Friday, 4 April 2008

Beer O'Clock: Amber and Dark Lagers Ain't Ales

This week's Beer O'Clock post comes to you from the pen of SOBA's Stu...

The two categories of beer we look at today, Amber Lager and Dark Lager, are probably the next most popular beer styles in the world after the Pale Lagers we discussed last month -- the subtle dark versions of the subtle pale beers we previously looked at.

A lot of beer drinkers think a pale golden beer is a lager, while anything amber or darker is ale. Wikipedia reinforces that concept by redirecting a search for "Lager" to a page on "Pale Lagers." This couldn’t be further from the truth. Ale and lager have nothing to do with colour and everything to do with yeast and temperature. Lager beers are fermented at cooler temperatures, usually over a long period of time, with yeast that works well under those conditions. The result, in very simplified terms, is a beer that is very much a sum of the ingredients (as opposed to ale, which is a sum of the ingredients plus the added feature of fermentation characteristics – usually ‘fruity’).

Most New Zealand draught beers (e.g. Tui, Lion Brown, Waikato, Speight’s Gold Medal Ale,anything with the word “draught” in it’s name) spend a lot of their time masquerading as ales, when in fact they are dark lager. These beers, broadly speaking, actually fall into the 'Dark American Lager' style – a mildly darker version of standard pale lagers (read: little-to-no malt or hop flavour and aroma, as little like traditional beer as a beer can possibly be). Most kiwi draught beers are probably a shade pale to fit perfectly even into the Dark American Lager style, but Speight’s Distinction has that shade more colour and sums it up quite aptly. Try Speight’s Gold Medal Ale, Distinction and Old Dark alongside each other to see the full colour spectrum of this style – the beers get slightly sweeter, in the finish, but not a lot else changes.

'Munich Dunkel' and 'Schwarzbier' (Black Beer) are the more traditional styles within the dark lager category. Munich Dunkel – characterised by its malt depth and complexity – is reasonably hard to find but Wigram’s award-winning Dunkel, which I discussed here at Beer O’Clock last year, is spotted regularly in supermarkets and Hofbrau Dunkel is seen here and there. Monteith’s Black and Black Mac are two of New Zealand’s most well known interpretations of Schwarzbier – a smooth, roasty dark lager with a moderate bitterness – but Founders Long Black, which is a more faithful interpretation of this classic style and New Zealand’s highest-rated beer amber/dark lager at Ratebeer, is my personal favourite.

Contrary to the name, which alludes to the colour of most of the New Zealand draught beers, 'Amber Lager' (consisting of Vienna and Oktoberfest styles) is actually one of the more rare categories in our local market. These are soft, elegant malt-focussed beers with balance from the dry finish and very mild hop bitterness. These beers are very subtle and are a perfect showcase for the rich, very lightly toasted malts of central-western Europe. New Zealand ambers get their sweetness from brewing sugars more than malt.

In the Vienna style, Founder’s Redhead, Wanaka Cardrona and Wigram Vienna are all found intermittently in supermarkets around the country, while Aucklanders have the chance to swing on down to Galbraith’s in Mt Eden for their excellent house-brewed Vienna fresh from out of the tap. Oktoberfest – the stronger, richer amber lager, rather than a beer festival – is even rarer still, with Hallertau Brewbar near Auckland making the only local version. Hofbrau Octoberfest, a pale interpretation of the style, is occasionally seen on tap in good beer bars.

New Zealand’s best beer within the 'Amber and Dark Lager' styles, as judged at BrewNZ last year, was Sunshine Brewery’s Black Magic. Sunshine Brewery is quite well known throughout the country for Gisborne Gold, but this excellent dark lager is an all-but-forgotten “stout” Schwarzbier sibling. It’ll possibly take a trip to Gisborne to hunt this beer down but it is a beer, and a part of the country, well worth the trip.

Next time, on our beer style journey, we’ll look at: The not very bitter taste of bitter.

Slainte mhath, Stu


Famous first words

This is a great quote:

'Market' was the sixth word I ever learnt – after 'This little piggy goes to...'
- Dr Eamonn Butler, author of The Best Book on the Market.

As Samizdata Illuminatus says, "Isn't it great how we get children understanding buying and selling months if not years before the anti-market teachers can get their claws on them?"


Thursday, 3 April 2008

There's money to be made here ...

News just in for you youngsters who know how to read and write:

The Mont Pelerin Society is holding its bi-annual essay competition. The competition is held in conjunction with the Mont Pelerin General Meeting which is being held in Tokyo in September. The Hayek Essay Contest is open to all individuals 35 years or younger. Entrants should write a 5,000 word (maximum) essay. Essays are due on April 30, 2008 and winners will be announced on June 15, 2008.
First prize: US$2500 cash award + travel grant
Second prize: US$1500 cash award + travel grant
Third prize: US$1000 cash award + travel grant
For details of the competition please go to

If you do well, make sure you invite me to your shout.

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I will arise and go now, and go from Glenbrook Beach

A man has been fined $80,000 and looks likely to lose his house for the crime of cutting a path down to the beach on what appears to be his own land.  I say "appears" because the bloody journalist who covered this outrage didn't see fit to clearly establish whether or not the land on which the path was cut was the "offender's" property or not -- such things being considered irrelevant in these days in which obeisance must be paid to entire communities for the sin of cutting down one's own trees on one's own property, and thereby offending the Great Earth God Gaia.

The journalist did however see fit to tell us that this is considered "high end offending"; that the area's mayor called it "severe offending and the worst [our] Council has seen"; and to report  the judge's comment that it "looked as though a large slice had been cut out of a living organism and its entrails spilled out on the foreshore."

Good to see that District Court judges have retained their objectivity despite administering a nasty non-objective law -- ie., the Resource Management Act, under which the prosecution and fine were taken. 

The RMA, by the way, was introduced by the National Party.  Just so you know.  And the beach in question, just so you know, is Glenbrook Beach on the Manukau Harbour -- a muddy sort of a beach just up the road from that notable environmental destination the Glenbrook Steel Mill -- and as the report concedes "the esplanade [itself] was inaccessible to anyone because it was covered in gorse and tree stumps, and the coast was already compromised with accessways for boat ramps."  This is the "living organism" whose "entrails" have been so so "recklessly" spilled.

"We have three kids, and they want to get down to the beach," says the poor sap who's about to lose his house. "It was just for access from the property."  He'll know better then to offend Gaia next time he saves up enough to buy his own property, won't he.

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"The most important idea in the history of social analysis"

What's the one major thing that economics teaches?  I can hear the answer from the back of the room: from Jeffrey Tucker, who calls it "the most important idea in the history of social analysis" -- a "description of reality that is all around us but rarely noticed" -- one that has been around for many centuries,yet "first discovered by late-medieval monks working in Spain. It was given scientific precision in the classical period. It is the basis of advances in social theory in the 20th century. "

In fact [says Tucker, it is an essential part of the case for freedom. It was the basis of the belief of our ancestors that they could throw off tyrannical rule and still not have society descend into poverty and chaos. The failure to comprehend this idea is at the very root of the pervasive bias against liberty and free enterprise in our times, on the left and the right.

What's he talking about?  Go and see ...

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The crumbling warmist paradigm

death-by-coal_h150 I don't agree with Thomas Kuhn's account of why scientific ideas change, but his description of how people behave as their comfortable 'scientific paradigm' crumbles seems to be borne out in the increasingly hyperbolic statements of prominent warmists.

"Paradigm shifts," Kuhn explained, overturn the established order. Emotions run high. The process begins with "scientists … behav[ing] differently" and continues with "pronounced professional insecurity" whereby years and perhaps lifetimes of work and writing are put at risk.  [Quoted in Capitalism at Work]

Witness for example media mogul Ted Turner, whose Time Warner empire peddles climate porn by the truckload, and who told PBS's Charlie Rose on Tuesday that "not taking drastic action to correct global warming ... will be catastrophic." Catastrophic!

We'll be eight degrees hotter in ten, not ten but 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals.

None of the crops will grow!  We'll all be cannibals!  No sign of hysteria, insecurity or "different" behaviour there.  (Meanwhile, outside Turner's window, global warming comes to Michigan.) 

Now Turner isn't a scientist, far from it, but NASA's James Hansen is.  Hansen is a leading warmist -- it was Hansen who first popularised the warmist mythology back in 1998 on the basis of little more than one hot summer -- and now after a decade of declining temperatures when according to all the models we should be seeing an accelerating increase, he's seeing his "paradigm" crumble and he's starting to lash out. He recently likened the proposed construction of a new coal-based power plant as equivalent to the holocaust. He said the trains that bring coal to the new power plant are nothing else than the "death trains" that were moving the Jews to extermination camps.  And now he accuses Duke Energy's James Rogers of being a prospective killer for supporting a new coal plant.

"The process begins with 'scientists … behav[ing] differently' and continues with 'pronounced professional insecurity' whereby years and perhaps lifetimes of work and writing are put at risk. "  Keep watching.

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No cussing, please.

I'm afraid to say that despite persistent claims to the contrary, this blog has now been certified by the Blog & Website Cuss-o-Meter as having 41% less cussing than other similar blogs who took the test.  And that really pisses me off.

                                                               The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

Paradise for sale

Oh yes, if you're in the market for a slice of New Zealand paradise, then that slice is down in the Marlborough Sounds just waiting for you.  Story here. Picture below.

Ten million dollars should fill your boots up.

Peter Brown is right

Peter Brown is right.

Mr Brown says if New Zealand continues its open-door immigration policy, the country could be inundated with people who have no intention of integrating into society.

Quite right.  If immigration continues, we'll undoubtedly be "inundated" with more xenophobic bigots just like him, since such bigots can be found everywhere -- and their stench makes the whole world a lesser place --  but more importantly we'll also be "inundated" with good, hard-working people full of drive and enterprise, people who come here for a better life and who, by doing so, make this country a better place, despite the likes of Mr Brown and his party leader Winston Peters being in it.

UPDATE: It's true too that people "form their own mini-societies" just as Brown charges, but what his blind bigotry makes him unable to notice is that most "mini-societies" are made up of people who choose each other's company based not on race, but on the basis of shared values. People who like playing computer games, driving fast cars and talking philosophy for example will tend to spend a lot of time with other people who, respectively, like playing computer games, driving fast cars and talking philosophy. 

That's a good thing.  That's how a civilised society works.

And it's a good thing too that bigots like spending time with other bigots -- it saves us for the most part from being inflicted with their stench, except of course in election years.

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Cooperative Homesteads Housing, Minnesota - Frank Lloyd Wright (1942)

coop_hmstd_04 A project that was extinguished by World War II involved a group of enthusiastic homesteaders eager to build the earth-bermed rammed earth houses Wright designed for their shared property, on which they were each to pursue their agricultultural dreams. 

Each house was to cost approx. $1400 in 1942 dollars.  More here.


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Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Vultures circling over "fibre future"

State worshipper David Skilling of the NZ Institute proposes the government establish and partially fund a coercive monopoly called FibreCo to "roll out" national broadband and deliver dividends to rent-seeking crony capitalists who participate. "For now, this country's fibre future remained reliant on investment decisions taken by Telecom," says the Institute, which faces "weak incentives" to invest significantly in a fibre access network. The whole panegyric to rent-seeking cronyism is here.

Those "weak incentives" by the way include the continued support for local loop nationalisation from the likes of Skilling and David Farrar and of course Obergruppenfuehrer Cunliffe himself -- not to mention all those competitors of Telecom who wish to take advantage of its networks without any investment themselves -- and of course the dismemberment of Telecom forced upon it by Cunliffe in an effort to boost his ministerial ranking. 

In other words, the faces of those "weak incentives" are themselves and others like them who support the ministerial jackboot being applied to Telecom's private property, and the sort of coercive resnt-seeking proposed by Skilling.

People like Russell Brown, who while continuing to celebrate the ongoing nationalisation of Telecom's existing networks,  regularly celebrates how the faster broadband he's now getting in Pt Chev is already allowing him to steal even more films and TV from the internet.

Good to know why he's so keen on faster broadband, anyway.

Perhaps these luminaries could read and reflect on the comments of Telstra's Sol Trujillo last year when a similar public-private partnership was proposed by Kevin Rudd -- Trujillo called this a "kumbaya, holding hands" theory he wanted no part of;  said Trujillo: "We are only going to participate in the things that we own and control."  And how else could you justify the sizeable investment involved? What incentives are there?

Perhaps too they could reflect on Morgan Tsvangirai's argument for the importance of reinstituting property rights in Zimbabwe and think about the importance of drawing up such a programme for New Zealand, instead of continuing to bang the drum for their destruction.

UPDATE: Paul Walker comments at his blog: "Its not clear to me how a state guaranteed monopoly would speed up anything... Competition gives the best incentives, especially in rapidly changing, innovative markets."  Perfectly correct.  Doesn't stop Rod Drury and, lamentably, Bernard Hickey (who should know better) joining the chorus in praise of the corporatising/nationalising state. "It goes against the grain for me to recommend that a government effectively nationalise a private asset," says Hickey, who doesn't let the splinters slow his slide into the nationalisation chorus.

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"Have you now, or have you ever been ... ?" (updated)

Guyon Espiner, who's neither a scientist nor apparently a journalist, appears willing however to channel the ghost of one Joseph McCarthy. See the grandstanding fool burning the AGW heretics right here on the Ken and Barbie Show.

UPDATE 1: "Panic Mode": "British environmental analyst Christopher Monckton says Al Gore's latest attack on global warming skeptics shows the former vice president and other climate alarmists are 'panicking'."

   Monckton, a policy advisor for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s, says the former vice president can enjoy his "flat earth fantasies" for a few months, but in the end, the world will be laughing at him.
   "The alarmists are alarmed, the panic mongers are panicking, the scare mongers are scared; the Gores are gored. Why? Because global warming stopped ten years ago; it hasn't got warmer since 1998," he points out. "And in fact in the last seven years, there has been a downturn in global temperatures equivalent on average to about [or] very close to one degree Fahrenheit per decade. We're actually in a period ... of global cooling."
   Monckton contends Gore is now "panicking" because he has staked his reputation as a former American VP on "telling the world that we're all doomed unless we shut down 90 percent of the Western economies." He also contends that Gore is the largest "global-warming profiteer."
Gore's group The Alliance for Climate Protection is currently launching a new $300 million ad campaign that demands reforms in environmental law to help reduce the supposed "climate crisis." But Monckton points out that in the U.K., Gore is not allowed to speak in public about his "green investment company" because to do so would violate racketeering laws by "peddling a false prospectus."

[Hat tip Leighton Smith]

UPDATE 2: Annie Fox gets a knock on the door from a Greenpeace lass:

   She ... asked if I wanted a "better world for my children." ... "Yes" I said "I do want a better world for my nieces" and that was precisely why I wouldn't support Greenpeace or any other environmentalist organisations.
   It is the very people that Greenpeace attack that make my world, this world, a beautiful place to live in [I told her]. They provide me with light when it's dark, food when I'm hungry, movies when I'm bored, champagne when I'm celebrating, chemo when I'm dying, planes when I'm in the mood to view this beautiful world. They also provide me all the necessities that allow me to do the job I love - books, computers, software, internet, financial markets, the cup that holds my tea and the tea itself.
   The policies and aim of these environmentalists are no less than a desire to turn man back into animals, scrambling around in caves, or at best eking out a meager existence on a farm. This world they desire would mean millions upon millions would stave to death, and they would be the lucky ones. The rest would live a short and miserable existence in a truly malevolent world. A world that would kill me and my nieces and all future generations of my family. I would no sooner align myself with the green movement than I would the
Ebola Virus.

I don't expect the lass will be knocking on that door again for a while.

UPDATE 3: Further to the comment above referencing McCarthyism, Murray Rothbard is unusually perceptive on the legacy of the Senator from Wisconsin.  It was, in fact, McCarthy and "McCarthyism" he argues that provided the main catalyst for transforming the mass base of the right wing from small-government quasi-libertarianism to today's holy-rolling anti-Communism, with all that implied.  This is the very platform from which the Buckley conservatives buried the classical liberal 'Old Right.' Reflected Rothbard in the 1970s: the "problem with anti-Communism as a movement ... is how it diverts domestic policy away from individual liberty toward the police-state paternalism for which 'conservatism' has become synonymous."

At any rate, in retrospect, it is clear that libertarians and Old Rightists, including myself, had made a great mistake in endorsing domestic red-baiting, a red-baiting that proved to be the major entering wedge for the complete transformation of the original right wing. We should have listened more carefully to Frank Chodorov, and to his splendidly libertarian stand on domestic red-baiting: "How to get rid of the communists in the government? Easy. Just abolish the jobs."

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Genuine hope for Zimbabwe

Several years ago, Robert Muldoon observed accurately that Robert Mugabe was famous only for running around the jungle shooting people.

wzim101vid The three decades since his emergence from the jungle have shown him ruthlessly capable of doing anything to remain in power, so the announcement by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai following the weekend's poll that "Zimbabwe will never be the same again," seems premature, if not wholly optimistic.

That said, it's worth wondering what change if any would be represented by a change of power in favour of Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change.  An article by Tsvangirai in a recent Wall Street Journal suggests the change would be profound -- not only is his he more aware of the reason's for Zimbabwe's collapse than are those African leaders who seem mystified at the basket cases they've made of their own countries, but Tsvangirai knows precisely what to do about it:

Out of the many reasons for Zimbabwe's decline, three stand out. First is the ruling regime's contempt for the rule of law...  The government of Zimbabwe must be committed to protecting persons and property; and the restoration of political freedom and property rights is an essential part of MDC's economic recovery strategy...

The second reason for Zimbabwe's decline is the government's destruction of economic freedom, in order to satisfy an elaborate patronage system.

The MDC is committed to slashing bureaucratic red tape and letting domestic and foreign entrepreneurs improve their lot and, consequently, Zimbabwe's fortunes. We will open economic opportunity to all Zimbabweans. Unlike the ZANU-PF dictatorship, which has destroyed domestic entrepreneurship, we consider the business acumen and creative ingenuity of the people to be the main source of our future growth.

The third factor responsible for the country's decline is the size and rapaciousness of the government. Today, that size is determined by the requirements of patronage...  The MDC plans a complete restructuring of the government, including a reduction of the number of ministers to 15. The government will have to live within its means. It will not be allowed to inflate its way out of trouble...  Most state-owned companies are woefully inefficient, a strain on the budget and a much-abused vehicle for ZANU-PF patronage. They will be privatized or shut down.

And he's been saying this for years - here he is in 2003 making the case that freedom and prosperity are linked:

The key to starting an economic recovery is the restoration of the rule of law, a peaceful situation in the country, a situation of law and order. Confidence-building measures have to be carried out so that all the potential players can be reassured that recovery is intended and under way. There needs to be a clear signal that respect for individual rights and for property rights has returned.

Hot damn, there's hope for Zimbabwe yet.  Based on those words, and presuming that he means them, if Tsvangirai can't get the authority and the support necessary to implement his programme in Zimbabwe, I'd be damned happy to have him implement it here.

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SFO to go. Good riddance.

After twenty-one years of bullying businessmen --  and with nary a serious scalp to speak of for all that persecution -- the Serious Fraud Office is being disestablished, and minister Annette King is insisting that the police unit taking over the SFO's duties will not be given the powers to breach basic rights that the SFO's goons  had.

No more power to compel people to answer questions;  their right to silence will now be protected.  No more powers to compel the handing over of documents and information, regardless of defences such as client confidentiality; instead, the new agency will have to convince a judge to order suspects to hand over documents. 

In other words, accused individuals will be recognised as being innocent until proved guilty -- without being bullied by the SFO, which itself was punishment enough -- and at least in this small regard, the Bill of Rights Act will be recognised as a document guiding the relationship between individuals and the state.

Good for Annette King.  For once.

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Frank Lloyd Wright's 1938 'Dream House' for Life magazine


1938fp02Frank Lloyd Wright's 1938 'Dream House' for Life magazine, described here at Life.Com.

"Space," says Wright, in a letter to the clients describing the house, "is characteristic of this free pattern for a freer life than you could possibly live in the conventional house."  The house is a two-zoned open and flowing plan "with special privacies, ultra conveniences and style all the while."  Said Life magazine in 1938:

1938fp01 Note the L-shaped double fireplace. By means of folding screens, the dining and ground-floor sleeping spaces can be thrown into the living-recreation room and the whole space, treated as a kind of enclosed patio, can be thrown open to the outdoors...  For privacy, [the clients] may close off their ground-floor bedroom, leaving it open to the garden, and [their two children] may retreat to their bedrooms at either end of the second floor, which are separated by a guest room in the middle. Mr. Wright has thoughtfully placed [the husband's] office next to the kitchen so that [his wife] can answer the telephone for him when he is away from home...

Life magazine had set up the 'Dream House' series as a competition between traditionalists and so-called modernists. Time magazine called Wright's design a "walkaway [victory] for the moderns ... which reduced the merit of [the more traditional] design to that of a safe investment."

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Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Economics and History by essentials

I'm enormously enjoying two courses I'm currently doing and, unlike the post below this one, it's no April Fool's Day hoax to say so. I've never found economics and history so fascinating -- but then, I am studying under two masters!

1. To the obvious frustration of many readers, one of those courses is George Reisman's self-study programme in economics, based on his book Capitalism: A Treatise in Economics -- which according to Nobel Laureate James Buchanan, deserves to take its place alongside that of Adam Smith's.

A crucial achievement of Reisman's -- one that puts him almost completely at odds with the 'thinkers' behind much of today's more mainstream neo-Keynesian economics -- is that his course (and his book) places the producer at the heart of the economic process.

This focus on production instead of consumption really does begin at the first page, right there in his definition of economics -- he defines economics as the science that studies the production of wealth under a system of division of labour. (You can compare his definition to some other commonly used definitions here, and reflect yourself on the implications of those differences.)

One major implication of this focus is his concern with just what exactly is required for the production of wealth under a system of division of labour to flourish. Rather than simply observing that producers produce and taking it for granted that they will continue no matter what is inflicted upon them -- which is the case with so many economists, who are only too happy to dream up and propose ever more imaginary restrictions -- Reisman instead is intensely concerned with the material, cultural and philosophical requirements of production.

Perhaps the most obvious requirement is that production itself be held as a value -- which means, he argues in our most recent lecture, that the requirements of human life be held as objectively valuable. (The end of economic activity therefore should be understand not in consumption as such, but more fundamentally as the furthering of human life and human values.) There are conditions under which the production of wealth under a system of division of labour is unable to flourish -- and here the student is invited to reflect on those parts of the contemporary world in which the the production of any kind of wealth is unable to flourish; these are without exeption those parts of the world in which the values of western civilisation (in brief: respect for logic, reason and individual rights) are spurned.

As he argued in our last lecture, the use of logic and reason and a respect for indidual rights crucially underpins the production of wealth, and are themselves objectively valuable. If the requirements of human life are recognised as being objectively valuable, then the value of western civilisation and the values that underpin it must itself be so recognised.

Consider the almost complete ignorance of those concepts in those parts of the world in which wealth is conspicuously absent, and the outright racist agenda of multiculturalism -- which blithely proclaims all cultures as equal, no matter how destructive to the human lives within them -- all but silences our ability to point this out. Reisman points out that to define 'culture' as being equivalent to race is to ignore the crucial truth that the life-saving values of western culture are open to anybody of any race who wishes to embrace them.

Fortunately, for readers unwilling to embrace this idea themselves, they can read the argument online in George Reisman's superb pamphlet 'Education and the Racist Road to Barbarism.'

I commend it to your attention.

2. The other course that I'm enjoying immensely is historian Scott Powell's 'entire history of the world course' (official title A First History for Adults) of which I'm presently just biting off a small morsel: his ten lectures on 'The Islamist Entanglement,' delivered by tele-conference. These are not just enjoyable, but as I go through the course I realise how necessary a thorough understanding of the history of the Middle East is to understanding its present state, and its possible futures.

The chief reason it's so enjoyable is not just Scott's abundant enthusiam, but his ability to explain history with both the detailed point-of-view necessary to seeing precisely who did what to whom and why, but also from the 'mountain-top' perspective necessary to integrate all the details, and draw all the wider implications therefrom.

The most recent lecture on Turkey's history will give you an example. As Scott titles his summary, 'Turkey Shows the Middle East’s Potential–and it Doesn’t Look Good.' A lesser historian would find it near impossible to describe and integrate the multitude of apparent contradictions about the most westernised, most advanced and most successful of all the Middle East's Islamic countries -- the benevolent dictator who secularised the country; the military dictatorships who frequently rescue Turkey from 'demise by democracy'; how Turkey's entry to the European Union could potentially destroy it ...

Scott's history-by-essentials offers the opportunity to see Turkey's future as the microsm of the Middle East's. It's a disquieting outlook.

But it's still not too late to sign up for either this ten-lecture course, or the whole First History for Adults. I can thoroughly recommend it.

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I recant.

I've taken some time away to rethink things, and I have to say upon close reflection that all my opponents are correct. About everything. I recant completely of all my former heresies, and hereby embrace all the contradictions of my former opponents. This I now believe:

  • We are all our brother's keepers -- we must be forced to keep our brothers. Any other notion is immoral, not to say evil.
  • It's sexist to say "brothers." It's judgemental to say "evil"!
  • It's not my fault -- I was made that way. It's not bad behaviour, it's bad luck. No one is responsible for bad behaviour: We have no free will; society is to blame.
  • We can't ever know anything about the past, we know nothing for certain about the present, but we can accurately project the future to three decimal places.
  • There's no problems in Mathematics being silent to causality; reality itself is silent as to causality.
  • Wot's reality?
  • If it's in the models, then it must be right.
  • If the UN says it, then it must be right.
  • If it's in Wikipedia, then it has to be right (especially if the subject is controversial).
  • If George Bush says it, then it has to be wrong (especially if the subject is controversial).
  • Global warming is man-made. We did it. We did it here, we did it on Mars and Venus, we did it in the Medieval period, we did it in the early twentieth century. We are all to blame.
  • Al Gore is always right. I love Saint Al, and look forward to helping him save the planet.
  • The Greens are always right. I love Jeanette, and look forward to helping her clear her gorse.
  • We have plenty of power, and no need to worry. All forms of alternative energy are absolutely reliable, but nuclear energy is not.
  • But we are running out of resources, and the price system is incapable of letting us know in time. We are a virus on the planet and should be wiped out. (After you, please. I do believe in courtesy.)
  • We have plenty of wealth in New Zealand, and no need to catch up with the rest of the developed world. In fact, no need even to be in the developed world. Industry is so last century.
  • Islamist violence will go away if we just ignore it. Can't we just all get along?
  • Crime will go away if we just ignore it. Can't we just stop being judgemental (see above under 'Society is to blame anyway.')
  • Tax is good, and more tax is better. Except on Tuesdays.
  • You didn't earn your money anyway - society let you have it. Be grateful.
  • You can't run your own life; you need politicians and planners to run it for you. Be grateful.
  • Minimum wage laws raise wages for everybody. We should raise minimum wages to twenty, thirty, forty dollars an hour -- and force all employers to hire extra staff. Be grateful we let you have staff ... or a business.
  • The way to lower housing costs is to force house-builders to build low-cost houses. Building inspectors always know what they're doing.
  • The way to lower the cost of land is to restrict its supply. Planners always know what they're doing.
  • The way to lower the cost of money is to nationalise it. Central bankers always know what they're doing.
  • The way to promote business activity is to increase compliance costs.
  • The way to protect individual rights is for the government to redefine them.
  • The way to protect individual responsibilities is for the government to assume them.
  • Businessmen are all thieves. Thank goodness for bureaucrats.
  • Politicians are all honest. Thank goodness journalists don't bother them with hard questions.
  • Anonymous commenters are absolutely justified in insulting people who aren't themselves anonymous -- and absolutely correct to complain when other bloggers use obvious pseudonyms to protect themselves. Thank goodness we have unrueful people unwilling to put their name to their comments to keep the rest of us honest.
  • Thank goodness too that we have sub-standard bloggers who, while unwilling to put their names to their own posts, are nonetheless willing to insist that political advertisers put their names and addresses on their ads.
  • People are right to feel aggrieved when speakers at large functions don't personally stroke them. Thank goodness for sleazy con-men who do.
  • Voters are right to feel aggrieved when politicians offer real choices. Thank goodness for sleazy con-men who don't.
  • It's sexist to say "con-men."
  • It's racist to say "one law for all." It's not racist however to say that one race should have special courts, special legal privileges, and special voting rights.

=> This I believe, on this date of April 1st, in the year of our Lord 2008 ... at least until midday anyway.

UPDATE: The Museum of Hoaxes has history's all-time Top 100 April Fools Day hoaxes. My favourite was NPR Radio's 1992 announcement that, in a surprise move, Richard Nixon, was running for President again under the campaign slogan, "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again."

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Some questions ...

If it's wrong for Robert Mugabe to give stolen tractors and stolen farms to his supporters to buy their votes, why isn't it wrong for Helen Clark to give stolen money to her's to buy their's?

When will Winston give taxpayers back the $158,000 he stole from them last election to buy the baubles of office?

Why is it wrong for Frank Bainimarama to crack down on criticism of the government by censoring newspapers, but not wrong for Labour and the Greens to crack down on criticism of the government by introducing the Electoral Finance Act?

Will the new 15% R&D deduction introduced today cost more for businesses and the IRD to administer than it will save?

Will National's proposed new $50 'Victims of Crime Levy' cost more to collect then it will earn?

Who will the levies go to when people are arrested for victimless crimes?

Why do we have laws against victimless crimes?

Why $50?

When will the Warriors admit they've got no idea what they're doing?

When will John Key?

Answers on a postcard please.

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Monday, 31 March 2008

Earth Hour

Here's a letter to the head of the World Wildlife Fund that explains the precise nature of WWF's Earth Hour:

Dear Mr. Roberts:
You and members of your organization worry that industrialization and economic growth are harming the earth's environment. I worry that the intensifying hysteria about the state of the environment - and that the resulting hostility to economic growth - might harm humankind's prospects for comfortable, healthy, enjoyable, and long lives.
So I commend you on your "Earth Hour" effort. Persuading people across the globe to turn off lights for one hour supplies the perfect symbol for modern environmentalism: a collective effort to return humankind to the dark ages.
Donald J. Boudreaux

[Hat tip Anti Dismal]

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If tax cuts on Tuesday are good, then more tax cuts on Wednesday are even better.

Have you ever considered that all the arguments for the three percentage point cut in the company tax rate that's happening on Tuesday also exist for a three percentage point cut in every tax, thereafter -- and in fact for every further three percentage point cut after this one.

To be more precise, if one tranche of tax cuts of three percentage points is good, then successive tranches of three-percentage-point tax cuts is even better. If a tax cut on Tuesday is good, then another tax cut every day thereafter must surely be balm for the bottom line.

If a tax cut of three percentage points in the company tax rate is "good for investment," then so too is every further three percentage point cut in tax rates.

If a tax credit for research and development is "good for investment in research and development," then so too is every further tax credit for research and development.

If a tax cut of any size is good for low-wage earners to help them deal with cost and living increases, then so too is another cut in tax rates of the same size.

If the tax cuts that take effect on Tuesday "help provide a buffer against the expected economic slowdown," then how much better buffer would be provided by another tranche of tax cuts on Wednesday.

You see, all the arguments for this small cut in taxes that comes into force on Tuesday will exist the day after -- in other words, if tax cuts on Tuesday are good, then further tax cuts on Wednesday ... and Thursday ... and Friday ... are even better.  Far from leaving opposition political parties 'no room to move' by introducing tax cuts in election year, Michael Cullen has offered any political party of principle the opportunity to go on, two, three or four steps even better -- if any such party existed.

What's wrong for example with successive three percentage point tax cuts sufficient to strangle government spending almost completely, and provide the spur to prosperity we so desperately need.

And no fear either with the sophism that "tax cuts cause inflation."  That's nonsense.  Tax cuts don't put extra cash in the economy the way the Reserve Bank or The Fed does when it prints money -- the money in your pocket from a tax cut is real money, your money, not the Reserve Bank's counterfeit capital -- what they do is change the entity that's spending your money.  Instead of the government choosing where to put it, you do.

It's no more inflationary for you to spend your own money than it is for government to be spending it -- in fact, everything would suggest it's less inflationary for you to keep your money than for government to take it and spend it on inflating the bureaucracy:  Individuals are more likely to save some of their money when more of it is left in their pocket, whereas governments are always better at spending binges; and companies allowed to keep more of their money are likely to plough it into reinvesting in their own prosperity -- and any extra spending is going to be on producer goods, not on the consumer goods on which the Reserve Bank bases its inflation figures.

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