Saturday, January 12, 2008

Arise, Sir Ed.

My  favourite story of Sir Ed. 

WHEN HILLARY AND TENZING reached the top of Everest for the first time, the story goes that Tenzing fell to his knees and gave thanks to the spirits that had helped their journey; he prayed to each of the four winds, and he carefully placed in the ground a small stake on which prayer ribbons were attached. While he was doing this, Hillary stuck a flag in the ground, unzipped his fly and took a piss.

This was his mountain.  That's how a man like Sir Ed celebrates a huge achievement.

Farewell.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

There's no government like no government...

Graham Reid gives the news we've all been longing to hear:

In a surprising but welcome announcement the duty minister said yesterday that Parliament would not be reconvening in the foreseeable future as “the country seems to be getting on pretty well without politicians”.

Speaking from Kakamoana Motor Camp in Northland where he is currently holidaying, Trevor Mallard said he has spoken with the leaders of all other parties and they were in agreement that the summer break from the House should be extended indefinitely...

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Nazism = Socialism = Totalitarianism

Only yesterday Poneke was expressing amusement that In the comments section of one of his posts, Trevor Loudon says he regards the National Front, the Italian fascists and the German Nazis as left wing. "I kid you not."  Never one to back down when he has truth on his side, Trevor's come out swinging, explaining this morning why fascists are leftists.

Since the debate has been thus re-opened, perhaps I could point debaters once again to the observation that while HItler's National Socialists didn't nationalise the economy's commanding heights as Lenin would have had them do; they didn't need to -- as Hitler said, they nationalised people instead. Political correctness at the point of a gun. The result for Hitler's Germany and in the end for most of Europe was the same as it was for Lenin's Russia. Destruction.

As George Reisman explains, Nazism was Socialism, and Socialism is Totalitarianism. (See him make the case in an onine video lecture).  Says Reisman:

De facto government ownership of the means of production... was logically implied by such fundamental collectivist principles embraced by the Nazis as that the common good comes before the private good and the individual exists as a means to the ends of the State. If the individual is a means to the ends of the State, so too, of course, is his property. Just as he is owned by the State, his property is also owned by the State.
The Mises Economics Blog describes Reisman's thesis thus:
Contrary to myth, Germany was a socialist state, not a capitalist one. And socialism, understood as an economic system based on government ownership of the means of production, positively requires a totalitarian dictatorship. Indeed, the identification of Nazi Germany as a socialist state was one of the many great contributions of Ludwig von Mises.

And as if your eyebrows aren't already heading for the ceiling, here's another claim of Reisman's that might get them there that is arguably even more important than the title thesis: "In the United States at the present time, we do not have socialism in any form. And we do not have a dictatorship, let alone a totalitarian dictatorship." Read on to find out what Reisman says about the present system in the US, and by implication the rest of the west.  We do not have a dictatorship, he says we also do not yet have Fascism. "Among the essential elements that are still lacking are one-party rule and censorship. We still have freedom of speech and press and free elections," he says...

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Iraq death count "wildly exaggerated"

                       06.10.12.SurveySays-X

The Wall Street Journal has now opened up its website to non-subscribers (or "lost its wall" in Tim Blair's words) just in time for me to link to their story on how the Iraqi death toll of 655,000 so gleefully reported around the globe in 2006 was 'sexed up.'

We know that number was wildly exaggerated. The news is that now we know why.

It turns out the Lancet study was funded by anti-Bush partisans and conducted by antiwar activists posing as objective researchers. It also turns out the timing was no accident. You can find the fascinating details in the current issue of National Journal magazine, thanks to reporters Neil Munro and Carl Cannon. And sadly, that may be the only place you'll find them. While the media were quick to hype the original Lancet report -- within a week of its release it had been featured on 25 news shows and in 188 newspaper and magazine articles -- something tells us this debunking won't get the same play.

The Lancet death toll was more than 10 times what had been estimated by the U.S. and Iraqi governments, and even by human rights groups...

The Lancet study could hardly be more unreliable. Yet it was trumpeted by the political left because it fit a narrative that they wanted to believe. And it wasn't challenged by much of the press because it told them what they wanted to hear. The truth was irrelevant.

As Investor's Business Daily reported at the time:

The study used a methodology known as "cluster sampling," which can be valid if using real data and not anecdotal reporting. Most of the original Lancet clusters reported no deaths at all, with the journal admitting, "two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Fallujah." Fallujah? Hello?

Fallujah at the time just happened to be a major concentration of pro-Saddam and anti-American sentiment, the home base for the homicide bombers and terrorist "resistance" before the U.S. Army and Marines cleared out that nest of thugs.

And the number of clusters used?  Just forty-sevenTim Blair points to a new count - suggesting a much lower toll - which draws from more than 1,000 clusters.  Don't expect that one to get wide coverage either.

It's not just that much of the press and the blogosphere won't want to admit the 'sexed up' death toll they so gleefully reported a year ago was wrong, it's not just that they hate to retract, it's also that they don't want to have to admit -- even to themselves -- that the counterinsurgency strategy implemented by General David Petraeus is working, that by any decent standard Petraeus is the Man of 2007, and that the Iraqis are generally better off now than they were under a bloody, murdering dictator.   To most of the world's press, the truth remains irrelevant to their 'narrative.'

In a world awash with non-objective journalism, thank goodness for the Wall Street Journal.

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Centro idrico Vigna Murata - Mark Zanuso and Eduardo Victoria

                                                                     CentroIDRICOfrancopalpacelli

I know what you're  going to say.  What is it?  The answer, I think, is a new water tower by Italian architects Mark Zanuso and Eduardo Victoria.  You can see a picture show here .

Why settle for ordinary, when with just a little dash of genius you can have extraordinary!  [Hat tip ADAO - the International Web Portal of Organic Architecture]

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Minto vs history (updated)

In a recent Herald opinion piece former NZ Prime Minister Mike Moore made a statement obvious enough to any student of history not blinded by flawed ideology: "Without secure property rights poverty will endure."

John Minto is blinded by flawed ideology.  Point number one of Marx's Communist Manifesto calls for the abolition of private property.  Leon Trotsky pointed out with some glee that where there is no private ownership, individuals can be easily bent to the will of the state under threat of starvation or worse.  John Minto still lives in the shadows cast by these two gentlemen, leading him to place before Herald readers this morning the outrageous lie that "property rights often mean little, if anything, to people in poverty."

It's hard to know here to start with this claim.  He begins by lying about poverty in the US, carries on to ignore the history of property rights and the wholesale destruction of poverty whenever property rights were protected, and concludes with his outrageous lie intended to gull careless readers into accepting his own malodorous world view.

The fact is that property rights protect our lives and the fruits of our labours -- they allow us to pan long range.  As Hernando de Soto points out (de Soto being one of the folk singled out of Minto's barbs), when property rights are insecure, residents of poor shanty towns build their furniture before their walls or roofs.  That's rational behaviour when time horizons are short. As property rights become more secure and their time horizons become longer, however, people can build their walls, their roofs, and then plant crops and trade and make plans that take months or even years to come to fruition.  This is what it means to create wealth - wealth being the opposite of poverty, as some of you might recall.

If Mr Minto is blind to those basic facts, there's no need for you to be.

The fact is, the material values we each produce keep us alive, and allow us to flourish.  Only ghosts can survive without this property; human beings cannot.  Secure property rights allow us to project our values into longer and longer time horizons; the more secure, the further our horizons.  They allow us to bring to bear the unmatchable power of our minds to the pursuit and creation of wealth and human flourishing.

Unlike other animals, human beings cannot survive as we come into the world; in order to stay alive and to flourish we each need to produce and to keep the fruits of our production.

Tom Bethell’s landmark book The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages traces successes and disasters of history consequent upon the respective recognition or denial of property through the ages: Ireland’s potato famine, the desertification of the Sahara and the near-disasters of U.S. colonies at Jamestown and Plymouth can all be traced to lack of respect for property.  The glorious triumph of the Industrial Revolution is the greatest vindication.

In Bethell's book (every home should have a copy), he identifies four crucial blessings of property that, he says,

cannot easily be recognised in a society that lacks the secure, decentralised, private ownership of goods. These are: liberty, justice, peace, and prosperity. The argument of [his] book [and of history] is that private property is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for these highly desirable social outcomes.

Property rights give us a Turangawaewae, a firm place to stand deserving of legal protection.  Their identification and recognition was an enormous advance in intellectual history, and the practical result of their application across both history and geography has been the destruction of poverty.

It is only the poverty of stale Marxism that could blind a man to something so obvious.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: More posts on Property Rights.

UPDATE 1: Liberty Scott points out "there is a country that echoes Minto’s vision of virtually no property rights, and the sort of true democracy I was talking about – its capital is Pyongyang. Global Peace and Justice is the euphemism for Global Revolution and Socialism."

UPDATE 2: Owen McShane and Paul Walker weigh in against Minto with superbly swinging blows.

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Nixon in New Hampshire

The Whig on Hillary:

"Hillary is the Nixon of the Left."

Very apposite.

Street fighting men against free speech (updated)

Over recent weeks Trevor Loudon has been searching out links between local anarchists and peace activists, their associations with the Green Party, Zapatistas and international anarchist networks, and the weapons training so many of these peace lovers were undergoing in the Ureweras. (See the many, many posts he's made making the links at his weblog, New Zeal).   While the Green party has maintained a stoic silence, this has upset the anarchists and so called peace activists.  So much so that at Indymedia where they hang out, they're talking about where Trevor lives ...

...also they [Trevor and his family] live in a freakishly clean suburb called Northwood where there are rules for everything from the car you park in the driveway to the amount of money you spend on landscaping. Would anyone like the address? phone number?
Another has added;
He [Trevor] has a file in the Suspected Child Molester data base at CTF, in another words, he likes young boys .

Trevor no longer lives in Northwood (so don't bother firebombing the suburb) but as he says, "you can see how this sort of carry on might be intimidating on several fronts."  Certainly can.  He makes the point that the left tend to attack or intimidate those who oppose them.  It's a common modus operandi, to vilify rather than oppose honestly (perhaps because socialists overwhelmingly view others as a route to their own power, and as Chris Trotter has written are prepared to accept any corruption as long as it keeps the left in office*).  It's something even Barrack Obama is enduring at present with wild talk of assassination in the air -- a "meme" Obama rival Hillary Clinton is apparently willing to have used to her advantage.

Even so, Labour's Electoral Finance Act requires individuals expressing political opinions such as Don't Vote Labour to publish their names and addresses, leaving them and those they live with open targets to any nutjob under the sun.

This can't be right.  It certainly isn't free speech.

-------------------------

* Zen Tiger's recent comment about Trotter is spot on: "Chris Trotter is a man of standards. He has at least two of them. And double standards equip the left so very well to argue their way to electoral victory."

UPDATE: From Jack Wheeler's To the Point comes this comment, which is, um, exactly to the point:

If you Google "Obama" and "assassination" you will get 384,000 hits.
All over the world, the media is speculating on the possibility.  Typical is the January 8 (the day of the New Hampshire primary) headline in one of Australia's major newspapers, The Australian:
Obama Must Be Wary of the Assassin's Gun.
The "news angle" of thousands of such stories is the same.  The first line of The Australian story is:  "Barrack Obama is crazy brave.  His victory in Iowa puts him in the crosshairs of many a gun-toting racist for whom the thought of a black president is an abomination."
It's the drumbeat theme echoing around the globe:  evil racist-fascist right-wing war-mongering child-eating nazi conservatives will always destroy America's hopes of being a peaceful humanitarian nation.
After all, it was just such a fascist-nazi right-winger that murdered JFK and killed Camelot, right?  What's that?  Lee Harvey Oswald was a Communist?  Oh...
Please ignore that impossibly embarrassing fact.  Especially since it brings up the real question that no liberal dares to think, much less ask:
Will Hillary find an Oswald of her own to take out Obama?

Read more ...

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Holiday viewing

'Twas the season to kick back catch up on essential holiday viewing.  Here's some of the holiday films and DVDs I managed to fit in this year.  Lack of decent rain rather kept the viewing down:

Glenn Miller Story - perfect Christmas day viewing.
Spooks - catching up on all the episodes I missed back in Season Two.  Truly nail-biting drama!
House - catching up on Season Three.  Who has time to watch TV during the year?
The Prisoner - there's always someone who needs to be (re)introduced.
Twilight Zone - classic Rod Serling episodes so sharp you cut yourself.
Wicker Man -  "You'll simply never understand the true nature of sacrifice..."
Casablanca -  always worth re-watching.
Third Man - Orson Welles does Graham Greene.  Twin genii.
Marnie - a reminder that Sean Connery was once almost too good for film.
The Town is Quiet - Marseilles on a bad week. 
Dark Blue World - excellent Czech Battle of Britain romance - and some great flying scenes.

Now I look back at the list, it must have rained more than I remembered!  So what did you curl up in front of in your cinema room over the holidays ?

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Depressing

Oswald's quip below is short, to the point and as accurate as so many of his quips often are:

"...The number of people receiving the sickness benefit due to depression has more than doubled in the past five years..." [Source: Stuff]
What depresses the crap out of me is the amount of income tax I'm paying!
It's not just being on the dole thats depressing!

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Holiday House 2 - Organon Architecture

                    Bach_Sketch_NW

Yesterday I posted what I called Holiday House 1 to show you my idea of the ideal bach -- something integrated with its site; something casual enough to be relaxing yet with cunning aplenty to make it work well, and enough visual strength not to be overawed by its setting.  Here this evening is what I'll call Holiday House 2, also by Organon Architecture , using two large cantlivered 'hypar' shells to define space and shelter.  I think it has something of the same qualities as Holiday House 1, if I say so myself, and would grace any private,  sloping bush-clad site overlooking water.  Or open country.

What's your own ideal bach like?

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Zero emissions? Only of good sense.

Al Gore III won an Oscar, an Emmy and a Nobel Peace Prize for a film in which he claims "You can even reduce your carbon emissions to zero."  Good luck doing that.  Below the telling observation that "It is the nature of civilization to use energy and it’s the nature of liberalism to feel bad about it," Robert Bryce notes his amazement that

none of the dozens of smart people involved in the production of the movie – including, particularly, Gore himself – paused to wonder aloud something to the effect of, “Hey, what about breathing? Don’t we produce carbon dioxide through respiration?”

The answer, is yes, we do. Thus, by including the claim that you can “reduce your carbon emissions to zero” the film’s producers might as well have hung a sign around Gore’s neck that says “I’m an idiot.”

Frankly, that's how I feel every time I read, see or hear yet another of the Goracle's weighty pronouncements.  But let's just say you chose to keep breathing and go right on living (that's right, you can stop holding you breath now, Darlene). You'd find out pretty soon that the goal of "zero emission" is not intended to be real  -- this, after all, is politics not science -- it is intended only as an "aspirational" goal.  That's the way Helen Clark and David Parker mean it when they recite the same braindead incantation, calling for us all to follow Gore's triad of virtue and get on our bikes, change our light bulbs and start planting things.

But even that's a nonsense.  As a recent Australian report showed, "if every Australian household switched to renewable energy and stopped driving their cars tomorrow, total household emissions would decline by only about 18%."  The triad of virtue is just another triumph of hot air.  The fact is, as page five of the Australian report points out (and this is a report by the Australian Conservation Foundation, hardly the skeptic's friend), the carbon dioxide embedded in the food we eat and the goods we purchase are "more than four times the emissions from our personal use of electricity." 

How about we stop the nonsense, and start recognising that the only emissions that are ever likely to be near zero are those coming from politicians when measured for the sense they contain.

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New site: Climate Debate Daily.

Denis Dutton has gone and done it again.  You should already be familiar with his Arts & Letters Daily site -- compulsory browsing at least once a week for anyone who uses the web for something more than just hooking up on Facebook.  Now he's collaborating in a new project that seems just as likely to be on every thinking web user's list of essential reading: Climate Debate Daily, a regular summation of the latest news and writing from both the sceptical and warmist sides of the global warming debate.

Bookmark it now.  Here's some top reading from each camp currently appearing on the front page:

  • 2007 was the seventh warmest year since record-keeping began, the IPCC says, and made for brutal weather...continue »
  • The year of global cooling. In 2007, hundreds of people died, not from global warming, but from cold weather hazards. And look at the Southern Hemisphere...continue »
  • Thanks to global warming huge swaths of right-wing America are set to face a biblical deluge in a few more presidential cycles...continue »
  • Virtual science, the kind the IPCC uses to scare us to death, is ripe for manipulation, usually unconsciously, by virtuous scientists. Michael Duffy explains...continue »
  • We are in for a minimum of 90 more years of warming no matter how many Hummers are junked in favor of Priuses. Let's adapt...continue »
  • Better for Australia to cut the panic and build “a strong economy and thus the adaptive capacity to deal with whatever catastrophes unaided nature may have in store for us”...continue »

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Auckland's planners giving developers the heave-ho

Developers are leaving Auckland.  This is not new -- the folks who build the city have been quietly leaving for some time in the face of increasing impositions on their efforts -- but apartment developer Conrad Properties decided to speak to Bob Dey to explain why they've had enough.

The short answer is that development in Auckland is now uneconomic.  They point the finger squarely at Auckland City Council, saying they're to blame for two things at least:

One is the introduction this year of an Auckland City Council plan change setting minimum sizes for apartments, and the other is the council's policy on development contributions.

The combined effect of both impositions is to add $120,000 to the cost of a two-bedroom unit, and this is on top of the increased costs and sundry delays associated with changes to the Building Act.  The cost of the "development contributions" alone -- which is a means by which the Resource Management Act allows council to put their hand even further into property owners' pockets --  amounts to around $70,000 per unit.

Annie Fox explains the sort of thing on which this money is usually wasted by council once extracted:  "purchasing multi-million-dollar properties at inflated prices."

One that got my blood boiling for it's total stupidity, was the purchase of the SuperLiquor site on the corner of Ponsonby Road & O'Neill Street, for a staggering $7 million.
Retail? I hear you ask. However, not for retail, but to be demo'ed and turned into a park! The most ridiculous place for a public park, it will be small, which in itself isn't a problem (small parks can be charming) but with roads on two sides (one being a main road) it will be bloody awful place to sit. It will be empty 99% of the time, and anyway within 1km of this site there are 8 reserves and 16 within 2kms.
Apparently, they had to make a purchase to justify all the reserve contributions they have been taking over the years. Why didn't they just give the money back to the developers?

Good question.  Another question should be why they're allowed to damn well take the money in the first place.  The answer is the Resource Management Act, which gives council's carte blanche to boss developers around and to make them pay for it.

But Conrad Properties and developers like them aren't paying any more.  They're getting the hell out  -- and who could blame them -- leaving the supply of Auckland housing up to ... whom?

It's time to drive a stake through the heart of the RMAThe fact is that the real culprit here isn't the council officers or planners or regulators who make the plans that are forcing developers out; the real culprits are the Resource Management Act that gives planners and regulators the power over other people's property, and a culture that assumes that local governments need planners and regulators to plan and control the city.  They don't.  On this point I'm four-square behind the Anti-Planner Randal O'Toole, who says that,

"After more than 30 years of reviewing government plans, including forest plans, park plans, watershed plans, wildlife plans, energy plans, urban plans and transportation plans, I've concluded that government planning almost always does more harm than good."

Ain't that the unfortunate truth.  Time to put a stake right through the heart of the RMA, and draw the teeth of the planners and regulators for good.

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Don't vote National

Okay, as most of you and New Zealand now know, Andy Moore started up attack website Don'tVoteLabour, and he's in trouble with the Electoral Commission.  I like what he's doing.  I like it a lot.  And guess what: Friend Richard Goode has started one called Don'tVoteNational.  I like that one too.  I like it a lot.  An awful lot.  ;^)

UPDATE:  From this morning's Herald editorial:

How absurd that New Zealanders can no longer make a political statement in an election year without satisfying a welter of petty regulation...
... it is on the web, a new frontier of attempted regulation, that Labour's red tape will be most resented. The act's restrictions on election material expressly exempts "the publication by an individual, on a non-commercial basis, on the internet of his or her personal political views ... "
Bloggers might have little difficulty fitting that definition but they will need to be aware that should their site acquire more than one author or, heaven forbid, make some money in some way from their political observations, the speech patrol could be down on them. It is outrageous that they even need to concern themselves with such rules.
When people come to wonder what has happened to a freedom they once took for granted, the answer is seldom a single, memorable edict. It is more often a hundred trifling rules, requirements and restrictions, each defensible within the logic of the law but together oppressive in their effect.

That's the way that freedom ends. That's the way that freedom ends. Not with a bang but a whimper. If you've never understood how to boil a frog alive, then here's your answer: not with a single bold move to turn the tepid water hot, but by a hundred trifling raises of temperature until the frog has ceased to wonder what happened to the tepid temperatures it once took for granted.   So it goes.

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Now THIS is what I call a holiday house ...

                                                                                     4pm Summer

Plan - Ground FloorSomeone emailed me in support of John Key's bach.  Well, of what John Key and a journalist claim is a bach. 

They reckon it's a beaut bach, just as John Boy obviously does.

Well, I don't.  I know what baches should look like. 

Here's one here.  Yes, I've posted it here before, but here's my own favourite unbuilt bach.  Relaxed.  Casual.  Open.  Expansive.  And yes, it's one I designed myself.   Let's call it Holiday House 1. (Click on pics to enlarge.)Sections

                            

UPDATE:  The pictures above show the house in mid-summer, in mid- to late-afternoon, when shade is your friend and the large eaves do their work.  Here's a picture of the house at the same time of day in mid-winter, showing the penetration of the sun at the time when it's wanted:

                             4pm Winter

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Anti-Labour website hears (but not heeds) electoral watchdog's warning

The new year has barely begun and the Electoral Commission is already flexing its new Government-given muscles, warning website creator Andy Moore that if he doesn't heed their warning over his attack website Don't Vote Labour that "he is not complying" with provisions of the Electoral Finance Act, then trouble will be a-coming his way.

Moore correctly says that the Commission's demand that he include his name and address on the site "is a breach of freedom of speech," and at this stage he has no plans to knuckle under.  Good on him, I say.

But there are others who are less supportive of free speech.  Martin Bradbury for instance, who says "you want to be an attack dog for the right, you gotta be registered" -- which to translate from oaf-ese means "Register with the government in order to criticise the Government." Brilliant!  Or: "Disagree with me, and I will defend to to the death the necessity for you to be muzzled."  With 'allies' like that, free speech hardly needs enemies.

Perhaps protagonists here should be reminded again of some of life's verities. That, as Salman Rushdie points out, without the freedom to offend, then freedom of expression ceases to exist.   And those still left defending the Electoral Finance Act might like to be reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said that "it is error alone that needs the support of government.  Truth can stand by itself."

Free speech is a precious and delicate flower.  As Saudi blogger Fouad al-Fahran has discovered in being arrested for violating Shari'ah laws on free speech (“everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah”) it is a flower all too easily pruned.

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Cancer Card rescinded

I was as delighted to hear of new blogger 'Annie Fox!' conquering cancer as I was to read her disappointment at the rescinding of her 'cancer card':

The old Cancer Card gets you out of doing anything boring at all if you don't want to – work included. Fan-bloody-tastic, should have got cancer ages ago!
The mysterious thing about the Cancer Card is that its power increases the sicker you become, so after about your 4th course of chemo its power will probably be at its peak and provides many, many a free-pass. The only thing Cancer Card can't actually do is cure cancer.
But I noticed a disturbing thing the other day - mine had vanished! No I hadn't left it in the car to be stolen by the local yobs. But ever so slowly, as I got better and better, its power had diminished. It's like a muscle, the less you use it, the weaker it becomes, until eventually it withers & dies.

See, every silver lining has a cloud.  ;^)

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Command and control education okay, says Minto

The Urewera 17 transcripts and John Minto's close association with all the protagonists was enough to show that the motives of his Global Peace and Justice mob were the reverse of those suggested by the name.  It was certainly neither peace nor justice that the snipers' rifles and molotov cocktails were intended to produce.  Minto's other interest, of course, is the Quality Public Education Forum, and like GPJ, it's another mis-named front.  As his rebuke to Tim Shadbolt over the issue of educational innovation demonstrates, it's neither quality nor education that interests him.  It's control.

Southland Institute of Technology (SIT) has used the government's tertiary 'voucher scheme' to deliver innovative education systems country-wide, says SIT's mayoral champion Tim Shadbolt, in courses that compete with other providers in both content and delivery.  But the government's new command-and-control tertiary scheme, which has seen him announce a year-long campaign of opposition, will kill SIT's innovative approach, he says, and kill off the opportunity of education for many youngsters who relish the teaching tools used in SIT's classrooms.  "There are kids in South Auckland who will miss out [if the courses are dropped]," says Shadbolt, pointing out for example that SIT's courses that use TV and computers as teaching tools had been successful with those who had difficulty in traditional classrooms. "A lot of street kids find paperwork off-putting. They're more comfortable with computers and TV and are prepared to have a go."

But this is competition and innovation delivering quality education.  That's not what Minto is for.  Minto literally wants to "erase 'entrepreneurialism' from the curriculum."  Showing his true colours, Minto insists Shadbolt and SIT should sit still, stop innovating, and do just as the education commissars tell them to, which means to butt out of competing and possibly showing up other educational providers.  Competition in education, under which SIT and its students have flourished, creates a "pointless and wasteful turf war" according to Minto, adding nothing to education "but the false notion of choice based on glossy brochures."  Such is Minto's notion of competition.  Organisations competing for your favour create a "pointless and wasteful turf war" and "a false notion of choice based on glossy brochures."  He would prefer the system more familiar to Soviet housewives, it seems: the empty shelves and substandard produce of a commissar controlled collective.

It would be a "tragedy for all young New Zealanders," says Minto, "if Mayor Shadbolt's campaign to undermine the new [command and control] funding mechanism is successful."  In fact, it would be an even greater tragedy if Minto were accepted as a genuine supporter of quality education.  Like peace and justice, it's of little interest to him except as a front for his real interest: Marxism.

UPDATE: By the way, if you're wondering why the the names of two of the groups associated with New Zealand's recent "terrorist camp" raids sound so benign ("Global Peace and Justice Auckland," spearheaded by communist John Minto and "Peace Action Wellington" by sniper rifle trainee Valerie Morse), then as Lindsay Perigo suggests, "Think Gramsci."

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A nuclear Taliban

The conflict in Pakistan is one in which we all have a direct stake, says Robert Tracinski. "Not only is Northwest Pakistan serving as a safe haven for Taliban fighters fighting US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, but Pakistan is the only majority-Muslim nation that has nuclear weapons."

There is a "three-way battle" for control of Pakistan, says Tracinski, "pitting dictator Pervez Musharraf against two very different opponents—a liberal, Westernized urban middle class, and radical Islamists allied with al-Qaeda. It is vital to [all] our interests that Pakistan's liberals win—and that its Islamists are prevented from taking control of the country's nuclear weapons."

After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto however, American foreign policy in Pakistan is in trouble.  Says Elan Journo at the Ayn Rand Institute, that's no surprise: it was "in disarray long before the assassination."

U.S. diplomats have been scrambling for months to do something about the growing power of Islamists in the nuclear-armed nation which Washington hails as a “major non-NATO ally.” Having supported President Musharraf’s authoritarian regime, Washington helped broker the deal to allow Bhutto back into Pakistan, hoping she might create a pro-U.S. regime, but then decided to push Musharraf to share power with Bhutto, then insisted that he’s “indispensable,” but also flirted with the idea of backing Bhutto.
All this against the backdrop of the creeping Talibanization of Pakistan. Islamist fighters once “restricted to untamed mountain villages along the [Pakistani-Afghan] border,” now “operate relatively freely in cities like Karachi,” according to Newsweek. The Taliban “now pretty much come and go as they please inside Pakistan.” They are easily slipping in and out of neighboring Afghanistan to arm and train their fighters, and foster attacks on the West.
Why has Washington proven so incapable of dealing with this danger to U.S. security? The answer lies in how we embraced Pakistan as an ally.

There is no conspiracy here from the US, just vacillation and appeasement. Read on here to find out why it was American weakness rather than strength that encouraged the crisis whereby Islamic totalitarians have got closer than ever before to getting their hands on nuclear weapons.

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Leave the Key under the mat, please

When you get to the voting booth this year and your blue pen is hovering over John Key's name -- getting ready to write him a blank cheque based on little more than a nice smile, a good story and the ability to change his mind at the drop of an order paper -- give some thought to his choice of architecture.  Any man who can stand proudly outside a house like this with that proud look of ownership on his face  has to be treated with considerable caution.     

Paul at the Fundy Post critiques a residence utterly without charm.

It is difficult to know where to begin. Here is a house (described somewhat disingenuously by the Herald as a "bach") which has the appearance of a miniature office building. Rather than its present location at Omaha Beach, its design suits it to a business park on the outskirts of the city, conveniently near major transport hubs. The reader should note the extravagant and charmless cornice, apparently supported by massive piers, as well as the floor-to-ceiling windows in tinted glass. The reader should note these and resolve never to have a home with these features; unless, that is, he should wish to have regular visits from photocopier salesmen, for surely they will flock to his door.

Should one be visiting Mr Key in his holiday home, whether to attempt to sell office products or for social reasons, it would be very bad form to tap one of those seemingly weighty piers. It would chime like a bell. The piers must be hollow, since the wooden deck which apparently supports and surrounds them could not bear the weight of so much masonry. Wits might observe that this is a hollow house for a hollow man.

Not that he's not entitled to live in whatever kind of appalling house he wants to, of course.  Just as we're quite entitled to judge him for that choice.  As architect Claude Megson said when reflecting on the appalling artistic choices of Alan Gibbs (this was back in the eighties when Gibbs was advising on how taxpayers' money should be divvied up), if these people don't have the taste or even the honesty they were even born with, how can we trust them in any other sense?

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Turning out coffee-coloured people by the score ...

Lindsay Mitchell has a couple of fair questions about local race relations.  Given the graph below,  "Why do some people persist with separatism as a principle for policy formation?" and "why do we have a party based on race?"  Answers on a tokenist postcard, please.

                                      

And another thing: why (as I'm reliably informed is the case) are teachers required by the Ministry of Education to determine the race of children in their care, and if in doubt to unilaterally declare them Maori?  Aren't the liberal ruling classes supposed to be against racism?  Or is that just empty words for the proletariat.

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Smoking, lies & the nanny state

page_headingThere are two kinds of celebrities who do 'issues.' The first kind are the vacuous joiners, adopting popular causes to either bolster flagging careers or boost new ones.  Then there are those who use whatever profile they have to promote causes they actually believe in.

Musician Joe Jackson (right) is the second kind. Explains the Telegraph:

Not for Jackson the populist flag-waving of Third World debt relief, global warming or the anti-landmine movement. In his more bloody-minded moments he says he feels like "standing up and saying, 'Actually, I quite like landmines!'"

For the past 10 years, Jackson has been a staunch defender of the rights of smokers. As a moderate five-a-day man, he is principally motivated by suspicion of the covert agenda of the anti-smoking lobby, which he dismisses as "a new Prohibition, a racket hugely driven by the pharmaceutical companies in partnership with the World Health Organisation" ...

"Mean-spirited" is his favourite description for everything from our obsession with vacuous celebrities to the ubiquitous CCTV cameras and chronic shortage of watering holes with late licences. News that smoking was to be outlawed in public places in [Britain] came as the last straw.

Read Smoke, Lies and the Nanny State [pdf], by Joe Jackson.  Or browse his site.  And if you can, track down and listen to his version of the song    'Round Midnight on this Tribute to Thelonious Monk.  Magnificent.

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Trawler caught by Antarctic warming

I was amused to read that a British trawler was trapped in Antarctic waters by ice floes rampant with global warming, and rescued only by the heroic efforts of the USAF.

The Argos Georgia, a British fishing trawler, has been stuck since Christmas Eve amid floes near the Ross Ice Shelf deep below the Antarctic Circle.

Damn those warming ice floes.  Tim Blair summarises more warming news:

• All of Florida frozen;

• Extreme cold alert for Toronto;

• Washington man killed by four feet of warming;

• And record snow in New Hampshire...

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2007 'Not PC' Stats

2007 was a good year for Not PC, with a steady and solid rise in readers, comments and feedback, and heartening signs of rational libertarian arguments first appearing here being picked up and ranged around far and wide -- which is after all what Not PC is here for.  Feel free to keep that up; attribution is optional.

Monthly figures for 2008 range from January's 9,761 visits (it took a few weeks to get going again last year) to an October high of 45,870.  The highest day was 3rd October, with 1386 visitors recording 2058 hits.  Totals for the year were:

277,257 visits from 108,644 visitors.
429,641 hits
For the last quarter of 2007, I was averaging 1035 visits per day, recording 1653 hits.

Unlike DPF, I can't easily tell you how many posts there were, or how many comments.  I can tell you there's been 4,578 posts since I started here in April 2005, and a whole slew of comments, most of which are intelligent and illuminating -- unlike some blogs we could name but won't.  (According to Tumeke!, I average 30 posts per week, making that approx. 1500 posts this year.  No wonder my fingers are sore. At an average of 300 words per post, that would make nearly half-a-million words. Phew!)

If readership like this gets your advertising juices flowing, then feel free to email me to discuss your plans at organon@ihug.co.nz. This is, after all, "published by me on a commercial basis."

UPDATE: A commenter asked me for stats on browsers and operating systems of readers, so here they are:
BROWSERS:
Internet Explorer 51.47%
Firefox 40.50%
Safari 5.56%
Opera 2.01%
OPERATING SYSTEMS:
Windows 87.98%
Macintosh 8.88%
Linux 2.57%

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ranking the local blogosphere (update)

It had to happen.  The NZ (political) blogosphere has been ranked.  It's early days yet, and still decidedly speculative (and sometimes wrong -- I'm rated as "Right" for example), but the boys at Tumeke! have put together a system to decide who outranks whom in the local political blogosphere, to make a list which they propose to update monthly.  See here.  Should be interesting watching, especially in election year when a welter of tribal blogs emerge into barking sunlight with a feral glee when election fever strikes, only to wither away again in ignominy once the fever departs.

Yours truly enters the lists this month at number five...

UPDATE: "Bah, humbug," says Paul at the Fundy Post.  At least, that's how I'd characterise his review of what Tumeke's blog rankings show up:

The problem with blogs is that the political chaps want to have their say, so they set up blogs and link to all the other political chaps. Blogging is serious business, for serious people. The real political blogs are joined by fake ones – politicians pretending to be bloggers. The non-political blogs, often written by people with specialist interests who know what they are talking about, don't get a look in. Writing skills count less than political allegiances. And the result is a list like this, where many of the entries, whether left or right, are unreadable.
Not that Mr Selwyn is at fault in compiling this list. The dominance of political blogs seems to be a natural feature of the blogging ecosystem and is self-perpetuating. Among those political blogs are writers who are informed about the issues and can present the arguments. It is just a shame about the rest.

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Beer O'Clock: Loving lager

This is not the regular Beer O'Clock post here, but a note that The Times has several articles that Beer O'Clock readers will enjoy, including

A day in the life of a lager sommelier

A good beer list is an increasingly important part of life for any self-respecting restaurant...

In the beginning, there was ale .....

In the Middle Ages, Benedictine monks worked out how to keep ale fresh during the summer - and that is how lager was born...

How to sip, drink and enjoy lager

For many people, lager is a thirst-quencher and not a drink to be savoured slowly. That perception is about to change...

How to spot the perfect pint

What makes the perfect pint? The glass, the pour and a whole lot more...

So many lagers, so little time

When it comes to lager, many punters and bar staff are happy with as little detail as possible...

And of course a quiz: Lager buff – or bluff?

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The world's weirdest legal cases

And The Times also has a neat list of twenty of the world's weirdest legal cases, from the man who sued God to the man who sued TV for making his wife fat...

My favourite is the story of German lawyer, Dr Juergen Graefe, who acted for an elderly pensioner sent a tax demand for €287 million, even though the woman’s income was only €17,000. Dr Graefe fixed the problem with one standard letter to the authorities, but as German law entitles him to calculate his fee based on the amount of the reduction he obtained, his fee came to €440,234 (£308,000). It was met by the state.

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The year is 1907...

 fp1

The year is 1907. One hundred years ago. What can happen in just one century (figures are American, unless otherwise stated) ---

*  The average life expectancy in the U.S was 47 years.
* The five leading causes of death were:
  1. Pneumonia and influenza
  2. Tuberculosis
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Heart disease
  5. Stroke

* More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.
* One-hundred in every one-thousand babies died before their first birthday.
* Antibiotics were yet to be invented.
* There was no income tax, no central banks and no passports.
* Only 14% of U.S. homes had a bathtub.
* Only 8% of U.S. homes had a telephone.
* There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads in the whole of continental America.
* The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
* The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
* The average wage in 1907 was 22 cents per hour.
* The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
* A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.
* Frank Lloyd Wright designed the 'Fireproof House for $5000' (above) for the 'Ladies Home Journal.'
* Meanwhile, timber villas in Auckland's Grey Lynn were changing hands for two hundred pounds.
* Sugar cost four cents a pound.
* Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.
* Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.
* Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
* Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.
* The American flag had 45 stars.
* The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was only 30.
* Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea hadn't been invented yet.
* There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.
* Only six percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.  Nine out of every 10 adults were able to read and write, (nineteen out of twenty native Americans, but only five out of every ten negroes).
* Blacks were called negroes.
* Marijuana, Heroin, and Morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores. Back then pharmacists said, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect 'guardian of health'."
* Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.
* There were about 230 reported murders in the entire U.S.A.

Try to imagine what it may be like in another 100 years . . . and feel free to add your own snippets in the comments.  [Adapted from a post at Earth Changes Media]

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