Friday, February 29, 2008

Beer O’Clock: Wonderful Wheat Beers

"Wheat beer, s’il vous plait."
- English cricketer Graham Gooch in France tries out his schoolboy French in Reims. He was served eight beers. (1997)

Brewers have been using wheat to help make beer for hundreds of years. By replacing a percentage of the usual barley malt with wheat, brewers can impart a certain creaminess and spiciness to a beer as well as boosting head retention. There are a huge variety of wheat beers styles though the Belgian witbier style and German weissbier style are probably the most popular.

At a recent local beer tasting, the participants ranked the following three wheat beers as the best they tasted that night.

In third place by a very narrow margin was Emerson’s Weiss (5%). Brewed by the cheeky Richard Emerson in Dunedin, this is a relatively traditional interpretation of the German weiss beer style made using Bavarian yeast.

Appropriately cloudy (because the yeast is left in the beer), this beer throws a sweet bready aroma with touches of banana and sherbet. Medium bodied, it has the traditional weiss bier characteristics of banana and bubblegum, though the clove note only tends to come with age. A tart finish completes a fine wheat beer.

Hailing from the aromatic metropolis of Rotorua, Croucher's “The Hef” (5%) came in second at the tasting. Like the Emerson’s beer, “The Hef” is a hefeweizen – a German style literally translated as yeast in wheat beer. Brewed by reformed academic Dr Paul Croucher, “The Hef” is not just a suggestively cool name.

It is actually a more than decent wheat beer with plenty of banana, clove and vanilla notes in the glass. I even pick up a hint of ginger from time to time. It’s creamy enough for the brewer to semi-plausibly claim it evokes images of a beer milkshake, but there is no arguing with his conclusion that “The Hef” is “disturbingly refreshing.”

Continuing his winning ways at these beer tasting is another academic who got a real job – Dr Ralph Bungard. His Three Boys Wheat (5%) topped the poll for this session. Despite the pressures of moving into a new brewery, the good doctor has continued to produce his distinctive wheat beer.

The traditional Belgian witbier uses Curacao orange peel and coriander to produce a quenching beverage. In a novel twist, Ralph has replaced the orange peel with lemon zest. This has the advantage of giving the beer a citric zip -- and the disadvantage of requiring him to zest fifty lemons at five a.m. in the cold depths of Christchurch.

Three Boys Wheat is rich golden beer with swirls of yeast evident in the glass. The nose is a combination of sharp lemon and gentle coriander with a faint impression of yeast. Gently bubbled, this beer has a comforting blend of citrus and spice in the glass before a refreshing sour snap at the finish. This wheat beer stands out.

When I run tastings and tours, wheat beers are always hugely popular. Surprisingly however, the only mainstream brewery in New Zealand doing a wheat beer is Mac’s, with their Great White. Wheat beers, I suspect, will soon be a growth category of beer in this country particularly given their appeal to non-traditional beer drinkers who do not like much bitterness in their beer.

PS: Now – be honest. Did you really understand why the Graham Gooch quote at the top was so funny?

Cheers, Neil
REAL BEER

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Day of the Frog

The Greens' Frog Blog writes about Leap Day calling it the Day of the Frog (leap, geddit), and shows an uncharacteristic turn of humour by showing how other blogs "upcoming blogathon on frogs" will be writing about Frog Day too.   A frogathon, if you will.

Kiwiblog will be uncovering the story of a frog advocacy group that has been silenced by the Electoral Finance Act, the Standard will discuss how John Key pulls the legs off frogs when no one is looking. I expect No Right Turn to have detailed policy analysis on possible legislative action relating to the Maud Island Frog. Hard News will report on the cultural impact that Archey’s Frogs had by releasing a song of their mating call exclusively to iTunes. Whale Oil will continue to amuse his readers by photoshopping Jeanette’s head onto a frog (guffaw).

And here at Not PC, of course, we'll be demonstrating how privatisation and secure private property rights will make the world better place both for frogs and for those who farm and consume them.

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Global warming jumps the shark

7390_large_hadcrut It took a century for earth's recorded average temperature to rise by 0.6 degrees Celsius, and then one year - last year -- for it to drop by between 0.6 and 0.75 degrees Celsius, depending on which of the four major global tracking agencies you follow  (that's Britain's Hadley Centre's graph for the last twenty years at right).

Just to repeat: that's more than the rise in recorded surface temperatures over the whole of the twentieth century, and more than four times greater than the supposed effect on temperatures of every every nation on the planet reducing its emissions according to the Kyoto Protocol.

It's a one-off, but it's a big drop.

Notes Michael Asher at Daily Tech, "For all four sources, it’s the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down," and it's the reason residents of places like Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, Jerusalem and Baghdad have been making snowballs for the first time in living memory -- or, in the case of Baghdad, ever -- that China and North America have been riding out their worst winters in decades, and that more snow and ice cover the northern hemisphere than at any time since 1966.

"The planet has a fever," Al Bore told Congress last year. "The baby's crib is on fire!" Guess not.

Now, one cold winter does not a non-warmist make, but as Colorado's Daily Sentinel summarises, the bitter cold is messing up a perfectly good panic.  No wonder one Canadian journalist suggests "brother Al" stop denying the evidence, and try for "a second Oscar with a sequel to his movie An Inconvenient Truth.  Perhaps he could call it The Cold, Hard Truth."

I look forward to the human drama of seeing The Goracle morph from warmist to freezist.

UPDATE 1: The perfect time for for the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change in New York, co-sponsored by Australia's Carbon Sense Coalition and the US's Heartland Institute.  According to chairman of Carbon Sense, Mr. Viv Forbes, "the conference will highlight the fact that a large number of eminently qualified scientists all over the world are rejecting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC: 41.23, -0.13, -0.31%) proposition that human emissions of carbon dioxide have caused or will cause dangerous global warming." According to Forbes, "Global warming hysteria will take a cold shower in New York next week."

UPDATE 2: So why has this been so little reported in the mainstream chatterati?  British writer Melanie Phillips at The Spectator suggests bias.  Bias.  From the media!  Who would have thunk it?

Every politician and B-list celebrity now anxiously measures his or her carbon footprint. Every British schoolchild is now drilled to believe that man-made global warming is a Fact along with poverty and the existence of Belgium. It’s a wonder any of us has any incentive to get up in the morning.

So you might think that the news that the world isn’t frying after all would be all over the media. World saved! That’s a helluva story, surely...

Apart from a couple of lonely newspaper pieces [however], virtually none of this dramatic news has been reported. The world has no idea that it is no longer doomed to fry but maybe should invest instead in some thermals and start emitting more heat. The Chief Scientist has not said anything about it. The Royal Society has not said anything about it. Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and Sir John Houghton and Sir Jonathan Porritt and the Today programme have not been heard to say anything about it.

And neither have any of the usual suspects here or in the US have had much to say either.  Why?  David Aaronovitch gives a name to the symptom: Intelligentsia Default Position, or IDP. [Hat tip Global Warming Politics]

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"Me being Muslim? It was a giant act."

This will be interesting.  If you've followed the blog of a chap from Christchurch with the handle Kaiwai, you'll have noticed that over recent times he's become a Muslim.  Today, he posted this:

Oh, and for those a little slow, me being Muslim? It was a giant act. All the bullcrap put on this blog about being a Muslim? again, its all bullcrap. Believe me, I learned a lot about Islam over this period of time but I'd never want to join a religion whose sole aim is to behead me because I am gay.

Then later:

I no longer have to put on this Islam/Sufi shit any more; I'm back to my old bitter, cynical, reasoned and rational person. Devoid of the pointless dogma and bullshit that accompany the likes of Islam, and far removed from the superstition of Muhammad.

I've uploaded some videos, what I'm going to do is start creating some videos over the next couple of days logging my experience of being 'a Muslim' and provide evidence that not only is the religion a flat out fraud but one with an insidious undertone of subjugation and humiliation of all non-Muslims.

His videos are here, at YouTube.  Keep watching.

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Is China ready for the Olympics?

Some undercover photos suggest perhaps not.

        China001 China002                           China003  cHINA004                              China005  China006

UPDATE: Aaron at Save the Humans has gone undercover to find the six mascots in the running to represent the '08 Beijing Olympics.  They include:

  • Timmy the Tank (so damn cute. When he’s animated and let loose, he paints the flag of China with the blood of protesters on his treads!)
  • Pagey the Censored Web Page, and
  • Teddy the Involuntary Organ Donor.

Read the compete list with their descriptions here.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bill Buckley's dead

The father of modern American Conservatism William F. Buckley is dead, and since his own obituary of Ayn Rand pulled no punches, neither will this brief note.

The man was an insufferable prig -- the prime mover in destroying America's honourable small-government  Old Right and replacing it with the holy-rolling, big-government, state-worshipping conservatism still in evidence today.  "Let us be clear as to Buckley’s impact," says one of the better brief obituaries I've seen around the traps so far:

 First, it was he who gave voice to a bevy of “ex-communists” through his publication National Review. Many of them swapped communism for Catholicism but never really converted to supporting classical liberalism. They often remained statists to the end, simply preferring the pabulum of Jesus to the Marxist snake oil...

But Buckley’s leanings toward a Wilsonian foreign policy helped push the bipartisan policy that exists today. Both major parties are still the war parties... Nor should we forget that Buckley tried to justify a free society on the basis of religion. Everything he did was driven by his Catholicism. By justifying capitalism on the basis of religion Buckley was a recruiter for the Religious Right.

In the end Buckley did much to encourage the two most destructive forces within the Republican Party and the conservative movement -- [so called 'compassionate conservatism' and 'neo-conservatism'].

Ayn Rand gave Buckley's Conservatism an Obituary in 1960

There are three interrelated arguments used by today's "conservatives" to justify capitalism, which can best be designated as: the argument from faith—the argument from tradition—the argument from depravity.  [None are valid defences of capitalism, and the last requires freedom's defence to begin by spitting in one's own face.] Today's "conservatives" are futile, impotent and, culturally, dead. They have nothing to offer and can achieve nothing. They can only help to destroy intellectual standards, to disintegrate thought, to discredit capitalism, and to accelerate this country's uncontested collapse into despair and dictatorship.

Buckley returned the favour twenty-two years later when Rand died, declaring "Ayn Rand is dead. So, incidentally, is the philosophy she sought to launch dead; it was in fact stillborn." Hardly true. However, now Bill Buckley too is dead, and so too is the mongrel grab bag of notions that flew under the banner he called conservatism dead; killed by the contradictions of its own creaky foundations, and well buried by Brad Thompson in a superb dissection called: THE DECLINE AND FALL OF AMERICAN CONSERVATISM, summarised in six parts here at NOT PC last year.  You can see an index for the whole series at the foot of this post.

And just to give Buckley his due, he was at least feisty.  Here's him on YouTube promising to sock Gore Vidal in the goddamn face [hat tip Hilton]:

                                


UPDATE 1
: Bloomberg has the more mainstream obituary of the man.

UPDATE 2:  If it's objected, as a few emailers have, that Buckley intellectually transformed and re-energised the intellectual movement for freedom, I have just one reply: Bullshit.

His fusion of capitalism and religion is not merely wrong, it's fatal -- the reason for his violent antipathy to Rand was that she pointed that out.  After their only meeting she described Buckley as

Clever, but an intellectual light-weight. An opportunist. Very 'social'; not genuinely interested in ideas. And potentially dangerous, if he acquires an influence -- because he tells people that the foundation of capitalism is religious faith, which implies that reason and science are on the side of the collectivists.

There is no greater point that a defender of capitalism could concede, and Buckley's religio-conservatives handed it to their opponents as a free gift.

And in truth, opposing communism was the only thing that held Buckley's conservatives together -- indeed, as Robert Bidinotto describes, the disparate wings of the conservative political movement he fused together managed to remain together "only so long as it had a common enemy—the Soviet empire. But with the collapse of that enemy in 1989, the movement fell into disarray, sundered by a host of philosophical divisions that are regularly lamented even within the pages of his own National Review."

The divisions are given above in Rand's description, and their rending apart described in Thompson's piece, which is linked above.

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Dear Scumbag: Giz a tax-cut

Blair's written a letter to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China ("Dear Filthy Fascist-Socialist Scumbag" it begins) inviting the red hordes of the People's Liberation Army to invade and occupy the country of New Zealand, and applying for the role of titular head* of the resulting Special Administrative Region.

The reason?  The filthy fascist-socialist scumbags have just announced some pretty impressive tax cuts for the Special Administrative Region of  Hong Kong.  Cactus has the details.  They include a zero percent tax rate for incomes up to HK$108,000 (NZD18,000).  Think we'll see any other party than Libertarianz offering that boon this year?
                                                                                       * * * * *
* By the way, the job Blair's proposing for himself is Chief Executive, not titular head.  I just haven't said the word "titular' for a while, so I wanted to make the most of the chance.

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Libz on Campus on campus

LibzOnCampusAK I spent a couple of hours this morning helping out Daniel Aguila (pictured) down at Libz on Campus's Auckland University Orientation Week table.  Talked to about a hundred people without even one serious argument.

Orientation at Auckland isn't what it was.  I didn't even see anyone drinking.  Except me.

Unlike some other campuses around the country (for which Pacific Empire has a decent round-up), Auckland's campus is dead.  Most of the people on campus this week are either paid to be there (every major bank and computer company has a stand to sign up new customers) or are there because God told them to be (there are at least half-a dozen Christian clubs seeking new souls, most of them looking very well resourced). Hell, no other political parties even had a stand on campus -- no Young Nats, no ACT on Campus, no official state-worshippers whatsoever, although I'm told Hard Labour were there briefly yesterday avo without attracting much support.

Turns out after talking to a few students about this that with electronic enrolment these days most of Auckland Uni's actual students elect not to show up until next week, using this last week to earn a little more before money before lectures begin.  Makes sense really.  Even with the relatively low key Orientation however interest in the World's Smallest Political Quiz from those there was as high as ever, with most students predictably scoring in the 'left-liberal' category.

So to get to my point -- and yes, I do have one -- if you're at any tertiary institute around the country and you want to get involved in Libz on Campus, then give Daniel, Phil, Ben and co a shout at libzoncampus@gmail.com, and get involved.  With the plans being put together for Election O8, it's going to be an exciting year!

Join Libz on Campus. As their slogan says: They're not Left or Right.  They're Better!

UPDATE 1: Libz on Campus will be back on campus at Auckland next Tuesday for Clubs Day.  If you'd like to help out email Daniel  at mexaguil@gmail.com.

UPDATE 2:  Since we're talking to students, here's something we could be talking to students about: An Open Letter to Students--Will "Atlas Shrugged" Change Your Life Forever?

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Free elections, free speech, free expression ...

efb "It is inconceivable that you can hold open fair and free elections if you have media intimidation and great restraints on the freedom of expression."  That was Helen Clark, speaking yesterday about Fiji.

Hasn't the Herald and a few other people been saying something similar about the situation in New Zealand?

Just asking. 

[Hat tip Sandi]

UPDATE: Speaking of intimidation, restraints on the freedom of expression and unfair and unfree elections -- all brought to you by Helen Clark's Electoral Finance Act -- the Electoral Commission is seeking advice whether political opinions expressed on personal websites is legal.  I kid you not.

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Power corrupts

bethmorgan_narrowweb__300x422,0 I mentioned last week that the Australian city of Wollongong has a rather, ahem, unique method by which to be screwed by their town planners. In fact, a fairly direct method -- one obviously enjoyed by planner Beth Morgan (right).

Turns out that unlimited power over other people's plans tends to corrupt those who wield it: the entire City of Wollongong planning department and the Labor Party hacks in charge of the department all seem to have had their own scams going on involving kickbacks, political donations and sexual favours in return for approval for development applications.  It's  a complicated story that could easily happen anywhere (and undoubtedly does), and to help you follow the whole tangled trail, The Daily Grind has produced a PDF graphic of it all.

Moral of the story: when you force the productive to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then the unproductive tend to seek the unearned.

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There's one easy way to stimulate an economy...

25225_m George W Bush's 'stimulus' package consisting of one-hundred fifty billion taxpayer dollars put into consumer hands is simply a forced shuffling of money from one group of people to another -- in this case, from those who've produced the money to those who haven't. 

The justification for the package is to "stimulate demand," as if consumption itself is a primary.  But it's not.  As Amit Ghate points out, production is not an end in itself --

production must ultimately be understood as being for the sake of consumption...  But this of course does not mean that consumption makes production possible, manifestly it’s the other way around...

Once we see through the myth of “insufficient demand”, we also see that the Bush plan is not a “stimulus” at all, it is simply another case of the redistribution of wealth (the government collects taxes and then gives a small portion of them back). It therefore can, and does, add exactly nothing to the economy.

To judge the worth of the 'stimulus package,' it's enough to realise that "economic growth means an increase in wealth."  It does not mean a redistribution of wealth from those who've produced it to those who wish to consume it.  The point is well made in an extensive article by Yaron Brooke in Forbes magazine that's well worth reading in full: To Stimulate The Economy, Liberate It.

While some in Washington are quibbling about the details of the economic stimulus package, nearly everyone agrees with its basic idea: that our ailing economy needs Uncle Sam to play doctor and hand out some $150 billion in consumer spending money. But this sort of government intervention is not the cure for our economic troubles. It is the cause.

Since "economic growth means an increase in the amount of wealth that exists in a country, and all wealth must be produced," the importance of production should be obvious.

The focus of today's stimulus packages on consumer spending is therefore completely backward. Consumption is a consequence of production. This fact is ignored by the Bush plan, which attempts to achieve prosperity through $100 billion in deficit-spending. Though this might bring the appearance of prosperity, in the same way that an unemployed man appears prosperous if he goes on a shopping spree with his credit cards, the reality will be the opposite.

The sub-prime mess and the credit crunch itself -- not too mention the various 'bubbles' created by earlier expansions of easier credit by means of the printing press -- these are all problems created by government itself.  Over-regulating producers has hampered producers from creating new wealth, and over-taxing them has removed the necessary capital to produce new wealth.  The government is not the solution to the present problem, says Brook, it is the problem.

Imagine the economic stimulus, the explosion of productivity, that would occur if [all the various] regulatory nooses were removed.  For that matter, consider how our government wreaks economic destruction by taxing the wealth of the productive and diverting it unproductively. Americans pay trillions of dollars in taxes annually ... for regulations and for entitlement programs that transfer wealth from productive individuals who have earned it to those who haven't.

Over the years, these programs have prevented individuals from investing trillions of dollars in new ventures. It took a million dollars to start Google; if the government hadn't drained us of millions of dollars, picture what other amazing technologies, products and services we would be enjoying today.

The economic stimulus that would result from drastically cutting government regulation and spending (and thus taxation) is almost unimaginable.

Faced with recession, therefore, we should be asking not, "What can the government do to stimulate the economy?" but "What can it stop doing?"

Government should not be attempting to stimulate the economy, he concludes.  It should be aiming to liberate it.  In other words, if you really want to stimulate the economy then get the hell out of the way!

I urge you to read the article in full.

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'Third of May' - Goya

                                

Yes, I've posted this before -- an intense and tragic evocation of the State as killer.  Artist Michael Newberry describes the powerfully condensed piece, contrasting it with Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People in which the figures are far from the "the playthings of destiny" they are here, instead "they are acting to fulfil their aims."   The chief difference between the two hinges on the issue of volition, he says, and the painter's view of it.

On the other side of this volitional issue [to Delacroix's depiction] we have Goya's painting of an execution, in which the these poor men have been lead like sheep to their slaughter. Notice that in the background that the State buildings are above the scene, the implication is that the state dictates to the humans below. There is a line of faceless universal soldiers, heads bowed, carrying out their orders. The main victim thrusts his arms out in the gesture of "why". Notice how the light box is turned towards the victims, they are bathed in its sympathetic glow while the soldiers are in the shadow. Also notice that the color of the light box and the main character is identical gold and white, the implication being that he is the light. Goya paints an empathic portrait of these victims plight but victims they are; hopeless playthings of the mysterious State lurking in the background.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tribal Europe

Historian Scott Powell suggests there's a cogent reason both for all those wars that have regularly overrun Europe, and also for Europeans' general dislike of America -- in a word, Europism:

“European Subordinacy” (mostly to America) has generated a cultural backlash rooted in the only outlook that Europeans seem to know: collectivism.  Since this cultural coping strategy is now continental in scope, I call it “Europism."

To explain what he means about Europe's general collectivism, we need to take a short detour through the word "qua," which means "in the capacity or character of; by virtue of."  The word was very popular with our old friend Aristotle, who described metaphysics as "the science of being qua being" -- which is about as much as you need to know about metaphysics for this post, but you can begin to see how the word might be used.

Anyway, "Europism," says Scott, "is rooted in the dismal historical record of European people living as separate, antagonistic tribal and national groups."

From the earliest time of the barbarian migrations, to the nineteenth century and twentieth centuries when Germany, Italy, and the various Slavic nations were formed, Europeans have had virtually no grasp of “man qua man.” They’ve always seen themselves as man qua Briton, or man qua Salian Frank, and later man qua Aryan, and man qua Serb, Bosnian, Croat…

... Or Kosovar.  No wonder Europe has endured centuries of essentially tribal warfare.  "This myopic outlook has proven to be a terrible handicap," he explains, "Only a greater enemy could ever bring [these disparate groups] together."  Which, today, is America's role in Europe.  Even the Reformation never changed the tribalism much -- the tribes just became ever more Balkanised.

In the wake of the Reformation, when man qua Austrian vs. man qua Prussian, came to mean man qua Catholic Austrian vs. man qua Calvinist Prussian, and man qua Englishman vs. man qua Frenchman was exacerbated to become man qua Anglican Englishman vs. man qua Catholic Frenchman, the impediment of collective self-identification only intensified.

It got so bad that Europeans were killing each other almost non-stop in some quarter of the continent during the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.

If you're wondering what all those maps down the side represent, it's the "principal seats of war" across Europe from 1618 to 1815.  Not a pretty sight if you like a peaceful life.  [Thanks to the Perry-Castañeda Library at the Uni of Texas you can click to enlarge the maps.]   And if you want to understand the real roots of all those wars, and indeed of war itself, it's this idea of people as part a group, rather than as individuals with the right to exist for their own sakeThat was the distinctive American contribution to human affairs, and the basis on which the country was founded.  No wonder it's so easy for Europeans to dislike, and to misunderstand.

Anyway, I highly recommend reading and digesting Scott's post -- it will help you understand several centuries of human history. 

And given his principled approach to history, you might also begin to understand why I'm enjoying his online history course so much.

UPDATEPart Two of Scott Powell's article is now up at his blog.  Enjoy.

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Britain quakes

quake_185x360_289826a An earthquake, in Britain!

Glenn Ford, a senior seismologist at the British Geological Survey (BGS), said: “It’s an extremely large earthquake in UK terms but not large in world terms; we’d classify it only as a light earthquake."

Light by world terms, sure, but still large in terms of the low level of earthquake engineering built into British buildings. 

Fortunately, neither injuries nor serious damage are reported.

Sophie: Not sorry.

sophie_mirabella_australia Everybody's saying sorry.  Jesse Ryder's saying sorry.  Oscar event organisers are saying sorry.  And of course, Kevin Rudd is saying sorry for the "stolen generations" and insisting it will all never happen again.

Sophie Mirabella isn't saying sorry.  Who the hell is she?  She's an Australian Liberal MP (right) who sat out 'Sorry Day' and later expressed her principled opposition to the whole sorry spectacle of people apologising for things they didn't do -- to the Rudd Government's refusal to "release its legal advice regarding compensation claims that may flow as a result of the apology"; to the paternalistic nature of the Apology; to "the policies that ensconced the welfare mentality and dependency into the subculture"; to "the failure to confront the harsh truths of life in Indigenous communities"; to "the misguided paternalism which did nothing to right the wrongs of past decades"; and to "the damaging mindset of the victim mentality, which pervaded the psyche of Indigenous affairs and made coming face to face with the more pressing problems of Aboriginal communities nigh on impossible."

To all of these and more she is opposed.

She is opposed to the flimsy basis on which the whole Apology is based; that "the very term ‘stolen generations’ is not defined, is not qualified ... [and] is too simplistic"; that  "in purely legal terms, the word stolen has specific meaning denoting criminality, giving rise to "the question of whether welfare officers and other government employees are, by implication, to be held liable in some way for their involvement in saving children at risk of harm in local communities"; that "this apology will entrench the notion of Aboriginal disillusionment and more firmly ensconce the victim mentality right throughout Indigenous Australia"; and that "many who have dared offer an alternative viewpoint, expressed a contrary opinion on the wording of the motion or called for more debate have been called uncompassionate, callous and racist, as if compassion is strictly limited to those who endorse the Prime Minister’s ‘sorry’ motion—as if they have an exclusive monopoly on compassion."

Bravo!

As Aussie Objectivist Prodos says, "it’s refreshing to find a politician who isn’t cringing and grovelling in the radiant fog that is Rudd."  Isn't it funny how it's so often the women politicians who have the balls?

Prodos supports Sophie Mirabella, and he thinks you should too: Join his campaign of support here.

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Eggs are people too? Really?

According to a former presidential front-runner, this below is a human being:

                                                         human-reproduction-egg1

Let me be more specific: according to Mike Huckabee, this  fertilised human egg you see before you is in reality an actual human being that deserves full constitutional protection "guaranteeing the right to life, liberty, equality of justice and due process of law." 

Just to repeat: he insists there should be rights guaranteed to "equality of justice" ... to "due process of law" ... to life, liberty and the pursuit to property and happiness ... for eggs.   That's like confusing an acorn with an oak, caviar with sturgeon, and a car wrecker's yard with a fleet of automobiles.  Talk about confusing a potential with an actual.

No wonder the Denver Post derisively dubbed the proposal before the Colorado senate as the "egg as person" amendment. [Hat tip, you know who.]  This is not "pro-life," it's pro-idiocy.  Eggs are people, evolution is a myth ... next thing you know he'll be telling us the world is only six-thousand years old and the Pharoahs were all dinosaur farmers

What does it actually mean to grant "full constitutional protection" to an egg?  To something that is merely a 'potential'?  What it would do is to obliterate the rights of actual, living human beings.  As Ayn Rand observes, "by ascribing rights to the unborn, i.e., the nonliving, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives."

The task of raising a child is a tremendous, lifelong responsibility, which no one should undertake unwittingly or unwillingly. Procreation is not a duty: human beings are not stock-farm animals. For conscientious persons, an unwanted pregnancy is a disaster; to oppose its termination is to advocate sacrifice, not for the sake of anyone's benefit, but for the sake of misery qua misery, for the sake of forbidding happiness and fulfillment to living human beings.

Looks like Republican voters have saved us by a narrow margin from having a genuine fruit loop having the chance to carry the nuclear football.  Bless them.  ;^)

UPDATE: Not that the choices without the nutbar are any better.  On the question of which of the two main presidential candidate "will pose the more far-reaching threat to individual liberty," Robert Bidinotto puts the choices thus:

1. Barack Obama, who will put forth a sweeping leftist agenda domestically, fill the courts and bureaucracies with leftists, and retire from the War on Terrorism abroad -- assuming Congress will let him have his way, or
2. John McCain, who will continue the War on Terrorism abroad -- to the extent Congress permits it -- but who will hand over the U.S. economy to the environmentalists and anti-business regulators domestically, while committing the formerly pro-capitalist Republican Party to "progressive" statism?

Talk about Tweedledum and Tweedledumbarse.

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You don't own him

scprin125get He's played five one-day cricket games for New Zealand, scoring 196 runs at an impressive 49 average and a strike rate of 91 -- and already New Zealand sports fans seem to think they own Jesse Ryder.

What is it with local sports fans and their sense of possession?  When tennis hero Chris Lewis refused to play dead rubbers in New Zealand's Davis Cup ties -- after getting New Zealand to the 1982 semifinals -- fans complained he had a duty to play anyway.  Similar response when Russell Coutts left an incompetent Team New Zealand to join a more professional outfit that actually wanted to win the Americas Cup.  Now we witness fans arguing that Ryder needs to do this and needs to do that ... when in fact the only thing he has to do is to make his own decisions for himself.

Memo to sports fans: you don't own your heroes. 

And what about this grating need that administrators have to make champion sportsmen apologise when they have a drink or two -- reading out words written for him that everyone knows he doesn't mean, but wants to hear him say anyway?  Sure, he injured himself enough to miss the forthcoming England tour, but there are other senior players who'll be missing games on that tour too, and for some reason reports suggest he wasn't being considered for that tour anyway.

All you need to know about Jesse Ryder is that he's a damn fine batsman who hits the ball hard; a natural talent who won't fit the cookie-cutter mould modern sporting administrators like to fit modern sportsmen into; exactly the sort of un-coached talent who's magnificent to watch, bloody hard to play against -- and who lesser coaches find hard to handle, and often destroy by insisting they conform. 

Let the guy alone. 

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'The Vermilion Kimono' (detail) - Evan Wilson

 Wilson-detail

Here's another award winner in the Art Renewal Center's 2007 International ARC Salon.  This stunning piece won artist Evan Wilson an honourable mention. [Oil on linen, 36"x42"]

Click the picture to see the painting's full brilliance.

UPDATE 1: If you're having trouble downloading the full painting -- and believe me, it's worth it -- it's here. It's 2MB or so, so give it a minute.  Or you can see a smaller version here, where it looks like you can still buy the original!

UPDATE 2: The artist's website is here.  I like this description of his work on the home page from the curator of the Huntsville Museum of Art:

The accomplished paintings of Evan Wilson imbue everyday reality with a heightened sense of elegance and grace. His varied subjects–including engaging portraits, dazzling floral still lifes, genteel interiors, and vibrant genre scenes–transcribe the world into something slightly rarified, a realm in which beauty reigns supreme. For nearly twenty-five years, Wilson has worked as a professional artist in the venerable realist tradition, evolving a painting style that fuses the keen observational clarity of John Singleton Copley with the dash and spirit of John Singer Sargent. His best works capture the present as they acknowledge the past, and underscore the enduring power of realism in skilled and dedicated hands.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Berrymans' lawyer mortgages house to pay fine for seeking justice

Several years ago an embattled Adrian Chisholm placed an ad in the paper:  "Honest and a 'lawyer?" said the ad,  "then we need you."  Two lawyers phoned, one of whom had been disbarred.  The other was retired.  That's how rare is the breed that was being sought.

Rob Moodie is one of that rare and esteemed breed.  For years he has pursued justice for former farmers Keith and Margaret Berryman who, through collusion and cover-up and political legerdemain, have lost nearly everything they own -- and just recently he was forced to mortgage his home to pay a $5000 fine and $32,000 in costs awarded to the Crown after he was found guilty of contempt of court for publishing the army's 'Butcher Report' on on the Internet -- the army's own suppressed report that pointed to their culpability in the whole affair.

Poneke offers much of the story and a suitable tribute to the spirited Mr Moodie here.  (And here's Rob Moodie's own website, which I'd like to think should shortly have details of how to send financial donations to help him out.  If not, I wonder If someone might like to start such a project?)

UPDATE:  A trust has been in existence for some years for financial donations.  It is the Berryman Moodie Trust, National Bank Taupo. The Account number is 060429 - 0222810 - 00.  Donations can be made online, or at any National Bank.

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What moves history?

"Just as a man's actions are preceded and determined by some form of idea in his mind, so a society's existential conditions are preceded and determined by the ascendancy of a certain philosophy among those whose job is to deal with ideas. The events of any given period of history are the result of the thinking of the preceding period."
- Ayn Rand

Discuss.

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Oscar the grouch

I wonder if anyone could complete this sentence for me:

The Oscars are important because ...

I've never quite understood their importance, myself.  For the most part they involve movies of little value and actors with little to offer.  Can anyone explain why I or anyone should care?

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Atlas, Jolie, movie, on again

The on-again off-again movie project of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is on again according to entrepreneur and executive producer for Lionsgate fims John Agliaro.

With Hollywod's writers' strike over and Angelina Jolie reportedly and despite reports still firmly attached to the project -- "[lead character] Dagny Taggart is the most relatable character to me of all the extensive literature I have ever read,” Jolie is amusingly reported as saying -- Agliaro is looking forward to seeing some progress.  In an interview with Susan Paris, Agliaro admits

The Writers Guild strike has delayed us... Rand’s original title for Atlas Shrugged was The Strike. So irony of ironies, we’re being held up by a strike. Fortunately the Directors Guild has already settled.

If it wasn’t for the writers' strike the script would be finished and we’d be looking at locations.

So when will filming begin? Which other actors are involved?  What can he tell us about the script?  Answers all there in the interview, some of which I might wish were otherwise -- I'm still not sure it's a project to which this crew can do justice.  One thing for sure about which Agliaro is almost certainly correct: if the project does get off the ground then as he says "We will have hostile reviews."

I think the extreme right and the extreme left will unite in a rare unity to denounce the movie and its philosophic message.

Let's hope if it does get off the ground this time there's enough in the final cut about which they can be hostile.

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Opinions vs ideas (revised)

Some people have ideas; others just have opinions.  There is a difference.  Opinions are like arseholes -- everybody's got one.  Especially in the blogosphere.

Ideas on the other hand represent something more considered and generally more well integrated than mere range-of-the-moment opinions -- a species so frequently seen spewed out across the blogosphere's comments section.   The very best ideas are part of a distinctive and integrated worldview --  as author Burgess Laughlin explained recently, "a comprehensive set of ideas that, taken together, explain at least: (1) the basic nature of the world in which one lives; (2) one's own basic nature; and (3) the manner in which one should act in the world."  If we have a rational objective framework such as this to work from, we're likely to make a better fist of things when we are relying only on half-formed and half-baked opinions we've picked up who knows where.

I was musing on this distinction between opinions and ideas and on the befuddlement of most of the blogosophere's opinionated commentariat when I read this insightful comment from author Burgess Laughlin:

When someone gives me his opinion about a current controversy -- say, voting for candidate X rather than Y -- I like to ask: "What method did you use to arrive at your conclusion?"

I usually get non-answers:

1. "Well, ..." (Silence, either befuddled or angry).

2. "Common sense." (Milieu as oracle.)

3. "It's obvious what the right answer is." (Subconscious as oracle.)

4. "Reason." (Inviting the question of how to employ reason in a particular case.)

5. "Logic." (Inviting the question of how to proceed logically in a particular case.)

6. "It's too complex; everyone has to work it out personally" (Conclusions are a matter of personal taste.)

My position is that if there is no identifiable method, including an explanation of why that method was chosen, then there is no objectivity in one's conclusions.

Spot on!  Burgess has a book called The Aristotle Adventure and runs a blog called 'Making Progress,' on which he recently explained another related distinction: that between a worldview, a philosophy and an ideology.  Highly recommended reading, all.

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"No gods or kings. Only man."

nogodsorkings-thumb Don't be surprised if your video-game playing teenager starts to pick up Ayn Rand books: the makers of popular video game 'Bioshock' have made Rand's Objectivism -- or at least, the makers' version thereof -- into a "central theme" of the game.

Story here at a gaming site, including a largely sympathetic interview with the Ayn Rand Institute's Yaron Brook.

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"Global warming is a total crock of shit."

lutz-volt Not my words, but those of an American auto executive who momentarily grew a pair.  Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman of General Motors America, told reporter Glenn Hunter in a "closed door lunch" that hybrid cars like Toyota's Prius “make no economic sense” because their price will never come down," and added, according to Hunter:

Global warming is a “total crock of shit...  I’m a skeptic, not a denier. Having said that, my opinion doesn’t matter. [With GM's new battery-driven Volt hybrid, pictured with Volt, right], “I’m motivated more by the desire to replace imported oil than by the CO2 (argument).”

It took a while, but the brief report of his heresy in an industry magazine soon attracted apoplexy and abuse in equal measure, and as usual industry leaders ran for cover like timid chooks in a storm. And then in the normal course of things, Lutz backed down too.  Well, sort of.  On his GM blog, Lutz told readers to judge GM by its actions -- including the Volt hybrid that will help "lessen, and eventually even eliminate, the environmental impact of the automobile"-- rather than his words.

General Motors [he says] is dedicated to the removal of cars and trucks from the environmental equation, period. And, believe it or don’t: So am I! It’s the right thing to do, for us, for you and, yes, for the planet.

But he was right, wasn't he. It is a total crock of shit. Lutz made that comment at the end of a January that "experienced the sharpest January-to-January global temperature drop - three quarters of a degree Celsius - since records began in 1880."   No wonder it snowed in Jerusalem (twice) and there were blizzards in places like Greece and Crete and Turkey, and heavy snows in China that caused about ten billion pounds worth of damage. 

No wonder even the European Union are quietly climbing off the global warming train and becoming a foot-dragging follower instead of the loud leader it has been, announcing this week it is now "ready to exempt" Europe's steel, chemical and power industries from the European carbon-trading regime.

No wonder, since as climate scientist Richard Lindzen explains in a recent Op-Ed, "there is no case for climate alarmism" -- and it this rapidly collapsing case that is paradoxically causing "the astounding upsurge in alarmism of the past two years."

The notion of a static, unchanging climate is foreign to the history of the earth or any other planet with a fluid envelope. The fact that the developed world went into hysterics over changes in global mean temperature of a few tenths of a degree will astound future generations.

Such hysteria simply represents the scientific illiteracy of much of the public, the susceptibility of the public to the Goebbelian substitution of repetition for truth, and the exploitation of these weaknesses by politicians, environmental promoters, and, after twenty years of media drum beating, many others as well.

Given that the evidence ... strongly suggests that anthropogenic warming has been greatly exaggerated, the basis for alarm due to such warming is similarly diminished...  [O]ne may reasonably ask why there is the current alarm, and, in particular, why the astounding upsurge in alarmism of the past two years. When an issue like global warming is around for over twenty years, numerous agendas are developed to exploit the issue....

[Given all the vested issues at stake], one can readily suspect that there might be a sense of urgency provoked by the possibility that warming may have ceased. For those committed to the more venal agendas, the need to act soon, before the public appreciates the situation, is real indeed.

teirneygraphicnew533 UPDATE 1: How do the IPCC's predictions for temperatures in the years 2000 to 2007 look against the reality?  Well, as Roger Pielke Jr. says, any way you want them to look really.

Pielke's describes his graph at right showing the IPCC's predictions (in brown) against a range of temperature records as "a feast for cherrypickers."

In the Prometheus blog, where you can read the details of his computations, he writes: “One can arrive at whatever conclusion one wants with respect to the IPCC predictions. Want the temperature record to be consistent with IPCC? OK, then you like NASA. How about inconsistent? Well, then you are a fan of RSS. On the fence? Well, UAH and UKMET serve that purpose pretty well.”

Pielke's graph fits nicely with a graph that appeared in the IPCC's fourth and latest report measuring the record of predictions that appeared in the three previous reports against their own chosen temperature record for the periods of those predictions.  Even with the luxury of choosing their own record and drawing their own trend line, their predictions look about as useful as Britney Spears's childcare advice.

"The science is settled"?  Who are you kidding.  Given the disparity between predictions and records -- and even between records -- then as Piekle suggests, it's barely even possible to see what actual measurable predictions climate scientists are even making.

Absent an ability to rigorously evaluate forecasts, in the presence of multiple valid approaches to observational data we run the risk of engaging in all sorts of cognitive traps -- such as availability bias and confirmation bias. So here is a plea to the climate community: when you say that you are predicting something like global temperature or sea ice extent or hurricanes -- tell us is specific detail what those variables are, who is measuring them, and where to look in the future to verify the predictions. If weather forecasters, stock brokers, and gamblers can do it, then you can too.

UPDATE 2Tim Blair checks out some more unsettling "science is settled" revelations from a few years back:

Remember the “secret Pentagon report” on global warming from a few years back? The secret report that wasn’t secret? Here’s one of the report’s predictions, as understood by Britain’s Observer newspaper:

        As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.

That was written four years ago - before the Great Upheaval of ’05. Caused by the rising.

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Beethoven Monument - Max Klinger

      beethoven_in_sezessionsauss

Max Klinger's Beethoven monument in location at Joseph Olbrich's Vienna Secession building: to demonstrate what a coming together of talent the 'Secession' movement represented, one need only notice the room also features the famous Beethoven frieze by Gustav Klimt.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Slowing the bastards down ... a little

A little good news from last week's National Business Review, which reports the following like it's a bad thing:

    At the beginning of the 1993 National government, the executive took 20 sitting days on average to pass a bill. The 1996 National-New Zealand First government enacted new laws in an average of 34 days.
    When Labour took power in a minority coalition with the Alliance in 1999, that time ballooned out to 66 days.
    Bills also spend more time at select committee being scrutinised, despite time limits being put on the process to avoid bills being lost behind desks.
    Consequently, the number of laws being made has dropped under MMP by about a third each year.
    Governments can still pass important legislation as in the past and, similarly, screeds of unimportant legislation. The point is not that MMP governments cannot govern but they cannot govern by blitzkrieg.

So MMP has one good thing going for it then: it slows the bastards down.  Nowhere enough, mind, but when legislation is being measure in "screeds," every little bit counts.

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3,000 contestants, and not one winner

Three-thousand youngsters aged from eight to fifteen took part in a Triathlon yesterday, and nobody won.  "Winning wasn't the name of the game," you see. "It was about taking part and giving it your best."

No wonder all three-thousand were 'awarded' a gold medal.  Welcome to politically correct sport. Story here [hat tip RW].

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Hindsight no good either

Since there has been no warming since 1998, the sole repository for alarmist warmism lies in computer models which predict various forms of horror for twenty-first century temperatures.  Sorry, I should say super-computer models, since it requires more than just your average huge computer to crunch the numbers representing all the many variables  associated with a (warming or not) earth -- it takes several enormous super-computers to even attempt the deed.

And in truth, "attempt" is all that's been done.  Despite forecasts for a hundred years of alarmism spewing out of these super-computer models, a recent study determines that not one of the top twenty-two models on which policy-makers rely can be depended on to 'predict' the temperatures for the past one-hundred years. 

[Climate scientists David H. Douglass, John Christy, and S. Fred Singer analyzed 22 climate models and found their predictions at odds with actual warming over the past 30 years...

Most of the models predicted significant middle- and upper-troposphere warming, yet actual warming was minimal.

Douglass and his colleagues write, "Model results and observed temperature trends are in disagreement in most of the tropical troposphere, being separated by more than twice the uncertainty of the model mean. In layers near 5 km, the modelled trend is 100 to 300% higher than observed, and, above 8 km, modelled and observed trends have opposite signs."

Not good.  A summary of the study by Drew Thornley notes:

Many top climate scientists point out climate models are incapable of handling confounding factors such as cloud cover and water vapor (the dominant greenhouse gas), thus distorting climate predictions.

Additionally, they note, the models do not reflect the actual causes of warming... Singer writes, "Dire predictions of future warming are based almost entirely on computer climate models, yet these models do not accurately understand the role of water vapor. Plus, computer models cannot account for the observed cooling of much of the past century (1940-75), nor for the observed patterns of warming..."  Computers, no matter how big, cannot take account of all of the earth's complexities and processes, critics of the alarmist models also note. As a result, no current climate model can explain the causes of climate changes, accurately predict future climate, or form a sound basis for environmental policy.

Policy-makers relying on these models for future policy-making should take note.

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Cue Card Libertarianism - Liberalism

LIBERALISM: It ain’t what it used to be! It used to uphold the application of the principles of laissez-faire -- loosely translated as "Leave us alone!" -- not just to the economy but to all areas of life. Today's liberals however would be hard-pressed to leave anything alone.

In the very first issue of the The Free Radical David Kelly explained,
“Liberal has the same etymological root as liberty, and the original, or classical liberals, from John Locke to Thomas Jefferson, stood for liberty across the board. They fought for freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of values, against the icy grip of orthodoxy in politics and religion; and they defended economic freedom – the right to own property, to enter any line of work, to trade freely with willing buyers and sellers.” (David Kelley, 'May We Have The Word Liberal Back?' TFR, Issue No 1.)
Liberalism’s original concept of the proper relationship between citizen and government was formulated by John Stuart Mill thus:
The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community against his will, is to prevent harm to others.
Unfortunately, Mill himself retreated from this position in the name of equality and of something he called “cultivation” (“The uncultivated cannot be competent judges of cultivation”) which, along with the imprecision of the term “harm to others” helped pave the way for the hijacking of the word by its modern bastardisers – utterly illiberal imposters who are opposed to freedom of thought, speech and values (they are advocates instead of censorship, Political Correctness, compulsory sensitivity training, etc) and to freedom in the marketplace (which they insist must be shackled in support of their psychological and physical prop, the welfare state). The modern position my be conveniently summarised by Algernon Sidney, a contemporary of John Locke's. "Freedom is glorious," he said, "but requires moral supervision."

By such imprecisions is fredom destroyed.

While today's liberals ooze illiberality, the real inheritors of the classical liberal mantle are today's libertarians who, following Ayn Rand, replace the imprecision of Mill's notion of "harm" with the far more precise formulation of the non-initiation of force principle.

In New Zealand however, the bogus liberals still rule. They overrun the parliament and commentariat. They infest our universities. They are the most compelling single advertisement for their own mortal dread – the privatisation of education. From their taxpayer-funded ivory towers they have fought, and continue to fight, every measure of economic liberalisation tooth and nail.

For decades they were either indifferent to or explicitly supportive of the appalling violations of rights in communist countries. They are at heart totalitarians. They have twisted freedom of action to mean freedom to destroy freedom of action. They once stood on a rugby field in Hamilton and prevented the Springboks from playing, but were nowhere to be seen when, at the conclusion of the Springbok tour, the All Blacks set off for Ceaucescu’s Roumania. Opposing the Springboks then they opposed race-based laws; now those same former protestors rush race-based laws through parliament, and see no irony in dong so.

These modern-day state-worshippers have replaced Voltaire’s famous dictum with a newer more 'liberal' version: “I disagree with what you say, and will use any organ of the state (Human Rights Commission, Race Relations Office) to stop you saying it.”

The proper response of genuine freedom-lovers to these unspeakably contemptible usurpers of a noble word is to invoke the true liberal injunction, as above: "Laissez-nous faire" -- or in its best English translation: "Piss off!"

This is part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by New Zealand libertarians, originally published in
The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series so far can be seen down on the right-hand sidebar.

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