Friday, 8 June 2007

Beer O'Clock: Westmalle

It's Friday, it's almost Beer O'Clock, and this Friday your regular Beer O'Clock post come to you from Stu, a member of the Real Beer blog and the Society for Beer Advocates, SOBA. Today, we learn about what even this blog will concede is one of the good things that religion has brought us. Read on...

I generally feel sorry for people with religious tendencies and a direct line to the Almighty. It seems like lot of hard work and sacrifice, and for what? The promise of eternal salvation? That's a little like working hard for a boss who never gives you anything in return, but promises you a pay rise "next month." Just as it was for Alice's Red Queen, so it seems with the Almighty: it's always jam tomorrow and jam yesterday - but never jam today. But perhaps it just seems like always when the pleasures are few and far between.

There is one group of inveterate lion-chasers however for whom I could only ever feel a twinge of genuine jealousy. These enlightened souls are the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance - also known as Trappist monks. Trappist monks have become world famous for their excellent beer, their delectable cheeses, their stunning architecture and their strict appellation that protects their use of the Trappist term. There are seven Trappist breweries:
  • Chimay, who is the most famous;
  • Rochefort and Westvleteren are held in the highest regard by beer hunters (think train spotters, but with leather jackets rather than anoraks);
  • Achel is the smallest;
  • La Trappe is the only non-Belgian Trappist brewery, and is the most notorious, having been being kicked out of the Trappist association after breaking some of the strict trading rules - they have since beer readmitted and are just now becoming available in NZ;
  • Orval is probably the most distinctive, and my own clear favourite.
Which leaves Westmalle, something of a "middle child" among this richly celebrated company.

Westmalle beers (that's their abbey at the right, by the way) are available at most good bottle stores, supermarkets and all of the Belgian beer cafés these days. Their Tripel is a delight, and is a mind blowing experience for anyone whose only tripel experience was Monteith's deservedly maligned seasonal release last year.

The Westmalle Tripel pours a pale gold, slightly hazy, with a dense white foam and a complex heady aroma - firstly of apricot and sea breeze, then of sweet dough, sour fruit, white wine and woody spices. In the mouth it's dry, tart and highly carbonated. It has a strong alcoholic character underpinned by herbal notes, reminiscent of absinthe, and delivers a generously spicy clove-like finish.

An exceptionally complex beer that's perfect for indoor drinking at this "unseasonably warm" time of year.

If God does indeed exist, then Benjamin Franklin probably summed up his reason for being, when stating: "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." The Trappist monks would agree, God bless 'em.

Have a beery good weekend.

Slainte mhath, Stu

LINKS: Pascal's Wager.

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Repudiate African aid, and promote African self-help

Guilt-induced blatherings about Africa are emerging from the G8 conference. But the west has nothing to feel guilty about* in regard to Africa: it's not the west who makes Africa poor, it's Africans. Africa is not poor because we made it so, says Elan Journo at the Ayn Rand Institute:
Africa is poor because it is rife with bloody tribalism and superstition--ideas that in the Dark Ages kept the Western world as poor, if not poorer, than today's Africa. If aid advocates were genuinely concerned with helping Africans, they would campaign for political and economic freedom; for individualism, reason and capitalism; for the ideas necessary to achieve prosperity.
That this is emphatically not what "aid advocates" are out in the street yelling for suggests that helping Africans is not the chief motivation behind their yelling. [Hat tip Liberty Scott].

UPDATE: A colleague on the O-Blogger list sent me a link to an interview with James Shikwati, who I've mentioned here before. "For God's sake, please stop the aid," says Shikwati to G8 leaders.

I'd suggest that if there were more James Shikwatis in Africa, then Africa would be a much more self-reliant place, and undoubtedly a mihc wealthier and a much happier place. As my colleague says, they "might actually be able to eradicate poverty by creating more wealth instead of promoting legalized theft."
- - - - -

* Correction: the west does have one thing about which it should feel guilty, and that is western Europe's and the US's closed borders to African trade. The irony here however is that those yelling loudest for a guilt-trip to help Africa are also the loudest in their opposition to free trade.

Go figure.

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A right dicking

Crikey, the boys must have been excited when they woke this morning after their all-night celebrations with the Louis Vuitton Cup under their arm and a head like a soft-boiled egg, only to find this media release from Dick Hubbard coming off their fax congratulating them on their 5-0 clean sweep, and letting them know that Auckland's soon-to-be-ejected Mayor is "right behind Emirates Team New Zealand in their quest to bring the Auld Mug home."

Must have made it all seem worthwhile. :-)

It's Friday


Generalife, Grenada - before AD 1319

The early Islamic culture in Span represented a high civilization, far higher than anything else around at that time, and for the longest time it was good and getting better. The pictures here show the Generalife at Grenada -- built before Islam turned towards death worship, and was instead worshipping this life, and pleasure on this earth.

What a contrast to Islam today!

And why wouldn't you celebrate life on this earth, if not for foul ideas that suggest we shouldn't.


Thursday, 7 June 2007

Great news!

The police case against Greg Carvell, who shot a machete-wielding man in the Carvell's family gun shop, has been dismissed.

Great news! But why the hell did it take a year to come to this, with all the stress involved in the charges being laid and heard and talked up?

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Psst, anybody wanna buy some "traditional remedies," eh?

Amidst all the many loud and long and highly principled protests against the promised regulation of supplements, natural and alternative medicines (it's my body and I'll put whichever homeopathic non-medicine into my body I like, thank you very much), Russell at 'Hard News' puts his head above the parapet in support of Annette King's Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill.

It's one that libertarians should recognise; one involving the argument that quackery and fraud should be illegal...

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Religion poisons the politics of the left

While Richard Dawkins has been taking the polite approach to arguing with religionists, and generally finding opposition mostly from the right of the aisle, Christopher Hitchens -- who has taken to referring to Ayn Rand as "two leading public intellectuals of the American Right in the last two, three decades" -- has taken a more acerbic approach to the argument in his book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, and his opposition has come mostly from the hysterical left.

Here's an example, a recent debate between Hitchens and a wanker called Chris Hedges. The Zombie Time blog has an account and videos of the debate, and the explanation of how the so-called secular left wind up defending religion against a so-called neocon.
Surprising as it might seem in a contemporary political landscape where mocking religion is an established liberal pastime and where Christianity and spirituality are most often associated with conservatism, it was Hitchens -- now loathed by the left for not toeing the party line over the Iraq War -- who attacked religion, while the neo-Socialist, anti-patriotic, radical Hedges volunteered for the seemingly topsy-turvy position of having to defend spirituality and the existence of God.

How did this strange state of affairs come to pass? In one word: Islam.

The left -- of which Hitchens was a part until recently -- has always been anti-religion. But now, they've become caught in a philosophical bind: how can they promote multiculturalism -- and by extension all non-Western cultures, such as fundamentalist Islam -- if they condemn religion in general? Neocon pundits have since 9/11 frequently accused the left of being in bed with Muslim extremists, a charge which the left has vehemently denied. But with every denial their position was becoming more and more untenable, as the verbiage and narratives of Islamic radicals and "anti-war" progressives have grown to become virtually indistinguishable...

OK, let's be frank: Hitchens absolutely mopped the floor with Hedges. It was an embarrassment, really. Scroll down to watch the videos of Hitchens' performance to see what I mean.
Tune in and watch neo-Socialist, anti-patriotic, radical Hedges cheered on by the supporters of suicide bombing. [Hat tip Boaz the Boor].

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Sacrificed again on the cross of "price stability"

Another interest rate rise (now the highest in the OECD), another rise in the exchange rate, another higher hurdle for exporters and producers, another sign that this pathetic addiction to "price stability" is crucifying everyone except those foreign investors enjoying our over-inflated interest rates.
In the quarterly monetary policy statement issued along with today's OCR review, the bank says previous tentative rebalancing of the economy toward exports and away from domestic demand appears to have stalled because of the high dollar.
See. So just what the hell is he doing this for, and why?
The bank has been nudging the OCR up by a quarter of a percentage point every six weeks since early March, blaming resurgent domestic demand, climbing house prices, labour shortages and government spending for fuelling inflation pressures.

This time it also fingers soaring dairy prices, warning their boost to farm incomes will add to inflation pressures.
It's undoubtedly true that government spending is partially responsible for fuelling inflation, a responsibility shared by the Reserve bank's expansion of the money supply. But the banks' reasons for concern represent a flawed view of the economy -- one that discounts the restrictions that governments place on producers, particularly on house builders -- and a flawed view of economics, a view that aggregates all income without distinguishing the nature of those who receive it.

Farm income is production income -- capital -- money that for the most part will go to increase production despite labour shortages. But Bollard is doing his best to wipe out that windfall by making new production more difficult. We're all being penalised for the amazing success of our country's farmers, and the near-religious fervour for "price stability" blinds everyone to that fact, and instead of rising up in protest everyone whimpers sheep-like under Alan's financial lashing.

And galloping house prices, as we've seen before, are more to do with the restrictions that urban planners and 'green-plated' government regulations have between them placed on land and on the cost of new building. Ignoring these serious dislocations and pursuing "price stability" in spite of them is just flat out dumb. There's no other way to describe it. We all lose as producers are strangled and exporters are priced out of world markets. The irony here is that Bollard appears to share that same concern even as he exacerbates the problem, and commentators are happy to ignore that his fingerprints are all over the murder weapon .
Dr Bollard re-airs concerns about the high exchange rate, repeating his comments in April that the dollar is at exceptionally high and unjustified levels - in what is considered to be a further attempt to head off the spike in the Kiwi dollar that commonly follows an interest rate rise.
The dollar's "exceptionally high and unjustified levels" has one chief reason: Alan Bollard. Higher interest rates attracting foreign money. The dollar is already up on average 0.6% against all currencies but the Australian --and Alan's whimpering won't change that.
"Had we not increased the OCR this year [says Bollard], it is likely that the inflation outlook would now be looking uncomfortably high.".

He warns that it will take a "sustained period of slower growth" in domestic activity to alleviate inflation pressures.
Talk about dumb. We're all being crucified on this pathetic cross of price stability, and the crucifixion could be so easily averted, and prosperity embraced: Just stop meddling. Free up urban land; abandon the green-plated building regulations; reduce government spending; stop inflating the money supply (which is what inflation actually is) and let prices rise and fall just as prices are supposed to.

Just let us alone!

  • We all need to know more about inflation, and not just Alan Bollard, since inflation of the money supply is one the most devious taxes that government's inflict upon us. Frank Shostak at the Mises Blog has two brilliant recent pieces that rip the scab off the inflationary wound and show the raw scar beneath. A poor metaphor perhaps but consider it an invitation to read (or re-read) the brilliance of Shostak's explanation and analysis of:

  • The Australian has noticed Shostak's commentary. A recent piece noted:
    Dr Frank Shostak has a warning for investors. The [Australian] Reserve Bank's monetary policy is "out of control" and that means inflation is heading up, interest rates are set to rise and the share market is only being supported by excessive money supply.
    He believes the Reserve Bank uses incorrect definitions of inflation and even money itself. As a result, he says, the bank is actually causing inflation, rather than combating it. "The Reserve Bank claims that it does not print money, but merely accommodates demand, but printing money is exactly what it is doing."
    See RBA Policy Causing Inflation. The analysis is just the same for NZ's Reserve Bank. Remember, just because you don't see inflation directly, doesn't mean it isn't there.
UPDATE: Perhaps it's time to re-release Bob Jones prescient 1996 book, Prosperity Denied, one of the best short arguments against this sheep-like addiction to "price stability." This brief excerpt shows you just how prescient it is:
Over the 1994-95 period Auckland's median house price increased by 36 per cent [these days we might say"just 36 per cent"] . . . the Reserve Bank responded by repeatedly increasing interest rates, thereby causing an across-the-board economic squeeze.
All sounds all too awfully familiar, doesn't it. The Bank treated those price rises as some sort of "economic disaster Richter scale," restraining and tightening the entire New Zealand economy as a direct result of a change (then) in some Aucklanders' residential tastes, and an increase (today) in governement meddling in the supply of housing and land. The result, said Jones, is that

the commercial fisherman in Timary, the plumber in Westport, the home-mortage seeker in Wairarapa -- all other New Zealanders -- are obliged as a direct consequence of a change in residential [status] by a small number of Aucklanders ... to pay higher interest rates. This in turn adverselly affected their personal incomes, adversely affected business development confidence and investment decisions and any new job-creation intentions. Thus a relatively small number of Aucklanders [experiencing a problem very easily fixed] ... unwittingly cost thousands of jobs and reduced the income of every other New Zealander.
For that we all have to thank the Reserve Bank and the all-hallowed Reserve Bank Price Stability Agreement set up by Ruth Richardson, and now maintained by Michael Cullen. (Note, by the way, that tenses have been changed to improve the immediacy of Jones' comments.)
The higher interest rates [set by the Bank] drive up the exchange rate,
attracting foreign investors in our money markets and thereby driving the
exchange rate even higher. This influx of money in turn necessitates yet further
tightening by the Reserve Bank, and so the vicious cycle feeds off itself.

Today we have the highest real interest rates in the western world, as a
direct consequence of a foolsih government action, ironically aimed at achieving
low costs. All of this should be deja vu to New Zealanders recalling the
1983 Muldoon price freeze.

Some might argue that the Muldoon technique was worse insofar as the
monetarist method still allows the market, at a price, to call its individual
shots. Perhaps so, but the overall effect is identical in its economic
repression... Regardless, there is little to be gained in weighing the
respective eveils, because whether by shooting or by hanging, the negative
outcome of a death sentence is identical.
Words just as accurate now as they were when first written. Time to bite the bullet and condemn the Reserve Bank Price Stability Agreement to oblivion instead of us.

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Theatre at Epidauros

The theatre at Epidauros is not just one of the earliest existing examples of human theatre, it's also a magnificent example of integration of landscape and architecture -- so well done the architecture almost seems to 'complete' the pre-existing landscape.

This is an often overlooked feature of early Greek architecture. Describing the theatre in their book The Landscape of Man, Susan and Geoffrey Jellicoe suggest that this "genius loci, the recognition and expression of the spirit of particular places, has been the most enduring legacy of Greece in landscape design."
Architecture stood for universal order. The existing landscape was without apparent order, and the Greeks not only harmonized two seeming opposites, but gave to the whole a significance which civilization is only now beginning to accept is not pertaining to Greece alone...

The theatre at Epidauros (350BC) is protectively modelled out of a north-west slope. The sun is upon the players, and the theatre is an almost perfect instrument of sight, sound, player-audience association and landscape affiliation -- the climax in form of the Greek philosophy of the unity of all things.

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Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Sydney

Ayaan Hirsi Ali visits Sydney for their Books and Writers' Festival, and she has the luvvies eating out of her hand.

Read Pommygranate's summary of her presentation to see why that matters. [Hat tip Prodos]

PS: Here's a recent interview between Ali and Guernica magazine.



There's a Mercury Energy bill sitting here on my desk.

Is there any point in paying it? After all, we're not going to be cut off, are we.

'Samurai' House - Melling Morse Architects

The 'Samurai' House by Melling Morse Architects, a "small, simple house amongst the trees of a tiny suburban forest" in Silverstream, for a "celebrated martial arts exponent." [2003]

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Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Country maths

All this talk about what Alan Bollard might do to the currency this week, I hope he brushes up on his arithmetic. I'd hate to see us get cheated.

Ma and Pa Kettle have the lesson for Alan, over at Noodle Food.

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Jeanette plays Turandot

Jeanette asks her "three questions" as if they're a bit of cheese and her own Party's policies are the mousetrap.

Liberty Scott answers all three without springing the trap.

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Cue Card Libertarianism: PARKINSON'S LAW

Formulated by C. Northcote Parkinson in his book of the same name, Parkinson's Law claims to explain and quantify the inexorable tendency of bureaucracy to expand, with the expansion powered by two inexorable forces:
1. An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals.
2. Officials make work for each other.
As a result, “any government bureaucracy will grow at between 5.17 and 6.56 per cent, irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done.”

Parkinson's bureaucrats lack imagination. Since 1999, New Zealand's bureaucracy has grown at more than three times this rate, helping to increase annual govt spending by more than $20 billion more than the figure in 1999.

As Phil Rennie from the Center for Independent Studies has shown, that spending binge is greater even than a comparable blow-out under Muldoon's Prime Ministerial reign, and then as now the deluge of taxpayers' money bought no improvement at all in government services.

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand's libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here.


Monday, 4 June 2007

"The increasingly warm and inclusive Mr Key said he could work with anyone..."

I do love the Kiwi Herald. From this weekend's political report comes this gem:
John Key today offered Bishop Brian Tamaki a Cardinalship should the Destiny New Zealand Party join the Key led Government following the next election. The move came shortly after the National Party leader stunned observors by saying that he was prepared to appoint a Green Party member as Minister for the Environment in exchange for that party's support.
Announcing the offer, the increasingly warm and inclusive Mr Key said that he could work with anyone...
See KIWI HERALD: Tamaki, Taito Offered Cabinet Posts.

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Sunday, 3 June 2007

May Blog Stats

General Stats
Unique Visitors: 19,686
Page Views: 31,083
Highest Visitors/Page Views per Day: 913/1540

Most Popular Posts:
Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City
"Who am I to judge?"
'Exposed: The Climate of Fear'
A necessary obsession with justice
PC, & 'The Great Postmodern Essay Generator'
Knee jerks, moral panic and "boy racers"
Becky wants to knock her school down
Sex with chickens
"It's a lie!"
Why morality at all?

(sites sending more than 100 referrals this way, ranked in order. Thanks everyone. ): [guess that's all over ... anyone know what's going on there?]

Top Ten Countries Reading Not PC in May
New Zealand

And here's the Most Popular Search Terms (I kid you not):
not pc blog
falafulu fisi phd in signal detectability
tim wikiriwhi
broadacre city
not pc
"berend de boer" (mutation or mutations)
ayn rand on altruism pc
eddie visits occasionally
becky wants to knock her school down
pc blogspot
michael fasher not pc
frank lloyd wright mile high not-pc
charlatan jeanette wilson

Clearly some of my commenters have become famous in their own right!

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