Friday, February 08, 2008

Beer O'Clock is back - long live Beer O'Clock.

This week's Beer O'Clock post sees the return of beer writer Stu:

Recently, PC's two favourite politicians, Helen and John, fired their opening shots in what is bound to be another relentless tirade of worthless (and very breakable) election-year promises.  I won't promise anything for Election 2008, but I will give you a few of my hopes for the upcoming beer year:

  • I'd like to see some decent beer in a restaurant or two.  Restaurants have been dragging the six-pack for sometime now and I'm demanding a lot more of them.  You should too.  Frankly, a well-matched beer is at least the equal of any wine when matching with food (especially the buttery and/or spicy dishes that we love to dine out on).
  • Please, please, please, NZ brewers:  It's time we started to see a wider variety of styles being brewed right here at home.  Too many New Zealand craft breweries produce beers to compete with the big players, and more still produce lesser imitations of well known craft beer icons.  I'd like to see some of our best brewers really get out there and take a risk.  There are so many styles that have not yet been explored in the local beer industry (more on this in the coming weeks and months, as I take a trip through the many beer styles of the world and wonder why our brewers aren't brewing more of them).
  • Is 2008 the year we'll see an expansion of the Epic range?  Epic Pale Ale burst onto our shelves a couple of years back with a shed-load of hops.  It was a taste awakening for many casual beer drinkers, and continues to be so for those only just finding it.  Brewer Luke Nicholas recently left his longtime post as head brewer for the Cock and Bull chain of pubs to take over sole charge of the Epic beers and brand.  He's tentatively released a couple of white labels under the Epic brand but we're yet to see the widescale release of beer number two.  Rumour has it that a hoppy pale lager is on the way...
  • A new flag bearer for great tasting craft beer.  Richard Emerson (Emerson's) and Luke Nicholas (Epic and until recently, as noted above, Cock and Bull) have been tirelessly waving the flag of great beer for a few years.  Others have come and gone, risen and faded, or simmered away promising big things.  With success at last year's BrewNZ being split among some of the lesser known microbreweries, there is a possibility that either Three Boys, Renaissance or the huggable Steve Nally of Invercargill Brewery will take up the flag and wave it higher.
  • DB stepping up and making a decent beer for a change.  Beer for beer, Lion trumps DB in every department. The balance and subtlety of Stella Artois has it all over Heineken. Mac's Hop Rocker gives Monteith's Pilsner the hoppy run around.  Mac's Sassy Red is in a class that no DB has ever (in my lifetime) been within shouting distance of.  DB seem keener on producing over-priced alcopops, like Radler, than in making a beer with any sort of depth of character.
  • Of course, being election year, I'd like to see a political party campaigning on a decrease in the excise tax on alcohol.  That's the tax cut I'd most like to see (and probably the one we are least likely to get).  At least I'd like to see them answer why it is that all beers pay a higher-level of excise tax (per litre of alcohol) than the average bottle of wine?

Most of all: I'd like to see all New Zealand brewers sending me [and your editor] beer for evaluation.  The best of the best will make it into the limelight of 'Not PC', while the ones that don't make the grade will receive invaluable feedback from one of the country's most dedicated students of beer.  Call me on 0274186639 for shipping details - and I'm sure PC, in true Libertarian spirit, will not tax me a single drop.

All the best for 2008.  Have one for me.

Slainte mhath, Stu

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Record high spin

Once again Lindsay Mitchell puts the spin about "record low unemployment figures" into perspective.

"In 1970 under 2 percent of working-age people were on welfare and more than half of those were widows."

In 1986 "under 7 percent of working-age people relied on welfare."

"Today, however, over 10 percent of working-age people rely on welfare." I don't think half of them are widows.

So when one-in-ten working age New Zealanders isn't working, how can you can call that "record low unemployment."

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A tunnel under a safe electorate

Taxpayers have been told that we're going to spend $2.3billion plus costs to put a motorway in a tunnel under Helen Clark's electorate, with the dangled carrot that a "public-private partnership" could take up part of the slack.  Whale Oil notes an even more attractive carrot here, but David Farrar spots a contradiction: "Just three months ago Labour was hysterically attacking public-private partnerships as evil (despite passing a special law to allow them), and now they are embracing them again."  I think it's called an election, David.

08bridge435b That's not the only contradiction.  You'd think a better use of $2.3billion plus costs would be to get going on a second harbour crossing to relieve the most congested drive in New Zealand, and as Graham Reid reminds us, former councillor Richard Simpson and JASMAX have between them already come up with a scheme that's a beauty -- it's not only full of borrowed beauty, it could not only free up St Mary's bay, it could actually pay for itself. (More details in this post.)

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The revolution will be Facebooked

A guest post here from Julian, who was at Tuesday's anti-FARC protest in Auckland.
1_239802_1_16The internet is transforming the way people communicate and organise, and now Facebook (and one engineer in a Colombian city) is being credited with creating "the widest international demonstration in history." A Facebook group set up by Oscar Morales less than one month ago culminated in over 4.8 million people in Colombia and thousands more in 140 cities around the world coming together in a _44404146_streamap220rejection of the activities of Colombia's Marxist revolutionary group FARC.
Oscar Morales, an engineer based in Barranquilla, Colombia, reportedly launched the No More FARC movement with five Facebook friends. The group now has some 272,578 members, which networked to produce Wednesday's worldwide groundswell against FARC's programme of murder, mayhem and kidnapping.
_44404187_bannercali_ap300_44404151_spainap220 Those who recall how brigades of text-messaging youngsters helped overthrow corrupt Philippines president Joseph Estrada seven years ago might reflect on how modern communications have changed things for today's protesters (and the failure of a recent Filipino coup has other lessons). This is likely to change the way elections and even revolutions occur in the future.
The photos above show the hundreds of thousands of anti-FARC protestors in Colombia's capital, Bogota, in Cali (below right), and Spain (left). [Pictures from BBC News.]
Colombians living in Auckland along with some New Zealanders joined the global protest in Queen Elizabeth Square at dawn on Tuesday.  The National Anthem of Colombia was sung and speeches were made (in English and Spanish) demanding liberty from the activities of the FARC. Photos below…..FARC_off_002
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Economics made easy -- we hope

Gonzo economist Steven Levitt , 'Stevo' to his friends, has announced he's offering a $10K top prize for the best video presentation of economics concepts. [Hat tip Division of Labor.] Most economics lectures are not pretty, he says, and he wants to help change that.

If there were a prize given for the best economics lecture at the University of Chicago in a year, I know who would have won it last year. I brought in a very high-priced call girl to guest lecture at my undergraduate Economics of Crime class. The next day, I asked my students whether they liked the lecture. More than one-third of them said it was the single best lecture they had attended in their four years of college. I had to agree with them.

Max Borders has already made his entry, which you can see at YouTube.  It's better than it sounds -- a less off-putting title might be 'Why Central Planning Doesn't Work':

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Sites

After yesterday's 'Doctors for Freedom' post, commenter Mawm reminded me of the British GPs at Dr Rant who are beginning to rebel against the straitjacket of government interference that is the NHS.  Worth bookmarking.

And I'm happy to say that my old favourite Save the Humans is back up and running after a lengthy limbo.  Go visit, the site's writers are right back in form.  The latest post discusses how "with TV terrorism ratings down, Al-Qaeda is turning to the celebrity sex tape business in hope of generating publicity."  And 'Save the Humans' principal Jason Roth comments on what journalists have called "the race issue" in the Democratic primaries race -- an "issue" presumably because one of the Democratic candidates has a darker complexion than the other.

However, the issue of race is such a non-issue that journalists rarely find it necessary to say precisely what is “the issue”. And, hence, the issue.

The “issue” of race is that Americans are both afraid to discuss a person’s race and at the same time compelled to discuss it. Somehow, race matters, but it only matters in some vague way that affects other people’s judgment. And everyone seems to know that race is a “sensitive” issue. They prove it through their fear of telling you what’s so sensitive about it.

Feel free to post further recommendations for site visits in the comments. Or not.  Up to you.  If I'd visit them myself, I'll post them here on the front page.

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The worst building in the world

ryugyong-hotel-lg Here's two serious contenders for the title of world's worst building. 

On the left (appropriately as you'll see) is the world's twenty-second tallest skyscraper, and Pyongyang's largest hotel -- although since the North Korean capital has few tourists and of those few barely any wish to spend a night in a vertical mausoleum, it remains steadfastly empty. 

Just as the North Korean economy if modelled on the economic thinking of Joseph Stalin, so too the un-hotel is designed somewhat in the manner of the Stalinist hotels built around Moscow in the forties and fifties.  But the one-hundred and five storey Ryugyong Hotel stands on a vastly different scale even to those brutes and with an aesthetic taste rarely if ever seen before.  Fortunately.

Amidst Pyongyang's skyline of uniformly tawdry ugliness, the Ryugyong Hotel's carcass stands tall.  "The hotel is such an eyesore," says Esquire magazine, "the Communist regime routinely covers it up, airbrushing it to make it look like it's open -- or Photoshopping or cropping it out of pictures completely." [Hat tip James Heaps-Nelson]

On a different scale, but no less repellent for that, is the new Akron Art Museum by competition winners Coop Himmelb(l)au*, who in their design statement say,

eyesore_200801aThe museum design introduces the firm's unique approach to historic structures, pioneered in Vienna, to the United States.... The museum of the future is a three-dimensional sign in the city, which transports the content of our visual world. There are no longer showrooms, which show digital and analogue visual information in the most diverse forms, but also the spaces which cater to urban experiences... Rather than going to the museum simply to look at art, visitors are welcomed to engage in artistic discourse, attend music and arts festivals, or maybe just hang out on their way elsewhere. Blah, blah, blah.

Says John the Recovering Architect (who's bestowed on James Howard Kunstler the accolade of Architectural Critic of the Year for his sterling work in identifying the world's eyesores every month ):

eyesore_200801b_2Another American city bends over to pick up the soap for a gang of Eurotrash art theory hustlers... To me it just looks like a mechanical alligator snarfing down a Beaux Arts post office... The upper jaw thing hanging over the original building is called "the roof cloud." I suppose it will allow visitors to "hang out" on the roof of the old building when it's raining out. Or something like that.

Feel free to click on all three images to feel the full grotesqueness of them all and, if you can handle a video of the un-hotel, click on that Esquire link.
                                                                               * * * * *

* Yes, that is the correct spelling.  A commenter at John's blog suggests "the "(l)" is to put emphasis on 'blaah' sound that one makes when they throw up, the same reaction one gets when they see their work."

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Key = Hide

Finally waking up from both his long political slumbers and his taxpaid weight-watcher's programme, in his first speech for the year ahead (which is helpfully titled "The Year Ahead" so it won't be confused with other years about which he might be talking) Rodney Hide appears to have been taking policy lessons from John Key. 

In a speech that shows every sign of setting the direction for the ACT party's last year in parliament, Hide claims ACT "has the opportunity to change the country's direction," and the goal "to get into a position where our vote is needed to form a government."

I'll let the voters themselves decide whether the latter is likely, but I was interested to see him declare that "to get [ACT] MPs elected we need to drive decent policy -- and to announce and campaign on policy that will make a difference to how the country is run."

Naturally curious what these policies might be, especially since ACT's website shows precious little sign of either announcing or campaigning on any such things -- and having a fair idea of what such policies might look like -- I scoured the speech like a schoolboy through a box of chocolate assortments to find those tempting policy treats from ACT that, as promised, "will make a difference to how the country is run."  I came up short.  For a start, this promised box of goodies has only three treats within --  those covering "the key areas we have been working on," says Hide, which are "Health, Education and the Economy" -- and while each one is wrapped in a tasty coating of criticism of the current state of play in each "key" area, there's little of substance to show why Rodney Hide's party is the answer should he ever get into a position where his vote is needed to form a government. 

To put it bluntly, despite the narrow focus -- and despite "working on" these keys to "making a difference" for some time -- there's precious few goodies here to show for it.  After removing the wrapper on Health, for example, we find just this small soft centre:

What Health desperately needs [says Hide] is greater transparency and accountability. Patients need to know what they're entitled to and what they can expect. Taxpayers need to know what their tax dollars are buying and that they're getting value for money. That alone would be a good first step in a sector where political success is still determined by money spent rather than results achieved.

Sounds like marshmallow to me, I'm afraid, and that's all the policy you're going to hear on one of the three "key" policies on which he's been working.  Just those two buzzwords of "transparency" and "accountability."  Buzzwords abound too in the second "key" area, Education. On removing the wrapper on this shy treat we find an even softer centre than before:

ACT [says Hide] is working on exciting policy in education that will improve vastly the opportunities for young New Zealanders and their families. We can make a big difference in education. And by making a big difference in Education, we can make a big difference to our country's future success.

This is clearly a policy that's big, exciting and different all at the same time (please pause for a moment to recover your breath from cheering), but one looks in vain to find out how, or why it's any one of these. Once again our hunger is unfulfilled,  but in the meantime at least there's there's plenty of cliches in the places where real delights should be. 

Maybe all the time spent "working on key areas" has been spent on the chocolate labelled 'Economy'?  On that there's much more of a hard centre, and what's said is allright ... as far as it goes ... but as policies these sure do put the "micro" into economics.

Hide talks hopefully about his Regulatory Responsibility Bill putting "a bonfire under mindless red-tape" and about ACT's Taxpayers Rights Bill "capping taxes to what they are now"  Fond hopes, I suspect.  And he talks fondly, once again, about his strangely obnoxious concept of "High Performance Government" -- an idea both frightening and oxymoronic at the same time.

He talks too, like all opposition politicians do at this time in the election cycle, of the "need to cut red tape" and to "cut taxes to boost the incentive to work and to invest."  True enough, but when even Hard Labour are using that line, the reawaked Rodney Hide starts to look somewhat like a time-worn Rip van Winkle who's awoken to find that the world has moved on around him, and he hasn't yet caught up. Time for radicalism, man, not soporific soft-soap and the resounding echo of me-tooisms.

At at a time when there IS no parliamentary opposition, this is a time for real radicalism, not cliches, buzzwords and promises to announce something later that other parties are already promising to promise. 

If this speech was a bid to announce Hide's intention to campaign on detailed policies that will make a genuine difference to "how the country is run," then it might have been better in my view to have fronted up with some.

To give the same policy advice I'd give to National's policy directors, if you're truly genuine about policies that change the country's direction then you'd better start campaigning with some policies.  And you wouldn't be worrying about those policies being stolen, because if they are and you're genuine about changing the country's direction, then you'd know that you'd just done that. You'd cheer every time they're stolen, and then you'd go even further out on your road to making your final goal nearer. 

That's what you'd do if you were really genuine, in this year and in every year.

It's worth repeating this for the record: if National aren't the answer, then on this sort of evidence neither is ACT.

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Looks like a good bloke to me

I'm beginning to like the cut of Phillip Field's gib, especially as it looks like he's happy to thumb his nose at bureaucracy as he has his gib installed.  I had no problem with him helping out a constituent who was being mucked around by the Immigration Department, I appreciated his voting against Labour's speech rationing and nationalisation of children bills, and I enjoyed hearing yesterday's news that he's pushed on with much need building work at his rental homes without worrying himself about getting pesky building consents first.

If he wasn't a politician, I could almost like the man.

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No email

If any readers have sent me an email in the last day or so, allow me to point out that iHug's email is down, and I don't have it. iHug say their engineers "know about this issue and are working to fix it as quickly as possible."  So don't hold your breath for a reply if you're waiting for one.

Doctors for Freedom

We've had Doctors Without Borders, Doctors for Global Health and Doctors For Life.  Now it's time for something new: Doctors for Freedom, an organisation "dedicated to the single most important component of excellence in medical care:  personal autonomy."  They're two American doctors who believe in freedom first -- who say, "Letting drunken sanctimonious blowhards control health care is the same as, to steal from P.J. O'Rourke, "giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys..."

Do you believe that we must "keep the promise to our seniors" that became the disastrous glutton called Medicare?  Do you believe that people should have a right to purchase cigarettes and stereos and still receive free health care? Do you believe that individual physicians have a duty to society at large?  Do you believe in the goodness of big government compassion?  Do you believe that doctors have an obligation to  to face the daily threat of criminal sanctions including fines and imprisonment, in order to care for certain patients?

"If you believe any of this malarkey," the say, "then you badly need to spend time with us here at Doctors for Freedom." Looks like an invitation worth taking up, but note their warning:

WARNING: The material contained [there] should NOT be viewed by those lacking intellectual honesty, or a sense of humor!  Proceed at your own risk.

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New UK libertarian party

Britain now has a much-needed libertarian party.  Their website is here, but sadly their promised "radical manifesto" has yet to appear.

Let them know they're welcome to borrow as many policies as they like from this radical manifesto.  They could do a lot worse, you know.

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"A new concept for John Key. It's called a principle." (Updated)

Liberty Scott has "a new concept for John Key.  It's called a principle."

Obviously not something seen a lot around John Boy's office.  Rarely to be observed in National's policy manifesto.  And Certainly nowhere in evidence in his latest flip flop:  National's promise to abolish the Maori seats was one of the few remaining policies on which John Boy still hadn't backed down, so it comes as no surprise to see him finally get on to it.  His new policy is to hold off abolishing the race-based seats until all the treaty grievances that can be dreamed up by the grievance warriors -- every single one of them -- has wended its way through all the lawyers' offices of New Zealand. 

As Scott says, offering the backdown in this particular form offers a significant incentive to all the gravy train riders to keep the train right on rolling, and is presumably a prelude to making coalition deals with the Maori Party.

700053If a vote for Labour gets you a communist or two for no extra charge, looks like a vote for National this year gets you a tribalist who believes that the chief problem for most Maori is that they suffer from  “Post-Colonial Traumatic Stress Disorder,” and that the holocaust happened in Taranaki.

If you thought it was absurd yesterday to see Key hongi-ing the leader of an armed group who talked abut assassinating him, just think about him hongi-ing Tariana Turia later in the year as he welcomes the woman who was considered too unstable for a seat at Helen Clark's cabinet table to a seat around his.

UPDATE: Lindsay Perigo is at his deliciously acerbic best in describing yesterday's Key Waitangi shenanigans:

Yesterday’s Waitangi Day celebrations, acclaimed by the media as the most peaceful in a long while, were actually the most sickening ever.

They plainly confirmed the voluntary servitude of the media to Mordi separatists and the dearth of decency among mainstream politicians. In fact, the only one who came through with her dignity intact was Helen Clark.

First was the revolting spectacle of John Key, now double-jointed from all his recent flip-flopping, brown-nosing one of the specimens implicated in the proposal to assassinate him. Craven cowardice doesn’t come any more craven and cowardly than this.

Then came the brown-nosing of the same wannabe terrorist and his family and other co-conspirators by TVNZ’s Close Up programme, which had paid some of the expenses of these creatures. Close-Up was simply wall-to-wall Harawira/Iti, including nauseating genuflection by reporter Janes and presenter Sainsbury...

Read on here for Perigo's full report.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

One-Law-For-All Day

Expect another day tomorrow of protest, anger and hot air, all now par for the course for the day on which New Zealand was founded.  You'd think, in a country with as much to offer and as much to celebrate as New Zealand has that our National Day itself would be something to celebrate. Not likely.

Even without a full moon, Waitangi Day instead regularly produces a ragtag cavalcade of mischief-makers intent on misunderstanding whatever anyone else says -- no matter how simple and however straightforward. Every year there's a whole lot of people doing a whole lot of talking very loudly past each other -- often the same people every year. I expect no less this year. I expect another Waitangi Day with the same protests as last year, the same people loudly proclaiming that the state owes them a living ... and more claims for even more legal privilege  based on race.

Another Waitangi Day in which the the usual parade of politicians and protestors confront and avoid each other, in which the professional grievance industry bewail their fate and issue further demands for the taxpayer to give 'til it hurts.  Frankly, we don't need another tax-paid gravy train or another grievance industry or yet another charter for separatism or a forum in which to demand it -- and this was never what was promised by the Treaty.  We simply need good law -- good colourblind law.  That was what the Treaty promised.

We don't need more nationalisation of land, of seabed or of foreshore; we simply need a legal system in which what we own is protected, in which real injustices can be proven swiftly and without great expense, and where justice can be done and be seen to be done.  That was what the Treaty made possible.

The disappointment is that the promise has not always been the reality.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment every Waitangi Day is to reflect that for all the time spent on Te Tiriti in New Zealand school rooms, there's so little understanding of what it means, nor of the context in which it was signed.  Teaching real history is no longer fashionable.  Teaching myths is.

Partnership? The Treaty was not about 'partnership' of the form now espoused -- neither word nor concept appeared in the document. It was not a Treaty offering permanent welfare, nor a tax-paid gravy train into perpetuity.  In three short articles it simply offered the introduction of British law, and the rights and protections that were then protected by British law.  That was it. 

Biculturalism?  The Treaty that was agreed talked neither about race nor culture.  Like British law itself at the time it was colourblind.  What it promised was not the politics of race but the same protection for anyone, regardless of race, creed or skin colour.

Would that today's law was so blind.

At the time it was signed, the context of British law really meant something.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, British law -- which included British common law -- was the best the world had yet seen.  It was what had made Britain rich, and what still makes the places where British law was introduced some of the most prosperous places in the world in which to live today. From the perspective of one-hundred and sixty-eight years later, when individual rights and property rights are taken for granted even as they're slowly expunged, it's easy to take the framework and protection of British law for granted.  Looked at in the context of the history of human affairs however it was a tremendous achievement: the first time in which individual rights and property rights were recognised in law, and protected in a relatively simple and accessible framework.  Perhaps history's first truly objective legal system

The introduction of British law to the residents of these Shaky Isles  at the bottom of the South Pacific, which at the the time were riven with inter-tribal warfare, was a boon -- and those who eagerly signed knew that.  Their immediate perspective might have been short-term -- to forestall a feared annexation by France; to end inter-tribal violence; to secure territorial gains made in the most recent inter-tribal wars; to gain a foothold for trade -- but there's no doubt they had at least an inkling that life under British law promised greater peace, and the chance at prosperity.

"He iwi tahi tatou"

'He iwi tahi tatou.' We are now one people. So said Governor Hobson to Maori chieftains as they signed the Treaty that is now the source of so much division. But are we really 'one people'? Not really. No more than our ancestors were then. But nor are we two, three or fifty-four peoples -- do you have a people? -- and nor does it matter. What Governor Hobson brought to New Zealand with the Treaty was British law, which then meant something, and Western Culture, which makes it possible to see one another not as 'peoples,' not as part of a tribe or a race, but each of us as sovereign individuals in our own right.

That was a good thing.

But unfortunately, we still don't see each other that way, do we? And the myth-making about 'partnership' and 'biculturalism' is just one way to avoid seeing it.

To be fair, the Treaty itself isn't much to see. What Hobson brought was not the founding document for a country, but a hastily written document intended to forestall French attempts at dominion (and the Frank imposition of croissants and string bikinis), and which brought to New Zealand for the first time the concept of individualism, and the protection of property rights and of an objective rule of law.
But the Treaty itself was short, spare and to the point. What it relied upon was the context of British law as it then existed.   The Treaty's three short clauses promised little -- as everyone understood, the intent was to point to the wider context and say 'We're having that here.'  But that understanding is now clouded with invective, and the context that is no longer with us. 

British law is not what it was, and there's a meal ticket now in fomenting misunderstanding of what it once promised.

The Treaty signed one-hundred sixty-seven years ago today was not intended as the charter for separatism and grievance and the welfare gravy train that it has become - to repeat, it was intended no more and no less than to bring the protection of British law and the rights and privileges of British citizens to the residents of these islands -- residents of all colours. That was the context that three simple clauses were intended to enunciate. And one-hundred and sixty-seven years ago, the rights and privileges of British citizens actually meant something -- this was not a promise to protect the prevailing culture of tribalism (which had dominated pre-European New Zealand history and underpinned generations of inter-tribal conflict, and which the modern myth of 'partnership' still underpins), but a promise to protect individuals from each other; a promise to see Maoris not as part of a tribe, but as individuals in their own right; a promise to protect what individuals own and what they produce by their own efforts. That the promise is sometimes seen in the breach than in practice is no reason to spurn the attempt.

The Treaty helped to make New Zealand a better place for everyone.

Protection

Life in New Zealand before the advent of the rule of law recognised neither right, nor privilege, nor even the concept of ownership. It was not the paradise of Rousseau's noble savage; force was the recognised rule du jour and the source of much barbarity (see for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').  Indeed just a few short years before the Treaty was signed, savage inter-tribal warfare reigned, and much of New Zealand was found to be unpopulated following the fleeing of tribes before the muskets and savagery and cannibalism of other tribes.

Property in this war of all against all was not truly owned; instead, it was just something that was grabbed and held by one tribe, until it was later grabbed and held by another. To be blunt, life was brutish and it was short, just as it was in pre-Industrial Revolution Europe, and - let's face it -- it was largely due to the local culture that favoured conquest over peace and prosperity. As Thomas Sowell reminds us: "Cultures are not museum pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives." Pre-European local culture was not working well for those within that culture. Let's be really blunt (and here I paraphrase from this article):

In the many years before the Treaty was signed, the scattered tribes occupying New Zealand lived in abject poverty, ignorance, and superstition -- not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included). The transfer of Western civilisation to these islands was one of the great cultural gifts in recorded history, affording Maori almost effortless access to centuries of European accomplishments in philosophy, science, technology, and government. As a result, today's Maori enjoy a capacity for generating health, wealth, and happiness that their Stone Age ancestors could never have conceived.

Harsh, but true. And note those words before you hyperventilate: "not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included)."   Some one-hundred and fifty years before, the same boon was offered to the savage, dirt-poor Scottish tribesmen who were living then much as pre-Waitangi Maori were.  Within one-hundred years following the embrace of Western civilisation, Scotland was transformed and had became one of the centres of the Enlightenment.  Such was the cultural gift being offered.

The boon of Western Civilisation was being offered here in New Zealand not after conquest but for just a mess of pottage, and in return for the right of Westerners to settle here too. As Sir Apirana Ngata stated, "if you think these things are wrong, then blame your ancestors when they gave away their rights when they were strong" - giving the clue that 'right' to Ngata's ancestors, equated to 'strong' more than it did to 'right.'

Who 'owned' New Zealand?

It's said that Maori owned New Zealand before the Treaty was signed, and that while the 'shadow' of sovereignty was passed on, the substance remained.  This is nonsense.  Pre-European Maori never "owned" New Zealand in any sense, let alone in any meaningful sense of exercising either ownership or sovereignty over all of it. 

First of all, they had no concept at all of ownership by right; 'ownership' was not by right but  by force; it represented taonga that was taken by force and held by force -- just as long as they were able to be held (see again, for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand').  Witness for example the savage conflict over the prosperous lands of Tamaki Makaurau, over which generations of Kawerau, Nga Puhi, Ngati Whatua and others fought.  There was no recognition at any time that these lands were owned by a tribe by right -- they were only held as long as a tribe's might made holding them possible, and as long as the fighting necessary to retain them brought a greater benefit than it did to relinquish them (and by the early 1800s, with so much fighting to be done to hold them, all tribes gave up and left the land to bracken instead).

Second, even if the tribesmen and women had begun to develop the rudiments of the concept of ownership by right (the concept of ownership by right being relatively new even to 1840 Europeans) they didn't own all of the country -- they only 'owned' what they owned.  That is, what Maori possessed were the lands and fisheries they occupied and farmed and fished and used.  This was never all of New Zealand, nor even most of New Zealand. The rest of it lay unowned, and unclaimed.

Third, prior to the arrival of Europeans Maori did not even see themselves as 'one people'; the word 'Maori' simply meant 'normal,' as opposed to the somewhat abnormal outsiders who had now appeared with their crosses and muskets and strange written incantations. The tangata whenua saw themselves not as a homogeneous whole, but as members of various tribes.  This was not a nation, nor even a collection of warring tribes.  Apart from the Confederacy of United Tribes -- an ad hoc group who clubbed together in 1835 in a bid to reject expected overtures from the French -- there was no single sovereignty over pre-European New Zealand, no sovereign entity to cede sovereignty, and no way a whole country could be ceded by those who had never yet even laid claim to it in its entirety.

Our 'Founding Document'?

So the British came, and saw, and hung about a bit. The truth is that some of the best places in the world in which to live are those where the British once came, and saw and then buggered off -- leaving behind them their (once) magnificent legal system, and the rudiments of Western Culture. See for example, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and of course (as noted in obituaries of former governor John Cowperthwaite) Hong Kong. We lucked out.

What the Treaty did do, for which we can all be thankful, was to bring British law to NZ at a time when British law was actually intended to protect the rights of British citizens, and it promised to extend that protection to all who lived here. For many and often differing reasons, that was what the chieftains signed up to.  To become British citizens, with all the rights and privileges thereof.

But the Treaty itself was not a founding document. No, it wasn't. On its own, with just three simple articles and a brief introduction, there was just not enough there to make it a document that founds a nation. As a document it simply pointed to the superstructure of British law as it then was and said, 'let's have that down here on these islands in the South Pacific.'

The treaty's greatest promise was really in its bringing to these islands those rights and privileges that British citizens enjoyed by virtue of their then superb legal system; the protection of Pax Britannia when those rights and that protection meant something, and when British power saw protection of British rights as its sworn duty. The result of this blessing of relatively secure individual rights was the palpable blessings of relative peace, of increasing security, and of expanding prosperity.

Sadly, British jurisprudence no longer does see its duty that way, which means the legal context in which the Treaty was signed has changed enormously, and the blessings themselves are sometimes difficult to see. Law, both in Britain and here in NZ, now places welfarism and need above individualism and rights. That's the changing context that has given steam and power to the treaty-based gravy train, and allowed the Treaty and those who consume the Treaty's gravy to say it says something other than what is written in it.

The truly sad thing is that the Treaty relied on a context that no longer exists -- and the only way to restore that context, in my view, is with a new constitution that makes the original context explicit.  To restore the original legal context, and to improve upon it with a legal context that protects and reinforces an Objective rule of law -- as British law itself once did -- one that clarifies what in the Treaty was only vague or was barely put. And in doing so, of course, such a constitution would make the Treaty obsolete.

Thank goodness.

The Dream

Waitangi Day comes just two weeks after Martin Luther King Day. It might be worthwhile to remind ourselves of King's dream for the future of his own children:

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character..."
Perhaps we will one day celebrate that dream down here -- not as a dream, but as reality.  Celebrating our national day not as a charter for grievance that continues to poison discussion, but instead with real joy.  Celebrating that the colour of a man's skin is of no importance compared to the content of his character.  Shaking off the gravy train of grievance.

Perhaps one day we will actually celebrate the birth of this great little country, instead of seeing its birthday as an annual source of conflict. Wouldn't that be something to celebrate?

* * * * *

Linked Articles: Unsure on foreshore: A Brash dismissal of Maori rights? - Not PC
Do you have a people? - Not PC
Property Rights: A Gift to Maori New Zealand - Peter Cresswell
What is Objective Law? - Harry Binswanger
No Apology to Indians - Thomas Bowden
Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law" - Not PC
All hail the Industrial Revolution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Individualism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Rights - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Need - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Welfarism - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Ethnicity - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Government - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism:Constitution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism: Property - Not PC
A Constitution for New Freeland - The Free Radical

More from the Archives: Maoritanga, Racism, History, Law, Constitution

UPDATE: Lindsay Perigo forgoes the idea of 'One Law For All Day' and plumps instead for going the whole hog: "Dump the Treaty and the Day; Let’s Have Western Civilisation Day!" he says.

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Don't Vote Labour

Don't Vote Labour.  It hasn't gone away, you know.

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Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio (1889), Oak Park, Illinois

                   FLW home & Studio 2

Frank Lloyd Wright's home and draughting office. 

The Shingle Style home he designed and had built in his late teenage years when he first began work with Louis Sullivan (Wright's first employer Lyman Silsbee was a Shingle Style designer); the attached draughting office built nine years later was where Wright set up office with Marion Mahoney and Walter Burley Griffin once he left Sullivan -- and where they invented the Prairie Style

                   FLW home & Studio 3   

More photos here and here.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

$150,000 per car!

12_bus_180 After four years of delaying traffic the North Shore busway gets its first proper use today. With its opening the government has spent nearly $300 million of your money in order to get 2000 cars off the Northern motorway every day. That's $210 million, plus the cost of bus stations and buses.  That's $150,000 per car!

Couldn't they have invested our money in a few private taxis instead?  Or a viable second crossing?

That's $300 million to keep an empty lane open next to the Northern motorway's clogged lanes just so that (as Liberty Scott says) a near-empty bus can whiz by every three minutes. At that price, the bloody thing deserves to be better used.  It won't be -- not unless, as Scott suggests, it becomes a tollway.

As a tollway, it could charge vehicles a premium to bypass congestion, like the 91 express lanes in California. The tolls would be high, and vary according to demand, and would ensure free flow conditions remain. However, the tolls could ultimately pay for the road (except that past road users have already paid for it). An even better option would be to sell it, let bus companies pay for the right to use it, along with other road users. People could hardly moan about there not being an alternative, the government owned "free" motorway beside it would remain available.

He has another even more radical solution for North Shore's drivers to consider: see 'Auckland's Northern Busway Opens, But...' - LIBERTY SCOTT.

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They died of it

Three Hawkes Bay people have died waiting for coronary bypass surgery, and Health Minister David Cunliffe is calling for an "independent inquiry."  It doesn't require another viewing of 'Yes Minister' to realise that the chief reason for such an inquiry is not to uncover anything, but to divert attention from those truly culpable.

"There is no need for an independent inquiry into the deaths of the three Hawkes Bay people waiting for coronary bypass operations," says Libertarianz deputy and Wairarapa candidate Dr McGrath. The root cause is obvious.

Mr Cunliffe already knows the root cause of long surgical waiting lists.   It is the Sovietization of health care [in New Zealand] and the failure of subsequent governments to allow New Zealanders to fully fund and manage their health requirements...

Unless he publicly renounces socialism and moves to urgently deregulate and privatise the health industry, says McGrath, the incumbent minister of health must be held accountable for the die-while-you-wait health 'care,' and resign immediately.  It's not like it hasn't been obvious for some time.  Politicians take billions from NZers every year, and deliver in return a socialised system in which health care is rationed. 

These three people just died of it.

Twelve years ago, former Libertarianz Party leader Lindsay Perigo spoke of the die-while-you-wait health system. Since then, nothing has changed. There is still a shortage of qualified specialist staff in cardiac surgery and other services.

Under a private system, market forces mean hospitals would have to offer higher rates of pay and better conditions in order to attract staff - and rapidly - or risk financial ruin. Under a socialized system, hospitals respond to the demands of their customers with the trademark bureaucratic inertia we have come to expect in our public hospitals and health ministry.

As three Hawkes Bay families have now been made aware, this bureaucratic inertia is fatal. Or as Don Watkins says: "socialized medicine kills."

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'FARC off' says worldwide protest (updated)

 TFR76_Cover_Web-Edition Tomorrow morning offers Aucklanders and Wellingtonians the opportunity to stand up against tyranny.  First, some background. 

Hugo Chavez's South American socialism is pulling the switch on Venezuela, and is making moves to turn out the lights all across South America.  For forty years Venezuela's neighbour Colombia has been wracked with kidnapping, killing and would-be insurrection from an organisation called the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) whose stated goal is to create a communist state, and for whom Chavez is now their mouthpiece.

FARC's insurgency has already resulted in the displacement of 2 million people, thousands of deaths, and the labelling of Colombia as the "kidnapping capital of the world."  These people are scum.

Colombians are heartily sick of the violence of these 'narco-guerillas,' and they sure don't want either Chavez-style communism or his interference.  What they want is peace and the chance at prosperity they have without FARC's terrorism. 

Around the world tomorrow one million voices will be raised in protest against FARC and its terrorism.  The Auckland and Wellington rallies are timed to coincide with protests throughout Colombia and in 131 other cities throughout the world. Demonstrators will be demanding an end to FARC's campaign of terror against the the population of Colombia and to its kidnappings, massacres and murders.

The idea of a worldwide protest was born less than a month ago on the social networking Web site Facebook under the banner, "No more kidnappings! No more lies! No more deaths! No more FARC!". [Story here.]

"We hope the whole country will come out to join us," said Cristina Lucena, a 24-year-old political science student from Bogota and one of the protest's six main organizers.  Join several hundred Colombian nationals in NZ tomorrow to help make their voice heard from here.

Join the international protest against the terrorist activities of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Queen Elizabeth Square in Auckland on Tuesday, February 5 from 6am-9am, and in Wellington at the end of Lambton Quay and beside the Parlament building from 7.30am to 8.30 am.  WEAR WHITE FOR PEACE.

  • Organiser's No Mas Farc press release here.
  • Some useful background on FARC in The Guardian.

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A swift boat for McCain (updated)

Arch-Republicans Ann Coulter and Jack Wheeler agree: Don't back McCain.  Says Coulter, "I'd rather deal with President Hillary than with President McCain. With Hillary, we'll get the same ruinous liberal policies with none of the responsibility."  You can see video of Coulter's admission here.  For Wheeler's part, he explains:

I would not in any circumstances vote for John McCain, not if either Hillary or Obama were the alternative.  Evil is safer than crazy.  Leftie amateur inexperience is safer than crazy...

A McCain presidency will be the destruction of the Republican Party.  It needs to be rebuilt, not wiped out with the field clear for the fascists of the left to consolidate power and eliminate freedom.
And maybe the only way to rebuild it is in dedicated impassioned opposition to a Clinton White House.  That should be the subject of Ann Coulter's next book.  I've already got the title for her.  Her last book was If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans.  Ann needs to now write this book:  If Republicans Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans.

Wheeler's opposition to McCain is visceral -- "psychologically unstable" he calls him.  Worse, says Wheeler:

That John McCain is clinically nuts is scary enough.  What worries a small group of GOP Senators and Congressmen even more is a deep and dark skeletal secret in McCain's glorified past to which they are privy, and which [they believe] the Clintons will use to blackmail him.

Read Wheeler's whole article here to see what McCain is accused of.

UPDATE: Links fixed.

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"A pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be Prime Minister."

David Farrar has drawn great comfort from a review of John Key’s background appearing in NZ's Sunday Star-Times -- which is now, let's face it, an unreliable rag. (The article suggests the report has some association with London's esteemed Financial Times (FT), but the exact connection is unclear, and a search at FT's site reveals no recent news on John Boy.) The Sunday Star-Times praises his managerial skills:

What made Key an outstanding success in the brutally Darwinian business of banking was not his foreign exchange skills although they were more than acceptable. Instead what set him apart were essentially political and managerial skills. He was unusually good at charming colleagues and clients, and rallying staff around him...

While most successful traders in the financial world tend to be introverted, extremely brainy or thrive on taking crazily big bets, Key had never been a “typical” trader...

“I suppose a lot of FX [foreign exchange] guys do tend to be inward looking [says Steve Bellotti, Key’s immediate boss at Merrill Lynch] but John is a lot broader than that. He has real leadership skills. That was what made him really stand out.”

I have no doubt that John Key's management skills are exemplary. I've never challenged that. I'm sure his ability to lead a team in business is second to none. I've never questioned that. What I do note, however, is the skills cited are not the qualities that are needed in politics.

In business one's goals are generally focused and clear -- the job is to manage your team towards those goals. Politics is not like that. What's more important in politics is not so much what you can do (thought let's not discount that) but as what you stand for: the ability to charm colleagues and clients is all very well, but what's more important is what you're charming them for; leadership skills are all very well, but in a chap seeking the job of Prime Minister what's more important is where exactly we might be led. In this respect, John Key stands for nothing, and the Star-Times article gives no indication he ever has. The worry is that we'll all be led up the garden path.

John Key has articulated no clear direction. None at all. He's given no clear idea of which direction he intends to take New Zealand if he gets the chance, and given his proven ability to make one-hundred and eighty degree changes in direction, no sign that he even has one. In which direction does he intend to manage us? Anyone know? Does he?

Last week's spectacular U-turn on interest-free student loans -- a Labour policy it once promised to oppose with "every bone in our bodies" -- tends to indicate that there is no bone in the National Party body, and no direction in view beyond getting elected. No bone, no spine, no heart, no guts and no vision -- just charm, smarm and the empty vessel of managerialism.

Key's own direction is certainly not set by any inner political conviction -- the existence of which he has never given any sign -- but by the simple expedient of a wetting a finger to find the prevailing wind. A man with no direction is an empty vessel waiting for someone else to fill him up. For all John Key's admirable managerial skills, one is unable to shake the firm conviction that John Key's next direction is all-too frequently determined by the last person he talks to.

In this respect he is the hollow man he's frequently been described as. To paraphrase Walter Lippman's famous remark of Franklin Roosevelt, he is a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be Prime Minister.

That's not enough. As Leighton Smith has been heard to say, "John Key's National is not necessarily the answer."

OneLawForAll


UPDATE 1: Added for clarification: The co-author of the 'Star-Times' article is Gillian Tett, "an assistant editor of the Financial Times [who] oversees the global coverage of the financial markets."

UPDATE 2: Dave Mann puts it bluntly in the comments: "The choice between an ugly domineering asshole and a grinning smarmy conman is not an enviable one and the country really should have a real alternative to chose from. Where is our alternative?" Might I suggest that the only fundamental alternative to all the various brands of Nanny State is Libertarianz -- and to those who suggest Libertarianz need to get serious to be taken seriously I say, "Watch this space."

UPDATE 3: An article that could have been written especially for John Key's list of essential reading appeared as The Weekend Read of the Mises Daily: 'The Role of Ideas' by Ludwig von Mises.  Mises points out that "action is necessarily preceded by thinking" -- in the realm of public affairs, acting without thought generally means actions based on the thoughts and ideas of others. Me-tooing.  Real thinking on which genuine human action is based means "to deliberate beforehand over future action and to reflect afterward upon past action. Thinking and acting are inseparable..."

It is always the individual who thinks. Society does not think any more than it eats or drinks... The theories directing action are often imperfect and unsatisfactory. They may be contradictory and unfit to be arranged into a comprehensive and coherent system.

If we look at all the theorems and theories guiding the conduct of certain individuals and groups as a coherent complex and try to arrange them as far as is feasible into a system, i.e., a comprehensive body of knowledge, we may speak of it as a worldview...  The concept of an ideology is narrower than that of a worldview. In speaking of ideology we have in view only human action and social cooperation and disregard the problems of metaphysics, religious dogma, the natural sciences, and the technologies derived from them. Ideology is the totality of our doctrines concerning individual conduct and social relations. Both, worldview and ideology, go beyond the limits imposed upon a purely neutral and academic study of things as they are. They are not only scientific theories, but also doctrines about the ought, i.e., about the ultimate ends which man should aim at in his earthly concerns...

Some authors try to justify the contradictions of generally accepted ideologies by pointing out the alleged advantages of a compromise, however unsatisfactory from the logical point of view, for the smooth functioning of interhuman relations. They refer to the popular fallacy that life and reality are "not logical"; they contend that a contradictory system may prove its expediency or even its truth by working satisfactorily while a logically consistent system would result in disaster. There is no need to refute anew such popular errors. Logical thinking and real life are not two separate orbits. Logic is for man the only means to master the problems of reality. What is contradictory in theory, is no less contradictory in reality. No ideological inconsistency can provide a satisfactory, i.e., working, solution for the problems offered by the facts of the world. The only effect of contradictory ideologies is to conceal the real problems and thus to prevent people from finding in time an appropriate policy for solving them. Inconsistent ideologies may sometimes postpone the emergence of a manifest conflict. But they certainly aggravate the evils which they mask and render a final solution more difficult. They multiply the agonies, they intensify the hatreds, and make peaceful settlement impossible. It is a serious blunder to consider ideological contradictions harmless or even beneficial...

There is no other means of preventing social disintegration and of safeguarding the steady improvement of human conditions than those provided by reason. Men must try to think through all the problems involved up to the point beyond which a human mind cannot proceed farther. They must never acquiesce in any solutions conveyed by older generations, they must always question anew every theory and every theorem, they must never relax in their endeavors to brush away fallacies and to find the best possible cognition. They must fight error by unmasking spurious doctrines and by expounding truth...

Society is a product of human action. Human action is directed by ideologies. Thus society and any concrete order of social affairs are an outcome of ideologies...  Any existing state of social affairs is the product of ideologies previously thought out. Within society new ideologies may emerge and may supersede older ideologies and thus transform the social system. However, society is always the creation of ideologies temporally and logically anterior. Action is always directed by ideas; it realizes what previous thinking has designed.

If we hypostatize or anthropomorphize the notion of ideology, we may say that ideologies have might over men. Might is the faculty or power of directing actions. As a rule one says only of a man or of groups of men that they are mighty. Then the definition of might is: might is the power to direct other people's actions. He who is mighty owes his might to an ideology. Only ideologies can convey to a man the power to influence other people's choices and conduct. One can become a leader only if one is supported by an ideology which makes other people tractable and accommodating. Might is thus not a physical and tangible thing, but a moral and spiritual phenomenon...

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