to tell us
We're sinful from our birth.
Their God is cruel and jealous,
Disdainful of our worth.
A pompous little potentate,
He's peevish, he's perverse.
Down with cosmic tyrants;
We have enough on Earth.

Now, pride and self-reliance
Are virtues to admire.
Be noble and defiant;
Live life as you desire.
The heaven that you seek is here;
It's well within your reach.
You hold it in your own hands
And need not God beseech.

May humans thrive forever --
Man, woman, girl and boy.
Our noblest endeavor
Is living life with joy.
And so with reason's counsel,
Stand up and go forth --
Claim your glorious birthright:
This life, this time, this Earth!

Ahhhh...man!

[Pinched from Noodle Food.]

Friday, 27 April 2007

Beer O'Clock: Munchner Dunkel

Christchurch’s tiny Wigram Brewery scored a major coup this week, with it’s German-style Munchner Dunkel dark lager awarded a rare gold medal at the Australian International Beer Awards.

A couple of years ago when Wigram won one of their first awards (a packaging gold medal for their aviation-themed branding), I would have told most people that the beers inside were pretty poor. Now, a couple of years on, they just seem to be getting better and better each time I taste them. At BrewNZ last year they picked up some medals for the quality of the beer, rather than the labels, and they now appear to be going from strength to strength.

The Munchner Dunkel has always been my favourite Wigram brew. It pours a very dark chestnut colour, almost black to the untrained eye, and offers up a subtle concoction of grains that hint at dark chocolate, hazelnut, crusty toast and coffee. The hop presence is very subdued, unlike many of the trendy pale ales that currently receive all the press, and lends just a light bitterness to this easy drinking malty lager. After a couple of years of hop-dominated gold medals, it’s really quite nice to see a malt-dominated New Zealand beer picking up a gold medal.

Wigram’s latest medal winning effort is even more remarkable given that last year I visited the brewery and was quite shocked at it’s rudimentary nature – it’s a 'Burt Munro' type of operation, number eight wire stuff, and certainly not what we’d call a “showpiece” brewery. I guess this goes to show that make a great beer is the brewer, and not just his tools.

Their beers are becoming increasingly available, with a good presence in Christchurch and Wellington’s supermarkets and bottle stores, and even in the 'Tapas' café/bar in Carterton. Perhaps this accolade will even see them crack the barren wastelands of Ponsonby Rd.

Slainte mhath, Stu

PS, Dominion Breweries so-called ‘Export Gold’ won NZ’s only other gold medal in the Australian Style Lager category, a category essentially made up to give the big breweries' bland beers a prize to win. So that's the 'gold' part of the label explained; anyone ever seen it for sale in an export market?

LINKS: Wigram Brewery
Munich Dunkel style explained
Munich Dunkel on Ratebeer
Australian International Beer Awards

Men from the Ministry have solution to resource consent delays

On the heels of the Housing Corporation report into the exploding cost of Auckland housing -- which pointed to increased demand and a severely reduced supply due to crippling regulatory restrictions (the report cited excessive regulations on both land and construction through the RMA and the Building Act) -- comes the news that the Ministry for the Environment is "on to" the problem of the interminable time that councils take to process resource consents.

You see, the men from the Ministry have surveyed the country's councils, they've found the problems -- and they have a "solution."
Last week the Ministry for the Environment announced it would be talking to up to 20 councils after a biennial Resource Management Act survey revealed some local bodies were struggling to process even half of their consent applications in time. Of the 85 city, district and regional councils surveyed, 19 processed fewer than 60 per cent of their applications within the timeframe. The worst offender was Kaipara District Council, which processed only 23.01 per cent."
That's it. The solution to the country's resource consent woes is the Ministry of the Environment "talking" to up to 20 councils! Heavens! Why did no one think of that before?! Even state-worshipper Peter Nielson is unimpressed. "He said the delays were occurring at a vast cost to business and the community and were a source of huge frustration... [and] the government needed to take tougher action than just gathering reports from the “tardy 20” worst performers." But don't worry, Environment David Benson-Dope is "confident." See: “I am confident that the reasons for delays in consent processing can be addressed,” said Benson-Dope.

Lucky us. We should all be oozing confidence, shouldn't we. With the Ministry "talking to" councils and Chris Carter "talking to" developers (mandating "affordable houses" on land made unaffordable by regulatory restrictions on land), there's really no reason for anyone to complain is there -- and Alan Bollard, would-be home-owners, and exporters struggling with record-high exchange rates can sleep easy, can't they. Can't they?

15-year-old confronts climate madness

Dr Vincent Gray has recently returned from an international conference of Climate Sceptics in Vienna enthusing about a young woman. That woman is Kristen Byrnes, a 15 year-old schoolgirl from Portland, Maine, and, he says:
Her treatise "Ponder the Maunder" is the most effective answer to the IPCC that I have seen so far. She writes from the first person (the scientists always use the passive), and she has a flair with simple English, apart from a few spelling errors. She is expert with images, graphs and devastating arguments. Her explanation of the current warm spell from El Niños, the sun and cosmic rays is impressive. I urge you all to read it. If we have a few young people like this around we can be assured that the current climate madness can be brought to an end.
Let's hope so. Kristen's intelligent, insightful presentation might be usefully contrasted with the braindead maunderings of these young idiots [The YoungTubers on EarthDay!] telling us how we're all going to die if we keep using too much toilet paper. Nothing like getting advice from a young root vegetable.

"Carbon credits" like tarot cards without the predictive value

What happens when, as Kiwi Pundit puts it, "people simultaneously advertise their ignorance and desire to spend money"? As he says, "it is not surprising that fraudsters will prey on them" -- and as the Financial Times points out, that's exactly that is happening in the case of so called "carbon credits." They cite
widespread instances of people and organisations buying worthless credits that do not yield any reductions in carbon emissions; industrial companies profiting from doing very little...; brokers providing services of questionable or no value; a shortage of verification...; [and] companies and individuals being charged over the odds for ... carbon permits that have plummeted in value because they do not result in emissions cuts.
Crikey, it's beginning to sound like just another government subsidy scheme, doesn't it? Or as KP concludes, "a little like complaining that a tarot card reader took your money but failed to accurately predict your future."

DEBATE: "We'd be better off without Religion."

Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and a philosopher by the name of AC Grayling appeared at Westminster Hall London recently to 'debate' "a trio of religious authorities" on the question, "We'd be better off without Religion."

The motion carried 1,205 to 778, and the audio for the debate appears at Richard Dawkins' website, although as a few disappointed commenters at the site have pointed out,
There was no debate. Those who opposed the motion effectively redefined religion to some vague notion of 'doing good.' Furthermore, there was no structured opportunity after the six statements to actually specifically refute the opponents' arguments one by one.
Still, the opening statements by both Hitchens and Dawkins (whom Hitchens calls "the spokesman for the moderate wing") and are superb. [Not so superb is Dawkins' brief appearance on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor -- see the video here on YouTube. Does O'Reilly really realise how stupid he sounds?]

The picture over there shows Free Radical writer Marcus Bachler outside a previous debate in this series on religion, on his way to delivering a copy of the last issue featuring Marcus' review of Dawkin's book The God Delusion, to the man himself.

Friday Fun: How (not) to use PowerPoint

Some Friday Fun from an unlikely source: How NOT to use Power Point, hosted at the Law Librarian Blog (there's a hat tip there for someone, if I could only remember whom).

Lots of good tips, including how to make your audience nauseous, hyperactive AND lose their bladder control...

Lyon-Satolas Airport Railway Station - Santiago Calatrava


Built for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, this is Santiago Calatrava's competition winning Airport Railway Station for Lyon-Satolas - as a sketch (right), as a model (above), and as the real thing (left).

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Scum on Anzac Day

Phil at Pacific Empire explains why the scum who were burning flags at yesterday morning's Wellington's Anzac commemoration were short-sighted, ignorant and arrested -- and deserved to be arrested. Says Phil:
Both my grandfathers and one great-grandfather served in the World Wars, and I place the highest value on the freedoms that they fought for. The protesters were:
  • Denigrating the fight against fascism and militarism, and introducing a sick kind of moral equivalence. Forget Bush = Hitler, they were implying that Churchill = Hitler.
  • Metaphorically pissing on the graves of over 30,000 New Zealanders. Comparable to what the Westboro Baptist Church does at funerals in the US.
  • Disturbing the peace. We were all engaged in silent, personal reflection and the interruption was an unwelcome violation of the ceremony.
  • Resisting arrest. (A 29-year old man (pictured) and a 35 year-old woman were arrested, the man shouting in a cowardly and undignified way as he was hauled off)
  • Accusing all New Zealand soldiers - ever - of being mercenary tools of the evil state.
  • Finally, they devalued freedom itself by using their freedom of speech to attack those who made it possible for them to have freedom of speech. And that freedom was not violated. Loudly disrupting the speeches and lighting a fire in a public place does not constitute free speech.
... Some people in defense of these protesters have claimed that they are actually honouring the soldiers who were killed in war, by calling for peace. This claim is false. The protesters, as is shown by blog posts and website comments they have authored [which Phil cites], accuse New Zealand soldiers of various crimes, even murder and contributing to terrorism. How can you honour soldiers killed in war by calling them murderers?
Read on here to see who these scum were, and who's paying their wages.

Truth, however inconvenient, will out.

The Guardian reports that "Dozens of climate scientists are trying to block the DVD release of a controversial Channel 4 programme that claimed global warming is nothing to do with human greenhouse gas emissions." As Marcus says, "There is nothing so dangerous as the truth, eh?"
Sir John Houghton, former head of the Met Office, and Bob May, former president of the Royal Society, are among 37 experts who have called for the DVD to be heavily edited or removed from sale... Martin Durkin, head of Wag TV, the independent production company that made the film ... said: "This contemptible attempt at gagging won't work. The reason they want to suppress The Great Global Warming Swindle is because the science has stung them. By comparison look at the mountains of absurd nonsense pedalled in the name of 'manmade climate change'. Too many scientists have staked their reputations and built their careers on global warming. There's a lot riding on this ridiculous theory. The DVD will be on sale shortly at a shop near you."
Good to hear he's resolute.

UPDATE: Tim Blair has the same news, that while "Crazy Al Gore’s climate change comedy is shown in schools from Australia to Norway; the old-school southern religious huckster shakes down scared Saskatchewanites, and is allowed to meddle in the politics of far-away nations," Gore's cheerleaders seem unable to tolerate even some minor dissent.
. . . The film, the Great Global Warming Swindle, was first shown on March 8, and was criticised by scientists as distorted and misleading.
Merely misleading? Well, that’s nothing like being completely and provably wrong, as is Gore’s claim that the US “can’t sell our cars in China today because we don’t meet the Chinese emissions standards”. Edit that, truth-seekers! (By the way, if Gore can be so wrong about something so easily checked, why should we trust him on rather more complex scientific issues?) Martin Durkin, the maker of Great Global Swindle, doesn’t seem too alarmed:
“The DVD will be on sale shortly at a shop near you."
Which is just as well, because few TV networks are likely to screen it, preferring to throw ratings away on warmening shows. Then again, perhaps the mood on climate change is changing

Caption contest

I'm sorting through a few pics for the next Free Radical, and I came across this one below on the steps of Parliament. What is MP Heather Roy trying to say (or do?)? Why is Lindsay Perigo smiling? And what exactly is Larry Baldock thinking?

Proposed captions are welcome.

Helen's ten-cent totem tax

Government floats idea of another ten-cent petrol tax to pay for electrification of Auckland's rail for the several dozen people who use it. Dick Hubbard says "make it 60c!" Barry bloody Curtis says it's "obvious." Sue Bradford says, "Bring it on!" John Key says, "Um, ah, ask me later," and he left to talk to his press agent.

North Shore's mayor George Wood was the only politician to talk sense, predicting "dire consequences" should anyone be stupid enough to make already high petrol prices even higher. Liberty Scott, who knows about these things, calls it "really stupid," but he always language that's far too mild for the circumstances. You should read his full analysis of this fatuous stupidity.
This idea is going ahead despite official advice [he says], because Helen Clark wants to electrify Auckland rail – it’s like a toy, a big expensive toy she wants to leave for Auckland and be remembered for it... This is about totems – Helen Clark and Michael Cullen are building a electric network of totem poles in Auckland, paid for by a stupid tax that is probably going to be paid for by all petrol motorists, but not paid for at all by around 15% of Auckland motorists who don’t use petrol.
"By the way," he concludes, "you already pay a 0.66c a litre tax to every territorial authority in the country (it's the same for them all making it easy to distribute), you might ask Auckland City Council and all of the others whether they spend their share on transport?" What do you think?

Homeowners take the blame for for govt spending binge -- exporters suffer further

Stop blaming home-owners for the problems of your Government's making, Real Estate Institute president Murray Cleland tells the Reserve Bank:

Mr Cleland said rising house prices would inevitably receive the blame for recent inflation increases, but property prices were not the only thing driving it. The Reserve Bank had a choice - it could either continue to "demonise" homeowners or it could put pressure on central and local government to rein in their own spending, he said.

Local authority rules limiting urban sprawl were driving up the cost of land, and therefore housing, he said. Levies, developer contributions and resource consents could also add up to $40,000 to the cost of a new home. In Wellington's central business district, public sector occupation had increased 27 per cent since December 2001, with further expansion expected to accommodate an ever-growing number of bureaucrats.

Rather than raising the official cash rate, Mr Cleland said the institute would rather the Reserve Bank "turned its attention to the public sector and begged them to stop spending other people's money."

Spending other people's money and restricting new housing is fuelling price inflation, and encouraging Bollard to slowly kill exporters and strangle producers with higher interest and exchange rates. As Fran O'Sullivan noted last week, Bollard is putting
the New Zealand economy on the flight-path for what could be one almighty crash.
The Reserve Bank's board knows full well that Bollard's strategies could push the economy to its tipping point - that perfect storm where a combination of extortionate interest rates and punishing exchange rate puts exporters out of business and results in a wave of bankruptcies and job losses.
If Bollard had any balls he wouldn't be demonising home-owners, strangling producers and putting the country's whole economic future at risk, he'd be ripping this overspending Government a new arsehole, and riding a few fucks into the town planners who (as this recent report showed) have raised land prices around Auckland over 300% in a decade. And if this Government had any credibility at all, they'd listen to him.

And pigs might fly.

The wisdom of Inuit elders

CBC NEWS: Polar bear numbers rising, Inuit elders tell wildlife board
Inuit elders in Nunavut's western Hudson Bay area say more polar bears need to be hunted, as their populations are rising — contrary to scientific data that suggests a decrease. Elders and hunters from the territory's Kivalliq region told the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board on the first day of public consultations Tuesday in Arviat that they and others have noticed more encounters with polar bears in recent years...

The government is concerned that polar bear population is declining, citing data from the Canadian Wildlife Service indicating the number has dropped below 1,000 bears, as their health and survival are being threatened by shrinking ice... But Johnny Karetak, an Inuit elder from southern Nunavut, told the hearing panel that Inuit don't agree the bear population is decreasing, and he doesn't want to see anyone get killed because there are more bears than people may think. Many elders at the meeting gave examples of frightening encounters with the bears — encounters they say are happening more often...

Just thought you should know. By the way, which word do you think best fits that polar bear above: "frolicking," or "drowning"?

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

ANZAC DAY: Lest we forget.

[Image from Charles Sargeant Jagger's Artillery Monument at Hyde Park Corner, London.]

What you can do today to support free speech

From No Right Turn, with my one-hundred percent support:

The government has responded positively to yesterday's call by four minor parties to repeal our archaic sedition law, saying that it is a sign that repeal has wide support. This is good, but we shouldn't leave him in any doubt. So I've created a Pledgebank pledge saying

I will write to Justice Minister Mark Burton urging the repeal of New Zealand's sedition laws but only if 20 other New Zealanders will do the same.

You can sign it here.

Twenty people doesn't sound like many, but based on previous pledges its an achievable target, and I want this to succeed. You can also sign up after the target has been reached, and I encourage people to do so - the greater the show of support from the public, the greater the chance that the government will act.

I urge you to sign up and send a letter to Burton. I have. (More info here at Section 14 on the minor parties' call for sedition repeal, and more on the press conference at DPF's. As Bernard says there, "I would never have imagined that you put these four parties in the same room and expect anything sensible to come out but credit where credit’s due - this is a creditable move.")

As I've said here before, "the legal definition of sedition is so broad as to criminalise virtually any criticism of the government. If today's political opposition were doing their job properly, they should themselves fall guilty under the Act every day in Parliament. Not likely today, however. And not one word either in opposition to this case from any of today's supine, brain-dead, morally-castrated, principle-free opposition."

It took a while, but the minor parties have finally got there, and with a bit of help from yourselves, they can get this offence to free speech off the books for good.

War. What is it good for?

Today's Anzac commemorations bring many reflections on the nature of war. Here very briefly is mine.

War is immensely brutal, intensely destructive, utterly brutal and heart-breakingly tragic for all involved. War is horrific. Wars very rarely have winners, only those who have lost the least. War, as The Age said, "is a dangerous and terrible thing, which should only ever be seen as a last resort."

In short, war is the second-worst thing on earth. But wars are not acts of nature. They are not acts of God: Wars are acts of man, of men who hope to achieve their values by violence, and who will do so if others do not rise to defend their own lives and their own values. They are the second-worst thing on earth only because the very worst is tyranny, an act of war by governments against those they are supposed to protect. It is tyrannical governments and movements intent on inflicting tyranny and oppression against others that begin wars of conquest and campaigns of terror. It is the existence of such entities that make wars of self-defence necessary.

When such tyrannies exist and are allowed to exist, then peace without justice is not true peace.

Peace without justice rewards the tyrannical, and is an injustice to those the tyrants enslave and kill. As long as some human beings choose to deal with other human beings with the whip, the chain and the gun -- with stonings, fatwahs and holocausts -- with the torture chamber, the dungeon and the gulag -- as long as some men continue to enslave and attempt to enslave others, then wars will continue to happen, and we will continue to need to be ready to defend ourselves.

If we have things worth living for, which we do, then for that much at least we all have things worth defending. As Thomas Jefferson observed over two-hundred years ago, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Two-hundred years later, nothing has changed. If war is horrific, then tyranny is worse.

LINKS: Lest we forget, Anzac day is for those who know what war is - The Age
The news is out: Governments kill - Not PC

TAGS:
War, History, History-Twentieth_Century, Socialism, Politics-World

Universal Soldier, by Martine Vaugel



TAGS: Art, Sculpture

Dawn.

Well, that was worth staying awake for, wasn't it. I speak not of the Anzac dawn ceremony, but but the bloody tragic cricket result. Cactus had this assessment at the innings break:
1. Aliens have taken over Shane Bond's body. Who was that guy bowling?
2. Aliens gave Craig McMillan, the fattest Black Cap a strained stomach muscle. He doesn't have any muscles in his stomach.
3. Aliens wrapped Scott Styris' finger in tape so he could not bowl more than an over.
4. Aliens hit Jacob Oram on the heel.
5. Aliens keep moving the stumps when our fielders threw the ball.
6. Aliens took over the Umpires to give 2 terrible decisions.
But aliens didn't take over our batsmen. That was just shit-hot bowling of the kind the Black Caps just couldn't produce.

Bugger.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Which party?

Howard Phillips of the U.S. Taxpayer’s Party (a faith-based political party) makes an important observation.
Throughout history there have been three political parties – one is the party that believes in the sovereignty of God (and [Phillips] works with such a party, the U.S. Taxpayers Party); the other is a party which believes in the sovereignty of man and man’s reason - (and libertarians are of that view); and the third is every other party which believes in the sovereignty of the state – that the state is God walking on Earth.
Which of the three do you support?

Carter ignores Canute: plans to repeal supply and demand

The legend of King Canute is that his courtiers were so fawning that they thought he was all-powerful, something close to a God. In an effort to demonstrate that he wasn't, he sat at the beach and issued a decree that the tide must stop coming in: hours later, awash in water, he had demonstrated to his fawning followers that the laws of nature are not be be repealed even by the decrees of a king.

Housing Minister Chris Carter has learned nothing from Canute's lesson. Carter, who as conservation minister disgraced himself over his abuse of the Whangamata Marina consent process, now thinks he can repeal the laws of supply and demand.

Meddling with the laws of supply and demand is what's already caused Auckland's housing costs to explode, making it a seriously unaffordable place in which to buy a house. The report on Auckland's housing released yesterday, which I summarised here, demonstrated that increased demand (positive net immigration, higher incomes, higher employment, and increased credit) coupled with serious regulatory restrictions on supply (excessive regulations on both land and construction through the RMA and the Building Act) has caused the cost of both land and new building to go through the roof, even as developers' margins are cut to the bone.

Carter's solution? Canute-like, he intends to issue a decree that housing be made affordable. On top of all the regulatory hurdles already in place for those building new homes, he wants to add one more: he intends to decree that developers, whose margins are increasingly slim, will have to add so-called 'affordable housing' to their developments -- low-cost housing on high-cost land; land made more expensive by the meddling of planners -- leaving any profits to be made from these homes to the purchasers who subsequently onsell them.

This will not result in an increase in affordable housing: it will result in developers' margins becoming even slimmer, and their ranks becoming as a consequence even fewer; fewer developers with slimmer margins will do nothing to decrease demand, but it will help to even further decrease supply (and to demonstrate once again that the laws of economics are not be be repealed even by the decrees of a minister).

Carter has learned nothing from Canute, or from history -- or from the Law of Unintended Consequences. The history of government controls is like the story of the Emperor's New Clothes in reverse: New controls are added all the time in order to fix the problems caused by previous controls, but no one is listening to the little boy who is saying, "Why not just take off the controls altogether, and then you won't need to make up new ones." Why not just get governments both central and local the hell out of the way altogether?

Ever-increasing and ever-higher interest rates designed to squelch booming housing prices; the mortgage levy; the de facto cartelisation of NZ's 'big five' banks; now a decree that more affordable homes be built ... all measures desperately calculated to fix the symptoms of exploding housing costs while ignoring the regulatory causes.

Perhaps it's time to listen to that little boy now? Message to Mr Carter; to the city's councillors and to Carter's ministerial colleagues and to the all the denizens of all the planning departments that you and your predecessors have unleashed to meddle with our land: Get the hell out of the way!

Boris Yelstin: A man for his time

Boris Yeltsin has died. The world first started paying attention to him in 1989 when as the Mayor of Moscow he visited a Houston supermarket, and he wept at what he saw. He cried from what communism had done to the Russian people. "When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons, and goods of every possible sort," he said, "for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people. That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it."

He showed promise. That promise was fulfilled. In 1990 he helped to destroy the Soviet Empire from within and brought down the communist grip on Eastern Europe, and in 1991 he faced down the tanks of a communist counter-revolution and confirmed the collapse of the Soviet Empire, and the coming of political freedom to Russia for the first time since ... well, ever. "


Seen on television cameras all around the world, Yeltsin condemned the counter-revolution as "an anti-constitutional act," an attempt to "remove from power the legally elected authorities of the Russian Republic." He called on "the citizens of Russia to give a fitting rebuff to the putschists ..." They did.


This was a great thing for Russia, and for everyone around the world watching.

Yeltsin brought a measure of political freedom, for a time, but economic freedom and fuller supermarkets proved somewhat more difficult, proving again the adage that a good revolutionary leader will very rarely have the qualities needed to be a good peacetime leader.

He was however the first leader of Russia who didn't die in office, who resigned before he either died of it or was assassinated. Handing over to KGB chief Putin was not his finest hour -- standing atop a tank in front of the Russian 'White House' to face down communist counter-revolution: that was Yeltsin's finest hour, and it was a defining moment in history for which he will be fondly remembered.

Farewell Boris.

Apollo Montessori School, Amsterdam - Herman Hertzberger

It is almost possible to say that there is a
mathematical relationship between the beauty of
his surroundings and the activity of the child;
he will make discoveries rather more voluntarily
in a gracious setting than in an ugly one...
We must, therefore, quit our roles as jailers and
instead take care to prepare an environ
ment in
which we do as little as possible to exhaust the
child with our surveillance a
nd instruction.
- Maria Montessori


From the Montessori AMI Bulletin #2, 2006, comes an article about the Montessori schools of Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger, from which comes this brief excerpt.
Even though only five of the twenty-five schools he built are Montessori schools, he has gained a reputation as a Montessori architect par excellence. He attributes that to the fact that every
one of his Montessori schools prepared the way for a new tradition, a different way of handling space...

Hertzberger’s interest in Montessori goes back to his own school days: he was a Montessori child from age four until age eighteen (from 12-18 he attended the Amsterdam Montessori Lyceum). Add to that the fact that he married a Montessori teacher, and that one of his daughters also took to a professional Montessori career, and all the ingredients are in place for a passionate and enduring interest. It is remarkable that he usually refers to ‘people’ or ‘users’; only occasionally does he say children—it says much about the way he sees children as owners of their school.

Leading principles Hertzberger stresses that Montessori was a genius, a great innovator. He is tremendously drawn to her ideas about space and room: allowing the child his own private room for development, in a mental and physical environment that supports and stimulates that concept...

In the Apollo Montessori School in Amsterdam the central staircase is literally the focal point. The brown wooden steps invite children to engage in all sorts of spontaneous or organised
activities. Hertzberger shows a photo where children lie on the steps, working, playing a game of chess. This communal space allows for cross links, it is a meeting place for all. He has provided several points of suspension: ‘hang up a few curtains and you create a theatre, hang up a net with butterflies, and the environment changes again.’

He points out that the choice of a warm material, wood, combined with the very shape and form of steps invite the children to use them actively, to lie on them. ‘See they’ve taken off their shoes. They lie on their tummies, with crossed legs. It flows from the idea that it feels like lying on a table. My shapes and objects try to call up feelings and possibilities: similar to Montessori’s idea of presenting materials.’

Monday, 23 April 2007

When the facts change , why don't environmentalists?

Objecting to the characterisation of environmentalists the other day as "anti-human," our friend DenMT declared, "The whole argument as espoused here is so interminably bound up in woolly 'philosophical and political underpinnings' that a grasp of the real world appears to have been lost."

I must confess, I found that amusing, particularly when you consider the many mad and inhuman things said by many environmentalists, the many fatuous environmental predictions of disasters that never came to be (and more of those here), the many misunderstandings of how the world works -- of property rights, for example, or common law. Or price signals and markets. Of the potentially infinite supply of resources when you realise that the ultimate resource is the human mind.

In fact, I laughed all over again when I recalled the statement as I read this last night on Samizdata:
I still think of myself as an environmentalist. Almost everyone is interested in their living conditions. So I hope in that sense you do, too.

My problem with greenery is that I also think. Something that many greens have given up decades past. It was apparent to me even 20 years ago, that most were adapting their understanding of the problems - and indeed inventing problems - to match their prefabricated concept of a good society. I tried to fix that. I failed.

There are lots of exceptions, and I still have a lot of time for those who hang on to rationality. But unfortunately they tend to feel too much loyalty to the Green brand to distinguish themselves from it. Maybe this is good politics, but I think it is bad policy. Fostering craziness leads to the growth of craziness.
Read on for some certified gold-plated, real nut-job craziness of the type that'd be right at home in Russel Normans' lounge, about which Guy at Samizdata asks, When the Facts Change , why don't environmentalists?

New report confirms runaway regulation feeding runaway house costs

A new study commissioned by the Housing Corporation and released this afternoon says that policies set to restrict sprawl and to limit choice are making housing in Auckland severely unaffordable -- findings that due to the inanity of Alan Bollard and the Reserve Bank Act affect us all, and effectively confirm what previous studies by Wendell Cox, Hugh Pavletich and Demographia have been saying all along: that envy is making housing unaffordable; that so-called sustainable cities are unaffordable cities; that sprawl is good, but regulation is not; that 'smart growth' is not green; that NZ housing affordability is in crisis, and the dream of home ownership is now just that: a dream.

Among the key findings of today's report from the Centre for Housing Research[pdf] are:
  • Since 2000, increases in demand for housing [in Auckland] have outstripped increases in its supply. The result has been a major increase in land and house prices. A range of factors have contributed to increased demand including positive net immigration, higher incomes and higher employment, coupled with strong ability to borrow to finance house purchase. A number of factors have constrained supply. One of these has been a supply of land limited by regulation and zoning. Another contributor has been difficulties in the consents process, especially its time consuming nature; lack of appropriate resources within councils to handle both non-notifiable and notifiable consents is partly responsible for this situation.
  • Population in the region grew 35.0% in the fifteen years to 2006. Over the same
    period, the stock of dwellings rose faster (36.9%). In the five years to 2006 however, this
    relationship reversed: population increased by 11.6% while dwelling stock rose
    10.9%.
  • Between 2000 and 2005, the median house sales price rose by over 60% in Rodney District, North Shore City and Auckland City, by over 50% in Waitakere and Franklin, and by 48% and 39% in Manukau and Papakura respectively. Over the decade to 2005, the median ... price increased in a range of 88% (Papakura) to 131% (Rodney and Franklin). Apartment prices also rose strongly, but not as much as for house prices. This lower rate of apartment inflation may reflect a variety of factors including: more responsive supply of apartments than houses; differential construction costs for the two types of dwelling; temporary oversupply of (some types of) apartments; differences in investor versus owner-occupier attitudes to risk and yield; and a preference by purchasers for stand-alone
    houses over apartments.
    The difference between house and apartment inflation also reflects land inflation. Vacant section prices doubled or more than doubled in the five years to 2005 in Auckland City, Waitakere and Franklin. Over the decade to 2005, the median vacant section price across all areas rose from a 'low' of 108% in Manukau to highs of 334%, 329% and 315% in Auckland City, Franklin and Rodney respectively.
  • Auckland's Regional Growth Strategy (RGS), adopted by the ARC and by all seven councils in 1999, sets the overarching strategy for Auckland development and urban form. The 'Growth Strategy' promotes a compact city capable of accommodating at least 2 million people by 2050. Intensification of dwellings and population is sought around growth nodes situated around town centres and transport links.
    The Regional Growth Strategy adopts Metropolitan Urban Limits (MUL) that set a boundary within which residential, business and other 'urban activities' are to occur. Proposed Plan Change 6 to the Growth Strategy sees urban activities effectively banned outside the MUL.
  • Surveyed private sector stakeholders (including developers) identify two key themes concerning Auckland house supply constraints: land constraints and council-related issues relating especially to consent processes and infrastructure.
  • Most see three land issues as posing major constraints to development: land availability, land ownership, and cost of land. Land availability reflects the existence of urban growth controls (that is, the Metropolitan Urban Limit).
  • The Metropolitan Urban Limit results in limited land supply available for greenfields development... Greater restrictions on development beyond the existing Metropolitan Urban Limit under [the Auckland Regional Council's] Plan Change 6 would make [this] even more problematic.
  • The overall effect of actual and proposed zoning changes is to limit urban expansion, leading to a shortage of land suitable for large scale development. Zoning changes have done little to enhance the rate of intensification. The latter is occurring but not at the rate envisaged in the Regional Growth Strategy.
  • High land prices promote intensification by incentivising apartment living over stand-alone dwellings. This has acted to the benefit of larger scale CBD developers. However others note that where land prices (and other costs) become too high, any kind of development becomes unprofitable and so does not proceed.
  • Council planning procedures and consent processing times are the subject of huge dissatisfaction amongst private stakeholders. Over 80% of respondents see these two features as major development constraints. Consent approval processes tend to proceed iteratively within councils, each item having to be 'solved' before the next officer becomes involved. This leads to a prolonged process. Developers consider that councils are neither aware of the length of the consent process nor of the implications of delay.
  • Delays are most extensive where a development is notifiable, opening up the potential for objections and lengthy hearings. Developers seek to avoid notification at all costs. This frequently means they settle for 'lowest common denominator' developments that meet all District Plan requirements, rather than including innovative features that might make the development notifiable.
  • Freeing up land supply, while necessary to alleviate high land prices, is not sufficient. The manner in which land is made available is as important as any extension. Dribbling new land onto the market in a pre-specified pattern allows existing landowners to retain monopoly rights and high land prices.
To most of us trying to work in Auckland's increasingly frustrating regulatory environment none of this will come as news, but it might help explain to those who don't work here why the work is becoming much less enjoyable, and why the number of small private developers working in and around Auckland is diminishing.

The losers here are many: would-be new home-owners priced out of the market; developers and designers priced and regulated out of profits and innovation; producers and exporters suffering under the Reserve Banks' high and higher interest rates (and the resulting soaring exchange rates) hiked in an impotent attempt to cure the ills of a market that is being strangled by red tape.

This disaster, allow me to point out, is almost single-handedly the fault of people who almost ironically go by the title of "planner." It's time to make "planning" a dirty word.

LINK: Housing supply in the Auckland region, 2000-2005 - Centre for Housing Research [145-page PDF]

Denying non-taxpayers the right to vote

It 's not widely known, but the 600,000 residents of Washington, D. C. are barred from voting in Federal elections, something a new bill that has just passed through the House seeks to alter. George Reisman is opposed to the bill, and he has a strong expectation that it won 't survive in the Senate. Why is he opposed? The answer is quite simple.
The overwhelming majority of the citizens of Washington, D. C. are employees of the federal government. As such, they are not taxpayers, but rather the recipients of taxes paid by other people. Whatever taxes they nominally pay are merely a deduction from the tax proceeds they have received. All of the income they obtain and keep is from the proceeds of taxation.

Denial of the right to vote to citizens of Washington, D. C., serves in some measure to protect the taxpaying citizens of the United States from the depredations of those who live off their taxes and who would like to tax them still more.
Perhaps denying the citizens of Helengrad the 'right' to vote would perform a similar service here.

LINK: No Representation for Taxation - George Reisman's Blog

Some YouTube mirth.

Some YouTube mirth with a purpose this morning:
  1. How Could I Live Without Filing Taxes!
  2. Penn & Teller on the War on Drugs, Part 1 - the War on Drugs, they say, is Bullshit!

Ideas for a Free Society

Anybody with an eye for a bargain and a thirst for knowledge of how the world works will want to snap this up: Ideas for a Free Society, a comprehensive CD's worth of the world's best literature on liberty -- Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, Tibor Machan, Henry Hazlitt, Frederic Bastiat, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, Julian Simon, Hernando de Soto and many, many, many more luminaries of liberty -- and all for just $5!

Produced in the UK by the International Policy Network (IPN), they're distributed here by, wait for it, the Business Roundtable!

IPN has an online summary of the contents:
Click here to order yours now.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Quotes for Today

False is the idea of utility that ... would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.
- Cesare Beccaria, as quoted by Thomas Jefferson

"Gun control" is a job-safety program for criminals.
- John R. Lott

An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.
- Robert A. Heinlein

To disarm the people... was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.
- George Mason

The world is filled with violence. Because criminals carry guns, we decent law-abiding citizens should also have guns. Otherwise they will win and the decent people will lose.
- James Earl Jones

The biggest hypocrites on gun control are those who live in upscale developments with armed security guards -- and who want to keep other people from having guns to defend themselves. But what about lower-income people living in high-crime, inner city neighborhoods? Should such people be kept unarmed and helpless, so that limousine liberals can 'make a statement' by adding to the thousands of gun laws already on the books?
- Thomas Sowell

Gun Control: The theory that a woman found dead in an alley, raped and strangled with her panty hose, is somehow morally superior to a woman explaining to police how her attacker got that fatal bullet wound.
- L. Neil Smith

A man with a gun is a citizen. A man without a gun is a subject.
- John R. Lott

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Is going green bad for business?

Is going green bad for business? Yes, says Peter Schwartz from the Ayn Rand Institute in this video interview on CNBC ahead of Earth Day. "'Going green' is cowardly appeasement," says Schwartz bluntly.
You're trying to mollify an ideology that is opposed to your fundamental values. Environmentalism does not want to protect nature for man, it wants to protect nature from man... Environmentalists want to sacrifice man for nature, and to nature... Appeasing environmentalism is self-destructive for businessmen.
The video link is here: Going Green:Bad for Business. Can the invisible hand of the market deliver a 'sustainable nation'? I answered that one myself a few weeks back.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Beer O’Clock: Brugge Tripel

Beer wisdom this week from Neil at the RealBeer Blog:

Saying that I like Belgian beer is about as big an understatement as saying that Muralitharan possibly throws the ball. I positively love Belgian beers so it is always good to see a new one like Brugge Tripel become increasingly available.

Brugge Tripel (8.5%) is made by the Palm brewery in Brugge (also known as Bruges). This is the capital and largest city in the province of West Flanders and it boasts a great deal of history, architecture and culture.

There are a number of allegedly notable people from Brugge most of whom I haven’t heard of (such as Guido Gezelle and Philip the Good). In fact, the only names I really recognized on the list of Brugge notables were William Caxton (the printer) and Dr Evil (the villain from Austin Powers).

I went to the Palm Brewing Company website to find some more information about this beer. It is a multi-lingual website – you can read it in Dutch or French. How handy! Eventually, I managed to find the English version which was much more helpful. [link below]

For me, Brugge Tripel is a well-balanced, well-made example of the Belgian Tripel style.

An abbey tripel like this is a very strong, Belgian golden ale brewed in the style of a Trappist Tripel by a secular brewer. Leffe Tripel is the best known example (if not the best example) of the genre which is traditionally pale, hoppy, strong and dry.

This particular beer is triple fermented and bottle conditioned so there will be some living yeast in the bottle. The brewer excitedly notes “Some yeast may come too while serving. No problem, yeast is healthy, it is vitamin B!”

I’m not sure whether this golden beer with a strong rocky head “truly evoques [sic] the very best of Bruges” as the brewer claims but it certainly has an appetizing yeasty, spicy nose with a hint of perfumey hops. The beer is thick and full in the mouth, strongly alcoholic with a pleasant orange sweetness cleared out by a long, quite dry finish.

LINKS: Brewery
SOBA
RealBeer Blog

Sledging

You might have heard the recent controversy over some sledging in top level Aussie Rules in which a player broke the "sledging taboo" by "using a child target." Former AFL player Tony Shaw -- who's been known for a fair bit of successful sledging in his own time -- reflects on the recent sledging, why some players are targets for it, and whether sledging should have taboos. [See The Silly Science of Sledging.]

His point, perhaps, was summed up once by former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell. We view a mental weakness the same as a weakness outside off stump, he said: Something to exploit.

I trust all the Black Caps' mental weaknesses will be well buttoned up come Finals time next week. Let's hope so.

British parents oppose Al Bore's propaganda in their schools

Marcus notes that there are heartening signs in Britain of resistance to government funded enviro-propaganda. From the Guardian:
Government plans to distribute [Al Bore's] documentary An Inconvenient Truth throughout British schools have met with staunch opposition from a ... group of parents in the New Forest. The education secretary, Alan Johnson, announced in February that the film ... will form part of a climate change pack that will be sent out to every secondary school as an aid to promote discussion on global warming. But a group of concerned New Forest parents have labelled the documentary inaccurate propaganda that breaches the Education Act 2002 and are threatening legal action. Their spokesman, Derek Tripp, today told the Telegraph newspaper: "The film goes well beyond the consensus view and is not therefore suitable material to present to children who need to be given clear and balanced, factually accurate information."
He's right, you know.

Does evil exist?

Does evil exist in the world? Yesterday's post in which I quoted Dr Michael Hurd on the evil of of the Virginia Tech killer kicked off a discussion about the nature of evil, and whether or not we can judge someone as evil.

Can we? Well, I say that we can, and that it is something we each need to understand. As Andrew Bernstein says in his recent examination of evil, "it is crucially important to understand the nature of evil. Evil must be examined – as an act of self-preservation – to keep it from poisoning one’s soul with the slightest bit of pessimistic despair. In the face of evil run rampant, it is crucially important to protect [what Ayn Rand called] the benevolent universe premise."

But first, let's clear up something about the nature of evil. The religionists' monopoly on morality has confused many, many things about the subject, and one them of them is this very question: whether and how evil exists. Despite what many christians will tell you, 'evil' is not some supernatural 'Satanic' force that's out there in the world, any more than God's goodness or Wotans' power or Alberich's evil curse are some sort of force in the universe.

Fairy stories like these can help illustrate morality, but we shouldn't let them form our morality for us. Rational morality -- an examination of what's good and what's not -- does not pertain to and nor is it derived from the supernatural. Morality pertains to life here on earth. Good and evil reside in the actions of individuals who perpetrate good or evil acts.

Good (as I argued at length in a recent post) pertains to those actions and to those moral principles that when acted upon lead to the advancement, the furthering, or the flourishing of human life on earth. Life is the standard which lies at the heart of a rational morality -- individual, human life. According to this principle, all that which supports or promotes an individual’s life is good, and all that retards or destroys man's life is not good.

But 'not good' is not yet 'evil.' Evil is something much, much worse. Evil isn't just the mistaken, the error-ridden, the minor stuff-up -- that's just bad. Evil is a passionate dedication to destruction; a concerted commitment to the anti-life; a deliberate defiance of facts and reason and human values: a spitting in the face of existence.

Objectivists argue that the good requires a commitment to facts, to rationality, to productiveness. Evil men stand opposed to this: opposed to reality, to the rational, to every value on which human life depends. "The principle is clear," says Andrew Bernstein, "irrationality is self-destructive... Because of this, evil is metaphysically impotent: it cannot build, grow, create, or produce. Achievements require commitment to the laws and facts of reality. Evil requires the opposite."

But this poses an obvious question: If evil men cannot even sustain their own lives, how do they acquire the power to destroy? Andrew Bernstein answers this and much more in his superb five-part examination of Villainy: An Examination of the Nature of Evil -- including a controversial argument: that it is most moralists who are most responsible for most of the evil in the world.

I highly recommend it.

Longer or shorter?

As a blogger, some posts are popular and some aren't. There's no way of knowing in advance which one will be which. Some posts are sent out into the world with great hope, posts of which the blogger feels particularly proud; posts perfectly and lovingly crafted; posts that the blogger feels really nails a topic.

Sadly, readers often tend to disagree. They'll often ignore the lengthy, lovingly crafted arguments and click instead on that nifty one-liner, or on the post of the dancing dead budgy posted on the same day somewhat further down the page -- and of course the customer is always right. If that's what they want, then that's what they want.

So what should a blogger do? Should I spend more time on longer, more thoughtful posts like yesterday's 'It's Not Easy Being Green' -- which began as a short note to myself, and quickly blew out to a lovingly crafted 2,000 words once I started typing in earnest -- but which attracted no comments and no links, or should I concentrate more on one-liners and dancing budgies?

Just thought I'd ask.

No need to see killer's boasts

Speaking for myself, I have to say that I didn't appreciate seeing several minutes last night of a murderer's 'video manifesto,' made on his way between killing two people and heading off to kill thirty more. I don't really need to see it, any more than I need to see self-justifying boasts to camera from other mass killers in other parts of the world -- and if I was a family member of one of those killed by this evil bastard, I'd be justifiably pissed off to see his boasting splashed across my TV screen while my loved one lies dead at his hand.

If you'd been the NBC/TV3 news editor, would you have shown so much of the killer's unhinged eulogy to himself? Would you have boasted, as TV3 did, that viewers could see much more of his video at their website? Or do you agree with Virginia Police Superintendent Steve Flaherty, the officer in charge of the investigation, who was "disappointed US channel NBC, to whom the tape had been sent, chose to show the disturbing footage."
He said: "We are trying to determine what happened and as much as possible, why, why this terrible tragedy occurred. I just think that a lot of folks are not used to seeing that type of image.
In my submission, nor should "folks" need to become used to seeing it. Choosing to splash so much of it across so much of the airwaves was a very poor decision.

Santiago Calatrava in Valencia


There may be no wind in Valencia at present, but there is Santiago Calatrava's architecture to enjoy.

Here's some more of his work around his home town, including the City of Arts and Sciences, and the new Opera House (left, below).

Talking about Calatrava's work, Theodor Heuss contrasts it with the technology that some critics disparagingly call it :
The fate, and perhaps the purpose of technology is to grow old ... Art does not age: whatever it is, however old it is, it has an immanent presence and a direct effect on people.
Calatrava's art undeniably speaks for itself. And it speaks beautifully.