Friday, July 06, 2007

You won't see nothing like the Mighty Quinn

Resisting Nanny's self-satirising opposition to satire goes on the positive side of TVNZ's ledger. Going against is the news that, as Lindsay Perigo puts it, "some halfwit gum-chewer about to decide Keith Quinn's fate didn't even know who he was." As you'd expect, Perigo goes further, launching into the whole "braindead" broadcasting culture.

It was with incredulity that I read (Keith Quinn? Who are you?—DomPost, Wednesday July 4) of a TVNZ employee who may be about to axe Keith Quinn’s job ... not knowing who Keith Quinn was! Then I reminded myself that this is, after all, the Age of the Airhead, and TVNZ was long ago pronounced “braindead” by some wise person whose identity eludes me. The bimbo in question works for, or rather occupies space in, the company’s Human Resources department. Such departments are another bane of our time, issuing forth great torrents of MBA-speak as empty as it is pretentious.

TVNZ attributed the airhead’s ignorance to a “generation gap.” It’s not a generation gap—it’s an intelligence, standards and knowledge gap. State television has faithfully mirrored state education in dumbing itself down, and must now cater to and employ the latter’s imbecilic progeny. To a generation that has no clue what an apostrophe is for it serves up newsreaders who emulate flight attendants, emphasising prepositions and conjunctions and throwing away nouns, in a complete travesty of how news should be read. It serves up interviewers with the fashionable Attention Deficit Disorder who cannot even listen, let alone sustain a linear train of thought. It promotes children’s hosts whose vocabulary barely extends beyond “cool” and “awesome” and whose speech is all nose and no brain, under the guise of encouraging our “national identity” (shudder). It drowns the text of its programme trailers in a cacophony of headbanging caterwauling (to which it also repairs at other times on the slightest pretext) thereby rendering the content of its own promos inaudible.

TVNZ is a morass of moronry. It should be privatised forthwith.

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Objectivist professor ousted by neoconservatives and evangelicals

Those of you who maintain that Ayn Rand's Objectivism is "right wing" or "conservative" might care to contemplate the ousting of Objectivist history professor by Ashland University, ousted says Lewis, by "mainstream evangelical christians" and "neoconservative faculty members [who] put pressure on the recently hired evangelical president to oust him." He was not sacked for incompetence, which he clearly isn't; he was forced out, he says, "because conservatives and evangelicals were opposed to me." [Hat tip Mike M.]

Objectivists are shot by both sides. As some of you might recall from previous blogging here, Lewis recently delivered a controversial paper at Virginia's George Mason University, 'There is No Substitute For Victory,' that had leftists and muslims up in arms. [A link page to that presentation is here. And here, just to remind you, is his fantastic article on the same topic.]
Mr. Lewis says his battles reflect the extraordinary and unfair degree of hostility that objectivists in academe receive from both left and right. "In the morning at Ashland, I was resigning because conservatives and evangelicals were opposed to me," he says. "And then in the evening I was at George Mason, and there were some Muslims and this new student Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) opposed to me. I found that poignant."
The story is here at the Chronicle for Higher Education: Tenure Shrugged: A Scholar's Affinity for the Philosophy of Ayn Rand Cost Him His Job. Many Objectivists are also suggesting that this is further evidence for their assertion that the biggest threat to liberty in the US comes not from the left, but from the religious right.
"What does determine the survival of [America]," says Leonard Peikoff, "is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy. And in this area the only real threat to the country now, the only political evil comparable to or even greater than the threat once posed by Soviet Communism, is religion and the Party which is its home and sponsor."
Makes you think, doesn't it.

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Taxation is NOT theft

Taxation is not theft, says philosopher Tibor Machan. It's extortion.
I do not regard, nor do I call, taxation “theft.” Rather I consider it extortion: “You may live and work here, provided you pay!” That is the Mafia’s way of obtaining resources! And government’s.
Discuss.

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Civil disobedience in defence of free speech

Perhaps the most effective way to beat the Nannying bastards back is civil disobedience, a recalcitrant refusal to do Nanny's bidding. This morning there's welcome signs of civil disobedience from an unlikely quarter.
SCOOP - Broadcasters join forces to defend TV reporting: New Zealand's major television news organisations - Television New Zealand, TV3,
Maori Television and Sky News NZ – today issued a joint public pledge to defy
parts of Parliament's new rules on TV coverage of Members of Parliament in the
debating chamber.
TVNZ, TV3 Maori Television and Sky News said the new
"sessional orders" would lead to a serious erosion of democracy in New Zealand.
As a consequence the news organisations said they would continue to provide TV
coverage of MP's in the chamber and ignore the anti-democratic parts of
Parliament's rules.
Bravo! As someone once said, the extent of Nanny's power can be measured by the extent to which people resist her decrees. This is a very welcoming sign.

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NZ world's sixth most prosperous

New Zealanders are the world's sixth most prosperous according to a recent worldwide survey. [Story here at NBR.] The survey ranks 50 countries "according to two broad categories— 'material wealth' and 'life satisfaction'—which are based on 20 diverse indicators including things like capital accumulation, climate, and divorce rates." That sixth position comes despite New Zealand's performance as measureed by the traditional measure of prosperity, material wealth.
In material wealth, New Zealand ranked eleventh, just behind Denmark.
Interestingly, however, the country did not perform so well on the category
called “commercializes new ideas by exploiting innovation,” where it earned a
score of negative two. Compare that to Ireland, for instance, which scored 23 in
the same category, and which has launched itself to the forefront of the
technology sector.

There has to be a lesson there, doesn't there. NZ's sixth place sees us coming behind the US, Norway, Sweden, Austria and Canada.

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House near Glorieta, New Mexico - Bart Prince

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Quotas for John Boy

Having quietly dropped plans to abolish race-based seats and race-based legislation, National leader John Boy Key has now announced plans for more race-based National MPs -- says the Herald, he
wants to take a more ethnically diverse range of MPs into the next election and is set to make the topic a priority when the party's list rankings are decided next year...
On the list of skills and talents you need for the National list, being born brown has just been moved ahead of being good at what you do.

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More power to Christchurch, or not.

First, the good news: Meridian Energy's proposed North Bank tunnel hydro scheme could generate enough electricity to power Christchurch. [Hat tip AB]

And now the bad news: It might not be commissioned until 2016. Most of that time will be spent in pursuit of resource consents -- and much of the time spent by Christchurch environmentalists 'tween now and then will be spent on opposing those consents.

Once again when it comes to NZ power production, the large print giveth and the small print taketh away.

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The Prius: Unsafe at 100mph

This is what Al Gore's son looks like.It's a mug shot. He was arrested driving his "environmentally sound" Toyota Prius at the environmentally unsafe speed of 100mph, requiring several severely environmentally unsafe gas guzzling police patrol cars to haul him over and arrest him for bad driving, possession of several varieties of recreational pharmaceuticals and the crime of being as stupid as his father.

UPDATE: Tim Blair suggests carbon-rich Live Earth is dying on the vine, with either problems or no shows in Turkey, Johannesburg, Rio, Hamburg and New Jersey. And Big Al has just arrived in England for their Earth bash, burning carbon all the way and setting off summer hailstorms across England. The Gore Effect is still at work.

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Rationed health care is hardly health care at all

The Government won't fund Herceptin, a an early-stage drug for breast cancer that has saved lives overseas. It won't fund Gardasil, a vaccine for cervical cancer that promises to save the lives of hundreds of NZ women every year. Hospital waiting lists get ever longer, and hospital salaries here less and less attractive compared to what can be earned elsewhere.

Lives are being lost, and the people who are saving lives are not being given the tools to do the job. Such is the result of the rationing of health care, which is precisely how government health care is delivered.

Without a market there's just no other way of determining who gets what -- and with all of us taxed to hell to pay for the die-while-you-wait health system, there's just no way of getting a real market up and running. In a rationed system, there's only so much to go around, and basic service is all you can expect.

Let's look at Gardasil, the vaccine that promises to guard against cervical cancer. Figures produced by Cathy van Miert suggests the current incidence (new cases per year) of cervical cancer in NZ is 14 per 100,000 women - and one in three will die from the disease. The cost for each course of vaccines is about $600. Looked at as an expense you might consider yourself, as say compared to a holiday in Fiji, or a new iPhone -- or compared to that extra tax you've had to pay this year, or the higher mortage payments due to Alan Bollard's meddling, or what you might pay for insurance -- that doesn't seem an unreasonable investment for yourself or a loved one.

But for the government to save one life would cost $5,217,120! That's the figure a government looks at when deciding what to fund (check out Cathy's figures for the calculation), and for them your life is just another statistic. That's just the way rationed health systems work.

So if you're opposed to the decisions not to fund these drugs, and the next generation of life-saving drugs, then I suggest you rethink your support for a tax-and-spend government-delivered health system. If you don't like the results of rationing, then may I suggest you advocate getting the government out of health care so you can make your own decisions about what you value most. (And those of you who don't like being treated by foreign doctors? I suggest you ask yourself why so many NZ doctors and researchers who've trained here prefer instead to work overseas -- a clue might be that when there's no markets there's no way to determine what someone's services are worth. )

D'you think it might be the same reason that life-saving treatments are rationed? As PJ O'Rourke quipped during the American debate about public-private health care, if you think health care is expensive when it's private, you should see how much it costs when it's "free"! The cost here at home will be paid in women's lives.

UPDATE: But, you say, health care isn't a business - or shouldn't be! Well, says Richard Ralston,
Ultimately all health care is paid for by business activity. Business provides the wages, the return on investment, the insurance, the taxes that pay directly for health care, and the insurance and taxes that fund government programs. When the government manages to provide services at all, it can give you nothing that it does not take from you or others, or from your employer and other employers. The total added value the government creates for your benefit is nothing.
But we can't allow profits into health care, can we? Well, as Richard Ralston explains here, profits lower the cost of health care in the long run.

But we don't want the Americanisation of NZ's health system, do we? Well, consider that America is where many of our NZ-trained doctors and health researchers would either like to end up, or have already ended up. They've already made their choice, and are doing so in larger numbers every year.

Think about it.

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The claim that sea level is rising "is a total fraud."

Yesterday I promoted an upcoming talk that I'm genuinely looking forward to, London Montessori trainer Cheryl Ferreira talking on 'The Path to Independence' (in Auckland on 16 July). Owen McShane has another date to put in your diary:
In a remarkable and entertaining interview, (from June 22, 2007 EIR Economics 33) Dr. Nils-Axel Mörner argues convincingly, and with excellent credentials, that the "Claim that sea level is rising is a total fraud."
Anyone involved with the RMA in any way should read this essay and ponder the implications. After all, District and Regional Plans routinely accept as a fact that New Zealand is about to suffer widespread inundation. Decision-makers and submitters use this scenario as an excuse to keep us all well away from the seaside or even from the Coast.
If you want to challenge Dr Morner, you will have the opportunity to do so in person because he will be visiting New Zealand (courtesy of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition) and will be making presentations in Wellington, 1-3 August, and in Auckland 4-7 August. He will be talking specifically about sea levels around the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, and around Tuvalu and Vanuatu in our own South Pacific.
The Centre will advise you of details of these lectures as they come to hand.

Dr. Nils-Axel Mörner is the head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University in Sweden. He is past president (1999-2003) of the INQUA Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution, and leader of the Maldives Sea Level Project. Dr. Mörner has been studying the sea level and its effects on coastal areas for some 35 years.

This quote should whet your appetite: All the true sea level specialists agreed on this figure, that in 100 years, we might have a rise of 10 cm, with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10 cm—that's not very much. And in recent years, I even improved it, by considering also that we're going into a cold phase in 40 years. That gives 5 cm rise, plus or minus a few centimeters. That's our best estimate.

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A manifesto - Michael Newberry

Stephen Hicks recommends "A visually rich online video: Michael Newberry’s artistic manifesto, based on a presentation he gave at Rockford College, Illinois."

Based on what know of Michael's work and his writing, this is a You Tube video I'm looking forward to. Below is an example of his work, Absorption (and here's an interview I did with him a few years back).

Of the painting Newberry says, " There is a magnificent feeling of exhaustion after a gruelling day of demanding creative effort. It feels like every nerve your body is finely wired and sensitive to the vitality of living. Absorption is a painting of that moment." He's chosen to glorify productivity by depicting the moment when productivity ceases, a brilliant conception.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A new Free Radical, and a FREE offer ...

The new Free Radical magazine is out and this issue has lessons for most, good reading for all... and a special free offer that should have everyone happy. Read on.

When the Berlin Wall fell it was obvious to everyone with eyes to see and a brain to think with that socialism had been tried, and it had failed spectacularly. No one alive at the time could fail to get the lesson: Socialism Sucks.

But it seems lessons that big have to be relearned every generation: the tragedy of Venezuela should be this generation’s object lesson that Socialism Sucks.

Socialism came to Venezuela, and in its inevitable wake has come poverty, penury and oppressive totalitarian rule. This issue of The Free Radical sends out A Challenge to Young Socialists to watch, and to learn – and to reject this ideological harbinger of misery.

Free Radical 76

Let freedom reign! Let freedom reign in boardrooms, bedrooms and smoko rooms. We talk to NZ Green MP Metiria Turei who wants to let freedom reign in New Zealand’s hospital treatment rooms, allowing medical practitioners to prescribe a drug that, as Jonothan Rennie's History of Medical Marijuana points out, was once used by Queen Victoria – a drug that Lancet has confirmed is less harmful than either alcohol or tobacco.

There’s much, much more in this issue:
  • Frank Shostak and Lary Sechrest explain how economic illiterates and central banks make us poor;

  • Lindsay Perigo and Muriel Newman lament the rise and rise and rise of Nanny State - as Perigo describes her, that disgusting "hybrid of gargoyle and dominatrix";

  • George Reisman on how the thricefold seductions of socialism, environmentalism and irrational skepticism (but surely I repeat myself) are fuelled by irrational education;

  • we have an obituary for the New Zealand woman who’s left several generations of students around the world functionally illiterate;

  • an interview with the man to whose gun shop knife-wielding would-be suicide victims seem to be drawn;

  • dissidence from "a dissident president";

  • global warming sense from another president - "environmental extremism is the modern equivalent of communism," says Czech president Vaclav Klaus;

  • confessions of a former warmist who threw himself off the global warming gravy train;

  • advice for parents from Larry Sechrest and Tia Wooller: Don't fake reality;
  • an obituary for a philosopher whose own grip on reality was slight. He died, we think;

  • reviews of conman Conrad Black's eulogy to "champion of freedom" Franklin Roosevelt, Al Gore's upfront assault on reason and the internet, and Stephen Hicks' exegesis of Nietzsche and the Nazis;
… all this and much more in this latest issue including new and regular columnists to challenge your funnybone and your thinking, and great scads of The Free Radical's usual brand of irreverent wit.

I invite you to step inside Free Radical 76: Politics, Economics & Life As If Freedom Mattered, and load up on intellectual ammunition!

Subscribe here.


Download a digital copy here.

Buy your hard copy (NZ only) from one of these quality outlets.

But that's not all. We're so confident of the quality of each and every copy of The Free Radical that this month we're throwing open our digital back issues. That's right: All digital back issues of The Free Radical are free! See below for links.

We're convinced that once you see the quality of our back issues, you won't want to miss out on getting your NEW copy of the Free Radical in your letterbox hot off the press.

Enjoy!

Cheers, Peter Cresswell

EDITOR, THE FREE RADICAL
PC.Blogspot.Com


DIGITAL FREE RADICAL BACK ISSUES -- all free to good homes:
FREE RADICAL 75: The Naked Truth About Self-Defence
FREE RADICAL 74: The Environmental Noose is Tightening!
FREE RADICAL 73: The Assault on Free Speech
FREE RADICAL 72: The Great Environmental Sellout
FREE RADICAL 71: The Stolen Election!

UPDATE: I've just been told that subs were mailed this morning (including everyone who's subscribed online this week) and shops should have their copies Monday. :-)

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New blogs

Well, the new things aren't really blogs, and the blog isn't really new, but, well, best I just get on with the news.

What I mean to say is that the Sir Humphrey's set have returned in the guise of a new blog called No Minister, without yet (as far as I'm aware) revealing why the Humphs shut up shop so peremptorily just a couple of months back.

And both Stuff and the Herald are now calling their columnists' online political columns blogs: Herald here with Audrey Young; Stuff here with Colin Espiner et al. The nomenclature is at least new. And they do have RSS feeds. And Audrey does make a fair point in her first blog missive: Labour spends up big with taxpayer's money.

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'Public unconvinced over climate' - Guardian

Some good news from Britain, as reported in The Guardian:

The public remains unconvinced about warnings that the climate is being affected by global warming, according to a new poll. Findings by Ipsos Mori show Britons believe that the issue is not as bad as the scientists and politicians claim. There is also scepticism about "greenspin" and a feeling that the situation is being overstated in order to raise revenue rather than save the planet. In fact climate change is not a priority for most people in the UK - terrorism, crime, graffiti and even dog mess are of more concern.
Britons would be right on all four points. Naturally, The Guardian and most of their readership disagrees, poor dears, as does The Torygraph who pompously declares that Britons are "in denial." "In denial" for considering that terrorism is a greater threat than global warming.

Seems to me that Britons are showing more horse sense than their broadsheets.

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July 4th: Something for us all to celebrate

It's the Fourth of July (here in NZ at least, though not yet in the US). Time to begin celebrating American Independence Day - something for which there's something for everyone to celebrate, and not just Americans. Cox and Forkum link to the US National Archives who have an excellent Declaration of Independence site. From their introduction:
Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country. We invite you to read a transcription of the complete text of the Declaration.
Michael Berliner hopes that this year "the speeches will contain fewer bromides and more attention to exactly what is being celebrated. The Fourth of July is Independence Day, but America's leaders and intellectuals have been trying to move us further and further away from the meaning of Independence Day, away from the philosophy that created [America'." Understanding the meaning of Independence Day explains why this day is something for non-Americans to celebrate too.

"Independence Day" is a critically important title. It signifies the fundamental meaning of this nation, not just of the holiday. The American Revolution remains unique in human history: a revolution—and a nation—founded on a moral principle, the principle of individual rights. Jefferson at Philadelphia, and Washington at Valley Forge, pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor." For what? Not for mere separation from England, not—like most rebels—for the "freedom" to set up their own tyranny. In fact, Britain's tyranny over the colonists was mild compared to what most current governments do to their citizens.

Jefferson and Washington fought a war for the principle of independence, meaning the moral right of an individual to live his own life as he sees fit. Independence was proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence as the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." What are these rights? The right to life means that every individual has a right to his own independent life, that one's life belongs to oneself, not to others to use as they see fit.

The United States of America was the first and still the only country on earth to be founded upon the specific idea that human life and human liberty are sacred. It was for this reason that the United States were known as The Nation of the Enlightenment - a country founded at the time when reason and individualism were culturally at their height, and in whose name the country was founded. Continues Berliner:

To the Founding Fathers, there was no authority higher than the individual mind, not King George, not God, not society. Reason, wrote Ethan Allen, is "the only oracle of man," and Thomas Jefferson advised us to "fix reason firmly in her seat and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God." That is the meaning of independence: trust in your own judgment, in reason; do not sacrifice your mind to the state, the church, the race, the nation, or your neighbors.
Despite its occasional breaches in upholding the principle of human rights and human liberty consistently, it is for nonetheless for this that we all celebrate (or should celebrate) Independence Day. To found a nation upon the notion that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are sacred - to constrain government to act only in defence of those rights - was not just a unique event in human history, it worked like all hell; it worked because protecting those rights gave individuals the moral space, the freedom, within which to act and to flourish. It was not just that this made America and the world freer and more prosperous, it was not just that this protection for liberty gave a platform to criticise and remedy the breaches of the principle; it is it is the illustration that a country founded upon reason, individualism and freedom works. That liberty is moral. That liberty is right.

Human liberty is the most sacred thing in the universe, and today is the pre-eminent day in which to celebrate it. To America's founders, I salute you!

PREVIOUS JULY 4 CELEBRATIONS AT NOT PC:
July 4th: When Freedom's Anthem is Heard Around the World
Yes, it's July 4!
July 4th: Celebrating Revolution
Still Celebrating the Fourth

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One second!

Bugger.

Hilton Residence - Arthur Dyson


Arthur Dyson's Hilton Residence in Panama, Florida. The description is from Dyson's site:
Nestled amid the sand dunes on the Gulf of Mexico at Panama City, Florida, the Hilton residence contains 9,500 square feet of living space. Primary rooms are suspended on concrete pods at various levels within a greenhouse structure of coral-tinted reflective glazing. One interior stairway encircles a glass-enclosed elevator, while another winds around fully grown native palms. The top lacuna of an exterior two-level saltwater swimming pool fountains into the lower basin, then enters the interior by flowing beneath the edge of a glazed wall. Tiered roof wings sweep upward, forming a series of clerestories that shield the open floor plan from excessive sun exposure while presenting unobstructed views of the oceanfront during daytime and allowing stargazing at night. Remote-controlled fabric panels placed strategically over the glazing provide additional solar protection...

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Smacking minister and a smacking PM

Attack a Labour cabinet minister and Helen attacks you right back.

It was pro-smacking group Family First who released the news that David Cunliffe (AKA, "Silent T") gave his child a light smack on the hand at the LynnMall shopping centre in Auckland on Saturday. And last night it was Helen Clark telling TV news that this is an "extremist organisation" making a "vexatious complaint."

Doesn't alter the nature of the complaint, does it.

And isn't "extremist" dangerously close to "not mainstream"?

UPDATE: Nothing like creating another scapegoat, is there.

That's my money in that their boat

Spokesmen from the yachting industry were boasting over the weekend that after the America's Cup disaster that was Team NZ's effort in 2003, the $34 million put into this latest effort by the government (ie., you and me and Mr Muliaga) is money well spent in rehabilitating and promoting NZ's high-tech boatbuilding industry, they said.

They're wrong. Whatever the successes on the water this time - and make no mistake, what Dalton and Co have achieved is fantastic - that's my money these boat builders are calling an "investment." If boat builders want to promote their industry, then let them promote it with their own goddamn money!

Sus has it right in responding to a caller on Newstalk ZB called "Peter":

If Peter thinks he's "got his money's worth" from the America's Cup, that's great. But Peter doesn't speak for me. Although he would presume to do so, which I find incredibly arrogant, not to mention immoral.

My point is simple. Peter should be able to keep all the money he earns and then spend it as he sees fit. He can give ALL his money to Team NZ if he wants to. I wouldn't presume to stop him. He earned it, not me. I'll do what I want to do and then we're both happy. Nobody's forcing anybody to do anything.

As I always say, the moment the state gets involved, the whole damn thing becomes politicised, with all the crap that entails. And then we're all forced to put up with pictures of Clark or Key or whoever's Chief Parasite, beaming next to the boat.

Hell, I feel (sea)sick already!

Bernini - 'Ecstasy of St Teresa'


Waiting for the becalmed America's Cup last night I stumbled upon a frankly fantastic TV programme celebrating this masterpiece, Bernini's frankly sensual St Theresa. Any programme that praises this is a programme worth praising, and Simon Schama's 'Power of Art' is certainly that. I have no idea how long it's on for, but it' definitely worth watching out for - Schama's descriptions brings great art to life, and the cinematographic presentation of the sculpture is the next best thing to being there. (What it's doing on at 10:30 on a Sunday night when the rest of the schedules are full of nothing but crap I really don't know.)

When I first posted Bernini's 'Ecstacy of St Teresa' last year I said it was part sculpture, part theatre, part architecture, -- an integration of all three that transforms a simple story into great art. Schama highlights the revolution that Bernini brought into being here: showing a nun in a frank height of ecstacy; making a ton of marble seem to float, to ascend; using the folds of her habit to betray the exultation within...

Picture a Roman of 1647 seeing this. The light from above, the intimate chapel, the image of ecstacy, the smiling puti lifting the robe, aiming his golden shaft... It's not too hard to see what Bernini was aiming at. Says Schama in his characteristically demonstrative fashion :
What Bernini's managed to make tangible is something that we all, if we're honest, know we hunger for, but before which we're properly tongue-tied. Something that has produced more bad writing, more excruciating moments of bad cinema, more appalling poems than anything else. No wonder when art historians look at this sculpture they tie themselves in knots to avoid saying the obvious, that is, that we're looking at the most intense convulsive drama of the body that any of us experience."
Ecstasy of St. Teresa, 1647-52, Marble, height c. 11' 6" (3.5m), Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome

UPDATE
: Paul at Fundy Post says it far more succinctly: "[This] is a work that can best described as ravishing."
Roman Catholicism was so much more fun during the counter-reformation. Then it was opulent and sensuous; now it is priggish and earnest. St Teresa's own description of her vision can be found here; dirty, dirty, dirty.
TAGS: Architecture, Art, Sculpture

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Monday, July 02, 2007

PC agrees with RB

It had to happen. I'm in agreement with the Reserve Bank. Notes NBR:
The Reserve Bank says measures should be introduced to make New Zealanders understand more about the economy.
The first NZers to be so introduced should be the governor of the Reserve Bank and his employer Michael Cullen. Their first lesson should be that "price stability" isn't working.

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Another idiot taking a knife to the Carvell's gun shop

BREAKING NEWS: The Carvell's gun shop has been attacked again. Last year a machete-wielding idiot burst in looking to "get a gun and commit suicide" and was shot by gun shop manager Greg Carvell, who was then arrested for the public service he performed. And just before midday today a knife-wielding fuckwit burst in. He was subdued by police with a taser and pepper spray "just over 10 minutes after the emergency call" - a better performance than last year when the police took more than twenty minutes after turning up at the wrong address.

You can be sure after the last year of demonisation by police for the crime of defending themselves, the Carvells would have thought several times before putting themselves through that again. In an interview for the next Free Radical Ray Carvell said the earlier ordeal has affected his son Greg.
"It has changed him, there’s no question about that. He’ll never be the same man again. It takes a lot of guts to pull a trigger on somebody. You ask anybody who’s had to do it; it’s not an easy choice to make... The end result of this prosecution is what they do every time somebody defends himself. He is criminalised and punished even if he gets off; he is punished by remuneration. The kind of pressure that goes on to you --where you are made to feel like a criminal -- this is the real thing that takes a toll on you: the whole thing is not clear cut, and I can swear that with everything going on, the criminal has had better treatment than us."
"The kind of pressure" the Carvells disgracefully had to endure undoubtedly led them to risk their own lives for ten minutes this morning by calling the police and waiting rather than responding as they did before. Thank goodness there are no reported casualties.

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Democracy vs. freedom: A Middle Eastern case study

"Democracy is freedom!" Well, no it isn't.

There's much confusion abroad about structures of government, and too little understanding of the difference between democracy and constitutional government.

Many people mistakenly believe that democracy is synonymous with freedom, so if you're saddled with that delusion yourself then you're not alone. It isn't. As Bill Weddell used to say, democracy is not freedom, it is simply the counting of heads regardless of content. And as Yaron Brook points out in The Forward Strategy for Failure, democratic elections across the Middle East that seemed to promise so much have demonstrated instead that the result of counting empty heads will often deliver the opposite of freedom. It's a lesson that we should all ponder.
Iraq has had not just one, but several popular elections, as well as a referendum on a new constitution written by Iraqi leaders; with U.S. endorsement and prompting, the Palestinians held what international monitors declared were fair elections; and Egypt’s authoritarian regime, under pressure from Washington, allowed the first contested parliamentary elections in more than a decade. Elections were held as well in Lebanon (parliamentary) and Saudi Arabia (municipal). In sum, these developments seemed to indicate a salutary political awakening. The forward march toward “liberty in other nations” seemed irresistible ...
It all looked so promising, didn't it, and - let's face it - we all got excited at the sight of so many so eager to vote in places for which any idea of free and fair elections seemed just a few years ago so unbelievable. I confess, I did too. The Bush Administration's "forward strategy for freedom" seemed to be working, it seemed to be worthy of celebration - but the strategy had and has a fatal flaw. It was and is based solely on the introduction of democracy, and democracy is no guarantee of freedom. A majority can just as easily to vote away its own freedoms and those of minorities as it will to have them protected. Recent history offers no exception. "Has the democracy crusade moved us toward peace and freedom in the Middle East—and greater security at home?" asks Brook. Answer, NO! Emphatically not.
The elections in Iraq were touted as an outstanding success for America, but the new Iraqi government is far from friendly. It is dominated by a Shiite alliance led by the Islamic Daawa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)... Teheran is thought to have a firm grip on the levers of power within Iraq’s government, and it actively arms and funds anti-American insurgents. The fundamental principle of Iraq’s new constitution—as of Iran’s totalitarian regime—is that Islam is inviolable. Instead of embracing pro-Western leaders, Iraqis have made a vicious Islamic warlord, Moqtada al-Sadr, one of the most powerful men in Iraqi politics...
How about the elections in the Palestinian territories, then? Any more success there?
For years, Bush had asked Palestinians “to elect new leaders, . . . not compromised by terror.” And, finally, in the U.S.-endorsed elections of January 2006, the Palestinians did turn their backs on the cronies of Yasser Arafat; they rejected the incumbent leadership of Fatah—and elected the even more militant killers of Hamas: an Islamist group notorious for suicide bombings. Hamas won by a landslide and now rules the Palestinian territories. Refusing to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, Hamas is committed to annihilating that state and establishing a totalitarian Islamic regime.
Since writing that, as you probably know, Palestine has collapsed in what is essentially a civil war between Fatah and Hamas, with the price of war being paid in Palestinian bodies and an increased threat to the territories' neighbours, rather than a reduced one. No increase in freedom here either, then, or security.

How about Lebanon, where great hopes were held for a rebirth in peace and freedom after elections that followed the drumming out of Syrian-controlled puppets? Sadly, the results there offer little cause for hope either.
Hezbollah took part in the U.S.-endorsed elections in Lebanon, formed part of that country’s cabinet for the first time, and won control of two ministries.11 In the summer of 2006, the Iranian-backed Hamas and Hezbollah killed and kidnapped Israeli soldiers—and precipitated a month-long war in the region. Since the ceasefire that ended the war, Hezbollah has continued to amass weapons and foment terrorism, emboldened by its popular electoral support.
So no success with recent democracies in Iraq, Lebanon or the Palestinian territories then - majorities have simply voted in totalitarians and killers who've acted to snuff out whatever shoots of freedom that we all fervently believed were beginning to appear.

Perhaps elections in Egypt provide more hope? Sadly, the biggest beneficiary of the 2005 election was the Muslim Brotherhood, which as Brook points out represent "the intellectual origin of the Islamist movement, whose offshoots include Hamas and parts of Al Qaeda. The Brotherhood’s founding credo is 'Allah is our goal; the Koran is our constitution; the Prophet is our leader; Struggle is our way; and death in the path of Allah is our highest aspiration'” !

It seems that the "forward strategy of freedom" of implementing democracy in the Middle East is an abject failure - a failure made inevitable by the pathetic faith in democracy to deliver that freedom. As Brook summarises, what democracy in the Middle East actually delivered was the very opposite of freedom: it delivered more power to those enemies of freedom that the Bush strategy was supposed to snuff out.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, the Islamist regime in Iran, the Mahdi Army, Al Qaeda—these are all part of an ideological movement: Islamic Totalitarianism. Although differing on some details and in tactics, all of these groups share the movement’s basic goal of enslaving the entire Middle East, and then the rest of the world, under a totalitarian regime ruled by Islamic law.

The totalitarians will use any means to achieve their goal—terrorism, if it proves effective; all-out war, if they can win; and politics, if it can bring them power over whole countries.

Bush’s forward strategy has helped usher in a new era in the Middle East: By its promotion of elections, it has paved the road for Islamists to grab political power and to ease into office with the air of legitimacy and without the cost of bombs or bullets. Naturally, totalitarians across the region are encouraged. They exhibit a renewed sense of confidence. The Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah war against Israel last summer is one major symptom of that confidence; another is Iran’s naked belligerence through insurgent proxies in Iraq, and its righteously defiant pursuit of nuclear technology.

The situation in the Middle East is worse for America today than it was in the wake of 9/11...

And worse too for the Middle East. Without a culture that values freedom and a constitutional structure that protects life and liberty, any nascent democracy is simply a hostage to whatever outrageous fortunes may sweep across a country, just as they did in the Weimar Germany of the 1930s. It seems clear enough that democracy alone is not enough to either preserve or introduce liberty and freedom, and it now seems abundantly clear that the strategists of the Bush Administration are entirely ignorant of that point - but it's also clear that they're not alone in that ignorance.

Americans themselves will mostly tell you they live in a democracy, but in saying that they'd be wrong. The model of government introduced to America by its founding fathers was the most successful historic example of constitutional protections of liberty. America is not a democracy, it's a constitutional republic. For nearly one-hundred and fifty years the constitution introduced by the founding fathers and the enlightenment culture derived largely from sixteenth-century Britain provided the best protector for freedom the world in all its dark history had yet seen. It was a model introduced successfully in part to Japan after WWII, but all too sadly forgotten in the recent Middle East forays.

No matter what you've heard, and no matter how many American strategists insist upon it, America's model of government is not a democracy. In fact, the founding fathers were assiduous in protecting liberty from the threat of unlimited majority rule that democracy delivers. What they did was put the things of importance beyond the vote, delivering to the world not a democracy but a constitutional republic. (Yes, I've repeated the point. It bears repeating.) The system of checks and balances of the United States Constitution was described by Ayn Rand as "the great American achievement." It is an achievement richly deserving of study, and (with some few modifications) of emulating.

A nice summary of the workings of that successful Constitution is provided by a new course offered by the Ayn Rand Institute:

A Constitution is "[t]he system or body of fundamental principles according to
which a nation, state, or body politic is constituted and governed."

Paraphrasing Ayn Rand, a proper government protects men from criminals and
foreign invaders and provides for the settlement of disputes according to objective laws. A government, therefore, does three things: it makes laws (the legislative function), enforces them (the executive function) and runs law courts (the judicial function).

The United States Constitution divides these functions into separate departments; this is the doctrine of separation of powers. It also divides governmental powers between the state and federal governments by enumerating the powers of the latter and by specific limitations on both. Thus, both the federal and the state governments have sufficient powers to secure rights and are limited in their ability to violate them.

Simple but effective. Not democracy then but constitutional government - a constitution protecting essential liberties through a government constrained only to those protections. It's a model that failed states and would-be freedom fighters around the world would do well to understand and to emulate, as should those who unthinkingly parrot the idea that democracy alone is a saviour.

It's not.

UPDATE: All that said, sometimes the results of elections can surprise you. East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta, voted to the position in May in elections protected by Australian and NZ troops, has just "unveiled his plans to use his new position to push for a largely tax-free East Timor. Dr Ramos Horta says he wants to base the country's economy on a tax-free Hong Kong model." See ABC: Ramos Horta pushes for tax-free East Timor.

I confess, I'm flabbergasted. That will surely leave Helen Clark and Keith Locke wondering whether they've backed the right horse; and as a colleague of mine says, once tax-free status is confirmed NZ troops should be home by lunchtime.

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Satire is so uncool

This how freedoms go these days - not with a bang, nor with a whimper, but with a sneer. When, for instance, the Beehive Bludgers propose a ban on parliamentary TV footage being used to satirise them, to ridicule them, to denigrate them - all forms of accolade so richly deserved by the Bludgers - the media's various "cool kids" pop up as enablers, sneering at those who object to Nanny's advances.

"Leftist lickspittle" Finlay McDonald gives an object lesson here in how Nanny State has got so powerful: because "cool kids" like him just don't give a shit. Who cares about boring stuff like free speech, right? How uncool. How yesterday.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Self-mummification for dummies

There's too much selfishness in the world, people often tell me. If only we weren't all so egotistical, I'm told! I can now tell those people that I have the perfect antidote for their horror at the world's unabashed hedonism: the practice of self-mummification practiced by some Buddhist ascetics. Horrifying. Read the account at Noodle Food.

UPDATE: Link fixed.

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Free Radical 76: Let Freedom Reign!

The latest Free Radical magazine is just about to go to press. Here's a sneak preview of the draft cover and the editorial. Make sure you subscribe NOW to get your own copy safely in your letterbox.When the Berlin Wall fell it was obvious to everyone with eyes to see and a brain to think with that socialism had been tried and it had failed spectacularly. No one alive at the time could fail to get the lesson that Socialism sucks.

But it seems lessons that big have to be relearned every generation: the tragedy of Venezuela should be this generation’s object lesson that socialism sucks. Socialism has come to Venezuela, and in its inevitable wake has come poverty, penury and oppressive totalitarian rule. This issue of The Free Radical challenges young socialists to watch, and to learn – and to reject this ideological harbinger of misery.

Let freedom reign! Let freedom reign in boardrooms, bedrooms and smoko rooms. Green MP Metiria Turei wants to let freedom reign in New Zealand’s hospital treatment rooms, allowing medical practitioners to prescribe a drug once used by Queen Victoria – a drug that Lancet has confirmed is less harmful than either alcohol or tobacco. Turei’s Medical Marijuana Bill comes before the House in August, challenging old conservatives to rethink their opposition to marijuana, and instead to cast a vote for freedom. The Free Radical strongly suggests they do, and has the ammunition to encourage them – to encourage you – to do so.

There’s much, much more in this issue including a lament at the rise and rise of Nanny State, that disgusting "hybrid of gargoyle and dominatrix"; an explanation of the mess that’s being made of our money by what seems to be economic illiterates; and an obituary for the woman who’s left several generations of NZ students functionally illiterate … all this and much more in this latest issue, including the reappearance of the letters page! Your opinions, contributions and criticisms are always welcome.

Cheers, Peter Cresswell

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